THE WRITINGS OF
HENRY DAVID THOREAU
THE WRITINGS OF
HENRY DAVID THOREAU
EDITED BY BRADFORD TORREY
SEPTEMBER 1, 1854-OcroBER 30, 1855
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
I)be Ribereite preas, Cambrilge
COPYRIGHT 1906 BY HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.
All rights reserved
CHAPTER I. September, 1854 (ET. 37) 3
Early Autumnal Change An Unhatched Turtle A Sea-
son of Fires-A Little Snapping Turtle-Evening on the
River Decay of the River Weeds At Sam Barrett's -
Incessant Lightning Sunset on the River Hearing at
Night The Fragrance of Grapes A Talk with Garfield -
Green-Briar Leaves Tortoise Eggs Young Pickerel -
Notes on Birds A Newly Hatched Turtle The Notes of
Wild Pigeons -- A Looming Hill A Burning The Great
Bidens -A Flock of Great Yellow-Legs Luxury and Rob-
bery The Instinct of a Young Turtle Fringed Gentian -
The Advantages of Obscurity and Poverty The First Frosty
Mornings Lace-edged Leaves Scarlet Oak Acorns Sas-
safras Berries The Stages of the River Fall Changing
Foliage A Splendid Sunset The Red of the Young Oaks
Red Maple and Tupelo.
CHAPTER II. October, 1854 (iE. 37) 63
Lecturing and Surveying in Plymouth An Excursion to
Wachusett Mountain The View from Wachusett Indian
CHAPTER III. November, 1854 (.ET. 37) 68
Shadows and Reflections Pirate Money Geese going Over
To Philadelphia The Academy of Natural Sciences -
Philadelphia and New Jersey A Call on Greeley and a Visit
to Barnum's Museum Concord River again.
CHAPTER IV. December, 1854 (,ET. 37) 78
Lecturing Snow-Crust A Mirror with an Icy Frame -
Skating A Flock of Redpolls A Winter Morning Chan-
ning's Skating The American Love of Jest A Visit. at
Ricketson's in New Bedford A Trip to Nantucket Rais-
ing Pines on Nantucket Siasconset Nantucket Verses.
CHAPTER V. January, 1855 (.ET. 37) 99
Lecturing in Worcester A Walk to Quinsigamond Pond -
An Indian's Wigwam A Wire-Rolling and Drawing Mill -
A Cocoon A Lichen Day Winter Vegetation Kalmia
glauca Early New England Writers Andromeda in Beck
Stow's Swamp Skating in a Snow-Storm The Cawing of
a Crow Oak Leaves in Winter A Call on Dr. T. W.
Harris The Blue in Snow The Snow-draped Woods A
Walk with Tappan A Pleasing Structure Birch Seeds and
Bird-Tracks Pines and Oaks in Winter A Winter Freshet
William Wood's "New England's Prospect" The An-
dromeda Ponds Rose-colored Ice Fluttering Oak Leaves
A Perfect Hunter's Morn A Pitch Pine Cone January
Weather A Lodging Snow Maryland and her Lotteries
A Fox's Track Walking in another Man's Tracks -
Fine Skating Three Partridges Muskrat-Hunting.
CHAPTER VI. February, 1855 (2ET. 37) 160
The Skater's Music Tracks in the Snow Skating through
Snow Snow-Steam Skating on Concord River Weather
and the Journal A Cold Night A Talk with R. Rice -
Ice over a Dry Swamp Blue in the Air Partridge-Tracks
Tracks of the White Rabbit A Feather Frost Sounds in
a Fog- Description of a Mouse- Working to save a Bridge
A Spring-suggesting Light-- Travelling in a Freshet -
Lecturer and Audience Another Mouse described The
Quadrupeds of Concord March Days in February The
Peterboro Mountains Weasels and Squirrels The Drum-
ming of the Partridge Ice-Cakes on Bare Ground Sta-
ples's Opinion of Wendell Phillips's Oratory The Ice-Cakes
Fresh-water Clam Shells Clear, Cold Weather Ice-
Cakes and Meadow-Crust The Making of a Ravine.
CHAPTER VII. March, 1855 (2ET. 37) 220
The Last Day for Skating The Moving of the Meadow -
The Ice on the Dry Meadows Pine Cones and Squirrels -
The River breaking up The Cutting of the Woods A
White Pine Cone The First Robin Drops of Pitch A
Pine Marten's Foot The Deer Mouse Ducks in the River
The Meadow-Crust Nests of Mice A Deer Mouse -
A Mouse and her Young The Woodchuck's Waking Two
Large Ducks Marks of Ice on Trees A Herring Gull -
A Paddle up River Water-worn Ice The Havoc made by
the Ice Some Early Spring Birds A Flying Squirrel -
The River wriggling in its Bed Signs of Spring A Mink
Ducks on the River A Skunk's Probings A Cold biut
Wholesome Wind November and March The First Warm
CHAPTER VIII. April, 1855 (,ET. 37) 279
April Rain High Winds A Talk with Daniel Garfield -
Birds by the Riverside The April Waters The Goosander
Skinning a Duck Early Spring Greens The Earliest
Flowers The Rusty Grackle's Notes Sheldrakes White
Maple and Alder Using the Spy-Glass Croaking Frogs -
Hazel in Bloom A Cloudy Day on the River A Fish
Hawk Gulls on the Meadow A Small Hawk A Warm
April Day Golden-Eyes and Sheldrakes Doves on the
Roof Woodchucks A Sea-Turn A Little Duck The
Seringo Letters from Peter Thoreau Black Ducks -
Goosanders Hawks The White-throated Sparrow Sun-
dry Birds and Blossoms A Bay-Wing A Woodchuck -
Snipes on the Meadow Barn Swallows A Pair of Red-
tailed Hawks Young Foxes.
CHAPTER IX. May, 1855 (iUr. 37) 344
The Red-tailed Hawks' Nest The Bills, Feet, and Wings of
Hawks MacGillivray on the Harrier A Talk with Hum-
phrey Buttrick More Birds Leafing Trees and Shrubs -
An Angry Crow An Unaccountable Fragrance Climbing
Trees A Screech Owl on its Nest The Screech Owl and
its Eggs A Crow Blackbird's Nest Black Snakes The
Owl's Nest A Fish Hawk Sounds at Sundown Yellow
Birch Swamp An Olive-sided Flycatcher (?) Yellow-Legs
Oak Tassels A Rose-breasted Grosbeak Sedges,
Rushes, and Grasses A Screech Owl Kalmia glauca -
A Blackburnian Warbler The Yellow-Legs again A Scar-
let Tanager A Thrush Redstarts The Evergreen-
CHAPTER X. June, 1855 (JET. 37) 401
A Cecropia Moth A Nest of Young Spiders A Puzzling
Warbler A Well-concealed Nest Two Catbirds' Nests -
More Birds' Nests A Violent Wind The Olive-sided Fly-
catcher The Unfound Friend The Toad and its Song -
More Birds' Nests A Peetweet and its Young Under a
Boat in the Rain A Tortoise laying her Eggs More Birds'
CHAPTER XI. July, 1855 (XET. 37-38) 431
The Start for Cape Cod Provincetown At Highland Light
Broom Crowberry Blackfish Uncle Sam Small The
Upland Plover Cape Cod Notes The Sail back to Boston
Some Birds' Eggs Bullfrogs and Trip-Hammer.
CHAPTER XII. August, 1855 (,ET. 38) 447
Migrating Swallows A Blue Heron Five Summer Ducks
Cowbirds and Cows.
CHAPTER XIII. September, 1855 (ETr. 88) 454
A Hen-Hawk The Old Hunt House A Boat-Load of Fuel
Barberrying -- The Circus Collecting Driftwood Mole
Crickets To Ricketson's, New Bedford The Blackfish -
Toby's Pond -- Long Pond in Middleborough Two Bright
Irish-American Girls Arthur Ricketson's Collection.
CHAPTER XIV. October. 1855 (EBr. 38) 469
Thomas Bewick's Thumb-Mark A Snail New Bedford -
Ride to Middleborough An Old Indian Burying-Ground -
Assawampsett Pond An Historic Turtle Tom Smith and
his Squaw Sabbatia A Walk along the Acushnet Two
Old Fairhaven Houses A Blue Heron A Ride to Plymouth
- On Concord River again Water-logged Wood A Hor-
nets' Nest The Carpet of Pine-Needles The Roots of the
Yellow Lily Gold-Digging A Broken Tortoise-Shell -
The Rush to California and Australia An Irishwoman's
Fagots The Reflection of the Sun Fourierism and Com-
munities Striped Squirrels' Holes A Wood-Pile with a
History Poverty and Simplicity William Allen Two
Gray Squirrels The Beauty of Wild Apples A Corsair
Hawk Autumn Colors of Shrubs Some Brilliant Trees -
Robbing a Chestnut Tree An Old Picture of Concord -
The Old Conantum House Frostweed A Squirrel eating
an Apple The Flavor of Wild Apples A Screech Owl -
The Tang of a Wild Apple The Cemetery of the Leaves.
KALMIA GLAUCA (page 389) Frontispiece
SAM BARRETT'S MILL-POND 14
SNOW STATUARY 124
BARN SWALLOWS 340
THE JOURNAL OF
HENRY DAVID THOREAU
SEPTEMBER, 1854 (ET. 87)
Sept. 1. A misty morning followed by a still, cloudy,
misty day, through which has fallen a very little rain
this forenoon already. Now I notice a few faint chip-
ping sparrows, busily picking the seeds of weeds in
the garden. Are they the Savannah sparrows? They
show no white in tail. Yet I see no yellow on brows.
Small feathers on back, centred with black and edged
with pale brown (?); inner vanes of wing-quills bay;
crown without chestnut; brown dash from angle of
mouth backward. Do not the sparrows now commonly
begin to feed on seeds of weeds in gardens ?
P. M. Along river to E. Hosmer's.
A very little mizzling. The Aster Tradescanti is
perhaps beginning 1 to whiten the shores on moist
banks. I see a fine (reddish) topped grass in low lands,
whitened like a thin veil with what it has caught of
this dewy rain. It wets my feet much.
The Cornus sericea berries are now in prime, of dif-
1 Vide Sept. 14.
ferent shades of blue, lighter or darker, and bluish
white. They are so abundant as to be a great orna-
ment to our causeways and riverside. The white-
berried, too, is now in prime, but drops off. The Vi-
burnum dentatum berries are smaller and duller. The
Viburnum Lentago are just fairly begun to have purple
Even this rain or mizzling brings down many leaves
of elms and willows, etc.,--the first, to notice, since the
fall of the birches which began so long ago. Saw two
wild ducks go over. Another said they were large
gray ducks; also that Simon Brown's boy had got a
young wild duck which came home from the river
with the tame ones.
Sept. 2. The second still, misty, mizzling and rainy
day. We all lie abed late. Now many more sparrows
in the yard, larger than chip-birds and showing ashy
under sides as they fly. A part the same as yesterday's.
Are they Savannahs, or bay-wings, or both? I see
but the slightest touch of white in the tail of any. Those
clear ashy beneath are cinereous about the shoulders
above. A tree sparrow too? though I do not see the
Opened one of my snapping turtle's eggs. The
young alive, but not very lively, with shell dark grayish-
black; yolk as big as a hazelnut; tail curled round
and is considerably longer than the shell, and slender;
three ridges on back, one at edges of plates on each
SHeard a faint warble from one the next afternoon at about
6 P. M. on apple trees.
1854] EARLY AUTUMNAL CHANGE
side of dorsal, which is very prominent. There is only
the trace of a dorsal ridge in the old. Eye open.1
P. M. By boat to Purple Utricularia Shore.
Still and cloudy, all shut in, but no rain. The flags
are turned yellow along the river, quite an autumnal
scene, with commonly a strip of green left in their
centres. The sparganium not changed. The ponte-
derias, half of them, are brown and crisp. Of pads,
only the white lily are conspicuous. The button-bushes
are generally yellowing, i. e., are of an autumnal yel-
lowish green. The black willows are decidedly crisped
and yellowish. The interrupted fern begins to yellow.
The autumnal dandelion is conspicuous on the shore.
How handsome ripe grapes with the bloom on them!
This rubbed off, they show purple or black. I find
some quite sweet which have ripened on a rock. They
are a noble fruit to the eye. The waxwork is fairly
yellow on all hands. Now is the time to gather it. Ivy
leaves on some plants are yellow, scarlet, and dull-
red, besides green.
I see white lilies wide open at 2.30 p. M. They are
half open even at 5 P. M. in many places this moist
cloudy day and thus late in their season. Still a few
pontederias also. I see dogsbane still in flower. The
Bidens Beckii is oftenest eaten (?) off just below the
blossom. Saw what I think must be a solitary wood (?)
duck. Started it several times, driving it before me
up the river, getting within twenty rods. It uttered a
shrill quacking each time. Bathed at Hubbard's.
The water is surprisingly cold on account of the cool
I Vide [next page].
weather and rain, but especially since the rain of
yesterday morning. It is a very important and re-
markable autumnal change. It will not be warm again
To my great surprise I find this morning (September
3d) that the little unhatched turtle, which I thought
was sickly and dying, and left out on the grass in the
rain yesterday morn, thinking it would be quite dead
in a few minutes- I find the shell alone and the
turtle a foot or two off vigorously crawling, with neck
outstretched (holding up its head and looking round
like an old one) and feet surmounting every obstacle.
It climbs up the nearly perpendicular side of a basket
with the yolk attached. They thus not only continue
to live after they are dead, but begin to live before
they are alive!
Are those large rigid green clusters the dried fertile
flowers of the black ash? The keys are formed and
The moderate mizzling rain of yesterday and to-day
is the first (excepting the slight shower in the eve of
the 26th ult.) since that moderate one of August 4th.
Yet this brings down leaves, cools the rivers and ponds,
and brings back ducks and other migratory birds.
I see two or three large plump sparrows hopping along
on the button-bushes and eating the mikania blossoms,
sometimes perching on the lower mossy stems and
uttering a faint chip, with crown distinctly divided
by a light line and another light line over eye, light
throat and vent, ashy (?) breast and beneath, without
spot. Is it not the white-throated sparrow ?
A SEASON OF FIRES
Observed a large clam at the Bath Place, where
they have not gone down, -apparently quite old,
with a sort of wart-like protuberances, as if the shell
were worn into hollows while the harder parts were
prominent. The shell, where worn, green, the end
shaggy with a kind of moss or alga.
A sort of Aster longifolius, some days by Mill Brook
on Lowell road, but with not long, loose, green-tipped
scales, i. e. not squarrose. Call this A. tenuifolius for
present. (It may be carneus.)
Two-leaved Solomon's-seal berries red.
I have not allowed enough probably for the smoke
mixed with the haze in the late drought. The fires
in woods and meadows have been remarkably nu-
merous and extensive all over the country, the earth
and vegetation have been so dry, especially along
railroads and on mountains and pine plains. Some
meadows are said to have been burned three feet deep!
On some mountains it burns all the soil down to the
rock. It catches from the locomotive, from sports-
men's wadding, and from burning brush and peat
meadows. In all villages they smell smoke, especially
at night. On Lake Champlain, the pilots of steam-
boats could hardly see their course, and many com-
plained that the smoke made their eyes smart and af-
fected their throats. Bears, it is said, have in some
instances been compelled to migrate.'
I [The following appears on an inside cover page of the manu-
script journal volumethat ends here.]
My faults are: -
Paradoxes, saying just the opposite, a style which may
Sept. 3. Sunday. Fair weather and a clear atmos-
phere after two days of mizzlingg, cloudy, and rainy
weather and some smart showers at daylight and in
the night. The street is washed hard and white.
P. M. With Minot Pratt into Carlisle.
Woodbine berries purple. Even at this season I see
some fleets of yellow butterflies in the damp road
after the rain, as earlier. Pratt showed me a tobacco
flower, long and tubular, slightly like a datura. In
his yard appears a new variety of sweet-briar which
he took out of the woods behind his house; larger
bush and leaves, leaves less glandular and sticky be-
neath, the principal serrations deeper and much sharper,
and the whole leaf perhaps less rounded. Saw some
winged ants silvering a circular space in the pasture
grass about five inches in diameter, a few very large
ones among them. Very thick and incessantly mov-
ing, one upon another, some without wings, all running
about in great excitement. It seemed the object of
the winged ones to climb to the top of the grass blades,
one over another, and then take to wing, which they
did. In the meadow southwest of Hubbard's Hill saw
Playing with words, getting the laugh, not always simple,
strong, and broad.
Using current phrases and maxims, when I should speak for
Not always earnest.
"In short," "in fact," "alas!" etc.
Want of conciseness.
Walden published, Wednesday, Aug. Oth, '54.
Sent Fields 12 copies of the Week, Oct. 18th, '54.
1854] A LITTLE SNAPPING TURTLE
white Polygala sanguine, not described. Lambkill
again in Hunt Pasture. Close to the left-hand side
of bridle-road, about a hundred rods south of the oak,
a bayberry bush without fruit, probably a male one.
It made me realize that this was only a more distant
and elevated sea-beach and that we were within reach
of marine influences. My thoughts suffered a sea-turn.
North of the oak (four or five rods), on the left of the
bridle-road in the pasture next to Mason's, tried to
find the white hardhack still out, but it was too late.
Found the mountain laurel out again, one flower,
close sessile on end of this year's shoot. There were
numerous blossom-buds expanding, and they may
possibly open this fall. Running over the laurel an
amphicarpma in bloom, some pods nearly an inch long,
out probably a week, or ten days at most. Epilobium
molle, linear, still in flower in the spruce swamp, near
my path. A white hardhack oiut of bloom by a pile of
stones (on which I put another) in Robbins's field,
and a little south of it a clump of red huckleber-
Sept. 4. Monday. Aster multiflorus. Observed the
under sides of a shrub willow by the river, lit by the
rays of the rising sun, shining like silver or dewdrops.
Yet, when I stood nearer and looked down on them
at a different angle, they were quite dull.
I have provided my little snapping turtle with a tub
of water and mud, and it is surprising how fast he
learns to use his limbs and this world. He actually
runs, with the yolk still trailing from him, as if he had
got new vigor from contact with the mud. The in-
sensibility and toughness of his infancy make our life,
with its disease and low spirits, ridiculous. He im-
presses me as the rudiment of a man worthy to in-
habit the earth. He is born with a shell. That is
symbolical of his toughness. His shell being so rounded
and sharp on the back at this age, he can turn over
P. M. To climbing fern.
Polygonum articulatum, apparently three or four
days. In the wood-paths I find a great many of the
Castile-soap galls, more or less fresh. Some are saddled
on the twigs. They are now dropping from the shrub
oaks. Is not Art itself a gall? Nature is stung by
God and the seed of man planted in her. The artist
changes the direction of Nature and makes her grow
According to his idea. If the gall was anticipated
when the oak was made, so was the canoe when the
birch was made. Genius stings Nature, and she grows
according to its idea.
7.30. To Fair Haven Pond by boat.
Full moon; bats flying about; skaters and water-
bugs (?) like sparks of fire on the surface between us
and the moon. The high shore above the railroad
bridge was very simple and grand, first the bluish
sky with the moon and a few brighter stars, then the
near high level bank like a distant mountain ridge
or a dark cloud in the eastern horizon, then its reflection
in the water, making it double, and finally the glassy
water and the sheen in one spot on the white lily pads.
1854] EVENING ON THE RIVER 11
Some willows for relief in the distance on the right. It
I noticed this afternoon that bubbles would not
readily form on the water, and soon burst, probably
on account of the late rains, which have changed its
quality. There is probably less stagnation and scum.
It is less adhesive.
A fine transparent mist. Lily Bay seemed as wide
as a lake. You referred the shore back to the Clam-
shell Hills. The mere edge which a flat shore presents
makes no distinct impression on the eye and, if seen
at all, appears as the base of the distant hills. Com-
monly a slight mist yet more conceals it. The dim
low shore, but a few rods distant, is seen as the base
of the distant hills whose distance you know. The low
shore, if not entirely concealed by the low mist, is seen
against the distant hills and passes for their immediate
base. For the same reason hills near the water appear
much more steep than they are. We hear a faint me-
tallic chip from a sparrow on the button-bushes or
willows now and then. Rowse was struck by the sim-
plicity of nature now, the sky the greater part,
then a little dab of earth, and after some water near
you. Looking up the reach beyond Clamshell, the
moon on our east quarter, its sheen was reflected for
half a mile from the pads and the rippled water next
them on that side, while the willows lined the shore in
indistinct black masses like trees made with India
ink (without distinct branches), and it looked like a
sort of Broadway with the sun reflected from its
pavements. Such willows might be made with soot
12 JOURNAL [SEPT. 4
or smoke merely, lumpish with fine edges. Meanwhile
Fair Haven Hill, seen blue through the transparent
mist, was as large and imposing as Wachusett, and
we seemed to be approaching the Highlands of the
river, a mountain pass, where the river had burst through
mountains. A high mountain would be no more impos-
Now I began to hear owls, screech (?) owls, at a
distance up-stream; but we hardly got nearer to them,
as if they retreated before us. At length, when off
Wheeler's grape and cranberry meadow, we heard one
near at hand. The rhythm of it was pe-pe-ou; this once
or twice repeated, but more of a squeal and some-
what human. Or do not all strange sounds thrill us
as human, till we have learned to refer them to their
proper source ? They appeared to answer one another
half a mile apart; could be heard from far woods a
The wind has risen and the echo is poor; it does
not reverberate up and down the river. No sound of
a bullfrog, but steadily the cricket-like Rana palustris
Rowse heard a whip-poor-will at Sleepy Hollow to-
night. No scent of muskrats.
Sept. 5. Were those plump birds which looked some-
what like robins crossing the river yesterday afternoon
golden plover? I heard the upland plover note at
same time, but these were much stouter birds. The
dangle-berries are now the only whortleberries which
I [Changed in pencil, evidently at a later date, to "mole cricket."]
1854] DECAY OF THE RIVER WEEDS
are quite fresh. The feverwort berries began to turn
about a fortnight ago. Now quite yellow.
P. M. Up Assabet to Sam Barrett's Pond.
The river rising probably. The river weeds are now
much decayed. Almost all pads but the white lily have
disappeared, and they are thinned, and in midstream
those dense beds of weeds are so much thinned (pota-
mogeton, heart-leaf, sparganium, etc., etc.) as to give
one the impression of the river having risen, though
it is not more than six inches higher on account of
the rain. As I wade, I tread on the great roots only
of the yellow lily. I see now, against the edge of the
pads on each side of the stream, a floating wreck of
weeds, at first almost exclusively the Sparganium
minor, which stood so thick in midstream, the first
important contribution to the river wreck. These
apparently become rotten or loose (though they are
still green), and the wind and water wash them to one
side. They form floating masses of wreck, and a few
small siums and pontederias are already mixed with
them. The stream must be fullest of weeds and most
verdurous (potamogetons, heart-leaf, sparganium, etc.)
when the brink is in perfection. The potamogetons
are much decayed and washed and blown into a snarl,
and no longer cover the surface with a smooth green
shield, nor do the heart-leaf.
This is a fall phenomenon. The river weeds, be-
coming rotten, though many are still green, fall or
are loosened, the water rises, the winds come, and
they are drifted to the shore, and the water is cleared.
During the drought I used to see Sam Wheeler's
men carting hogsheads of water from the river to water
his.shrubbery. They drove into the river, and, naked
all but a coat and hat, they dipped up the water with
a pail. Though a shiftless, it looked like an agreeable,
labor that hot weather.
Bathed at the swamp white oak, the water again
warmer than I expected. One of these larger oaks is
stripped nearly bare by the caterpillars. Cranberry-
raking is now fairly begun. The very bottom of the
river there is loose and crumbly with sawdust. I bring
up the coarse bits of wood (water-logged) between
my feet. I see much thistle-down without the seed
floating on the river. Saw a hummingbird about a
cardinal-flower over the water's edge. Just this side
the rock, the water near the shore and pads is quite
white for twenty rods, as with a white sawdust, with
the exuviae of small insects about an eighth of an inch
long, mixed with scum and weeds, apparently like
the green lice on birches, though they want the long
antenna of the last. Yet I suspect they are the same.
Did not the rain destroy them? What others are so
plenty? I see, as often before, a dozen doves on the
rock, apparently for coolness, which fly before me.
Polygonum amphibium var. terrestre apparently .in
prime. I find some zizania grains almost black. See a
Schip-bird. See many galls thickly clus-
tered and saddled about the twigs of
some young swamp white oaks, dome-
shaped; hold on all winter; with grubs in middle;
A pretty large tupelo on a rock behind Sam Bar-
Sam Barrett's Mill-Pond
AT SAM BARRETT'S
rett's; some of its leaves a very deep and brilliant
scarlet, equal to any leaves in this respect. Some
waxwork leaves variegated greenish-yellow and dark-
green. His pond has been almost completely dry, -
more than he ever knew, and is still mostly so. The
muddy bottom is exposed high and dry, half a dozen
rods wide, and half covered with great drying yellow
and white lily pads and stems. He improves the op-
portunity to skim off the fertile deposit for his com-
post-heap. Saw some button-bush balls going to seed,
which were really quite a rich red over a green base,
especially in this evening light. They are commonly
greener and much duller reddish. Barrett shows me
some very handsome pear-shaped cran-
berries, not uncommon, which may be a
permanent variety different from the com-
mon rounded ones. Saw two pigeons which flew about
his pond and then lit on the elms over his house. He
said they had come to drink from Brooks's, as they
often did. He sees a blue heron there almost every
morning of late. Such is the place for them. A soap-
wort gentian by river; remarkably early (?). The top
has been bitten off! I hear the tree-toad to-day. Now
at sundown, a blue heron flaps away from his perch on
an oak over the river before me, just above the rock.
Hear locusts after sundown.
Sept. 6. 6 A. M. To Hill.
The sun is rising directly over the eastern (mag-
netic east) end of the street. Not yet the equinox. I
hear a faint warbling vireo on the elms still, in the
morning. My little turtle, taken out of the shell Sep-
tember 2d, has a shell one and seven fortieths inches
long, or four fortieths longer than the diameter of the
egg-shell, to say nothing of head and tail. Warm
weather again, and sultry nights the last two. The
last a splendid moonlight and quite warm.
I am not sure that I have seen bobolinks for ten
days, nor blackbirds since August 28th.
9 P. M. There is now approaching from the west
one of the heaviest thunder-showers (apparently) and
with the most incessant flashes that I remember to
have seen. It must be twenty miles off, at least, for
I can hardly hear the thunder at all. The almost
incessant flashes reveal the form of the cloud, at least
the upper and lower edge of it, but it stretches north
and south along the horizon further than we see. Every
minute I see the crinkled lightning, intensely bright,
dart to earth or forkedly along the cloud. It does
not always dart direct to earth, but sometimes very
crookedly, like the bough of a tree, or along the cloud
forkedly. The forked thunderbolt of the poets. It
seems like a tremendous dark battery bearing down
on us, with an incessant fire kept up behind it. And
each time, apparently, it strikes the earth or something
on it with terrific.violence. We feel the rush of the cool
wind while the thunder is yet scarcely audible. The
flashes are, in fact, incessant for an hour or more,
though lighting up different parts of the horizon, -
now the edges of the cloud, now far along the hori-
zon, showing a clearer golden space beneath the
cloud where rain is falling, through which stream tor-
tuously to earth the brilliant bolts. It is a visible strik-
ing or launching of bolts on the devoted villages. It
crinkles through the clear yellow portion beneath the
cloud where it rains, like fiery snakes or worms, like
veins in the eye. At first it was a small and very dis-
tant cloud in the southwestern horizon, revealed by
its own flashes, its rugged upper outline and its
whole form revealed by the flashes,- and no thun-
der heard. It seemed like a ship firing broadsides,
but it gradually advanced and extended itself, and
united with others north and south along the horizon,
and the thunder began to be heard, and wind came,
etc. At last came the rain, but not heavy, nor the
thunder loud, but the flashes were visible all around
Before this, in the afternoon, to the Hollowell place
via Hubbard Bath, crossing the river.
A very warm day, one of the warmest of the year.
The water is again warmer than I should have be-
lieved; say an average summer warmth, yet not so
warm as it has been. It makes me the more surprised
that only that day and a half of rain should have made
it so very cold when I last bathed here. Is not all our
really hot weather always contained between the 20th
of May and the middle of September? The checker-
berries are just beginning to redden. The cinnamon
ferns along the edge of woods next the meadow are
many yellow or cinnamon, or quite brown and withered.
The sarsaparilla leaves, green or reddish, are spotted
with yellow eyes centred with reddish, or dull-reddish
eyes with yellow iris. They have a very pretty effect
held over the forest floor, beautiful in their decay.
The sessile-leaved bellwort is yellow, green, and brown,
all together or separately. Some white oak leaves are
covered with dull-yellow spots. Now apparently is
the time to gather the clusters of shrub oak acorns,
before they drop, to adorn a shelf with. Some, how-
ever, are ready to fall on account of the late drought.
I see where the squirrels have eaten them (the ilici-
folia) and left the shells on a stump. See galls on the
chinquapin, sessile on the stem, spherical, and in ap-
pearance between that of yesterday on the swamp
white oak, and the Castile-soap galls. I think I may
say that large Solomon's-seal berries have begun to be
red. I see no swallows now at Clamshell. They have
probably migrated. Still see the cracks in the ground,
and no doubt shall till snow comes. Very few of the
Aster undulatus this year, and they late.
Some large roundish or squarish Viburnum nudum
berries by fence between Hosmer Spring and Lupine
Hill, near foot of hill, but I see no difference between
the leaves, etc., and the others.
An aster, longifolius-like, some days at Hosmer
Ditch, with smaller flowers, 27-rayed, smaller scales,
leaves rough above and serrate, and purple stem rough.
I will call it A. carneus for present. A similar, with
flesh-colored blossom and longer scales, at A. Hey-
wood Ditch. It may be a variety of what I saw by
Mill Brook and called tenuifolius; scales alike, but
that had smooth leaves.
1854] SUNSET ON THE RIVER
Sept. 7. Thursday. The rain of last night has brought
down more leaves of elms and buttonwoods.
P. M. To Moore's Swamp and Walden.
See some hips of the moss rose, very large and hand-
some, bright-scarlet, very much flattened globular. On
the Walden road heard a somewhat robin-like clicking
note. Looked round and saw one of those small slate-
colored, black-tipped, white-rumped hawks skimming
over the meadows with head down, at first thirty feet
high, then low till he appeared to drop into the grass.'
It was quite a loud clicketing sound.
Paddled to Baker Farm just after sundown, by full
I suppose this is the Harvest Moon, since the sun
must be in Virgo, enters Libra the 23d inst.
The wind has gone down, and it is a still, warm
night, and no mist.
It is just after sundown. The moon not yet risen, one
star, Jupiter (?), visible, and many bats over and about
our heads, and small skaters creating a myriad dim-
ples on the evening waters. We see a muskrat cross-
ing, and pass a white cat on the shore. There are
many clouds about and a beautiful sunset sky, a yel-
lowish (dunnish?) golden sky, between them in the
horizon, looking up the river. All this is reflected in
the water. The beauty of the sunset is doubled by
the reflection. Being on the water we have double the
amount of lit and dun-colored sky above and beneath.
An elm in the yellow twilight looks very rich, as if
1 Male marsh hawk.
moss- or ivy-clad, and a dark-blue cloud extends into
the dun-golden sky, on which there is a little fantastic
cloud like a chicken walking up the point of it, with
its neck outstretched. The reflected sky is more dun
and richer than the real one. Take a glorious sunset
sky and double it, so that it shall extend downward
beneath the horizon as much as above it, blotting out
the earth, and [let] the lowest half be of the deepest
tint, and every beauty more than before insisted on,
and you seem withal to be floating directly into it.
This seems the first autumnal sunset. The small
skaters seem more active than by day, or their slight
dimpling is more obvious in the lit twilight. A stray
white cat sits on the shore looking over the water. This
is her hour. A nighthawk dashes past, low over the
water. This is what we had.
It was in harmony with this fair evening that we
were not walking or riding with dust and noise through
it, but moved by a paddle without a jar over the liquid
and almost invisible surface, floating directly toward
those islands of the blessed which, we call clouds in
the sunset sky. I thought of the Indian, who so many
similar evenings had paddled up this stream, with what
advantage he beheld the twilight sky. So we advanced
without dust or sound, by gentle influences, as the
twilight gradually faded away. The height of the rail-
road bridge, already high (more than twenty feet to
the top of the rail), was doubled by the reflection,
equalling that of a Roman aqueduct, for we could not
possibly see where the reflection began, and the piers
appeared to rise from the lowest part of the reflection
1854] HEARING AT NIGHT 21
to the rail above, about fifty feet. We floated directly
under it, between the piers, as if in mid-air, not being
able to distinguish the surface of the water, and looked
down more than twenty feet to the reflected flooring
through whose intervals we saw the starlit sky. The
ghostly piers stretched downward on all sides, and
only the angle made by their meeting the real ones
betrayed where was the water surface.
The twilight had now paled (lost its red and dun)
and faintly illumined the high bank. I observed no
firefly this evening, nor the 4th. The moon.had not
yet 'risen and there was a half-hour of dusk, in which,
however, we saw the reflections of the trees. Any
peculiarity in the form of a tree or other object if
it leans one side or has a pointed top, for instance -
is revealed in the reflection by being doubled and so
insisted on. We detected thus distant maples, pines,
and oaks, and they were seen to be related to the river
as mountains in the horizon are by day.
Night is the time to hear; our ears took in every
sound from the meadows and the village. At first we
were disturbed by the screeching of the locomotive and
rumbling of the cars, but soon were left to the fainter
natural sounds, the creaking of the crickets, and the
little Rana palustrist (I am not sure that I heard it the
latter part of the evening), and the shrilling of other
crickets (?), the occasional faint lowing of a cow and
the distant barking of dogs, as in a whisper. Our
ears drank in every sound. I heard once or twice a
I ["Mole cricket" is here substituted in pencil for "Rana palus-
dumping frog. This was while we lay off Nut Mea-
dow Brook waiting for the moon to rise. She burned
her way slowly through the small but thick clouds,
and, as fast as she triumphed over them and rose over
them, they appeared pale and shrunken, like the ghosts
of their former selves. Meanwhile we measured the
breadth of the clear cope over our heads, which she
would ere long traverse, and, while she was concealed,
looked up to the few faint stars in the zenith which
is ever lighted. C. thought that these few faint lights
in the, ever-lit sky, whose inconceivable distance
was enhanced by a few downy wisps of cloud, sur-
passed any scene that earth could show.1 When the
moon was behind those small black clouds in the
horizon, they had a splendid silver edging. At length
she rose above them and shone aslant, like a ball of
fire over the woods. It was remarkably clear to-night,
and the water was not so remarkably broad therefore,
and Fair Haven was not clothed with that blue veil
like a mountain, which it wore on the 4th, but it was
not till we had passed the bridge that the first sheen
was reflected from the pads. The reflected shadow
of the Hill was black as night, and we seemed to be
paddling directly into it a rod or two before us, but
we never reached it at all. The trees and-hills were
distinctly black between us and the moon, and the
water black or gleaming accordingly. It was quite
dry and warm. Above the Cliffs we heard only one
or two owls at a distance, a hooting owl and a screech
owl, and several whip-poor-wills. The delicious fra-
I [Excursions, p. 328; Riv. 403.]
1854] THE FRAGRANCE OF GRAPES
grance of ripe grapes was wafted to us by the night air,
as we paddled by, from every fertile vine on the shore,
and thus its locality was revealed more surely than by
daylight. We knew their fragrance was better than
their flavor. They perfumed the whole river for a mile,
by night. You might have thought you had reached
the confines of Elysium. A slight zephyr wafted us al-
most imperceptibly into the middle of Fair Haven Pond,
while we lay watching and listening. The sheen of the
moon extended quite across the pond to us in a long
and narrow triangle, or rather with concave sides
like a very narrow Eddystone Lighthouse, with its
base on the southwest shore, and we heard the dis-
tant sound of the wind through the pines on the hill-
top. Or, if we listened closely, we heard still the faint
and distant barking of dogs. They rule the night.
Near the south shore disturbed some ducks in the
water, which slowly flew away to seek a new resting-
place, uttering a distinct and alarmed quack some-
thing like a goose.
We walked up to the old Baker house. In the
bright moonlight the character of the ground under
our feet was not easy to detect, and we did not know
at first but we were walking on sod and not on a field
laid down and harrowed. From the upland the pond
in the moonlight looked blue, as much so as the sky.
We sat on the window-sill of the old house, thought
of its former inhabitants, saw our bandit shadows
down the cellar-way (C. had on a red flannel shirt
over his thin coat, since he expected it would be
cold and damp, and looked like one), listened to
each sound, and observed each ray of moonlight through
the cracks. Heard an apple fall in the little orchard
close by, while a whip-poor-will was heard in the pines.
Returning to the boat, saw a glow-worm in the
damp path in the low ground. Returning later, we
experienced better the weird-like character of the
night, especially perceived the fragrance of the grapes
and admired the fair smooth fields in the bright moon-
light. There being no mist, the reflections were won-
derfully distinct; the whole of Bittern Cliff with its
grove was seen beneath the waves.
Sept. 8. P. M. -To boat under Fair Haven Hill via
Hubbard Bath, etc., a-graping.
The ivy at ivy tree is scarlet a quarter part. Saw
one of my small slate-colored hawks of yesterday,
sitting in the midst of the upland field beyond, like a
crow. There is a great crop of Viburnum nudum ber-
ries this year. The green-briar berries not quite ripe.
Clams still lie up.
The grapes would no doubt be riper a week hence,
but I am compelled to go now before the vines are
stripped. I partly smell them out. I pluck splendid
great bunches of the purple ones, with a rich bloom
on them and the purple glowing through it like a fire;
large red ones, also, with light dots, and some clear
green. Sometimes I crawl under low and thick bowers,
where they have run over the alders only four or five
feet high, and see the grapes hanging from a hollow
hemisphere of leaves over my head. At other times
I see them dark-purple or black against the silvery
1854] A TALK WITH GARFIELD
undersides of the leaves, high overhead where they
have run over birches or maples, and either climb or pull
them down to pluck them. The witch-hazel on Dwarf
Sumach Hill looks as if it would begin to blossom in
a day or two.
Talked with Garfield, who was fishing off his shore.
By the way, that shore might be named from him, for
he is the genius of it, and is almost the only man I
ever see on that part of the river. He says that the two
turtles, of one of which I have the shell, weighed to-
gether eighty-nine pounds. He saw one when he was
a boy, which his father caught in'Fair Haven Pond,
which several who saw it thought would have weighed
sixty pounds. That the biggest story he could tell.
Referred to the year not long since when so many were
found dead. There was one rotting right on that shore
where we were, "as big as a tray." Once, he and
another man were digging a ditch in a meadow in
Waltham. (He thought it was the last of September
or first of October and that we did not see them put
their heads out much later than this.) They found
two mud turtles three feet beneath the surface and no
hole visible by which they entered. They laid them
out on the grass, but when they went to look for them
again, one was lost and the other had buried him-
self in the meadow all but the tip of his tail.
He heard some years ago a large flock of brant go
over "yelling" very loud, flying low and in-an irregu-
lar dense flock like pigeons. He says the east shore of
Fair Haven under the Hill is covered with heron-tracks.
One of his boys had seen marks where an otter had
26 JOURNAL [SEPT. 8
slid and eaten fish near the mouth of Pole Brook (my
Bidens Brook). Remembered old people saying that
this river used to be a great hunting-place a hundred
years ago or more. A still stream with meadows, and
the deer used to come out on it. Had heard an old Mr.
Hosmer, who lived where E. Conant does, say that he
had shot three dozen muskrats at one shot at Birch
Island (the island at mouth of Fair Haven Pond).
His father caught the great turtle while fishing and
sent him up to the house on Baker's farm where a
Jones lived, to get an axe to cut his head off. There
were two or three men- Luke Potter, who lived
where Hayden does, for one playing cards, and
when they learned what he wanted the axe for, they
came down to the shore to see him, and they judged
that he would weigh sixty pounds. Two or three
years ago he saw one caught that weighed forty-two
I saw a muskrat-cabin apparently begun on a small
hummock for a core, now just before the first frost
and when the river wreck had begun to wash about.
Those fine mouthfuls appear to be gathered from the
river-bottom, -fine pontederias, sium, fontinalis, etc.,
etc., decayed but somewhat adhesive. See fresh pon-
tederia blossoms still. Started up ten ducks, which had
settled for the night below the bath place, apparently
I doubt .if I have distinguished the Bidens cernua.
It may be the one I have thought a small chrysanthe-
moides. I find these last with smaller rays and larger
outer involucres and more or less bristly stems, yet
equally connate and as regularly serrate, and it looks
like a difference produced by growing in a drier soil.
Many green-briar leaves are very agreeably thickly
spotted now with reddish brown, or fine green on a
yellow or green ground, producing a wildly variegated
leaf. I have seen nothing more rich. Some of these
curled leaves are five inches wide with a short point.
It is a leaf now for poets to sing about, a leaf to in-
spire poets. Now, while I am gathering grapes, I see
them. It excites me to a sort of autumnal madness.
They are leaves for Satyrus and Faunus to make their
garlands of. My thoughts break out like them, spotted
all over, yellow and green and brown. The freckled
leaf. Perhaps they should be poison, to be thus spotted.
I fancied these brown were blood-red spots, by contrast,
but they are not. Now for the ripening year! Even
leaves are beginning to be ripe.
Garfield says he found a hen-hawk's nest near Holden's
Swamp (the old ones had got his chickens), sixty feet
up a white pine. He climbed up and set a trap in it
baited with a fish, with a string ten feet long attached.
The young, but just hatched, faced him, and he caught
the old one by the legs thus.
I have brought home a half-bushel of grapes to scent
my chamber with. It is impossible to get them home
in a basket with all their rich bloom on them, which,
no less than the form of the clusters, makes their beauty.
As I paddled home with my basket of grapes in the
bow, every now and then their perfume was wafted
to me in the stern, and I thought that I was passing a
richly laden vine on shore. Some goldfinches twitter
over, while I am pulling down the vines from the birch-
tops. The ripest rattle off and strew the ground before
I reach the clusters, or, while I am standing on tiptoe
and endeavoring gently to break the tough peduncle,
the petiole of a leaf gets entangled in the bunch and I
am compelled to strip them all off loosely.
"Yet once more
I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude,
And with forc'd fingers rude,
Slatter your leaves before the mellowing year."
Sept. 9. This morning I find a little hole, three quar-
ters of an inch or an inch over, above my small tortoise
eggs, and find a young tortoise coming out (apparently
in the rainy night) just beneath. It is the Sternothe-
rus odoratus already has the strong scent and now
has drawn in its head and legs. I see no traces of the
yolk, or what-not, attached. It may have been out of
the egg some days. Only one as yet. I buried them in
the garden June 15th.
I am affected by the thought that the earth nurses
these eggs. They are planted in the earth, and the
earth takes care of them; she is genial to them and
does not kill them. It suggests a certain vitality and
intelligence in the earth, which I had not realized.
This mother is not merely inanimate and inorganic.
Though the immediate mother turtle abandons her
offspring, the earth and sun are kind to them. The
old turtle on which the earth rests takes care of them
while the other waddles off. Earth was not made
poisonous and deadly to them. The earth has some
1 [Milton's Lycidas.]
virtue in it; when seeds are put into it, they germinate;
when turtles' eggs, they hatch in due time. Though
the mother turtle remained and brooded them, it would
still nevertheless be the universal world turtle which,
through her, cared for them as now. Thus the earth
is the mother of all creatures.
Garfield said that one of his sons, while they were
haying in the river meadows once, found a hundred
little pickerel, an inch or inch and a half long, in [a]
little hole in the meadow not bigger than a bushel basket
and nearly dry. He took them out and put them into the
river. Another time he himself found many hundred
in a ditch, brought them home, and put them into his
large tub. They there lived a spell without his feeding
them, but, small as they were, lived on one another,
and you could see the tails sticking out their mouths.
It would seem as if their spawn was deposited in those
little muddy-bottomed hollows in the meadows where
we find the schools of young thus landlocked.
Sept. 10. Yesterday and to-day the first regular
rain-storm, bringing down more leaves, elms, but-
ton woods, and apple tree,- and decidedly raising
the river and brooks. The still, cloudy, mizzling days,
September 1st and 2d, the thunder-shower of even-
ing of September 6th, and this regular storm are the
first fall rains after the long drought. Already the
grass both in meadows and on hills looks greener,
and the whole landscape, this overcast rainy day,
darker and more verdurous. Hills which have been
russet and tawny begin to show some greenness.
On account of the drought one crop has almost
entirely failed this year thus far, which the papers have
not spoken of. Last year, for the last three weeks of
August, the woods were filled with the strong musty
scent of decaying fungi, but this year I have seen very
few fungi and have not noticed that odor at all, a
failure more' perceptible to frogs and toads, but no
doubt serious to those whom it concerns.
As for birds: -
About ten days ago especially I saw many large hawks, prob-
ably hen-hawks and young, about.
Within a week several of the small slate-colored and black-tipped
August 20th, saw a sucker which I suppose must have been
caught by a fish hawk.
Hear screech owls and hooting owls these evenings.
Have not noticed blue jays of late.
Occasionally hear the phe-be note of chickadees.
Partridges probably cease to mew for their young.
For about three weeks have seen one or two small dippers.
For ten days a few wood and probably black ducks.
Small flocks of bluebirds about apple trees.
Larks common, but have not heard them sing for some time.
Am not sure that I have seen red-wings or other blackbirds for
About three weeks ago a small flock of robins and pigeon wood-
Robins common, and still hear some faint notes of woodpeck-
Saw a downy woodpecker as a rarity within a week.
Believe I hear no song sparrows sing nowadays.
See no F. hyemalis; hear no quails.
Heard my last phoebe August 26th.
See no flocks of white-in-tails.
Hear the nuthatch as a novelty within a week about street.
NOTES ON BIRDS
Saw first tree sparrow about a week since in first rain.'
Have seen pigeons about a fortnight.
Have not distinguished rush sparrows for a long time, nor Savan-
nah, nor yellow-winged.
Seen no snipe since August 16th.
Turtle doves for more than a month.
A chip-sparrow seen within a few days.
The warbling vireo still heard faintly in the morning.
For three weeks blue herons common on meadows and great
Green bittern rather earlier for most part.
Have not heard kingfisher of late, not for three weeks me-
Methinks I heard a faint sound from a chewink within a week ?
Seen no barn swallows for a week.
Heard no catbirds nor brown thrashers sing for long time, but
seen the last at least within ten days.
Whip-poor-wills still common.
Think I saw white-throated (?) sparrows on button-bushes
about a week ago, the mizzling day.
Hear no golden robins for the last fortnight.
Not sure I have seen bobolinks since August 20th.
Kingbirds seen within a day or two.
Hummingbird within a week.
Nighthawks still, but have not noticed the booming lately.
Cuckoo not heard lately.
Meadow-hen (?) seen August 30th.
Now generally ducks and other migratory birds are returning
from north and ours going south.2
Diplopappus linariifolius and Aster undulatus appar-
ently now in prime.
1 [Probably a mistake. The date is too early.]
2 [It is significant that no warblers are included, even negatively,
in this list. Compare entry of June 9, 1854.]
Sept. 11. Measured to-day the little Sternothcerus
odoratus which came out the ground in the garden
September 9th. Its shell is thirty-two fortieths of an
inch long, by twenty-five fortieths wide. It has a
distinct dorsal ridge, and its head and flippers are re-
markably developed. Its raised back and dorsal ridge,
as in the case of the mud turtle, enable it to turn over
very easily. It may have been hatched some time be-
fore it came out, for not only there was no trace of the
yolk (?), but its shell was much wider than the egg,
when it first came out of the ground. I placed a sieve
over it, and it remained in the hole it had made mostly
concealed the two rainy days, the 9th and 10th, -
but to-day I found it against the edge of the sieve, its
head and legs drawn in and quite motionless, so that
you would have said the pulses of life had not fairly
begun to beat. I put it into the tub on the edge of the
mud. It seems that it does not have to learn to walk,
but walks at once. It seems to have no infancy such
as birds have. It is surprising how much cunning it
already exhibits. It is defended both by its form and
color and its instincts. As it lay on the mud, its color
made it very inobvious, but, besides, it kept its head
and legs drawn in and perfectly still, as if feigning
death; but this was not sluggishness. At a little dis-
tance I watched it for ten minutes or more. At length
it put its head out far enough to see if the coast was
clear, then, with its flippers, it turned itself toward
the water (which element it had never seen before),
and suddenly and with rapidity launched itself into
it and dove to the bottom. Its whole behavior was
1854] A NEWLY HATCHED TURTLE
calculated to enable it to reach its proper element
safely and without attracting attention. Not only was
it made of a color and form (like a bit of coal) which
alone almost effectually concealed it, but it was made,
infant as it was, to be perfectly still as if inanimate
and then to move with rapidity when unobserved.
The oldest turtle does not show more, if so much, cun-
ning. I think I may truly say that it uses cunning
and meditates how it may reach the water in safety.
When I first took it out of its hole on the morning of
the 9th, it shrunk into its shell and was motionless,
feigning death. That this was not sluggishness, I
have proved. When to-day it lay within half an inch
of the water's edge, it knew it for a friendly element
and, without deliberation or experiment, but at last,
when it thought me and all foes unobservant of its
motions, with remarkable precipitation it committed
itself to it as if realizing a long-cherished idea. Plainly
all its motions were as much the result of what is called
instinct as is the act of sucking in infants. Our own
subtlest [sic] is likewise but another kind of instinct.
The wise man is a wise infant obeying his finest and
never-failing instincts. It does not so much impress
me as an infantile beginning of life as an epitome of
all the past of turtledom and of the earth. I think of
it as the result of all the turtles that have been.
The little snapping'turtle lies almost constantly on
the mud with its snout out of water. It does not keep
under water long. Yesterday in the cold rain, however,
it lay buried in the mud all day!
Surveying this forenoon, I saw a small, round,
bright-yellow gall (some are red on one side), as big
as a moderate cranberry, hard and smooth, saddled on
a white oak twig. So I have seen them on the swamp
white, the chinquapin, and the white, not to mention
the Castile-soap one on the ilicifolia acorn edge.
This is a cold evening with a. white twilight, and
threatens frost, the first in these respects decidedly
autumnal evening. It makes us think of wood for the
winter. For a week or so the evenings have been sen-
sibly longer, and I am beginning to throw off my sum-
mer idleness. This twilight is succeeded by a brighter
starlight than heretofore.
Sept. 12. Tuesday. A cool, overcast day threaten-
ing a storm. Yesterday, after the two days' cold rain,
the air was very clear and fine-grained. This is a phe-
nomenon we observe now after dog-days, until it is
summed up in Indian summer.
P. M. To Hubbard Bath.
Methinks these cool cloudy days are important to
show the colors of some flowers, that with an ab-
sence of light their own colors are more conspicuous
and grateful against the cool, moist, dark-green earth,
- the Aster puniceus (the most densely massed),
the (now beginning to prevail) Tradescanti, purple ge-
rardia, etc., etc. The river has at length risen percep-
tibly, and bathing I find it colder again than on the
2d, so that I stay in but a moment. I fear that it
will not again be warm. The weeds in midstream are
mostly drowned and are washing up to the shore,
-much vallisneria and heart-leaf (with its threadlike
1854] THE NOTES OF WILD PIGEONS 35
stems) are added to the previous wreck. (Vide Sep-
A sprinkling drove me back for an umbrella, and I
started again for Smith's Hill via Hubbard's Close.
I see plump young bluebirds in small flocks along the
fences, with only the primaries and tail a bright blue,
the other feathers above dusky ashy-brown, tipped with
white. How much more the crickets are heard a cool,
cloudy day like this! Is it not partly because the air
is stiller? I see the Epilobium molle (?) (linear) in
Hubbard's Close still out, but I cannot find a trace of
the fringed gentian. I scare pigeons from Hubbard's
oaks beyond. How like the creaking of trees the slight
sounds they make! Thus they are concealed. Not
only their prating or quivet is like a sharp creak, but I
heard a sound from them like a dull grating or cracking
of bough on bough. I see the small aster (?) in the
woods with ink-black spots at the base of the leaves.
(It looks like a dumosus, but has no flowers.) White
oak acorns have many of them fallen. They are small
and very neat light-green acorns, with small cups, com-
monly arranged two by
two close together, often
with a leaf growing
between them; but fre-
quently three, forming a
little star with three rays,
looking very artificial. Some black scrub oak acorns
have fallen, and a few black oak acorns also have fallen.
The red oak began to fall first. Thorn apples are now.
commonly ripe and the prinos berries are conspicu-
ous. Beside many white birch I now see many chest-
nut leaves fallen and brown in the woods. There is
now at last some smell of fungi in the woods since the
On a white oak beyond Everett's orchard by the
road, I see quite a flock of pigeons; their blue-black
droppings and their feathers spot the road. The bare
limbs of the oak apparently attracted them, though
its acorns are thick on the ground. These are found
whole in their crops. They swallow them whole. I
should think from the droppings that they had been
eating berries. I hear that Wetherbee caught ninety-
two dozen last week.
I see maple viburnum berries blue-black with but
little bloom. No full cymes, and the cymes rather
less spreading than the other kinds. Some time. Now,
especially, the strong bracing scent of the delicate
fern by the Saw Mill Brook path. Dicksonia? or a
coarser? How long has the mitchella been ripe? I
see many still perfectly green in the swamp. Fruit
of the damp and mossy forest floor ripening amid the
now mildewy and bracing fern scent of the damp
wood. Medeola berries shining black (or perhaps
dark blue-black?) on long peduncles; how long?
The whorls of leaves now stand empty for most part
like shallow saucers, with their purple centres and
I hear that many upland plover have been seen on
the burnt Brooks's meadow.
Marsh speedwell and yellow Bethlehem-star still
A LOOMING HILL
Sept. 13. Wednesday. P. M. To Great Fields.
Many butternuts have dropped, more than wal-
nuts. A few raspberries still fresh. I find the large
thistle (Cirsium muticum) out of bloom, seven or eight
rods, perhaps, north of the potato-field and seven feet
west of ditch, amid a clump of raspberry vines.
Sept. 14. Thursday. 6 A. M. To Hill.
I hear a vireo still in the elms. The banks have now
begun fairly to be sugared with the Aster Tradescanti.
I get very near a small dipper behind Dodd's, which
sails out from the weeds fairly before me, then scoots
over the surface crosswise the river, throwing the water
high, dives, and is lost. A Viola lanceolata out on the
The sun soon after rising has gone into a mackerel
sky this morning, and, as I come down the hill, I ob-
serve a singular mirage (?). There is a large dense
field of mackerel sky with a straight and distinct edge
parallel with the southeast horizon and lifted above it,
apparently about double the height of the highest hills
there; beneath this a clear sky, and lower still some
level bars of mist, which cut off the top of Pine Hill,
causing it to loom. The top, fringed with pines on
account of the intervening lower mist, is seen as it
were above the clouds, appears much too high, being
referred to a far greater distance than the reality. Our
humble scenery appears on a grand scale. I see the
fair forms of mighty pines standing along a mountain
ridge above the clouds and overlooking from a vast
distance our low valley. I think that the image is not
really elevated, but the bars of mist below make me
refer it to too great a distance and therefore it is seen
as higher. The appearance of those fine-edged pines, a
narrow strip of a mountain ridge half a mile in length,
is stupendous and imposing. It is as if we lived in
a valley amid the Himmalaya mountains, a vale of
There was a fog last night which I think prevented
8 A. M. To opposite Pelham's Pond by boat.
Quite cool, with some wind from east and southeast.
Took a watermelon for drink. I see many new and
perfect upright cobwebs on the sium gone to seed by
the side of the river. Now, instead of haying, they
are raking cranberries all along the river. The raker
moves slowly along with a basket before him, into
which he rakes (hauling) the berries, and his wagon
stands one side. It is now the middle of the cranberry
season. The river has risen about a foot within a week,
and now the weeds in midstream have generally dis-
appeared, washed away or drowned. The ranunculus
stems and leaves are added to the floating wreck. Now
our oars leave a broad wake of large bubbles, which
are slow to burst. Methinks they are most numerous,
large, and slow to burst near the end of a warm and
dry spell, and that the water loses some of this tenacity
in a rain. But now we have had rain. At any rate on the
4th, just after the first rains (of the 1st and 2d), they
would not readily form to the hand. There is such a
difference in the state of the water. As we go up the
Clamshell Reach I see the reflections of oaks very much
prolonged by the fine ripple. Perhaps it is re-reflected
from ripple to ripple. The rainbow portion of the bayo-
net rush is just covered now by the rise of the river.
This cooler morning methinks the jays are heard more.
Now that the pontederias have mostly fallen, the poly-
gonums are the most common and conspicuous flowers
of the river. The smaller one has not shown more be-
fore. I see a stream of small white insects in the air
over the side of the river. W. Wheeler is burning his
hill by the Corner road, just cut over. I see the scarlet
flame licking along the ground, not in a continuous
rank, but upright individual tongues of flame, undu-
lating, flashing, forked, narrow erect waves about
the size of a man or boy; next the smoke rising per-
pendicularly, blue against the pines and fuscous against
the sky. Not till high in the sky does it feel the southerly
wind. When I look round for those light under sides
of the crisped leaves, which were so conspicuous in
the drought three weeks and more ago, I see none.
Methinks they have not so much flattened out again
since the rains, but have fallen, and that thus there
are two falls every year. Those leaves which are curled
by the drought of July and August apparently fall
with the first fall rains, about the first week of Septem-
ber, and those which remain are green as usual and
go on to experience their regular October change. The
only difference this year will be that there will not be
so many leaves for the second fall. The first fall is
1 For example, on the 17th I see that all those which had changed
Crossing Fair Haven, the reflections were very fine,
- not quite distinct, but prolonged by the fine ripples
made by an east wind just risen. At a distance, enter-
ing the pond, we mistook some fine sparkles, probably
of insects, for ducks in the water, they were so large,
which when we were nearer, looking down at a greater
angle with the surface, wholly disappeared. Some
large-leaved willow bushes in the meadow southeast
of Lee's reflected the light from the under sides of a
part of their leaves, as if frost-covered, or as if white
asters were mingled with them. We saw but two white
lilies on this voyage; they are now done. About a
dozen pontederia spikes, no mikania (that is now
white or gray), four or five large yellow lilies, and two
or three small yellow lilies. The Bidens Beckii is
drowned or dried up, and has given place to the great
bidens, the flower and ornament of the riversides at
present, and now in its glory, especially at I. Rice's
shore, where there are dense beds. It is a splendid
yellow Channing says a lemon yellow and looks
larger than it is (two inches in diameter, more or
less). Full of the sun. It needs a name. I see tufts
of ferns on the edge of the meadows at a little dis-
tance, handsomely tipped on edge with cinnamon
brown. Like so many brown fires they light up
the meadows. The button-bush everywhere yellow-
We see half a dozen herons in this voyage. Their
wings are so long in proportion to their bodies that
on Pine Hill have fallen and many tree-tops, maple and chestnut,
there seems to be more than one undulation to a wing
as they are disappearing in the distance, and so you
can distinguish them. You see another begin before
the first has ended. It is remarkable how common
these birds are about our sluggish and marshy river.
We must attract them from a wide section of country.
It abounds in those fenny districts and meadow pond-
holes in which they delight. A flock of thirteen tell-
tales, great yellow-legs, start up with their shrill whistle
from the midst of the great Sudbury meadow, and
away they sail in a flock, a sailing (or skimming)
flock, that is something rare methinks, showing
their white tails, to alight in a more distant place. We
see some small dippers and scare up many ducks,
black mostly, which probably came as soon as the
earliest. The great bittern, too, rises from time to
time, slowly flapping his way along at no great height
above the meadow.
The small polygonum is first particularly abundant
in the bend above the coreopsis, but it is [in] greatest
abundance and perfection at three quarters through
the great meadow, in great beds one to three rods wide,
very dense and now rising but six or eight inches or
so above the water. It is now apparently in perfection.
See swallow like a barn swallow. Counted twenty
haycocks in the great meadow, on staddles, of various
tied round /\
with hay '
ropes. They are picturesque objects in the meadow.
Little as the river has risen, these meadows are already
wet. The phragmites is still green. Why does not that
large typha above the Causeway bear fruit? 1
Just above the Mill Village Bridge there is an in-
teresting view of Nobscot, clad with wood, up the broad
meadows on Lamed Brook, which comes in there.
Above the Pelham Pond Bridge, a short distance
further, we dined; then went on. An interesting view
and part of the river, quite broad at the Great
Chestnut house, and a good landing] just before on
the'left. Went half a mile or more above the Chestnut
house. Plenty of hibiscus out of bloom just above the
Chestnut house on the west side, and some opposite
some elms where we had dined, all in Wayland.
What is that large, sharply triangular, hollow-sided
sedge about four feet high on the north edge of the
river in middle of the great meadow? Coarse, grass-
We went up thirteen or fourteen miles at least, and,
as we stopped at Fair Haven Hill returning, rowed
about twenty-five miles to-day.
Sept. 15. P. M. To boat under Fair Haven Hill
and down river.
Desmodium (?) or lespedeza ticks cover my clothes.
I know not when I get them. The witch-hazel has
opened since the 8th; say llth.2 Its leaves, a third or
a half of them, are yellow and brown. Solidago spe-
SIt does. Vide July 31, 1859. 2 Vide July 31, 1859.
It was abundantly out the 14th (yesterday) on Wachusett
Mountain, where it is probably more exposed to the sun and drier.
Sophia was there.
LUXURY AND ROBBERY
ciosa at Clamshell out several days. Goodwin, the one-
eyed fisherman, is back again at his old business (and
Haynes also). He says he has been to Cape Cod
a-haying. He says that their "salt grass cuts about the
same with our fresh meadow."
Saw a chewink.
Mrs. Mowatt, the actress, describes a fancy ball in
Paris, given by an American millionaire, at which "one
lady wore so many diamonds (said to be valued
at two hundred thousand dollars) that she was escorted
in her carriage by gendarmes, for fear of robbery."
This illustrates the close connection between luxury and
robbery, but commonly the gendarmes are further off.
Sept. 16. Sophia and mother returned from Wa-
chusett. S. saw much bayberry in Princeton.
P. M. To Fringed Gentian Meadow over Assa-
bet and to Dugan Desert.
I see a wood tortoise in the woods. Why is it there
now? One man thinks there are not so many pigeons
as last week, that it is too cold for them. There have
been a few slight frosts in some places. The clematis
is feathered. One Asclepias Cornuti begun to discount.
I see many hardhacks in the lichen pasture by Tommy
Wheeler's which are leafing out again conspicuously.
I see little flocks of chip-birds along the roadside and
on the apple trees, showing their light under sides when
I find the mud turtle's eggs at the Desert all hatched.
There is a small hole by which they have made their
exit some time before the last rain (of the 14th) and
since I was here on the 4th. There is, however, one
still left in the nest. As the eggs were laid the 7th of
June, it makes about three months before they came
out of the ground. The nest was full of sand and egg-
shells. I saw no tracks of the old one. I took out the
remaining one, which perhaps could not get out alone,
and it began slowly to crawl toward the brook about
five rods distant. It went about five feet in as many
minutes. At this rate it would have reached the water
in a cofiple of hours at most. Then, being disturbed
by my moving, stopped, and, when it started again,
retraced its steps, crossed the hole which I had filled,
and got into a rut leading toward another part of the
brook, about ten rods distant. It climbed directly
over some weeds and tufts of grass in its way. Now
and then it paused, stretched out its head, looked
round, and appeared to be deliberating, waiting for
information or listening to its instinct. It seemed to
be but a blundering instinct which it obeyed and as
if it might be easily turned from its proper course.
Yet in no case did it go wholly wrong. Whenever I
took it up, it drew in its 'head and legs, shut its eyes,
and remained motionless. It was so slow that I could
not stop to watch it, and so carried it to within seven
or eight inches of the water, turning its head inland.
At length it put out its head and legs, turned itself
round, crawled to the water, and endeavored as soon
Sas it entered it to bury itself at the bottom, but, it being
sand, it could not. I put it further into the stream, and
it was at once carried down head over heels by the
current. I think they come out in the night.
Another little sternotherus has come out of the
ground since eight this morning (it is now 11 A. M.).1
The first sternotherus has remained buried in the
mud in the tub from the first, and the snapping turtle
also for the last few days.
The locust sounds rare now. I make the oak at the
southeast corner of the Agricultural Ground to be a
scarlet oak, not yellow-barked; leaf more deeply cut,
lighter green, narrower at point; acorn more pointed,
its upper scales not recurved off from the acorn like
Sept. 18. Monday. Viburnum nudum in flower again.
Fringed gentian near Peter's out a short time, but as
there is so little, and that has been cut off by the mowers,
and this is not the leading stem that blooms, it may
after all be earlier than the hazel.2 I see the potatoes
all black with frosts that have occurred within a night
or two in Moore's Swamp.
Sept. 19. Tuesday. P. M. To Conantum.
Viburnum Lentago berries now perhaps in prime,
though there are but few blue ones.
1 Another, Sept. 17th, found in morning. Another the 18th,
between 8 and 11 A. M. Another the 18th, between 11 A. M. and 1 P. M.
Another between 1 and 3 P. M. the 18th. Another found out on the
morning of the 19th. Another was dug out the 25th. (All hatched,
then, but one egg which I have.)
A snapping turtle had come out on the morning of the 20th, one
at least. Another on the morning of the 28d Sept. Another on the
morning of the 26th.
2 Frost-bitten in Hubbard's Close the 21st (or before).
Thinking this afternoon of the prospect of my writing
lectures and going abroad to read them the next win-
ter, I realized how incomparably great the advantages
of obscurity and poverty which I have enjoyed so long
(and may still perhaps enjoy). I thought with what
more than princely, with what poetical, leisure I had
spent my years hitherto, without care or engagement,
fancy-free. I have given myself up to nature; I have
lived so many springs and summers and autumns
and winters as if I had nothing else to do but live
them, and imbibe whatever nutriment they had for
.me; I have spent a couple of years, for instance,
with the flowers chiefly, having none other so binding
engagement as to observe when they opened; I could
have afforded to spend a whole fall observing the
changing tints of the foliage. Ah, how I have thriven
on. solitude and poverty! I cannot overstate this ad-
vantage. I do not see how I could have enjoyed it, if
the public had been expecting as much of me as there
is danger now that they will. If I go abroad lectur-
ing, how shall I ever recover the lost winter?
It has been my vacation, my season of growth and
expansion, a prolonged youth.
An upland plover goes off from Conantum-top (though
with a white belly), uttering a sharp white, tu white.
That drought was so severe that a few trees here and
there birch, maple, chestnut, apple, oak have lost
nearly all their leaves. I see large flocks of robins with
a few flickers, the former keeping up their familiar
peeping and chirping.
Many pignuts have fallen. Hardhack is very com-
1854] THE FIRST FROSTY MORNINGS 47
only putting forth new leaves where it has lost the
old. They are half an inch or three quarters long,
and green the stems well. The stone-crop fruit has for
a week or more had a purplish or pinkish (?) tinge
by the roadside. Fallen acorns in a few days acquire
that wholesome shining dark chestnut (?) color. Did
I see a returned yellow redpoll fly by?
I saw, some nights ago, a great deal of light reflected
from a fog- bank over the river upon Mon-
roe's white fence, making it conspicuous
almost as by moonlight from my win-
Scarlet i.// oak acorn (commonly a broader
cup with more shelf).'
Sept. 20. Windy rain-storm last night.
See to-day quite a flock of what I think must be rusty
grackles about the willows and button-bushes.
Sept. 21. Thursday. P. M. To Flint's Pond.
The first frost in our yard last night, the grass white
and stiff in the morning. The muskmelon vines are
now blackened in the sun. There have been some frosts
in low grounds about a week. The forenoon is cold,
and I have a fire, but it is a fine clear day, as I find
when I come forth to walk in the afternoon, a fine-
grained air with a seething or shimmering in it, as I
look over the fields, days which remind me of the
Indian summer that is to come. Do not these days
always succeed the first frosty mornings ?
I Vide another figure in fall of '58.
The woods generally may now be said to be fairly
beginning to turn (this with the first noticeable frost).
The red maples, especially at a distance, begin to light
their fires, some turning yellow, and within the woods
many oak, e. g. scarlet and black and chestnut, and
other leaves begin to show their colors. Those leaves
of the young white oaks which have changed dull-
salmon, crimson, scarlet (many incline to crimson)
are mostly within the tree and partially concealed by
the green leaves. They are handsomest looking up from
below, the light through them.
With this bright, clear, but rather cool air the bright
yellow of the autumnal dandelion is in harmony and
the heads of the dilapidated goldenrods. The gentian
is already frost-bitten almost as soon as it is open.
Those pretty little white oak acorn stars of three rays
are now quite common on the ground.
Utricularia (the leafless) abundant, and Lobelia
Dortmanna still out at Flint's Pond. That small erect
milfoil is very abundant now. The pond is low near
I hear many jays since the frosts began. The nut-
hatch is common in woods and on street. Hear the
chewink and the cluck of the thrasher.
I sometimes seem to myself to owe all my little
success, all for which men commend me, to my vices. I
am perhaps more willful than others and make enor-
mous sacrifices, even of others' happiness, it may be,
to gain my ends. It would seem even as if nothing good
could be accomplished without some vice to aid in it.
I [A question-mark in pencil is inserted here.]
The leaves of the wild cherry, being sound and entire,
are in some places a particularly handsome clear, uni-
form what you may call cherry red, perhaps inclining
to crimson, perhaps like the stain of cherry juice.1
I am surprised to see how many leaves in the woods
have been apparently eaten through on the edges by
some insect, leaving only a faded network of veins
there, contrasting with the green centres. In some
places almost every leaf of the young white oaks (and
black or shrub oak) and chestnuts has this very hand-
some and regular pale edging as of lace-work. It
is about one twelfth of an inch in diameter, and is
exceedingly regular, following strictly the outline of
the leaf, however cut or lobed, by nature or accident,
and preserving the same width. As these leaves (of
young oaks, etc.) are commonly several together in one
plane disposed ray-wise, rosettes, the effect of this
edging is enhanced. These young leaves are still of
a clear and delicate and now somewhat precious green.
The extreme edge is left firm and entire, and the pulp
of the leaf is eaten through only just within it.
Sept. 22. Friday. Another hard frost this morning,
notwithstanding some fog at same time, and another
fine day after it.
P. M. Over Nawshawtuct.
The river is peculiarly smooth and the water clear
and sunny as I look from the stone bridge. A painted
tortoise with his head out, outside of the weeds, looks
as if resting in the air in that attitude, or suggests
SVide Sept. 30.
it, -an angle of forty-five degrees, with head and
flippers outstretched. I see no particular effects of
frost on the pontederias; they have been falling stead-
ily without regard to it. It would be worth the while
to observe all the effects of the first frosts on vegeta-
tion, etc., etc.
Celtis berries begin to yellow. As I look off from
the hilltop, I wonder if there are any finer days in
the year than these. The air is so fine and more bracing,
and the landscape has acquired some fresh verdure
withal. The frosts come to ripen the year, the days,
like fruits, persimmons.
What if we were to walk by sunlight with equal
abstraction and aloofness, yet with equally impartial
observation and criticism. As if it shone not for you,
nor you for it, but you had come forth into it for the
once to admire it. By moonlight we are not of the
earth earthy, but we are of the earth spiritual. So
might we walk by sunlight, seeing the sun but as a
moon, a comparatively faint and reflected light, and
the day as a brooding night, in which we glimpse
some stars still.
Some shrub oak acorns are prettily rayed, green and
yellowish. Some white oak ones are turned salmon-
color, or blushing like the leaves. Grape leaves in
low grounds are frost-bitten and crisped before they
Crossing the hill behind Minott's just as the sun
is preparing to dip below the horizon, the thin haze
in the atmosphere north and south along the west
Vide [p. 52].
SCARLET OAK ACORNS
horizon reflects a purple tinge and bathes the moun-
tains with the same, like a bloom on fruits. I wonder
if this phenomenon is observed in warm weather, or
before the frosts have come. Is it not another evidence
of the ripe days ? I saw it yesterday.
I am surprised to see balls on the scarlet oak. Its
acorn and cup are peculiarly top-shaped, the point
of the acorn being the bottom. The cup is broader
than in the black oak, making a broader shelf about
the acorn, and is more pear-shaped or prolonged at
top. The acorn is not so rounded, but more tapering
at point. And some scarlet oak leaves which I [see]
have their two main veins and diverging ribs nearly
opposite, while in a black oak leaf these veins, and
hence lobes, are not nearly opposite.1
By moonlight all is simple. We are enabled to erect
ourselves, our minds, on account of the fewness of
objects. We are no longer distracted. It is simple as
bread and water. It is simple as the rudiments of an
art, a lesson to be taken before sunlight, perchance,
to prepare us for that.
Sept. 23. P. M. To Great Meadows via Gowing's
I was struck with the peculiar and interesting colors
of the naked arms of the buttonwood at the brick house,
delicate tints seen from the ground, whitish, greenish,
and fawn-colored (?). They look as if recently bared
by the scaling off of the old bark. The buttonwoods
are in a flourishing condition this year. The first time.
I Not general.
My pink azaleas which had lost their leaves in the
drought are beginning to leave out again.
The Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke)
beyond Moore's shows a little yellow, but will not
open there for some days yet. Low blackberry vines
generally red. There are many lice on birches still,
notwithstanding the frosts. The high blueberry bushes
scattered heie and there, the higher islands in Beck
Stow's Swamp, begin to paint it bright-red. Now look
out for redness on the face of the earth, such as is seen
on the cheek of the sweet viburnum, or as [a] frosty
morning walk imparts to a man's face. Very brilliant
and remarkable now are the prinos berries, so brilliant
and fresh when most things flowers and berries -
have withered. I gather pretty good wild pears near
the new road,- now in prime. The Cornus sericea
bushes along the edge of the Great Meadows are now
turned mulberry, and here is an end of its berries
then. The hard frosts of the 21st and 22d have put an
end to several kinds of plants, and probably berries,
for this year. This is the crisis when many kinds con-
clude their summer.
Bull says it is only the immature leaves of his new
grape which are crisped by the frost as yet. Here, on
the east edge of the Great Meadows, all the flowering
fern is turned brown and withered (I am not sure but
it began before the frost), and the common eupatoriums
are a very dark brown or black for the same reason.
All along the river the upper half of the button-bushes
is turned brown and withered in consequence of the
frost, while many other plants in their midst are un-
touched. As it began late, it falls early. Its balls are
equally browned, and may now be said to be ripened
by frost. After those frosts a day's sun revealed what
mischief the frost had done by the withering and black-
ened leaves. Many plants fall with the first frosts, -
grapes, button-bushes; what else? Probably some
asters and goldenrods.
Monroe has shot a loon to-day.
Sept. 24. Sunday. 6 A. M. To Hill.
Low fog-like veil on meadows.
On the large sassafras trees on the hill I see many of
the handsome red club-shaped pedicels left, with their
empty cups which have held fruit; and I see one or
two elliptical but still green berries. Apparently the
rest have ripened and fallen or been gathered by
birds already, unless they fell prematurely. Gray
says that the berries are dark-blue and ripen in Sep-
Catnep still in bloom. Hear the flicker note. See a
song-sparrow-like bird singing a confused low jingle.
Afterward hear from a willow by river a clear strain
from a song sparrow !
Man identifies himself with earth or the material,
just as he who has the least tinge of African blood in
his veins regards himself as a negro and is identified
with that race. Spirit is strange to him; he is afraid
The Viburnum Lentago berries now turn blue-black
in pocket, as the nudum did, which last are now all
gone, while. the Lentago is now just in season.
P. M. By boat to Grape Cliff.
These are the stages in the river fall: first, the two
varieties of yellow lily pads begin to decay and blacken
(long ago); second, the first fall rains come after dog-
days and raise and cool the river, and winds wash the
decaying sparganium, etc., etc., to the shores and clear
the channel more or less; third, when the first harder
frosts come (as this year the 21st and 22d inst.), the
button-bushes, which before had attained only a dull
mixed yellow, are suddenly bitten, wither, and turn
brown, all but the protected parts.
The first fall is so gradual as not to make much
impression, but the last suddenly and conspicuously
gives a fall aspect to the scenery of the river. The
button-bushes thus withered, covered still with the gray,
already withered mikania, suddenly paint with a rich
brown the river's brim. It is like the crust, the edging,
of a boy's turnover done brown. And the black wil-
lows, slightly faded and crisped with age or heat, en-
hance my sense of the year's maturity. There, where
the land appears to lap over the water by a mere edging,
these thinner portions are first done brown. I float
over the still liquid middle.
I have not seen any such conspicuous effect of frost
as this sudden withering of the button-bushes. The
muskrats make haste now to rear their cabins and
I see still what I take to be small flocks of grackles
feeding beneath the covert of the button-bushes and
flitting from bush to bush. They seldom expose them-
selves long. The water begins to be clear, of weeds,
and the fishes are exposed. It is now too cold to bathe
with comfort, yet the clams have not gone down. The
river is still low. I scared up a duck (wood?) (white
under side wings), which circled round four times,
twice (middle times) high in the air a diameter of a
hundred rods, and finally alighted with a long, slant-
ing flight near where it rose. The sumachs (though I
have not observed the poison venenataa)) are now
turned before trees. Green-briar berries ripe, blue-
black, or purplish, apparently with the frosts of 21st
and 22d. The red maple leaves along the river are
much curled and show their whitish under sides even
more than a month ago, owing probably to their age
as well as the summer's drought (from which last they
had partly recovered a fortnight (?) ag6).
Saw a warbler which inquisitively approached me
creeper-wise along some dead brush twigs. It may
have been the pine-creeping warbler, though I could
see no white bars on wings. I should say all yellow-
olivaceous above; clear lemon-yellow throat and breast
-and vent (?); narrow white ring around eye; black
bill, straight; clay-colored (?) legs; edge of wings white.
Young hickories, pretty generally, and some black
oaks are frost-bitten, but no young white oaks. On
the shrub oak plain under Cliffs, the young white oaks
are generally now tending to a dull inward red. The
ilicifolia generally green still, with a few yellowish or
else scarlet leaves. The young black oaks with many
red, scarlet, or yellowish leaves. The chinquapin
pretty generally a clear brilliant dark red. The same
with a few twigs of the scarlet oak, but not brilliant, i. e.
glossy. The tupelo green, reddish, and brilliant scarlet,
all together. The brightest hazel dim vermilion. Some
red maple sprouts clear scarlet deepening to purplish.
The panicled cornel green with a tinge of reddish
purple. Only these young trees and bushes are yet
conspicuously changed. The tupelo and the chinqua-
pin the most brilliant of the above. The scarlet oak
the clearest red.
But little bright Solidago nemorosa is left. It is
generally withered or dim.
What name of a natural object is most poetic ? That
which he has given for convenience whose life is most
nearly related to it, who has known it longest and best.
The perception of truth, as of the duration of time,
etc., produces a pleasurable sensation.
Sept. 25. P. M. To boat opposite Bittern Cliff via
I suspect that I know on what the brilliancy of the
autumnal tints will depend. On the greater or less
drought of the summer. If the drought has been un-
commonly severe, as this year, I should think it would
so far destroy the vitality of the leaf that it would attain
only to a dull, dead color in autumn, that to produce
a brilliant autumn the plant should be full of sap and
vigor to the last.
Do I see an F. hyemalis in the Deep Cut? It is a
month earlier than last year.
I am detained by the very bright red blackberry
leaves strewn along the sod, the vine being inconspicu-
ous. How they spot it!
A SPLENDID SUNSET
On the shrub oak plain, as seen from Cliffs, the
red at least balances the green. It looks like a rich,
shaggy rug now, before the woods are changed. I see
several smokes in the distance, of burning brush (?).
The button-bush leaves are rapidly falling and cover-
ing the ground with a rich brown carpet. The ponte-
derias, too, show decidedly the effect of the frost. The
river is as low [as] ordinarily in summer, eight or nine
inches below the long stone, and the stripe of the bayo-
net rush, now clear dark pink, eight or nine inches
wide, is again exposed. Saw at a distance a fox or an
otter withdrawing from the riverside. I think that if
that August haze had been much of it smoke, I should
have smelt it much more strongly, for I now smell
strongly the smoke of this burning half a mile off, though
it is scarcely perceptible in the air.
There was a splendid sunset while I was on the
water, beginning at the Clamshell reach. All the lower
edge of a very broad dark-slate cloud which reached
up backward almost to the zenith was lit up through
and through with a dun golden fire, the sun being be-
low the horizon, like a furze plain densely on fire, a
short distance above the horizon, for there was a clear,
pale robin's-egg sky beneath, and some little clouds on
which the light fell high in the sky but nearer, seen
against the upper part of the distant uniform dark-slate
one, were of a fine grayish silver color, with fine mother-
o'-pearl tints unusual at sunset (?). The furze gradu-
ally burnt out on the lower edge of the cloud, changed
into a smooth, hard pale pink vermilion, which gradu-
ally faded into a gray satiny pearl, a fine Quaker-color.
All these colors werd prolonged in the rippled reflection
to five or six times their proper length. The effect
was particularly remarkable in the case of the reds,
which were long bands of red perpendicular in the
Bats come out fifteen minutes after sunset, and then
I hear some clear song sparrow strains, as from a
fence-post amid snows in early spring.
Sept. 26. Took my last bath the 24th. Probably .
shall not bathe again this year. It was chilling cold.
It is a warm and very pleasant afternoon, and I walk
along the riverside in Merrick's pasture. I hear a faint
jingle from some sparrows on the willows, etc., tree
or else song sparrows. Many swamp white oak acorns
have turned brown on the trees. Some single red maples
are very splendid now, the whole tree bright-scarlet
against the cold green pines; now, when very few trees
are changed, a most remarkable object in the land-
scape; seen a mile off. It is too fair to be believed,
especially seen against the light.1 Some are a reddish
or else greenish yellow, others with red or yellow cheeks.
I suspect that the yellow maples had not scarlet blos-
The bunches of panicled cornel are purple, though
you see much of the gray under sides of the leaves.
Viburnum dentatum berries still hold on.
Sept. 28. R. W. E.'s pines are parti-colored, pre-
paring to fall, some of them. The sassafras trees on
I [Excursions, p. 259; Riv. 318.]
1854] THE RED OF THE YOUNG OAKS 59
the hill are now wholly a bright orange scarlet as seen
from my window, and the small ones elsewhere are
also changed. Sweet-briar hips ripe.
As I complain that the voyager to arctic regions,
in his description of the scenery, does not enough re-
mind the reader directly or indirectly of the peculiar
dreariness of the scene or of the perpetual twilight of
the arctic night, so he whose theme is moonlight will
find it difficult to illustrate it with the light of the moon
Sept. 29. P. M. To Lee's Bridge via Mt. Misery
and return by Conantum.
Yesterday was quite warm, requiring the thinnest
coat. To-day is cooler. The elm leaves have in some
places more than half fallen and strew the ground with
thick rustling beds, as front of Hubbard's, per-
haps earlier than usual.2
Bass berries dry and brown. Now is the time to gather
Looking from the Cliffs, the young oak plain is
now probably as brightly colored as it will be. The
bright reds appear here to be next the ground, the lower
parts of these young trees, and I find on descending
that it is commonly so as yet with the scarlet oak,
which is the brightest. It is the lower half or two
thirds which have changed, and this is surmounted
by the slender, still green top. In many cases these
[Excursions, p. 326; Riv. 401.]
[In the margin against this paragraph the words "The dry year"
are written in pencil.]
leaves have only begun to be sprinkled with bloody
spots and stains,- sometimes as if one had cast up a
quart of blood from beneath and stained them. I now
see the effect of that long drought on some young oaks,
especially black oaks. Their leaves are in many in-
stances all turned to a clear and uniform brown, hav-
ing so far lost their vitality, but still plump and full-
veined and not yet withered. Many are so affected
and, of course, show no bright tints. They are hastening
to a premature decay. The tops of many young white
oaks which had turned are already withered, appar-
ently by frost.
Saw two either pigeon or sparrow hawks, appar-
ently male and female, the one much larger than the
other. I see in many places the fallen leaves quite
thickly covering the ground in the woods. A large
flock of crows wandering about and cawing as usual
at this season. I hear a very pleasant and now unusual
strain on the sunny side of an oak wood from many -
I think F. hyemalis (?), though I do not get a clear
view of them. Even their slight jingling strain is re-
markable at this still season. The catbird still mews.
I see two ducks alternately diving in smooth water near
the shore of Fair Haven Pond. Sometimes both are
under at once. The milkweed down is flying at Clema-
This evening is quite cool and breezy, with a pro-
longed white twilight, quite Septemberish.
When I look at the stars, nothing which the astrono-
mers have said attaches to them, they are so simple
and remote. Their knowledge is felt to be all terres-
1854] RED MAPLE AND TUPELO
trial and to concern the earth alone. It suggests that
the same is the case with every object, however familiar;
our so-called knowledge of it is equally vulgar and
One might say that all views through a telescope
or microscope were purely visionary, for it is only
by his eye and not by any other sense not by his
whole man that the beholder is there where he is
presumed to be. It is a disruptive mode of viewing as
far as the beholder is concerned.
Sept. 30. P. M. Via Assabet to the monarda
I am surprised to see that some red maples, which
were so brilliant a day or two ago, have already shed
their leaves, and they cover the land and the water
quite thickly. I see a countless fleet of them slowly
carried round in the still bay by the Leaning Hem-
locks.1 I find a fine tupelo near Sam Barrett's now
all turned scarlet. I find that it has borne much fruit
- small oval bluish berries, those I see and a very
little not ripe is still left. Gray calls it blackish-blue.
It seems to be contemporary with the sassafras. Both
these trees are now particularly forward and con-
spicuous in their autumnal change. I detect the
sassafras by its peculiar orange scarlet half a mile
distant. Acorns are generally now turned brown and
fallen or falling; the ground is strewn with them and
in paths they are crushed by feet and wheels. The
white oak ones are dark and the most glossy.
1 [Excursions, p. 267; Riv. 327, 328.]
The clear bright-scarlet leaves of the smooth sumach
in many places are curled and drooping, hanging
straight down, so as to make a funereal impression,
reminding me [of] a red sash and a soldier's funeral.
They impress me quite as black crape similarly arranged,
the bloody plants.1
The conventional acorn of art is of course of no
particular species, but the artist might find it worth
his while to study Nature's varieties again.
The song sparrow is still about, and the blackbird.
Saw a little bird with a distinct white spot on the
wing, yellow about eye, and whitish beneath, which
I think must be one of the wrens I saw last spring.
At present the river's brim is no longer browned with
button-bushes, for those of their leaves which the
frost had touched have already fallen entirely, leav-
ing a thin crop of green ones to take their turn.
I [Channing, p. 99.]
Oct. 1. The young black birches about Walden,
next the south shore, are now commonly clear pale-
yellow, very distinct at distance, like bright-yellow
white birches, so slender amid the dense growth of
oaks and evergreens on the steep shores. The black
birches and red maples are the conspicuous trees
changed about the pond. Not yet the oaks.
Oct. 7. Went to Plymouth to lecture and survey
Watson's grounds. Returned the 15th.
The Decodon verticillatus (swamp loosestrife) very
abundant, forming isles in the pond on Town Brook
on Watson's farm, now turned (methinks it was) a
somewhat orange (?) scarlet. Measured a buckthorn
on land of N. Russell & Co., bounding on Watson, close
by the ruins of the cotton-factory, in five places from
the ground to the first branching, or as high as my
head. The diameters were 4 feet 8 inches, 4-6, 4-3,
4-2, 4-6. It was full of fruit now quite ripe, which
Watson plants. The birds eat it.
Saw a small goldenrod in the woods with four very
broad rays, a new kind to me. Saw also the English
oak; leaf much like our white oak, but acorns large
and long, with a long peduncle, and the bark of these
young trees, twenty or twenty-five feet high, quite
smooth. Saw moon-seed, a climbing vine. Also the
leaf of the ginkgo tree, of pine-needles run together.
Spooner's garden a wilderness of fruit trees.
Russell is not sure but Eaton has described my rare
Oct. 16. In the streets the ash and most of the elm
trees are bare of leaves; the red maples also for the
most part, apparently, at a distance. The pines, too,
Oct. 19. 7.15 A. M. -To Westminster by cars;
thence on foot to Wachusett Mountain, four miles to
Foster's, and two miles thence to mountain-top by road.
The country above Littleton (plowed ground) more
or less sugared with snow, the first I have seen. We
find a little on the mountain-top. The prevailing tree
on this mountain, top and all, is apparently the red oak,
which toward and on the top is very low and spread-
ing. Other trees and shrubs which I remember on the
top are beech, Populus tremuliformis, mountain-ash
(looking somewhat like sumach), witch-hazel, white
and yellow birch, white pine, black spruce, etc., etc.
Most of the deciduous woods look as if dead. On the
sides, beside red oak, are rock maple, yellow birch,
lever-wood, beech, chestnut, shagbark, hemlock, striped
maple, witch-hazel, etc., etc.
With a glass you can see vessels in Boston Harbor
from the summit, just north of the Waltham hills.
Two white asters, the common ones, not yet quite out
1854] THE VIEW FROM WACHUSETT
of bloom,--A. acuminatus and perhaps cordifolius
(hearted, with long sharp teeth). The Geranium
Robertianum in bloom below the woods on the east
Oct. 20. Saw the sun rise from the mountain-top.
This is the time to look westward. All the villages,
steeples, and houses on that side were revealed; but
on the east all the landscape was a misty and gilded
obscurity. It was worth the while to see westward
the countless hills and fields all apparently flat, now
white with frost. A little white fog marked the site
of many a lake and the course of the Nashua, and in
the east horizon the great pond had its own fog mark
in a long, low bank of cloud.
Soon after sunrise I saw the pyramidal shadow of
the mountain reaching quite across the State, its apex
resting on the Green or Hoosac Mountains, appearing
as a deep-blue section of a cone there. It rapidly con-
tracted, and its apex approached the mountain itself,
and when about three miles distant the whole conical
shadow was very distinct. The shadow of the moun-
tain makes some minutes' difference in the time of
sunrise to the inhabitants of Hubbardston, within a
few miles west.
F. hyemalis, how long?
SSaw some very tall and large dead chestnuts in the
wood between Foster's and the mountain. Wachusett
Pond appeared the best place from which to view the
mountain (from a boat). Our host had picked thirty-
four bushels of shagbarks last year. For the most part
they do not rattle out yet, but it is time to gather them.
On account of squirrels now is the time.
Oct. 22. This and the last two days Indian-summer
weather, following hard on that sprinkling of snow
west of Concord.
Pretty hard frosts these nights. Many leaves fell
last night, and the Assabet is covered with their fleets.
Now they rustle as you walk through them in the
woods. Bass trees are bare. The redness of huckle-
berry bushes is past its prime. I see a snapping turtle,
not yet in winter quarters. The chickadees are pick-
ing the seeds out of pitch pine cones.
Oct. 25. On Assabet.
The maples being bare, the great hornet nests are
exposed. A beautiful, calm Indian-summer afternoon,
the withered reeds on the brink reflected in the water.
Oct. 26. P. M. To Conantum.
As warm as summer. Cannot wear a thick coat.
Sit with windows open. I see considerable gossamer
on the causeway and elsewhere. Is it the tree sparrows
whose jingles I hear? As the weather grows cooler
and the woods more silent, I attend to the cheerful
notes of chickadees on their sunny sides. Apple trees
are generally bare, as well as bass, ash, elm, maple.
Oct. 28. Saturday. The woods begin to look bare,
reflected in the water, and I look far in between the
stems of the trees under the bank. Birches, which be-
1854] INDIAN SUMMER 67
gan to change and fall so early, are still in many places
Oct. 29. Sunday. Detected a large English cherry
in Smith's woods beyond Saw Mill Brook by the pe-
culiarfresh orange-scarlet color of its leaves, now that
almost all leaves are quite dull or withered. The same
in gardens. The gooseberry leaves in our garden and in
fields are equally and peculiarly fresh scarlet.
Oct. 31. Rain; still warm.
Ever since October 27th we have had remarkably
warm and pleasant Indian summer, with frequent frosts
in the morning. Sat with open window for a week.
Nov. 1. It is a little cooler.
Nov. 2. Thursday. P. M. By boat to Clamshell.
I suspect the clams are partly gone down. May not
this movement contribute to compel the muskrats to
erect their cabins nearer the brink or channel, in order
still to be near their food ? Other things being equal,
they would have to swim further than before to get
the clams in the middle, but now, in addition, the
water is beginning to rise and widen the river.
I see larks hovering over the meadow and hear a
faint note or two, and a pleasant note from tree spar-
Sailing past the bank above the railroad, just before
a clear sundown, close to the shore on the east side I
see a second fainter shadow of the boat, sail, myself,
and paddle, etc., directly above and upon the first on
the bank. What makes the second? At length I dis-
covered that it was the reflected sun which cast a higher
shadow like the true one. As I moved to the west side,
the upper shadow rose, grew larger and less percep-
tible; and at last when I was so near the west shore
that I could not see the reflected sun, it disappeared;
but then there appeared one upside down in its place!
Nov. 4. Saw a shrike in an apple tree, with appar-
ently a worm in its mouth. The shad-bush buds have
expanded into small leafets already. This while sur-
veying on the old Colburn farm.
Nov. 5. Sunday. To White Pond with Charles
Passing the mouth of John Hosmer's hollow near
the river, was hailed by him and Anthony Wright,
sitting there, to come and see where they had dug for
money. There was a hole six feet square and as many
deep, and the sand was heaped about over a rod square.
Hosmer said that it was dug two or three weeks be-
fore, that three men came in a chaise and dug it in
the night. They were seen about there by day. Some-
body dug near there in June, and then they covered
up the hole again. He said they had been digging
thereabouts from time to time for a hundred years.
I asked him why. He said that Dr. Lee, who lived
where Joe Barrett did, told him that old Mr. Wood,
who lived in a house very near his (Hosmer's), told
him that, one night in Captain Kidd's day, three
pirates came to his house with a pair of old-fashioned
deer-skin breeches, both legs full of coin, and asked
leave to bury it in his cellar. He was afraid, and re-
fused them. They then asked for some earthen pots
and shovels and a lanthorn, which he let them have.
A woman in the house followed the pirates at a distance
down the next hollow on the south, and saw them go
along the meadow-side and turn up this hollow, and
then, being alone and afraid, she returned. Soon after
the men returned with the tools and an old-fashioned
hat full of the coin (holding about a quart), which
they gave to Wood. He, being afraid, buried it in his
cellar, but afterward, becoming a poor man, dug it
up and used it. A bailiff made some inquiry hereabouts
after the pirates.
Hosmer said that one thing which confirmed the
diggers in their belief was the fact that when he was a
little boy, plowing one day with his father on the hill-
side, they found three old-fashioned bottles bottom
upward but empty under the plow. Somebody con-
sulted Moll Pitcher, who directed to dig at a certain
distance from an apple tree on a line with the bottles,
and then they would find the treasure.
I think it is the fox-colored sparrow I see in flocks
and hear sing now by wood-sides.
Nov. 6. Surveying on Colburn place.
It is suddenly cold. Pools frozen so as to bear, and
ground frozen so that it is difficult, if not impossible,
to force down a stake in plowed ground. Was that a
fish hawk I saw flying over the Assabet, or a goshawk ?
White beneath, with slender wings.
Nov. 8. I can still rake clams near the shore, but
they are chiefly in the weeds, I think. I see a snipe-
like bird by riverside this windy afternoon, which
goes off with a sound like creaking tackle.
Nov. 10. P. M. Sail to Ball's Hill with W. E. C.
See where the muskrats have eaten much ponte-
GEESE GOING OVER
deria root. Got some donacia grubs for Harris, but
find no chrysalids. The sight of the masses of yellow
hastate leaves and flower-buds of the yellow lily, al-
ready four or six inches long, at the bottom of the river,
reminds me that nature is prepared for an infinity of
Nov. 11. Minott heard geese go over night before
last, about 8 P. M. Therien, too, heard them "yelling
like anything" over Walden, where he is cutting,
the same evening. He cut down a tree with a flying
squirrel on it; often sees them. Receive this evening
a letter in French and three "ouvrages" from the
Abb6 Rougette in Louisiana.
Nov. 13. It has rained hard the llth, 12th, and
13th, and the river is at last decidedly rising. On Friday,
10th, it was still at summer level.
Nov. 14. The river is slightly over the meadows. The
willow twigs on the right of the Red Bridge causeway are
bright greenish-yellow and reddish as in the spring. Also
on the right railroad sand-bank at Heywood's meadow. Is
it because they are preparing their catkins now against
another spring ? The first wreck line of pontederia,
sparganium, etc. is observable.
Nov. 15. The first snow, a mere sugaring which
went off the next morning.
Nov. 16. P. M. Sailed to Hubbard's Bridge.
Almost every muskrat's house is covered by the flood,
though they were unusually high, as well as numer-
ous, and the river is not nearly so high as last year.
I see where they have begun to raise them another
story. A few cranberries begin to wash up, and rails,
boards, etc., may now be collected by wreckers.
Nov. 17. Paddled up river to Clamshell and sailed
I think it must have been a fish hawk which I saw
hovering over the meadow and my boat (a raw cloudy
afternoon), now and then sustaining itself in one place
a hundred feet or more above the water, intent on a
fish, with a hovering or fluttering motion of the wings
somewhat like a kingfisher. Its wings were very long,
slender, and curved in outline of front edge. I think
there was some white on rump. It alighted near the
top of an oak within rifle-shot of me and my boat,
afterward on the tip-top of a maple by waterside,
looking very large.
Nov. 18. Saw sixty geese go over the Great Fields,
in one waving line, broken from time to time by their'
crowding on each other and vainly endeavoring to
form into a harrow, honking all the while.
Nov. 20. To Philadelphia. 7 A. M., to Boston;
9 A. M., Boston to New York, by express train, land
See the reddish soil (red sandstone?) all through
Connecticut. Beyond Hartford a range of rocky hills
crossing the State on each side the railroad, the east-
ern one very precipitous, and apparently terminating
at East Rock at New Haven. Pleasantest part of the
whole route between Springfield and Hartford, along
the river; perhaps include the hilly region this side
of Springfield. Reached Canal Street at 5 P. M., or
Started for Philadelphia from foot of Liberty Street
at 6 P. M., via Newark, etc., etc., Bordentown, etc.,
etc., Camden Ferry, to Philadelphia, all in the dark.
Saw only the glossy panelling of the cars reflected
out into the dark, like the magnificent lit. facade of
a row of edifices reaching all the way to Philadelphia,
except when we stopped and a lanthorn or two showed
us a ragged boy and the dark buildings of some New
Jersey town. Arrive at 10 P. M.; time, four" hours
from New York, thirteen from Boston, fifteen from
Concord. Put up at Jones's Exchange Hotel, 77 Dock
Street; lodgings thirty-seven and a half cents per
night, meals separate; not to be named with French's
in New York; next door to the fair of the Franklin
Institute, then open, and over against the Exchange, in
the neighborhood of the printing-offices.
Nov. 21. Looked from the cupola of the State-
House, where the Declaration of Independence was
declared. The best view of the city I got. Was-inter-
ested in the squirrels, gray and black, in Independence
and Washington Squares. Heard that they have, or
have had, deer in Logan Square. The squirrels are
fed, and live in boxes in the trees in the winter. Fine
view from Fairmount water-works. The line of the
hypothenuse of the gable end of Girard College was
apparently deflected in the middle six inches or more,
reminding me of the anecdote of the church of the
Madeleine in Paris.
Was admitted into the building of the Academy of
Natural Sciences by a Mr. Durand of the botanical
department, Mr. Furness applying to him. The car-
penters were still at work adding four stories (!) of
galleries to the top. These four (Furness thought all
of them, I am not sure but Durand referred to one side
only) to be devoted to the birds. It is said to be the
largest collection of birds in the world. They belonged
to the son of Mass6na (Prince of Essling?), and were
sold at auction, and bought by a Yankee for $22,000,
over all the crowned heads of Europe, and presented
to the Academy.' Other collections, also, are added
to this. The Academy has received great donations.
There is Morton's collection of crania, with (I sup-
pose a cast from) an Indian skull found in an Ohio
mound; a polar bear killed by Dr. Kane; a male
moose not so high as the female which we shot; a
European elk (a skeleton) about seven feet high, with
horns each about five feet long and tremendously
1 [The "Yankee" referred to was Dr. Thomas B. Wilson, once
president of the Academy, and the sum named includes the prices
of other purchases made by him, chief of which was that of the Gould
collection of Australian birds. Fifty thousand francs was the amount
paid for the Massena collection. See Dr. Wilson's amusing account
of the transaction as quoted by Mr. Witmer Stone in The Auk, 1899,
p. 174. The original owners of this collection were General Massena
and his son Victor, Duke of Rivoli and Prince of Essling.]
1854] PHILADELPHIA AND NEW JERSEY 75
heavy; grinders, etc., of the Mastodon giganteum from
Barton County, Missouri; etc., etc. Zinzinger was
named as of the geological department.
In Philadelphia and also New York an ornamental
tree with bunches of seed-vessels supplying the place
of leaves now. I suppose it the ailanthus, or Tree
of Heaven. What were those trees with long, black
sickle-shaped pods? I did not see Steinhauser's Burd
family at St. Stephen's Church. The American Phi-
losophical Society is described as a company of old
In the narrow market-houses in the middle of the
streets, was struck by the neat-looking women market-
ers with full cheeks. Furness described a lotus iden-
tical with an Egyptian one as found somewhere down
the river below Philadelphia; also spoke of a spotted
chrysalis which he had also seen in Massachusetts.
There was a mosquito about my head at night. Lodged
at the United States Hotel, opposite the Girard (for-
merly United States) Bank.
Nov. 22. Left at 7.30 A. M. for New York, by boat
to Tacony and rail via Bristol, Trenton, Princeton
(near by), New Brunswick, Rahway, Newark, etc.
Uninteresting, except the boat. The country very level,
- red sandstone (?) sand, apparently all New Jer-
sey except the northern part. Saw wheat stubble and
winter wheat come up like rye. Was that Jamestown-
weed with a prickly bur? Seen also in Connecticut.
I [A marble group entitled The Angel of the Resurrection,"
erected to the memory of the children of Edward Shippen Burd.]
Many Dutch barns. Just after leaving Newark, an
extensive marsh, between the railroad and the Kill,
full of the Arundo Phragmites, I should say, which
had been burnt over.
Went to Crystal Palace; admired the houses on
Fifth Avenue, the specimens of coal at the Palace,
one fifty feet thick as it was cut from the mine, in the
form of a square column, iron and copper ore, etc.
Saw sculptures and paintings innumerable, and armor
from the Tower of London, some of the Eighth Century.
Saw Greeley; Snow, the commercial editor of the
Tribune; Solon Robinson; Fry, the musical critic,
etc.; and others. Greeley carried me to the new opera-
house, where I heard Grisi and her troupe. First, at
Barnum's Museum, I saw the camelopards, said to
be one eighteen the other sixteen feet high. I should
say the highest stood about fifteen feet high at most
(twelve or thirteen ordinarily). The body was only
about five feet long. Why has it horns, but for orna-
ment? Looked through his diorama, and found the
houses all over the world much alike. Greeley appeared
to know and be known by everybody; was admitted
free to the opera, and we were led by a page to various
parts of the house at different times. Saw at Museum
some large flakes of cutting arrowhead stone made
into a sort of wide cleavers, also a hollow stone tube,
probably from mounds.
Nov. 26. What that little long-sharp-nosed mouse
I found in the Walden road to-day? Brown above,
gray beneath, black incisors, five toes with claws on
1854] CONCORD RIVER AGAIN
each foot, long snout with small blunt black extremity,
many mustachios, eyes far forward, feet light or dirty
white, tail 1-. inches long, whole length 38 inches;
Nov. 28. Paddled to Clamshell.
Still very clear and bright as well as comfortable
weather. River not so high as on the 16th.
Were those plover which just after sunset flew low
over the bank above the railroad and alighted in the
opposite meadow, with some white in tails like larks,
gray birds, rather heavier than robins ?
Nov. 30. P. M. Sail down river.
No ice, but strong cold wind; river slightly over
meadows. Was that large diver which was on the edge'
of the shore and scooted away down-stream as usual,
throwing the water about for a quarter of a mile,
then diving, some time afterward flying up-stream over
our head, the goosander or red-breasted merganser?
It was large, with, I should say, a white breast, long
reddish bill, bright-red or pink on sides or beneath, red-
dish-brown crest, white speculum, upper part of throat
dark, lower white with breast.
Dec. 2. Got up my boat and housed it, ice having
formed about it.
Dec. 3. Sunday. The first snow of consequence
fell in the evening, very damp (wind northeast); five
or six inches deep in morning, after very high wind
in the night.
Snowbirds in garden in the midst of the snow in
Dec. 4. P. M. Down railroad to Walden.
Walden went down quite rapidly about the middle
of November, leaving the isthmus to Emerson's meadow
bare. Flint's has been very low all summer. The north-
east sides of the trees are thickly incrusted with snowy
shields, visible afar, the snow was so damp (at Boston
it turned to rain). This had none of the dry delicate
powdery beauties of a common first snow.
Already the bird-like birch scales dot the snow.
Dec. 5. Very cold last night. Probably river skimmed
over in some places. The damp snow with water
beneath (in all five or six inches deep and not drifted,
notwithstanding the wind) is frozen solid, making a
crust which bears well. This, I think, is unusual at
this stage of the winter.
Dec. 6. To Providence to lecture.
I see thick ice and boys skating all the way to Provi-
dence, but know not when it froze, I have been so
busy writing my lecture; probably the night of the 4th.
In -order to go to Blue Hill by Providence Railroad,
stop at Readville Station (Dedham Low Plain once),
eight miles; the hill apparently two miles east. Was
struck with the Providence depot, its towers and great
length of brick. Lectured in it.
Went to R. Williams's Rock on the Blackstone with
Newcomb and thence to hill with an old fort atop in
Seekonk, Mass., on the east side of the Bay, whence
a fine view down it. At lecture spoke with a Mr. Clark
and Vaughn and Eaton.
After lecturing twice this winter I feel that I am in
danger of cheapening myself by trying to become a
successful lecturer, i. e., to interest my audiences. I
am disappointed to find that most that I am and value
myself for is lost, or. worse than lost, on my audience.
I fail to get even the attention of the mass. I should
suit them better if I suited myself less. I feel that the
public demand an average man, average thoughts
and manners, not originality, nor even absolute
excellence. You cannot interest them except as you
are like them and sympathize with them. I would
rather that my audience come to me than that I should
go to them, and so they be sifted; i. e., I would rather
write books than lectures. That is fine, this coarse.
To read to a promiscuous audience who are at your
mercy the fine thoughts you solaced yourself with far
away is as violent as to fatten geese by cramming,
and in this case they do not get fatter.
Dec. 7. Walked through Olneyville in Johnston,
two and a half or three miles west of Providence.
Harris tells me that since he exchanged a duplicate
Jesuit Relation for one he had not with the Montreal
men, all theirs have been burnt. He has two early
ones which I have not seen.
Dec. 8. P. M. Up river and meadow on ice to
Hubbard Bridge and thence to Walden.
Winter has come unnoticed by me, I have been so
busy writing. This is the life most lead in respect to
Nature. How different from my habitual one! It is
hasty, coarse, and trivial, as if you were a spindle in a
factory. The other is leisurely, fine, and glorious, like
a flower. In the first case you are merely getting your
living; in the second you live as you go along. You
travel only on roads of the proper grade without jar
or running off the track, and sweep round the hills by
Here is the river frozen over in many places, I am
not sure whether the fourth night or later, but the
skating is hobbly or all hobbled like a coat of mail
or thickly bossed shield, apparently sleet frozen in
water. Very little smooth ice. How black the water
where the river is open when I look from the light,
by contrast with the surrounding white, the ice and
snow! A black artery here and there concealed under
a pellicle of ice.
Went over the fields on the crust to Walden, over
side of Bear Garden. Already foxes have'left their
tracks. How the crust shines afar, the sun now setting!
There is a glorious clear sunset sky, soft and delicate
and warm even like a pigeon's neck. Why do the moun-
tains never look so fair as from my native fields ?
Dec. 9. Surveying for T. Holden.
A cold morning. What is that green pipes on the
side-hill at Nut Meadow on his land, looking at first
like green-briar cut off? 1 It forms a dense bed about
a dozen rods along the side of the bank in the woods,
a rod in width, rising to ten or twelve feet above the
swamp. White Pond mostly skimmed over. The scour-
ing-rush is as large round as a bulrush, forming dense
green beds conspicuous and interesting above the snow,
an evergreen rush.
C. says he saw three larks on the 5th.
Dec. 10. P. M. To Nut Meadow.
Weather warmer; snow softened. Saw a large flock
of snow buntings (quite white against woods, at any rate),
though it is quite warm. Snow-fleas in paths; first I
have seen., Hear the small woodpecker's whistle;
not much else; only crows and partridges else, and
chickadees. How quickly the snow feels the warmer
wind! The crust which was so firm and rigid is now
suddenly softened and there is much water in the road.
1 Equisetum hyemale (scouring-rush, shave-grass).
Dec. 11. P. M.- To Bare Hill.
C. says he found Fair Haven frozen over last Friday,
i. e. the 8th.1 I find Flint's frozen to-day, and how
We have now those early, still, clear winter sunsets
over the snow. It is but mid-afternoon when I see the
sun setting far through the woods, and there is that pecu-
liar clear vitreous greenish sky in the west, as it were
a molten gem. The day is short; it seems to be com-
posed of two twilights merely; 2 the morning and the
evening twilight make the whole day. You must
make haste to do the work of the day before it is dark.
I hear rarely a bird except the chickadee, or perchance
a jay or crow. A gray rabbit scuds away over the crust
in the swamp on the edge of the Great Meadows be-
yond Peter's. A partridge goes off, and, coming up,
I see where she struck the snow first with her wing,
making five or six as it were finger-marks.
Dec. 14. P. M. With C. up north bank of Assa-
bet to bridge.
Good sleighing still, with but little snow. A warm,
thawing day. The river is open almost its whole length.
It is a beautifully smooth mirror within an icy frame.
It is well to improve such a time to walk by it. This
strip of water of irregular width over the channel,
between broad fields of ice, looks like a polished silver
mirror, or like another surface of polished ice, and
often is distinguished from the surrounding ice only
by its reflections. I have rarely seen any reflections
i How much before? 2 [Channing, p. 99.]
1854] A MIRROR WITH AN ICY FRAME 83
- of weeds, willows, and elms, and the houses of the
village so distinct, the stems so black and distinct;
for they contrast not with a green meadow but clear
white ice, to say nothing of the silvery surface of the
water. Your eye slides first over a plane surface of
smooth ice of one color to a water surface of silvery
smoothness, like a gem set in ice, and reflecting the
weeds and trees and house and clouds with singular
beauty. The reflections are particularly simple and
distinct. These twigs are not referred to and confounded
with a broad green meadow from which they spring,
as in summer, but, instead of that dark-green ground,
absorbing the light, is this abrupt white field of ice.
We see so little open and smooth water at this season
that I am inclined to improve such an opportunity
to walk along the river, and moreover the meadows,
being more or less frozen, make it more feasible than
I am singularly interested by the sight of the shrubs
which grow along rivers, rising now above the snow,
with buds and catkins, the willows, alders, sweet-
gale, etc. At our old bathing-place on the Assabet,
saw two ducks, which at length took to wing. They
had large dark heads, dark wings, and clear white
breasts. I think they were buffle-headed or spirit ducks.
Dec. 15. Up riverside via Hubbard Bath, P. M.
I see again a large flock of what I called buntings
on the 10th, also another flock surely not buntings,
perhaps Fringilla linaria. May they not all be these?
How interesting a few clean, dry weeds on the shore
a dozen rods off, seen distinctly against the smooth,
reflecting water between ice! I see on the ice, half
a dozen rods from shore, a small brown striped grub,
and again a black one five eighths of an inch long.
The last has apparently melted quite a cavity in the
ice. How came they there?
I saw on the 11th an abundance of dried huckle-
berries on Bare Hill, stillholding. They are such as
dried ripe prematurely on account of the drought.
I do not perceive any sweetness. How handsome
the narrow, regularly toothed brown leaves of the sweet-
fern now above the snow! handsome in their sere
state! The buds of the bass are pretty now, they are
a clear light red on short ash (?) twigs.
Dec. 18. P. M. -Down railroad via Andromeda
Ponds to river.
Snowed a little finely last night and this forenoon.
I see a few squirrels' tracks in the woods and, here
and there in one or two places, where a mouse's gal-
lery approached the surface. The powdery surface is
broken by it. I am surprised to find in the Andromeda
Ponds, especially the westernmost one, north side, an
abundance of decodon, or swamp loosestrife. Where
a partridge took to wing I find the round red buds
of the high blueberry plucked about the swamps.
Dec. 19. P. M.- Skated a half-mile up Assabet
and then to foot of Fair Haven Hill.
This is the first tolerable skating. Last night was so
cold that the river closed up almost everywhere, and
1854] SKATING 85
made good skating where there had been no ice to
catch the snow of the night before. First there is the
snow ice on the sides, somewhat rough and brown or
yellowish spotted where the water overflowed the ice
on each side yesterday, and next, over the middle,
the new dark smooth ice, and, where the river is wider
than usual, a thick fine gray ice, marbled, where there
was probably a thin ice yesterday. Probably the top
froze as the snow fell. I am surprised to find how rapidly
and easily I get along, how soon I am at this brook
or that bend in the river, which it takes me so long to
reach on the bank or by water. I can go more than
double the usual distance before dark. It takes a little
while to learn to trust the new black ice. I look for
cracks to see how thick it is.
Near the island I saw a muskrat close by swimming
in an open reach. He was always headed up-stream,
a great proportion of the head out of water, and his
whole length visible, though the root of the tail is
about level with the water. Now and then he [stopped]
swimming and floated down-stream, still keeping his
head pointed up with his tail. It is surprising how
dry he looks, as if that back was never immersed in
It is apt to be melted at the bridges about the piers,
and there is a flow of water over the ice there. There
is a fine, smooth gray marbled ice on the bays, which
apparently began to freeze when it was snowing night
before last. There is a marbling of dark where there
was clear water amid the snow. Now and then a crack
crosses it, and the water, oozing out, has frozen on
each side of it two or three inches thick, and some-
times as many feet wide. These give you a slight
Off Clamshell I heard and saw a large flock of
Fringilla linaria over the meadow. No doubt it was
these I saw on the 15th. (But I saw then, and on the
10th, a larger and whiter bird also; may have been
the bunting.) Suddenly they turn aside in their flight
and dash across the river to a large white birch fifteen
rods off, which plainly they had distinguished so far.
I afterward saw many more in the Potter swamp up
the river. They were commonly brown or dusky above,
streaked with yellowish white or ash, and more or less
white or ash beneath. Most had a crimson crown or
frontlet, and a few a crimson neck and breast, very
handsome. Some with a bright-crimson crown and
clear-white breasts. I suspect that these were young
males. They keep up an incessant twittering, varied
from time to time with some mewing notes, and oc-
casionally, for some unknown reason, they will all
suddenly dash away with that universal loud note
(twitter) like a bag of nuts. They are busily clustered
in the tops of the birches, picking the seeds out of the
catkins, and sustain themselves in all kinds of atti-
tudes, sometimes head downwards while about this.
Common as they are now, and were winter before
last, I saw none last winter.
Dec. 20. 7 A. M. To Hill.
Said to be the coldest morning as yet. The river
appears to be frozen everywhere. Where was water
A WINTER MORNING
last night is a firm bridge of ice this morning. The
snow which has blown on to the ice has taken the form
of regular star-shaped crystals, an inch in diameter.
Sometimes these are arranged in a spear three feet
long quite straight. I see the mother-o'-pearl tints now,
at sunrise, on the clouds high over the eastern horizon
before the sun has risen above the low bank in the
east. The sky in the eastern horizon has that same
greenish-vitreous, gem-like appearance which it has at
sundown, as if it were of perfectly clear glass, with
the green tint of a large mass of glass. Here are some
crows already seeking their breakfast in the orchard,
and I hear a red squirrel's reproof. The woodchop-
pers are making haste to their work far off, walking
fast to keep warm, before the sun has risen, their ears
and hands well covered, the dry, cold snow squeaking
under their feet. They will be warmer after they
have been at work an hour.
P. M. Skated to Fair Haven with C.
C.'s skates are not the best, and beside he is far
from an easy skater, so that, as he said, it was killing
work for him. Time and again the perspiration actually
dropped from his forehead on to the ice, and it froze
in long icicles on his beard. Yet he kept up his spirits
and his fun, said he [had] seen much more suffering
than I, etc., etc.
It has been a glorious winter day, its elements so
simple, the sharp clear air, the white snow every-
where covering the earth, and the polished ice. Cold
as it is, the sun seems warmer on my back even than