Henry David Thoreau: Walden

13. House-Warming (continued)

The next winter I used a small cooking-stove for economy, since I did not own the forest; but it did not keep fire so well as the open fireplace. Cooking was then, for the most part, no longer a poetic, but merely a chemic process. It will soon be forgotten, in these days of stoves, that we used to roast potatoes in the ashes, after the Indian fashion. The stove not only took up room and scented the house, but it concealed the fire, and I felt as if I had lost a companion. You can always see a face in the fire. The laborer, looking into it at evening, purifies his thoughts of the dross and earthiness which they have accumulated during the day. But I could no longer sit and look into the fire, and the pertinent words of a poet recurred to me with new force.--

      "Never, bright flame, may be denied to me
       Thy dear, life imaging, close sympathy.
       What but my hopes shot upward e'er so bright?
       What but my fortunes sunk so low in night?
       Why art thou banished from our hearth and hall,
       Thou who art welcomed and beloved by all?
       Was thy existence then too fanciful
       For our life's common light, who are so dull?
       Did thy bright gleam mysterious converse hold
       With our congenial souls? secrets too bold?
       Well, we are safe and strong, for now we sit
       Beside a hearth where no dim shadows flit,
       Where nothing cheers nor saddens, but a fire
       Warms feet and hands -- nor does to more aspire;
       By whose compact utilitarian heap
       The present may sit down and go to sleep,
       Nor fear the ghosts who from the dim past walked,
       And with us by the unequal light of the old wood fire talked."

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