THE WRITINGS OF
HENRY -DAVID THOREAU
2Mt Sq 9.C
Cows in Emerson's Pasture (page 166)
THE WRITINGS OF
HENRY DAVID THOREAU
EDITED BY BRADFORD TORREY
MAY 1, 1852-FEIRUARY 27, 1853
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
Ebe Biberitbe VPrese, Cambriage
COPYRIGHT 1906 BY HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.
All rights reserved
CHAPTER I. May, 1852 (,Er. 34) 3
The Seringo-Bird and Other Birds Peeping Frogs Brown
Thrushes The Dream Frog A May Moon Salutations
Excitement about Kossuth Foundations Flowers and
Birds Red Maple The Spearers Fire, Water, and Wood
The Love Song of the Toad The Leafing of the Willows
Cowslips The Toad and its Song The Songs of Birds-
Catnep A View seen through Haze l-Expanding Leaves -
Cranberries in Spring Blackbird Concerts A Carload
of Rock Maples A May Twilight The Gray Woods -
Young Leaves Kossuth here Steadiness and Solidity in
Men A May' Storm The Early Spring Flowers The
Arrival of the Birds Miscellaneous Notes on the Progress
of the Season Willow Blossoms Spring Weather -
The Vernal Fragrance The Bellwort Fresh-Water Clam
Shells- A Willful Fragrance- After the May Storm- A
May Landscape Poor Health Apple Blossoms A Visit
in Plymouth Blossom Week A New Version of the
(Estrus The Crickets' Song The Sweet Flag A Day
of Shadows The River.
CHAPTER II. June, 1852 (~T. 34) 78
The Battle of the Moon and the Clouds The Songs of Birds
at Dawn- The Lupine- The First Half of June- The
Druids Notes from Evelyn Music from a Quart Pot
More Notes from Evelyn Fugacious Fragrances -
The Beauty of Decay The Blue Flag Boys Bathing -
The White Man the Color of his Clothes Swallows The
Clintonia The Carrion-Flower Jonathan Carver's Travels
- Melting Weather A Flowery Revolution A Hot After-
noon The Sight and Sound of Water in Hot Weather -
A Great Hawk The Purple Fringed Orchis The River
by Starlight- An Early. Morning Paddle on the River -
The Stake-Driver Bullfrogs on Lily-Pads- The Crickets at
Dawn A Rock in the Meadow Lichens The Art of
Music A Walk to Flag Hill with Channing The Light
of June The Degrees of the Seasons The Art of Avoiding
Houses on a Walk Threading Swamps Flag Hill The
Advantages of Travelling across Country The Bittern's
Pumping The Bullfrog The Perception of Beauty -
The Flowers of a Dry Hillside Thunder and Lightning -
The Rainbow Fireflies and Lightning A "Washing"
Day The Beauty and Fragrance of the Wild Rose A
Hat for a Botany-Box Neat Cattle White Pines The
Orientation of Trees Watching the Clouds Grasshop-
pers --Rainbow in the Morning The Season of Wild
Roses Grateful Coolness A Moonlight Walk Cra-
niometry The Water-Lily Shadows on the Bottom of
the River -Natural Meadows The Arch Architecture
-A Tree struck by Lightning- The Fear of Lightning
Blueberries Night on Mountain-Tops The Growth
of the Water-Lily Nature and Humanity The River by
CHAPTER III. July, 1852 (Er. 34-35) 165
The Good Behavior of Cows Water-Lilies The Dwarf
Raspberry Breams' Nests A Sailing Water-Lily Wild
Roses An Epidemic of Observation The Moon's Aurora
-Blueberry-Pickers Fresh-Water Clams, the Food of
Muskrats The July Dawn Sunrise The Opening and
Closing of the Water-Lilies The Border of Pads on the
River Chastity of Mind Glass Windows An Elfin
Burial-Ground A Spring Concord's Two Rivers The
Calopogon The Music of the Wood Thrush An Owl's
Hooting A Pickerel in the Brook Edmund Hosmer -
Nature and the Debauchee Chickens and Ducklings -
The Songs of Birds out of a Fog A Foggy Morning The
Names of Orchids Sub-pontean Life The Necessity of
Bathing The Luna Moth An Old Chinese Inscription -
The Luxury of Bathing The Brows of Earth Hot, Dry
Weather A Fluvial Walk An Old Pout with her Young -
Drouth and Cultivation Meadow Walking A Healthy
Intoxication Another Walk in the River Stone-Heaps in
the River A Twilight Walk The Ripening of Wild Fruits
Clothing in Hot Weather Albinos Fleets of Butterflies
Bass Flowers and Bees Beck Stow's Swamp The
River in its Glory The Odor of the Water-Lily The Sud-
bury Meadows Dew and Fog Blue-Curls After Sun-
set July Dawn A July Evening The Haying Season -
A Sunset The Afterglow Drouth Unprofitable Occu-
pation The Hardiness of Cows A Sea of Fog Lists of
Flowers in and out of Blossom The Wings of a Moth -
The Luxury of Walking in, the River Schools of Young
Bream The Thrush's Song The Value of the Distant
Mountain Range Asters and Goldenrod History and
War Birds' Eggs.
CHAPTER IV. August, 1852 (TEr. 35) 271
Wachusett in the Horizon The Enchantment of Music -
Funeral Customs A View of Walden Miles's Blueberry
Swamp William Gilpin The Beauty of the Rainbow -
Flowers along a Brook A Liberal Education The Use of
the Rainbow Morning Fog A Personal Identity with
Sadi Double Consciousness Alcott as a Genealogist -
The Man of the West Marsh Hibiscus An August Morn-
ing The Aroma of Green Walnuts Hibiscus Flowers -
Plants brought from the White Mountains by Miss Hoar -
A Cold Brook Brilliant Fruits An Early Reddening of
Leaves Self-Expression --The River-Bank A Moonlight
Walk The Surface of Things Desire for True Friendship
Cuttlefish Lives The High Blackberry The Ghost-
Horse -Rain Walden Pond Village Culture A River
Voyage Sunshine after Rain A Small Hawk Sunset
on the Water Bitterns.
CHAPTER V. September, 1852 (XET. 35) 335
The Necessity of Tragedy Thistle-Down on the Pond -
The Color of Walden'- Its Varied Shores Gilpin and Loch
Fyne A Moonlight Walk An Excursion to Peterboro and
Monadnock The Peterboro Hills Wolves on Monadnock
Ascent of Monadnock -The Law of Love Wild-Flowers
and Rain Idleness and Employment Observation A
Soaring Hawk Barberrying The Surface of a Lake -
Wild Apples A Scarecrow The Flower of Autumn -
Mountains in the Distance The Second Spring A Bee-
CHAPTER VI. October, 1852 (Mr. 35) 376
Grass Balls Chasing a Loon The Walden Loon-- Wild
Ducks on Walden An Experirient with Ground-Nuts -
Fairhaven Pond in Autumn The First Snow The Water
of Walden October on the River The Fringed Gentian -
The View from a Mountain-Top Caddis-Worms Tim-
ber in the Old World and the New An October Sunset -
Friends and Strangers Late Autumnal Tints The Consti-
tution of the Indian Mind Notes from Richard Harlan -
October Moonlight A Wild Bee.
CHAPTER VII. November, 1852 (XT. 35) 405
Man in the World Schools of Small Perch A November
Landscape Thorer of Steige The Indian Path around
Walden A Sail up River The Snow on the Twigs -
Food and the Imagination.
CHAPTER VIII. December, 1852 (TEr. 35) 419
A Mink -The Muskrat's House -The Rise and Fall
of Walden Walden's Water Chestnuts The Frost
on the Cistus A Mouse and its Nest The First Skating
Wisdom in Living Gathering Chestnuts Frozen
CHAPTER IX. January, 1853 (ETr. 35) 436
Ice Incrustations Ice-clad Trees Agassiz's Opinion of
Harris Uncle Charles The Ice in the Woods Building
a Fire in the Woods Nature and Man The Yellow Birch
Squirrel-Tracks Bubbles in the Ice A Pleasant Winter
Morning A Powder-Mill Explosion The Wreck at the
Mills The Ice-Bubbles The Telegraph Harp Crow-
foot Buds Chestnutting A Cider-Drinker Snowflakes
The Farmer and Ship-Timber Rivals The Blue Sky
at Night- The Stars and the Eye Silence Moonlight
and Shadows The Track of an Otter A Springlike After-
noon The Pickerel of Walden The Trees which Wear
Leaves in January Mornings of Creation The Roominess
of Nature Drifting Snow Pickerel-Fishing through the Ice
The Forms of Ice on a Brook Wildness The Exploits
of the Farmer The Pickerel of Walden De Quincey on the
Downward Direction of the Eyes.
CHAPTER X. February, 1853 (FiT. 35) 487
Ducks in the River A Thick Fog The Ramparts about
the Edges of Ponds A Grizzly Bear A Remarkable Echo
A Pitch Pine Cone The Humming of the Snipe.
COWS IN EMERSON'S PASTURE (page 166) Frontispiece
CONCORD RIVER IN JUNE 116
THE MOUNTAINS FROM PONKAWTASSET HILL 264
WALDEN POND IN WINTER 450
'THE JOURNAL OF
HENRY DAVID THOREAU
MAY, 1852 (XT. 34)
May 1. 5 A. M. To Cliffs.
A smart frost in the night, the plowed ground and
platforms white with it. I hear the little forked-tail
chipping sparrow (Fringilla socialist) shaking out his
rapid tchi-tchi-tchi-tchi-tchi-tchi, a little jingle, from the
oak behind the Depot. I hear the note of the shy Sa-
vannah sparrow (F. Savanna),' that plump bird with a
dark-streaked breast that runs and hides in the grass,
whose note sounds so like a cricket's in the grass. (I
used to hear it when I walked by moonlight last sum-
1 Probably have seen it before, seringo. [Though here, where
the "seringo-bird makes its first appearance in the Journal, its
identity with the savanna sparrow seems to have been unquestioned
by Thoreau, it proved afterwards (see p. 8., et seq.) to be almost as
puzzling to him as the ever elusive "night-warbler." The proba-
bility is that the "seringo" in this and most other cases was the
savanna sparrow, but it may sometimes have been the yellow-winged,
or grasshopper, sparrow, or even, as Thoreau once suspected, the
grass finch, or vesper sparrow. It is quite likely that at times the
bird he saw was not the bird he heard.]
mer.) I hear it now from deep in the sod, for there
is hardly grass yet. The bird keeps so low you do not
see it. You do not suspect how many there are till at
length their heads appear. The word seringo reminds
me of its note, as if it were produced by some kind
of fine metallic spring. It is an earth-sound. It is a
moist, lowering morning for the mayers. The sun now
shines under a cloud in the horizon, and his still yel-
low light falls on the western fields, as sometimes on the
eastern after a shower in a summer afternoon. Nuttall
says the note of the chipping sparrow is "given from
time to time in the night like the reverie of a dream."
Have I not heard it when spearing? Is not that the
tree sparrow which I have heard in the fall (in com-
pany with the F. hyemalis), which also clucks like a
hen ? Nuttall says they sing s'weedit s'weedit weet. I
hear a lark in the meadow.
HIayden is sowing his oats. There is not much rye
sown in the spring. There is the old picture in the
fables, the sower stepping over plowed ground and the
yellowish grain in a regularly formed shower in the air.
I do not hear the peep of the frogs at this time. Found
the first violet, which would open to-day, either V.
sagittata var. ovata,1 or V. cucullata, for the leaves are
not toothed at base nor arrow-shaped as in the first, yet
they are hairy and I should say petiole-margined. Still,
like the latter, they are rolled in at base and the scape
is four-angled ( ? ?). I found this violet under a bank
by a pool-side. I think it cucullata. The woods have a
1 ["Either" and "or V. cucullata" crossed out in pencil. See
damp smell this morning. I hear a robin amid them,
yet there are fewer singers to be heard than on a very
pleasant morning some weeks ago. The low early blue-
berry, June berry, is now well budded. The grass
ground, low ground at least, wears a good green tinge
now. There are no leaves on the woods. The river is
high over the meadows. There is a thin gauze-like veil
over the village (I am on Fair Haven Hill), probably
formed of the smokes. As yet we have had no morning
fogs to my knowledge.
I hear the first towhee finch. He says to-wee, to-wee,
and another, much farther off than I supposed when I
went in search of him, says whip your ch-r-r-r-r-r-r, with
a metallic ring. I hear the first catbird also, mewing,
and the wood thrush, which still thrills me, a sound
to be heard in a new country, -from -one side of a
clearing. I think I heard an oven-bird just now, -
wicher wicher whicher which 1 I am on the Cliff. It is
about six. The flicker cackles. I hear a woodpecker
tapping. The tinkle of the huckleberry-bird comes
up from the shrub oak plain. He commonly lives
away from the habitations of men, in retired bushy
fields and sprout-lands. A partridge bursts away from
under the rock below me on quivering wings, like
some moths I have seen. We have, then, flowers, and
the song of birds before the woods leave out,-like
poetry. When leaving the woods I heard the hooting
of an owl, which sounded very much like a clown
calling to his team. Saw two large woodpeckers on
S[" Think" is crossed out in pencil, and "black and white creeper"
substituted for "oven-bird."]
an oak. I am tempted to say that they were other and
larger than the flicker, but I have been deceived in
5 P. M. To Red Bridge.
The smell of our fresh meadows, from which the
flood has in some measure receded, reminds me of the
scent of salt marshes, to which it corresponds. A coarse
grass is starting up, all the greener and more luxuriant
for the freshet, one foot high. I hear a new kind of
stertorous sound from the meadow; a new frog? The
flowers (male) of the maple by the bridge are all dried
up, and its buds are just expanding into leaves, while
red maples are in their flowering prime. I find by the
leaves that this is probably a white maple. The purple
finch is come to Minott's neighborhood. I saw it. I
rarely see it elsewhere than about R. W. E.'s. Are they
not attracted hither by his fir trees ? (I think it was
not the tree sparrow which I used to hear in rainy
E. Wood, Senior, says it was in 1818 the river was so
high, and that Sted. Buttrick marked it, but thinks the
last flood an inch or two higher. Wood has observed
that the North River will rise first, and he has seen
the South Branch flowing up-stream faster than ever
he saw it flowing down. Tells a story of barrels that
floated once from where Loring's factory is to the old
Lee or Barrett house meadow.
The little peeping frogs which I got last night resem-
ble the description of the Hylodes Pickeringii and in
some respects the peeping hyla, but they are probably
the former, though every way considerably smaller videe
pencil mark in report). Mine are about three quarters
of an inch long as they sit, seven eighths if stretched;
thigh five sixteenths, leg same; tarsus and toes one
half; four-fingered and five-toed with small tubercles
on the ends of them. Some difference in their color;
one is like a pale oak leaf at this season, streaked with
brown; two others more ashy. Two have crosses like
this on back, of dark brown. On the
head thus, with transverse bands on the legs.
I keep ,v;J them in a tumbler. Peep at
twilight and evening, occasionally at oth-
er times. One that got out in the evening
on to the carpet was found soon after by his
peeping on the piano. They easily ascend the glass of
the window; jump eighteen inches and more. When
they peep, the loose wrinkled skin of the throat is
swelled up into a globular bubble, very large and trans-
parent and quite round, except on the throat side, be-
hind which their little heads are lost, mere protuberances
on the side of this sphere; and the peeping wholly ab-
sorbs them; their mouths shut, or apparently so. Will
sit half a day on the side of a smooth tumbler. Made
that trilling note in the house. Remain many hours
at the bottom of the water in the tumbler, or sit as
long on the leaves above. A pulse in the throat always,
except in one for an hour or two apparently asleep.
They change their color to a darker or lighter shade,
May 2. 6 A. M. Is not the chipping sparrow the
commonest heard in the village streets in the mornings
now, sitting on an elm or apple tree ? Was it the black
and white warbler that I saw this morning ? It did not
stop to creep round the trunks; was very shy. Or was
it the myrtle-bird? Might it have been the log-cock
woodpecker that I saw yesterday morning? Reptiles
must not be omitted, especially frogs; their croaking
is the most earthy sound now, a rustling of the scurf
of the earth, not to be overlooked in the awakening of
the year. It is such an earth-sound.
The flowers of Cheney's elm are not only much ear-
lier and larger than others, but the peduncles are in
separate bundles proceeding from a common short pe-
duncle. There appears to be such a difference, the tree
is made of a different form and appearance. I can
easily break off a twig from its branches, which hang
very low. Vide the rough-barked elm in the swamp, -
if it is not the corky elm. The balm-of-Gilead begins
to show its male (?) catkins.
The commonplaces of one age or nation make the
poetry of another. I think that my seringo-bird has
not the marks of the Savannah sparrow. Looks like a
chip-bird; or did I see a spot on its breast? That
white maple, methinks, has a smoother bark than the
P. M. To Conantum.
The handsome blood-red lacquered marks on the
edge and under the edge of the painted tortoise's shell,
like the marks on a waiter, concentric, few colors like
it in nature. This tortoise, too, like the guttata, painted
on these parts of its shell and on legs and tail in this
style, but throat bright yellow stripes, sternum dull yel-
lowish or buff. It hisses like the spotted. Tortoises
everywhere coupling. Is the male the large and flatter,
with depressed sternum? It so seems? There is some
regularity in the guttata's spots, generally a straight
row on back. Some of the spots are orange sometimes
on the head.
Brought home two little frogs which I have described
in the Report (q. v.) but cannot make out. Are they
young? The andromeda is ready to bloom. The yel-
low lily is budded. The little frogs peep more or less
during the day, but chiefly at evening twilight, rarely
in the morning. They peep at intervals. One begins,
then all join in over the whole pond, and they suddenly
stop all together.
If you would obtain insight, avoid anatomy.
I am pretty sure that is the myrtle-bird I see and
hear on the Corner road, picking the blossoms of the
maple, with the yellow crown and black throat or
cheeks. It sings pe-te-te-te-ter twe, emphasizing the last
and repeating the second, third, and fourth fast.
The little frogs I kept three days in the house peeped
at evening twilight, though they had been silent all day;
never failed; swelled up their little bagpipes, transpar-
ent, and as big as a small cherry or a large pea. Saw
a bird on the willows, very shy, which may be the in-
digo-bird, but I am not sure. The Equisetum arvense
is now in bloom (the male flowers) all over the rail-
road embankment, coloring it yellowish (?).
May 3. 5 A. M. -To Cliffs.
A great brassy moon going down in the west. A
flock of neat sparrows, small, striped-throated, whitish
over eye, on an apple tree by J. Potter's. At Hayden's
orchard, quite a concert from some small sparrows,
forked-tailed, many jingling together like canaries.
Their note still somewhat like the chip-sparrow's. Can
it be this ?
Fair Haven. How cheering and glorious any land-
scape viewed from an eminence! For every one has its
horizon and sky. It is so easy to take wide views.
Snow on the mountains. The wood thrush reminds me
of cool mountain springs and morning walks.
That oven-birdish note which I heard here on May
1st I now find to have been uttered by the black and
white warbler or creeper. He has a habit of looking
under the branches. The towhee finch is the loudest
singer here now.
Does that long-drawn, interesting note, something
like ha, ha, tull-a-lull tull-a-lull, proceed from the
Looking from the Cliff, now, about 6 A. M., the
landscape is as if seen in a mirage, the Cliff being in
shadow, and that in the fresh and dewy sunshine (not
much dew yet). Cool sunlight. The landscape lies in
a fresh morning light; the earth and water smell fresh
and new; the water is marked by a few smooth streaks.
The atmosphere suits the grayish-brown landscape, -
the still ashy maple swamps and now nearly bare shrtb
1 [Probably the song of the white-throated sparrow, whose voice
Thoreau mistook for the chickadee's in the Maine woods.]
oaks. The white pine, left here and there over the
sprout-land, is never more beautiful than with the
morning light the early sunlight and the dew on
it. (Dew comes with grass? and for it?) Before the
water is rippled and the morning song of the birds is
Hear the first brown thrasher, two of them.
Minott says he heard one yesterday, but does he know
it from a catbird? They drown all the rest. He says
cherruwit, cherruwit ; go ahead, go ahead ; give it to him,
give it to him; etc., etc., etc. Plenty of birds in the
woods this morning. The huckleberry birds and the
chickadees are as numerous, if not as loud, as any.
The flicker taps a dead tree as some what [sic] uses
a knocker on a door in the village street. In his note
he begins low, rising higher and higher. Is it a wood
pewee or a vireo that I hear, something like pewit pewit
chowy chow ? It requires so much closer attention to
the habits of the birds, that, if for that reason only, I
am willing to omit the gun.1
P. M. Cinquefoil or five-finger (Potentilla Canaden-
sis). Also the golden saxifrage (what a name!) (Chrys-
osplenium Americanum), in the meadow at Brister's
Hill, in the water, in moss-like beds. It may have been
in bloom some time; an obscure flower.
A cold wind from the northwest. How much are
our summers retarded by the snow on the mountains?
Annursnack looks green three miles off. This is an im-
portant epoch, when the distant bare hills begin to show
I [Walden, p. 234; Riv. 330.]
green or verdurous to the eye. The earth wears a new
aspect. Not tawny or russet now; but green, are such
Some of the notes, the trills, of the lark sitting amid
the tussocks and stubble are like my seringo-bird. May
these birds that, live so low in the grass be called
the cricket birds ? and does their song resemble the
cricket's, an earth-song ?
Was that a flying squirrel which the Emerson chil-
dren found in his nest on the 1st of May ? Heard some
kind of dor-bug approaching with a hum, as I sat in a
meadow this afternoon, and it struck the ground near
me with as much noise as a bullet, as if some one had
fired at me with an air-gun.
Evening. -The moon is full. The air is filled with a
certain luminous, liquid, white light. You can see the
moonlight, as it were reflected from the atmosphere,
which some might mistake for a haze, a glow of mel-
low light, somewhat like the light I saw in the after-
noon sky some weeks ago; as if the air were a very thin
but transparent liquid, not dry, as in winter, nor gross,
as in summer. It has depth, and not merely distance
Going through the Depot Field, I hear the dream
frog at a distance. The little peeping frogs make a
background of sound in the horizon, which you do not
hear unless you attend. The former is a trembling
note, some higher, some lower, along the edge of the
earth, an all-pervading sound. Nearer, it is a blubber-
ing or rather bubbling sound, such as children, who
stand nearer to nature, can and do often make, this
and many others, remembering the frog state.' There
is no dew (I have observed none yet). The dream
of the frog sounds best at a distance, -most dreamy.
The little peeper prefers a pool on the edge of a wood,
which mostly dries up at midsummer, whose shore is
covered with leaves and [where] twigs lie in the water, as
where choppers have worked. Theirs is a clear, sharp,
ear-piercing peep, not shrill, -sometimes a squeak
from one whose pipe is out of order, frequently a qua-
vering, curving (?) trill, as if of alarm (?). The sound
of the dreamer frog does not fail, for one no sooner
ceases than another in a different part of the landscape
takes up the strain.
The sky is not so withdrawn, clear, tight, and cold as
last moon. It is quite comfortable, more than during
the day. No crickets are heard. The river in the west
looks blue, exactly like the sky reflecting it. Is not the
sky a lighter blue than in winter.? The dogs bark. The
rocks have not been enough warmed by day to feel
decidedly warm at night.
At Hubbard's Bridge. The river still quite high.
The water is calm. I hear a stertorous sound from
some frog. This makes three frogs' notes that I hear.
There is the moon in the south, with one bright star
just beneath it, which, when the moon is in clouds, is
its representative. Looking from bridge to hill, above
is the moon, separated from attendant star by a bar of
white clouds, below which the star shines brightly in
a clearing; beneath this, bars of white clouds to the
I [The last four words crossed out'in pencil.]
A MAY MOON
horizon. The hill and opposite woods are dark with
fine effect. The little peepers have much the greatest
apparatus for peeping of any frogs that I know. Frogs
are the birds of the night.
I go along the side of Fair Haven Hill. The clock
strikes distinctly, showing the wind is easterly. There
is a grand, rich, musical echo trembling on the air
long after the clock has ceased to strike, like a vast
organ, filling the air with a trembling music like a flower
of sound. Nature adopts it. Beautiful is sound. The
water is so calm the woods and single trees are doubled
by the reflection, and in this light you cannot divide
them as you walk along the river. See the spearers'
lights, one northeast, one southwest, toward Sudbury,
beyond Lee's Bridge,- scarlet-colored fires. From the
hill the river is a broad blue stream exactly the color
of the heavens which it reflects. Sit on the Cliff with
comfort, in greatcoat. All the tawny and russet earth
- for no green is seen on the ground at this hour -
sending only this faint multitudinous sound (of frogs)
to heaven. The vast, wild earth. The first whip-or-u-
will startles me. Hear three.
1852] EXCITEMENT ABOUT KOSSUTH 15
Summer is coming apace. Within three or four days
the birds have come so fast I can hardly keep the run
of them,- much faster than the flowers. I did not
watch for the very earliest, however.
My little peepers when they slept, the pulsation in
their throats stopped. There was a wrinkled bag there.
They begin to peep in earnest at or before sundown,
and they keep it up now at 10 P. M. But I rarely hear
any numbers in the morning, when they probably sleep.
Heard the dreaming frogs close at hand, in the pool
in the road by Hubbard's, a loud, liquid ringing, bub-
bling. One plainly answers another. Almost put my
hand on one while bubbling. There is more ring to it
close by, but on the whole it is not as poetic.
The salutations and commonplaces of all nations,
which sound to us formal often, are always adapted to
their circumstances, and grow out of their necessities.
The Tartar inquires, "Has the rain been abundant?
Are your flocks in prosperity ? Have your mares been
fruitful ? and the answer is, All is at peace in our pas-
tures." Serene and.Biblical, and no man's invention.
M. Hue met with a family in China remarkable for
May 4. R. W. E. tells me he does not like Haynes
as well as I do. I tell him that he makes better manure
than most men.
This excitement about Kossuth is not interesting to-
me, it is so superficial. It is only another kind of
dancing or of politics. Men are making speeches to
him all over the country, but each expresses only the
thought, or the want of thought, of the multitude. No
man stands on truth. They are merely banded together
as usual, one leaning on another and all together on
nothing; as the Hindoos made the world rest on an
elephant, and the elephant on a tortoise, and had
nothing to put under the tortoise.1 You can pass your
hand under the largest mob, a nation in revolution
even, and, however solid a bulk they may make, like
a hail-cloud in the atmosphere, you may not meet so
much as a cobweb of support. They may not rest,
even by a point, on eternal foundations. But an indi-
vidual standing on truth you cannot pass your hand
under, for his foundations reach to the centre of the
universe. So superficial these men and their doings, it
is life on a leaf or a chip which has nothing but air or
water beneath. I love to see a man with a tap-root,
though it make him difficult to transplant.' It is un-
important what these men do. Let them try forever,
they 'can effect nothing. Of what significance the things
you can forget?
A little thought is sexton to all the world.
I see the slate-colored snowbird still,- a few. What
was that large olive-yellow bird on Heywood's apple
trees? The female flower of the sweet-gale, red, like
so many female flowers. The meadow-sweet begins to
leave out. The male flowers of the maple look yellow-
ish-scarlet, looking up to the sky. The elms are still in
full blossom. The cowslip's is a vigorous growth and
makes at present the most show of any flower. Leaf,
1 [Cape Cod, and Miscellanies, pp. 470, 471; Misc., Riv. 273.]
2 Vide [pp. 54, 55].
FLOWERS AND BIRDS
stem, bud, and flower are all very handsome in their
place and season. It has no scent, but speaks wholly
to the eye. The petals are covered at base with a
transparent, dewy (dew-like), apparently golden nectar.
Better for yellows than for greens. I hear trees creak
here (at Saw Mill Brook) like inn signs in the street.
The singularly rough winged (?) barked elms here,
which run up so high, blossom only at top. They are
very easy to climb, the bark is so rough and furrowed
and soft, affording a support to the clothes. The bark
on the twigs strips up long. A kind of corky bark, but
flower like the common.
The little frogs begin to peep in good earnest toward
May 5. 5 A. M. -Frost in night; hence the grass is
wet. Hear the seringo-bird on an apple tree. I think
it must be one of the species of song sparrow. Hear
on the elms in the street, for the first time that I re-
member, the purple finch (without the crimson) singing
loud, like a warbling vireo but with more variety. Hear
also this morning in the village the chickadees' fine,
ringing, air-possessing tull-a-lull tull-a-lull. Is this the
third note of this bird, and confined to this season ?1
Heard it the morning of the brown thrasher. The other
afternoon I could not hear the birds sing, the wind in
the woods made such a noise.
3 P. M. To little ponds.
A really warm day. I perspire in my thick coat. Hear
1 [See p. 10.]
18 JOURNAL [MAY 5
the dream frogs, but fainter than by night. The aspect
of the woods half a mile distant shows the state of the
atmosphere. There is a very slight transparent haze on
them, just enough to glass them; somewhat such a reflec-
tion and seething in the air as I have described by moon-
light. The maple-tops show red with their blossoms
against the higher trees. What is, the color of their tops
in winter? The red maples and the elms, now covered
with full rich [sic], are now on the whole the most com-
mon and obvious blossoms. It is their season, and they
are worthy of it. The one has the woods and swamps
and causeways; the other, the village. My seringo-bird
sounds now from the railroad like the dropping of a
file, or any bit of steel, on an anvil. Saw a shad-fly.
The white-bellied (?) swallow soars and sails like a
hawk. Leave the Cut. The woods are now dry, and
the ground feels crisp under my feet. Fires in the woods
will now rage. I see their traces by the railroad. I
smell the dry leaves. Nature invites fire to sweep her
floors, for purification. From the high field, see smokes
toward Wachusett. The shade is even agreeable to-
day. I smell the pines lately; is it because they are
starting? Oh, the huckleberry-bird! The Viola pedata
budded, ready to blossom. In Stow's clearing. Every
part of the world is beautiful to-day; the bright, shim-
mering water; the fresh, light-green grass springing up
on the hills, tender, firm, moss-like before it waves; -
the very faint blue sky, without distinct clouds, is least
beautiful of all, having yielded its beauty to the earth;
-and the fine light smokes, sometimes blue against
the woods; and the tracts where the woods have been
cut the past winter. The beautiful, ethereal, not misty,
blue of the horizon and its mountains, as if painted.
Now all buds may swell, methinks; now the summer
may begin for all creatures. The wind appears to be a
little north of west. The waters, still high, have a fine
shimmering sparkle over a great part of their surface,
not so large nor quite so bright as in the fall.
As I can throw my voice into my head and sing very
loud and clear there, so I can throw my thought into
a higher chamber, and think louder and clearer above
the earth than men will understand.
The maple woods half a mile distant are not a bright
red, but a little brighter than the oak leaves have been.
It looks best from a hilltop a quarter of a mile distant,
seen rising amid pines, with a light rosaceous tint in
the sun, in Holden's Swamp. I can see them of a dull
red a mile and a half distant. The blossom (male) of
the maple has very little fragrance, but that agreeable.
This and the elm may go together, possessing the season
to careless eyes.
Now the flies are heard to buzz about you, as you
sit on a rock on the hillside. How long is it since I
saw geese and ducks? Methinks ever since the Great
Freshet. They are swept northward with the storms, -
a transient wildness. Is that a hop-hornbeam under
the Cliffs which looks like a black birch? There is
red-stemmed moss on the earth-covered rocks half-way
down. The male flowers of the grahdidentata begin to
dry up. The young oaks on the plain have suddenly, I
think within a day or two, lost all their leaves, being
about to put forth new.
Ip its America of enterprise and active life, does not
the mind lose its adipose tissue that Knox tells of ?
A tree-toad again. The outlines of Fair Haven Pond
begin to appear, and the two arms that claim the island.
Few birds are heard from the Cliffs now at 4 p. M.
Sunrise is already their hour.
I succeed best when I recur to my experience not too
late, but within a day or two; when there is some dis-
tance, but enough of freshness.
Saxifrage and crowfoot abundant, though I have
found but one violet. The crowfoot has a sweet spring-
like fragrance, like the dandelion, if you have many, but
very little of it. A gloss like varnish on its thin petals.
It makes a show here in the grass over warm rocks.
Saxifrage still less scent.
Heard the first cricket singing, on a lower level than
any bird, observing a lower tone the sane, wise one
-than all the singers. He came not from the south,
but from the depths. He has felt the heats at last, -
that migrates downward. The smallest of birds. The
myrtle-bird again, rather tame. A pretty little crim-
son willow, i. e. its four-divided stigmas, either the
Salix tristis or humilis, one to two feet high, catkins
a third of an inch long, recurved. I have seen no fe-
male willow so handsome, but neither Gray nor Emer-
son describes its beauty. It turns greenish as it grows
old. Dotted with minute crimson stigmas. In the small
ponds I hear a slight bullfroggy note. The andromeda
is now a brownish-green; very little of the redness left.
Seen from the sun side, now the sun is getting low, it
looks like a large bed of greenish-gray moss, reflecting
the light. What has become of its red leaves? Does it
shed them, and the present fresher ones not till next
spring ? These leaves show their under sides appressed
to the stem. The sweet-fern now begins to shed its
yellow pollen. The first anemones on a warm hillside
west of the Island Pond. Thalictrum anemonoides
(rue-leaved). What the shrub now leaving out at the
east of the Long Pond, with sticky buds? A cherry or
plum ? There is a dust on Walden, where I come
to drink, -which I think is the pollen of such trees and
shrubs as are now in blossom, aspens, maples, sweet-
fern, etc.,-food for fishes. I did not see any when I
last drank here, a short time ago.
A fine scarlet sunset. As I sit by my window and see
the clouds reflected in the meadow, I think it is impor-
tant to. have water, because it multiplies the heavens.
Evening. To the Lee place rock.
Moon not up. The dream frog's is such a sound as
you can make with a quill on water, a bubbling sound.
Behind Dodd's. The spearers are out, their flame a
bright yellow, reflected in the calm water. Without
noise it is slowly carried along the shores. It reminds
me of the light which Columbus saw on approaching
the shores of the New World. There goes a shooting
star down towards the horizon, like a rocket, appearing
to describe a curve. The water sleeps with stars in its
bosom. I see another light in the far southwest. To
a stranger in the dark they would appear like light-
houses on low points, lighting voyagers to our shores.
I Wild red cherry.
This might be called the spearer's moon this year, if
it were of use to him. Hear a pout-like sound of frogs.
(The chickadee 1 says now in morning, har (long),
pc-e-e pe-e-e p-e-e-e, the last trill something like tull-a-
lull lull-a-lull.) The dream of the frogs 2 is very indis-
tinct at a distance. Venus, the evening star, high in
the sky. The spearers' light reveals the forms of trees
and bushes near which it passes. When it is not seen,
it makes a pillar of reddish or rosy light on the twigs
above it. I see even the lamps of the village in the
water, the river is so high.
As I went up the Groton road, I saw a dim light
at a distance, where no house was, which appeared to
come from the earth. Could it be a traveller with a
lanthorn ? Could it be a will-o'-the-wisp ? (Who ever
saw one ? Are not they a piece of modern mythology ?)
You wonder if you will ever reach it; already it seems
to recede. Is it the reflection of the evening star in
water? or what kind of phosphorescence ? But now I
smell the burning. I see the sparks go up in the dark. -
It is a heap of stumps half covered with earth, left to
smoulder and consume in the newly plowed meadow,
now burst forth into dull internal flames. Looks like
a gipsy encampment. I sit on the untouched end of a
stump, and warm me by it, and write by the light, the
moon not having risen. What a strange, Titanic thing
this Fire, this Vulcan, here at work in the night in this
bog, far from men, dangerous to them, consuming earth,
S["Myrtle-bird" is substituted in pencil for "chickadee." Thoreau
afterward learned that the bird was the white-throated sparrow!]
2 [" Toads" substituted in pencil for "frogs."]
1852] FIRE, WATER, AND WOOD
gnawing at its vitals The heap glows within. Here
sits hungry Fire with the forest in his mouth. On the
one side is the solid wood; on the other, smoke and
sparks. Thus he works. The farmer designs to con-
sume, to destroy, this wood, remains of trees. He gives
them to his dog or vulture Fire. They burn like spunk,
and I love the smell of the smoke. The frogs peep
and dream around. Within are fiery caverns, incrusted
with fire as a cave with saltpetre. No wonder at sala-
manders. It suggests a creature that lives in it, gener-
ated by it. The glass men are nearer the truth than
the men of science.
I hear Barrett's sawmill 1 running by night to improve
the high water. Then water is at work, another devourer
of wood. These two wild forces let loose against na-
ture. It is a hollow, galloping sound; makes tearing
work, taming timber, in a rude Orphean fashion pre-
paring it for dwellings of men and musical instruments,
perchance. I can imagine the sawyer, with his lanthor
and his bar in hand, standing by, amid the shadows
cast by his light. There is a sonorous vibration and
ring to it, as if from the nerves of the tortured log. Tear-
ing its entrails.
I go forward. The rabbit goes off from the wood-side
with a squeak and bounce. I hear him strike the ground
each time. He squeaks once like an alarmed bird. The
rocks are very slightly warm, perhaps because it is not
cold enough to-night, and it is a very little colder in the
The moon is just rising (9.30). She has not yet freed
1 Vide p. .
herself from the clouds of earth and reached the clear
and serene heavens.
No nighthawks heard yet.
I stand by the bubbling frogs (dreamers at a distance).
They are sometimes intermittent, with a quavering. I
hear betweenwhiles a little bird-like conversation be-
tween them. It is evidently their wooing.
May 6. 3 P. M. -To Conantum.
Heard the first warbling vireo this morning on the
elms. This almost makes a summer. Heard also, as I
sat at my desk, the unusual low of cows being driven
to their country pastures. Sat all day with the window
open, for the outer air is the warmest. The balm-of-
Gilead was well blossomed out yesterday, and has been
for three or four days probably. The woods seen a mile
off in the horizon are more indistinct yesterday and to-
day, these two summer-like days (it is a summer heat),
the green of the pines being blended with the gray or
ash of the deciduous trees; partly, perhaps, because the
fine haze in the air is the color of the twigs, and partly
because the buds are expanded into leaves on many;
but this last cause is hardly admissible. Now the wasps
My dream frog turns out to be a toad. I watched
half a dozen a long time at 3.30 this afternoon in Hub-
bard's Pool, where they were frogging ( ?) lustily. They
sat in the shade, either partly in the water, or on a
stick; looked darker and narrower in proportion to their
length than toads usually do, and moreover are aquatic.
I see them jump into the ditches as I walk. After an
1852] THE LOVE-SONG OF THE TOAD 25
interval of silence, one appeared to be gulping the
wind into his belly, inflating himself so that he was con-
siderably expanded; then he discharged it all into his
throat while his body or belly collapsed suddenly, ex-
panding his throat to a remarkable size. Was nearly a
minute inflating itself; then swelled out its sac, which
is rounded and reminded me of the bag to a work-
table, holding its head up the while. It is whitish
specked (the bag) on a dull bluish or slate ground,
much bigger than all the rest of the head, and nearly
an inch in diameter. It was a ludicrous sight, with their
so serious prominent eyes peering over it; and a deafen-
ing sound, when several were frogging at once, as I was
leaning over them. The mouth [seemed] to be shut
always, and perhaps the air was expelled through the
nostrils. The strain appeared prolonged as long as the
air lasted, and was sometimes quavered or made inter-
mittent, apparently by closing the orifice, whatever it
was, or the blast. One, which I brought home, answers
well enough to the description of the common toad
(Bufo Americanus), though it is hardly so gray. Their
piping (?) was evidently connected with their loves.
Close by, it is an unmusical monotonous deafening
sound, a steady blast, not a peep nor a croak, but a
kind of piping, but, far away, it is a dreamy, lull-
ing sound, and fills well the crevices of nature. Out
of its place, as very near, it would be as intolerable as
the thrumming of children. The plower yesterday dis-
turbed a toad in the garden, the first I have heard of.
I must catch him and compare them. Their heads are
well above the water when they pipe.
Saw a striped snake lying by the roadside as if watch-
ing for toads, though they must be scarce now, his head
just on the edge of the road. The most flexible of crea-
tures, it is so motionless it appears the most rigid, in
its waving line.
The yellow willows on the causeways are now fairly
: leaving out. They are more forward in this respect than
that early willow, fr another thatiee.' The trees are
already a mass of green, partly concealing the yellow
stems, a tender, fresh light green. No trees look so
forward in this respect, and, being in rows, they make
the more show, their branches are so thick and numer-
ous, close together. If some have leaves as large, they
are much more scattered and make no such show. I
did not observe what time the willow bark would strip
and make whistles. The female maple is more crimson,
the male more scarlet. The horse-chestnut buds are so
advanced that they are larger than the leaves of any
tree. The elder, the wild cherry, thimble-berries, sweet-
briars, cultivated cherry, and early apples, etc., white
birches, hazels, aspens, hornbeams, maples, etc., etc., -
not quite the hickory and alder, are opening their
buds; the alders are beginning to.
It is pleasant when the road winds along the side of
a hill with a thin fringe of wood through which to look
into the low land. It furnishes both shade and frame
for your pictures, -as this Corner road. The first
Anemone nemorosa, wind-flower or wood anemone, its
petals more slightly tinged with purple than the rue-
leaved. See the ferns here at the spring curling up
like the proboscis of the sphinx moth. The first Viola
blanda (sweet-scented white), in the moist ground, also,
by this spring. It is pretty numerous and may have
been out a day or two. I think I could not find so
many blue ones. It has a rather strong scent like helio-
trope (?). The Convallaria bifolia budded. Sometimes
the toad reminds me of the cricket, its note also pro-
ceeding from the ground. See now the woodchuck rol-
licking across a field toward his hole and tumbling into
it. See where he has just dug a new hole. Their claws
long and rather weak-looking for digging. The wood-
peckers tapping. The first columbine (Aquilegia Cana-
densis) to-day, on Conantum. Shade is grateful, and
the walker feels a desire to bathe in some pond or
stream for coolness and invigoration.
Cowslips show at a distance in the meadows (Miles's).
The new butter is white still, but with these cows' lips
in the grass it will soon be yellow, I trust. This yellow-
ness in the spring, derived from the sun, affects even
the cream in the cow's bag, and flowers in yellow butter
at last. Who has not turned pale at the sight of hay
butter ? These are the cows' lips.
The music of all creatures has to do with their loves,
even of toads and frogs. Is it not the same with man?
There are odors enough in nature to remind you of
everything, if you had lost every sense but smell. The
fever-bush is an apothecary's shop.
The farmers are very busily harrowing and rolling in
their grain. The dust flies from their harrows across
the field. The tearing, toothed harrow and the pon-
derous cylinder, which goes creaking and rumbling over
the surface, heard afar, and vying with the sphere.
The cylinder is a simple machine, and must go into the
new symbols. It is an interesting object, seen drawn
across a grain-field. The willows are now suddenly of a
light, fresh, tender yellowish-green. A green bittern,
a gawky bird. As I return over the bridge, shadflies
very numerous. Many insects now in the evening sun-
shine, especially over the water.
Houstonia (Hedyotis ccrulea), bluets, now just begun.
Dewey calls it Venus' Pride. Gray says truly, a very
delicate little herb, producing in spring a profu-
sion of handsome bright blue blossoms fading to white,
with a yellow eye." I should say bluish-white. The
dwarf andromeda (A. calyculata) just begun; leaves
called evergreen; flowers on one-sided leafy racemes."
Methinks its leaves remain two years, and fall in the
spring, the small ones continuing to grow.' The ground
is now strewn with the old red-brown lower leaves, and
only the smaller and fresher green ones remain.
The common toad, with which I compared the dream
toad I brought home, has two horn-like dark marks
reaching over the eyes. It is not depressed, but rather
has a tubercle, on the top of the head between the
eyes. It is also much wider in proportion to length,
and is triangular, as I have drawn in report. Yet they
are probably the same. The garden toad made the
same faint chicken-like, musical croak, when I held
him in my hand, with the other, and in the same man-
ner swelling his bag. The garden toad was yellowish
beneath, the other white with some small spots. The
latter turned much lighter-colored, from brown to a
S[This sentence is queried in the margin.]
THE TOAD'S SONG
yellowish and light-brown green, or rather greenish-
brown,-while I had him. They have a bright eye,
with coppery or golden-coppery iris. It is their redeem-
ing feature. But why do I not hear them in the garden ?
They appear to frequent the water first, and breed
there, then hop to the gardens, and turn lighter and
May 7. Friday. 4.30 A. M. -To Cliffs.
Has been a dew, which wets the feet, and I see a
very thin fog over the low ground, the first fog, which
must be owing to the warm weather. Heard a robin
singing powerfully an hour ago, and song sparrows, and
the cocks. No peeping frogs in the morning, or rarely.
The toads sing ( ? ), but not as at evening. I walk
half a mile (to Hubbard's Pool, in the road), before I
reach those I heard, only two or three. The sound
is uttered so low and over water; still it is wonderful
that it should be heard so far. The traveller rarely
perceives when he comes near the source of it, nor when
he is farthest away from it. Like the will-o'-the-wisp,
it will lead one a long chase over the fields and meadows
to find one. They dream more or less at all hours now.
I see the relation to the frogs in the throat of many a
man. The full throat has relation to the distended
I would fain see the sun as a moon, more weird.
The sun now rises in a rosaceous amber. Methinks the
birds sing more some mornings than others, when I
cannot see the reason. I smell the damp path, and de-
rive vigor from the earthy scent between Potter's and
Hayden's. Beginning, I may say, with robins, song
sparrows, chip-birds, bluebirds, etc., I walked through
larks, pewees, pigeon woodpeckers, chickadee tull-a-
lulls, to towhees, huckleberry-birds, wood thrushes,
brown thrasher, jay, catbird, etc., etc. Entered a cool
stratum of air beyond Hayden's after the warmth of
yesterday. The Viola pedata still in bud only, and the
other (q. v.). Hear the first partridge drum. The first
oven-bird. A wood thrush which I thought a dozen
rods off, was only two or three, to my surprise, and
betrayed himself by moving, like a large sparrow with
ruffled feathers, and quirking his tail like a pewee, on a
low branch. Blackbirds are seen going over the woods
with a chattering bound to some meadow.
A rich bluish mist now divides the vales in the east-
ern horizon mile after mile. (I am ascending Fair
Haven.) An oval-leaved pyrola (evergreen) in Brown's
pines on Fair Haven.
Cliffs.- This is the gray morning; the sun risen;
a very thin mist on the landscape; the falling water
smooth. Far below, a screaming jay seen flying, against
the bare stems of the pines. The young oaks on the
plain, the pines standing here and there, the walls in
Conantum pastures seen in the sun, the little groves on
the opposite side of the river lit up by it while I am [in]
shade, these are memorable and belong to the hour.
Here at this hour the brown thrasher often drowns
the other birds. The towhee has been a main bird for
I [Probably the bird was a hermit thrush, this motion of the tail
being almost a proof positive. Probably, too, all the "wood thrushes"
seen by Thoreau in April (see ante) were hermits.]
THE SONGS OF BIRDS
regular morning singing in the woods for a little while.
The creeper is regularly heard, too. Found the first
strawberry blossoms (Fragaria Virginiana) on Fair
Haven. The sedge grass blossom is now quite large
*and showy on the dry hillside where the wood has
recently been cut off.
I think that birds vary their notes considerably with
the seasons. When I hear a bird singing, I cannot
think of any words that will imitate it. What word
can stand in place of a bird's note ? You would have
to bury [ ? ] it, or surround it with a chevaux de frise of
accents, and exhaust the art of the musical composer
besides with your different bars, to represent it, and
finally get a bird to sing it, to perform it. It has so lit-
tle relation to words. The wood thrush says ah-tully-
tully for one strain. There appear to be one or more
little warblers in the woods this morning which are
new to the season, about which I am in doubt, myrtle-
birds among them. For now, before the leaves, they
begin to people the trees in this warm weather. The
first wave of summer from the south. The purple
finch (sober-colored) is a rich singer. As I said the
other day, something like the warbling -vireo, only
louder, clearer, mellower, and more various. Bank
swallows at Hayden's.
I fear that the dream of the toads will not sound so
musical now that I know whence it proceeds. But I
will not fear to know. They will awaken new and
more glorious music for me as I advance, still farther
in the horizon, not to be traced to toads and frogs in
P. M. To Nawshawtuct.
The vireo comes with warm weather, midwife to the
leaves of the elms. I see little ant-hills in the path,
already raised. How long have they been? The first
small pewee sings now che-vet, or rather chirrups chevet,'
tche-vet a rather delicate bird with a large head and
two white bars on wings. The first summer yellow-
birds on the willow causeway. The birds I have lately
mentioned come not singly, as the earliest, but all at
once, i. e. many yellowbirds all over town. Now I
remember the yellowbird comes when the willows be-
gin to leave out. (And the small pewee on the willows
also.) So yellow. They bring summer with them and
the sun, tche-tche-tche-tcha tcha-tchar. Also they haunt
the oaks, white and swamp white, where are not leaves.
On the hill I sit in the shadow of the locust trunks and
branches, for want of other shade. This is a mistake
in Nature, to make shade necessary before she has ex-
panded the leaves.
The catnep is now up, with a lustrous purple tinge
to the under side of its leaves. (Why should so many
leaves be so painted on the under side, concealed from
men's eye only not from the insects as much as
the sculptures on the tops of columns ?) There is some-
thing in its fragrance as soothing as balm to a sick
man. It advances me ever to the autumn and beyond
it. How full of reminiscence is any fragrance! If it
were not for virtuous, brave, generous actions, could
there be any sweet fragrance ?
"Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in the dust."
1852] A VIEW SEEN THROUGH HAZE
Now you may say the trees generally are beginning
to leave out, excepting the oaks, celtis, late water willow,
etc., etc. But only the willows and the balm-of-Gileads
make any show in our landscape yet, -of native or
wild trees, the latter where they grow in clumps. Its
catkins are five inches long.
Top of hill. The haze is remarkably thick to-day
as if all the distant western woods were on fire. (The
wind west and what coolness in it most grateful.) The
haze makes the western view quite rich, so many edges
of woodland ridges where you see the pine tops against
the white mist of the vale beyond. I count five or six
such ridges rising partly above the mist, but succes-
sively more indistinct, the first only a quarter of a mile
off. Of course there are no mountains. It belongs to
this warm weather. The lower part of the sky is white,
like a fog; only in the zenith do I see any blue. It
makes the outlines of the blue water on the meadow
eastward agreeably indistinct, being more nearly the
color of the water itself than the land. A maple swamp
in bloom, westward from this hill, is a rich sight, even
like a rosy orchard in bloom. The dust flies.
I am not sure whether my first violet was the cucul-
lata or ovata,1 or the same with that minute one which
I found prepared to blossom by the Spring Path this
morning. A fern, one of the osmundas, beyond the
celtis, one foot high, covered with reddish wool, unfold-
ing its blossom ( ?) as it rises. The wool used for birds'
nests. Might be used for other purposes ? It is such
weather as in summer we expect a thunder-shower after.
1 ["I whether" and cucullataa or" crossed out in pencil.]
Is this smoke-like haze produced by the warm west
wind meeting the still cool earth? Or is it smoke?
The ground under the walnuts is richly strewn with nut-
shells, broken and gnawed by squirrels, like an unswept
dining-hall in early'times. That little early violet close
to the ground in dry fields and hillsides, which only
children's eyes detect, with buds showing purple but
lying so low, as if stooping to rise, or rather its stems
actually bent to hide its head amid the leaves, quite
unpretending. The gnaphalium, though without scent,
is now a pure, dry, enduring flower and bears inspec-
tion. The first peetweet; myrtle-birds numerous. The
catbird does not make the corn-planting sounds. The
toads dream loudly these first warm days. A yellow-
throated green frog in the river, by the hemlocks, -
bright silk-green the fore part of the body, tiger-striped
legs. The eyes of toads and frogs are remarkably
bright and handsome, oval pupils (?) or blacks and
golden or coppery irides. The hop-hornbeam is almost
in bloom. The red-wing's shoulder, seen in a favorable
light, throws all epaulets into the shade. It is General
Abercrombie, methinks, when they wheel partly with
the red to me. The crow blackbirds make a noise like
crows, and also a singular and rarely heard scream or
screech. They fly with lark-like wings. We require just
so much acid as the cranberries afford in the spring.
The first humblebee, that prince of hummers, bom-
byle [sic], looking now over the ground as if he could
find something. He follows after flowers. To have
your existence depend on flowers, like the bees and
hummingbirds! The willow twigs now may make
wreaths so pretty and graceful with their expanding
leaves. They afford the only chaplets yet, fit to crown
the fairest. The horse-chestnuts in the yards have
opened their parasol-like leaves to-day, reminding me
of tropical palms; and the rock maples' large buds are
almost open. Such a haze as this makes a dark night.
May 8. 4.30.- The robin and the bluebird have
sung for some time. The haziness is now like a sea-
turn, through which the sun, shorn of beams, looks
claret, and at length, when half an hour high, scarlet.
You thought it might become rain. Many swallows
flying in flocks high over the river, -the chimney
swallow for one. What is the other? They sustain
themselves sometimes on quivering wings, making little
progress, as if to catch insects. A pretty little blossom
on a willow, male and female sometimes on one catkin.
The female catkins of the early willows are now ex-
panded to two or three inches in length, making the
otherwise backward tree look green. The male catkins
have lost all their anthers for some time. The female
maples are lengthening their stems for the keys. Some
are a quite yellowish green (?), stigmas and all. A
singular noise from a jay this morning. Hear the yel-
lowbird, the creeper, and the myrtle-bird this morning,
all together; they are much alike. The creeper, a faint
oven-bird note; the myrtle-bird, a little more of the s
or q1 in it than the yellowbird and more various. I hear
the wit er che,1, Maryland yellow-throat. Two gold
robins; they chatter like blackbirds; the fire bursts
1 Vide p. .
forth on their backs when they lift their wings. A fresh
scent blows off from the meadows, the river rapidly
going down. The leaves of the young rock maples,
which have first expanded this morning, make little
crosses against the sky, four leaves, or stars, the
leaves being finely cut. The ground was found frozen
still to-day, in the shade behind Aunt's house.
P. M. Down river to Red Bridge.
The blackbirds have a rich sprayey warble now, sit-
ting on the top [of] a willow or an elm. They 'possess
the river now, flying back and forth across it. The
high-backed, elliptical stinkpot covered with leeches.
They lie near the shore with their backs out of water,
dry in the sun. The spotted, and especially the painted,
how they love to lie in the sun on rails and rocks!
No tarts that I ever tasted at any table possessed
such a refreshing, cheering, encouraging acid that lit-
erally put the heart in you and set you on edge for this
world's experiences, bracing the spirit, as the cranberries
I have plucked in the meadows in the spring. They cut
the winter's phlegm, and now I can swallow another
year of this world without other sauce. Even on the
Thanksgiving table they are comparatively insipid, have
lost as much flavor as beauty, are never so beautiful as
The warm weather (looking back over the past days)
has [come] very suddenly. One day I had a fire (which
day? Vide back a week or two), and the next night,
and each night since, I slept with my window open, as
I have sat with it all day. Everything has taken a sud-
den start within three or four days, and our thoughts
are equally affected. The air has been remarkably
hazy or smoky. The weather has been delightfully
warm; not what you would call sultry, for there is,
after all, a grateful coolness in the breeze. The haze
is so thick that only the zenith is blue to-day and
The aspens, with their young leaves, now make a
show in the woods like light-green fires amid the other
trees. Martins are heard over the meadows their rich
warble -and in one place they make the street alive.
The white maple is covered with small leaves now, as
forward or perhaps more so than the sugar maple.
The cross they make is more irregular, two of the leaves
being longer than the others. Is that female maple
higher up the river a white one? Horse-mint is up
The blackbirds fly in flocks and sing in concert on
the willows, what a lively, chattering concert! a
great deal of chattering with many liquid and rich
warbling notes and clear whistles, till now a hawk
sails low, beating the bush: and they are silent or off,
but soon begin again. Do any other birds sing in such
deafening concert? The red-wings, male and female.
The red maple in blossom is most beautiful near to.
Here too, on Red Bridge causeway, I find the yellow-
birds on the willows. The Salix alba has bloomed to-
day and fills the causeway with sweet fragrance, though
there are yet but few flowers. Here are boys making
whistles. Now no instrumental music should be heard
in the streets more youthful and innocent than willow
whistles. Its sound has something soft in it as the wood
of the willow. A rather rich scent has this willow
Sundown. To Cliffs. (No moon.)
I am most impressed by the rapidity of the changes
within a week. Saw a load of rock maples on a car
from the country. Their buds have not yet started,
while ours are leaved out. They must have been brought
from the northern part of Vermont, where is winter
still. A tree, with all its roots, which has not felt the
influence of spring is a most startling evidence of win-
ter, of the magic worked by the railroad. The young
sugar maples in our streets are now green with young
leaves. These trees from the north are whirled into
their midst from a region of ice and snow, with not
a bud yet started, at least a fortnight or three weeks
more. backward, not fairly awaked from their winter's
Children are digging dandelions by the roadside with
a pan and a case-knife. For the first time, this evening
I observe the twittering of swallows about the barns.
The sun has set in the haze. Methinks I have heard
the snipe. Now hear the lark, the song sparrow, etc.
The peeper, is he not lord of sound ? so tiny, yet heard
farther than a man! A cool but an agreeable wind.
(Going by Bear Garden.) The sounds of peeping frogs
(Hylodes) and dreaming toads are mingled into a sort
of indistinct universal evening lullaby to creation, while
the wind roars in the woods for a background or sea of
sound, in which on whose bosom these others float.
A MAY TWILIGHT
The young birch leaves, very neatly plaited, small tri-
angular light-green leaves, yield an agreeable sweet
fragrance, just expanded and sticky, sweet-scented as
innocence. The song sparrow and the robin sing early
and late. The night-warbler while it is yet pretty light.
It is that kind of mirage now in which the slope of the
hills appears not a position but a motion. The hills
ascend, the earth rocks. Do I not hear the veery's
yorick? The whipp-or-u-wills" begin. When I heard
the first one the other night, feeling myself on the verge
of winter, I was startled as if I had heard a summer
sound in the midst of winter. I hear a catbird singing
within a rod among the alders, but it is too dark to see
him. Now he stops and half angrily, half anxiously and
inquisitively, inquires char-char, sounding like the caw
of a crow, not like a cat.
Venus is the evening star and the only star yet visi-
ble. Starlight marks conveniently a stage in the evening,
i. e. when the first star can be seen. Does it not coin-
cide with the whip-poor-wills' beginning? I am struck
by the blackness of the small pines at this hour, two or
three feet high, on the plain below Fair Haven Hill. It
is already midnight behind or within them. Is there as
great a contrast in the summer, when the grass in this
field is more green ? Such trees are, as it were, nuclei
of the night. A strong but not cold southwest wind is
blowing against the rocks mercilessly, an aerial surf,
having been ordered to do so. The twilight seems long
this evening. Is it not made so by the haze ?
Hayden tells me that when he has been to water his
cattle some time since in the pool behind his house, the
little peepers have been so thick all together as to hinder
his cattle from drinking, a hundred together. It was
when the weather was cooler. Was it not for warmth,
and when they were asleep in the morning ?
Methinks the scent is a more primitive inquisition
Than the eye, more oracular and trustworthy. When I
Scriticise my own writing, I go by the scent, as it were.
The scent reveals, of course, what is concealed from
the other senses. By it I detect earthiness.1
May 9. Sunday Morning. To Trillium Woods.
Apples and cherry trees begin to look green at a dis-
tance. I see the catkin of a female Populus tremuloides
far advanced, i. e. become large like the willows. These
low woods are full of the Anemone nemorosa, half opened
at this hour and gracefully drooping, sepals with a
purple tinge on the under side, now exposed. They are
in beds and look like hail on the ground; their now
globular flowers spot the ground white. Saw a Mary-
land yellow-throat, whose note I have heard before, -
the little restless bird that sits low, i. e. on low bushes.
The golden senecio, ragwort, or squaw-weed (Senecio
aureus), whose lower or radical leaves, roundish and
crenate, somewhat resemble the cowslip early in the
meadows, has now got up six inches high and shows
purple buds. It is the plant whose stem when broken
yields that sweet scent. Low blueberry bushes and
high are well budded to bloom. The bluet (sometimes
at least ?) begins with a kind of lilac-blue, fading through
white, delicately tinged with blue, to white.
[Channing, p. 299.]
THE GRAY WOODS
P. M. To hill north of Walden.
I smell the blossoms of the willows, the row of Salix
alba on Swamp Bridge Brook, a quarter of a mile to
windward, the wind being strong. There is a delightful
coolness in the wind. Reduce neck-cloth. Nothing so
harmonizes with this condition of the atmosphere -
warm and hazy -as the dream of the toad. The sa-
marse on Cheney's elms now give it a leafy appearance,
or as if covered with hops, before the buds are ex-
panded. Other elms are nearly as forward. The gray,
misty-looking deciduous woods now appear to imbosom
the evergreens, which before stood out distinct. It is
partly to be referred now, I think, to the expanding
leaves as well as the haze. They are closing in around
them, and there is an indescribable change in the ap-
pearance of the evergreens. Now and for some days
the west and southwest winds have prevailed. The
early blueberry is almost in flower. The arbutus (?)
pyrus shows red scales (?). The barren plants of the
Equisetum arvense now shoot up rapidly on the rail-
road bank and make it suddenly green. Viola ovata in
bloom. The shrub oak buds are expanding, red of va-
rious hues and mixtures, quite rich. There is a positive
sweetness in the air from flowers and expanding leaves,
a universal sweetness. A longish yellow-abdomened
bee. Chickadee's phoebe note is common now, the
tull-a-lull more rare and in mornings.
It is impossible to remember a week ago. A river
of Lethe flows with many windings the year through,
separating one season from another. The heavens for
a few days have been lost. It has been a sort of para-
dise instead. As with the seashore, so is it with the
universal earth-shore, not in summer can you look far
into the ocean of the ether. They who come to this
world as to a watering-place in the summer for cool-
ness and luxury never get the far and fine November
views of heaven. Is not all the summer akin to a para-
dise ? We have to bathe in ponds to brace ourselves.
The earth is blue now, the near hills, in this haze.
The yellowish-white birch catkins are now opened.
The buds of the white oak are now well swollen; they
are later than the black and red oaks, which are begin-
ning to leave out. The oaks, excepting the white, are
quite as early if not earlier than the hickory. A choke
(?) cherry well budded by Brooks's clearing; will blos-
som to-morrow or next day.
The cinquefoil, which so much resembles a straw-
berry, comes yellow not white. Do yellow flowers often
bear an edible fruit? The Viola ovata is one of the
minutest of spring flowers, two leaves and a blossom-
bud showing the blue close to the earth. What haste
to push up and open its lesser azure to the greater
above Such a disproportion of blossom to the leaves!
Almost literally a pretty delicate blue flower bursting
forth from the scurf of the earth. The rue-leaved ane-
mone not for scent, but a pretty leaf. The chair flag
is six or eight inches high in the water, bluish-green.
Swarms of little gnats with two plumes on their heads
just born on the edge of the pond. The chestnuts are
perhaps more advanced than oaks. Bees know what
flowers have bloomed, but they must depend mainly on
the willows as yet. I am not sure but the pond is higher
than ever. Some rich young oak buds I see, young and
tender reddish leaves under scales, making buds [two]
or three inches long, making a kind of cross with a fifth
in the middle, red oak, I think. There is also the
number five in the form of the wood, when you cut the
end of a twig. Some of the female catkins on cone-
bearing willows are now more than three inches long.
Tortoises out sunning, on rails, etc. Some young trees
very forward in a warm place. The leaves of the maple
are sharply recurved, partly so as to protect the tender
parts, apparently. In such a place the scales have re-
curved from the hickory buds, revealing already devel-
oped branches. Saw a green snake, twenty or more
inches long, on a bush, hanging over a twig with its
head held forward six inches into the air, without sup-
port and motionless. What there for? Leaves gener-
ally are most beautiful when young and tender, before
insects or weather has defaced them.
These are the warm-west-wind, dream-frog, leafing-
out, willowy, haze days. Is not this summer, whenever
it occurs, the vireo and yellowbird and golden robin
being here ? The young birch leaves reflect the light in
Mankind seen in a dream. The gardener asks what
kind of beans he shall, plant. Nobody is looking up
into the sky. In our woods it is the aspens now and the
birches that show their growth at a distance. It was in
such a season and such a wind that the crow brought
the corn from the southwest. Our eyes are turned to
the west and southwest. It grows somewhat clearer;
a cloud, threatening rain, coming up in the west. The
44 JOURNAL [MAY 9
veiny leaves of the hawkweed appear. The Salix tristis
is in bloom. Saw pigeons in the woods, with their in-
quisitive necks and long tails, but few representatives
of the great flocks that once broke down our forests.
Heard the night warbler. Our moods vary from week
to week, with the winds and the temperature and the
revolution of the seasons. The first shad-bush, June-
berry, or service-berry (Amelanchier Canadensis), in
blossom. The first Viola pedata and also, in a low
place, the first Viola cucullata. That I observed the
first of May was a V. ovata, a variety of sagittata. Saw
one of the peeping frogs this afternoon, sitting on a
dead leaf on the surface of the water. The color of
a white oak leaf at present, so that it is hard to detect
one, much lighter and more decidedly fawn-colored
than those I had. They will peep on the sideboard.
The clumps of alders now look greenish with expand-
ing leaves. The haze is now going off before a coming
shower. The bluebird's warble is soon in a great mea-
sure drowned by the notes of new birds.
May 10. This Monday the streets are full of cattle
being driven up-country, cows and calves and colts.
The rain is making the grass grow apace. It appears
to stand upright, its blades, and you can almost
see it grow. For some reason I now remember the
autumn,-- the succory and the goldenrod. We remem-
ber autumn to best advantage in the spring; the finest
aroma of it reaches us then. Are those the young keys
of sugar maples that I see? The Canada (?) (N.
Brooks's) plum in bloom, and a cherry tree. How
closely the flower follows upon, if it does not precede,
the leaf! The leaves are but calyx and escort to the
flower. Some beds of clover wave.
Some look out only for the main chance, and do not
regard appearances nor manners; others others re-
gard these mainly. It is an immense difference. I feel
it frequently. It is a theme I must dwell upon. There
is an aurora borealis to-night, and I hear a snoring,
praying sound from frogs in the river, baser and less
ringing and sonorous than the dreamers.
May 11. Sunrise, merely a segment of a circle of
rich amber in the east, growing brighter and brighter
at one point. There is no rosy color at this moment
and not a speck in the sky, and now comes the sun
without pomp, a bright liquid gold. Dews come with
the grass. There is, I find on examining, a small, clear
drop at the end of each blade, quite at the top on one
The Salix alba has a spicier fragrance than the ear-
liest willows. We have so much causeway planted with
willows,- set with them on each side to prevent its
washing away, that they make a great show, and are
obvious now before other trees are so advanced. The
birches at a distance appear as in a thin green veil, in
their expanding leaves.
P. M. Kossuth here.
The hand-organ, when I am far enough off not to
hear the friction of the machinery, not to see or be
reminded of the performer, serves the grandest use for
me, deepens my existence. Heard best through walls
and obstructions. These performers, too, have come
with the pleasant weather and the birds.
I think I saw a female yellowbird yesterday; its note
different from the male's, somewhat like the night
warbler's. They come a little later than the males.
The larches are leafing out.
May 12. Morning. Swallows (I suppose barn)
flying low over the Depot Field, a barren field, and
sitting on the mulleins. Bobolinks.
Currants and gooseberries are in bloom in the gar-
den. The mountain-ash leafed out as much as two days
ago. The elms have been leafing out for two or three
days. Sugar maples on the common are in blossom.
Hear the peepers in the rain to-night (9.30), but not
the dream toads.
May 13. The best men that I know are not serene,
a world in themselves. They dwell in form. They flat-
ter and study effect, only more finely than the rest.
The world to me appears uninhabited. My neighbors
select granite for the underpinning of their houses and
barns; they build their fences of stone; but they do not
themselves rest on an underpinning of granite. Their
sills are rotten. What stuff is the man made of who is
not coexistent in your thought with the purest and sub-
tlest truth ? While there are manners and compliments
we do not meet. I accuse my finest acquaintances of
an immense frivolity. They do not teach me the lessons
of honesty and sincerity that the brute beasts do, or of
A MAY STORM
steadiness and solidity that the rocks do.1 I cannot
associate with those who do not understand me.
Rain to-day and yesterday, with fires in house. The
birds sparrows and yellowbirds seeking shelter in
Where are the men who dwell in thought? Talk, -
that is palaver! at which men hurrah and clap! The
manners of the bear are so far good that he does not
pay you any compliments.
P. M. To Walden in rain.
A May storm, yesterday and to-day; rather cold. The
fields are green now, and the cows find good feed. The
female Populus grandidentata, whose long catkins are
now growing old, is now leafing out. The flowerless
(male?) ones show half-unfolded silvery leaves. Both
these and the aspens are quite green (the bark) in the
rain. A young, slender maple-like bush from four to
ten feet high just leafing out and in blossom, their few
scarlet or crimson blossoms in the rain very handsome.
It answers to the description of the red maple, but is it
not different? I see an oak against the pines, appar-
ently a red oak, now decidedly in the gray, a light
breaking through mist. All these expanding leaves and
flower-buds are much more beautiful in the rain, -
covered with clear drops. They have lost some of their
beauty when I have shaken the drops off. They who do
not walk in the woods in the rain never behold them
in their freshest, most radiant and blooming beauty.
The white birch is a very handsome object, with its
golden tassels three inches long, hanging directly down,
I [Cape Cod, and Miscellanies, p. 470; Misc., Riv. 272.]
amid the just expanding yellowish-green leaves, their
perpendicularity contrasting with the direction of the
branches, geometry mixed with nature. The catkins,
beaten down by the rain, also strew the ground. The
shrub oaks, covered with rain-drops, are very hand-
some, masses of variegated red-budded tassels and
opening leaves, some redder, some lighter green or yel-
lowish. They appear more forward than the oak trees.
The red and black oaks are more forward than the
white, which last is just opening its buds. The sweet-
fern shows minute green leaves expanding. The shad-
blossom with pinkish scales, or Emerson calls them
"purple or faint crimson stipules." Botryapium (?).
The amelanchiers (Botryapium, June-berry, which I
suppose is the taller, and ovalis (Emerson), swamp
sugar-pear, the shorter and more crowded) are now
the prevailing flowers in the woods and swamps and
sprout-lands, and a very beautiful, delicate flower the
former is, with its purplish stipules and delicate droop-
ing white blossoms, so large and graceful a tree or
bush. The shad-blossom days in the woods: The
pines have started, white pines the most. These last
are in advance of the white oak. The low early blue-
berry (Vaccinium Pennsylvanicum) (V. tenellum Big.)
is just in blossom, and the Cerasus Virginiana, dwarf
The birds are silent and in their coverts, excepting
the black and white creepers and the jay and a brown
thrasher. You know not what has become of all the
rest. Channing heard the quail yesterday. The cow-
slips, in rounded bunches a foot in diameter, make a
1852] THE EARLY SPRING FLOWERS
splendid show, even fresher and brighter, methinks, in
the rain. The Viola pedata and ovata now begin to be
abundant on warm, sandy slopes. The leaves of the
lupirie, six inches high, are handsome, covered with
May 14. Hastily reviewing this Journal, I find the
flowers to have appeared in this order since the 28th
of April (perhaps some note in my Journal has escaped
Salix tristis or humilis
April 28 male; a female 30th; first
date is perhaps early
enough for both.
30 (April 25, '51).
30 probably a day or two be-
May 1 (April 25, '51).
3 this may have bloomed two
or three days before.
5 two inches long.
6 perhaps the day before.
6 (April 25, '51).
7 probably now (May 1, '51).
i The Latin Gray's. By last of June, '51 is apparently three or
four days earlier than '52.
Salix alba MI
Canada (?) plum in gardens
Rubus triflorus ?
Fraxinus Americana when?
Gooseberries in garden
Ribey hirtellum? The wild; are
Cerasus Pennsylvanica ?
B. excelsa when?
B. lenta I
9 probably a day or two be-
9 did not examine where they
10 probably some days earlier.
10 probably about this (ripe
Did not observe so very carefully the first common
elm and first red maple, but Cheney's and white (?)
maple at bridge instead; yet accurately enough. Per-
haps the wild gooseberry and some Solomon's-seal and
other violets and birches and the hornbeam and the
yellow lily in some places are in bloom now!
BIRDS SINCE 28TH APRIL
Saw the last Fringilla hyemalis May 4.
Savannah (?) sparrow May 1 or a day or two before.
1 [" Seringo" in pencil written over "Savannah" and "Bay-
1852] THE ARRIVAL OF THE BIRDS
Black and white creeper
Pigeon or turtle dove
Snow in hollows? .
Saw frog spawn
Rushes at Second Division one
foot high, highest of grass-
A large water-bug
Heard toad (dreaming)
Bull(?)frog (saw him)
Flies buzz outdoors
probably long before.
Gooseberry leaves (earliest
Sit without fire to-night.
First cricket on Cliff
Toad in garden
Willows suddenly green
Cows going up-country
Many trees just beginning to
First fog, very slight
Birch leaves, sweet-scented
Ground still frozen in some p
Barn swallows twitter
Apple and cherry trees begin
Elms darkened with samarne
A green snake
Frogs snore in the river
One oak in the gray
A May storm
8 How much earlier?
These pages do not contain the earliest phenomena
of the spring, for which see the previous journal, as far
P. M. To Second Division.
A foul day. One scent of golden senecio recalls the
meadows of my golden age. It is like sweet-briar a
First kingbird. Its voice and flight relate it to the
swallow. The maple-keys are already formed, though
the male blossoms (on different trees) are not withered.
Going over the Corer causeway, the willow blossoms
fill the air with a sweet fragrance, and I am ready to
sing, Ah! willow, willow! These willows have yellow
bark, bear yellow flowers and yellowish-green leaves,
and are now haunted by the summer yellowbird and
Maryland yellow-throat. They see this now conspicuous
mass of yellowish verdure at a distance and fly to it.
Single large willows at distance are great nosegays of
yellow. This orchard precedes the peach and apple
weeks. The Salix nigra (?) is leafing out now with
its catkins appearing. The sounds and sights as birds
and flowers heard and seen at those seasons when
there are fewest are most memorable and suggestive of
poetic associations. The trillium is budded. The Uvu-
laria sessilifolia, a drooping flower with tender stems
and leaves; the latter curled so as to show their under
sides hanging about the stems, as if shrinking from the
cold. The Ranunculus bulbosus shows its yellow by
this spring thus early (Corner Spring). Apparently it is
the leaves of this, and not the geranium, that are so
common and early. Here is half an acre of skunk-cab-
bage leaves. It looks like a garden in the midst of the
trees of the swamp. The cowslip even smells a little
like the skunk-cabbage with which it grows. The grass
is now whitened with bluets; the fields are green, and
the roadsides. (I am on the C. Miles road.) Now is
the season to travel. The deciduous trees are rapidly
investing the evergreens, making the woods rich and
bosky by degrees. The robin sings this louring day.
They sang most in and about that great freshet storm.
The song of the robin is most suggestive in cloudy
weather. I have not heard any toads during this rain
(of which this is the third day), and very few peepers.
A man wishes me to find a lead mine for him some-
where within three miles from this point (Marshal
Miles's). The discoverer died suddenly about seven
years ago, a month after the discovery, and revealed
not the locality. Wanted to know where it grew! The
beautiful birch catkins hang down four inches. Saw
a whip-poor-will sitting in the path in woods on the
mill road, the brown mottled bird. It flutters off
blindly, with slow, soft flight. Most birds are silent in
the storm. Hear the robin, oven-bird, night warbler,
and,, at length, the towhee's towee, chickadee's phebe,
and a preluding thrasher and a jay. The Saxifraga
Pennsylvanica with the golden saxifrage and cowslip.
The mayflowers, which I plucked to-day, surpass all
flowers hitherto in fragrance; peeping up from amid
the leaves, they perfume the roadside. A strawberry
by the meadow-side, probably the other species. This
weather has produced fungi in the path. Anemones
now in their prime. The bear-berry (Arbutus Uva-Ursi)
in bloom, a neat bell-like white flower with a red con-
tracted rim, clear pearly and red, a reddish tinge and
red lips, transparent at base.
Most men can be easily transplanted from here there,
for they have so little root, no tap-root, or their
roots penetrate so little way, that you can thrust a
shovel quite under them and take them up, roots
On the llth, when Kossuth was here, I looked about
for shade, but did not find it, the trees not being leaved
out. Nature was not prepared for great heats.
The barren flowers of the gnaphalium (plantagi-
neum ? no nerve to leaves), now three or four inches
high, white, dotted with reddish anthers, like a dia-
mond set in pearls, very dry and pure and pearly
like a breastpin.
That early willow at end of Corner Bridge has now
female catkins on particular branches 2 at same time
with leaves expanding. These are already serrulate
and lighter beneath. The catkins are about an inch
long (longer than the male were); ovaries stalked;
rather downy scales, brown, rounded; stigmas distinctly
two-divided and indistinctly four-divided; stem downy.
Is it Bigelow's swamp willow?
Found four or five early grass-like plants or grasses
or sedges. I think one the field rush (Juncus cam-
May 16. The last four days have been a May storm,
and this day is not quite fair yet. As I remember, there
was the long storm and freshet near the end of April,
then the warm, pleasant, hazy days, then this May
storm, cooler but not cold as the first.
P. M. -To Conantum.
I think I may say that the buttercup (bulbous crow-
1 [See p. 16.] 2 Another tree?
foot) which I plucked at the Corner Spring would have
blossomed to-day. The Gnaphalium plantagineum has
a tender, springlike scent. The clustered purple buds
of the senecio are very common in the meadows. The
bees on the Salix alba, the prevailing one now in blos-
som, hum a further advance into summer. The Ameri-
can water cress (Cardamine Pennsylvanica) in blossom.
The dwarf andromeda's leaf-buds are just starting.
The dense beds of this plant resound with the hum of
honey-bees. There is enough of this early flower to
make up for deficiencies elsewhere at this season. The
meadows ring with the bobolink's strain. I do not
observe the female yet. Here is a bird's nest by the
ditch-side which some animal has robbed, and an egg
is fallen into the water. The first I have found this
season. The air is sweet with fragrance. I have not
seen any speckled frogs before to-day. The bobolink
sits on a hardhack, swaying to and fro, uncertain
whether to begin his strain, -dropping a few bubbling
notes by way of prelude, with which he overflows.
There are many insects now. I was ready to say that
I had seen no more beautiful flower than the dandelion.
That has the vernal scent. How many flowers have no
peculiar, but only this simple vernal, fragrance ?
The sessile-leaved bellwort, with three or four deli-
cate pale-green leaves with reflexed edges, on a tender-
looking stalk, the single modest-colored flower grace-
fully drooping, neat, with a fugacious, richly spiced
fragrance, facing the ground, the dry leaves, as if un-
worthy to face the heavens. It is a beautiful sight, a
pleasing discovery, the first of the season, growing in
a little straggling company, in damp woods or swamps.
When you turn up the drooping flower, its petals make
a perfect geometrical figure, a six-pointed star. These
faint, fugacious fragrances are pleasing. You are not
always quite sure that you perceive any. In the swamp
at end of Hubbard's Grove. Here are a million Ane-
mone nemorosa. The inconspicuous white blossom of
the gold-thread is detected amid them, but you are
more struck by the bright-golden thread of its root
when you pull it up. The Viola ovata is now very com-
mon, but rather indistinct in the grass, in both high and
low land, in the sod where there is yet but little grass.
The earth reflects the heavens in violets. The whole
earth is fragrant as a bouquet held to your nose. I distin-
guish Bigelow's Pyrus ovalis (swamp) and Botryapium
(wood), the former now downy, with smaller racemes,
a shorter shrub, the other larger in most respects, if
not all, with smooth aspen-colored leaves. Think it
was the last I first plucked, though they apparently
came together. Vide back. Peach trees in blossom. I
have not walked to Lincoln lately; so have not watched
their opening. It must have been some days ago. The
apple buds show red. The trees are gradually leafing
out and investing the evergreens. The high blueberry
on high land will blossom fully in a day or two. Pretty
sure I heard a hummingbird about the columbines.
Can now pluck a sprig of fresh sweet-briar and feed
my senses with that. I begin to hesitate about walking
through some fields on account of the grass. Rye has
been five or six inches high for some time. Methinks
the columbine here is more remarkable for growing out
of the seams of the rocks than the saxifrage, and per-
haps better deserves the latter name. It is now in its
prime, ornamental for nature's rockwork. It is a beau-
tiful sight to see large clusters of splendid scarlet and
yellow flowers growing out of a seam in the side of this
gray cliff. I observe some very pale blue Viola cucul-
lata in the meadows. The Arum triphyllum in bloom
and the nodding trillium budded. The black ash is
now in flower (and some out of flower), and the male
white ash in Miles's swamp. Is the fever-bush dead,
that its wood looks so dry and its flower-buds do not
expand ? Some of the Gnaphalium plantagineum have
a yellow tip to the blossoms. Which is it? Male or
I hear few peepers to-day and no toads. The Ane-
mone nemorosa are half closed, showing the purple un-
der sides of the petals, but all the rue-leaved are open;
but they are not so handsome open, notwithstanding
their pretty leaves and yellow stamens, as the purple
buds of the other. Some of these are wholly purple
and their leaves a rich brown.
The muskrat has piled his shells high up the bank
this year, on account of the freshet. Even our river
shells will have some black, purple, or green tints, tell-
ing of distant skies, like shells from the Indies. How
did these beautiful rainbow tints get into the shell of
the fresh-water clam buried in the mud at the bottom
of our dark river? Even the sea-bottom tells of the
The tupelo tree is as late as, or later than, the white
1852] A WILLFUL FRAGRANCE 59
oak to leaf out. What is that grass in Conant's or-
chard in bloom ? Early sedge ? Here a woodchuck has
dug out a bushel of sharp stones on a hillside, as big
as your fist. The thrasher has a sort of laugh in his
strain which the catbird has not. The sun comes out
in patches somewhat like the expanding oak leaves.
This gleam of sunshine, an hour or more before sun-
down (I am on the top of Conantum), on the tender
foliage of Garfield's elms and of other trees, from be-
hind a dark cloud in the west. Nature letting her sun
shine by degrees, holding a veil of cloud before her
tender plants. The patches of ground plowed and
planted look fresh after the rain and of a dark-brown
color. Even this nakedness is agreeable.
This will be the week of the oaks in the gray, when
the farmers must plant away [ ? ]. The bass is very con-
spicuous now, with its light yellow-green leaves, more
forward than most. I see a hundred young apple
trees come up in cow-dung. The flower-like leaves of
the shrub oaks now, so red A young of the painted
tortoise, almost exactly circular and one inch in dia-
meter, run over by a wheel in the road on the cause-
Here on this causeway is the sweetest fragrance I
have perceived this season, blown from the newly
flooded meadows. I cannot imagine what there is to
produce it. No nosegay can equal it. It is ambrosially,
nectareally, fine and subtile, for you can see naught but
the water, with green spires of meadow grass rising
above it. Yet no flower from the Islands of the Blessed
could smell sweeter. Yet I shall never know whence it
comes. Is it not all water-plants combined? A fine,
delicious fragrance, which will come to the senses only
when it will, willful as the gales. I would give some-
thing to know of it. How it must attract all birds and
insects Can it be the willow over my head ? I think
I hear the peepers and toads again this evening. It
gradually clears up at the end of this May storm.
May 17. My seringo-bird is reddish-brown with a
spot on the breast and other marks, two whitish lines
on back, and some white in tail: runs in the grass, so
that you see nothing of it where the grass is very low;
and sings standing on a tuft of grass and holding its
head up the while.
P. M.- To Loring's Pond.
Decidedly fair weather at last; a bright, breezy,
flowing, washing day. I see that dull-red grass whose
blades, having risen above the surface of the water,
lie flat on it in close and conspicuous flakes, making
a right angle with the part in the water. Perhaps a
slightly rosaceous tint to it.
The different color of the water at different times
would be worth observing. To-day it is full of light and
life, the breeze presenting many surfaces to the sun.
There is a sparkling shimmer on it. It is a deep, dark
blue, as the sky is clear. The air everywhere is, as it
were, full of the rippling of waves. This pond is the
more interesting for the islands in it. The water is seen
running behind them, and it is pleasant to know that
it penetrates quite behind and isolates the land you
1852] AFTER THE MAY STORM
see, or to see it apparently flowing out from behind an
island with shining ripples.
To-day the cinquefoils (the earliest one) on the hill-
sides shine in the sun. Their brightness becomes the
day. That is a beautiful footpath through the pitch
pines on the hillside north of this pond, over a carpet
of tawny pine leaves, so slippery under your feet. Why
do not men sprinkle these over their floors instead of
sand ? The sun on the young foliage of birches, alders,
etc., on the opposite side of the pond has an enchant-
ing effect. The sunshine has a double effect. The new
leaves abet it, so fresh and tender, not apprehending
their insect foes. Now the sun has come out after the
May storm, how bright, how full of freshness and
tender promise and fragrance is the new world The
woods putting forth new leaves; it is a memorable
season. So hopeful! These young leaves have the
beauty of flowers. The shrub oaks are just beginning
to blossom. The forward leaves and shoots of the
meadow-sweet, beneath the persistent dead flowers,
make a very rich and conspicuous green now along the
fences and walls. The conspicuous white flowers of the
two kinds of shad-blossom spot the hillsides at a dis-
tance. This is the only bush or tree whose flowers are
sufficiently common and large at this time (to-day),
except the Salix alba and the peach (the choke-cherry
is rare), to make a show now, as the apples will soon. I
see dark pines in the distance in the sunshine, contrast-
ing with the light fresh green of the deciduous trees.
There is life in these fresh and varied colors, life in
the motion of the wind and the waves; all make it a
flowing, washing day. It is a good day to saunter. The
female crimson flowers of the sweet-gale are still con-
spicuous. Is that the shepherd's-purse and the speed-
well I that I found in blossom? Those commonest
cockle( ?)-shells are holding on to the rocks under
water by their feet in Fort Pond Brook. Wood tor-
toises are numerous in the fields to-day. Saw a young
one two and a half inches diameter. Do I smell the
young birch leaves at a distance ? Most trees are beau-
tiful when leafing out, but especially the birch. After
a storm at this season, the sun comes out and lights up
the tender expanding leaves, and all nature is full. of
light and fragrance, and the birds sing without ceasing,
and the earth is a fairyland. The birch leaves are so
small that you see the landscape through the tree, and
they are like silvery and green spangles in the sun,
fluttering about the tree. Bridged the brook with help
of an alder loop and a rider. Are they not grandiden-
tatas on Annursnack which show so white at this dis-
tance like shad-blossoms? Does not summer begin
after the May storm ? What is that huckleberry with
sticky leaf-buds and just expanding leaves covered with
a yellow waxy matter? The first veery note.
Methinks they were turtle doves which I saw this
afternoon baited to a pigeon-place. They fly like a
pigeon, a slender, darting bird. I do not surely know
To-night I hear a new dreamer, a frog, that sprayey
note which perhaps I have referred to the midsummer
frog. That praying or snoring sound also I hear.
1 It is either the smooth or the procumbent, probably the first.
A MAY LANDSCAPE
May 18. The rhodora in blossom, a delicate-colored
P. M. To Cliffs.
Frog or toad spawn in a pool in long worm-like or
bowel-like strings, sometimes coiled up spirally.
It is fine clear atmosphere, only the mountains blue.
A slight seething but no haze. Shall we have much
of this weather after this ? There is scarcely a flock of
cloud in the sky. The heaven is now broad and open
to the earth in these longest days. The world can never
be more beautiful than now, for, combined with the
tender fresh green, you have this remarkable clearness
of the air. I doubt if the landscape will be any greener.
The landscape is most beautiful looking towards the
sun (in the orchard on Fair Haven) at four. Eisst; there
is this green slope on-whieh-1-s4i looking down between
the rows of apple trees just being clothed with tender
green, sometimes underneath them to the sparkling
water, or over through them, or seeing them against the
sky. Seeoilly. the outline of this bank or hill is drawn
against the water far below; the river still high, a beau-
tifully bright sheen on the water there, though it is
elsewhere a dull slaty-blue color, a sober rippled sur-
face. A fine sparkling shimmer in front, owing to the
remarkable clearness of the atmosphere (clarified by
the May storm?). -Thirdly, on either side of the wood
beyond the river are patches of bright, tender, yellow-
ish, velvety green grass in meadows and on hillsides.
It is like a short furred mantle now and bright as if it
had the sun on it. Those great fields of green affect me
as did those early green blades by the Corner Spring,
- like a fire flaming up from the earth. The earth
proves itself well alive even in the skin. No scurf on
it, only a browner color on the barren tops of hills.
43~ thl4y, the forest, the dark-green pines, wonderfully
distinct, near and erect, with their distinct dark stems,
spring tops, regularly disposed branches, anrsilvery
light on their needles. They seem to wear an aspect as
much fresher and livelier as the other trees, though
their growth can hardly be perceptible yet, as if they
had been washed by the rains and the air. They are
now being invested with the light, sunny, yellowish-green
of the deciduous trees. This tender foliage, putting so
much light and life into the landscape, is the remark-
able feature at this date. The week when the deciduous
trees are generally and conspicuously expanding their
leaves. The various tints of gray oaks and yellowish-
green birches and aspens and hickories, and the red or
scarlet tops where maple keys are formed (the-blossorms
are now-over),- these-last the-high color-(rosaceous-)-
in-the-bouquet Anddfifthly, I detect a great stretch of
high-backed, mostly bare, grassy pasture countryi-"-
twwth-lii---nnd-the Nashilmna spotted with pines and
forests, which I had formerly taken for forest uninter-
rupted. And'finally, sixthly, Wachusett rising in the
background, slightly veiled in bluish mist, toward
which all these seem to slope gradually upward, -and
those grassy, hillsides in the foreground, seen but as
patches of bare grassy ground on a spur of that distant
This afternoon the brown thrashers are very numer-
ous and musical. They plunge downward when they
leave their perch, in a peculiar way. It is a bird that
appears to make a business of singing for its own
amusement. There is great variety in its strains. It is
not easy to detect any repetition. The wood thrush,
too, is pretty sure to be heard in a walk. Some shrub
oaks are beginning to blossom. I hear my second cricket
on the face of the Cliffs, clear and distinct, only one.
The shrub oaks on the plain show a little red with their
buds and young leaves. The crowfoot shines on the
At evening the water is quite white, reflecting the
white evening sky, and oily smooth. I see the willows
reflected in it, when I cannot see their tops in the
twilight against the dark hillside. The first bat by the
riverside. The praying or snoring frog, the peepers
(not so common as lately), the toads (not many), and
sometimes my midsummer frog,- all together. The
spearers are out to-night.
These days the golden robin is the important bird in
the streets, on the elms.
May 19. Up to about the 14th of May I watched
the progress of the season very closely, though not
so carefully the earliest birds, but since that date,
both from poor health and multiplicity of objects, I
have noted little but what fell under my observation.
The pear trees are in bloom before the apples. The
cherries appear to have been blasted by the winter.
The lilac has begun to blossom. There was the first
lightning we have noticed this year, last Sunday even-
ing, and a thunder-storm in Walpole, N. H. Light-
ning here this evening and an aurora in form of a seg-
ment of a circle.
May 20. P. M. To Corner Spring.
So many birds that I have not attended much to any
of late. A barn swallow accompanied me across the
Depot Field, methinks attracted by the insects which
I started, though I saw them not, wheeling and tack-
ing incessantly on all sides and repeatedly dashing
within a rod of me. It is an agreeable sight to watch
one. Nothing lives in the air but is in rapid motion.
Now is the season of the leafing of the trees and of
planting. The fields are white with houstonias, as they
will soon be yellow with buttercups. Perchance the
beginning of summer may be dated from the fully
formed leaves, when dense shade (?) begins. I will see.
High blueberries at length. It is unnecessary to speak
of them. All flowers are beautiful. The Salix alba is
about out of bloom. Pads begin to appear, though the
river is high over the meadows.' A caterpillars' nest on
a wild cherry. Some apple trees in blossom; most are
just ready to burst forth, the leaves being half formed.
I find the fever-bush in bloom, but apparently its blos-
soms are now stale. I must observe it next year. They
were fresh perhaps a week ago. Currants in bloom
by Conant's Spring. Are they natives of America? A
lady's-slipper well budded and now white. The Viola
ovata is of a deep purple blue, is darkest and has mdst
of the red in it; the V. pedata is smooth and pale-blue,
delicately tinged with purple reflections; the cucullata
1 Vide p. .
is more decidedly blue, slaty-blue, and darkly striated.
The white violets by the spring are rather scarce now.
The red oak leaves are very pretty and finely cut,
about an inch and three quarters long. Like most
young leaves, they are turned back around the twig,
parasol-like. The farmers apprehend frosts these nights.
A purplish gnaphalium with three-nerved leaves.
May 21. Morning by river.
A song sparrow's nest and eggs so placed in a bank
that none could tread on it; bluish-white, speckled.
Also a robin's nest and eggs in the crotch of a maple.
Methinks birds that build amid the small branches of
trees wait for the leaves to expand.1 The dew hangs
on the grass like globules of quicksilver. Can I tell by
it if it has rained in the night ? I hear that it has.
P. M. The black oak is just beginning to blossom.
The earlier apple trees are in bloom, and resound with
the hum of bees of all sizes and other insects. To sit
under the first apple tree in blossom is to take another
step into summer. The apple blossoms are so abundant
and full, white tinged with red; a rich-scented Pomona
fragrance, telling of heaps of apples in the autumn,
perfectly innocent, wholesome, and delicious. On hill-
sides cut off two years ago, the red oaks now contrast
at a little distance with the yellowish-green birches.
The latter are covered with green lice, which cover
The catbird sings like a robin sometimes, sometimes
1 [This sentence is queried in the margin.]
like a blackbird's sprayey warble. There is more of
squeak or mew, and also of clear whistle, than in the
Nemopanthes in bloom; leaves three quarters of an
inch. Sand cherry also, fully. Young blueberries every-
where in bloom, and Viola pedata along the woodland
paths, in high land. Sorrel in bloom, beginning. I am
eager to taste a handful.
May 22. Saturday. On my way to Plymouth,
looked at Audubon in the State-House. Saw painted
the red berries of the Arum triphyllum. The pigeon is
more red on the breast and more blue than the turtle
dove. The female (and male ?) wood thrush spotted the
whole length of belly; the hermit thrush not so. The
seringo-bird cannot be the Savannah sparrow. The
piping plover has a big head, white breast, and ring
Two kinds of bluets in New York Report.
5 P. M. Plymouth.
The hill whence Billington discovered the pond. The
field plantain in blossom and abundant here. A chick-
weed in bloom in Watson's garden. Is it the same that
was so early ? A yellow flower, apparently a hieraceum,
just ready to blossom. The four-leaved loosestrife,
with dark leaves, shows its flower-buds on the ends of
its threads. The mayweed is ready to blossom.' The
German forget-me-not reminded me of my little blue
flower in the brook.
1 Was it not whiteweed?
May 23. To Billington Sea at sunrise.
The purple finch sings like a canary and like a robin.
Huckleberry leaves here, too, are sticky, and yellow my
fingers. Pyrus arbutifolia in bloom. The low, spread-
ing red cedars which come abruptly to naught at top
suggest that they be used for posts with the stubs of
branches left, as they often are. The bayberry is late,
just beginning to leaf. The buttercup season has ar-
rived here. Mrs. Watson says they have no bluets nor
wild pinks (catchfly) here. Some ponds have outlets;
some have not. So some men. Singular that so many
ponds should have connection with the sea. The ink-
berry is late. The red-eyed vireo is a steady singer,
sitting near the top of a tree a long time alone, the
robin of the woods, as the robin sings at morning
and evening on an elm in the village.
It is worth the while to go a little south to anticipate
nature at home. I am now covered with down from
the tender foliage, walking in the woods in the morn-
ing. Hear the hollow, spitting, tunk tunk sound of
frogs in the morning, which tells of sultry nights, though
we have not had them yet. The Viola lanceolata here.
Corema Conradii in the cemetery, just out of bloom, -
broom crowberry, from K4dprja, a broom, a rare plant
which I have seen at Provincetown. The Empetrum
nigrum, or black crowberry, is found at the White
Mountains. The buck-bean in bloom. What is that
linear-leaved, small pink-purple flower which they say
grows about the stones in a walk? Beach plum ready
to bloom. Young oak leaves red above and light be-
low, with a red edge only, handsome as flowers.
P. M. To Great South Pond.
A brown spotted snake, two feet or more long, light-
colored beneath, with blotchy C
dark- brown spots above like
The trientalis in bloom. The dandelions close at
eve, so that you cannot find those that starred the
meadow. Woods extensive but small and low, soil
sandy; no variety in the landscape. Woods and deer
because the soil is sandy and unfit for cultivation.
May 24. The cooing of a dove reminded me of an
owl this morning. Counted just fifty violets pedataa)
in a little bunch, three and a half by five inches, and
as many buds, there being six plants close together; on
the hill where Billington climbed a tree.
A calabash at Pilgrim Hall nearly two feet high, in
the form of a jar, showed what these fruits were made
for. Nature's jars and vases.
Holbrook says the Bufo Americanus is the most com-
mon in America and is our representative of the Bufo
communis of Europe; speaks of its trill; deposits its
spawn in pools.
Found in College Yard Trifolium procumbens, or
Concord. Celandine in blossom, and horse-chest-
May 25. Tuesday. P. M. To Saw Mill Brook and
1 The Tropidonotus sipedon, water snake, of Iolbrook.
The Rhodora Canadensis is not yet out of blossom,
and its leaves are not expanded. It is important for its
contrast with the surrounding green, so much high-
colored blossom. The Pyrus arbutifolia now. The
ferns are grown up large, and some are in fruit, a dark
or blackish fruit part way down the stem, with a strong
scent, quite a rich-looking fruit, of small dark-green-
ish globules clustered together. The female red maples
bearing keys are later to put forth leaves. The catkins
of the willows on the Turnpike, now fallen, cover the
water. The water has subsided so that the pads lie on
the surface. The chinquapin shrub oak is blossoming.
The pincushion galls appear on the oak. The oak ap-
ples are forming. Those galls first named, a sparkling
frosted cotton, are very beautiful. The veronica is
everywhere in bloom, in the grass by the roadside. It
is blossom week with the apples. The shad-blossoms
are gone. Apple trees on distant hillsides look like
whitish rocks, or like a snow imperfectly covering the
ground, or like the reindeer mosses. The sarsaparilla
in bloom; and trientalis, its white star. Some call bluets
innocence. The reddish buds of the Pyrus arbutifolia
are handsomer than the flower. What a sunny yellow
in the early cinquefoil, which now spots the grass! The
red oak sprouts have grown ten inches before their
leaves are expanded. Some late willows have fresh
green catkins now. Clustered Solomon's-seal. Polygo-
natum pubescens ready to bloom. Is that an aralia near
the brook? Medeola or cucumber-root in bud, with its
two-storied whorl of leaves. The trilliums (T. cernuum,
wake-robin) in bloom, and the geraniums show great
leaves. Mosquitoes have come. (They say there are
none in Plymouth village.) Consider the fugacious fra-
grance of many flowers. The dark striped flowers of the
arums now, some whitish. Cress in flower. The vera-
trums by this brook have run up so high they make a
tropical scenery on the edge of the water, like young
palms. Yellow butterflies one at a time. The large
yellow woods violet (V. pubescens) by this brook now
out. The Rana palustris, or pickerel frog, is abundant
in the meadows. I hear the first troonk of a bull-
frog. The fringed polygala (P. paucifolia), flowering
wintergreen. What bird was that whose wild note I
heard at Goose Pond to-night? A loon or a bittern?
First nighthawks squeak and boom. Grasshoppers
May 26. Wednesday. Surveying the Brooks farm.
The early thalictrum has been in bloom some time.
Perceive the rank smell of brakes. Observe the yellow
bark of the barberry.
When the cows and bullocks were lively in the pas-
ture about my compass, Bigelow said the grubs were
working in their backs. He had that morning taken out
three or four from the back of a young bull he has.
They have black heads, which appear and are three
quarters of an inch long; are natural to the crea-
ture; lie right in the meat, and when they begin to
squirm, then the cattle toss their tails and are lively.
Great corporations are the cattle, and their vermin
are large. This is a new version of the cestrus, a
sudden stampede among the steers when the grubs
THE CRICKETS' SONG
squirm in their backs !! He had also seen the grub
in their tails. They are occupied as parts of the
The air is full of the odor of apple blossoms, yet
the air is fresh as from the salt water. The meadow
smells sweet as you go along low places in the road
at sundown. To-night I hear many crickets. They
have commenced their song. They bring in the
Walking home from surveying. The fields are just
beginning to be reddened with sorrel. I hear the pea-
wai, the tender note. Is it not the small pewee ? Chan-
ning says he has seen a red clover blossom and heard a
stake-driver. Lousewort (Pedicularis Canadensis), very
badly named. Pipes (Equisetum uliginosum) in blos-
som. The Geranium maculatum(?). One of the large
flowering ferns,-part way up the stalk, -(Osmunda ?);
and an early Thalictrum (dioicum ?). The meadows are
full of saxifrage.
May 27. At Corer Spring.
A wet day. The veery sings nevertheless. The road
is white with the apple blossoms fallen off, as with
snowflakes. The dogwood is coming out. Ladies'-slip-
pers out. They perfume the air. Ranunculus recurva-
tus, hooked crowfoot, by the spring. Prunus maritima,
beach plum, by Hubbard's. Dwarf cornel. Smilacina
racemosa, clustered Solomon's-seal. The nodding tril-
lium has a faint, rich scent; the Convallaria bifolia a
strong but not very pleasant scent. Ranunculus acris,
or tall crowfoot, before the first buttercup shows much.
74 JOURNAL [MAY 27
Viola lanceolata, white. (I did not distinguish it before.)
My early willow is either the swamp willow or the bog
willow of Bigelow. The Salix nigra, or black willow,
of Gray, in bloom. Myosotis laxa, water mouse-ear, by
Depot Field Brook. The fruit of the sweet flag is now
just fit to eat, and reminds me of childhood, the
critchicrotches. They would help sustain a famished
traveller. The inmost tender leaf, also, near the base,
is quite palatable, as children know. I love it as well
as muskrats (). The smooth speedwell, the minute
pale-blue striated flower by the roadsides and in the
short sod of fields, common now. I hear but few toads
and peepers now. The sweetness which appears to be
wafted from the meadow (I am on the Corner cause-
way) is indescribably captivating, Sabean odors, such
as voyageurs tell of when approaching a coast. Can it
be the grape so early ? I think not. May it be the mint
in the meadow, just left bare by the receding waters ?
It appears to come from the ditch by the roadside.
Methinks the tree-toad croaks more this wet weather.
The tall crowfoot out. The fringed polygala near the
Corner Spring is a delicate flower, with very fresh tender
green leaves and red-purple blossoms; beautiful from
the contrast of its clear red-purple flowers with its clear
green leaves. The cuckoo. Caught a wood frog (Rana
sylvatica), the color of a dead leaf. He croaked as I
held him, perfectly frog-like. A humblebee is on my
bunch of flowers laid down.
May 28. White thorn and yellow Bethlehem-star
A DAY OF SHADOWS
May 29. Fogs this and yesterday morning. I hear
the quails nowadays while surveying. Barberry in
bloom, wild pinks, and blue-eyed grass.
May 30. Sunday. Now is the summer come. A
breezy, washing day. A day for shadows, even of mov-
ing clouds, over fields in which the grass is beginning
to wave. Senecio in bloom. A bird's nest in grass, with
coffee-colored eggs. Cinquefoil and houstonia cover the
ground, mixed with the grass and contrasting with each
other. Strong lights and shades now. Wild cherry on
the low shrubs, but not yet the trees, a rummy scent.
Violets everywhere spot the meadows, some more pur-
ple, some more lilac. The tall pipe-grass (Equisetum
uliginosum). The Drosera rotundifolia now glistens with
its dew at midday, a beautiful object closely examined.
The dwarf andromeda is about out of bloom. Its new
shoots from the side of the old stem are an inch or
more long. The little leaves appear to be gradually
falling off, after all. See again if they do not all fall off
in the summer. Distinguished the Viola palmata in
Hubbard's meadow, near the sidesaddle-flowers, which
last are just beginning to blossom. The last are quite
showy flowers when the wind turns them so as to show
their under sides.
It is a day of shadows, the leaves have so grown,
and of wind, a washing day, and the shadows of
the clouds are observed flitting over the landscape. I
do not yet observe a difference between the two kinds of
Pyrus arbutifolia, if, indeed, I have compared the two,
i. e. my early black and later red-fruited, which last
holds on all winter. The fruit of the amelanchier is as
big as small peas. I have not noticed any other berry
so large yet. The anemones appear to be nearly gone.
Yellow lilies are abundant. The bulbous arethusa, the
most splendid, rich, and high-colored flower thus far,
methinks, all flower and color, almost without leaves,
and looking much larger than it is, and more conspicu-
ous on account of its intense color. A flower of mark.
It appeared two or three times as large as reality when
it flashed upon me from the meadow. Bigelow calls it
a "crystalline purple." (Saw some the 6th of June,
but no longer fresh.) What kind of blackberry did I
find in blossom in Hubbard's Swamp? Passed a cow
that had just dropped her calf in the meadow. The
sumach (glabra) is well under weigh now. The yellow
water ranunculus by the Corner causeway. There are
young robins in nests. To what sparrow belong the
coffee-colored eggs in Hubbard's field by the brook?
White cohush in bloom; also Smilacina stellata. The
branches or branchlets of the maidenhair fern are so
disposed as to form two thirds of a cup around the
stem. The flowers of the sassafras have not such a fra-
grance as I perceived last year. High blueberry flowers
are'quite conspicuous. The bass leaf is now large and
handsome. The geranium is a delicate flower and be-
longs especially to shady places under trees and shrubs,
- better if about springs, in by-nooks, so modest.
The early gnaphaliums are gone to seed, having run
I [In this case, as not infrequently happened, Thoreau was evi-
dently writing up his Journal or copying his pencilled field-notes
into it some days after the event.]
1852] THE RIVER 77
up seven or ten inches. The field plantain, which I saw
in Plymouth a week ago, abundant there. The narrow-
leaved cotton-grass. The Equisetum sylvaticum, or wood
horse-tail in the meadows. The lupine, which I saw
almost in blossom a week ago at Plymouth, I hear is in
blossom here. The river is my own highway, the only
wild and unfenced part .of the world hereabouts. How
much of the world is widow's thirds, with a hired man
to take negligent care of it! The apple trees are about
out of blossom. It is but a week they last.
Israel Rice thinks the first half of June is not com-
monly so warm as May, and that the reason is that
vegetation is so advanced that the earth is shaded and
protected from the sun by the grass also, so that it is
delayed in being warmed by the summer sun.
June 1. Evening. -To the Lee place, the moon
The sounds I hear by the bridge: the midsummer
frog (I think it is not the toad), the nighthawk, crickets,
the peetweet (it is early), the hum of dor-bugs, and the
whip-poor-will. The boys are coming home from fish-
ing, for the river is down at last. The moving clouds are
the drama of the moonlight nights, and never-failing
entertainment of nightly travellers. You can never fore-
tell the fate of the moon, -whether she will prevail
over or be obscured by the clouds half an hour hence.
The traveller's sympathy with the moon makes the
drama of the shifting clouds interesting. The fate of
the moon will disappoint all expectations. Her own
light creates the shadows in the coming (advancing)
clouds, and exaggerates her destiny.1 I do not perceive
much warmth in the rocks.
June 2. Wednesday. Measured C. Davis's elm at
the top of his fence, just built, five feet from the ground.
It is fifteen and two twelfths feet in circumference and
much larger many feet higher. Buttercups now spot
the churchyard. The elms now hold a good deal of
1 [Excursions, pp. 329, 330; Riv. 405.]
1852] THE SONG OF BIRDS AT DAWN 79
shade and look rich and heavy with foliage. You see
darkness in them. Golden alexander looks like a
parsnip -near or beyond the East Quarter schoolhouse.
The barberry blossoms are now abundant. They fill
the air with a disagreeable, buttery fragrance. Low
blackberry in bloom. Iazy days now. Milkweed, ele-
campane, butter-and-eggs, etc., etc., are getting up.
The dried brown petals of apple blossoms spot the
sod in pastures. Measured a chestnut stump on Asa
White's land, twenty-three and nine twelfths feet in
circumference, eight and one half feet one way, seven
feet the other, at one foot from ground. Nest of Wil-
son's thrush with bluish-green eggs. Female sassafras
in bloom. I think I may say the umbelled thesium has
begun to bloom. The pincushion galls appear on the
I found a plant whose name I know not; somewhat
fern-like; leaves in a whorl of five, two double, one
single; the whole nine inches high; no flower.
June 3. The nepeta by Deacon Brown's, a pretty
blue flower. It has been a sultry day, and a slight
thunder-shower,.and now I see fireflies in the meadows
June 4. Friday. The birds sing at dawn. What
sounds to be awakened by! If only our sleep, our
dreams, are such as to harmonize with the song, the
warbling of the birds, ushering in the day! They ap-
pear comparatively silent an hour or two later.
The dandelions are now almost all gone to seed, and
children may now see if "your mother wants you."
The golden alexanders is called Zizia aurea. The
cistus is out. Lupines in prime. The Canada snap-
dragon, that little blue flower that lasts so long, grows
with the lupines under Fair Haven. The early chick-
weed with the star-shaped flower is common in fields
June 5. The medeola has blossomed in a tumbler.
I seem to perceive a pleasant fugacious fragrance from
its rather delicate but inconspicuous green flower. Its
whorls of leaves of two stages are the most remarkable.
I do not perceive the smell of the cucumber in its
To Harrington's, p. M. The silver cinquefoil (Poten-
tilla argentea) now, a delicate spring-yellow, sunny-yel-
low (before the dog-days) flower; none of the fire of
autumnal yellows in-it. Its silvery leaf is as good as a
The constant inquiry which nature puts is: "Are
you virtuous ? Then you can behold me." Beauty, fra-
grance, music, sweetness, and joy of all kinds are for
the virtuous. That I thought when I heard the tele-
graph harp to-day.
Raspberry some days since. The leaves of young
oaks are full-grown. The Viburnum lentago, if that
edged petiole marks it enough. The Veratrum viride,
with its green and yellowish flower. Umbelled thesium,
which has shown its buds so long. The Viola lanceo-
lata now, instead of the V. blanda. In some places the
leaves of the last are grown quite large. The sidesaddle-
flowers. The Thalictrum anemonoides still. The dwarf
cornel by Harrington's road looks like large snowflakes
on the hillside, it is so thick. It is a neat, geometrical
flower, of a pure white, sometimes greenish, or green.
The white spruce cones are an inch and a half long.
The larch cones appear not so red yet as they will
be. Can it be that earliest potentilla that now stands
up so high in open pine woods and wood-paths,--a
foot high? The simplex variety? There is now froth
on the white and pitch pines, at the base of the new
shoots, which are from three to six inches long. Some
meadows are quite white with the cotton-grass. White
clover now. Some rye-fields are almost fully grown,
where it appears to have sown itself. It is commonly
two feet high. Those great roots belong to the yellow
lily. Some poet must sing in praise of the bulbous
The lupine is now in its glory. It is the more im-
portant because it occurs in such extensive patches,
even an acre or more together, and of such a pleasing
variety of colors, purple, pink, or lilac, and white, -
especially with the sun on it, when the transparency of
the flower makes its color changeable. It paints a
whole hillside with its blue, making such a field (if
not meadow) as Proserpine might have wandered in.
Its leaf was made to be covered with dewdrops. I am
quite excited by this prospect of blue flowers in clumps
with narrow intervals. Such a profusion of the hea-
venly, the elysian, color, as if these were the Elysian
I ["Black" is substituted in pencil.]
Fields. They say the seeds look like babies' faces, and
hence the flower is so named. No other flowers ex-
hibit so much blue. That is the value of the lupine.
The earth is blued with them. Yet a third of a mile
distant I do not detect their color on the hillside. Per-
chance because it is the color of the air. It is not dis-
tinct enough. You passed along here, perchance, a
fortnight ago, and the hillside was comparatively barren,
but now you come and these glorious redeemers appear
to have flashed out here all at once. Who planted the
seeds of lupines in the barren soil ? Who watereth the
lupines in the fields ?
Distinguished the Geum rivale, water avens, in James
P. Brown's meadow, a drooping, half-closed, purplish-
brown flower, with a strawberry-looking fruit. The
Erigeron bellidifolius, robin's-plantain (may it be the
E. Philadelphicus?), that rather rose-purple flower
which looks like an early aster. A rather delicate and
interesting flower, flesh-colored.
Pray let us live without being drawn by dogs, Esqui-
maux-fashion, a scrambling pack tearing over hill and
vale and biting each other's ears. What a despicable
mode of progressing, to be drawn by a pack of dogs!
Why not by a flock of mice ?
De Kay, of the New York Report, says the bream
"is of no value as an article of food, but is often
caught for amusement!" I think it is the sweetest fish
in our river.
Richardson says that white bears and arctic foxes
frequent the most northern land discovered.
I [Cape Cod, and Miscellanies, p. 473; Misc., Riv. 276.]
1852] THE FIRST HALF OF JUNE
June 6. Sunday. First devil's-needles in the air,
and some smaller, bright-green ones on flowers. The
earliest blueberries are now forming as greenberrics.
The wind already injures the just-expanded leaves,
tearing them and making them turn black. I see the
effects of recent frosts on the young oaks in hollows
in the woods. The leaves are turned dry, black, and
crisp. The side-flowering sandwort, an inconspicuous
white flower like a chickweed.
June 7. Surveying for Sam. Pierce. Found piece of
an Indian soapstone pot.
June 9. The buck-bean in Hubbard's meadow just
going out of blossom. The yellow water ranunculus
is an important flower in the river now, rising above
the white lily pads, whose flower does not yet appear.
I perceive that their petals, washed ashore, line the
sand conspicuously. The green-briar in flower.
For a week past we have had washing days. The grass
waving, and trees having leaved out, their boughs wave
and feel the effect of the breeze. Thus new life and
motion is imparted to the trees. The season of waving
boughs; and the lighter under sides of the new leaves
are exposed. This is the first half of June. Already
the grass is not so fresh and liquid-velvety a green,
having much of it blossomed] and some even gone
to seed, and it is mixed with reddish ferns and other
plants, but the general leafiness, shadiness, and wav-
ing of grass and boughs in the breeze characterize
the season. The wind is not quite agreeable, because it
prevents your hearing the birds sing. Meanwhile the
crickets are strengthening their quire. The weather is
very clear, and the sky bright. The river shines like
silver. Methinks this is a traveller's month. The locust
in bloom. The waving, undulating rye. The decid-
uous trees have filled up the intervals between the ever-
greens, and the woods are bosky now.
Is that the Thalictrum Cornuti that shows green sta-
mens, at the Corner Spring? Gathered strawberries
on Fair Haven. Rather acid yet.
The priests of the Germans and Britons were druids.
They had their sacred oaken groves. Such were their
steeple houses. Nature was to some extent a fane to
them. There was fine religion in that form of worship,
and Stonehenge remains as evidence of some vigor in
the worshippers, as the Pyramids, perchance, of the
vigor of the Egyptians, derived from the slime of the
Nile. Evelyn says of the oak, which he calls these
robust sons of the earth," It is reported that the very
shade of this tree is so wholesome, that the sleeping,
or lying under it, becomes a present remedy to para-
lytics, and recovers those whom the mistaken malign
influence of the Walnut-tree has smitten." Which we
may take for a metaphorical expression of the invigor-
ating influence of rude, wild, robust nature, compared
with the effeminating luxury of civilized life. Evelyn
has collected the fine exaggerations of antiquity respect-
ing the virtues and habits of trees and added some him-
self. He says, I am told that those small young acorns
which we find in the stock-doves' craws are a delicious
I [John Evelyn, Silva: or a Discourse of Forest Trees.]
1852] MUSIC FROM A QUART POT
fare, as well as those incomparable salads, young herbs
taken out of the maws of partridges at a certain season
of the year, which gives them a preparation far ex-
ceeding all the art of cookery." If the oft-repeated
glorification of the forest from age to age smacks of
religion, is even druidical, Evelyn is as good as several
old druids, and his Silva" is a new kind of prayer-
book, a glorifying of the trees and enjoying them for-
ever, which was the chief end of his life.
A child loves to strike on a tin pan or other ringing
vessel with a stick, because, its ears being fresh, sound,
attentive, and percipient, it detects the finest music in
the sound, at which all nature assists. Is not the very
cope of the heavens the sounding-board of the infant
drummer? So clear and unprejudiced ears hear the
sweetest and most soul-stirring melody in tinkling cow-
bells and the like (dogs baying the moon), not to be
referred to association, but intrinsic in the sound itself;
those cheap and simple sounds which men despise be-
cause their ears are dull and debauched. Ah, that I
were so much a child that I could unfailingly draw
music from a quart pot! Its little ears tingle with the
melody. To it there is music in sound alone.
Evelyn speaks of "mel-dews attracting bees. Can
mildews be corrupted from this ? Says that the alder,
laid under water, will harden like a very stone," and
speaks of their being used for the draining of grounds
by placing them in the trenches," which I have
just seen done here under Clamshell Hill.
Evelyn's love of his subject teaches him to use many
expressive words, some imported from the Latin, which
I wonder how we can do without. He says of the
"oziers or aquatic salix," "It likewise yields more
limber and flexible twigs for baskets, flaskets, hampers,
cages, lattices, cradles, the bodies of coaches and
waggons, for chairs, hurdles, stays, bands," etc.;
" likewise for fish-weirs, and to support the banks of
impetuous rivers: In fine, for all wicker and twiggy
'Viminibus Salices' VmG."
Many of his words show a poetic genius.
The above-mentioned is the reason that children are
fond of and make what grown people call a noise,
because of the music which their young ears detect
Peaches are the principal crop in Lincoln, and cher-
ries a very important one; yet Evelyn says, "We may
read that the peach was at first accounted so tender
and delicate a tree, as that it was believed to thrive
only in Persia; and even in the days of Galen, it grew
no nearer than Egypt, of all the Roman Provinces, but
was not seen in the city till about thirty years before
Pliny's time;" but now it is the principal crop culti-
vated in Lincoln in New England, and it is also cul-
tivated extensively in the West and on lands not half a
dozen years vacated by the Indians. Also, It was 680
years after the foundation of Rome, ere Italy had tasted
a cherry of their own, which being then brought thither
out of Pontus, did after 120 years, travel ad ultimos
Britannos," and I may add Lincolnos. As Evelyn says,
"Methinks this should be a wonderful incitement."
Evelyn well says a sobbing rain."
NOTES FROM EVELYN
Trees live so long that Evelyn in Milton's day tells
anecdotes of old trees, and recent writers tell the same
or similar anecdotes of the same trees still standing.
They have stood to have the stories repeated and en-
larged concerning them. He tells of Neustadt an der
grossen Linden, or Neustadt by the great Lime-tree."
After quoting at length some of the inscriptions on the
stone columns placed under this famous tree by noble
persons, proving its age, he adds, Together with sev-
eral more too tedious to recite; and even these might
have [been] spared the reader, but that I found the
instance so particular and solemn."
What means that custom of parents planting a tree
or a forest at the birth of an heir, to be an inheritance
or a dower, but a sort of regrafting the man on the
vegetable P If a forest were planted at the birth of every
man, nations would not be likely to become effete. It
has ever been regarded as a crime, even among warriors,
to cut down a nation's woods.
He, Evelyn, speaks of pines pearling out into gums."
Things raised in a garden he calls hortular furniture."
He talks of modifying the air as well as the soil, about
plants, "and make the remedy as well regional as
topical." This suggests the propriety of Shakespeare's
expression the "region cloud," region meaning then
oftener upper regions relatively to the earth.
He speaks of a dewie sperge or brush," to be used
instead of a watering-pot, which gluts the earth. He
calls the kitchen-garden the olitory garden." In a
dedication of his Kalendarium Hortense to Cowley,
he inserts two or three good sentences or quotations,