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    Chapter 2

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    Chapter 2
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    At a certain season of our life we are accustomed to consider
    every spot as the possible site of a house. I have thus surveyed
    the country on every side within a dozen miles of where I live. In
    imagination I have bought all the farms in succession, for all were
    to be bought, and I knew their price. I walked over each farmer's
    premises, tasted his wild apples, discoursed on husbandry with him,
    took his farm at his price, at any price, mortgaging it to him in my
    mind; even put a higher price on it -- took everything but a deed of
    it -- took his word for his deed, for I dearly love to talk --
    cultivated it, and him too to some extent, I trust, and withdrew
    when I had enjoyed it long enough, leaving him to carry it on. This
    experience entitled me to be regarded as a sort of real-estate
    broker by my friends. Wherever I sat, there I might live, and the
    landscape radiated from me accordingly. What is a house but a
    sedes, a seat? -- better if a country seat. I discovered many a
    site for a house not likely to be soon improved, which some might
    have thought too far from the village, but to my eyes the village
    was too far from it. Well, there I might live, I said; and there I
    did live, for an hour, a summer and a winter life; saw how I could
    let the years run off, buffet the winter through, and see the spring
    come in. The future inhabitants of this region, wherever they may
    place their houses, may be sure that they have been anticipated. An
    afternoon sufficed to lay out the land into orchard, wood-lot, and
    pasture, and to decide what fine oaks or pines should be left to
    stand before the door, and whence each blasted tree could be seen to
    the best advantage; and then I let it lie, fallow, perchance, for a
    man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can
    afford to let alone.
    My imagination carried me so far that I even had the refusal of
    several farms -- the refusal was all I wanted -- but I never got my
    fingers burned by actual possession. The nearest that I came to
    actual possession was when I bought the Hollowell place, and had
    begun to sort my seeds, and collected materials with which to make a
    wheelbarrow to carry it on or off with; but before the owner gave me
    a deed of it, his wife -- every man has such a wife -- changed her
    mind and wished to keep it, and he offered me ten dollars to release
    him. Now, to speak the truth, I had but ten cents in the world, and
    it surpassed my arithmetic to tell, if I was that man who had ten
    cents, or who had a farm, or ten dollars, or all together. However,
    I let him keep the ten dollars and the farm too, for I had carried
    it far enough; or rather, to be generous, I sold him the farm for
    just what I gave for it, and, as he was not a rich man, made him a
    present of ten dollars, and still had my ten cents, and seeds, and
    materials for a wheelbarrow left. I found thus that I had been a
    rich man without any damage to my poverty. But I retained the
    landscape, and I have since annually carried off what it yielded
    without a wheelbarrow. With respect to landscapes,

    "I am monarch of all I survey,
    My right there is none to dispute."

    I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most
    valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he
    had got a few wild apples only. Why, the owner does not know it for
    many years when a poet has put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable
    kind of invisible fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed
    it, and got all the cream, and left the farmer only the skimmed
    The real attractions of the Hollowell farm, to me, were: its
    complete retirement, being, about two miles from the village, half a
    mile from the nearest neighbor, and separated from the highway by a
    broad field; its bounding on the river, which the owner said
    protected it by its fogs from frosts in the spring, though that was
    nothing to me; the gray color and ruinous state of the house and
    barn, and the dilapidated fences, which put such an interval between
    me and the last occupant; the hollow and lichen-covered apple trees,
    nawed by rabbits, showing what kind of neighbors I should have; but
    above all, the recollection I had of it from my earliest voyages up
    the river, when the house was concealed behind a dense grove of red
    maples, through which I heard the house-dog bark. I was in haste to
    buy it, before the proprietor finished getting out some rocks,
    cutting down the hollow apple trees, and grubbing up some young
    birches which had sprung up in the pasture, or, in short, had made
    any more of his improvements. To enjoy these advantages I was ready
    to carry it on; like Atlas, to take the world on my shoulders -- I
    never heard what compensation he received for that -- and do all
    those things which had no other motive or excuse but that I might
    pay for it and be unmolested in my possession of it; for I knew all
    the while that it would yield the most abundant crop of the kind I
    wanted, if I could only afford to let it alone. But it turned out
    as I have said.
    All that I could say, then, with respect to farming on a large
    scale -- I have always cultivated a garden -- was, that I had had my
    seeds ready. Many think that seeds improve with age. I have no
    doubt that time discriminates between the good and the bad; and when
    at last I shall plant, I shall be less likely to be disappointed.
    But I would say to my fellows, once for all, As long as possible
    live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether
    you are committed to a farm or the county jail.
    Old Cato, whose "De Re Rustica" is my "Cultivator," says -- and
    the only translation I have seen makes sheer nonsense of the passage
    -- "When you think of getting a farm turn it thus in your mind, not
    to buy greedily; nor spare your pains to look at it, and do not
    think it enough to go round it once. The oftener you go there the
    more it will please you, if it is good." I think I shall not buy
    greedily, but go round and round it as long as I live, and be buried
    in it first, that it may please me the more at last.
    The present was my next experiment of this kind, which I purpose
    to describe more at length, for convenience putting the experience
    of two years into one. As I have said, I do not propose to write an
    ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the
    morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up.
    When first I took up my abode in the woods, that is, began to
    spend my nights as well as days there, which, by accident, was on
    Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, 1845, my house was not
    finished for winter, but was merely a defence against the rain,
    without plastering or chimney, the walls being of rough,
    weather-stained boards, with wide chinks, which made it cool at
    night. The upright white hewn studs and freshly planed door and
    window casings gave it a clean and airy look, especially in the
    morning, when its timbers were saturated with dew, so that I fancied
    that by noon some sweet gum would exude from them. To my
    imagination it retained throughout the day more or less of this
    auroral character, reminding me of a certain house on a mountain
    which I had visited a year before. This was an airy and unplastered
    cabin, fit to entertain a travelling god, and where a goddess might
    trail her garments. The winds which passed over my dwelling were
    such as sweep over the ridges of mountains, bearing the broken
    strains, or celestial parts only, of terrestrial music. The morning
    wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted; but few
    are the ears that hear it. Olympus is but the outside of the earth
    The only house I had been the owner of before, if I except a
    boat, was a tent, which I used occasionally when making excursions
    in the summer, and this is still rolled up in my garret; but the
    boat, after passing from hand to hand, has gone down the stream of
    time. With this more substantial shelter about me, I had made some
    progress toward settling in the world. This frame, so slightly
    clad, was a sort of crystallization around me, and reacted on the
    builder. It was suggestive somewhat as a picture in outlines. I
    did not need to go outdoors to take the air, for the atmosphere
    within had lost none of its freshness. It was not so much within
    doors as behind a door where I sat, even in the rainiest weather.
    The Harivansa says, "An abode without birds is like a meat without
    seasoning." Such was not my abode, for I found myself suddenly
    neighbor to the birds; not by having imprisoned one, but having
    caged myself near them. I was not only nearer to some of those
    which commonly frequent the garden and the orchard, but to those
    smaller and more thrilling songsters of the forest which never, or
    rarely, serenade a villager -- the wood thrush, the veery, the
    scarlet tanager, the field sparrow, the whip-poor-will, and many
    I was seated by the shore of a small pond, about a mile and a
    half south of the village of Concord and somewhat higher than it, in
    the midst of an extensive wood between that town and Lincoln, and
    about two miles south of that our only field known to fame, Concord
    Battle Ground; but I was so low in the woods that the opposite
    shore, half a mile off, like the rest, covered with wood, was my
    most distant horizon. For the first week, whenever I looked out on
    the pond it impressed me like a tarn high up on the side of a
    mountain, its bottom far above the surface of other lakes, and, as
    the sun arose, I saw it throwing off its nightly clothing of mist,
    and here and there, by degrees, its soft ripples or its smooth
    reflecting surface was revealed, while the mists, like ghosts, were
    stealthily withdrawing in every direction into the woods, as at the
    breaking up of some nocturnal conventicle. The very dew seemed to
    hang upon the trees later into the day than usual, as on the sides
    of mountains.
    This small lake was of most value as a neighbor in the intervals
    of a gentle rain-storm in August, when, both air and water being
    perfectly still, but the sky overcast, mid-afternoon had all the
    serenity of evening, and the wood thrush sang around, and was heard
    from shore to shore. A lake like this is never smoother than at
    such a time; and the clear portion of the air above it being,
    shallow and darkened by clouds, the water, full of light and
    reflections, becomes a lower heaven itself so much the more
    important. From a hill-top near by, where the wood had been
    recently cut off, there was a pleasing vista southward across the
    pond, through a wide indentation in the hills which form the shore
    there, where their opposite sides sloping toward each other
    suggested a stream flowing out in that direction through a wooded
    valley, but stream there was none. That way I looked between and
    over the near green hills to some distant and higher ones in the
    horizon, tinged with blue. Indeed, by standing on tiptoe I could
    catch a glimpse of some of the peaks of the still bluer and more
    distant mountain ranges in the northwest, those true-blue coins from
    heaven's own mint, and also of some portion of the village. But in
    other directions, even from this point, I could not see over or
    beyond the woods which surrounded me. It is well to have some water
    in your neighborhood, to give buoyancy to and float the earth. One
    value even of the smallest well is, that when you look into it you
    see that earth is not continent but insular. This is as important
    as that it keeps butter cool. When I looked across the pond from
    this peak toward the Sudbury meadows, which in time of flood I
    distinguished elevated perhaps by a mirage in their seething valley,
    like a coin in a basin, all the earth beyond the pond appeared like
    a thin crust insulated and floated even by this small sheet of
    interverting water, and I was reminded that this on which I dwelt
    was but dry land.
    Though the view from my door was still more contracted, I did
    not feel crowded or confined in the least. There was pasture enough
    for my imagination. The low shrub oak plateau to which the opposite
    shore arose stretched away toward the prairies of the West and the
    steppes of Tartary, affording ample room for all the roving families
    of men. "There are none happy in the world but beings who enjoy
    freely a vast horizon" -- said Damodara, when his herds required new
    and larger pastures.
    Both place and time were changed, and I dwelt nearer to those
    parts of the universe and to those eras in history which had most
    attracted me. Where I lived was as far off as many a region viewed
    nightly by astronomers. We are wont to imagine rare and delectable
    places in some remote and more celestial corner of the system,
    behind the constellation of Cassiopeia's Chair, far from noise and
    disturbance. I discovered that my house actually had its site in
    such a withdrawn, but forever new and unprofaned, part of the
    universe. If it were worth the while to settle in those parts near
    to the Pleiades or the Hyades, to Aldebaran or Altair, then I was
    really there, or at an equal remoteness from the life which I had
    left behind, dwindled and twinkling with as fine a ray to my nearest
    neighbor, and to be seen only in moonless nights by him. Such was
    that part of creation where I had squatted;

    "There was a shepherd that did live,
    And held his thoughts as high
    As were the mounts whereon his flocks
    Did hourly feed him by."

    What should we think of the shepherd's life if his flocks always
    wandered to higher pastures than his thoughts?
    Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal
    simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself. I have
    been as sincere a worshipper of Aurora as the Greeks. I got up
    early and bathed in the pond; that was a religious exercise, and one
    of the best things which I did. They say that characters were
    engraven on the bathing tub of King Tchingthang to this effect:
    "Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and
    forever again." I can understand that. Morning brings back the
    heroic ages. I was as much affected by the faint hum of a mosquito
    making its invisible and unimaginable tour through my apartment at
    earliest dawn, when I was sitting with door and windows open, as I
    could be by any trumpet that ever sang of fame. It was Homer's
    requiem; itself an Iliad and Odyssey in the air, singing its own
    wrath and wanderings. There was something cosmical about it; a
    standing advertisement, till forbidden, of the everlasting vigor and
    fertility of the world. The morning, which is the most memorable
    season of the day, is the awakening hour. Then there is least
    somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes
    which slumbers all the rest of the day and night. Little is to be
    expected of that day, if it can be called a day, to which we are not
    awakened by our Genius, but by the mechanical nudgings of some
    servitor, are not awakened by our own newly acquired force and
    aspirations from within, accompanied by the undulations of celestial
    music, instead of factory bells, and a fragrance filling the air --
    to a higher life than we fell asleep from; and thus the darkness
    bear its fruit, and prove itself to be good, no less than the light.
    That man who does not believe that each day contains an earlier,
    more sacred, and auroral hour than he has yet profaned, has
    despaired of life, and is pursuing a descending and darkening way.
    After a partial cessation of his sensuous life, the soul of man, or
    its organs rather, are reinvigorated each day, and his Genius tries
    again what noble life it can make. All memorable events, I should
    say, transpire in morning time and in a morning atmosphere. The
    Vedas say, "All intelligences awake with the morning." Poetry and
    art, and the fairest and most memorable of the actions of men, date
    from such an hour. All poets and heroes, like Memnon, are the
    children of Aurora, and emit their music at sunrise. To him whose
    elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a
    perpetual morning. It matters not what the clocks say or the
    attitudes and labors of men. Morning is when I am awake and there
    is a dawn in me. Moral reform is the effort to throw off sleep.
    Why is it that men give so poor an account of their day if they have
    not been slumbering? They are not such poor calculators. If they
    had not been overcome with drowsiness, they would have performed
    something. The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but
    only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual
    exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life.
    To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was
    quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?
    We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by
    mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which
    does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more
    encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate
    his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to
    paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a
    few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and
    paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which
    morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the
    highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its
    details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and
    critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry
    information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how
    this might be done.
    I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to
    front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn
    what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I
    had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is
    so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite
    necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of
    life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all
    that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive
    life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it
    proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of
    it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to
    know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in
    my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange
    uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have
    somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to
    "glorify God and enjoy him forever."
    Still we live meanly, like ants; though the fable tells us that
    we were long ago changed into men; like pygmies we fight with
    cranes; it is error upon error, and clout upon clout, and our best
    virtue has for its occasion a superfluous and evitable wretchedness.
    Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need
    to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add
    his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity,
    simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a
    hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and
    keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this
    chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and
    quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man
    has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not
    make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great
    calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of
    three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a
    hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion. Our
    life is like a German Confederacy, made up of petty states, with its
    boundary forever fluctuating, so that even a German cannot tell you
    how it is bounded at any moment. The nation itself, with all its
    so-called internal improvements, which, by the way are all external
    and superficial, is just such an unwieldy and overgrown
    establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped up by its own
    traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense, by want of calculation
    and a worthy aim, as the million households in the land; and the
    only cure for it, as for them, is in a rigid economy, a stern and
    more than Spartan simplicity of life and elevation of purpose. It
    lives too fast. Men think that it is essential that the Nation have
    commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride
    thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether they do or not; but
    whether we should live like baboons or like men, is a little
    uncertain. If we do not get out sleepers, and forge rails, and
    devote days and nights to the work, but go to tinkering upon our
    lives to improve them, who will build railroads? And if railroads
    are not built, how shall we get to heaven in season? But if we stay
    at home and mind our business, who will want railroads? We do not
    ride on the railroad; it rides upon us. Did you ever think what
    those sleepers are that underlie the railroad? Each one is a man,
    an Irishman, or a Yankee man. The rails are laid on them, and they
    are covered with sand, and the cars run smoothly over them. They
    are sound sleepers, I assure you. And every few years a new lot is
    laid down and run over; so that, if some have the pleasure of riding
    on a rail, others have the misfortune to be ridden upon. And when
    they run over a man that is walking in his sleep, a supernumerary
    sleeper in the wrong position, and wake him up, they suddenly stop
    the cars, and make a hue and cry about it, as if this were an
    exception. I am glad to know that it takes a gang of men for every
    five miles to keep the sleepers down and level in their beds as it
    is, for this is a sign that they may sometime get up again.
    Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are
    determined to be starved before we are hungry. Men say that a
    stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches
    today to save nine tomorrow. As for work, we haven't any of any
    consequence. We have the Saint Vitus' dance, and cannot possibly
    keep our heads still. If I should only give a few pulls at the
    parish bell-rope, as for a fire, that is, without setting the bell,
    there is hardly a man on his farm in the outskirts of Concord,
    notwithstanding that press of engagements which was his excuse so
    many times this morning, nor a boy, nor a woman, I might almost say,
    but would forsake all and follow that sound, not mainly to save
    property from the flames, but, if we will confess the truth, much
    more to see it burn, since burn it must, and we, be it known, did
    not set it on fire -- or to see it put out, and have a hand in it,
    if that is done as handsomely; yes, even if it were the parish
    church itself. Hardly a man takes a half-hour's nap after dinner,
    but when he wakes he holds up his head and asks, "What's the news?"
    as if the rest of mankind had stood his sentinels. Some give
    directions to be waked every half-hour, doubtless for no other
    purpose; and then, to pay for it, they tell what they have dreamed.
    After a night's sleep the news is as indispensable as the breakfast.
    "Pray tell me anything new that has happened to a man anywhere on
    this globe" -- and he reads it over his coffee and rolls, that a man
    has had his eyes gouged out this morning on the Wachito River; never
    dreaming the while that he lives in the dark unfathomed mammoth cave
    of this world, and has but the rudiment of an eye himself.
    For my part, I could easily do without the post-office. I think
    that there are very few important communications made through it.
    To speak critically, I never received more than one or two letters
    in my life -- I wrote this some years ago -- that were worth the
    postage. The penny-post is, commonly, an institution through which
    you seriously offer a man that penny for his thoughts which is so
    often safely offered in jest. And I am sure that I never read any
    memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or
    murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel
    wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the
    Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers
    in the winter -- we never need read of another. One is enough. If
    you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad
    instances and applications? To a philosopher all news, as it is
    called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over
    their tea. Yet not a few are greedy after this gossip. There was
    such a rush, as I hear, the other day at one of the offices to learn
    the foreign news by the last arrival, that several large squares of
    plate glass belonging to the establishment were broken by the
    pressure -- news which I seriously think a ready wit might write a
    twelve-month, or twelve years, beforehand with sufficient accuracy.
    As for Spain, for instance, if you know how to throw in Don Carlos
    and the Infanta, and Don Pedro and Seville and Granada, from time to
    time in the right proportions -- they may have changed the names a
    little since I saw the papers -- and serve up a bull-fight when
    other entertainments fail, it will be true to the letter, and give
    us as good an idea of the exact state or ruin of things in Spain as
    the most succinct and lucid reports under this head in the
    newspapers: and as for England, almost the last significant scrap of
    news from that quarter was the revolution of 1649; and if you have
    learned the history of her crops for an average year, you never need
    attend to that thing again, unless your speculations are of a merely
    pecuniary character. If one may judge who rarely looks into the
    newspapers, nothing new does ever happen in foreign parts, a French
    revolution not excepted.
    What news! how much more important to know what that is which
    was never old! "Kieou-he-yu (great dignitary of the state of Wei)
    sent a man to Khoung-tseu to know his news. Khoung-tseu caused the
    messenger to be seated near him, and questioned him in these terms:
    What is your master doing? The messenger answered with respect: My
    master desires to diminish the number of his faults, but he cannot
    come to the end of them. The messenger being gone, the philosopher
    remarked: What a worthy messenger! What a worthy messenger!" The
    preacher, instead of vexing the ears of drowsy farmers on their day
    of rest at the end of the week -- for Sunday is the fit conclusion
    of an ill-spent week, and not the fresh and brave beginning of a new
    one -- with this one other draggle-tail of a sermon, should shout
    with thundering voice, "Pause! Avast! Why so seeming fast, but
    deadly slow?"
    Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while
    reality is fabulous. If men would steadily observe realities only,
    and not allow themselves to be deluded, life, to compare it with
    such things as we know, would be like a fairy tale and the Arabian
    Nights' Entertainments. If we respected only what is inevitable and
    has a right to be, music and poetry would resound along the streets.
    When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and
    worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty
    fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality. This
    is always exhilarating and sublime. By closing the eyes and
    slumbering, and consenting to be deceived by shows, men establish
    and confirm their daily life of routine and habit everywhere, which
    still is built on purely illusory foundations. Children, who play
    life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who
    fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by
    experience, that is, by failure. I have read in a Hindoo book, that
    "there was a king's son, who, being expelled in infancy from his
    native city, was brought up by a forester, and, growing up to
    maturity in that state, imagined himself to belong to the barbarous
    race with which he lived. One of his father's ministers having
    discovered him, revealed to him what he was, and the misconception
    of his character was removed, and he knew himself to be a prince.
    So soul," continues the Hindoo philosopher, "from the circumstances
    in which it is placed, mistakes its own character, until the truth
    is revealed to it by some holy teacher, and then it knows itself to
    be Brahme." I perceive that we inhabitants of New England live this
    mean life that we do because our vision does not penetrate the
    surface of things. We think that that is which appears to be. If a
    man should walk through this town and see only the reality, where,
    think you, would the "Mill-dam" go to? If he should give us an
    account of the realities he beheld there, we should not recognize
    the place in his description. Look at a meeting-house, or a
    court-house, or a jail, or a shop, or a dwelling-house, and say what
    that thing really is before a true gaze, and they would all go to
    pieces in your account of them. Men esteem truth remote, in the
    outskirts of the system, behind the farthest star, before Adam and
    after the last man. In eternity there is indeed something true and
    sublime. But all these times and places and occasions are now and
    here. God himself culminates in the present moment, and will never
    be more divine in the lapse of all the ages. And we are enabled to
    apprehend at all what is sublime and noble only by the perpetual
    instilling and drenching of the reality that surrounds us. The
    universe constantly and obediently answers to our conceptions;
    whether we travel fast or slow, the track is laid for us. Let us
    spend our lives in conceiving then. The poet or the artist never
    yet had so fair and noble a design but some of his posterity at
    least could accomplish it.
    Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be
    thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito's wing that
    falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, or break fast,
    gently and without perturbation; let company come and let company
    go, let the bells ring and the children cry -- determined to make a
    day of it. Why should we knock under and go with the stream? Let
    us not be upset and overwhelmed in that terrible rapid and whirlpool
    called a dinner, situated in the meridian shallows. Weather this
    danger and you are safe, for the rest of the way is down hill. With
    unrelaxed nerves, with morning vigor, sail by it, looking another
    way, tied to the mast like Ulysses. If the engine whistles, let it
    whistle till it is hoarse for its pains. If the bell rings, why
    should we run? We will consider what kind of music they are like.
    Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward
    through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition,
    and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe,
    through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord,
    through Church and State, through poetry and philosophy and
    religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we
    can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake; and then begin,
    having a point d'appui, below freshet and frost and fire, a place
    where you might found a wall or a state, or set a lamp-post safely,
    or perhaps a gauge, not a Nilometer, but a Realometer, that future
    ages might know how deep a freshet of shams and appearances had
    gathered from time to time. If you stand right fronting and face to
    face to a fact, you will see the sun glimmer on both its surfaces,
    as if it were a cimeter, and feel its sweet edge dividing you
    through the heart and marrow, and so you will happily conclude your
    mortal career. Be it life or death, we crave only reality. If we
    are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel
    cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our
    Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but
    while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.
    Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink
    deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I
    cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I
    have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was
    born. The intellect is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way
    into the secret of things. I do not wish to be any more busy with
    my hands than is necessary. My head is hands and feet. I feel all
    my best faculties concentrated in it. My instinct tells me that my
    head is an organ for burrowing, as some creatures use their snout
    and fore paws, and with it I would mine and burrow my way through
    these hills. I think that the richest vein is somewhere hereabouts;
    so by the divining-rod and thin rising vapors I judge; and here I
    will begin to mine.
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