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The windows of the almshouse 15 as brightly as from

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the windows of the almshouse15as brightly as from the rich man’sabode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do notsee but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have ascheering thoughts, as in a palace. The town’s poor seem to me oftento live the most independent lives of any. Maybe they are simplygreat enough to receive without misgiving. Most think that they areabove being supported by the town; but it oftener happens that theyare not above supporting themselves by dishonest means, whichshould be more disreputable. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb,like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whetherclothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change;we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. God will seethat you do not want society. If I were confined to a corner of agarret16all my days, like a spider, the world would be just as large tome while I had my thoughts about me. The philosopher said: “Froman army of three divisions one can take away its general, and put it indisorder; from the man the most abject and vulgar one cannot takeaway his thought.” Do not seek so anxiously to be developed, tosubject yourself to many influences to be played on; it is all dissipation.Humility like darkness reveals the heavenly lights. The shadows ofpoverty and meanness gather around us, “and lo! creation widens toour view.”17We are often reminded that if there were bestowed on usthe wealth of Croesus,18our aims must still be the same, and our15.almshouse(OMZ hows)n. government-run home for people too poor to supportthemselves.16.garret(GAR iht)n.attic.17.“and … view”from the sonnet “To Night” by the British poet Joseph Blanco White(1775–1841).18.Croesus(KREE suhs) King of Lydia (d. 546b.c.), believed to be the wealthiest person ofhis time.1516fromWalden251Copyright © Savvas Learning Company LLC. All Rights Reserved.
means essentially the same. Moreover, if you are restricted in yourrange by poverty, if you cannot buy books and newspapers, forinstance, you are but confined to the most significant andvitalexperiences; you are compelled to deal with the material which yieldsthe most sugar and the most starch. It is life near the bone where it issweetest. You are defended from being a trifler. No man loses ever ona lower level by magnanimity19on a higher. Superfluous wealth canbuy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary ofthe soul. . . .The life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise this yearhigher than man has ever known it, and flood the parched uplands;even this may be the eventful year, which will drown out all ourmuskrats. It was not always dry land where we dwell. I see far inlandthe banks which the stream anciently washed, before science began torecord its freshets.

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