Dec. 1, 1850. I saw a little green hemisphere of moss which looked as if it covered a stone, but, thrusting my cane into it, I found it was nothing but moss about fifteen inches in diameter, and eight or nine inches high. When I broke it up, it appeared as if the annual growth was marked by successive layers half an inch deep, each. The lower ones were quite rotten, but the present year's quite green, the intermediate, white. I counted fifteen or eighteen. It was quite solid, and I saw that it continued solid as it grew by branching occasionally just enough to fill the newly gained space, and the tender extremities of each plant, crowded close together, made the firm and compact surface of the bed. There was a darker line separating the growths, where I thought the surface had been exposed to the winter. It was quite saturated with water, though firm and solid.
Dec. 1, 1852. To Cliffs. The snow keeps off unusually. The landscape is of the color of a russet apple, which has no golden cheek. The sunset sky supplies that. But, though it is crude to bite, it yields a pleasant acid flavor. The year looks back to summer, and a summer smile is reflected in her face. There is in these days a coolness in the air which makes me hesitate to call them Indian summer. At this season, I observe the form of the buds which are prepared for spring, the large bright yellow and reddish buds of the swamp pink, the already downy ones of the Populus tremuloides and the willows, the red ones of the blueberry, etc., also the catkins of the alders and birches.
Dec. 1, 1853. Those trees and shrubs which retain their withered leaves though the winter, shrub oaks, and young white, red, and black oaks, the lower branches of larger trees of the last mentioned species, hornbeams, young hickories, etc., seem to form an intermediate class between deciduous and evergreen trees. They may almost be called the ever-reds. Their leaves, which are falling all winter long, serve as a shelter to rabbits and partridges, and other winter birds and quadrupeds. Even the chickadees love to skulk amid them, and peep out from behind them. I hear their faint, silvery, lisping notes, like tinkling glass, and occasionally a sprightly day-day-day, as they inquisitively hop nearer and nearer to me. They are a most honest and innocent little bird, drawing yet nearer to us as the winter advances, and deserve best of all of the walker.
Dec. 1, 1856. p. m. By path around Walden. With this little snow of the 29th ultimo there is yet pretty good sledding, for it lies solid. I see the pale-faced farmer out again on his sled for the five thousandth time. Cyrus Hubbard, a man of a certain New England probity and worth, immortal and natural, like a natural product, like the sweetness of a nut, like the toughness of hickory. He, too, is a redeemer for me. How superior actually to the faith be professes! He is not an office-seeker. What an institution, what a revelation is a man! We are wont foolishly to think that the creed a man professes is more significant than the fact he is. It matters not how hard the conditions seemed, how mean the world, for a man is a prevalent force, and a new law himself. He is system whose law is to be observed. The old farmer condescends to countenance still this nature and order of things. It is a great encouragement that an honest man makes this world his abode. He rides on the sled drawn by oxen world-wise, yet comparatively so young, as if they had seen scores of winters. The farmer spoke to me, I can swear, clean, cold, moderate, as the snow. He does not melt the snow where he stands. Yet what a faint impression that encounter may make on me after all! Moderate, natural, true, as if he were made of earth, stone, wood, snow. I thus meet in this universe kindred of mine, composed of these elements. I see men like frogs. Their peeping I partially understand.
I go by Haden's and take S. Wheeler's wood-path to railroad. Slate-colored snow-birds flit before me in the path, feeding on the seeds, the countless little brown seeds that begin to be scattered over the snow, so much the more obvious to bird and beast. A hundred kinds of indigenous grain are harvested now, broadcast upon the surface of the snow. Thus, at a critical season, these seeds are shaken down on to a clean, white napkin, unmixed with dirt and rubbish, and off this the little pensioners pick them. Their clean table is thus spread a few inches or feet above the ground. . . . Will wonder become extinct in me? Shall I become insensible as a fungus?
A ridge of earth, with the red cock's-comb lichen on it, peeps out still at the rut's edge.
The dear wholesome color of shrub-oak leaves, so clean and firm, not decaying, but which have put on a kind of immortality, not wrinkled and thin like the white-oak leaves, but full-veined and plump as nearer earth. Well-tanned leather on the one side, sun-tanned, color of colors, color of the cow and the deer, silver-downy beneath, turned toward the late bleached and russet fields. What are acanthus leaves, and the rest, to this? Emblem of my winter condition. I love and could embrace the shrub oak, with its scanty garment of leaves rising above the snow, lowly whispering to me, akin to winter thoughts, and sunsets, to all virtue; coverts which the hare and the partridge seek, and I too seek. What cousin of mine is the shrub oak? Rigid as iron, clean as the atmosphere, hardy as virtue, innocent and sweet as a maiden, is the shrub oak. In proportion as I know and love it, I am natural and sound as a partridge. I felt a positive yearning toward one bush this afternoon. There was a match found for me at last. I fell in love with a shrub oak. Tenacious of its leaves which shrivel not, but retain a certain wintry life in them, firm shields painted in fast colors, a rich brown. The deer-mouse, too, knows the shrub oak, and has its hole in the snow by the shrub oak's stem. Now, too, I remark in many places ridges and fields of fine russet or straw-colored grass rising above the snow, and beds of empty, straw-colored heads of everlasting, and ragged looking Roman wormwood. The blue curls' chalices stand empty, and waiting evidently to be filled with ice. I see great thimble-berry bushes rising above the snow, with still a rich, rank bloom on them, as in July, hypaethral mildew, elysian fungus! To see the bloom on the thimble-berry stem lasting into midwinter I What a salve that would make, collected and boxed.
No, I am a stranger in your towns. I am not at home at French's or Lovejoy's, or Savery's. I can winter more to my mind amid the shrub oaks. I have made arrangements to stay with them. The shrub oak, lowly, loving the earth, and spreading over it, tough, thick-leaved, leaves firm and sound in winter, rustling like leather shields, leaves fair and wholesome to the eye, clean and smooth to the touch. Tough to support the snow, not broken down by it, well-nigh useless to man, a sturdy phalanx, hard to break down, product of New England soil, bearing many striped acorns; well named shrub oak, low, robust, hardy, indigenous, well-known to the striped squirrel and the partridge and the rabbit. The squirrels nibble its nuts, sitting upon an old stump of its larger cousin. What is Peruvian bark to your bark! How many rents I owe to you, how many eyes put out! How many bleeding fingers I How many shrub-oak patches I have been through, stooping, winding my way, bending the twigs aside, guiding myself by the sun, over hills and valleys and plains, resting in clear grassy spaces!
How can any man suffer long? for a sense of want is a prayer, and all prayers are answered.
Dec. 1, 1857. p. m. Walking in Ebby Hubbard's woods, I hear a red squirrel barking at me amid the pine and oak tops, and now I see him coursing from tree to tree. How securely he travels there fifty feet from the ground, leaping from the slender, bending twig of one tree across an interval of three or four feet, and catching at the nearest twig of the next, which so bends under him, that it is hard at first to get up. His traveling is a succession of leaps in the air at that height, without wings! And yet he gets along about as rapidly as on the ground.
I hear the fainted possible quivet from a nuthatch quite near me on a pine. I thus always begin to hear the bird on the approach of winter, as if it did not breed, but merely wintered, here. [Added later.] Hear it all the fall, and occasionally through the summer of '59.
Dec. 2, 1839. A rare landscape immediately suggests a suitable inhabitant, whose breath shall be its wind, whose moods its seasons, and to whom it will always be fair. To be chafed and worried, and not as serene as nature, does not become one whose nature is as steadfast as she. We do all stand in the front ranks of the battle every moment of our lives. Where there is a brave man, there is the thickest of the fight, there the post of honor. Not he who procures a substitute to go to Florida is exempt from service. He gathers his laurels in another field. Waterloo is not the only battle-ground. As many and fatal guns are pointed at my breast now, as are contained in the English arsenals.
Dec. 2, 1852. The pleasantest day of all. Started in boat before 9 a. m., down river to Billerica with W. E. C. Not wind enough for a sail. I do not remember when I have taken a sail or a row on the river in December before. We had to break the ice about the boathouse for some distance. Still no snow. The banks are white with frost. The air is calm and the water smooth. The distant sounds of cars, cocks, hounds, etc., as we glide past N. Barrett's farm remind me of spring. It is an anticipation, a looking through winter to spring. There is a certain resonance and elasticity in the air that makes the least sound melodious as in spring. The old unpainted houses under the trees look as if winter had come and gone. A side of one is painted as if with the pumpkin pies left over after Thanksgiving, it is so singular a yellow. The river has risen since the last rain a few feet, and partially floods the meadow. See still two ducks there. Hear the jay in distant copses, and the Fringilla linaria flies and mews over. Some parts of the meadow are covered with ice, through which we row, which yet lasts all day. The waves we make in the river nibble and crumble its edge, and produce a rustling of the grass and seeds, as if a muskrat were stirring. We land behind Tarbell's, and walk inland. How warm in the hollows! The outline of the hills is very agreeable there, ridgy hills with backs to them. A perfect cowpath winds along the side of one. These creatures have such weight to carry that they select the easiest course. Again embark. It is remarkably calm and warm in the sun, now that we have brought a hill between us and the wind. There goes a muskrat. He leaves so long a ripple behind that in this light you cannot tell where his body ends, and think him longer than he is. This is a glorious river-reach. At length we pass the bridge. Everywhere the muskrat houses line the shores, or what was the shore, some three feet high, and regularly sharp, as the Peak of Teneriffe. C. says, "Let us land; 'the angle of incidence should be equal to the angle of reflection.'" We did so. By the island where I formerly camped, half a mile or more above the bridge on the road from Chelmsford to Bedford, we saw a mink, slender, black at ten rods distance (Emmonds says they are a dark, glossy brown), very like a weasel in form. He alternately ran along the ice and swam in the water, now and then holding up his head and long neck, and looking at us,—not so shy as a muskrat; I should say very black. The muskrats would curl up into a ball on the ice, decidedly reddish brown. The ice made no show, being thin and dark. The mink's head is larger in proportion to the body than the muskrat's, not so sharp and rat-like. Left our boat just above the last-named bridge on west side. A bright, dazzling sheen for miles on the river as you look up it. Crossed the bridge, turned into a path on the left, and ascended a hill a mile and a half off, between us and Billerica, somewhat off from the river. The Concord affords the water prospects of a larger river, like the Connecticut even, hereabouts. I found a spear-head by a mysterious little building. On the west side of the river in Billerica here is a grand range of hills, somewhat cliffy, covered with young oaks, whose leaves now give it a red appearance even when seen from Ball's Hill. It is one of the most interesting and novel features in the river scenery.
Men commonly talk as if genius were something proper to an individual. I esteem it but a common privilege, and if one does not enjoy it now, he may congratulate his neighbor that he does. There is no place for man-worship. We understand very well a man's relation, not to his genius, but to the genius.
Returning, the water is smoother and more beautiful than before. The ripples we make produce ribbed reflections or shadows on the dense but leafless bushes on shore, thirty or forty rods distant, very regular, and so far they seem motionless and permanent. All the water behind us, as we row, and even on the right and left at a distance, is perfectly unruffled, we move so fast, but before us down stream it is all in commotion from shore to shore. There are some fine shadows on those grand red oaken hills in the north. When a muskrat comes to the surface too near you, how quickly and with what force he turns and plunges again, making a sound in the calm water as if you had thrown into it a large stone with violence. Long did it take to sink the Carlisle bridge. The reflections after sunset were distinct and glorious, the heaven into which we unceasingly rowed. I thought now that the angle of reflection was greater than the angle of incidence. It grew cooler; the stars came out soon after we turned Ball's Hill, and it became difficult to distinguish our course. The boatman knows a river by reaches. Got home in the dark, our feet and legs numb and cold with sitting and inactivity, having been about eight miles by river, etc. It was some time before we recovered the full use of our cramped legs. I forgot to speak of the afterglows. The twilight in fact had several stages, and several times after it had grown dusky, acquired a new transparency, and the trees on the hillsides were lit up again.
Dec. 2, 1853. The skeleton, which at first sight produces only a shudder in all mortals, becomes at last, not only a pure, but a suggestive and pleasing object to science. The more we know of it, the less we associate it with any goblin of our imagination. The longer we keep it, the less likely it is that any such will come to claim it. We discover that the only spirit which haunts it is a universal Intelligence which has created it in harmony with all nature. Science never saw a ghost, nor does it look for any, but it sees everywhere the traces, and is itself the agent, of a Universal Intelligence.
Dec. 2, 1856. Saw Melvin's lank, bluish-white, black-spotted hound, and Melvin with his gun near by, going home at eve. He follows hunting, praise be to him, as regularly in our tame fields as the farmers follow farming; persistent genius, how I respect and thank him for it. I trust the Lord will provide us with another Melvin when he is gone. How good in him to follow his own bent, and not continue at the sabbath-school all his days! What a wealth he thus becomes to the neighborhood. Few know how to take the census. I thank my stars for Melvin, who is such a trial to his mother. He is agreeable to me as a tinge of russet on the hillside. I would fain give thanks morning and evening for my blessings. Awkward, gawky, loose-hung, dragging his legs after him, he is my contemporary and neighbor. He is of one tribe, I of another, and we are not at war.
How quickly men come on to the highways with their sleds, and improve the first snow. The farmer has begun to play with his sled as early as any of the boys. I see him already with mittens on and thick boots well-greased, and fur cap, and red comforter about his throat, though it is not yet cold, walking beside his team with contented thoughts. This drama every day in the streets! This is the theatre I go to. There he goes with his venture behind him, and often he gets aboard for a change.
Dec. 2, 1857. I find that according to the deed of Duncan Ingraham to John Richardson in 1797, my old beanfield at Walden Pond then belonged to George Minott. (C. Minott thinks he bought it of an Allen.) This was Deacon George Minott, who lived in the house next below the East Quarter schoolhouse, and was a brother of my grandfather-in-law. He was directly descended from Thomas Minott, who, according to Shattuck, was secretary of the abbot of Walden (!) in Essex, and whose son George was born at Saffron Walden (!) and was afterwards one of the early settlers of Dorchester.
Dec. 3, 1853. p. m. Up river by boat toClamshell Hill. I see that muskrats have not only erected cabins, but since the river rose have in some places dug galleries a rod into the bank, pushing the sand behind them into the water. So they dig these now as places of retreat merely, or for the same purpose as the cabins apparently. One I explored this afternoon was formed in a low shore at a spot where there were weeds to make a cabin of, and was apparently never completed, perhaps because the shore was too low. Some of the clamshells, probably opened by the muskrats, and left lying on their half-sunken cabins where they are kept wet by the waves, show very handsome rainbow tints. . . . It is a somewhat saddening reflection that the beautiful colors of this shell, for want of light, cannot be said to exist, until its inhabitant has fallen a prey to the spoiler, and it is thus left a wreck upon the strand. Its beauty then beams forth, and it remains a splendid cenotaph to its departed tenant, suggesting what glory he has gone to. Though fitted to be, it is not a gem "of purest ray serene," so long as it remains in "the dark, unfathomed caves of ocean," but only when it is tossed up to light. It is as if the occupant had not begun to live, until the light, with whatever violence, is let into its shell with these magical results. These shells beaming with the tints of the sky and the rainbow commingled, suggest what pure serenity has occupied them. There the clam dwells within a little pearly heaven of its own.
Look at the trees, bare or rustling with sere brown leaves, except the evergreens; the buds dormant at the foot of the leaf-stalks; look at the fields, russet and withered, and the various sedges and weeds with dry, bleached culms: such is our relation to nature at present, such plants are we. We have no more sap, nor verdure, nor color now. I remember how cheerful it has been formerly to sit round a fire outdoors amid the snow, and while I felt some cold, to feel some warmth also, and see the fire gradually increasing and prevailing over damp steaming and dripping logs, and making a warm hearth for me. Even in winter we maintain a temperate cheer, a serene inward life, not destitute of warmth and melody.
Dec. 3, 1840. Music, in proportion as it is pure, is distant. The strains I now hear seem at an inconceivable distance, yet remotely within me. Remoteness throws all sound into my inmost being, and it becomes music, as the slumbrous sounds of the village, or the tinkling of the forge from across the water or the fields. To the senses, that is farthest from me which addresses the greatest depth within me.
Dec. 3, 1856. Mizzles and rains all day, making sloshy walking, which sends us all to the shoemaker's. Bought me a pair of cowhide boots to be prepared for winter walks. The shoemaker praised them, because they were made a year ago. I feel like an armed man now. The man who has bought his boots feels like him who has got in his winter's wood. There they stand beside me in the chamber, expectant, dreaming of far woods and wood paths, of frost-bound or sloshy roads, or of being bound with skate-straps and clogged with ice-dust.
For years my appetite was so strong that I browsed on the pine forest's edge seen against the winter horizon. How cheap my diet still! Dry sand that has fallen in the railroad cuts, and slid on the snow beneath, is a condiment to my walk. I ranged about like a gray moose looking at the spiring tops of the trees, and fed my imagination on them,—far away, ideal trees, not disturbed by the axe of the wood-cutter. Where was the sap, the fruit, the value of the forest for me but in that line where it was relieved against the sky! That was my wood-lot; the silvery needles of the pine straining the light.
A man killed at the fatal Lincoln Bridge died in the village the other night. The only words he uttered while he lingered in his delirium were "All right," probably the last he uttered when he was struck. Brave, prophetic words to go out of the world with! Good as "I still live."
How I love the simple, reserved countrymen, my neighbors, who mind their own business and let me alone, who never waylaid nor shot at me, to my knowledge, when I crossed their fields, though each one has a gun in his house. For nearly twoscore years, I have known at a distance these long-suffering men, whom I never spoke to, who never spoke to me, and now I feel a certain tenderness for them, as if this long probation were but the prelude to an eternal friendship. What a long trial we have withstood, and how much more admirable we are to each other, perchance, than if we had been bedfellows. I am not only grateful because Homer, and Christ, and Shakespeare have lived, but I am grateful for Minott, and Rice, and Melvin, and Goodwin, and Puffer even. I see Melvin all alone filling his sphere in russet suit, which no other would fill or suggest. He takes up as much room in nature as the most famous.
Six weeks ago I noticed the advent of chickadees, and their winter habits. As you walk along a woodside, a restless little flock of them, whose notes you hear at a distance, will seem to say, "Oh, there he goes, let's pay our respects to him!" and they will flit after and close to you, and naïvely peck at the nearest twig to you, as if they were minding their own business all the while, without any reference to you.
Dec. 3, 1857. Surveying the Richardson lot which bounds on Walden Pond, I turned up a rock near the pond to make a bound with, and found under it and attached to it, a collection of black ants (say one fourth of an inch long), and an inch in diameter, collected around one monster black ant, as big as four or five at least, and a small parcel of yellowish eggs (?). The large ant had no wings, and was probably the queen. The ants were quite lively, though but little way under the rock. The eggs (?) adhered to the rock, when turned up.
Dec. 3, 1858. I improve every opportunity to go into a grist-mill, any excuse to see its cobweb tapestry. I put questions to the miller, as an excuse for staying, while my eye rests delighted on the cobwebs above his head, and perchance on his hat.
Dec. 3, 1859. Suddenly quite cold, and freezes in the house. Rode with a man this morning, who said that if he did not clean his teeth when he got up, it made him sick all the rest of the day, but he had found, by late experience, that when he had not cleaned his teeth for several days, they cleaned themselves. I assured him that such was the general rule, that when, from any cause, we were prevented from doing what we had commonly thought indispensable for us to do, things cleaned or took care of themselves.
—— was betrayed by his eyes, which had a glaring film over them, and no serene depth into which you could look. Inquired particularly the way to Emerson's, and the distance, and when I told him, said he knew it as well as if he saw it. Wished to turn and proceed to his house. Said, "I know I am insane," and I knew it too. He also called it "nervous excitement." At length when I made a certain remark, he said, "I don't know but you are Emerson; are you? you look somewhat like him." He said as much, two or three times, and added once, "but then Emerson would not lie." Finally put his questions to me, of Fate, etc., as if I were Emerson. Getting to the woods, I remarked upon them, and he mentioned my name, but never to the end suspected who his companion was. Then proceeded to business, "since the time was short," and put to me the questions he was going to put to Emerson. His insanity exhibited itself chiefly by his incessant excited talk, scarcely allowing me to interrupt him, but once or twice apologizing for his behavior. What he said was for the most part connected and sensible enough.
When I hear of John Brown and his wife weeping at length, it is as if the rocks sweated.
Dec. 3, 1860. Talking with —— and —— to-day, they declared that John Brown did wrong. When I said that I thought he was right, they agreed in asserting that he did wrong because he threw his life away, and that no man had a right to undertake anything which he knew would cost him his life. I inquired if Christ did not foresee that he would be crucified, if he preached such doctrines as he did, but they both (though as if it were their only escape) asserted that they did not believe he did. Upon which a third party threw in, "You do not think he had as much foresight as Brown." Of course, they as good as said that if Christ had foreseen that he would be crucified, he would have "backed out." Such are the principles and the logic of the mass of men.
It is to be remembered that by good deeds or words you encourage yourself, who always have need to witness or hear them.
Dec. 4, 1840. I seem to have experienced a joy sometimes like that with which yonder tree for so long has budded and blossomed, and reflected the green rays. The opposite shore of the pond, seen through the haze of a September afternoon, as it lies stretched out in gray content, answers to some streak in me.
Dec. 4, 1856. I notice that the swallow-holes in the bank behind Dennis's, which is partly washed away, are flat-elliptical, three times or more as wide horizontally as they are deep vertically, or about three inches by one.
Saw and heard cheep faintly one little tree sparrow, the neat, chestnut-crowned and winged, and white-barred bird, so clean and tough, made to withstand the winter. This color reminds one of the upper side of the shrub-oak leaf. The Fringilla hiemalis also. I love the few homely colors of Nature at this season, her strong, wholesome browns, her sober and primeval grays, her celestial blue, her vivacious green, her pure cold snowy white. Thus Nature feeds her children cheaply with color. I have no doubt that it is an important relief to the eyes which have long rested on snow, to rest on brown oak leaves and the bark of trees. We want the greatest variety within the smallest compass, and yet without glaring diversity, and we have it in the colors of the withered oak leaves; the white, so curled, shriveled, and pale; the black (?), more flat and glossy, and darker brown; the red, much like the black, but, perhaps, less dark and less deeply cut. The scarlet still occasionally retains some blood in its veins.
Smooth white reaches of ice, as long as the river on each side, are threatening to bridge over its dark-blue artery, any night. They remind me of a trap set for it, which the frost will spring. Each day, at present, the wriggling river nibbles off the edges of the trap which have advanced in the night. It is a close contest between day and night.
Already you see the tracks of sleds leading by unusual routes, where will be seen no trace of them in summer, into far fields and woods, crowding aside and pressing down the snow, to where some heavy log or stone has thought itself secure, and the spreading tracks, also, of the heavy, slow-paced oxen, and the well-shod farmer who turns out his feet. Erelong, when the cold is stronger, these tracks will lead the walker deep into remote swamps impassable in summer. All the earth is a highway then.
Sophia says that just before I came home, Min caught a mouse, and was playing with it in the yard. It had got away from her once or twice and she had caught it again, and now it was stealing off again, as she was complacently watching it with her paws tucked under her, when her friend, Riorden's stout cock, stepped up inquisitively, looked down at it with one eye, turning its head, then picked it up by the tail, gave it two or three whacks on the ground, and giving it a dexterous toss in the air, caught it in its open mouth, and it went, head foremost and alive, down its capacious throat in the twinkling of an eye, never again to be seen in this world; Min all the while, with paws comfortably tucked under her, looking on unconcerned. What matters it one mouse, more or less, to her? The cock walked off amid the currant-bushes, stretched his neck up and gulped once or twice, and the deed was accomplished. Then he crowed lustily in celebration of the exploit. It might be set down among the Gesta gallorum. There were several human witnesses. It is a question whether Min ever understood where that mouse went to. She sits composedly sentinel, with paws tucked under her, a good part of her days at present, by some ridiculous little hole, the possible entry of a mouse.
He who abstains from visiting another for magnanimous reasons, enjoys better society alone.
My first botany, as I remember, was "Bigelow's Plants of Boston and Vicinity," which I began to use about twenty years ago, looking chiefly for the popular names, and the short references to the localities of plants, even without any regard to the plant. I also learned the names of many, but without using any system, and forgot them soon. I was not inclined to pluck flowers, but preferred to leave them where they were, and liked them best there. I was never in the least interested in plants in the house. But from time to time we look at nature with new eyes. About half a dozen years ago, I found myself again attending to plants with more method, looking out the name of each one, and remembering it. I began to bring them home in my hat, a straw one with a scaffold lining to it, which I called my botany box. I never used any other, and when some whom I visited were evidently surprised at its dilapidated look, as I deposited it on their front entry table, I assured them it was not so much my hat, as my botany box. I remember gazing with interest at the swamps about those days, and wondering if I could ever attain to such familiarity with plants that I should know the species of every twig and leaf in them, should be acquainted with every plant (except grasses and cryptogamous ones), summer and winter, that I saw. Though I knew most of the flowers, and there were not in any particular swamp more than half a dozen shrubs that I did not know, yet these made it seem like a maze of a thousand strange species, and I even thought of commencing at one end, and looking it faithfully and laboriously through, till I knew it all. I little thought that in a year or two I should have attained to that knowledge without all that labor. Still, I never studied botany, and do not to-day, systematically, the most natural system is still so artificial. I wanted to know my neighbors, if possible, to get a little nearer to them. I soon found myself observing when plants first blossomed and leaved, and I followed it up early and late, far and near, several years in succession, running to different sides of the town and into neighboring towns, often between twenty and thirty miles in a day. I often visited a particular plant four or five miles distant half a dozen times within a fortnight, that I might know exactly when it opened, besides attending at the same time to a great many others in different directions, and some of them equally distant. At the same time I had an eye for birds and whatever else might offer.
Dec. 4, 1859. Awake to winter, and snow two or three inches deep, the first of any consequence.
Dec. 5, 1853. p. m. Got my boat in. The river frozen over thinly in most places, and whitened with snow which was sprinkled on it this noon.
4 p. m. To Cliffs. Now for short days and early twilight, in which I hear the sound of wood-chopping. The sun goes down behind a low cloud, and the world is darkened. The partridge is budding on the apple-tree, and bursts away from the pathside. Before I got home, the whole atmosphere was suddenly filled with a mellow, yellowish light equally diffused, so that it seemed much lighter around me than immediately after the sun sank behind the horizon-cloud fifteen minutes before. Apparently not till the sun had sunk thus far, did I stand in the angle of reflection.
Dec. 5, 1856. p. m. As I walk along the side of the hill, a pair of nuthatches flit by toward a walnut tree, flying low in mid course, and then ascending to the tree. I hear one's faint tut-tut or quah-quah (no doubt heard a good way off by its mate, now flown to the next tree), as it is ascending the trunk or branch of a walnut in a zigzag manner, wriggling along, prying into the crevices of the bark; and now it has found a savory morsel which it pauses to devour, then flits to a new bough. It is a chubby bird, white, slate-color, and black.
It is a perfectly cloudless and simple winter sky. A white moon half full in the pale or dull-blue heaven, and a whiteness like the reflection of the snow extending up from the horizon all around, a quarter of the way up to the zenith. I can imagine that I see it shooting up like an aurora now at 4 p. m. About the sun it is only whiter than elsewhere, or there is only the faintest possible tinge of yellow there.
My themes shall not be far-fetched. I will tell of homely, every-day phenomena and adventures. Friends, society! It seems to me that I have an abundance, there is so much that I rejoice in and sympathize with, and men, too, that I never speak to, but only know and think of. What you call bareness and poverty is to me simplicity. God could not be unkind to me, if he should try. I love the winter with its imprisonment and its cold, for it compels the prisoner to try new fields and resources. I love to have the river closed up for a season, and a pause put to my boating, to be obliged to get my boat in. I shall launch it again in the spring with so much more pleasure. This is an advantage in point of abstinence and moderation compared with the seaside boating, where the boat ever lies on the shore. I love best to have each thing in its season only, and enjoy doing without it at all other times. It is the greatest of all advantages to enjoy no advantage at all. I find it invariably true, the poorer I am, the richer I am. What you consider my disadvantage, I consider my advantage; while you are pleased to get knowledge and culture, I am delighted to think I am getting rid of them. I have never got over my surprise that I should have been born into the most estimable place in all the world, and in the very nick of time, too.
Dec. 5, 1858. How singularly ornamented is that salamander. Its brightest side, its yellow belly, sprinkled with fine dark spots, is turned downwards. Its back is indeed ornamented with two rows of bright vermilion spots, but they can only be detected on the very closest inspection, and poor eyes fail to discover them even then, as I have found.
Dec. 6, 1854. To Providence to lecture. After lecturing twice this winter, I feel that I am in danger of cheapening myself by trying to become a successful lecturer, that is, to interest my audiences. I am disappointed to find that most that I am, and value myself for, is lost, or worse than lost, on my audience. I fail to get even the attention of the mass. I should suit them better if I suited myself less. You cannot interest them except as you are like them, and sympathize with them. I would rather that my audience should come to me, than I go to them; that so they should be sifted; that is, I would rather write books than lectures. To read to a promiscuous audience, who are at your mercy, the fine thoughts you solaced yourself with, far away, is as violent as to fatten geese by cramming, and in this case they do not get fatter.
Dec. 6, 1856. 2 p. M. To Hubbard's Bridge and Holden Swamp, and up river on ice to Fair Haven pond crossing, just below pond; back on east side of river. Skating is fairly begun. I can walk through the spruce swamp now dry-shod amid the water andromeda and Kalmia glauca. How handsome every one of these leaves that are blown about over the snow crust, or lie neglected beneath, soon to turn to mould! Not merely a matted mass of fibres like a sheet of paper, but a perfect organism and system in itself, so that no mortal has ever yet discerned or explored its beauty. Over against this swamp, I take to the river-side where the ice will bear. White snow-ice it is, but pretty smooth. It is quite glare close to the shore, and wherever the water overflowed yesterday. Just this side of Bittern Cliff, I see the very remarkable track of an otter, made undoubtedly December 3d, when the snow-ice was mere slush. It had come up through a hole (now black ice) by the stem of a button-bush, and apparently pushed its way through the slush, as through snow on land, leaving a track eight inches wide, more or less, with the now frozen snow shoved up two inches above the general level on each side. Where the ice was firmer were seen only the track of its feet. At Bittern Cliff I saw where these creatures had been playing, sliding or fishing, apparently to-day, on the snow-covered rocks, on which for a rod upwards and as much in width, the snow was trodden and worn quite smooth, as if twenty had trodden and slid there for several hours. Their droppings are a mass of fishes scales and bones, loose, scaly, black masses. At this point, the black ice approached within three or four feet of the rock, and there was an open space just there a foot or two across, which appeared to have been kept open by them. I continued along on that side, and crossed on white ice just below the pond. The river was all tracked up with otters from Bittern Cliff upward. Sometimes one had trailed his tail edgewise, making a mark like the tail of a deer-mouse; sometimes they were moving fast, and there was an interval of five feet between the tracks. I saw one place where there was a zigzag piece of black ice two rods long and a foot wide in the midst of the white, which I was surprised to find had been made by an otter pushing his way through the slush. He had left fishes' scales, etc., at the end. These very conspicuous tracks generally commenced and terminated at some button-bush or willow where black ice now marked the hole of that date. It is surprising that our hunters know no more about them. When I speak of the otter to our oldest village doctor, who should be ex officio a naturalist, he is greatly surprised, not knowing that such an animal is found in these parts, and I have to remind him that the Pilgrims sent home many otter skins in the first vessels that returned, together with beaver, mink, and black-fox skins, 1,156 pounds of other skins in the years 1631—36, which brought fourteen or fifteen shillings a pound, also 12,530 pounds of beaver skins. In many places the otters appeared to have gone floundering along in the slushy ice and water.
On all sides in swamps and about their edges, and in the woods, the bare shrubs are sprinkled with buds more or less noticeable and pretty, their little gemmæ or gems their most vital and attractive parts now, almost all the greenness and color left, greens and salads for the birds and rabbits. Our eyes go searching along the stem for what is most vivacious and characteristic, the concentrated summer gone into winter quarters. For we are hunters pursuing the summer on snow-shoes and skates all winter long, and there is really but one season in our hearts.
Dec. 7, 1838. Never do we live a quite free life, like Adam's, but are enveloped in an invisible network of speculations. Our progress is from one such speculation to another, and only at rare intervals do we perceive that it is no progress. Could we for a moment drop this by play, and simply wonder without reference or inference!
Dec. 7, 1852. p. m. Perhaps the warmest day yet. True Indian summer. The walker perspires. The shepherd's-purse is in full bloom; the andromeda not turned red. Saw a pile of snow-fleas in a rut in the wood-path, six or seven inches long, and three quarters of an inch high; to the eye exactly like powder, as if a sportsman had spilled it from his flask, and when a stick was passed through the living and skipping mass, each side of the furrow preserved its edge, as in powder.
Dec. 7, 1856. Skate to Fair Haven pond. This is the first skating. It takes my feet a few moments to get used to the skates. I see the track of one skater who has preceded me this morning. Now I go skating over hobbly places, now shoot over a bridge of ice only a foot wide between the water and the shore at a bend. Now I suddenly see the trembling surface of water where I thought were black spots of ice only, around me. The river is rather low, so that I cannot keep to it above the Clamshell bend. I am confined to a very narrow edging of ice on the meadow, gliding with unexpected ease through withered sedge, but slipping sometimes on a twig, again taking the snow to reach the next ice, but this rests my feet; straddling the bare black willows, winding between the button-bushes, and following narrow threadings of ice amid the sedge, which bring me out to clear fields unexpectedly. Occasionally I am obliged to take a few strokes over black and thin-looking ice where the neighboring bank is springy, and am slow to acquire confidence in it, but returning, how bold I am! Now I glide over a field of white air-cells close to the surface, with covering no thicker than egg-shells, cutting through with a sharp crackling sound. There are many of those singular spider-shaped dark places amid the white ice, where the surface-water has run through some days ago. That grand old poem called Winter is round again without any connivance of mine. As I sit under Lee's Cliff, where the snow is melted, amid sere pennyroyal and frostbitten catnip, I look over my shoulder upon an arctic scene, and see with surprise the pond, a dumb white surface of ice speckled with snow, just as so many winters before, where so lately were lapsing waves or smooth, reflecting water. I see the holes which the pickerel fisher has made, and I see him, too, retreating over the hills drawing his sled behind him. The water is already skimmed over again, and I hear the familiar belching voice of the pond. It seemed as if winter had come without any interval since midsummer, and I was prepared to see it flit away by the time I again looked over my shoulder. It was as if I had dreamed it. The winters come now as fast as snowflakes. It is wonderful that old men do not lose their reckoning. It was summer, and now again it is winter. Nature loves this rhyme so well that she never tires of repeating it. So sweet and wholesome is the winter, so simple and moderate, so satisfactory and perfect, that her children will never weary of it. What a poem, an epic in blank verse, enriched with a million tinkling rhymes! It is solid beauty. It has been subjected to the vicissitudes of millions of years of the gods, and not a superfluous ornament remains. The severest and coldest of the immortal critics have shot their arrows at it, and pruned it, till it cannot be amended.
You will see full-grown woods where the oaks and pines and birches are separated by right lines, growing in squares or other rectilinear figures, because different lots were cut at different times.
Dec. 7, 1857. Running the long northwest side of Richardson's Fair Haven lot. It is a fine, sunny, and warm day in the woods for the season. We eat our dinner in the middle of the line, amid the young oaks in a sheltered and unfrequented place. I cut some leafy shrub oaks, and cast them down for a dry and springy seat. As I sit there amid the sweet fern, talking with my man, Briney, I observe that its recent shoots (which like many larger bushes and trees have a few leaves in a tuft still at the extremities) toward the sun are densely covered with a slight silvery down which looks like frost, so thick and white. Looking the other way, I see none of it, but the bare reddish twigs. Even this is a cheering and compensating discovery in my otherwise barren work. I get thus a few positive values answering to the bread and cheese which makes my dinner. I owe thus to my week's surveying a few such slight, but positive discoveries.
Dec. 8, 1838. Nothing in Nature is sneaking or chap-fallen, as somewhat maltreated or slighted, but each is satisfied with its being, and so is as lavender and balm. If skunk-cabbage is offensive to the nostrils of men, still has it not drooped in consequence, but trustfully unfolded its leaf of two handsbreadth. What was it to Lord Byron whether England owned or disowned him, whether he smelled sour and was skunk-cabbage to the English nostril, or, violet-like, the pride of the land and ornament of every lady's boudoir. Let not the oyster grieve that he has lost the race; he has gained as an oyster.
Dec. 8, 1850. It snowed in the night of the 6th, and the ground is now covered; our first snow, two inches deep. I see no tracks now of cows or men or boys beyond the edge of the wood. Suddenly they are shut up. The remote pastures and hills beyond the woods are closed to cows and cowherds, aye, and to cowards. I am struck by this sudden solitude and remoteness which these places have acquired. The dear privacy and retirement and solitude which winter makes possible, carpeting the earth with snow, furnishing more than woolen feet to all walkers! From Fair Haven I see the hills and fields, aye and the icy woods in the Corner, gleam with the dear old wintry sheen. Those are not surely the cottages I have seen all summer. They are some cottages which I have in my mind.
It is interesting to observe the manner in which the plants bear their snowy burden. The dry calyx-leaves, like an oblong cup, of the Trichostéma dichotomum in the woodpath, have caught the rain or melting snow, and so this little butter-boat is filled with a frozen pure drop which stands up high above the sides of the cup, so many pearly drops covering the whole plant. The pennyroyal there also retains its fragrance under the ice and snow.
Dec. 8, 1852. One cannot burn or bury even his old shoes without a feeling of sadness and compassion, much more his own body, without a slight sense of guilt.
Dec. 8, 1853. 7 a. m. How can we spare to be abroad in the morning red, to see the forms of the eastern trees against the dun sky, and hear the cocks crow, when a thin low mist hangs over the ice and frost in meadows. I have come along the river-side in Merrick's pasture to collect for kindling the fat pine roots and knots which the spearers dropped last spring, and which the floods have washed up. Get a heaping bushel-basket full.
Dec. 8, 1854. p. m. Up river and meadow on ice to Hubbard's Bridge, and thence to Walden. Winter has come unnoticed by me, I have been so busy writing. This is the life most lead in respect of nature. How different from my habitual one! It is hasty, coarse, and trivial, as if you were a spindle in a factory. The other is leisurely, fine, and glorious, like a flower. In the first case, you are merely getting your living. In the second, you live as you go along. You travel only on roads of the proper grade, without jar or running off the track, and sweep around the hills by beautiful curves.
Here is the river frozen over in many places. The skating is all hobbled like a coat of mail or thickly bossed shield, apparently sleet frozen in water. How black the water where the river is open, when I look from the light, by contrast with the surrounding white, the ice and snow! a black artery, here and there concealed under a pellicle of ice. Went over the fields on the crust, to Walden, over side of Bear Garden. Already foxes have left their tracks. How the crust shines afar, the sun now setting. There is a glorious clear sunset sky, soft and delicate and warm, even like a pigeon's neck. Why do the mountains never look so fair as from my native fields?
Dec. 8, 1855. This afternoon I go to the woods down the railroad, seeking the society of some flock of little birds, or some squirrel, but in vain. I only hear the faint lisp of probably a tree sparrow. I go through empty halls, apparently unoccupied by bird or beast. Yet it is cheering to walk there, while the sun is reflected from far through the aisles with a silvery light from the needles of the pine. The contrast of light or sunshine and shade, though the latter is now so thin, is food enough for me. In a little busy flock of lisping birds, chickadees or lesser red-polls, even in a nuthatch or downy woodpecker, there would have been a sweet society for me. But I did not find it. Yet I had the sun penetrating into the deep hollows through the aisles of the wood, and the silvery sheen of its reflection from masses of white pine needles.
Jacob Farmer brought me the head of a mink to-night, and took tea here. He says he can call a male quail close to him by imitating the note of the female, which is only a faint whistle.
Dec. 8, 1856. 8° above zero. Probably the coldest day yet.
Bradford, in his history of the Plymouth Plantation, remembering the condition of the Pilgrims on their arrival in Cape Cod Bay the 11th of November, 1620, O. S., says (p. 79), "Which way so ever they turned their eyes (save upward to the heavens) they could have little solace or content in respect of any outward objects, for, summer being done, all things stared upon them with a weather beaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hue." Such was a New England November, in 1620, to Bradford's eyes, and such no doubt it would be to his eyes in the country still. It required no little courage to found a colony here at that season of the year. The earliest mention of anything like a glaze in New England that I remember is in the same History, p. 83, where Bradford describes the second expedition from Cape Cod Harbor in search of a settlement, the 6th of December, O. S.: "The weather was very cold, and it froze so hard as the spray of the sea lighting on their coats, they were as if they had been glazed." Bradford was one of the ten principal persons. That same night they reached the bottom of the Bay, and saw the Indians cutting up a blackfish. Nature has not changed one iota.
Dec. 8, 1857. S—— says he came to Concord twenty-four years ago, a poor boy, with a dollar and three cents in his pocket, and he spent the three cents for drink at Bigelow's tavern, and now he is worth "twenty hundred dollars clear." He remembers many who inherited wealth whom he could buy out to-day. I told him that he had done better than I, in a pecuniary respect, for I had only earned my living. "Well," said he, "that's all I've done, and I don't know as I've got much better clothes than you." I was particularly poorly clad then, in the woods; my hat, pants, boots, rubbers, and gloves would not have brought fourpence, and I told the Irishman that it wasn't everybody could afford to have a fringe round his legs, as I had, my corduroys not preserving a selvage.
Dec. 8, 1859. How is it that what is actually present and transpiring is commonly perceived by the common sense and understanding only, is bare and bald, without halo, or the blue enamel of intervening air? But let it be past or to come, and it is at once idealized. The man dead is spiritualized, the fact remembered is idealized. It is ripe and with the bloom on it. It is not simply the understanding now, but the imagination that takes cognizance of it. The imagination requires a long range. It is the faculty of the poet to see present things as if in this sense past and future, as if distant or universally significant. We do not know poets, heroes, and saints for our contemporaries, but we locate them in some far off vale; the greater and better, the farther off we are accustomed to consider them. We believe in spirits, we believe in beauty, but not now and here. They have their abode in the remote past, or in the future.
Dec. 9, 1852. p. m. To A. Smith's hill. Those little ruby-crowned lesser red-polls still about. They suddenly flash away from this side to that, in flocks, with a tumultuous note, half gurgle, half rattle, like nuts shaken in a bag, or a bushel of nutshells, soon returning to the tree they had forsaken on some alarm. They are oftenest seen on the white birch, apparently feeding on its seeds, scattering the scales about.
A fresh dandelion. The chestnuts are about as plenty as ever, both in the fallen burrs and out of them. There are more this year than the squirrels can consume. I picked three pints this afternoon, and did not find one mouldy one among those which I picked from under the wet and mouldy leaves. They are plump and tender. I love to gather them, if only for the sense of the bountifulness of nature they give me. A few petals of the witch hazel still hold on. A man tells me he saw a violet to-day.
In the "Homes of American Authors," it is said of most that at one time they wrote for the "North American Review." It is one of my qualifications that I have not written an article for the "North American Review."
Dec. 9, 1856. p. m. Railroad to Lincoln bridge and back by road. From a little east of Wyman's I look over the pond westward. The sun is near setting, away beyond Fair Haven. A bewitching stillness reigns through all the woodland, and over all the snow-clad landscape. Indeed, the winter day in the woods or fields has commonly the stillness of twilight. The pond is perfectly smooth and full of light. I hear only the strokes of a lingering woodchopper at a distance and the melodious hooting of an owl, which is as common and marked a sound as that of the axe or the locomotive whistle; yet where does the ubiquitous hooter sit? and who sees him? In whose wood-lot is he to be found? Few eyes have rested on him hooting, few on him silent on his perch even, yet cut away the woods never so much year after year, though the chopper has not seen him, and only a grove or two is left, still his aboriginal voice is heard in definitely far and sweet, mingled oft in strange harmony with the newly invented din of trade, hooting from his invisible perch at his foes, the woodchoppers who are invading his domains. As the earth only a few inches beneath the surface is undisturbed and what it was anciently, so are heard still some primeval sounds in the air. Some of my townsmen I never see, and of a great proportion I do not hear the voices in a year, though they live within my horizon; but every week almost, I hear the loud voice of the hooting owl, though I do not see the bird more than once in ten years.
I perceive that more or other things are seen in the reflection than in the substance. As I look over the pond westward, I see in substance the now bare outline of Fair Haven Hill, a mile beyond; whereas in the reflection I see not this, only the tops of some pines which stand close to the shore, but are invisible against the dark hill beyond, and these are indefinitely prolonged into points of shadow.
The sun is set, and over the valley which looks like an outlet of Walden toward Fair Haven, I see a burnished bar of cloud stretched low and level, as if it were the bar over that passage-way to Elysium, the last column in the train of the sun. When I get as far as my bean-field, the reflected white in the winter horizon of the perfectly cloudless sky is being condensed at the horizon's edge, and its hue deepening into a dun golden, against which the tops of the trees, pines and elms, are seen with a beautiful distinctness, and a slight blush begins to suffuse the eastern horizon, and so the picture of the day is done, and set in a gilded frame. Such is a winter eve. Now for a merry fire, some old poet's pages, or else serene philosophy, or even a healthy book of travels, to last far into the night, eked out perhaps with the walnuts which we gathered in November.
The worker who would accomplish much these short days, must shear a dusky slice off both ends of the night. The chopper must work as long as he can see, often returning home by moonlight, and set out for the woods again by candle-light.
The northwest wind meeting the current in an exposed place produces that hobbly ice which I described at Cardinal Shore day before yesterday. Such is the case in this place every year, and no doubt the same phenomenon occurred annually at this point in the river, a thousand years before America was discovered. This regularity and permanence make these phenomena more interesting to me.
Dec. 9, 1858. At New Bedford. See a song sparrow and a pigeon woodpecker. Dr. Bryant tells of the latter pecking holes in blinds, and also in his barn roof and sides in order to get into it, holes in the window sashes or casings, as if a nail had been driven into them.
Dec. 10, 1837. Not the carpenter alone carries his rule in his pocket. Space is quite subdued to us. The meanest peasant finds in a hair of his head, or the white crescent upon his nail, the unit of measure for the distance of the fixed stars. His middle finger measures how many digits into space. He extends a few times his thumb and finger, and the continent is spanned. He stretches out his arms, and the sea is fathomed.
Dec. 10, 1840. I discover a strange track in the snow, and learn that some migrating otter has made across from the river to the wood, by my yard and the smith's shop, in the silence of the night. I cannot but smile at my own wealth when I am thus reminded that every chink and cranny of nature is full to overflowing. Such an incident as this startles me with the assurance that the primeval nature is still working, and makes tracks in the snow. It is my own fault that he must thus skulk across my premises by night. Now I yearn toward him, and heaven to me consists in a complete communion with the otter nature. He travels a more wooded path by watercourses and hedgerows, I by the highways, but though his tracks are now crosswise to mine, our courses are not divergent, but we shall meet at last.
Mere innocence will tame any ferocity.
Dec. 10, 1853. Another still more glorious day, if possible. Indian summer, even. These are among the finest days in the year, on account of the wholesome bracing coolness and clearness. Paddled up Assabet. Passed in some places between shooting ice crystals extending from both sides of the stream. Upon the thinnest black ice crystals, just cemented, was the appearance of broad fern leaves or ostrich plumes, or flat fir-trees with branches bent down. The surface was far from even, rather in sharp-edged plaits and folds. The form of the crystals was oftenest that of low flattish or three-sided pyramids. When the base was very broad, the apex was imperfect, with many irregular rosettes of small and perfect pyramids, the largest with bases two or three inches long. All this appeared to advantage only while the ice (one twelfth of an inch thick, perhaps), rested on the black water.
What I write about at home, I understand so well comparatively, and I write with such repose and freedom from exaggeration.
Dec. 10, 1854. p. m. To Nut Meadow. Weather warmer. Snow softened. Saw a large flock of snow-buntings (quite white against woods, at any rate), though it is quite warm. Snow-fleas in paths; first I have seen. Hear the small woodpecker's whistle; not much else, only crows and partridges and chickadees. How quickly the snow feels the warmer wind. The crust, which was so firm and rigid, is now suddenly softened, and there is much water in the road.
Dec. 10, 1856. A fine, clear, cold winter morning, with a small leaf-frost on trees, etc. The thermometer at 7.15 and 7.30 a. m., 3°+
It is remarkable how suggestive the slightest drawing is as a memento of things seen. For a few years past I have been accustomed to make a rude sketch in my journal, of plants, ice, and various natural phenomena, and though the fullest accompanying description may fail to recall my experience, these rude outline drawings do not fail to carry me back to that time and scene. It is as if I saw the same thing again, and I may again attempt to describe it in words, if I choose.
Yesterday I walked under the murderous Lincoln bridge, where at least ten men have been swept dead from the cars within as many years. I looked to see if their heads had indented the bridge, if there were sturdy blows given as well as received, and if their brains lay about. The place looks as innocent as "a bank whereon the wild thyme grows." The bridge does its work in an artistic manner. We have another of exactly the same character in another part of the town, which has killed one, at least, to my knowledge. Surely the approaches to our town are well guarded. These are our modern dragons of Wantley. Buccaneers of the Fitchburg Railroad, they lie in wait at the narrow passes, and decimate the employees. The Company has signed a bond to give up one employee at this pass annually. The Vermont mother commits her son to their charge, and when she asks for him again, the directors say, "I am not your son's keeper; go look beneath the ribs of the Lincoln bridge." It is a monster which would not have minded Perseus with his Medusa's head. If he could be held back only four feet from where he now crouches, all travelers might pass in safety, and laugh him to scorn. This would require but a little resolution in our legislature, but it is preferred to pay tribute still.