Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
--Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
It is a gentle art; know how to tramp and you know how to live.
Manners makyth man, and tramping makyth
manners. Know how to meet your fellow wanderer, how to be passive to the beauty of Nature and how to
be active to its wildness and its rigor. Tramping brings one to reality.
The principal motive of the wander-spirit is curiosity -- the
desire to know what is beyond the next turning
of the road, and to probe for oneself the mystery of the names of the places in maps. In a subconscious way
the born wanderer is always expecting to come on something very wonderful -- beyond the horizon's rim.
The joys of wandering are often balanced by the pains; but there is something which is neither joy nor pain
which makes the desire to wander or explore almost incurable in many human beings.
--Stephen Graham, The Gentle Art of Tramping
You think you know all about walking, -- don't you, now? Well, how
do you suppose your lower limbs are
held to your body? They are sucked up by two cupping vessels, ("cotyloid" -- cup-like -- cavities,) and held
there as long as you live, and longer. At any rate, you think you move them backward and forward at such
a rate as your will determines, don't you? On the contrary, they swing just as any other pendulums swing,
at a fixed rate, determined by their length. You can alter this by muscular power, as you can take hold of
the pendulum of a clock and make it move faster or slower; but your ordinary gait is timed by the same
mechanism as the movements of the solar system.
--Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table
I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who
understood the art of Walking,
that is, of taking walks,-who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering:..
If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and
wife and child and friends,
and never see them again,-if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs,
and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk.
...the Walker, not the Knight, but Walker Errant. He is a sort of fourth
estate, outside of Church and
State and People.
No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence, which
are the capital in this profession.
It comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker.
I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend
four hours a day at least,-and it is
commonly more than that,-sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free
from all worldly engagements.
If you would get exercise, go in search of the springs of life. Think of
a man's swinging dumb-bells
for his health, when those springs are bubbling up in far-off pastures unsought by him!
There is in fact a sort of harmony discoverable between the capabilities
of the landscape within a
circle of ten miles' radius, or the limits of an afternoon walk, and the threescore years and ten
of human life. It will never become quite familiar to you.
The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I
have been preparing to say is,
that in Wildness is the preservation of the World. [...] Our ancestors were savages. The story of Romulus
and Remus being suckled by a wolf is not a meaningless fable. The founders of every State which has risen
to eminence have drawn their nourishment and vigor from a similar wild source.
A tanned skin is something more than respectable, and perhaps olive is a
fitter color than white for a man,
-a denizen of the woods. "The pale white man!" I do not wonder that the African pitied him.
In Literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is but
another name for tameness. It is the uncivilized
free and wild thinking in "Hamlet" and the "Iliad," in all the Scriptures and Mythologies, not learned in the
schools, that delights us.
The poet to-day, notwithstanding all the discoveries of science, and the
accumulated learning of mankind,
enjoys no advantage over Homer.
You will perceive that I demand something which no Augustan nor
Elizabethan age, which no culture,
in short, can give. Mythology comes nearer to it than anything. [...] Mythology is the crop which the Old
World bore before its soil was exhausted, before the fancy and imagination were affected with blight;..
Some forms of disease, even, may prophesy forms of health.
Who but the Evil One has cried, "Whoa!" to mankind?
Whatever part the whip has touched is thenceforth palsied.
...for what is most of our boasted so-called knowledge but a conceit that
we know something, which
robs us of the advantage of our actual ignorance? [...] The highest that we can attain to is not Knowledge,
but Sympathy with Intelligence. [...] -a discovery that there are more things in heaven and earth than are
dreamed of in our philosophy. It is the lighting up of the mist by the sun.
There is something servile in the habit of seeking after a law which we
may obey. We may study the laws
of matter at and for our convenience, but a successful life knows no law. [...] The man who takes the liberty
to live is superior to all the laws, by virtue of his relation to the law-maker. "That is active duty," says the
Vishnu Purana, "which is not for our bondage; that is knowledge which is for our liberation:.."
It would be well, if all our lives were a divine tragedy even, instead
of this trivial comedy or farce. Dante,
Bunyan, and others, appear to have been exercised in their minds more than we: they were subjected to
a kind of culture such as our district schools and colleges do not contemplate.
So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine
more brightly than ever he has done,
shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light,
as warm and serene and golden as on a bank-side in autumn.
--Henry D. Thoreau, Excursions, 1863
Since you will never obstruct
One jot the thoughts
Which the heart sends,
Why should you interpose yourselves,
White clouds of the mountain-crest?
--Tachibana No Tadamoto (c. 950)
Gosen 1307, trans. by Arthur Waley, "Japanese Poetry: The Uta", 1919