1.17.2014

a disgrace
...Thoreau's Journal: 17-Jan-1852

One day two young women—a Sunday—stopped at the door of my hut and asked for some water. I answered that I had no cold water but I would lend them a dipper. They never returned the dipper, and I had a right to suppose they came to steal. They were a disgrace to their sex and to humanity. Pariahs of the moral world. Evil spirits that thirsted not for water but threw the dipper into the lake. Such as Dante saw. What the lake to them but liquid fire and brimstone? They will never know peace till they have returned the dipper. In all the worlds this is decreed.

8 comments:

Courtney said...

...He must have had something personal going on that day.

Maybe they truly forgot to return the dipper. Or maybe he gave THEM the creeps.

Such anger today, Henry! To the point you've lost your way with words. Meditate. Forgive. :-p

Michael said...

*Sigh* Blame the victim. Has all morality fled the world?

michael jameson said...

a dipper would not leave their hands so forgetfulness is unlikely, he did what he could at the time!, he would have but one dipper giving a hardship, we all have the ability to put hardship on another, man woman it is of no matter, they will not forget and years later will pay many kindnesses for that act.

Peter B. said...

I find this a really interesting entry. So much anger; so unlike the usual Henry. Is it a commentary on his feelings towards women? Were they mocking him--perhaps dared to go up to his cabin? And why does the editor, Greg Perry, pick this entry out of his journal? Was it one of the few (or only) that he wrote on Jan 17? Such a strange entry, so different from his usual writings.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy I'm not the only one who felt compelled to stop and think about this post. I read it yesterday and thought about it for most of the evening. For me, this is probably the most human I've seen Thoreau. We can go out into the woods, find peace in ourselves, really feel like we've tapped into some divine "Truth" and figured it all out...But then someone comes along and doesn't show us the same courtesy that we showed them, and it irks us. It undoes all the good work we've done. So much of Thoreau's writing beautifies the reality of simple living (which isn't to say that it can't be beautiful), but this entry seems more honest. Or perhaps, Thoreau was so prone to exagerations in his writing about nature and so on that he also exagerated when he wrote about the anger he felt. Then again, I'm sure even the Dalai Lama gets pissed off from time to time.

Northland said...

This is certainly an interesting pick from the Journal on this day. But there is much more - among his writing on Jan. 17, 1852 there is a very compassionate observation on "an inoffensive, simple-minded pauper from the almshouse" as well as Thoreau's meeting, at the end of the road, 3 "impudent" men who challenge him as he walked by. That at least one of the men was drunk caused Thoreau to not waste his time talking to them. Much more was discussed on this date, as is usual from such an inquiring mind.

Quinton Blue said...

Cool entry, and isn't it interesting-- the number of comments it draws. ... I wonder if it wasn't the pointlessness of the theft that angered Thoreau. I had a neighbor once that borrowed a number of my jazz albums one day and the very next day moved away, taking them with him. But I couldn't feel anger because I knew that he would enjoy them, and although he was a thief, he had very good taste, cherry picking my best albums. But when people steal something that apparently is of little use to them, or vandalize which is similar, it creates anger. At least, that is what I've noticed.

Quodlibet said...

Well, is the persona that we know as "Thoreau" entirely authentic? To what degree did he carefully craft the gentle, contemplative persona that he presents in his journal, which surely he expected to be widely read? An entry like this one jars us because it gives us a sudden, and not wholly welcome, glimpse of the entire man, a glimpse that is unattractive and disturbing.

I expereince a similar discomfort every week in choir rehearsal: as we raise our arms high to stretch, across the room I can see various midriffs and odd bulges as shirts ride up and expose their owners. What I see in those brief, unintentional uncoverings is often at variance with the rest of the person's presentation.

So it is in this entry: Thoreau lets his cover slip for a moment here. This little blemish on his smooth persona makes him seem a little more human.

How many of us who keep modern journals (blogs) are selective about what we post there? I suspect that we choose to post only what we want people to know.