Independence

By Henry David Thoreau

My life more civil is and free
Than any civil polity.

Ye princes, keep your realms
⁠ And circumscribèd power,
Not wide as are my dreams,
Nor rich as is this hour.

What can ye give which I have not?
What can ye take which I have got?
Can ye defend the dangerless?
Can ye inherit nakedness?

To all true wants Time’s ear is deaf,
Penurious States lend no relief
Out of their pelf:
But a free soul—thank God—
⁠Can help itself.

⁠ ⁠ Be sure your fate
Doth keep apart its state,—
Not linked with any band,
Even the noblest in the land,—

In tented fields with cloth of gold
⁠ No place doth hold,
But is more chivalrous than they are,
⁠And sigheth for a nobler war;
A finer strain its trumpet rings,
A brighter gleam its armor flings.

The life that I aspire to live,
No man proposeth me;
No trade upon the street
Wears its emblazonry.

This Poem Features In:

Browse Collections By Category

Select from our entire catalogue of poetry collections: