Concordian Thoughts


Shall we not have sympathy with the muskrat which

gnaws its third leg off, not as pitying its sufferings,

     but through our kindred mortality,

           appreciating its majestic pains and its heroic virtue?

Are we not made its brothers by fate?


For whom are psalms sung and mass said,

             if not for worthies as these?

When I hear the church organ peal,

or feel the trembling tones of the bass viol,

I see in imagination the musquash gnawing off his leg,

     I offer up a note

            that his affliction may be sanctified to each and all of us.


Prayer and praise fitly follow such exploits.

I look round for majestic pains and pleasures.

     They have our sympathy,

               both in their joys and their pains.


When I think of the tragedies which are constantly permitted

   in the course of all animal life,

       they make the plaintive strain of the universal harp

             which elevates us above the trivial.


When I think of the muskrat gnawing off his leg

it is as the plectrum on the harp or the bow upon the viol,

      drawing forth a majestic strain or psalm,

               which immeasurably dignifies our common fate.


Even as the worthies of mankind

are said to recommend human life having lived it,

          so I could not spare the example of the muskrat.


                                                                          [Thoreau – J, VI, pp. 98-99]


3 comments on “Concordian Thoughts

  1. dmf says:

    like the new digs, just started reading Terry Tempest Williams’ reflections on the Garden of Delights, called Leap:
    ” If I were to look into the eyes of Creation: insect, fish, spider, serpent, snail, hawk, fox, giraffe, and turtle, even bird by bird, what would I see? What do they know? Would we dare to take the evidence of our kinship seriously? “

    • efmooney says:

      Nice quote. I’m thinking of the Malick film, The Tree of Life, that tries to roll back time to the beginning, and stay in the present too. Tempest looks into the eyes of creation as animal; I think Malick rolls back to gases, seas, and rocks – then animals. Vergil says even stones weep (at war) — they know something.

      • dmf says:

        I’m looking forward to seeing that film, she goes on later to say:
        “The memory of creation, the pulse of love, love the impulse, recover the impulse, the burning impulse, in my body, the body of the universe, the coming together of steam, gas, water, and fire, elemental swirling, twirling, tumbling of imagination, the upheaval of chaos, the settling of matter, the cooling of matter, what is the matter with rock, land, the rupturing and tearing of continents, the filling and spilling of seas, spirals of cells organize, specialize, differentiate, mutate, bottom, middle, surface, breaths realized and held through the covenant of waves one after another delivering consciousness to shore: eyes, ears, nose, mouth, lungs, legs, feet, arms, hands reach.”

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