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Thoreau and the Language of Trees$
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Richard Higgins and Robert D. Richardson

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520294042

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520294042.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 16 May 2022

Knighting Elms

Knighting Elms

(p.132) (p.133) 7 Knighting Elms
Thoreau and the Language of Trees

Richard Higgins

Richard Higgins

University of California Press

Thoreau’s love of trees led him to romanticize them and to invest them with noble qualities he thought society lacked. As Concord’s rural character began to fade, Thoreau used trees as symbols of a simpler, more heroic past. When the Davis Elm, a huge, century-old, landmark elm in Concord, was suddenly felled in 1856, Thoreau angrily delivered a mock eulogy. He made the tree a symbol of the town.He said a kingpost of the town had been cut down. He cast the Davis Elm and all of Concord’s elms as beacons of moral principle—and he depicted them as “citizens” of the town who discharge their duties more faithfully than its people.

Keywords:   John Evelyn, romanticize, metaphor, Davis Elm, elm, elms, noble, Concord’s, Concord’s elms, symbols, heroic, landmark, felled, 1856, eulogy, kingpost, cut down, beacons, moral principles, citizens

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