James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

May 6

Thoreau’s Flute

By Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888)

  • Henry David Thoreau, a writer of nature and the woods, died May 6, 1862.

  • WE sighing said, “Our Pan is dead;

    His pipe hangs mute beside the river;

    Around it wistful sunbeams quiver,

    But Music’s airy voice is fled.

    Spring mourns as for untimely frost;

    The bluebird chants a requiem;

    The willow-blossom waits for him;—

    The Genius of the wood is lost.”

    Then from the flute, untouched by hands,

    There came a low, harmonious breath:

    “For such as he there is no death;—

    His life the eternal life commands;

    Above man’s aims his nature rose.

    The wisdom of a just content

    Made one small spot a continent,

    And tuned to poetry life’s prose.

    “Haunting the hills, the streams, the wild,

    Swallow and aster, lake and pine,

    To him grew human or divine,—

    Fit mates for this large-hearted child.

    Such homage Nature ne’er forgets,

    And yearly on the coverlid

    ’Neath which her darling lieth hid

    Will write his name in violets.

    “To him no vain regrets belong

    Whose soul, that finer instrument,

    Gave to the world no poor lament,

    But wood-notes ever sweet and strong.

    O lonely friend! he still will be

    A potent presence, though unseen,—

    Steadfast, sagacious, and serene;

    Seek not for him—he is with thee.”