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


exuberance of animal spirits had he that he sometimes tumbled down
and rolled on the ground with laughter at anything which made him
think and tickled him. Looking round upon the trees he would
exclaim "By George! I can enjoy myself well enough here chopping;
I want no better sport." Sometimes, when at leisure, he amused
himself all day in the woods with a pocket pistol, firing salutes to
himself at regular intervals as he walked. In the winter he had a fire
by which at noon he warmed his coffee in a kettle; and as he sat on a
log to eat his dinner the chickadees would sometimes come round
and alight on his arm and peck at the potato in his fingers; and he
said that he "liked to have the little fellers about him."

In him the animal man chiefly was developed. In physical endurance
and contentment he was cousin to the pine and the rock. I asked him
once if he was not sometimes tired at night, after working all day;
and he answered, with a sincere and serious look, "Gorrappit, I never
was tired in my life." But the intellectual and what is called spiritual
man in him were slumbering as in an infant. He had been instructed
only in that innocent and ineffectual way in which the Catholic
priests teach the aborigines, by which the pupil is never educated to
the degree of consciousness, but only to the degree of trust and
reverence, and a child is not made a man, but kept a child. When
Nature made him, she gave him a strong body and contentment for
his portion, and propped him on every side with reverence and
reliance, that he might live out his threescore years and ten a child.
He was so genuine and unsophisticated that no introduction would
serve to introduce him, more than if you introduced a woodchuck to
your neighbor. He had got to find him out as you did. He would not
play any part. Men paid him wages for work, and so helped to feed
and clothe him; but he never exchanged opinions with them. He was
so simply and naturally humble-if he can be called humble who
never aspires-that humility was no distinct quality in him, nor could
he conceive of it. Wiser men were demigods to him. If you told him
that such a one was coming, he did as if he thought that anything so
grand would expect nothing of himself, but take all the responsibility
on itself, and let him be forgotten still. He never heard the sound of
praise. He particularly reverenced the writer and the preacher. Their
performances were miracles. When I told him that I wrote
considerably, he thought for a long time that it was merely the
handwriting which I meant, for he could write a remarkably good
hand himself. I sometimes found the name of his native parish
handsomely written in the snow by the highway, with the proper
French accent, and knew that he had passed. I asked him if he ever
wished to write his thoughts. He said that he had read and written
letters for those who could not, but he never tried to write thoughts-
no, he could not, he could not tell what to put first, it would kill him,
and then there was spelling to be attended to at the same time!

I heard that a distinguished wise man and reformer asked him if he
did not want the world to be changed; but he answered with a
chuckle of surprise in his Canadian accent, not knowing that the
question had ever been entertained before, "No, I like it well
enough." It would have suggested many things to a philosopher to
have dealings with him. To a stranger he appeared to know nothing
of things in general; yet I sometimes saw in him a man whom I had
not seen before, and I did not know whether he was as wise as
Shakespeare or as simply ignorant as a child, whether to suspect him
of a fine poetic consciousness or of stupidity. A townsman told me
that when he met him sauntering through the village in his small
close-fitting cap, and whistling to himself, he reminded him of a
prince in disguise.

His only books were an almanac and an arithmetic, in which last he
was considerably expert. The former was a sort of cyclopaedia to
him, which he supposed to contain an abstract of human knowledge,
as indeed it does to a considerable extent. I loved to sound him on
the various reforms of the day, and he never failed to look at them in
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