My life more civil is and free

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My life more civil is and free
(Independence)

by Henry David Thoreau

My life more civil is and free
Than any civil polity.
Ye princes keep your realms
And circumscribed 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 nobles of 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 emplazonry.


This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.