He would be mocked for years,
made to remember, though he'd never need prompting.
The day of that outing, boating not far from town
on the Sudbury River, he and a friend, Edward,
rowed to shore to make a meal.
Fish they'd caught would bake well in a tree stump,
reasoned Henry. Ever resourceful Henry,
The stump worked well as an oven. Too well.
Unruly tinder, explosive kindling sparks . . .
Edward and he were quickly made frantic,
the fire a dervish rising, gulping more air,
ballooning, swooping toward—surely not there!
but, yes, no denying—toward town!
The pair sprinted in, shouting alarms,
seeking aid, embarrassed. Too late. No lives lost,
but the village’s woods were swallowed, acres
consumed. Demolished. Leveled. Blackened.
Afterwards people jeered:
Henry the Woods Burner. Henry, Concord's scourge.
Set our trees on fire—our beautiful maples and oaks!—
to make a meal in a stump!
He would bear their scorn forever, feel small
every time he recalled that day.
What was I thinking, believing I knew Nature?
Still, he would set aside his misgivings,
find new perspectives within.
Three years later he began
to write it: Walden.
© by Richard Swanson.
Used with the author’s permission.