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Spring in the Style of John Burroughs

Updated: Mar 30

by: Heather Adams

Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1: John Burroughs by George Clyde Fisher, 1918 https://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.78.100

Spring is an exciting time for the residents of the Hudson Valley. After months of snowy streets

and icy cars, the vernal equinox provides a glimpse at the budding days ahead. For centuries the beauty of the Hudson Valley has been admired by tourists, artists and writers alike; a noteworthy example of the latter is John Burroughs. Throughout his career as a naturalist, essayist and poet, Burroughs penned often about the environment around him. Though his poems were not seen as comparable to his contemporary, Walt Whitman, Burroughs’ poetry were often inspired by his appreciation for birds, plants and the natural world. So as we “hear the geese honking” and see that “the river ice is drifting'' let it be known that after a long winter, Burroughs’ idea of the “March glee” seems to finally be falling upon the region’s residents.(1)


In a writing cabin he called “Slabsides,” John Burroughs spent a significant amount of time being guided in inspiration for his essays and poetry. Born in 1837, the Catskills native purchased himself a nine-acre property in the Esopus, NY hamlet called West Park.(2) As he grew prominence through his naturalist essays, the property became a popular place to visit for other admirers of nature and intellectual contemporaries. Visitors such as Walt Whitman easily saw the beauty of

Figure 2: Slabsides, John Burroughs' cabin in West Park, NY. Photo by Wikipedia user [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Bikeable Bikeable], 23-Oct-2005.

Burroughs’ Hudson Valley property; Whitman himself describing the place as “the handsome, roomy, honeysuckle-and-rose-embowered cottage of John Burroughs.”(3) Today, Hudson Valley tourists and nature enthusiasts have the opportunity to roam the same inspiring grounds as Burroughs. The John Burroughs Association established a 200-acre nature sanctuary on the parcel of land that presently still includes John Burroughs' writing studio, Slabsides.


When reading the works of John Burroughs, there is little doubting his musing of the Hudson Valley. In his poem, “March Glee,” Burroughs immortalizes the magic of springtime in the region. Residents of the area are sure to recall the honks of geese as the weather starts to break, the sweet smell of early blooms wafting in the air, and the swarm of life that cheerfully awakens from the snowmelt. Though it has been over a hundred years since John Burroughs passed away, his

Figure 3: John Burroughs Black Creek Trail by Michael Knutson, https://www.scenichudson.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/BlackCreek-Delardi2Shipkey-1400x1050.jpg

writings of the Hudson Valley provide a connection to the past. The Hudson Valley’s natural beauty remains prominent in the memories of those that know it. While poetry is not always seen as a source of history, in the case of John Burroughs, he reflects on his world as he knew it. Reading his lyrical lines may spark a memory of the Hudson Valley within a person’s own personal history; because like it was for Burroughs, the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley is undeniable.


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(1) John Burroughs, “March Glee” in Bird and Bough (Boston and New York: The Riverside Press, 1906), 10-11.
(2) “John Burroughs’ Slabsides, John Burroughs Association, accessed March 13, 2022, http://www.johnburroughsassociation.org/visit.
(3) “Poetry of the Hudson River,” Vassar Archives and Special Collections Library, Paul Kane, accessed March 13,2022, https://www.vassar.edu/specialcollections/exhibit-highlights/2006-2010/poetry-hudson/poetry.html.


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