4.22.2008

Aboriginal Robin
Thoreau's Journal: 21-Apr-1852

The birds are singing in the rain about the small pond in front, the inquisitive chickadee that has flown at once to the alders to reconnoiter us, the blackbirds, the song sparrow, telling of expanding buds. But above all the robin sings here too, I know not at what distance in the wood. “Did he sing thus in Indian days?” I ask myself; for I have always associated this sound with the village and the clearing, but now I do detect the aboriginal wildness in his strain, and can imagine him a woodland bird, and that he sang thus when there was no civilized ear to hear him, a pure forest melody even like the wood thrush. Every genuine thing retains this tone, which no true culture displaces. I heard him even as he might have sounded to the Indian, singing at evening upon the elm above his wigwam, with which was associated in the red man’s mind the events of an Indian’s life, his childhood. Formerly I had heard in it only those strains which tell of the white man’s village life; now I heard those strains which remembered the red man’s life, when these arrowheads, which the rain has made shine so on the lean stubble-field, were fastened to their shaft.

1 comment:

nicole lepre said...

Thoreau describes one of nature’s most admirable traits; it’s sincerity. Nature is sincere in the sense that it remains constant; it has essence that cannot be changed. Therefore we can rely on nature to be real. It can be an escape from the superficiality of society. It can provide clarity. In this passage, the robin’s singing is that sincere, unchanging aspect of nature. The robin’s song saw many different societies and had different meanings imposed on it by these societies. For example, to the Indians, the singing might have been associated with events of Indian life or child hood. To Thoreau, the robin’s song had always reminded him of the white man’s village life. In this passage, however, Thoreau remembers that the robin’s song does not rightfully belong to Indian culture or the white man’s culture. The robin’s song belongs to nature; it does not derive its essence from anything human. Therefore, this passage reminds us that when we feel confused and caught up in superficiality and we can’t figure out what is real, we should take to the woods for a while and be assured that everything there is real.