By Henry David Thoreau
(1817 - 1862)
 
 
Inspiration
 
 
IF with light head erect I sing,
Though all the Muses lend their force,
From my poor love of anything,
The verse is weak and shallow as its source.
 
But if with bended neck I grope
Listening behind me for my wit,
With faith superior to hope,
More anxious to keep back than forward it,—
 
Making my soul accomplice there
Unto the flame my heart hath lit,
Then will the verse forever wear,—
Time cannot bend the line which God has writ.
 
I hearing get, who had but ears,
And sight, who had but eyes before;
I moments live, who lived but years,
And truth discern, who knew but learning’s lore.
 
Now chiefly is my natal hour,
And only now my prime of life;
Of manhood’s strength it is the flower,
’T is peace’s end, and war’s beginning strife.
 
It comes in summer’s broadest noon,
By a gray wall, or some chance place,
Unseasoning time, insulting June,
And vexing day with its presuming face.
 
I will not doubt the love untold
Which not my worth nor want hath bought,
Which wooed me young, and wooes me old,
And to this evening hath me brought.
 
 
Mist
 
 
LOW-ANCHORED cloud,
Newfoundland air,
Fountain-head and source of rivers,
Dew-cloth, dream-drapery,
And napkin spread by fays;
Drifting meadow of the air,
Where bloom the daisied banks and violets,
And in whose fenny labyrinth
The bittern booms and heron wades;
Spirit of lakes and seas and rivers,—
Bear only perfumes and the scent
Of healing herbs to just men’s fields.
 
 
Smoke
 
 
LIGHT-WINGED Smoke! Icarian bird,
Melting thy pinions in thy upward flight;
Lark without song, and messenger of dawn,
Circling above the hamlets as thy nest;
Or else, departing dream, and shadowy form
Of midnight vision, gathering up thy skirts;
By night star-veiling, and by day
Darkening the light and blotting out the sun;
Go thou, my incense, upward from this hearth,
And ask the gods to pardon this clear flame.
 
 
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.
 
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