Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Touched by Thoreau

"In Wildness is the preservation of the World."
Those words cleaved their way forcefully into my being in 1983, the first time I read the great sage of the woods. I had bought a copy of his 'works' at a book sale in Bharatpur, yes, my first visit to that avian shrine, and on returning to Hyderabad, spent numberless hours, blissfully sipping such verbal novelties, such novel ideas, written with a pen that seemed to spring from my very heart, that I trembled unabashedly in the passion and ardor of the author. I feel that the lodestone of his philosophy is encapsulated in this immortal phrase.

Notice, the great man used the word "Wildness", with a capital 'W' and not 'wilderness' as he is often misquoted to have done. That word, 'Wildness' has that extra whump to it, which transcends it into a meaning that is completely different from 'wilderness'.

I have read him whenever my fancy yearned for it or when my beliefs tottered in this material world, between the here-and-now of unfettered consumerism and the purity, the virginity and strength of Thoreau's Wildness, I found myself standing penitent in front of the bookshelf, tilting the masterwork into by palm, reading the tome from the page that fell open, instantly mesmerised, purified, calmed by the clarity and simplicity of his language.

"I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows. We require an infusion of hemlock spruce or arbor-vitae in our tea."

"Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him."

"Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours, Nature, lying all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as the leopard; and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to society, to that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man, -- a sort of breeding in and in, which produces at most a merely English nobility, a civilization destined to have a speedy limit."

American nature writers are a class in themselves and Thoreau their godfather.

1 comment:

Shweta said...

Ah! Aasheesh. That was beautiful and...generous. Thank you.
There was a sting at the back of my eyes as I read through.
And whump is a delightful word!