THE WRITINGS OF
HENRY DAVID THOREAU
Saw Jill Brook (page 90)
THE WRITINGS OF
HENRY DAVID THOREAU
EDITED BY BRADFORD TORREY
SEPTEMBER 16, 1851-APRIL 30, 1852
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
Cbe tRiberstie ~pre, Cambrtige
COPYRIGHT 1906 BY HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.
All rights reserved
CHAPTER I. September, 1851 (AET. 34) 3
Perambulating the Bounds Dr6ught The Moon's Light -
A Retired Life The Telegraph Harp A Dark Night -
Windy Autumnal Weather River Scenery in Autumn An
Irishman's Answer Milkweed Seeds Christian and
Heathen A Hornets' Nest Jays and Hawks An Educa-
tional Proposal Vegetation in Summer Birds on Grass
Stems Hugh Miller The Railroads and the Farmers A
Spruce Swamp Red Maples Aiding a Fugitive Slave A
Moonlight Walk George Minott The Changing Leaves -
Curled Strata in Rocks Moonlight and Fairies The Celes-
tial River Fish-Spearers Echoes on the River A Musk-
rat-House The Rainbow of the Rushes Sweet Acorns -
The Witch-Hazel Beds of Leaves Relations with a Friend
New-fallen Leaves A Flock of Chickadees George
Minott The Sound of a Bell Minott's Squirrel-Hunting-
Zoilogical Analogies On the River ii a Wind Boats of
Various Patterns An Unruly Boat Surveying A Dream
CHAPTER II. November, 1851 (.T. 34) 85
Statements Gossamer Cobwebs A Canoe Birch A
Mountain Brook The Hemlock Dudley Pond Long
Pond Nonesuch Pond W. E. Channing Facts A
Small Pond Monuments Social Dyspepsia Thickness
of Skin A Bright November Day Softness Terra Firma
in Writing Channing Minott Moonrise A Hard
November Day The Peterboro Hills Miss Mary Emer-
son An Evening Party Talking to the Deaf Names
and Men Revelation The Church Elusive Night
Thoughts The Hooting of an Owl The Woodchopper
and the Naturalist A Strange Accident Old Mr. Joseph
Hosmer Melody and Noise Former Concord Houses -
A November Sunset A Precipice of Pine.
CHAPTER III. December, 1851 (1ET. 34) 133
Sortes Virgilianae A Blundering Irishman The Advan-
tages of Varied Employment The Real Form of a Man -
lee Foliage Pine Woods in Winter Polite Conversation -
A Soaring Hawk Repentance Difficulties with Friends -
My Coldness Little Johnny Riordan A Walk on the Ice
Pine Grosbeaks The Architecture of the Snow The
Beauty of Clouds Science and Imagination Speak for
Yourself Weary Oxen The Western Sky at Sunset A
January Thaw in December A Mild Winter Day The
Fall of a Pine Sand Foliage An Old Irishwoman A
Misunderstanding A Female Lecturer A Large Pine.
CHAPTER IV. January, 1852 (1ET. 34) 171
One Mood the Natural Critic of Another A Warm Night in
Winter- Felling a Large Tree- Moonshine- The Tele-
graph Harp Snow on Trees A Snow-Bow Miss Mary
Emerson Haller on Linnaeus Greenough and Architec-
ture'- Seeing and Being Sky and Clouds The Reckless-
ness of Horses A Haycock in Winter Governor Boutwell
as a Lecturer English Comfort King Olaf the Saint -
Minott's Hens Hauling Mill-Logs The Relation of Men
to Mankind Bill Wheeler's Life and Death Borrowing a
Dipper A Simple-minded Pauper Shaming the Impudent
The Sky and the Mind The Littleton Giant Stories of
Miss Emerson A Chinese Steamboat Carting out Muck
Newspapers and the News A Battle of Ants Higginson
as a Lecturer Why I left the Woods The Encircling
Woods Reading one's Papers to a Friend Thoughts -
Making Conversation True Invitations The Telegraph
Harp A Fair Sunset The Cup of Inspiration Dry
Leaves on the Snow -A Canadian Winter Mr. Foster's
Preaching Cat-tail Down Memories of Walden Sum-
mer Day-Dreams Foster's Success The Spur of the Mo-
ment Nature a Plain Writer The Blue Sky in Youth
and Later Life Woodpeckers' Work Thaw and Thor -
Shakespeare and Bacon The Gone-to-Seed Country -
Thoughts in a Journal Journey-Cake A Box for a House
Little Johnny Riordan Homer and the Woodcutter The
Telegraph Harp Channing as a Lecturer A Comprehen-
sive Character The Linnwean System Logging in Con-
cord A Chopper at his Work The Poetry of the Jakes -
The Name of God The Best Manners Greeley and the
New Testament The Loss of Faith in one another The
Arch of Friendship Oaks in Winter.
CHAPTER V. February, 1852 (rE. 34) 262
The Treachery of a Friend Christianity The Exploration
of Night My Friends The Rush to California Sir Fran-
cis Head on America Libraries The Latin Night The
Cars at Night Winter Moonlight A Glorious Night A
Lecture from Professor Blasius The Ornaments of Style -
The National Flag Histories of Wars Books on Flowers
The French and the American Accounts of the Attack on
Haverhill in 1708 The French in America -The Social Re-
lations of the Irish Their Success in America The French
and the Indians A Fisherman on the River Mirage -
Witch-Hazel My Failures and Offenses Write while the
Heat is in you Snow-Shoes Savages Bee-Hunting -
Bubbles on a Brook Civilization Epochs of the Winter -
Norse Ancestry The Horns of Oxen and Deer Snow-Dust
A Botanophilist Eystein the Bad and Hakon the Good -
Facts in Poetry Green Ice Notes from Norse Legends -
Rabbits and Moles Entertaining Views War and Civili-
zation The Value of the Storm Snow-Crust.
CHAPTER VI. March, 1852 (2ET. 34) 326
The Necessity of Precise and Adequate Terms in Science A
Report on Farms The Larch The Gold-Digger a Gam-
bler Reason in Argument A Picture of Winter The
Silent Appeal to God Mr. Joe Hosmer on Oak Wood -
Moonlight on Snow-Crust Trivial News The Railroad as
a Footpath Ambrosial Mornings The Chickadee's Notes
Linnaeus' Classification of Soils The "Philosophia Bota-
nica" Sand Foliage A Prayer Books The Squire's
Bee-Chasing Winter Birds Signs of Spring A Singular
Circle around the Moon Second Division Brook Wood
Tortoises Sympathy with the Seasons The Discovery of
Relics of Sir John Franklin Common Sense and Instinct -
The Value of the Storm Migrating Sparrows.
CHAPTER VII. April, 1852 (ETr. 34) 869
The Wages of Woodcutters and Sawyers Gilpin's "Forest
Scenery" The Snow-covered Mountains Flint's Pond -
The Odoriferous Woods The Falls of Saw Mill Run The
Hemlock An April Morning- Borrowing a Boat The
Insignificance of Man The Flooded Meadows A Walk in
the Rain The Position of the Eye A Moonlight Walk -
Clouds at Night The River Wreck The Distant Snow -
The Old Hunt House Birds over the River On the
Flooded Meadows The Great Meadows Nut Meadow
Brook Fame Alder Catkins A Serene April Even-
ing Reflection Rhymes Notes from Gilpin A Pleasant
Sandy Road The Subject of Sex The Song of the Robin
April Snow -The Early Season of 1775 Sunburn -
Harts-Royal The Gull's Annual Visit- The Lawing of
Dogs and Men Converse with a Woodchuck The Skunk-
Cabbage -The Concord Meadows The Hen-Hawk's Soar-
ing Ducks in the Meadow Bays The Color of the Dwarf
Andromeda's Foliage Willow Catkins Watching Wild
Geese The Sucker A Flock of Geese A Grand Oak -
A Walk in a Northeast Storm A Gull Great Blue Herons
-Wild Life seen in Storms A Bed of Hay Tricks of
Trade The Freshet A Walk in the Rain A Robin's
Song- The Robin and the Indian- The Building of the
Pyramids- The Farmer and the Lawyer- The Strain of
the Red-Wing All Nature follows the Sun The Frivolity
of Men Protective Coloration Barbarelli's Painting of
a Warrior A Shanty in the Woods Tints of the Sky -
Growing Grass The Huckleberry-Bird The Spotted Tor-
toise- The First Spring Flowers- The Early Willows -
The Cowslip in Blossom Sprouting Acorns The Advance
of the Season An April View Birds and Flowers.
SAW MILL BROOK (page 90) Frontispiece
FROM CONANTUM CLIFF IN SEPTEMBER 16
LARGE BOULDER AT NONESUCH POND 96
SNOW-LADEN PITCH PINES 260
NUT MEADOW BROOK 398
THE JOURNAL OF
HENRY DAVID THOREAU
SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER, 1851 (ET. 34)
Sept. 16. Met the selectmen of Sudbury, and
I trust that towns will remember that they are
supposed to be fairly represented by their select men.
From the specimen which Acton sent, I should judge
that the inhabitants of that town were made up of a
mixture of quiet, respectable, and even gentlemanly
farmer people, well to do in the world, with a rather
boisterous, coarse, and a little self-willed class; that
the inhabitants of Sudbury are farmers almost exclu-
sively, exceedingly rough and countrified and more
illiterate than usual, very tenacious of their rights and
dignities and difficult to deal with; that the inhabitants
of Lincoln yield sooner than usual to the influence of
the rising generation, and are a mixture of rather sim-
ple but clever with a well-informed and trustworthy
people; that the inhabitants of Bedford are mechanics,
who aspire to keep up with the age, with some of the
polish of society, mingled with substantial and rather
of Sudbury thinks the river would be still lower
now if it were not for the water in the reservoir pond
in Hopkinton running into it.
Sept. 17. Perambulated the Lincoln line.
Was it the small rough sunflower which I saw this
morning at the brook near Lee's Bridge ?'
Saw at James Baker's a buttonwood tree with ,a
swarm of bees now three years in it, but honey and all
John W. Farrar tells of sugar maples behind Miles's
in the Corner.
Did I see privet in the swamp at the Bedford stone
near Giles's house ?
Swamp all dry now; could not wash my hands.
Sept. 18. Perambulated Bedford line.
Sept. 19. Perambulated Carlisle line.
Large-flowered bidens, or beggar-ticks, or bur-mari-
gold, now abundant by riverside. Found the bound-
stones on Carlisle by the river all or mostly tipped over
by the ice and water, like the pitch pines about Walden
Pond. Grapes very abundant along that line. The
soapwort gentian now. In an old pasture, now grown
up to birches and other trees, followed the cow-paths
to the old apple trees.
Mr. Isaiah Green of Carlisle, who lives nearest to the
Kibbe Place, can remember when there were three or
four houses around him (he is nearly eighty years old
1 Probably great bidens.
1851] PERAMBULATING THE BOUNDS
and has always lived there and was born there); now
he is quite retired, and the nearest road is scarcely
used at all. He spoke of one old field, now grown up,
which [we] were going through, as the "hog-pasture,"
formerly. He found the meadows so dry that it was
thought to be a good time to burn out the moss.
Sept. 20. 8 P. M. -To Cliffs via Bear Hill.
As I go through the fields, endeavoring to recover
my tone and sanity and to perceive things truly and
simply again, after having been perambulating the
bounds of the town all the week, and dealing with
the most commonplace and worldly-minded men, and
emphatically trivial things, I feel as if I had committed
suicide in a sense. I am again forcibly struck with the
truth of the fable of Apollo serving King Admetus, its
universal applicability. A fatal coarseness is the result
of mixing in the trivial affairs of men. Though I have
been associating even with the select men of this and the
surrounding towns, I feel inexpressibly begrimed. My
Pegasus has lost his wings; he has turned a reptile and
gone on his belly. Such things are compatible only
with a cheap and superficial life.
The poet must keep himself unstained and aloof.
Let him perambulate the bounds of Imagination's
provinces, the realms of faery, and not the insignificant
boundaries of towns'.1 The excursions of the imagina-
tion are so boundless, the limits of towns are sopetty.
I scare up the great bittern in meadow by the Hey-
wood Brook near the ivy. He rises buoyantly as he flies
1 [Channing, p. 86.]
against the wind, and sweeps south over the willow with
outstretched neck, surveying.
The ivy here is reddened. The dogwood, or poison
sumach, by Hubbard's meadow is also turned reddish.
Here are late buttercups and dwarf tree-primroses still.
Methinks there are not manygoldenrods this year. The
river is remarkably low. There is a rod wide of bare
shore beneath the Cliff Hill.
Last week was the warmest perhaps in the year. On
Monday of the present week water was frozen in a pail
under the pump. Yet to-day I hear the locust sing as
in August. This week we have had most glorious
autumnal weather, cool and cloudless, bright days,
filled with the fragrance of ripe grapes, preceded by
frosty mornings. All tender herbs are flat in gardens
and meadows. The cranberries, too, are touched.
To-day it is warmer and hazier, and there is, no
doubt, some smoke in the air, from the burning of the
turf and moss in low lands, where the smoke, seen at
sunset, looks like a rising fog. I fear that the autumnal
tints will not be brilliant this season, the frosts have
commenced so early. Butter-and-eggs on Fair Haven.
The cleared plateau beneath the Cliff, now covered
with sprouts, shows red, green, and yellow tints, like
a rich rug. I see ducks or teal flying silent, swift, and
straight, the wild creatures. White pines on Fair Haven
Hill begin to look parti-colored with the falling leaves,
but not at a distance.
Sept. 21. Sunday. It is remarkably dry weather.
The neighbors' wells are failing. The watering-places
for cattle in pastures, though they have been freshly
scooped out, are dry. People have to go far for water
to drink, and then drink it warm. The river is so low
that rocks which are rarely seen show their black heads
in mid-channel. I saw one which a year or two ago
upset a boat and drowned a girl. You see the nests of
the bream on the dry shore. I perceive that many of the
leaves of shrub oaks and other bushes have been killed
by the severe frosts of last week, before they have got
ripe and acquired the tints of autumn, and they now
look as [if] a fire had run through them, dry and crispy
and brown. So far from the frost painting them, it has
withered them. I notice new cabins of the muskrats
in solitary swamps. The chestnut trees have suffered
severely from the drought; already their leaves look
Moonlight is peculiarly favorable to reflection. It is a
cold and dewy light in which the vapors of the day are
condensed, and though the air is obscured by darkness,
it is more clear. Lunacy must be a cold excitement, not
such insanity as a torrid sun on the brain would pro-
duce. In Rees's Cyclopedia it is said, "The light of
the moon, condensed by the best mirrors, produces no
sensible heat upon the thermometer."
I see some cows on the new Wheeler's Meadow, which
a man is trying to drive to certain green parts of the
meadow next to the river to feed, the hill being dried
up, but they seem disinclined and not to like the coarse
grass there, though it is green. And now one cow is
steering for the edge of the hill, where is some green-
ness. I suppose that herds are attracted by a distant
greenness, though it may be a mile or more off. I
doubt if a man can drive his cows to that part of their
pasture where is the best feed for them, so soon as they
will find it for themselves. The man tries in vain to
drive them to the best part of the meadow. As soon as
he is gone, they seek their own parts.
The light of the moon, sufficient though it is for the
pensive walker, and not disproportionate to the inner
light we have, is very inferior in quantity and intensity
to that of the sun.1 The Cyclopedia says that Dr. Hooke
has calculated that "it would require 104,368 full moons
to give a light and heat equal to that of the sun at noon,"
and Dr. Smith says, "The light of the full moon is
but equal to a 90,900th part of the common light of the
day, when the sun is hidden by a cloud." 2
But the moon is not to be judged alone by the
quantity of light she sends us, but also by her influence
on the earth. No thinker can afford to overlook the
influence of the moon any more than the astronomer
can. "The moon gravitates towards the earth, and the
earth reciprocally towards the moon." This statement
of the astronomer would be bald and meaningless, if
it were not in fact a symbolical expression of the value
of all lunar influence on man: Even the astronomer
admits that "the notion of the moon's influence on ter-
restrial things was confirmed by her manifest effect
upon the ocean," but is not the poet who walks by night
conscious of a tide in his thought which is to be referred
to lunar influence, in which the ocean within him over-
[Excursions, p. 325; Riv. 399.]
2Vide next page.
THE MOON'S LIGHT
flows its shores and bathes the dry land ? Has he not
his spring-tides and his neap-tides, the former some-
times combining with the winds of heaven to produce
those memorable high tides of the calendar which leave
their marks for ages, when all Broad Street is sub-
merged, and incalculable damage is done to the ordi-
nary shipping of the mind?
Burritt in his "Geography of the Heavens" says,
"The quantity of light which we derive from the Moon
when full, is at least three hundred thousand times less
than that of the Sun." This is M. Bouguer's inference
as stated by Laplace. Professor Leslie makes it one
hundred and fifty thousand times less, older astronomers
Rees says: It is remarkable, that the moon during
the week in which she is full in harvest, rises sooner after
sun-setting than she does in any other full moon week
in the year. By doing so she affords an immediate sup-
ply of light after sunset, which is very beneficial to the
farmers for reaping and gathering in the fruits of the
earth; and therefore they distinguish this full moon
from all the others in the year, by calling it the harvest
moon." Howitt places the Harvest Moon in August.
The retirement in which Green has lived for nearly
eighty years in Carlisle is a retirement very different
from and much greater than that in which the pioneer
dwells at the West; for the latter dwells within sound of
the surf of those billows of migration which are break-
ing on the shores around him, or near him, of the West,
but those billows have long since swept over the spot
1 [Excursions, p. 325; Riv. 399, 400.]
which Green inhabits, and left him in the calm sea.
There is somewhat exceedingly pathetic to think of in
such a life as he must have lived, with no more to re-
deem it, such a life as an average Carlisle man may
be supposed to live drawn out to eighty years. And he
has died, perchance, and there is nothing but the mark
of his cider-mill left. Here was the cider-mill, and there
the orchard, and there the hog-pasture; and so men
lived, and ate, and drank, and passed away, like ver-
min. Their long life was mere duration. As respectable
is the life of the woodchucks, which perpetuate their
race in the orchard still. That is the life of these select-
men (!) spun out. They will be forgotten in a few years,
even by such as themselves, like vermin. They will be
known only like Kibbe, who is said to have been a large
man who weighed two hundred and fifty, who had five
or six heavy daughters who rode to Concord meeting-
house on horseback, taking turns, they were so heavy
that only one could ride at once. What, then, would
redeem such a life ? We only know that they ate, and
drank, and built barns, and died and were buried, and
still, perchance, their tombstones cumber the ground.'
But if I could know that there was ever entertained over
their cellar-hole some divine thought, which came as a
messenger of the gods, that he who resided here acted
once in his life from a noble impulse, rising superior
to his grovelling and penurious life, if only a single verse
of poetry or of poetic prose had ever been written or
spoken or conceived here beyond a doubt, I should not
think it in vain that man had lived here. It would to
I [Channing, pp. 176, 177.]
some extent be true then that God had lived here. That
all his life he lived only as a farmer as the most valu-
able stock only on a farm and in no moments as a
Sept. 22. To the Three Friends' Hill over Bear
Yesterday and to-day the stronger winds of autumn
have begun to blow, and the telegraph harp has sounded
loudly. I heard it especially in the Deep Cut this after-
noon, the tone varying with the tension of different
parts of the wire. The sound proceeds from near the
posts, where the vibration is apparently more rapid. I
put my ear to one of the posts, and it seemed to me as
if every pore of the wood was filled with music, labored
with the strain, as if every fibre was affected and
being seasoned or timed, rearranged according to a
new and more harmonious law. Every swell and change
or inflection of tone pervaded and seemed to proceed
from the wood, the divine tree or wood, as if its very
substance was transmuted. What a recipe for pre-
serving wood, perchance, to keep it from rotting, -
to fill its pores with music! How this wild tree from
the forest, stripped of its bark and set up here, rejoices
to transmit this music! When no music proceeds from
the wire, on applying my ear I hear the hum within the
entrails of the wood, the oracular tree acquiring, ac-
cumulating, the prophetic fury.
The resounding wood! how much the ancients would
have made of it! To have a harp on so great a scale,
girdling the very earth, and played on by the winds of
THE TELEGRAPH HARP
12 JOURNAL [SEPT. 22
every latitude and longitude, and that harp were, as
it were, the manifest blessing of heaven on a work of
man's! Shall we not add a tenth Muse to the immortal
Nine? And that the invention thus divinely honored
and distinguished- on which the Muse has conde-
scended to smile is this magic medium of commu-
nication for mankind!
To read that the ancients stretched a wire round the
earth, attaching it to the trees of the forest, by which
they sent messages by one named Electricity, father of
Lightning and Magnetism, swifter far than Mercury,
the stern commands of war and news of peace, and that
the winds caused this wire to vibrate so that it emitted
a harp-like and oeolian music in all the lands through
which it passed, as if to express the satisfaction of the
gods in this invention. Yet this is fact, and we have yet
attributed the invention to no god.'
I am astonished to see how brown and sere the ground-
sel or "fire-weed" on hillside by Heywood's Meadow,
which has been touched by frost, already is, as if it
had died long months ago, or a fire had run through it.
It is a very tender plant.
Standing on Bear Hill in Lincoln. The black birches
(I think they are), now yellow, on the south side of
Flint's Pond, on the hillside, look like flames. The
chestnut trees are brownish-yellow as well as green. It
is a beautifully clear and bracing air, with just enough
coolness, full of the memory of frosty mornings, through
which all things are distinctly seen and the fields look
as smooth as velvet. The fragrance of grapes is on the
1 [Channing, pp. 201, 202.]
THE TELEGRAPH HARP
breeze and the red drooping barberries sparkle amid
the leaves. From the hill on the south side of the pond,
the forests have a singularly rounded and bowery look,
clothing the hills quite down to the water's edge and
leaving no shore; the ponds are like drops of dew amid
and partly covering the leaves. So the great globe is
luxuriously crowded without margin.
The Utricularia cornuta, or horned utricularia, on the
sandy pond-shore, not affected by the frost.
Sept. 23. Notwithstanding the fog, the fences this
morning are covered with so thick a frost that you can
write your name anywhere with your nail.
The partridge and the rabbit, they still are sure
to thrive like true natives of the soil, whatever revolu-
tions occur. If the forest is cut off, many bushes spring
up which afford them concealment, and they become
more numerous than ever.
The sumach are among the reddest leaves at present.
The telegraph harp sounds strongly to-day, in the midst
of the rain. I put my ear to the trees and I hear it work-
ing terribly within, and anon it swells into a clear tone,
which seems to concentrate in the core of the tree, for
all the sound seems to proceed from the wood. It is
as if you had entered some world-famous cathedral,
resounding to some vast organ. The fibres of all things
have their tension, and are strained like the strings of a
lyre. I feel the very ground tremble under my feet as I
stand near the post. This wire vibrates with great
power, as if it would strain and rend the wood. What
an awful and fateful music it must be to the worms in
the wood! No better vermifuge were needed.1 No
danger that worms will attack this wood; such vibrat-
ing music would thrill them to death. I scare up large
flocks of sparrows in the garden.
Sept. 24. Returning over the causeway from Flint's
Pond the other evening (22d), just at sunset, I observed
that while the west was of a bright golden color under
a bank of clouds, the sun just setting, and not a
tinge of red was yet visible there, there was a distinct
purple tinge in the nearer atmosphere, so that Annurs-
nack Hill, seen through it, had an exceedingly rich em-
purpled look. It is rare that we perceive this purple
tint in the air, telling of the juice of the wild grape and
poke-berries. The empurpled hills! Methinks I have
only noticed this in cooler weather.
Last night was exceedingly dark. I could not sec the
sidewalk in the street, but only felt it with my feet. I
was obliged to whistle to warn travellers of my nearness,
and then I would suddenly find myself abreast of them
without having seen anything or heard their footsteps.
It was cloudy and rainy weather combined with the ab-
sence of the moon. So dark a night that, if a farmer
who had come in a-shopping had spent but an hour
after sunset in some shop, he might find himself a
prisoner in the village for the night. Thick darkness.
8 A. M. To Lee's Bridge via Conantum.
It is a cool and windy morning, and I have donned
a thick coat for a walk. The wind is from the north, so
that the telegraph harp does not sound where I cross.
I [Channing, p. 202.]
1851] WINDY AUTUMNAL WEATHER
This windy autumnal weather is very exciting and
bracing, clear and cold, after the rain of yesterday, it
having cleared off in the night. I see a small hawk, a
pigeon (?) hawk, over the Depot Field, which can
hardly fly against the wind. At Hubbard's Grove the
wind roars loudly in the woods. Grapes are ripe and
already shrivelled by frost; barberries also. It is cattle-
show day at Lowell.
Yesterday's wind and rain has strewn the ground
with leaves, especially under the apple trees. Rain
coming after frost seems to loosen the hold of the leaves,
making them rot off. Saw a woodchuck disappearing in
his hole. The river washes up-stream before the wind,
with white streaks of foam on its dark surface, diago-
nally to its course, showing the direction of the wind.
Its surface, reflecting the sun, is dazzlingly bright.
The outlines of the hills are remarkably distinct and
firm, and their surfaces bare and hard, not clothed with
a thick air. I notice one red tree, a red maple, against
the green woodside in Conant's meadow. It is a far
brighter red than the blossoms of any tree in summer
and more conspicuous. The huckleberry bushes on
Conantum are all turned red.
What can be handsomer for a picture than our river
scenery now ? Take this view from the first Conantum
Cliff. First this smoothly shorn meadow on the west
side of the stream, with all the swaths distinct, sprin-
kled with apple trees casting heavy shadows black as
ink, such as can be seen only in this clear air, this
strong light, one cow wandering restlessly about in it
and lowing; then the blue river, scarcely darker than
and not to be distinguished from the sky, its waves
driven southward, or up-stream, by the wind, making
it appear to flow that way, bordered by willows and
button-bushes; then the narrow meadow beyond, with
varied lights and shades from its waving grass, which
for some reason has not been cut this year, though so
dry, now at length each grass-blade bending south be-
fore the wintry blast, as if bending for aid in that direc-
tion; then the hill rising sixty feet to a terrace-like plain
covered with shrub oaks, maples, etc., now variously
tinted, clad all in a livery of gay colors, every bush a
feather in its cap; and further in the rear the wood-
crowned Cliff some two hundred feet high, where gray
rocks here and there project from amidst the bushes,
with its orchard on the slope; and to the right of the
Cliff the distant Lincoln hills in the horizon. The land-
scape so handsomely colored, the air so clear and whole-
some; and the surface of the earth is so pleasingly
varied, that it seems rarely fitted for the abode of man.
In Cohush Swamp the sumach leaves have turned
a very deep red, but have not lost their fragrance. I
notice wild apples growing luxuriantly in the midst of
the swamp, rising red over the colored, painted leaves
of the sumach, and reminding me that they were ripened
and colored by the same influences, some green,
some yellow, some red, like the leaves.
Fell in with a man whose breath smelled of spirit
which he had drunk. How could I but feel that it was
his own spirit that I smelt ? Behind Miles's, Darius
Miles's, that was, I asked an Irishman how many po-
1 [Channing, p. 217.]
From Conantum Cliff in September
~P~~l~nc-~ Rr~.R. --- ---~-- ~--~~~"~`------------a 4~
AN IRISHMAN'S ANSWER
tatoes he could dig in a day, wishing to know how well
they yielded. "Well, I don't keep any account," he an-
swered; "I scratch away, and let the day's work praise
itself." Aye, there's the difference between the Irish-
man and the Yankee; the Yankee keeps an account.
The simple honesty of the Irish pleases me. A spar-
row hawk, hardly so big as a nighthawk, flew over high
above my head, a pretty little graceful fellow, too
small and delicate to be rapacious.
Found a grove of young sugar maples (Acer saccha-
rinum) behind what was Miles's. How silently and yet
startlingly the existence of these sugar maples was re-
vealed to me, which I had not thought grew in my
immediate neighborhood, when first I perceived the
entire edges of its leaves and their obtuse sinuses.
Such near hills as Nobscot and Nashoba have lost
all their azure in this clear air and plainly belong to
earth. Give me clearness nevertheless, though my
heavens be moved further off to pay for it.
I perceive from the hill behind Lee's that much of
the river meadows is not cut, though they have been
very dry. The sun-sparkle on the river is dazzlingly
bright in this atmosphere, as if has not been, perchance,
for many a month. It is so cold I am glad to sit behind
the wall. Still the great bidens blooms by the causeway-
side beyond the bridge.1
At Clematis Brook I perceive that the pods or folli-
cles of the Asclepias Syriaca now point upward. Did
they before all point down? Have they turned up?
They are already bursting. I release some seeds with
I [Channing, pp. 217, 218.]
the long, fine silk attached. The fine threads fly apart
at ncee, open with a spring, and then ray themselves
out into a hemispherical form, each thread freeing
its( If from its neighbor and all reflecting prismatic or
rai lhow tints. The seeds, besides, are furnished with
wings, which plainly keep them steady and prevent
thtir whirling round. I let one go, and it rises slowly
and uncertainly at first, now driven this way, then that,
by currents which I cannot perceive, and I fear it
will make shipwreck against the neighboring wood;
bu; no, as it approaches it, it surely rises above it,
and then, feeling the strong north wind, it is borne off
rapidly in the opposite direction, ever rising higher and
higher and tossing and heaved about with every fluctu-
ati n of the air, till, at a hundred feet above the earth
an 1 fifty rods off, steering south, I lose sight of it. How
mi ny myriads go sailing away at this season, high over
hill and meadow and river, on various tacks until the
wi id lulls, to plant their race in new localities, who can
tell how many miles distant! And for this end these
sil: en streamers have been perfecting all summer,
snugly packed in this light chest,-a perfect adaptation
to this end, a prophecy not only of the fall but of future
sp 'ings. Who could believe in prophecies of Daniel or
of Miller that the world would end this summer, while
one milkweed with faith matured its seeds ?
On Mt. Misery some very rich yellow leaves clear
yellow-of the Populus grandidentata, which still love
to wag, and tremble in my hands. Also canoe birches
S[Clhanning, pp. 204, 205.]
The river and pond from the side of the sun look
comparatively dark. As I look over the country west-
ward and northwestward, the prospect looks already
bleak and wintry. The surface of the earth between the
forests is no longer green, but russet and hoary. You
see distinctly eight or ten miles the russet earth and
even houses, and then its outline is distinctly traced
against the further blue mountains, thirty or thirty-five
miles distant. You see distinctly perhaps to the height
of land between the Nashua and Concord, and then
the convexity of the earth conceals the further hills,
though high, and your vision leaps a broad valley at
once to the mountains.
Get home at noon.
At sundown the wind has all gone down.
Sept. 25. I was struck by the fitness of the expression
chosen by the Irishman yesterday, "I let the day's
work praise itself." It was more pertinent than a scholar
could have selected. But the Irishman does not trouble
himself to inquire if the day's work has not reason to
Some men are excited by the smell of burning powder,
but I thought in my dream last night how much saner
to be excited by the smell of new bread.
I did not see but the seeds of the milkweed would
be borne many hundred miles, and those which were
ripened in New England might plant themselves in
Pennsylvania. Densely packed in a little oblong chest
armed with soft downy prickles and lined with a smooth
silky lining, lie some one or two hundreds such pear-
shaped seeds (or like a steelyards poise), which have
derived their nutriment through a band of extremely
fine silken threads attached by their extremities to the
core. At length, when the seeds are matured and cease
to require nourishment from the parent plant, being
weaned, and the pod with dryness and frost bursts, the
extremities of the silken threads detach themselves
from the core, and from being the conduits of nutri-
ment to the seed become the buoyant balloon which,
like some spiders' webs, bear the seeds to new and dis-
tant fields. They merely serve to buoy up the full-fed
seed. Far finer than the finest thread. Think of the
great variety of balloons which at this season are
buoyed up by similar means! I am interested in the fate
or success of every such venture which the autumn sends
I am astonished to find how much travellers, both in
the East and West, permit themselves to be imposed
on by a name,- that the traveller in the East, for
instance, presumes so great a difference between one
Asiatic and another because one bears the title of a
Christian and the other not. At length he comes to a
sect of Christians, -Armenians or Nestorians, -and
predicates of them a far greater civilization, civility,
and humanity than of their neighbors, I suspect not
with much truth. At that distance and so impartially
viewed, I see but little difference between a Christian
and a Mahometan; and so I perceive that European
and American Christians, so called, are precisely like
these heathenish Armenian and Nestorian Christians,
1 [Channing, p. 205.]
1851] CHRISTIAN AND HEATHEN
- not Christians, of course, in any true sense, but one
other heathenish sect in the West, the difference be-
tween whose religion and that of the Mahometans is
very slight and unimportant. Just such, not Christians
but, as it were, heathenish Nestorian Christians, are
we Americans. As if a Christian's dog were something
better than a Mahometan's! I perceive no triumphant
superiority in the so-called Christian over the so-called
Mahometan. That nation is not Christian where the
principles of humanity do not prevail, but the preju-
dices of race. I expect the Christian not to be super-
stitious, but to be distinguished by the clearness of his
knowledge, the strength of his faith, the breadth of his
humanity. A man of another race, an African for in-
stance, comes to America to travel through it, and he
meets with treatment exactly similar to, or worse than,
that which the American meets with among the Turks,
and Arabs, and Tartars. He is kicked out of the cars
and hotels, or only admitted to the poorest place in
them. The traveller, in both cases, finds the religion to
be a mere superstition and frenzy, or rabidness.
The season of flowers may be considered as past now
that the frosts have come. Fires have become comfort-
able. The evenings are pretty long.
2 P. M. To bathe in Hubbard's meadow, thence to
It is beautiful weather, the air wonderfully clear and
all objects bright and distinct. The air is of crystal
purity. Both air and water are so transparent that the
fisherman tries in vain to deceive the fish with his baits.
Even our commonly muddy river looks clear to-day.
I find the water suddenly cold, and that the" bathing
days are over.
I see numerous butterflies still, yellow and small
red, though not in fleets. Examined the hornets' nest
near Hubbard's Grove, suspended from contiguous
huckleberry bushes. The tops of the bushes appearing
to grow out of it, little leafy sprigs, had a pleasing effect.
An inverted cone eight or nine inches by seven or eight.
I found no hornets now buzzing about it. Its entrance
appeared to have been enlarged; so I concluded it had
been deserted, but, looking nearer I discovered two or
three dead hornets, men of war, in the entryway. Cut-
ting off the bushes which sustained it, I proceeded to
open it with my knife. First there were half a dozen
layers of waved brownish paper resting loosely on one
another, occupying nearly an inch in thickness, for a cov-
ering. Within were the six-sided cells in three stories,
suspended from the roof and from one another by one or
two suspension rods only, the lower story much smaller
than the rest. And in what may be called the attic
garret of the structure were two live hornets apparently
partially benumbed with cold, which in the sun seemed
rapidly recovering themselves, their faculties. Most
of the cells were empty, but in some were young hornets
still, their heads projecting, apparently still-born,' per-
haps overtaken unexpectedly by cold weather. These
insects appear to be very sensible to cold. The inner
circles of cells were made of whitish, the outer of gray-
ish, paper. It was like a deserted castle of the Mohawks,
a few dead ones at the entrance of their castle.'
[Channing, pp. 249, 250.]
JAYS AND HAWKS
I watched the seeds of the milkweed rising higher
and higher till lost in the sky, with as much interest as
his friends did Mr. Lauriat.1 I brought home two of the
pods which were already bursting open, and amused
myself from day to day with releasing the seeds and
watching [them] rise slowly into the heavens till they
were lost to my eye. No doubt the greater or less ra-
pidity with which they rose would serve as a natural
barometer to test the condition of the air.
The hornets' nest not brown but gray, two shades,
whitish and dark, alternating on the outer layers or the
covering, giving it a waved appearance.
In these cooler, windier, crystal days the note of the
jay sounds a little more native. Standing on the Cliffs,
I see them flitting and screaming from pine to pine
beneath, displaying their gaudy blue pinions. Hawks,
too, I perceive, sailing about in the clear air, looking
white against the green pines, like the seeds of the milk-
weed. There is almost always a pair of hawks. Their
shrill scream, that of the owls, and wolves are all
Sept. 26. Since I perambulated the bounds of the
town, I find that I have in some degree confined myself,
-my vision and my walks. On whatever side I look off
I am reminded of the mean and narrow-minded men
whom I have lately met there. What can be uglier than
a country occupied by grovelling, coarse, and low-lived
men? No scenery will redeem it. What can be more
beautiful than any scenery inhabited by heroes ? Any
1 [Channing, p. 204.]
landscape would be glorious to me, if I were assured
that its sky was arched over a single hero. Hornets,
hyenas, and baboons are not so great a curse to a coun-
try as men of a similar character. It is a charmed
circle which I have drawn around my abode, having
walked not with God but with the devil. I am too
well aware when I have crossed this line.
Most New England biographies and journals -
John Adams's not excepted affect me like opening
of the tombs.
The prudent and seasonable farmers are already
plowing against another year.
Sept. 27. Here is a cloudy day, and now the fisher-
man is out. Some tall, many-flowered, bluish-white
asters are still abundant by the brook-sides.
I never found a pitcher-plant without an insect in it.
The bristles about the nose of the pitcher all point in-
ward, and insects which enter or fall in appear for this
reason unable to get out again. It is some obstacle
which our senses cannot appreciate. Pitcher-plants
more obvious now.
We of Massachusetts boast a good deal of what we
do for the education of our people, of our district-
school system; and yet our district schools are as it
were but infant-schools, and we have no system for the
education of the great mass who are grown up. I have
yet to learn that one cent is spent by this town, this
political community called Concord, directly to edu-
cate the great mass of its inhabitants who have long
since left the district school; for the Lyceum, impor-
1851] AN EDUCATIONAL PROPOSAL
tant as it is comparatively, though absolutely trifling,
is supported by individuals. There are certain re-
fining and civilizing influences, as works of art, journals
and books, and scientific instruments, which this com-
munity is amply rich enough to purchase, which would
educate this village, elevate its tone of thought, and, if
it alone improved these opportunities, easily make it
the centre of civilization in the known world, put us
on a level as to opportunities at once with London and
Arcadia, and secure us a culture at once superior to
both. Yet we spend sixteen thousand dollars on a
Town House, a hall for our political meetings mainly,
and nothing to educate ourselves who are grown up.
Pray is there nothing in the market, no advantages,
no intellectual food worth buying? Have Paris and
London and New York and Boston nothing to dispose
of which this village might try and appropriate to its
own use ? Might not this great villager adorn his villa
with a few pictures and statues, enrich himself with
a choice library as available, without being cumbrous,
as any in the world, with scientific instruments for such
as have a taste to use them? Yet we are contented to
be countrified, to be provincial. I am astonished to find
that in this Nineteenth Century, in this land of free
schools, we spend absolutely nothing as a town on our
own education, cultivation, civilization. Each town, like
each individual, has its own character, some more,
some less, cultivated. I know many towns so mean-
spirited and benighted that it would be a disgrace to
belong to them. I believe that some of our New Eng-
land villages within thirty miles of Boston are as boor-
ish and barbarous communities as there are on the face
of the earth. And how much superior are the best of
them ? If London has any refinement, any information
to sell, why should we not buy it? Would not the town
of Carlisle do well to spend sixteen thousand dollars on
its own education at once, if it could only find a school-
master for itself ? It has one man, as I hear, who takes
the North American Review. That will never civilize
them, I fear. Why should not the town itself take the
London and Edinburgh Reviews, and put itself in com-
munication with whatever sources of light and intelli-
gence there are in the world? Yet Carlisle is very little
behind Concord in these respects. I do not know but
it spends its proportional part on education. How hap-
pens it that the only libraries which the towns pos-
sess are the district school libraries, -books for children
only, or for readers who must needs be written down to ?
Why should they not have a library, if not so exten-
sive, yet of the same stamp and more select than the
British Museum? It is not that the town cannot well
afford to buy these things, but it is unaspiring and igno-
rant of its own wants. It sells milk, but it only builds
larger barns with the money which it gets for its milk.
Undoubtedly every New England village is as able to
surround itself with as many civilizing influences of
this kind [as] the members of the English nobility; and
here there need be no peasantry. If the London Times
is the best newspaper in the world, why does not the
village of Concord take it, that its inhabitants may read
it, and not the second best ? If the South Sea explorers
have at length got their story ready, and Congress has
1851] VEGETATION IN SUMMER
neglected to make it accessible to the people, why does
not Concord purchase one for its grown-up children ?
Parrot in his "Journey to Ararat," speaking of the
difficulty of reaching it owing to the lateness of the sea-
son, says of the surrounding country, "As early even
as the month of June vegetable life becomes in a man-
ner extinct, from the combined influence of the sun's
rays, and the aridity of the atmosphere and soil: the
plains and mountain-sides, being destitute of both wood
and water, have no covering but a scanty and burnt
herbage, the roots of which are so rarely visited by a
refreshing shower that the reparatory power of nature
is all but lost, while the active animal kingdom seeks
protection against the heat and drought either by bur-
rowing in the earth, or retiring to the cool and inac-
cessible retreats in Caucasus and the mountains of
This reminds me of what I have observed even in our
own summers. With us, too, "vegetable life becomes in
a manner extinct" by the end of June, and the beholder
is impressed as if "the reparatory power of nature
[were] all but lost."
2 P. M. Rowed down the river to Ball's Hill.
The maples by the riverside look very green yet, -
have not begun to blush, nor are the leaves touched by
frost. Not so on the uplands. The river is so low that,
off N. Barrett's shore, some low islands are exposed,
covered with a green grass like mildew. There are all
[See Journal, vol. iv, Aug. 29, 1852 ; also Walden, pp. 120-122;
kinds of boats chained to trees and stumps by the river-
side, some from Boston and the salt [water], but
I think that none after all is so suitable and convenient
as the simple flat-bottomed and light boat that has long
been made here by the farmers themselves. They are
better adapted to the river than those made in Boston.
From Ball's Hill the Great Meadows, now smoothly
shorn, have a quite imposing appearance, so spacious
and level. There is so little of this level land in our
midst. There is a shadow on the sides of the hills sur-
rounding (a cloudy day), and where the meadow meets
them it is darkest. The shadow deepens down the woody
hills and is most distinctly dark where they meet the
meadow line. Now the sun in the west is coming out
and lights up the river a mile off, so that it shines with
a white light like a burnished silver mirror. The poplar
tree seems quite important to the scene. The pastures are
so dry that the cows have been turned on to the meadow,
but they gradually desert it, all feeding one way. The
patches of sunlight on the meadow look luridly yellow,
as if flames were traversing it. It is a day for fishermen.
The farmers are gathering in their corn. The Mikania
scandens and the button-bushes and the pickerel-weed
are sere and flat with frost. We looked down the long
reach toward Carlisle Bridge. The river, which is as
low as ever, still makes a more than respectable appear-
ance here and is of generous width. Rambled over the
hills toward Tarbell's. The huckleberry bushes appear
to be unusually red this fall, reddening these hills. We
scared a calf out of the meadow, which ran like a ship.
tossed on the waves, over the hills toward Tarbell's.
1851] BIRDS ON GRASS STEMS
They run awkwardly, red oblong squares tossing up
and down like a vessel in a storm, with great commo-
tion.' We fell into the path, printed by the feet of the
calves, with no cows' tracks. The note of the yellow-
hammer is heard from the edges of the fields. The soap-
wort gentian looks like a flower prematurely killed by
the frost. The soil of these fields looks as yellowish-
white as the corn-stalks themselves. Tarbell's hip-
roofed house looked the picture of retirement,- of
cottage size, under its noble elm, with its heap of apples
before the door and the wood coming up within a few
rods, -it being far off the road. The smoke from his
chimney so white and vapor-like, like a winter scene.
The lower limbs of the willows and maples and button-
bushes are covered with the black and dry roots of the
water-marigold and the ranunculi, plants with filiform,
capillary, root-like submerged leaves.
Sept. 28. A considerable part of the last two nights
and yesterday, a steady and rather warm rain, such as
we have not had for a long time. This morning it is
still completely overcast and drizzling a little. Flocks
of small birds apparently sparrows, bobolinks (or
some bird of equal size with a pencilled breast which
makes a musical clucking), and piping goldfinches -
are flitting about like leaves and hopping up on to the
bent grass stems in the garden, letting themselves down
to the heavy heads, either shaking or picking out a seed
or two, then alighting to pick it up. I am amused to
see them hop up on to the slender, drooping grass stems;
I [Channing, p. 221.]
then slide down, or let themselves down, as it were
foot over foot, with great fluttering, till they can pick
at the head and release a few seeds; then alight to 'pick
them up. They seem to prefer a coarse grass which
grows like a weed in the garden between the potato-hills,
also the amaranth.1
It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. They
say that this has been a good year to raise turkeys, it
has been so dry. So that we shall have something to be
Hugh Miller, in his "Old Red Sandstone," speaking
of "the consistency of style which obtains among the
ichthyolites of this formation" and the "microscopic
beauty of these ancient fishes," says: "The artist who
sculptured the cherry stone consigned it to a cabinet,
and placed a microscope beside it; the microscopic
beauty of these ancient fish was consigned to the twi-
light depths of a primeval ocean. There is a feeling
which at times grows upon the painter and the statuary,
as if the perception and love of the beautiful had been
sublimed into a kind of moral sense. Art comes to be
pursued for its own sake; the exquisite conception in
the mind, or the elegant and elaborate model, becomes
all in all to the worker, and the dread of criticism or the
appetite of praise almost nothing. And thus, through
the influence of a power somewhat akin to conscience,
but whose province is not the just and the good, but the
fair, the refined, the exquisite, have works prosecuted
in solitude, and never intended for the world, been
found fraught with loveliness." The hesitation with
I [See p. 83.]
which this is said to say nothing of its simplicity -
betrays a latent infidelity more fatal far than that of
the "Vestiges of Creation," which in. another work this
author endeavors to correct. He describes that as an
exception which is in fact the rule. The supposed want
of harmony between "the perception and love of the
beautiful" and a delicate moral sense betrays what
kind of beauty the writer has been conversant with. He
speaks of his work becoming all in all to the worker,
his rising above the dread of criticism and the appetite
of praise, as'if these were the very rare exceptions in a
great artist's life, and not the very definition of it.
2 P. M. To Conantum.
A warm, damp, mistling day, without much wind.
The white pines in Hubbard's Grove have now a pretty
distinct parti-colored look, green and yellow mot-
tled, reminding me of some plants like the milkweed,
expanding with maturity and pushing off their downy
seeds. They have a singularly soft look. For a week
or ten days I have ceased to look for new flowers or
carry my botany in my pocket. The fall dandelion is
now very fresh and abundant in its prime.
I see where the squirrels have carried off the ears of
corn more than twenty rods from the corn-field into
the woods. A little further on, beyond Hubbard's
Brook, I saw a gray squirrel with an ear of yellow corn
a foot long sitting on the fence, fifteen rods from the
field. He dropped the corn, but continued to sit on the
rail, where I could hardly see him, it being of the same
color with himself, which I have no doubt he was well
aware of. He next took to a red maple, where his policy
was to conceal himself behind the stem, hanging per-
fectly still there till I passed, his fur being exactly the
color of the bark. When I struck the tree and tried to
frighten him, he knew better than to run to the next
tree, there being no continuous row by which he might
escape; but he merely fled higher up and put so many
leaves between us that it was difficult to discover him.
When I threw up a stick to frighten him, he disappeared
entirely, though I kept the best watch I could, and
stood close to the foot of the tree. They are wonder-
The Eupatorium purpureum is early killed by frost
and stands now all dry and brown by the sides of other
herbs like the goldenrod and tansy, which are quite
green and in blossom.
The railroads as much as anything appear to have
unsettled the farmers. Our young Concord farmers
and their young wives, hearing this bustle about them,
seeing the world all going by as it were, some daily
to the cities about their business, some to California, -
plainly cannot make up their minds to live the quiet,
retired, old-fashioned, country-farmer's life. They are
impatient if they live more than a mile from a railroad.
While all their neighbors are rushing to the road, there
are few who have character or bravery enough to live
off the road. He is too well aware what is going on in
the world not to wish to take some part in it. I was
reminded of this by meeting S. Tuttle in his wagon.
The pontederia, which apparently makes the mass of
1 [Channing, pp. 175, 176.]
A SPRUCE SWAMP
the weeds by the side of the river, is all dead and brown
and has been for some time; the year is over for it.
The mist is so thin that it is like haze or smoke in the
air, imparting a softness to the landscape.
Sitting by the spruce swamp in Conant's Grove, I am
reminded that this is a perfect day to visit the swamps,
with its damp, mistling, mildewy air, so solemnly still.
There are the spectre-like black spruces hanging with
usnea moss, and in the rear rise the dark green pines
and oaks on the hillside, touched here and there with
livelier tints where a maple or birch may stand, this so
luxuriant vegetation, standing heavy, dark, sombre, like
mould in a cellar. The peculiar tops of the spruce are
seen against this.
I hear the barking of a red squirrel, who is alarmed
at something, and a great scolding or ado among the
jays, who make a great cry about nothing. The swamp
is bordered with the red-berried alder, or prinos, and
the button-bush. The balls of the last appear not half
grown this season, -probably on account of the drought,
- and now they are killed by frost.
This swamp contains beautiful specimens of the
sidesaddle-flower (Sarracenia purpurea), better called
pitcher-plant. They ray out around the dry scape and
flower, which still remain, resting on rich uneven beds
of a coarse reddish moss, through which the small-
flowered andromeda puts up, presenting altogether a
most rich and luxuriant appearance to the eye. Though
the moss is comparatively dry, I cannot walk without
upsetting the numerous pitchers, which are now full
of water, and so wetting my feet. I once accidentally
sat down on such a bed of pitcher-plants, and found
an uncommonly wet seat where I expected a dry one.
These leaves are of various colors from plain green to a
rich striped yellow or deep red. No plants are more
richly painted and streaked than the inside of the broad
lips of these. Old Josselyn called this "Hollow-leaved
Lavender." No other plant, methinks, that we have
is so remarkable and singular.
Here was a large hornets' nest, which when I went
to take and first knocked on it to see if anybody was at
home, out came the whole swarm upon me lively enough.
I do not know why they should linger longer than their
fellows whom I saw the other day, unless because the
swamp is warmer. They were all within and not work-
I picked up two arrowheads in the field beyond.
What honest, homely, earth-loving, unaspiring houses
they used to live in! Take that on Conantum for in-
stance, so low you can put your hand on the eaves
behind. There are few whose pride could stoop to enter
such a house to-day. And then the broad chimney,
built for comfort, not for beauty, with no coping of
bricks to catch the eye, no alto or basso relievo.
The mist has now thickened into a fine rain, and I
Sept. 29. Van der Donck says of the water-beech
(buttonwood), "This tree retains the leaves later than
any other tree of the woods."
P. M. -To Goose Pond via E. Hosmer's; return by
Found Hosmer carting out manure from under his
barn to make room for the winter. He said he was tired
of farming, he was too old. Quoted Webster as saying
that he had never eaten the bread of idleness for a single
day, and thought that Lord Brougham might have said
as much with truth while he was in the opposition, but
he did not know that he could say as much of himself.
However, he did not wish to be idle, he merely wished
Looked on Walden from the hill with the sawed pine
stump on the north side. Scared up three black ducks,
which rose with a great noise of their wings, striking
the water. The hills this fall are unusually red, not only
with the huckleberry, but the sumach and the black-
Walden plainly can never be spoiled by the wood-
chopper, for, do what you will to the shore, there will
still' remain this crystal well. The intense brilliancy
of the red-ripe maples scattered here and there in the
midst of the green oaks and hickories on its hilly shore
is quite charming. They are unexpectedly and in-
credibly brilliant, especially on the western shore and
close to the water's edge, where, alternating with yel-
low birches and poplars and green oaks, they remind
me of a line of soldiers, redcoats and riflemen in green
The pine is one of the richest of trees to my eye. It
stands like a great moss, a luxuriant mildew, the
pumpkin pine, which the earth produces without
I [See Excursions, p. 283; Riv. 347; Journal, Oct. 31, 1858.]
The poet writes the history of his body.
Query: Would not the cellular tissue of the grass
poly make good tinder? I find that, when I light it, it
burns up slowly and entirely, without blaze, like spunk.
Sept. 30. To powder-mills, and set an intermediate
bound-stone on the new road there.
Saw them making hoops for powder-casks, of alder
and the sprouts of the white birch, which are red with
whitish spots. How interesting it is to observe a particu-
lar use discovered in any material! I am pleased to find
that the artisan has good reason for preferring one ma-
terial to another for a particular purpose. I am pleased
to learn that a man has detected any use in wood or
stone or any material, or, in other words, its relation to
The white ash has got its autumnal mulberry hue.
What is the autumnal tint of the black ash ? The for-
mer contrasts strongly with the other shade-trees on the
village street the elms and buttonwoods at this
season, looking almost black at the first glance. The
different characters of the trees appear [more clearly]
at this season, when their leaves, so to speak, are ripe,
than at any other, than in the winter, for instance,
when they are little remarkable and almost uniformly
gray or brown, or in the spring and summer, when they
are undistinguishably green. Now a red maple, an ash,
a white birch, a Populus grandidentata, etc., is distin-
guished almost as far as they are visible. It is with
leaves as with fruits and woods, and animals and men;
when they are mature their different characters appear.
1851] AIDING A FUGITIVE SLAVE
The sun has been obscured much of the day by pass-
ing clouds, but now, at 5 P. M., the sun comes out
and by the very clear and brilliant light, though the
shadows begin to fall long from the trees, it is proved
how remarkably clear or pure the atmosphere is. Ac-
cording to all accounts, an hour of such a light would
be something quite memorable in England.
As the wood of an old Cremona, its very fibre, per-
chance, harmoniously transposed and educated to re-
sound melody, has brought a great price, so methinks
these telegraph-posts should bear a great price with
musical instrument makers. It is prepared to be the
material of harps for ages to come, as it were put asoak
in and seasoning in music.'
Saw a hornets' nest on a tree over the road near the
powder-mills, thirty or forty feet high.
Even the pearl, like the beautiful galls on the oaks,
is said to be the production of diseases, or rather ob-
struction, the fish covering as with a tear some rough
obstruction that has got into his shell.
Oct. 1. 5 P. M. Just put a fugitive slave, who has
taken the name of Henry Williams, into the cars for
Canada. He escaped from Stafford County, Virginia,
to Boston last October; has been in Shadrach's place
at the Cornhill Coffee-House; had been corresponding
through an agent with his master, who is his father,
about buying himself, his master asking $600, but he
having been able to raise only $500. Heard that there
were writs out for two Williamses, fugitives, and was in-
formed by his fellow-servants and employer that Auger-
[1 Channing, p. 202.]
hole Burns and others of the police had called for him
when he was out. Accordingly fled to Concord last
night on foot, bringing a letter to our family from Mr.
Lovejoy of Cambridge and another which Garrison had
formerly given him on another occasion. He lodged with
us, and waited in the house till funds were collected with
which to forward him. Intended to dispatch him at noon
through to Burlington, but when I went to buy his ticket,
saw one at the depot who looked and behaved so much
like a Boston policeman that I did not venture that time.
An intelligent and very well-behaved man, a mulatto.
There is art to be used, not only in selecting wood
for a withe, but in using it. Birch withes are twisted,
I suppose in order that the fibres may be less abruptly
bent; or is it only by accident that they are twisted ?
The slave said he could guide himself by many other
stars than the north star, whose rising and setting he
knew. They steered for the north star even when it
had got round and appeared to them to be in the south.
They frequently followed the telegraph when there was
no railroad. The slaves bring many superstitions from
Africa. The fugitives sometimes superstitiously carry
a turf in their hats, thinking that their success depends
These days when the trees have put on their autumnal
tints are the gala days of the year, when the very foliage
of trees is colored like a blossom. It is a proper time
for a yearly festival, an agricultural show.
Candle-light. To Conantum.
The moon not quite half full. The twilight is much
A MOONLIGHT WALK
shorter now than a month ago, probably as the atmos-
phere is clearer and there is less to reflect the light.
The air is cool, and the ground also feels cold under
my feet, as if the grass were wet with dew, which is
not yet the case. I go through Wheeler's corn-field in
the twilight, where the stalks are bleached almost white,
and his tops are still stacked along the edge of the field.
The moon is not far up above the southwestern horizon.
Looking west at this hour, the earth is an unvaried,
undistinguishable black in contrast with the twilight
sky. It is as if you were walking in night up to your'
chin. There is no wind stirring. An oak tree in Hub-
bard's pasture stands absolutely motionless and dark
against the sky. The crickets sound farther off or fainter
at this season, as if they had gone deeper into the sod
to avoid the cold. There are no crickets heard on the
alders on the causeway. The moon looks colder in the
water, though the water-bugs are still active. There is
a great change between this and my last moonlight walk.
I experience a comfortable warmth when I approach
the south side of a dry wood, which keeps off the cooler
air and also retains some of the warmth of day. The
voices of travellers in the road are heard afar over the
fields, even to Conantum house. The stars are brighter
than before. The moon is too far west to be seen re-
flected in the river at Tupelo Cliff, but the stars are
reflected. The river is a dark mirror with bright points
feebly fluctuating. I smell the bruised horsemint, which
I cannot see, while I sit on the brown rocks by the shore.
I see the glow-worm under the damp cliff. No whip-
poor-wills are heard to-night, and scarcely a note of any
other bird. At 8 o'clock the fogs have begun, which,
with the low half-moon shining on them, look like cob-
webs or thin white veils spread over the earth. They are
the dreams or visions of the meadow.
The second growth of the white pine is probably
softer and more beautiful than the primitive forest ever
afforded. The primitive forest is more grand with its'
bare mossy stems and ragged branches, but exhibits
no such masses of green needles trembling in the
The elms are generally of a dirty or brownish yellow
Oct. 2. P. M. Some of the white pines on Fair Haven
Hill have just reached the acme of their fall; others
have almost entirely shed their leaves, and they are
scattered over the ground and the walls. The same
is the state of the pitch pines. At the Cliffs, I find the
wasps prolonging their short lives on the sunny rocks,
just as they endeavored to do at my house in the woods.
It is a little hazy as I look into the west to-day. The
shrub oaks on the terraced plain are now almost uni-
formly of a deep red.
Oct. 4. Saturday. The emigrant has for weeks been
tossing on the Atlantic and perchance as long ascend-
ing the St. Lawrence with contrary winds, conversant
as yet in the New World only with the dreary coast of
Newfoundland and Labrador and the comparatively
wild shores of the river below the Isle of Orleans. It
is said that, under these circumstances, the sudden
apparition of Quebec on turning Point Levi makes a
memorable impression on the beholder.'
Minott was telling me to-day that he used to know
a man in Lincoln who had no floor to his barn, but
waited till the ground froze, then swept it clean in his
barn and threshed his grain on it. He also used to see
men threshing their buckwheat in the field where it
grew,'having just taken off the surface down to a hard-
Minott used the word "gavel" to describe a parcel
of stalks cast on the ground to dry. His are good old
English words, and I am always sure to find them in
the dictionary, though I never heard them before in
I was admiring his corn-stalks disposed about the
barn to dry, over or astride the braces and the timbers,
of such a fresh, clean, and handsome green, retaining
their strength and nutritive properties so, unlike the
gross and careless husbandry of speculating, money-
making farmers,,who suffer their stalks to remain out
till they are dry and dingy and black as chips.
Minott is, perhaps, the most poetical farmer who
most realizes to me the poetry of the farmer's life--that
I know. He does nothing with haste and drudgery, but
as if he loved it. He makes the most of his labor, and
takes infinite satisfaction in every part of it. He is not
looking forward to the sale of his crops or any pecuniary
profit, but he is paid by the constant satisfaction which
his labor yields him. He has not too much land to trou-
ble him, too much work to do, no hired man nor
I [Excursions, p. 88; Riv. 109.]
boy, but simply to amuse himself and live. He cares
not so much to raise a large crop as to do his work well.
He knows every pin and nail in his barn. If another
linter is to be floored, he lets no hired man rob him of
that amusement, but he goes slowly to the woods and,
at his leisure, selects a pitch pine tree, cuts it, and hauls
it or gets it hauled to the mill; and so he knows the
history of his barn floor.
Farming is an amusement which has lasted him longer
than gunning or fishing. He is never in a hurry to get
his garden planted and yet [it] is always planted soon
enough, and none in the town is kept so beautifully
He always prophesies a failure of the crops, and yet is
satisfied with what he gets. His barn floor is fastened
down with oak pins, and he prefers them to iron spikes,
which he says will rust and give way. He handles and
amuses himself with every ear of his corn crop as much
as a child with its playthings, and so his small crop goes
a great way. He might well cry if it were carried to mar-
ket. The seed of weeds is no longer in his soil.
He loves to walk in a swamp in windy weather and
hear the wind groan through the pines. He keeps a cat
in his barn to catch the mice. He indulges in no luxury
of food or dress or furniture, yet he is not penurious
but merely simple. If his sister dies before him, he may
have to go to the almshouse in his old age; yet he is not
poor, for he does not want riches. He gets out of each
manipulation in the farmers' operations a fund of enter-
tainment which the speculating drudge hardly knows.
With never-failing rheumatism and trembling hands,
THE CHANGING LEAVES
he seems yet to enjoy perennial health. Though he
never reads a book, since he has finished the Naval
Monument," he speaks the best of English.
Oct. 5. Sunday. I noticed on Friday, October 3d,
that the willows generally were green and unchanged.
The red maples varied from green through yellow to
bright red. The black cherry was green inclining to
yellow. (I speak of such trees as I chanced to see.) The
apple trees, green but shedding their leaves like most of
the trees. Elm, a dingy yellow. White ash, from green
to dark purple or mulberry. White oak, green inclining
to yellow. Tupelo, reddish yellow and red; tree bushed
about the head, limbs small and slanting downward.
Some maples when ripe are yellow or whitish yellow,
others reddish yellow, others bright red, by the accident
of the season or position, the more or less light and
sun, being on the edge or in the midst of the wood; just
as the fruits are more or less deeply colored. Birches,
green and yellow. Swamp white oak, a yellowish green.
Black ash, greenish yellow and now sered by frost. Bass,
Color in the maturity of foliage is as variable and
little characteristic as naturalists have found it to be
for distinguishing fishes and quadrupeds, etc.
Observed that the woodchuck has two or more holes,
a rod or two apart: one, or the front door, where the
excavated sand is heaped up; another, not so easily dis-
covered, very small, round, without any sand about it,
- being that by which he emerged, smaller directly
at the surface than beneath, on the principle by which
a well is dug,' making as small a hole as possible at the
surface to prevent caving. About these holes is now seen
their manure, apparently composed chiefly of the remains
of crickets, which are seen crawling over the sand. Saw
a very fat woodchuck on a wall, evidently prepared to
go into winter quarters.2
Still purplish asters, and late goldenrods, and fragrant
life-everlasting, and purple gerardia, great bidens, etc.,
etc. The dogwood by the Corner road has lost every
leaf, its bunches of dry greenish berries hanging straight
down from the bare stout twigs as if their peduncles
were broken. It has assumed its winter aspect, a
mithridatic look. The prinos berries are quite red.3
The panicled hawkweed is one of those yellowish spheri-
cal or hemispherical fuzzy-seeded plants which you see
about the wood-paths and fields at present, which how-
ever only a strong wind can blow far. Saw by the path-
side beyond the Conant spring that singular jelly-like
sort of mushroom which I saw last spring while survey-
ing White's farm; now red, globular, three quarters of an
inch in diameter, covering the coarse moss by the ruts
on the path-side with jelly-covered seeds(?).
2 P. M.-To the high open land between Bateman's
Pond and the lime-kiln.
It is a still, cloudy afternoon, rather cool. As I go
past Cheney's boat-house, the river looks lighter than
the sky. The butternuts have shed nearly all their leaves,
and their nuts are seen black against the sky. The white
oaks are turned a reddish brown in some valleys. The
I [Channing, p. 221.] 2 [Ibid.] 3 [Channing, p. 250.]
1851] CURLED STRATA IN ROCKS
Norway cinquefoil and a smaller cinquefoil are still in
blossom, and also the late buttercup. My companion
remarked that the land (for the most part consisting
of decayed orchards, huckleberry pastures, and forests)
on both sides of the old Carlisle road, uneven and
undulating like the road, appeared to be all in motion
like the traveller, travelling on with him. Found a wild
russet apple, very good, of peculiar form, flattened at
the poles. Some red maples have entirely lost their
leaves. The black birch is straw-colored.1
The rocks in the high open pasture are peculiar and
interesting to walk over, for, though presenting broad
and flat surfaces, the strata are perpendicular, producing
a grained and curled appearance, this rocky crown
like a hoary head covered with curly hair, or it is
like walking over the edges of the leaves of a vast book.
I wonder how these rocks were ever worn even thus
smooth by the elements. The strata are remarkably
serpentine or waving. It appears as if you were upon
the axis of elevation, geologically speaking. I do not
remember any other pasture in Concord where the rocks
are so remarkable for this.
What is that fleshy or knot-fleshy [?] root which we
found in the soil on the rocks by Bateman's Pond, which
looked so edible ? All meadows and swamps have been
remarkably dry this year, and are still, notwithstanding
the few showers and rainy days. Witch-hazel now in
bloom. I perceive the fragrance of ripe grapes in the air,
and after a little search discover the ground covered
with them, where the frost has stripped the vines
I [Channing, p, 250.]
of leaves,-still fresh and plump and perfectly ripe.
The little conical burs of the agrimony stick to my
clothes. The pale lobelia still blooms freshly. The
rough hawkweed holds up its globes of yellowish fuzzy
seeds as well as the panicled. The clouds have cleared
away, the sun come out, and it is warmer and very
pleasant. The declining sun, falling on the willows, etc.,
below Mrs. Ripley's and on the water, produces a rare,
soft light, such as I do not often see, a greenish yellow.'
The milkweed seeds are in the air. I see one in the river,
which a minnow occasionally jostles.
Stood near a small rabbit, hardly half grown, by the
old Carlisle road.
I hear the red-wing blackbirds by the riverside again,
as if it were a new spring. They appear to have come to
bid farewell. The birds appear to depart with the com-
ing of the frosts, which kill vegetation and, directly or
indirectly, the insects on which they feed. The American
bittern (Ardea minor) flew across the river, trailing his
legs in the water, scared up by us. This, according to
Peabody, is the boomer (stake-driver). In their sluggish
flight they can hardly keep their legs up. Wonder if they
8 P. M. To Cliffs.
Moon three-quarters full. The nights now are very
still, for there is hardly any noise of birds or of insects.
The whip-poor-will is not heard, nor the mosquito; only
the occasional lisping of some sparrow. The moon
gives not a creamy but white, cold light, through which
S[Channing, p. 250.]
1851] MOONLIGHT AND FAIRIES
you can see far distinctly. About villages you hear
the bark of dogs instead of the howl of wolves. When
I descend into the valley by Wheeler's grain-field, I
find it quite cold.. The sand slopes in the Deep Cut
gleam coldly as if covered with rime. As I go through
the Spring Woods I perceive a sweet, dry scent from
the underwoods like that of the fragrant life-everlasting.
I suppose it is that. To appreciate the moonlight you
must stand in the shade and see where a few rods
or a few feet distant it falls in between the trees. It
is a "milder day," made for some inhabitants whom
you do not see. The fairies are a quiet, gentle folk,
invented plainly to inhabit the moonlight. I frequently
see a light on the ground within thick and dark woods
where all around is in shadow, and haste forward,
expecting to find some decayed and phosphorescent
stump, but find it to be some clear moonlight that falls
in between some crevice in the leaves. As moonlight is
to sunlight, so are the fairies to men.
Standing on the Cliffs, no sound comes up from the
woods. The earth has gradually turned more north-
ward; the birds have fled south after the sun, and this
impresses me, as well by day as by night, as a deserted
country. There is a down-like mist over the river and
pond, and there are no bright reflections of the moon or
sheeniness from the pond in consequence, all the light
being absorbed by the low fog.
Oct. 6. Monday. 12 M. To Bedford line to set a
stone by river on Bedford line.
The reach of the river between Bedford and Carlisle,
seen from a distance in the road to-day, as formerly,
has a singularly ethereal, celestial, or elysian look. It
is of a light sky-blue, alternating with smoother white
streaks, where the surface reflects the light differently,
like a milk-pan full of the milk of Valhalla partially
skimmed, more gloriously and heavenly fair and pure
than the sky itself. It is something more celestial than
the sky above it. I never saw any water look so celestial.
I have often noticed it. I believe I have seen this reach
from the hill in the middle of Lincoln. We have names
for the rivers of hell, but none for the rivers of heaven,
unless the Milky Way be one. It is such a smooth and
shining blue, like a panoply of sky-blue plates.' Our
dark and muddy river has such a tint in this case as I
might expect Walden or White Pond to exhibit, if they
could be seen under similar circumstances, but Walden
seen from Fair Haven is, if I remember, of a deep blue
color tinged with green. Cerulean ? Such water as that
river reach appears to me of quite incalculable value, and
the man who would blot that out of his prospect for a
sum of money does not otherwise than to sell heaven.
George Thatcher, having searched an hour in vain
this morning to find a frog, caught a pickerel with a
The white ash near our house, which the other day
was purple or mulberry-color, is now much more red.
7.30 P. M. To Fair Haven Pond by boat, the moon
four-fifths full, not a cloud in the sky; paddling all the
1 [Channing, p. 251.]
The water perfectly still, and the air almost, the
former gleaming like oil in the moonlight, with the
moon's disk reflected in it.
When we started, saw some fishermen kindling their
fire for spearing by the riverside. It was a lurid, reddish
blaze, contrasting with the white light of the moon, with
dense volumes of black smoke from the burning pitch
pine roots rolling upward in the form of an inverted
pyramid. The blaze reflected in the water, almost as
distinct as the substance. It looked like tarring a ship
on the shore of the Styx or Cocytus. For it is still and
dark, notwithstanding the moon, and no sound but the
crackling of the fire. The fishermen can be seen only
near at hand, though their fire is visible far away; and
then they appear as dusky, fuliginous figures, half en-
veloped in smoke, seen only by their enlightened sides.
Like devils they look, clad in old coats to defend them-
selves from the fogs, one standing up forward holding
the spear ready to dart, while the smoke and flames are
blown in his face, the other paddling the boat slowly
and silently along close to the shore with almost imper-
The river appears indefinitely wide; there is a mist
rising from the water, which increases the indefinite-
ness. A high bank or moonlit hill rises at a distance
over the meadow on the bank, with its sandy gullies and
clamshells exposed where the Indians feasted. The
shore line, though close, is removed by the eye to the side
of the hill. It is at high-water mark. It is continued till
it meets the hill. Now the fisherman's fire, left behind,
acquires some thick rays in the distance and becomes a
star. As surely as sunlight falling through an irregular
chink makes a round figure on the opposite wall, so the
blaze at a distance appears a star. Such is the effect of
the atmosphere. The bright sheen of the moon is con-
stantly travelling with us, and is seen at the same angle
in front on the surface of the' pads; and the reflection of
its disk in the rippled water by our boat-side appears like
bright gold pieces falling on the river's counter. This
coin is incessantly poured forth as from some unseen
horn of plenty at our side.
(I hear a lark singing this morn (October 7th), and
yesterday saw them in the meadows. Both larks and
blackbirds are heard again now occasionally, seemingly
after a short absence, as if come to bid farewell.)
I do not know but the weirdness of the gleaming oily
surface is enhanced by the thin fog. A few water-bugs
are seen glancing in our course.
I shout like a farmer to his oxen, a short barking
shout, and instantly the woods on the eastern shore
take it up, and the western hills a little up the stream;
and so it appears to rebound from one side the river
valley to the other, till at length I hear a farmer call to
his team far up as Fair Haven Bay, whither we are
We pass through reaches where there is no fog,
perhaps where a little air is stirring. Our clothes are
almost wet through with the mist, as if we sat in water.
Some portions of the river are much warmer than others.
In one instance it was warmer in the midst of the fog
than in a clear reach.
In the middle of the pond we tried the echo again.
1851] ECHOES ON THE RIVER
First the hill to the right took it up; then further up the
stream on the left; and then after a long pause, when
we had almost given it up, and the longer expected,
the more in one sense unexpected and surprising it was,
-we heard a farmer shout to his team in a distant
valley, far up on the opposite side of the stream, much
louder than the previous echo; and even after this we
heard one shout faintly in some neighboring town. The
third echo seemed more loud and distinct than the
second. But why, I asked, do the echoes always travel
up the stream ? I turned about and shouted again, and
then I found that they all appeared equally to travel
down the stream, or perchance I heard only those that
As we rowed to Fair Haven's eastern shore, a moonlit
hill covered with shrub oaks, we could form no opin-
ion of our progress toward it, not seeing the water-
line where it met the hill, -until we saw the weeds
and sandy shore and the tall bulrushes rising above
the shallow water [like] the masts of large vessels in a
haven. The moon was so high that the angle of exci-
dence [sic] did not permit of our seeing her reflection
.in the pond.
As we paddled down the stream with our backs to
the moon, we saw the reflection of every wood and hill
on both sides distinctly. These answering reflections
-shadow to substance--impress the voyager with a
sense of harmony and symmetry, as when you fold a blot-
ted paper and produce a regular figure, a dualism
which nature loves. What you commonly see is but half.
Where the shore is very low the actual and reflected trees
appear to stand foot to foot, and it is but a line that
separates them, and the water and the sky almost flow
into one another, and the shore seems to float. As we
paddle up or down, we see the cabins of muskrats faintly
rising from amid the weeds, and the strong odor of musk
is borne to us from particular parts of the shore. Also
the odor of a skunk is wafted from over the meadows
or fields. The fog appears in some places gathered
into a little pyramid or squad by itself, on the surface
of the water. Home at ten.
Oct. 7. This morning the fog over the river and the
brooks and meadows running into it has risen to the
height of forty or fifty feet.
1 p. M. To river; by boat to Corner Bridge.
A very still, warm, bright, clear afternoon. Our boat
so small and low that we are close to the water.'
The muskrats all the way are now building their
houses, about two thirds done. They are of an oval form
(looking down on them), sloping upward from the smaller
end, by which the rat apparently ascends, and composed
of mouthfuls of pontederia leaf-stems (now dead), the
capillaceous roots or leaves of the water-marigold (?).
and other capillaceous-leaved water-plants, flag-root,
a plant which looks like a cock's tail or a peacock's
feather in form,2 clamshells, etc., sometimes rising from
amidst the dead pontederia stems or resting on the but-
ton-bushes or the willows. The mouthfuls are disposed
in layers successively smaller, forming a somewhat coni-
cal mound. Seen at this stage they show some art and a
I Vide forward, Nov. 9th. 2 The Potamogeton Robbinsii.
good deal of labor. We pulled one to pieces to examine
the inside. There was a small cavity, which might hold
two or three full-grown muskrats, just above the level
of the water, quite wet and of course dark and narrow,
communicating immediately with a gallery under water.
There were a few pieces of the white root of some water-
plant perhaps a pontederia or a lily root in it.
There they dwell, in close contiguity to the water itself,
always in a wet apartment, in a wet coat never changed,
with immeasurable water in the cellar, through which
is the only exit. They have reduced life to a lower scale
than Diogenes. Certainly they do not fear cold, ague, or
consumption. Think of bringing up a family in such a
place, worse than a Broad Street cellar. But probably
these are not their breeding-places. The muskrat and
the fresh-water mussel are very native to our river. The
Indian, their human compeer, has departed. There is
a settler whom our lowlands and our fogs do not hurt.
One of the fishermen speared one last night. How long
has the muskrat dined on mussels ? The river mud itself
will have the ague as soon as he. What occasion has
he for a dentist ? Their unfinished, rapidly rising nests
look now like truncated cones. They seem to be all
building at once in different parts of the river, and to
have advanced equally far.
The weeds being dead and the weather cooler, the
water is more transparent. Now is the time to observe
such weeds as have not been destroyed. The fishes are
plainly seen. Saw a pickerel which had swallowed a
smaller .fish, with the tail projecting from his mouth.
There is a dirty-looking weed quite submerged, with
short, densely crowded, finely divided leaves, in dense
masses atop, like the tops of spruce trees, more slender
below. The shores for a great width are occupied by
the dead leaves and stems of the pontederia, which give
the river a very wild look. There is a strong-scented,
green plant which looks like a fresh-water sponge or
coral, clumsy-limbed like a dead tree, or a cactus. A
long narrow grass like a fresh-water eel-grass.
The swamp white oak on the meadow, which was
blown down in the spring, is still alive, as if it had been
supported by the sap in its trunk. The dirt still adheres
to its roots, which are of the color of an elephant's
I suppose it is the Nuphar Kalmiana which I find in
blossom in deep water, though its long stem, four feet
or more, round and gradually tapering toward the root
with no leaves apparent, makes me doubt a little. Ap-
parently five sepals, greenish and yellow without, yellow
within, eight small petals, many stamens, stigma eight-
Saw the Ardea minor walking along the shore, like a
hen with long green legs. Its pencilled throat is so like
the reeds and shore, amid which it holds its head erect
to watch the passer, that it is difficult to discern it. You
can get very near it, for it is unwilling to fly, preferring
to hide amid the weeds. The lower parts of the willows
and the button-bushes are black with the capillaceous
leaves and stems of the water-marigold, etc.1
The raw edge of the rushes (common Juncus militaris
I think it is), two to four feet high, in dense fields along
I [This is queried in pencil.]
1851] THE RAINBOW OF THE RUSHES 55
the shore, in various stages of decay, looks like a level
rainbow skirting the water's edge and reflected in the
water, though a single one, or a few near at hand, do
not exhibit very marked or distinct colors. But [at] a
distance from a shore which is lined with them, the colors
are very distinct and produce a pleasing effect, first,
next the water, a few inches of pink; then a faint narrow
line, or halo, of yellowish; then a broad and lively green,
the proper color of the rush; then a sunny yellow, pass-
ing into the brown of the d&ad and sered tops. The dif-
ferent parts of the plant from the surface of the water
to its tip, when you look at the edge of a large and dense
field of them, produce five distinct horizontal and par-
allel bars of different colors like a level rainbow, a
rainbow-like effect, making a pleasing border to the
river in a bright day like this; and occasionally the sun-
light from the rippled surface produced by our boat,
reflected on them, enhances the effect. The colors pass
into each other so gradually and indefinitely, as if it
were the reflection of the sun falling on a mist.
The rounded hills beyond the clamshells look velvety
smooth as we are floating down the stream, covered
with the now red blackberry vines. The oaks look light
against the sky, rising story above story. I see small
whitish and pinkish polygonums along the waterside.
There is a great difference between this season and
a month ago, warm as this happens t6 be, as
between one period of your life and another. A little
frost is at the bottom of it.
It is a remarkable difference between night and day
on the river, that there is no fog by day.
Oct. 8. Wednesday. A slight wind now fills the air
with elm leaves. The nights have been cool of late, so
that a fire has been comfortable, but the last was quite
2 P. M. To the Marlborough road.
This day is very warm, yet not bright like the last,
but hazy. Picked up an Indian gouge on Dennis's Hill.
The foliage has lost its very bright tints now; it is more
dull, looks dry, or as if burnt, even. The very ground or
grass is crisped with drought, and yields a crispy sound
to my feet. The woods are brownish, reddish, yellow-
ish merely, excepting of course the evergreens. It is so
warm that I am obliged to take off my neck-handker-
chief and laborers complain of the heat.
By the side of J. P. Brown's grain-field I picked up
some white oak acorns in the path by the wood-side,
which I found to be unexpectedly sweet and palatable,
the bitterness being scarcely perceptible. To my taste
they are quite as good as chestnuts. No wonder the first
men lived on acorns. Such as these are no mean food,
such as they are represented to be. Their sweetness is
like the sweetness of bread, and to have discovered this
palatableness in this neglected nut, the whole world is to
me the sweeter for it. I am related again to the first men.
What can be handsomer, wear better to the eye, than
the color of the acorn, like the leaves on which they fall
polished, or varnished ? To find that acorns are edible, -
it is a greater addition to one's stock of life than would
be imagined. I should be at least equally pleased if I
were to find that the grass tasted sweet and nutritious.
It increases the number of my friends; it diminishes the
number of my foes. How easily at this season I could feed
myself in the woods! There is mast for me too, as well
as for the pigeon and the squirrel. This Dodonean fruit.
The goldfinches are in the air. I hear a blackbird
also, and see a downy woodpecker, and see and hear a
hairy one. The seeds of the pasture thistle are not so
buoyed up by their down as the milkweed.
In the forenoon commonly I see nature only through
a window; in the afternoon my study or apartment in
which I sit is a vale.
The farmers are ditching, -redeeming more meadow,
- getting corn, collecting their apples, threshing, etc.
I cannot but believe that acorns were intended to be
the food of man. They are agreeable to the palate, as the
mother's milk to the babe. The sweet acorn tree is
famous and well known to the boys. There can be no
question respecting the wholesomeness of this diet.
This warm day is a godsend to the wasps. I see them
buzzing about the broken windows of deserted build-
ings, as Jenny Dugan's, -the yellow-knotted. I smell
the dry leaves like hay from the woods. Some elms are
already bare. The basswood here is quite sere. The
pines are still shedding their leaves. This brook by
Jenny's is always a pleasant sight and sound to me. In
the spring I saw the sucker here. It is remarkable
through what narrow and shallow brooks a sucker will
be seen to dart, and a trout. I perceive that some white
oaks are quite red. The black oaks are yellowish. I
know not surely whether the brighter red and more
divided leaf is that of the red or the scarlet oak. The
jointed polygonum in the Marlborough road is an in-
teresting flower, it is so late, so bright a red,--though
inobvious from its minuteness, without leaves, above
the sand like sorrel, mixed with other minute flowers
and the empty chalices of the trichostema. I saw one
blue curl still adhering. The puffballs are split open and
rayed out on the sand like five or ten (!) fingers. The
milkweed seeds must be carried far, for it is only when a
strong wind is blowing that they are loosened from their
pods. An arrowhead at the desert. Spergula arvensis
- corn-spurry (some call it tares) at the acorn tree.
Filled my pockets with acorns. Found another gouge
on Dennis's Hill. To have found the Indian gouges and
tasted sweet acorns, -is it not enough for one afternoon ?
The sun set red in haze, visible fifteen minutes before
setting, and the moon rose in like manner at the same
This evening, I am obliged to sit with my door and
window open, in a thin coat, which I have not done for
three weeks at least.
A warm night like this at this season produces its
effect on the village. The boys are heard at play in the
street now, at 9 o'clock, in greater force and with more
noise than usual. My neighbor has got out his flute.
There is more fog than usual. The moon is full. The
tops of the woods in the horizon seen above the fog look
exactly like long, low black clouds, the fog being the
color of the sky.
Oct. 9. Heard two screech owls in the night. Boiled a
quart of acorns for breakfast, but found them not so
palatable as raw, having acquired a bitterish taste, per-
chance from being boiled with the shells and skins; yet
one would soon get accustomed to this.
The sound of foxhounds in the woods, heard now,
at 9 A. M., in the village, reminds me of mild winter
2 P. M. To Conantum.
In the maple woods the ground is strewn with new-
fallen leaves. I hear the green locust again on the alders
of the causeway, but he is turned a straw-color. The
warm weather has revived them. All the acorns on the
same tree are not equally sweet. They appear to dry
sweet. From Conantum I see them getting hay from
the meadow below the Cliffs. It must have been quite
dry when cut. The black ash has lost its leaves, and
the white here is dry and brownish yellow, not having
turned mulberry. I see half a dozen snakes in this
walk, green and striped (one very young striped one),
who appear to be out enjoying the sun. They ap-
pear to make the most of the last warm days of the
year. The hills and plain on the opposite side of the
river are covered with deep warm red leaves of shrub
oaks. On Lee's hillside by the pond, the old leaves of
some pitch pines are almost of a golden-yellow hue, seen
in the sunlight, a rich autumnal look. The green are,
as it were, set in the yellow.
The witch-hazel here is in full blossom on this magical
hillside, while its broad yellow leaves are falling. Some
bushes are completely bare of leaves, and leather-col-
ored they strew the ground. It is an extremely inter-
esting plant, October and November's child, and yet
reminds me of the very earliest spring. Its blossoms
smell like the spring, like the willow catkins; by their
color as well as fragrance they belong to the saffron
dawn of the year, suggesting amid all these signs of
autumn, falling leaves and frost, that the life of Nature,
by which she eternally flourishes, is untouched. It
stands here in the shadow on the side of the hill, while
the sunlight from over the top of the hill lights up its top-
most sprays and yellow blossoms. Its spray, so jointed
and angular, is not to be mistaken for any other. I lie
on my back with joy under its boughs. While its leaves
fall, its blossoms spring. The autumn, then, is indeed a
< spring. All the year is a spring. I see two blackbirds
high overhead, going south, but I am going north in my
thought with these hazel blossoms. It is a faery place.
This is a part of the immortality of the soul. When I
was thinking that it bloomed too late for bees or other
insects to extract honey from its flowers, that per-
chance they yielded no honey, I saw a bee upon it.
How important, then, to the bees this late-blossoming
The circling hawk steers himself through the air, like
The hoary cinquefoil in blossom.
A large sassafras tree behind Lee's, two feet diameter
at ground. As I return over the bridge, I hear a song
sparrow singing on the willows exactly as in spring. I
see a large sucker rise to the surface of the river. I hear
the crickets singing loudly in the walls as they have not
done (so loudly) for some weeks, while the sun is going
down shorn of his rays by the haze.
BEDS OF LEAVES
There is a thick bed of leaves in the road under
Hubbard's elms. This reminds me of Cato, as if the an-
cients made more use of nature. He says, "Stramenta
si deerunt, frondem iligneam legito, eam substernito
ovibus bubusque." (If litter is wanting, gather the
leaves of the holm oak and strew them under your
sheep and oxen.) In another place he says, "Circum
vias ulmos serito, et partim populos, uti frondem ovibus
et bubus habeas." I suppose they were getting that dry
meadow grass for litter. There is little or no use made
by us of the leaves of trees, not even for beds, unless
it be sometimes to rake them up in the woods and cast
into hog-pens or compost-heaps.
Cut a stout purple cane of pokeweed.
Oct. 10. The air this morning is full of bluebirds, and
again it is spring. There are many things to indicate
the renewing of spring at this season. The blossoming
of spring flowers, not to mention the witch-hazel, -
the notes of spring birds, the springing of grain and
grass and other plants.
Ah, I yearn toward thee, my friend, but I have not
confidence in thee. We do not believe in the same God.
I am not thou; thou art not I. We trust each other
to-day, but we distrust to-morrow. Even when I meet
thee unexpectedly, I part from thee with disappoint-
ment. Though I enjoy thee more than other men, yet
I am more disappointed with thee than with others. I
know a noble man; what is it hinders me from knowing
him better ? I know not how it is that our distrust, our
hate, is stronger than our love. Here I have been on
what the world would call friendly terms with one four-
teen years, have pleased my imagination sometimes with
loving him; and yet our hate is stronger than our love.
Why are we related, yet thus unsatisfactorily? We
almost are a sore to one another. Ah, I am afraid
because thy relations are not my relations. Because I
have experienced that in some respects we are strange
to one another, strange as some wild creature. Ever and
anon there will come the consciousness to mar our love
that, change the theme but a hair's breadth, and we are
tragically strange to one another. We do not know what
hinders us from coming together. But when I consider
what my friend's relations and acquaintances are, what
his tastes and habits, then the difference between us gets
'named. I see that all these friends and acquaintances
and tastes and habits are indeed my friend's self. In the
first place, my friend is prouder than I am, -and I am
very proud, perchance.
2 P. M. -To Flint's Pond.
It was the seed-vessel of the Canada snapdragon in
the Marlborough road that I mistook for a new flower.
This is still in bloom in the Deep Cut. The chickadee,
sounding all alone, now that birds are getting scarce, re-
minds me of the winter, in which it almost alone is heard.
How agreeable to the eye at this season the color of
new-fallen leaves (I am going through the young woods
where the locusts grow near Goose Pond), sere and crisp!
When freshly fallen, with their forms and their veins
still distinct, they have a certain life in them still. The
chestnut leaves now almost completely cover the ground
under the trees, lying up light and deep, so clean and
wholesome, whether to look at or handle or smell, the
tawny leaves, nature's color. They look as if they might
all yield a wholesome tea. They are rustling down fast
from the young chestnuts, leaving their bare and black-
ish-looking stems. You make a great noise now walk-
ing in the woods, on account of the dry leaves, especially
chestnut and oak and maple, that cover the ground. I
wish that we might make more use of leaves than we do.
We wait till they are reduced to virgin mould. Might
we not fill beds with them? or use them for fodder or
litter? After they have been flattened by the snow and
rain, they will be much less obvious. Now is the time
to enjoy the dry leaves. Now all nature is a dried herb,
full of medicinal odors. I love to hear of a preference
given to one kind of leaves over another for beds. Some
maples which a week ago were a mass of yellow foliage
are now a fine gray smoke, as it were, and their leaves
cover the ground.
Plants have two states, certainly, the green and the
dry. The lespedeza and primrose heads, etc., etc., -
I look on these with interest, as if they were newly blos-
Going through Britton's clearing, I find a black snake
out enjoying the sun. I perceive his lustrous greenish
blackness. He holds up his head and threatens; then
dashes off into the woods, making a great rustling among
the leaves. This might be called snake summer or snakes'
Our Irish washwoman, seeing me playing with the
milkweed seeds, said they filled beds with that down in
her country. They are not indigenous in Europe, at any
The horned utricularia by Flint's Pond still. There
a gunner has built his bower to shoot ducks from, far
out amid the rushes. The nightshade leaves have turned
a very dark purple, almost steel-blue, lighter, more like
mulberry, underneath, with light glossy, viscid or sticky
spots above, as if covered with dew. I do not think of
any other leaf of this color. The delicate pinkish leaves
of the Hypericum Virginicum about the shore of the
pond. The yellow leaves of the clethra mixed with the
The stones of Flint's Pond shore are comparatively
flat, as the pond is flatter than Walden. The young trees
and bushes perhaps the birches particularly are
covered now with a small yellowish insect like a louse,
spotted with green above, which cover the hat and
clothes of him who goes through them. Now certainly
is the season for rushes, for, most other weeds being
dead, these are the more obvious along the shore of the
ponds and rivers. A very fair canoe birch near Flint's
The witch-hazel loves a hillside with or without wood
or shrubs. It is always pleasant to come upon it unex-
pectedly as you are threading the woods in such places.
Methinks I attribute to it some elvish quality apart from
its fame. It affects a hillside partially covered with
young copsewood. I love to behold its gray speckled
stems. The leaf first green, then yellow for a short sea-
son, then, when it touches the ground, tawny leather-
color. As I stood amid the witch-hazels near Flint's
1851] A FLOCK OF CHICKADEES
Pond, a flock of a dozen chickadees came flitting and
singing about me with great ado, -a most cheering
and enlivening sound, with incessant day-day-day and
a fine wiry strain betweenwhiles, flitting ever nearer
and nearer and nearer, inquisitively, till the boldest was
within five feet of me; then suddenly, their curiosity
satiated, they flit by degrees further away and disappear,
and I hear with regret their retreating day-day-days.
Saw a smooth sumach beyond Cyrus Smith's, very
The elms in the village have lost many of their leaves,
and their shadows by moonlight are not so heavy as last
Another warm night.
Oct. 12. Sunday. Yesterday afternoon, saw by the
brook-side above Emerson's the dwarf primrose in blos-
som, the Norway cinquefoil and fall dandelions which
are now drying up, the houstonia, buttercups, small
goldenrods, and various asters, more or less purplish.
The seeds of the bidens, without florets, or
beggar-ticks, with four-barbed awns like hay-hooks,
now adhere to your clothes, so that you are all bristling
with them. Certainly they adhere, to nothing so readily
as to woolen cloth, as if in the creation of them the in-
vention of woolen clothing by man had been foreseen.
How tenacious of its purpose to spread and plant its
race! By all methods nature secures this end, whether
by the balloon, or parachute, or hook, or barbed spear
like this, or mere lightness which the winds can waft.
What are those seeds, big as skunk-cabbage seeds,
amid leafless stalks like pontederia in the brooks, now
bending their stems ready to plant themselves at the
The swamp-pink buds begin to show.
Blackbirds and larks are about, and the flicker or
yellow-hammer, so beautifully spotted (in the hand),
and the goldfinches. I see a cow in the meadow with a
new-dropped calf by her side.
The Anemone nemorosa in bloom and the Potentilla
sarmentosa, or running cinquefoil, which springs in April,
now again springing.
I love very well this cloudy afternoon, so sober and
favorable to reflection after so many bright ones. What
if the clouds shut out the heavens, provided they con-
centrate my thoughts and make a more celestial heaven
below! I hear the crickets plainer; I wander less in my
thoughts, am less dissipated; am aware how shallow
was the current of my thoughts before. Deep streams
are dark, as if there were a cloud in their sky; shallow
ones are bright and sparkling, reflecting the sun from
their bottoms. The very wind on my cheek seems more
fraught with meaning.
Many maples around the edges of the meadows are
now quite bare, like smoke.
I seem to be more constantly merged in nature; my
intellectual life is more obedient to nature than formerly,
but perchance less obedient to spirit. I have less mem-
orable seasons. I exact less of myself. I am getting
used to my meanness, getting to accept my low estate.
O if I could be discontented with myself! If I could
feel anguish at each descent!
The sweet-fern is losing its leaves. I see where a field
of oats has been cradled, by the railroad, alternate
white and dark green stripes, the width of a swath, run-
ning across the field. I find it arises from the stubble
being bent a particular way by the cradle, as the cradler
advanced, and accordingly reflecting the light but one
way, and if I look over the field from the other side, the
first swath will be dark and the latter white.
Minott shells all his corn by hand. He has got a box-
ful ready for the mill. He will not winnow it, for he says
the chaff (?) makes it lie loose and dry faster. He tells
me that Jacob Baker, who raises as fair corn as any-
body, gives all the corn of his own raising to his stock,
and buys the flat yellow corn of the South for bread;
and yet the Northern corn is worth the most per bushel.
Minott did not like this kind of farming any better than
I. Baker also buys a great quantity of ".shorts" below
for his cows, to make more milk. He remembers when
a Prescott, who lived where E. Hosmer does, used to let
his hogs run in the woods in the fall, and they grew quite
fat on the acorns, etc., they found, but now there are
few nuts, and it is against the law. He tells me of places
in the woods which to his eyes are unchanged since he
was a boy, as natural as life. He tells me, then, that in
some respects he is still a boy. And yet the gray squir-
rels were ten then to one now. But for the most part, he
says, the world is turned upside down.
P. M. To Cliffs.
I hear Lincoln bell tolling for church. At first I
thought of the telegraph harp. Heard at a distance,
the sound of a bell acquires a certain vibratory hum,
as it were from the air through which it passes, like a
harp. All music is a harp music at length, as if the
atmosphere were full of strings vibrating to this music.
It is not the mere sound of the bell, but the humming
in the air, that enchants me, just [as the] azure tint
which much air or distance imparts delights the eye. It
is not so much the object, as the object clothed with an
azure veil. All sound heard at a great distance thus
tends to produce the same music, vibrating the strings
of the universal lyre. There comes to me a melody which
the air has strained, which has conversed with every leaf
and needle of the woods. It is by no means the sound of
the bell as heard near at hand, and which at this distance
I can plainly distinguish, but its vibrating echoes, that
portion of the sound which the elements take up and
modulate, -a sound which is very nuch modified, sifted,
and refined before it reaches my ear. The echo is to
some extent an independent sound, and therein is the
magic and charm of it. It is not merely a repetition of
my voice, but it is in some measure the voice of the
A cloudy, misty day with rain more or less steady.
This gentle rain is fast loosening the leaves, I see
them filling the air at the least puff, and it is also flat-
tening down the layer which has already fallen. The
pines on Fair Haven have shed nearly all their leaves.
Butter-and-eggs still blooms. Barrels of apples lie under
the trees. The Smiths have carried their last load of
peaches to market.
I [Walden, pp. 136, 137; Riv. 192, 193.]
1851] MINOTT'S SQUIRREL-HUNTING
To-day no part of the heavens is so clear and bright
as Fair Haven Pond and the river. Though the air [is]
quite misty, yet the island wood is distinctly reflected.
Ever and anon I see the mist thickening in the south-
west and concealing trees which were before seen, and
revealing the direction and limits of the valleys, pre-
cursor of harder rain which soon passes again.
Minott calls the stake-driver "belcher-squelcher."
Says he has seen them when making the noise. They go
slug-toot, slug-toot, slug-toot. Told me of his hunting
gray squirrels with old Colonel Brooks's hound. How
the latter came into the yard one day, and he spoke to
him, patted him, went into the house, took down his gun
marked London, thought he would go a-squirrel-hunt-
ing. Went over among the ledges, away from Brooks's,
for Tige had a dreadful strong voice and could be heard
as far as a cannon, and he was plaguy afraid Brooks
would hear him. How Tige treed them on the oaks on
the plain below the Cliffs. He could tell by his bark when
he had treed one; he never told a lie. And so he got six
or seven. How Tige told him from a distance that he
had got one, but when he came up he could see nothing;
but still he knew that Tige never told a lie, and at length
he saw his head, in a crotch high up in the top of a very
tall oak, and though he did n't expect to get him, he
knocked him over.
Oct. 13. Drizzling, misty showers still, with a little
misty sunshine at intervals. The trees have lost many
of their leaves in the last twenty-four hours. The sun
has got so low that it will do to let his rays in on the
earth; the cattle do not need their shade now, nor men.
Warmth is more desirable now than shade.
The alert and energetic man leads a more intellectual
life in winter than in summer. In summer the animal
and vegetable in him are perfected as in a torrid zone;
he lives in his senses mainly. In winter cold reason and
not warm passion has her sway; he lives in thought and
reflection; he lives a more spiritual, a less sensual, life.
If he has passed a merely sensual summer, he passes his
winter in a torpid state like some reptiles and other
The mind of man in the two seasons is like the at-
mosphere of summer compared with the atmosphere of
winter. He depends more on himself in winter, on
his own resources, less on outward aid. Insects, it
is true, disappear for the most part, and those animals
which depend upon them; but the nobler animals abide
with man the severity of winter. He migrates into his
mind, to perpetual summer. And to the healthy man
the winter of his discontent never comes.
Mr. Pratt told me that Jonas (?) Melvin found a
honey-bees' nest lately near Beck Stow's swamp with
twenty-five pounds of honey in it, in the top [of] a maple
tree which was blown down. There is now a large swarm
in the meeting-house chimney, in a flue not used. Many
swarms have gone off that have not been heard from.
Oct. 14. Down the railroad before sunrise.
A freight-train in the Deep Cut. The sun rising over
the woods. When the vapor from the engine rose above
the.woods, the level rays of the rising sun fell on it. It
1851] ZOOLOGICAL ANALOGIES
presented the same redness, -morning red, -inclining
to saffron, which the clouds in the eastern horizon do.
There was but little wind this morning, yet I heard
the telegraph harp. It does not require a strong wind to
wake its strings; it depends more on its direction and
the tension of the wire apparently. A gentle but steady
breeze will often call forth its finest strains, when a strong
but unsteady gale, blowing at the wrong angle withal,
fails to elicit any melodious sound.
In the psychological world there are phenomena
analogous to what zoologists call alternate reproduction,
in which it requires several generations unlike each
other to evolve the perfect animal. Some men's lives
are but an aspiration, a yearning toward a higher state,
and they are wholly misapprehended, until they are re-
ferred to, or traced through, all their metamorphoses.
We cannot pronounce upon a man's intellectual and
moral state until we foresee what metamorphosis it is
preparing him for.
It is said that "the working bees are barren
females. The attributes of their sex seem to con-
sist only in their solicitude for the welfare of the new
generation, of which they are the natural guardians,
but not the parents." (Agassiz and Gould.') This phe-
nomenon is paralleled in man by maiden aunts and
bachelor uncles, who perform a similar function.
"The muskrat," according to Agassiz and Gould, "is
found from the mouth of Mackenzie's River to Florida."
It is moreover of a type peculiar to temperate America.
He is a native American surely. He neither dies of con-
S[Principles of Zoology, Boston, 1851.]
sumption in New England nor of fever and ague at the
South and West. Thoroughly acclimated and natural-
"The hyenas, wild-boars, and rhinoceroses of the
Cape of Good Hope have no analogues on the American
continent." At the last menagerie I visited they told me
that one of the hyenas came from South America!
There is something significant and interesting in the
fact that the fauna of Europe and that of the United
States are very similar, pointing to the fitness of this
country for the settlement of Europeans.
They say, "There are many species of animals
whose numbers are daily diminishing, and whose ex-
tinction may be foreseen; as the Canada deer (Wapiti),
the Ibex of the Alps, the Limmergeyer, the bison, the
beaver, the wild turkey, etc." With these, of course, is
to be associated the Indian.
They say that the house-fly has followed man in his
One would say that the Yankee belonged properly to
the northern temperate fauna, the region of the pines.
Oct. 15. Wednesday. 8.30 A. M. Up the river in a
boat to Pelham's Pond with W. E. C.
(But first a neighbor sent in a girl to inquire if I knew
where worm-seed grew, otherwise called "Jerusalem-
oak" (so said the recipe which she brought cut out of a
newspaper), for her mistress's hen had the "gapes."
But I answered that this was a Southern plant and [I]
knew not where it was to be had. Referred her to the
poultry book. Also the next proprietor commenced
1851] ON THE RIVER IN A WIND
stoning and settling down the stone for a new well, an
operation which I wished to witness, purely beautiful,
simple, and necessary. The stones laid on a wheel, and
continually added to above as it is settled down by dig-
ging under the wheel. Also Goodwin, with a partridge
and a stout mess of large pickerel, applied to me to dis-
pose of a mud turtle which he had found moving the
mud in a ditch. Some men will be in the way to see
The muskrat-houses appear now for the most part
to be finished. Some, it is true, are still rising. They
line the river all the way. Some are as big as small hay-
cocks. The river is still quite low, though a foot or more
higher than when I was last on it. There is quite a
wind, and the sky is full of flitting clouds, so that sky
and water are quite unlike that warm, bright, transpar-
ent day when I last sailed on the river, when the surface
was of such oily smoothness. You could not now study
the river bottom for the black waves and the streaks of
foam. When the sun shines brightest to-day, its pyrami-
dal-shaped sheen (when for a short time we are look-
ing up-stream, for we row) is dazzling and blinding. It
is pleasant to hear the sound of the waves and feel the
surging of theboat, an inspiriting sound, as if you were
bound on adventures. It is delightful to be tossed about
in such a harmless storm, and see the waves look so an-
gry and black. We see objects on shore -trees, etc., -
much better from the boat, from' a low point of view.
It brings them against the sky, into a novel point of
view at least. The otherwise low on the meadows, as
well as the hills, is conspicuous. I perceive that the bul-
rushes are nibbled along the shore, as if they had been
cut by a scythe, yet in such positions as no mower
could have reached, even outside the flags. Probably
the muskrat was the mower, for his houses. In this
cool sunlight, Fair Haven Hill shows to advantage.
Every rock and shrub and protuberance has justice done
it, the sun shining at [an] angle on the hill and giving
each a shadow. The hills have a hard and distinct out-
line, and I see into their very texture. On Fair Haven
I see the sunlit light-green grass in the hollows where
snow makes water sometimes, and on the russet slopes.
Cut three white pine boughs opposite Fair Haven, and
set them up in the bow of our boat for a sail. It was
pleasant [to] hear the water begin to ripple under the
prow, telling of our easy progress. We thus without a
tack made the south side of Fair Haven, then threw our
sails overboard, and the moment after mistook them
for green bushes or weeds which had sprung from the
bottom unusually far from shore. Then to hear the
wind sough in your sail, -that is to be a sailor and hear
a land sound. The grayish-whitish mikania, all fuzzy,
covers the endless button-bushes, which are now bare of
leaves. Observed the verification of the Scripture saying
"as a dog returneth to his vomit." Our black pup, sole
passenger in the stern, perhaps made seasick, vomited,
then cleaned the boat agai'i most faithfully and with a
bright eye, licking his chops and looking round for more.
We c'mnient on the boats of different patterns, -
Sderies (?), punts, bread-troughs, flatirons, etc., etc., -
which we pass, the prevailing our genuine dead-river
boats, not to be matched by Boston carpenters. One
1851] BOATS OF VARIOUS PATTERNS 75
farmer blacksmith whom we know, whose boat we pass
in Sudbury, has got a horseshoe nailed about the scull-
ing-hole;--keeps off the witches too? The water
carriages of various patterns and in various conditions,
- some for pleasure (against the gentleman's seat?);
some for ducking, small and portable; some for honest
fishing, broad and leaky but not cranky; some with
spearing fixtures; some stout and square-endish for hay
boats; one canal-boat or mud-scow in the weeds, not
worth getting down the stream, like some vast pike that
could swallow all the rest, proper craft for our river.
In some places in the meadows opposite Bound Rock,
the river seemed to have come to an end, it was so narrow
suddenly. After getting in sight of Sherman's Bridge,
counted nineteen birches on the right-hand shore in one
Now commenced the remarkable meandering of the
river, so that we seemed for some [time] to be now run-
ning up, then running down parallel with a long, low hill,
tacking over the meadow in spite of ourselves. Landed
at Sherman's Bridge. An apple tree, made scrubby by
being browsed by cows. Through what early hardships
it may attain to bear a sweet fruit! No wonder it is
prompted to grow thorns at last, to defend itself from
such foes.2 The pup nibbles clams, or plays with a bone
no matter how dry. Thus the dog can be taken on a
river voyage, but the cat cannot. She is too set in her
ways. Now again for the Great Meadows. What mean-
dering! The Serpentine, our river should be called.
1 [Excursions, p. 306; Riv. 376.]
2 [Excursions, p. 304; Riv. 373.]
What makes the river love to delay here ? Here come to
study the law of meandering. We see the vast meadow
studded with haycocks. We suspect that we have got
to visit them all. It proves even so. Now we run down
one haycock, now another. The distance made is fre-
quently not more than a third the distance gone. Be-
tween Sherman's Bridge and Causeway Bridge is about
a mile and three quarters in a straight line, but we
judged that we went more than three miles. Here the
"pipes" (at first) line the shore, and muskrat-houses
still. A duck (a loon ?) sails within gunshot, unwilling
to fly; also a stake-driver (Ardea minor) rises with pro-
minent breast or throat bone, as if badly loaded, his
ship. Now no button-bushes line the stream, the change-
able (?) stream; no rocks exist; the shores are lined
with, first, in the water, still green polygonum, then
wide fields of dead pontederia, then great bulrushes,
then various reeds, sedges, or tall grasses, also dead
thalictrum( ?), or is it cicuta? Just this side the
causeway bridges a field, like a tall corn-field, of tall rus-
tling reeds (?), ten feet high with broadish leaves and
large, now seedy tufts, standing amid the button-bushes
and great bulrushes.' I remember to have seen none
elsewhere in this vicinity, unless at Fresh Pond, and
there are they not straighter? Also, just beyond the
bridges, very tall flags from six to eight feet high, leaves
like the cat-tail but no tail. What are they ? 2 We pass
under two bridges above the Causeway Bridge. After
passing under the first one of these two, at the mouth
of Larnum Brook, which is fed from Blandford's Pond,
1 Arundo Phragmitcs ? 2 Yes, a tall kind of cat-tail.
AN UNRULY BOAT
comes from Marlborough through Mill Village, and has
a branch, Hop Brook, from south of Nobscot,- we
see Nobscot, very handsome in a purplish atmosphere
in the west, over a very deep meadow, which makes far
up. A good way to skate to Nobscot, or within a mile
or two. To see a distant hill from the surface of water
over a low and very broad meadow, much better than
to see it from another hill. This perhaps the most novel
and so memorable prospect we got.
Walked across half a mile to Pelham's Pond, whose
waves were dashing quite grandly. A house near, with
two grand elms in front. I have seen other elms in
Wayland. This pond a good point to skate to in winter,
when it is easily accessible. Now we should have to draw
On the return, as in going, we expended nearly as
much time and labor in counteracting the boat's ten-
dency to whirl round, it is so miserably built. Now and
then, aye, aye, almost an everlasting now, it will
take the bits in its mouth and go round in spite of us,
though we row on one side only, for the wind fills the after
part of the boat, which is nearly out of water, and we
therefore get along best and fastest when the wind is strong
and dead ahead. That's the kind of wind we advertise to
race in. To row a boat thus all the day, with an hour's
intermission, making fishes of ourselves as it were, put-
ting on these long fins, realizing the finny life! Surely
oars and paddles are but the fins which a man may use.
The very pads stand perpendicular (on their edges)
before this wind, which appears to have worked more
to the north, showing their red under sides. The
muskrats have exposed the clamshells to us in heaps all
along the shore; else most [would] not know that a clam
existed. If it were not for muskrats, how little would the
fisherman see or know of fresh-water clamshells or clams!
In the Great Meadows again the loon (?) rises, and
again alights, and a heron (?) too flies sluggishly away,
with vast wings, and small ducks which seem to have no
tails, but their wings set quite,aft. The crows ashore
are making an ado, perchance about some carrion. We
taste some swamp white oak acorns at the south end of
Bound Rock Meadow.
The sun sets when we are off Israel Rice's. A few
golden coppery clouds, intensely glowing, like fishes in
some molten metal of the sky, and then the small scat-
tered clouds grow blue-black above, or one half, and
reddish or pink the other half, and after a short twilight
the night sets in. We think it is pleasantest to be on the
water at this hour. We row across Fair Haven in the
thickening twilight and far below it, steadily and with-
out speaking. As the night draws on her veil, the shores
retreat; we only keep in the middle of this low stream
of light; we know not whether we float in the air or in
the lower regions. We seem to recede from the trees
on shore or the island very slowly, and yet a few reaches
make all our voyage. Nature has divided it agreeably
into reaches. The reflections of the stars in the water
are dim and elongated like the zodiacal light straight
down into the depths, but no mist rises to-night. It is
pleasant not to get home till after dark, to steer by the
lights of the villagers. The lamps in the houses twinkle
now like stars; they shine doubly bright.
Rowed about twenty-four miles, going and coming.
In a straight line it would be fifteen and one half.
Oct. 16. The new moon, seen by day, reminds me of
a poet's cheese. Surveying for Loring to-day. Saw the
Indian Ditch, so called. A plant newly leaving out, a
shrub; looks somewhat like shad blossom. To-night the
spearers are out again.
Oct. 17. Surveying for Loring. A severe frost this
morning, which puts [us] one remove further from
Oct. 19. The Indian (?) Ditch crosses the road be-
yond Loring's, running south seven and one half west,
or within about two and a half degrees of the true me-
ridian. According to Stephen Hosmer's plan of Thomas
Jones's woodland, made in 1766, the ditch where Derby
and Loring bound on it must be about eighty-four rods
from old town line.
To the northern voyager who does not see the sun for
three months, night is expanded into winter, and day
Observed to-day on the edge of a wood-lot of Lor-
ing's, where his shrub oaks bounded on a neighbor's
small pitch pines, which grew very close together, that
the line of separation was remarkably straight and dis-
tinct, neither a shrub oak nor a pine passing its limit,
the ground where the pines grew having apparently been
cultivated so far, and its edges defined by the plow.
A surveyor must be curious in studying the wounds of
trees, to distinguish a natural disease or scar from the
"blazing" of an axe.
Has the aspen (?) poplar any more of a red heart than
the other? The powder man does not want the red-
hearted. Even this poor wood has its use.
Observed an oak, a red or black, at a pigeon-
place, whose top limbs were cut off perhaps a month ago;
the leaves had dried a sort of snuff-yellow and rather
Oct. 22. The.pines, both white and pitch, have now
shed their leaves, and the ground in the pine woods is
strewn with the newly fallen needles. The fragrant life-
everlasting is still fresh, and the Canada snapdragon
still blooms bluely by the roadside. The rain and damp-
ness have given birth to a new crop of mushrooms. The
small willow-like shrub (sage willow (?), Salix longi-
rostris, Mx.) is shedding its small leaves, which turn
black in drying and cover the path.
Oct. 23. It is never too late to learn. I observed to-day
the Irishman who helped me survey twisting the branch
of a birch for a withe, and before he cut it off; and also,
wishing to stick a tall, smooth pole in the ground, cut a
notch in the side of it by which to drive it with a hatchet.
Oct. 26. I awoke this morning to infinite regret. In
my dream I had been riding, but the horses bit each
other and occasioned endless trouble and anxiety, and
it was my employment to hold their heads apart. Next I
sailed over the sea in a small vessel such as the North-
men used, as it were to the Bay of Fundy, and thence
overland I sailed, still over the shallows about the
sources of rivers toward the deeper channel of a stream
which emptied into the Gulf beyond, the Miramichi,
was it? Again I was in my own small pleasure-boat,
learning to sail on the sea, and I raised my sail before
my anchor, which I dragged far into the sea. I saw the
buttons which had come off the coats of drowned men,
and suddenly I saw my dog when I knew not that I
had one standing in the sea up to his chin, to warm
his legs, which had been wet, which the cool wind
numbed. And then I was walking in a meadow, where
the dry season permitted me to walk further than usual,
and there I met Mr. Alcott, and we fell to quoting and
referring to grand and pleasing couplets and single lines
which we had read in times past; and I quoted one
which in my waking hours I have no knowledge of, but
in my dream it was familiar enough. I only know that
those which I quoted expressed regret, and were like the
following, though they were not these, viz.: -
"The short parenthesis of life was sweet,"
"The remembrance of youth is a sigh," etc.
It had the word memory .in it!! And then again the
instant that I awoke, methought I was a musical instru-
ment from which I heard a strain die out, a bugle,
or a clarionet, or a flute. My body was the organ and
channel of melody, as a flute is of the music that is
breathed through it. My flesh sounded and vibrated
still to the strain, and my nerves were the chords of
the lyre. I awoke, therefore, to an infinite regret, to
find myself, not the thoroughfare of glorious and world-
stirring inspirations, but a scuttle full of dirt, such a
thoroughfare only as the street and the kennel, where,
perchance, the wind may sometimes draw forth a strain
of music from a straw.
I can partly account for this. Last evening I was
reading Laing's account of the Northmen, and though
I did not write in my Journal, I remember feeling a fer-
tile regret, and deriving even an inexpressible satisfaction,
as it were, from my ability to feel regret, which made that
evening richer than those which had preceded it. I heard
the last strain or flourish, as I woke, played on my body
as the instrument. Such I knew I had been and might
/ be again, and my regret arose from the consciousness
how little like a musical instrument my body was now.
Oct. 27. This morning I wake and find it snowing
and the ground covered with snow; quite unexpectedly,
for last night it was rainy but not cold.
The obstacles which the heart meets with are like
granite blocks which one alone cannot move. She who
was as the morning light to me is now neither the morn-
ing star nor the evening star. We meet but to find each
other further asunder, and the oftener we meet the more
rapid our divergence. So a star of the first magnitude
pales in the heavens, not from any fault in the observer's
eye nor from any fault in itself, perchance, but because
its progress in its own system has put a greater distance
The night is oracular. What have been the intima-
tions of the night? I ask. How have you passed the
My friend will be bold to conjecture; he will guess
bravely at the significance of my words.
The cold numbs my fingers this morning. The strong
northwest wind blows the damp snow along almost hor-
izontally. The birds fly about as if seeking shelter.
Perhaps it was the young of the purple finch that I saw
sliding down the grass stems some weeks ago; or was it
the white-throated finch ?
Winter, with its inwardness, is upon us. A man is
constrained to sit down, and to think.
The Ardea minor still with us. Saw a woodcock 2
feeding, probing the mud with its long bill, under the
railroad bridge within two feet of me for a long time.
Could not scare it far away. What a disproportionate
length of bill! It is a sort of badge they [wear] as a
punishment for greediness in a former state.
The highest arch of the stone bridge is six feet eight
inches above the present surface of the water, which I
should think was more than a foot higher than it has
been this summer, and is four inches below the long
stone in the east abutment.
Oct. 31. The wild apples are now getting palatable.
I find a few left on distant trees, which the farmer
thinks it not worth his while to gather. He thinks that
he has better in his barrels, but he is mistaken, unless
he has a walker's appetite and imagination, neither
of which can he have.3 These apples cannot be too
knurly and rusty and crabbed (to look at). The knurl-
iest will have some redeeming traits, even to the eyes.
1 [See p. 29.] 2 Or snipe? I [Excursions, p. 308; Riv. 378.]
You will discover some evening redness dashed or sprin-
kled on some protuberance or in some cavity. It is rare
that the summer lets an apple go without streaking
or spotting it on some part of its sphere, though per-
chance one side may only seem to betray that it has
once fallen in a brick-yard, and the other have been
bespattered from a roily ink-bottle.' Some red stains it
will have, commemorating the. mornings and evenings
it has witnessed; some dark and rusty blotches, in mem-
ory of the clouds and foggy mildewy days that have
passed over it; and a spacious field of green, reflecting
the general face of nature, green even as the fields;
or yellowish ground, if it has a sunny flavor, yellow
as the harvests, or russet as the hills.2 The saunterer's
apple not even the saunterer can eat in the house.3 The
noblest of fruits is the apple. Let the most beautiful or
swiftest have it.4
The robins now fly in flocks.
[Excursions, p. 314; Riv. 385, 386.]
2 [Excursions, p. 314; Riv. 386.]
3 [Excursions, p. 311; Riv. 382.]
S[Excursions, p. 297; Riv. 364, 365.]
Nov. 1. Saturday. R. W. E. says that Channing
calls [ ] 1 seven feet of sandstone with a spoonful
It is a rare qualification to be able to state a fact sim-
ply and adequately, to digest some experience cleanly,
to say yes and no with authority, to make a square
edge, to conceive and suffer the truth to pass through us
living and intact, even as a waterfowl an eel, as it flies
over the meadows, thus stocking new waters. First of all
a man must see, before he can say. Statements are made
but partially. Things are said with reference to cer-
tain conventions or existing institutions, not absolutely.
A fact truly and absolutely stated is taken out of the
region of common sense and acquires a mythologic or
universal significance. Say it and have done with it.
Express it without expressing yourself. See not with the
eye of science, which is barren, nor of youthful poetry,
which is impotent. But taste the world and digest it.
It would seem as if things got said but rarely and by
chance. As you see, so at length will you say. When
facts are seen superficially, they are seen as they lie in
relation to certain institutions, perchance. But I would
have them expressed as more deeply seen, with deeper
[Name scratched out.]
references; so that the hearer or reader cannot recognize
them or apprehend their significance from the platform
of common life, but it will be necessary that he be in a
sense translated in order to understand them; when
the truth respecting his things shall naturally exhale
from a man like the odor of the muskrat from the coat
of the trapper. At first blush a man is not capable of re-
porting truth; he must be drenched and saturated with
it first. What was enthusiasm in the young man must
become temperament in the mature man. Without excite-
ment, heat, or passion, he will survey the world which
excited the youth and threw him off his balance. As all
things are significant, so all words should be significant.
It is a fault which attaches to the speaker, to speak flip-
pantly or superficially of anything. Of what use are
words which do not move the hearer, are not oracu-
lar and fateful ? A style in which the matter is all in all,
and the manner nothing at all.
In your thoughts no more than in your walks do you
meet men. In moods I find such privacy as in dismal
swamps and on mountain-tops.
Man recognizes laws little enforced, and he conde-
scends to obey them. In the moment that he feels his
superiority to them as compulsatory, he, as it were,
courteously reenacts them but to obey them.
This on my way to Conantum, 2.30 P. M. It is a bright,
clear, warm November day. I feel blessed. Ilovemy life.
I warm toward all nature. The woods are now much
more open than when I last observed them; the leaves
have fallen, and they let in light, and I see the sky through
them as through a crow's wing in every direction. For
the most part only the pines and oaks'(white?) retain
their leaves. At a distance, accordingly, the forest is
green and reddish. The crickets now sound faintly
and from very deep in the sod.
Minott says that G. M. Barrett told him that Amos
Baker told him that during Concord Fight he went
over behind the hill to the old Whittaker place (Sam
Buttrick's) and stayed. Yet he was described as the
only survivor of Concord Fight. Received a pension
for running away ?
Fall dandelions look bright still. The grass has got
a new greenness in spots. At this season there are
stranger sparrows or finches about. The skunk-cab-
bage is already pushing up again. The alders have lost
their leaves, and the willows except a few shrivelled
It is a remarkable day for fine gossamer cobwebs.
Here in the causeway, as I walk toward the sun, I per-
ceive that the air is full of them streaming from off the
willows and spanning the road, all stretching across
the road, and yet I cannot see them in any other direc-
tion, and feel not one. It looks as if the birds would
be incommoded. They have the effect of a shimmer in
the air. This shimmer, moving along them as they are
waved by the wind, gives the effect of a drifting storm
of light. It is more like a fine snow-storm which drifts
athwart your path than anything else. What is the
peculiar condition of the atmosphere, to call forth this
activity? If there were no sunshine, I should never
find out that they existed, I should not know that I was
bursting a myriad barriers. Though you break them