The Girlfriend

I can’t take it, she says,
meeting on the sly,
out here in the woods,
away from town.
Roots snarl my hair,
leaves in my shoes,
scratches all over me.
Henry, peel me off this tree
I am so Thoreau with you.




I know, ouch.  I couldn’t resist.  But here’s the real story ~


Thoreau wrote about love in general and one relationship in particular in his Journal during 1839-1840 when he was quite smitten with Ellen Sewall; his brother John was also in love with her. Prior to meeting Sewall in July 1839, he wrote a short poem about love which he included in his Journal entry for January 20, 1839. He met her on July 20, 1839, and “By July 25 he was beyond poetry”. On that day he wrote in his Journal, “There is no remedy for love but to love more”. Early in November of 1840, after John had proposed to Ellen and been rejected, Thoreau wrote her a letter in which he proposed. The letter no longer survives, but his November 1, 1840, Journal entry was related to that letter. It reads:


I thought that the sun of our love should have risen as noiselessly as the sun out of the sea, and we sailors have found ourselves steering between the tropics as if the broad day had lasted forever. You know how the sun comes up from the sea when you stand on the cliff, and does’nt startle you, but every thing, and you too are helping it.


Thoreau’s daily Journal from July 1839 to November 1840 includes many entries related to his feelings of love for Ellen Sewall. Following her father’s wishes, Sewall turned down Thoreau’s proposal, but Harding reports that Thoreau carried her memory with him to the end. In 1862, shortly before he died, Thoreau is reported to have said to his sister, Sophia: “I have always loved her”.



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