Grinding Away
Thoreau's Journal: 27-May-1851

I saw an organ-grinder this morning before a rich man’s house, thrilling the street with harmony, loosening the very paving stones and tearing the routine of life to rags and tatters, when the lady of the house shoved up a window and in a semiphilanthropic tone inquired if he wanted anything to eat. But he, very properly it seemed to me, kept on grinding and paid no attention to her question, feeding her ears with melody unasked for. So the world shoves up its window and interrogates the poet, and sets him to gauging ale casks in return. It seemed to me that the music suggested that the recompense should be as fine as the gift. It would be much nobler to enjoy the music, though you paid no money for it, than to presume always a beggarly relation. It is after all, perhaps, the best instrumental music that we have.


Anonymous said...

While I appreciate and understand Thoreau's noble intent, he should have also been more sensitive to the fact that most people have to make a living, and that many people want and expect to get paid for their talents.

We can't all live by a pond and have dinner waiting for us at home each night and get our mothers to clean our dirty socks once a week.

Anonymous said...

Many of us could live Thoreu's noble intent....if we could only break the chains that bind us. These chains are not as easily severed as steele shackles for they are in our minds and will power is a dull hacksaw blade as best!