The Inward Morning

Henry David Thoreau - 1817-1862

Packed in my mind lie all the clothes
   Which outward nature wears,
And in its fashion’s hourly change
    It all things else repairs.

In vain I look for change abroad,
    And can no difference find,
Till some new ray of peace uncalled
    Illumes my inmost mind.

What is it gilds the trees and clouds,
    And paints the heavens so gay,
But yonder fast-abiding light
    With its unchanging ray?

Lo, when the sun streams through the wood,
    Upon a winter’s morn,
Where’er his silent beams intrude
    The murky night is gone.

How could the patient pine have known
    The morning breeze would come,
Or humble flowers anticipate
    The insect’s noonday hum,—

Till the new light with morning cheer
    From far streamed through the aisles,
And nimbly told the forest trees
    For many stretching miles?

I’ve heard within my inmost soul
    Such cheerful morning news,
In the horizon of my mind
    Have seen such orient hues,

As in the twilight of the dawn,
    When the first birds awake,
Are heard within some silent wood,
    Where they the small twigs break,

Or in the eastern skies are seen,
    Before the sun appears,
The harbingers of summer heats
    Which from afar he bears.

More by Henry David Thoreau

Smoke

Light-winged Smoke! Icarian bird,	
Melting thy pinions in thy upward flight;	
Lark without song, and messenger of dawn,	
Circling above the hamlets as thy nest;	
Or else, departing dream, and shadowy form
Of midnight vision, gathering up thy skirts;	
By night star-veiling, and by day	
Darkening the light and blotting out the sun;	
Go thou, my incense, upward from this hearth,	
And ask the gods to pardon this clear flame.

Inspiration

Whate'er we leave to God, God does, 
And blesses us; 
The work we choose should be our own, 
God leaves alone.
 
If with light head erect I sing, 
Though all the Muses lend their force, 
From my poor love of anything, 
The verse is weak and shallow as its source. 

But if with bended neck I grope 
Listening behind me for my wit, 
With faith superior to hope, 
More anxious to keep back than forward it; 

Making my soul accomplice there 
Unto the flame my heart hath lit, 
Then will the verse forever wear—
Time cannot bend the line which God hath writ. 

Always the general show of things 
Floats in review before my mind, 
And such true love and reverence brings, 
That sometimes I forget that I am blind. 

But now there comes unsought, unseen, 
Some clear divine electuary, 
And I, who had but sensual been, 
Grow sensible, and as God is, am wary. 

I hearing get, who had but ears, 
And sight, who had but eyes before, 
I moments live, who lived but years, 
And truth discern, who knew but learning's lore. 

I hear beyond the range of sound, 
I see beyond the range of sight, 
New earths and skies and seas around, 
And in my day the sun doth pale his light. 

A clear and ancient harmony 
Pierces my soul through all its din, 
As through its utmost melody—
Farther behind than they, farther within. 

More swift its bolt than lightning is, 
Its voice than thunder is more loud, 
It doth expand my privacies 
To all, and leave me single in the crowd. 

It speaks with such authority, 
With so serene and lofty tone, 
That idle Time runs gadding by, 
And leaves me with Eternity alone. 

Now chiefly is my natal hour, 
And only now my prime of life; 
Of manhood's strength it is the flower, 
'Tis peace's end and war's beginning strife. 

It comes in summer's broadest noon, 
By a grey wall or some chance place, 
Unseasoning Time, insulting June, 
And vexing day with its presuming face. 

Such fragrance round my couch it makes, 
More rich than are Arabian drugs, 
That my soul scents its life and wakes 
The body up beneath its perfumed rugs. 

Such is the Muse, the heavenly maid, 
The star that guides our mortal course, 
Which shows where life's true kernel's laid, 
Its wheat's fine flour, and its undying force. 

She with one breath attunes the spheres, 
And also my poor human heart, 
With one impulse propels the years 
Around, and gives my throbbing pulse its start. 

I will not doubt for evermore, 
Nor falter from a steadfast faith, 
For thought the system be turned o'er, 
God takes not back the word which once He saith. 

I will not doubt the love untold 
Which not my worth nor want has bought, 
Which wooed me young, and woos me old, 
And to this evening hath me brought. 

My memory I'll educate 
To know the one historic truth, 
Remembering to the latest date 
The only true and sole immortal youth. 

Be but thy inspiration given, 
No matter through what danger sought, 
I'll fathom hell or climb to heaven, 
And yet esteem that cheap which love has bought.


Fame cannot tempt the bard Who's famous with his God, Nor laurel him reward Who has his Maker's nod.

Great God, I Ask Thee for No Meaner Pelf

Great God, I ask for no meaner pelf
Than that I may not disappoint myself,
That in my action I may soar as high
As I can now discern with this clear eye.

And next in value, which thy kindness lends, 
That I may greatly disappoint my friends,
Howe'er they think or hope that it may be,
They may not dream how thou'st distinguished me.

That my weak hand may equal my firm faith
And my life practice what my tongue saith
That my low conduct may not show
Nor my relenting lines
That I thy purpose did not know
Or overrated thy designs. 

Related Poems

Song of Nature

Mine are the night and morning,
The pits of air, the gulf of space,
The sportive sun, the gibbous moon,
The innumerable days.

I hid in the solar glory,
I am dumb in the pealing song,
I rest on the pitch of the torrent,
In slumber I am strong.

No numbers have counted my tallies,
No tribes my house can fill,
I sit by the shining Fount of Life,
And pour the deluge still;

And ever by delicate powers
Gathering along the centuries
From race on race the rarest flowers,
My wreath shall nothing miss.

And many a thousand summers
My apples ripened well,
And light from meliorating stars
With firmer glory fell.

I wrote the past in characters
Of rock and fire the scroll,
The building in the coral sea,
The planting of the coal.

And thefts from satellites and rings
And broken stars I drew,
And out of spent and aged things
I formed the world anew;

What time the gods kept carnival,
Tricked out in star and flower,
And in cramp elf and saurian forms
They swathed their too much power.

Time and Thought were my surveyors,
They laid their courses well,
They boiled the sea, and baked the layers
Or granite, marl, and shell.

But he, the man-child glorious,--
Where tarries he the while?
The rainbow shines his harbinger,
The sunset gleams his smile.

My boreal lights leap upward,
Forthright my planets roll,
And still the man-child is not born,
The summit of the whole.

Must time and tide forever run?
Will never my winds go sleep in the west?
Will never my wheels which whirl the sun
And satellites have rest?

Too much of donning and doffing,
Too slow the rainbow fades,
I weary of my robe of snow,
My leaves and my cascades;

I tire of globes and races,
Too long the game is played;
What without him is summer's pomp,
Or winter's frozen shade?

I travail in pain for him,
My creatures travail and wait;
His couriers come by squadrons,
He comes not to the gate.

Twice I have moulded an image,
And thrice outstretched my hand,
Made one of day, and one of night,
And one of the salt sea-sand.

One in a Judaean manger,
And one by Avon stream,
One over against the mouths of Nile,
And one in the Academe.

I moulded kings and saviours,
And bards o'er kings to rule;--
But fell the starry influence short,
The cup was never full.

Yet whirl the glowing wheels once more,
And mix the bowl again;
Seethe, fate! the ancient elements,
Heat, cold, wet, dry, and peace, and pain.

Let war and trade and creeds and song
Blend, ripen race on race,
The sunburnt world a man shall breed
Of all the zones, and countless days.

No ray is dimmed, no atom worn,
My oldest force is good as new,
And the fresh rose on yonder thorn
Gives back the bending heavens in dew.