First, the unusual simile, I never thought of a lamb’s bleat as free or lawless.  Then the idea that a true poetic sentence is free and lawless.  I found several similar comments in Thoreau, and something about them gave me a sense of liberty.

I was once criticized by a professor for being ‘far too inventive in your use of English’.  I took the criticism as an accolade and have been trying to live up to it ever since.

‘Essentially your truest poetic sentence is as free and lawless as a lamb’s bleat.’   2 January 1859

Source: Henry David Thoreau, The Journal 1837-1861, Damion Searls (ed.), preface by John R. Stilgoe (New York: New York Review Books, 2009), p. 534

Photo credit: SonnyLeroy at


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