My life has been the poem I would have writ,
But I could not both live and utter it.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Henry David Thoreau's poem My life has been the poem


  1. Taylor says:

    It is amazing how two small lines can express so many feelings that we encounter throughout our lives. in many of Thoreau’s poems he talks about honesty towards ourselves and others. after reading the other comments, i realized how many people take words and thoughts the wrong way, and dont truly understand life. They all miss his entire point which is dont fall into the effects of society but be your own person and be true to that person. Ignorant people say a lot to the world.

  2. John says:

    This doesn’t explain anything to me!!!!!

  3. poopoo says:

    me and my awesome crap buddy made up a new poem that is rockkin like this here one

    “life’s a piece of shit,
    when you consider it”

  4. Amber Grant says:

    Hey this poem is awsome… it tells just how i would describe my life. because my life is so messed up sometimes that i dont know what to do!

  5. Daniel says:

    WOW this dude is so damn smart he just solved the meaning of living a poem or why you should never hear another, write another, record another, read another, and why another should never exist

  6. Jim McGowan says:

    Thoreau wrote in his book Walden that the key to existence is, “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.” That sentiment is expressed in the structure of this two-line poem. If it were filled with symbolic extended metaphors and filled pages and pages of text, it would not reflect Thoreau’s vision of the world. Also, his text Walden also explains that he went to the woods to experience life in its basest form and discover what it truly meant to live. That is the message of the poem, too, to live rather than write about the possibility of living.

  7. noble says:

    absolute geniusssss

  8. mate says:

    what more could one say

  9. HeatherR says:

    It is interesting how 2 simple lines can create so much inquiry, which is true to Thoreau’s style. To me, it is a simple reminder that in all life is poetry, and it is impossible to truly be in the experience of something and to analyze it at the same moment. Perhaps we should let our lives unfold while we truly engage in the experience of it, rather than worry or manipulate it into what we think it has to be. The experience is what makes it rich, the poetry is the after thought.

  10. ScribbleSquirrel says:

    Finding poetry like this, and I know that I am alive… as well. Powerful. I dare not say more.

  11. ashka says:

    this poem is short and sweet but with real deep meanings..its all about the life of evey individual which gives u a chance just to know ur life better..poem is deeply touching heart with simple words……

  12. sal says:

    When you solve a puzzle, puzzle is no longer offer a meaning, whereas, poem and puzzle cannot survive together; taste of poem will be bleeding. Therefore, i say, if I have to solve a puzzle in a poem, I would rather buy a puzzle book.

  13. margaret says:

    Beautiful. I will reluctantly write that many times I try to analyze poetry, stories, etc., and really want to be a genius at interpretation, but unfortunately I am not. I go with my first gut reaction to what I read, and this one gave me chills.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    Very deep. I think the poet is saying that his life has been exactly what
    he would have chosen it to be. It’s exactly the way he would have written it had he been able to write his own destiny.

  15. anjum faraz says:

    nice poem give warmth to heart

  16. athotshimrah says:

    Take the Life that you have and give it your best…
    Think positive, be happy let God do the rest…
    Take the challenges that life has laid at your feet…
    Take pride and be thankful for each one you meet…
    To yourself give forgiveness if you stumble and fall…
    Take each day that is dealt you and give it your all…
    Take the love that you’re given and return it with care…
    Have faith that when needed it will always be there…
    Take time to find the beauty in the things that you see…
    Take life’s simple pleasures let them set your heart free…
    The idea here is simply to even the score…
    As you are met and faced with Life’s Tug of War

  17. trevor S says:

    love it so much

  18. justin says:

    what ever moron said this poem has deep meaning needs to read edger allen poes (raven

  19. Paul Bard says:

    Is this poem a chilling admission of having failed to live? Or is it a wry conceit on writer’s detachment from experiential truth, and a self-parody?

    He seems to be saying: I couldn’t live truth and write it at once. What kind of partial truth can only be used in one way? surely truth is a multipupose principle, not a single-use tool? So I would wager the poet ironically celebrates the limits of language, and humbly declares his true achievement of having become an intellectual rather than a spiritual seeker for truth. But the rare candor that shines forth, from this most slippery of American poets, affords a sense of relief and liberation as Thoreau surrenders to the truth. The form of the poem, incidentally, is of an epigraph, which is usually placed on a grave or in an announcement of death.

  20. NEERU says:


  21. alex says:

    i hate to beat the dog to his death, but i agree with all it short; very short, but such truth needs no paragraph just a line or two. I at first hated HDT’s work; infact i still hate alot of his poems, but i seriously enjoyed this one. For the three seconds it took to read, but three awsome sec’s at that.. ^_^ lol

  22. lheanne says:

    brief but can strike you straight to the heart…..the meaning is all there…great piece of work…..short yet meaningful…

  23. Ryan G. says:

    HDT hit the nail on the head with one concise blow. Many writers seem to view life from afar, like passive observers letting time tick in front of them but never getting their own grasp of the action. As GK Chesterton said in “Orthodoxy”, “Every act of will is an act of self-limitation. To desire action is to desire limitation. In that sense, every act is an act of self-sacrifice. When you choose something, you reject everything else.” The law of trade-offs.

  24. Phoebe L. says:

    Brief yet brilliant. Not easily forgotten because it strikes you directly and deeply.

  25. Erina Wittrock says:

    short but sweet

  26. A. Hatcher says:

    What can I say? It’s so short but true. HDT always inspires and uplifts me. What an extrodinary human being.

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