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


his farm that he can say them nay. And hereís your pay for them!
screams the countrymanís whistle; timber like long battering-rams
going twenty miles an hour against the cityís walls, and chairs
enough to seat all the weary and heavy-laden that dwell within them.
With such huge and lumbering civility the country hands a chair to
the city. All the Indian huckleberry hills are stripped, all the
cranberry meadows are raked into the city. Up comes the cotton,
down goes the woven cloth; up comes the silk, down goes the
woollen; up come the books, but down goes the wit that writes them.

When I meet the engine with its train of cars moving off with
planetary motion-or, rather, like a comet, for the beholder knows not
if with that velocity and with that direction it will ever revisit this
system, since its orbit does not look like a returning curve-with its
steam cloud like a banner streaming behind in golden and silver
wreaths, like many a downy cloud which I have seen, high in the
heavens, unfolding its masses to the light-as if this traveling
demigod, this cloud-compeller, would ere long take the sunset sky
for the livery of his train; when I hear the iron horse make the bills
echo with his snort like thunder, shaking the earth with his feet, and
breathing fire and smoke from his nostrils (what kind of winged
horse or fiery dragon they will put into the new Mythology I donít
know), it seems as if the earth had got a race now worthy to inhabit
it. If all were as it seems, and men made the elements their servants
for noble ends! If the cloud that hangs over the engine were the
perspiration of heroic deeds, or as beneficent as that which floats
over the farmerís fields, then the elements and Nature herself would
cheerfully accompany men on their errands and be their escort.

I watch the passage of the morning cars with the same feeling that I
do the rising of the sun, which is hardly more regular. Their train of
clouds stretching far behind and rising higher and higher, going to
heaven while the cars are going to Boston, conceals the sun for a
minute and casts my distant field into the shade, a celestial train
beside which the petty train of cars which bugs the earth is but the
barb of the spear. The stabler of the iron horse was up early this
winter morning by the light of the stars amid the mountains, to
fodder and harness his steed. Fire, too, was awakened thus early to
put the vital beat in him and get him off. If the enterprise were as
innocent as it is early! If the snow lies deep, they strap on his
snowshoes, and, with the giant plow, plow a furrow from the
mountains to the seaboard, in which the cars, like a following drill-
barrow, sprinkle all the restless men and floating merchandise in the
country for seed. All day the fire-steed flies over the country,
stopping only that his master may rest, and I am awakened by his
tramp and defiant snort at midnight, when in some remote glen in the
woods he fronts the elements incased in ice and snow; and he will
reach his stall only with the morning star, to start once more on his
travels without rest or slumber.

Or perchance, at evening, I hear him in his stable blowing off the
superfluous energy of the day, that he may calm his nerves and cool
his liver and brain for a few hours of iron slumber. If the enterprise
were as heroic and commanding as it is protracted and unwearied!

Far through unfrequented woods on the confines of towns, where
once only the hunter penetrated by day, in the darkest night dart
these bright saloons without the knowledge of their inhabitants; this
moment stopping at some brilliant station-house in town or city,
where a social crowd is gathered, the next in the Dismal Swamp,
scaring the owl and fox. The startings and arrivals of the cars are
now the epochs in the village day. They go and come with such
regularity and precision, and their whistle can be heard so far, that
the farmers set their clocks by them, and thus one well-conducted
institution regulates a whole country. Have not men improved
somewhat in punctuality since the railroad was invented? Do they
not talk and think faster in the depot than they did in the stage-
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



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