Burroughs is largely forgotten today. But in the early years of this century, he was the American nature writer par excellence. His books inspired a generation to go to, look at, and try to understand nature on its own terms.
Man and Nature
What I enjoy is commensurate with the earth and sky itself. It clings to the rocks and trees; it is kindred to the roughness and savagery; it rises from every tangle and chasm; it perches on the dry oak-stubs with the hawks and buzzards; the crows shed it from their wings and weave it into their nests of coarse sticks; the fox barks it; the cattle low it, and every mountain path leads to its haunts.
Birds and Poets
Nature, the Greatest Good
If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature. Nature we have always with us, an in exhaustible store-house of that which moves the heart, appeals to the mind and fires the imagination — health to the body, a stimulus to the intellect, and joy to the soul.
Leaf and Tendril
The pastoral is in my veins. Clover and timothy, daisies and buttercups indirectly colored by youthful life; and if the dairy cow did not rock my cradle, her products sustained the hand that did rock it. Hence I love this land of wide, open, grassy fields, of smooth, board-backed hills, and of long, flowing mountain lines.
The Summit of the Years
A small river or stream flowing by one’s door has many attractions over a large body of water like the Hudson. One can make a companion of it; he can walk with it and sit with it, or lounge on its banks, and feel that it is all his own. It becomes something private and special to him. You cannot have the same kind of attachment and sympathy with a great river; it does not flow through your affections like a lesser stream.
Signs and Seasons
Mind and Nature
There are those who look at Nature from the standpoint of conventional and artificial life, — from parlor windows and through gilt-edged poems, — the sentimentalists. At the other extreme are those who do not look at Nature at all, but are a grown part of her, and look away from her toward the other class, — the backwoodsman and pioneers, and all rude and simple persons. Then there are those in whom the two are united or merged, — the great poets and artists. In them the sentimentalist is corrected and cured, and the hairy and taciturn frontiersman has had experience to some purpose. The true poet knows more about Nature than the naturalists because he carries her open secrets in his heart.
Birds and Poets