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WALDEN Or Life In The Woods

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Author Topic: WALDEN Or Life In The Woods  (Read 1041 times)
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« Reply #75 on: March 23, 2009, 02:08:45 am »

Ere long, not only on these banks, but on every hill and plain and
in every hollow, the frost comes out of the ground like a dormant
quadruped from its burrow, and seeks the sea with music, or migrates
to other climes in clouds. Thaw with his gentle persuasion is more
powerful than Thor with his hammer. The one melts, the other but
breaks in pieces.

  When the ground was partially bare of snow, and a few warm days
had dried its surface somewhat, it was pleasant to compare the first
tender signs of the infant year just peeping forth with the stately
beauty of the withered vegetation which had withstood the winter-life-
everlasting, goldenrods, pinweeds, and graceful wild grasses, more
obvious and interesting frequently than in summer even, as if their
beauty was not ripe till then; even cotton-grass, cat-tails, mulleins,
johnswort, hardhack, meadowsweet, and other strong-stemmed plants,
those unexhausted granaries which entertain the earliest birds- decent
weeds, at least, which widowed Nature wears. I am particularly
attracted by the arching and sheaf- like top of the wool-grass; it
brings back the summer to our winter memories, and is among the
forms which art loves to copy, and which, in the vegetable kingdom,
have the same relation to types already in the mind of man that
astronomy has. It is an antique style, older than Greek or Egyptian.
Many of the phenomena of Winter are suggestive of an inexpressible
tenderness and fragile delicacy. We are accustomed to hear this king
described as a rude and boisterous tyrant; but with the gentleness
of a lover he adorns the tresses of Summer.

  At the approach of spring the red squirrels got under my house,
two at a time, directly under my feet as I sat reading or writing, and
kept up the queerest chuckling and chirruping and vocal pirouetting
and gurgling sounds that ever were heard; and when I stamped they only
chirruped the louder, as if past all fear and respect in their mad
pranks, defying humanity to stop them. No, you don't- chickaree-
chickaree. They were wholly deaf to my arguments, or failed to
perceive their force, and fell into a strain of invective that was

  The first sparrow of spring! The year beginning with younger hope
than ever! The faint silvery warblings heard over the partially bare
and moist fields from the bluebird, the song sparrow, and the
red-wing, as if the last flakes of winter tinkled as they fell! What
at such a time are histories, chronologies, traditions, and all
written revelations? The brooks sing carols and glees to the spring.
The marsh hawk, sailing low over the meadow, is already seeking the
first slimy life that awakes. The sinking sound of melting snow is
heard in all dells, and the ice dissolves apace in the ponds. The
grass flames up on the hillsides like a spring fire- "et primitus
oritur herba imbribus primoribus evocata"- as if the earth sent
forth an inward heat to greet the returning sun; not yellow but
green is the color of its flame;- the symbol of perpetual youth, the
grass-blade, like a long green ribbon, streams from the sod into the
summer, checked indeed by the frost, but anon pushing on again,
lifting its spear of last year's hay with the fresh life below. It
grows as steadily as the rill oozes out of the ground. It is almost
identical with that, for in the growing days of June, when the rills
are dry, the grass-blades are their channels, and from year to year
the herds drink at this perennial green stream, and the mower draws
from it betimes their winter supply. So our human life but dies down
to its root, and still puts forth its green blade to eternity.

  Walden is melting apace. There is a canal two rods wide along the
northerly and westerly sides, and wider still at the east end. A great
field of ice has cracked off from the main body. I hear a song sparrow
singing from the bushes on the shore- olit, olit, olit- chip, chip,
chip, che char- che wiss, wiss, wiss. He too is helping to crack it.
How handsome the great sweeping curves in the edge of the ice,
answering somewhat to those of the shore, but more regular! It is
unusually hard, owing to the recent severe but transient cold, and all
watered or waved like a palace floor. But the wind slides eastward
over its opaque surface in vain, till it reaches the living surface
beyond. It is glorious to behold this ribbon of water sparkling in the
sun, the bare face of the pond full of glee and youth, as if it
spoke the joy of the fishes within it, and of the sands on its
shore- a silvery sheen as from the scales of a leuciscus, as it were
all one active fish. Such is the contrast between winter and spring.
Walden was dead and is alive again. But this spring it broke up more
steadily, as I have said.

  The change from storm and winter to serene and mild weather, from
dark and sluggish hours to bright and elastic ones, is a memorable
crisis which all things proclaim. It is seemingly instantaneous at
last. Suddenly an influx of light filled my house, though the
evening was at hand, and the clouds of winter still overhung it, and
the eaves were dripping with sleety rain. I looked out the window, and
lo! where yesterday was cold gray ice there lay the transparent pond
already calm and full of hope as in a summer evening, reflecting a
summer evening sky in its bosom, though none was visible overhead,
as if it had intelligence with some remote horizon. I heard a robin in
the distance, the first I had heard for many a thousand years,
methought, whose note I shall not forget for many a thousand more- the
same sweet and powerful song as of yore. O the evening robin, at the
end of a New England summer day! If I could ever find the twig he sits
upon! I mean he; I mean the twig. This at least is not the Turdus
migratorius. The pitch pines and shrub oaks about my house, which
had so long drooped, suddenly resumed their several characters, looked
brighter, greener, and more erect and alive, as if effectually
cleansed and restored by the rain. I knew that it would not rain any
more. You may tell by looking at any twig of the forest, ay, at your
very wood-pile, whether its winter is past or not. As it grew
darker, I was startled by the honking of geese flying low over the
woods, like weary travellers getting in late from Southern lakes,
and indulging at last in unrestrained complaint and mutual
consolation. Standing at my door, I could bear the rush of their
wings; when, driving toward my house, they suddenly spied my light,
and with hushed clamor wheeled and settled in the pond. So I came
in, and shut the door, and passed my first spring night in the woods.
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« Reply #76 on: March 23, 2009, 02:09:10 am »

In the morning I watched the geese from the door through the mist,
sailing in the middle of the pond, fifty rods off, so large and
tumultuous that Walden appeared like an artificial pond for their
amusement. But when I stood on the shore they at once rose up with a
great flapping of wings at the signal of their commander, and when
they had got into rank circled about over my head, twenty-nine of
them, and then steered straight to Canada, with a regular honk from
the leader at intervals, trusting to break their fast in muddier
pools. A "plump" of ducks rose at the same time and took the route
to the north in the wake of their noisier cousins.

  For a week I heard the circling, groping clangor of some solitary
goose in the foggy mornings, seeking its companion, and still peopling
the woods with the sound of a larger life than they could sustain.
In April the pigeons were seen again flying express in small flocks,
and in due time I heard the martins twittering over my clearing,
though it had not seemed that the township contained so many that it
could afford me any, and I fancied that they were peculiarly of the
ancient race that dwelt in hollow trees ere white men came. In
almost all climes the tortoise and the frog are among the precursors
and heralds of this season, and birds fly with song and glancing
plumage, and plants spring and bloom, and winds blow, to correct
this slight oscillation of the poles and preserve the equilibrium of

  As every season seems best to us in its turn, so the coming in of
spring is like the creation of Cosmos out of Chaos and the realization
of the Golden Age.

      "Eurus ad Auroram Nabathaeaque regna recessit,

       Persidaque, et radiis juga subdita matutinis."

      "The East-Wind withdrew to Aurora and the Nabathean kingdom,

       And the Persian, and the ridges placed under the morning rays.

       Man was born. Whether that Artificer of things,

       The origin of a better world, made him from the divine seed;

       Or the earth, being recent and lately sundered from the high

       Ether, retained some seeds of cognate heaven."

  A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. So our
prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should be
blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every
accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the
influence of the slightest dew that falls on it; and did not spend our
time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we call
doing our duty. We loiter in winter while it is already spring. In a
pleasant spring morning all men's sins are forgiven. Such a day is a
truce to vice. While such a sun holds out to burn, the vilest sinner
may return. Through our own recovered innocence we discern the
innocence of our neighbors. You may have known your neighbor yesterday
for a thief, a drunkard, or a sensualist, and merely pitied or
despised him, and despaired of the world; but the sun shines bright
and warm this first spring morning, re-creating the world, and you
meet him at some serene work, and see how it is exhausted and
debauched veins expand with still joy and bless the new day, feel
the spring influence with the innocence of infancy, and all his faults
are forgotten. There is not only an atmosphere of good will about him,
but even a savor of holiness groping for expression, blindly and
ineffectually perhaps, like a new-born instinct, and for a short
hour the south hillside echoes to no vulgar jest. You see some
innocent fair shoots preparing to burst from his gnarled rind and
try another year's life, tender and fresh as the youngest plant.
Even he has entered into the joy of his Lord. Why the jailer does
not leave open his prison doors- why the judge does not dismis his
case- why the preacher does not dismiss his congregation! It is
because they do not obey the hint which God gives them, nor accept the
pardon which he freely offers to all.

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« Reply #77 on: March 23, 2009, 02:09:33 am »

"A return to goodness produced each day in the tranquil and
beneficent breath of the morning, causes that in respect to the love
of virtue and the hatred of vice, one approaches a little the
primitive nature of man, as the sprouts of the forest which has been
felled. In like manner the evil which one does in the interval of a
day prevents the germs of virtues which began to spring up again
from developing themselves and destroys them.

  "After the germs of virtue have thus been prevented many times
from developing themselves, then the beneficent breath of evening does
not suffice to preserve them. As soon as the breath of evening does
not suffice longer to preserve them, then the nature of man does not
differ much from that of the brute. Men seeing the nature of this
man like that of the brute, think that he has never possessed the
innate faculty of reason. Are those the true and natural sentiments of

        "The Golden Age was first created, which without any avenger

         Spontaneously without law cherished fidelity and rectitude.

         Punishment and fear were not; nor were threatening words read

         On suspended brass; nor did the suppliant crowd fear

         The words of their judge; but were safe without an avenger.

         Not yet the pine felled on its mountains had descended

         To the liquid waves that it might see a foreign world,

         And mortals knew no shores but their own.

         There was eternal spring, and placid zephyrs with warm

         Blasts soothed the flowers born without seed."

  On the 29th of April, as I was fishing from the bank of the river
near the Nine-Acre-Corner bridge, standing on the quaking grass and
willow roots, where the muskrats lurk, I heard a singular rattling
sound, somewhat like that of the sticks which boys play with their
fingers, when, looking up, I observed a very slight and graceful hawk,
like a nighthawk, alternately soaring like a ripple and tumbling a rod
or two over and over, showing the under side of its wings, which
gleamed like a satin ribbon in the sun, or like the pearly inside of a
shell. This sight reminded me of falconry and what nobleness and
poetry are associated with that sport. The merlin it seemed to me it
might be called: but I care not for its name. It was the most ethereal
flight I had ever witnessed. It did not simply flutter like a
butterfly, nor soar like the larger hawks, but it sported with proud
reliance in the fields of air; mounting again and again with its
strange chuckle, it repeated its free and beautiful fall, turning over
and over like a kite, and then recovering from its lofty tumbling,
as if it had never set its foot on terra firma. It appeared to have no
companion in the universe-sporting there alone- and to need none but
the morning and the ether with which it played. It was not lonely, but
made all the earth lonely beneath it. Where was the parent which
hatched it, its kindred, and its father in the heavens? The tenant
of the air, it seemed related to the earth but by an egg hatched
some time in the crevice of a crag;- or was its native nest made in
the angle of a cloud, woven of the rainbow's trimmings and the
sunset sky, and lined with some soft midsummer haze caught up from
earth? Its eyry now some cliffy cloud.

  Beside this I got a rare mess of golden and silver and bright
cupreous fishes, which looked like a string of jewels. Ah! I have
penetrated to those meadows on the morning of many a first spring day,
jumping from hummock to hummock, from willow root to willow root, when
the wild river valley and the woods were bathed in so pure and
bright a light as would have waked the dead, if they had been
slumbering in their graves, as some suppose. There needs no stronger
proof of immortality. All things must live in such a light. O Death,
where was thy sting? O Grave, where was thy victory, then?

  Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored
forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of
wildness- to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the
meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the
whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl
builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the
ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn
all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable,
that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by
us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. We must
be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic
features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its
living and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain which
lasts three weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own
limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never
wander. We are cheered when we observe the vulture feeding on the
carrion which disgusts and disheartens us, and deriving health and
strength from the repast. There was a dead horse in the hollow by
the path to my house, which compelled me sometimes to go out of my
way, especially in the night when the air was heavy, but the assurance
it gave me of the strong appetite and inviolable health of Nature
was my compensation for this. I love to see that Nature is so rife
with life that myriads can be afforded to be sacrificed and suffered
to prey on one another; that tender organizations can be so serenely
squashed out of existence like pulp-tadpoles which herons gobble up,
and tortoises and toads run over in the road; and that sometimes it
has rained flesh and blood! With the liability to accident, we must
see how little account is to be made of it. The impression made on a
wise man is that of universal innocence. Poison is not poisonous after
all, nor are any wounds fatal. Compassion is a very untenable
ground. It must be expeditious. Its pleadings will not bear to be

  Early in May, the oaks, hickories, maples, and other trees, just
putting out amidst the pine woods around the pond, imparted a
brightness like sunshine to the landscape, especially in cloudy
days, as if the sun were breaking through mists and shining faintly on
the hillsides here and there. On the third or fourth of May I saw a
loon in the pond, and during the first week of the month I heard the
whip-poor-will, the brown thrasher, the veery, the wood pewee, the
chewink, and other birds. I had heard the wood thrush long before. The
phoebe had already come once more and looked in at my door and window,
to see if my house was cavern-like enough for her, sustaining
herself on humming winds with clinched talons, as if she held by the
air, while she surveyed the premises. The sulphur-like pollen of the
pitch pine soon covered the pond and the stones and rotten wood
along the shore, so that you could have collected a barrelful. This is
the "sulphur showers" we bear of. Even in Calidas' drama of Sacontala,
we read of "rills dyed yellow with the golden dust of the lotus."
And so the seasons went rolling on into summer, as one rambles into
higher and higher grass.

  Thus was my first year's life in the woods completed; and the second
year was similar to it. I finally left Walden September 6th, 1847.
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« Reply #78 on: March 23, 2009, 02:09:52 am »


  TO THE sick the doctors wisely recommend a change of air and
scenery. Thank Heaven, here is not all the world. The buckeye does not
grow in New England, and the mockingbird is rarely heard here. The
wild goose is more of a cosmopolite than we; he breaks his fast in
Canada, takes a luncheon in the Ohio, and plumes himself for the night
in a southern bayou. Even the bison, to some extent, keeps pace with
the seasons cropping the pastures of the Colorado only till a
greener and sweeter grass awaits him by the Yellowstone. Yet we
think that if rail fences are pulled down, and stone walls piled up on
our farms, bounds are henceforth set to our lives and our fates
decided. If you are chosen town clerk, forsooth, you cannot go to
Tierra del Fuego this summer: but you may go to the land of infernal
fire nevertheless. The universe is wider than our views of it.

  Yet we should oftener look over the tafferel of our craft, like
curious passengers, and not make the voyage like stupid sailors
picking oakum. The other side of the globe is but the home of our
correspondent. Our voyaging is only great-circle sailing, and the
doctors prescribe for diseases of the skin merely. One hastens to
southern Africa to chase the giraffe; but surely that is not the
game he would be after. How long, pray, would a man hunt giraffes if
he could? Snipes and woodcocks also may afford rare sport; but I trust
it would be nobler game to shoot one's self.

        "Direct your eye right inward, and you'll find

         A thousand regions in your mind

         Yet undiscovered. Travel them, and be

         Expert in home-cosmography."

What does Africa- what does the West stand for? Is not our own
interior white on the chart? black though it may prove, like the
coast, when discovered. Is it the source of the Nile, or the Niger, or
the Mississippi, or a Northwest Passage around this continent, that we
would find? Are these the problems which most concern mankind? Is
Franklin the only man who is lost, that his wife should be so
earnest to find him? Does Mr. Grinnell know where he himself is? Be
rather the Mungo Park, the Lewis and Clark and Frobisher, of your
own streams and oceans; explore your own higher latitudes- with
shiploads of preserved meats to support you, if they be necessary; and
pile the empty cans sky-high for a sign. Were preserved meats invented
to preserve meat merely? Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents
and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of
thought. Every man is the lord of a realm beside which the earthly
empire of the Czar is but a petty state, a hummock left by the ice.
Yet some can be patriotic who have no self-respect, and sacrifice
the greater to the less. They love the soil which makes their
graves, but have no sympathy with the spirit which may still animate
their clay. Patriotism is a maggot in their heads. What was the
meaning of that South-Sea Exploring Expedition, with all its parade
and expense, but an indirect recognition of the fact that there are
continents and seas in the moral world to which every man is an
isthmus or an inlet, yet unexplored by him, but that it is easier to
sail many thousand miles through cold and storm and cannibals, in a
government ship, with five hundred men and boys to assist one, than it
is to explore the private seal the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean of one's
being alone.

        "Erret, et extremos alter scrutetur Iberos.

         Plus habet hic vitae, plus habet ille viae."

         Let them wander and scrutinize the outlandish Australians.

         I have more of God, they more of the road.

It is not worth the while to go round the world to count the cats in
Zanzibar. Yet do this even till you can do better, and you may perhaps
find some "Symmes' Hole" by which to get at the inside at last.
England and France, Spain and Portugal, Gold Coast and Slave Coast,
all front on this private sea; but no bark from them has ventured
out of sight of land, though it is without doubt the direct way to
India. If you would learn to speak all tongues and conform to the
customs of all nations, if you would travel farther than all
travellers, be naturalized in all climes, and cause the Sphinx to dash
her bead against a stone, even obey the precept of the old
philosopher, and Explore thyself. Herein are demanded the eye and
the nerve. Only the defeated and deserters go to the wars, cowards
that run away and enlist. Start now on that farthest western way,
which does not pause at the Mississippi or the Pacific, nor conduct
toward a wornout China or Japan, but leads on direct, a tangent to
this sphere, summer and winter, day and night, sun down, moon down,
and at last earth down too.

  It is said that Mirabeau took to highway robbery "to ascertain
what degree of resolution was necessary in order to place one's self
in formal opposition to the most sacred laws of society." He
declared that "a soldier who fights in the ranks does not require half
so much courage as a foot-pad"- "that honor and religion have never
stood in the way of a well-considered and a firm resolve." This was
manly, as the world goes; and yet it was idle, if not desperate. A
saner man would have found himself often enough "in formal opposition"
to what are deemed "the most sacred laws of society," through
obedience to yet more sacred laws, and so have tested his resolution
without going out of his way. It is not for a man to put himself in
such an attitude to society, but to maintain himself in whatever
attitude he find himself through obedience to the laws of his being,
which will never be one of opposition to a just government, if he
should chance to meet with such.

  I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it
seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not
spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and
insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track
for ourselves. I had not lived there a week before my feet wore a path
from my door to the pond-side; and though it is Eve or six years since
I trod it, it is still quite distinct. It is true, I fear, that others
may have fallen into it, and so helped to keep it open. The surface of
the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with
the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be
the Highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and
conformity! I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go
before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best
see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.

  I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances
confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live
the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected
in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an
invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin
to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be
expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he
will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In
proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will
appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty
poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the
air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put
the foundations under them.

  It is a ridiculous demand which England and America make, that you
shall speak so that they can understand you. Neither men nor
toadstools grow so. As if that were important, and there were not
enough to understand you without them. As if Nature could support
but one order of understandings, could not sustain birds as well as
quadrupeds, flying as well as creeping things, and hush and whoa,
which Bright can understand, were the best English. As if there were
safety in stupidity alone. I fear chiefly lest my expression may not
be extra-vagant enough, may not wander far enough beyond the narrow
limits of my daily experience, so as to be adequate to the truth of
which I have been convinced. Extra vagance! it depends on how you
are yarded. The migrating buffalo, which seeks new pastures in another
latitude, is not extravagant like the cow which kicks over the pail,
leaps the cowyard fence, and runs after her calf, in milking time. I
desire to speak somewhere without bounds; like a man in a waking
moment, to men in their waking moments; for I am convinced that I
cannot exaggerate enough even to lay the foundation of a true
expression. Who that has heard a strain of music feared then lest he
should speak extravagantly any more forever? In view of the future
or possible, we should live quite laxly and undefined in front our
outlines dim and misty on that side; as our shadows reveal an
insensible perspiration toward the sun. The volatile truth of our
words should continually betray the inadequacy of the residual
statement. Their truth is instantly translated; its literal monument
alone remains. The words which express our faith and piety are not
definite; yet they are significant and fragrant like frankincense to
superior natures.

  Why level downward to our dullest perception always, and praise that
as common sense? The commonest sense is the sense of men asleep, which
they express by snoring. Sometimes we are inclined to class those
who are once-and-a-half-witted with the half-witted, because we
appreciate only a third part of their wit. Some would find fault
with the morning red, if they ever got up early enough. "They
pretend," as I hear, "that the verses of Kabir have four different
senses; illusion, spirit, intellect, and the exoteric doctrine of
the Vedas"; but in this part of the world it is considered a ground
for complaint if a man's writings admit of more than one
interpretation. While England endeavors to cure the potato-rot, will
not any endeavor to cure the brain-rot, which prevails so much more
widely and fatally?
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« Reply #79 on: March 23, 2009, 02:10:20 am »

 I do not suppose that I have attained to obscurity, but I should
be proud if no more fatal fault were found with my pages on this score
than was found with the Walden ice. Southern customers objected to its
blue color, which is the evidence of its purity, as if it were
muddy, and preferred the Cambridge ice, which is white, but tastes
of weeds. The purity men love is like the mists which envelop the
earth, and not like the azure ether beyond.

  Some are dinning in our ears that we Americans, and moderns
generally, are intellectual dwarfs compared with the ancients, or even
the Elizabethan men. But what is that to the purpose? A living dog
is better than a dead lion. Shall a man go and hang himself because he
belongs to the race of pygmies, and not be the biggest pygmy that he
can? Let every one mind his own business, and endeavor to be what he
was made.

  Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such
desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his
companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let
him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. It
is not important that he should mature as soon as an apple tree or
an oak. Shall he turn his spring into summer? If the condition of
things which we were made for is not yet, what were any reality
which we can substitute? We will not be shipwrecked on a vain reality.
Shall we with pains erect a heaven of blue glass over ourselves,
though when it is done we shall be sure to gaze still at the true
ethereal heaven far above, as if the former were not?

  There was an artist in the city of Kouroo who was disposed to strive
after perfection. One day it came into his mind to make a staff.
Having considered that in an imperfect work time is an ingredient, but
into a perfect work time does not enter, he said to himself, It
shall be perfect in all respects, though I should do nothing else in
my life. He proceeded instantly to the forest for wood, being resolved
that it should not be made of unsuitable material; and as he
searched for and rejected stick after stick, his friends gradually
deserted him, for they grew old in their works and died, but he grew
not older by a moment. His singleness of purpose and resolution, and
his elevated piety, endowed him, without his knowledge, with perennial
youth. As he made no compromise with Time, Time kept out of his way,
and only sighed at a distance because he could not overcome him.
Before he had found a stock in all respects suitable the city of
Kouroo was a hoary ruin, and he sat on one of its mounds to peel the
stick. Before he had given it the proper shape the dynasty of the
Candahars was at an end, and with the point of the stick he wrote
the name of the last of that race in the sand, and then resumed his
work. By the time he had smoothed and polished the staff Kalpa was
no longer the pole-star; and ere he had put on the ferule and the head
adorned with precious stones, Brahma had awoke and slumbered many
times. But why do I stay to mention these things? When the finishing
stroke was put to his work, it suddenly expanded before the eyes of
the astonished artist into the fairest of all the creations of Brahma.
He had made a new system in making a staff, a world with fun and
fair proportions; in which, though the old cities and dynasties had
passed away, fairer and more glorious ones had taken their places. And
now he saw by the heap of shavings still fresh at his feet, that,
for him and his work, the former lapse of time had been an illusion,
and that no more time had elapsed than is required for a single
scintillation from the brain of Brahma to fall on and inflame the
tinder of a mortal brain. The material was pure, and his art was pure;
how could the result be other than wonderful?

  No face which we can give to a matter will stead us so well at
last as the truth. This alone wears well. For the most part, we are
not where we are, but in a false position. Through an infinity of
our natures, we suppose a case, and put ourselves into it, and hence
are in two cases at the same time, and it is doubly difficult to get
out. In sane moments we regard only the facts, the case that is. Say
what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than
make-believe. Tom Hyde, the tinker, standing on the gallows, was asked
if he had anything to say. "Tell the tailors," said he, "to remember
to make a knot in their thread before they take the first stitch." His
companion's prayer is forgotten.

  However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and
call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when
you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise.
Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant,
thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house. The setting sun is
reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the
rich man's abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the
spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there,
and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace. The town's poor seem to
me often to live the most independent lives of any. Maybe they are
simply great enough to receive without misgiving. Most think that they
are above being supported by the town; but it oftener happens that
they are not above supporting themselves by dishonest means, which
should be more disreputable. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb,
like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether
clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not
change; we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. God
will see that you do not want society. If I were confined to a
corner of a garret all my days, like a spider, the world would be just
as large to me while I had my thoughts about me. The philosopher said:
"From an army of three divisions one can take away its general, and
put it in disorder; from the man the most abject and vulgar one cannot
take away his thought." Do not seek so anxiously to be developed, to
subject yourself to many influences to be played on; it is all
dissipation. Humility like darkness reveals the heavenly lights. The
shadows of poverty and meanness gather around us, "and lo! creation
widens to our view." We are often reminded that if there were bestowed
on us the wealth of Croesus, our aims must still be the same, and
our means essentially the same. Moreover, if you are restricted in
your range by poverty, if you cannot buy books and newspapers, for
instance, you are but confined to the most significant and vital
experiences; you are compelled to deal with the material which
yields the most sugar and the most starch. It is life near the bone
where it is sweetest. You are defended from being a trifler. No man
loses ever on a lower level by magnanimity on a higher. Superfluous
wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one
necessary of the soul.

  I live in the angle of a leaden wall, into whose composition was
poured a little alloy of bell-metal. Often, in the repose of my
mid-day, there reaches my ears a confused tintinnabulum from
without. It is the noise of my contemporaries. My neighbors tell me of
their adventures with famous gentlemen and ladies, what notabilities
they met at the dinner-table; but I am no more interested in such
things than in the contents of the Daily Times. The interest and the
conversation are about costume and manners chiefly; but a goose is a
goose still, dress it as you will. They tell me of California and
Texas, of England and the Indies, of the Hon. Mr.-- of Georgia or of
Massachusetts, all transient and fleeting phenomena, till I am ready
to leap from their court-yard like the Mameluke bey. I delight to come
to my bearings- not walk in procession with pomp and parade, in a
conspicuous place, but to walk even with the Builder of the
universe, if I may- not to live in this restless, nervous, bustling,
trivial Nineteenth Century, but stand or sit thoughtfully while it
goes by. What are men celebrating? They are all on a committee of
arrangements, and hourly expect a speech from somebody. God is only
the president of the day, and Webster is his orator. I love to
weigh, to settle, to gravitate toward that which most strongly and
rightfully attracts me;- not hang by the beam of the scale and try
to weigh less- not suppose a case, but take the case that is; to
travel the only path I can, and that on which no power can resist
me. It affords me no satisfaction to commerce to spring an arch before
I have got a solid foundation. Let us not play at kittly-benders.
There is a solid bottom everywhere. We read that the traveller asked
the boy if the swamp before him had a hard bottom. The boy replied
that it had. But presently the traveller's horse sank in up to the
girths, and he observed to the boy, "I thought you said that this
bog had a hard bottom." "So it has," answered the latter, "but you
have not got half way to it yet." So it is with the bogs and
quicksands of society; but he is an old boy that knows it. Only what
is thought, said, or done at a certain rare coincidence is good. I
would not be one of those who will foolishly drive a nail into mere
lath and plastering; such a deed would keep me awake nights. Give me a
hammer, and let me feel for the furring. Do not depend on the putty.
Drive a nail home and clinch it so faithfully that you can wake up
in the night and think of your work with satisfaction- a work at which
you would not be ashamed to invoke the Muse. So will help you God, and
so only. Every nail driven should be as another rivet in the machine
of the universe, you carrying on the work.

  Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. I sat at a
table where were rich food and wine in abundance, and obsequious
attendance, but sincerity and truth were not; and I went away hungry
from the inhospitable board. The hospitality was as cold as the
ices. I thought that there was no need of ice to freeze them. They
talked to me of the age of the wine and the fame of the vintage; but I
thought of an older, a newer, and purer wine, of a more glorious
vintage, which they had not got, and could not buy. The style, the
house and grounds and "entertainment" pass for nothing with me. I
called on the king, but he made me wait in his hall, and conducted
like a man incapacitated for hospitality. There was a man in my
neighborhood who lived in a hollow tree. His manners were truly regal.
I should have done better had I called on him.

  How long shall we sit in our porticoes practising idle and musty
virtues, which any work would make impertinent? As if one were to
begin the day with long-suffering, and hire a man to hoe his potatoes;
and in the afternoon go forth to practise Christian meekness and
charity with goodness aforethought! Consider the China pride and
stagnant self-complacency of mankind. This generation inclines a
little to congratulate itself on being the last of an illustrious
line; and in Boston and London and Paris and Rome, thinking of its
long descent, it speaks of its progress in art and science and
literature with satisfaction. There are the Records of the
Philosophical Societies, and the public Eulogies of Great Men! It is
the good Adam contemplating his own virtue. "Yes, we have done great
deeds, and sung divine songs, which shall never die"- that is, as long
as we can remember them. The learned societies and great men of
Assyria- where are they? What youthful philosophers and
experimentalists we are! There is not one of my readers who has yet
lived a whole human life. These may be but the spring months in the
life of the race. If we have had the seven-years' itch, we have not
seen the seventeen-year locust yet in Concord. We are acquainted
with a mere pellicle of the globe on which we live. Most have not
delved six feet beneath the surface, nor leaped as many above it. We
know not where we are. Beside, we are sound asleep nearly half our
time. Yet we esteem ourselves wise, and have an established order on
the surface. Truly, we are deep thinkers, we are ambitious spirits! As
I stand over the insect crawling amid the pine needles on the forest
floor, and endeavoring to conceal itself from my sight, and ask myself
why it will cherish those humble thoughts, and bide its head from me
who might, perhaps, be its benefactor, and impart to its race some
cheering information, I am reminded of the greater Benefactor and
Intelligence that stands over me the human insect.

  There is an incessant influx of novelty into the world, and yet we
tolerate incredible dulness. I need only suggest what kind of
sermons are still listened to in the most enlightened countries. There
are such words as joy and sorrow, but they are only the burden of a
psalm, sung with a nasal twang, while we believe in the ordinary and
mean. We think that we can change our clothes only. It is said that
the British Empire is very large and respectable, and that the
United States are a first-rate power. We do not believe that a tide
rises and falls behind every man which can float the British Empire
like a chip, if he should ever harbor it in his mind. Who knows what
sort of seventeen-year locust will next come out of the ground? The
government of the world I live in was not framed, like that of
Britain, in after-dinner conversations over the wine.

  The life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise this year
higher than man has ever known it, and flood the parched uplands; even
this may be the eventful year, which will drown out all our
muskrats. It was not always dry land where we dwell. I see far
inland the banks which the stream anciently washed, before science
began to record its freshets. Every one has heard the story which
has gone the rounds of New England, of a strong and beautiful bug
which came out of the dry leaf of an old table of apple-tree wood,
which had stood in a farmer's kitchen for sixty years, first in
Connecticut, and afterward in Massachusetts- from an egg deposited
in the living tree many years earlier still, as appeared by counting
the annual layers beyond it; which was heard gnawing out for several
weeks, hatched perchance by the heat of an urn. Who does not feel
his faith in a resurrection and immortality strengthened by hearing of
this? Who knows what beautiful and winged life, whose egg has been
buried for ages under many concentric layers of woodenness in the dead
dry life of society, deposited at first in the alburnum of the green
and living tree, which has been gradually converted into the semblance
of its well-seasoned tomb- heard perchance gnawing out now for years
by the astonished family of man, as they sat round the festive
board- may unexpectedly come forth from amidst society's most
trivial and handselled furniture, to enjoy its perfect summer life
at last!

  I do not say that John or Jonathan will realize all this; but such
is the character of that morrow which mere lapse of time can never
make to dawn. The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us.
Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to
dawn. The sun is but a morning star.

                                    THE END
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