Verse > Anthologies > George Willis Cooke, ed. > The Poets of Transcendentalism: An Anthology
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George Willis Cooke, comp.  The Poets of Transcendentalism: An Anthology.  1903.
 
Conscience
By Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)
 
CONSCIENCE is instinct bred in the house,
Feeling and Thinking propagate the sin
By an unnatural breeding in and in.
I say, Turn it out doors,
Into the moors.        5
I love a life whose plot is simple,
And does not thicken with every pimple,
A soul so sound no sickly conscience binds it,
That makes the universe no worse than ’t finds it.
I love an earnest soul,        10
Whose mighty joy and sorrow
Are not drowned in a bowl,
And brought to life to-morrow;
That lives one tragedy,
And not seventy;        15
A conscience worth keeping,
Laughing not weeping;
A conscience wise and steady,
And for ever ready;
Not changing with events,        20
Dealing in compliments;
A conscience exercised about
Large things, where one may doubt.
I love a soul not all of wood,
Predestinated to be good,        25
But true to the backbone
Unto itself alone,
And false to none;
Born to its own affairs,
Its own joys and own cares;        30
By whom the work which God begun
Is finished, and not undone;
Taken up where he left off,
Whether to worship or to scoff;
If not good, why then evil,        35
If not good god, good devil.
Goodness!—you hypocrite, come out of that,
Live your life, do your work, then take your hat.
I have no patience towards
Such conscientious cowards.        40
Give me simple laboring folk,
Who love their work,
Whose virtue is a song
To cheer God along.
 
 
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