In a previous chapter, “The Ponds”, Thoreau criticizes the name given to Flint’s Pond, arguing that “if the fairest features of the landscape are to be named after men, let them be the noblest and worthiest men alone. Let our lakes receive as true names at least as the Icarian Sea…” (197). His main argument against Flint is that he only sees the money value of the pond, oblivious of the privilege of simply beholding its beauties. Flint would “carry the landscape [and even] his God, to market, if he could get any thing for him”. From Thoreau’s perspective Flint worships mammon:”…whose trees [bear] no fruits, but dollars…whose fruits are not ripe for him tillthey are turned to dollars” (196).The reference to Icarus, whose “brave attempt [the shore] resounds” (197), seems to be a celebration of doing something (whether flying, fishing, farming, meditating or writing a poem) just for the sheer joy of doing, without concerning oneself with outcome or possible profit. In this context ‘doing’ seems to be a profit in and of itself. Daedalus built wings to escape the labyrinth, flying for him is means to an end. For Icarus flying is an end in and of itself.
Paraglider-pilots who do not concern themselves with the thrills of acro-flights or the glory of cross competitions do exactly that: fly for the sheer joy of flying,becoming one with the wind, sharing the sky with the birds. From a paraglider-pilot’s perspective Icarus is a case of a pilot exceeding his flying envelop, recklessly ignoring ballast and moderation, giving in to the thrill of pushing the limit.
Margaret Fuller argues that “poetry…in its essential being [is] a recreative spirit that sings to sing”. Are a poet’s words his wings ? Icarus can be regarded as representing the danger embedded in complete absorption. Being so immersed in what he is doing, he is literally lost in flight.What is the ballast of a poet who “sings to sing” ? Should there be a poetic”flying envelop” ? Icarus is brought as an example of “the noblest and worthiest men”, is the fisher-poet a more down to earth, ballast-conscious daedal model of the “recreative spirit” ?