June 25, 1840. Let me see no other conflict but with prosperity. If my path run on before me level and smooth, it is all a mirage. In reality it is steep and arduous as a chamois pass. I will not let the years roll over me like a Juggernaut car.
We will warm us at each other s fire. Friendship is not such a cold refining process as a double sieve, but a glowing furnace in which all impurities are consumed. Men have learned to touch before they scrutinize, to shake hands and not to stare.
June 25, 1852. Just as the sun was rising this morning under clouds, I saw a rainbow in the western horizon, the lower parts quite bright.
"Rainbow in the morning Sailors take warning, Rainbow at night Sailors delight."
A few moments after, it rained heavily and continued to do so for half an hour, and it has continued cloudy as well as cool most of the clay.
I observe that young birds are usually of a duller color and more speckled than old ones, as if for their protection in their tender state. They have not yet the markings and the beauty which distinguish their species, and which betray it often, but by their color are merged in the variety of colors of the season.
To Cliffs. 4 p. m. It is cool and cloudy weather in which the crickets still heard remind you of the fall, a clearer ring to their creak. Also the prunella, cool in the grass, and the Johnswort make you think it late in the year. Maruta cotula or Mayweed. Why so named? Just begins, with its strong-scented leaf. It has taken up its position by the roadside close to the ruts–in bad taste. . . .
The bobolink and golden robin are occasionally heard now-a-days.
The Convolvulus sepium, bind-weed. Morning glory is the best now. It always refreshes me to see it. . . . "In the morning and cloudy weather," says Gray. I associate it with holiest morning hours. It may preside over my morning walks and thoughts. There is a flower for every mood of the mind.
Methinks roses oftenest display their bright colors which invariably attract all eyes and betray them, against a dark ground, as the dark green or the shady recesses of other bushes and copses, where they show to best advantage. Their enemies do not spare the open flower for an hour. Hence, if for no other reason, their buds are most beautiful. Their promise of perfect and dazzling beauty, when their buds are just beginning to expand, beauty which they can hardly contain, as in most youths, commonly surpasses the fulfillment of their expanded flowers. The color shows fairest and brightest in the bud. The expanded flower has no higher or deeper tint than the swelling bud exposed. This raised a dangerous expectation. The season when wild roses are in bloom should have some preeminence, I think.
Linaria vulgaris, butter-and-eggs, toad-flax, on Fair Haven. Was seen the 19th. It is rather rich colored, with a not disagreeable scent. It is called a troublesome weed. Flowers must not be too profuse and obtrusive, else they acquire the reputation of weeds. It grows almost like a cotton-grass so above and distinct from its leaves, in wandering patches higher and higher up the side of the hill.
One man lies in his words and gets a bad reputation, another in his manners, and enjoys a good one.
The air is clear as if a cool, dewy brush had swept the meadows of all haze. A liquid coolness invests them, as if their midnight aspect were suddenly revealed to midday. The mountain outline is remarkably distinct and the intermediate earth appears more than usually scooped out like a vast saucer sloping upward to its sharp mountain rim. The mountains are washed in air. The sunshine now seen far away on fields and hills in the northwest looks cool and wholesome like the yellow grass in the meadows. I am too late for the white-pine flowers. The cones are half an inch long and green, and the male flowers effete. The sun now comes out bright, though westering, and shines on Fair Haven, which, rippled by the wind, is of an unusual clay-muddy color. . . . There are little recesses a rod or two square in bosky woods which have not grown fast, where a fine wiry grass invites to lie down in the shade, under the shrub-oaks on the edge of the, well-meadow-head field.
8.30 p. m. To Conantum. Moon half full. Fields dusky. The evening star and one other bright one near the moon. It is a cool, but pretty still night. Methinks I am less thoughtful than I was last year at this time. The flute I now hear from the Depot field does not find such caverns to echo and resound in within me, no such answering depths. Our minds should echo at least as many times as a mammoth cave to every musical sound. It should awaken reflections in us.
Now his day's work is done, the laborer plays his flute, only possible at this hour. Contrasted with his work, what an accomplishment! Some drink and gamble. He plays some well-known march. But the music is not in the tune; it is in the sound. It does not proceed from the trading nor the political world. He practices this ancient art. . . .
I hear the bull-frog's trump from far. Now I turn down the Corner road. At this quiet hour the evening wind is heard to moan in the hollows of your face, mysterious, spirit-like, conversing with you. . . . The whippoorwill sings. I hear a laborer going home coarsely singing to himself. Though he has scarcely had a thought all day, killing weeds, at this hour he sings or talks to himself. His humble, earthly contentment gets expression. It is kindred in its origin with the notes or music of many creatures. A more fit and natural expression of his mood this humming than conversation is wont to be.–The fire-flies appear to be flying, though they may be stationary on the grass stems, for their perch and the nearness of the ground are obscured by the darkness, and now you see one here and then another there, as if it were one in motion. Their light is singularly bright and glowing to proceed from a living creature. Nature loves variety in all things, and so she adds glow-worms to fireflies, though I have not noticed any this year.–The great story of the night is the moon's adventures with the clouds. What innumerable encounters she has had with them! When I enter on the moonlit causeway where the light is reflected from the glistening alder leaves, and their deep, dark, liquid shade beneath strictly bounds the firm, damp road and narrows it, it seems like autumn. The rows of willows completely fence the way, and appear to converge in perspective as I had not noticed by day.–The bull-frogs are of various tones. Some horse in a distant pasture whinnies. Dogs bark. There is that dull dumping sound of frogs, as if a bubble containing the lifeless, sultry air of day burst on the surface, a belching sound. When two or more bull-frogs trump together, it is a ten-pound-ten note.–In Conant's meadow I hear the gurgling of unwearied water, the trill of a toad, and go through the cool, primordial, liquid air that has settled there. As I sit on the great door step, the loose clapboards on the old house rattle in the wind weirdly, and I seem to hear some wild mice running about on the floor, sometimes a loud crack from some weary timber trying to change its position. How distant day and its associations! The night wind comes cold and whispering, murmuring weirdly from distant mountain tops. No need to climb the Andes or Himalayas; for brows of lowest hills are highest mountain tops in cool, moonlight nights. Is it a cuckoo s chuckling note I heard? Occasionally there is something enormous and monstrous in the size and distance of objects. A rock is it, or an elephant asleep? Are these trees on an upland or a lowland, or do they skirt a sea beach? When I get there, shall I look off on the sea?–The white weed is the only obvious flower. I see the tops of the rye wave, and grain fields are more interesting than by day. The water is dull-colored, hardly more light than a rye field.
You may not suspect that the milk of the cocoanut, which is imported from the other side of the world, is mixed. So pure do some truths come to us, I trust.
What a mean and wretched creature is man. By and by some Dr. Morton may be filling your cranium with white mustard-seed to learn its internal capacity. Of all ways invented to come at a knowledge of a living man, this seems to me the worst, as it is the most belated. You would learn more by once paring the nails of the living subject. There is nothing out of which the spirit has more completely departed, and in which it has left fewer significant traces.
June 25, 1853. p. m. To Assabet bathing-place. Found an unusual quantity of Amelanchier berries. I think of the two common kinds, one a taller bush twice as high as my head, with thinner and lighter colored leaves, and larger, or at least somewhat softer, fruit, the other, a shorter bush, with more rigid and darker leaves, and dark, blue berries, with often a sort of wooliness on them. Both these are now in their prime. These are the first berries after strawberries, or the first and, I think, the sweetest bush berries, somewhat like high blueberries, but not so hard. Much eaten by insects, worms, etc., as big as the largest blueberries or peas. These are the "service berries" which the Indians of the north and the Canadians use "la poire" of the latter. They, by a little, precede the early blueberry (though H——— brought two quarts of the last, day before yesterday), being now in their prime, while blueberries are but just beginning. I never saw nearly so many before. It is a very agreeable surprise. I hear the cherry-birds and others about me, no doubt attracted by this fruit. It is owing to some peculiarity of the season that they bear fruit. I have picked a quart of them for a pudding. I felt all the while I was picking them, in the low, light, waving, shrubby wood they make, as if I were in a foreign country. Several old farmers say, "Well, though I have lived seventy years, I never saw nor heard of them." I think them a delicious berry. No doubt they require only to be more abundant every year to be appreciated.
I think it must be the purple finch with the crimson head and shoulders which I see and hear singing so sweetly and variedly in the garden once or twice to-day. It sits on a bean pole or fence pick, It has a little of the martin warble and of the canary bird.
June 25, 1854. A green bittern apparently, awkwardly alighting on the trees, and uttering its hoarse zarry note, zskeow – xskeow – xskeow.
Through June the song of the birds is gradually growing fainter.
June 25, 1858. p. m. To Conantum.–Sitting on the Conantum House sill still left, I see two and perhaps three young striped squirrels, two thirds grown, within fifteen or twenty feet, one or more on the wall, another on the ground. Their tails are rather imperfect as well as their bodies. They are running about, yet rather feebly, nibbling the grass, etc., or sitting upright, looking very cunning. The broad, white line above and below the eye make it look very long as well as large, and the black and white stripe on its sides, curved as it sits, are very conspicuous and pretty. Who striped the squirrel's side? Several times I saw two approach each other, and playfully, and as it were affectionately, put their paws and noses to each other's faces. This was done very deliberately. There was no rudeness nor excessive activity in the sport. At length the old one appears, larger and much more bluish. She is shy, and with a sharp cluck or chip calls the others gradually to her, and draws them off along the wall, they from time to time frisking ahead of her, then she ahead of them. The hawks must get many of these inexperienced creatures.
June 26, 1840. The best poetry has never been written, for when it might have been, the poet forgot it, and when it was too late, remembered it.
The highest condition of art is artlessness.
Truth is always paradoxical.
He will get to the goal first who stands stillest.
By sufferance you may escape suffering.
He who resists not at all will never surrender.
When a dog runs at you, whistle for him.
Say "Not so," and you will outcircle the philosophers.
Stand outside the wall, and no harm can reach you; the danger is that you be walled in with it.
June 26, 1851.–Visited a menagerie this afternoon. I am always surprised to see the same spots and stripes on wild beasts from Africa and Asia, and also from South America, on the Brazilian tiger and the African leopard, and their general similarity. All these wild animals, lions, tigers, chetas, leopards, etc., have one hue, tawny commonly, and spotted or striped, what you may call pard color, a color and marking which I had not associated with America. These are wild animals (beasts). What constitutes the difference between a wild beast and a tame one? How much more human the one than the other! Growling, scratching, roaring, with whatever beauty and gracefulness, still untamable, this royal Bengal tiger or the leopard. They have the character and the importance of another order of men. The majestic lion, the king of beasts, he must retain his title.
I was struck by the gem-like, changeable, greenish reflections from the eyes of the grizzly bear, so glassy that you never saw the surface of the eye. They are quite demonic. Its claws, though extremely large and long, look weak and made for digging or pawing the earth and leaves. It is unavoidable, the idea of transmigration; not merely a fancy of the poets, but an instinct of the race.
June 26, 1852. I have not put darkness, duskiness enough into my night and moonlight walks. Every sentence should contain some twilight or night. At least the light in it should be the yellow or creamy light of the moon, or the fine beams of stars, and not the white light of day. The peculiar dusky serenity of the sentences must not allow the reader to forget that it is evening or night, without my saying that it is dark. Otherwise he will, of course, presume a daylight atmosphere.
The earliest water surfaces, as I remember, as soon as the ice is melted, present as fair and matured scenes, as soft and warm, reflecting the sky through the clear atmosphere, as in midsummer, far in advance of the earth. The earliest promise of the summer, is it not in the smooth reflecting surface of woodland lakes in which the ice is just melted? Those liquid eyes of Nature, blue, or black, or even hazel, deep or shallow, clear or turbid, green next the shore, the color of their iris.
p. m. By boat up the Assabet.
The Nymphœa odorata, sweet water lily, pond lily, in bloom. A superb flower, our lotus, queen of the waters. Now is the solstice in still waters. How sweet, innocent, wholesome its fragrance, how pure its white petals, though its root is in the mud. It must answer in my mind for what the orientals say of the lotus flower. Probably the first a day or two since. To-morrow, then, will be the first Sabbath when the young men, having bathed, will walk slowly and soberly to church, in their best clothes, each with a lily in his hand or bosom, with as long a stem as he could get. At least I used to see them go by and come into church, when I used to go myself, smelling a pond lily, so that the flower is to some extent associated with bathing on Sabbath mornings and going to church, its odor contrasting with and atoning for that of the sermon. We have roses on the land and lilies on the water. Both land and water have done their best, now just after the longest day. Nature says, You behold the utmost I can do. And the young women carry their finest roses on the other hand. Roses and lilies. The floral days. The red rose, with the intense color of many suns concentrated, spreads its tender petals perfectly fair, its flower not to be overlooked, modest, yet queenly, on the edges of shady copses and meadows, against its green leaves, surrounded by blushing buds, of perfect form, not only beautiful, but rightfully commanding attention, unspoiled by the admiration of gazers. And the water lily floats on the surface of slow waters, amid rounded shields of leaves, bucklers red beneath, which simulate a green field, perfuming the air. Each instantly the prey of the spoiler, the rose-bug and water insects. How transitory the perfect beauty of the rose and the lily. The highest, intensest color belongs to the land; the purest, perchance, to the water. The lily is perhaps the only flower which all are eager to pluck. It may be partly because of its inaccessibility to most. The farmers sons will frequently collect every bud that shows itself above the surface within half a mile. They are so infested by insects, and it is so rare you get a perfect one which has opened itself (though these only are perfect), that the buds are commonly plucked and opened by hand. I have a faint recollection of pleasure derived from smoking dried lily stems, before I was a man. I had commonly a supply of these. I have never smoked anything more noxious. I used to amuse myself with making the yellow, drooping stamens rise and fall by blowing through the pores of the long stem.
I see the nests of the bream, each with its occupant, scooped out in the sunny water, and partly shaded by the leaves of the limnanthemum or floating heart now in blossom and the Potamogeton natans, or pondweed.–Under the cool, glossy green leaves of small swamp white oaks, and leaning against their scaly bark near the water, you see the wild roses five or six feet high looking forth from the shade, but almost every bush and copse near the river or in low land which you approach these days, emits the noisome odor of the carrion-flower, so that you would think that all the dead dogs had drifted to that shore. All things, both beautiful and ugly, agreeable and offensive, are expressed in flowers, all kinds and degrees of beauty, and all kinds of foulness. For what purpose has Nature made a flower to fill the low lands with the odor of carrion. Just so much beauty and virtue as there is in the world, and just so much ugliness and vice, you see expressed in flowers. Each human being has his flower which expresses his character. In them nothing is concealed, but everything published. Many a villager whose garden bounds on the river, when he approaches the willows and cornels by the river's edge, thinks that some carrion has lodged on his shore, when it is only the carrion-flower he smells. . . .
All shadows or shadowlets on the sandy bottom of the river are interesting. All are circular, almost lenticular, for they appear to have thickness. Even the shadows of grass blades are broken into several separate circles of shade. Such is the fabulous or Protean character of the water light. A skater insect casts seven flat or lenticular shades, four smaller in front, two larger behind, and the smallest of all in the centre. From the shadow on the bottom you cannot guess the form on the surface. Everything is transmuted by the water. The shadow, however small, is black within, edged with a sunny halo, corresponding to the day s twilight, and a certain liquidness is imparted to the whole by the incessant motion from the undulation of the surface. The oblong leaves of the Potamogeton hybridus (?) now in seed, make a circular shadow also, somewhat coin-like, a halo produced by the thick atmosphere which the water is. These bright, sparkling brook and river bottoms are the true gold washings, where the stream has washed the pebbly earth so long.
It is pleasant to walk in sproutlands now in June; there is so much light reflected from the underside of the new foliage. The rich meadows, too, reflect much of the bluish light from the bent grass. We land on the south side opposite Barrett's.—There are some interesting, retired natural meadows here, concealed by the woods near the river bank, which are never cut, long, narrow, and winding, full of a kind of stiff, dry, cut grass and tender meadow-sweet and occasional cranberry patches now in bloom, with a high border, almost as high as the meadows are wide, of maples, birches, swamp white oaks, alders, etc. The flashing, silvery light from the under-sides of the maple leaves, high, rippling, washing towers far and near,—this cool, refreshing, breezy, flashing light is very memorable. When you think you have reached the end of such a winding meadow, you pass between two alders where the copses meet, and emerge into another meadow beyond. I suppose that these meadows are as nearly in their primitive state as any that we see. So this country looked, in one of its aspects, a thousand years ago. What difference to the meadow-sweet, or the swamp white oak, or to the silver flashing maple leaves a thousand years ago or to-day! . . . The prevalence of the meadow-sweet at least distinguishes these meadows from the ordinary ones.
Forded the river with our clothes on our heads. The rounded heaps of stones, whether made by the suckers or lamprey-eels, are among the curiosities of the river. From the sand bank we looked at the arched bridge while a traveler, in a simple carriage with a single pair of wheels, went over it. It interested me because the stratum of earth beneath him was so thin that he appeared quite in the air. While he sat with his elbows on his knees entertaining all earthly thoughts, or thoughtless, we looked directly beneath him through much air to a fair and distant landscape beyond. C——— says that is what men go to Italy to see. I love to see the firm earth mingled with the sky, like the spray of the sea tossed up. Is there not always, wherever an arch is constructed, a latent reference to its beauty. The arch supports itself like the stars, by gravity. "Semper cadendo nunquam cadit." By always falling it never falls.
June 26, 1853. At Cliffs. The air warmer, but wonderfully clear after the hail-storm. I do not remember when I have seen it more clear. The mountains and horizon outlines on all sides are distinct and near. Nobscot has lost all its blue, is only a more distant hill-pasture, and the northwest mountains are too terrestrial a blue and too firmly defined to be mistaken for clouds. Billerica is as near as Bedford commonly. I see new spires far in the south, and on every side the horizon is extended many miles. It expands me to look so much farther over the rolling surface of the earth. Where I had seen or fancied only a hazy forest outline, I see successive swelling hills and remote towns. So often to the luxurious and hazy summer in our minds, when, like Fletcher's "Martyrs in Heaven," we,
"estranged from all misery As far as Heaven and Earth discoasted lie, Swelter in quiet waves of immortality,"
some great chagrin succeeds, some chilling cloud comes over. But when it is gone, we are surprised to find that it has cleared the air, summer returns without its haze, we see infinitely farther into the horizon on every side, and the boundaries of the world are enlarged.
A beautiful sunset about half-past seven; just clouds enough in the west (we are on Fair Haven hill); they arrange themselves about the western gate. And now the sun sinks out of sight just on the north side of Watatic, and the mountains north and south are at once a dark indigo blue, for they had been darkening an hour or more. Two small clouds are left on the horizon between Watatic and Monadnock, their sierra edges all on fire. Three minutes after the sun is gone, there is a bright and memorable afterglow in his path, and a brighter and more glorious light falls on the clouds above the portal. His car borne farther round brings us into the angle of excidence. Those little sierra clouds look like two castles on fire, and I see the fire through the windows. The low western horizon glows now, five or six minutes after sunset, with a delicate salmon color tinged with rose, deepest where the sun disappeared, and fading off upward. North and south are deep blue cloud islands in it. When I invert my head those delicate salmon-colored clouds look like a celestial Sahara, sloping gently upward, a plane inclined upward, to be traveled by caravans bound heavenward, with blue oases in it.
June 26, 1856. [New Bedford.] Rode to Sconticut Neck or Point, in Fair Haven, five or six miles. . . . Heard of and sought out the hut of Martha Simons, the only pure-blooded Indian left about New Bedford. She lives alone on the narrowest part of the Neck, near the shore, in sight of New Bedford. Her hut stands some twenty-five rods from the road on a small tract of Indian land, now wholly hers. It was formerly exchanged by a white man for some better land, then occupied by Indians at Westport, which he wanted. So said a Quaker minister, her neighbor. The squaw was not at home when we first called. It was a little hut, not so big as mine. No garden, only some lettuce amid the thin grass in front, and a great pile of clam and quahog shells one side. Ere long she came from the seaside and we called again. We knocked and walked in, and she asked us to sit down. She had half an acre of the real tawny Indian face, broad with high cheek bones, black eyes, and straight hair, originally black, but now a little gray, parted in the middle. Her hands were several shades darker than her face. She had a peculiarly vacant expression, perhaps characteristic of the Indian, and answered our questions listlessly, without being interested or implicated, mostly in monosyllables, as if hardly present there. To judge from her physiognomy, she might have been King Philip's own daughter. Yet she could not speak a word of Indian, and knew nothing of her race, said she had lived with the whites, gone out to service to them when seven years old. Had lived part of her life at Squaw Betty's Neck, Assawanipsett Pond. . . . She said she was sixty years old, but was probably nearer seventy. She sat with her elbows on her knees and her face in her hands, and that peculiar vacant stare, perhaps looking out the window between us, not repelling us in the least, but perfectly indifferent to our presence. She was bom on that spot. Her grandfather also lived on the same spot, though not in the same house. He was the last of her race who could speak Indian. She had heard him pray in Indian, but could only understand "Jesus Christ." Her only companion was a miserable tortoise-shell kitten, which took no notice of us. She had a stone chimney, a small cook ing stove without fore-legs, and set up on bricks within it, and a bed covered with dirty bed clothes. Said she hired out her field as pasture; better for her than to cultivate it. . . . The question she answered with most interest was, "What do you call that plant?" and I reached her the aletris from my hat. She took it, looked at it a moment, and said, "That's husk-root. It's good to put into bitters for a weak stomach." The last year's light-colored and withered leaves surround the present green star like a husk. This must be the origin of the name. Its root is described as intensely bitter. I ought to have had my hat full of plants.
June 27, 1856. [New Bedford.] p. m. Went with R——— and his boys in the steamer Eagle's Wing, with a crowd and band of music, to the northeast end of Naushon . . . some fifteen miles from New Bedford. About two hours going. Saw all the Elizabeth Isles, going and coming. They are mostly bare, except the east end of Naushon. This island is some seven miles long by one to two wide. I had some two and a half hours there. I was surprised to find such a noble, primitive wood, chiefly beech, such as the English poets celebrate, and oak (black oak, I think), large and spreading, like pasture oaks with us, though in a wood. The ground under the beeches was covered with the withered leaves, and peculiarly free from vegetation. On the edge of a swamp I saw great tupelos running up particularly tall, without lower branches, two or three feet in diameter, with a rough, light-colored bark. Saw a common wild grape-vine running over a beech which was apparently flattened out by it, which vine measured at six feet from the ground twenty-three inches in circumference. It was larger below where it had already forked. At five feet from the ground it divided into three great branches. It did not rise directly, but with a great half spiral sweep. . . . No sight could be more primeval. It was partly or chiefly dead. This was in the midst of the woods by a path side. Just beyond we started up two deer.
June 27, 1840. . . . A dull, cloudy day; no sun shining. The clink of the smith's hammer sounds feebly over the roofs, and the wind is sighing gently as if dreaming of cheerfuller days. The farmer is ploughing in yonder field, craftsmen are busy in the shops, the trader stands behind the counter, and all works go steadily forward. But I will have nothing to do, will tell Fortune that I play no game with her, and she may reach me in my Asia of serenity and indolence, if she can.
For an impenetrable shield stand inside yourself.
He was no artist, but an artisan, who first made shields of brass.
Unless we meet religiously, we profane one another. What was the consecrated ground around the temple we have used as no better than a domestic court. Our friend's is as holy a shrine as any God's, to be approached with sacred love and awe. Veneration is the measure of love. Our friend answers ambiguously, and sometimes before the question is propounded, like the oracle of Delphi. He forbears to ask explanation, but doubts and surmises darkly with full faith, as we silently ponder our fates. In no presence are we so susceptible to shame. Our hour is a sabbath; our abode, a temple; our gifts, peace offerings; our conversation, a communion; our silence, a prayer. In profanity we are absent; in holiness, near; in sin, estranged; in innocence, reconciled.
June 27, 1852. p. m. To Bear Hill, Lincoln. The epilobium, spiked willow herb, shows its pale purple spikes (pinkish?). I will set it down to the 20th. Epilobium angustifolium, one of the most conspicuous flowers at this season, on dry, open hillsides in the woods, sproutlands. . . . I still perceive that ambrosial sweetness from the meadows in some places. Give me the strong, rank scent of ferns in the spring for vigor, just blossoming late in the spring. A healthy and refined nature would always derive pleasure from the landscape. As long as the bodily vigor lasts, man sympathizes with Nature.
Looking from Bear Hill I am struck by the yellowish green of meadows, almost like an ingrained sunlight. Perhaps they have that appearance, because the fields generally incline now to a reddish-brown green. The freshness of the year in most fields is already past. The tops of the early grass are white, killed by the worms.
It is somewhat hazy, yet I can just distinguish Monadnock. It is a good way to describe the density of a haze to say how distant a mountain can be distinguished through it, or how near a hill is obscured by it.
Saw a very large white-ash tree, three and a half feet in diameter, . . . which was struck by lightning the 22d. The lightning apparently struck the top of the tree and scorched the bark and leaves for ten or fifteen feet downward, then began to strip off the bark and enter the wood, making a ragged, narrow furrow or crack, till reaching one of the upper limbs it apparently divided, descending on both sides and entering deeper and deeper into the wood. At the first general branching it had got full possession of the tree in its centre, and tossed off the main limbs, butt foremost, making holes in the ground where they struck, and so it went down in the midst of the trunk to the earth, where it apparently exploded, rending the trunk into six segments, whose tops, ten or twenty feet long, were rayed out on every side at an angle of about 30° from a perpendicular, leaving the ground bare directly under where the tree had stood, though they were still fastened to the earth by their roots. The lightning appeared to have gone off through the roots, furrowing them as it had furrowed the branches, and through the earth, making a furrow like a plow, four or five rods in one direction, and in another passing through the cellar of the neighboring house, about thirty feet distant, scorching the tin milk-pans, and throwing dirt into the milk, and coming out the back side of the house in a furrow, splitting some plsnks there. The main body of the tree was completely stripped of bark, which was cast in every direction, two hundred feet, and large pieces of the inside of the tree were hurled, with tremendous force, in various directions,—one into the side of a shed, smashing it, another burying itself in a wood pile. The heart of the tree lay by itself. Probably a piece as large as a man s leg could not have been sawed out of the trunk, which would not have had a crack in it, and much of it was very finely splintered. The windows in the house were broken and the inhabitants knocked down by the concussion. All this was accomplished in an instant by a kind of fire out of the heavens called lightning or a thunderbolt, accompanied by a crashing sound. For what purpose? The ancients called it Jove's bolt, with which he punished the guilty, and we moderns understand it no better. There was displayed a Titanic force, some of that force which made and can unmake the world. The brute forces are not yet wholly tamed. Is this of the character of a wild beast? or is it guided by intelligence and mercy? If we trust our natural impressions, it is a manifestation of brutish force, or vengeance more or less tempered with justice. Yet it is our consciousness of sin probably which suggests the idea of vengeance, and to a righteous man it would be merely sublime without being awful. This is one of those cases in which a man hesitates to refer his safety to his prudence, as the putting up of a lightning-rod. There is no lightning-rod by which the sinner can avert the avenging Nemesis. Though I should put up a rod, if its utility were satisfactorily demonstrated to me, yet, so mixed are we, I should feel myself safe or in danger quite independently of the senseless rod. There is a degree of faith and righteousness in putting up a rod as well as in trusting without one, though the latter, which is the rarer, I feel to be the more effectual rod of the two. It only suggests that impunity in respect to all forms of death or disease, whether sickness or casualty, is only to be attained by moral integrity. It is the faith with which we take medicine that cures us. Otherwise we may be cured into greater disease. In a violent tempest we both fear and trust. We are ashamed of our fear, for we know that a righteous man would not suspect danger, nor incur any. Wherever a man feels fear, there is an avenger. The savage's and the civilized man's instincts are right. Science affirms too much. Science assumes to show why the lightning strikes a tree, but it does not show us the moral why any better than our instincts did. It is full of presumption. Why should trees be struck? It is not enough to say, Because they are in the way. Science answers, "Non scio, I am ignorant." All the phenomena of Nature need to be seen from the point of view of wonder and awe, like lightning; and, on the other hand, the lightning itself needs to be regarded with serenity, as are the most innocent and familiar phenomena. There runs through the righteous man's spinal column a rod with burnished points to heaven, which conducts safely away into the earth the flashing wrath of Nemesis so that it merely clarifies the air. This moment the confidence of the righteous man erects a sure conductor within him; the next, perchance, a timid staple diverts the fluid to his vitals. If a mortal be struck with a thunderbolt cœlo sereno, it is naturally felt to be more awful and vengeful. Men are probably nearer to the essential truth in their superstitions than in their science. Some places are thought to be particularly exposed to lightning, some oaks on hill tops, for instance.
I meet the partridge with her brood in the woods, a perfect little hen. She spreads her tail into a fan and beats the ground with her wings fearlessly, within a few feet of me, to attract my attention while her young disperse. But they keep up a faint, wiry kind of peep which betrays them, while she mews and squeaks as if giving them directions.—Chestnut trees are budded.—I picked a handful or two of blueberries. These and huckleberries deserve to be celebrated, such simple, wholesome, universal fruits, food for the gods and for aboriginal men. They are so abundant that they concern our race much. Tournefort called some of this genus at least, Vitis-Idœa, which apparently means the vine of Mount Ida. I cannot imagine any country without this kind of berry. Berry of berries, on which men live like birds, still covering our hills as when the red men lived here. Are they not the principal wild fruit?
June 27, 1853. 4.30 a. m. To Island by river. . . . Saw a little pickerel with a minnow in its mouth. It was a beautiful little silver-colored minnow, two inches long, with a broad stripe down the middle. The pickerel held it crosswise near the tail, as he had seized it, and as I looked down on him, he worked the minnow along in his mouth toward the head, and then swallowed it head foremost. Was this instinct?
June 27, 1859. . . . p. m. To Walden. . . . I find an Attacus Luna half hidden under a skunk cabbage leaf, with its back to the ground and motionless, on the edge of a swamp. The underside is a particularly pale, hoary green. It is somewhat greener above, with a slightly purplish brown border on the front edge of its front wings, and a brown, yellowish, and whitish eye-spot in the middle of each wing. It is very sluggish, and allows me to turn it over and cover it up with another leaf, sleeping till the night comes. It has more relation to the moon by its pale, hoary green color, and its sluggishness by day, than by the form of its tail.
June 28, 1840. The profane never hear music; the holy ever hear it. It is God's voice, the divine breath audible. Where it is heard, there is a Sabbath. It is omnipotent. All things obey it, as they obey virtue. It is the herald of virtue. It passes by sorrow, for grief hangs its harp on the willows.
June 28, 1854. Tall anemone. Pontederia to-morrow.
June 28, 1857. . . . I hear on all hands these days, from the elms and other trees, the twittering peep of young golden robins which have recently left their nests, and apparently indicate their locality to their parents by thus incessantly peeping all day long.
June 28, 1860. . . . I meet to-day with a wood-tortoise which is eating the leaves of the early potentillas, and soon after another . . . deliberately eating sorrel. It was evidently quite an old one, its back being worn quite smooth, and its motions peculiarly sluggish. It continued to eat when I was within a few feet, holding its head high and biting down at it, each time bringing away a piece of the leaf. It made you think of an old and sick tortoise eating some salutary herb to cure itself with, and reminded me of the stories of the ancients, who, I think, made the tortoises thus cure themselves with dittany or origanum when bitten by a venomous snake. It impressed me as if it must know the virtues of herbs well, and could select the one best suited to the condition of its body. When I came nearer, it at once drew in its head. Its back was smooth and yellowish, a venerable tortoise. When I moved off, it at once withdrew into the woods.
June 29, 1840. Of all phenomena my own race are the most mysterious and undiscoverable. For how many years have I striven to meet one, even on common, manly ground, and have not succeeded!
June 29, 1851. There is a great deal of white clover this year. In many fields where there has been no clover seed sown, for many years at least, it is more abundant than the red, and the heads are nearly as large. Also pastures which are close cropped, and where I think there was little or no clover last year, are spotted white with an humbler growth. And everywhere by roadsides, garden borders, etc., even where the sward is trodden hard, the small white heads on short stems are sprinkled. As this is the season for the swarming of bees, and this clover is very attractive to them, it is probably the more difficult to secure them; at any rate it is more important, now that they can make honey so fast. It is an interesting inquiry why this year is so favorable to the growth of clover.
Swamp pink I see for the first time this sea son.
How different is day from day! Yesterday the air was filled, with a thick, fog-like haze, so that the sun did not once shine with ardor, and everything was so tempered under this thin veil that it was a luxury merely to be out doors. You were the less out for it. The shadows of the apple trees even early in the afternoon were remarkably distinct. The landscape wore a classical smoothness. Every object was as in picture with a glass over it. I saw some hills on this side the river looking from Conantum, on which the grass being of a yellow tinge, though the sun did not shine out on them, they had the appearance of being shone upon peculiarly. It was merely an unusual yellow tint of the grass. The mere surface of the water was an object for the eye to linger on.
I thought that one peculiarity of my "Week" was its hypœthral character, to use an epithet applied to those Egyptian temples which are open to the heavens above, under the ether. I thought that it had little of the atmosphere of the house about it, but might have been written wholly, as in fact it was to a great extent, out of doors. It was only at a late period in writing it, as it happened, that I used any phrases implying that I lived in a house or led a domestic life. I trust it does not smell so much of the study and library, even of the poet's attic, as of the fields and woods, that it is a hypæthral or unroofed book, lying open under the ether, and permeated by it, open to all weathers, not easy to be kept on a shelf.
At a distance in the meadow I hear still, at long intervals, the hurried commencement of the bobolink's strain, the bird just dashing into song, which is as suddenly checked, as it were, by the warder of the seasons, and the strain is left incomplete forever. [P. S.] I have since heard some complete strains.
The voice of the crickets, heard at noon from deep in the grass, allies day to night. It is unaffected by sun and moon. It is a midnight sound heard at noon, a midday sound heard at midnight.
I observed some mulleins growing on the western slope of the sandy railroad embankment, in as warm a place as can easily be found, where the heat was reflected oppressively from the sand at three o'clock p. m. this hot day. Yet the green and living leaves felt rather cool than otherwise to the hand, but the dead ones at the root were quite warm. The living plant thus preserves a cool temperature in the hottest exposure, as if it kept a cellar below from which cooling liquors were drawn up.
How awful is the least unquestionable meanness, when we cannot deny that we have been guilty of it. There seem to be no bounds to our unworthiness.
June 29, 1852. p. m. On the North River. . . . The Rana halecina? shad-frog is our handsomest; bronze, striped with brown spots edged and intermixed with bright green. . . . The frogs and tortoises striped and spotted for concealment. The painted tortoise s throat held up above the pads, streaked with yellowish, makes it the less obvious. The mud turtle is the color of the mud; the wood frog and the hylodes, of the dead leaves; the bull-frog, of the pads; the toad, of the earth, etc.; the tree-toad, of the bark.
In my experience nothing is so opposed to poetry, not crime, as business. It is a negation of life.
The wind exposes the red under-sides of the white lily pads. This is one of the aspects of the river now. The bud-bearing stem of this plant is a little larger, but otherwise like the leaf stem, and coming like it from the long, large root. It is interesting to pull up the lily roots with flowers and leaves attached, and see how it sends its buds upward to the light and air to expand and flower in another element. How interesting the bud's progress from the water to the air! So many of these stems are leaf-bearing, and so many, flower-bearing. Then consider how defended these plants against drought, at the bottom of the water, at most their leaves and flowers floating on its surface. How much mud and water are required to support their vitality! It is pleasant to remember those quiet Sabbath mornings by remote stagnant rivers and ponds where pure white water lilies just expanded, not yet infested by insects, float on the waveless water and perfume the atmosphere. Nature never appears more serene and innocent and fragrant. A hundred white lilies open to the sun rest on the surface smooth as oil amid their pads, while devil's needles are glancing over them. It requires some skill so to pull a lily as to get a long stem.
The great yellow lily, the spatterdock, expresses well the fertility of the river.
One flower on a spike of the Pontederia cordata just ready to expand.
Children bring you the early blueberry to sell now. It is considerably earlier on the tops of hills which have been recently cut off than in the plains or in vales. The girl that has Indian blood in her veins and picks berries for a living will find them out as soon as they turn.
The Anemone virginiana, tall anemone, looking like a white buttercup, on Egg Rock, cannot have been long in bloom.
I see the columbine lingering still.
June 29, 1859. I see two chestnut-sided warblers hopping and chipping a long time, as if they had a nest within six feet of me. No doubt they are breeding near. Yellow crown with a fine, dark, longitudinal line, reddish chestnut sides, black triangle on side of head. White beneath.
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