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


and filth. Like many of my contemporaries, I had rarely for many
years used animal food, or tea, or coffee, etc.; not so much because
of any ill effects which I had traced to them, as because they were
not agreeable to my imagination. The repugnance to animal food is
not the effect of experience, but is an instinct. It appeared more
beautiful to live low and fare hard in many respects; and though I
never did so, I went far enough to please my imagination. I believe
that every man who has ever been earnest to preserve his higher or
poetic faculties in the best condition has been particularly inclined to
abstain from animal food, and from much food of any kind. It is a
significant fact, stated by entomologists-I find it in Kirby and
Spence-that "some insects in their perfect state, though furnished
with organs of feeding, make no use of them"; and they lay it down
as "a general rule, that almost all insects in this state eat much less
than in that of larvae. The voracious caterpillar when transformed
into a butterfly... and the gluttonous maggot when become a fly"
content themselves with a drop or two of honey or some other sweet
liquid. The abdomen under the wings of the butterfly stir represents
the larva. This is the tidbit which tempts his insectivorous fate. The
gross feeder is a man in the larva state; and there are whole nations
in that condition, nations without fancy or imagination, whose vast
abdomens betray them.

It is hard to provide and cook so simple and clean a diet as will not
offend the imagination; but this, I think, is to be fed when we feed
the body; they should both sit down at the same table. Yet perhaps
this may be done. The fruits eaten temperately need not make us
ashamed of our appetites, nor interrupt the worthiest pursuits. But
put an extra condiment into your dish, and it will poison you. It is
not worth the while to live by rich cookery. Most men would feel
shame if caught preparing with their own hands precisely such a
dinner, whether of animal or vegetable food, as is every day
prepared for them by others. Yet till this is otherwise we are not
civilized, and, if gentlemen and ladies, are not true men and women.
This certainly suggests what change is to be made. It may be vain to
ask why the imagination will not be reconciled to flesh and fat. I am
satisfied that it is not. Is it not a reproach that man is a carnivorous
animal? True, he can and does live, in a great measure, by preying
on other animals; but this is a miserable way-as any one who will go
to snaring rabbits, or slaughtering lambs, may learn-and he will be
regarded as a benefactor of his race who shall teach man to confine
himself to a more innocent and wholesome diet. Whatever my own
practice may be, I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the
human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals,
as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when
they came in contact with the more civilized.

If one listens to the faintest but constant suggestions of his genius,
which are certainly true, he sees not to what extremes, or even
insanity, it may lead him; and yet that way, as he grows more
resolute and faithful, his road lies. The faintest assured objection
which one healthy man feels will at length prevail over the
arguments and customs of mankind. No man ever followed his
genius till it misled him. Though the result were bodily weakness,
yet perhaps no one can say that the consequences were to be
regretted, for these were a life in conformity to higher principles. If
the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life
emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more
elastic, more starry, more immortal-that is your success. All nature is
your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless
yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being
appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget
them. They are the highest reality. Perhaps the facts most astounding
and most real are never communicated by man to man. The true
harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable
as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



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