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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau


with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who made
them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres, when
man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they
begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got
to live a manís life, pushing all these things before them, and get on
as well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met
well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the
road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its
Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land,
tillage, mowing, pasture, and woodlot! The portionless, who struggle
with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor
enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.

But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon
plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly
called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying
up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break
through and steal. It is a foolís life, as they will find when they get to
the end of it, if not before. It is said that Deucalion and Pyrrha
created men by throwing stones over their heads behind them:

Inde genus durum sumus, experiensque laborum, Et documenta
damus qua simus origine nati.

Or, as Raleigh rhymes it in his sonorous way,

"From thence our kind hard-hearted is, enduring pain and care,
Approving that our bodies of a stony nature are."

So much for a blind obedience to a blundering oracle, throwing the
stones over their heads behind them, and not seeing where they fell.

Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere
ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and
superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be
plucked by them. Their fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy
and tremble too much for that. Actually, the laboring man has not
leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the
manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the
market. He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he
remember well his ignorance-which his growth requires-who has so
often to use his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him
gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, be-

fore we judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature, like the
bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling.
Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.

Some of you, we all know, are poor, find it hard to live, are
sometimes, as it were, gasping for breath. I have no doubt that some
of you who read this book are unable to pay for all the dinners which
you have actually eaten, or for the coats and shoes which are fast
wearing or are already worn out, and have come to this page to
spend borrowed or stolen time, robbing your creditors of an hour. It
is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live, for
my sight has been whetted by experience; always on the limits,
trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt, a very
ancient slough, called by the Latins aes alienum, anotherís brass, for
some of their coins were made of brass; still living, and dying, and
buried by this otherís brass; always promising to pay, promising to
pay, tomorrow, and dying today, insolvent; seeking to curry favor, to
get custom, by how many modes, only not state-prison offences;
lying, flattering, voting, contracting yourselves into a nutshell of
civility or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and vaporous
generosity, that you may persuade your neighbor to let you make his
shoes, or his hat, or his coat, or his carriage, or import his groceries
for him; making yourselves sick, that you may lay up something
against a sick day, something to be tucked away in an old chest, or in
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



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