Thoreau’s “A Week”

Honors pic

I’m getting ready to teach the “Sunday” section of Henry David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers in an honors colloquium. Below are some passages I’m excited to discuss with my students.

There is in my nature, methinks, a singular yearning toward all wildness. (54)

Every people have gods to suit their circumstances. (65)

For six days shalt thou labor and do all thy knitting, but on the seventh, forsooth, thy reading. (66)

Tell me of the height of the mountains of the moon, or of the diameter of space, and I may believe you, but of the secret history of the Almighty, and I shall pronounce thee mad. (71)

There is no doubt that the loftiest written wisdom is either rhymed, or in some way musically measured,–is, in form as well as substance, poetry; and a volume which should contain the condensed wisdom of mankind, need not have one rhythmless line. (91)

He who resorts to the easy novel, because he is languid, does no better than if he took a nap. The front aspect of great thoughts can only be enjoyed by those who stand on the side whence they arrive. Books, not which afford us a cowering enjoyment, but in which each thought is of unusual daring; such as an idle man cannot read, and a timid one would not be entertained by, which even make us dangerous to existing institutions, –such I call good books. (96)

A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. (103)

The scholar may be sure that he writes the tougher truth for the calluses on his palms. They give firmness to the sentence. (106)

There is always room and occasion enough for a true book on any subject; as there is room for more light the brightest day and more rays will not interfere with the first. (109)


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