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


segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.

Yet, for my part, I was never unusually squeamish; I could
sometimes eat a fried rat with a good relish, if it were necessary. I
am glad to have drunk water so long, for the same reason that I
prefer the natural sky to an opium-eaterís heaven. I would fain keep
sober always; and there are infinite degrees of drunkenness. I believe
that water is the only drink for a wise man; wine is not so noble a
liquor; and think of dashing the hopes of a morning with a cup of
warm coffee, or of an evening with a dish of tea! Ah, how low I fall
when I am tempted by them! Even music may be intoxicating. Such
apparently slight causes destroyed Greece and

Rome, and will destroy England and America. Of all ebriosity, who
does not prefer to be intoxicated by the air he breathes? I have found
it to be the most serious objection to coarse labors long continued,
that they compelled me to eat and drink coarsely also. But to tell the
truth, I find myself at present somewhat less particular in these
respects. I carry less religion to the table, ask no blessing; not
because I am wiser than I was, but, I am obliged to confess, because,
however much it is to be regretted, with years I have grown more
coarse and indifferent. Perhaps these questions are entertained only
in youth, as most believe of poetry. My practice is "nowhere," my
opinion is here. Nevertheless I am far from regarding myself as one
of those privileged ones to whom the Ved refers when it says, that
"he who has true faith in the Omnipresent Supreme Being may eat
all that exists," that is, is not bound to inquire what is his food, or
who prepares it; and even in their case it is to be observed, as a
Hindoo commentator has remarked, that the Vedant limits this
privilege to "the time of distress."

Who has not sometimes derived an inexpressible satisfaction from
his food in which appetite had no share? I have been thrilled to think
that I owed a mental perception to the commonly gross sense of
taste, that I have been inspired through the palate, that some berries
which I had eaten on a hillside had fed my genius. "The soul not
being mistress of herself," says Thseng-tseu, "one looks, and one
does not see; one listens, and one does not hear; one eats, and one
does not know the savor of food." He who distinguishes the true
savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be
otherwise. A puritan may go to his brown-bread crust with as gross
an appetite as ever an alderman to his turtle. Not that food which
entereth into the mouth defileth a man, but the appetite with which it
is eaten. It is neither the quality nor the quantity, but the devotion to
sensual savors; when that which is eaten is not a viand to sustain our
animal, or inspire our spiritual life, but food for the worms that
possess us. If the hunter has a taste for mud-turtles, muskrats, and
other such savage tidbits, the fine lady indulges a taste for jelly made
of a calfís foot, or for sardines from over the sea, and they are even.
He goes to the mill-pond, she to her preserve-pot. The wonder is
how they, how you and I, can live this slimy, beastly life, eating and
drinking.

Our whole life is startlingly moral. There is never an instantís truce
between virtue and vice. Goodness is the only investment that never
fails. In the music of the harp which trembles round the world it is
the insisting on this which thrills us. The harp is the travelling
patterer for the Universeís Insurance Company, recommending its
laws, and our little goodness is all the assessment that we pay.
Though the youth at last grows indifferent, the laws of the universe
are not indifferent, but are forever on the side of the most sensitive.
Listen to every zephyr for some reproof, for it is surely there, and he
is unfortunate who does not hear it. We cannot touch a string or
move a stop but the charming moral transfixes us. Many an irksome
noise, go a long way off, is heard as music, a proud, sweet satire on
the meanness of our lives.
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



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