Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 Half Title
 March, 1859
 April, 1859
 May, 1859
 June, 1859
 July, 1859
 August, 1859
 September, 1859
 October, 1859
 November, 1859

Group Title: Writings of Henry David Thoreau
Title: The writings of Henry David Thoreau
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00050303/00015
 Material Information
Title: The writings of Henry David Thoreau
Physical Description: 20 v. : ; fronts. (ports., v.1, 6, 7) illus., plates, (1 fold.) fold. map.|20 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Thoreau, Henry David, 1817-1862
Torrey, Bradford, 1843-1912 ( ed )
Sanborn, F. B ( Franklin Benjamin ), 1831-1917 ( ed )
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Place of Publication: Boston
Publication Date: [c1906]
Edition: [Walden ed.]
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00050303
Volume ID: VID00015
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 000593509
oclc - 01297983
notis - ADC2380

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
    List of Illustrations
        Page x
    Half Title
        Page 1
        Page 2
    March, 1859
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
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        Page 44
        Page 45
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        Page 47
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        Page 54
        Page 55
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        Page 57
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        Page 60
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        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
    April, 1859
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
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        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 128a
        Page 129
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    May, 1859
        Page 170
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        Page 195
        Page 196
    June, 1859
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
        Page 202
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    July, 1859
        Page 216
        Page 217
        Page 218
        Page 219
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        Page 264
        Page 265
        Page 266
        Page 267
        Page 268
        Page 269
        Page 270
        Page 271
    August, 1859
        Page 272
        Page 273
        Page 274
        Page 275
        Page 276
        Page 277
        Page 278
        Page 279
        Page 280
        Page 281
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        Page 301
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        Page 303
        Page 304
        Page 305
        Page 306
        Page 307
    September, 1859
        Page 308
        Page 309
        Page 310
        Page 311
        Page 312
        Page 313
        Page 314
        Page 315
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        Page 320
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        Page 357
        Page 358
        Page 358a
        Page 359
        Page 360
    October, 1859
        Page 361
        Page 362
        Page 363
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    November, 1859
        Page 441
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        Page 442a
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Full Text

albetn bition


~-~ r

Ball's Hill and River Flood from Ponkcawtasset Hill






MARCH 2, 1859-NovEMBER 30, 1859

Ube IBibersiLe press, Cambrige

/J 6

All rights reserved


CHAPTER I. March, 1859 (,ET. 41) 3
The Silvery Willow Catkins The Serene Bluebird Snow
Buntings The First Springing Lecturer and Audience -
Melting Snow The White-bellied Nuthatch's Song Hawks
Skunk-Cabbage A Shrike's -Song Listening for Birds
Science and the Mysteries The Green in Water and Sky
Green Radical Leaves Ice and Water Surfaces The
Open River Channel Sounds on a March Day The Inno-
cent Bluebird The Old Hunt House Accident in the Best
Things The Browns of Early Spring Garfield's Trap-
ping -Where to find Indian Arrowheads The Terrestrial
Browns The Hunt House Floating Ice in the River A
Change in the Weather A New Season A Great Gull -
Water-Lines -The Blushing Willow Twigs--A Shore with-
out Shore-Marks A Variety of Weather The Winthrops'
Front Door Freshet Driftwood White Pines in a Wind -
The Earth in Russet Garb The Interest in the Weather A
Parcel of Sparrows Sailing in a Strong Wind Tree Spar-
rows and Hyemalis A Field of Old Ice in Fair Haven Pond
Soaring Hen-Hawks A March Landscape Early
Spring Colors The Weather-wise Wood Frog Goldfinches
in Winter Dress- The Tawny Moist Banks- Trapping--
A Little Bream Unobtrusive Early Flowers The Weather-
Stain on Wood The Search for Arrowheads The Indian
Arrowhead A Flock of Blackbirds Migrating Geese -
Our Vernal Lakes The Leopard-spotted Earth The Wary
Geese Queer Sounds made by a Red Squirrel A Pair of
Sheldrakes The Perception of Color Wood Frogs.

CHAPTER II. April, 1859 (XET. 41) 104
Indian Relics Swarms of Gnats Squirrels and Pine Cones
The Sound of Snipe Lichens and Mosses Pecuniary
Reward Ripple-Marks on the Shore of Walden The


Brown Season Willow Flowers A Fish Hawk Stones
thrown out by a Woodchuck A Peculiar Willow The Fur
Trade The Protection of Birds The Early Greens of the
Swamps A Forest Viol Watching Ripples on a Pond -
An Old Oak Stump The Early-blooming Plants Shel-
drakes and Black Ducks Transported Meadow-Crust -
The Note of the Frog The Bay-Wing's Song The Rich-
ness of the Farmer's Life- The Ripples on a Rill The
Jingle of the Pine Warbler Sounds .of Awakened Nature
The Voice of the Hunting Hound Stedman Buttrick's
Shooting Sound Acorns An Aquarium Setting out
Pines Salamanders The Field Sparrow Impressions
and Ideas- Fishworms- A Squirrel's Nest Times and
Seasons Green-topped Tussocks of Sedge The Greening
Grass Notes of the Season A Walk about Lynn The
Small Blue Butterflies The Expanding Buds of Viburnum
nudum Ducks in Walden.

CHAPTER III. May, 1859 (XT. 41) 170
The Worship of the Devil Glorifying God Whirlwinds -
The Arrowheadiferous Sands of Concord Priests of the Sun
A Peculiar Fragrance Woodchucks The First Shadow
The Yellow Birch in Bloom Swarms of Gnats Miscel-
laneous Notes A Dead Snake A Black Sucker The
Tender Yellow Foliage- Some Notes of Late May -A
Black Snake A Woodchuck at Bay.

CHAPTER IV. June, 1859 (Er. 41) 197
A Rose-breasted Grosbeak's Nest Notes of Early June A
Pout's Nest and Young- The Rose-breasted Grosbeak-
A Sea of Pipes Rain on the River Young Flying Squirrels
The Meadow Revolution The Dam Controversy A
Luna Moth A Flying Squirrel's Nest.

CHAPTER V. July, 1859 (iET. 41-42) 216
Leaping Frogs- A Study of the Physiography of Concord
River Shoals, Bends, and Weeds Heart-Leaf The
River's Course The Floated Meadow The Phalanxes of



Bulrushes Transplanted Button-Bushes "Going to the
Beach" A Bird's Nest The Stone Bridge The Assabet
Eddies A Sand-Bank The Assabet Stone Bridge -
The Rivers and the Sabbath The Wreck of the Powder-Mill
The River in Billerica The Rocks at the Falls The
Falls River-Weed The Concord River Pestered by
Flies The Children of the River Breams' Nests The
Rocks in the River Measuring the Current of the River
Dog-Day Fog Country Boys Fishing Tall Cat-Tails
The Ox-Bow The Beaver-Hole Meadows Cardinal-

CHAPTER VI. August, 1859 (ET. 42) 272
The Current of the River Deep Holes in the River Gy-
rating Water-Bugs A Grassy Sea Water-Mosses The
Secrets of the River disclosed Floating a Canal-Boat -
Minott's Account of the Great Meadows Clamshell Skiffs
Blue Herons The Sabbath-keeping River Peculiar In-
sects The White Bark of a Buttonwood Plants touched
by Frost The Lusty Weeds The First Frost Dreaming
Awake Late Low Blackberries How to tell if a Water-
melon is Ripe Berrying Song of the Dying Bullock -
A Cool Morning- A Rise in the River- The Prevailing
Flowers of the Last of August The History of a Shower.

CHAPTER VII. September, 1859 (ET. 42) 308
Creatures that live between the Two Sides of a Thin Leaf -
Birds and Berries The Fruit of the Arum Shoes and the
Wearer A Bad Debt Purple Grass Flocks of Ducks
Liatris The State Muster September Berries The
Gray Goldenrod A Cat caught in a Trap Windfall Apples
A Small Hawk Brooks's Pigeon-Stands Emerson's Calf
and the Milk-Pitcher Jome-grown Tobacco The Want
of Energy and Precision The House and the Man Grass-
hoppers An Abundant Crop of Cones The Fruits of the
Temperate Zone A Statue to Horace Mann Wild Pigeons
Memorable Deeds Weeds in Old Cellars Non-Pro-
ducers Rank Vegetation Leisure Necessary for Great


Works of Art The Changing Ferns The Scent of Dick-
sonia The Old Carlisle Road Some Autumnal Berries-
A White Pine Needle Ferns Nightshade Berries The
Gossamer Spiders An Ear for Music Digging Potatoes -
Evergreen Ferns.

CHAPTER VIII. October, 1859 (ET. 42) 361
Shrub Oak Acorns--The Climbing Fern--Autumnal
Weather Migrant Warblers Leopard-spotted Leaves -
The Smoke from a Chimney The Ideal and the Real -
Dicksonia Fern- Learning and Knowledge A Flock of
Shore Larks- A Season-ripening Frost- A Foretaste of
Spring A Fungus in a Wine-Cellar Acorns and Nuts -
The Autumn Fruits The Red Regiments of Oaks The
Need of Public Parks The New Musquash-Houses Let-
ters and Things Americanisms The Meander and the
Musketaquid Celestial Phenomena Andropogon Cold
Sphagnum Frosty Weather Vaccinium Oxycoccus A
Simple and Independent Life Fragrant Thoughts The
Strange Sights of the Country John Brown's Raid Arch-
angelica Remarks of Neighbors on Brown's Death The
Woodenness of Man Heroes, Imaginary and Real John
Brown's "Insanity" A Hypocritical Government Arti-
chokes A Cold Day The Slave-Ship John Brown and
Other American Heroes Brown's Utterances after his Cap-
ture The Distance between Neighbors A Vetch in Bloom
The Modern Christian Brown and his Company -
Brown's Personality A Sublime Spectacle The Weapons
of War-John Brown's Deed-Brown's "Failure"--
Brown's Puritanism His Early Life and his Experiences in
Kansas His Orderly Book Conscience and the Law -
John Brown in Kansas The Newspapers on Brown Gov-
ernor Wise's Opinion of him A Real Death Brown's Page
in History.

CHAPTER IX. November, 1859 (XET. 42) 441
Withered Andropogon A Flock of Dead Leaves A Re-
markable Sunset A White Cat in the Woods The Legis-

lature and John Brown's Raid Poetry read in the Light of
Brown's Martyrdom Goldfinches The Outrage on Sum-
ner The Red Andromeda An Anecdote of John Brown -
The Creaking of a Plow- Wood-Lots and Walking- A
Brown Creeper A Large Ant-Hill Therien's Checkerberry-
Tea A Basket of Chips A Flock of Snow Buntings -
Concord and John Brown.



PONKAWTASSET HILL (page 96) Frontispiece






SUN 442







MARCH, 1859 (~ET. 41)

March 2. Wednesday. P. M.-To Cassandra Ponds
and down river.
It is a remarkably cold day for March, and the river,
etc., are frozen as solidly as in the winter and there is
no water to be seen upon the ice, as usually in a winter
day, apparently because it has chiefly run out from
beneath on the meadows and left the ice, for often, as
you walk over the meadows, it sounds hollow under
your tread.
I see in the Deep Cut, on the left-hand, or east, side,
just beyond the clay, a ravine lately begun, in a slightly
different manner from the Clamshell one. The water
running down the steep sand-bank (which is some
thirty or thirty-five feet high), it being collected from
the field above, had worn a channel from four to six
inches wide, gradually, through the frozen crust of
the sand, which was one to two feet thick, and, reach-
ing the loose unfrozen sand beneath, had washed it
downward, and out through the narrow channel lower

down, until quite a cavern was formed, whose bottom
was eight or ten feet below the surface, while it was
five or six feet wide. But within a few days the crust,
thawing, had fallen in, and so the cavern, with its narrow
"crack," or skylight, was turned into an open ravine,
and there is no telling where the mischief will end.
The willow catkins by the railroad where you first
come in sight of the [sic] have now all (on one or two
bushes) crept out about an eighth of an inch, giving
to the bushes already a very pretty appearance when
you stand on the sunny side, the silvery-white specks
contrasting with the black scales. Seen along the twigs,
they are somewhat like small pearl buttons on a waist-
coat. Go and measure to what length the silvery wil-
low catkins have crept out beyond their scales, if you
would know what time o' the year it is by Nature's
As I go through the Cassandra Ponds, I look round
on the young oak woods still clad with rustling leaves
as in winter, with a feeling as if it were their last rustle
before the spring, but then I reflect how far away still
is the time when the new buds swelling will cause these
leaves to fall. We thus commonly antedate the spring
more than any other season, for we look forward to it
with more longing. We talk about spring as at hand
before the end of February, and yet it will be two good
months, one sixth part of the whole year, before we can
go a-maying. There may be a whole month of solid and
uninterrupted winter yet, plenty of ice and good sleigh-
ing. We may not even see the bare ground, and hardly
the water, and yet we sit down and warm our spirits an-





nually with this distant prospect of spring. As if a man
were to warm his hands by stretching them toward
the rising sun and rubbing them. We listen to the Feb-
ruary cock-crowing and turkey-gobbling as to a first
course, or prelude.
The bluebird which some woodchopper or inspired
walker is said to have seen in that sunny interval be-
tween the snow-storms is like a speck of clear blue
sky seen near the end of a storm, reminding us of an
ethereal region and a heaven which we had forgotten.
Princes and magistrates are often styled serene, but
what is their turbid serenity to that ethereal serenity
which the bluebird embodies? His Most Serene Bird-
ship! His soft warble melts in the ear, as the snow is
melting in the valleys around. The bluebird comes
and with his warble drills the ice and sets free the
rivers and ponds and frozen ground. As the sand flows
down the slopes a little way, assuming the forms of
foliage where the frost comes out of the ground, so
this little rill of melody flows a short way down the con-
cave of the sky. The sharp whistle of the blackbird,
too, is heard like single sparks or a shower .of them
shot up from the swamps and seen against the dark
winter in the rear.'
Under the alders at Well Meadow I see a few skunk-
cabbage spathes fairly open on the side, and these may
bloom after a day or two of pleasant weather. But for
the most part, here and generally elsewhere, the spathes
are quite small, slender, and closed as yet, or frost-
bitten. The caltha leaves have grown decidedly. They
1 [Channing, pp. 286, 287.]



make nearly a handful in one place, above the surface
of the springy water, the leaves not yet quite flatted out,
but curled up into a narrow ellipse. They barely peep
above the water. Also what I take to be a kind of cress
is quite fresh-looking, as if it had grown a little there.
The chrysosplenium may have looked as it does, even
under the snow, or all winter (?). It already, at any
rate, makes pretty (dirty) green beds, about level with
the surface of the water. These plants (i. e. first ones)
are earlier than any pads, for the brooks, and ditches
even, are generally frozen over still, firmly.

March 3. Going to Acton this morning, I saw some
sparrows on the wall, which I think must have been
the F. hyemalis (?).
P. M. Up river to Nut Meadow Brook.
It is nearly as cold as yesterday. The piers of the
bridge by the railroad bridge are adorned with very
handsome salver or waiter shaped ice three or four feet
in diameter (bottom upward), the crenate edges all
around being adorned
d 6 with bell-shaped pen-
dants (produced by
the melting (?) or perchance the water dashed against
Going by the solidago oak at Clamshell Hill bank,
I heard a faint rippling note and, looking up, saw about
fifteen snow buntings sitting in the top of the oak, all
with their breasts toward me, sitting so still and
quite white, seen against the white cloudy sky, they
did not look like birds but the ghosts of birds, and their





boldness, allowing me to come quite near, enhanced
this impression. These were almost as white as snow-
balls, and from time [to time] I heard a low, soft rip-
pling note from them. I could see no features, but only
the general outline of plump birds in white. It was a
very spectral sight, and after I had watched them for
several minutes, I can hardly say that I was prepared
to see them fly away like ordinary buntings when I
advanced further. At first they were almost concealed
by being almost the same color with the cloudy sky.
I see in that ditch (call it Grassy Ditch) near John
Hosmer's second spring south of Nut Meadow Brook
much grass which has lately grown an inch or more and
lies flat on the water. Is it the Glyceria fluitans ? It is
somewhat frost-bitten too. It fills the ditch like moss,
as seen at a little distance. It must be a very springy
ditch to be thus open entirely. Also, pretty near the
spring, I see a tuft of care (?) whose stiff glaucous
points have risen several inches above the surface.
See two small water-bugs at the spring; none else-
I see apparently some callitriche, fresh, in the spring.
We recross the river at Grindstone Meadow, but
probably .cannot to-morrow or next day there. The
ice is spotted with dark crescents, we tread on the
white parts, and it is puffed up along the middle, be-
ing at least six inches high in the middle where we cross.
All the lower part of steep southern slopes of hills is
now commonly bare,- though the snow may be pretty
deep on the brow,--especially the springy bases where
the skunk-cabbage, etc., grow.



How imperceptibly the first springing takes place!
In some still, muddy springs whose temperature is
more equable than that of the brooks, while brooks
and ditches are generally thickly frozen and concealed
and the earth is covered with snow, and it is even cold,
hard, and nipping winter weather, some fine grass
which fills the water like a moss begins to lift its tiny
spears or blades above the surface, which directly fall
flat for half an inch or an inch along the surface, and
on these (though many are frost-bitten) you may mea-
sure the length to which the spring has advanced, -
has sprung. Very few indeed, even of botanists, are
aware of this growth. Some of it appears to go on even
under ice and snow, or, in such a place as I have de-
scribed, if it is also sheltered by alders, or the like, you
may see (as March 2d) a little green crescent of caltha
leaves, raised an inch or so above the
water, with leaves but partially un-
rolled and looking as if it would withdraw beneath the
surface again at night. This, I think, must be the most
conspicuous and forward greenness of the spring. The
small reddish radical leaves of the dock, too, are ob-
served flat on the moist ground as soon as the snow
has melted there, as if they had grown beneath it.
The mossy bank along the south side of Hosmer's
second spring ditch is very interesting. There are many
coarse, hair-like masses of that green and brown moss
on its edge, hanging over the ditch, alternating with
withered-looking cream-colored sphagnum tinged with
rose-color, in protuberances, or mammae, a foot across
on the perpendicular side of the ditch. Cast water


[MARcEi 3



on their cheeks, and they become much more reddish,
yet hardly so interesting. This is while the top of the
bank and all the hillside above is covered deep with
snow. The pretty fingers of the Lycopodium clavatum,
peeping out here and there amid the snow and hang-
ing down the ditch-side, contrasting with the snow,
are very interesting.
Channing tells me he has met with a sassafras tree
in New Bedford woods, which, according to a string
which he put round it, is eleven and three quarters feet
in circumference at about three feet from the ground.
They consider them very good for rails there, they are
so light and durable.
Talk about reading! a good reader! It depends
on how he is heard. There may be elocution and pro-
nunciation (recitation, say) to satiety, but there can
be no good reading unless there is good hearing also.
It takes two at least for this game, as for love, and they
must cooperate. The lecturer will read best those parts
of his lecture which are best heard. Sometimes, it is
true, the faith and spirits of the reader may run a little
ahead and draw after the good hearing, and at other
times the good hearing runs ahead and draws on the
good reading. The reader and the hearer are a team
not to be harnessed tandem, the poor wheel horse sup-
porting the burden of the shafts, while the leader runs
pretty much at will, while the lecture lies passive in
the painted curricle behind. I saw some men unload-
ing molasses-hogsheads from a truck at a depot the
other day, rolling them up an inclined plane. The
truckman stood behind and shoved, after putting a


couple of ropes one round each end of the hogshead,
while two men standing in the depot steadily pulled at
the ropes. The first man was the lecturer, the last was
the audience. It is the duty of the lecturer to team
his hogshead of sweets to the depot, or Lyceum, place
the horse, arrange the ropes, and shove; and it is the
duty of the audience to take hold of the ropes and pull
with all their might. The lecturer who tries to read
his essay without being abetted by a good hearing is
in the predicament of a teamster who is engaged in
the Sisyphean labor of rolling a molasses-hogshead
up an inclined plane alone, while the freight-master
and his men stand indifferent with their hands in their
pockets. I have seen many such a hogshead which had
rolled off the horse and gone to smash, with all its sweets
wasted on the ground between the truckman and the
freight-house, and the freight-masters thought that
the loss was not theirs.
Read well! Did you ever know a full well that did
not yield of its refreshing waters to those who put their
hands to the windlass or the well-sweep? Did you
ever suck cider through a straw? Did you ever know
the cider to push out of the straw when you were not
sucking, unless it chanced to be in a complete fer-
ment? An audience will draw out of a lecture, or en-
able a lecturer to read, only such parts of his lecture
as they like. A lecture is like a barrel half full of some
palatable liquor. You may tap it at various levels, -
in the sweet liquor or in the froth or in fixed air above.
If it is pronounced good, it is partly to the credit
of the hearers; if bad, it is partly their fault. Some-





times a lazy audience refuses to cooperate and pull
on the ropes with a will, simply because the hogshead
is full and therefore heavy, when if it were empty, or
had only a little sugar adhering to it, they would whisk
it up the slope in a jiffy. The lecturer, therefore, de-
sires of his audience a long pull, a strong pull, and all
pull together. I have seen a sturdy truckman, or lec-
turer, who had nearly broken his back with shoving his
lecture up such an inclined plane while the audience
were laughing at him, at length, as with a last effort,
set it a-rolling in amid the audience and upon their
toes, scattering them like sheep and making them cry
out with pain, while he drove proudly away. Rarely it
is a very heavy freight of such hogsheads stored in a
vessel's hold that is to be lifted out and deposited on
the public wharf, and this is accomplished only after
many a hearty pull all together and a good deal of

March 4. Began to snow last evening, and it is now
(early in the morning) about a foot deep, and raining.
P. M. To E. Hosmer Spring. Down Turnpike
and back by E. Hubbard's Close.
We stood still a few moments on the Turnpike be-
low Wright's (the Turnpike, which had no wheel-track
beyond Tuttle's and no track at all beyond Wright's),
and listened to hear a spring bird. We heard only the
jay screaming in the distance and the cawing of a crow.
What a perfectly New England sound is this voice of
the crow! If you stand perfectly still anywhere in
the outskirts of the town and listen, stilling the almost



incessant hum of your own personal factory, this is
perhaps the sound which you will be most sure to hear
rising above all sounds of human industry and lead-
ing your thoughts to some far bay in the woods where
the crow is venting his disgust. This bird sees the white
man come and the Indian withdraw, but it withdraws
not. Its untamed voice is still heard above the tink-
ling of the forge. It sees a race pass away, but it passes
not away. It remains to remind us of aboriginal na-
I find near Hosmer Spring in the wettest ground,
which has melted the snow as it fell, little flat beds of
light-green moss, soft as velvet, which have recently
pushed up, and lie just above the surface of the water.
They are scattered about in the old decayed trough.
(And there are still more and larger at Brister's Spring.)
They are like little rugs or mats and are very obviously
of fresh growth, such a green as has not been dulled
by winter, a very fresh and living, perhaps slightly
glaucous, green. The myosotis and bitter cress are
hardly clean and fresh enough for a new growth.' The
radical leaves of the. Ranunculus repens are conspicu-
ous, but the worse for the wear; but the golden saxi-
frage has in one or two places decidedly and conspicu-
ously grown, like the cowslip at Well Meadow and
still more, rising in dense beds a half to three quarters
of an inch above the water, the leaves, like those of
the cowslip, only partly concealed and flatted out. This
distinguishes the fresh-springing leaves of these two.
Probably there is more of the chrysosplenium thus ad-
But the last is, at Well Meadow. Vide [Mar. 5].





vanced in Concord than of the caltha.1 I see none of
the last here.
The surface of the snow thus rapidly melting and
sinking (there are commonly some inches of water
under it, the rain having soaked through), though still
very fresh and pure white, is all cracked, as it were,
like that of some old toadstools. It has sunk so much
that every inequality in the surface of the ground be-
neath is more distinctly shown than when bare. The
ruts of old wood-paths are represented in the surface
a foot above, and the track of the man and of the dog
that ran by the side of the team (in the old snow), -
the thread, in short, of every valley. The surface of the
snow, though so recent, is therefore, on account of the
rain, very diversified. On steep slopes it is regularly
furrowed, apparently by water that has flowed down it.
In the brook in Hubbard's Close I see the grass push-
ing up from the bottom four or five inches long and
waving in the current, which has not yet reached the
C. thinks this is called a sap snow, because it comes
after the sap begins to flow.
The story goes that at the Social Club the other
night Cyrus Stow, hearing that the lecture before the
Lyceum by Alger was to be on "The Sophistry of
Ennui" and not knowing what that was, asked in good
faith if it went by wind or water.

March 5. Going down-town this forenoon, I heard
a white-bellied nuthatch on an elm within twenty feet, 4
1 There is also at Well Meadow on the 5th.



uttering peculiar notes and more like a song than I
remember to have heard from it.' There was a chick-
adee close by, to which it may have been addressed.
It was something like to-what what what what what,
rapidly repeated, and not the usual gnah gnah; and
this instant it occurs to me that this may be that earli-
est spring note which I hear, and have referred to a
woodpecker! (This is before I have chanced to see a
bluebird, blackbird, or robin in Concord this year.) It
is the spring note of the nuthatch. It paused in its pro-
gress about the trunk or branch and uttered this lively
but peculiarly inarticulate song, an awkward attempt to
warble almost in the face of the chickadee, as if it were
one of its kind. It was thus giving vent to the spring
within it. If I am not mistaken, it is what I have heard
in former springs or winters long ago, fabulously early
in the season, when we men had but just begun to anti-
cipate the spring, for it would seem that we, in our
anticipations and sympathies, include in succession
the moods and expressions of all creatures. When only
the snow had begun to melt and no rill of song had
broken loose, a note so dry and fettered still, so inartic-
ulate and half thawed out, that you might (and would
commonly) mistake for the tapping of a woodpecker. As
if the young nuthatch in its hole had listened only
to the tapping of woodpeckers and learned that music,
and now, when it would sing and give vent to its spring
ecstasy and it can modulate only some notes like that,
that is its theme still. That is its ruling idea of song
. and music, only a little clangor and liquidity added
I Also the 21st March.




to the tapping of the woodpecker. It was the handle
by which my thoughts took firmly hold on spring.
This herald of spring is commonly unseen, it sits
so close to the bark.
P. M. Up river to Well Meadow.
The snow melts and sinks very rapidly. This spring
snow is peculiarly white and blinding. The inequal-
ities of the surface are peculiar and interesting when
it has sunk thus rapidly. I see crows walking about
on the ice half covered with snow in the middle of the
meadows, where there is no grass, apparently to pick
up the worms and other insects left there since the
midwinter freshet. We see one or two little gnats or
mosquitoes in the air.
See a large light-colored hawk circling a long time
over Fair Haven Hill, and another, probably its mate,
starts away from Holden Wood and circles toward it.
The last being nearest, I distinguished that its wings
were black tipped. (I have no glass.) What can they
be ? I think that I have seen the same in previous springs.
They are too light-colored for hen-hawks, and for a
pair of marsh hawks, being apparently alike. Then
the fish hawk is said by the books not to get here nearly
so early, and, beside, they would not circle about so
much over the hill. The goshawk, which I next think
of, has no black tip to wings that I can learn. May it
not be the winter hawk of Wilson ? for he says its pri-
maries are black at the tips, and that [it] is lighter than
the red-shouldered, of same species.
At the same time I see a crow going north or north-
east, high over Fair Haven Hill, and, two or three




minutes after, two more, and so many more at int
vals of a few minutes. This is apparently their spri
movement. Turkeys gobble in some distant farmye
at the same time. At length the sun is seen to ha
come out and to be shining on the oak leaves on 1
south side of Bear Garden Hill, and its light appec
to be exactly limited to them.
I saw on the ice, quite alive, some of those bla
water-beetles, which apparently had been 1
above by a rise of the river. Were they
Gyrinus? 1
When I was last at Well Meadow, I saw where a
parently a dozen hounds had all crossed the brook
exactly one point, leaving a great trail in the slosh abc
the ice, though there was but one track of a man.
reminded me of a buffalo-trail. Every half-mile,
you go up the river, you come to the tracks of one
two dogs which have recently crossed it without a
Those skunk-cabbage buds which are most advance
have cast off their outmost and often frost-bitten sheatl
and the spathe is broader and slightly opened (soi
three quarters of an inch or more already) and has a
quired brighter and more variegated colors. The oi
side of the spathe shows some ripeness in its cole
and markings, like a melon-rind, before the space
begins to bloom. I find that many of the most forwa
spathes, etc., have been destroyed since I was he
three days ago. Some animal has nibbled away a pa
of the spathes (or sometimes only a hole in it) ai





I see the fragments scattered about and then eaten
out the whole of the spadix. Indeed, but few forward
ones are left. Is this a mouse or musquash ? or a bird ?
The spadix is evidently a favorite titbit to some crea-
That more entire-leaved plant amid the early skunk-
cabbage which I called a cress on the 3d has the bit-
ter taste of cress. The common cress has in one place
grown considerably, and is fresh and clean and very
good to eat. I wonder that I do not see where some
creatures have eaten it.
The sweet-gale brush seen in a mass at a little dis-
tance is considerably darker than the alders above it.
This will do for the sweet-gale maze in November.
The cowslip there is very prominently flower-budded,
lifting its yellow flower-buds above water in one place.
The leaves are quite inconspicuous when they first
come up, being rolled up tightly.

March 6. Sunday. P. M. -To Yellow Birch
We go through the swamp near Bee-Tree, or Oak,
Ridge, listening for blackbirds or robins and, in the old
orchards, for bluebirds. Found between two of the
little birches in the path (where they grow densely),
in Indigo-bird Sprout-land, a small nest suspended
between one and two feet above the ground, between
two of the little birches. This is where I have seen the
indigo-bird in summer, and the nest apparently an-
swers to Wilson's account of that bird's, being fas-
tened with saliva to the birch on each side. Wilson


says it is "built in a low bush suspended between
two twigs, one passing up each side." This is about
the diameter of a hair-bird's nest within, composed
chiefly of fine bark-shreds looking like grass and one
or two strips of grape-vine bark, and very securely
fastened to the birch on each side by a whitish silk or
cobweb and saliva. It is thin, the lining being prob-
ably gone.
There is a very pictur- (
esque large black oak on
the Bee-Tree Ridge, of this
The genista is not ever-
green, having turned brown,
though it is still quite leafy. I could not find a single
green shoot. It is correctly represented in Loudon's
"Arboretum," in '44, as "a deciduous under-shrub."
Yet in his "Encyclopaedia," in '55, it is represented as
"an evergreen shrub."
Measured a thorn which, at six inches from the
ground, or the smallest place below the branches, -
for it branches soon, was two feet three inches in
circumference. Cut off a barberry on which I counted
some twenty-six rings, the broadest diameter being
about three and a half inches. Both these were on the
west side the Yellow Birch Swamp.
The slender black birches, with their catkincd
twigs gracefully drooping on all sides, are very pretty.
Like the alders, with their reddish catkins, they ex-
press more life than most trees. Most trees look com-
pletely at rest, if not dead, now, but these look as if





the sap must be already flowing in them,- and in
winter as well.
In woodland roads you see where the trees which
were bent down by ice, and obstructed the way, were
cut off the past winter; their tops lie on one side.

March 7. 6.30 A. M. To Hill.
I come out to hear a spring bird, the ground gen-
erally covered with snow yet and the channel of the
river only partly open. On the Hill I hear first the tap-
ping of a small woodpecker. I then see a bird alight
on the dead top of the highest white oak on the hilltop,
on the topmost point. It is a shrike. While I am watch-
ing him eight or ten rods off, I hear robins down be-
low, west of the hill. Then, to my surprise, the shrike
begins to sing. It is at first a wholly ineffectual and
inarticulate sound without any solid tone to it, a mere
hoarse breathing, as if he were clearing his throat, un-
like any bird that I know,- a shrill hissing. Then
he uttered a kind of mew, a very decided mewing,
clear and wiry, between that of a catbird and the note
of the nuthatch, as if to lure a nuthatch within his reach;
then rose into the sharpest, shrillest vibratory or tremu-
lous whistling or chirruping on the very highest key.
This high gurgling jingle was like some of the notes
of a robin singing in summer. But they were very short
spurts in all these directions, though there was all this
variety. Unless you saw the shrike it would be hard
to tell what bird it was. This variety of notes covered
considerable time, but were sparingly uttered with
intervals. It was a decided chinking sound the


clearest strain suggesting much ice in the stream.
I heard this bird sing once before, but that was also
in early spring, or about this time. It is said that they
imitate the notes of the birds in order to attract them
within their reach. Why, then, have I never heard them
sing in the winter? (I have seen seven or eight of them
the past winter quite near.) The birds which it imi-
tated if it imitated any this morning were the
catbird and the robin, neither of which probably would
it catch, and the first is not here to be caught. Hear-
ing a peep, I looked up and saw three or four birds
passing rather [sic], which suddenly descended and settled
on this oak-top. They were robins, but the shrike in-
stantly hid himself behind a bough and in half a min-
ute flew off to a walnut and alighted, as usual, on its
very topmost twig, apparently afraid of its visitors. The
robins kept their ground, one alighting on the very
point which the shrike vacated. Is not this, then, prob-
ably the spring note or pairing note or notes of the
shrike ?
The first note which I heard from the robins, far
under the hill, was sveet sveet, suggesting a certain haste
and alarm, and then a rich, hollow, somewhat plain-
tive peep or peep-eep-eep, as when in distress with
young just flown. When you first see them alighted,
they have a haggard, an anxious and hurried, look.
I hear several jays this morning.
I think that many of the nuts which we find in the
crevices of bark, firmly wedged in, may have been
placed there by jays, chickadees, etc., to be held fast
while they crack them with their bills.





A lady tells me that she saw, last Cattle-Show Day,
- -- putting up a specimen of hairwork in a frame
(by his niece) in the exhibition hall. I think it repre-
sented flowers, and underneath was written "this Hare
was taken from 8 different heads." She made some sort
of exclamation, betraying that there was some mistake
in the writing, whereupon took it down and
carried it off, but soon came back with a new descrip-
tion or label, "this hare was taken from 8 different
heads," and thus it stood through the exhibition.

P. M. To Ministerial Swamp.
I hear of two who saw bluebirds this morning, and
one says he saw one yesterday.' This seems to have
been the day of their general arrival here, but I have
not seen one in Concord yet.
It is a good plan to go to some old orchard on the
south side of a hill, sit down, and listen, especially in
the morning when all is still. You can thus often
hear the distant warble of some bluebird lately arrived,
which, if you had been walking, would not have been
audible to you. As I walk, these first mild spring days,
with my coat thrown open, stepping over tinkling rills
of melting snow, excited by the sight of the bare ground,
especially the reddish subsoil, where it is exposed by
a cutting, and by the few green radical leaves, I stand
still, shut my eyes, and listen from time to time, in
order to hear the note of some bird of passage just
There are few, if any, so coarse and insensible that
I Vide 9th.



they are not interested to hear that the bluebird has
come. The Irish laborer has learned to distinguish
him and report his arrival. It is a part of the news of
the season to the lawyer in his office and the mechanic
in his shop, as well as to the farmer. One will remem-
ber, perchance, to tell you that he saw one a week ago
in the next town or county. Citizens just come into
the country to live put up a bluebird box, and record
in some kind of journal the date of the first arrival
observed, though it may be rather a late one. The
farmer can tell you when he saw the first one, if you
ask him within a week.
I see a great many of those glow-worm-like cater-
pillars observed in the freshet in midwinter, on the
snowy ice in the meadows and fields now; also small
beetles of various kinds, and other caterpillars. I think
this unusual number is owing to that freshet, which
washed them out of their winter quarters so long ago,
and they have never got back to them. I also see -
but their appearance is a regular early spring, or late
winter, phenomenon a- great many of those slender
black-bodied insects from one quarter to (with the
feelers) one inch long, with six legs and long gray wings,
two feelers before, and two forks or tails like feelers
S \ behind. The last are some-
''..-.-...--- C- -sc times concealed by the wings.
This is what I have called
for convenience Perla. They are crawling slowly
about over the snow. I have no doubt that crows
eat some of the above-named caterpillars, but do other





The mystery of the life of plants is kindred with
that of our own lives, and the physiologist must not
presume to explain their growth according to mechan-
ical laws, or as he might explain some machinery of
his own making. We must not expect to probe with
our fingers the sanctuary of any life, whether animal
or vegetable. If we do, we shall discover nothing but
surface still. The ultimate expression or fruit of any
created thing is a fine effluence which only the most
ingenuous worshipper perceives at a reverent distance
from its surface even. The cause and the effect are
equally evanescent and intangible, and the former
must be investigated in the same spirit and with the
same reverence with which the latter is perceived.
Science is often like the grub which, though it may
have nestled in the germ of a fruit, has merely blighted
or consumed it and never truly tasted it. Only that
intellect makes any progress toward conceiving of the
essence which at the same time perceives the effluence,
The rude and ignorant finger is probing in the rind
still, for in this case, too, the angles of incidence and
excidence [sic] are equal, and the essence is as far on
the other side of the surface, or matter, as reverence
detains the worshipper on this, and only reverence can
find out this angle instinctively. Shall we presume to
alter the angle at which God chooses to be worshipped ?
Accordingly, I reject Carpenter's explanation of the
fact that a potato vine in a cellar grows toward the light,
when he says, "The reason obviously is, that, in con-
sequence of the loss of fluid from the tissue of the stem,
on the side on which the light falls, it is contracted,


whilst that of the other side remains turgid with fluid;
the stem makes a bend, therefore, until its growing
point becomes opposite to the light, and then increases
in that direction." (C.'s "Vegetable Physiology," page
There is no ripeness whiclh is not, so to speak, some-
thing ultimate in itself, and not merely a perfected
means to a higher end. In order to be ripe it must serve
a transcendent use. The ripeness of a leaf, being per-
fected, leaves the tree at that point and never returns
to it. It has nothing to do with any other fruit which
the tree may bear, and only the genius of the poet can
pluck it.
The fruit of a tree is neither in the seed nor the tim-
ber, the full-grown tree, but it is simply the highest
use to which it can be put.

March 8. A rainy day.
P. M. -To Hill in rain.
To us snow and cold seem a mere delaying of the
spring. How far we are from understanding the value
of these things in the economy of Nature!
The earth is still mostly covered with ice and snow.
As usual, I notice large pools of greenish water in the
fields, on an icy bottom, which cannot owe their greenness
to the reflected blue mingled with the yellowish light
at sundown, as I supposed in the case of the green ice
and water in clear winter days, for I see the former
now at midday and in a rain-storm, when no sky is
visible. I think that these green pools over an icy bot-
tom must be produced by the yellow or common earth-

stain in the water mingling with the blue which is re-
flected from the ice. Many pools have so large a propor-
tion of this yellow tinge as not to look green but yellow.
The stain, the tea, of withered vegetation -grass and
leaves and of the soil supplies the yellow tint.
But perhaps those patches of emerald sky, sky just
tinged with green, which we sometimes see, far in the
horizon or near it, are produced in thee same way as I
thought the green ice was, some yellow glow reflected
from a cloud mingled with the blue of the atmosphere.
One might say that the yellow of the earth mingled
with the blue of the sky to make the green of vegetation.
I see, under the pitch pines on the southwest slope
of the hill, the reddish bud-scales scattered on the snow
which fell on the 4th, and also settled an inch into it,
and, examining, I find that in a great many cases the
buds have been eaten by some creature and the scales
scattered about, or, being opened, have closed over
a cavity. Many scales rest amid the needles. There
is no track on the snow, which is soft, but the scales
must have been dropped within a day or two. I see
near one pine, however, the fresh track of a partridge
and where one has squatted all night. Tracks might
possibly have been obliterated by the rapid melting
of the snow the last day or two. Yet I am inclined to
think that these were eaten by the red squirrel; or was
it the crossbill ? for this is said to visit us in the winter.
Have I ever seen a squirrel eat the pine buds ? 1
There is a fine freezing rain with strong wind from
the north; so I keep along under shelter of hills and
1 Farmer does not know of squirrels eating pine buds.

woods, along their south sides, in my india-rubber coat
and boots. Under the south edge of Woodis Park, in
the low ground, I see many radical leaves of the So-
lidago altissima and another I am pretty sure it is
the S. strict and occasionally also of the Aster
undulatus, and all are more or less lake beneath. The
first, at least, have when bruised a strong scent. Some
of them have recently grown decidedly. So at least
several kinds of goldenrods and asters have radical
leaves lake-colored at this season. The common straw-
berry leaves, too, are quite fresh and a handsome lake-
color beneath in many cases. There are also many
little rosettes of the radical leaves of the Epilobium
coloratum, half brown and withered, with bright-green
centres, at least. And even the under side of some mul-
lein leaves is lake or crimson also.
There is but a narrow strip of bare ground reach-
ing a few rods into the wood along the south edge, but
the less ground there is bare, the more we make of it.
Such a day as this, I resort where the partridges, etc.,
do- to the bare ground and the sheltered sides of
woods and hills and there explore the moist ground
for the radical leaves of plants, while the storm blows
overhead, and I forget how the time is passing. If the
weather is thick and stormy enough, if there is a good
chance to be cold and wet and uncomfortable, in other
words to feel weather-beaten, you may consume the
afternoon to advantage thus browsing along the edge
of some near wood which would scarcely detain you
at all in fair weather, and you will [be] as far away there
as at the end of your longest fair-weather walk, and





come home as if from an adventure. There is no better
fence to put between you and the village than a storm
into which the villagers do not venture out.
I go looking for green radical leaves. What a dim
and shadowy existence have now to our memories the
fair flowers whose localities they mark! IHow hard to find
any trace of the stem now, after it has been flattened
under the snows of the winter! I go feeling with wet
and freezing fingers amid the withered grass and the
snow for these prostrate stems, that I may reconstruct
the plant. But greenness so absorbs our attention that
sometimes I do not see the former rising from the midst
of those radical leaves when it almost puts my eyes
out. The shepherd's-purse radical leaves are particu-
larly bright.
I see there a dead white pine, some twenty-five feet
high, which has been almost entirely stripped of its bark
by the woodpeckers. Where any bark is left, the space
between it and the wood is commonly closely packed
with the gnawings of worms, which appear to have
consumed the inner bark. But where the bark is gone,
the wood also is eaten to some depth, and there are
numerous holes penetrating deep into the wood. Over
all this portion, which is almost all the tree, the wood-
peckers have knocked off the bark and enlarged the
holes in pursuit of the worms.
The fine rain with a strong north wind is now form-
ing a glaze on my coat. When I get home the ther-
mometer is at 290. So a glaze seems to be formed when
a fine rain is falling with the thermometer very little
below the freezing-point.

" 27

Men of science, when they pause to contemplate
"the power, wisdom, and goodness" of God, or, as
they sometimes call him, "the Almighty Designer,"
speak of him as a total stranger whom it is necessary
to treat with the highest consideration. They seem
suddenly to have lost their wits.

March 9. P. M. To Lee's Cliff with C.
C. says that he heard and saw a bluebird on the 7th,
and R. W. E. the same. This was the day on which
they were generally observed. I am doubtful about
one having been seen on the 20th of February by a
boy, as stated February 23d. C. also saw a skater-
insect on the 7th, and a single blackbird flying over
Cassandra Ponds, which he thought a grackle.
A true spring day, not a cloud in the sky. The earth
shines, its icy armor reflecting the sun, and the rills
of melting snow in the ruts shine, too, and water, where
exposed in the right light on the river, is a remarkably
living blue, just as the osiers appear brighter. Yet it
is cool and raw and very windy. The ice over the chan-
nel of the river, when not quite melted, is now gener-
ally mackerelled (the water representing the blue por-

tions) with parallel openings, riddling it or leaving a
sort of 'network of ice over it, answering to the ridges
of the waves. You can best observe them from bridges.
In some cases the snow upon the ice, having lain in



28 ,


successive drifts, might also assist or modify this phe-
The rain of yesterday has been filling the meadows
again, flowing up under the dry ice of the winter freshet,
which for the most part rested on the ground, and so
this rise is at first the less observed until it shows itself
beyond the edge of the ice.
At Corner Spring Brook the water reaches up to
the crossing and stands over the ice there, the brook
being open and some space on each side of it. When
I look, from forty or fifty rods off, at the yellowish
water covering the ice about a foot here, it is decidedly
purple (though, when close by and looking down on
it, it is yellowish merely), while the water of the brook-
channel and a rod on each side of it, where there is no
ice beneath, is a beautiful very dark blue. These colors
are very distinct, the line of separation being the edge
of the ice on the bottom, and this apparent juxtaposi-
tion of different kinds of water is a very singular and
pleasing sight. You see a light-purple flood, about the
color of a red grape, and a broad channel of dark-pur-
ple water, as dark as a common blue-purple grape,
sharply distinct across its middle.
I see at Lee's the long, narrow radical leaves of the
Turritis stricta just beginning to push their shoots, -
the most forward-looking plant there.
We cross Fair Haven Pond on the ice, though it is
difficult getting on and off, it being melted about the
edges, as well as "overflowed there.
It is worth while to hear the wind roar in the woods
to-day. It sounds further off than it is.



Came across a stout and handsome woodchopper
with a full dark or black beard, but that on his upper
lip was a distinct sandy color. It was a very pleasing
contrast, suggesting a sympathy with the centre of
light and intelligence nearer to which it grew.

March 10. 6 A. M. To Hill.
I see at near [sic] the stone bridge where the strong
northwest wind of last night broke the thin ice just
formed, and set the irregular triangular pieces on their
edges quite perpendicular and directed northwest and
southeast and pretty close together, about nine inches
high, for half a dozen rods, like a dense fleet of schooners
with their mainsails set.
And already, when near the road, I hear the warble
of my first Concord bluebird, borne to me from the hill
through the still morning air, and, looking up, I see
him plainly, though so far away, a dark speck in the
top of a walnut.
When I reach the Assabet above the Hemlocks, I
hear a loud crashing or brattling sound, and, looking
through the trees, see that it is the thin ice of the night,
half an hour after sunrise, now swiftly borne down
the stream in large fleets and going to wreck against
the thick old ice on each side. This evidently is a
phenomenon of the morning. The river, too, has just
waked up, and, no doubt, a river in midsummer as
well as in winter recognizes the advent of the morn-
ing as much as a man or an animal does. They retire
at night and awake in the morning.
Looking northeast over Hosmer's meadow, I see

1859] SURFACES 31
still the rosy light reflected from the low snow-spits,
alternating with green ice there. Apparently because
the angles of incidence and excidence are equal, there-
fore we see the green in ice at sundown when we look
aslant over the ice, our visual ray making such an angle
with it as the yellow light from the western horizon
does in coming to it.

P. M. To Witherell Vale.
There are some.who never do nor say anything, whose
life merely excites expectation. Their excellence reaches
no further than a gesture or mode of carrying them-
selves. They are a sash dangling from the waist, or
a sculptured war-club over the shoulder. They are
like fine-edged tools gradually becoming rusty in a
shop-window. I like as well, if not better, to see a piece
of iron or steel, out of which many such tools will be
made, or the bush-whack in a man's hand.'
When I meet gentlemen and ladies, I am reminded of
the extent of the inhabitable and uninhabitable globe;
I exclaim to myself, Surfaces! surfaces! If the outside
of a man is so variegated and extensive, what must
the inside be? You are high up the Platte River, tra-
versing deserts, plains covered with soda, with no deeper
hollow than a prairie-dog hole tenanted also by owls
and venomous snakes.
As I look toward the woods (from Wood's Bridge),
I perceive the spring in the softened air.2 This is to me
the most interesting and affecting phenomenon of the
season as yet. Apparently in consequence of the very
1 [Channing, p. 330.] 2 Vide April 15.

warm sun, this still and clear day, falling on the earth
four fifths covered with snow and ice, there is an almost
invisible vapor held in suspension, which is like a thin
coat or enamel applied to every object, and especially
it gives to the woods, of pine and oak intermingled, a
softened and more living appearance. They evidently
stand in a more genial atmosphere than before. Look-
ing more low, I see that shimmering in the air over
the earth which betrays the evaporation going on.
Looking through this transparent vapor, all surfaces,
not osiers and open waters alone, look more vivid.
The hardness of winter is relaxed.
There is a fine effluence surrounding the wood, as
if the sap had begun to stir and you could detect it a
mile off. Such is the difference between an object seen
through a warm, moist, and soft air and a cold, dry,
hard one. Such is the genialness of nature that the
trees appear to have put out feelers by which our
senses apprehend them more tenderly. I do not know
that the woods are ever more beautiful, or affect me
I feel it to be a greater success as a lecturer to affect
uncultivated natures than to affect the most refined,
for all cultivation is necessarily superficial, and its
roots may not even be directed toward the centre of the
Rivers, too, like the walker, unbutton their icy coats,
and we see the dark bosoms of their channels in the
midst of the ice. Again, in pools of melted snow, or
where the river has risen, I look into clear, placid water,
and see the russet grassy bottom in the sun.




Look up or down the open channel now, so smooth,
like a hibernating animal that has ventured to come out
to the mouth of its burrow. One way, perhaps, it is
like melted silver alloyed with copper. It goes nibbling
off the edge of the thick ice on each side. Here and
there I see a musquash sitting in the sun on the edge
of the ice, eating a clam, and the clamshells it has left
are strewn along the edge. Ever and anon he. drops
into the liquid mirror, and soon reappears with another
clam. This clear, placid, silvery water is evidently a phe-
nomenon of spring. Winter could not show us this.
A broad channel of water separates the dry land
from theice, and the musquash-hunter finds it hard to
reach the game he has shot on the ice.
Fine red-stemmed mosses have begun to push and
bud on Clamshell bank, growing in the Indian ashes
where surface taken off. Carpenter says, "The first
green crust upon the cinders with which the surface
of Ascension Island was covered, consisted of minute
We sit in the sun on the side of Money-Diggers' Hill,
amid the crimson low blueberry shoots and the withered
Andropogon scoparius and the still erect Solidago arguta
(var. the common) and the tall stubble thickly hung
with fresh gleaming cobwebs. There are some grayish
moths out, etc.; some gnats.
I see the bridge far away over the ice resting on its
black piers above the ice which is lifted around it. It
is short-legged now. This level or horizontal line rest-
ing on perpendicular black ones is always an interest-
ing sight to me.

As we sit in this wonderful air, many sounds that
of woodchopping, for one come to our ears agree-
ably blunted or muffled, even like the drumming of a
partridge, not sharp and rending as in winter and re-
cently. If a partridge should drum in winter, prob-
ably it would not reverberate so softly through the
wood and sound indefinitely far. Our voices, even,
sound differently and betray the spring. We speak as
in a house, in a warm apartment still, with relaxed
muscles and softened voices. The voice, like a wood-
chuck in his burrow, is met and lapped in and en-
couraged by all genial and sunny influences. There
may be heard now, perhaps, under south hillsides and
the south sides of houses, a slight murmur of conver-
sation, as of insects, out of doors.
These earliest spring days are peculiarly pleasant.
We shall have no more of them for a year. I am apt
to forget that we may have raw and blustering days
a month hence. The combination of this delicious air,
which you do not want to be warmer or softer, with
the presence of ice and snow, you sitting on the bare
russet portions, the south hillsides, of the earth, this
is the charm of these days. It is the summer begin-
ning to show itself like an old friend in the midst of
winter. You ramble from one drier russet patch to
another. These are your stages. You have the air
and sun of summer, over snow and ice, and in some
places even the rustling of dry leaves under your feet,
as in Indian-summer days.
The bluebird on the apple tree, warbling so inno-
cently to inquire if any of its mates are within call, -



[MAncH 10


the angel of the spring! Fair and innocent, yet the off-
spring of the earth. The color of the sky above and
of the subsoil beneath. Suggesting what sweet and
innocent melody (terrestrial melody) may have its
birthplace between the sky and the ground.
Two frogs (may have been Rana fontinalis; did
not see them) jumped into Hosmer's grassy ditch.
See in one place a small swarm of insects flying
or gyrating, dancing like large tipulidae. The dance
within the compass of a foot always above a piece
of snow of the same size in the midst of bare
The most ornamental tree I have seen this spring
was the willow full of catkins now showing most of
their down, in front of Puffer's house.

March 11. 6 A. M. By riverside I hear the song
of many song sparrows, the most of a song of any yet.
And on the swamp white oak top by the stone bridge,
I see and hear a red-wing. It sings almost steadily on
its perch there, sitting all alone, as if to attract com-
panions (and I see two more, also solitary, on different
tree-tops within a quarter of a mile), calling the river
to life and tempting ice to melt and trickle like its
own sprayey notes. Another flies over on high, with
a tchuck and at length a clear whistle. The birds an-
ticipate the spring; they come to melt the ice with their
But methinks the sound of the woodpecker tapping
is as much a spring note as any these mornings; it
echoes peculiarly in the air of a spring morning.


P. M. To Hunt house.
I go to get one more sight of the old house which
Hosmer is pulling down, but I am too late to see much
of it. The chimney is gone and little more than the
oblong square frame stands. E. Hosmer and Nathan
Hosmer are employed taking it down. The latter draws
all the nails, however crooked, and puts them in his
pockets, for, being wrought ones, he says it is worth
the while.
It appears plainly, now that the frame is laid bare,

that the eastern two-thirds of the main house is older
than the western third, for you can see where the west
part has been added on, at the line A B. All the joists
in the old part are hewn; in the newer, sawn. But
very extensive repairs had been made in the old part,
probably at the same time with the addition. Also the
back part had been added on to the new part, merely

h4-b^- -/^*

that the eastern two-thirds of the main house is older
than the western third, for you can see where the west
part has been added on, at the line A B. All the joists
in the old part are hewn; in the newer, sawn. But
very extensive repairs had been made in the old part,
probably at the same time with the addition. Also the
back part had been added on to the new part, merely





butted on at one side without tenant or mortise. The
peculiar cedar laths were confined to the old part. The
whole has oak sills and pine timbers. The two Hos-
mers were confident that the chimney was built at the
same time with the new part, because, though there
were flues in it from the new part, there was no break
in the courses of brick about them. On the chimney
was the date 1703 (?),- I think that was it, and
if this was the date of the chimney, it would appear
that the old part belonged to the Winthrops, and it
may go back to near the settlement of the town.
The laths long and slender of white cedar split. In
the old part the ends of the timbers were not merely
mortised into the posts, but rested on a shoulder
thus: The fireplace measures
twelve feet wide by three deep
by four and a half high. The
mantel- tree is log, fourteen feet
long and some fifteen to sixteen
inches square at the ends, but
one half cut away diagonally between the ends,
and now charred. It would take three men to :
handle it easily. The timbers of the old part had
been cased and the joists plastered over at some time, and,
now that they were uncovered, you saw many old memo-
randums and scores in chalk on them, as May ye 4th,"
"Ephraim Brown," 0-3s-4d," oxen f"
- so they kept their score or tally,
-such as the butcher and baker sometimes make.
Perhaps the occupant had let his neighbor have the
use of his oxen so many days. I asked if they had



found any old coins. N. Hosmer answered, Yes, he
had, and showed it me, took it out of his pocket.
It was about as big as a quarter of a dollar, with
"Britain," etc., legible, "Geo II," and date "1742,"
but it was of lead. But there was no manuscript, -
not a copy of verses, only these chalk records of butter
and cheese, oxen and bacon, and a counterfeit coin,
out of the smoky recesses. Very much such relics as
you find in the old rats' nests in which these houses
My mother says that she has been to the charitable
society there. One old jester of the town used to call
it "the chattable society."
Mrs. A. takes on dolefully on account of the solitude
in which she lives, but she gets little consolation. Mrs.
B. says she envies her that retirement. Mrs. A. is aware
that she does, and says it is as if a thirsty man
should envy another the river in which he is drown-
ing. So goes the world. It is either this extreme or
that. Of solitude one gets too much and another not
E. Hosmer says that a man told him that he.had
seen my uncle Charles take a twelve-foot ladder, set
it up straight, and then run up and down the other
side, kicking it from behind him as he went down.
E. H-. told of seeing him often at the tavern toss his
hat to the ceiling, twirling it over, and catch it on his
head every time.
Large flocks of blackbirds to-day in the elm-tops
and other trees. These are the first conspicuous large
1 Vide [pp. 46-48]. [See Excursions, p. 201; Riv. 247.]




flocks of birds. J. Farmer says he saw ducks this morn-
ing and has seen larks some days. Channing saw geese
Find out as soon as possible what are the best things
in your composition, and then shape the rest to fit
them. The former will be the midrib and veins of
the leaf.
There is always some accident in the best things,
whether thoughts or expressions or deeds. The mem-
orable thought, the happy expression, the admirable
deed are only partly ours. The thought came to us
because we were in a fit mood; also we were uncon-
scious and did not know that we had said or done a
good thing. We must walk consciously only part
way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our
success. What we do best or most perfectly is what
we have most thoroughly learned by the longest prac-
tice, and at length it falls from us without our notice,
as a leaf from a tree. It is the last time we shall do it,
our unconscious leavings.

March 12. Saturday. P. M.--Walk in rain to Min-
isterial Swamp.
Going up the railroad in this rain, with a south wind,
I see a pretty thick low fog extending across the rail-
road only against Dennis's Swamp. There being much
more ice and snow within the swamp, the vapor is con-
densed and is blown northward over the railroad. I
see these local fogs with always the same origin, i. e.,
large masses of snow or ice, in swamps or woods, per-
haps the north sides of hills, in several places after-

ward. The air is warm. As often as we came to a par-
ticularly icy or snowy place, as Harrington's road in
woods, we found ourselves in a fog.
It is a regular spring rain, such as I remember walk-
ing in, windy but warm. It alternately rains hard
and then holds up a little. A similar alternation we
see in the waves of water and all undulating surfaces,
- in snow and sand and the clouds (the mackerel
sky). Now you walk in a comparative lull, anticipat-
ing fair weather, with but a slight drizzling, and anon
the wind blows and the rain drives down harder than
ever. In one of these lulls, as I passed the Joe Hosmer
(rough-cast) house, I thought I never saw any bank
so handsome as the russet hillside behind it. It is a
very barren, exhausted soil, where the cladonia lichens
abound, and the lower side is a flowing sand, but this
russet grass with its weeds, being saturated with mois-
ture, was in this light the richest brown, methought,
that I ever saw. There was the pale brown of the
grass, red browns of some weeds (sarothra and pinweed
probably), dark browns of huckleberry and sweet-fern
stems, and the very visible green of the cladonias thirty
rods off, and the rich brown fringes where the broken
sod hung over the edge of the sand-bank. I did not
see the browns of withered vegetation so rich last fall,
and methinks these terrestrial lichens were never more
fair and prominent. On some knolls these vivid and
rampant lichens as it were dwarf the oaks. A pecul-
iar and unaccountable light seemed to fall on that
bank or hillside, though it was thick storm all around.
A sort of Newfoundland sun seemed to be shining on




it. It was such a light that you looked around for the
sun that might be shining on it. Both the common
largest and the very smallest hypericums (Sarothra) and
the pinweeds were very rich browns at a little distance,
coloring whole fields, and also withered and fallen ferns,
reeking wet. It was a prospect to excite a reindeer.
These tints of brown were as softly and richly fair
and sufficing as the most brilliant autumnal tints.' In
fair and dry weather these spots may be common-
place, but now they are worthy to tempt the painter's
brush. The picture should be the side of a barren
lichen-clad hill with a flowing sand-bank beneath, a
few blackish huckleberry bushes here and there, and
bright white patches of snow here and there in the ra-
vines, the hill running east and west and seen through
the storm from a point twenty or thirty rods south.
This kind of light, the air being full of rain and all
vegetation dripping with it, brings out the browns
I notice now particularly the sallows by the railroad,
full of dark cones, as a fruit. The broad radical leaves
of (apparently) water dock are very fresh and con-
See two ducks flying over Ministerial Swamp.
In one place in the meadow southeast of Tarbell's,
I find on the ice, about a couple of holes an inch across
where a little stubble shows itself, a great many small
ants dead, shy a thousand. They are strewn about
the holes for six or eight inches, and are collected in a
dense heap about the base of the stubble. I take up
1 [Channing, p. 294.] 2 Vide [p. 45].

a mass of them on my knife, each one entire, but now,
of course, all wet and adhering together. It looks as
if they had been tempted out by the warmth of the
sun and had been frozen or drowned; or is it possible
that they were killed by the frost last fall and now
washed up through the ice ? I think, from their position
around the base of the stubble in that little hole in the
ice, that they came out of the earth and clustered there
since the ice melted to that extent. There are many
other insects and worms and caterpillars (and espe-
cially spiders, dead) on the ice, there as well as else-
I perceive that a freshet which washes the earth bare
in the winter and causes a great flow of water over it
in that state when it is not soaked up -must de-
stroy a great many insects and worms. I find a great
many that appear to have been drowned rather than
frozen. May not this have tempted the bluebirds on
early this year?

March 13. 7 A. M. F. hyemalis in yard.
Going down railroad, listening intentionally, I hear,
far through the notes of song sparrows (which are
very numerous), the song of one or two larks. Also
hearing a coarse chuck, I look up and see four black-
birds, whose size and long tails betray them crow
blackbirds.1 Also I hear, I am pretty sure, the cackle
of a pigeon woodpecker.
The bright catkins of the willow are the springing
most generally observed.
S[Two interrogation-points in pencil here.]





P. M. To Great Fields.
Water rising still. Winter-freshet ice on meadows
still more lifted up and partly broken in some places.
The broad light artery of the river (and some meadows,
too) very fair in the distance from Peter's.
Talking with Garfield to-day about his trapping,
he said that mink brought three dollars and a quarter,
a remarkably high price, and asked if I had seen any.
I said that I commonly saw two or three in a year. He
said that he had not seen one alive for eight or ten
years. "But you trap them?" "0 yes," he said. "I
catch thirty or forty dollars' worth every winter." This
suggests how little a trapper may see of his game. Gar-
field caught a skunk Jately.
In some meadows I see a great many dead spiders'
on the ice, where apparently it has been overflowed -
or rather it was the heavy rain, methinks when they
had no retreat.
Hear a ground squirrel's sharp chirrup, which makes
you start, it is so sudden; but he is probably earthed
again, for I do not see him.
On the northeast part of the Great Fields, I find the
broken shell of a Cistudo Blandingii, on very dry soil.
This is the fifth, then, I have seen in the town. All the
rest were three in the Great Meadows (one of them
in a ditch) and one within a rod or two of Beck Stow's
It is remarkable that the spots where I find most
arrowheads, etc., being light, dry soil, as the Great
Fields, Clamshell Hill, etc., are among the first to
be bare of snow, and the frost gets out there first. It



is very curiously and particularly true, for the only
parts of the northeast section of the Great Fields which
are so dry that I do not slump there are those small
in area, where perfectly bare patches of sand occur, and
there, singularly enough, the arrowheads are particu-
larly common. Indeed, in some cases I find them only
on such bare spots a rod or two in extent where a sin-
gle wigwam might have stood, and not half a dozen
rods off in any direction. Yet the difference of level
may not be more than a foot, if there is any. It is
as if the Indians had selected precisely the driest spots
on the whole plain, with a view to their advantage at
this season. If you were going to pitch a tent to-night
on the Great Fields, you would inevitably pitch on
one of these spots, or else lie down in water or mud
or on ice. It is as if they had chosen the site of their
wigwams at this very season of the year.
I see a small flock of blackbirds flying over, some
rising, others falling, yet all advancing together, one
flock but many birds, some silent, others tchucking,
--incessant alternation. This harmonious movement
as in a dance, this agreeing to differ, makes the charm
of the spectacle to me. One bird looks fractional, naked,
like a single thread or ravelling from the web to which
it belongs. Alternation! Alternation! Heaven and
hell! Here again in the flight of a bird, its ricochet mo-
tion, is that undulation observed in so many materials,
as in the mackerel sky.
If men were to be destroyed and the books they have
written [were to] be transmitted to a new race of crea-
tures, in a new world, what kind of record would be





found in them of so remarkable a phenomenon as the
rainbow ?
I cannot easily forget the beauty of those terrestrial
browns in the rain yesterday. The withered grass was
not of that very pale hoary brown that it is to-day, now
that it is dry and lifeless, but, being perfectly saturated
and dripping with the rain, the whole hillside seemed
to reflect a certain yellowish light, so that you looked
around for the sun in the midst of the storm. All the
yellow and red and leather-color in the fawn-colored
weeds was more intense than at any other season. The
withered ferns which fell last fall pinweeds, saro-
thra, etc. were actually a glowing brown for the
same reason, being all dripping wet. The cladonias
crowning the knolls had visibly expanded and erected
themselves, though seen twenty rods off, and the knolls
appeared swelling and bursting as with yeast. All these
hues of brown were most beautifully blended, so that
the earth appeared covered with the softest and most
harmoniously spotted and tinted tawny fur coat of any
animal. The very bare sand slopes, with only here
and there a thin crusting of mosses, was [sic] a richer
color than ever it is.
In short, in these early spring rains, the withered
herbage, thus saturated, and reflecting its brightest
withered tint, seems in a certain degree to have revived,
and sympathizes with the fresh greenish or yellowish
or brownish lichens in its midst, which also seem to
have withered. It seemed to me and I think it may
be the truth that the abundant moisture, bringing
out the highest color in the brown surface of the earth,


generated a certain degree of light, which, when the
rain held up a little, reminded you of the sun shining
through a thick mist.
Oak leaves which have sunk deep into the ice now
are seen to be handsomely spotted with black (of fungi
or lichens ?), which spots are rarely perceived in dry
All that vegetable life which loves a superfluity of
moisture is now rampant, cold though it is, compared
with summer. Radical leaves are as bright as ever
they are.
The barrenest surfaces, perhaps, are the most in-
teresting in such weather as yesterday, when the most
terrene colors are seen. The wet earth and sand, and
especially subsoil, are very invigorating sights.
The Hunt house, to draw from memory, though
I have given its measures within two years in my Jour-
nal, looked like this: -

This is only generally correct, without a scale.
Probably grackles have been seen some days. I
think I saw them on the 11th? Garfield says he saw
black ducks yesterday.





March 14. P. M. To Hunt house.
I thought from the above drawing that the original
door must have been in the middle of the old part and
not at one end, and that I should detect it in the man-
ner in which the studs were set in. I really did so
and found some other traces of the old door (where I
have dotted it) when I got there. Some of the chalk-
marks which have been preserved under the casing
of the timbers so long have been completely washed
off in yesterday's rain, as the frame stood bare. Also
read in chalk on a chamber floor joist (which had
been plastered over beneath) "enfine Brown," so
many s. and d., and what most read for "Feb 1666,"
but, being written over a rough knot, it is doubtful.
"Hides 3."
Saw E. Hosmer take up the cellar stairs. They are
of white oak, in form like one
Half of a
S' squared
S- white
oak log
sawed diagonally. These lie flat
on their broadest sides on the slanting earth, resting
near each end on a horse, which is a white oak stick with
the bark on, hewed on the upper side and sunk in the
earth, and they are fastened to this by two pins of wood
placed as I have indicated.
I judge by my eye that the house is fifteen feet high
to the eaves. The posts are remarkably sawn and
hewn away on account of the projection of the upper
story, so that they are more than twice as large above



as below, thus: the corner posts being cut on two
sides or more than half away (six inches off them)
below the sec- ond story. The chimney was laid
in clay. "T. B." were perhaps the initials of
Thomas Brown; also "I. [ ? ] H. D."
The cowslip in pitcher has fairly blossomed to-day.
I see a large flock of grackles searching for food
along the water's edge, just below Dr. Bartlett's. Some
wade in the water. They are within a dozen rods of
me and the road. It must be something just washed
up that they are searching for, for the water has just
risen and is still rising fast. Is it not insects and worms
washed out of the grass ? and perhaps the snails ?
When a grackle sings, it is as if his mouth were
full of cotton, which he was trying to spit out.
The river is still rising. It is open [ ?]and generally
over the meadows. The meadow ice is rapidly break.-
ing up. Great cakes half a dozen rods long are drifted
down against the bridges. There is a strong current
on the meadow, not only north along the causeway,
but south along the north end of the causeway, the
water thus rushing both ways toward the only outlet
at the bridge. This is proved by great cakes of ice float-
ing swiftly along parallel with the causeway, but in
opposite directions, to meet at the bridge. They are
there soon broken up by the current after they strike
the abutments. I see a large cake eight feet wide and
ten inches thick, just broken off, carried under, the
bridge in a vertical position and wholly under water,
such is the pressure there. This shows to what an ex-
tent the causeways and bridges act as dams to the flood.





March 15. Rainy day and southerly wind.
I come home in the evening through a very heavy
rain after two brilliant rainbows at sunset, the first of
the year.

March 16. 6 A. M. The water is just over the
slanting iron truss, four feet from its east end, and still
P. M. Launch my boat and sail to Ball's Hill.
It is fine clear weather and a strong northwest wind.
What a change since yesterday! Last night I came
home through as incessant heavy rain as I have been
out in for many years, through the muddiest and wettest
of streets, still partly covered with ice, and the rain-
water stood over shoes in many places on the sidewalks.
I heard of several who went astray in this water and
had adventures in the dark. You require india-rubber
boots then. But to-day I see the children playing at
hop-scotch on those very sidewalks, with a bed marked
in the dry sand. So rapid are the changes of weather
with us, and so porous our soil.
With a strong wind we sail over the Red Bridge road.
The water is falling over the lower side of the road as
over a dam. For the road really operates as a dam,
the water being much lower on the east side.
A new phase of the spring is presented; a new sea-
son has come. By the soaking rain and the wind of
yesterday especially, the remaining snow and ice has
been almost entirely swept away, and the ice has been
broken, floated off, and melted, and much frost taken
out of the ground; and now, as we glide over the Great


Meadows before this strong wind, we no longer see
dripping, saturated russet and brown banks through
rain, hearing at intervals the alarm notes of the early
robins, banks which reflect a yellowish light, -
but we see the bare and now pale-brown and dry russet
hills. The earth has cast off her white coat and come
forth in her clean-washed sober russet early spring
dress. As we look over the lively, tossing blue waves
for a mile or more eastward and northward, our eyes
fall on these shining russet hills, and Ball's Hill appears
in this strong light at the verge of this undulating blue
plain, like some glorious newly created island of the
spring, just sprung up from the bottom in the midst of
the blue waters. The fawn-colored oak leaves, with a
few pines intermixed, thickly covering the hill, look
not like a withered vegetation, but an ethereal kind,
just expanded and peculiarly adapted to the season
and the sky.
Look toward the sun, the water is yellow, as water
in which the earth has just washed itself clean of. its
winter impurities; look from the sun and it is a beautiful
dark blue; but in each direction the crests of the waves
are white, and you cannot sail or row over this watery
wilderness without sharing the excitement of this ele-
ment. Our sail draws so strongly that we cut through
the great waves without feeling them. And all around,
half a mile or a mile distant, looking over this blue
foreground, I see the bare and peculiarly neat, clean-
washed, and bright russet hills reflecting the bright
light (after the storm of yesterday) from an infinite
number of dry blades of withered grass. The russet





surfaces have now, as it were, a combed look, -
combed by the rain. And the leather-color of withered
oak leaves covering Ball's Hill, seen a mile or two off
in the strong light, with a few pines intermixed, as if it
were an island rising out of this blue sea in the horizon.
This sight affects me as if it were visible at this season
only. What with the clear air and the blue water and
the sight of the pure dry withered leaves, that distant
hill affects me as something altogether ethereal.
After a day of soaking rain, concluded with a double
rainbow the evening before, not to mention the rain
of the evening, go out into the sparkling spring air,
embark on the flood of melted snow and of rain gathered
from all hillsides, with a northwest wind in which you
often find it hard to stand up straight, and toss upon
a sea of which one half is liquid clay, the other liquid
indigo, and look round on an earth dressed in a home-
spun of pale sheeny brown and leather-color. Such
are the blessed and fairy isles we sail to!
We meet one great gull beating.up the course of the
river against the wind, at Flint's Bridge. (One says
they were seen about a week ago, but there was very
little water then.) Its is a very leisurely sort of limp-
ing flight, tacking its way along like a sailing vessel,
yet the slow security with which it advances suggests
a leisurely contemplativeness in the bird, as if it were
working out some problem quite at its leisure. As
often as its very narrow, long, and curved wings are
lifted up against the light, I see a very narrow distinct
light edging to the wing where it is thin. Its black-
tipped wings. Afterwards, from Ball's Hill, looking



north, I see two more circling about looking for food
over the ice and water.
There is an unexpected quantity of ice in that direc-
tion, not on the channel, but the meadows east of it,
all the way from Ball's Hill to Carlisle Bridge, -
large masses, which have drifted from the channel
and from above, for there the wind has blown more
directly across the river. These great masses have been
driven and wedged one against another, and ground
up on the edges. This first sight of the bare tawny and
russet earth, seen afar, perhaps, over the meadow
flood in the spring, affects me as the first glimpse of
land, his native land, does the voyager who has not
seen it a long time. But in a week or two we get used
to it.
I look down over Tarbell's Bay, just north of Ball's
Hill. Not only meadows but potato and rye fields are
buried deep, and you see there, sheltered by the hills
on the northwest, a placid blue bay having the russet
hills for shores. This' kind of bay, or lake, made by
the freshet- these deep and narrow fiords" -can only
be seen along such a stream as this, liable to an annual
freshet. The water rests as gently as a dewdrop on a
leaf, laving its tender temporary shores. It has no
strand, leaves no permanent water-mark, but though
you look at it a quarter of a mile off, you know that
the rising flood is gently overflowing a myriad withered
green blades there in succession. There is the magic
of lakes that come and go. The lake or bay is not an
institution, but a phenomenon. You plainly see that
it is so much water poured into the hollows of the earth




March 17. 6.30 A. M. River risen still higher. It
is seven and a half inches below the highest part of
the truss and about fifteen and a half inches below the
middle of the lower stone step of the railroad. It is not
quite over Wood's road.
I hear a robin fairly singing.
A great many musquash have been killed within a
week. One says a cartload have been killed in Assa-
bet. Perhaps a dozen gunners have been out in this
town every day. They get a shilling apiece for their
skins. One man getting musquash and one mink
earned five or six dollars the other day. I hear their
guns early and late long before sunrise and after sun-
set, for those are the best times.
P. M. To Flint's Bridge by water.
The water is very high, and smooth as ever it is. It
is very warm. I wear but one coat on the water. The
town and the land it is built on seem to rise but little
above the flood. This bright smooth and level sur-
face seems here the prevailing element, as if the dis-
tant town were an island. I realize how water pre-
dominates on the surface of the globe. I am surprised
to see new and unexpected water-lines, drawn by the
level edge of the flood about knolls in the meadows
and in the woods, waving lines, rarely if ever recog-
nized or thought of by the walker or any, which mark
the boundary of a possible or probable freshet any
spring.' Even if the highest water-mark were indi-
cated at one point, the surveyor could not, with any
labor short of infinite, draw these lines for us which
1 [Channing, pp. 294, 295.]




wind about every elevation of earth or rock. Yet,
though this slight difference of level which the water
so simply and effectually points out, is so unobservable
by us ordinarily, no doubt Nature never forgets it for
a moment, but plants grow and insects, etc., breed in
conformity to it. Many a kingdom of nature has its
boundaries parallel with this waving line. By these
freshets, the relation of some field, usually far from
the stream, to future or past deluge is suggested. I
am surprised and amused, at least, to walk in such a
field and observe the nice distinctions which the great
water-level makes there. So plants and animals and
thoughts have their commonly unseen shores, and
many portions of the earth are, with reference to
them, islands or peninsulas or capes, shores or moun-
We are stiff and set in our geography because the
level of water is comparatively, or within short periods,
unchangeable. We look only in the sea for islands and
continents and their varieties. But there are more
subtle and invisible and fluctuating floods which island
this or that part of the earth whose geography has
never been mapped. For instance, here is Manta-
tuket Rock, commonly a rocky peninsula with a low
or swampy neck and all covered with wood. It is
now a small rocky island, and not only the swampy
neck but a considerable portion of the upland is blotted
out by the flood, covered and concealed under water;
and what surprises me is that the water should so in-
stantly know and select its own shore on the upland,
though I could not have told with my eye whether it




would be thirty feet this way or as many that. A dis-
tinction is made for me by the water in this case which
I had never thought of, revealing the relation of this
surface to the flood ordinarily far from it, and which
I now begin to perceive that every tree and shrub
and herbaceous plant growing there knew, if I did
How different to-day from yesterday! Yesterday
was a cool, bright day, the earth just washed bare by
the rain, and a strong northwest wind raised respect-
able billows on our vernal seas and imparted remark-
able life and spirit to the scene. To-day it is perfectly
still and warm. Not a ripple disturbs the surface of
these lakes, but every insect, every small black beetle
struggling on it, is betrayed; but, seen through this air,
though many might not notice the difference, the russet
surface of the earth does not shine, is not bright. I see
no shining russet islands with dry but flushing oak
leaves. The air is comparatively dead when I attend
to it, and it is as if there were the veil of h fine mist
over all objects, dulling their edges. Yet this would be
called a clear day. These aerial differences in the days
are not commonly appreciated, though they affect our
When I am opposite the end of the willow-row, see-
ing the osiers of perhaps two years old all in a mass,
they are seen to be very distinctly yellowish beneath
and scarlet above. They are fifty rods off. Here is the
same chemistry that colors the leaf or fruit, coloring
the bark. It is generally, probably always, the upper
part of the twig, the more recent growth, that is the

higher-colored and more flower or fruit like. So leaves
are more ethereal the higher up and further from the
root. In the bark of the twigs, indeed, is the more per-
manent flower or fruit. The flower falls in spring or
summer, the fruit and leaves fall or wither in autumn,
but the blushing twigs retain their color throughout
the winter and appear more brilliant than ever the
succeeding spring. They are winter fruit. It adds
greatly to the pleasure of late November, of winter, or
of early spring walks to look into these mazes of twigs
of different colors.
As I float by the Rock, I hear rustling amid the oak
leaves above that new water-line, and, there being no
wind, I know it to be a striped squirrel, and soon see
its long-unseen striped sides flirting about the instep
of an oak. Its lateral stripes, alternate black and yel-
lowish, are a type which I have not seen for a long time,
or rather a punctuation-mark, the character to indi-
cate where a new paragraph commences in the revo-
lution of thte seasons. Double lines.
I find by measurement that there is from two to
three inches fall in the middle between the piers of
Flint's Bridge, on the two sides of the bridge, suppos-
ing the planking to be level; but there is much more
close to the abutments, for the water is very conspicu-
ously heaped up in the middle in each case, or between
each two piers, thus:-

-d ^--~I





If you look from
above, it is somewhat
If I land now on :j I
any knoll which is left -
dry above the flood, an island in the meadow, and its
surface is broken, I am pretty sure to find Indian relies.
They pitched their wigwams on these highest places,
near water.
I was speaking yesterday of the peculiarity of our
meadow-bays in time of flood, a shore where there
are no shore-marks; for in time trees, rocks, etc., ar-
range themselves parallel with the water's edge, and
the water by its washing makes for itself a strand,
washing out the soil from the bank and leaving the
sand and stones, and paths of animals and men con-
form to the permanent shore, but in this case all is
abrupt and surprising. Rocky islands covered with
green lichens and with polypody half submerged rise
directly from the water, and trees stand up to their
middles in it. Any eye would perceive that a rock cov-
ered with green lichens quite down to the water's edge
was something unusual.

March 18. 8 A. M. To stone bridge.
The water has fallen three or four inches. It was
at its height last night, and was then about five inches
below the highest part of the truss. This is quite high
water. But it has now begun to rain, and the river will
probably rise again.
Along the shores you see now much coarse wrack

of green and black pontederia stems which have been
torn up by the ice. The ice and the wrack are also
dotted with cranberries here and there.
What a variety of weather! What a difference in
the days! Three days ago, the 15th, we had steady
rain with a southerly wind, with a clear interval and
a brilliant double rainbow at sunset,- a day when
all the russet banks were dripping, saturated with wet,
and the peep of the robin was heard through the driz-
zle and the rain. In the evening it rained again much
harder than before. The next day it was clear and
cool, with a strong northwest wind, and the flood still
higher on the meadows; the dry russet earth and
leather-colored oak reflected a flashing light from
far; the tossing blue waves with white crests excited
the beholder and the sailer. In short, the tables were
completely turned; snow and ice were for the most
part washed and blown away from both land and water.
Yesterday it was very warm, without perceptible wind,
with a comparatively lifeless [air], yet such as invalids
like, with no flashing surfaces, but, as it were, an in-
visible mist sobering down every surface; and the water,
still higher than before, was perfectly smooth all day.
This was a weather-breeder. To-day comes a still,
steady rain again, with warm weather and a southerly
wind, which threatens to raise the river still higher,
though it had begun to fall.'
One would say that frost in the ground, though it
may be melted for several inches (as now), bred rain,
if, indeed, its evaporations do not create it. Expect
I Vide [p. 65].



rain after rain till the frost is completely out. The
melted frost, rising in the form of vapor, returns, per-
haps, in rain to liberate its kind still imprisoned in the
Consider how I discovered where the Winthrop
family in this town placed their front door some two
hundred years ago, without any verbal or written or
ocular evidence. I first suspected [?] and then verified
it. I, with others, saw by the frame of the old Hunt
house that an addition had been made to its west end
in 1703. This brought the front door, which was in
the middle of the present, near one end of the original
or Winthrop house. I, sitting at home, said to myself,
having an occult sympathy with the Winthrops of that
date, "The front, door must originally have been in
the middle of the old house, for symmetry and con-
venience required it, and if it was, I shall find traces
of it; I shall find there where studs have been set into
the frame in a different manner from the rest." I went
to the house and looked where the door should have
been, and I found precisely the evidence I sought, and,
beside, where the timber above had been cut out just
the width of the door. Indeed, if I had found no traces
of the old door, I should have known that the present
door was placed where it is after the house was built,
for at this corner of the house the end of the sill chanced
to be nearly round, the stick tapering, and the post was
fitted upon [it] in a remarkable manner, thus:
Oak wood had been thus laboriously fitted
to it, but within three feet of the corner
this sill had been wholly cut away under the

door to make room for it, for they certainly had not
put in a piece of sill only three feet long and of that
form there originally.
Flood, who is saving rails, etc., at the stone bridge,
remarks that old settlers say this stream is highest the
third day after a rain. But of course this depends on
the amount of the rain, the direction and force of the
wind, etc., etc. A southwest wind will take the water
out sooner, and any strong wind will evaporate it fast.
Rice thinks that he has seen two gulls on the Sud-
bury meadows, the white and the gray gulls. He has
often seen a man shoot the large gull from Cambridge
bridge by heading him off, for the gull flies slowly. He
would first run this way, and when the gull turned
aside, run that, till the gull passed right over his head,
when he shot him. Rice saw Fair Haven Pond still
covered with ice, though open along the shore, yester-
day. I frequently see the gulls flying up the course of
the stream, or of the river valley, at least. R. thinks
that the ducks will be seen more numerous, gathering
on our waters, just before a storm, like yesterday's.

March 19. 7 A. m. Fair weather and a very strong
southwest wind, the water not quite so high as day
before yesterday, just about as high as yesterday
morning, notwithstanding yesterday's rain, which
was pretty copious.
P. M. To Tarbell's via J. P. Brown's.
The wind blows very strongly from the southwest,
and, the course of the river being northeast, it must
help the water to run off very much. If it blew with





equal violence from the north, the river would prob-
ably have risen on account of yesterday's rain. On
the northeast sides of the broadest expanses the waves
run very high, quite sea-like, and their tumult is ex-
citing both [to] see and [to] hear. All sorts of lumber is
afloat. Rails, planks, and timber, etc., which the un-
thrifty neglected to secure now change hands. Much
railroad lumber is floated off. While one end rests on
the land, it is the railroad's, but as soon as it is afloat
it is made the property of-him who saves it. I see some
poor neighbors as earnest as the railroad employees
are negligent, to secure it. It blows so hard that you
walk aslant against the wind. Your very beard, if you
wear a full one, is a serious cause of detention. Or if
you are fortunate enough to go before the wind, your
carriage can hardly be said to be natural to you.
A new ravine has begun at Clamshell this spring.
That other, which began with a crack in the frozen
ground, I stood at the head of and looked down and out
through the other day. It not only was itself a new fea-
ture in the landscape, but it gave to the landscape seen
through [it] a new and remarkable character, as does
the Deep Cut on the railroad. It faces the water, and
you look down on the shore and the flooded meadows
between its two sloping sides as between the frame
of a picture. It affected me like the descriptions or
representations of much more stupendous scenery, and
to my eyes the dimensions of this ravine were quite in-
definite, and in that mood I could not have guessed
if it were twenty or fifty feet wide. The landscape has
a strange and picturesque appearance seen through



it, and it is itself no mean feature in it. But a short
time ago I detected here a crack in the frozen ground,
Now I look with delight as it were at a new landscape
through a broad gap in the hill.
Walking afterward on the side of the hill behind
Abel Hosmer's, overlooking the russet interval, the
ground being bare where corn was cultivated last year,
I see that the sandy soil has been washed far down the
hill for its whole length by the recent rains combined
with the melting snow, and it forms on the nearly level
ground at the base very distinct flat yellow sands, with
a convex edge, contrasting with the darker soil there.

Such slopes must lose a great deal of this soil in a sin-
gle spring, and I should think that was a sound rea-
son in many cases for leaving them woodland and never
exposing and breaking the surface. This, plainly, is
one reason why the brows of such hills are commonly
so barren. They lose much more than they gain an-
nually. It is a question whether the farmer will not
lose more by the wash in such cases than he will gain
by manuring.
The meadows are all in commotion. The ducks are
now concealed by the waves, if there are any floating
there. While the sun is behind a cloud, the surface of





the flood is almost uniformly yellowish or blue, but
when the sun comes out from behind the cloud, a
myriad dazzling white crests to the waves are seen. The
wind makes such a din about your ears that conver-
sation is difficult; your words are blown away and
do not strike the ear they were aimed at. If you walk
by the water, the tumult of the waves confuses you.
If you go by a tree or enter the woods, the din is yet
greater. Nevertheless this universal commotion is very
interesting and exciting. The white pines in the hori-
zon, either single trees or whole woods, a mile off in
the southwest or west, are particularly interesting.
You not only see the regular bilateral form of the tree,
all the branches distinct like the frond of a fern or a
feather (for the pine, even at this distance, has not
merely beauty of outline and color, it is not merely
an amorphous and homogeneous or continuous mass
of green, but shows a regular succession of flattish
leafy boughs or stages, in flakes one above another,
like the veins of a leaf or the leafets of a frond; it is
this richness and symmetry of detail which, more than
its outline, charms us), but that fine silvery light re-
flected from its needles (perhaps their under sides)
incessantly in motion. As a tree bends and waves like
a feather in the gale, I see it alternately dark and light,
as the sides of the needles, which reflect the cool sheen,
are alternately withdrawn from and restored to the
proper angle,1 and the light appears to flash upward
from the base of the tree incessantly. In the intervals
of the flash it is often as if the tree were withdrawn
S[Channing, p. 296.]


altogether from sight. I see one large pine wood over
whose whole top these cold electric flashes are inces-
santly passing off harmlessly into the air above. I
thought at first of some fine spray dashed upward, but
it is rather like broad flashes of pale, cold light. Surely
you can never see a pine wood so expressive, so speak-
ing. This reflection of light from the waving crests
of the earth is like the play and flashing of electricity.
No deciduous tree exhibits these fine effects of light.
Literally incessant sheets, not of heat- but cold-
lightning, you would say were flashing there. Seeing
some just over the roof of a house which was far on
this side, I thought at first that it was something like
smoke even though a rare kind of smoke that
went up from the house. In short, you see a play of
light over the whole pine, similar in its cause, but far
grander in its effects, than that seen in a waving field
of grain. Is not this wind an awaking to life and light
[of] the pines after their winter slumber? The wind
is making passes over them, magnetizing and electri-
fying them. Seen at midday, even, it is still the light
of dewy morning alone that is reflected from the needles
of the pine. This is the brightening and awakening of
the pines, a phenomenon perchance connected with the
flow of sap in them. I feel somewhat like the young
Astyanax at sight of his father's flashing crest.' As if
in this wind-storm of March a certain electricity was
passing from heaven to earth through the pines and
calling them to life.
That first general exposure of the russet earth, March
I [Channing, p. 296.]





16th, after the soaking rain of the day before, which
washed off most of the snow and ice, is a remarkable
era in an ordinary spring. The earth casting off her
white mantle and appearing in her homely russet garb.
This russet including the leather-color of oak leaves
- is peculiar and not like the russet of the fall and
winter, for it reflects the spring light or sun, as if there
were a sort of sap in it. When the strong northwest
winds first blow, drying up the superabundant moisture,
the withered grass arid leaves do not present a merely
weather-beaten appearance, but a washed and combed
springlike face. The knolls forming islands in our mead-
owy flood are never more interesting than then. This
is when the earth is, as it were, re-created, raised up to
the sun, which was buried under snow and ice.
To continue the account of the weather [seven] pages
back: To-day it has cleared off to a very strong south-
west wind, which began last evening, after the rain, -
strong as ever blows all day, stronger than the north-
west wind of the 16th and hardly so warm, with flit-
ting wind-clouds only. It differs from the 16th in be-
ing yet drier and barer, the earth, scarcely any
snow or ice to be found, and, such being the direction
of the wind, you can hardly find a place in the after-
noon which is both sunny and sheltered from the wind,
and there is a yet greater commotion in the water.
We are interested in the phenomena of Nature mainly
as children are, or as we are in games of chance. They
are more or less exciting. Our appetite for novelty is
insatiable. We do not attend to ordinary things, though
they are most important, but to extraordinary ones.


While it is only moderately hot or cold, or wet or dry,
nobody attends to it, but when Nature goes to an ex-
treme in any of these directions we are all on the alert
with excitement. Not that we care about the philo-
sophy or the effects of this phenomenon. E. g., when
I went to Boston in the early train the coldest morn-
ing of last winter, two topics mainly occupied the at-
tention of the passengers, Morphy's chess victories
and Nature's victorious cold that morning. The inhab-
itants of various towns were comparing notes, and that
one whose door opened upon a greater degree of cold
than any of his neighbors' doors chuckled not a little.
Almost every one I met asked me almost before our
salutations were over "how the glass stood" at my
house or in my town, the librarian of the college,
the registrar of deeds at Cambridgeport, a total
stranger to me, whose form of inquiry made me think
of another sort of glass, and each rubbed his hands
with pretended horror but real delight if I named a
higher figure than he had yet heard. It was plain that
one object which the cold was given us for was our
amusement, a passing excitement. It would be perfectly
consistent and American to bet on the coldness of our
respective towns, of [sic] the morning that is to come.
Thus a greater degree of cold may be said to warm us
more than a less one. We hear with ill-concealed dis-
gust the figures reported from some localities, where
they never enjoy the luxury of severe cold. This is a
perfectly legitimate amusement, only we should know
that each day is peculiar and has its kindred excite-





In those wet days like the 12th and the 15th when
the browns culminated, the sun being concealed, I was
drawn toward and worshipped the brownish light in
the sod, the withered grass, etc., on barren hills.
I felt as if I could eat the very crust of the earth; I never
felt so terrene, never sympathized so with the surface
of the earth. From whatever source the light and heat
come, thither we look with love.
The newspapers state that a man in Connecticut
lately shot ninety-three musquash in one day.
Melvin says that in skinning a mink you must cut
round the parts containing the musk, else the opera-
tion will be an offensive one; that Wetherbee has
already baited some pigeons (he hears); that he last
year found a hen-hawk's egg in March and thinks that
woodcocks are now laying.

March 20. 7 A. M. River no higher than three
days ago, notwithstanding the rain of two days ago,
the wind being southwest and very strong.
P. M. I see under the east side of the house amid'
the evergreens, where they were sheltered from the
cold northwest wind, quite a parcel of sparrows, chiefly
F. hyemalis, two or three tree sparrows,- and one song
sparrow, quietly feeding together. I watch them through
a window within six or eight feet. They evidently love
to be sheltered from the wind, and at least are not
averse to each other's society. The tree sparrows sing
a little. One perches on a bush to sing, while others
are feeding on the ground, but he is very restless on
his perch, hopping about and stooping as if dodging


those that fly over. He must perch on some bit of stub-
ble or twig to sing. They are evidently picking up the
seeds of weeds which lie on the surface of the ground
invisible to our eyes. They suffer their wings to hang
rather loose. The F. hyemalis is the largest of the three.
They have remarkably distinct light-colored bills, and
when they stretch, show very distinct clear-white
lateral tail-feathers. This stretching seems to be con-
tagious among them, like yawning with us. They
have considerable brown on the quill-feathers. The
tree sparrows are much brighter brown and white than
the song sparrow. The latter alone scratches once
or twice, and is more inclined to hop or creep close to
the ground, under the fallen weeds. Perhaps it de-
serves most to be called the ground-bird.
P. M. Up Assabet. Very strong northwest wind.
When I get opposite the end of the willow-row, the
sun comes out and they are very handsome, like a
rosette, pale-tawny or fawn-colored at base and a rich
yellow or orange yellow in the upper three or four feet.
This is, methinks, the brightest ob-
ject in the landscape these days.
Nothing so betrays the spring sun.
I am aware that the sun has come
out of a cloud first by seeing it lighting up the osiers.
Such a willow-row, cut off within a year or two, might
be called a heliometer, or measure of the sun's bright-
The last year's shoots of many trees-as maples,
both white and red-retain a permanent bright color,
red or scarlet, all winter and spring, till new ones





grow. The top of the forest is thus very agreeably
The river is so high that I leave it at Pinxter Swamp,
and come into it again only at the swift narrow place
above, near the road.

March 21. 6 A. M. The water has fairly begun
to fall. It was at its height the 17th; fell a little two
or three inches the morning of the 18th. On the
18th it rained very considerably all day, which would
ordinarily have raised the river a foot, or perhaps two,
but, the wind being very strong from the southwest, it
only prevented its falling any more until this morning.
It did not probably raise it more than two inches. Of
course, there could not have been much melted snow and
ice to be added to the last rain about the sources of the
river, since they are considerably further south, where
the ground must have been much more bare than here.
A crow blackbird.
P. M. Sail to Fair Haven Pond.
A strong northwest wind. Draw my boat over the
road on a roller. Raising a stone for ballast from the
south side of the railroad causeway, where it is quite
sunny and warm, I find the under sides very densely
covered with little ants, all stirring and evidently ready
to come out, if some have not already. They feel the
heat through the stone on the ground. It blowed very
smartly in gusts, and my boat scud along this way and
that, not minding its helm much, as if it were lifted
partly out of water. I went from point to point as
quickly as you could say "here" and "there."


I see a female marsh hawk sailing and hunting over
Potter's Swamp. I not only see
the white rump hut the very pe-
culiar crescent-shaped curve of
its wings.
Fair Haven Pond is only two thirds open. The east
end is frozen still, and the body of the ice has drifted
in to shore a rod or two, before the northwest wind,
and its edge crumbled against the trees.
I see, on a yellow lily root washed up, leaf-buds grown
five or six inches, or even seven or eight, with the stems.
Everywhere for several days the alder catkins have
dangled long and loose, the most alive apparently of
any tree. They seem to welcome the water which half
covers them. The willow catkins are also very con-
spicuous, in silvery masses rising above the flood.
I see several white pine cones in the path by Wheil-
don's which appear to have fallen in the late strong
winds, but perhaps the ice in the winter took them off.
Others still hold on.
From the evening of March 18th to this, the even-
ing of the 21st, we have had uninterrupted strong
wind, till the evening of the 19th yery strong south-
west wind, then and since northwest, -three days
of strong wind.

March 22. P. M. The wind changes to easterly
and is more raw, i. e. cool and moist, and the air thick-
ens as if it would rain.
Returning from Poplar Hill through the west end
of Sleepy Hollow, it is very still, the air thick, just ready




to rain, and I hear there, on the apple trees and small
oaks, the tree sparrows and hyemalis singing very
pleasantly. I hear the lively jingle of the hyemalis and
the sweet notes of the tree sparrow, canary-like, -
svar svar, svit vit vit vit vit, the last part with increas-
ing rapidity. Both species in considerable numbers,
singing together as they flit along, make a very lively
concert. They sing as loud and full as ever now. There
has been no sweeter warble than this of the tree spar-
row as yet.
It is a peculiarly still hour now, when the first drops
of rain begin to be heard on the dry leaves around me,
and, looking up, I see very high in the air two large
birds, which, at that height, with their narrow wings,
flying southeast, looked, i. e. were shaped, like night-
hawks. I think they were gulls.
The great scarlet oak has now lost almost every leaf,
while the white oak near it still retains them.
C. says he saw fox-colored sparrows this afternoon.

March 23. P. M. Walk to Cardinal Shore and
sail to Well Meadow and Lee's Cliff.
It clears up at 2 P. M.
The Lycoperdon stellatum are numerous and blos-
somed out widely in Potter's Path by Bare Hill, after
the rain of the night.
As we sail upward toward the pond, we scare up
two or three golden-eyes, or whistlers, showing their
large black heads and black backs, and afterward I
watch one swimming not far before us and see the white
spot, amid the black, on the side of his head. I have

now no doubt that I saw some on the 21st flying here,
and it is very likely that Rice saw them here on the
17th, as he says.
The pond may be said to be open to-day. There is,
however, quite a large mass of ice, which has drifted,
since the east wind arose yesterday noon, from the
east side over to the north of the Island. This ice, of
which there may be eight or ten acres, is so very dark,
almost black, that it is hard to discern till you are just
upon it, though some little pieces which we broke off
and left on its edge were very visible for half a mile.
When at the edge of this field of ice, it was a very dark
gray in color, had none of the usual whiteness of ice.
It was about six inches thick, but was most completely
honeycombed. The upper surface was not only thus
dark, dusky, or blackish, but full of little hollows three
to six inches across, and the whole mass undulated
with the waves very much, irregular cracks alternately
opening and closing in it, yet it was well knitted to-
gether.. With my paddle I could depress it six inches
on the edge, and cause it to undulate like a blanket
for a rod or more, and yet it bore us securely when we
stepped out upon it, and it was by no means easy to
break off or detach a piece a foot wide. In short, it was
thoroughly honeycombed and, as it were, saturated
with water. The masses broken off reminded me of
some very decayed and worm-eaten interiors of trees.
Yet the small cakes into which it visibly cracked
when you bent it and made it undulate were knitted
together or dovetailed somewhat like the plates of a
tortoise-shell, and immediately returned to their places.





Though it would bear you, the creaking of one such
part on another was a quite general and considerable
noise, and one detached mass, rubbed in your hand
upon the edge of the field, yielded a singular metallic
or ringing sound, evidently owing to its hollowness or
innumerable perforations. It had a metallic ring. The
moment you raised a mass from the water, it was very
distinctly white and brilliant, the water running out
from it. This was the relic of that great mass which
I saw on the 21st on the east side.
There was a great quantity of bayonet rush, also,
drifted over here and strewn along the shore. This
and the pontederia are the coarsest of the wrack. Now
is the time, then, that it is added to the wrack, prob-
ably being ripped up by the ice. It reminds you of the
collections of seaweed after a storm, this river-weed
after the spring freshets have melted and dispersed the
ice. The ice thus helps essentially to clear the shore.
I am surprised to see one of those sluggish ghost-
horses alive on the ice. It was probably drifted from
the shore by the flood and here lodged.
That dark, uneven ice has a peculiarly coarse-grained
appearance, it is so much decomposed. The pieces
are interlocked by the irregularities of the perpendicu-
lar combing. The under side presents the most con-
tinuous surface, and it is held together chiefly on that
side. One piece rings when struck on another, like a
trowel on a brick, and as we rested against the edge
of this ice, we heard a singular wheezing and grating
sound, which was the creaking of the ice, which was
undulating under the waves and wind.



As we entered Well Meadow, we saw a hen-hawk
perch on the topmost plume of one of the tall pines at
the head of the meadow. Soon another appeared, prob-
ably its mate, but we looked in vain for a nest there.
It was a fine sight, their soaring above our heads, pre-
senting a perfect outline
[ .and, as they came round,
showing their rust-colored
tails with a whitish rump,
or, as they sailed away
from us, that slight teeter-
ing or quivering motion of their dark-tipped wings
seen edgewise, now on this side, now that, by which
they balanced and directed themselves.. These are the
most eagle-like of our common hawks. They very com-
monly perch upon the very topmost plume of a pine,
and, if motionless, are rather hard to distinguish there.
The cowslip and most of the skunk-cabbage there
have been and are still drowned by flood; else we
should find more in bloom. As it is, I see the skunk-
cabbage in bloom, but generally the growth of both
has been completely checked by the water.
While reconnoitring there, we hear the peep of one
hylodes somewhere in this sheltered recess in the woods.
And afterward, on the Lee side, I hear a single croak
from a wood frog.
We cross to Lee's shore and sit upon the bare rocky
ridge overlooking the flood southwest and northeast. It
is quite sunny and sufficiently warm. I see one or two
of the small fuzzy gnats in the air. The prospect thence
is a fine one, especially at this season, when the water





is high. The landscape is very agreeably diversified
with hill and vale and meadow and cliff. As we look
southwest, how attractive the shores of russet capes
and peninsulas laved by the flood! Indeed, that large
tract east of the bridge is now an island. How fair that
low, undulating russet land! At this season and under
these circumstances, the sun just come out and the
flood high around it, russet, so reflecting the light of
the sun, appears to me the most agreeable of colors,
and I begin to dream of a russet fairyland and elysium.
How dark and terrene must be green! but this smooth
russet surface reflects almost all the light. That broad
and low but firm island, with but few trees to conceal
the contour of the ground and its outline, with its fine
russet sward, firm and soft as velvet, reflecting so much
light, all the undulations of the earth, its nerves and
muscles, revealed by the light and shade, and even
the sharper ridgy edge of steep banks where the plow
has heaped up the earth from year to year, this is
a sort of fairyland and elysium to my eye. The tawny
couchant island! Dry land for the Indian's wigwam
in the spring, and still strewn with his arrow-points.
The sight of such land reminds me of the pleasant
spring days in which I have walked over such tracts,
looking for these relics. How well, too, this smooth,
firm, light-reflecting, tawny earth contrasts with the
darker water which surrounds it, -or perchance lighter
sometimes! At this season, when the russet colors pre-
vail, the contrast of water and land is more agreeable
to behold. What an inexpressibly soft curving line is
the shore! Or if the water is perfectly smooth and



yet rising, you seem to see it raised an eighth of an
inch with swelling lip above the immediate shore it
kisses, as in a cup or the of [sic] a saucer. Indian isles
and promontories. Thus we sit on that rock, hear the
first wood frog's croak, and dream of a russet elysium.
Enough for the season is the beauty thereof. Spring
has a beauty of its own which we would not exchange
for that of summer, and at this moment, if I imagine
the fairest earth I can, it is still russet, such is the color
of its blessed isles, and they are surrounded with the
phenomena of spring.
The qualities of the land that are most attractive
to our eyes now are dryness and firmness. It is not the
rich black soil, but warm and sandy hills and plains
which tempt our steps. We love to sit on and walk
over sandy tracts in the spring like cicindelas. These
tongues of russet land tapering and sloping into the
flood do almost speak to one. They are alternately in
sun and shade. When the cloud is passed, and they
reflect their pale-brown light to me, I am tempted to
go to them.
I think I have already noticed within a week how
very agreeably and strongly the green of small pines
contrasts with the russet of a hillside pasture now.
Perhaps there is no color with which green contrasts
more strongly.
I see the shadow of a cloud and it chances to be
a hollow ring with sunlight in its midst passing over
the hilly sprout-land toward the Baker house, a sprout-
land of oaks and birches; and, owing to the color of
the birch twigs, perhaps, this shadow turns all from





russet to a decided dark-purplish color as it moves
along. And then, as I look further along eastward in
the horizon, I am surprised to see strong purple and
violet tinges in the sun, from a hillside a mile off densely
covered with full-grown birches. It is the steep old
corn-field hillside of Jacob Baker's. I would not have
believed that under the spring sun so many colors were
brought out. It is not the willows only that shine, but,
under favorable circumstances, many other twigs,
even a mile or two off. The dense birches, so far that
their white stems are not distinct, reflect deep, strong
purple and violet colors from the distant hillsides op-
posite to the sun. Can this have to do with the sap
flowing in them?
As we sit there, we see coming, swift and straight,
northeast along the river valley, not seeing us and there-
fore not changing his course, a male goosander, so near
that the green reflections of his head and neck are plainly
visible. He looks like a paddle-wheel steamer, so oddly
painted up, black and white and green, and moves
along swift and straight like one. Ere long the same
returns with his mate, the red-throated, the male tak-
ing the lead.
The loud peop (?) of a pigeon woodpecker is heard
in our sea [?], and anon the prolonged loud and shrill
cackle, calling the thin-wooded hillsides and pastures
to life. It is like the note of an alarm-clock set last fall
so as to wake Nature up at exactly this date. Up up up
up up up up up up! What a rustling it seems to make
among the dry leaves!
You can now sit on sunny sheltered sprout-land


hillsides and enjoy the sight and sound of rustling dry
Then I see come slowly flying from the southwest
a great gull, of voracious
"- form, which at length by a
Z- sudden and steep descent
alights in Fair Haven Pond,
scaring up a crow which was seeking its food on the
edge of the ice. This shows that the crows get along the
meadow's edge also what has washed up.
It is suggested that the blue is darkest when reflected
from the most agitated water, because of the .shadow
(occasioned by the inequalities) mingled with it.
Some Indians of the north have but one word for
blue and black, and blue is with us considered the
darkest color, though it is the color of the sky or air.
Light, I should say, was white; the absence of it, black.
Hold up to the light a perfectly opaque body and you
get black, but hold up to it the least opaque body, such
as air, and you get blue. Hence you may say that blue
is light seen through a veil.

March 24. P. M. Down railroad.
Southeast wind. Begins to sprinkle while I am sit-
ting, in Laurel Glen, listening to hear the earliest wood
frogs croaking. I think they get under weigh a little
earlier, i. e., you will hear many of them sooner than
you will hear many hylodes. Now, when the leaves get
to be dry and rustle under your feet, dried by the March
winds, the peculiar dry note, wurrk wurrk wur-r-r-k
wurk of the wood frog is heard faintly by ears on the




alert, borne up from some unseen pool in a wood-
land hollow which is open to the influences of the sun.
It is a singular sound for awakening Nature to make,
associated with the first warmer days, when you sit
in some sheltered place in the woods amid the dried
leaves. How moderate on her first awakening, how
little demonstrative You may sit half an hour before
you will hear another. You doubt if the season will
be long enough for such Oriental and luxurious slow-
ness. But they get on, nevertheless, and by to-morrow,
or in a day or two, they croak louder and more fre-
quently. Can you ever be sure that you have heard
the very first wood frog in the township croak? Ah!
how weather-wise must he be! There is no guessing
at the weather with him. He makes the weather in his
degree; he encourages it to be mild. The weather,
what is it but the temperament of the earth? and he
is wholly of the earth, sensitive as its skin in which he
lives and of which he is a part. His life relaxes with
the thawing ground. He pitches and tunes his voice
to chord with the rustling leaves which the March
wind has dried. Long before the frost is quite out, he
feels the influence of the spring rains and the warmer
days. His is the very voice of the weather. He rises
and falls like quicksilver in the thermometer. You do
not perceive the spring so surely in the actions of men,
their lives are so artificial. They may make more fire
or less in their parlors, and their feelings accordingly
are not good thermometers. The frog far away in the
wood, that burns no coal nor wood, perceives more
surely the general and universal changes.

In the ditch under the west edge of Trillium Wood
I see six yellow-spot turtles. They surely have not
crawled from far. Do they go into the mud in this
ditch? A part of the otherwise perfectly sound and
fresh-looking scales of one has been apparently eaten
away, as if by a worm.
There sits also on the bank of the ditch a Ranafon-
tinalis, and it is altogether likely they were this spe-
cies that leaped into a ditch on the 10th. This one
is mainly a bronze brown, with a very dark greenish
snout, etc., with the raised line down the side of the
back. This, methinks, is about the only frog which
the marsh hawk could have found hitherto.
Returning, above the railroad causeway, I see a flock
of goldfinches, first of spring, flitting along the cause-
way-bank. They have not yet the bright plumage they
will have, but in some lights might be mistaken for
sparrows. There is considerable difference in color
between one and another, but the flaps of their coats
are black, and their heads and shoulders more or less
yellow. They are eating the seeds of the mullein and
the large primrose, clinging to the plants sidewise in
various positions and pecking at the seed-vessels. Wil-
son says, "In the month of April they begin to change
their winter dress, and, before the middle of May,
appear in brilliant yellow."
C. sees geese go over again this afternoon. How
commonly they are seen in still rainy weather like this!
He says that when they had got far off they looked
like a black ribbon almost perpendicular waving in
the air.





March 25. A rainy day.
P. M. To Clamshell.
I heard the what what what what of the nuthatch
this forenoon. Do I ever hear it in the afternoon ? It
is much like the cackle of the pigeon woodpecker and
suggests a relation to that bird.
Again I walk in the rain and see the rich yellowish
browns of the moist banks. These Clamshell hills and
neighboring promontories, though it is a dark and
rainy day, reflect a certain yellowish light from the
wet withered grass which is very grateful to my eyes,
as also the darker more reddish browns, as the radical
leaves of the Andropogon scoparius in low tufts here
and there. (Its culms, where they stand, are quite
light yellow.) Surely russet is not the name which de-
scribes the fields and hillsides now, whether wet or dry.
There is not red enough in it. I do not know a better
name for this (when wet) yellowish brown than tawny."
On the south side of these warm hills, it may perhaps
be called one of the fawn-colors, i. e. brown inclining
to green. Much of this peculiar yellowish color on the
surface of the Clamshell plain is due to a little curled
sedge or grass growing at short intervals, loosely cov-
ering the ground (with green
mosses intermixed) in little tufts e h*, ,
like curled hair.
I saw yesterday, in Laurel Glen, where the early
sedge had been grazed very close to the ground, and
the same, perhaps digested, fine as green-paint dust,
lay around. Was it the work of a mouse ?
Day before yesterday, in clear, dry weather, we had


pale-brown or fawn-colored earth, i. e., a dry, withered
grass blade [color]; to-day, a more yellow brown or
tawny, the same being wet. The wet brings out an
agreeable yellow light, as if the sun were shining through
a mist on it. The earth is more truly russet in Novem-
ber, when there is more redness left in the withered
and withering vegetation. Such is the change in the
color of the bare portions of the earth (i. e. bare of trees
and bushes) produced by rain. Also the oak leaves
are much redder. In fair weather the light color of
these objects was simply a light reflected from them,
originating in the sun and sky; now it is a more proper
and inward light, which attracts and confines our at-
tention to moist sward itself.
A snipe flies away from the moist Clamshell shore,
uttering its cr-a-ack c-r-r-rack.
I thought the other day, How we enjoy a warm and
pleasant day at this season! We dance like gnats in
the sun.
A score of my townsmen have been shooting and
trapping musquash and mink of late. Some have
got nothing else to do. If they should strike for higher
wages now, instead of going to the clam-banks, as the
Lynn shoemakers propose, they would go to shooting
musquash. They are gone all day; early and late they
scan the rising tide; stealthily they set their traps in
remote swamps, avoiding one another. Am not I a
trapper too, early and late scanning the rising flood,
ranging by distant wood-sides, setting my traps in soli-
tude, and baiting them as well as I know how, that
I may catch life and light, that my intellectual part





may taste some venison and be invigorated, that my
nakedness may be clad in some wild, furry warmth?
The color of spring hitherto, I should say that in
dry weather it was fawn-colored, in wet more yellow-
ish or tawny. When wet, the green of the fawn is sup-
plied by the lichens and the mosses.

March 26. P. M. To Conantum via Cardinal
Shore and boat.
The river has gone down considerably, but the rain
of yesterday and to-day has checked its fall somewhat.
Much earth has been washed away from the roots
of grasses and weeds along the banks of the river, and
many of those pretty little bodkin bulbs are exposed
and so transported to new localities. This seems to
be the way in which they are spread.
I see many smallish ants on the red carcass of a mus-
quash just skinned and lying on the bank, cold and
wet as the weather is. They love this animal food. On
the top of the hill at Lee's Cliff much wintergreen has
been eaten; at least a great many leaves are lying loose,
strewn about.
I find washed up on the (Cardinal) shore a little
bream about an inch and an eighth long, very much
like those found at Walden last fall. It has about seven
transverse bars, a similar dorsal fin, a reddish-copper
iris, with the black vertical dash through the eye. I
think it must be one of the common breams of the river,
- though I see only the black spot on the operculum
and not any red one, -and apparently all the young
are thus striped (?).



What was that large rather grayish duck on Fair
Haven Pond this afternoon ? It was far off. Was it a
last year's male sheldrake, or a female, or another ?

March 27. 7 A. M. Was that the Alauda, shore
lark (?), which flew up from the corn-field beyond
Texas house, and dashed off so swiftly with a peculiar
note, a small flock of them ?
P. M.- Sail from Cardinal Shore up Otter Bay,
close to Deacon Farrar's.
I see a gull flying over Fair Haven Pond which ap-
pears to have a much duskier body beneath than the
common near by, though about the same size. Can
it be another species?
The wind is so nearly west to-day that we sail up
from Cardinal Shore to the pond, and from the road
up what I will call Otter Bay, behind Farrar's, and,
returning, sail from the road at Creel (or Pole) Brook
to Pond Island and from Hallowell willows to rail-
road. The water is quite high still, and we sail up Otter
Bay, I think, more than half a mile, to within a very
short distance of Farrar's. This is an interesting and
wild place.
There is an abundance of low willows whose cat-
kins are now conspicuous, rising four to six or seven
feet above the water, thickly placed on long wand-like
osiers. They look, when you look from the sun, like
dead gray twigs or branches (whose wood is exposed)
of bushes in the light, but, nearer, are recognized for
the pretty bright buttons of the willow. We sail by
masses of these silvery buttons two or three rods long,





rising above the water. By their color they have rela-
tion to the white clouds and the sky and to the snow
and ice still lingering in a few localities. In order to see
these silvery buttons in the greatest profusion, you must
sail amid them on some flooded meadow or swamp
like this. Our whole course, as we wind about in this
bay, is lined also with. the alder, whose pretty tassels,
now many of them in full bloom, are hanging straight
down, suggesting in a peculiar manner the influence of
gravity, or are regularly blown one
It is remarkable how modest and
unobtrusive these early flowers are.
The musquash and duck hunter or the farmer might
and do commonly pass by them without] perceiving
them. They steal into the air and light of spring
without being noticed for the most part. The sports-
man seems to see a mass of weather-stained dead
twigs showing their wood and partly covered with gray
lichens and moss, and the flowers of the alder, now
partly in bloom, maybe half, make the impression at
a little distance of a collection of the brown twigs of
winter also are of the same color with many withered
Twenty rods off, masses of alder in bloom look like
masses of bare brown twigs, last year's twigs, and would
be taken for such.
Of our seven indigenous flowers which begin to
bloom in March, four, i. e. the two alders, the aspen,
and the hazel, are not generally noticed so early, if at
all, and most do not observe the flower of a fifth, the

white maple. The first four are yellowish or reddish
brown at a little distance, like the banks and sward
moistened by the spring rain. The browns are the
prevailing shades as yet, as in the withered grass and
sedge and the surface of the earth, the withered leaves,
and these brown flowers.
I see from a hilltop a few very bright green spots a
rod in diameter in the upper part of Farrar's meadow,
which the water has left within a day or two. Going
there, I find that a very powerful spring is welling up
there, which, with water warm from the bowels of
the earth, has caused the grass and several weeds, as
Cardamine rhomboidea, etc., to grow thus early and
luxuriantly, and perhaps it has been helped by the
flood standing over it for some days. These are bright
liquid green in the midst of brown and withered grass
and leaves. Such are the spots where the grass is green-
est now.
C. says that he saw a turtle dove on the 25th.
It is remarkable how long many things may be pre-
served by excluding the air and light and dust, mois-
ture, etc. Those chalk-marks on the chamber-floor
joists and timbers of the Hunt house, one of which was
read by many "Feb. 1666," and all of which were in
an ancient style of writing and expression,--"ye" for
the," etc., "enfine Brown,"-- were as fresh when ex-
posed (having been plastered and cased over) as if
made the day before. Yet a single day's rain com-
pletely obliterated some of them. Cousin Charles
says that, on the timbers of a very old house recently
taken down in Haverhill, the chalk-marks made by




the framers, numbering the sticks, [*ere] as fresh as
if just made.
I saw a large timber over the middle of the best room
of the Hunt house which had been cased, according
to all accounts, at least a hundred years ago, the cas-
ing having just been taken off. I saw that the timber
appeared to have been freshly hewn on the under side,
and I asked the carpenter who was taking down the
house what he had been hewing that timber for, -
for it had evidently been done since it was put up and
in a very inconvenient position, and I had no doubt
that he had just done it, for the surface was as fresh and
distinct from the other parts as a fresh whittling,--but
he answered to my surprise that he had not touched
it, it was so when he took the casing off. When the
casing was put on, it had been roughly hewn by one
standing beneath it, in order to reduce its thickness
or perhaps to make it more level than it was. So dis-
tinct and peculiar is the weather-stain, and so inde-
finitely it may be kept off if you do not allow this painter
to come [?] to your wood.
Cousin Charles says that he took out of the old
Haverhill house a very broad panel from over the fire-
place, which had a picture of Haverhill at s6me old
period on it. The panel had been there perfectly shel-
tered in an inhabited house for more than a hundred
years. It was placed in his shop and no moisture
allowed to come near it, and yet it shrunk a quarter of
an inch in width when the air came to both sides of it.
He says that his men, who were digging a cellar
last week on a southwest slope, found fifty-one snakes

of various kinds and sizes green, black, brown, etc.
-about a foot underground, within two feet square
(or cube?). The frost was out just there, but not in
many parts of the cellar. They could not run, they
were so stiff, but they ran their tongues out. They
did [not] take notice of any hole or cavity.

March 28. P. M. Paddle to the Bedford line.
It is now high time to look for arrowheads, etc. I
spend many hours every spring gathering the crop which
the melting snow and rain have washed bare. When,
at length, some island in the meadow or some sandy
field elsewhere has been plowed, perhaps for rye, in
the fall, I take note of it, and do not fail to repair thither
as soon as the earth begins to be dry in the spring. If
the spot chances never to have been cultivated before,
I am the first to gather a crop from it. The farmer
little thinks that another reaps a harvest which is the
fruit of his toil. As much ground is turned up in a day
by the plow as Indian implements could not have
turned over in a month, and my eyes rest on the evi-
dences of an aboriginal life which passed here a thou-
sand years ago perchance. Especially if the knolls
in the meadows are washed by a freshet where they
have been plowed the previous fall, the soil will be
taken away lower down and the stones left, the arrow-
heads, etc., and soapstone pottery amid them, some-
what as gold is washed in a dish or tom. I landed on
two spots this afternoon and picked up a dozen arrow-
heads. It is one of the regular pursuits of the spring.
As much as sportsmen go in pursuit of ducks, and



[MARcH 27

gunners of musquash, and scholars of rare books,
and travellers of adventures, and poets of ideas, and
all men of money, I go in search of arrowheads when
the proper season comes round again. So I help my-
self to live worthily, and loving my life as I should. It
is a good collyrium to look on the bare earth,- to
pore over it so much, getting strength to all your senses,
like Anteus. If I did not find-arrowheads, I might, per-
chance, begin to pick up crockery and fragments of
pipes, -the relics of a more recent man. Indeed,
you can hardly name a more innocent or wholesome
entertainment. As I am thus engaged, I hear the
rumble of the bowling-alley's thunder, which has be-
gun again in the village. It comes before the earliest
natural thunder. But what its lightning is, and what
atmospheres it purifies, I do not know. Or I might
collect the various bones which I come across. They
would make a museum that would delight some Owen
at last, and what a text they might furnish me for a
course of lectures on human life or the like! I might
spend my days collecting the fragments of pipes until
I found enough, after all my search, to compose one
perfect pipe when laid together.
I have not decided whether I had better publish my
experience in searching for arrowheads in three vol-
umes, with plates and an index, or try to compress it
into one. These durable implements seem to have been
suggested to the Indian mechanic with a view to my
entertainment in a succeeding period. After all the
labor expended on it, the bolt may have been shot but
once perchance, and the shaft which was devoted to

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