July 3, 1854. I hear the purple finch these days about the houses, à twitter witter weeter wee, à witter witter wee.
p. m. To Hubbard's Bridge by boat. . . . The river and shores with their pads and weeds are now in their midsummer and hot weather condition, now when the pontederias have just begun to bloom. The seething river is confined within two burnished borders of pads, gleaming in the sun for a mile, and a sharp snap is heard from them from time to time. Next stands the upright phalanx of dark-green pontederias.—When I have left the boat for a short time, the seats become intolerably hot. What a luxury to bathe now. It is gloriously hot, the first of this weather. I cannot get wet enough. I must let the water soak into me. When you come put, it is rapidly dried on you, or absorbed into your body, and you want to go in again. I begin to inhabit the planet, and see how I may be naturalized at last.—As I return from the river, the sun westering, I admire the silvery light on the tops and extremities of the now densely-leaved golden willows, and swamp white oaks and maples, from the under-side of the leaves. They have so multiplied that you cannot see through the trees; these are solid depths of shade on the surface of which the light is variously reflected.
July 3, 1856. p. m. To Assabet River. In the main stream at the Rock I am surprised to see flags and pads laying the foundation of an islet in the middle where I had thought it deep before. Apparently a hummock, lifted by ice, sunk there in the spring, and this may be the way in which many an island has been formed in the river.
July 3, 1859. . . . p. m. To Hubbard's Grove. . . . The Mitchella repens, so abundantly in bloom now in the northwest part of this grove, emits a strong, astringent, cherry-like scent as I walk over it, which is agreeable to me, spotting the ground with its downy-looking white flowers.
July 3, 1860. . . . Looked at the marsh-hawk's nest (of June 16) in the Great Meadows. It was in the very midst of the sweet gale (which is three feet high) occupying an opening only a foot or two across. We had much difficulty in finding it again, but at last nearly stumbled upon a young hawk. There was one as big as my fist resting on the bare flat nest in the sun, with a great head, staring eyes, and open, gaping, or pouting mouth, yet mere down, grayish-white down as yet; but I detected another which had crawled a foot one side amid the bushes for shade or safety, more than half as large again, with small feathers, and a yet more angry, hawk-like look. How naturally anger sits on the young hawk s head. It was 3.30 p. m., and the old birds were gone and saw us not. Meanwhile their callow young lie panting under the sweet gale and rose-bushes in the swamp, waiting for their parents to fetch them food.
June is an up-country month when our air and landscape is most like that of a mountainous region, full of freshness, with the scent of fern by the wayside.
July 4, 1840. 4 a. m. The Townsend Light Infantry encamped last night in my neighbor's enclosure.—The night still breathes slumberously over field and wood when a few soldiers gather about one tent in the twilight, and their band plays an old Scotch air with bugle and drum and fife attempered to the season. It seems like the morning hymn of creation. The first sounds of the awakening camp mingled with the chastened strains which so sweetly salute the dawn, impress me as the morning prayer of an army. And now the morning gun fires. . . . I am sure none are cowards now. These strains are the roving dreams which steal from tent to tent, and break forth into distinct melody. They are the soldier's morning thought. Each man awakes himself with lofty emotions, and would do some heroic deed. You need preach no homily to him. He is the stuff they are made of.
We may well neglect many things, provided we overlook them.
When to-day I saw the "Great Ball" rolled majestically along, it seemed a shame that man could not move like it. All dignity and grandeur has something of the undulatoriness of the sphere. It is the secret of majesty in the rolling gait of the elephant, and of all grace in action and in art. The line of beauty is a curve.
Each man seems striving to imitate its gait, and keep pace with it, but it moves on regardless, and conquers the multitude with its majesty. What shame that our lives which should be the source of planetary motion, and sanction the order of the spheres, are full of abruptness and angularity, so as not to roll nor move majestically.
July 4, 1852. 3 a. m. To Conantum, to see the lilies open. I hear an occasional crowing of cocks in distant barns, as has been their habit for how many thousand years. It was so when I was young, and it will be so when I am old. I hear the croak of a tree-toad as I am crossing the yard. I am surprised to find the dawn so far advanced. There is a yellowish segment of light in the east, paling a star, and adding sensibly to the light of the waning and now declining moon. . . . I hear a little twittering and some clear singing from the seringo and the song-sparrow as I go along the back road, and now and then the note of a bull-frog from the river. The light in the east has acquired a reddish tinge near the horizon. Small wisps of cloud are already fuscous and dark, seen against the light, as in the west at evening. It being Sunday morning I hear no early stirring farmer driving over a bridge. . . . The sound of a whippoorwill is wafted from the woods. Now in the Corner road the hedges are alive with twittering sparrows, a blue-bird or two, etc. The daylight now balances the moonlight. How short the nights! The last traces of day have not disappeared much before 10 o'clock, or perchance 9.30, and before 3 a. m. you see them again in the east (probably 2.30), leaving about five hours of solid night, the sun so soon coming round again. The robins sing, but not so long and loud as in the spring. I have not been awakened by them latterly in the mornings. Is it my fault? Ah, those mornings when you are awakened by the singing, the matins of the birds! . . . Methinks I saw the not yet extinguished lights of one or two fire flies in the darker ruts in the grass in Conant's meadow. The moon yields to the sun, she pales even in the presence of the dawn. It is chiefly the spring birds that I hear at this hour, and in each dawn the spring is thus revived. The notes of the sparrows, and the blue-birds and the robin, have a prominence now which they have not by day. The light is more and more general, and some low bars begin to look bluish as well as reddish. Elsewhere the sky is wholly clear of clouds. The dawn is at this stage far lighter than the brightest moonlight; I write by it. Yet the sun will not rise for some time. Those bars are reddening more above one spot. They grow purplish, or lilac rather.
White and whiter grows the light in the eastern sky. And now descending to the Cliff by the river side, I cannot see the low horizon and its phenomena.
I love to go through these old apple orchards so irregularly set out, sometimes two trees standing close together. The rows of grafted fruit will never tempt me to wander amid them like these. A bittern leaves the shore at my approach. A night-hawk squeaks and booms before sunrise. . . . I hear the blackbird's conqueree, and the kingfisher darts away with his alarum and outstretched neck. Every lily is shut. Sunrise. I see it gilding the top of the hill behind me, but the sun itself is concealed by the hills and woods on the east shore. A very slight fog begins to rise now in one place on the river. There is something serenely glorious and memorable to me in the sight of the first cool sunlight now gilding the eastern extremity of the bushy island in Fair Haven, that wild lake. The subdued light and the repose remind me of Hades. In such sunlight there is no fever. It is such an innocent pale yellow as the spring flowers. It is the pollen of the sun fertilizing plants. The color of the earliest spring flowers is as cool and innocent as the first rays of the sun in the morning, falling on woods and hills. The fog not only rises upward about two feet, but at once there is a motion from the sun over the surface. . . .
And now I see an army of skaters advancing in loose array, chasseurs or scouts, as Indian allies are drawn in old books. Now the rays of the sun have reached my seat, a few feet above the water. Flies begin to buzz, mosquitoes to be less troublesome. A humming-bird hums by over the pads up the river, as if looking, like myself, to see if lilies have blossomed. The birds begin to sing generally, and if not loudest, at least most noticeably on account of the quietness of the hour, a few minutes before sunrise. They do not sing so incessantly and earnestly, as a regular thing, half an hour later.—Carefully looking both up and down the river, I could perceive that the lilies began to open about fifteen minutes after the sun from over the opposite bank fell on them, perhaps three-quarters of an hour after sunrise, which is about 4.30, and one was fully expanded about twenty minutes later. When I returned over the bridge about 6.15, there were perhaps a dozen open ones in sight. It was very difficult to find one not injured by insects. Even the buds which were just about to expand were frequently bored quite through, and the water had rotted them. You must be on hand early to anticipate insects. I bring home a dozen perfect lily buds, all I can find within many rods, which have never yet opened. I prepare a large pan of water, and cutting their stems quite short, I turn back their calyx leaves with my fingers, so that they may float upright; then, touching the points of their petals, and breathing or blowing on them, I toss them in. They spring open rapidly, or gradually expand in the course of an hour, all but one or two.—At 12.30 p. m. I perceive that the lilies in the river have begun to shut up. . . . I go again at 2.30 p. m. and every lily is shut.
I will here tell the history of my rosaceous lilies, plucked the 1st of July. They were buds at the bottom of a pitcher of water all the 2d, having been kept in my hat part of the day before. On the morning of the 3d I assisted their opening, and put them in water, as I have described. They did not shut up at noon, like those on the river, but at dark, their petals, at least, quite close. They all opened again in the course of the forenoon of the 4th, but had not shut up at 10 o'clock p. m., though I found them shut on the morning of the 5th. May it be that they can bear only a certain amount of light, and so, being in the shade, remained open longer (I think not, for they shut up on the river that quite cloudy day, July 1), or is their vitality too little to allow them to perform their regular functions?
Can that meadow fragrance come from the purple summits of the eupatorium?
July 4, 1860. Standing on J. P. B———'s land, south side, I observed his rich and luxuriant uncut grass lands northward, now waving under the easterly wind. It is a beautiful Camilla, sweeping like waves of light and shade over the whole breadth of his land, like a low steam curling over it, imparting wonderful life to the landscape, like the light and shade of a changeable garment. . . . It is an interesting feature, very easily overlooked, and suggests that we are wading and navigating at present in a sort of sea of grass which yields and undulates under the wind like water, and so perchance the forest is seen to do from a favorable position. . . . Early there was that flashing light of waving pines in the horizon, now the Camilla on grass and grain.
July 5, 1840. Go where we will, we discover infinite change in particulars only, not in generals.
You cannot rob a man of anything which he will miss.
July 5, 1852. I know a man who never speaks of the sexual relation but jestingly, though it is a subject to be approached only with reverence and affection. What can be the character of that man's love? It is ever the subject of a stale jest, though his health or his dinner can be seriously considered. The glory of the world is seen only by a chaste mind. To whomsoever this fact is not an awful, but beautiful mystery, there are no flowers in Nature.
White lilies continue to open in the house in the morning and shut in the night, for five or six days, until their stamens have shed their pollen, and they turn rusty, and begin to decay. Then the beauty of the flower is gone, and its vitality, so that it no longer expands with the light.
How perfect an invention is glass! There is a fitness in glass windows which reflect the sun morning and evening; windows the doorways of light thus reflecting its rays with a splendor only second to itself. . . . The sun rises with a salute, and leaves the world with a farewell to our windows. To have, instead of opaque shutters, or dull horn or paper, a material like solidified air, which reflects the sun thus brightly. It is inseparable from our civilization and enlightenment. It is encouraging that this intelligence and brilliancy or splendor should belong to the dwellings of men, and not to the cliffs and micaceous rocks and lakes exclusively. . . .
p. m. To Second Division Brook.
There is a meadow on the Assabet, just above Derby's bridge (it may contain an acre, bounded on one side by the river, on the other by alders and a hill), completely covered with small hummocks which have lodged on it in the winter, covering it like the mounds in a graveyard, at pretty regular intervals. Their edges are rounded, and they and the paths between them are covered with a firm, short, green sward, with here and there hard-hacks springing out of them, so that they make excellent seats, especially in the shade of an elm that grows there. They are completely united with the meadow, forming little oblong hillocks from one to ten feet long. . . . I love to ponder the natural history thus written on the banks of the stream; for every higher freshet and intenser frost is recorded by it. The stream keeps a faithful journal of every event in its experience, whatever race may settle on its banks. It purls past this natural graveyard with a storied murmur, and no doubt it could find endless employment for an Old Mortality in renewing its epitaphs.
The progress of the season is indescribable. It is growing warm again, but the warmth is different from that we have had. We lie in the shade of a locust-tree. Haymakers go by in a hay-rigging. I am reminded of berrying. I scent the sweet fern and the dead or dry pine leaves. Cherry-birds alight on a neighboring tree. The warmth is something more normal and steady. Nature offers fruits now as well as flowers. We have become accustomed to the summer. It has acquired a certain eternity. The earth is dry. Perhaps the sound of the locust expresses the season as well as anything. I might make a separate season of those days when the locust is heard. That is our torrid zone. This dryness and heat are necessary for the maturing of fruits.
How cheering it is to behold a full spring bursting forth directly from the earth, like this of Tarbell's, from clean gravel, copiously in a thin sheet; for it descends at once, where you see no opening, cool from the caverns of the earth, and making a considerable stream. . . .
I lie almost flat, resting my hands on what offers, to drink at this water where it bubbles, at the very udders of Nature, for man is never weaned from her breast while life lasts.
We are favored in having two rivers flowing into one, whose banks afford different kinds of scenery, the streams being of different characters, one a dark, muddy, dead stream, full of animal and vegetable life, with broad meadows, and black, dwarf willows and weeds, the other comparatively pebbly and swift, with more abrupt banks and narrower meadows. To the latter I go to see the ripple and the varied bottom with its stones and sands and shadows; to the former for the influence of its dark water resting on invisible mud, and for its reflections. It is a factory of soil, depositing sediment. . . .
Some birds are poets and sing all summer. They are the true singers. Any man can write verses in the love season. I am reminded of this while we rest in the shade . . . and listen to a wood-thrush now just before sunset. We are most interested in those birds that sing for the love of the music and not of their mates; who meditate their strains and amuse themselves with singing; the birds whose strains are of deeper sentiment,—not bobolinks that lose their bright colors and their song so early,—the robin, the red-eye, the veery, the wood-thrush, etc. The wood-thrush s is no opera music, it is not so much the composition as the strain, the tone that interests us, cool bars of melody from the atmosphere of everlasting morning or evening. It is the quality of the sound, not the sequence. In the pe wee s note there is some sultriness, but in the thrush's, though heard at noon, there is the liquid coolness of things drawn from the bottom of springs. The thrush s alone declares the immortal wealth and vigor that is in the forest. Here is a bird in whose strain the story is told. Whenever a man hears it, he is young, and Nature is in her spring. Wherever he hears it, there is a new world and a free country, and the gates of heaven are not shut against him. Most other birds sing, from the level of my ordinary cheerful hours, a carol, but this bird never fails to speak to me out of an ether purer than that I breathe, of immortal vigor and beauty. He deepens the significance of all things seen in the light of his strain. He sings to make men take higher and truer views. . . . He sings to amend their institutions, to relieve the slave on the plantation and the prisoner in his dungeon, the slave in the house of luxury and the prisoner of his own low thoughts.
How fitting to have every day, in a vase of water on your table, the wild flowers of the season which are just blossoming. Can any house be said to be furnished without them? Shall we be so forward to pluck the fruits of Nature and neglect her flowers? These are surely her finest influences. So may the season suggest the thoughts it is fitted to suggest. . . . Let me know what picture Nature is painting, what poetry she is writing, what ode composing now. The sun has set. . . . The dew is falling fast. Some fine clouds, which have just escaped being condensed in dew, hang on the skirts of day, and make the attraction in our western sky, that part of day's gross atmosphere which has escaped the clutches of the night, and is not enough condensed to fall to earth, soon to be gilded by the sun's parting rays; remarkably finely divided clouds, a very fine mackerel sky, or rather as if one had sprinkled that part of the sky with a brush, the outline of the whole being that of several large sprigs of fan coral. They grow darker and darker, and now are reddened, while dark-blue bars of cloud of a wholly different character lie along the northwest horizon.
July 5, 1854. . . . p. m. To White Pond. . . . The blue curls and fragrant life-everlasting with their refreshing aroma show themselves now pushing up in dry fields, bracing to the thought.—On Lupine Knoll picked up a dark-colored spear head three and a half inches long, lying on the bare sand, so hot that I could not long hold it tight in my hand. Now the earth begins to be parched, the corn curls, and the four-leaved loosestrife, etc., wilt and wither.
July 5, 1856. The large evening primrose below the foot of our garden does not open till sometime between 6.30 and 8 p. m., or sundown. It was not open when I went to bathe, but freshly out in the cool of the evening at sun down, as if enjoying the serenity of the hour.
July 6, 1840. All this worldly wisdom was once the unamiable heresy of some wise man.—I observe a truly wise practice on every hand, in education, in religion, and the morals of society, enough embodied wisdom to have set up many an ancient philosopher. This society, if it were a person to be met face to face, would not only be tolerated but courted, with its so impressive experience and admirable acquaintance with things.—Consider society at any epoch, and who does not see that heresy has already prevailed in it?
Have no mean hours, but be grateful for every hour, and accept what it brings. The reality will make any sincere record respectable. No day will have been wholly misspent, if any sincere, thoughtful page has been written. Let the daily tide leave some deposit on these pages, as it leaves sand and shells on the shore, so much increase of terra firma. This may be a calendar of the ebbs and flows of the soul, and on these sheets, as a beach, the waves may cast up pearls and seaweed.
July 6, 1851. I walked by night last moon, and saw its disk reflected in Walden Pond, the broken disk, now here, now there, a pure and memorable flame, unearthly bright. . . . Ah! but that first faint tinge of moonlight on the gap seen some time ago, a silvery light from the east before day had departed in the west. What an immeasurable interval there is between the first tinge of moonlight which we detect, lighting with mysterious, silvery, poetic light the western slopes, like a paler grass, and the last wave of daylight on the eastern slopes. It is wonderful how our senses ever span so vast an interval; how, from being aware of the one, we become aware of the other. . . . It suggests an interval equal to that between the most distant periods recorded in history. The silver age is not more distant from the golden than moonlight is from sunlight. I am looking into the west where the red clouds still indicate the course of departing day. I turn and see the silent, spiritual, contemplative moonlight shedding the softest imaginable light on the western slopes, . . . as if, after a thousand years of polishing, their surfaces were just beginning to be bright, a pale, whitish lustre. Already the crickets chirp to the moon a different strain, and the night wind rustles the leaves of the wood. . . . Ah, there is the mysterious light which for some hours has illustrated Asia and the scene of Alexander's victories, now at length, after two or three hours spent in "surmounting the billows of the Atlantic, come to shine on America. There on that illustrated sand bank was revealed an antiquity beside which Nineveh is young, such a light as sufficed for the earliest ages. . . . Even at midday I see the full moon shining in the sky. What if in some vales only its light is reflected! What if there are some spirits which walk in its light alone still! . . . I passed from dynasty to dynasty, from one age of the world to another, . . . from Jove, perchance, back to Saturn. What river of Lethe was there to run between! I bade farewell to that light setting in the west, and turned to salute the new light rising in the east.
There is some advantage in being the humblest, cheapest, least dignified man in the village, so that the very stable boys shall damn you. Methinks I enjoy that advantage to an unusual extent. There is many a coarsely well-meaning fellow, who knows only the skin of me, who addresses me familiarly by my Christian name. I get the whole good of him, and lose nothing myself. There is "Sam," the jailer (whom I never call "Sam," however), who exclaimed last evening, "Thoreau, are you going up the street pretty soon? Well, just take a couple of these handbills along, and drop one on H———'s piazza, and one at H———'s, and I'll do as much for you another time." I am not above being abused sometimes.
July 6, 1852. 2.30 p. m. To Beck Stow's, thence to Sawmill Brook, and return by Walden.—Now for the shade of oaks in pastures. The witnesses attending court sit on the benches in the shade of the great elm. The cattle gather under the trees. The pewee is heard in the heat of the day, and the red-eye (?). The pure white cymes (?) of the elder are very conspicuous along the edges of meadows, contrasting with the green above and around. . . . From the lane in front of Hawthorne's, I see dense beds of tufted vetch, Vicia cracca, for some time, taking the place of the grass in the low grounds, blue inclining in spots to lilac like the lupines. This, too, was one of the flowers that Proserpine was gathering; yellow lilies, also. It is affecting to see such an abundance of blueness in the grass. It affects the eyes, this celestial color. I see it afar . . . in masses on the hill-sides near the meadow, so much blue, laid on with so heavy a hand!—In selecting a site in the country, let a lane near your house, grass-grown, cross a sizable brook where is a watering-place.—I see a pickerel in the brook showing his whitish, greedy upper lips projecting over the lower. How well concealed he is. He is generally of the color of the muddy bottom, or the decayed leaves and wood that compose it, and the longitudinal light stripe on his back, and the transverse ones on his sides are the color of the yellowish sand here and there exposed. He heads up stream and keeps his body perfectly motionless, however rapid the current, chiefly by the motion of his narrow pectoral fins, though also by the waving of his other fins and tail as much as is necessary, a motion which a frog might mistake for that of weeds. Thus concealed by his color and stillness, like a stake, he lies in wait for frogs and minnows. Now a frog leaps in, and he darts forward three or four feet.
Pastinaca sativa, parsnip. How wholesome and edible smells its sweet root.—Tansy, tanacetum vulgare, just begins.
H——— is haying, but inclined to talk as usual. . . . I am disappointed that he, the most intelligent farmer in Concord, and perchance in Middlesex, who admits that he has property enough for his use without accumulating more, and talks of leaving off hard work, letting his farm, and spending the rest of his days easier and better, cannot yet think of any method of employing himself except in work for his hands. Only he would have a little less of it. Much as he is inclined to speculate in conversation, giving up any work to it for the time, and long-headed as he is, he talks of working for a neighbor for a day now and then, and taking his dollar. "He would not like to spend his time sitting on the Mill Dam" [i. e., in the village]. He has not even planned an essentially better life. . . .
Sometimes the swampy vigor in large doses proves rank poison to the sensitively bred man, as where dogwood grows. How far he has departed from the rude vigor of Nature, that he cannot assimilate and transmute her elements. The morning air may make a debauchee sick. No herb is friendly to him. All at last are poisons, and yet none are medicines to him, and so he dies; the air kills him. . . .
I heard a solitary duck on Goose Pond making a doleful cry, though its ordinary one, just before sundown, as if caught in a trap or by a fox, and creeping silently through the bushes, I saw it, probably a wood duck, sailing rapidly away. But it still repeated its cry as if calling for a mate. When the hen hatches ducks, they do not mind her clucking. They lead the hen.—Chickens and ducks are well set on the earth. What great legs they have! This part is early developed. A perfect Antæus is a young duck in this respect, deriving a steady stream of health and strength from the earth, for he rarely gets off it, ready either for land or water. Nature is not on her last legs yet. A chick's stout legs! If they were a little larger, they would injure the globe's tender organization with their scratching. Then, for digestion, consider their crops and what they put into them in the course of a day. Consider how well fitted to endure the fatigue of a day s excursion. A young chick will run all day in pursuit of grasshoppers, and occasionally vary its exercise by scratching, go to bed at night with protuberant crop, and get up early in the morning ready for a new start.
July 6, 1856. p. m. To Assabet bath. . . . I hear the distressed or anxious peet of a peetweet, and see it hovering over its young, half-grown, which runs beneath, and suddenly hides securely in the grass when but a few feet from me.
G. Emerson says the sweetbrier was doubt less introduced, yet according to Bancroft, Gosnold found it on the Elizabeth Isles.
July 6, 1859. . . . p. m. To Lee's Cliff. . . . The heart-leaf flower is now very conspicuous and pretty in that pool westerly of the old Conantum house. Its little, white, five-petalled flower, about the size of a five-cent piece, looks like a little white lily. Its perfectly heart-shaped floating leaf, an inch or more long, is the smallest kind of pad. There is a single pad to each slender stem which is from one to several feet long in proportion to the depth of the water, and these padlets cover sometimes, like an imbrication, the whole surface of a pool. Close underneath each leaf or pad is concealed an umbel of from ten to fifteen flower buds of various sizes, and of these, one at a time (and sometimes more) curls upward between the lobes of the base and expands its corolla to the light and air, about half an inch above the water, and so on successively till all have flowered. Over the whole surface of the shallow pool you see thus each little pad with its pretty lily between its lobes turned toward the sun. It is simply leaf and flower.
July 7, 1840. I have experienced such simple joy in the trivial matters of fishing and sporting formerly as might inspire the muse of Homer or Shakespeare. And now when I turn over the pages and ponder the plates of the "Angler's Souvenir," I exclaim with the poet,
"Can these things be, and overcome us like A summer's cloud?"
When I hear a sudden burst from a horn, I am startled, as if one had provoked such wildness as he could not rule nor tame. He dares make the echoes which he cannot put to rest.
July 7, 1851. The intimations of the night are divine, methinks. Men might meet in the morning and report the news of the night, what divine suggestions have been made to them. I find that I carry with me into the day often some such hint derived from the gods, such impulses to purity, to heroism, to literary effort, even, as are never day-born.
One of those mornings which usher in no day, but rather an endless morning, a protracted auroral season, for clouds prolong the twilight the livelong day.
Now that there is an interregnum in the blossoming of the flowers, so is there in the singing of the birds. The golden robin, the bobolink, etc., are rarely heard.
I rejoice when in a dream I have loved virtue and nobleness.
Where is Grecian History? Is it when in the morning I recall the intimations of the night?
The moon is now more than half full. When I come through the village at ten o'clock this cold night, cold as in May, the heavy shadows of the elms, covering the ground with their rich tracery, impress me as if men had got so much more than they bargained for,—not only trees to stand in the air, but to checker the ground with their shadows. At night they lie along the earth. They tower, they arch, they droop over the streets like chandeliers of darkness.
With a certain wariness, but not without a slight shudder at the danger oftentimes, I perceive how near I had come to admitting into my mind the details of some trivial affair, as a case at court, and I am astonished to observe how willing; men are to lumber their minds with such rubbish, to permit idle rumors, tales, incidents, even of an insignificant kind, to intrude upon what should be the sacred ground of the thoughts. Shall the temple of our thoughts be a public arena where the most trivial affair of the market and the gossip of the tea-table is discussed, a dusty, noisy, trivial place? or shall it be a quarter of the heavens itself, consecrated to the service of the gods, a hypaethral temple? I find it so difficult to dispose of the few facts which to me are significant, that I hesitate to burden my mind with the most insignificant, which only a divine mind can illustrate. Such is, for the most part, the news in newspapers and conversation. It is important to preserve the mind's chastity in this respect. Think of admitting the details of a single case at the criminal court into the mind to stalk profanely through its very sanctum sanctorum for an hour,—aye, for many hours; to make a very bar-room of your mind's inmost apartment, as if for a moment the dust of the street had occupied you,—aye, the very street itself, with all its travel, had poured through your very mind of minds, your thought s shrine, with all its filth and bustle. Would it not be an intellectual suicide? By all manner of boards and traps threatening the extreme penalty of the divine law, excluding trespassers from these grounds, it behoves us to preserve the purity and sanctity of the mind. It is so hard to forget what it is Worse than useless to remember. If I am to be a channel or thoroughfare, I prefer that it be of the mountain brooks, the Parnassian streams, and not of the city sewers. There is inspiration, the divine gossip which comes to the attentive mind from the Courts of Heaven, there is the profane and stale revelation of the bar-room and the police court. The same ear is fitted to receive both communications. Only the character of the individual determines to which source chiefly it shall be open, and to which closed. I believe that the mind can be profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality. They shall be dusty as stones in the street. Our very minds shall be paved and macadamized, their foundation broken into fragments for the wheels of travel to roll over. If you would know what will make the most durable pavements, surpassing rolled stones, spruce blocks, and asphaltum, you have only to look into some mens' minds. If we have thus desecrated ourselves, the remedy will be by circumspection and wariness, by aspiration and devotion to consecrate ourselves, to make a fane of the mind. I think we should treat our minds as innocent and ingenuous children whose guardians we are, be careful what objects and what subjects are thrust on their attention. I think even the facts of science may dust them by their dryness, unless they are in a sense effaced each morning, or rather rendered fertile by the dews of fresh and living truth. Every thought which passes through the mind helps to wear and tear it, and to deepen the ruts, which, as in the streets of Pompeii, evince how much it has been used. How many things there are concerning which we might well deliberate whether we had better know them. Routine, conventionality, manners, etc.; how insensibly an undue attention to these dissipates and impoverishes the mind, robs it of its simplicity and strength, emasculates it.
Knowledge does not come to us by details, but by lieferungs from the gods.
Only thought which is expressed by the mind in repose, or, as it were, lying on its back and contemplating the heavens, is adequately and fully expressed. What are sidelong, transient, passing half views? The writer expressing his thoughts must be as well seated as the astronomer contemplating the heavens. He must not occupy a constrained position. The facts, the experience we are well poised upon! which secure our whole attention!
The senses of children are unprofaned. Their whole body is one sense, they take a physical pleasure in riding on a rail. So does the unviolated, the unsophisticated mind derive an inexpressible pleasure from the simplest exercise of thought.
I can express adequately only the thought which I love to express.
All the faculties in repose but the one you are using, the whole energy concentrated in that. Be so little distracted, your thoughts so little confused, your engagements so few, your attention so free, your existence so mundane, that in all places and in all hours you can hear the sound of crickets in those seasons when they are to be heard. It is a mark of serenity and health of mind when a person hears this sound much in streets of cities as well as in fields. Some ears can never hear this sound; are called deaf. Is it not because they have so long attended to other sounds?
July 7, 1852. 4 a. m. The first (?) really foggy morning. Yet before I rise, I hear the song of birds from out it like the bursting of its bubbles with music. . . . Their song gilds thus the frost work of the morning. . . . I came near waking this morning. I am older than last year. The mornings are further between. The days are fewer. Any excess, to have drunk too much water even the day before, is fatal to the morning's clarity. But in health, the sound of a cowbell is celestial music. O might I always wake to thought and poetry, regenerated! Can it be called a morning, if our senses are not clarified so that we perceive more clearly? if we do not rise with elastic vigor?
How wholesome these fogs which some fear. They are cool, medicated vapor baths mingled by Nature, which bring to our senses all the medical properties of the meadows; the touchstones of health. Sleep with all your windows open, and let the mist embrace you.
To the Cliffs. The fog condenses into fountains and streams of music, as in the strain of the bobolink which I hear, and runs off so. The music of the birds is the tinkling of the rills that flow from it. I cannot see twenty rods. . . .
There is everywhere dew on the cobwebs, little gossamer veils or scarfs as big as your hand dropped from the shoulders of fairies that danced on the grass the past night. . . . The to me beautiful rose-colored spikes of the hardback, Spirœa tomentosa; one is out.—I think it was this thin vapor that produced a kind of mirage when I looked over the meadow from the railroad last night toward Trillium wood, giving to the level meadow a certain liquid, sea-like look. Now the heads of herd's grass, seen through the dispersing fog, look like an ocean of grass.
6 p. m. To Hubbard's Bathing Place. Pogonias are still abundant in the meadows, but arethusas I have not lately seen. . . . The blue-eyed grass shuts up before sunset. . . . The very handsome "pink-purple" flowers of the Calopogon! pulchellus enrich the grass all around the edge of Hubbard's blueberry swamp, and are now in their prime. The Arethusa bulbosa, "crystalline purple," Pogonia ophioglassoides, snake-mouthed [tongued] arethusa, "pale purple," and the Calopogon pulchellus, grass pink, "pink-purple," make one family in my mind (next to the purple orchis, or with it), being flowers par excellence, all flower, naked flowers, and difficult, at least the calopogon, to preserve. But they are flowers, excepting the first, at least, without a name. Pogonia! Calopogon!! They would blush still deeper if they knew what names man had given them. The first and the last interest me most, for the pogonia has a strong, snaky odor. The first may perhaps retain its name, arethusa, from the places in which it grows, and the other two deserve the names of nymphs, perhaps of the class called Naiades. How would the Naiad Ægle do for one? . . . To be sure, in a perfect flower, there will be proportion between the flowers and leaves, but these are fair and delicate, nymph-like. . . . When the yellow lily flowers in the meadows, and the red in dry lands and by wood-paths, then, methinks, the flowering season has reached its height. They surprise me as perhaps no more can. Now I am prepared for anything.
July 7, 1857. . . . Some of the inhabitants of the Cape think that the Cape is theirs, and all occupied by them, but, in my eyes, it is no more theirs than it is the blackbirds', and in visiting the Cape there is hardly more need of my regarding or going through the villages than of going through the blackbirds' nests. I leave them both on one side, or perchance I just glance into them to see how they are built and what they contain. I know that they have spoken for the whole Cape, and lines are drawn on the maps accordingly, but I know that these are imaginary, having perambulated many such, and they would have to get me or one of my craft to find them for them. For the most part, indeed with very trifling exceptions, there were no human beings there, only a few imaginary lines on a map.
July 8, 1838.
CLIFFS. The loudest sound that burdens here the breeze Is the wood's whisper; 't is when we choose to list, Audible sound, and when we list not, It is calm profound. Tongues were provided But to vex the ear with superficial thoughts. When deeper thoughts up swell, the jarring discord Of harsh speech is hushed, and senses seem As little as may be to share the ecstasy.
July 8, 1840. Doubt and falsehood are yet good preachers. They affirm soundly while they deny partially. I am pleased to learn that Thales was up and stirring by night not unfrequently, as his astronomical discoveries prove.
It was a saying of Solon that "it is necessary to observe a medium in all things." The golden mean in ethics as in physics is the centre of the system, that about which all revolve, and though to a distant and plodding planet it is the uttermost extreme, yet when that planet's year is complete, it will be found central. They who are alarmed lest virtue run into extreme good have not yet wholly embraced her, but described only a small arc about her, and from so small a curvature you can calculate no centre whatever. Their mean is no better than meanness, nor their medium than mediocrity. If a brave man observes strictly this golden mean, he may run through all extremes with impunity, like the sun which now appears in the zenith, now in the horizon, and again is faintly reflected from the moon s disk, and has the credit of describing an entire great circle, crossing the equinoctial and solstitial colures, without detriment to his steadfastness.
Every planet asserts its own to be the centre of the system.
Only meanness is mediocre, moderate; the true medium is not contained within any bounds, but is as wide as the ends it connects.
When Solon endeavored to prove that Salainis had formerly belonged to the Athenians, and not to the Megarians, he caused the tombs to be opened, and showed that the inhabitants of Salamis turned the faces of their dead to the same side with the Athenians, but the Megarians to the opposite side. So does each fact bear witness to all, and the history of all the past may be read in a single grain of its ashes.
July 8, 1851. . . . I am struck by the cool, juicy, pickled-cucumber green of the potato-fields now. How lusty these vines look. The pasture naturally exhibits at this season no such living green as the cultivated fields. . . . Here are mulleins covering a field where three years ago none were noticeable, but a smooth, uninterrupted pasture sod. Two years ago it was ploughed for the first time for many years, and millet and corn and potatoes planted. Now, where the millet grew, these mulleins have sprung up. Who can write the history of these fields? The millet does not perpetuate itself, but the few seeds of the mullein which perchance were brought here with it are still multiplying the race. . . .
Here are some rich rye-fields waving over all the land, their heads nodding in the evening breeze, with an apparently alternating motion, i. e., they do not all bend at once, by ranks, but separately, and hence this agreeable alternation. How rich a sight this cereal fruit, now yellow for the cradle, flavus. It is an impenetrable phalanx. I walk for half a mile, looking in vain for an opening. . . . This is food for man. The earth labors not in vain. It is bearing its burden. The yellow, waving, rustling rye extends far up and over the hills on either side, a kind of pinafore to Nature, leaving only a narrow and dark passage at the bottom of a deep ravine. How rankly it has grown! How it hastes to maturity! I discover that there is such a goddess as Ceres. . . . The small trees and shrubs seen dimly in its midst are overwhelmed by the grain as by an inundation. They are seen only as indistinct forms of bushes and green leaves, mixed with the yellow stalks. There are certain crops which give me the idea of bounty, of the Alma Natura. They are the grains. Potatoes do not so fill the lap of earth. This rye excludes everything else, and takes possession of the soil. The farmer says, next year I will raise a crop of rye, and he proceeds to clear away the brush, and either ploughs it, or, if it is too uneven or stony, burns and harrows it only and scatters the seed with faith. And all winter the earth keeps his secret, unless it did leak out somewhat in the fall, and in the spring this early green on the hillsides betrays him. When I see this luxuriant crop spreading far and wide, in spite of rock and bushes and unevenness of ground, I cannot help thinking that it must have been unexpected by the farmer himself, and regarded by him as a lucky accident for which to thank fortune. This to reward a transient faith the gods had given.
July 8, 1852. p. m. Down river in boat to the Holt. . . . It is perhaps the warmest day yet. We held on to the abutments under the Red Bridge to cool ourselves in the shade. No better place in hot weather, the river rippling away beneath you, and the air rippling through between the abutments, if only in sympathy with the river, while the planks afford a shade, and you hear all the travel and the travelers' talk without being seen or suspected. . . . There is generally a current of air circulating over water, always, methinks, if the water runs swiftly, as if it put the air in motion. There is quite a breeze here this sultry day. Commend me to the subpontean, the under-bridge life.
I am inclined to think bathing almost one of the necessaries of life, but it is surprising how indifferent some are to it. What a coarse, foul, busy life we lead compared even with the South Sea Islanders in some respects. Truant boys steal away to bathe, but the farmers, who most need it, rarely dip their bodies into the streams or ponds. M——— was telling me last night that he had thought of bathing when he had done his hoeing, of taking some soap and going down to Walden, and giving himself a good scrubbing, but something had occurred to prevent, and now he will go unwashed to the harvesting, aye, even till the next hoeing is over. Better the faith and practice of the Hindoos, who worship the sacred Ganges. We have not faith enough in the Musketaquid to wash in it even after hoeing. Men stay on shore, keep themselves dry, and drink rum. Pray what were rivers made for? One farmer, who came to bathe in Walden one Sunday while I lived there, told me it was the first bath he had had for fifteen years. Now what kind of religion could his be? or was it any better than a Hindoo's?
July 8, 1853. . . . Toads are still heard occasionally at evening. To-day I heard a hylodecipeep (^perhaps a young one), which have so long been silent.
July 8, 1854. Full moon. By boat to Hubbard's Bend. There is wind, making it cooler and keeping off fog. Delicious on water. The moon reflected from the rippled surface like a stream of dollars. I hear a few toads still. . . . The bull-frogs trump from time to time. . . . The whippoorwills are heard, and the baying of dogs.
The Rosa nitida, I think, has some time done; lucida generally now ceasing, and the Carolina (?) just begun.
July 8, 1857. . . . Counted the rings of a white-pine stump sawed off last winter at Laurel Glen. It is three and a half feet in diameter and has one hundred and twenty-six rings.
July 9, 1840. In most men s religion the ligature which should be the umbilical cord connecting them with the source of life is rather like that thread which the accomplices of Cylon held in their hands when they went abroad from the temple of Minerva, the other end being attached to the statue of the goddess. Frequently, as in their case, the thread breaks, being stretched, and they are left without an asylum.
The value of many traits in Grecian history depends not so much on their importance as history, as on the readiness with which they accept a wide interpretation, and illustrate the poetry and ethics of mankind. When they announce no particular truth, they are yet central to all truth. . . . Even the isolated and unexplained facts are like the ruins of the temples which in imagination we restore, and ascribe to some Phidias or other master.
The Greeks were boys in the sunshine; the Romans were men in the field; the Persians, women in the house; the Egyptians, old men in the dark.
He who receives an injury is an accomplice of the wrong-doer.
July 9, 1851. When I got out of the cars at Porter's, Cambridge, this morning, I was pleased to see the handsome blue flowers of the succory or endive, Cichorium intybus, which reminded me that within the hour I had been whirled into a new botanical region. They must be extremely rare, if they occur at all in Concord. This weed is handsomer than most garden flowers. . . .
Coming out of town willingly as usual, when I saw that reach of Charles River just above the Depot, the fair, still water this cloudy evening suggesting the way to eternal peace and beauty, whence it flows, the placid, lake-like fresh water so unlike the salt brine, affected me not a little. I was reminded of the way in which Wordsworth so coldly speaks of some natural visions or scenes "giving him pleasure." This is perhaps the first vision of elysium on the route from Boston. And just then I saw an encampment of Penobscots, their wigwams appearing above, the railroad fence, they, too, looking up the river as they sat on the ground, and enjoying the scene. What can be more impressive than to look up a noble river just at evening,—one, perchance, which you have never explored,—and behold its placid waters, reflecting the woods and sky, lapsing inaudibly toward the ocean, to behold it as a lake, but know it as a river, tempting the beholder to explore it and his own destiny at once, haunt of water-fowl. This was above the factories, all that I saw. That water could never have flowed under a factory. How then could it have reflected the sky?