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

Page 45 of 99

In the sunshine and the crowing of cocks I feel an illimitable holiness, which makes me bless God and myself. The warm sun casts his incessant gift at my feet as I walk along, unfolding his yellow worlds. Yonder sexton with a few cheap sounds makes me richer than these who mind his summons. The true gift is as wide as my gratitude, and as frequent, and the donor is as grateful as the recipient. There would be a New Year's gift indeed, if we would bestow on each other our sincerity. We should communicate our wealth, and not purchase that which does not belong to us for a sign. Why give each other a sign to keep? If we gave the thing itself, there would be no need of a sign.

I am not sure I should find out a really great person soon. He would be simple Thomas or Oliver for some centuries first. The lesser eminences would hide 203 the higher, and I should at last reach his top by a gentle acclivity. I felt it would be necessary to remain some weeks at the Notch to be impressed by the grandeur of the scenery. We do not expect that Alexander will conquer Asia the first time we are introduced to him. A great man accepts the occasion the fates offer him. Let us not be disappointed. We stand at first upon the pampas which surround him. It is these mountains round about which make the valleys here below. He is not a dead level, so many feet above low-water mark. Greatness is in the ascent. But there is no accounting for the little men.

"They must sweat no less

To fit their properties, than t' express their parts."

Or the line before this:---

"Would you have

Such an Herculean actor in the scene,

And not his hydra?"---Jonson.

The eaves are running on the south side of the house; the titmouse lisps in the poplar; the bells are ringing for church; while the sun presides over all and makes his simple warmth more obvious than all else.[210] What shall I do with this hour, so like time and yet so fit for eternity? Where in me are these russet patches of ground, and scattered logs and chips in the yard? I do not feel cluttered. I have some notion what the John's-wort and life-everlasting may be thinking about when the sun shines on me as on them and turns my prompt thought into just such a seething shimmer. I lie out indistinct 204 as a heath at noonday. I am evaporating and ascending into the sun.

Nothing stands in the way to success, but to failure. To victory is all the way up hill; to defeat the simplest wight that weighs may soon slide down. Cowards would not have victory but the fruits of victory; but she it is that sweetens all the spoil. Thus, by a just fate, the booty cannot fall to him who did not win it. There is victory in every effort. In the least swing of the arm, in indignant thought, in stern content, we conquer our foes.

Great thoughts make great men. Without these no heraldry nor blood will avail.

The blood circulates to the feet and hands, but the thought never descends from the head.

The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. I have no wealth to bestow on him. If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward. Is not Friendship divine in this?

I have myself to respect, but to myself I am not amiable; but my friend is my amiableness personified.

And yet we walk the stage indifferent actors, not thinking what a sublime drama we might enact if we would be joint workers and a mutual material. Why go to the woods to cut timber to display our art upon, when here are men as trees walking? The world has never learned what men can build each other up to be, when both master and pupil work in love. 205

He that comes as a stranger to my house will have to stay as a stranger. He has made his own reception. But persevering love was never yet refused.

"The vicious count their years, virtuous their acts."


The former consider the length of their service, the latter its quality.

Wait not till I invite thee, but observe

I'm glad to see thee when thou com'st.[211]

The most ardent lover holds yet a private court, and his love can never be so strong or ethereal that there will not be danger that judgment may be rendered against the beloved.

I would have men make a greater use of me.[212] Now I must belittle myself to have dealings with them. My friend will show such a noble confidence that I shall aspire to the society of his good opinion. Never presume men less that you may make them more. So far as we respond to our ideal estimate of each other do we have profitable intercourse.

A brave man always knows the way, no matter how intricate the roads.

Feb. 8. All we have experienced is so much gone within us, and there lies. It is the company we keep. One day, 206 in health or sickness, it will come out and be remembered. Neither body nor soul forgets anything. The twig always remembers the wind that shook it, and the stone the cuff it received. Ask the old tree and the sand.

To be of most service to my brother I must meet him on the most equal and even ground, the platform on which our lives are passing. But how often does politeness permit this?

I seek a man who will appeal to me when I am in fault. We will treat as gods settling the affairs of men. In his intercourse I shall be always a god to-day, who was a man yesterday. He will never confound me with my guilt, but let me be immaculate and hold up my skirts. Differences he will make haste to clear up, but leave agreements unsettled the while.

As time is measured by the lapse of ideas, we may grow of our own force, as the mussel adds new circles to its shell. My thoughts secrete the lime. We may grow old with the vigor of youth. Are we not always in youth so long as we face heaven? We may always live in the morning of our days. To him who seeks early, the sun never gets over the edge of the hill, but his rays fall slanting forever. His wise sayings are like the chopping of wood and crowing of cocks in the dawn.

My Journal is that of me which would else spill over and run to waste, gleanings from the field which in action I reap. I must not live for it, but in it for the gods. 207 They are my correspondent, to whom daily I send off this sheet postpaid. I am clerk in their counting-room, and at evening transfer the account from day-book to ledger. It is as a leaf which hangs over my head in the path. I bend the twig and write my prayers on it; then letting it go, the bough springs up and shows the scrawl to heaven. As if it were not kept shut in my desk, but were as public a leaf as any in nature. It is papyrus by the riverside; it is vellum in the pastures; it is parchment on the hills. I find it everywhere as free as the leaves which troop along the lanes in autumn. The crow, the goose, the eagle carry my quill, and the wind blows the leaves as far as I go. Or, if my imagination does not soar, but gropes in slime and mud, then I write with a reed.

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