"He Hears A Different Drummer"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Thoreau complains of the mediocrity of his society and of its dedication to thoughtlessness: "Why lead downward to our dullest perception always, and praise that as common sense?" His fellow men have allowed their intellects to deteriorate to a simple stage, and they regard anything above this level as strange. Men, he says, should resist the deadening effect of conformity and should seek their own ways, allowing themselves to achieve the greatest growth intended for them. And society must not rebuke the man who takes a unique course, if he is following his own vision, if he is in rhythm with a scheme of thought different from that of others.

Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.