Saturday, October 6, 2012

Prentice Mulford, latter-day follower of Thoreau

The conclusion to Prentice Mulford's The Swamp Angel (1888), 
an account of his attempt to imitate Thoreau's Walden (1854):
"I had imagined 
I could live happily alone with nature, 
and largely independent of the rest of 
the human race. I couldn't. I don't 
believe anybody can. Nature has taught 
me better. I found that the birds went 
in pairs and in flocks; that plants and 
trees grew in families; that ants live in 
colonies, and that everything of its kind 
had a tendency to live and grow together. 
But here I was, a single bit of the 
human race, trying to live alone and 
away from my kind. The birds and 
trees were possibly glad of my admira- 
tion for them, but they said: 'You 
don't belong to us. You shouldn't try 
to belong to us. You belong to your 
own race; go join them again; cultivate 
them. We live our own lives; you can't 
get wholly into our lives. You're not 
a bird, that you can live in a nest and 
on uncooked seeds; or a squirrel, that 
can live in a hole in a tree; or a tree, 
that can root itself in one place and stay 

there, as you've been trying to do. A 
hermit is one who tries to be a tree, and 
draw nourishment from one spot, when 
he is really a great deal more than a 
tree, and must draw life and recreation 
from many persons and places. A bear 
is not so foolish as to try and live among 
foxes; neither should a man try to live 
entirely among trees, because they 
cannot give him all that he must 
have to get the most out of life. So 
I left my hermitage, I presume for- 
ever, and carted my bed and pots 
and pans to the house of a friend 
perched on the brink of the Palisades 
opposite Tinker's." 

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