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


Thus far I am of the opinion of Chaucerís nun, who

"yave not of the text a pulled hen That saith that hunters ben not holy
men."

There is a period in the history of the individual, as of the race, when
the hunters are the "best men,- as the Algonquins called them. We
cannot but pity the boy who has never fired a gun; he is no more
humane, while his education has been sadly neglected. This was my
answer with respect to those youths who were bent on this pursuit,
trusting that they would soon outgrow it. No humane being, past the
thoughtless age of boyhood, will wantonly murder any creature
which holds its life by the same tenure that he does. The hare in its
extremity cries like a child. I warn you, mothers, that my sympathies
do not always make the usual philanthropic distinctions.

Such is oftenest the young manís introduction to the forest, and the
most original part of himself. He goes thither at first as a hunter and
fisher, until at last, if he has the seeds of a better life in him, he
distinguishes his proper objects, as a poet or naturalist it may be, and
leaves the gun and fish-pole behind. The mass of men are still and
always young in this respect. In some countries a hunting parson is
no uncommon sight. Such a one might make a good shepherdís dog,
but is far from being the Good Shepherd. I have been surprised to
consider that the only obvious employment, except wood-chopping,
ice-cutting, or the like business, which ever to my knowledge
detained at Walden Pond for a whole half-day any of my fellow-
citizens, whether fathers or children of the town, with just one
exception, was fishing. Commonly they did not think that they were
lucky, or well paid for their time, unless they got a long string of
fish, though they had the opportunity of seeing the pond all the
while. They might go there a thousand times before the sediment of
fishing would sink to the bottom and leave their purpose pure; but no
doubt such a clarifying process would be going on all the while. The
Governor and his Council faintly remember the pond, for they went
a-fishing there when they were boys; but now they are too old and
dignified to go a-fishing, and so they know it no more forever. Yet
even they expect to go to heaven at last. If the legislature regards it,
it is chiefly to regulate the number of books to be used there; but
they know nothing about the book of hooks with which to angle for
the pond itself, impaling the legislature for a bait. Thus, even in
civilized communities, the embryo man passes through the hunter
stage of development.

I have found repeatedly, of late years, that I cannot fish without
falling a little in self-respect. I have tried it again and again. I have
skill at it, and, like many of my fellows, a certain instinct for it,
which revives from time to time, but always when I have done I feel
that it would have been better if I had not fished. I think that I do not
mistake. It is a faint intimation, yet so are the first streaks of
morning. There is unquestionably this instinct in me which belongs
to the lower orders of creation; yet with every year I am less a
fisherman, though without more humanity or even wisdom; at
present I am no fisherman at all. But I see that if I were to live in a
wilderness I should again be tempted to become a fisher and hunter
in earnest. Beside, there is something essentially unclean about this
diet and all flesh, and I began to see where housework commences,
and whence the endeavor, which costs so much, to wear a tidy and
respectable appearance each day, to keep the house sweet and free
from all ill odors and sights. Having been my own butcher and
scullion and cook, as well as the gentleman for whom the dishes
were served up, I can speak from an unusually complete experience.
The practical objection to animal food in my case was its
uncleanness; and besides, when I had caught and cleaned and cooked
and eaten my fish, they seemed not to have fed me essentially. It was
insignificant and unnecessary, and cost more than it came to. A little
bread or a few potatoes would have done as well, with less trouble
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



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