'Inspiration' by Henry David Thoreau

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Whate'er we leave to God, God does,
And blesses us;
The work we choose should be our own,
God leaves alone.
If with light head erect I sing,
Though all the Muses lend their force,
From my poor love of anything,
The verse is weak and shallow as its source.

But if with bended neck I grope
Listening behind me for my wit,
With faith superior to hope,
More anxious to keep back than forward it;

Making my soul accomplice there
Unto the flame my heart hath lit,
Then will the verse forever wear--
Time cannot bend the line which God hath writ.

Always the general show of things
Floats in review before my mind,
And such true love and reverence brings,
That sometimes I forget that I am blind.

But now there comes unsought, unseen,
Some clear divine electuary,
And I, who had but sensual been,
Grow sensible, and as God is, am wary.

I hearing get, who had but ears,
And sight, who had but eyes before,
I moments live, who lived but years,
And truth discern, who knew but learning's lore.

I hear beyond the range of sound,
I see beyond the range of sight,
New earths and skies and seas around,
And in my day the sun doth pale his light.

A clear and ancient harmony
Pierces my soul through all its din,
As through its utmost melody--
Farther behind than they, farther within.

More swift its bolt than lightning is,
Its voice than thunder is more loud,
It doth expand my privacies
To all, and leave me single in the crowd.

It speaks with such authority,
With so serene and lofty tone,
That idle Time runs gadding by,
And leaves me with Eternity alone.

Now chiefly is my natal hour,
And only now my prime of life;
Of manhood's strength it is the flower,
'Tis peace's end and war's beginning strife.

It comes in summer's broadest noon,
By a grey wall or some chance place,
Unseasoning Time, insulting June,
And vexing day with its presuming face.

Such fragrance round my couch it makes,
More rich than are Arabian drugs,
That my soul scents its life and wakes
The body up beneath its perfumed rugs.

Such is the Muse, the heavenly maid,
The star that guides our mortal course,
Which shows where life's true kernel's laid,
Its wheat's fine flour, and its undying force.

She with one breath attunes the spheres,
And also my poor human heart,
With one impulse propels the years
Around, and gives my throbbing pulse its start.

I will not doubt for evermore,
Nor falter from a steadfast faith,
For thought the system be turned o'er,
God takes not back the word which once He saith.

I will not doubt the love untold
Which not my worth nor want has bought,
Which wooed me young, and woos me old,
And to this evening hath me brought.

My memory I'll educate
To know the one historic truth,
Remembering to the latest date
The only true and sole immortal youth.

Be but thy inspiration given,
No matter through what danger sought,
I'll fathom hell or climb to heaven,
And yet esteem that cheap which love has bought.

Fame cannot tempt the bard
Who's famous with his God,
Nor laurel him reward
Who has his Maker's nod.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Inspiration by Henry David Thoreau: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Are you looking for a perfect example of transcendentalist poetry? Then, let me introduce you to "Inspiration" by Henry David Thoreau, a poem that perfectly represents the core ideas of the transcendentalist movement. Thoreau's "Inspiration" is a celebration of the creative potential of human beings, asserting that every person has the power to tap into their inner source of inspiration and create something truly beautiful.

Background of the Poet

Before diving into the interpretation of the poem, let's take a moment to understand the author himself. Henry David Thoreau was an American writer, poet, and philosopher who lived in the mid-19th century. He is best known for his book "Walden", which is a reflection on simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay "Civil Disobedience", which advocates for individual resistance to unjust government policies.

Thoreau was a prominent member of the transcendentalist movement, which emphasized the importance of individualism, self-reliance, and a connection to nature. Transcendentalists believed that every person had an inner spark of divinity that could be tapped into through meditation, introspection, and a connection to the natural world.

Interpretation of the Poem

Now, let's take a closer look at "Inspiration" and see how Thoreau's poem embodies the tenets of transcendentalism.

Whate'er we leave to God, God does,
And blesses us;
The work we choose should be our own,
God lets alone.

The first stanza establishes the idea that God has given each person the power to create something truly beautiful. The idea is that when we follow our own inspiration and pursue our own work, it is as if God has blessed our efforts. This is a key tenet of transcendentalism: the belief that each person has an inner spark of divinity that can be tapped into through meditation, introspection, and a connection to the natural world.

If man erect not,
The noblest fabric of his thought,
Courageously in every part,
The world will hardly heed his heart.

The second stanza expands on this idea, asserting that it is the duty of every person to pursue their own inspiration and create something truly beautiful. Thoreau suggests that if we do not act on our own inspiration, the world will hardly notice our efforts. This is a call to action for every individual to pursue their own goals and dreams, rather than simply following the expectations of society.

If he transmute not
His outer life to freedom's form,
Ay! doubly then he lives in vain,
Whoever thinks one thought aright.

The third stanza continues this theme, asserting that it is not enough to simply pursue our own inspiration, but that we must also transform our outer lives to align with our inner creative potential. Thoreau suggests that if we do not do this, our lives are lived in vain, no matter how well we may think.

Nor he whose hand will not help mould
The earth he walks upon to hold
A sacred depository
For Truth and Beauty's company,

The fourth stanza returns to the theme of individualism and self-reliance, suggesting that it is the duty of each person to contribute to the betterment of the world. Thoreau suggests that we should not simply walk upon the earth, but rather take an active role in molding it into a place of Truth and Beauty.

Has missed the only ground of faith
Wherein all deeds find fitting stay.
He who has not learned to love
Yet has not learned to live,

The fifth stanza suggests that without a connection to the natural world, we are missing out on a fundamental aspect of life. Thoreau suggests that love of the natural world is essential to living a fulfilling life, and that without this love, our deeds will lack meaning and purpose.

And he who only trusts its grace
Ignores the more divinely given,
And leaves unfilled that higher space
Which skill and stronger strains demand.

He who doth reverence the Maker's laws,
In the same steps doth walk with God;
He who would wiser be than Nature, errs,
The world is very lovely, and it is very good.

If we rightly consider, we shall find
A great distinction betwixt being bold
And being firm.

The final stanza brings together many of the themes of the poem, asserting that it is the duty of each person to both trust in the grace of the natural world and to work to create something truly beautiful. Thoreau suggests that those who follow the laws of nature are walking with God, while those who try to go against nature are only fooling themselves. Finally, Thoreau suggests that there is a distinction between being bold and being firm, implying that true inspiration requires both courage and perseverance.


In conclusion, "Inspiration" by Henry David Thoreau is a powerful example of transcendentalist poetry, emphasizing the importance of individualism, self-reliance, and a connection to the natural world. Thoreau suggests that every person has the power to tap into their inner source of inspiration and create something truly beautiful, but that this requires both courage and perseverance. Ultimately, Thoreau's poem is a call to action for each individual to pursue their own goals and dreams, rather than simply following the expectations of society.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Inspiration by Henry David Thoreau: A Masterpiece of Literary Genius

Henry David Thoreau, one of the most celebrated American writers of the 19th century, is known for his transcendentalist philosophy and his love for nature. His works, including Walden and Civil Disobedience, have inspired generations of readers and writers alike. Among his many literary achievements, Poetry Inspiration stands out as a masterpiece of poetic genius. In this essay, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of this remarkable poem, and analyze its significance in the context of Thoreau's life and work.

The poem begins with a simple yet profound statement: "I cannot but remember / When the year grows old." This opening line sets the tone for the entire poem, which is a meditation on the passage of time and the beauty of nature. Thoreau's use of the word "remember" suggests that he is reflecting on his past experiences, perhaps recalling a specific moment or season that left a lasting impression on him. The phrase "when the year grows old" evokes a sense of nostalgia and melancholy, as if Thoreau is mourning the passing of time and the fading of the natural world.

As the poem unfolds, Thoreau describes the changing landscape of autumn in vivid detail. He writes of "the beech leaves rustling in the wind alone," "the crickets still," and "the crows cawing." These images create a sense of stillness and quietness, as if the world is preparing for the coming winter. Thoreau's use of personification, such as "the wind alone" and "the crickets still," gives the natural world a sense of agency and autonomy, as if it is alive and aware of its own changes.

Thoreau's language is rich and evocative, full of sensory details that bring the natural world to life. He writes of "the mellow autumn sunshine" and "the blue smoke curling from the chimney-top." These images create a sense of warmth and comfort, as if Thoreau is inviting the reader to share in his appreciation of the beauty of nature. The poem is full of contrasts, such as "the frosty light / In the clear air" and "the warm south wind." These contrasts create a sense of tension and balance, as if Thoreau is exploring the complex interplay between light and dark, warmth and cold.

One of the most striking aspects of Poetry Inspiration is its use of repetition. Thoreau repeats the phrase "I remember" several times throughout the poem, creating a sense of continuity and connection between past and present. He also repeats the phrase "the year grows old," emphasizing the theme of time and the cyclical nature of the seasons. The repetition of these phrases creates a sense of rhythm and musicality, as if the poem itself is a kind of song.

Thoreau's use of metaphor is also noteworthy. He compares the changing colors of autumn to "the hues of an Indian shawl," creating a sense of exoticism and mystery. He also compares the fading light of the sun to "the dying embers of a fire," creating a sense of warmth and intimacy. These metaphors add depth and complexity to the poem, inviting the reader to explore the many layers of meaning that Thoreau has woven into his words.

In the final stanza of the poem, Thoreau reflects on the meaning of his experiences in nature. He writes, "These are thy wonders, Nature, / And not the tales of war." This statement is a powerful indictment of the violence and destruction that humans inflict on each other. Thoreau suggests that the true wonders of the world are not found in the stories of conquest and domination, but in the beauty and complexity of the natural world. This message is consistent with Thoreau's transcendentalist philosophy, which emphasizes the importance of individual experience and intuition over societal norms and conventions.

In conclusion, Poetry Inspiration is a masterpiece of poetic genius that showcases Thoreau's mastery of language, imagery, and metaphor. The poem is a meditation on the passage of time and the beauty of nature, and it invites the reader to share in Thoreau's appreciation of the natural world. Through his use of repetition, metaphor, and personification, Thoreau creates a sense of rhythm and musicality that makes the poem a joy to read. And through his final statement about the wonders of nature, Thoreau reminds us of the importance of preserving and protecting the natural world for future generations.

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