Thoreau Essay Walden
It is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live, for my sight has been whetted by experience; always on the limits, trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt, a very ancient slough, called by the Latins æs alienum, another’s brass, for some of their coins were made of brass; still living, and dying, and buried by this other’s brass; always promising to pay, promising to pay, tomorrow, and dying today, insolvent; seeking to curry favor, to get custom, by how many modes, only not state-prison offences; lying, flattering, voting, contracting yourselves into a nutshell of civility or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and vaporous generosity, that you may persuade your neighbor to let you make his shoes, or his hat, or his coat, or his carriage, or import his groceries for him; making yourselves sick, that you may lay up something against a sick day, something to be tucked away in an old chest, or in a stocking behind the plastering, or, more safely, in the brick bank; no matter where, no matter how much or how little.I sometimes wonder that we can be so frivolous, I may almost say, as to attend to the gross but somewhat foreign form of servitude called Negro Slavery, there are so many keen and subtle masters that enslave both north and south. See how he cowers and sneaks, how vaguely all the day he fears, not being immortal nor divine, but the slave and prisoner of his own opinion of himself, a fame won by his own deeds.I trust that none will stretch the seams in putting on the coat, for it may do good service to him whom it fits.I would fain say something, not so much concerning the Chinese and Sandwich Islanders as you who read these pages, who are said to live in New England; something about your condition, especially your outward condition or circumstances in this world, in this town, what it is, whether it is necessary that it be as bad as it is, whether it cannot be improved as well as not.It is said that Deucalion and Pyrrha created men by throwing stones over their heads behind them:— Inde genus durum sumus, experiensque laborum, Et documenta damus quâ simus origine nati.
We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, before we judge of him.We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking.I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.It is hard to have a southern overseer; it is worse to have a northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself. Look at the teamster on the highway, wending to market by day or night; does any divinity stir within him? What is his destiny to him compared with the shipping interests? Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion.What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.Some of you, we all know, are poor, find it hard to live, are sometimes, as it were, gasping for breath.I have no doubt that some of you who read this book are unable to pay for all the dinners which you have actually eaten, or for the coats and shoes which are fast wearing or are already worn out, and have come to this page to spend borrowed or stolen time, robbing your creditors of an hour.By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal.It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before.Some have asked what I got to eat; if I did not feel lonesome; if I was not afraid; and the like.Others have been curious to learn what portion of my income I devoted to charitable purposes; and some, who have large families, how many poor children I maintained.