Thoreau's Flute

    WE sighing said, "Our Pan is dead;
    His pipe hangs mute beside the river
    Around it wistful sunbeams quiver,
    But Music's airy voice is fled.
    Spring mourns as for untimely frost;
    The bluebird chants a requiem;
    The willow-blossom waits for him;
    The Genius of the wood is lost."

    Then from the flute, untouched by hands,
    There came a low, harmonious breath:
    "For such as he there is no death;
    His life the eternal life commands;
    Above man's aims his nature rose.
    The wisdom of a just content
    Made one small spot a continent
    And turned to poetry life's prose.

    "Haunting the hills, the stream, the wild,
    Swallow and aster, lake and pine,
    To him grew human or divine,
    Fit mates for this large-hearted child.
    Such homage Nature ne'er forgets,
    And yearly on the coverlid
    'Neath which her darling lieth hid
    Will write his name in violets.

    "To him no vain regrets belong
    Whose soul, that finer instrument,
    Gave to the world no poor lament,
    But wood-notes ever sweet and strong.
    O lonely friend! he still will be
    A potent presence, though unseen,
    Steadfast, sagacious, and serene;
    Seek not for him -- he is with thee."

Louisa May Alcott(1832-1888)

Louisa May Alcott is best known for her novels Little Women and Little Men both of which I eagerly read in Junior High School over one weekend. Louisa's greatest influence in her life was her father an unconventional teacher in his day, a transcendentalist, and a writer. He encouraged her to keep a dairy to develop her budding writing skills and she began to write stories at an early age to supplement the family income.

Henry Thoreau did not publish a prodigious amount of poetry but he did enjoy a close relationship as a family friend to a very young Louisa May Alcott's father Bronson Alcott. He doted on her like an uncle and Louisa's work was influenced by him. Not only were his essays, journals and his well known Walden widely popular in the media of the time, he was quite fortunate that he lived during a time where he made an impact on an impressive literary group of other well known transcendentalists in Massachusetts such as George Ripley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Louisa and Thoreau spent many hours on Nature walks and she wrote this poem shortly after his death in honor of her friend and mentor. It was published in The Atlantic Monthly, September 1863. Thoreau and Alcott are both buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord.


Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, " Alcott,Louisa May ", Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

CST Approved.

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