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Reading Walden in Shanghai

When Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau met in 1856, they didn’t like each other. Both were poets of nature, but Whitman surrounded himself with myriad blades of grace while Thoreau sat solitary by his pond, traced its circumference, measured its width and its deepest point. After their meeting, each poet privately recorded his dismay that the other had so much faith in, or was so cynical about, the democratic character of American life. (Some scholars argue that the audacious optimism of Whitman’s poetry masked a deep insecurity; let this serve to excuse him for his dismay at Thoreau’s cynicism Read more