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George Willis Cooke, comp. The Poets of Transcendentalism: An Anthology. 1903.

My Life

Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

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.