I Seek the Present Time

by Henry David Thoreau

I seek the present time,
No other clime,
Life in to-day,
Not to sail another way,
To Paris or to Rome,
Or farther still from home.
That man, whoe’er he is,
Lives but a moral death
Whose life is not coeval
With his breath.
What are deeds done
Away from home?
What the best essay
On the Ruins of Rome?
The dusty highways,
What Scripture says,
This pleasant weather,
And all else together,
The river’s meander,
All things, in short,
Forbid me to wander
In deed or in thought.
In cold or in drouth,
Not seek the sunny South,
But make my whole tour
In the sunny present hour.
For here if thou fail,
Where can’st thou prevail?
If you love not
Your own land most,
You’ll find nothing lovely
On a distant coast.
If you love not
The latest sunset,
What is there in pictures
Or old gems set?

If no man should travel
Till he had the means,
There'd be little travelling
For kings or for queens.
The means, what are they!
They are the wherewithal
Great expenses to pay;—
Life got, and some to spare,
Great works on hand,
And freedom from care.
Plenty of time well spent,
To use,—
Clothes paid for, and no rent
in your shoes;—
Something to eat,
And something to burn,
And, above all, no need to return;—
For they who come back,
Have they not failed,
Wherever they've ridden
Or steamed it, or sailed?
All your grass hayed,—
All your debts paid,—
All your wills made?
Then you might as well have stayed,
For are you not dead,
Only not buried?

The way unto "Today,"
The rail road to "Here,"
They'll never grade that way,
Nor shorten it, I fear.
There are plenty of depots
All the world o'er,
But not a single station
At a man's door;
If we would get near
To the secret of things,
We shall not have to hear
When the engine bell rings.

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