PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Next Issue Beverley Bie Brahic, after Leopardi's 'Broom' Michael Freeman Benefytes and Consolacyons Miles Burrows At Madame Zaza’s and other poems Victoria Kenefick Hunger Strike Hilary Davies Haunted by Christ
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

This article is taken from PN Review 163, Volume 31 Number 5, May - June 2005.

The Future of the Walk Iain Bamforth

Very few men know how to take a walk.
                                                                Dr Johnson

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for saun-tering; which word is beautifully derived 'from idle people who roved about the country, in the middle ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going à la Sainte Terre' - to the holy land, till the children exclaimed, 'There goes a Sainte-Terrer', a saunterer - a holy-lander. They who never go to the holy land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds, but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering.

The jaunty opening of Thoreau's essay Walking (1843) confects two spurious but compelling etymologies for the word 'sauntering' (the OED entry simply says 'origin obscure'). A saunter is the best walk, a slow stately progress in the manner of the camel which, for Thoreau, was the only beast capable of ruminating and ambulating at the same time. Walking is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, its alternating ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image