The thoughts of poets likened to two types of shell, those that come from the depths and those that are washed up on shore and so exposed to the elements.  Thoreau has numerous comments on the nature of poets and poetry – I will be citing a number, even where I’m not sure if he’s fully or even partly right – they are so interesting and fresh, they deserve to be mulled over in any case.

‘Conchologists call those shells “which are fished up from the depths of the ocean” and are never seen on the shore, which are the rarest and most beautiful, Pelagii, but those which are cast on shore and are never so delicate and beautiful as the former, on account of exposure and abrasion, Littorales.  So it is with the thoughts of poets: some are fresh from the deep sea, radiant with unimagined beauty, – Pelagii; but others are comparatively worn, having been tossed by many a tide, – Littorales, – scaled off, abraded, and eaten by worms.’   18 November 1853


Source: Henry David Thoreau, The Journal 1837-1861, Damion Searls (ed.), preface by John R. Stilgoe (New York: New York Review Books, 2009), p. 236-37

Photo credit: Aaron Burden at unsplash


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