By Stanley Cavell
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Additional info for The Senses of Walden: An Expanded Edition
That is, our bayonets in Mexico are the utensils of cannibals. He acknowledges this despairing, revolted mood a page or so later when he again picks up the tilling theme from Jeremiah, this time with a didactically explicit acceptance of that identity: I said to myself, I will not plant beans and corn with so much industry another summer, but such seeds, if the seed is not lost, as sincerity, truth, simplicity, faith, innocence, and the like, and see if they will not grow in Words 25 this soil, even with less toil and manurance, and sustain me, for surely it has not been exhausted for these crops.
But it is with the crowing gamecock that the identification is as complete as reason will permit. His "shrill sound never roused me from my slumbers" (IV, 22). That is, I was already awake; I am awakened by the same thing that awakens him. The path of this interpretation is worth drawing because it almost pedantically demonstrates a motive for the writer's verbal calculations. " But before that idea is quite formed, you see that it is ridiculous, and then you are thrown back to the opening line again.
Among written works of art, only of poetry had we expected a commitment to total and transparent meaning, every mark bearing its brunt. The literary ambition of Walden is to shoulder the commitment in prose. This ambition, directed toward the establishing of American literature, had to overcome two standing literary achievements with speech: Wordsworth's attempted redemption of the human voice and of poetry by one another; and America's peculiar exaltation of the oration and the sermon. The task of literature is to rescue the word from both politics and religion.