A Winged-Poet, A Fisher-Poet

Henry David Thoreau’s “Brute Neighbors” opens with a dialogue between a Hermit and a Poet. Sound intertwines with thought in the Hermit’s observations, while the poet mingles sight with memory in his communion with the clouds and the sky. Along the conversation, the poet proclaims himself to be a fisherman: “[Fishing] is the true industry for poets…the only trade I have ever learned” (224).

Later on Thoreau asks “why should not a poet’s cat be winged as well as his horse ?” (233). I wonder whether he believed the poet himself is winged.


  1. All references to Walden are from Henry David Thoreau, Walden. Ed. by J. Lyndon Shanley. Introduction by Joyce Carol Oates (Princeton University Press, 1988).
  2. Historically speaking, the Fisher-Poet is Thoreau’s friend, William Ellery Channing, the younger.
  3. J. Lyndon Shanley suggests in The Making of Walden (1957), that this dialogue can be regarded as a comic interlude allowing a descent from “Higher Laws” to “Brute Neighbors”.

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