Embossed footprints and rolling waves complement Jerene Lane’s celebrated calligraphy of Henry David Thoreau’s poem “The Fisher’s Boy”:
“My life is like a stroll upon the beach,
As near the ocean’s edge as I can go;
My tardy steps its waves sometimes o’erreach,
Sometimes I stay to let them overflow.
My sole employment ’tis, and scrupulous care,
To place my gains beyond the reach of tides,
Each smoother pebble, and each shell more rare,
Which Ocean kindly to my hand confides.
I have but few companions on the shore:
They scorn the strand who sail upon the sea;
Yet oft I think the ocean they’ve sailed o’er
Is deeper known upon the strand to me.
The middle sea contains no crimson dulse,
Its deeper waves cast up no pearls to view;
Along the shore my hand is on its pulse,
And I converse with many a shipwrecked crew.”1
Extensive European colonization of America in the early 19th century led to the formation of several western states3. In 1849, the famous California gold rush pulled many people to the west3. Thoreau, a renowned philosopher, lived from 1817 to 1862, and was born in Massachusetts2.
The 2019 essay written by Rick Furtak details Thoreau’s philosophical views of nature, and Thoreau’s comments about human perceptions of gold2. The California gold rush was foolish in Thoreau’s sight2. According to Thoreau, seeds are treasured in the natural world over precious stones2.
There are no precious stones in the poem, “The Fisher’s Boy”; the pearls are hidden from sight. Perhaps the boy values the pebbles and shells because he believes they are a gift.
2- Furtak, Rick Anthony, “Henry David Thoreau”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2019/entries/thoreau/>.
Thank you to the jurors of the 2018 Art of the Book collection for their comments in the Art of the Book 2018 Catalogue. The catalogue is available at the Gallery.