The Pursuit and Comprehension of the Wild (4)
Thoreau prophesies an American mythology based on the potential of the west. In contrast, the east, where lies the Old World, represents the history, art, and literature of the past.
In “Walking” as elsewhere in his writings, Thoreau explores the idea of a fit expression of wildness, an expression not achieved by English literature nor by any poetry yet written. He writes:
I walk out into a Nature such as the old prophets and poets, Menu, Moses, Homer, Chaucer, walked in. You name it America, but it is not America. . . . There is a truer account of it in mythology than in any history of America, so called, that I have seen.
In Atlantis and the Hesperides, the ancients had their own “Great West, enveloped in mystery and poetry,” which can be recaptured each time we look “into the sunset sky.” Thoreau refers to Romulus and Remus, who were suckled by a she-wolf and went on to achieve greatness through the founding of Rome. He finds in this ancient Roman legend an elemental recognition of man’s connection to the strength-giving wild. The story contains a truth that transcends what we narrowly think of as reality: “The story of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf is not a meaningless fable.” Mythology is a form unbounded by the limitations of fact and common sense. It exists independent of time and place in its relevance as a universal statement.