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


I planted about two acres and a half of upland; and as it was only
about fifteen years since the land was cleared, and I myself had got
out two or three cords of stumps, I did not give it any manure; but in
the course of the summer it appeared by the arrowheads which I
turned up in hoeing, that an extinct nation had anciently dwelt here
and planted corn and beans ere white men came to clear the land,
and so, to some extent, had exhausted the soil for this very crop.

Before yet any woodchuck or squirrel had run across the road, or the
sun had got above the shrub oaks, while all the dew was on, though
the farmers warned me against it-I would advise you to do all your
work if possible while the dew is on-I began to level the ranks of
haughty weeds in my bean-field and throw dust upon their heads.
Early in the morning I worked barefooted, dabbling like a plastic
artist in the dewy and crumbling sand, but later in the day the sun
blistered my feet. There the sun lighted me to hoe beans, pacing
slowly backward and forward over that yellow gravelly upland,
between the long green rows, fifteen rods, the one end terminating in
a shrub oak copse where I could rest in the shade, the other in a
blackberry field where the green berries deepened their tints by the
time I had made another bout. Removing the weeds, putting fresh
soil about the bean stems, and encouraging this weed which I had
sown, making the yellow soil express its summer thought in bean
leaves and blossoms rather than in worm-wood and piper and millet
grass, making the earth say beans instead of grass-this was my daily
work. As I had little aid from horses or cattle, or hired men or boys,
or improved implements of husbandry, I was much slower, and
became much more intimate with my beans than usual. But labor of
the hands, even when pursued to the verge of drudgery, is perhaps
never the worst form of idleness. It has a constant and imperishable
moral, and to the scholar it yields a classic result. A very agricola
laboriosus was I to travellers bound westward through Lincoln and
Wayland to nobody knows where; they sitting at their ease in gigs,
with elbows on knees, and reins loosely hanging in festoons; I the
home-staying, laborious native of the soil. But soon my homestead
was out of their sight and thought. It was the only open and
cultivated field for a great distance on either side of the road, so they
made the most of it; and sometimes the man in the field heard more
of travellersí gossip and comment than was meant for his ear:
"Beans so late! peas so late!"- for I continued to plant when others
had begun to hoe-the ministerial husbandman had not suspected it.
"Corn, my boy, for fodder; corn for fodder." "Does he live there?"
asks the black bonnet of the gray coat; and the hard-featured farmer
reins up his grateful dobbin to inquire what you are doing where he
sees no manure in the furrow, and recommends a little chip dirt, or
any little waste stuff, or it may be ashes or plaster. But here were two
acres and a half of furrows, and only a hoe for cart and two hands to
draw it-there being an aversion to other carts and horses-and chip
dirt far away. Fellow-travellers as they rattled by compared it aloud
with the fields which they had passed, so that I came to know how I
stood in the agricultural world. This was one field not in Mr.
Colmanís report. And, by the way, who estimates the value of the
crop which nature yields in the still wilder fields unimproved by
man? The crop of English hay is carefully weighed, the moisture
calculated, the silicates and the potash; but in all dells and pond-
holes in the woods and pastures and swamps grows a rich and
various crop only unreaped by man. Mine was, as it were, the
connecting link between wild and cultivated fields; as some states
are civilized, and others half-civilized, and others savage or
barbarous, so my field was, though not in a bad sense, a half-
cultivated field. They were beans cheerfully returning to their wild
and primitive state that I cultivated, and my hoe played the Ranz des
Vaches for them.

Near at hand, upon the topmost spray of a birch, sings the brown
thrasher-or red mavis, as some love to call him-all the morning, glad
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



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