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HENRY DAVID THOREAU, the neighbor and friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was born in the famous town of Concord, Massachusetts, in 1817. At twenty years of age he graduated from Harvard College, and was a teacher at Concord and on Staten Island for five or six years. In later life, he engaged to some extent in land-surveying, and also employed himself in the making of lead-pencils, of which his father had been a manufacturer; but he reduced “business” to the smallest share possible in his life, minimizing his wants, making them simple, and devoting the most of his time to nature-study, meditation, and writing. From July, 1845, until September, 1847, he made his dwelling in a cabin that he had constructed on Walden Pond, near Concord, of which experiment in simple and undistracted living he gave a charming account in his book entitled “Walden.” From one of the chapters of that book the passages quoted below are taken.

The moral quality of Thoreau's character is described by his friend and biographer, William Ellery Channing, in the words following: “The high moral impulse never deserted him, and he resolved early to read no book, take no walk, undertake no enterprise, but such as he could endure to give an account of to himself; and live thus deliberately for the most part.' In our estimate of his character, the moral qualities form the basis: for himself, rigidly enjoined; if in another, he could overlook delinquency. Truth before all things; in your daily life, integrity before all things; in all your thoughts, your faintest breath, the austerest purity, the utmost fulfilling of the interior law; faith in friends, and an iron and flinty pursuit of right, which nothing can tease or purchase out of us.”

The death of Thoreau occurred in 1862.



(From "Walden," by Henry D. Thoreau.) I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to “glorify God and enjoy him forever."

Still we live meanly, like ants; though the fable tells us that we were long ago changed into men; like pygmies we fight with cranes; it is érror upon error, and clout upon clout, and our best virtue has for its occasion a superfluous and evitable wretchedness. Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and


to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one ; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion. Our life is like a German Confederacy, made up of petty states, with its boundary forever fluctuating, so that even a German cannot tell

you how it is bounded at any moment. tion itself, with all its so called internal improvements, which by the way, are all external and superficial, is just such an unwieldy and overgrown establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped up by its own traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense, by want of calculation and a worthy aim, as the million households in the land ; and the only cure for it as for them is in a rigid economy, a stern and more than Spartan simplicity of life and eleva

The na

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tion of purpose. It lives too fast. Men think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether they do or not; but whether we should live like baboons or like men, is a little uncertain.

Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches to-day to save nine to-morrow.

As for work, we have n't any of any consequence.

We have the Saint Vitus' dance, and cannot possibly keep our heads still. Hardly a man takes a half hour's nap after dinner, but when he wakes he holds up his head and asks, “What's the news?” as if the rest of mankind had stood his sentinels.

To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea. Yet not a few are greedy after this gossip.

If we respected only what is inevitable and has a right to be, music and poetry would resound along the streets. When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, — that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality. This is always exhilarating and sublime. By closing the eyes and slumbering, and consenting to be deceived by shows, men establish and confirm their daily life of routine and habit every where, , which still is built on purely illusory foundations. Children, who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure.

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at

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it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away,

but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.

I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. The intellect is a cleaver ; it discerns and rifts its way into the secret of things. I do not wish to be any more busy with my hands than is necessary. My head is hands and feet. I feel all my best faculties concentrated in it. My instinct tells me that my head is an organ for burrowing, as some creatures use their snout and fore-paws, and with it I would mine and burrow my way through these hills. I think that the richest vein is somewhere hereabouts ; so by the divining rod and thin rising vapors I judge; and here I will begin to mine.

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