Walden's Last Paragraph

The end of this book is not a conclusion...

by Austin Meredith, "Stack of the Artist of Kouroo" Project

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Thoreau's original draft of Walden's last paragraph...
"I do not say that John or Jonathan, that this generation or the next, will realize all this; but such is the character of that morrow which mere lapse of time can never make to dawn. The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."
Thoreau wrote this at one fell swoop in his draft F, which dates to 1853-54. The only alteration he subsequently made was to delete ", that this generation or the next,".

"John or Jonathan" - Thoreau is referring to stock stage characters of comedy, where "John" represents the English audience, or John Bull, and Jonathan represents the Americans.

"The light which puts out our eyes" - Thoreau had been informed that some fakirs in India deliberately stared at the sun, to render themselves blind, as an expression of their religiosity.

"The sun is but a morning star" - The planet Venus, nearer to Sol than is Earth, appears to us to travel with the sun. Thus when the sun sets in the West, we commonly see bright Venus atop the last rosy glows as the Evening Star, and then when the sun begins to cast a pale glow over the East the next dawn, we see bright Venus again as the Morning Star. In a sense then, Sol itself would be also an evening and then a morning star.

Because Thoreau was not urging anyone to stop thinking, but quite the contrary, he needed to find a way to bring his book to an end without arriving at any final conclusion, needed to find a way to leave the inquiry not only tentative but also open-ended and continuing, a baton or torch for us to seize and run along with on our own course. This was essential to Transcendentalism, which was, very briefly, the insistence always on leaving off with matters still very open-ended and unclosed. The bumper-sticker motto of Transcendentalism, one might consider, was: "Just say No to Closure."


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