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


and was strongly tempted to seize and devour him raw; not that I
was hungry then, except for that wildness which he represented.
Once or twice, however, while I lived at the pond, I found myself
ranging the woods, like a half-starved hound, with a strange
abandonment, seeking some kind of venison which I might devour,
and no morsel could have been too savage for me. The wildest
scenes had become unaccountably familiar. I found in myself, and
still find, an instinct toward a higher, or, as it is named, spiritual life,
as do most men, and another toward a primitive rank and savage one,
and I reverence them both. I love the wild not less than the good.
The wildness and adventure that are in fishing still recommended it
to me. I like sometimes to take rank hold on life and spend my day
more as the animals do. Perhaps I have owed to this employment and
to hunting, when quite young, my closest acquaintance with Nature.
They early introduce us to and detain us in scenery with which
otherwise, at that age, we should have little acquaintance.
Fishermen, hunters, woodchoppers, and others, spending their lives
in the fields and woods, in a peculiar sense a part of Nature
themselves, are often in a more favorable mood for observing her, in
the intervals of their pursuits, than philosophers or poets even, who
approach her with expectation. She is not afraid to exhibit herself to
them.

The traveller on the prairie is naturally a hunter, on the head waters
of the Missouri and Columbia a trapper, and at the Falls of St. Mary
a fisherman. He who is only a traveller learns things at second-hand
and by the halves, and is poor authority. We are most interested
when science reports what those men already know practically or
instinctively, for that alone is a true humanity, or account of human
experience.

They mistake who assert that the Yankee has few amusements,
because he has not so many public holidays, and men and boys do
not play so many games as they do in England, for here the more
primitive but solitary amusements of hunting, fishing, and the like
have not yet given place to the former. Almost every New England
boy among my contemporaries shouldered a fowling-piece between
the ages of ten and fourteen; and his hunting and fishing grounds
were not limited, like the preserves of an English nobleman, but
were more boundless even than those of a savage. No wonder, then,
that he did not oftener stay to play on the common. But already a
change is taking place, owing, not to an increased humanity, but to
an increased scarcity of game, for perhaps the hunter is the greatest
friend of the animals hunted, not excepting the Humane Society.

Moreover, when at the pond, I wished sometimes to add fish to my
fare for variety. I have actually fished from the same kind of
necessity that the first fishers did. Whatever humanity I might
conjure up against it was all factitious, and concerned my philosophy
more than my feelings. I speak of fishing only now, for I had long
felt differently about fowling, and sold my gun before I went to the
woods. Not that I am less humane than others, but I did not perceive
that my feelings were much affected. I did not pity the fishes nor the
worms. This was habit. As for fowling, during the last years that I
carried a gun my excuse was that I was studying ornithology, and
sought only new or rare birds. But I confess that I am now inclined
to think that there is a finer way of studying ornithology than this. It
requires so much closer attention to the habits of the birds, that, if for
that reason only, I have been willing to omit the gun. Yet
notwithstanding the objection on the score of humanity, I am
compelled to doubt if equally valuable sports are ever substituted for
these; and when some of my friends have asked me anxiously about
their boys, whether they should let them hunt, I have answered, yes-
remembering that it was one of the best parts of my education-make
them hunters, though sportsmen only at first, if possible, mighty
hunters at last, so that they shall not find game large enough for them
in this or any vegetable wilderness-hunters as well as fishers of men.
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