The ecstasy of youth

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Henry David Thoreau’s Journal: 16-July-1851

And not only this is true, but as far back as I can remember I have consciously referred to the experience of a previous state of existence. “For life is a forgetting,” etc. Formerly, methought, nature developed as I developed, and grew up with me.

Summer morning. Photo credit: Andreas Krappweis

Summer morning. Photo credit: Andreas Krappweis

My life was ecstasy. In youth, before I lost any of my senses, I can remember that I was all alive, and inhabited my body with inexpressible satisfaction; both its weariness and its refreshment were sweet to me. This earth was the most glorious musical instrument, and I was audience to its strains.

To have such sweet impressions made on us, such ecstasies begotten of the breezes! I can remember how I was astonished. I said to myself,—I said to others,—“There comes into my mind such an indescribable, infinite, all-absorbing, divine, heavenly, pleasure, a sense of elevation and expansion, and [I] have had nought to do with it. I perceive that I am dealt with by superior powers. This is a pleasure, a joy, an existence which I have not procured myself. I speak as a witness on the stand, and tell what I have perceived.”

The morning and the evening were sweet to me, and I led a life aloof from society of men. I wondered if a mortal had ever known what I knew. I looked in books for some recognition of a kindred experience, but, strange to say, I found none. Indeed, I was slow to discover that other men had had this experience, for it had been possible to read books and to associate with men on other grounds.

The maker of me was improving me. When I detected this interference I was profoundly moved. For years I marched as to a music in comparison with which the military music of the streets is noise and discord. I was daily intoxicated, and yet no man could call me intemperate.

With all your science can you tell how it is, and whence it is, that light comes into the soul?

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