In Walden, "Where I Lived and What I Lived For" what mood is created by Thoreau's use of descriptive words and phrases?
A well-known poem by the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) evokes the same mood as the one created in Thoreau's chapter in Walden titled "Where I Live and What I Lived For" and elsewhere throughout the book. Yeats was directly inspired by reading Thoreau. As Yeats says:
"When I was a young lad in the town of Sligo I read Thoreau's essays and wanted to live in a hut on an island in Lough Gill called Innisfree which means "Heather Island." I wrote the poem in London when I was about 23."
Here is Yeats' poem in full:
THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
Walden was not written for everyone. Many people could not stand living alone for more than a few days. But Thoreau's book appeals to some individuals who have philosophical and studious temperaments and are looking for solitude and peace of mind. As Yeats says in his poem, "And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow..." It is so easy to get entangled in work and bills, "getting and spending," in our modern world. We are always getting ready to live but never really living. Even if we can't succeed in living the kind of life led by Thoreau and envisioned by Yeats, we can at least share that life vicariously by reading Walden, a book in which Nature herself seems to be speaking to some of us directly.
The mood of this chapter is, as Thoreau himself says, "Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!" He describes the place where he has settled on Walden Pond as being far enough removed from the town (Concord) to afford him complete quiet and solitude. He evokes a sense of bucolic beauty and peace when describing the countryside. What he means to do is to emphasize the beauty of simple things that many people take for granted:
For the first week, whenever I looked out on the pond it impressed me like a tarn high up on the side of a mountain, its bottom far above the surface of other lakes, and, as the sun arose, I saw it throwing off its nightly clothing of mist, and here and there, by degrees, its soft ripples or its smooth reflecting surface was revealed, while the mists, like ghosts, were stealthily withdrawing in every direction into the woods, as at the breaking up of some nocturnal conventicle.
In this setting, Thoreau feels as removed from the hustle of modern society as the stars are from planet Earth. He claims that in this setting, his soul was "reinvigorated" each day by the quiet beauty of his surroundings. In this setting, he hopes to really be alive, to "suck out all the marrow of life." He believes that most people live "like ants," and believes that by choosing to live in solitude, in the countryside, he is getting away from all that. He hopes to show through his description of his life on Walden that life is best lived simply, and the language in this chapter is evocative of this simplicity.