I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have
inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more
easily acquired than got rid of.
He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he
remember well his ignorance- which his growth requires- who has so often to use
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.
Think, also, of the ladies of the land weaving toilet
cushions against the last day, not to betray too green an interest in their
fates! As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is
called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go
into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of
minks and muskrats.
When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is
the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it
appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because
they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice
Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an
instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost.
The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in
my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good
behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?
One generation abandons the enterprises of another like
Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of
life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation
of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a
more simple and meagre life than the poor. The ancient philosophers, Chinese,
Hindoo, Persian, and Greek, were a class than which none has been poorer in
outward riches, none so rich in inward.
In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been
anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on
the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the
present moment; to toe that line.
I long ago lost a hound, a
bay horse, and a turtle-dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the
travellers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what
calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had heard the hound, and the
tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed
as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.
To anticipate, not the
sunrise and the dawn merely, but, if possible, Nature herself! How many
mornings, summer and winter, before yet any neighbor was stirring about his
business, have I been about mine! No doubt, many of my townsmen have met me
returning from this enterprise, farmers starting for Boston in the twilight, or
woodchoppers going to their work. It is true, I never assisted the sun
materially in his rising, but, doubt not, it was of the last importance only to
be present at it.