“I borrowed an axe to begin my hut
It is always better to borrow than buy,
For borrowing leaves only one axe
To be loaned, and after the loan, the return
Makes both borrower and lender feel good.
The lender feels good because he has loaned
His axe to a neighbor, and now that neighbor
Is a newfound friend. And the borrower feels good
Because he has gotten his house begun for free.
To buy an axe is to establish the need
For many more axes like the first one, since one
Buyer makes other people want to show off
The wealth and buy their own axe, too.
But then everyone buys an axe, and no one
Needs to borrow any more …”
–Ashton Nichols, Henry David Builds His Hut
What Would Henry Do
This is the title of a recent book published by the Thoreau Farm Trust. It’s subtitle is Essays for the 21st Century and it is a collection of essays by various Thoreauvians (yes, that’s a thing), scholars, and other luminaries in response to the basic question if Henry David Thoreau suddenly found himself in the 21st century, 200 years after his birth. The above quote is a shamefully large chunk of a poem from the book that speaks volumes. The book is a treasure worth exploration.
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