Posted on 09/02/2014

Photo taken on September  1, 2014

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Life of the Mind
Henry Thoreau
A life of Mind
Robert D Richardson Jr

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Leaf ~ an epic

Leaf ~ an epic
“While walking in the Public Garden of Palermo,” Goethe recalled in the ‘Italian Journey,’, “it came to me in a flash that in the origin of the plant which we are accustomed to call the ‘leaf’ lies the true Proteus who can hide or reveal himself in all vegetal forms. From first to last, the plant is nothing but leaf.” Further, he thought that “The same law will be applicable to all other living organisms.”

Thoreau took all this up in his draft. “What an impulse was given some time or another to vegetation that now nothing can stay it,” he noted. “Every where it is nature’s business constantly to create new leaves and repeat this type in many materials.” Nature is “a vast manufactory of leaves, - the leaf is her constant cipher. It is grass in the field…..it flutters on the Oak, - it springs in the mould on a jar – and in animal, vegetable and mineral – in fluid and in crystals – plant or variegated – fresh or decayed it acts how large a part in the economy of the universe.” And the implications of this for the writer? Thoreau went on to draw a conclusion that would be true for Walt Whitman as well as for himself. “Whatever Coleridge thought of Tasso’s having chosen the last remaining topic for an epic poem in the Delivery of Jerusalem – I think his critic was right who thought one could write an epic to be called the leaf. ~ Page 157