Group Analysis Project of Ponds 5 in Walden

Abigail Axton, Eve Angelo, Madelyn Malgieri, Margaret Tepper, Kaitlynn Schweitzer, Katey DeMaria

It is evident, in much of Thoreau’s work with Walden, that he places great emphasis on revision; whether this be at the discretion of his editors, or simply shifting personal preference and style, it is not necessarily explicit, but our group found some comfort in knowing that established, acclaimed writers like Thoreau find error in their stories close to publishing, that not everything is perfected the first go-around, regardless of experience or prestige. For our project, we endeavored to compare Version D and E of our selected passage: “The Ponds,” paragraph 5. The most jarring discrepancy between the two manuscripts is, evidently, their opening lines—in Version D, it first reads as a simple, brief sentence: “a perennial spring in the midst of pine woods, without any visible inlet or outlet but by the clouds and by evaporations.”

>Version D: “a perennial spring…”

In Version E, however, we see the paragraph flourish, a small portion of Thoreau’s more extensive compositional process, saying instead “The scenery of Walden is on a very humble scale, and, though very beautiful, does not approach to grandeur, nor can it much concern one who has not long frequented it or lived by its shore; yet this pond is so remarkable for its depth and purity as to merit a particular description. It is a clear and deep green well, half a mile long and about a mile and three quarters in circumference, containing and contains sixty-one and a half acres; a perennial spring in the midst of pine woods, without any visible inlet or outlet but by the clouds or by evaporation.”

>Version E: “The scenery of Walden…”

How Thoreau adopts the phrase and expands it into a lengthy, imperative part of the novel is greatly compelling, providing groundwork for deeper inspection by inviting readers to engage with his process of drafting head-on, as the string of words evolves into a much more substantive piece of writing.

Much of Ponds 5 in Version E includes interlined words and sentences, and it is clear that this is the version where Thoreau did a lot of writing and rewriting. Sometime between late 1852 and 1853 Thoreau wrote a brand new paragraph to open Ponds 5, as previously mentioned, which does not change as much as the rest of Ponds over the years of his writing and rewriting. In Version E Thoreau strikes out his past claim that the surrounding hills are “from 50 to a hundred in one place perhaps 200 feet high” and interlines in that they are instead “generally from 50 to 75 feet high though in one place they rise to the height of about 150 feet.”

>Version D: “from 50 to a hundred…

Yet, he then rewrites the scientific claim in Version E again striking out his earlier researching interlining in pencil that the surrounding hills, “rise abruptly from the water & are from 40 to 80 feet high, though on the southwest & east they attain the height of about one hundred & fifty feet respectively within a quarter & ⅓ of a mile.”

>Version E: “from 40 to 80 feet…”

Thoreau seems to be always researching and finding new reliable information, whether that be himself or what he reads in books, to heighten the visual aspect of his writing so the viewer can see exactly what he sees. Thoreau is impeccable in that aspect.

Further into Ponds 5c, in Version D, Thoreau rewords the description of Walden when viewed at the top of a hill. The beginning of the sentence does not change, “viewed from a hill top it,”

>Version D: “viewed from a hill top it”

and then interlined in ink we can see that Thoreau adds, “reflects the color of the sky,” to go along with what he wrote before, “is blue in the depth.” As the sentence progresses Thoreau strikes out his first description saying, “& green in the shallows, or rather close to the shore, for there are no other shallows” and instead wrote, “but a vivid green near the shore.” Towards the end of the sentence, in Version D, Thoreau adds more substance, instead of just writing “but from a boat it is seen to be a uniform dark green,” he adds in ink: “but from a boat when the surface is calm it is seen to be a uniform dark green.” From this, we can conclude that Thoreau is always chasing after bettering his descriptive abilities and often fluffs up sentences in his revisions.

In his later Version E we can see Thoreau changing the opening of his sentences again while also rewriting the sentence format. Thoreau interlined a new sentence before his Version D “viewed from a hill top it” writing, “but near at hand, it is of a yellowish tint next to the shore, where you can see the sand” then changing the location of his “uniformed dark green” to take place in the later of this new sentence which states, “then a light green, gradually deepening to a uniform dark green in the body of the pond.” Then, we see Thoreau’s Version D stay similar when he keeps, “viewed from a hill top it reflects the color of the sky,” yet because he moved some of this sentence from Version D into different places in Version E Thoreau scratches the words, “is blue in the depths in” and changes the end of his sentence in Version E to say, “in some lights even from a hill top a vivid green next the shore”

>Version E: “viewed from a hill top…”

while also scratching his words in Version D, “but from a boat when the surface is calm it is seen to be of a uniform dark green” to not exist in the final version. Along the lines of Thoreau refining his descriptive words we can see in Version D that Thoreau writes, “It is of a vitreous greenish blue, as I remember it, like those patches of the winter sky seen through cloud vistas in the west before sundown”.

>Version D: “vitreous greenish blue…”

It is apparent to readers that, throughout versions, there is special care taken to detail specifically the different shades of green and blue the lake captures, whether it has a “green tint” or “yellowish tinge,” it is “dark green” or has a “cerulean” hue.

It is interesting to note, despite version variations, Thoreau’s continued repetition of “body” at the end of our selected paragraph; in both manuscripts, there is an overabundance of the word—firstly, he refers to the lake as a “body,” and goes on to say “How large a body of Walden”

>Version D: “body…”

then “the body of one bathing in,” and “the body of the pond”

>Version E: “body…”

and lastly, again, “the body of the bather.” The continued use of the word is interesting, in that it seems, in previous instances, Thoreau is intent on removing moments of reiteration—so why he continues to use a word countless times in the span of a few expressions appears enough cause for questioning; we presume that any other word wouldn’t provoke, with enough gravity, the picture he was attempting to produce—Thoreau likes to refer to Walden as a being, as a figure, so whether he means a body of water, or more generally, a body, as in an organism which houses other organisms, or a system of many living things, both images are easily fabricated and give space for a reader’s preference and imagination. His using “body” allows a certain involvement from the reader, to declare what Walden being a body means to them—and then the mentions of the body of the bather suggests a certain kind-of “meta-ness,” where there is a body in a body, two animate beings—the lake and a person—coinciding. Thoreau also adds, in version D, the line: “Such is the color of its iris,” implying that Walden’s color is, in a way, analogous to a human’s eye; his repeated personification of Walden creates an air of reality and physicality—we imagine the lake as an entity.

The process of comparing manuscripts D and E has not so much been labor-intensive as it has been a demanding process of trial-and-error. It can be confidently said that none of us have experienced a final exam like this before, and have never so closely examined the handwriting of a famed author, nor have we so precisely and deliberately read drafts of an excerpt of their text. As for the analysis portion of the assignment, we found great difficulty in deciphering Thoreau’s handwriting and working out which versions of the manuscript we wanted to center in our evaluation; there was some confusion over how exactly the project would operate—we weren’t certain whether or not we could inspect segments of Thoreau’s writing that did not have representation in any of the scanned documents. We knew we wanted to discuss paragraph 5, but first thought we could study Version E and G, until, after some clarification in our second week of composing the analysis, only then discovered that no digitized Version G represented our chosen passage. Having spent some time already studying Version G, it was disheartening to abandon some of our preexisting labor—that was until it was realized that much discussed with Version G could be applied to our newly improved project; we knew we still wanted to talk about Thoreau’s overarching “body” theme, and the color and size of Walden.

Speaking specifically to the process of finding pertinent portions of Walden in the digital library, there was some trouble in raking through the text and troubleshooting how to use the websites (such as the Digital Thoreau fluid text version of Walden and Digital Thoreau’s Walden manuscript project page) productively. For those of us who were designated to work on the slideshow, screenshotting the sections of the manuscript that were noted in the analysis was somewhat tedious—and the same for those of us who were dedicated to composing the IIIF URLs. Many natural hiccups accompanied the process of composing a valid TEI file; troubleshooting the presentation of the relevant parts of the manuscript and better understanding how to format and organize the coding were large, significant parts of the assignment—thus proving lengthy and rigorous. Though all tasks were divided equally between students—Kate and Maddy: the blog post and IIIF URLs—Margaret, Abigail, and Katey: the slideshow and manuscript—and Eve: all things TEI, there was much interchange between roles and individual contributions; tasks were not limited to peoples’ assigned groups. For instance, when needed, those working on the analysis aided those working on composing the slideshow by finding the excerpts of Walden that were discussed in the close reading, and too, those working on the slideshow aided those working on the analysis by bringing up previously neglected segments of the texts that might be worthwhile to consider in our examination. Ultimately, we fostered an environment of equality, and fulfilled our responsibilities wholeheartedly, prioritizing quality and communication as we aspired to produce the best project possible.

I Think, I Wonder

I love long drives. Within which I can just simply glance over the rolling hills of Geneseo farm land and watch the occasional car zip by as I then wonder where they are heading. To see family, go to work, simply on a drive, going to hike Letchworth State Park, so many options and even some that I cannot fathom. Such complex lives yet nothing as complex as our relationships with the Earth. As I watched the trees pass in the window of the fast moving car I wondered how long they had drank water from our Earth. When were you planted, little one? How many cars have passed by you without a care, old trunk? I think of all these things while music dances around my nineteen year old brain. “Oh, I can’t. Stop you putting roots in my dreamland.” Taylor Swift’s voice rings over the speakers of my friend’s Subaru and I can imagine that old trunk screaming those words in vain as the living lay their concrete roots in his dreamland known as Mother Earth. As the wind tries to whisk the newly budding leaves from his grandfather branches, I know it’s nothing that the air-purifying tree has not felt before, but I wish I could know how much breathable air that one old trunk has supplied to the community and how much longer it will work with such a heavy burden. Some day those trees just might rise up and quit filtering our air because we do not deserve it, or them.

As the vast farmlands morph into small town gas stations and then a large state protected forest I think of how long it has taken humanity to realize we need to take better care of the Earth. The winding roads of Letchworth State Park lead us to a gorgeous miracle of Earth, a waterfall. So much power that showers over the edge of its erosion-shaven rocks. As the water slips down the smooth rocks of the Upper Falls it reaches another fall, the Middle Falls. On-lookers and fans of Letchworth say when looking at the side of the Middle Falls they can see a face within the rocks. How is Earth so graceful it created a monument of us? Even with everything we’ve done and taken advantage of. I was completely verklempt in this moment. I can imagine these slimy rocks, constantly pushed down with the weight of water crashing through, as a metaphor of myself. I see that face in the rocks and wonder how those rocks do not just give up and crumble under the force as I have wanted to do so many times. The face of the falls has reminded me that even when the weight of the world seems to want to crush me, I have the strength to stand my ground and flourish in the environment around me—I am important in a world of concrete. I wonder if that old trunk witnessed such a moment he would feel grateful that even though he is not specifically appreciated, his friends in the forest of Letchworth are for all of their hard work.

Understanding the Language of the Digital World

When putting ENGL340 on my spring 2024 semester schedule, at first glance, I assumed that it would be just like every other English course offered at SUNY Geneseo. In which we would read a book, discuss it in class, and then write a five page thesis paper on our evaluation of the work. But after the first week, I realized this would be nothing like a class I have ever taken. I am an English Literature major for a reason, I do not get along well with advanced mathematics and while I do not consider myself a tech genius I believe I can work out many basic problems and find solutions. This class, as of six weeks in, has taught me that there is so much more to technology than I know.

My peers and I grew up with rapidly advancing mobile technology, most if not all of us had an Ipod Touch when we were 12 years old, given to us by our parents for “emergency purposes”. That quickly morphed into friends on Snapchat, texting memes all day, posting videos on, etc. And what once was for “emergency purposes” became everyday social life. Trends emerged and fell within weeks and there was a whole new pool of young impressionable teenagers surfing the web and falling into rabbit holes they ought not to be. We grew up fast, the world was literally at our fingertips for the taking at all times. We saw all the good and the bad, we still do, it’s just our life now.

My dad is a tech guy, he warned me early on about the implications of publicity and to watch out for random text messages and strange emails from unknown faceless people. Because of that, coming into this class I knew that “CPU” stood for central processing unit and the “cloud” stored all the information that I wanted it to somewhere in space, but I had no idea what that all actually meant. I had no idea that I could access it by myself; that I could, as a book loving English major, be taught to understand the language of computers and utilize it to make my life easier. Even six weeks in I have a better understanding of such intangible objects than I ever had before. Now I understand what my dad does (in a more simple form).

While this is not the direction I want my life to go in, like my father’s has, I can go into the world having a solid understanding of markdown language and why it is important to know. Now, my computer is not just a means for submitting assignments and scrolling on Pinterest, it’s a whole new world built on a language that I can finally start to understand. As the semester progresses and inevitably comes to an end, I am excited to learn more about my computer, its unique language, and the digital world. Therefore, I will feel more prepared for where ever my life goes after college because the digital world is not going anywhere anytime soon and understanding its language will help me succeed in the future.