Thoreau’s sexual longings, from all evidence, appear to have been homosexual, though, sadly, perhaps for various reasons, they may have never been requited.
Thoreau’s case is perhaps yet another indication of the prevalence of same-sex desire among writers (this is certainly true in American literature). Such a fundamental and immediate sense of one’s difference from one of the most anxiously protected concerns of one’s society may encourage the more general development of an imagination and a counter-cultural vision that challenges the gross inadequacies, oppressiveness, and lies of that society.
I am thankful for that one passage, at least, in Frye’s discussion of sexual love in chapter 6 of Words with Power, where he closes the first section with the following paragraph:
I have been dealing with the common tradition in which the poet is a male who begins with the expression of his love for a female, and expands from there into a vision of a symbolically female nature. The sexual bias, however frequent, is certainly reversible, even if the history of literary imagery is not. I have said that there is no ladder of love in the Bible, but there is one inf Plato’s Symposium, and there the object of love, on the primary level, is not female. A crucial, though not surprisingly often neglected phase of the argument is the question about how far Socrates will go in bed with Alcibiades. The sublimating process starts from the beginning, but it goes in the same general direction, up to a vision of and ultimate union with the form of beauty. (201-02)