Summary – Chapter Nine ‘The Ponds’
He recalls the fishermen that came to the pond and how once in a while he would sit with an older one in his boat. The scenery of Walden is described as ‘humble’, but the pond is referred to as ‘remarkable for its depth and purity’. It is blue sometimes and green on other occasions. It is transparent and he makes a comparison between this place and Eden, and regards it as ‘a gem of the first water which Concord wears in her coronet’.
He explains how the level fluctuates and how this has the effect of forming a shore and killing the nearby trees. Townsmen have told him the tradition that the pond is named after a Native American woman who was the only one who escaped the shaking of the hill. However, he wonders if it was named after Saffron Walden, and also supposes it might have originally been called ‘Walled-in-Pond’.
He thought of it as his well and describes the fish and other animal life that live in and around it. The stillness of the surface is compared to glass and in September or October he says it was ‘a perfect forest mirror’. An old man told him that when he used to come 60 years ago there were eagles about and he sometimes saw the water ‘alive with ducks and other water fowls’. He knows the villagers are thinking of piping the water to the village and he says is should be ‘as sacred as the Ganges’.
Flint’s Pond is also described and he criticizes the name of it. He moves on to discuss White Pond and calls this and Walden, ‘great crystals on the surface of the earth, Lakes of Light’.
Analysis – Chapter Nine
Through these descriptions of the nearby ponds, Thoreau highlights the beauty of nature and asks the readers to appreciate the untouched quality of these surroundings. By placing his focus in this way, readers are reminded of the importance of such areas as well as the insignificance of humans by comparison.
The mention of Eden in relation to Walden Pond reiterates this point as he recognizes that prior to human contact (and prior to the Fall for Christians), this land was unthreatened. The disastrous effects of human activity on the environment are well known in the 21st century, but Thoreau’s claims that the pond should be treated as sacred demonstrate his prescience in the field of ecology.