Friday, February 29, 2008

Tantillo's "train wreck" lecture on Thoreau

Here's the full quote from Thoreau's Walden that I botched today in lecture. If anyone is interested in the theme of excrementitious scatology that I mentioned, here is a citation to a fun article to read:

West, Michael. "Scatology and Eschatology: The Heroic Dimensions of Thoreau's Wordplay." Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 89 (1974): 1043-64.

Never too early. Enjoy.

Thoreau writes:
Few phenomena gave me more delight than to observe the forms which thawing sand and clay assume in flowing down the sides of a deep cut on the railroad through which I passed on my way to the village, a phenomenon not very common on so large a scale, though the number of freshly exposed banks of the right material must have been greatly multiplied since railroads were invented. The material was sand of every degree of fineness and of various rich colors, commonly mixed with a little clay. When the frost comes out in the spring, and even in a thawing day in the winter, the sand begins to flow down the slopes like lava, sometimes bursting out through the snow and overflowing it where no sand was to be seen before. Innumerable little streams overlap and interlace one with another, exhibiting a sort of hybrid product, which obeys half way the law of currents, and half way that of vegetation. As it flows it takes the forms of sappy leaves or vines, making heaps of pulpy sprays a foot or more in depth, and resembling, as you look down on them, the laciniated, lobed, and imbricated thalluses of some lichens; or you are reminded of coral, of leopard's paws or birds' feet, of brains or lungs or bowels, and excrements of all kinds. It is a truly grotesque vegetation . . . .

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