Walking in Walden

· 1193 words · Tweet this

Every sentence in Walden that contains the words I and walk.


“where I see in my daily walks human beings living in sties, and all winter with an open door, for the sake of light, without any visible, often imaginable, wood-pile, and the forms of both old and young are permanently contracted by the long habit of shrinking from cold and misery, and the development of all their limbs and faculties is checked.

“I walked about the outside, at first unobserved from within, the window was so deep and high.

“I never in all my walks came across a man engaged in so simple and natural an occupation as building his house.

“It would surpass the powers of a well man nowadays to take up his bed and walk, and I should certainly advise a sick one to lay down his bed and run.

“I walked over each farmer’s premises, tasted his wild apples, discoursed on husbandry with him, took his farm at his price, at any price, mortgaging it to him in my mind.

“As I walk along the stony shore of the pond in my shirt-sleeves, though it is cool as well as cloudy and windy, and I see nothing special to attract me, all the elements are unusually congenial to me.

“There was a certain positive originality, however slight, to be detected in him, and I occasionally observed that he was thinking for himself and expressing his own opinion, a phenomenon so rare that I would any day walk ten miles to observe it, and it amounted to the re-origination of many of the institutions of society.

“As I walked in the woods to see the birds and squirrels, so I walked in the village to see the men and boys.

“Sometimes, after coming home thus late in a dark and muggy night, when my feet felt the path which my eyes could not see, dreaming and absent-minded all the way, until I was aroused by having to raise my hand to lift the latch, I have not been able to recall a single step of my walk, and I have thought that perhaps my body would find its way home if its master should forsake it, as the hand finds its way to the mouth without assistance.

“As I walked on the railroad causeway, I used to wonder at the halo of light around my shadow, and would fain fancy myself one of the elect.

“Once I was surprised to see a cat walking along the stony shore of the pond, for they rarely wander so far from home.

“I sometimes left a good fire when I went to take a walk in a winter afternoon.

“For many weeks I met no one in my walks but those who came occasionally to cut wood and sled it to the village.

“It chanced that I walked that way across the fields the following night, about the same hour, and hearing a low moaning at this spot, I drew near in the dark, and discovered the only survivor of the family that I know, the heir of both its virtues and its vices, who alone was interested in this burning, lying on his stomach and looking over the cellar wall at the still smouldering cinders beneath, muttering to himself, as is his wont. “ I felt it, and still remark it almost daily in my walks, for by it hangs the history of a family.

“But no weather interfered fatally with my walks, or rather my going abroad, for I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.

“As I walked over the long causeway made for the railroad through the meadows, I encountered many a blustering and nipping wind, for nowhere has it freer play.

“Sometimes, notwithstanding the snow, when I returned from my walk at evening I crossed the deep tracks of a woodchopper leading from my door, and found his pile of whittlings on the hearth, and my house filled with the odor of his pipe.

“Walden, being like the rest usually bare of snow, or with only shallow and interrupted drifts on it, was my yard where I could walk freely when the snow was nearly two feet deep on a level elsewhere and the villagers were confined to their streets.

“and then suddenly pausing with a ludicrous expression and a gratuitous somerset, as if all the eyes in the universe were eyed on him—for all the motions of a squirrel, even in the most solitary recesses of the forest, imply spectators as much as those of a dancing girl—wasting more time in delay and circumspection than would have sufficed to walk the whole distance—I never saw one walk—and then suddenly, before you could say Jack Robinson, he would be in the top of a young pitch pine, winding up his clock and chiding all imaginary spectators, soliloquizing and talking to all the universe at the same time—for no reason that I could ever detect, or he himself was aware of, I suspect.

“The ice in the pond at length begins to be honeycombed, and I can set my heel in it as I walk.

“I delight to come to my bearings—not walk in procession with pomp and parade, in a conspicuous place, but to walk even with the Builder of the universe, if I may—not to live in this restless, nervous, bustling, trivial Nineteenth Century, but stand or sit thoughtfully while it goes by.”


I extracted the text by running this on the HTML version from Project Gutenberg:

Array.prototype.slice
    .call(document.querySelectorAll('p'))
    .map(function(p) { 
        return p.textContent;
    })
    .map(function(paragraph) { 
        return paragraph
            .split(/[\.\?\!\;]\s*/)
            .filter(function(sentence) { 
                return sentence.indexOf('walk') > -1 
                    && sentence.indexOf('I ') > -1;
            });
    })
    .filter(function(sentences) {
        return sentences.length;
    })
    .map(function(sentences) {
        return sentences
            .join('. ')
            .replace(/\n/g, '')
            .replace(/\s+/g, ' '); 
    })
    .join('.\n\n');

Further reading:

Darius Kazemi’s note on aphorism detection, especially this:

Let’s start out by being incredibly naive about aphorisms. I always like to start with the easiest most naive solution possible, because sometimes you get lucky and the easy solution is Good Enough and you can implement it and go do something else with your life.

Poet Robert Fitterman went about doing something similar by hand:

When I was 13, my brother gave me a copy of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. It was my first foray into real Literature and I hated it. Even with little or no way to enter the novel, I dutifully slugged through it (I mean, what is cog-nak anyway?) Years later, I have returned to revisit the relationship. In this version, I have erased my way through Hemingway’s original text, leaving behind only the phrases that begin with the pronoun ‘I’.

And Thoreau did write an essay on walking.

Earlier: My favorite records from 2014

Later: Notable releases 2015