The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Volume VII (of 20)

Page 25 of 99

These young buds of manhood in the streets are like buttercups in the meadows,---surrendered to nature as they.

Nov. 7. I was not aware till to-day of a rising and risen generation. Children appear to me as raw as the fresh fungi on a fence rail. By what degrees of consanguinity is this succulent and rank-growing slip of manhood related to me? What is it but another herb, ranging all the kingdoms of nature, drawing in sustenance by a thousand roots and fibres from all soils.


Nov. 8. Prometheus' answer to Io's question, who has bound him to the rock, is a good instance:---

, .
(The will indeed of Zeus, of Vulcan the hand.)


, ,

, .

Such naked speech is the standing aside of words to make room for thoughts. 95


Nov. 13. Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it come to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh. By so doing you will be astonished to find yourself restored once more to all your emoluments.


Nov. 14. There is nowhere any apology for despondency. Always there is life which, rightly lived, implies a divine satisfaction. I am soothed by the rain-drops on the door-sill; every globule that pitches thus confidently from the eaves to the ground is my life insurance. Disease and a rain-drop cannot coexist. The east wind is not itself consumptive, but has enjoyed a rare health from of old. If a fork or brand stand erect, good is portended by it. They are the warrant of universal innocence.


Nov. 19.

Light-hearted, thoughtless, shall I take my way,

When I to thee this being have resigned,

Well knowing where, upon a future day,

With us'rer's craft more than myself to find.


Nov. 22. Linnus, setting out for Lapland, surveys his "comb" and "spare shirt," "leather breeches," and "gauze cap to keep off gnats," with as much complacency as Buonaparte would a park of artillery to be used in the Russian Campaign. His eye is to take in 96 fish, flower, and bird, quadruped and biped. The quiet bravery of the man is admirable. These facts have even a novel interest.[78]

Nov. 29. Many brave men have there been, thank Fortune, but I shall never grow brave by comparison. When I remember myself I shall forget them.


Dec. 2. A rare landscape immediately suggests a suitable inhabitant, whose breath shall be its wind, whose moods its seasons, and to whom it will always be fair. To be chafed and worried, and not as serene as Nature, does not become one whose nature is as steadfast as she. We do all stand in the front ranks of the battle every moment of our lives; where there is a brave man there is the thickest of the fight, there the post of honor. Not he who procures a substitute to go to Florida is exempt from service; he gathers his laurels in another field. Waterloo is not the only battle-ground: as many and fatal guns are pointed at my breast now as are contained in the English arsenals.



Straightway dissolved,

Like to the morning mists---or rather like the subtler mists of noon--- 97

Stretched I far up the neighboring mountain's sides,

Adown the valleys, through the nether air,

Bathing, with fond expansiveness of soul,

The tiniest blade as the sublimest cloud.

What time the bittern, solitary bird,

Hides now her head amid the whispering fern,

And not a paddock vexes all the shore,

Nor feather ruffles the incumbent air,

Save where the wagtail interrupts the noon.


Dec. Bravery deals not so much in resolute action, as in healthy and assured rest. Its palmy state is a staying at home, and compelling alliance in all directions.[80]

The brave man never heareth the din of war; he is trustful and unsuspecting, so observant of the least trait of good or beautiful that, if you turn toward him the dark side of anything, he will still see only the bright.

One moment of serene and confident life is more glorious than a whole campaign of daring. We should be ready for all issues, not daring to die but daring to live. To the brave even danger is an ally.

In their unconscious daily life all are braver than they know. Man slumbers and wakes in his twilight with the confidence of noonday; he is not palsied nor struck 98 dumb by the inexplicable riddle of the universe. A mere surveyor's report or clause in a premption bill contains matter of quite extraneous interest, of a subdued but confident tone, evincing such a steadiness in the writer as would have done wonders at Bunker's Hill or Marathon. Where there is the collected eye, there will not fail the effective hand; .

Science is always brave, for to know is to know good; doubt and danger quail before her eye. What the coward overlooks in his hurry, she calmly scrutinizes, breaking ground like a pioneer for the array of arts in her train. Cowardice is unscientific, for there cannot be a science of ignorance. There may be a science of war, for that advances, but a retreat is rarely well conducted; if it is, then is it an orderly advance in the face of circumstances.[81]

If his fortune deserts him, the brave man in pity still abides by her. Samuel Johnson and his friend Savage, compelled by poverty to pass the night in the streets, resolve that they will stand by their country.

The state of complete manhood is virtue, and virtue and bravery are one. This truth has long been in the languages. All the relations of the subject are hinted at in the derivation and analogies of the Latin words vir and virtus, and the Greek and . Language in its settled form is the record of men's second thoughts, a more faithful utterance than they can momentarily 99 give. What men say is so sifted and obliged to approve itself as answering to a common want, that nothing absolutely frivolous obtains currency in the language. The analogies of words are never whimsical and meaningless, but stand for real likenesses. Only the ethics of mankind, and not of any particular man, give point and vigor to our speech.

The coward was born one day too late, for he has never overtaken the present hour. He is the younger son of creation, who now waiteth till the elder decease.[82] He does not dwell on the earth as though he had a deed of the land in his pocket,---not as another lump of nature, as imperturbable an occupant as the stones in the field. He has only rented a few acres of time and space, and thinks that every accident portends the expiration of his lease. He is a non-proprietor, a serf, in his moral economy nomadic, having no fixed abode. When danger appears, he goes abroad and clings to straws.

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