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


by the board.

We boast that we belong to the Nineteenth Century and are making
the most rapid strides of any nation. But consider how little this
village does for its own culture. I do not wish to flatter my
townsmen, nor to be flattered by them, for that will not advance
either of us. We need to be provoked-goaded like oxen, as we are,
into a trot. We have a comparatively decent system of common
schools, schools for infants only; but excepting the half-starved
Lyceum in the winter, and latterly the puny beginning of a library
suggested by the State, no school for ourselves. We spend more on
almost any article of bodily aliment or ailment than on our mental
ailment. It is time that we had uncommon schools, that we did not
leave off our education when we begin to be men and women. It is
time that villages were universities, and their elder inhabitants the
fellows of universities, with leisure-if they are, indeed, so well off-to
pursue liberal studies the rest of their lives. Shall the world be
confined to one Paris or one Oxford forever? Cannot students be
boarded here and get a liberal education under the skies of Concord?
Can we not hire some Abelard to lecture to us? Alas! what with
foddering the cattle and tending the store, we are kept from school
too long, and our education is sadly neglected. In this country, the
village should in some respects take the place of the nobleman of
Europe. It should be the patron of the fine arts. It is rich enough. It
wants only the magnanimity and refinement. It can spend money
enough on such things as farmers and traders value, but it is thought
Utopian to propose spending money for things which more
intelligent men know to be of far more worth. This town has spent
seventeen thousand dollars on a town-house, thank fortune or
politics, but probably it will not spend so much on living wit, the
true meat to put into that shell, in a hundred years. The one hundred
and twenty-five dollars annually subscribed for a Lyceum in the
winter is better spent than any other equal sum raised in the town. If
we live in the Nineteenth Century, why should we not enjoy the
advantages which the Nineteenth Century offers? Why should our
life be in any respect provincial? If we will read newspapers, why
not skip the gossip of Boston and take the best newspaper in the
world at once?- not be sucking the pap of "neutral family" papers, or
browsing "Olive Branches" here in New England. Let the reports of
all the learned societies come to us, and we will see if they know
anything. Why should we leave it to Harper & Brothers and Redding
& Co. to select our reading? As the nobleman of cultivated taste
surrounds himself with whatever conduces to his culture-genius-
learning-witbooks-paintings-statuary-music-philosophical
instruments, and the like; so let the village do-not stop short at a
pedagogue, a parson, a sexton, a parish library, and three selectmen,
because our Pilgrim forefathers got through a cold winter once on a
bleak rock with these. To act collectively is according to the spirit of
our institutions; and I am confident that, as our circumstances are
more flourishing, our means are greater than the noblemanís. New
England can hire all the wise men in the world to come and teach
her, and board them round the while, and not be provincial at all.
That is the uncommon school we want. Instead of noblemen, let us
have noble villages of men. If it is necessary, omit one bridge over

the river, go round a little there, and throw one arch at least over the
darker gulf of ignorance which surrounds us.

SOUNDS.

BUT WHILE we are confined to books, though the most select and
classic, and read only particular written languages, which are
themselves but dialects and provincial, we are in danger of forgetting
the language which all things and events speak without metaphor,
which alone is copious and standard. Much is published, but little
printed. The rays which stream through the shutter will be no longer
remembered when the shutter is wholly removed. No method nor
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