Henry David Thoreau was an American essayist, poet, and philosopher. A leading transcendentalist, he is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay “Civil Disobedience”, an argument for disobedience to an unjust state.
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Famous Henry David Thoreau Poems
Time wears her not; she doth his chariot guide;
Mortality below her orb is placed.
The full-orbed moon with unchanged ray
Mounts up the eastern sky,
Not doomed to these short nights for aye,
But shining steadily.
She does not wane, but my fortune,
Which her rays do not bless,
My wayward path declineth soon,
But she shines not the less.
And if she faintly glimmers here,
And paled is her light,
Yet alway in her proper sphere
She’s mistress of the night.
I Knew A Man By Sight
I knew a man by sight,
A blameless wight,
Who, for a year or more,
Had daily passed my door,
Yet converse none had had with him.
I met him in a lane,
Him and his cane,
About three miles from home,
Where I had chanced to roam,
And volumes stared at him, and he at me.
In a more distant place
I glimpsed his face,
And bowed instinctively;
Starting he bowed to me,
Bowed simultaneously, and passed along.
Next, in a foreign land
I grasped his hand,
And had a social chat,
About this thing and that,
As I had known him well a thousand years.
Late in a wilderness
I shared his mess,
For he had hardships seen,
And I a wanderer been;
He was my bosom friend, and I was his.
And as, methinks, shall all,
Both great and small,
That ever lived on earth,
Early or late their birth,
Stranger and foe, one day each other know.
O Nature! I do not aspire
To be the highest in thy choir, –
To be a meteor in thy sky,
Or comet that may range on high;
Only a zephyr that may blow
Among the reeds by the river low;
Give me thy most privy place
Where to run my airy race.
In some withdrawn, unpublic mead
Let me sigh upon a reed,
Or in the woods, with leafy din,
Whisper the still evening in:
Some still work give me to do, –
Only – be it near to you!
For I’d rather be thy child
And pupil, in the forest wild,
Than be the king of men elsewhere,
And most sovereign slave of care;
To have one moment of thy dawn,
Than share the city’s year forlorn.
Great God, I ask for no meaner pelf
Than that I may not disappoint myself,
That in my action I may soar as high
As I can now discern with this clear eye.
And next in value, which thy kindness lends,
That I may greatly disappoint my friends,
Howe’er they think or hope that it may be,
They may not dream how thou’st distinguished me.
That my weak hand may equal my firm faith
And my life practice what my tongue saith
That my low conduct may not show
Nor my relenting lines
That I thy purpose did not know
Or overrated thy designs.
All Things Are Current Found
ALL things are current found
On earthly ground,
Spirits and elements
Have their descents.
Night and day, year on year,
High and low, far and near,
These are our own aspects,
These are our own regrets.
Ye gods of the shore,
Who abide evermore,
I see you far headland,
Stretching on either hand;
I hear the sweet evening sounds
From your undecaying grounds;
Cheat me no more with time,
Take me to your clime.
Men Say They Know Many Things
Men say they know many things;
But lo! they have taken wings, —
The arts and sciences,
And a thousand appliances;
The wind that blows
Is all that any body knows.
Like A Soul
The amber of water
At a high soul
The Inward Morning
Packed in my mind lie all the clothes
Which outward nature wears,
And in its fashion’s hourly change
It all things else repairs.
In vain I look for change abroad,
And can no difference find,
Till some new ray of peace uncalled
Illumes my inmost mind.
What is it gilds the trees and clouds,
And paints the heavens so gay,
But yonder fast-abiding light
With its unchanging ray?
Lo, when the sun streams through the wood,
Upon a winter’s morn,
Where’er his silent beams intrude,
The murky night is gone.
How could the patient pine have known
The morning breeze would come,
Or humble flowers anticipate
The insect’s noonday hum–
Till the new light with morning cheer
From far streamed through the aisles,
And nimbly told the forest trees
For many stretching miles?
I’ve heard within my inmost soul
Such cheerful morning news,
In the horizon of my mind
Have seen such orient hues,
As in the twilight of the dawn,
When the first birds awake,
Are heard within some silent wood,
Where they the small twigs break,
Or in the eastern skies are seen,
Before the sun appears,
The harbingers of summer heats
Which from afar he bears.
I Was Made Erect And Lone
I was made erect and lone,
And within me is the bone;
Still my vision will be clear,
Still my life will not be drear,
To the center all is near.
Where I sit there is my throne.
If age choose to sit apart,
If age choose, give me the start,
Take the sap and leave the heart.
Ye sweet waters of my brain,
When shall I look,
Or cast the hook,
In your waves again?
These the baits that still allure,
That floated by,
May they still endure?
The Poet’s Delay
N vain I see the morning rise,
In vain observe the western blaze,
Who idly look to other skies,
Expecting life by other ways.
Amidst such boundless wealth without,
I only still am poor within,
The birds have sung their summer out,
But still my spring does not begin.
Shall I then wait the autumn wind,
Compelled to seek a milder day,
And leave no curious nest behind,
No woods still echoing to my lay?
The Fisher’s Boy
MY life is like a stroll upon the beach,
As near the ocean’s edge as I can go;
My tardy steps its waves sometimes o’erreach,
Sometimes I stay to let them overflow.
My sole employment is, and scrupulous care,
To place my gains beyond the reach of tides,—
Each smoother pebble, and each shell more rare,
Which Ocean kindly to my hand confides.
I have but few companions on the shore:
They scorn the strand who sail upon the sea;
Yet oft I think the ocean they’ve sailed o’er
Is deeper known upon the strand to me.
The middle sea contains no crimson dulse,
Its deeper waves cast up no pearls to view;
Along the shore my hand is on its pulse,
And I converse with many a shipwrecked crew.
Though All The Fates
THOUGH all the fates should prove unkind,
Leave not your native land behind.
The ship, becalmed, at length stands still;
The steed must rest beneath the hill;
But swiftly still our fortunes pace
To find us out in every place.
The vessel, though her masts be firm,
Beneath her copper bears a worm;
Around the cape, across the line,
Till fields of ice her course confine;
It matters not how smooth the breeze,
How shallow or how deep the seas,
Whether she bears Manilla twine,
Or in her hold Madeira wine,
Or China teas, or Spanish hides,
In port or quarantine she rides;
Far from New England’s blustering shore,
New England’s worm her hulk shall bore,
And sink her in the Indian seas,
Twine, wine, and hides, and China teas.
Lately alas I knew a gentle boy,
Whose features all were cast in Virtue’s mould,
As one she had designed for Beauty’s toy,
But after manned him for her own strong-hold.
On every side he open was as day,
That you might see no lack of strength within,
For walls and ports do only serve alway
For a pretence to feebleness and sin.
Say not that Cćsar was victorious,
With toil and strife who stormed the House of Fame;
In other sense this youth was glorious,
Himself a kingdom wheresoe’er he came.
No strength went out to get him victory,
When all was income of its own accord;
For where he went none other was to see,
But all were parcel of their noble lord.
He forayed like the subtle breeze of summer,
That stilly shows fresh landscapes to the eyes,
And revolutions worked without a murmur,
Or rustling of a leaf beneath the skies.
So was I taken unawares by this,
I quite forgot my homage to confess;
Yet now am forced to know, though hard it is,
I might have loved him, had I loved him less.
Each moment, as we nearer drew to each,
A stern respect withheld us farther yet,
So that we seemed beyond each other’s reach,
And less acquainted than when first we met.
We two were one while we did sympathize,
So could we not the simplest bargain drive;
And what avails it now that we are wise,
If absence doth this doubleness contrive?
Eternity may not the chance repeat,
But I must tread my single way alone,
In sad remembrance that we once did meet,
And know that bliss irrevocably gone.
The spheres henceforth my elegy shall sing,
For elegy has other subject none;
Each strain of music in my ears shall ring
Knell of departure from that other one.
Make haste and celebrate my tragedy;
With fitting strain resound ye woods and fields;
Sorrow is dearer in such case to me
Than all the joys other occasion yields.
Is’t then too late the damage to repair?
Distance, forsooth, from my weak grasp hath reft
The empty husk, and clutched the useless tare,
But in my hands the wheat and kernel left.
If I but love that virtue which he is,
Though it be scented in the morning air,
Still shall we be truest acquaintances,
Nor mortals know a sympathy more rare.
To A Marsh Hawk In Spring
There is health in thy gray wing,
Health of nature’s furnishing.
Say, thou modern-winged antique,
Was thy mistress ever sick?
In each heaving of thy wing
Thou dost health and leisure bring,
Thou dost waive disease and pain
And resume new life again.
Among the signs of autumn I perceive
The Roman wormwood (called by learned men
Ambrosia elatior, food for gods,—
For to impartial science the humblest weed
Is as immortal once as the proudest flower—)
Sprinkles its yellow dust over my shoes
As I cross the now neglected garden.
—We trample under foot the food of gods
And spill their nectar in each dropp of dew—
My honest shoes, fast friends that never stray
Far from my couch, thus powdered, countryfied,
Bearing many a mile the marks of their adventure,
At the post-house disgrace the Gallic gloss
Of those well dressed ones who no morning dew
Nor Roman wormwood ever have been through,
Who never walk but are transported rather—
For what old crime of theirs I do not gather.