Back to Thoreau, Anyone?

by Amy Belding Brown

Though Thoreau is said to have relished debate
and liked nothing better than staying up late
in Emerson's parlor and pondering truth
with comments that many considered uncouth,
we should not conclude he was solemn and grave
since he was loved best for the laughter he gave.
Henry Thoreau was both scholar and clown
who lived without fear of another man's frown.
He refused to be labeled and locked in a class.
He paid homage only to trees, sky, and grass.
For Henry did not have a gospel to sell;
he honored the world by observing it well.
He waded in rivers wearing only a hat;
he leaned over fences, discussed this and that
with the people in town, and danced solo at night,
climbed Wachusett Mountain to welcome the light.
He was writer, surveyor, handyman, friend,
naturalist, poet, flutist, godsend.
So the question before us, good friends on the list,
is not how to give Henry's thoughts a new twist.
It's not even about who is right and who not,
or about who might have the most scholarly thought.
The question we ponder is no less than how
we can savor the lives we've been given right now.
Do we celebrate facts or esteem a soul
who simplified life and savored it whole?
We honor him best not by posting his words
but by living our own truth apart from the herds.
The pedagogues can't retain Henry for long
if we dance to the notes of his flute's joyful song.

May 7, 1999

Copyright © Amy Belding Brown