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2006-07-28 19:18

  I took down this dwelling the same morning, drawing the nails,and removed it to the pond-side by small cartloads, spreading the boards on the grass there to bleach and warp back again in the sun. One early thrush gave me a note or two as I drove along the woodland path.  I was informed treacherously by a young Patrick that neighbor Seeley, an Irishman, in the intervals of the carting, transferred the still tolerable, straight, and drivable nails, staples, and spikes to his pocket, and then stood when I came back to pass the time of day, and look freshly up, unconcerned, with spring thoughts,at the devastation; there being a dearth of work, as he said.  He was there to represent spectatordom, and help make this seemingly insignificant event one with the removal of the gods of Troy.

  I dug my cellar in the side of a hill sloping to the south,where a woodchuck had formerly dug his burrow, down through sumach and blackberry roots, and the lowest stain of vegetation, six feet square by seven deep, to a fine sand where potatoes would not freeze in any winter.  The sides were left shelving, and not stoned; but the sun having never shone on them, the sand still keeps its place. It was but two hours' work.  I took particular pleasure in this breaking of ground, for in almost all latitudes men dig into the earth for an equable temperature.  Under the most splendid house in the city is still to be found the cellar where they store their roots as of old, and long after the superstructure has disappeared posterity remark its dent in the earth.  The house is still but a sort of porch at the entrance of a burrow.

  At length, in the beginning of May, with the help of some of my acquaintances, rather to improve so good an occasion for neighborliness than from any necessity, I set up the frame of my house.  No man was ever more honored in the character of his raisers than I.  They are destined, I trust, to assist at the raising of loftier structures one day.  I began to occupy my house on the 4th of July, as soon as it was boarded and roofed, for the boards were carefully feather-edged and lapped, so that it was perfectly impervious to rain, but before boarding I laid the foundation of a chimney at one end, bringing two cartloads of stones up the hill from the pond in my arms.  I built the chimney after my hoeing in the fall, before a fire became necessary for warmth, doing my cooking in the meanwhile out of doors on the ground, early in the morning: which mode I still think is in some respects more convenient and agreeable than the usual one.  When it stormed before my bread was baked, I fixed a few boards over the fire, and sat under them to watch my loaf, and passed some pleasant hours in that way.  In those days, when my hands were much employed, I read but little, but the least scraps of paper which lay on the ground, my holder, or tablecloth, afforded me as much entertainment, in fact answered the same purpose as the Iliad.

  It would be worth the while to build still more deliberately than I did, considering, for instance, what foundation a door, a window, a cellar, a garret, have in the nature of man, and perchance never raising any superstructure until we found a better reason for it than our temporal necessities even.  There is some of the same fitness in a man's building his own house that there is in a bird's building its own nest.  Who knows but if men constructed their dwellings with their own hands, and provided food for themselves and families simply and honestly enough, the poetic faculty would be universally developed, as birds universally sing when they are so engaged?  But alas! we do like cowbirds and cuckoos, which lay their eggs in nests which other birds have built, and cheer no traveller with their chattering and unmusical notes.  Shall we forever resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter?  What does architecture amount to in the experience of the mass of men?  I never in all my walks came across a man engaged in so simple and natural an occupation as building his house.  We belong to the community.  It is not the tailor alone who is the ninth part of a man; it is as much the preacher, and the merchant, and the farmer. Where is this division of labor to end? and what object does it finally serve?  No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so to the exclusion of my thinking for myself.







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