Facts in Walden

Facts Examples in Walden:

Economy 64

"the Gulistan, or Flower Garden, of Sheik Sadi of Shiraz..."   (Economy)

The Gulistan ("Rose Garden") is a distinctive piece of Persian literature from 1259 CE and widely refered to as a source of wisdom. It is one of two major works by the Persian poet Saadi of Shiraz.

"Penn..."   (Economy)

William Penn (1644–1718) was the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia. He advocated for democracy and religious freedom, and he was also known for fostering better relationships and successful treaties with the Lenape Native Americans.

"Mrs. Fry..."   (Economy)

Elizabeth Fry née Gurney (1780–1845) was an English prison reformer, social reformer, and a Christian philanthropist. Her work provided the necessary force to get new legislation enacted to make prisons more humane.

"Newton..."   (Economy)

Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727) is best known as an English mathematician widely recognized as one of the most important and influential scholars of all time. His three laws of motion helped establish classical mechanics by describing the relationship between an object and the forces that act on it and how it moves in response to that force.

"Milton..."   (Economy)

John Milton (1608–1674) was an English poet best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost, published in 1667. Milton garnered international acclaim within his lifetime, writing on subjects and themes that reflected his passion for freedom and self-determination.

"Cromwell..."   (Economy)

An English statesman, Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) was elected to Parliament in 1628. When the English civil war broke out in 1642, Cromwell joined the military and soon led his own troops. He waged military campaigns in Ireland and Scotland in the 1650s, attained the rank of general, and served as “lord protector” of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland from 1653 until his death.

"Bacon..."   (Economy)

Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626) was an English philosopher, statesman, and Renaissance man. Bacon also rose through the ranks of the state service; he was knighted in 1603 and eventually promoted to Lord Chancellor in 1618. After being forced to leave office due to bribery charges, Bacon left public service and pursued his literary, scientific, and philosophical work.

"Jesuits..."   (Economy)

Anyone who is a member of the Roman Catholic Society of Jesus who is devoted to missionary and educational work is considered a Jesuit. This group was founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in 1534 and has a strong presence across the United States and the world.

"Howard..."   (Economy)

John Howard (1726–1790) was a philanthropist and the first English prison reformer. During his life, he visited hundreds of prisons throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Europe. His book The State of the Prisons in 1777 called attention to many of the deficiencies and problems prevalent at the time. Howard's work is credited with improving prisons to more humanitarian conditions and with establishing the practice of placing inmates in single cells.

"Newfoundland dog..."   (Economy)

This breed of large working dog is typically brown or black in coloring. Thoreau chooses this particular breed here because they are not only known for their intelligence, tremendous strength, and loyalty, but they also excel at water rescue.

"Robin Goodfellow..."   (Economy)

Robin Goodfellow is also known as Puck from English folklore and popularized as a character in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Puck usually personifies the clever, mischievous prankster and is typically represented as an elf, sprite, or jester.

"for the devil finds employment for the idle..."   (Economy)

This expression is based on other common ones that associate idleness with mischievous or harmful behavior. Such expressions are rooted in biblical verses that emphasize the importance of hard work and describe idleness as a gateway to sinful behavior.

"Admetus..."   (Economy)

In Greek mythology, Admetus was the king of Pherae in Thessaly and famous for his hospitality and justice. He was also one of the Argonauts.

"Mucclasse Indians..."   (Economy)

While the specific details for this tribe are unclear, this spelling for this particular Native American tribe of the Creek Confederation is unique to Thoreau.

"Bartram..."   (Economy)

William Bartram (1739–1823) was an American botanist and naturalist who spent much of his time studying the flora and fauna of Florida. His most popular work, known as Bartram's Travels contains detailed accounts of his experiences exploring the North American Southeast.

"trig..."   (Economy)

While not in as much use as it was in Thoreau's time, this adjective describes things as neat and smart in appearance.

"japanned..."   (Economy)

Since Thoreau is certainly not using an electric lamp, this japanned lamp is likely an oil lamp with a tall, glass flute. The metal parts of the lamp would have been japanned, which means to coat in a dark, enamel-like varnish to give the metal a black-gloss finish. This covering also protects the metal from rust and the elements.

"or who own their thirds in mills..."   (Economy)

This expression represents the legal stipulation at the time which said that a widow received one third of her husband's wealth and possessions.

"Marcus Porcius Cato..."   (Economy)

Marcus Porcius Cato (234–149 BCE), commonly known as Cato the Elder, was a Roman general and author of agricultural texts. His only work that has survived in its entirety is De Agri Culture or On Agriculture, written around 160 BCE. It deals with an assorted collection of knowledge on husbandry and farm management.

"sal-soda..."   (Economy)

"Sal-soda" is Sodium Carbonate and has practical applications as a cleaning agent in homes. Sodium bicarbonate, which Thoreau probably meant, is commonly known as baking soda and can be used when baking bread.

"hoe-cakes..."   (Economy)

Typically made of cornmeal, butter, and salt, these unleavened cakes purportedly earned their name by being cooked over a fire on the flat, metal part of the farming tool of the same name (hoe).

"Arcadia..."   (Economy)

Arcadia is a peaceful, pastoral region in a mountainous district of southern Greece. In Greek mythology it is the home of Pan and poetically it often represents a kind of bucolic paradise.

"Bhagvat-Geeta..."   (Economy)

The Bhagavad Gita is an ancient, 700-verse Hindu scripture. Written in Sanskrit, the 18 chapters of the scripture are set within in a narrative, dialogic framework between Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide and charioteer Lord Krishna. Thoreau, like other writers and philosophers in the 19th century, looked toward the East for alternative voices and ideas to European philosophy and religion.

"Arthur Young..."   (Economy)

Arthur Young (1741–1820) was a British agricultural author who built his reputation on the views he expressed through his writing as an agriculture and politics.

"cords..."   (Economy)

While a cord typically refers to some long and slender piece of material, it also means a unit of wood cut for fuel equal to a stack 4 x 4 x 8 feet or 128 cubic feet.

"Flying Childers..."   (Economy)

The undefeated, legendary Thoroughbred racehorse Flying Childers is often cited as the first truly great racehorse in the history of the sport. Flying Childers was foaled in 1714 and raced in the Newmarket Racecourse, a British Thoroughbred horse-racing venue in Newmarket, Suffolk.

"Say..."   (Economy)

Jean-Baptiste Say (1772–1823) was a French businessman and economist whose classically liberal views argued in favor of things like free trade and fewer restraints on business. While it's somewhat debated whether or not he actually was the first to propose it, Say's Law of markets is attributed to him as his most popular contribution.

"Ricardo..."   (Economy)

The English political economist David Ricardo (1772–1823), along with Malthus, Smith, and Mill, was considered one of the most influential economists of so-called classical period of economics.

"Adam Smith..."   (Economy)

The Scottish moral philosopher and economist Adam Smith (1723–1790) was a key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment. His best known works are The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776).

"Minerva..."   (Economy)

In Roman mythology, Minerva (Athena in Greek) is the goddess of wisdom. She is also the sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy. In a contest of handiwork that Momus judged, she built a house but was criticized for not including wheels on it so that the inhabitant could get away from his neighbors if need be.

"Momus..."   (Economy)

In Greek mythology, Momus is a god of pleasure, satire, and mockery. This god featured in two of Aesop's Fables, one of which Thoreau references here: Jupiter told Momus to judge which house three different gods had made was the best. Momus was jealous of all, so he found fault with all of the houses.

"purple..."   (Economy)

The choice of colored clothing was not arbitrary in medieval Europe. Blue dyes were rare and expensive, and purple dyes were even more so. This meant that such colors were reserved only for the powerful, wealthy, and regal. This connection between wealth, color, and dyes created our modern associations with them as status symbols.

"of course a la mode...."   (Economy)

While modern readers may be a little confused as to why Thoreau would be talking about ice cream here, this expression originally means "fashionably" or "stylishly." Over time, it acquired its current meaning of a dish served with ice cream.

"Cambridge College..."   (Economy)

Thoreau means Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard in 1837 and was chosen as one of the speakers for commencement activities.

"Trinity Church..."   (Economy)

Trinity Church is an historic parish church in the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The first Trinity Church building was built in Manhattan in 1698, but it was later destroyed by the Great New York City Fire of 1776. The second Trinity Church building was completed in 1788 only to be torn down in 1839 after the structure was weakened by storms. The current building was completed in 1846.

"Broadway..."   (Economy)

When the Dutch arrived and began to colonize what they named New Amsterdam in the 17th century, they established this main road that eventually became known as Broadway. This street runs the length of the island of Manhattan in New York City. For Thoreau, it was known as part of the bustling heart of New York City—an association continued to this day.

"mortised or tenoned..."   (Economy)

"To mortise" and "to tenon" refer to creating holes and protrusions (respectively) in a piece of wood or other material so that it will fit with another piece to form a connection. This allows structures to be held together without items like nails, glue, or tar.

"the Province of New Netherland..."   (Economy)

New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut represent the modern states that the territory of 17th-century New Netherland covered. The east coast of North America was colonized by the Dutch and the English, creating the areas that became known as New Netherland and New England.

"Sardanapalus..."   (Economy)

While this might not actually be a specific person, Greek historians have recorded Sardanapalus as the last king of Assyria. He is portrayed as notoriously wealthy. Thoreau uses Sardanapalus here to emphasize how tax collectors will see money in even the poorest traveler.

"Venetian blinds..."   (Economy)

These are horizontal blinds that have horizontal slats stacked one above the other. Generally, such blinds are made of metal, plastic, or sometimes wood (as was likely in Thoreau's time). These slats are suspended by strips of cloth or cords which are connected to a pulley allowing users to raise, lower, or alter the angle of the slats to let more or less sunlight in.

"Rumford fire-place..."   (Economy)

Sir Benjamin Thompson, known as Count Rumford, dramatically changed the way fireplaces heated homes in the 18th century. A physicist best known for his work on heat, he designed a shallow, tall fireplace with angled sides and a narrower chimney. These sides reflected heat back into the room, and together with the narrow throat to minimize wind and smoke turbulence, the Rumford fireplace efficiently removes smoke with little loss of heat.

"Gookin..."   (Economy)

Major-General Daniel Gookin (1612–1687) wrote about many North American Indian tribes during his time in the Virginia and Massachusetts colonies. Originally a settler, he eventually gained a small measure of political prominence in regional government.

"Laplander..."   (Economy)

A "Laplander" is an inhabitant of the area known as Lapland, a region that consists of the northern-most portion of the Scandinavian peninsula. Politically, the land is now divided among Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Russian Federation.

"Samuel Laing..."   (Economy)

Samuel Laing (1780 – 1868) was a Scottish travel writer who spent much of his energy traveling and writing about Scandinavia, Finland, and northern Germany. His descriptions of these countries were published and generally well-distributed in England and the United States.

"Parcae..."   (Economy)

Roman tradition and mythology shares much with the Greek. The Parcae (singular Parca) is the Latin name for the Fates, called the Moirai in Greek. These are the female personification of destiny who could see all that would happen to anyone and spun the metaphorical threads of life.

"equipage..."   (Economy)

This word technically refers to the state or condition of someone or something being (or in the process of being) equipped. However, Thoreau uses it to refer to the kinds of clothing, accessories, and attire that accompany one's dress in order to complete their ensemble.

"Asiatic Russia..."   (Economy)

The modern and historical boundaries of Russia have stretched from Europe to the Pacific Ocean. The split between European and Asiatic Russia has sometimes varied depending on cultural perceptions, but physically the Ural Mountains mark the transition point between European Russia and Asiatic Russian.

"Madam Pfeiffer..."   (Economy)

Ida Laura Pfeiffer (1797–1858), was an Austrian traveler and writer, known as one of the first female explorers. Her travel writings became immensely popular, getting translated into seven languages. Despite her success, she was still denied membership to the Royal Geographical Society in London due to being a woman.

"Hanno..."   (Economy)

There is only one historical source for the journey of Hanno the Navigator, a Carthaginian explorer from the 5th or 6th century BCE: a Greek periplus, or manuscript. Hanno is best known for exploring the northwestern and western coasts of Africa, with some historians suggesting that he reached as far south as the modern-day country of Gabon.

"there is the untold fate of La Prouse..."   (Economy)

Thoreau is referring to Jean François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse (sometimes La Pérouse). He was a French Naval officer and ocean explorer during the 18th century. The "untold fate" that Thoreau mentions alludes to how Laperouse's expedition vanished in 1788 in Oceania.

"the Celestial Empire..."   (Economy)

This name referred to China and its empire, and is derived from the translation of the original Chinese 天朝 (Tiāncháo) which means heavenly or celestial. Massachusetts began trading with China around 1780.

"Liebig..."   (Economy)

Considered the founder of the field of organic chemistry, Justus von Liebig (1803–1873) was a German scientist who made significant contributions to agricultural and biological chemistry. Thoreau would have known Liebig's work at the time, and he refers to him here to add credibility to his statements about internal combustion.

"Darwin, the naturalist..."   (Economy)

Charles Darwin (1809–1882), an English naturalist, is best known for his contribution to the science of evolution. Darwin formulated his own theory of evolution in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species based on evidence he had collected from around the world, particularly the Galapagos Islands.

"Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel..."   (Economy)

Interestingly, the American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908–1970) based his well-known hierarchy of needs on the works of Albert Einstein and Henry David Thoreau. This list of basic necessities for humans serves as a precursor to the hierarchy that Maslow established, creating a theory of mental health founded on fulfilling basic needs in priority in order to reach self-actualization.

"Confucius..."   (Economy)

A Chinese philosopher, Confucius (551–479 BCE) postulated ideas on the importance of practical moral values, and his works were collected by his disciples to form the basis of the Confucian philosophy.

"be not afflicted, my child, for who shall assign to thee what thou hast left undone?..."   (Economy)

Thoreau is quoting from the Vishnu Purana, one of the eighteen Maha (or great) Puranas, a genre of ancient and medieval texts of Hinduism. This Purana primarily centers around the god Vishnu and is one of the most studied Puranas, containing controversial details of the genealogy of various dynasties. As mentioned earlier, Thoreau and other thinkers in the 19th century took a strong interest in exploring Eastern religions and philosophies.

"Hippocrates..."   (Economy)

A Greek physician, Hippocrates (circa 460–377 BCE) is regarded by many at the father of medicine. The Hippocratic oath is derived from his name due to his association with a large body of medical writings from ancient Greece.

"Evelyn..."   (Economy)

Thoreau is likely referring to John Evelyn, an English writer who is chiefly remembered for the accounts and insights in his Diary, published in 1818. This text described many events throughout history and was consulted by many writers in the 19th century.

"Wilberforce..."   (Economy)

William Wilberforce was a British politician, social activist, and a fierce opponent of the slave trade. His efforts brought about the end of the slave trade in the West Indies in 1807. Thoreau invokes Wilberforce here much in the same way he did Iolanaus earlier: the common people do not have champions or help to assist with their issues, and they must rely on themselves.

"Raleigh..."   (Economy)

Thoreau is referring to Sir Walter Raleigh (circa 1554–1618), an English writer, soldier, and explorer, among many other intriguing things. His poetry has been celebrated for its straightforward, unadorned style. Raleigh was one of the most memorable historical figures of the Elizabethan era.

"Deucalion and Pyrrha..."   (Economy)

Deucalion is the son of Prometheus in Greek mythology. When Zeus sent a flood to wipe out humankind's wickedness, Deucalion and his wife, Pyrrha, were allowed to survive and instructed to throw stones over their heads. These stones transformed into humans and the world was repopulated.

"old book..."   (Economy)

By "old book," Thoreau means the Christian Bible. The line that follows is a paraphrase from the biblical passage from Matthew 6: 19. The next line from that same passage (Matthew 6: 20) says to put one's treasures in heaven where they cannot succumb to moth, rust, and thievery. Thoreau is likely quoting scripture in addition to his Greek metaphors to appeal to the intellectual and the faithful in order to make them see that people are struggling with the lives they have been given.

"Bramins..."   (Economy)

"Bramin" (spelled "Brahmin" or "Brahman") refers to a member of the priestly caste of the Hindu faith. During the 19th century, many philosophers looked to the dominant religions in parts of Asia for new perspectives on spiritual enlightenment. Thoreau will later talk of the influence such faiths had on the transcendentalist movement.

"Sandwich Islanders..."   (Economy)

When Captain James Cook sailed to the Hawaiian Islands in January of 1778, he named them the Sandwich Islands, a name that would stick for decades. At the time Cook was sailing, the First Lord of the Admiralty for the British was names John Mantagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich. Cook chose to name the islands after the earl, but they were later renamed after the name of its largest island.

"Nilometer..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

This is a device made up of a graduate pillar that serves as a means of measuring the water level of the Nile River. Thoreau likely chose this example to contrast with "Realometer" to point out how such a very specific measurement device has no purpose in grounding someone in true "reality."

"Brahme..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

“Brahme,” or Brahma, is the Hindu god of creation and the essential spirit of Hinduism. As the supreme god in Hindu mythology, Brahma is the Divine reality, of which the universe we experience is only a manifestation.

"Saint Vitus' dance..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

The term Saint Vitus’s dance has historically served as another name for the disease Sydenham's Chorea. This disease can result from childhood contact with streptococcus and is characterized by involuntary and uncontrollable bodily movements. Thoreau uses it here to emphasize the hurry with which people work and live, as if incapable of sitting still. This metaphor characterizes the obsession with work as a disease.

"and talk through a telegraph..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

The telegraph transmits electrical impulses through wires which are then interpreted through a communications system known as Morse Code. The telegraph was considered modern in Thoreau’s day, and the speed at which it delivers information causes Thoreau some discomfort: he wants the world to simplify and slow down, making the telegraph a modern representation of “so-called internal improvements” that “[live] too fast.”

"dead reckoning..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

The term “dead reckoning” refers to a method of navigation that relies on guesses, estimates, and records of previous ventures, rather than precise figures, to locate a destination or target. Dead reckoning was used for sailing, although it was quite dangerous, until it was replaced by more accurate instruments, such as radar. Thoreau uses this term here to compare the dangers and distractions of a “modern” life in the 19th century to a ship sailing by “dead reckoning,” or without direction.

""glorify God and enjoy him forever."..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

This quote is from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a document important in the Protestant faith. Catechisms typically convey information in a call and response form, and so for this quote, the question is “What is the chief end of man?” and the response is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

"the steppes of Tartary..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

This is a reference to a geographic region in Central Asia that features a series of treeless, semi-arid plateaus, or steppes. Thoreau includes “Tartary” here to indicate the land of the "Tatars," a Turkic people who live in Asia and Europe on the Mongolian plateau in the 12th century CE.

"Cassiopeia's Chair..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

In Greek mythology, Poseidon punished Cassiopeia for her arrogance and vanity, forcing her to be confined to a throne forever. This constellation is comprised of five stars that make a letter M or W, and it is said to represent Cassiopeia in her throne.

"Concord Battle Ground..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

Thoreau is referring to one site of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the first military engagement in the American Revolutionary War.

"German Confederacy..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

The unified nation of Germany is young compared to many other countries in Europe. This group of 39 German states existed in a loose confederacy from 1815 to 1866 to coordinate the economies of these German-speaking countries in an effort to replace the former Holy Roman Empire.

"Vedas..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

This is a general word for many of the most ancient Hindu scriptures. The four chief collections are the Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Vedas. These were written in early Sanskrit and contain hymns, philosophy, and guidance on ritual.

"Aldebaran..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

This is the brightest star in the Taurus constellation. It is a part of a binary system with a red giant (a very large, bright star with low surface temperature). The name is from the Arabic, which translates as "the follower (of the Pleiades)."

"Hyades..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

Another cluster of stars in the constellation Taurus, the Hyades surrounds the bright star Aldebaran and the brightest stars form a V. This star cluster is the closest one to Earth.

"Pleiades..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

This open cluster of stars in the constellation Taurus is named after the seven daughters of the Titan Atlas and the Oceanid Pleione. Many of the stars are visible without the aid of a telescope, but in actuality there are around five hundred in the cluster. The group of stars is also known as the Seven Sisters.

"Damodara..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

Damodar or "Damodara" is another name for the Hindu god Krishna, and it refers to one of Krishna’s childhood stories, in which his mother binds him for being mischievous. Damodar is often depicted as a young cowherd playing a flute and also is known as a heroic warrior and teacher.

"field sparrow..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

The field sparrow (Spizella pusilla) is a small bird found in many places across North America, particularly eastern Canada and the eastern United States, with a wingspan of approximately 8 inches.

"whip-poor-will..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

The whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus) is a species of bird from eastern North America that is primarily active at night or twilight. Its name is an example of onomatopoeia, as it is named after the song it makes. This species of bird is also the source of many legends and stories, often intended to frighten, as the song is quite haunting and the birds are difficult to see due to their camouflage.

"scarlet tanager..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

The scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea) is an American songbird that has a wingspan of approximately 10 inches. It used to be classified as belonging to the cardinal family, due to its red plumage and vocalizations being similar to other cardinal species, before it was re-classed into the tanager family, Thraupidae.

"veery..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

The veery (Catharus fuscescens) is another species of North American thrush. This species is smaller than the wood thrush, with a wingspan of about 6 1/2 to 7 inches in length. Similar to other thrushes, veeries have light brown coloring on their backs and white coloring with faint brownish spots on the chests.

"wood thrush..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

A wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) is native to eastern North America and has a wingspan of over one standard foot (12–16 inches). The bird has rusty brown coloring on its head and back, large black spots dot the white chest, and it is also notable for its loud clear song.

"Harivansa..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

In Sanskrit literature, the Harivamsha (Thoreau's spelling is incorrect) is an important work, believed to be a supplement to the wisdom and teachings found in the Mahabharata.

"Cultivator..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

When Thoreau says "my 'Cultivator,'" he is likely referring to the periodicals, such as the Boston Cultivator, that were popular during his time. The Boston Cultivator was a successful agricultural paper in New England from the late 1830s until after the Civil War. So, the use of "Cultivator" here is similar to saying "my daily newspaper."

"Old Cato, whose "De Re Rustica"..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

Thoreau again refers to Marcus Porcius Cato (234–149 BCE), the Roman general and author of many agricultural texts. Here, Thoreau uses Cato as an authority on land and agriculture by bringing in a quote from Columell's De Re Rustica, which features citations from Cato, and then building on it with his own ideas. This strategy helps demonstrate Thoreau's thorough knowledge of the topic while simultaneously showing his own thoughts alongside those of renown.

""I am monarch of all I survey,..."   (Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)

William Cowper (1731–1800) was an 18th-century English poet, hymnodist, and considered one of the forerunners of Romantic poetry. This line is from his 1782 work The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk.

"caryatides..."   (The Village)

“Caryatides,” or “caryatids,” are columns carved in the shape of a female figure. They originated in ancient Greek architecture and are named after Caryatis, a priestess of the goddess Artemis.

"Etesian..."   (The Village)

The “Etesian” winds blow across the Mediterranean sea from the northwest for roughly forty days each summer. These winds are generally favorable for sailors.

"the diamond of Kohinoor...."   (The Ponds)

The “diamond of Kohinoor” refers to the legendary 186-carat Koh-i-noor diamond from India. The diamond was famously seized in the name of Queen Victoria during the conquest of Punjab in 1849, four years after Thoreau set out for Walden.

"the Icarian Sea..."   (The Ponds)

The Icarian Sea is a subsection of the Aegean Sea that lies between the Cyclades and Asia Minor. It is named for Icarus, who according to Greek mythology, flew too close to the sun while wearing wings made from feathers and wax. The wings melted and he drowned at sea while his father Daedalus watched.

"the Ganges..."   (The Ponds)

The Ganges is a major river that flows through northern India into Bangladesh. It is sacred to practitioners of Hinduism. Thoreau may have been made aware of the Ganges from the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu text he read during his time at Walden.

"lampreys..."   (The Ponds)

Lampreys are eel-like fishes without real jaws. They attach themselves to food using a sucker.

"bulrush..."   (The Ponds)

A “bulrush” a grass-like plant that grows at the edge of water. It is also known as the “Cat’s Tail.”

"Hindoo commentator..."   (Higher Laws)

The commentator Thoreau cites is Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772–1833), an Indian religious thinker and politician. The quotation is a translation from the Hindu Vedas.

"I find it in Kirby and Spence..."   (Higher Laws)

William Kirby (1759–1850) is known as the “father of entomology,” which is the study of insects. William Spence (1783–1860) was a founder of the Society of Entomologists of London. Together they wrote An Introduction to Entomology, which was published in 1822.

"Mameluke bey..."   (Conclusion)

Ibrahim (Mamluk) Bey (1735–1816) was a Mamluk chieftain who eventually became regent of Egypt, sharing control with his fellow commander Murad Bey. (The word “Bey” is a Turkish title for chieftain.)

"Croesus..."   (Conclusion)

Croesus (595–546 BCE) was king of Lydia, an ancient region of Anatolia, now the country of Turkey, and considered the richest man in the ancient world. He ruled for only fifteen years and was defeated by the Persians.

"and lo! creation widens to our view...."   (Conclusion)

The Spanish theologian and poet Joseph Blanco White (1775–1841) dedicated his most memorable work, the sonnet “Night and Death,” to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, author of “Kubla Khan” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Thoreau is quoting from White’s “Night and Death.”

"frankincense..."   (Conclusion)

Frankincense is an aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes and is obtained from the sap of Boswellia trees. It also has associations with the biblical story of Jesus of Nazareth's birth since it is one of the gifts given by the magi to the baby.

"Mirabeau..."   (Conclusion)

Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti, comte (count) de Mirabeau (1749–1791) was a French politician and orator influential during the French Revolution. He was the leader of the more moderate position among revolutionaries, earning a reputation as a voice of the people.

"the Sphinx..."   (Conclusion)

According to Greek mythology, the Sphinx is a creature with the body of a lion and the head of a woman. In the myth and drama of Oedipus the King she posed a riddle (“What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three at night?”) to travelers and killed those who gave the wrong answer. Oedipus solved the Sphinx's riddle and became King of Thebes. The Sphinx is commonly referred to as a possessor of enigmatic knowledge.

"Gold Coast and Slave Coast..."   (Conclusion)

The Gold Coast was a British colony in West Africa, now known as Ghana. The Slave Coast is a region that lies to the west of the Gold Coast. This coast acquired its name because it was a major source of African slaves from early 16th century to the 19th century.

""Symmes' Hole"..."   (Conclusion)

John Cleves Symmes Jr. (1779–1829) created a popular variation of the Hollow Earth Theory, proposing that the Earth was not a solid ball but a hollow shell with gaping holes at each of the poles. The idea of entering the Earth through holes in the crust led to popular stories of fantasy and science fiction, such as Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.

"isthmus..."   (Conclusion)

An “isthmus” is a small strip of land bordered by water on two sides, connecting two larger portions of land.

"South-Sea Exploring Expedition..."   (Conclusion)

This is an American Navy expedition from 1838 to 1842 that explored the South Pacific and Antarctic Oceans. The scope of this expedition represented a daring choice for the United States, as it was one of the largest and most expensive of its kind to that point in Western exploration.

"Frobisher..."   (Conclusion)

The English sailor Martin Frobisher (ca. 1535–1594) made three voyages to the Americas in an attempt to find the Northwest Passage. He eventually landed in northeastern Canada, around what is now known as Frobisher Bay.

"the source of the Nile, or the Niger, or the Mississippi, or a Northwest Passage..."   (Conclusion)

Thoreau is referring to the Nile, Niger, and Mississippi rivers as well as the Northwest Passage because they have been historical mysteries for explorers, whom he names shortly. In contrast to the physical explorations performed by these men, Thoreau wants his readers to explore their own “higher latitudes,” or their own motivations and inclinations. These, he considers, are more important and mysterious than exploring the earth.

"Lewis and Clark..."   (Conclusion)

The American explorers Meriwether Lewis (1774–1809) and William Clark (1770–1838) ventured across the American West to eventually reach what would become the Oregon coast. Their expedition took place between 1804 and 1806 to explore the territory the United States had purchased from France in the Louisiana Purchase.

"Mungo Park..."   (Conclusion)

Born in Scotland, Mungo Park (1771–1806) was an explorer known for his work in West Africa, reported to be the first European to travel the Niger River.

"Mr. Grinnell..."   (Conclusion)

American explorer Henry Grinnell (1799–1874) led the expedition to find Sir John Franklin who had disappeared during his search for the Northwest passage.

"Franklin..."   (Conclusion)

British explorer Sir John Franklin (1786–1847) died in his attempt to locate the Northwest Passage. At the time of writing Walden, Franklin was considered missing and not dead.

"oakum..."   (Conclusion)

Made of hemp fibers, “oakum” is a material used to caulk ships. It is placed between planks and beams to keep the vessel tight against leakage. By “picking oakum,” Thoreau refers to the sailors’ having to keep the oakum clean.

"Tierra del Fuego..."   (Conclusion)

Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago off the southern tip of South America and shared by Argentina and Chile. It was first sighted by Ferdinand Magellan in 1520. In English, the name translates to “land of fire.”

"Yellowstone..."   (Conclusion)

Since Thoreau says “awaits him by the Yellowstone,” he is referring to the Yellowstone River, which is now part of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and parts of Montana and Idaho.

"buckeye..."   (Conclusion)

A “buckeye” can refer to any shrubs or trees of the genus Aesculus in the horse-chestnut family. Thoreau is likely referring to the “buck-eye tree.”