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


the most simple and practical light. He had never heard of such
things before. Could he do without factories? I asked. He had worn
the home-made Vermont gray, he said, and that was good. Could he
dispense with tea and coffee? Did this country afford any beverage
beside water? He had soaked hemlock leaves in water and drank it,
and thought that was better than water in warm weather. When I
asked him if he could do without money, he showed the convenience
of money in such a way as to suggest and coincide with the most
philosophical accounts of the origin of this institution, and the very
derivation of the word pecunia. If an ox were his property, and he
wished to get needles and thread at the store, he thought it would be
inconvenient and impossible soon to go on mortgaging some portion
of the creature each time to that amount. He could defend many
institutions better than any philosopher, because, in describing them
as they concerned him, he gave the true reason for their prevalence,
and speculation had not suggested to him any other. At another time,
hearing Platoís definition of a man-a biped without feathers-and that
one exhibited a cock plucked and called it Platoís man, he thought it
an important difference that the knees bent the wrong way. He would
sometimes exclaim, "How I love to talk! By George, I could talk all
day!" I asked him once, when I had not seen him for many months,
if he had got a new idea this summer. "Good Lord"-said he, "a man
that has to work as I do, if he does not forget the ideas he has had, he
will do well. May he the man you hoe with is inclined to race; then,
by gorry, your mind must be there; you think of weeds." He would
sometimes ask me first on such occasions, if I had made any
improvement. One winter day I asked him if he was always satisfied
with himself, wishing to suggest a substitute within him for the priest
without, and some higher motive for living. "Satisfied!" said he;
"some men are satisfied with one thing, and some with another. One
man, perhaps, if he has got enough, will be satisfied to sit all day
with his back to the fire and his belly to the table, by George!" Yet I
never, by any manoeuvring, could get him to take the spiritual view
of things; the highest that he appeared to conceive of was a simple
expediency, such as you might expect an animal to appreciate; and
this, practically, is true of most men. If I suggested any improvement
in his mode of life, he merely answered, without expressing any
regret, that it was too late. Yet he thoroughly believed in honesty and
the like virtues.

There was a certain positive originality, however slight, to be
detected in him, and I occasionally observed that he was thinking for
himself and expressing his own opinion, a phenomenon so rare that I
would any day walk ten miles to observe it, and it amounted to the
re-origination of many of the institutions of society. Though he
hesitated, and perhaps failed to express himself distinctly, he always
had a presentable thought behind. Yet his thinking was so primitive
and immersed in his animal life, that, though more promising than a
merely learned manís, it rarely ripened to anything which can be
reported. He suggested that there might be men of genius in the
lowest grades of life, however permanently humble and illiterate,
who take their own view always, or do not pretend to see at all; who
are as bottomless even as Walden Pond was thought to be, though
they may be dark and muddy.

Many a traveller came out of his way to see me and the inside of my
house, and, as an excuse for calling, asked for a glass of water. I told
them that I drank at the pond, and pointed thither, offering to lend
them a dipper. Far off as I lived, I was not exempted from the annual
visitation which occurs, methinks, about the first of April, when
everybody is on the move; and I had my share of good luck, though
there were some curious specimens among my visitors. Half-witted
men from the almshouse and elsewhere came to see me; but I
endeavored to make them exercise all the wit they had, and make
their confessions to me; in such cases making wit the theme of our
conversation; and so was compensated. Indeed, I found some of
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



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