Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers

Help / FAQ

<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - by Henry David Thoreau

host told me his story, how hard he worked "bogging" for a
neighboring farmer, turning up a meadow with a spade or bog hoe at
the rate of ten dollars an acre and the use of the land with manure for
one year, and his little broad-faced son worked cheerfully at his
fatherís side the while, not knowing how poor a bargain the latter
had made. I tried to help him with my experience, telling him that he
was one of my nearest neighbors, and that I too, who came a-fishing
here, and looked like a loafer, was getting my living like himself;
that I lived in a tight, light, and clean house, which hardly cost more
than the annual rent of such a ruin as his commonly amounts to; and
how, if he chose, he might in a month or two build himself a palace
of his own; that I did not use tea, nor coffee, nor butter, nor milk, nor
fresh meat, and so did not have to work to get them; again, as I did
not work hard, I did not have to eat hard, and it cost me but a trifle
for my food; but as he began with tea, and coffee, and butter, and
milk, and beef, he had to work hard to pay for them, and when he
had worked hard he had to eat hard again to repair the waste of his
system-and so it was as broad as it was long, indeed it was broader
than it was long, for he was discontented and wasted his life into the
bargain; and yet he had rated it as a gain in coming to America, that
here you could get tea, and coffee, and meat every day. But the only
true America is that country where you are at liberty to pursue such a
mode of life as may enable you to do without these, and where the
state does not endeavor to compel you to sustain the slavery and war
and other superfluous expenses which directly or indirectly result
from the use of such things. For I purposely talked to him as if he
were a philosopher, or desired to be one. I should be glad if all the
meadows on the earth were left in a wild state, if that were the
consequence of menís beginning to redeem themselves. A man will
not need to study history to find out what is best for his own culture.
But alas! the culture of an Irishman is an enterprise to be undertaken
with a sort of moral bog hoe. I told him, that as he worked so hard at
bogging, he required thick boots and stout clothing, which yet were
soon soiled and worn out, but I wore light shoes and thin clothing,
which cost not half so much, though he might think that I was
dressed like a gentleman (which, however, was not the case), and in
an hour or two, without labor, but as a recreation, I could, if I
wished, catch as many fish as I should want for two days, or earn
enough money to support me a week. If he and his family would live
simply, they might all go a-huckleberrying in the summer for their
amusement. John heaved a sigh at this, and his wife stared with arms
akimbo, and both appeared to be wondering if they had capital
enough to begin such a course with, or arithmetic enough to carry it
through. It was sailing by dead reckoning to them, and they saw not
clearly how to make their port so; therefore I suppose they still take
life bravely, after their fashion, face to face, giving it tooth and nail,
not having skill to split its massive columns with any fine entering
wedge, and rout it in detail;- thinking to deal with it roughly, as one
should handle a thistle. But they fight at an overwhelming
disadvantage-living, John Field, alas! without arithmetic, and failing

"Do you ever fish?" I asked. "Oh yes, I catch a mess now and then
when I am lying by; good perch I catch.- "

Whatís your bait?" "I catch shiners with fishworms, and bait the
perch with them." "Youíd better go now, John," said his wife, with
glistening and hopeful face; but John demurred.

The shower was now over, and a rainbow above the eastern woods
promised a fair evening; so I took my departure. When I had got
without I asked for a drink, hoping to get a sight of the well bottom,
to complete my survey of the premises; but there, alas! are shallows
and quicksands, and rope broken withal, and bucket irrecoverable.
Meanwhile the right culinary vessel was selected, water was
seemingly distilled, and after consultation and long delay passed out
to the thirsty one-not yet suffered to cool, not yet to settle. Such
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - by Henry David Thoreau

All Contents Copyright © All rights reserved.
Further Distribution Is Strictly Prohibited.

About Us | Advertising | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Home Page

In Association with