The Project Gutenberg eBook of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau (2022)

The Project Gutenberg eBook of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

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Title: Walden

Author: Henry David Thoreau

Release Date: January, 1995 [eBook #205]
[Most recently updated: January 28, 2021]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8

Produced by: Judith Boss, and David Widger



by Henry David Thoreau

The Project Gutenberg eBook of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau (1)


Where I Lived, and What I Lived For
The Bean-Field
The Village
The Ponds
Baker Farm
Higher Laws
Brute Neighbors
Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors
Winter Animals
The Pond in Winter



When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, inthe woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, onthe shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living bythe labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At presentI am a sojourner in civilized life again.

I should not obtrude my affairs so much on the notice of my readers if veryparticular inquiries had not been made by my townsmen concerning my mode oflife, which some would call impertinent, though they do not appear to me at allimpertinent, but, considering the circumstances, very natural and pertinent.Some have asked what I got to eat; if I did not feel lonesome; if I was notafraid; and the like. Others have been curious to learn what portion of myincome I devoted to charitable purposes; and some, who have large families, howmany poor children I maintained. I will therefore ask those of my readers whofeel no particular interest in me to pardon me if I undertake to answer some ofthese questions in this book. In most books, the I, or first person, isomitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the maindifference. We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the firstperson that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there wereanybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme bythe narrowness of my experience. Moreover, I, on my side, require of everywriter, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and notmerely what he has heard of other men’s lives; some such account as hewould send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely,it must have been in a distant land to me. Perhaps these pages are moreparticularly addressed to poor students. As for the rest of my readers, theywill accept such portions as apply to them. I trust that none will stretch theseams in putting on the coat, for it may do good service to him whom it fits.

I would fain say something, not so much concerning the Chinese and SandwichIslanders as you who read these pages, who are said to live in New England;something about your condition, especially your outward condition orcircumstances in this world, in this town, what it is, whether it is necessarythat it be as bad as it is, whether it cannot be improved as well as not. Ihave travelled a good deal in Concord; and everywhere, in shops, and offices,and fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in athousand remarkable ways. What I have heard of Brahmins sitting exposed to fourfires and looking in the face of the sun; or hanging suspended, with theirheads downward, over flames; or looking at the heavens over their shoulders“until it becomes impossible for them to resume their natural position,while from the twist of the neck nothing but liquids can pass into thestomach;” or dwelling, chained for life, at the foot of a tree; ormeasuring with their bodies, like caterpillars, the breadth of vast empires; orstanding on one leg on the tops of pillars,—even these forms of consciouspenance are hardly more incredible and astonishing than the scenes which Idaily witness. The twelve labors of Hercules were trifling in comparison withthose which my neighbors have undertaken; for they were only twelve, and had anend; but I could never see that these men slew or captured any monster orfinished any labor. They have no friend Iolas to burn with a hot iron the rootof the hydra’s head, but as soon as one head is crushed, two spring up.

I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms,houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquiredthan got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckledby a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they werecalled to labor in. Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat theirsixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why shouldthey begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got to livea man’s life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as well asthey can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met well nigh crushed andsmothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it abarn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and onehundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and wood-lot! The portionless,who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it laborenough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.

But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed intothe soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they areemployed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rustwill corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool’s life, asthey will find when they get to the end of it, if not before. It is said thatDeucalion and Pyrrha created men by throwing stones over their heads behindthem:—

Inde genus durum sumus, experiensque laborum,
Et documenta damus quâ simus origine nati.

Or, as Raleigh rhymes it in his sonorous way,—

“From thence our kind hard-hearted is, enduring pain and care,
Approving that our bodies of a stony nature are.”

So much for a blind obedience to a blundering oracle, throwing the stones overtheir heads behind them, and not seeing where they fell.

Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance andmistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarselabors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. Their fingers,from excessive toil, are too clumsy and tremble too much for that. Actually,the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannotafford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciatedin the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he rememberwell his ignorance—which his growth requires—who has so often touse his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, andrecruit him with our cordials, before we judge of him. The finest qualities ofour nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the mostdelicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.

Some of you, we all know, are poor, find it hard to live, are sometimes, as itwere, gasping for breath. I have no doubt that some of you who read this bookare unable to pay for all the dinners which you have actually eaten, or for thecoats and shoes which are fast wearing or are already worn out, and have cometo this page to spend borrowed or stolen time, robbing your creditors of anhour. It is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live, for mysight has been whetted by experience; always on the limits, trying to get intobusiness and trying to get out of debt, a very ancient slough, called by theLatins æs alienum, another’s brass, for some of their coins weremade of brass; still living, and dying, and buried by this other’s brass;always promising to pay, promising to pay, tomorrow, and dying today,insolvent; seeking to curry favor, to get custom, by how many modes, only notstate-prison offences; lying, flattering, voting, contracting yourselves into anutshell of civility or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and vaporousgenerosity, that you may persuade your neighbor to let you make his shoes, orhis hat, or his coat, or his carriage, or import his groceries for him; makingyourselves sick, that you may lay up something against a sick day, something tobe tucked away in an old chest, or in a stocking behind the plastering, or,more safely, in the brick bank; no matter where, no matter how much or howlittle.

I sometimes wonder that we can be so frivolous, I may almost say, as to attendto the gross but somewhat foreign form of servitude called Negro Slavery, thereare so many keen and subtle masters that enslave both north and south. It ishard to have a southern overseer; it is worse to have a northern one; but worstof all when you are the slave-driver of yourself. Talk of a divinity in man!Look at the teamster on the highway, wending to market by day or night; doesany divinity stir within him? His highest duty to fodder and water his horses!What is his destiny to him compared with the shipping interests? Does not hedrive for Squire Make-a-stir? How godlike, how immortal, is he? See how hecowers and sneaks, how vaguely all the day he fears, not being immortal nordivine, but the slave and prisoner of his own opinion of himself, a fame won byhis own deeds. Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own privateopinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or ratherindicates, his fate. Self-emancipation even in the West Indian provinces of thefancy and imagination,—what Wilberforce is there to bring that about?Think, also, of the ladies of the land weaving toilet cushions against the lastday, not to betray too green an interest in their fates! As if you could killtime without injuring eternity.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation isconfirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperatecountry, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. Astereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called thegames and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes afterwork. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the chief end ofman, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if menhad deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it toany other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert andhealthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to giveup our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trustedwithout proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day mayturn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some hadtrusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields. Whatold people say you cannot do you try and find that you can. Old deeds for oldpeople, and new deeds for new. Old people did not know enough once, perchance,to fetch fresh fuel to keep the fire a-going; new people put a little dry woodunder a pot, and are whirled round the globe with the speed of birds, in a wayto kill old people, as the phrase is. Age is no better, hardly so well,qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it haslost. One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned any thing of absolutevalue by living. Practically, the old have no very important advice to give theyoung, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been suchmiserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe; and it may bethat they have some faith left which belies that experience, and they are onlyless young than they were. I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and Ihave yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from myseniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me any thing to thepurpose. Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but itdoes not avail me that they have tried it. If I have any experience which Ithink valuable, I am sure to reflect that this my Mentors said nothing about.

One farmer says to me, “You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for itfurnishes nothing to make bones with;” and so he religiously devotes apart of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walkingall the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerkhim and his lumbering plough along in spite of every obstacle. Some things arereally necessaries of life in some circles, the most helpless and diseased,which in others are luxuries merely, and in others still are entirely unknown.

The whole ground of human life seems to some to have been gone over by theirpredecessors, both the heights and the valleys, and all things to have beencared for. According to Evelyn, “the wise Solomon prescribed ordinancesfor the very distances of trees; and the Roman prætors have decided howoften you may go into your neighbor’s land to gather the acorns whichfall on it without trespass, and what share belongs to that neighbor.”Hippocrates has even left directions how we should cut our nails; that is, evenwith the ends of the fingers, neither shorter nor longer. Undoubtedly the verytedium and ennui which presume to have exhausted the variety and the joys oflife are as old as Adam. But man’s capacities have never been measured;nor are we to judge of what he can do by any precedents, so little has beentried. Whatever have been thy failures hitherto, “be not afflicted, mychild, for who shall assign to thee what thou hast left undone?”

We might try our lives by a thousand simple tests; as, for instance, that thesame sun which ripens my beans illumines at once a system of earths like ours.If I had remembered this it would have prevented some mistakes. This was notthe light in which I hoed them. The stars are the apexes of what wonderfultriangles! What distant and different beings in the various mansions of theuniverse are contemplating the same one at the same moment! Nature and humanlife are as various as our several constitutions. Who shall say what prospectlife offers to another? Could a greater miracle take place than for us to lookthrough each other’s eyes for an instant? We should live in all the agesof the world in an hour; ay, in all the worlds of the ages. History, Poetry,Mythology!—I know of no reading of another’s experience sostartling and informing as this would be.

The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad,and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. Whatdemon possessed me that I behaved so well? You may say the wisest thing youcan, old man,—you who have lived seventy years, not without honor of akind,—I hear an irresistible voice which invites me away from all that.One generation abandons the enterprises of another like stranded vessels.

I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do. We may waive justso much care of ourselves as we honestly bestow elsewhere. Nature is as welladapted to our weakness as to our strength. The incessant anxiety and strain ofsome is a well nigh incurable form of disease. We are made to exaggerate theimportance of what work we do; and yet how much is not done by us! or, what ifwe had been taken sick? How vigilant we are! determined not to live by faith ifwe can avoid it; all the day long on the alert, at night we unwillingly say ourprayers and commit ourselves to uncertainties. So thoroughly and sincerely arewe compelled to live, reverencing our life, and denying the possibility ofchange. This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there canbe drawn radii from one centre. All change is a miracle to contemplate; but itis a miracle which is taking place every instant. Confucius said, “Toknow that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know,that is true knowledge.” When one man has reduced a fact of theimagination to be a fact to his understanding, I foresee that all men at lengthestablish their lives on that basis.

Let us consider for a moment what most of the trouble and anxiety which I havereferred to is about, and how much it is necessary that we be troubled, or, atleast, careful. It would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontierlife, though in the midst of an outward civilization, if only to learn what arethe gross necessaries of life and what methods have been taken to obtain them;or even to look over the old day-books of the merchants, to see what it wasthat men most commonly bought at the stores, what they stored, that is, whatare the grossest groceries. For the improvements of ages have had but littleinfluence on the essential laws of man’s existence; as our skeletons,probably, are not to be distinguished from those of our ancestors.

By the words, necessary of life, I mean whatever, of all that manobtains by his own exertions, has been from the first, or from long use hasbecome, so important to human life that few, if any, whether from savageness,or poverty, or philosophy, ever attempt to do without it. To many creaturesthere is in this sense but one necessary of life, Food. To the bison of theprairie it is a few inches of palatable grass, with water to drink; unless heseeks the Shelter of the forest or the mountain’s shadow. None of thebrute creation requires more than Food and Shelter. The necessaries of life forman in this climate may, accurately enough, be distributed under the severalheads of Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel; for not till we have secured theseare we prepared to entertain the true problems of life with freedom and aprospect of success. Man has invented, not only houses, but clothes and cookedfood; and possibly from the accidental discovery of the warmth of fire, and theconsequent use of it, at first a luxury, arose the present necessity to sit byit. We observe cats and dogs acquiring the same second nature. By properShelter and Clothing we legitimately retain our own internal heat; but with anexcess of these, or of Fuel, that is, with an external heat greater than ourown internal, may not cookery properly be said to begin? Darwin, thenaturalist, says of the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, that while his ownparty, who were well clothed and sitting close to a fire, were far from toowarm, these naked savages, who were farther off, were observed, to his greatsurprise, “to be streaming with perspiration at undergoing such aroasting.” So, we are told, the New Hollander goes naked with impunity,while the European shivers in his clothes. Is it impossible to combine thehardiness of these savages with the intellectualness of the civilized man?According to Liebig, man’s body is a stove, and food the fuel which keepsup the internal combustion in the lungs. In cold weather we eat more, in warmless. The animal heat is the result of a slow combustion, and disease and deathtake place when this is too rapid; or for want of fuel, or from some defect inthe draught, the fire goes out. Of course the vital heat is not to beconfounded with fire; but so much for analogy. It appears, therefore, from theabove list, that the expression, animal life, is nearly synonymous withthe expression, animal heat; for while Food may be regarded as the Fuelwhich keeps up the fire within us,—and Fuel serves only to prepare thatFood or to increase the warmth of our bodies by addition fromwithout,—Shelter and Clothing also serve only to retain the heatthus generated and absorbed.

The grand necessity, then, for our bodies, is to keep warm, to keep the vitalheat in us. What pains we accordingly take, not only with our Food, andClothing, and Shelter, but with our beds, which are our night-clothes, robbingthe nests and breasts of birds to prepare this shelter within a shelter, as themole has its bed of grass and leaves at the end of its burrow! The poor man iswont to complain that this is a cold world; and to cold, no less physical thansocial, we refer directly a great part of our ails. The summer, in someclimates, makes possible to man a sort of Elysian life. Fuel, except to cookhis Food, is then unnecessary; the sun is his fire, and many of the fruits aresufficiently cooked by its rays; while Food generally is more various, and moreeasily obtained, and Clothing and Shelter are wholly or half unnecessary. Atthe present day, and in this country, as I find by my own experience, a fewimplements, a knife, an axe, a spade, a wheelbarrow, &c., and for thestudious, lamplight, stationery, and access to a few books, rank next tonecessaries, and can all be obtained at a trifling cost. Yet some, not wise, goto the other side of the globe, to barbarous and unhealthy regions, and devotethemselves to trade for ten or twenty years, in order that they maylive,—that is, keep comfortably warm,—and die in New England at last.The luxuriously rich are not simply kept comfortably warm, but unnaturally hot;as I implied before, they are cooked, of course à la mode.

Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life, are not onlynot indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. Withrespect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple andmeagre life than the poor. The ancient philosophers, Chinese, Hindoo, Persian,and Greek, were a class than which none has been poorer in outward riches, noneso rich in inward. We know not much about them. It is remarkable that weknow so much of them as we do. The same is true of the more modern reformersand benefactors of their race. None can be an impartial or wise observer ofhuman life but from the vantage ground of what we should call voluntarypoverty. Of a life of luxury the fruit is luxury, whether in agriculture, orcommerce, or literature, or art. There are nowadays professors of philosophy,but not philosophers. Yet it is admirable to profess because it was onceadmirable to live. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts,nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to itsdictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is tosolve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.The success of great scholars and thinkers is commonly a courtier-like success,not kingly, not manly. They make shift to live merely by conformity,practically as their fathers did, and are in no sense the progenitors of anobler race of men. But why do men degenerate ever? What makes families run out?What is the nature of the luxury which enervates and destroys nations? Are wesure that there is none of it in our own lives? The philosopher is in advanceof his age even in the outward form of his life. He is not fed, sheltered,clothed, warmed, like his contemporaries. How can a man be a philosopher andnot maintain his vital heat by better methods than other men?

When a man is warmed by the several modes which I have described, what does hewant next? Surely not more warmth of the same kind, as more and richer food,larger and more splendid houses, finer and more abundant clothing, morenumerous incessant and hotter fires, and the like. When he has obtained thosethings which are necessary to life, there is another alternative than to obtainthe superfluities; and that is, to adventure on life now, his vacation fromhumbler toil having commenced. The soil, it appears, is suited to the seed, forit has sent its radicle downward, and it may now send its shoot upward alsowith confidence. Why has man rooted himself thus firmly in the earth, but thathe may rise in the same proportion into the heavens above?—for the noblerplants are valued for the fruit they bear at last in the air and light, farfrom the ground, and are not treated like the humbler esculents, which, thoughthey may be biennials, are cultivated only till they have perfected their root,and often cut down at top for this purpose, so that most would not know them intheir flowering season.

I do not mean to prescribe rules to strong and valiant natures, who will mindtheir own affairs whether in heaven or hell, and perchance build moremagnificently and spend more lavishly than the richest, without everimpoverishing themselves, not knowing how they live,—if, indeed, there areany such, as has been dreamed; nor to those who find their encouragement andinspiration in precisely the present condition of things, and cherish it withthe fondness and enthusiasm of lovers,—and, to some extent, I reckonmyself in this number; I do not speak to those who are well employed, inwhatever circumstances, and they know whether they are well employed ornot;—but mainly to the mass of men who are discontented, and idlycomplaining of the hardness of their lot or of the times, when they mightimprove them. There are some who complain most energetically and inconsolablyof any, because they are, as they say, doing their duty. I also have in my mindthat seemingly wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of all, who haveaccumulated dross, but know not how to use it, or get rid of it, and thus haveforged their own golden or silver fetters.

If I should attempt to tell how I have desired to spend my life in years past,it would probably surprise those of my readers who are somewhat acquainted withits actual history; it would certainly astonish those who know nothing aboutit. I will only hint at some of the enterprises which I have cherished.

In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improvethe nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of twoeternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toethat line. You will pardon some obscurities, for there are more secrets in mytrade than in most men’s, and yet not voluntarily kept, but inseparablefrom its very nature. I would gladly tell all that I know about it, and neverpaint “No Admittance” on my gate.

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove, and am still on theirtrail. Many are the travellers I have spoken concerning them, describing theirtracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had heard thehound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind acloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost themthemselves.

To anticipate, not the sunrise and the dawn merely, but, if possible, Natureherself! How many mornings, summer and winter, before yet any neighbor wasstirring about his business, have I been about mine! No doubt, many of mytownsmen have met me returning from this enterprise, farmers starting forBoston in the twilight, or woodchoppers going to their work. It is true, Inever assisted the sun materially in his rising, but, doubt not, it was of thelast importance only to be present at it.

So many autumn, ay, and winter days, spent outside the town, trying to hearwhat was in the wind, to hear and carry it express! I well-nigh sunk all mycapital in it, and lost my own breath into the bargain, running in the face ofit. If it had concerned either of the political parties, depend upon it, itwould have appeared in the Gazette with the earliest intelligence. At othertimes watching from the observatory of some cliff or tree, to telegraph any newarrival; or waiting at evening on the hill-tops for the sky to fall, that Imight catch something, though I never caught much, and that, manna-wise, woulddissolve again in the sun.

For a long time I was reporter to a journal, of no very wide circulation, whoseeditor has never yet seen fit to print the bulk of my contributions, and, as istoo common with writers, I got only my labor for my pains. However, in thiscase my pains were their own reward.

For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snow storms and rain storms,and did my duty faithfully; surveyor, if not of highways, then of forest pathsand all across-lot routes, keeping them open, and ravines bridged and passableat all seasons, where the public heel had testified to their utility.

I have looked after the wild stock of the town, which give a faithful herdsmana good deal of trouble by leaping fences; and I have had an eye to theunfrequented nooks and corners of the farm; though I did not always knowwhether Jonas or Solomon worked in a particular field to-day; that was none ofmy business. I have watered the red huckleberry, the sand cherry and thenettle tree, the red pine and the black ash, the white grape and the yellowviolet, which might have withered else in dry seasons.

In short, I went on thus for a long time, I may say it without boasting,faithfully minding my business, till it became more and more evident that mytownsmen would not after all admit me into the list of town officers, nor makemy place a sinecure with a moderate allowance. My accounts, which I can swearto have kept faithfully, I have, indeed, never got audited, still lessaccepted, still less paid and settled. However, I have not set my heart onthat.

Not long since, a strolling Indian went to sell baskets at the house of awell-known lawyer in my neighborhood. “Do you wish to buy anybaskets?” he asked. “No, we do not want any,” was the reply.“What!” exclaimed the Indian as he went out the gate, “do youmean to starve us?” Having seen his industrious white neighbors so welloff,—that the lawyer had only to weave arguments, and by some magic,wealth and standing followed, he had said to himself; I will go intobusiness; I will weave baskets; it is a thing which I can do. Thinking thatwhen he had made the baskets he would have done his part, and then it would bethe white man’s to buy them. He had not discovered that it was necessaryfor him to make it worth the other’s while to buy them, or at least makehim think that it was so, or to make something else which it would be worth hiswhile to buy. I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but I hadnot made it worth any one’s while to buy them. Yet not the less, in mycase, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying howto make it worth men’s while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how toavoid the necessity of selling them. The life which men praise and regard assuccessful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at theexpense of the others?

Finding that my fellow-citizens were not likely to offer me any room in thecourt house, or any curacy or living any where else, but I must shift formyself, I turned my face more exclusively than ever to the woods, where I wasbetter known. I determined to go into business at once, and not wait to acquirethe usual capital, using such slender means as I had already got. My purpose ingoing to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly there, but totransact some private business with the fewest obstacles; to be hindered fromaccomplishing which for want of a little common sense, a little enterprise andbusiness talent, appeared not so sad as foolish.

I have always endeavored to acquire strict business habits; they areindispensable to every man. If your trade is with the Celestial Empire, thensome small counting house on the coast, in some Salem harbor, will be fixtureenough. You will export such articles as the country affords, purely nativeproducts, much ice and pine timber and a little granite, always in nativebottoms. These will be good ventures. To oversee all the details yourself inperson; to be at once pilot and captain, and owner and underwriter; to buy andsell and keep the accounts; to read every letter received, and write or readevery letter sent; to superintend the discharge of imports night and day; to beupon many parts of the coast almost at the same time;—often the richestfreight will be discharged upon a Jersey shore;—to be your own telegraph,unweariedly sweeping the horizon, speaking all passing vessels bound coastwise;to keep up a steady despatch of commodities, for the supply of such a distantand exorbitant market; to keep yourself informed of the state of the markets,prospects of war and peace every where, and anticipate the tendencies of tradeand civilization,—taking advantage of the results of all exploringexpeditions, using new passages and all improvements innavigation;—charts to be studied, the position of reefs and new lightsand buoys to be ascertained, and ever, and ever, the logarithmic tables to becorrected, for by the error of some calculator the vessel often splits upon arock that should have reached a friendly pier,—there is the untold fate ofLa Perouse;—universal science to be kept pace with, studying the lives ofall great discoverers and navigators, great adventurers and merchants, fromHanno and the Phœnicians down to our day; in fine, account of stock to betaken from time to time, to know how you stand. It is a labor to task thefaculties of a man,—such problems of profit and loss, of interest, of tareand tret, and gauging of all kinds in it, as demand a universal knowledge.

I have thought that Walden Pond would be a good place for business, not solelyon account of the railroad and the ice trade; it offers advantages which it maynot be good policy to divulge; it is a good port and a good foundation. No Nevamarshes to be filled; though you must every where build on piles of your owndriving. It is said that a flood-tide, with a westerly wind, and ice in theNeva, would sweep St. Petersburg from the face of the earth.

As this business was to be entered into without the usual capital, it may notbe easy to conjecture where those means, that will still be indispensable toevery such undertaking, were to be obtained. As for Clothing, to come at onceto the practical part of the question, perhaps we are led oftener by the loveof novelty, and a regard for the opinions of men, in procuring it, than by atrue utility. Let him who has work to do recollect that the object of clothingis, first, to retain the vital heat, and secondly, in this state of society, tocover nakedness, and he may judge how much of any necessary or important workmay be accomplished without adding to his wardrobe. Kings and queens who wear asuit but once, though made by some tailor or dressmaker to their majesties,cannot know the comfort of wearing a suit that fits. They are no better thanwooden horses to hang the clean clothes on. Every day our garments become moreassimilated to ourselves, receiving the impress of the wearer’scharacter, until we hesitate to lay them aside, without such delay and medicalappliances and some such solemnity even as our bodies. No man ever stood thelower in my estimation for having a patch in his clothes; yet I am sure thatthere is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean andunpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience. But even if the rent is notmended, perhaps the worst vice betrayed is improvidence. I sometimes try myacquaintances by such tests as this;—who could wear a patch, or two extraseams only, over the knee? Most behave as if they believed that their prospectsfor life would be ruined if they should do it. It would be easier for them tohobble to town with a broken leg than with a broken pantaloon. Often if anaccident happens to a gentleman’s legs, they can be mended; but if asimilar accident happens to the legs of his pantaloons, there is no help forit; for he considers, not what is truly respectable, but what is respected. Weknow but few men, a great many coats and breeches. Dress a scarecrow in yourlast shift, you standing shiftless by, who would not soonest salute thescarecrow? Passing a cornfield the other day, close by a hat and coat on astake, I recognized the owner of the farm. He was only a little moreweather-beaten than when I saw him last. I have heard of a dog that barked atevery stranger who approached his master’s premises with clothes on, butwas easily quieted by a naked thief. It is an interesting question how far menwould retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes. Couldyou, in such a case, tell surely of any company of civilized men, whichbelonged to the most respected class? When Madam Pfeiffer, in her adventuroustravels round the world, from east to west, had got so near home as AsiaticRussia, she says that she felt the necessity of wearing other than a travellingdress, when she went to meet the authorities, for she “was now in acivilized country, where —— — people are judged of by theirclothes.” Even in our democratic New England towns the accidentalpossession of wealth, and its manifestation in dress and equipage alone, obtainfor the possessor almost universal respect. But they yield such respect,numerous as they are, are so far heathen, and need to have a missionary sent tothem. Beside, clothes introduced sewing, a kind of work which you may callendless; a woman’s dress, at least, is never done.

A man who has at length found something to do will not need to get a new suitto do it in; for him the old will do, that has lain dusty in the garret for anindeterminate period. Old shoes will serve a hero longer than they have servedhis valet,—if a hero ever has a valet,—bare feet are older thanshoes, and he can make them do. Only they who go to soirées and legislativehalls must have new coats, coats to change as often as the man changes in them.But if my jacket and trousers, my hat and shoes, are fit to worship God in,they will do; will they not? Who ever saw his old clothes,—his old coat,actually worn out, resolved into its primitive elements, so that it was not adeed of charity to bestow it on some poor boy, by him perchance to be bestowedon some poorer still, or shall we say richer, who could do with less? I say,beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearerof clothes. If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made to fit?If you have any enterprise before you, try it in your old clothes. All menwant, not something to do with, but something to do, or rathersomething to be. Perhaps we should never procure a new suit, howeverragged or dirty the old, until we have so conducted, so enterprised or sailedin some way, that we feel like new men in the old, and that to retain it wouldbe like keeping new wine in old bottles. Our moulting season, like that of thefowls, must be a crisis in our lives. The loon retires to solitary ponds tospend it. Thus also the snake casts its slough, and the caterpillar its wormycoat, by an internal industry and expansion; for clothes are but our outmostcuticle and mortal coil. Otherwise we shall be found sailing under falsecolors, and be inevitably cashiered at last by our own opinion, as well as thatof mankind.

We don garment after garment, as if we grew like exogenous plants by additionwithout. Our outside and often thin and fanciful clothes are our epidermis, orfalse skin, which partakes not of our life, and may be stripped off here andthere without fatal injury; our thicker garments, constantly worn, are ourcellular integument, or cortex; but our shirts are our liber or true bark,which cannot be removed without girdling and so destroying the man. I believethat all races at some seasons wear something equivalent to the shirt. It isdesirable that a man be clad so simply that he can lay his hands on himself inthe dark, and that he live in all respects so compactly and preparedly, that, ifan enemy take the town, he can, like the old philosopher, walk out the gateempty-handed without anxiety. While one thick garment is, for most purposes, asgood as three thin ones, and cheap clothing can be obtained at prices really tosuit customers; while a thick coat can be bought for five dollars, which willlast as many years, thick pantaloons for two dollars, cowhide boots for adollar and a half a pair, a summer hat for a quarter of a dollar, and a wintercap for sixty-two and a half cents, or a better be made at home at a nominalcost, where is he so poor that, clad in such a suit, of his own earning,there will not be found wise men to do him reverence?

When I ask for a garment of a particular form, my tailoress tells me gravely,“They do not make them so now,” not emphasizing the“They” at all, as if she quoted an authority as impersonal as theFates, and I find it difficult to get made what I want, simply because shecannot believe that I mean what I say, that I am so rash. When I hear thisoracular sentence, I am for a moment absorbed in thought, emphasizing to myselfeach word separately that I may come at the meaning of it, that I may find outby what degree of consanguinity They are related to me, and whatauthority they may have in an affair which affects me so nearly; and, finally,I am inclined to answer her with equal mystery, and without any more emphasisof the “they,”—“It is true, they did not make them sorecently, but they do now.” Of what use this measuring of me if she doesnot measure my character, but only the breadth of my shoulders, as it were apeg to hang the coat on? We worship not the Graces, nor the Parcæ, butFashion. She spins and weaves and cuts with full authority. The head monkey atParis puts on a traveller’s cap, and all the monkeys in America do thesame. I sometimes despair of getting anything quite simple and honest done inthis world by the help of men. They would have to be passed through a powerfulpress first, to squeeze their old notions out of them, so that they would notsoon get upon their legs again, and then there would be some one in the companywith a maggot in his head, hatched from an egg deposited there nobody knowswhen, for not even fire kills these things, and you would have lost your labor.Nevertheless, we will not forget that some Egyptian wheat was handed down to usby a mummy.

On the whole, I think that it cannot be maintained that dressing has in this orany country risen to the dignity of an art. At present men make shift to wearwhat they can get. Like shipwrecked sailors, they put on what they can find onthe beach, and at a little distance, whether of space or time, laugh at eachother’s masquerade. Every generation laughs at the old fashions, butfollows religiously the new. We are amused at beholding the costume of HenryVIII., or Queen Elizabeth, as much as if it was that of the King and Queen ofthe Cannibal Islands. All costume off a man is pitiful or grotesque. It is onlythe serious eye peering from and the sincere life passed within it, whichrestrain laughter and consecrate the costume of any people. Let Harlequin betaken with a fit of the colic and his trappings will have to serve that moodtoo. When the soldier is hit by a cannon ball rags are as becoming as purple.

The childish and savage taste of men and women for new patterns keeps how manyshaking and squinting through kaleidoscopes that they may discover theparticular figure which this generation requires today. The manufacturers havelearned that this taste is merely whimsical. Of two patterns which differ onlyby a few threads more or less of a particular color, the one will be soldreadily, the other lie on the shelf, though it frequently happens that afterthe lapse of a season the latter becomes the most fashionable. Comparatively,tattooing is not the hideous custom which it is called. It is not barbarousmerely because the printing is skin-deep and unalterable.

I cannot believe that our factory system is the best mode by which men may getclothing. The condition of the operatives is becoming every day more like thatof the English; and it cannot be wondered at, since, as far as I have heard orobserved, the principal object is, not that mankind may be well and honestlyclad, but, unquestionably, that corporations may be enriched. In the long runmen hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately,they had better aim at something high.

As for a Shelter, I will not deny that this is now a necessary of life, thoughthere are instances of men having done without it for long periods in coldercountries than this. Samuel Laing says that “the Laplander in his skindress, and in a skin bag which he puts over his head and shoulders, will sleepnight after night on the snow—in a degree of cold which would extinguishthe life of one exposed to it in any woollen clothing.” He had seen themasleep thus. Yet he adds, “They are not hardier than other people.”But, probably, man did not live long on the earth without discovering theconvenience which there is in a house, the domestic comforts, which phrase mayhave originally signified the satisfactions of the house more than of thefamily; though these must be extremely partial and occasional in those climateswhere the house is associated in our thoughts with winter or the rainy seasonchiefly, and two thirds of the year, except for a parasol, is unnecessary. Inour climate, in the summer, it was formerly almost solely a covering at night.In the Indian gazettes a wigwam was the symbol of a day’s march, and arow of them cut or painted on the bark of a tree signified that so many timesthey had camped. Man was not made so large limbed and robust but that he mustseek to narrow his world, and wall in a space such as fitted him. He was atfirst bare and out of doors; but though this was pleasant enough in serene andwarm weather, by daylight, the rainy season and the winter, to say nothing ofthe torrid sun, would perhaps have nipped his race in the bud if he had notmade haste to clothe himself with the shelter of a house. Adam and Eve,according to the fable, wore the bower before other clothes. Man wanted a home,a place of warmth, or comfort, first of physical warmth, then the warmth of theaffections.

We may imagine a time when, in the infancy of the human race, some enterprisingmortal crept into a hollow in a rock for shelter. Every child begins the worldagain, to some extent, and loves to stay out doors, even in wet and cold. Itplays house, as well as horse, having an instinct for it. Who does not rememberthe interest with which when young he looked at shelving rocks, or any approachto a cave? It was the natural yearning of that portion of our most primitiveancestor which still survived in us. From the cave we have advanced to roofs ofpalm leaves, of bark and boughs, of linen woven and stretched, of grass andstraw, of boards and shingles, of stones and tiles. At last, we know not whatit is to live in the open air, and our lives are domestic in more senses thanwe think. From the hearth to the field is a great distance. It would be wellperhaps if we were to spend more of our days and nights without anyobstruction between us and the celestial bodies, if the poet did not speak somuch from under a roof, or the saint dwell there so long. Birds do not sing incaves, nor do doves cherish their innocence in dovecots.

However, if one designs to construct a dwelling house, it behooves him toexercise a little Yankee shrewdness, lest after all he find himself in aworkhouse, a labyrinth without a clue, a museum, an almshouse, a prison, or asplendid mausoleum instead. Consider first how slight a shelter is absolutelynecessary. I have seen Penobscot Indians, in this town, living in tents of thincotton cloth, while the snow was nearly a foot deep around them, and I thoughtthat they would be glad to have it deeper to keep out the wind. Formerly, whenhow to get my living honestly, with freedom left for my proper pursuits, was aquestion which vexed me even more than it does now, for unfortunately I ambecome somewhat callous, I used to see a large box by the railroad, six feetlong by three wide, in which the laborers locked up their tools at night, andit suggested to me that every man who was hard pushed might get such a one fora dollar, and, having bored a few auger holes in it, to admit the air at least,get into it when it rained and at night, and hook down the lid, and so havefreedom in his love, and in his soul be free. This did not appear the worst,nor by any means a despicable alternative. You could sit up as late as youpleased, and, whenever you got up, go abroad without any landlord or house-lorddogging you for rent. Many a man is harassed to death to pay the rent of alarger and more luxurious box who would not have frozen to death in such a boxas this. I am far from jesting. Economy is a subject which admits of beingtreated with levity, but it cannot so be disposed of. A comfortable house for arude and hardy race, that lived mostly out of doors, was once made here almostentirely of such materials as Nature furnished ready to their hands. Gookin,who was superintendent of the Indians subject to the Massachusetts Colony,writing in 1674, says, “The best of their houses are covered very neatly,tight and warm, with barks of trees, slipped from their bodies at those seasonswhen the sap is up, and made into great flakes, with pressure of weightytimber, when they are green.... The meaner sort are covered with mats whichthey make of a kind of bulrush, and are also indifferently tight and warm, butnot so good as the former.... Some I have seen, sixty or a hundred feet longand thirty feet broad.... I have often lodged in their wigwams, and found themas warm as the best English houses.” He adds, that they were commonlycarpeted and lined within with well-wrought embroidered mats, and werefurnished with various utensils. The Indians had advanced so far as to regulatethe effect of the wind by a mat suspended over the hole in the roof and movedby a string. Such a lodge was in the first instance constructed in a day or twoat most, and taken down and put up in a few hours; and every family owned one,or its apartment in one.

In the savage state every family owns a shelter as good as the best, andsufficient for its coarser and simpler wants; but I think that I speak withinbounds when I say that, though the birds of the air have their nests, and thefoxes their holes, and the savages their wigwams, in modern civilized societynot more than one half the families own a shelter. In the large towns andcities, where civilization especially prevails, the number of those who own ashelter is a very small fraction of the whole. The rest pay an annual tax forthis outside garment of all, become indispensable summer and winter, whichwould buy a village of Indian wigwams, but now helps to keep them poor as longas they live. I do not mean to insist here on the disadvantage of hiringcompared with owning, but it is evident that the savage owns his shelterbecause it costs so little, while the civilized man hires his commonly becausehe cannot afford to own it; nor can he, in the long run, any better afford tohire. But, answers one, by merely paying this tax the poor civilized mansecures an abode which is a palace compared with the savage’s. An annualrent of from twenty-five to a hundred dollars, these are the country rates,entitles him to the benefit of the improvements of centuries, spaciousapartments, clean paint and paper, Rumford fireplace, back plastering, Venetianblinds, copper pump, spring lock, a commodious cellar, and many other things.But how happens it that he who is said to enjoy these things is so commonly apoor civilized man, while the savage, who has them not, is rich as asavage? If it is asserted that civilization is a real advance in the conditionof man,—and I think that it is, though only the wise improve theiradvantages,—it must be shown that it has produced better dwellingswithout making them more costly; and the cost of a thing is the amount of whatI will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or inthe long run. An average house in this neighborhood costs perhaps eight hundreddollars, and to lay up this sum will take from ten to fifteen years of thelaborer’s life, even if he is not encumbered with afamily;—estimating the pecuniary value of every man’s labor at onedollar a day, for if some receive more, others receive less;—so that hemust have spent more than half his life commonly before his wigwam willbe earned. If we suppose him to pay a rent instead, this is but a doubtfulchoice of evils. Would the savage have been wise to exchange his wigwam for apalace on these terms?

It may be guessed that I reduce almost the whole advantage of holding thissuperfluous property as a fund in store against the future, so far as theindividual is concerned, mainly to the defraying of funeral expenses. Butperhaps a man is not required to bury himself. Nevertheless this points to animportant distinction between the civilized man and the savage; and, no doubt,they have designs on us for our benefit, in making the life of a civilizedpeople an institution, in which the life of the individual is to a greatextent absorbed, in order to preserve and perfect that of the race. But I wishto show at what a sacrifice this advantage is at present obtained, and tosuggest that we may possibly so live as to secure all the advantage withoutsuffering any of the disadvantage. What mean ye by saying that the poor ye havealways with you, or that the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and thechildren’s teeth are set on edge?

“As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more touse this proverb in Israel.”

“Behold all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soulof the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

When I consider my neighbors, the farmers of Concord, who are at least as welloff as the other classes, I find that for the most part they have been toilingtwenty, thirty, or forty years, that they may become the real owners of theirfarms, which commonly they have inherited with encumbrances, or else boughtwith hired money,—and we may regard one third of that toil as the cost oftheir houses,—but commonly they have not paid for them yet. It is true,the encumbrances sometimes outweigh the value of the farm, so that the farmitself becomes one great encumbrance, and still a man is found to inherit it,being well acquainted with it, as he says. On applying to the assessors, I amsurprised to learn that they cannot at once name a dozen in the town who owntheir farms free and clear. If you would know the history of these homesteads,inquire at the bank where they are mortgaged. The man who has actually paid forhis farm with labor on it is so rare that every neighbor can point to him. Idoubt if there are three such men in Concord. What has been said of themerchants, that a very large majority, even ninety-seven in a hundred, are sureto fail, is equally true of the farmers. With regard to the merchants, however,one of them says pertinently that a great part of their failures are notgenuine pecuniary failures, but merely failures to fulfil their engagements,because it is inconvenient; that is, it is the moral character that breaksdown. But this puts an infinitely worse face on the matter, and suggests,beside, that probably not even the other three succeed in saving their souls,but are perchance bankrupt in a worse sense than they who fail honestly.Bankruptcy and repudiation are the springboards from which much of ourcivilization vaults and turns its somersets, but the savage stands on theunelastic plank of famine. Yet the Middlesex Cattle Show goes off here withéclat annually, as if all the joints of the agricultural machine weresuent.

The farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem of a livelihood by a formulamore complicated than the problem itself. To get his shoestrings he speculatesin herds of cattle. With consummate skill he has set his trap with a hairspring to catch comfort and independence, and then, as he turned away, got hisown leg into it. This is the reason he is poor; and for a similar reason we areall poor in respect to a thousand savage comforts, though surrounded byluxuries. As Chapman sings,—

“The false society of men—
—for earthly greatness
All heavenly comforts rarefies to air.”

And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorerfor it, and it be the house that has got him. As I understand it, that was avalid objection urged by Momus against the house which Minerva made, that she“had not made it movable, by which means a bad neighborhood might beavoided;” and it may still be urged, for our houses are such unwieldyproperty that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them; and the badneighborhood to be avoided is our own scurvy selves. I know one or twofamilies, at least, in this town, who, for nearly a generation, have beenwishing to sell their houses in the outskirts and move into the village, buthave not been able to accomplish it, and only death will set them free.

Granted that the majority are able at last either to own or hire themodern house with all its improvements. While civilization has been improvingour houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them. It hascreated palaces, but it was not so easy to create noblemen and kings. And ifthe civilized man’s pursuits are no worthier than the savage’s, ifhe is employed the greater part of his life in obtaining gross necessaries andcomforts merely, why should he have a better dwelling than the former?

But how do the poor minority fare? Perhaps it will be found, that just inproportion as some have been placed in outward circumstances above the savage,others have been degraded below him. The luxury of one class is counterbalancedby the indigence of another. On the one side is the palace, on the other arethe almshouse and “silent poor.” The myriads who built the pyramidsto be the tombs of the Pharaohs were fed on garlic, and it may be were notdecently buried themselves. The mason who finishes the cornice of the palacereturns at night perchance to a hut not so good as a wigwam. It is a mistake tosuppose that, in a country where the usual evidences of civilization exist, thecondition of a very large body of the inhabitants may not be as degraded asthat of savages. I refer to the degraded poor, not now to the degraded rich. Toknow this I should not need to look farther than to the shanties whichevery where border our railroads, that last improvement in civilization; where Isee in my daily walks human beings living in sties, and all winter with an opendoor, for the sake of light, without any visible, often imaginable, wood pile,and the forms of both old and young are permanently contracted by the longhabit of shrinking from cold and misery, and the development of all their limbsand faculties is checked. It certainly is fair to look at that class by whoselabor the works which distinguish this generation are accomplished. Such too,to a greater or less extent, is the condition of the operatives of everydenomination in England, which is the great workhouse of the world. Or I couldrefer you to Ireland, which is marked as one of the white or enlightened spotson the map. Contrast the physical condition of the Irish with that of the NorthAmerican Indian, or the South Sea Islander, or any other savage race before itwas degraded by contact with the civilized man. Yet I have no doubt that thatpeople’s rulers are as wise as the average of civilized rulers. Theircondition only proves what squalidness may consist with civilization. I hardlyneed refer now to the laborers in our Southern States who produce the stapleexports of this country, and are themselves a staple production of the South.But to confine myself to those who are said to be in moderatecircumstances.

Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actuallythough needlessly poor all their lives because they think that they must havesuch a one as their neighbors have. As if one were to wear any sort of coatwhich the tailor might cut out for him, or, gradually leaving off palmleaf hator cap of woodchuck skin, complain of hard times because he could not afford tobuy him a crown! It is possible to invent a house still more convenient andluxurious than we have, which yet all would admit that man could not afford topay for. Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and notsometimes to be content with less? Shall the respectable citizen thus gravelyteach, by precept and example, the necessity of the young man’s providinga certain number of superfluous glow-shoes, and umbrellas, and empty guestchambers for empty guests, before he dies? Why should not our furniture be assimple as the Arab’s or the Indian’s? When I think of thebenefactors of the race, whom we have apotheosized as messengers from heaven,bearers of divine gifts to man, I do not see in my mind any retinue at theirheels, any car-load of fashionable furniture. Or what if I were toallow—would it not be a singular allowance?—that our furnitureshould be more complex than the Arab’s, in proportion as we are morallyand intellectually his superiors! At present our houses are cluttered anddefiled with it, and a good housewife would sweep out the greater part into thedust hole, and not leave her morning’s work undone. Morning work! By theblushes of Aurora and the music of Memnon, what should be man’smorning work in this world? I had three pieces of limestone on my desk,but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when thefurniture of my mind was all undusted still, and I threw them out the window indisgust. How, then, could I have a furnished house? I would rather sit in theopen air, for no dust gathers on the grass, unless where man has broken ground.

It is the luxurious and dissipated who set the fashions which the herd sodiligently follow. The traveller who stops at the best houses, so called, soondiscovers this, for the publicans presume him to be a Sardanapalus, and if heresigned himself to their tender mercies he would soon be completelyemasculated. I think that in the railroad car we are inclined to spend more onluxury than on safety and convenience, and it threatens without attaining theseto become no better than a modern drawing room, with its divans, and ottomans,and sun-shades, and a hundred other oriental things, which we are taking westwith us, invented for the ladies of the harem and the effeminate natives of theCelestial Empire, which Jonathan should be ashamed to know the names of. Iwould rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on avelvet cushion. I would rather ride on earth in an ox cart with a freecirculation, than go to heaven in the fancy car of an excursion train andbreathe a malaria all the way.

The very simplicity and nakedness of man’s life in the primitive agesimply this advantage at least, that they left him still but a sojourner innature. When he was refreshed with food and sleep he contemplated his journeyagain. He dwelt, as it were, in a tent in this world, and was either threadingthe valleys, or crossing the plains, or climbing the mountain tops. But lo! menhave become the tools of their tools. The man who independently plucked thefruits when he was hungry is become a farmer; and he who stood under a tree forshelter, a housekeeper. We now no longer camp as for a night, but have settleddown on earth and forgotten heaven. We have adopted Christianity merely as animproved method of agri-culture. We have built for this world a familymansion, and for the next a family tomb. The best works of art are theexpression of man’s struggle to free himself from this condition, but theeffect of our art is merely to make this low state comfortable and that higherstate to be forgotten. There is actually no place in this village for a work offine art, if any had come down to us, to stand, for our lives, ourhouses and streets, furnish no proper pedestal for it. There is not a nail tohang a picture on, nor a shelf to receive the bust of a hero or a saint. When Iconsider how our houses are built and paid for, or not paid for, and theirinternal economy managed and sustained, I wonder that the floor does not giveway under the visitor while he is admiring the gewgaws upon the mantel-piece,and let him through into the cellar, to some solid and honest though earthyfoundation. I cannot but perceive that this so called rich and refined life isa thing jumped at, and I do not get on in the enjoyment of the fine artswhich adorn it, my attention being wholly occupied with the jump; for Iremember that the greatest genuine leap, due to human muscles alone, on record,is that of certain wandering Arabs, who are said to have cleared twenty-fivefeet on level ground. Without factitious support, man is sure to come to earthagain beyond that distance. The first question which I am tempted to put to theproprietor of such great impropriety is, Who bolsters you? Are you one of theninety-seven who fail, or of the three who succeed? Answer me these questions,and then perhaps I may look at your bawbles and find them ornamental. The cartbefore the horse is neither beautiful nor useful. Before we can adorn ourhouses with beautiful objects the walls must be stripped, and our lives must bestripped, and beautiful housekeeping and beautiful living be laid for afoundation: now, a taste for the beautiful is most cultivated out of doors,where there is no house and no housekeeper.

Old Johnson, in his “Wonder-Working Providence,” speaking of thefirst settlers of this town, with whom he was contemporary, tells us that“they burrow themselves in the earth for their first shelter under somehillside, and, casting the soil aloft upon timber, they make a smoky fireagainst the earth, at the highest side.” They did not “provide themhouses,” says he, “till the earth, by the Lord’s blessing,brought forth bread to feed them,” and the first year’s crop was solight that “they were forced to cut their bread very thin for a longseason.” The secretary of the Province of New Netherland, writing inDutch, in 1650, for the information of those who wished to take up land there,states more particularly that “those in New Netherland, and especially inNew England, who have no means to build farmhouses at first according to theirwishes, dig a square pit in the ground, cellar fashion, six or seven feet deep,as long and as broad as they think proper, case the earth inside with wood allround the wall, and line the wood with the bark of trees or something else toprevent the caving in of the earth; floor this cellar with plank, and wainscotit overhead for a ceiling, raise a roof of spars clear up, and cover the sparswith bark or green sods, so that they can live dry and warm in these houseswith their entire families for two, three, and four years, it being understoodthat partitions are run through those cellars which are adapted to the size ofthe family. The wealthy and principal men in New England, in the beginning ofthe colonies, commenced their first dwelling houses in this fashion for tworeasons; firstly, in order not to waste time in building, and not to want foodthe next season; secondly, in order not to discourage poor laboring people whomthey brought over in numbers from Fatherland. In the course of three or fouryears, when the country became adapted to agriculture, they built themselveshandsome houses, spending on them several thousands.”

In this course which our ancestors took there was a show of prudence at least,as if their principle were to satisfy the more pressing wants first. But arethe more pressing wants satisfied now? When I think of acquiring for myself oneof our luxurious dwellings, I am deterred, for, so to speak, the country is notyet adapted to human culture, and we are still forced to cut ourspiritual bread far thinner than our forefathers did their wheaten. Notthat all architectural ornament is to be neglected even in the rudest periods;but let our houses first be lined with beauty, where they come in contact withour lives, like the tenement of the shellfish, and not overlaid with it. But,alas! I have been inside one or two of them, and know what they are lined with.

Though we are not so degenerate but that we might possibly live in a cave or awigwam or wear skins today, it certainly is better to accept the advantages,though so dearly bought, which the invention and industry of mankind offer. Insuch a neighborhood as this, boards and shingles, lime and bricks, are cheaperand more easily obtained than suitable caves, or whole logs, or bark insufficient quantities, or even well-tempered clay or flat stones. I speakunderstandingly on this subject, for I have made myself acquainted with it boththeoretically and practically. With a little more wit we might use thesematerials so as to become richer than the richest now are, and make ourcivilization a blessing. The civilized man is a more experienced and wisersavage. But to make haste to my own experiment.

Near the end of March, 1845, I borrowed an axe and went down to the woods byWalden Pond, nearest to where I intended to build my house, and began to cutdown some tall, arrowy white pines, still in their youth, for timber. It isdifficult to begin without borrowing, but perhaps it is the most generouscourse thus to permit your fellow-men to have an interest in your enterprise.The owner of the axe, as he released his hold on it, said that it was the appleof his eye; but I returned it sharper than I received it. It was a pleasanthillside where I worked, covered with pine woods, through which I looked out onthe pond, and a small open field in the woods where pines and hickories werespringing up. The ice in the pond was not yet dissolved, though there were someopen spaces, and it was all dark colored and saturated with water. There weresome slight flurries of snow during the days that I worked there; but for themost part when I came out on to the railroad, on my way home, its yellow sandheap stretched away gleaming in the hazy atmosphere, and the rails shone in thespring sun, and I heard the lark and pewee and other birds already come tocommence another year with us. They were pleasant spring days, in which thewinter of man’s discontent was thawing as well as the earth, and the lifethat had lain torpid began to stretch itself. One day, when my axe had come offand I had cut a green hickory for a wedge, driving it with a stone, and hadplaced the whole to soak in a pond hole in order to swell the wood, I saw astriped snake run into the water, and he lay on the bottom, apparently withoutinconvenience, as long as I stayed there, or more than a quarter of an hour;perhaps because he had not yet fairly come out of the torpid state. It appearedto me that for a like reason men remain in their present low and primitivecondition; but if they should feel the influence of the spring of springsarousing them, they would of necessity rise to a higher and more ethereal life.I had previously seen the snakes in frosty mornings in my path with portions oftheir bodies still numb and inflexible, waiting for the sun to thaw them. Onthe 1st of April it rained and melted the ice, and in the early part of theday, which was very foggy, I heard a stray goose groping about over the pondand cackling as if lost, or like the spirit of the fog.

So I went on for some days cutting and hewing timber, and also studs andrafters, all with my narrow axe, not having many communicable or scholar-likethoughts, singing to myself,—

Men say they know many things;
But lo! they have taken wings,—
The arts and sciences,
And a thousand appliances;
The wind that blows
Is all that any body knows.

I hewed the main timbers six inches square, most of the studs on two sidesonly, and the rafters and floor timbers on one side, leaving the rest of thebark on, so that they were just as straight and much stronger than sawed ones.Each stick was carefully mortised or tenoned by its stump, for I had borrowedother tools by this time. My days in the woods were not very long ones; yet Iusually carried my dinner of bread and butter, and read the newspaper in whichit was wrapped, at noon, sitting amid the green pine boughs which I had cutoff, and to my bread was imparted some of their fragrance, for my hands werecovered with a thick coat of pitch. Before I had done I was more the friendthan the foe of the pine tree, though I had cut down some of them, havingbecome better acquainted with it. Sometimes a rambler in the wood was attractedby the sound of my axe, and we chatted pleasantly over the chips which I hadmade.

By the middle of April, for I made no haste in my work, but rather made themost of it, my house was framed and ready for the raising. I had already boughtthe shanty of James Collins, an Irishman who worked on the Fitchburg Railroad,for boards. James Collins’ shanty was considered an uncommonly fine one.When I called to see it he was not at home. I walked about the outside, atfirst unobserved from within, the window was so deep and high. It was of smalldimensions, with a peaked cottage roof, and not much else to be seen, the dirtbeing raised five feet all around as if it were a compost heap. The roof wasthe soundest part, though a good deal warped and made brittle by the sun.Door-sill there was none, but a perennial passage for the hens under the doorboard. Mrs. C. came to the door and asked me to view it from the inside. Thehens were driven in by my approach. It was dark, and had a dirt floor for themost part, dank, clammy, and aguish, only here a board and there a board whichwould not bear removal. She lighted a lamp to show me the inside of the roofand the walls, and also that the board floor extended under the bed, warning menot to step into the cellar, a sort of dust hole two feet deep. In her ownwords, they were “good boards overhead, good boards all around, and agood window,”—of two whole squares originally, only the cat hadpassed out that way lately. There was a stove, a bed, and a place to sit, aninfant in the house where it was born, a silk parasol, gilt-framedlooking-glass, and a patent new coffee mill nailed to an oak sapling, all told.The bargain was soon concluded, for James had in the meanwhile returned. I topay four dollars and twenty-five cents to-night, he to vacate at five to-morrowmorning, selling to nobody else meanwhile: I to take possession at six. It werewell, he said, to be there early, and anticipate certain indistinct but whollyunjust claims on the score of ground rent and fuel. This he assured me was theonly encumbrance. At six I passed him and his family on the road. One largebundle held their all,—bed, coffee-mill, looking-glass, hens,—all butthe cat, she took to the woods and became a wild cat, and, as I learnedafterward, trod in a trap set for woodchucks, and so became a dead cat at last.

I took down this dwelling the same morning, drawing the nails, and removed itto the pond side by small cartloads, spreading the boards on the grass there tobleach and warp back again in the sun. One early thrush gave me a note or twoas I drove along the woodland path. I was informed treacherously by a youngPatrick that neighbor Seeley, an Irishman, in the intervals of the carting,transferred the still tolerable, straight, and drivable nails, staples, andspikes to his pocket, and then stood when I came back to pass the time of day,and look freshly up, unconcerned, with spring thoughts, at the devastation;there being a dearth of work, as he said. He was there to representspectatordom, and help make this seemingly insignificant event one with theremoval of the gods of Troy.

I dug my cellar in the side of a hill sloping to the south, where a woodchuckhad formerly dug his burrow, down through sumach and blackberry roots, and thelowest stain of vegetation, six feet square by seven deep, to a fine sand wherepotatoes would not freeze in any winter. The sides were left shelving, and notstoned; but the sun having never shone on them, the sand still keeps its place.It was but two hours’ work. I took particular pleasure in this breakingof ground, for in almost all latitudes men dig into the earth for an equabletemperature. Under the most splendid house in the city is still to be found thecellar where they store their roots as of old, and long after thesuperstructure has disappeared posterity remark its dent in the earth. Thehouse is still but a sort of porch at the entrance of a burrow.

At length, in the beginning of May, with the help of some of my acquaintances,rather to improve so good an occasion for neighborliness than from anynecessity, I set up the frame of my house. No man was ever more honored in thecharacter of his raisers than I. They are destined, I trust, to assist at theraising of loftier structures one day. I began to occupy my house on the 4th ofJuly, as soon as it was boarded and roofed, for the boards were carefullyfeather-edged and lapped, so that it was perfectly impervious to rain; butbefore boarding I laid the foundation of a chimney at one end, bringing twocartloads of stones up the hill from the pond in my arms. I built the chimneyafter my hoeing in the fall, before a fire became necessary for warmth, doingmy cooking in the mean while out of doors on the ground, early in the morning:which mode I still think is in some respects more convenient and agreeable thanthe usual one. When it stormed before my bread was baked, I fixed a few boardsover the fire, and sat under them to watch my loaf, and passed some pleasanthours in that way. In those days, when my hands were much employed, I read butlittle, but the least scraps of paper which lay on the ground, my holder, ortablecloth, afforded me as much entertainment, in fact answered the samepurpose as the Iliad.

It would be worth the while to build still more deliberately than I did,considering, for instance, what foundation a door, a window, a cellar, agarret, have in the nature of man, and perchance never raising anysuperstructure until we found a better reason for it than our temporalnecessities even. There is some of the same fitness in a man’s buildinghis own house that there is in a bird’s building its own nest. Who knowsbut if men constructed their dwellings with their own hands, and provided foodfor themselves and families simply and honestly enough, the poetic facultywould be universally developed, as birds universally sing when they are soengaged? But alas! we do like cowbirds and cuckoos, which lay their eggs innests which other birds have built, and cheer no traveller with theirchattering and unmusical notes. Shall we forever resign the pleasure ofconstruction to the carpenter? What does architecture amount to in theexperience of the mass of men? I never in all my walks came across a manengaged in so simple and natural an occupation as building his house. We belongto the community. It is not the tailor alone who is the ninth part of a man; itis as much the preacher, and the merchant, and the farmer. Where is thisdivision of labor to end? and what object does it finally serve? No doubtanother may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that heshould do so to the exclusion of my thinking for myself.

True, there are architects so called in this country, and I have heard of oneat least possessed with the idea of making architectural ornaments have a coreof truth, a necessity, and hence a beauty, as if it were a revelation to him.All very well perhaps from his point of view, but only a little better than thecommon dilettantism. A sentimental reformer in architecture, he began at thecornice, not at the foundation. It was only how to put a core of truth withinthe ornaments, that every sugar plum in fact might have an almond or carawayseed in it,—though I hold that almonds are most wholesome without thesugar,—and not how the inhabitant, the indweller, might build trulywithin and without, and let the ornaments take care of themselves. Whatreasonable man ever supposed that ornaments were something outward and in theskin merely,—that the tortoise got his spotted shell, or the shellfishits mother-o’-pearl tints, by such a contract as the inhabitants ofBroadway their Trinity Church? But a man has no more to do with the style ofarchitecture of his house than a tortoise with that of its shell: nor need thesoldier be so idle as to try to paint the precise color of his virtue on hisstandard. The enemy will find it out. He may turn pale when the trial comes.This man seemed to me to lean over the cornice, and timidly whisper his halftruth to the rude occupants who really knew it better than he. What ofarchitectural beauty I now see, I know has gradually grown from within outward,out of the necessities and character of the indweller, who is the onlybuilder,—out of some unconscious truthfulness, and nobleness, withoutever a thought for the appearance and whatever additional beauty of this kindis destined to be produced will be preceded by a like unconscious beauty oflife. The most interesting dwellings in this country, as the painter knows, arethe most unpretending, humble log huts and cottages of the poor commonly; it isthe life of the inhabitants whose shells they are, and not any peculiarity intheir surfaces merely, which makes them picturesque; and equallyinteresting will be the citizen’s suburban box, when his life shall be assimple and as agreeable to the imagination, and there is as little strainingafter effect in the style of his dwelling. A great proportion of architecturalornaments are literally hollow, and a September gale would strip them off, likeborrowed plumes, without injury to the substantials. They can do withoutarchitecture who have no olives nor wines in the cellar. What if anequal ado were made about the ornaments of style in literature, and thearchitects of our bibles spent as much time about their cornices as thearchitects of our churches do? So are made the belles-lettres and thebeaux-arts and their professors. Much it concerns a man, forsooth, how afew sticks are slanted over him or under him, and what colors are daubed uponhis box. It would signify somewhat, if, in any earnest sense, he slantedthem and daubed it; but the spirit having departed out of the tenant, it is ofa piece with constructing his own coffin,—the architecture of the grave,and “carpenter” is but another name for “coffin-maker.”One man says, in his despair or indifference to life, take up a handful of theearth at your feet, and paint your house that color. Is he thinking of his lastand narrow house? Toss up a copper for it as well. What an abundance of leisurehe must have! Why do you take up a handful of dirt? Better paint your houseyour own complexion; let it turn pale or blush for you. An enterprise toimprove the style of cottage architecture! When you have got my ornamentsready I will wear them.

Before winter I built a chimney, and shingled the sides of my house, which werealready impervious to rain, with imperfect and sappy shingles made of the firstslice of the log, whose edges I was obliged to straighten with a plane.

I have thus a tight shingled and plastered house, ten feet wide by fifteenlong, and eight-feet posts, with a garret and a closet, a large window on eachside, two trap doors, one door at the end, and a brick fireplace opposite. Theexact cost of my house, paying the usual price for such materials as I used,but not counting the work, all of which was done by myself, was as follows; andI give the details because very few are able to tell exactly what their housescost, and fewer still, if any, the separate cost of the various materials whichcompose them:—

 Boards.......................... $ 8.03½, mostly shanty boards. Refuse shingles for roof sides,.. 4.00 Laths,........................... 1.25 Two second-hand windows with glass,................... 2.43 One thousand old brick,.......... 4.00 Two casks of lime,............... 2.40 That was high. Hair,............................ 0.31 More than I needed. Mantle-tree iron,................ 0.15 Nails,........................... 3.90 Hinges and screws,............... 0.14 Latch,........................... 0.10 Chalk,........................... 0.01 Transportation,.................. 1.40 I carried a good part ———— on my back. In all,..................... $28.12½

These are all the materials excepting the timber stones and sand, which Iclaimed by squatter’s right. I have also a small wood-shed adjoining,made chiefly of the stuff which was left after building the house.

I intend to build me a house which will surpass any on the main street inConcord in grandeur and luxury, as soon as it pleases me as much and will costme no more than my present one.

I thus found that the student who wishes for a shelter can obtain one for alifetime at an expense not greater than the rent which he now pays annually. IfI seem to boast more than is becoming, my excuse is that I brag for humanityrather than for myself; and my shortcomings and inconsistencies do not affectthe truth of my statement. Notwithstanding much cant and hypocrisy,—chaffwhich I find it difficult to separate from my wheat, but for which I am assorry as any man,—I will breathe freely and stretch myself in thisrespect, it is such a relief to both the moral and physical system; and I amresolved that I will not through humility become the devil’s attorney. Iwill endeavor to speak a good word for the truth. At Cambridge College the mererent of a student’s room, which is only a little larger than my own, isthirty dollars each year, though the corporation had the advantage of buildingthirty-two side by side and under one roof, and the occupant suffers theinconvenience of many and noisy neighbors, and perhaps a residence in thefourth story. I cannot but think that if we had more true wisdom in theserespects, not only less education would be needed, because, forsooth, morewould already have been acquired, but the pecuniary expense of getting aneducation would in a great measure vanish. Those conveniences which the studentrequires at Cambridge or elsewhere cost him or somebody else ten times as greata sacrifice of life as they would with proper management on both sides. Thosethings for which the most money is demanded are never the things which thestudent most wants. Tuition, for instance, is an important item in the termbill, while for the far more valuable education which he gets by associatingwith the most cultivated of his contemporaries no charge is made. The mode offounding a college is, commonly, to get up a subscription of dollars and cents,and then following blindly the principles of a division of labor to itsextreme, a principle which should never be followed but withcircumspection,—to call in a contractor who makes this a subject ofspeculation, and he employs Irishmen or other operatives actually to lay thefoundations, while the students that are to be are said to be fittingthemselves for it; and for these oversights successive generations have to pay.I think that it would be better than this, for the students, or thosewho desire to be benefited by it, even to lay the foundation themselves. Thestudent who secures his coveted leisure and retirement by systematicallyshirking any labor necessary to man obtains but an ignoble and unprofitableleisure, defrauding himself of the experience which alone can make leisurefruitful. “But,” says one, “you do not mean that the studentsshould go to work with their hands instead of their heads?” I do not meanthat exactly, but I mean something which he might think a good deal like that;I mean that they should not play life, or study it merely, whilethe community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly liveit from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at oncetrying the experiment of living? Methinks this would exercise their minds asmuch as mathematics. If I wished a boy to know something about the arts andsciences, for instance, I would not pursue the common course, which is merelyto send him into the neighborhood of some professor, where any thing isprofessed and practised but the art of life;—to survey the world througha telescope or a microscope, and never with his natural eye; to studychemistry, and not learn how his bread is made, or mechanics, and not learn howit is earned; to discover new satellites to Neptune, and not detect the motesin his eyes, or to what vagabond he is a satellite himself; or to be devouredby the monsters that swarm all around him, while contemplating the monsters ina drop of vinegar. Which would have advanced the most at the end of amonth,—the boy who had made his own jackknife from the ore which he haddug and smelted, reading as much as would be necessary for this,—or theboy who had attended the lectures on metallurgy at the Institute in the meanwhile, and had received a Rodgers’ penknife from his father? Which wouldbe most likely to cut his fingers?... To my astonishment I was informed onleaving college that I had studied navigation!—why, if I had taken oneturn down the harbor I should have known more about it. Even the poorstudent studies and is taught only political economy, while that economyof living which is synonymous with philosophy is not even sincerely professedin our colleges. The consequence is, that while he is reading Adam Smith,Ricardo, and Say, he runs his father in debt irretrievably.

As with our colleges, so with a hundred “modern improvements”;there is an illusion about them; there is not always a positive advance. Thedevil goes on exacting compound interest to the last for his early share andnumerous succeeding investments in them. Our inventions are wont to be prettytoys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improvedmeans to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arriveat; as railroads lead to Boston or New York. We are in great haste to constructa magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, havenothing important to communicate. Either is in such a predicament as the manwho was earnest to be introduced to a distinguished deaf woman, but when he waspresented, and one end of her ear trumpet was put into his hand, had nothing tosay. As if the main object were to talk fast and not to talk sensibly. We areeager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer tothe new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad,flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whoopingcough. After all, the man whose horse trots a mile in a minute does not carrythe most important messages; he is not an evangelist, nor does he come roundeating locusts and wild honey. I doubt if Flying Childers ever carried a peckof corn to mill.

One says to me, “I wonder that you do not lay up money; you love totravel; you might take the cars and go to Fitchburg to-day and see thecountry.” But I am wiser than that. I have learned that the swiftesttraveller is he that goes afoot. I say to my friend, Suppose we try who willget there first. The distance is thirty miles; the fare ninety cents. That isalmost a day’s wages. I remember when wages were sixty cents a day forlaborers on this very road. Well, I start now on foot, and get there beforenight; I have travelled at that rate by the week together. You will in themean while have earned your fare, and arrive there some time to-morrow, orpossibly this evening, if you are lucky enough to get a job in season. Insteadof going to Fitchburg, you will be working here the greater part of the day.And so, if the railroad reached round the world, I think that I should keepahead of you; and as for seeing the country and getting experience of thatkind, I should have to cut your acquaintance altogether.

Such is the universal law, which no man can ever outwit, and with regard to therailroad even we may say it is as broad as it is long. To make a railroad roundthe world available to all mankind is equivalent to grading the whole surfaceof the planet. Men have an indistinct notion that if they keep up this activityof joint stocks and spades long enough all will at length ride somewhere, innext to no time, and for nothing; but though a crowd rushes to the depot, andthe conductor shouts “All aboard!” when the smoke is blown away andthe vapor condensed, it will be perceived that a few are riding, but the restare run over,—and it will be called, and will be, “A melancholyaccident.” No doubt they can ride at last who shall have earned theirfare, that is, if they survive so long, but they will probably have lost theirelasticity and desire to travel by that time. This spending of the best part ofone’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty duringthe least valuable part of it, reminds me of the Englishman who went to Indiato make a fortune first, in order that he might return to England and live thelife of a poet. He should have gone up garret at once. “What!”exclaim a million Irishmen starting up from all the shanties in the land,“is not this railroad which we have built a good thing?” Yes, Ianswer, comparatively good, that is, you might have done worse; but Iwish, as you are brothers of mine, that you could have spent your time betterthan digging in this dirt.

Before I finished my house, wishing to earn ten or twelve dollars by somehonest and agreeable method, in order to meet my unusual expenses, I plantedabout two acres and a half of light and sandy soil near it chiefly with beans,but also a small part with potatoes, corn, peas, and turnips. The whole lotcontains eleven acres, mostly growing up to pines and hickories, and was soldthe preceding season for eight dollars and eight cents an acre. One farmer saidthat it was “good for nothing but to raise cheeping squirrels on.”I put no manure whatever on this land, not being the owner, but merely asquatter, and not expecting to cultivate so much again, and I did not quite hoeit all once. I got out several cords of stumps in ploughing, which supplied mewith fuel for a long time, and left small circles of virgin mould, easilydistinguishable through the summer by the greater luxuriance of the beansthere. The dead and for the most part unmerchantable wood behind my house, andthe driftwood from the pond, have supplied the remainder of my fuel. I wasobliged to hire a team and a man for the ploughing, though I held the ploughmyself. My farm outgoes for the first season were, for implements, seed, work,&c., $14.72½. The seed corn was given me. This never costs anything tospeak of, unless you plant more than enough. I got twelve bushels of beans, andeighteen bushels of potatoes, beside some peas and sweet corn. The yellow cornand turnips were too late to come to any thing. My whole income from the farmwas

 $ 23.44 Deducting the outgoes,........... 14.72½ ———— There are left,................. $ 8.71½,

beside produce consumed and on hand at the time this estimate was made of thevalue of $4.50,—the amount on hand much more than balancing a littlegrass which I did not raise. All things considered, that is, considering theimportance of a man’s soul and of to-day, notwithstanding the short timeoccupied by my experiment, nay, partly even because of its transient character,I believe that that was doing better than any farmer in Concord did that year.

The next year I did better still, for I spaded up all the land which Irequired, about a third of an acre, and I learned from the experience of bothyears, not being in the least awed by many celebrated works on husbandry,Arthur Young among the rest, that if one would live simply and eat only thecrop which he raised, and raise no more than he ate, and not exchange it for aninsufficient quantity of more luxurious and expensive things, he would need tocultivate only a few rods of ground, and that it would be cheaper to spade upthat than to use oxen to plough it, and to select a fresh spot from time totime than to manure the old, and he could do all his necessary farm work as itwere with his left hand at odd hours in the summer; and thus he would not betied to an ox, or horse, or cow, or pig, as at present. I desire to speakimpartially on this point, and as one not interested in the success or failureof the present economical and social arrangements. I was more independent thanany farmer in Concord, for I was not anchored to a house or farm, but couldfollow the bent of my genius, which is a very crooked one, every moment. Besidebeing better off than they already, if my house had been burned or my crops hadfailed, I should have been nearly as well off as before.

I am wont to think that men are not so much the keepers of herds as herds arethe keepers of men, the former are so much the freer. Men and oxen exchangework; but if we consider necessary work only, the oxen will be seen to havegreatly the advantage, their farm is so much the larger. Man does some of hispart of the exchange work in his six weeks of haying, and it is no boy’splay. Certainly no nation that lived simply in all respects, that is, no nationof philosophers, would commit so great a blunder as to use the labor ofanimals. True, there never was and is not likely soon to be a nation ofphilosophers, nor am I certain it is desirable that there should be. However,I should never have broken a horse or bull and taken him to board forany work he might do for me, for fear I should become a horse-man or aherds-man merely; and if society seems to be the gainer by so doing, are wecertain that what is one man’s gain is not another’s loss, and thatthe stable-boy has equal cause with his master to be satisfied? Granted thatsome public works would not have been constructed without this aid, and let manshare the glory of such with the ox and horse; does it follow that he could nothave accomplished works yet more worthy of himself in that case? When men beginto do, not merely unnecessary or artistic, but luxurious and idle work, withtheir assistance, it is inevitable that a few do all the exchange work with theoxen, or, in other words, become the slaves of the strongest. Man thus not onlyworks for the animal within him, but, for a symbol of this, he works for theanimal without him. Though we have many substantial houses of brick or stone,the prosperity of the farmer is still measured by the degree to which the barnovershadows the house. This town is said to have the largest houses for oxen,cows, and horses hereabouts, and it is not behindhand in its public buildings;but there are very few halls for free worship or free speech in this county. Itshould not be by their architecture, but why not even by their power ofabstract thought, that nations should seek to commemorate themselves? How muchmore admirable the Bhagvat-Geeta than all the ruins of the East! Towers andtemples are the luxury of princes. A simple and independent mind does not toilat the bidding of any prince. Genius is not a retainer to any emperor, nor isits material silver, or gold, or marble, except to a trifling extent. To whatend, pray, is so much stone hammered? In Arcadia, when I was there, I did notsee any hammering stone. Nations are possessed with an insane ambition toperpetuate the memory of themselves by the amount of hammered stone they leave.What if equal pains were taken to smooth and polish their manners? One piece ofgood sense would be more memorable than a monument as high as the moon. I lovebetter to see stones in place. The grandeur of Thebes was a vulgar grandeur.More sensible is a rod of stone wall that bounds an honest man’s fieldthan a hundred-gated Thebes that has wandered farther from the true end oflife. The religion and civilization which are barbaric and heathenish buildsplendid temples; but what you might call Christianity does not. Most of thestone a nation hammers goes toward its tomb only. It buries itself alive. Asfor the Pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the factthat so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their livesconstructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiser andmanlier to have drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs. Imight possibly invent some excuse for them and him, but I have no time for it.As for the religion and love of art of the builders, it is much the same allthe world over, whether the building be an Egyptian temple or the United StatesBank. It costs more than it comes to. The mainspring is vanity, assisted by thelove of garlic and bread and butter. Mr. Balcom, a promising young architect,designs it on the back of his Vitruvius, with hard pencil and ruler, and thejob is let out to Dobson & Sons, stonecutters. When the thirty centuriesbegin to look down on it, mankind begin to look up at it. As for your hightowers and monuments, there was a crazy fellow once in this town who undertookto dig through to China, and he got so far that, as he said, he heard theChinese pots and kettles rattle; but I think that I shall not go out of my wayto admire the hole which he made. Many are concerned about the monuments of theWest and the East,—to know who built them. For my part, I should like toknow who in those days did not build them,—who were above such trifling.But to proceed with my statistics.

By surveying, carpentry, and day-labor of various other kinds in the village inthe mean while, for I have as many trades as fingers, I had earned $13.34. Theexpense of food for eight months, namely, from July 4th to March 1st, the timewhen these estimates were made, though I lived there more than twoyears,—not counting potatoes, a little green corn, and some peas, which Ihad raised, nor considering the value of what was on hand at the lastdate, was

 Rice,................... $ 1.73½ Molasses,................ 1.73 Cheapest form of the saccharine. Rye meal,................ 1.04¾ Indian meal,............. 0.99¾ Cheaper than rye. Pork,.................... 0.22 All experiments which failed: Flour,................... 0.88 Costs more than Indian meal, both money and trouble. Sugar,................... 0.80 Lard,.................... 0.65 Apples,.................. 0.25 Dried apple,............. 0.22 Sweet potatoes,.......... 0.10 One pumpkin,............. 0.06 One watermelon,.......... 0.02 Salt,.................... 0.03

Yes, I did eat $8.74, all told; but I should not thus unblushingly publish myguilt, if I did not know that most of my readers were equally guilty withmyself, and that their deeds would look no better in print. The next year Isometimes caught a mess of fish for my dinner, and once I went so far as toslaughter a woodchuck which ravaged my bean-field,—effect histransmigration, as a Tartar would say,—and devour him, partly forexperiment’s sake; but though it afforded me a momentary enjoyment,notwithstanding a musky flavor, I saw that the longest use would not make thata good practice, however it might seem to have your woodchucks ready dressed bythe village butcher.

Clothing and some incidental expenses within the same dates, though little canbe inferred from this item, amounted to

 $8.40¾ Oil and some household utensils,....... 2.00

So that all the pecuniary outgoes, excepting for washing and mending, which forthe most part were done out of the house, and their bills have not yet beenreceived,—and these are all and more than all the ways by which moneynecessarily goes out in this part of the world,—were

 House,................................ $ 28.12½ Farm one year,.......................... 14.72½ Food eight months,...................... 8.74 Clothing, etc., eight months,........... 8.40¾ Oil, &c., eight months,................. 2.00 —————— In all,........................... $ 61.99¾

I address myself now to those of my readers who have a living to get. And tomeet this I have for farm produce sold

 $23.44 Earned by day-labor,................... 13.34 —————— In all,............................ $36.78,

which subtracted from the sum of the outgoes leaves a balance of $25.21¾ on theone side,—this being very nearly the means with which I started, and themeasure of expenses to be incurred,—and on the other, beside the leisureand independence and health thus secured, a comfortable house for me as long asI choose to occupy it.

These statistics, however accidental and therefore uninstructive they mayappear, as they have a certain completeness, have a certain value also. Nothingwas given me of which I have not rendered some account. It appears from theabove estimate, that my food alone cost me in money about twenty-seven cents aweek. It was, for nearly two years after this, rye and Indian meal withoutyeast, potatoes, rice, a very little salt pork, molasses, and salt, and mydrink water. It was fit that I should live on rice, mainly, who loved so wellthe philosophy of India. To meet the objections of some inveterate cavillers, Imay as well state, that if I dined out occasionally, as I always had done, andI trust shall have opportunities to do again, it was frequently to thedetriment of my domestic arrangements. But the dining out, being, as I havestated, a constant element, does not in the least affect a comparativestatement like this.

I learned from my two years’ experience that it would cost incrediblylittle trouble to obtain one’s necessary food, even in this latitude;that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals, and yet retain health andstrength. I have made a satisfactory dinner, satisfactory on several accounts,simply off a dish of purslane (Portulaca oleracea) which I gathered inmy cornfield, boiled and salted. I give the Latin on account of the savorinessof the trivial name. And pray what more can a reasonable man desire, inpeaceful times, in ordinary noons, than a sufficient number of ears of greensweet-corn boiled, with the addition of salt? Even the little variety which Iused was a yielding to the demands of appetite, and not of health. Yet men havecome to such a pass that they frequently starve, not for want of necessaries,but for want of luxuries; and I know a good woman who thinks that her son losthis life because he took to drinking water only.

The reader will perceive that I am treating the subject rather from an economicthan a dietetic point of view, and he will not venture to put my abstemiousnessto the test unless he has a well-stocked larder.

Bread I at first made of pure Indian meal and salt, genuine hoe-cakes, which Ibaked before my fire out of doors on a shingle or the end of a stick of timbersawed off in building my house; but it was wont to get smoked and to have apiny flavor. I tried flour also; but have at last found a mixture of rye andIndian meal most convenient and agreeable. In cold weather it was no littleamusement to bake several small loaves of this in succession, tending andturning them as carefully as an Egyptian his hatching eggs. They were a realcereal fruit which I ripened, and they had to my senses a fragrance like thatof other noble fruits, which I kept in as long as possible by wrapping them incloths. I made a study of the ancient and indispensable art of bread-making,consulting such authorities as offered, going back to the primitive days andfirst invention of the unleavened kind, when from the wildness of nuts andmeats men first reached the mildness and refinement of this diet, andtravelling gradually down in my studies through that accidental souring of thedough which, it is supposed, taught the leavening process, and through thevarious fermentations thereafter, till I came to “good, sweet, wholesomebread,” the staff of life. Leaven, which some deem the soul of bread, thespiritus which fills its cellular tissue, which is religiously preservedlike the vestal fire,—some precious bottle-full, I suppose, first broughtover in the Mayflower, did the business for America, and its influence is stillrising, swelling, spreading, in cerealian billows over the land,—this seedI regularly and faithfully procured from the village, till at length onemorning I forgot the rules, and scalded my yeast; by which accident Idiscovered that even this was not indispensable,—for my discoveries werenot by the synthetic but analytic process,—and I have gladly omitted itsince, though most housewives earnestly assured me that safe and wholesomebread without yeast might not be, and elderly people prophesied a speedy decayof the vital forces. Yet I find it not to be an essential ingredient, and aftergoing without it for a year am still in the land of the living; and I am gladto escape the trivialness of carrying a bottle-full in my pocket, which wouldsometimes pop and discharge its contents to my discomfiture. It is simpler andmore respectable to omit it. Man is an animal who more than any other can adapthimself to all climates and circumstances. Neither did I put any sal soda, orother acid or alkali, into my bread. It would seem that I made it according tothe recipe which Marcus Porcius Cato gave about two centuries before Christ.“Panem depsticium sic facito. Manus mortariumque bene lavato. Farinam inmortarium indito, aquæ paulatim addito, subigitoque pulchre. Ubi benesubegeris, defingito, coquitoque sub testu.” Which I take tomean—“Make kneaded bread thus. Wash your hands and trough well.Put the meal into the trough, add water gradually, and knead it thoroughly.When you have kneaded it well, mould it, and bake it under a cover,” thatis, in a baking-kettle. Not a word about leaven. But I did not always use thisstaff of life. At one time, owing to the emptiness of my purse, I saw none ofit for more than a month.

Every New Englander might easily raise all his own breadstuffs in this land ofrye and Indian corn, and not depend on distant and fluctuating markets forthem. Yet so far are we from simplicity and independence that, in Concord,fresh and sweet meal is rarely sold in the shops, and hominy and corn in astill coarser form are hardly used by any. For the most part the farmer givesto his cattle and hogs the grain of his own producing, and buys flour, which isat least no more wholesome, at a greater cost, at the store. I saw that I couldeasily raise my bushel or two of rye and Indian corn, for the former will growon the poorest land, and the latter does not require the best, and grind themin a hand-mill, and so do without rice and pork; and if I must have someconcentrated sweet, I found by experiment that I could make a very goodmolasses either of pumpkins or beets, and I knew that I needed only to set outa few maples to obtain it more easily still, and while these were growing Icould use various substitutes beside those which I have named.“For,” as the Forefathers sang,—

“we can make liquor to sweeten our lips
Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.”

Finally, as for salt, that grossest of groceries, to obtain this might be a fitoccasion for a visit to the seashore, or, if I did without it altogether, Ishould probably drink the less water. I do not learn that the Indians evertroubled themselves to go after it.

Thus I could avoid all trade and barter, so far as my food was concerned, andhaving a shelter already, it would only remain to get clothing and fuel. Thepantaloons which I now wear were woven in a farmer’s family,—thankHeaven there is so much virtue still in man; for I think the fall from thefarmer to the operative as great and memorable as that from the man to thefarmer;—and in a new country, fuel is an encumbrance. As for a habitat,if I were not permitted still to squat, I might purchase one acre at the sameprice for which the land I cultivated was sold—namely, eight dollars andeight cents. But as it was, I considered that I enhanced the value of the landby squatting on it.

There is a certain class of unbelievers who sometimes ask me such questions as,if I think that I can live on vegetable food alone; and to strike at the rootof the matter at once,—for the root is faith,—I am accustomed toanswer such, that I can live on board nails. If they cannot understand that,they cannot understand much that I have to say. For my part, I am glad to hearof experiments of this kind being tried; as that a young man tried for afortnight to live on hard, raw corn on the ear, using his teeth for all mortar.The squirrel tribe tried the same and succeeded. The human race is interestedin these experiments, though a few old women who are incapacitated for them, orwho own their thirds in mills, may be alarmed.

My furniture, part of which I made myself, and the rest cost me nothing ofwhich I have not rendered an account, consisted of a bed, a table, a desk,three chairs, a looking-glass three inches in diameter, a pair of tongs andandirons, a kettle, a skillet, and a frying-pan, a dipper, a wash-bowl, twoknives and forks, three plates, one cup, one spoon, a jug for oil, a jug formolasses, and a japanned lamp. None is so poor that he need sit on a pumpkin.That is shiftlessness. There is a plenty of such chairs as I like best in thevillage garrets to be had for taking them away. Furniture! Thank God, I can sitand I can stand without the aid of a furniture warehouse. What man but aphilosopher would not be ashamed to see his furniture packed in a cart andgoing up country exposed to the light of heaven and the eyes of men, a beggarlyaccount of empty boxes? That is Spaulding’s furniture. I could never tellfrom inspecting such a load whether it belonged to a so called rich man or apoor one; the owner always seemed poverty-stricken. Indeed, the more you haveof such things the poorer you are. Each load looks as if it contained thecontents of a dozen shanties; and if one shanty is poor, this is a dozen timesas poor. Pray, for what do we move ever but to get rid of our furniture,our exuviæ; at last to go from this world to another newlyfurnished, and leave this to be burned? It is the same as if all these trapswere buckled to a man’s belt, and he could not move over the roughcountry where our lines are cast without dragging them,—dragging his trap.He was a lucky fox that left his tail in the trap. The muskrat will gnaw histhird leg off to be free. No wonder man has lost his elasticity. How often heis at a dead set! “Sir, if I may be so bold, what do you mean by a deadset?” If you are a seer, whenever you meet a man you will see all that heowns, ay, and much that he pretends to disown, behind him, even to his kitchenfurniture and all the trumpery which he saves and will not burn, and he willappear to be harnessed to it and making what headway he can. I think that theman is at a dead set who has got through a knot hole or gateway where hissledge load of furniture cannot follow him. I cannot but feel compassion when Ihear some trig, compact-looking man, seemingly free, all girded and ready,speak of his “furniture,” as whether it is insured or not.“But what shall I do with my furniture?” My gay butterfly isentangled in a spider’s web then. Even those who seem for a long whilenot to have any, if you inquire more narrowly you will find have some stored insomebody’s barn. I look upon England to-day as an old gentleman who istravelling with a great deal of baggage, trumpery which has accumulated fromlong housekeeping, which he has not the courage to burn; great trunk, littletrunk, bandbox and bundle. Throw away the first three at least. It wouldsurpass the powers of a well man nowadays to take up his bed and walk, and Ishould certainly advise a sick one to lay down his bed and run. When I have metan immigrant tottering under a bundle which contained his all—lookinglike an enormous wen which had grown out of the nape of his neck—I havepitied him, not because that was his all, but because he had all that tocarry. If I have got to drag my trap, I will take care that it be a light oneand do not nip me in a vital part. But perchance it would be wisest never toput one’s paw into it.

I would observe, by the way, that it costs me nothing for curtains, for I haveno gazers to shut out but the sun and moon, and I am willing that they shouldlook in. The moon will not sour milk nor taint meat of mine, nor will the suninjure my furniture or fade my carpet, and if he is sometimes too warm afriend, I find it still better economy to retreat behind some curtain whichnature has provided, than to add a single item to the details of housekeeping.A lady once offered me a mat, but as I had no room to spare within the house,nor time to spare within or without to shake it, I declined it, preferring towipe my feet on the sod before my door. It is best to avoid the beginnings ofevil.

Not long since I was present at the auction of a deacon’s effects, forhis life had not been ineffectual:—

“The evil that men do lives after them.”

As usual, a great proportion was trumpery which had begun to accumulate in hisfather’s day. Among the rest was a dried tapeworm. And now, after lyinghalf a century in his garret and other dust holes, these things were notburned; instead of a bonfire, or purifying destruction of them, therewas an auction, or increasing of them. The neighbors eagerly collectedto view them, bought them all, and carefully transported them to their garretsand dust holes, to lie there till their estates are settled, when they willstart again. When a man dies he kicks the dust.

The customs of some savage nations might, perchance, be profitably imitated byus, for they at least go through the semblance of casting their sloughannually; they have the idea of the thing, whether they have the reality ornot. Would it not be well if we were to celebrate such a “busk,” or“feast of first fruits,” as Bartram describes to have been thecustom of the Mucclasse Indians? “When a town celebrates the busk,”says he, “having previously provided themselves with new clothes, newpots, pans, and other household utensils and furniture, they collect all theirworn out clothes and other despicable things, sweep and cleanse their houses,squares, and the whole town of their filth, which with all the remaining grainand other old provisions they cast together into one common heap, and consumeit with fire. After having taken medicine, and fasted for three days, all thefire in the town is extinguished. During this fast they abstain from thegratification of every appetite and passion whatever. A general amnesty isproclaimed; all malefactors may return to their town.—”

“On the fourth morning, the high priest, by rubbing dry wood together,produces new fire in the public square, from whence every habitation in thetown is supplied with the new and pure flame.”

They then feast on the new corn and fruits, and dance and sing for three days,“and the four following days they receive visits and rejoice with theirfriends from neighboring towns who have in like manner purified and preparedthemselves.”

The Mexicans also practised a similar purification at the end of everyfifty-two years, in the belief that it was time for the world to come to anend.

I have scarcely heard of a truer sacrament, that is, as the dictionary definesit, “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace,”than this, and I have no doubt that they were originally inspired directly fromHeaven to do thus, though they have no biblical record of the revelation.

For more than five years I maintained myself thus solely by the labor of myhands, and I found, that by working about six weeks in a year, I could meet allthe expenses of living. The whole of my winters, as well as most of my summers,I had free and clear for study. I have thoroughly tried school-keeping, andfound that my expenses were in proportion, or rather out of proportion, to myincome, for I was obliged to dress and train, not to say think and believe,accordingly, and I lost my time into the bargain. As I did not teach for thegood of my fellow-men, but simply for a livelihood, this was a failure. I havetried trade; but I found that it would take ten years to get under way in that,and that then I should probably be on my way to the devil. I was actuallyafraid that I might by that time be doing what is called a good business. Whenformerly I was looking about to see what I could do for a living, some sadexperience in conforming to the wishes of friends being fresh in my mind to taxmy ingenuity, I thought often and seriously of picking huckleberries; thatsurely I could do, and its small profits might suffice,—for my greatestskill has been to want but little,—so little capital it required, solittle distraction from my wonted moods, I foolishly thought. While myacquaintances went unhesitatingly into trade or the professions, I contemplatedthis occupation as most like theirs; ranging the hills all summer to pick theberries which came in my way, and thereafter carelessly dispose of them; so, tokeep the flocks of Admetus. I also dreamed that I might gather the wild herbs,or carry evergreens to such villagers as loved to be reminded of the woods,even to the city, by hay-cart loads. But I have since learned that trade curseseverything it handles; and though you trade in messages from heaven, the wholecurse of trade attaches to the business.

As I preferred some things to others, and especially valued my freedom, as Icould fare hard and yet succeed well, I did not wish to spend my time inearning rich carpets or other fine furniture, or delicate cookery, or a housein the Grecian or the Gothic style just yet. If there are any to whom it is nointerruption to acquire these things, and who know how to use them whenacquired, I relinquish to them the pursuit. Some are “industrious,”and appear to love labor for its own sake, or perhaps because it keeps them outof worse mischief; to such I have at present nothing to say. Those who wouldnot know what to do with more leisure than they now enjoy, I might advise towork twice as hard as they do,—work till they pay for themselves, and gettheir free papers. For myself I found that the occupation of a day-laborer wasthe most independent of any, especially as it required only thirty or fortydays in a year to support one. The laborer’s day ends with the going downof the sun, and he is then free to devote himself to his chosen pursuit,independent of his labor; but his employer, who speculates from month to month,has no respite from one end of the year to the other.

In short, I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintainone’s self on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we will livesimply and wisely; as the pursuits of the simpler nations are still the sportsof the more artificial. It is not necessary that a man should earn his livingby the sweat of his brow, unless he sweats easier than I do.

One young man of my acquaintance, who has inherited some acres, told me that hethought he should live as I did, if he had the means. I would not haveany one adopt my mode of living on any account; for, beside that beforehe has fairly learned it I may have found out another for myself, I desire thatthere may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I wouldhave each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, andnot his father’s or his mother’s or his neighbor’s instead.The youth may build or plant or sail, only let him not be hindered from doingthat which he tells me he would like to do. It is by a mathematical point onlythat we are wise, as the sailor or the fugitive slave keeps the polestar in hiseye; but that is sufficient guidance for all our life. We may not arrive at ourport within a calculable period, but we would preserve the true course.

(Video) Walden Commentary - Part 1

Undoubtedly, in this case, what is true for one is truer still for a thousand,as a large house is not proportionally more expensive than a small one, sinceone roof may cover, one cellar underlie, and one wall separate severalapartments. But for my part, I preferred the solitary dwelling. Moreover, itwill commonly be cheaper to build the whole yourself than to convince anotherof the advantage of the common wall; and when you have done this, the commonpartition, to be much cheaper, must be a thin one, and that other may prove abad neighbor, and also not keep his side in repair. The only coöperation whichis commonly possible is exceedingly partial and superficial; and what littletrue coöperation there is, is as if it were not, being a harmony inaudible tomen. If a man has faith, he will coöperate with equal faith everywhere; if hehas not faith, he will continue to live like the rest of the world, whatevercompany he is joined to. To coöperate, in the highest as well as the lowestsense, means to get our living together. I heard it proposed lately thattwo young men should travel together over the world, the one without money,earning his means as he went, before the mast and behind the plow, the othercarrying a bill of exchange in his pocket. It was easy to see that they couldnot long be companions or coöperate, since one would not operate atall. They would part at the first interesting crisis in their adventures. Aboveall, as I have implied, the man who goes alone can start to-day; but he whotravels with another must wait till that other is ready, and it may be a longtime before they get off.

But all this is very selfish, I have heard some of my townsmen say. I confessthat I have hitherto indulged very little in philanthropic enterprises. I havemade some sacrifices to a sense of duty, and among others have sacrificed thispleasure also. There are those who have used all their arts to persuade me toundertake the support of some poor family in the town; and if I had nothing todo,—for the devil finds employment for the idle,—I might try my handat some such pastime as that. However, when I have thought to indulge myself inthis respect, and lay their Heaven under an obligation by maintaining certainpoor persons in all respects as comfortably as I maintain myself, and have evenventured so far as to make them the offer, they have one and all unhesitatinglypreferred to remain poor. While my townsmen and women are devoted in so manyways to the good of their fellows, I trust that one at least may be spared toother and less humane pursuits. You must have a genius for charity as well asfor any thing else. As for Doing-good, that is one of the professions which arefull. Moreover, I have tried it fairly, and, strange as it may seem, amsatisfied that it does not agree with my constitution. Probably I should notconsciously and deliberately forsake my particular calling to do the good whichsociety demands of me, to save the universe from annihilation; and I believethat a like but infinitely greater steadfastness elsewhere is all that nowpreserves it. But I would not stand between any man and his genius; and to himwho does this work, which I decline, with his whole heart and soul and life, Iwould say, Persevere, even if the world call it doing evil, as it is mostlikely they will.

I am far from supposing that my case is a peculiar one; no doubt many of myreaders would make a similar defence. At doing something,—I will notengage that my neighbors shall pronounce it good,—I do not hesitate to saythat I should be a capital fellow to hire; but what that is, it is for myemployer to find out. What good I do, in the common sense of that word,must be aside from my main path, and for the most part wholly unintended. Mensay, practically, Begin where you are and such as you are, without aimingmainly to become of more worth, and with kindness aforethought go about doinggood. If I were to preach at all in this strain, I should say rather, Set aboutbeing good. As if the sun should stop when he had kindled his fires up to thesplendor of a moon or a star of the sixth magnitude, and go about like a RobinGoodfellow, peeping in at every cottage window, inspiring lunatics, andtainting meats, and making darkness visible, instead of steadily increasing hisgenial heat and beneficence till he is of such brightness that no mortal canlook him in the face, and then, and in the mean while too, going about the worldin his own orbit, doing it good, or rather, as a truer philosophy hasdiscovered, the world going about him getting good. When Phaeton, wishing toprove his heavenly birth by his beneficence, had the sun’s chariot butone day, and drove out of the beaten track, he burned several blocks of housesin the lower streets of heaven, and scorched the surface of the earth, anddried up every spring, and made the great desert of Sahara, till at lengthJupiter hurled him headlong to the earth with a thunderbolt, and the sun,through grief at his death, did not shine for a year.

There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted. It ishuman, it is divine, carrion. If I knew for a certainty that a man was comingto my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for mylife, as from that dry and parching wind of the African deserts called thesimoom, which fills the mouth and nose and ears and eyes with dust till you aresuffocated, for fear that I should get some of his good done to me,—someof its virus mingled with my blood. No,—in this case I would rathersuffer evil the natural way. A man is not a good man to me because hewill feed me if I should be starving, or warm me if I should be freezing, orpull me out of a ditch if I should ever fall into one. I can find you aNewfoundland dog that will do as much. Philanthropy is not love for one’sfellow-man in the broadest sense. Howard was no doubt an exceedingly kind andworthy man in his way, and has his reward; but, comparatively speaking, whatare a hundred Howards to us, if their philanthropy do not help usin our best estate, when we are most worthy to be helped? I never heard of aphilanthropic meeting in which it was sincerely proposed to do any good to me,or the like of me.

The Jesuits were quite balked by those Indians who, being burned at the stake,suggested new modes of torture to their tormentors. Being superior to physicalsuffering, it sometimes chanced that they were superior to any consolationwhich the missionaries could offer; and the law to do as you would be done byfell with less persuasiveness on the ears of those who, for their part, did notcare how they were done by, who loved their enemies after a new fashion, andcame very near freely forgiving them all they did.

Be sure that you give the poor the aid they most need, though it be yourexample which leaves them far behind. If you give money, spend yourself withit, and do not merely abandon it to them. We make curious mistakes sometimes.Often the poor man is not so cold and hungry as he is dirty and ragged andgross. It is partly his taste, and not merely his misfortune. If you give himmoney, he will perhaps buy more rags with it. I was wont to pity the clumsyIrish laborers who cut ice on the pond, in such mean and ragged clothes, whileI shivered in my more tidy and somewhat more fashionable garments, till, onebitter cold day, one who had slipped into the water came to my house to warmhim, and I saw him strip off three pairs of pants and two pairs of stockingsere he got down to the skin, though they were dirty and ragged enough, it istrue, and that he could afford to refuse the extra garments which Ioffered him, he had so many intra ones. This ducking was the very thinghe needed. Then I began to pity myself, and I saw that it would be a greatercharity to bestow on me a flannel shirt than a whole slop-shop on him. Thereare a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at theroot, and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money onthe needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which hestrives in vain to relieve. It is the pious slave-breeder devoting the proceedsof every tenth slave to buy a Sunday’s liberty for the rest. Some showtheir kindness to the poor by employing them in their kitchens. Would they notbe kinder if they employed themselves there? You boast of spending a tenth partof your income in charity; maybe you should spend the nine tenths so, and donewith it. Society recovers only a tenth part of the property then. Is this owingto the generosity of him in whose possession it is found, or to the remissnessof the officers of justice?

Philanthropy is almost the only virtue which is sufficiently appreciated bymankind. Nay, it is greatly overrated; and it is our selfishness whichoverrates it. A robust poor man, one sunny day here in Concord, praised afellow-townsman to me, because, as he said, he was kind to the poor; meaninghimself. The kind uncles and aunts of the race are more esteemed than its truespiritual fathers and mothers. I once heard a reverend lecturer on England, aman of learning and intelligence, after enumerating her scientific, literary,and political worthies, Shakespeare, Bacon, Cromwell, Milton, Newton, andothers, speak next of her Christian heroes, whom, as if his profession requiredit of him, he elevated to a place far above all the rest, as the greatest ofthe great. They were Penn, Howard, and Mrs. Fry. Every one must feel thefalsehood and cant of this. The last were not England’s best men andwomen; only, perhaps, her best philanthropists.

I would not subtract any thing from the praise that is due to philanthropy, butmerely demand justice for all who by their lives and works are a blessing tomankind. I do not value chiefly a man’s uprightness and benevolence,which are, as it were, his stem and leaves. Those plants of whose greennesswithered we make herb tea for the sick, serve but a humble use, and are mostemployed by quacks. I want the flower and fruit of a man; that some fragrancebe wafted over from him to me, and some ripeness flavor our intercourse. Hisgoodness must not be a partial and transitory act, but a constant superfluity,which costs him nothing and of which he is unconscious. This is a charity thathides a multitude of sins. The philanthropist too often surrounds mankind withthe remembrance of his own cast-off griefs as an atmosphere, and calls itsympathy. We should impart our courage, and not our despair, our health andease, and not our disease, and take care that this does not spread bycontagion. From what southern plains comes up the voice of wailing? Under whatlatitudes reside the heathen to whom we would send light? Who is thatintemperate and brutal man whom we would redeem? If any thing ail a man, so thathe does not perform his functions, if he have a pain in his bowelseven,—for that is the seat of sympathy,—he forthwith sets aboutreforming—the world. Being a microcosm himself, he discovers, and itis a true discovery, and he is the man to make it,—that the world has beeneating green apples; to his eyes, in fact, the globe itself is a great greenapple, which there is danger awful to think of that the children of men willnibble before it is ripe; and straightway his drastic philanthropy seeks outthe Esquimaux and the Patagonian, and embraces the populous Indian and Chinesevillages; and thus, by a few years of philanthropic activity, the powers in themean while using him for their own ends, no doubt, he cures himself of hisdyspepsia, the globe acquires a faint blush on one or both of its cheeks, as ifit were beginning to be ripe, and life loses its crudity and is once more sweetand wholesome to live. I never dreamed of any enormity greater than I havecommitted. I never knew, and never shall know, a worse man than myself.

I believe that what so saddens the reformer is not his sympathy with hisfellows in distress, but, though he be the holiest son of God, is his privateail. Let this be righted, let the spring come to him, the morning rise over hiscouch, and he will forsake his generous companions without apology. My excusefor not lecturing against the use of tobacco is, that I never chewed it; thatis a penalty which reformed tobacco-chewers have to pay; though there arethings enough I have chewed, which I could lecture against. If you should everbe betrayed into any of these philanthropies, do not let your left hand knowwhat your right hand does, for it is not worth knowing. Rescue the drowning andtie your shoe-strings. Take your time, and set about some free labor.

Our manners have been corrupted by communication with the saints. Ourhymn-books resound with a melodious cursing of God and enduring him forever.One would say that even the prophets and redeemers had rather consoled thefears than confirmed the hopes of man. There is nowhere recorded a simple andirrepressible satisfaction with the gift of life, any memorable praise of God.All health and success does me good, however far off and withdrawn it mayappear; all disease and failure helps to make me sad and does me evil, howevermuch sympathy it may have with me or I with it. If, then, we would indeedrestore mankind by truly Indian, botanic, magnetic, or natural means, let usfirst be as simple and well as Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hangover our own brows, and take up a little life into our pores. Do not stay to bean overseer of the poor, but endeavor to become one of the worthies of theworld.

I read in the Gulistan, or Flower Garden, of Sheik Sadi of Shiraz, that“They asked a wise man, saying; Of the many celebrated trees which theMost High God has created lofty and umbrageous, they call none azad, or free,excepting the cypress, which bears no fruit; what mystery is there in this? Hereplied; Each has its appropriate produce, and appointed season, during thecontinuance of which it is fresh and blooming, and during their absence dry andwithered; to neither of which states is the cypress exposed, being alwaysflourishing; and of this nature are the azads, or religiousindependents.—Fix not thy heart on that which is transitory; for theDijlah, or Tigris, will continue to flow through Bagdad after the race ofcaliphs is extinct: if thy hand has plenty, be liberal as the date tree; but ifit affords nothing to give away, be an azad, or free man, like thecypress.”


The Pretensions of Poverty

“Thou dost presume too much, poor needy wretch,
To claim a station in the firmament
Because thy humble cottage, or thy tub,
Nurses some lazy or pedantic virtue
In the cheap sunshine or by shady springs,
With roots and pot-herbs; where thy right hand,
Tearing those humane passions from the mind,
Upon whose stocks fair blooming virtues flourish,
Degradeth nature, and benumbeth sense,
And, Gorgon-like, turns active men to stone.
We not require the dull society
Of your necessitated temperance,
Or that unnatural stupidity
That knows nor joy nor sorrow; nor your forc’d
Falsely exalted passive fortitude
Above the active. This low abject brood,
That fix their seats in mediocrity,
Become your servile minds; but we advance
Such virtues only as admit excess,
Brave, bounteous acts, regal magnificence,
All-seeing prudence, magnanimity
That knows no bound, and that heroic virtue
For which antiquity hath left no name,
But patterns only, such as Hercules,
Achilles, Theseus. Back to thy loath’d cell;
And when thou seest the new enlightened sphere,
Study to know but what those worthies were.”

Where I Lived, and What I Lived For

At a certain season of our life we are accustomed to consider every spot as thepossible site of a house. I have thus surveyed the country on every side withina dozen miles of where I live. In imagination I have bought all the farms insuccession, for all were to be bought, and I knew their price. I walked overeach farmer’s premises, tasted his wild apples, discoursed on husbandrywith him, took his farm at his price, at any price, mortgaging it to him in mymind; even put a higher price on it,—took everything but a deed ofit,—took his word for his deed, for I dearly love to talk,—cultivatedit, and him too to some extent, I trust, and withdrew when I had enjoyed itlong enough, leaving him to carry it on. This experience entitled me to beregarded as a sort of real-estate broker by my friends. Wherever I sat, there Imight live, and the landscape radiated from me accordingly. What is a house buta sedes, a seat?—better if a country seat. I discovered many asite for a house not likely to be soon improved, which some might have thoughttoo far from the village, but to my eyes the village was too far from it. Well,there I might live, I said; and there I did live, for an hour, a summer and awinter life; saw how I could let the years run off, buffet the winter through,and see the spring come in. The future inhabitants of this region, whereverthey may place their houses, may be sure that they have been anticipated. Anafternoon sufficed to lay out the land into orchard, woodlot, and pasture, andto decide what fine oaks or pines should be left to stand before the door, andwhence each blasted tree could be seen to the best advantage; and then I let itlie, fallow perchance, for a man is rich in proportion to the number of thingswhich he can afford to let alone.

My imagination carried me so far that I even had the refusal of severalfarms,—the refusal was all I wanted,—but I never got my fingersburned by actual possession. The nearest that I came to actual possession waswhen I bought the Hollowell place, and had begun to sort my seeds, andcollected materials with which to make a wheelbarrow to carry it on or offwith; but before the owner gave me a deed of it, his wife—every man hassuch a wife—changed her mind and wished to keep it, and he offered me tendollars to release him. Now, to speak the truth, I had but ten cents in theworld, and it surpassed my arithmetic to tell, if I was that man who had tencents, or who had a farm, or ten dollars, or all together. However, I let himkeep the ten dollars and the farm too, for I had carried it far enough; orrather, to be generous, I sold him the farm for just what I gave for it, and,as he was not a rich man, made him a present of ten dollars, and still had myten cents, and seeds, and materials for a wheelbarrow left. I found thus that Ihad been a rich man without any damage to my poverty. But I retained thelandscape, and I have since annually carried off what it yielded without awheelbarrow. With respect to landscapes,—

“I am monarch of all I survey,
My right there is none to dispute.”

I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable partof a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild applesonly. Why, the owner does not know it for many years when a poet has put hisfarm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible fence, has fairly impoundedit, milked it, skimmed it, and got all the cream, and left the farmer only theskimmed milk.

The real attractions of the Hollowell farm, to me, were; its completeretirement, being, about two miles from the village, half a mile from thenearest neighbor, and separated from the highway by a broad field; its boundingon the river, which the owner said protected it by its fogs from frosts in thespring, though that was nothing to me; the gray color and ruinous state of thehouse and barn, and the dilapidated fences, which put such an interval betweenme and the last occupant; the hollow and lichen-covered apple trees, gnawed byrabbits, showing what kind of neighbors I should have; but above all, therecollection I had of it from my earliest voyages up the river, when the housewas concealed behind a dense grove of red maples, through which I heard thehouse-dog bark. I was in haste to buy it, before the proprietor finishedgetting out some rocks, cutting down the hollow apple trees, and grubbing upsome young birches which had sprung up in the pasture, or, in short, had madeany more of his improvements. To enjoy these advantages I was ready to carry iton; like Atlas, to take the world on my shoulders,—I never heard whatcompensation he received for that,—and do all those things which had noother motive or excuse but that I might pay for it and be unmolested in mypossession of it; for I knew all the while that it would yield the mostabundant crop of the kind I wanted if I could only afford to let it alone. Butit turned out as I have said.

All that I could say, then, with respect to farming on a large scale, (I havealways cultivated a garden,) was, that I had had my seeds ready. Many thinkthat seeds improve with age. I have no doubt that time discriminates betweenthe good and the bad; and when at last I shall plant, I shall be less likely tobe disappointed. But I would say to my fellows, once for all, As long aspossible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether youare committed to a farm or the county jail.

Old Cato, whose “De Re Rusticâ” is my “Cultivator,”says, and the only translation I have seen makes sheer nonsense of thepassage, “When you think of getting a farm, turn it thus in yourmind, not to buy greedily; nor spare your pains to look at it, and do not thinkit enough to go round it once. The oftener you go there the more it will pleaseyou, if it is good.” I think I shall not buy greedily, but go round andround it as long as I live, and be buried in it first, that it may please methe more at last.

The present was my next experiment of this kind, which I purpose to describemore at length; for convenience, putting the experience of two years into one.As I have said, I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag aslustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wakemy neighbors up.

When first I took up my abode in the woods, that is, began to spend my nightsas well as days there, which, by accident, was on Independence Day, or theFourth of July, 1845, my house was not finished for winter, but was merely adefence against the rain, without plastering or chimney, the walls being ofrough, weather-stained boards, with wide chinks, which made it cool at night.The upright white hewn studs and freshly planed door and window casings gave ita clean and airy look, especially in the morning, when its timbers weresaturated with dew, so that I fancied that by noon some sweet gum would exudefrom them. To my imagination it retained throughout the day more or less ofthis auroral character, reminding me of a certain house on a mountain which Ihad visited the year before. This was an airy and unplastered cabin, fit toentertain a travelling god, and where a goddess might trail her garments. Thewinds which passed over my dwelling were such as sweep over the ridges ofmountains, bearing the broken strains, or celestial parts only, of terrestrialmusic. The morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted;but few are the ears that hear it. Olympus is but the outside of the earthevery where.

The only house I had been the owner of before, if I except a boat, was a tent,which I used occasionally when making excursions in the summer, and this isstill rolled up in my garret; but the boat, after passing from hand to hand,has gone down the stream of time. With this more substantial shelter about me,I had made some progress toward settling in the world. This frame, so slightlyclad, was a sort of crystallization around me, and reacted on the builder. Itwas suggestive somewhat as a picture in outlines. I did not need to go outdoorsto take the air, for the atmosphere within had lost none of its freshness. Itwas not so much within doors as behind a door where I sat, even in the rainiestweather. The Harivansa says, “An abode without birds is like a meatwithout seasoning.” Such was not my abode, for I found myself suddenlyneighbor to the birds; not by having imprisoned one, but having caged myselfnear them. I was not only nearer to some of those which commonly frequent thegarden and the orchard, but to those wilder and more thrilling songsters ofthe forest which never, or rarely, serenade a villager,—the wood-thrush,the veery, the scarlet tanager, the field-sparrow, the whippoorwill, and manyothers.

I was seated by the shore of a small pond, about a mile and a half south of thevillage of Concord and somewhat higher than it, in the midst of an extensivewood between that town and Lincoln, and about two miles south of that our onlyfield known to fame, Concord Battle Ground; but I was so low in the woods thatthe opposite shore, half a mile off, like the rest, covered with wood, was mymost distant horizon. For the first week, whenever I looked out on the pond itimpressed me like a tarn high up on the side of a mountain, its bottom farabove the surface of other lakes, and, as the sun arose, I saw it throwing offits nightly clothing of mist, and here and there, by degrees, its soft ripplesor its smooth reflecting surface was revealed, while the mists, like ghosts,were stealthily withdrawing in every direction into the woods, as at thebreaking up of some nocturnal conventicle. The very dew seemed to hang upon thetrees later into the day than usual, as on the sides of mountains.

This small lake was of most value as a neighbor in the intervals of a gentlerain storm in August, when, both air and water being perfectly still, but thesky overcast, mid-afternoon had all the serenity of evening, and thewood-thrush sang around, and was heard from shore to shore. A lake like this isnever smoother than at such a time; and the clear portion of the air above itbeing shallow and darkened by clouds, the water, full of light andreflections, becomes a lower heaven itself so much the more important. From ahill top near by, where the wood had been recently cut off, there was apleasing vista southward across the pond, through a wide indentation in thehills which form the shore there, where their opposite sides sloping towardeach other suggested a stream flowing out in that direction through a woodedvalley, but stream there was none. That way I looked between and over the neargreen hills to some distant and higher ones in the horizon, tinged with blue.Indeed, by standing on tiptoe I could catch a glimpse of some of the peaks ofthe still bluer and more distant mountain ranges in the north-west, thosetrue-blue coins from heaven’s own mint, and also of some portion of thevillage. But in other directions, even from this point, I could not see over orbeyond the woods which surrounded me. It is well to have some water in yourneighborhood, to give buoyancy to and float the earth. One value even of thesmallest well is, that when you look into it you see that earth is notcontinent but insular. This is as important as that it keeps butter cool. WhenI looked across the pond from this peak toward the Sudbury meadows, which intime of flood I distinguished elevated perhaps by a mirage in their seethingvalley, like a coin in a basin, all the earth beyond the pond appeared like athin crust insulated and floated even by this small sheet of intervertingwater, and I was reminded that this on which I dwelt was but dry land.

Though the view from my door was still more contracted, I did not feel crowdedor confined in the least. There was pasture enough for my imagination. The lowshrub-oak plateau to which the opposite shore arose, stretched away toward theprairies of the West and the steppes of Tartary, affording ample room for allthe roving families of men. “There are none happy in the world but beingswho enjoy freely a vast horizon,”—said Damodara, when his herdsrequired new and larger pastures.

Both place and time were changed, and I dwelt nearer to those parts of theuniverse and to those eras in history which had most attracted me. Where Ilived was as far off as many a region viewed nightly by astronomers. We arewont to imagine rare and delectable places in some remote and more celestialcorner of the system, behind the constellation of Cassiopeia’s Chair, farfrom noise and disturbance. I discovered that my house actually had its site insuch a withdrawn, but forever new and unprofaned, part of the universe. If itwere worth the while to settle in those parts near to the Pleiades or theHyades, to Aldebaran or Altair, then I was really there, or at an equalremoteness from the life which I had left behind, dwindled and twinkling withas fine a ray to my nearest neighbor, and to be seen only in moonless nights byhim. Such was that part of creation where I had squatted;—

“There was a shepherd that did live,
And held his thoughts as high
As were the mounts whereon his flocks
Did hourly feed him by.”

What should we think of the shepherd’s life if his flocks always wanderedto higher pastures than his thoughts?

Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity,and I may say innocence, with Nature herself. I have been as sincere aworshipper of Aurora as the Greeks. I got up early and bathed in the pond; thatwas a religious exercise, and one of the best things which I did. They say thatcharacters were engraven on the bathing tub of king Tching-thang to this effect:“Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and foreveragain.” I can understand that. Morning brings back the heroic ages. I wasas much affected by the faint hum of a mosquito making its invisible andunimaginable tour through my apartment at earliest dawn, when I was sittingwith door and windows open, as I could be by any trumpet that ever sang offame. It was Homer’s requiem; itself an Iliad and Odyssey in the air,singing its own wrath and wanderings. There was something cosmical about it; astanding advertisement, till forbidden, of the everlasting vigor and fertilityof the world. The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, isthe awakening hour. Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an hour, atleast, some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night.Little is to be expected of that day, if it can be called a day, to which weare not awakened by our Genius, but by the mechanical nudgings of someservitor, are not awakened by our own newly-acquired force and aspirations fromwithin, accompanied by the undulations of celestial music, instead of factorybells, and a fragrance filling the air—to a higher life than we fellasleep from; and thus the darkness bear its fruit, and prove itself to be good,no less than the light. That man who does not believe that each day contains anearlier, more sacred, and auroral hour than he has yet profaned, has despairedof life, and is pursuing a descending and darkening way. After a partialcessation of his sensuous life, the soul of man, or its organs rather, arereinvigorated each day, and his Genius tries again what noble life it can make.All memorable events, I should say, transpire in morning time and in a morningatmosphere. The Vedas say, “All intelligences awake with themorning.” Poetry and art, and the fairest and most memorable of theactions of men, date from such an hour. All poets and heroes, like Memnon, arethe children of Aurora, and emit their music at sunrise. To him whose elasticand vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning.It matters not what the clocks say or the attitudes and labors of men. Morningis when I am awake and there is a dawn in me. Moral reform is the effort tothrow off sleep. Why is it that men give so poor an account of their day ifthey have not been slumbering? They are not such poor calculators. If they hadnot been overcome with drowsiness, they would have performed something. Themillions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million isawake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundredmillions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have neveryet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, butby an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in oursoundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionableability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something tobe able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make afew objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the veryatmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affectthe quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked tomake his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his mostelevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltryinformation as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might bedone.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only theessential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, andnot, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to livewhat was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation,unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all themarrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all thatwas not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into acorner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, whythen to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness tothe world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to givea true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, arein a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, andhave somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to“glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

Still we live meanly, like ants; though the fable tells us that we were longago changed into men; like pygmies we fight with cranes; it is error uponerror, and clout upon clout, and our best virtue has for its occasion asuperfluous and evitable wretchedness. Our life is frittered away by detail. Anhonest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extremecases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity,simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or athousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts onyour thumb nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such arethe clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowedfor, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom andnot make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculatorindeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it benecessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce otherthings in proportion. Our life is like a German Confederacy, made up of pettystates, with its boundary forever fluctuating, so that even a German cannottell you how it is bounded at any moment. The nation itself, with all itsso called internal improvements, which, by the way are all external andsuperficial, is just such an unwieldy and overgrown establishment, clutteredwith furniture and tripped up by its own traps, ruined by luxury and heedlessexpense, by want of calculation and a worthy aim, as the million households inthe land; and the only cure for it as for them is in a rigid economy, a sternand more than Spartan simplicity of life and elevation of purpose. It lives toofast. Men think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, andexport ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour,without a doubt, whether they do or not; but whether we should live likebaboons or like men, is a little uncertain. If we do not get out sleepers, andforge rails, and devote days and nights to the work, but go to tinkering uponour lives to improve them, who will build railroads? And ifrailroads are not built, how shall we get to heaven in season? But if we stayat home and mind our business, who will want railroads? We do not ride on therailroad; it rides upon us. Did you ever think what those sleepers are thatunderlie the railroad? Each one is a man, an Irish-man, or a Yankee man. Therails are laid on them, and they are covered with sand, and the cars runsmoothly over them. They are sound sleepers, I assure you. And every few yearsa new lot is laid down and run over; so that, if some have the pleasure ofriding on a rail, others have the misfortune to be ridden upon. And when theyrun over a man that is walking in his sleep, a supernumerary sleeper in thewrong position, and wake him up, they suddenly stop the cars, and make a hueand cry about it, as if this were an exception. I am glad to know that it takesa gang of men for every five miles to keep the sleepers down and level in theirbeds as it is, for this is a sign that they may sometime get up again.

Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to bestarved before we are hungry. Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and sothey take a thousand stitches to-day to save nine to-morrow. As for work,we haven’t any of any consequence. We have the Saint Vitus’ dance,and cannot possibly keep our heads still. If I should only give a few pulls atthe parish bell-rope, as for a fire, that is, without setting the bell, thereis hardly a man on his farm in the outskirts of Concord, notwithstanding thatpress of engagements which was his excuse so many times this morning, nor aboy, nor a woman, I might almost say, but would forsake all and follow thatsound, not mainly to save property from the flames, but, if we will confess thetruth, much more to see it burn, since burn it must, and we, be it known, didnot set it on fire,—or to see it put out, and have a hand in it, if thatis done as handsomely; yes, even if it were the parish church itself. Hardly aman takes a half hour’s nap after dinner, but when he wakes he holds uphis head and asks, “What’s the news?” as if the rest ofmankind had stood his sentinels. Some give directions to be waked everyhalf hour, doubtless for no other purpose; and then, to pay for it, they tellwhat they have dreamed. After a night’s sleep the news is asindispensable as the breakfast. “Pray tell me any thing new that hashappened to a man any where on this globe,”—and he reads it over hiscoffee and rolls, that a man has had his eyes gouged out this morning on theWachito River; never dreaming the while that he lives in the dark unfathomedmammoth cave of this world, and has but the rudiment of an eye himself.

For my part, I could easily do without the post-office. I think that there arevery few important communications made through it. To speak critically, I neverreceived more than one or two letters in my life—I wrote this some yearsago—that were worth the postage. The penny-post is, commonly, aninstitution through which you seriously offer a man that penny for his thoughtswhich is so often safely offered in jest. And I am sure that I never read anymemorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, orkilled by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or onesteamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dogkilled, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter,—we never need read ofanother. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do youcare for a myriad instances and applications? To a philosopher all news,as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women overtheir tea. Yet not a few are greedy after this gossip. There was such a rush,as I hear, the other day at one of the offices to learn the foreign news by thelast arrival, that several large squares of plate glass belonging to theestablishment were broken by the pressure,—news which I seriously think aready wit might write a twelve-month, or twelve years, beforehand withsufficient accuracy. As for Spain, for instance, if you know how to throw inDon Carlos and the Infanta, and Don Pedro and Seville and Granada, from time totime in the right proportions,—they may have changed the names a littlesince I saw the papers,—and serve up a bull-fight when otherentertainments fail, it will be true to the letter, and give us as good an ideaof the exact state or ruin of things in Spain as the most succinct and lucidreports under this head in the newspapers: and as for England, almost the lastsignificant scrap of news from that quarter was the revolution of 1649; and ifyou have learned the history of her crops for an average year, you never needattend to that thing again, unless your speculations are of a merely pecuniarycharacter. If one may judge who rarely looks into the newspapers, nothing newdoes ever happen in foreign parts, a French revolution not excepted.

What news! how much more important to know what that is which was never old!“Kieou-he-yu (great dignitary of the state of Wei) sent a man toKhoung-tseu to know his news. Khoung-tseu caused the messenger to be seatednear him, and questioned him in these terms: What is your master doing? Themessenger answered with respect: My master desires to diminish the number ofhis faults, but he cannot come to the end of them. The messenger being gone,the philosopher remarked: What a worthy messenger! What a worthymessenger!” The preacher, instead of vexing the ears of drowsy farmers ontheir day of rest at the end of the week,—for Sunday is the fit conclusionof an ill-spent week, and not the fresh and brave beginning of a newone,—with this one other draggle-tail of a sermon, should shout withthundering voice, “Pause! Avast! Why so seeming fast, but deadlyslow?”

Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality isfabulous. If men would steadily observe realities only, and not allowthemselves to be deluded, life, to compare it with such things as we know,would be like a fairy tale and the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. If werespected only what is inevitable and has a right to be, music and poetry wouldresound along the streets. When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive thatonly great and worthy things have any permanent and absoluteexistence,—that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of thereality. This is always exhilarating and sublime. By closing the eyes andslumbering, and consenting to be deceived by shows, men establish and confirmtheir daily life of routine and habit everywhere, which still is built onpurely illusory foundations. Children, who play life, discern its true law andrelations more clearly than men, who fail to live it worthily, but who thinkthat they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure. I have read in a Hindoobook, that “there was a king’s son, who, being expelled in infancyfrom his native city, was brought up by a forester, and, growing up to maturityin that state, imagined himself to belong to the barbarous race with which helived. One of his father’s ministers having discovered him, revealed tohim what he was, and the misconception of his character was removed, and heknew himself to be a prince. So soul,” continues the Hindoo philosopher,“from the circumstances in which it is placed, mistakes its owncharacter, until the truth is revealed to it by some holy teacher, and then itknows itself to be Brahme.” I perceive that we inhabitants of NewEngland live this mean life that we do because our vision does not penetratethe surface of things. We think that that is which appears to be.If a man should walk through this town and see only the reality, where, thinkyou, would the “Mill-dam” go to? If he should give us an account ofthe realities he beheld there, we should not recognize the place in hisdescription. Look at a meeting-house, or a court-house, or a jail, or a shop,or a dwelling-house, and say what that thing really is before a true gaze, andthey would all go to pieces in your account of them. Men esteem truth remote,in the outskirts of the system, behind the farthest star, before Adam and afterthe last man. In eternity there is indeed something true and sublime. But allthese times and places and occasions are now and here. God himself culminatesin the present moment, and will never be more divine in the lapse of all theages. And we are enabled to apprehend at all what is sublime and noble only bythe perpetual instilling and drenching of the reality that surrounds us. Theuniverse constantly and obediently answers to our conceptions; whether wetravel fast or slow, the track is laid for us. Let us spend our lives inconceiving then. The poet or the artist never yet had so fair and noble adesign but some of his posterity at least could accomplish it.

Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the trackby every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. Let usrise early and fast, or break fast, gently and without perturbation; letcompany come and let company go, let the bells ring and the childrencry,—determined to make a day of it. Why should we knock under and go withthe stream? Let us not be upset and overwhelmed in that terrible rapid andwhirlpool called a dinner, situated in the meridian shallows. Weather thisdanger and you are safe, for the rest of the way is down hill. With unrelaxednerves, with morning vigor, sail by it, looking another way, tied to the mastlike Ulysses. If the engine whistles, let it whistle till it is hoarse for itspains. If the bell rings, why should we run? We will consider what kind ofmusic they are like. Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feetdownward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition,and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, throughParis and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through church andstate, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hardbottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is,and no mistake; and then begin, having a point d’appui, belowfreshet and frost and fire, a place where you might found a wall or a state, orset a lamp-post safely, or perhaps a gauge, not a Nilometer, but a Realometer,that future ages might know how deep a freshet of shams and appearances hadgathered from time to time. If you stand right fronting and face to face to afact, you will see the sun glimmer on both its surfaces, as if it were acimeter, and feel its sweet edge dividing you through the heart and marrow,and so you will happily conclude your mortal career. Be it life or death, wecrave only reality. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in ourthroats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about ourbusiness.

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink Isee the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slidesaway, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottomis pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of thealphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I wasborn. The intellect is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way into the secretof things. I do not wish to be any more busy with my hands than is necessary.My head is hands and feet. I feel all my best faculties concentrated in it. Myinstinct tells me that my head is an organ for burrowing, as some creatures usetheir snout and fore-paws, and with it I would mine and burrow my way throughthese hills. I think that the richest vein is somewhere hereabouts; so by thedivining-rod and thin rising vapors I judge; and here I will begin to mine.


With a little more deliberation in the choice of their pursuits, all men wouldperhaps become essentially students and observers, for certainly their natureand destiny are interesting to all alike. In accumulating property forourselves or our posterity, in founding a family or a state, or acquiring fameeven, we are mortal; but in dealing with truth we are immortal, and need fearno change nor accident. The oldest Egyptian or Hindoo philosopher raised acorner of the veil from the statue of the divinity; and still the tremblingrobe remains raised, and I gaze upon as fresh a glory as he did, since it was Iin him that was then so bold, and it is he in me that now reviews the vision.No dust has settled on that robe; no time has elapsed since that divinity wasrevealed. That time which we really improve, or which is improvable, is neitherpast, present, nor future.

My residence was more favorable, not only to thought, but to serious reading,than a university; and though I was beyond the range of the ordinarycirculating library, I had more than ever come within the influence of thosebooks which circulate round the world, whose sentences were first written onbark, and are now merely copied from time to time on to linen paper. Says thepoet Mîr Camar Uddîn Mast, “Being seated to run through the region ofthe spiritual world; I have had this advantage in books. To be intoxicated by asingle glass of wine; I have experienced this pleasure when I have drunk theliquor of the esoteric doctrines.” I kept Homer’s Iliad on my tablethrough the summer, though I looked at his page only now and then. Incessantlabor with my hands, at first, for I had my house to finish and my beans to hoeat the same time, made more study impossible. Yet I sustained myself by theprospect of such reading in future. I read one or two shallow books of travelin the intervals of my work, till that employment made me ashamed of myself,and I asked where it was then that I lived.

The student may read Homer or Æschylus in the Greek without danger ofdissipation or luxuriousness, for it implies that he in some measure emulatetheir heroes, and consecrate morning hours to their pages. The heroic books,even if printed in the character of our mother tongue, will always be in alanguage dead to degenerate times; and we must laboriously seek the meaning ofeach word and line, conjecturing a larger sense than common use permits out ofwhat wisdom and valor and generosity we have. The modern cheap and fertilepress, with all its translations, has done little to bring us nearer to theheroic writers of antiquity. They seem as solitary, and the letter in whichthey are printed as rare and curious, as ever. It is worth the expense ofyouthful days and costly hours, if you learn only some words of an ancientlanguage, which are raised out of the trivialness of the street, to beperpetual suggestions and provocations. It is not in vain that the farmerremembers and repeats the few Latin words which he has heard. Men sometimesspeak as if the study of the classics would at length make way for more modernand practical studies; but the adventurous student will always study classics,in whatever language they may be written and however ancient they may be. Forwhat are the classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of man? They are theonly oracles which are not decayed, and there are such answers to the mostmodern inquiry in them as Delphi and Dodona never gave. We might as well omitto study Nature because she is old. To read well, that is, to read true booksin a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader morethan any exercise which the customs of the day esteem. It requires a trainingsuch as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole lifeto this object. Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they werewritten. It is not enough even to be able to speak the language of that nationby which they are written, for there is a memorable interval between the spokenand the written language, the language heard and the language read. The one iscommonly transitory, a sound, a tongue, a dialect merely, almost brutish, andwe learn it unconsciously, like the brutes, of our mothers. The other is thematurity and experience of that; if that is our mother tongue, this is ourfather tongue, a reserved and select expression, too significant to be heard bythe ear, which we must be born again in order to speak. The crowds of men whomerely spoke the Greek and Latin tongues in the middle ages were notentitled by the accident of birth to read the works of genius written inthose languages; for these were not written in that Greek or Latin which theyknew, but in the select language of literature. They had not learned the noblerdialects of Greece and Rome, but the very materials on which they were writtenwere waste paper to them, and they prized instead a cheap contemporaryliterature. But when the several nations of Europe had acquired distinct thoughrude written languages of their own, sufficient for the purposes of theirrising literatures, then first learning revived, and scholars were enabled todiscern from that remoteness the treasures of antiquity. What the Roman andGrecian multitude could not hear, after the lapse of ages a few scholarsread, and a few scholars only are still reading it.

However much we may admire the orator’s occasional bursts of eloquence,the noblest written words are commonly as far behind or above the fleetingspoken language as the firmament with its stars is behind the clouds.There are the stars, and they who can may read them. The astronomersforever comment on and observe them. They are not exhalations like our dailycolloquies and vaporous breath. What is called eloquence in the forum iscommonly found to be rhetoric in the study. The orator yields to theinspiration of a transient occasion, and speaks to the mob before him, to thosewho can hear him; but the writer, whose more equable life is hisoccasion, and who would be distracted by the event and the crowd which inspirethe orator, speaks to the intellect and health of mankind, to all in any agewho can understand him.

No wonder that Alexander carried the Iliad with him on his expeditions in aprecious casket. A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something atonce more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It isthe work of art nearest to life itself. It may be translated into everylanguage, and not only be read but actually breathed from all humanlips;—not be represented on canvas or in marble only, but be carved outof the breath of life itself. The symbol of an ancient man’s thoughtbecomes a modern man’s speech. Two thousand summers have imparted to themonuments of Grecian literature, as to her marbles, only a maturer golden andautumnal tint, for they have carried their own serene and celestial atmosphereinto all lands to protect them against the corrosion of time. Books are thetreasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations andnations. Books, the oldest and the best, stand naturally and rightfully on theshelves of every cottage. They have no cause of their own to plead, but whilethey enlighten and sustain the reader his common sense will not refuse them.Their authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and,more than kings or emperors, exert an influence on mankind. When the illiterateand perhaps scornful trader has earned by enterprise and industry his covetedleisure and independence, and is admitted to the circles of wealth and fashion,he turns inevitably at last to those still higher but yet inaccessible circlesof intellect and genius, and is sensible only of the imperfection of hisculture and the vanity and insufficiency of all his riches, and further proveshis good sense by the pains which he takes to secure for his children thatintellectual culture whose want he so keenly feels; and thus it is that hebecomes the founder of a family.

Those who have not learned to read the ancient classics in the language inwhich they were written must have a very imperfect knowledge of the history ofthe human race; for it is remarkable that no transcript of them has ever beenmade into any modern tongue, unless our civilization itself may be regarded assuch a transcript. Homer has never yet been printed in English, norÆschylus, nor Virgil even—works as refined, as solidly done, and asbeautiful almost as the morning itself; for later writers, say what we will oftheir genius, have rarely, if ever, equalled the elaborate beauty and finishand the lifelong and heroic literary labors of the ancients. They only talk offorgetting them who never knew them. It will be soon enough to forget them whenwe have the learning and the genius which will enable us to attend to andappreciate them. That age will be rich indeed when those relics which we callClassics, and the still older and more than classic but even less knownScriptures of the nations, shall have still further accumulated, when theVaticans shall be filled with Vedas and Zendavestas and Bibles, with Homers andDantes and Shakespeares, and all the centuries to come shall have successivelydeposited their trophies in the forum of the world. By such a pile we may hopeto scale heaven at last.

The works of the great poets have never yet been read by mankind, for onlygreat poets can read them. They have only been read as the multitude read thestars, at most astrologically, not astronomically. Most men have learned toread to serve a paltry convenience, as they have learned to cipher in order tokeep accounts and not be cheated in trade; but of reading as a nobleintellectual exercise they know little or nothing; yet this only is reading, ina high sense, not that which lulls us as a luxury and suffers the noblerfaculties to sleep the while, but what we have to stand on tip-toe to read anddevote our most alert and wakeful hours to.

I think that having learned our letters we should read the best that is inliterature, and not be forever repeating our a b abs, and words of onesyllable, in the fourth or fifth classes, sitting on the lowest and foremostform all our lives. Most men are satisfied if they read or hear read, andperchance have been convicted by the wisdom of one good book, the Bible, andfor the rest of their lives vegetate and dissipate their faculties in what iscalled easy reading. There is a work in several volumes in our CirculatingLibrary entitled Little Reading, which I thought referred to a town of thatname which I had not been to. There are those who, like cormorants andostriches, can digest all sorts of this, even after the fullest dinner of meatsand vegetables, for they suffer nothing to be wasted. If others are themachines to provide this provender, they are the machines to read it. They readthe nine thousandth tale about Zebulon and Sephronia, and how they loved asnone had ever loved before, and neither did the course of their true love runsmooth,—at any rate, how it did run and stumble, and get up again and goon! how some poor unfortunate got up on to a steeple, who had better never havegone up as far as the belfry; and then, having needlessly got him up there, thehappy novelist rings the bell for all the world to come together and hear, Odear! how he did get down again! For my part, I think that they had bettermetamorphose all such aspiring heroes of universal noveldom into manweathercocks, as they used to put heroes among the constellations, and let themswing round there till they are rusty, and not come down at all to botherhonest men with their pranks. The next time the novelist rings the bell I willnot stir though the meeting-house burn down. “The Skip of theTip-Toe-Hop, a Romance of the Middle Ages, by the celebrated author of‘Tittle-Tol-Tan,’ to appear in monthly parts; a great rush;don’t all come together.” All this they read with saucer eyes, anderect and primitive curiosity, and with unwearied gizzard, whose corrugationseven yet need no sharpening, just as some little four-year-old bencher histwo-cent gilt-covered edition of Cinderella,—without any improvement,that I can see, in the pronunciation, or accent, or emphasis, or any more skillin extracting or inserting the moral. The result is dulness of sight, astagnation of the vital circulations, and a general deliquium and sloughing offof all the intellectual faculties. This sort of gingerbread is baked daily andmore sedulously than pure wheat or rye-and-Indian in almost every oven, andfinds a surer market.

The best books are not read even by those who are called good readers. Whatdoes our Concord culture amount to? There is in this town, with a very fewexceptions, no taste for the best or for very good books even in Englishliterature, whose words all can read and spell. Even the college-bred and socalled liberally educated men here and elsewhere have really little or noacquaintance with the English classics; and as for the recorded wisdom ofmankind, the ancient classics and Bibles, which are accessible to all who willknow of them, there are the feeblest efforts any where made to becomeacquainted with them. I know a woodchopper, of middle age, who takes a Frenchpaper, not for news as he says, for he is above that, but to “keephimself in practice,” he being a Canadian by birth; and when I ask himwhat he considers the best thing he can do in this world, he says, beside this,to keep up and add to his English. This is about as much as the college bredgenerally do or aspire to do, and they take an English paper for the purpose.One who has just come from reading perhaps one of the best English books willfind how many with whom he can converse about it? Or suppose he comes fromreading a Greek or Latin classic in the original, whose praises are familiareven to the so called illiterate; he will find nobody at all to speak to, butmust keep silence about it. Indeed, there is hardly the professor in ourcolleges, who, if he has mastered the difficulties of the language, hasproportionally mastered the difficulties of the wit and poetry of a Greek poet,and has any sympathy to impart to the alert and heroic reader; and as for thesacred Scriptures, or Bibles of mankind, who in this town can tell me eventheir titles? Most men do not know that any nation but the Hebrews have had ascripture. A man, any man, will go considerably out of his way to pick up asilver dollar; but here are golden words, which the wisest men of antiquityhave uttered, and whose worth the wise of every succeeding age have assured usof;—and yet we learn to read only as far as Easy Reading, the primers andclass-books, and when we leave school, the “Little Reading,” andstory books, which are for boys and beginners; and our reading, ourconversation and thinking, are all on a very low level, worthy only of pygmiesand manikins.

I aspire to be acquainted with wiser men than this our Concord soil hasproduced, whose names are hardly known here. Or shall I hear the name of Platoand never read his book? As if Plato were my townsman and I never sawhim,—my next neighbor and I never heard him speak or attended to thewisdom of his words. But how actually is it? His Dialogues, which contain whatwas immortal in him, lie on the next shelf, and yet I never read them. We areunderbred and low-lived and illiterate; and in this respect I confess I do notmake any very broad distinction between the illiterateness of my townsman whocannot read at all, and the illiterateness of him who has learned to read onlywhat is for children and feeble intellects. We should be as good as theworthies of antiquity, but partly by first knowing how good they were. We are arace of tit-men, and soar but little higher in our intellectual flights thanthe columns of the daily paper.

It is not all books that are as dull as their readers. There are probably wordsaddressed to our condition exactly, which, if we could really hear andunderstand, would be more salutary than the morning or the spring to our lives,and possibly put a new aspect on the face of things for us. How many a man hasdated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. The book exists for usperchance which will explain our miracles and reveal new ones. The at presentunutterable things we may find somewhere uttered. These same questions thatdisturb and puzzle and confound us have in their turn occurred to all the wisemen; not one has been omitted; and each has answered them, according to hisability, by his words and his life. Moreover, with wisdom we shall learnliberality. The solitary hired man on a farm in the outskirts of Concord, whohas had his second birth and peculiar religious experience, and is driven as hebelieves into the silent gravity and exclusiveness by his faith, may think itis not true; but Zoroaster, thousands of years ago, travelled the same road andhad the same experience; but he, being wise, knew it to be universal, andtreated his neighbors accordingly, and is even said to have invented andestablished worship among men. Let him humbly commune with Zoroaster then, andthrough the liberalizing influence of all the worthies, with Jesus Christhimself, and let “our church” go by the board.

We boast that we belong to the nineteenth century and are making the most rapidstrides of any nation. But consider how little this village does for its ownculture. I do not wish to flatter my townsmen, nor to be flattered by them, forthat will not advance either of us. We need to be provoked,—goaded likeoxen, as we are, into a trot. We have a comparatively decent system of commonschools, schools for infants only; but excepting the half-starved Lyceum in thewinter, and latterly the puny beginning of a library suggested by the state, noschool for ourselves. We spend more on almost any article of bodily aliment orailment than on our mental aliment. It is time that we had uncommon schools,that we did not leave off our education when we begin to be men and women. Itis time that villages were universities, and their elder inhabitants thefellows of universities, with leisure—if they are indeed so welloff—to pursue liberal studies the rest of their lives. Shall the world beconfined to one Paris or one Oxford forever? Cannot students be boarded hereand get a liberal education under the skies of Concord? Can we not hire someAbelard to lecture to us? Alas! what with foddering the cattle and tending thestore, we are kept from school too long, and our education is sadly neglected.In this country, the village should in some respects take the place of thenobleman of Europe. It should be the patron of the fine arts. It is richenough. It wants only the magnanimity and refinement. It can spend money enoughon such things as farmers and traders value, but it is thought Utopian topropose spending money for things which more intelligent men know to be of farmore worth. This town has spent seventeen thousand dollars on a town-house,thank fortune or politics, but probably it will not spend so much on livingwit, the true meat to put into that shell, in a hundred years. The one hundredand twenty-five dollars annually subscribed for a Lyceum in the winter isbetter spent than any other equal sum raised in the town. If we live in thenineteenth century, why should we not enjoy the advantages which the nineteenthcentury offers? Why should our life be in any respect provincial? If we willread newspapers, why not skip the gossip of Boston and take the best newspaperin the world at once?—not be sucking the pap of “neutralfamily” papers, or browsing “Olive-Branches” here in NewEngland. Let the reports of all the learned societies come to us, and we willsee if they know any thing. Why should we leave it to Harper & Brothers andRedding & Co. to select our reading? As the nobleman of cultivated tastesurrounds himself with whatever conduces to hisculture,—genius—learning—wit—books—paintings—statuary—music—philosophicalinstruments, and the like; so let the village do,—not stop short at apedagogue, a parson, a sexton, a parish library, and three selectmen, becauseour pilgrim forefathers got through a cold winter once on a bleak rock withthese. To act collectively is according to the spirit of our institutions; andI am confident that, as our circumstances are more flourishing, our means aregreater than the nobleman’s. New England can hire all the wise men in theworld to come and teach her, and board them round the while, and not beprovincial at all. That is the uncommon school we want. Instead ofnoblemen, let us have noble villages of men. If it is necessary, omit onebridge over the river, go round a little there, and throw one arch at leastover the darker gulf of ignorance which surrounds us.


But while we are confined to books, though the most select and classic, andread only particular written languages, which are themselves but dialects andprovincial, we are in danger of forgetting the language which all things andevents speak without metaphor, which alone is copious and standard. Much ispublished, but little printed. The rays which stream through the shutter willbe no longer remembered when the shutter is wholly removed. No method nordiscipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert. What is acourse of history, or philosophy, or poetry, no matter how well selected, or thebest society, or the most admirable routine of life, compared with thediscipline of looking always at what is to be seen? Will you be a reader, astudent merely, or a seer? Read your fate, see what is before you, and walk oninto futurity.

I did not read books the first summer; I hoed beans. Nay, I often did betterthan this. There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom ofthe present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands. I love a broadmargin to my life. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomedbath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery,amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude andstillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through the house,until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of sometraveller’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse oftime. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far betterthan any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted frommy life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. I realized what theOrientals mean by contemplation and the forsaking of works. For the most part,I minded not how the hours went. The day advanced as if to light some work ofmine; it was morning, and lo, now it is evening, and nothing memorable isaccomplished. Instead of singing like the birds, I silently smiled at myincessant good fortune. As the sparrow had its trill, sitting on the hickorybefore my door, so had I my chuckle or suppressed warble which he might hearout of my nest. My days were not days of the week, bearing the stamp of anyheathen deity, nor were they minced into hours and fretted by the ticking of aclock; for I lived like the Puri Indians, of whom it is said that “foryesterday, to-day, and to-morrow they have only one word, and they express thevariety of meaning by pointing backward for yesterday, forward for to-morrow,and overhead for the passing day.” This was sheer idleness to myfellow-townsmen, no doubt; but if the birds and flowers had tried me by theirstandard, I should not have been found wanting. A man must find his occasionsin himself, it is true. The natural day is very calm, and will hardly reprovehis indolence.

I had this advantage, at least, in my mode of life, over those who were obligedto look abroad for amusement, to society and the theatre, that my life itselfwas become my amusement and never ceased to be novel. It was a drama of manyscenes and without an end. If we were always indeed getting our living, andregulating our lives according to the last and best mode we had learned, weshould never be troubled with ennui. Follow your genius closely enough, and itwill not fail to show you a fresh prospect every hour. Housework was a pleasantpastime. When my floor was dirty, I rose early, and, setting all my furnitureout of doors on the grass, bed and bedstead making but one budget, dashed wateron the floor, and sprinkled white sand from the pond on it, and then with abroom scrubbed it clean and white; and by the time the villagers had brokentheir fast the morning sun had dried my house sufficiently to allow me to movein again, and my meditations were almost uninterupted. It was pleasant to seemy whole household effects out on the grass, making a little pile like agypsy’s pack, and my three-legged table, from which I did not remove thebooks and pen and ink, standing amid the pines and hickories. They seemed gladto get out themselves, and as if unwilling to be brought in. I was sometimestempted to stretch an awning over them and take my seat there. It was worth thewhile to see the sun shine on these things, and hear the free wind blow onthem; so much more interesting most familiar objects look out of doors than inthe house. A bird sits on the next bough, life-everlasting grows under thetable, and blackberry vines run round its legs; pine cones, chestnut burs, andstrawberry leaves are strewn about. It looked as if this was the way theseforms came to be transferred to our furniture, to tables, chairs, andbedsteads,—because they once stood in their midst.

My house was on the side of a hill, immediately on the edge of the larger wood,in the midst of a young forest of pitch pines and hickories, and half a dozenrods from the pond, to which a narrow footpath led down the hill. In my frontyard grew the strawberry, blackberry, and life-everlasting, johnswort andgoldenrod, shrub-oaks and sand-cherry, blueberry and groundnut. Near the end ofMay, the sand-cherry (Cerasus pumila,) adorned the sides of the path withits delicate flowers arranged in umbels cylindrically about its short stems,which last, in the fall, weighed down with good sized and handsome cherries,fell over in wreaths like rays on every side. I tasted them out of complimentto Nature, though they were scarcely palatable. The sumach (Rhus glabra,)grew luxuriantly about the house, pushing up through the embankment which I hadmade, and growing five or six feet the first season. Its broad pinnate tropicalleaf was pleasant though strange to look on. The large buds, suddenly pushingout late in the spring from dry sticks which had seemed to be dead, developedthemselves as by magic into graceful green and tender boughs, an inch indiameter; and sometimes, as I sat at my window, so heedlessly did they grow andtax their weak joints, I heard a fresh and tender bough suddenly fall like afan to the ground, when there was not a breath of air stirring, broken off byits own weight. In August, the large masses of berries, which, when in flower,had attracted many wild bees, gradually assumed their bright velvety crimsonhue, and by their weight again bent down and broke the tender limbs.

As I sit at my window this summer afternoon, hawks are circling about myclearing; the tantivy of wild pigeons, flying by twos and threes athwart myview, or perching restless on the white-pine boughs behind my house, gives avoice to the air; a fishhawk dimples the glassy surface of the pond and bringsup a fish; a mink steals out of the marsh before my door and seizes a frog bythe shore; the sedge is bending under the weight of the reed-birds flittinghither and thither; and for the last half hour I have heard the rattle ofrailroad cars, now dying away and then reviving like the beat of a partridge,conveying travellers from Boston to the country. For I did not live so out ofthe world as that boy who, as I hear, was put out to a farmer in the east partof the town, but ere long ran away and came home again, quite down at the heeland homesick. He had never seen such a dull and out-of-the-way place; the folkswere all gone off; why, you couldn’t even hear the whistle! I doubt ifthere is such a place in Massachusetts now:—

“In truth, our village has become a butt
For one of those fleet railroad shafts, and o’er
Our peaceful plain its soothing sound is—Concord.”

The Fitchburg Railroad touches the pond about a hundred rods south of where Idwell. I usually go to the village along its causeway, and am, as it were,related to society by this link. The men on the freight trains, who go over thewhole length of the road, bow to me as to an old acquaintance, they pass me sooften, and apparently they take me for an employee; and so I am. I too wouldfain be a track-repairer somewhere in the orbit of the earth.

The whistle of the locomotive penetrates my woods summer and winter, soundinglike the scream of a hawk sailing over some farmer’s yard, informing methat many restless city merchants are arriving within the circle of the town,or adventurous country traders from the other side. As they come under onehorizon, they shout their warning to get off the track to the other, heardsometimes through the circles of two towns. Here come your groceries, country;your rations, countrymen! Nor is there any man so independent on his farm thathe can say them nay. And here’s your pay for them! screams thecountryman’s whistle; timber like long battering rams going twenty milesan hour against the city’s walls, and chairs enough to seat all the wearyand heavy laden that dwell within them. With such huge and lumbering civilitythe country hands a chair to the city. All the Indian huckleberry hills arestripped, all the cranberry meadows are raked into the city. Up comes thecotton, down goes the woven cloth; up comes the silk, down goes the woollen; upcome the books, but down goes the wit that writes them.

When I meet the engine with its train of cars moving off with planetarymotion,—or, rather, like a comet, for the beholder knows not if with thatvelocity and with that direction it will ever revisit this system, since itsorbit does not look like a returning curve,—with its steam cloud like abanner streaming behind in golden and silver wreaths, like many a downy cloudwhich I have seen, high in the heavens, unfolding its masses to thelight,—as if this travelling demigod, this cloud-compeller, would ere longtake the sunset sky for the livery of his train; when I hear the iron horsemake the hills echo with his snort like thunder, shaking the earth with hisfeet, and breathing fire and smoke from his nostrils, (what kind of winged horseor fiery dragon they will put into the new Mythology I don’t know), itseems as if the earth had got a race now worthy to inhabit it. If all were asit seems, and men made the elements their servants for noble ends! If the cloudthat hangs over the engine were the perspiration of heroic deeds, or asbeneficent as that which floats over the farmer’s fields, then theelements and Nature herself would cheerfully accompany men on their errands andbe their escort.

I watch the passage of the morning cars with the same feeling that I do therising of the sun, which is hardly more regular. Their train of cloudsstretching far behind and rising higher and higher, going to heaven while thecars are going to Boston, conceals the sun for a minute and casts my distantfield into the shade, a celestial train beside which the petty train of carswhich hugs the earth is but the barb of the spear. The stabler of the ironhorse was up early this winter morning by the light of the stars amid themountains, to fodder and harness his steed. Fire, too, was awakened thus earlyto put the vital heat in him and get him off. If the enterprise were asinnocent as it is early! If the snow lies deep, they strap on his snow-shoes,and with the giant plow, plow a furrow from the mountains to the seaboard, inwhich the cars, like a following drill-barrow, sprinkle all the restless menand floating merchandise in the country for seed. All day the fire-steed fliesover the country, stopping only that his master may rest, and I am awakened byhis tramp and defiant snort at midnight, when in some remote glen in the woodshe fronts the elements incased in ice and snow; and he will reach his stallonly with the morning star, to start once more on his travels without rest orslumber. Or perchance, at evening, I hear him in his stable blowing off thesuperfluous energy of the day, that he may calm his nerves and cool his liverand brain for a few hours of iron slumber. If the enterprise were as heroic andcommanding as it is protracted and unwearied!

Far through unfrequented woods on the confines of towns, where once only thehunter penetrated by day, in the darkest night dart these bright saloonswithout the knowledge of their inhabitants; this moment stopping at somebrilliant station-house in town or city, where a social crowd is gathered, thenext in the Dismal Swamp, scaring the owl and fox. The startings and arrivalsof the cars are now the epochs in the village day. They go and come with suchregularity and precision, and their whistle can be heard so far, that thefarmers set their clocks by them, and thus one well conducted institutionregulates a whole country. Have not men improved somewhat in punctuality sincethe railroad was invented? Do they not talk and think faster in the depot thanthey did in the stage-office? There is something electrifying in the atmosphereof the former place. I have been astonished at the miracles it has wrought;that some of my neighbors, who, I should have prophesied, once for all, wouldnever get to Boston by so prompt a conveyance, are on hand when the bell rings.To do things “railroad fashion” is now the by-word; and it is worththe while to be warned so often and so sincerely by any power to get off itstrack. There is no stopping to read the riot act, no firing over the heads ofthe mob, in this case. We have constructed a fate, an Atropos, thatnever turns aside. (Let that be the name of your engine.) Men are advertisedthat at a certain hour and minute these bolts will be shot toward particularpoints of the compass; yet it interferes with no man’s business, and thechildren go to school on the other track. We live the steadier for it. We areall educated thus to be sons of Tell. The air is full of invisible bolts. Everypath but your own is the path of fate. Keep on your own track, then.

What recommends commerce to me is its enterprise and bravery. It does not claspits hands and pray to Jupiter. I see these men every day go about theirbusiness with more or less courage and content, doing more even than theysuspect, and perchance better employed than they could have consciouslydevised. I am less affected by their heroism who stood up for half an hour inthe front line at Buena Vista, than by the steady and cheerful valor of the menwho inhabit the snow-plough for their winter quarters; who have not merely thethree-o’-clock in the morning courage, which Bonaparte thought was therarest, but whose courage does not go to rest so early, who go to sleep onlywhen the storm sleeps or the sinews of their iron steed are frozen. On thismorning of the Great Snow, perchance, which is still raging and chillingmen’s blood, I hear the muffled tone of their engine bell from out thefog bank of their chilled breath, which announces that the cars arecoming, without long delay, notwithstanding the veto of a New Englandnorth-east snow storm, and I behold the ploughmen covered with snow and rime,their heads peering, above the mould-board which is turning down other thandaisies and the nests of field-mice, like bowlders of the Sierra Nevada, thatoccupy an outside place in the universe.

Commerce is unexpectedly confident and serene, alert, adventurous, andunwearied. It is very natural in its methods withal, far more so than manyfantastic enterprises and sentimental experiments, and hence its singularsuccess. I am refreshed and expanded when the freight train rattles past me,and I smell the stores which go dispensing their odors all the way from LongWharf to Lake Champlain, reminding me of foreign parts, of coral reefs, andIndian oceans, and tropical climes, and the extent of the globe. I feel morelike a citizen of the world at the sight of the palm-leaf which will cover somany flaxen New England heads the next summer, the Manilla hemp and cocoa-nuthusks, the old junk, gunny bags, scrap iron, and rusty nails. This car-load oftorn sails is more legible and interesting now than if they should be wroughtinto paper and printed books. Who can write so graphically the history of thestorms they have weathered as these rents have done? They are proof-sheetswhich need no correction. Here goes lumber from the Maine woods, which did notgo out to sea in the last freshet, risen four dollars on the thousand becauseof what did go out or was split up; pine, spruce, cedar,—first, second,third, and fourth qualities, so lately all of one quality, to wave over thebear, and moose, and caribou. Next rolls Thomaston lime, a prime lot, whichwill get far among the hills before it gets slacked. These rags in bales, ofall hues and qualities, the lowest condition to which cotton and linen descend,the final result of dress,—of patterns which are now no longer cried up,unless it be in Milwaukie, as those splendid articles, English, French, orAmerican prints, ginghams, muslins, &c., gathered from all quarters both offashion and poverty, going to become paper of one color or a few shades only,on which forsooth will be written tales of real life, high and low, andfounded on fact! This closed car smells of salt fish, the strong New Englandand commercial scent, reminding me of the Grand Banks and the fisheries. Whohas not seen a salt fish, thoroughly cured for this world, so that nothing canspoil it, and putting the perseverance of the saints to the blush? with whichyou may sweep or pave the streets, and split your kindlings, and the teamstershelter himself and his lading against sun wind and rain behind it,—andthe trader, as a Concord trader once did, hang it up by his door for a signwhen he commences business, until at last his oldest customer cannot tellsurely whether it be animal, vegetable, or mineral, and yet it shall be as pureas a snowflake, and if it be put into a pot and boiled, will come out anexcellent dun fish for a Saturday’s dinner. Next Spanish hides, with thetails still preserving their twist and the angle of elevation they had when theoxen that wore them were careering over the pampas of the Spanish main,—atype of all obstinacy, and evincing how almost hopeless and incurable are allconstitutional vices. I confess, that practically speaking, when I have learneda man’s real disposition, I have no hopes of changing it for the betteror worse in this state of existence. As the Orientals say, “A cur’stail may be warmed, and pressed, and bound round with ligatures, and after atwelve years’ labor bestowed upon it, still it will retain its naturalform.” The only effectual cure for such inveteracies as these tailsexhibit is to make glue of them, which I believe is what is usually done withthem, and then they will stay put and stick. Here is a hogshead of molasses orof brandy directed to John Smith, Cuttingsville, Vermont, some trader among theGreen Mountains, who imports for the farmers near his clearing, and nowperchance stands over his bulk-head and thinks of the last arrivals on thecoast, how they may affect the price for him, telling his customers thismoment, as he has told them twenty times before this morning, that he expectssome by the next train of prime quality. It is advertised in the CuttingsvilleTimes.

While these things go up other things come down. Warned by the whizzing sound,I look up from my book and see some tall pine, hewn on far northern hills,which has winged its way over the Green Mountains and the Connecticut, shotlike an arrow through the township within ten minutes, and scarce another eyebeholds it; going

“to be the mast
Of some great ammiral.”

And hark! here comes the cattle-train bearing the cattle of a thousand hills,sheepcots, stables, and cow-yards in the air, drovers with their sticks, andshepherd boys in the midst of their flocks, all but the mountain pastures,whirled along like leaves blown from the mountains by the September gales. Theair is filled with the bleating of calves and sheep, and the hustling of oxen,as if a pastoral valley were going by. When the old bell-wether at the headrattles his bell, the mountains do indeed skip like rams and the little hillslike lambs. A car-load of drovers, too, in the midst, on a level with theirdroves now, their vocation gone, but still clinging to their useless sticks astheir badge of office. But their dogs, where are they? It is a stampede tothem; they are quite thrown out; they have lost the scent. Methinks I hear thembarking behind the Peterboro’ Hills, or panting up the western slope ofthe Green Mountains. They will not be in at the death. Their vocation, too, isgone. Their fidelity and sagacity are below par now. They will slink back totheir kennels in disgrace, or perchance run wild and strike a league with thewolf and the fox. So is your pastoral life whirled past and away. But the bellrings, and I must get off the track and let the cars go by;—

What’s the railroad to me?
I never go to see
Where it ends.
It fills a few hollows,
And makes banks for the swallows,
It sets the sand a-blowing,
And the blackberries a-growing,

but I cross it like a cart-path in the woods. I will not have my eyes put outand my ears spoiled by its smoke and steam and hissing.

Now that the cars are gone by and all the restless world with them, and thefishes in the pond no longer feel their rumbling, I am more alone than ever.For the rest of the long afternoon, perhaps, my meditations are interruptedonly by the faint rattle of a carriage or team along the distant highway.

Sometimes, on Sundays, I heard the bells, the Lincoln, Acton, Bedford, orConcord bell, when the wind was favorable, a faint, sweet, and, as it were,natural melody, worth importing into the wilderness. At a sufficient distanceover the woods this sound acquires a certain vibratory hum, as if the pineneedles in the horizon were the strings of a harp which it swept. All soundheard at the greatest possible distance produces one and the same effect, avibration of the universal lyre, just as the intervening atmosphere makes adistant ridge of earth interesting to our eyes by the azure tint it imparts toit. There came to me in this case a melody which the air had strained, andwhich had conversed with every leaf and needle of the wood, that portion of thesound which the elements had taken up and modulated and echoed from vale tovale. The echo is, to some extent, an original sound, and therein is the magicand charm of it. It is not merely a repetition of what was worth repeating inthe bell, but partly the voice of the wood; the same trivial words and notessung by a wood-nymph.

At evening, the distant lowing of some cow in the horizon beyond the woodssounded sweet and melodious, and at first I would mistake it for the voices ofcertain minstrels by whom I was sometimes serenaded, who might be straying overhill and dale; but soon I was not unpleasantly disappointed when it wasprolonged into the cheap and natural music of the cow. I do not mean to besatirical, but to express my appreciation of those youths’ singing, whenI state that I perceived clearly that it was akin to the music of the cow, andthey were at length one articulation of Nature.

Regularly at half past seven, in one part of the summer, after the eveningtrain had gone by, the whippoorwills chanted their vespers for half an hour,sitting on a stump by my door, or upon the ridge pole of the house. They wouldbegin to sing almost with as much precision as a clock, within five minutes ofa particular time, referred to the setting of the sun, every evening. I had arare opportunity to become acquainted with their habits. Sometimes I heard fouror five at once in different parts of the wood, by accident one a bar behindanother, and so near me that I distinguished not only the cluck after eachnote, but often that singular buzzing sound like a fly in a spider’s web,only proportionally louder. Sometimes one would circle round and round me inthe woods a few feet distant as if tethered by a string, when probably I wasnear its eggs. They sang at intervals throughout the night, and were again asmusical as ever just before and about dawn.

When other birds are still the screech owls take up the strain, like mourningwomen their ancient u-lu-lu. Their dismal scream is truly Ben Jonsonian. Wisemidnight hags! It is no honest and blunt tu-whit tu-who of the poets, but,without jesting, a most solemn graveyard ditty, the mutual consolations ofsuicide lovers remembering the pangs and the delights of supernal love in theinfernal groves. Yet I love to hear their wailing, their doleful responses,trilled along the wood-side; reminding me sometimes of music and singing birds;as if it were the dark and tearful side of music, the regrets and sighs thatwould fain be sung. They are the spirits, the low spirits and melancholyforebodings, of fallen souls that once in human shape night-walked the earthand did the deeds of darkness, now expiating their sins with their wailinghymns or threnodies in the scenery of their transgressions. They give me a newsense of the variety and capacity of that nature which is our common dwelling.Oh-o-o-o-o that I never had been bor-r-r-r-n! sighs one on this side ofthe pond, and circles with the restlessness of despair to some new perch on thegray oaks. Then—that I never had been bor-r-r-r-n! echoes anotheron the farther side with tremulous sincerity, and—bor-r-r-r-n!comes faintly from far in the Lincoln woods.

I was also serenaded by a hooting owl. Near at hand you could fancy it the mostmelancholy sound in Nature, as if she meant by this to stereotype and makepermanent in her choir the dying moans of a human being,—some poor weakrelic of mortality who has left hope behind, and howls like an animal, yet withhuman sobs, on entering the dark valley, made more awful by a certain gurglingmelodiousness,—I find myself beginning with the letters gl when I try toimitate it,—expressive of a mind which has reached the gelatinous mildewystage in the mortification of all healthy and courageous thought. It remindedme of ghouls and idiots and insane howlings. But now one answers from far woodsin a strain made really melodious by distance,—Hoo hoo hoo, hoorerhoo; and indeed for the most part it suggested only pleasing associations,whether heard by day or night, summer or winter.

I rejoice that there are owls. Let them do the idiotic and maniacal hooting formen. It is a sound admirably suited to swamps and twilight woods which no dayillustrates, suggesting a vast and undeveloped nature which men have notrecognized. They represent the stark twilight and unsatisfied thoughts whichall have. All day the sun has shone on the surface of some savage swamp, wherethe single spruce stands hung with usnea lichens, and small hawks circulateabove, and the chickadee lisps amid the evergreens, and the partridge andrabbit skulk beneath; but now a more dismal and fitting day dawns, and adifferent race of creatures awakes to express the meaning of Nature there.

Late in the evening I heard the distant rumbling of wagons overbridges,—a sound heard farther than almost any other at night,—thebaying of dogs, and sometimes again the lowing of some disconsolate cow in adistant barn-yard. In the mean while all the shore rang with the trump ofbullfrogs, the sturdy spirits of ancient wine-bibbers and wassailers, stillunrepentant, trying to sing a catch in their Stygian lake,—if the Waldennymphs will pardon the comparison, for though there are almost no weeds, thereare frogs there,—who would fain keep up the hilarious rules of their oldfestal tables, though their voices have waxed hoarse and solemnly grave,mocking at mirth, and the wine has lost its flavor, and become only liquor todistend their paunches, and sweet intoxication never comes to drown the memoryof the past, but mere saturation and waterloggedness and distention. The mostaldermanic, with his chin upon a heart-leaf, which serves for a napkin to hisdrooling chaps, under this northern shore quaffs a deep draught of the oncescorned water, and passes round the cup with the ejaculation tr-r-r-oonk,tr-r-r-oonk, tr-r-r-oonk! and straightway comes over the water from somedistant cove the same password repeated, where the next in seniority and girthhas gulped down to his mark; and when this observance has made the circuit ofthe shores, then ejaculates the master of ceremonies, with satisfaction,tr-r-r-oonk! and each in his turn repeats the same down to the leastdistended, leakiest, and flabbiest paunched, that there be no mistake; and thenthe bowl goes round again and again, until the sun disperses the morning mist,and only the patriarch is not under the pond, but vainly bellowingtroonk from time to time, and pausing for a reply.

I am not sure that I ever heard the sound of cock-crowing from my clearing, andI thought that it might be worth the while to keep a cockerel for his musicmerely, as a singing bird. The note of this once wild Indian pheasant iscertainly the most remarkable of any bird’s, and if they could benaturalized without being domesticated, it would soon become the most famoussound in our woods, surpassing the clangor of the goose and the hooting of theowl; and then imagine the cackling of the hens to fill the pauses when theirlords’ clarions rested! No wonder that man added this bird to his tamestock,—to say nothing of the eggs and drumsticks. To walk in a wintermorning in a wood where these birds abounded, their native woods, and hear thewild cockerels crow on the trees, clear and shrill for miles over theresounding earth, drowning the feebler notes of other birds,—think of it!It would put nations on the alert. Who would not be early to rise, and riseearlier and earlier every successive day of his life, till he becameunspeakably healthy, wealthy, and wise? This foreign bird’s note iscelebrated by the poets of all countries along with the notes of their nativesongsters. All climates agree with brave Chanticleer. He is more indigenouseven than the natives. His health is ever good, his lungs are sound, hisspirits never flag. Even the sailor on the Atlantic and Pacific is awakened byhis voice; but its shrill sound never roused me from my slumbers. I keptneither dog, cat, cow, pig, nor hens, so that you would have said there was adeficiency of domestic sounds; neither the churn, nor the spinning wheel, noreven the singing of the kettle, nor the hissing of the urn, nor childrencrying, to comfort one. An old-fashioned man would have lost his senses or diedof ennui before this. Not even rats in the wall, for they were starved out, orrather were never baited in,—only squirrels on the roof and under thefloor, a whippoorwill on the ridge pole, a blue-jay screaming beneath thewindow, a hare or woodchuck under the house, a screech-owl or a cat-owl behindit, a flock of wild geese or a laughing loon on the pond, and a fox to bark inthe night. Not even a lark or an oriole, those mild plantation birds, evervisited my clearing. No cockerels to crow nor hens to cackle in the yard. Noyard! but unfenced Nature reaching up to your very sills. A young forestgrowing up under your meadows, and wild sumachs and blackberry vines breakingthrough into your cellar; sturdy pitch pines rubbing and creaking against theshingles for want of room, their roots reaching quite under the house. Insteadof a scuttle or a blind blown off in the gale,—a pine tree snapped off ortorn up by the roots behind your house for fuel. Instead of no path to thefront-yard gate in the Great Snow,—no gate,—nofront-yard,—and no path to the civilized world!


This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibesdelight through every pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, apart of herself. As I walk along the stony shore of the pond in myshirt sleeves, though it is cool as well as cloudy and windy, and I see nothingspecial to attract me, all the elements are unusually congenial to me. Thebullfrogs trump to usher in the night, and the note of the whippoorwill isborne on the rippling wind from over the water. Sympathy with the flutteringalder and poplar leaves almost takes away my breath; yet, like the lake, myserenity is rippled but not ruffled. These small waves raised by the eveningwind are as remote from storm as the smooth reflecting surface. Though it isnow dark, the wind still blows and roars in the wood, the waves still dash, andsome creatures lull the rest with their notes. The repose is never complete.The wildest animals do not repose, but seek their prey now; the fox, and skunk,and rabbit, now roam the fields and woods without fear. They are Nature’swatchmen,—links which connect the days of animated life.

When I return to my house I find that visitors have been there and left theircards, either a bunch of flowers, or a wreath of evergreen, or a name in pencilon a yellow walnut leaf or a chip. They who come rarely to the woods take somelittle piece of the forest into their hands to play with by the way, which theyleave, either intentionally or accidentally. One has peeled a willow wand,woven it into a ring, and dropped it on my table. I could always tell ifvisitors had called in my absence, either by the bended twigs or grass, or theprint of their shoes, and generally of what sex or age or quality they were bysome slight trace left, as a flower dropped, or a bunch of grass plucked andthrown away, even as far off as the railroad, half a mile distant, or by thelingering odor of a cigar or pipe. Nay, I was frequently notified of thepassage of a traveller along the highway sixty rods off by the scent of hispipe.

There is commonly sufficient space about us. Our horizon is never quite at ourelbows. The thick wood is not just at our door, nor the pond, but somewhat isalways clearing, familiar and worn by us, appropriated and fenced in some way,and reclaimed from Nature. For what reason have I this vast range and circuit,some square miles of unfrequented forest, for my privacy, abandoned to me bymen? My nearest neighbor is a mile distant, and no house is visible from anyplace but the hill-tops within half a mile of my own. I have my horizon boundedby woods all to myself; a distant view of the railroad where it touches thepond on the one hand, and of the fence which skirts the woodland road on theother. But for the most part it is as solitary where I live as on the prairies.It is as much Asia or Africa as New England. I have, as it were, my own sun andmoon and stars, and a little world all to myself. At night there was never atraveller passed my house, or knocked at my door, more than if I were the firstor last man; unless it were in the spring, when at long intervals some camefrom the village to fish for pouts,—they plainly fished much more in theWalden Pond of their own natures, and baited their hooks withdarkness,—but they soon retreated, usually with light baskets, and left“the world to darkness and to me,” and the black kernel of thenight was never profaned by any human neighborhood. I believe that men aregenerally still a little afraid of the dark, though the witches are all hung,and Christianity and candles have been introduced.

Yet I experienced sometimes that the most sweet and tender, the most innocentand encouraging society may be found in any natural object, even for the poormisanthrope and most melancholy man. There can be no very black melancholy tohim who lives in the midst of Nature and has his senses still. There was neveryet such a storm but it was Æolian music to a healthy and innocent ear. Nothingcan rightly compel a simple and brave man to a vulgar sadness. While I enjoythe friendship of the seasons I trust that nothing can make life a burden tome. The gentle rain which waters my beans and keeps me in the house to-day isnot drear and melancholy, but good for me too. Though it prevents my hoeingthem, it is of far more worth than my hoeing. If it should continue so long asto cause the seeds to rot in the ground and destroy the potatoes in the lowlands, it would still be good for the grass on the uplands, and, being good forthe grass, it would be good for me. Sometimes, when I compare myself with othermen, it seems as if I were more favored by the gods than they, beyond anydeserts that I am conscious of; as if I had a warrant and surety at their handswhich my fellows have not, and were especially guided and guarded. I do notflatter myself, but if it be possible they flatter me. I have never feltlonesome, or in the least oppressed by a sense of solitude, but once, and thatwas a few weeks after I came to the woods, when, for an hour, I doubted if thenear neighborhood of man was not essential to a serene and healthy life. To bealone was something unpleasant. But I was at the same time conscious of aslight insanity in my mood, and seemed to foresee my recovery. In the midst ofa gentle rain while these thoughts prevailed, I was suddenly sensible of suchsweet and beneficent society in Nature, in the very pattering of the drops, andin every sound and sight around my house, an infinite and unaccountablefriendliness all at once like an atmosphere sustaining me, as made the fanciedadvantages of human neighborhood insignificant, and I have never thought ofthem since. Every little pine needle expanded and swelled with sympathy andbefriended me. I was so distinctly made aware of the presence of somethingkindred to me, even in scenes which we are accustomed to call wild and dreary,and also that the nearest of blood to me and humanest was not a person nor avillager, that I thought no place could ever be strange to me again.—

“Mourning untimely consumes the sad;
Few are their days in the land of the living,
Beautiful daughter of Toscar.”

Some of my pleasantest hours were during the long rain storms in the spring orfall, which confined me to the house for the afternoon as well as the forenoon,soothed by their ceaseless roar and pelting; when an early twilight ushered ina long evening in which many thoughts had time to take root and unfoldthemselves. In those driving north-east rains which tried the village houses so,when the maids stood ready with mop and pail in front entries to keep thedeluge out, I sat behind my door in my little house, which was all entry, andthoroughly enjoyed its protection. In one heavy thunder shower the lightningstruck a large pitch-pine across the pond, making a very conspicuous andperfectly regular spiral groove from top to bottom, an inch or more deep, andfour or five inches wide, as you would groove a walking-stick. I passed itagain the other day, and was struck with awe on looking up and beholding thatmark, now more distinct than ever, where a terrific and resistless bolt camedown out of the harmless sky eight years ago. Men frequently say to me,“I should think you would feel lonesome down there, and want to be nearerto folks, rainy and snowy days and nights especially.” I am tempted toreply to such,—This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space.How far apart, think you, dwell the two most distant inhabitants of yonderstar, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments? Whyshould I feel lonely? is not our planet in the Milky Way? This which you putseems to me not to be the most important question. What sort of space is thatwhich separates a man from his fellows and makes him solitary? I have foundthat no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another.What do we want most to dwell near to? Not to many men surely, the depot, thepost-office, the bar-room, the meeting-house, the school-house, the grocery,Beacon Hill, or the Five Points, where men most congregate, but to theperennial source of our life, whence in all our experience we have found thatto issue, as the willow stands near the water and sends out its roots in thatdirection. This will vary with different natures, but this is the place where awise man will dig his cellar.... I one evening overtook one of my townsmen, whohas accumulated what is called “a handsome property,”—though Inever got a fair view of it,—on the Walden road, driving a pair ofcattle to market, who inquired of me how I could bring my mind to give up somany of the comforts of life. I answered that I was very sure I liked itpassably well; I was not joking. And so I went home to my bed, and left him topick his way through the darkness and the mud to Brighton,—orBright-town,—which place he would reach some time in the morning.

Any prospect of awakening or coming to life to a dead man makes indifferent alltimes and places. The place where that may occur is always the same, andindescribably pleasant to all our senses. For the most part we allow onlyoutlying and transient circumstances to make our occasions. They are, in fact,the cause of our distraction. Nearest to all things is that power whichfashions their being. Next to us the grandest laws are continually beingexecuted. Next to us is not the workman whom we have hired, with whom welove so well to talk, but the workman whose work we are.

“How vast and profound is the influence of the subtile powers of Heavenand of Earth!”

“We seek to perceive them, and we do not see them; we seek to hear them,and we do not hear them; identified with the substance of things, they cannotbe separated from them.”

“They cause that in all the universe men purify and sanctify theirhearts, and clothe themselves in their holiday garments to offer sacrifices andoblations to their ancestors. It is an ocean of subtile intelligences. They areevery where, above us, on our left, on our right; they environ us on allsides.”

We are the subjects of an experiment which is not a little interesting to me.Can we not do without the society of our gossips a little while under thesecircumstances,—have our own thoughts to cheer us? Confucius says truly,“Virtue does not remain as an abandoned orphan; it must of necessity haveneighbors.”

With thinking we may be beside ourselves in a sane sense. By a conscious effortof the mind we can stand aloof from actions and their consequences; and allthings, good and bad, go by us like a torrent. We are not wholly involved inNature. I may be either the drift-wood in the stream, or Indra in the skylooking down on it. I may be affected by a theatrical exhibition; on theother hand, I may not be affected by an actual event which appears toconcern me much more. I only know myself as a human entity; the scene, so tospeak, of thoughts and affections; and am sensible of a certain doubleness bywhich I can stand as remote from myself as from another. However intense myexperience, I am conscious of the presence and criticism of a part of me,which, as it were, is not a part of me, but spectator, sharing no experience,but taking note of it; and that is no more I than it is you. When the play, itmay be the tragedy, of life is over, the spectator goes his way. It was a kindof fiction, a work of the imagination only, so far as he was concerned. Thisdoubleness may easily make us poor neighbors and friends sometimes.

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company,even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. Inever found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for themost part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in ourchambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will.Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man andhis fellows. The really diligent student in one of the crowded hives ofCambridge College is as solitary as a dervish in the desert. The farmer canwork alone in the field or the woods all day, hoeing or chopping, and not feellonesome, because he is employed; but when he comes home at night he cannot sitdown in a room alone, at the mercy of his thoughts, but must be where he can“see the folks,” and recreate, and as he thinks remuneratehimself for his day’s solitude; and hence he wonders how the student cansit alone in the house all night and most of the day without ennui and“the blues;” but he does not realize that the student, though inthe house, is still at work in his field, and chopping in hiswoods, as the farmer in his, and in turn seeks the same recreation and societythat the latter does, though it may be a more condensed form of it.

Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having hadtime to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times aday, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are. Wehave had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness,to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war.We meet at the post-office, and at the sociable, and about the fireside everynight; we live thick and are in each other’s way, and stumble over oneanother, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another. Certainlyless frequency would suffice for all important and hearty communications.Consider the girls in a factory,—never alone, hardly in their dreams. Itwould be better if there were but one inhabitant to a square mile, as where Ilive. The value of a man is not in his skin, that we should touch him.

I have heard of a man lost in the woods and dying of famine and exhaustion atthe foot of a tree, whose loneliness was relieved by the grotesque visions withwhich, owing to bodily weakness, his diseased imagination surrounded him, andwhich he believed to be real. So also, owing to bodily and mental health andstrength, we may be continually cheered by a like but more normal and naturalsociety, and come to know that we are never alone.

I have a great deal of company in my house; especially in the morning, whennobody calls. Let me suggest a few comparisons, that some one may convey anidea of my situation. I am no more lonely than the loon in the pond that laughsso loud, or than Walden Pond itself. What company has that lonely lake, I pray?And yet it has not the blue devils, but the blue angels in it, in the azuretint of its waters. The sun is alone, except in thick weather, when theresometimes appear to be two, but one is a mock sun. God is alone,—but thedevil, he is far from being alone; he sees a great deal of company; he islegion. I am no more lonely than a single mullein or dandelion in a pasture, ora bean leaf, or sorrel, or a horse-fly, or a bumble-bee. I am no more lonelythan the Mill Brook, or a weathercock, or the north star, or the south wind, oran April shower, or a January thaw, or the first spider in a new house.

I have occasional visits in the long winter evenings, when the snow falls fastand the wind howls in the wood, from an old settler and original proprietor,who is reported to have dug Walden Pond, and stoned it, and fringed it withpine woods; who tells me stories of old time and of new eternity; and betweenus we manage to pass a cheerful evening with social mirth and pleasant views ofthings, even without apples or cider,—a most wise and humorous friend,whom I love much, who keeps himself more secret than ever did Goffe or Whalley;and though he is thought to be dead, none can show where he is buried. Anelderly dame, too, dwells in my neighborhood, invisible to most persons, inwhose odorous herb garden I love to stroll sometimes, gathering simples andlistening to her fables; for she has a genius of unequalled fertility, and hermemory runs back farther than mythology, and she can tell me the original ofevery fable, and on what fact every one is founded, for the incidents occurredwhen she was young. A ruddy and lusty old dame, who delights in all weathersand seasons, and is likely to outlive all her children yet.

The indescribable innocence and beneficence of Nature,—of sun and wind andrain, of summer and winter,—such health, such cheer, they afford forever!and such sympathy have they ever with our race, that all Nature would beaffected, and the sun’s brightness fade, and the winds would sighhumanely, and the clouds rain tears, and the woods shed their leaves and put onmourning in midsummer, if any man should ever for a just cause grieve. Shall Inot have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetablemould myself?

What is the pill which will keep us well, serene, contented? Not my or thygreat-grandfather’s, but our great-grandmother Nature’s universal,vegetable, botanic medicines, by which she has kept herself young always,outlived so many old Parrs in her day, and fed her health with their decayingfatness. For my panacea, instead of one of those quack vials of a mixturedipped from Acheron and the Dead Sea, which come out of those long shallowblack-schooner looking wagons which we sometimes see made to carry bottles, letme have a draught of undiluted morning air. Morning air! If men will not drinkof this at the fountain-head of the day, why, then, we must even bottle up someand sell it in the shops, for the benefit of those who have lost theirsubscription ticket to morning time in this world. But remember, it will notkeep quite till noon-day even in the coolest cellar, but drive out the stoppleslong ere that and follow westward the steps of Aurora. I am no worshipper ofHygeia, who was the daughter of that old herb-doctor Æsculapius, and who isrepresented on monuments holding a serpent in one hand, and in the other a cupout of which the serpent sometimes drinks; but rather of Hebe, cupbearer toJupiter, who was the daughter of Juno and wild lettuce, and who had the powerof restoring gods and men to the vigor of youth. She was probably the onlythoroughly sound-conditioned, healthy, and robust young lady that ever walkedthe globe, and wherever she came it was spring.


I think that I love society as much as most, and am ready enough to fastenmyself like a bloodsucker for the time to any full-blooded man that comes in myway. I am naturally no hermit, but might possibly sit out the sturdiestfrequenter of the bar-room, if my business called me thither.

I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three forsociety. When visitors came in larger and unexpected numbers there was but thethird chair for them all, but they generally economized the room by standingup. It is surprising how many great men and women a small house will contain. Ihave had twenty-five or thirty souls, with their bodies, at once under my roof,and yet we often parted without being aware that we had come very near to oneanother. Many of our houses, both public and private, with their almostinnumerable apartments, their huge halls and their cellars for the storage ofwines and other munitions of peace, appear to me extravagantly large for theirinhabitants. They are so vast and magnificent that the latter seem to be onlyvermin which infest them. I am surprised when the herald blows his summonsbefore some Tremont or Astor or Middlesex House, to see come creeping out overthe piazza for all inhabitants a ridiculous mouse, which soon again slinks intosome hole in the pavement.

One inconvenience I sometimes experienced in so small a house, the difficultyof getting to a sufficient distance from my guest when we began to utter thebig thoughts in big words. You want room for your thoughts to get into sailingtrim and run a course or two before they make their port. The bullet of yourthought must have overcome its lateral and ricochet motion and fallen into itslast and steady course before it reaches the ear of the hearer, else it mayplough out again through the side of his head. Also, our sentences wanted roomto unfold and form their columns in the interval. Individuals, like nations,must have suitable broad and natural boundaries, even a considerable neutralground, between them. I have found it a singular luxury to talk across the pondto a companion on the opposite side. In my house we were so near that we couldnot begin to hear,—we could not speak low enough to be heard; as when youthrow two stones into calm water so near that they break each other’sundulations. If we are merely loquacious and loud talkers, then we can affordto stand very near together, cheek by jowl, and feel each other’s breath;but if we speak reservedly and thoughtfully, we want to be farther apart, thatall animal heat and moisture may have a chance to evaporate. If we would enjoythe most intimate society with that in each of us which is without, or above,being spoken to, we must not only be silent, but commonly so far apart bodilythat we cannot possibly hear each other’s voice in any case. Referred tothis standard, speech is for the convenience of those who are hard of hearing;but there are many fine things which we cannot say if we have to shout. As theconversation began to assume a loftier and grander tone, we gradually shovedour chairs farther apart till they touched the wall in opposite corners, andthen commonly there was not room enough.

My “best” room, however, my withdrawing room, always ready forcompany, on whose carpet the sun rarely fell, was the pine wood behind myhouse. Thither in summer days, when distinguished guests came, I took them, anda priceless domestic swept the floor and dusted the furniture and kept thethings in order.

If one guest came he sometimes partook of my frugal meal, and it was nointerruption to conversation to be stirring a hasty-pudding, or watching therising and maturing of a loaf of bread in the ashes, in the mean while. But iftwenty came and sat in my house there was nothing said about dinner, thoughthere might be bread enough for two, more than if eating were a forsaken habit;but we naturally practised abstinence; and this was never felt to be an offenceagainst hospitality, but the most proper and considerate course. The waste anddecay of physical life, which so often needs repair, seemed miraculouslyretarded in such a case, and the vital vigor stood its ground. I couldentertain thus a thousand as well as twenty; and if any ever went awaydisappointed or hungry from my house when they found me at home, they maydepend upon it that I sympathized with them at least. So easy is it, thoughmany housekeepers doubt it, to establish new and better customs in the place ofthe old. You need not rest your reputation on the dinners you give. For my ownpart, I was never so effectually deterred from frequenting a man’s house,by any kind of Cerberus whatever, as by the parade one made about dining me,which I took to be a very polite and roundabout hint never to trouble him soagain. I think I shall never revisit those scenes. I should be proud to havefor the motto of my cabin those lines of Spenser which one of my visitorsinscribed on a yellow walnut leaf for a card:—

“Arrivéd there, the little house they fill,
Ne looke for entertainment where none was;
Rest is their feast, and all things at their will:
The noblest mind the best contentment has.”

When Winslow, afterward governor of the Plymouth Colony, went with a companionon a visit of ceremony to Massasoit on foot through the woods, and arrivedtired and hungry at his lodge, they were well received by the king, but nothingwas said about eating that day. When the night arrived, to quote their ownwords,—“He laid us on the bed with himself and his wife, they at theone end and we at the other, it being only planks laid a foot from the ground,and a thin mat upon them. Two more of his chief men, for want of room, pressedby and upon us; so that we were worse weary of our lodging than of ourjourney.” At one o’clock the next day Massasoit “brought twofishes that he had shot,” about thrice as big as a bream; “thesebeing boiled, there were at least forty looked for a share in them. The mostate of them. This meal only we had in two nights and a day; and had not one ofus bought a partridge, we had taken our journey fasting.” Fearing thatthey would be light-headed for want of food and also sleep, owing to “thesavages’ barbarous singing, (for they used to sing themselvesasleep,)” and that they might get home while they had strength to travel,they departed. As for lodging, it is true they were but poorly entertained,though what they found an inconvenience was no doubt intended for an honor; butas far as eating was concerned, I do not see how the Indians could have donebetter. They had nothing to eat themselves, and they were wiser than to thinkthat apologies could supply the place of food to their guests; so they drewtheir belts tighter and said nothing about it. Another time when Winslowvisited them, it being a season of plenty with them, there was no deficiency inthis respect.

As for men, they will hardly fail one any where. I had more visitors while Ilived in the woods than at any other period in my life; I mean that I had some.I met several there under more favorable circumstances than I could any whereelse. But fewer came to see me on trivial business. In this respect, my companywas winnowed by my mere distance from town. I had withdrawn so far within thegreat ocean of solitude, into which the rivers of society empty, that for themost part, so far as my needs were concerned, only the finest sediment wasdeposited around me. Beside, there were wafted to me evidences of unexploredand uncultivated continents on the other side.

Who should come to my lodge this morning but a true Homeric or Paphlagonianman,—he had so suitable and poetic a name that I am sorry I cannot printit here,—a Canadian, a woodchopper and post-maker, who can hole fiftyposts in a day, who made his last supper on a woodchuck which his dog caught.He, too, has heard of Homer, and, “if it were not for books,” would“not know what to do rainy days,” though perhaps he has not readone wholly through for many rainy seasons. Some priest who could pronounce theGreek itself taught him to read his verse in the testament in his native parishfar away; and now I must translate to him, while he holds the book,Achilles’ reproof to Patroclus for his sad countenance.—“Whyare you in tears, Patroclus, like a young girl?”—

“Or have you alone heard some news from Phthia?
They say that Menœtius lives yet, son of Actor,
And Peleus lives, son of Æacus, among the Myrmidons,
Either of whom having died, we should greatly grieve.”

He says, “That’s good.” He has a great bundle of white-oakbark under his arm for a sick man, gathered this Sunday morning. “Isuppose there’s no harm in going after such a thing to-day,” sayshe. To him Homer was a great writer, though what his writing was about he didnot know. A more simple and natural man it would be hard to find. Vice anddisease, which cast such a sombre moral hue over the world, seemed to havehardly any existence for him. He was about twenty-eight years old, and had leftCanada and his father’s house a dozen years before to work in the States,and earn money to buy a farm with at last, perhaps in his native country. Hewas cast in the coarsest mould; a stout but sluggish body, yet gracefullycarried, with a thick sunburnt neck, dark bushy hair, and dull sleepy blueeyes, which were occasionally lit up with expression. He wore a flat gray clothcap, a dingy wool-colored greatcoat, and cowhide boots. He was a great consumerof meat, usually carrying his dinner to his work a couple of miles past myhouse,—for he chopped all summer,—in a tin pail; cold meats, oftencold woodchucks, and coffee in a stone bottle which dangled by a string fromhis belt; and sometimes he offered me a drink. He came along early, crossing mybean-field, though without anxiety or haste to get to his work, such as Yankeesexhibit. He wasn’t a-going to hurt himself. He didn’t care if heonly earned his board. Frequently he would leave his dinner in the bushes, whenhis dog had caught a woodchuck by the way, and go back a mile and a half todress it and leave it in the cellar of the house where he boarded, afterdeliberating first for half an hour whether he could not sink it in the pondsafely till nightfall,—loving to dwell long upon these themes. He wouldsay, as he went by in the morning, “How thick the pigeons are! If workingevery day were not my trade, I could get all the meat I should want byhunting,—pigeons, woodchucks, rabbits, partridges,—by gosh! I couldget all I should want for a week in one day.”

He was a skilful chopper, and indulged in some flourishes and ornaments in hisart. He cut his trees level and close to the ground, that the sprouts whichcame up afterward might be more vigorous and a sled might slide over thestumps; and instead of leaving a whole tree to support his corded wood, hewould pare it away to a slender stake or splinter which you could break offwith your hand at last.

He interested me because he was so quiet and solitary and so happy withal; awell of good humor and contentment which overflowed at his eyes. His mirth waswithout alloy. Sometimes I saw him at his work in the woods, felling trees, andhe would greet me with a laugh of inexpressible satisfaction, and a salutationin Canadian French, though he spoke English as well. When I approached him hewould suspend his work, and with half-suppressed mirth lie along the trunk of apine which he had felled, and, peeling off the inner bark, roll it up into aball and chew it while he laughed and talked. Such an exuberance of animalspirits had he that he sometimes tumbled down and rolled on the ground withlaughter at any thing which made him think and tickled him. Looking round uponthe trees he would exclaim,—“By George! I can enjoy myself wellenough here chopping; I want no better sport.” Sometimes, when atleisure, he amused himself all day in the woods with a pocket pistol, firingsalutes to himself at regular intervals as he walked. In the winter he had afire by which at noon he warmed his coffee in a kettle; and as he sat on a logto eat his dinner the chickadees would sometimes come round and alight on hisarm and peck at the potato in his fingers; and he said that he “liked tohave the little fellers about him.”

In him the animal man chiefly was developed. In physical endurance andcontentment he was cousin to the pine and the rock. I asked him once if he wasnot sometimes tired at night, after working all day; and he answered, with asincere and serious look, “Gorrappit, I never was tired in mylife.” But the intellectual and what is called spiritual man in him wereslumbering as in an infant. He had been instructed only in that innocent andineffectual way in which the Catholic priests teach the aborigines, by whichthe pupil is never educated to the degree of consciousness, but only to thedegree of trust and reverence, and a child is not made a man, but kept a child.When Nature made him, she gave him a strong body and contentment for hisportion, and propped him on every side with reverence and reliance, that hemight live out his threescore years and ten a child. He was so genuine andunsophisticated that no introduction would serve to introduce him, more than ifyou introduced a woodchuck to your neighbor. He had got to find him out as youdid. He would not play any part. Men paid him wages for work, and so helped tofeed and clothe him; but he never exchanged opinions with them. He was sosimply and naturally humble—if he can be called humble who neveraspires—that humility was no distinct quality in him, nor could heconceive of it. Wiser men were demigods to him. If you told him that such a onewas coming, he did as if he thought that any thing so grand would expect nothingof himself, but take all the responsibility on itself, and let him be forgottenstill. He never heard the sound of praise. He particularly reverenced thewriter and the preacher. Their performances were miracles. When I told him thatI wrote considerably, he thought for a long time that it was merely thehandwriting which I meant, for he could write a remarkably good hand himself. Isometimes found the name of his native parish handsomely written in the snow bythe highway, with the proper French accent, and knew that he had passed. Iasked him if he ever wished to write his thoughts. He said that he had read andwritten letters for those who could not, but he never tried to writethoughts,—no, he could not, he could not tell what to put first, it wouldkill him, and then there was spelling to be attended to at the same time!

I heard that a distinguished wise man and reformer asked him if he did not wantthe world to be changed; but he answered with a chuckle of surprise in hisCanadian accent, not knowing that the question had ever been entertainedbefore, “No, I like it well enough.” It would have suggested manythings to a philosopher to have dealings with him. To a stranger he appeared toknow nothing of things in general; yet I sometimes saw in him a man whom I hadnot seen before, and I did not know whether he was as wise as Shakespeare or assimply ignorant as a child, whether to suspect him of a fine poeticconsciousness or of stupidity. A townsman told me that when he met himsauntering through the village in his small close-fitting cap, and whistling tohimself, he reminded him of a prince in disguise.

His only books were an almanac and an arithmetic, in which last he wasconsiderably expert. The former was a sort of cyclopædia to him, which hesupposed to contain an abstract of human knowledge, as indeed it does to aconsiderable extent. I loved to sound him on the various reforms of the day,and he never failed to look at them in the most simple and practical light. Hehad never heard of such things before. Could he do without factories? I asked.He had worn the home-made Vermont gray, he said, and that was good. Could hedispense with tea and coffee? Did this country afford any beverage besidewater? He had soaked hemlock leaves in water and drank it, and thought that wasbetter than water in warm weather. When I asked him if he could do withoutmoney, he showed the convenience of money in such a way as to suggest andcoincide with the most philosophical accounts of the origin of thisinstitution, and the very derivation of the word pecunia. If an ox werehis property, and he wished to get needles and thread at the store, he thoughtit would be inconvenient and impossible soon to go on mortgaging some portionof the creature each time to that amount. He could defend many institutionsbetter than any philosopher, because, in describing them as they concerned him,he gave the true reason for their prevalence, and speculation had not suggestedto him any other. At another time, hearing Plato’s definition of aman,—a biped without feathers,—and that one exhibited a cockplucked and called it Plato’s man, he thought it an important differencethat the knees bent the wrong way. He would sometimes exclaim,“How I love to talk! By George, I could talk all day!” I asked himonce, when I had not seen him for many months, if he had got a new idea thissummer. “Good Lord,” said he, “a man that has to work as Ido, if he does not forget the ideas he has had, he will do well. May be the manyou hoe with is inclined to race; then, by gorry, your mind must be there; youthink of weeds.” He would sometimes ask me first on such occasions, if Ihad made any improvement. One winter day I asked him if he was always satisfiedwith himself, wishing to suggest a substitute within him for the priestwithout, and some higher motive for living. “Satisfied!” said he;“some men are satisfied with one thing, and some with another. One man,perhaps, if he has got enough, will be satisfied to sit all day with his backto the fire and his belly to the table, by George!” Yet I never, by anymanœuvring, could get him to take the spiritual view of things; the highestthat he appeared to conceive of was a simple expediency, such as you mightexpect an animal to appreciate; and this, practically, is true of most men. IfI suggested any improvement in his mode of life, he merely answered, withoutexpressing any regret, that it was too late. Yet he thoroughly believed inhonesty and the like virtues.

There was a certain positive originality, however slight, to be detected inhim, and I occasionally observed that he was thinking for himself andexpressing his own opinion, a phenomenon so rare that I would any day walk tenmiles to observe it, and it amounted to the re-origination of many of theinstitutions of society. Though he hesitated, and perhaps failed to expresshimself distinctly, he always had a presentable thought behind. Yet histhinking was so primitive and immersed in his animal life, that, though morepromising than a merely learned man’s, it rarely ripened to any thingwhich can be reported. He suggested that there might be men of genius in thelowest grades of life, however permanently humble and illiterate, who taketheir own view always, or do not pretend to see at all; who are as bottomlesseven as Walden Pond was thought to be, though they may be dark and muddy.

Many a traveller came out of his way to see me and the inside of my house, and,as an excuse for calling, asked for a glass of water. I told them that I drankat the pond, and pointed thither, offering to lend them a dipper. Far off as Ilived, I was not exempted from the annual visitation which occurs, methinks,about the first of April, when every body is on the move; and I had my share ofgood luck, though there were some curious specimens among my visitors.Half-witted men from the almshouse and elsewhere came to see me; but Iendeavored to make them exercise all the wit they had, and make theirconfessions to me; in such cases making wit the theme of our conversation; andso was compensated. Indeed, I found some of them to be wiser than the so calledoverseers of the poor and selectmen of the town, and thought it was timethat the tables were turned. With respect to wit, I learned that there was notmuch difference between the half and the whole. One day, in particular, aninoffensive, simple-minded pauper, whom with others I had often seen used asfencing stuff, standing or sitting on a bushel in the fields to keep cattle andhimself from straying, visited me, and expressed a wish to live as I did. Hetold me, with the utmost simplicity and truth, quite superior, or ratherinferior, to any thing that is called humility, that he was“deficient in intellect.” These were his words. The Lord had madehim so, yet he supposed the Lord cared as much for him as for another. “Ihave always been so,” said he, “from my childhood; I never had muchmind; I was not like other children; I am weak in the head. It was theLord’s will, I suppose.” And there he was to prove the truth of hiswords. He was a metaphysical puzzle to me. I have rarely met a fellow-man onsuch promising ground,—it was so simple and sincere and so true all thathe said. And, true enough, in proportion as he appeared to humble himself washe exalted. I did not know at first but it was the result of a wise policy. Itseemed that from such a basis of truth and frankness as the poor weak-headedpauper had laid, our intercourse might go forward to something better than theintercourse of sages.

I had some guests from those not reckoned commonly among the town’s poor,but who should be; who are among the world’s poor, at any rate; guestswho appeal, not to your hospitality, but to your hospitalality; whoearnestly wish to be helped, and preface their appeal with the information thatthey are resolved, for one thing, never to help themselves. I require of avisitor that he be not actually starving, though he may have the very bestappetite in the world, however he got it. Objects of charity are not guests.Men who did not know when their visit had terminated, though I went about mybusiness again, answering them from greater and greater remoteness. Men ofalmost every degree of wit called on me in the migrating season. Some who hadmore wits than they knew what to do with; runaway slaves with plantationmanners, who listened from time to time, like the fox in the fable, as if theyheard the hounds a-baying on their track, and looked at me beseechingly, asmuch as to say,—

“O Christian, will you send me back?”

One real runaway slave, among the rest, whom I helped to forward toward thenorthstar. Men of one idea, like a hen with one chicken, and that a duckling;men of a thousand ideas, and unkempt heads, like those hens which are made totake charge of a hundred chickens, all in pursuit of one bug, a score of themlost in every morning’s dew,—and become frizzled and mangy inconsequence; men of ideas instead of legs, a sort of intellectual centipedethat made you crawl all over. One man proposed a book in which visitors shouldwrite their names, as at the White Mountains; but, alas! I have too good amemory to make that necessary.

I could not but notice some of the peculiarities of my visitors. Girls and boysand young women generally seemed glad to be in the woods. They looked in thepond and at the flowers, and improved their time. Men of business, evenfarmers, thought only of solitude and employment, and of the great distance atwhich I dwelt from something or other; and though they said that they loved aramble in the woods occasionally, it was obvious that they did not. Restlesscommitted men, whose time was all taken up in getting a living or keeping it;ministers who spoke of God as if they enjoyed a monopoly of the subject, whocould not bear all kinds of opinions; doctors, lawyers, uneasy housekeepers whopried into my cupboard and bed when I was out,—how came Mrs.—— to know that my sheets were not as clean as hers?—youngmen who had ceased to be young, and had concluded that it was safest to followthe beaten track of the professions,—all these generally said that it wasnot possible to do so much good in my position. Ay! there was the rub. The oldand infirm and the timid, of whatever age or sex, thought most of sickness, andsudden accident and death; to them life seemed full of danger,—whatdanger is there if you don’t think of any?—and they thought that aprudent man would carefully select the safest position, where Dr. B. might beon hand at a moment’s warning. To them the village was literally acom-munity, a league for mutual defence, and you would suppose that theywould not go a-huckleberrying without a medicine chest. The amount of it is, ifa man is alive, there is always danger that he may die, though thedanger must be allowed to be less in proportion as he is dead-and-alive tobegin with. A man sits as many risks as he runs. Finally, there were theself-styled reformers, the greatest bores of all, who thought that I wasforever singing,—

This is the house that I built;
This is the man that lives in the house that I built;

(Video) Henry David Thoreau | Audiobook | Book | Free E-Book

but they did not know that the third line was,—

These are the folks that worry the man
That lives in the house that I built.

I did not fear the hen-harriers, for I kept no chickens; but I feared themen-harriers rather.

I had more cheering visitors than the last. Children come a-berrying, railroadmen taking a Sunday morning walk in clean shirts, fishermen and hunters, poetsand philosophers; in short, all honest pilgrims, who came out to the woods forfreedom’s sake, and really left the village behind, I was ready to greetwith,—“Welcome, Englishmen! welcome, Englishmen!” for I hadhad communication with that race.

The Bean-Field

Meanwhile my beans, the length of whose rows, added together, was seven milesalready planted, were impatient to be hoed, for the earliest had grownconsiderably before the latest were in the ground; indeed they were not easilyto be put off. What was the meaning of this so steady and self-respecting, thissmall Herculean labor, I knew not. I came to love my rows, my beans, though somany more than I wanted. They attached me to the earth, and so I got strengthlike Antæus. But why should I raise them? Only Heaven knows. This was mycurious labor all summer,—to make this portion of the earth’ssurface, which had yielded only cinquefoil, blackberries, johnswort, and thelike, before, sweet wild fruits and pleasant flowers, produce instead thispulse. What shall I learn of beans or beans of me? I cherish them, I hoe them,early and late I have an eye to them; and this is my day’s work. It is afine broad leaf to look on. My auxiliaries are the dews and rains which waterthis dry soil, and what fertility is in the soil itself, which for the mostpart is lean and effete. My enemies are worms, cool days, and most of allwoodchucks. The last have nibbled for me a quarter of an acre clean. But whatright had I to oust johnswort and the rest, and break up their ancient herbgarden? Soon, however, the remaining beans will be too tough for them, and goforward to meet new foes.

When I was four years old, as I well remember, I was brought from Boston tothis my native town, through these very woods and this field, to the pond. Itis one of the oldest scenes stamped on my memory. And now to-night my flute haswaked the echoes over that very water. The pines still stand here older than I;or, if some have fallen, I have cooked my supper with their stumps, and a newgrowth is rising all around, preparing another aspect for new infant eyes.Almost the same johnswort springs from the same perennial root in this pasture,and even I have at length helped to clothe that fabulous landscape of my infantdreams, and one of the results of my presence and influence is seen in thesebean leaves, corn blades, and potato vines.

I planted about two acres and a half of upland; and as it was only aboutfifteen years since the land was cleared, and I myself had got out two or threecords of stumps, I did not give it any manure; but in the course of the summerit appeared by the arrowheads which I turned up in hoeing, that an extinctnation had anciently dwelt here and planted corn and beans ere white men cameto clear the land, and so, to some extent, had exhausted the soil for this verycrop.

Before yet any woodchuck or squirrel had run across the road, or the sun hadgot above the shrub oaks, while all the dew was on, though the farmers warnedme against it,—I would advise you to do all your work if possible whilethe dew is on,—I began to level the ranks of haughty weeds in mybean-field and throw dust upon their heads. Early in the morning I workedbarefooted, dabbling like a plastic artist in the dewy and crumbling sand, butlater in the day the sun blistered my feet. There the sun lighted me to hoebeans, pacing slowly backward and forward over that yellow gravelly upland,between the long green rows, fifteen rods, the one end terminating in a shruboak copse where I could rest in the shade, the other in a blackberry fieldwhere the green berries deepened their tints by the time I had made anotherbout. Removing the weeds, putting fresh soil about the bean stems, andencouraging this weed which I had sown, making the yellow soil express itssummer thought in bean leaves and blossoms rather than in wormwood and piperand millet grass, making the earth say beans instead of grass,—this was mydaily work. As I had little aid from horses or cattle, or hired men or boys, orimproved implements of husbandry, I was much slower, and became much moreintimate with my beans than usual. But labor of the hands, even when pursued tothe verge of drudgery, is perhaps never the worst form of idleness. It has aconstant and imperishable moral, and to the scholar it yields a classic result.A very agricola laboriosus was I to travellers bound westward throughLincoln and Wayland to nobody knows where; they sitting at their ease in gigs,with elbows on knees, and reins loosely hanging in festoons; I thehome-staying, laborious native of the soil. But soon my homestead was out oftheir sight and thought. It was the only open and cultivated field for a greatdistance on either side of the road; so they made the most of it; and sometimesthe man in the field heard more of travellers’ gossip and comment thanwas meant for his ear: “Beans so late! peas so late!”—for Icontinued to plant when others had begun to hoe,—the ministerialhusbandman had not suspected it. “Corn, my boy, for fodder; corn forfodder.” “Does he live there?” asks the black bonnetof the gray coat; and the hard-featured farmer reins up his grateful dobbin toinquire what you are doing where he sees no manure in the furrow, andrecommends a little chip dirt, or any little waste stuff, or it may be ashes orplaster. But here were two acres and a half of furrows, and only a hoe for cartand two hands to draw it,—there being an aversion to other carts andhorses,—and chip dirt far away. Fellow-travellers as they rattled bycompared it aloud with the fields which they had passed, so that I came to knowhow I stood in the agricultural world. This was one field not in Mr.Coleman’s report. And, by the way, who estimates the value of the cropwhich nature yields in the still wilder fields unimproved by man? The crop ofEnglish hay is carefully weighed, the moisture calculated, the silicatesand the potash; but in all dells and pond holes in the woods and pastures andswamps grows a rich and various crop only unreaped by man. Mine was, as itwere, the connecting link between wild and cultivated fields; as some statesare civilized, and others half-civilized, and others savage or barbarous, so myfield was, though not in a bad sense, a half-cultivated field. They were beanscheerfully returning to their wild and primitive state that I cultivated, andmy hoe played the Ranz des Vaches for them.

Near at hand, upon the topmost spray of a birch, sings thebrown-thrasher—or red mavis, as some love to call him—all themorning, glad of your society, that would find out another farmer’s fieldif yours were not here. While you are planting the seed, hecries,—“Drop it, drop it,—cover it up, cover it up,—pullit up, pull it up, pull it up.” But this was not corn, and so it was safefrom such enemies as he. You may wonder what his rigmarole, his amateurPaganini performances on one string or on twenty, have to do with yourplanting, and yet prefer it to leached ashes or plaster. It was a cheap sort oftop dressing in which I had entire faith.

As I drew a still fresher soil about the rows with my hoe, I disturbed theashes of unchronicled nations who in primeval years lived under these heavens,and their small implements of war and hunting were brought to the light of thismodern day. They lay mingled with other natural stones, some of which bore themarks of having been burned by Indian fires, and some by the sun, and also bitsof pottery and glass brought hither by the recent cultivators of the soil. Whenmy hoe tinkled against the stones, that music echoed to the woods and the sky,and was an accompaniment to my labor which yielded an instant and immeasurablecrop. It was no longer beans that I hoed, nor I that hoed beans; and Iremembered with as much pity as pride, if I remembered at all, my acquaintanceswho had gone to the city to attend the oratorios. The night-hawk circledoverhead in the sunny afternoons—for I sometimes made a day ofit—like a mote in the eye, or in heaven’s eye, falling from time totime with a swoop and a sound as if the heavens were rent, torn at last to veryrags and tatters, and yet a seamless cope remained; small imps that fill theair and lay their eggs on the ground on bare sand or rocks on the tops ofhills, where few have found them; graceful and slender like ripples caught upfrom the pond, as leaves are raised by the wind to float in the heavens; suchkindredship is in Nature. The hawk is aerial brother of the wave which he sailsover and surveys, those his perfect air-inflated wings answering to theelemental unfledged pinions of the sea. Or sometimes I watched a pair ofhen-hawks circling high in the sky, alternately soaring and descending,approaching, and leaving one another, as if they were the embodiment of my ownthoughts. Or I was attracted by the passage of wild pigeons from this wood tothat, with a slight quivering winnowing sound and carrier haste; or from undera rotten stump my hoe turned up a sluggish portentous and outlandish spottedsalamander, a trace of Egypt and the Nile, yet our contemporary. When I pausedto lean on my hoe, these sounds and sights I heard and saw anywhere in the row,a part of the inexhaustible entertainment which the country offers.

On gala days the town fires its great guns, which echo like popguns to thesewoods, and some waifs of martial music occasionally penetrate thus far. To me,away there in my bean-field at the other end of the town, the big guns soundedas if a puffball had burst; and when there was a military turnout of which Iwas ignorant, I have sometimes had a vague sense all the day of some sort ofitching and disease in the horizon, as if some eruption would break out theresoon, either scarlatina or canker-rash, until at length some more favorablepuff of wind, making haste over the fields and up the Wayland road, brought meinformation of the “trainers.” It seemed by the distant hum as ifsomebody’s bees had swarmed, and that the neighbors, according toVirgil’s advice, by a faint tintinnabulum upon the most sonorousof their domestic utensils, were endeavoring to call them down into the hiveagain. And when the sound died quite away, and the hum had ceased, and the mostfavorable breezes told no tale, I knew that they had got the last drone of themall safely into the Middlesex hive, and that now their minds were bent on thehoney with which it was smeared.

I felt proud to know that the liberties of Massachusetts and of our fatherlandwere in such safe keeping; and as I turned to my hoeing again I was filled withan inexpressible confidence, and pursued my labor cheerfully with a calm trustin the future.

When there were several bands of musicians, it sounded as if all the villagewas a vast bellows, and all the buildings expanded and collapsed alternatelywith a din. But sometimes it was a really noble and inspiring strain thatreached these woods, and the trumpet that sings of fame, and I felt as if Icould spit a Mexican with a good relish,—for why should we always standfor trifles?—and looked round for a woodchuck or a skunk to exercise mychivalry upon. These martial strains seemed as far away as Palestine, andreminded me of a march of crusaders in the horizon, with a slight tantivy andtremulous motion of the elm-tree tops which overhang the village. This was oneof the great days; though the sky had from my clearing only the sameeverlastingly great look that it wears daily, and I saw no difference in it.

It was a singular experience that long acquaintance which I cultivated withbeans, what with planting, and hoeing, and harvesting, and threshing, andpicking over and selling them,—the last was the hardest of all,—Imight add eating, for I did taste. I was determined to know beans. When theywere growing, I used to hoe from five o’clock in the morning till noon,and commonly spent the rest of the day about other affairs. Consider theintimate and curious acquaintance one makes with various kinds ofweeds,—it will bear some iteration in the account, for there was nolittle iteration in the labor,—disturbing their delicate organizations soruthlessly, and making such invidious distinctions with his hoe, levellingwhole ranks of one species, and sedulously cultivating another. That’sRoman wormwood,—that’s pigweed,—that’ssorrel,—that’s piper-grass,—have at him, chop him up, turnhis roots upward to the sun, don’t let him have a fibre in the shade, ifyou do he’ll turn himself t’other side up and be as green as a leekin two days. A long war, not with cranes, but with weeds, those Trojans who hadsun and rain and dews on their side. Daily the beans saw me come to theirrescue armed with a hoe, and thin the ranks of their enemies, filling up thetrenches with weedy dead. Many a lusty crest-waving Hector, that towered awhole foot above his crowding comrades, fell before my weapon and rolled in thedust.

Those summer days which some of my contemporaries devoted to the fine arts inBoston or Rome, and others to contemplation in India, and others to trade inLondon or New York, I thus, with the other farmers of New England, devoted tohusbandry. Not that I wanted beans to eat, for I am by nature a Pythagorean, sofar as beans are concerned, whether they mean porridge or voting, and exchangedthem for rice; but, perchance, as some must work in fields if only for the sakeof tropes and expression, to serve a parable-maker one day. It was on the wholea rare amusement, which, continued too long, might have become a dissipation.Though I gave them no manure, and did not hoe them all once, I hoed themunusually well as far as I went, and was paid for it in the end, “therebeing in truth,” as Evelyn says, “no compost or lætationwhatsoever comparable to this continual motion, repastination, and turning ofthe mould with the spade.” “The earth,” he adds elsewhere,“especially if fresh, has a certain magnetism in it, by which it attractsthe salt, power, or virtue (call it either) which gives it life, and is thelogic of all the labor and stir we keep about it, to sustain us; all dungingsand other sordid temperings being but the vicars succedaneous to thisimprovement.” Moreover, this being one of those “worn-out andexhausted lay fields which enjoy their sabbath,” had perchance, as SirKenelm Digby thinks likely, attracted “vital spirits” from the air.I harvested twelve bushels of beans.

But to be more particular, for it is complained that Mr. Coleman has reportedchiefly the expensive experiments of gentlemen farmers, my outgoes were,—

 For a hoe,.................................. $ 0.54 Ploughing, harrowing, and furrowing,......... 7.50 Too much. Beans for seed,.............................. 3.12½ Potatoes for seed,........................... 1.33 Peas for seed,............................... 0.40 Turnip seed,................................. 0.06 White line for crow fence,................... 0.02 Horse cultivator and boy three hours,........ 1.00 Horse and cart to get crop,.................. 0.75 ———— In all,................................. $14.72½

My income was (patrem familias vendacem, non emacem esse oportet), from

 Nine bushels and twelve quarts of beans sold,. $16.94 Five " large potatoes,.................... 2.50 Nine " small,............................. 2.25 Grass,.......................................... 1.00 Stalks,......................................... 0.75 ———— In all,................................... $23.44 Leaving a pecuniary profit, as I have elsewhere said, of.............. $8.71½.

This is the result of my experience in raising beans. Plant the common smallwhite bush bean about the first of June, in rows three feet by eighteen inchesapart, being careful to select fresh round and unmixed seed. First look out forworms, and supply vacancies by planting anew. Then look out for woodchucks, ifit is an exposed place, for they will nibble off the earliest tender leavesalmost clean as they go; and again, when the young tendrils make theirappearance, they have notice of it, and will shear them off with both buds andyoung pods, sitting erect like a squirrel. But above all harvest as early aspossible, if you would escape frosts and have a fair and salable crop; you maysave much loss by this means.

This further experience also I gained. I said to myself, I will not plant beansand corn with so much industry another summer, but such seeds, if the seed isnot lost, as sincerity, truth, simplicity, faith, innocence, and the like, andsee if they will not grow in this soil, even with less toil and manurance, andsustain me, for surely it has not been exhausted for these crops. Alas! I saidthis to myself; but now another summer is gone, and another, and another, and Iam obliged to say to you, Reader, that the seeds which I planted, if indeedthey were the seeds of those virtues, were wormeaten or had lost theirvitality, and so did not come up. Commonly men will only be brave as theirfathers were brave, or timid. This generation is very sure to plant corn andbeans each new year precisely as the Indians did centuries ago and taught thefirst settlers to do, as if there were a fate in it. I saw an old man the otherday, to my astonishment, making the holes with a hoe for the seventieth time atleast, and not for himself to lie down in! But why should not the New Englandertry new adventures, and not lay so much stress on his grain, his potato andgrass crop, and his orchards,—raise other crops than these? Why concernourselves so much about our beans for seed, and not be concerned at all about anew generation of men? We should really be fed and cheered if when we met a manwe were sure to see that some of the qualities which I have named, which we allprize more than those other productions, but which are for the most partbroadcast and floating in the air, had taken root and grown in him. Here comessuch a subtile and ineffable quality, for instance, as truth or justice, thoughthe slightest amount or new variety of it, along the road. Our ambassadorsshould be instructed to send home such seeds as these, and Congress help todistribute them over all the land. We should never stand upon ceremony withsincerity. We should never cheat and insult and banish one another by ourmeanness, if there were present the kernel of worth and friendliness. We shouldnot meet thus in haste. Most men I do not meet at all, for they seem not tohave time; they are busy about their beans. We would not deal with a man thusplodding ever, leaning on a hoe or a spade as a staff between his work, not asa mushroom, but partially risen out of the earth, something more than erect,like swallows alighted and walking on the ground:—

“And as he spake, his wings would now and then
Spread, as he meant to fly, then close again,”

so that we should suspect that we might be conversing with an angel. Bread maynot always nourish us; but it always does us good, it even takes stiffness outof our joints, and makes us supple and buoyant, when we knew not what ailed us,to recognize any generosity in man or Nature, to share any unmixed and heroicjoy.

Ancient poetry and mythology suggest, at least, that husbandry was once asacred art; but it is pursued with irreverent haste and heedlessness by us, ourobject being to have large farms and large crops merely. We have no festival,nor procession, nor ceremony, not excepting our Cattle-shows and so calledThanksgivings, by which the farmer expresses a sense of the sacredness of hiscalling, or is reminded of its sacred origin. It is the premium and the feastwhich tempt him. He sacrifices not to Ceres and the Terrestrial Jove, but tothe infernal Plutus rather. By avarice and selfishness, and a grovelling habit,from which none of us is free, of regarding the soil as property, or the meansof acquiring property chiefly, the landscape is deformed, husbandry is degradedwith us, and the farmer leads the meanest of lives. He knows Nature but as arobber. Cato says that the profits of agriculture are particularly pious orjust, (maximeque pius quæstus), and according to Varro the old Romans“called the same earth Mother and Ceres, and thought that they whocultivated it led a pious and useful life, and that they alone were left of therace of King Saturn.”

We are wont to forget that the sun looks on our cultivated fields and on theprairies and forests without distinction. They all reflect and absorb his raysalike, and the former make but a small part of the glorious picture which hebeholds in his daily course. In his view the earth is all equally cultivatedlike a garden. Therefore we should receive the benefit of his light and heatwith a corresponding trust and magnanimity. What though I value the seed ofthese beans, and harvest that in the fall of the year? This broad field which Ihave looked at so long looks not to me as the principal cultivator, but awayfrom me to influences more genial to it, which water and make it green. Thesebeans have results which are not harvested by me. Do they not grow forwoodchucks partly? The ear of wheat (in Latin spica, obsoletelyspeca, from spe, hope) should not be the only hope of thehusbandman; its kernel or grain (granum from gerendo, bearing) isnot all that it bears. How, then, can our harvest fail? Shall I not rejoicealso at the abundance of the weeds whose seeds are the granary of the birds? Itmatters little comparatively whether the fields fill the farmer’s barns.The true husbandman will cease from anxiety, as the squirrels manifest noconcern whether the woods will bear chestnuts this year or not, and finish hislabor with every day, relinquishing all claim to the produce of his fields, andsacrificing in his mind not only his first but his last fruits also.

The Village

After hoeing, or perhaps reading and writing, in the forenoon, I usually bathedagain in the pond, swimming across one of its coves for a stint, and washed thedust of labor from my person, or smoothed out the last wrinkle which study hadmade, and for the afternoon was absolutely free. Every day or two I strolled tothe village to hear some of the gossip which is incessantly going on there,circulating either from mouth to mouth, or from newspaper to newspaper, andwhich, taken in homœopathic doses, was really as refreshing in its way as therustle of leaves and the peeping of frogs. As I walked in the woods to see thebirds and squirrels, so I walked in the village to see the men and boys;instead of the wind among the pines I heard the carts rattle. In one directionfrom my house there was a colony of muskrats in the river meadows; under thegrove of elms and buttonwoods in the other horizon was a village of busy men,as curious to me as if they had been prairie dogs, each sitting at the mouth ofits burrow, or running over to a neighbor’s to gossip. I went therefrequently to observe their habits. The village appeared to me a great newsroom; and on one side, to support it, as once at Redding & Company’son State Street, they kept nuts and raisins, or salt and meal and othergroceries. Some have such a vast appetite for the former commodity, that is,the news, and such sound digestive organs, that they can sit forever in publicavenues without stirring, and let it simmer and whisper through them like theEtesian winds, or as if inhaling ether, it only producing numbness andinsensibility to pain,—otherwise it would often be painful tohear,—without affecting the consciousness. I hardly ever failed, when Irambled through the village, to see a row of such worthies, either sitting on aladder sunning themselves, with their bodies inclined forward and their eyesglancing along the line this way and that, from time to time, with a voluptuousexpression, or else leaning against a barn with their hands in their pockets,like caryatides, as if to prop it up. They, being commonly out of doors, heardwhatever was in the wind. These are the coarsest mills, in which all gossip isfirst rudely digested or cracked up before it is emptied into finer and moredelicate hoppers within doors. I observed that the vitals of the village werethe grocery, the bar-room, the post-office, and the bank; and, as a necessarypart of the machinery, they kept a bell, a big gun, and a fire-engine, atconvenient places; and the houses were so arranged as to make the most ofmankind, in lanes and fronting one another, so that every traveller had to runthe gantlet, and every man, woman, and child might get a lick at him. Ofcourse, those who were stationed nearest to the head of the line, where theycould most see and be seen, and have the first blow at him, paid the highestprices for their places; and the few straggling inhabitants in the outskirts,where long gaps in the line began to occur, and the traveller could get overwalls or turn aside into cow paths, and so escape, paid a very slight ground orwindow tax. Signs were hung out on all sides to allure him; some to catch himby the appetite, as the tavern and victualling cellar; some by the fancy, asthe dry goods store and the jeweller’s; and others by the hair or thefeet or the skirts, as the barber, the shoemaker, or the tailor. Besides, therewas a still more terrible standing invitation to call at every one of thesehouses, and company expected about these times. For the most part I escapedwonderfully from these dangers, either by proceeding at once boldly and withoutdeliberation to the goal, as is recommended to those who run the gantlet, or bykeeping my thoughts on high things, like Orpheus, who, “loudly singingthe praises of the gods to his lyre, drowned the voices of the Sirens, and keptout of danger.” Sometimes I bolted suddenly, and nobody could tell mywhereabouts, for I did not stand much about gracefulness, and never hesitatedat a gap in a fence. I was even accustomed to make an irruption into somehouses, where I was well entertained, and after learning the kernels and verylast sieve-ful of news, what had subsided, the prospects of war and peace, andwhether the world was likely to hold together much longer, I was let outthrough the rear avenues, and so escaped to the woods again.

It was very pleasant, when I stayed late in town, to launch myself into thenight, especially if it was dark and tempestuous, and set sail from some brightvillage parlor or lecture room, with a bag of rye or Indian meal upon myshoulder, for my snug harbor in the woods, having made all tight without andwithdrawn under hatches with a merry crew of thoughts, leaving only my outerman at the helm, or even tying up the helm when it was plain sailing. I hadmany a genial thought by the cabin fire “as I sailed.” I was nevercast away nor distressed in any weather, though I encountered some severestorms. It is darker in the woods, even in common nights, than most suppose. Ifrequently had to look up at the opening between the trees above the path inorder to learn my route, and, where there was no cart-path, to feel with myfeet the faint track which I had worn, or steer by the known relation ofparticular trees which I felt with my hands, passing between two pines forinstance, not more than eighteen inches apart, in the midst of the woods,invariably, in the darkest night. Sometimes, after coming home thus late in adark and muggy night, when my feet felt the path which my eyes could not see,dreaming and absent-minded all the way, until I was aroused by having to raisemy hand to lift the latch, I have not been able to recall a single step of mywalk, and I have thought that perhaps my body would find its way home if itsmaster should forsake it, as the hand finds its way to the mouth withoutassistance. Several times, when a visitor chanced to stay into evening, and itproved a dark night, I was obliged to conduct him to the cart-path in the rearof the house, and then point out to him the direction he was to pursue, and inkeeping which he was to be guided rather by his feet than his eyes. One verydark night I directed thus on their way two young men who had been fishing inthe pond. They lived about a mile off through the woods, and were quite used tothe route. A day or two after one of them told me that they wandered about thegreater part of the night, close by their own premises, and did not get hometill toward morning, by which time, as there had been several heavy showers inthe mean while, and the leaves were very wet, they were drenched to their skins.I have heard of many going astray even in the village streets, when thedarkness was so thick that you could cut it with a knife, as the saying is.Some who live in the outskirts, having come to town a-shopping in their wagons,have been obliged to put up for the night; and gentlemen and ladies making acall have gone half a mile out of their way, feeling the sidewalk only withtheir feet, and not knowing when they turned. It is a surprising and memorable,as well as valuable experience, to be lost in the woods any time. Often in asnow storm, even by day, one will come out upon a well-known road and yet findit impossible to tell which way leads to the village. Though he knows that hehas travelled it a thousand times, he cannot recognize a feature in it, but itis as strange to him as if it were a road in Siberia. By night, of course, theperplexity is infinitely greater. In our most trivial walks, we are constantly,though unconsciously, steering like pilots by certain well-known beacons andheadlands, and if we go beyond our usual course we still carry in our minds thebearing of some neighboring cape; and not till we are completely lost, orturned round,—for a man needs only to be turned round once with his eyesshut in this world to be lost,—do we appreciate the vastness andstrangeness of Nature. Every man has to learn the points of compass again asoften as he awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we arelost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to findourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.

One afternoon, near the end of the first summer, when I went to the village toget a shoe from the cobbler’s, I was seized and put into jail, because,as I have elsewhere related, I did not pay a tax to, or recognize the authorityof, the state which buys and sells men, women, and children, like cattle atthe door of its senate-house. I had gone down to the woods for other purposes.But, wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirtyinstitutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperateodd-fellow society. It is true, I might have resisted forcibly with more orless effect, might have run “amok” against society; but I preferredthat society should run “amok” against me, it being the desperateparty. However, I was released the next day, obtained my mended shoe, andreturned to the woods in season to get my dinner of huckleberries on Fair-HavenHill. I was never molested by any person but those who represented the state. Ihad no lock nor bolt but for the desk which held my papers, not even a nail toput over my latch or windows. I never fastened my door night or day, though Iwas to be absent several days; not even when the next fall I spent a fortnightin the woods of Maine. And yet my house was more respected than if it had beensurrounded by a file of soldiers. The tired rambler could rest and warm himselfby my fire, the literary amuse himself with the few books on my table, or thecurious, by opening my closet door, see what was left of my dinner, and whatprospect I had of a supper. Yet, though many people of every class came thisway to the pond, I suffered no serious inconvenience from these sources, and Inever missed anything but one small book, a volume of Homer, which perhaps wasimproperly gilded, and this I trust a soldier of our camp has found by thistime. I am convinced, that if all men were to live as simply as I then did,thieving and robbery would be unknown. These take place only in communitieswhere some have got more than is sufficient while others have not enough. ThePope’s Homers would soon get properly distributed.—

“Nec bella fuerunt,
Faginus astabat dum scyphus ante dapes.”

“Nor wars did men molest,
When only beechen bowls were in request.”

“You who govern public affairs, what need have you to employ punishments?Love virtue, and the people will be virtuous. The virtues of a superior man arelike the wind; the virtues of a common man are like the grass; the grass, whenthe wind passes over it, bends.”

The Ponds

Sometimes, having had a surfeit of human society and gossip, and worn out allmy village friends, I rambled still farther westward than I habitually dwell,into yet more unfrequented parts of the town, “to fresh woods andpastures new,” or, while the sun was setting, made my supper ofhuckleberries and blueberries on Fair Haven Hill, and laid up a store forseveral days. The fruits do not yield their true flavor to the purchaser ofthem, nor to him who raises them for the market. There is but one way to obtainit, yet few take that way. If you would know the flavor of huckleberries, askthe cow-boy or the partridge. It is a vulgar error to suppose that you havetasted huckleberries who never plucked them. A huckleberry never reachesBoston; they have not been known there since they grew on her three hills. Theambrosial and essential part of the fruit is lost with the bloom which isrubbed off in the market cart, and they become mere provender. As long asEternal Justice reigns, not one innocent huckleberry can be transported thitherfrom the country’s hills.

Occasionally, after my hoeing was done for the day, I joined some impatientcompanion who had been fishing on the pond since morning, as silent andmotionless as a duck or a floating leaf, and, after practising various kinds ofphilosophy, had concluded commonly, by the time I arrived, that he belonged tothe ancient sect of Cœnobites. There was one older man, an excellentfisher and skilled in all kinds of woodcraft, who was pleased to look upon myhouse as a building erected for the convenience of fishermen; and I was equallypleased when he sat in my doorway to arrange his lines. Once in a while we sattogether on the pond, he at one end of the boat, and I at the other; but notmany words passed between us, for he had grown deaf in his later years, but heoccasionally hummed a psalm, which harmonized well enough with my philosophy.Our intercourse was thus altogether one of unbroken harmony, far more pleasingto remember than if it had been carried on by speech. When, as was commonly thecase, I had none to commune with, I used to raise the echoes by striking with apaddle on the side of my boat, filling the surrounding woods with circling anddilating sound, stirring them up as the keeper of a menagerie his wild beasts,until I elicited a growl from every wooded vale and hill-side.

In warm evenings I frequently sat in the boat playing the flute, and saw theperch, which I seemed to have charmed, hovering around me, and the moontravelling over the ribbed bottom, which was strewed with the wrecks of theforest. Formerly I had come to this pond adventurously, from time to time, indark summer nights, with a companion, and making a fire close to thewater’s edge, which we thought attracted the fishes, we caught pouts witha bunch of worms strung on a thread; and when we had done, far in the night,threw the burning brands high into the air like skyrockets, which, coming downinto the pond, were quenched with a loud hissing, and we were suddenly gropingin total darkness. Through this, whistling a tune, we took our way to thehaunts of men again. But now I had made my home by the shore.

Sometimes, after staying in a village parlor till the family had all retired, Ihave returned to the woods, and, partly with a view to the next day’sdinner, spent the hours of midnight fishing from a boat by moonlight, serenadedby owls and foxes, and hearing, from time to time, the creaking note of someunknown bird close at hand. These experiences were very memorable and valuableto me,—anchored in forty feet of water, and twenty or thirty rods from theshore, surrounded sometimes by thousands of small perch and shiners, dimplingthe surface with their tails in the moonlight, and communicating by a longflaxen line with mysterious nocturnal fishes which had their dwelling fortyfeet below, or sometimes dragging sixty feet of line about the pond as Idrifted in the gentle night breeze, now and then feeling a slight vibrationalong it, indicative of some life prowling about its extremity, of dulluncertain blundering purpose there, and slow to make up its mind. At length youslowly raise, pulling hand over hand, some horned pout squeaking and squirmingto the upper air. It was very queer, especially in dark nights, when yourthoughts had wandered to vast and cosmogonal themes in other spheres, to feelthis faint jerk, which came to interrupt your dreams and link you to Natureagain. It seemed as if I might next cast my line upward into the air, as wellas downward into this element, which was scarcely more dense. Thus I caught twofishes as it were with one hook.

The scenery of Walden is on a humble scale, and, though very beautiful, doesnot approach to grandeur, nor can it much concern one who has not longfrequented it or lived by its shore; yet this pond is so remarkable for itsdepth and purity as to merit a particular description. It is a clear and deepgreen well, half a mile long and a mile and three quarters in circumference,and contains about sixty-one and a half acres; a perennial spring in the midstof pine and oak woods, without any visible inlet or outlet except by the cloudsand evaporation. The surrounding hills rise abruptly from the water to theheight of forty to eighty feet, though on the south-east and east they attain toabout one hundred and one hundred and fifty feet respectively, within a quarterand a third of a mile. They are exclusively woodland. All our Concord watershave two colors at least; one when viewed at a distance, and another, moreproper, close at hand. The first depends more on the light, and follows thesky. In clear weather, in summer, they appear blue at a little distance,especially if agitated, and at a great distance all appear alike. In stormyweather they are sometimes of a dark slate color. The sea, however, is said tobe blue one day and green another without any perceptible change in theatmosphere. I have seen our river, when, the landscape being covered with snow,both water and ice were almost as green as grass. Some consider blue “tobe the color of pure water, whether liquid or solid.” But, lookingdirectly down into our waters from a boat, they are seen to be of verydifferent colors. Walden is blue at one time and green at another, even fromthe same point of view. Lying between the earth and the heavens, it partakes ofthe color of both. Viewed from a hill-top it reflects the color of the sky; butnear at hand it is of a yellowish tint next the shore where you can see thesand, then a light green, which gradually deepens to a uniform dark green inthe body of the pond. In some lights, viewed even from a hill-top, it is of avivid green next the shore. Some have referred this to the reflection of theverdure; but it is equally green there against the railroad sand-bank, and inthe spring, before the leaves are expanded, and it may be simply the result ofthe prevailing blue mixed with the yellow of the sand. Such is the color of itsiris. This is that portion, also, where in the spring, the ice being warmed bythe heat of the sun reflected from the bottom, and also transmitted through theearth, melts first and forms a narrow canal about the still frozen middle. Likethe rest of our waters, when much agitated, in clear weather, so that thesurface of the waves may reflect the sky at the right angle, or because thereis more light mixed with it, it appears at a little distance of a darker bluethan the sky itself; and at such a time, being on its surface, and looking withdivided vision, so as to see the reflection, I have discerned a matchless andindescribable light blue, such as watered or changeable silks and sword bladessuggest, more cerulean than the sky itself, alternating with the original darkgreen on the opposite sides of the waves, which last appeared but muddy incomparison. It is a vitreous greenish blue, as I remember it, like thosepatches of the winter sky seen through cloud vistas in the west before sundown.Yet a single glass of its water held up to the light is as colorless as anequal quantity of air. It is well known that a large plate of glass will have agreen tint, owing, as the makers say, to its “body,” but a smallpiece of the same will be colorless. How large a body of Walden water would berequired to reflect a green tint I have never proved. The water of our river isblack or a very dark brown to one looking directly down on it, and, like thatof most ponds, imparts to the body of one bathing in it a yellowish tinge; butthis water is of such crystalline purity that the body of the bather appears ofan alabaster whiteness, still more unnatural, which, as the limbs are magnifiedand distorted withal, produces a monstrous effect, making fit studies for aMichael Angelo.

The water is so transparent that the bottom can easily be discerned at thedepth of twenty-five or thirty feet. Paddling over it, you may see, many feetbeneath the surface the schools of perch and shiners, perhaps only an inchlong, yet the former easily distinguished by their transverse bars, and youthink that they must be ascetic fish that find a subsistence there. Once, inthe winter, many years ago, when I had been cutting holes through the ice inorder to catch pickerel, as I stepped ashore I tossed my axe back on to theice, but, as if some evil genius had directed it, it slid four or five rodsdirectly into one of the holes, where the water was twenty-five feet deep. Outof curiosity, I lay down on the ice and looked through the hole, until I sawthe axe a little on one side, standing on its head, with its helve erect andgently swaying to and fro with the pulse of the pond; and there it might havestood erect and swaying till in the course of time the handle rotted off, if Ihad not disturbed it. Making another hole directly over it with an ice chiselwhich I had, and cutting down the longest birch which I could find in theneighborhood with my knife, I made a slip-noose, which I attached to its end,and, letting it down carefully, passed it over the knob of the handle, and drewit by a line along the birch, and so pulled the axe out again.

The shore is composed of a belt of smooth rounded white stones like pavingstones, excepting one or two short sand beaches, and is so steep that in manyplaces a single leap will carry you into water over your head; and were it notfor its remarkable transparency, that would be the last to be seen of itsbottom till it rose on the opposite side. Some think it is bottomless. It isnowhere muddy, and a casual observer would say that there were no weeds at allin it; and of noticeable plants, except in the little meadows recentlyoverflowed, which do not properly belong to it, a closer scrutiny does notdetect a flag nor a bulrush, nor even a lily, yellow or white, but only a fewsmall heart-leaves and potamogetons, and perhaps a water-target or two; allwhich however a bather might not perceive; and these plants are clean andbright like the element they grow in. The stones extend a rod or two into thewater, and then the bottom is pure sand, except in the deepest parts, wherethere is usually a little sediment, probably from the decay of the leaves whichhave been wafted on to it so many successive falls, and a bright green weed isbrought up on anchors even in midwinter.

We have one other pond just like this, White Pond, in Nine Acre Corner, abouttwo and a half miles westerly; but, though I am acquainted with most of theponds within a dozen miles of this centre I do not know a third of this pureand well-like character. Successive nations perchance have drank at, admired,and fathomed it, and passed away, and still its water is green and pellucid asever. Not an intermitting spring! Perhaps on that spring morning when Adam andEve were driven out of Eden Walden Pond was already in existence, and even thenbreaking up in a gentle spring rain accompanied with mist and a southerly wind,and covered with myriads of ducks and geese, which had not heard of the fall,when still such pure lakes sufficed them. Even then it had commenced to riseand fall, and had clarified its waters and colored them of the hue they nowwear, and obtained a patent of heaven to be the only Walden Pond in the worldand distiller of celestial dews. Who knows in how many unrememberednations’ literatures this has been the Castalian Fountain? or what nymphspresided over it in the Golden Age? It is a gem of the first water whichConcord wears in her coronet.

Yet perchance the first who came to this well have left some trace of theirfootsteps. I have been surprised to detect encircling the pond, even where athick wood has just been cut down on the shore, a narrow shelf-like path in thesteep hill-side, alternately rising and falling, approaching and receding fromthe water’s edge, as old probably as the race of man here, worn by thefeet of aboriginal hunters, and still from time to time unwittingly trodden bythe present occupants of the land. This is particularly distinct to onestanding on the middle of the pond in winter, just after a light snow hasfallen, appearing as a clear undulating white line, unobscured by weeds andtwigs, and very obvious a quarter of a mile off in many places where in summerit is hardly distinguishable close at hand. The snow reprints it, as it were,in clear white type alto-relievo. The ornamented grounds of villas which willone day be built here may still preserve some trace of this.

The pond rises and falls, but whether regularly or not, and within what period,nobody knows, though, as usual, many pretend to know. It is commonly higher inthe winter and lower in the summer, though not corresponding to the general wetand dryness. I can remember when it was a foot or two lower, and also when itwas at least five feet higher, than when I lived by it. There is a narrowsand-bar running into it, with very deep water on one side, on which I helpedboil a kettle of chowder, some six rods from the main shore, about the year1824, which it has not been possible to do for twenty-five years; and on theother hand, my friends used to listen with incredulity when I told them, that afew years later I was accustomed to fish from a boat in a secluded cove in thewoods, fifteen rods from the only shore they knew, which place was long sinceconverted into a meadow. But the pond has risen steadily for two years, andnow, in the summer of ’52, is just five feet higher than when I livedthere, or as high as it was thirty years ago, and fishing goes on again in themeadow. This makes a difference of level, at the outside, of six or seven feet;and yet the water shed by the surrounding hills is insignificant in amount, andthis overflow must be referred to causes which affect the deep springs. Thissame summer the pond has begun to fall again. It is remarkable that thisfluctuation, whether periodical or not, appears thus to require many years forits accomplishment. I have observed one rise and a part of two falls, and Iexpect that a dozen or fifteen years hence the water will again be as low as Ihave ever known it. Flint’s Pond, a mile eastward, allowing for thedisturbance occasioned by its inlets and outlets, and the smaller intermediateponds also, sympathize with Walden, and recently attained their greatest heightat the same time with the latter. The same is true, as far as my observationgoes, of White Pond.

This rise and fall of Walden at long intervals serves this use at least; thewater standing at this great height for a year or more, though it makes itdifficult to walk round it, kills the shrubs and trees which have sprung upabout its edge since the last rise, pitch-pines, birches, alders, aspens, andothers, and, falling again, leaves an unobstructed shore; for, unlike manyponds and all waters which are subject to a daily tide, its shore is cleanestwhen the water is lowest. On the side of the pond next my house, a row of pitchpines fifteen feet high has been killed and tipped over as if by a lever, andthus a stop put to their encroachments; and their size indicates how many yearshave elapsed since the last rise to this height. By this fluctuation the pondasserts its title to a shore, and thus the shore is shorn, andthe trees cannot hold it by right of possession. These are the lips of thelake on which no beard grows. It licks its chaps from time to time. When thewater is at its height, the alders, willows, and maples send forth a mass offibrous red roots several feet long from all sides of their stems in the water,and to the height of three or four feet from the ground, in the effort tomaintain themselves; and I have known the high-blueberry bushes about theshore, which commonly produce no fruit, bear an abundant crop under thesecircumstances.

Some have been puzzled to tell how the shore became so regularly paved. Mytownsmen have all heard the tradition, the oldest people tell me that theyheard it in their youth, that anciently the Indians were holding a pow-wow upona hill here, which rose as high into the heavens as the pond now sinks deepinto the earth, and they used much profanity, as the story goes, though thisvice is one of which the Indians were never guilty, and while they were thusengaged the hill shook and suddenly sank, and only one old squaw, named Walden,escaped, and from her the pond was named. It has been conjectured that when thehill shook these stones rolled down its side and became the present shore. Itis very certain, at any rate, that once there was no pond here, and now thereis one; and this Indian fable does not in any respect conflict with the accountof that ancient settler whom I have mentioned, who remembers so well when hefirst came here with his divining rod, saw a thin vapor rising from the sward,and the hazel pointed steadily downward, and he concluded to dig a well here.As for the stones, many still think that they are hardly to be accounted for bythe action of the waves on these hills; but I observe that the surroundinghills are remarkably full of the same kind of stones, so that they have beenobliged to pile them up in walls on both sides of the railroad cut nearest thepond; and, moreover, there are most stones where the shore is most abrupt; sothat, unfortunately, it is no longer a mystery to me. I detect the paver. Ifthe name was not derived from that of some English locality,—SaffronWalden, for instance,—one might suppose that it was called originallyWalled-in Pond.

The pond was my well ready dug. For four months in the year its water is ascold as it is pure at all times; and I think that it is then as good as any, ifnot the best, in the town. In the winter, all water which is exposed to the airis colder than springs and wells which are protected from it. The temperatureof the pond water which had stood in the room where I sat from fiveo’clock in the afternoon till noon the next day, the sixth of March,1846, the thermometer having been up to 65° or 70° some of the time,owing partly to the sun on the roof, was 42°, or one degree colder than thewater of one of the coldest wells in the village just drawn. The temperature ofthe Boiling Spring the same day was 45°, or the warmest of any water tried,though it is the coldest that I know of in summer, when, beside, shallow andstagnant surface water is not mingled with it. Moreover, in summer, Waldennever becomes so warm as most water which is exposed to the sun, on account ofits depth. In the warmest weather I usually placed a pailful in my cellar,where it became cool in the night, and remained so during the day; though Ialso resorted to a spring in the neighborhood. It was as good when a week oldas the day it was dipped, and had no taste of the pump. Whoever camps for aweek in summer by the shore of a pond, needs only bury a pail of water a fewfeet deep in the shade of his camp to be independent of the luxury of ice.

There have been caught in Walden pickerel, one weighing seven pounds, tosay nothing of another which carried off a reel with great velocity, which thefisherman safely set down at eight pounds because he did not seehim, perch and pouts, some of each weighing over two pounds, shiners,chivins or roach (Leuciscus pulchellus), a very few breams, and a coupleof eels, one weighing four pounds,—I am thus particular because the weightof a fish is commonly its only title to fame, and these are the only eels Ihave heard of here;—also, I have a faint recollection of a little fishsome five inches long, with silvery sides and a greenish back, somewhatdace-like in its character, which I mention here chiefly to link my facts tofable. Nevertheless, this pond is not very fertile in fish. Its pickerel,though not abundant, are its chief boast. I have seen at one time lying on theice pickerel of at least three different kinds; a long and shallow one,steel-colored, most like those caught in the river; a bright golden kind, withgreenish reflections and remarkably deep, which is the most common here; andanother, golden-colored, and shaped like the last, but peppered on the sideswith small dark brown or black spots, intermixed with a few faint blood-redones, very much like a trout. The specific name reticulatus would notapply to this; it should be guttatus rather. These are all very firmfish, and weigh more than their size promises. The shiners, pouts, and perchalso, and indeed all the fishes which inhabit this pond, are much cleaner,handsomer, and firmer fleshed than those in the river and most other ponds, asthe water is purer, and they can easily be distinguished from them. Probablymany ichthyologists would make new varieties of some of them. There are also aclean race of frogs and tortoises, and a few muscels in it; muskrats and minksleave their traces about it, and occasionally a travelling mud-turtle visitsit. Sometimes, when I pushed off my boat in the morning, I disturbed a greatmud-turtle which had secreted himself under the boat in the night. Ducks andgeese frequent it in the spring and fall, the white-bellied swallows(Hirundo bicolor) skim over it, and the peetweets (Totanusmacularius) “teter” along its stony shores all summer. I havesometimes disturbed a fishhawk sitting on a white-pine over the water; but Idoubt if it is ever profaned by the wing of a gull, like Fair Haven. At most,it tolerates one annual loon. These are all the animals of consequence whichfrequent it now.

You may see from a boat, in calm weather, near the sandy eastern shore, wherethe water is eight or ten feet deep, and also in some other parts of the pond,some circular heaps half a dozen feet in diameter by a foot in height,consisting of small stones less than a hen’s egg in size, where allaround is bare sand. At first you wonder if the Indians could have formed themon the ice for any purpose, and so, when the ice melted, they sank to thebottom; but they are too regular and some of them plainly too fresh for that.They are similar to those found in rivers; but as there are no suckers norlampreys here, I know not by what fish they could be made. Perhaps they are thenests of the chivin. These lend a pleasing mystery to the bottom.

The shore is irregular enough not to be monotonous. I have in my mind’seye the western indented with deep bays, the bolder northern, and thebeautifully scalloped southern shore, where successive capes overlap each otherand suggest unexplored coves between. The forest has never so good a setting,nor is so distinctly beautiful, as when seen from the middle of a small lakeamid hills which rise from the water’s edge; for the water in which it isreflected not only makes the best foreground in such a case, but, with itswinding shore, the most natural and agreeable boundary to it. There is norawness nor imperfection in its edge there, as where the axe has cleared apart, or a cultivated field abuts on it. The trees have ample room to expand onthe water side, and each sends forth its most vigorous branch in thatdirection. There Nature has woven a natural selvage, and the eye rises by justgradations from the low shrubs of the shore to the highest trees. There are fewtraces of man’s hand to be seen. The water laves the shore as it did athousand years ago.

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It isearth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of hisown nature. The fluviatile trees next the shore are the slender eyelashes whichfringe it, and the wooded hills and cliffs around are its overhanging brows.

Standing on the smooth sandy beach at the east end of the pond, in a calmSeptember afternoon, when a slight haze makes the opposite shore lineindistinct, I have seen whence came the expression, “the glassy surfaceof a lake.” When you invert your head, it looks like a thread of finestgossamer stretched across the valley, and gleaming against the distant pinewoods, separating one stratum of the atmosphere from another. You would thinkthat you could walk dry under it to the opposite hills, and that the swallowswhich skim over might perch on it. Indeed, they sometimes dive below this line,as it were by mistake, and are undeceived. As you look over the pond westwardyou are obliged to employ both your hands to defend your eyes against thereflected as well as the true sun, for they are equally bright; and if, betweenthe two, you survey its surface critically, it is literally as smooth as glass,except where the skater insects, at equal intervals scattered over its wholeextent, by their motions in the sun produce the finest imaginable sparkle onit, or, perchance, a duck plumes itself, or, as I have said, a swallow skims solow as to touch it. It may be that in the distance a fish describes an arc ofthree or four feet in the air, and there is one bright flash where it emerges,and another where it strikes the water; sometimes the whole silvery arc isrevealed; or here and there, perhaps, is a thistle-down floating on itssurface, which the fishes dart at and so dimple it again. It is like moltenglass cooled but not congealed, and the few motes in it are pure and beautifullike the imperfections in glass. You may often detect a yet smoother and darkerwater, separated from the rest as if by an invisible cobweb, boom of the waternymphs, resting on it. From a hill-top you can see a fish leap in almost anypart; for not a pickerel or shiner picks an insect from this smooth surface butit manifestly disturbs the equilibrium of the whole lake. It is wonderful withwhat elaborateness this simple fact is advertised,—this piscine murderwill out,—and from my distant perch I distinguish the circling undulationswhen they are half a dozen rods in diameter. You can even detect a water-bug(Gyrinus) ceaselessly progressing over the smooth surface a quarter of amile off; for they furrow the water slightly, making a conspicuous ripplebounded by two diverging lines, but the skaters glide over it without ripplingit perceptibly. When the surface is considerably agitated there are no skatersnor water-bugs on it, but apparently, in calm days, they leave their havens andadventurously glide forth from the shore by short impulses till they completelycover it. It is a soothing employment, on one of those fine days in the fallwhen all the warmth of the sun is fully appreciated, to sit on a stump on sucha height as this, overlooking the pond, and study the dimpling circles whichare incessantly inscribed on its otherwise invisible surface amid the reflectedskies and trees. Over this great expanse there is no disturbance but it is thusat once gently smoothed away and assuaged, as, when a vase of water is jarred,the trembling circles seek the shore and all is smooth again. Not a fish canleap or an insect fall on the pond but it is thus reported in circling dimples,in lines of beauty, as it were the constant welling up of its fountain, thegentle pulsing of its life, the heaving of its breast. The thrills of joy andthrills of pain are undistinguishable. How peaceful the phenomena of the lake!Again the works of man shine as in the spring. Ay, every leaf and twig andstone and cobweb sparkles now at mid-afternoon as when covered with dew in aspring morning. Every motion of an oar or an insect produces a flash of light;and if an oar falls, how sweet the echo!

In such a day, in September or October, Walden is a perfect forest mirror, setround with stones as precious to my eye as if fewer or rarer. Nothing so fair,so pure, and at the same time so large, as a lake, perchance, lies on thesurface of the earth. Sky water. It needs no fence. Nations come and go withoutdefiling it. It is a mirror which no stone can crack, whose quicksilver willnever wear off, whose gilding Nature continually repairs; no storms, no dust,can dim its surface ever fresh;—a mirror in which all impurity presentedto it sinks, swept and dusted by the sun’s hazy brush,—this thelight dust-cloth,—which retains no breath that is breathed on it, butsends its own to float as clouds high above its surface, and be reflected inits bosom still.

A field of water betrays the spirit that is in the air. It is continuallyreceiving new life and motion from above. It is intermediate in its naturebetween land and sky. On land only the grass and trees wave, but the wateritself is rippled by the wind. I see where the breeze dashes across it by thestreaks or flakes of light. It is remarkable that we can look down on itssurface. We shall, perhaps, look down thus on the surface of air at length, andmark where a still subtler spirit sweeps over it.

The skaters and water-bugs finally disappear in the latter part of October,when the severe frosts have come; and then and in November, usually, in a calmday, there is absolutely nothing to ripple the surface. One November afternoon,in the calm at the end of a rain storm of several days’ duration, whenthe sky was still completely overcast and the air was full of mist, I observedthat the pond was remarkably smooth, so that it was difficult to distinguishits surface; though it no longer reflected the bright tints of October, but thesombre November colors of the surrounding hills. Though I passed over it asgently as possible, the slight undulations produced by my boat extended almostas far as I could see, and gave a ribbed appearance to the reflections. But, asI was looking over the surface, I saw here and there at a distance a faintglimmer, as if some skater insects which had escaped the frosts might becollected there, or, perchance, the surface, being so smooth, betrayed where aspring welled up from the bottom. Paddling gently to one of these places, I wassurprised to find myself surrounded by myriads of small perch, about fiveinches long, of a rich bronze color in the green water, sporting there, andconstantly rising to the surface and dimpling it, sometimes leaving bubbles onit. In such transparent and seemingly bottomless water, reflecting the clouds,I seemed to be floating through the air as in a balloon, and their swimmingimpressed me as a kind of flight or hovering, as if they were a compact flockof birds passing just beneath my level on the right or left, their fins, likesails, set all around them. There were many such schools in the pond,apparently improving the short season before winter would draw an icy shutterover their broad skylight, sometimes giving to the surface an appearance as ifa slight breeze struck it, or a few rain-drops fell there. When I approachedcarelessly and alarmed them, they made a sudden splash and rippling with theirtails, as if one had struck the water with a brushy bough, and instantly tookrefuge in the depths. At length the wind rose, the mist increased, and thewaves began to run, and the perch leaped much higher than before, half out ofwater, a hundred black points, three inches long, at once above the surface.Even as late as the fifth of December, one year, I saw some dimples on thesurface, and thinking it was going to rain hard immediately, the air being fullof mist, I made haste to take my place at the oars and row homeward; alreadythe rain seemed rapidly increasing, though I felt none on my cheek, and Ianticipated a thorough soaking. But suddenly the dimples ceased, for they wereproduced by the perch, which the noise of my oars had seared into the depths,and I saw their schools dimly disappearing; so I spent a dry afternoon afterall.

An old man who used to frequent this pond nearly sixty years ago, when it wasdark with surrounding forests, tells me that in those days he sometimes saw itall alive with ducks and other water fowl, and that there were many eaglesabout it. He came here a-fishing, and used an old log canoe which he found onthe shore. It was made of two white-pine logs dug out and pinned together, andwas cut off square at the ends. It was very clumsy, but lasted a great manyyears before it became water-logged and perhaps sank to the bottom. He did notknow whose it was; it belonged to the pond. He used to make a cable for hisanchor of strips of hickory bark tied together. An old man, a potter, who livedby the pond before the Revolution, told him once that there was an iron chestat the bottom, and that he had seen it. Sometimes it would come floating up tothe shore; but when you went toward it, it would go back into deep water anddisappear. I was pleased to hear of the old log canoe, which took the place ofan Indian one of the same material but more graceful construction, whichperchance had first been a tree on the bank, and then, as it were, fell intothe water, to float there for a generation, the most proper vessel for thelake. I remember that when I first looked into these depths there were manylarge trunks to be seen indistinctly lying on the bottom, which had either beenblown over formerly, or left on the ice at the last cutting, when wood wascheaper; but now they have mostly disappeared.

When I first paddled a boat on Walden, it was completely surrounded by thickand lofty pine and oak woods, and in some of its coves grape vines had run overthe trees next the water and formed bowers under which a boat could pass. Thehills which form its shores are so steep, and the woods on them were then sohigh, that, as you looked down from the west end, it had the appearance of anamphitheatre for some kind of sylvan spectacle. I have spent many an hour, whenI was younger, floating over its surface as the zephyr willed, having paddledmy boat to the middle, and lying on my back across the seats, in a summerforenoon, dreaming awake, until I was aroused by the boat touching the sand,and I arose to see what shore my fates had impelled me to; days when idlenesswas the most attractive and productive industry. Many a forenoon have I stolenaway, preferring to spend thus the most valued part of the day; for I was rich,if not in money, in sunny hours and summer days, and spent them lavishly; nordo I regret that I did not waste more of them in the workshop or theteacher’s desk. But since I left those shores the woodchoppers have stillfurther laid them waste, and now for many a year there will be no more ramblingthrough the aisles of the wood, with occasional vistas through which you seethe water. My Muse may be excused if she is silent henceforth. How can youexpect the birds to sing when their groves are cut down?

Now the trunks of trees on the bottom, and the old log canoe, and the darksurrounding woods, are gone, and the villagers, who scarcely know where itlies, instead of going to the pond to bathe or drink, are thinking to bring itswater, which should be as sacred as the Ganges at least, to the village in apipe, to wash their dishes with!—to earn their Walden by the turning of acock or drawing of a plug! That devilish Iron Horse, whose ear-rending neigh isheard throughout the town, has muddied the Boiling Spring with his foot, and heit is that has browsed off all the woods on Walden shore, that Trojan horse,with a thousand men in his belly, introduced by mercenary Greeks! Where is thecountry’s champion, the Moore of Moore Hill, to meet him at the Deep Cutand thrust an avenging lance between the ribs of the bloated pest?

Nevertheless, of all the characters I have known, perhaps Walden wears best,and best preserves its purity. Many men have been likened to it, but fewdeserve that honor. Though the woodchoppers have laid bare first this shore andthen that, and the Irish have built their sties by it, and the railroad hasinfringed on its border, and the ice-men have skimmed it once, it is itselfunchanged, the same water which my youthful eyes fell on; all the change is inme. It has not acquired one permanent wrinkle after all its ripples. It isperennially young, and I may stand and see a swallow dip apparently to pick aninsect from its surface as of yore. It struck me again tonight, as if I had notseen it almost daily for more than twenty years,—Why, here is Walden, thesame woodland lake that I discovered so many years ago; where a forest was cutdown last winter another is springing up by its shore as lustily as ever; thesame thought is welling up to its surface that was then; it is the same liquidjoy and happiness to itself and its Maker, ay, and it may be to me. Itis the work of a brave man surely, in whom there was no guile! He rounded thiswater with his hand, deepened and clarified it in his thought, and in his willbequeathed it to Concord. I see by its face that it is visited by the samereflection; and I can almost say, Walden, is it you?

It is no dream of mine,
To ornament a line;
I cannot come nearer to God and Heaven
Than I live to Walden even.
I am its stony shore,
And the breeze that passes o’er;
In the hollow of my hand
Are its water and its sand,
And its deepest resort
Lies high in my thought.

The cars never pause to look at it; yet I fancy that the engineers and firemenand brakemen, and those passengers who have a season ticket and see it often,are better men for the sight. The engineer does not forget at night, or hisnature does not, that he has beheld this vision of serenity and purity once atleast during the day. Though seen but once, it helps to wash out State-streetand the engine’s soot. One proposes that it be called “God’sDrop.”

I have said that Walden has no visible inlet nor outlet, but it is on the onehand distantly and indirectly related to Flint’s Pond, which is moreelevated, by a chain of small ponds coming from that quarter, and on the otherdirectly and manifestly to Concord River, which is lower, by a similar chain ofponds through which in some other geological period it may have flowed, and bya little digging, which God forbid, it can be made to flow thither again. If byliving thus reserved and austere, like a hermit in the woods, so long, it hasacquired such wonderful purity, who would not regret that the comparativelyimpure waters of Flint’s Pond should be mingled with it, or itself shouldever go to waste its sweetness in the ocean wave?

Flint’s, or Sandy Pond, in Lincoln, our greatest lake and inland sea,lies about a mile east of Walden. It is much larger, being said to contain onehundred and ninety-seven acres, and is more fertile in fish; but it iscomparatively shallow, and not remarkably pure. A walk through the woodsthither was often my recreation. It was worth the while, if only to feel thewind blow on your cheek freely, and see the waves run, and remember the life ofmariners. I went a-chestnutting there in the fall, on windy days, when the nutswere dropping into the water and were washed to my feet; and one day, as Icrept along its sedgy shore, the fresh spray blowing in my face, I came uponthe mouldering wreck of a boat, the sides gone, and hardly more than theimpression of its flat bottom left amid the rushes; yet its model was sharplydefined, as if it were a large decayed pad, with its veins. It was asimpressive a wreck as one could imagine on the sea-shore, and had as good amoral. It is by this time mere vegetable mould and undistinguishable pondshore, through which rushes and flags have pushed up. I used to admire theripple marks on the sandy bottom, at the north end of this pond, made firm andhard to the feet of the wader by the pressure of the water, and the rusheswhich grew in Indian file, in waving lines, corresponding to these marks, rankbehind rank, as if the waves had planted them. There also I have found, inconsiderable quantities, curious balls, composed apparently of fine grass orroots, of pipewort perhaps, from half an inch to four inches in diameter, andperfectly spherical. These wash back and forth in shallow water on a sandybottom, and are sometimes cast on the shore. They are either solid grass, orhave a little sand in the middle. At first you would say that they were formedby the action of the waves, like a pebble; yet the smallest are made of equallycoarse materials, half an inch long, and they are produced only at one seasonof the year. Moreover, the waves, I suspect, do not so much construct as weardown a material which has already acquired consistency. They preserve theirform when dry for an indefinite period.

Flint’s Pond! Such is the poverty of our nomenclature. What righthad the unclean and stupid farmer, whose farm abutted on this sky water, whoseshores he has ruthlessly laid bare, to give his name to it? Some skin-flint,who loved better the reflecting surface of a dollar, or a bright cent, in whichhe could see his own brazen face; who regarded even the wild ducks whichsettled in it as trespassers; his fingers grown into crooked and horny talonsfrom the long habit of grasping harpy-like;—so it is not named for me. Igo not there to see him nor to hear of him; who never saw it, who neverbathed in it, who never loved it, who never protected it, who never spoke agood word for it, nor thanked God that he had made it. Rather let it be namedfrom the fishes that swim in it, the wild fowl or quadrupeds which frequent it,the wild flowers which grow by its shores, or some wild man or child the threadof whose history is interwoven with its own; not from him who could show notitle to it but the deed which a like-minded neighbor or legislature gavehim,—him who thought only of its money value; whose presence perchancecursed all the shore; who exhausted the land around it, and would fain haveexhausted the waters within it; who regretted only that it was not English hayor cranberry meadow,—there was nothing to redeem it, forsooth, in hiseyes,—and would have drained and sold it for the mud at its bottom. It didnot turn his mill, and it was no privilege to him to behold it. Irespect not his labors, his farm where every thing has its price; who wouldcarry the landscape, who would carry his God, to market, if he could getany thing for him; who goes to market for his god as it is; on whose farmnothing grows free, whose fields bear no crops, whose meadows no flowers, whosetrees no fruits, but dollars; who loves not the beauty of his fruits, whosefruits are not ripe for him till they are turned to dollars. Give me thepoverty that enjoys true wealth. Farmers are respectable and interesting to mein proportion as they are poor,—poor farmers. A model farm! where thehouse stands like a fungus in a muck-heap, chambers for men, horses, oxen, andswine, cleansed and uncleansed, all contiguous to one another! Stocked withmen! A great grease-spot, redolent of manures and buttermilk! Under a highstate of cultivation, being manured with the hearts and brains of men! As ifyou were to raise your potatoes in the church-yard! Such is a model farm.

No, no; if the fairest features of the landscape are to be named after men, letthem be the noblest and worthiest men alone. Let our lakes receive as truenames at least as the Icarian Sea, where “still the shore” a“brave attempt resounds.”

Goose Pond, of small extent, is on my way to Flint’s; Fair-Haven, anexpansion of Concord River, said to contain some seventy acres, is a milesouth-west; and White Pond, of about forty acres, is a mile and a half beyondFair-Haven. This is my lake country. These, with Concord River, are my waterprivileges; and night and day, year in year out, they grind such grist as Icarry to them.

Since the woodcutters, and the railroad, and I myself have profaned Walden,perhaps the most attractive, if not the most beautiful, of all our lakes, thegem of the woods, is White Pond;—a poor name from its commonness, whetherderived from the remarkable purity of its waters or the color of its sands. Inthese as in other respects, however, it is a lesser twin of Walden. They are somuch alike that you would say they must be connected under ground. It has thesame stony shore, and its waters are of the same hue. As at Walden, in sultrydog-day weather, looking down through the woods on some of its bays which arenot so deep but that the reflection from the bottom tinges them, its waters areof a misty bluish-green or glaucous color. Many years since I used to go thereto collect the sand by cart-loads, to make sand-paper with, and I havecontinued to visit it ever since. One who frequents it proposes to call itVirid Lake. Perhaps it might be called Yellow-Pine Lake, from the followingcircumstance. About fifteen years ago you could see the top of a pitch-pine, ofthe kind called yellow-pine hereabouts, though it is not a distinct species,projecting above the surface in deep water, many rods from the shore. It waseven supposed by some that the pond had sunk, and this was one of the primitiveforest that formerly stood there. I find that even so long ago as 1792, in a“Topographical Description of the Town of Concord,” by one of itscitizens, in the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, theauthor, after speaking of Walden and White Ponds, adds: “In the middle ofthe latter may be seen, when the water is very low, a tree which appears as ifit grew in the place where it now stands, although the roots are fifty feetbelow the surface of the water; the top of this tree is broken off, and at thatplace measures fourteen inches in diameter.” In the spring of ’49 Italked with the man who lives nearest the pond in Sudbury, who told me that itwas he who got out this tree ten or fifteen years before. As near as he couldremember, it stood twelve or fifteen rods from the shore, where the water wasthirty or forty feet deep. It was in the winter, and he had been getting outice in the forenoon, and had resolved that in the afternoon, with the aid ofhis neighbors, he would take out the old yellow-pine. He sawed a channel in theice toward the shore, and hauled it over and along and out on to the ice withoxen; but, before he had gone far in his work, he was surprised to find that itwas wrong end upward, with the stumps of the branches pointing down, and thesmall end firmly fastened in the sandy bottom. It was about a foot in diameterat the big end, and he had expected to get a good saw-log, but it was so rottenas to be fit only for fuel, if for that. He had some of it in his shed then.There were marks of an axe and of woodpeckers on the butt. He thought that itmight have been a dead tree on the shore, but was finally blown over into thepond, and after the top had become waterlogged, while the butt-end was stilldry and light, had drifted out and sunk wrong end up. His father, eighty yearsold, could not remember when it was not there. Several pretty large logs maystill be seen lying on the bottom, where, owing to the undulation of thesurface, they look like huge water snakes in motion.

This pond has rarely been profaned by a boat, for there is little in it totempt a fisherman. Instead of the white lily, which requires mud, or the commonsweet flag, the blue flag (Iris versicolor) grows thinly in the purewater, rising from the stony bottom all around the shore, where it is visitedby humming birds in June; and the color both of its bluish blades and itsflowers, and especially their reflections, are in singular harmony with theglaucous water.

White Pond and Walden are great crystals on the surface of the earth, Lakes ofLight. If they were permanently congealed, and small enough to be clutched,they would, perchance, be carried off by slaves, like precious stones, to adornthe heads of emperors; but being liquid, and ample, and secured to us and oursuccessors forever, we disregard them, and run after the diamond of Kohinoor.They are too pure to have a market value; they contain no muck. How much morebeautiful than our lives, how much more transparent than our characters, arethey! We never learned meanness of them. How much fairer than the pool beforethe farmer’s door, in which his ducks swim! Hither the clean wild duckscome. Nature has no human inhabitant who appreciates her. The birds with theirplumage and their notes are in harmony with the flowers, but what youth ormaiden conspires with the wild luxuriant beauty of Nature? She flourishes mostalone, far from the towns where they reside. Talk of heaven! ye disgrace earth.

Baker Farm

Sometimes I rambled to pine groves, standing like temples, or like fleets atsea, full-rigged, with wavy boughs, and rippling with light, so soft and greenand shady that the Druids would have forsaken their oaks to worship in them; orto the cedar wood beyond Flint’s Pond, where the trees, covered withhoary blue berries, spiring higher and higher, are fit to stand beforeValhalla, and the creeping juniper covers the ground with wreaths full offruit; or to swamps where the usnea lichen hangs in festoons from thewhite-spruce trees, and toad-stools, round tables of the swamp gods, cover theground, and more beautiful fungi adorn the stumps, like butterflies or shells,vegetable winkles; where the swamp-pink and dogwood grow, the red alder-berryglows like eyes of imps, the waxwork grooves and crushes the hardest woods inits folds, and the wild-holly berries make the beholder forget his home withtheir beauty, and he is dazzled and tempted by nameless other wild forbiddenfruits, too fair for mortal taste. Instead of calling on some scholar, I paidmany a visit to particular trees, of kinds which are rare in this neighborhood,standing far away in the middle of some pasture, or in the depths of a wood orswamp, or on a hill-top; such as the black-birch, of which we have some handsomespecimens two feet in diameter; its cousin, the yellow birch, with its loosegolden vest, perfumed like the first; the beech, which has so neat a bole andbeautifully lichen-painted, perfect in all its details, of which, exceptingscattered specimens, I know but one small grove of sizable trees left in thetownship, supposed by some to have been planted by the pigeons that were oncebaited with beech nuts near by; it is worth the while to see the silver grainsparkle when you split this wood; the bass; the hornbeam; the Celtisoccidentalis, or false elm, of which we have but one well-grown; sometaller mast of a pine, a shingle tree, or a more perfect hemlock than usual,standing like a pagoda in the midst of the woods; and many others I couldmention. These were the shrines I visited both summer and winter.

Once it chanced that I stood in the very abutment of a rainbow’s arch,which filled the lower stratum of the atmosphere, tinging the grass and leavesaround, and dazzling me as if I looked through colored crystal. It was a lakeof rainbow light, in which, for a short while, I lived like a dolphin. If ithad lasted longer it might have tinged my employments and life. As I walked onthe railroad causeway, I used to wonder at the halo of light around my shadow,and would fain fancy myself one of the elect. One who visited me declared thatthe shadows of some Irishmen before him had no halo about them, that it wasonly natives that were so distinguished. Benvenuto Cellini tells us in hismemoirs, that, after a certain terrible dream or vision which he had during hisconfinement in the castle of St. Angelo, a resplendent light appeared over theshadow of his head at morning and evening, whether he was in Italy or France,and it was particularly conspicuous when the grass was moist with dew. This wasprobably the same phenomenon to which I have referred, which is especiallyobserved in the morning, but also at other times, and even by moonlight. Thougha constant one, it is not commonly noticed, and, in the case of an excitableimagination like Cellini’s, it would be basis enough for superstition.Beside, he tells us that he showed it to very few. But are they not indeeddistinguished who are conscious that they are regarded at all?

I set out one afternoon to go a-fishing to Fair-Haven, through the woods, toeke out my scanty fare of vegetables. My way led through Pleasant Meadow, anadjunct of the Baker Farm, that retreat of which a poet has since sung,beginning,—

“Thy entry is a pleasant field,
Which some mossy fruit trees yield
Partly to a ruddy brook,
By gliding musquash undertook,
And mercurial trout,
Darting about.”

I thought of living there before I went to Walden. I “hooked” theapples, leaped the brook, and scared the musquash and the trout. It was one ofthose afternoons which seem indefinitely long before one, in which many eventsmay happen, a large portion of our natural life, though it was already halfspent when I started. By the way there came up a shower, which compelled me tostand half an hour under a pine, piling boughs over my head, and wearing myhandkerchief for a shed; and when at length I had made one cast over thepickerel-weed, standing up to my middle in water, I found myself suddenly in theshadow of a cloud, and the thunder began to rumble with such emphasis that Icould do no more than listen to it. The gods must be proud, thought I, withsuch forked flashes to rout a poor unarmed fisherman. So I made haste forshelter to the nearest hut, which stood half a mile from any road, but so muchthe nearer to the pond, and had long been uninhabited:—

“And here a poet builded,
In the completed years,
For behold a trivial cabin
That to destruction steers.”

So the Muse fables. But therein, as I found, dwelt now John Field, an Irishman,and his wife, and several children, from the broad-faced boy who assisted hisfather at his work, and now came running by his side from the bog to escape therain, to the wrinkled, sibyl-like, cone-headed infant that sat upon itsfather’s knee as in the palaces of nobles, and looked out from its homein the midst of wet and hunger inquisitively upon the stranger, with theprivilege of infancy, not knowing but it was the last of a noble line, and thehope and cynosure of the world, instead of John Field’s poor starvelingbrat. There we sat together under that part of the roof which leaked the least,while it showered and thundered without. I had sat there many times of oldbefore the ship was built that floated his family to America. An honest,hard-working, but shiftless man plainly was John Field; and his wife, she toowas brave to cook so many successive dinners in the recesses of that loftystove; with round greasy face and bare breast, still thinking to improve hercondition one day; with the never absent mop in one hand, and yet no effects ofit visible anywhere. The chickens, which had also taken shelter here from therain, stalked about the room like members of the family, too humanizedmethought to roast well. They stood and looked in my eye or pecked at my shoesignificantly. Meanwhile my host told me his story, how hard he worked“bogging” for a neighboring farmer, turning up a meadow with aspade or bog hoe at the rate of ten dollars an acre and the use of the landwith manure for one year, and his little broad-faced son worked cheerfully athis father’s side the while, not knowing how poor a bargain the latterhad made. I tried to help him with my experience, telling him that he was oneof my nearest neighbors, and that I too, who came a-fishing here, and lookedlike a loafer, was getting my living like himself; that I lived in a tight,light, and clean house, which hardly cost more than the annual rent of such aruin as his commonly amounts to; and how, if he chose, he might in a month ortwo build himself a palace of his own; that I did not use tea, nor coffee, norbutter, nor milk, nor fresh meat, and so did not have to work to get them;again, as I did not work hard, I did not have to eat hard, and it cost me but atrifle for my food; but as he began with tea, and coffee, and butter, and milk,and beef, he had to work hard to pay for them, and when he had worked hard hehad to eat hard again to repair the waste of his system,—and so it was asbroad as it was long, indeed it was broader than it was long, for he wasdiscontented and wasted his life into the bargain; and yet he had rated it as again in coming to America, that here you could get tea, and coffee, and meatevery day. But the only true America is that country where you are at libertyto pursue such a mode of life as may enable you to do without these, and wherethe state does not endeavor to compel you to sustain the slavery and war andother superfluous expenses which directly or indirectly result from the use ofsuch things. For I purposely talked to him as if he were a philosopher, ordesired to be one. I should be glad if all the meadows on the earth were leftin a wild state, if that were the consequence of men’s beginning toredeem themselves. A man will not need to study history to find out what isbest for his own culture. But alas! the culture of an Irishman is an enterpriseto be undertaken with a sort of moral bog hoe. I told him, that as he worked sohard at bogging, he required thick boots and stout clothing, which yet weresoon soiled and worn out, but I wore light shoes and thin clothing, which costnot half so much, though he might think that I was dressed like a gentleman,(which, however, was not the case,) and in an hour or two, without labor, butas a recreation, I could, if I wished, catch as many fish as I should want fortwo days, or earn enough money to support me a week. If he and his family wouldlive simply, they might all go a-huckleberrying in the summer for theiramusement. John heaved a sigh at this, and his wife stared with arms a-kimbo,and both appeared to be wondering if they had capital enough to begin such acourse with, or arithmetic enough to carry it through. It was sailing by deadreckoning to them, and they saw not clearly how to make their port so;therefore I suppose they still take life bravely, after their fashion, face toface, giving it tooth and nail, not having skill to split its massive columnswith any fine entering wedge, and rout it in detail;—thinking to dealwith it roughly, as one should handle a thistle. But they fight at anoverwhelming disadvantage,—living, John Field, alas! without arithmetic,and failing so.

“Do you ever fish?” I asked. “Oh yes, I catch a mess now andthen when I am lying by; good perch I catch.” “What’syour bait?” “I catch shiners with fish-worms, and bait the perchwith them.” “You’d better go now, John,” said his wife,with glistening and hopeful face; but John demurred.

The shower was now over, and a rainbow above the eastern woods promised a fairevening; so I took my departure. When I had got without I asked for a drink,hoping to get a sight of the well bottom, to complete my survey of thepremises; but there, alas! are shallows and quicksands, and rope broken withal,and bucket irrecoverable. Meanwhile the right culinary vessel was selected,water was seemingly distilled, and after consultation and long delay passed outto the thirsty one,—not yet suffered to cool, not yet to settle. Suchgruel sustains life here, I thought; so, shutting my eyes, and excluding themotes by a skilfully directed under-current, I drank to genuine hospitality theheartiest draught I could. I am not squeamish in such cases when manners areconcerned.

As I was leaving the Irishman’s roof after the rain, bending my stepsagain to the pond, my haste to catch pickerel, wading in retired meadows, insloughs and bog-holes, in forlorn and savage places, appeared for an instanttrivial to me who had been sent to school and college; but as I ran down thehill toward the reddening west, with the rainbow over my shoulder, and somefaint tinkling sounds borne to my ear through the cleansed air, from I know notwhat quarter, my Good Genius seemed to say,—Go fish and hunt far and wideday by day,—farther and wider,—and rest thee by many brooks andhearth-sides without misgiving. Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth.Rise free from care before the dawn, and seek adventures. Let the noon findthee by other lakes, and the night overtake thee everywhere at home. There areno larger fields than these, no worthier games than may here be played. Growwild according to thy nature, like these sedges and brakes, which will neverbecome English hay. Let the thunder rumble; what if it threaten ruin tofarmers’ crops? that is not its errand to thee. Take shelter under thecloud, while they flee to carts and sheds. Let not to get a living be thytrade, but thy sport. Enjoy the land, but own it not. Through want ofenterprise and faith men are where they are, buying and selling, and spendingtheir lives like serfs.

O Baker Farm!

“Landscape where the richest element
Is a little sunshine innocent.” * *

“No one runs to revel
On thy rail-fenced lea.” * *

“Debate with no man hast thou,
With questions art never perplexed,
As tame at the first sight as now,
In thy plain russet gabardine dressed.” * *

“Come ye who love,
And ye who hate,
Children of the Holy Dove,
And Guy Faux of the state,
And hang conspiracies
From the tough rafters of the trees!”

Men come tamely home at night only from the next field or street, where theirhousehold echoes haunt, and their life pines because it breathes its own breathover again; their shadows morning and evening reach farther than their dailysteps. We should come home from far, from adventures, and perils, anddiscoveries every day, with new experience and character.

Before I had reached the pond some fresh impulse had brought out John Field,with altered mind, letting go “bogging” ere this sunset. But he,poor man, disturbed only a couple of fins while I was catching a fair string,and he said it was his luck; but when we changed seats in the boat luck changedseats too. Poor John Field!—I trust he does not read this, unless he willimprove by it,—thinking to live by some derivative old country mode inthis primitive new country,—to catch perch with shiners. It is good baitsometimes, I allow. With his horizon all his own, yet he a poor man, born to bepoor, with his inherited Irish poverty or poor life, his Adam’sgrandmother and boggy ways, not to rise in this world, he nor his posterity,till their wading webbed bog-trotting feet get talaria to their heels.

Higher Laws

As I came home through the woods with my string of fish, trailing my pole, itbeing now quite dark, I caught a glimpse of a woodchuck stealing across mypath, and felt a strange thrill of savage delight, and was strongly tempted toseize and devour him raw; not that I was hungry then, except for that wildnesswhich he represented. Once or twice, however, while I lived at the pond, Ifound myself ranging the woods, like a half-starved hound, with a strangeabandonment, seeking some kind of venison which I might devour, and no morselcould have been too savage for me. The wildest scenes had become unaccountablyfamiliar. I found in myself, and still find, an instinct toward a higher, or,as it is named, spiritual life, as do most men, and another toward a primitiverank and savage one, and I reverence them both. I love the wild not less thanthe good. The wildness and adventure that are in fishing still recommended itto me. I like sometimes to take rank hold on life and spend my day more as theanimals do. Perhaps I have owed to this employment and to hunting, when quiteyoung, my closest acquaintance with Nature. They early introduce us to anddetain us in scenery with which otherwise, at that age, we should have littleacquaintance. Fishermen, hunters, woodchoppers, and others, spending theirlives in the fields and woods, in a peculiar sense a part of Nature themselves,are often in a more favorable mood for observing her, in the intervals of theirpursuits, than philosophers or poets even, who approach her with expectation.She is not afraid to exhibit herself to them. The traveller on the prairie isnaturally a hunter, on the head waters of the Missouri and Columbia a trapper,and at the Falls of St. Mary a fisherman. He who is only a traveller learnsthings at second-hand and by the halves, and is poor authority. We are mostinterested when science reports what those men already know practically orinstinctively, for that alone is a true humanity, or account of humanexperience.

They mistake who assert that the Yankee has few amusements, because he has notso many public holidays, and men and boys do not play so many games as they doin England, for here the more primitive but solitary amusements of huntingfishing and the like have not yet given place to the former. Almost every NewEngland boy among my contemporaries shouldered a fowling piece between the agesof ten and fourteen; and his hunting and fishing grounds were not limited, likethe preserves of an English nobleman, but were more boundless even than thoseof a savage. No wonder, then, that he did not oftener stay to play on thecommon. But already a change is taking place, owing, not to an increasedhumanity, but to an increased scarcity of game, for perhaps the hunter is thegreatest friend of the animals hunted, not excepting the Humane Society.

Moreover, when at the pond, I wished sometimes to add fish to my fare forvariety. I have actually fished from the same kind of necessity that the firstfishers did. Whatever humanity I might conjure up against it was allfactitious, and concerned my philosophy more than my feelings. I speak offishing only now, for I had long felt differently about fowling, and sold mygun before I went to the woods. Not that I am less humane than others, but Idid not perceive that my feelings were much affected. I did not pity the fishesnor the worms. This was habit. As for fowling, during the last years that Icarried a gun my excuse was that I was studying ornithology, and sought onlynew or rare birds. But I confess that I am now inclined to think that there isa finer way of studying ornithology than this. It requires so much closerattention to the habits of the birds, that, if for that reason only, I havebeen willing to omit the gun. Yet notwithstanding the objection on the score ofhumanity, I am compelled to doubt if equally valuable sports are eversubstituted for these; and when some of my friends have asked me anxiouslyabout their boys, whether they should let them hunt, I have answered,yes,—remembering that it was one of the best parts of myeducation,—make them hunters, though sportsmen only at first, ifpossible, mighty hunters at last, so that they shall not find game large enoughfor them in this or any vegetable wilderness,—hunters as well as fishersof men. Thus far I am of the opinion of Chaucer’s nun, who

“yave not of the text a pulled hen
That saith that hunters ben not holy men.”

There is a period in the history of the individual, as of the race, when thehunters are the “best men,” as the Algonquins called them. Wecannot but pity the boy who has never fired a gun; he is no more humane, whilehis education has been sadly neglected. This was my answer with respect tothose youths who were bent on this pursuit, trusting that they would soonoutgrow it. No humane being, past the thoughtless age of boyhood, will wantonlymurder any creature which holds its life by the same tenure that he does. Thehare in its extremity cries like a child. I warn you, mothers, that mysympathies do not always make the usual phil-anthropic distinctions.

Such is oftenest the young man’s introduction to the forest, and the mostoriginal part of himself. He goes thither at first as a hunter and fisher,until at last, if he has the seeds of a better life in him, he distinguisheshis proper objects, as a poet or naturalist it may be, and leaves the gun andfish-pole behind. The mass of men are still and always young in this respect.In some countries a hunting parson is no uncommon sight. Such a one might makea good shepherd’s dog, but is far from being the Good Shepherd. I havebeen surprised to consider that the only obvious employment, exceptwood-chopping, ice-cutting, or the like business, which ever to my knowledgedetained at Walden Pond for a whole half day any of my fellow-citizens, whetherfathers or children of the town, with just one exception, was fishing. Commonlythey did not think that they were lucky, or well paid for their time, unlessthey got a long string of fish, though they had the opportunity of seeing thepond all the while. They might go there a thousand times before the sediment offishing would sink to the bottom and leave their purpose pure; but no doubtsuch a clarifying process would be going on all the while. The governor and hiscouncil faintly remember the pond, for they went a-fishing there when they wereboys; but now they are too old and dignified to go a-fishing, and so they knowit no more forever. Yet even they expect to go to heaven at last. If thelegislature regards it, it is chiefly to regulate the number of hooks to beused there; but they know nothing about the hook of hooks with which to anglefor the pond itself, impaling the legislature for a bait. Thus, even incivilized communities, the embryo man passes through the hunter stage ofdevelopment.

I have found repeatedly, of late years, that I cannot fish without falling alittle in self-respect. I have tried it again and again. I have skill at it,and, like many of my fellows, a certain instinct for it, which revives fromtime to time, but always when I have done I feel that it would have been betterif I had not fished. I think that I do not mistake. It is a faint intimation,yet so are the first streaks of morning. There is unquestionably this instinctin me which belongs to the lower orders of creation; yet with every year I amless a fisherman, though without more humanity or even wisdom; at present I amno fisherman at all. But I see that if I were to live in a wilderness I shouldagain be tempted to become a fisher and hunter in earnest. Beside, there issomething essentially unclean about this diet and all flesh, and I began to seewhere housework commences, and whence the endeavor, which costs so much, towear a tidy and respectable appearance each day, to keep the house sweet andfree from all ill odors and sights. Having been my own butcher and scullion andcook, as well as the gentleman for whom the dishes were served up, I can speakfrom an unusually complete experience. The practical objection to animal foodin my case was its uncleanness; and, besides, when I had caught and cleaned andcooked and eaten my fish, they seemed not to have fed me essentially. It wasinsignificant and unnecessary, and cost more than it came to. A little bread ora few potatoes would have done as well, with less trouble and filth. Like manyof my contemporaries, I had rarely for many years used animal food, or tea, orcoffee, &c.; not so much because of any ill effects which I had traced tothem, as because they were not agreeable to my imagination. The repugnance toanimal food is not the effect of experience, but is an instinct. It appearedmore beautiful to live low and fare hard in many respects; and though I neverdid so, I went far enough to please my imagination. I believe that every manwho has ever been earnest to preserve his higher or poetic faculties in thebest condition has been particularly inclined to abstain from animal food, andfrom much food of any kind. It is a significant fact, stated by entomologists,I find it in Kirby and Spence, that “some insects in their perfect state,though furnished with organs of feeding, make no use of them;” and theylay it down as “a general rule, that almost all insects in this state eatmuch less than in that of larvæ. The voracious caterpillar when transformedinto a butterfly,” . . “and the gluttonous maggot when become afly,” content themselves with a drop or two of honey or some other sweetliquid. The abdomen under the wings of the butterfly still represents thelarva. This is the tid-bit which tempts his insectivorous fate. The grossfeeder is a man in the larva state; and there are whole nations in thatcondition, nations without fancy or imagination, whose vast abdomens betraythem.

It is hard to provide and cook so simple and clean a diet as will not offendthe imagination; but this, I think, is to be fed when we feed the body; theyshould both sit down at the same table. Yet perhaps this may be done. Thefruits eaten temperately need not make us ashamed of our appetites, norinterrupt the worthiest pursuits. But put an extra condiment into your dish,and it will poison you. It is not worth the while to live by rich cookery. Mostmen would feel shame if caught preparing with their own hands precisely such adinner, whether of animal or vegetable food, as is every day prepared for themby others. Yet till this is otherwise we are not civilized, and, if gentlemenand ladies, are not true men and women. This certainly suggests what change isto be made. It may be vain to ask why the imagination will not be reconciled toflesh and fat. I am satisfied that it is not. Is it not a reproach that man isa carnivorous animal? True, he can and does live, in a great measure, bypreying on other animals; but this is a miserable way,—as any one who willgo to snaring rabbits, or slaughtering lambs, may learn,—and he will beregarded as a benefactor of his race who shall teach man to confine himself toa more innocent and wholesome diet. Whatever my own practice may be, I have nodoubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradualimprovement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes haveleft off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized.

If one listens to the faintest but constant suggestions of his genius, whichare certainly true, he sees not to what extremes, or even insanity, it may leadhim; and yet that way, as he grows more resolute and faithful, his road lies.The faintest assured objection which one healthy man feels will at lengthprevail over the arguments and customs of mankind. No man ever followed hisgenius till it misled him. Though the result were bodily weakness, yet perhapsno one can say that the consequences were to be regretted, for these were alife in conformity to higher principles. If the day and the night are such thatyou greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers andsweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal,—that isyour success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarilyto bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from beingappreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. Theyare the highest reality. Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real arenever communicated by man to man. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhatas intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is alittle star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.

Yet, for my part, I was never unusually squeamish; I could sometimes eat afried rat with a good relish, if it were necessary. I am glad to have drunkwater so long, for the same reason that I prefer the natural sky to anopium-eater’s heaven. I would fain keep sober always; and there areinfinite degrees of drunkenness. I believe that water is the only drink for awise man; wine is not so noble a liquor; and think of dashing the hopes of amorning with a cup of warm coffee, or of an evening with a dish of tea! Ah, howlow I fall when I am tempted by them! Even music may be intoxicating. Suchapparently slight causes destroyed Greece and Rome, and will destroy Englandand America. Of all ebriosity, who does not prefer to be intoxicated by the airhe breathes? I have found it to be the most serious objection to coarse laborslong continued, that they compelled me to eat and drink coarsely also. But totell the truth, I find myself at present somewhat less particular in theserespects. I carry less religion to the table, ask no blessing; not because I amwiser than I was, but, I am obliged to confess, because, however much it is tobe regretted, with years I have grown more coarse and indifferent. Perhapsthese questions are entertained only in youth, as most believe of poetry. Mypractice is “nowhere,” my opinion is here. Nevertheless I am farfrom regarding myself as one of those privileged ones to whom the Ved referswhen it says, that “he who has true faith in the Omnipresent SupremeBeing may eat all that exists,” that is, is not bound to inquire what ishis food, or who prepares it; and even in their case it is to be observed, as aHindoo commentator has remarked, that the Vedant limits this privilege to“the time of distress.”

Who has not sometimes derived an inexpressible satisfaction from his food inwhich appetite had no share? I have been thrilled to think that I owed a mentalperception to the commonly gross sense of taste, that I have been inspiredthrough the palate, that some berries which I had eaten on a hill-side had fedmy genius. “The soul not being mistress of herself,” saysThseng-tseu, “one looks, and one does not see; one listens, and one doesnot hear; one eats, and one does not know the savor of food.” He whodistinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who doesnot cannot be otherwise. A puritan may go to his brown-bread crust with asgross an appetite as ever an alderman to his turtle. Not that food whichentereth into the mouth defileth a man, but the appetite with which it iseaten. It is neither the quality nor the quantity, but the devotion to sensualsavors; when that which is eaten is not a viand to sustain our animal, orinspire our spiritual life, but food for the worms that possess us. If thehunter has a taste for mud-turtles, muskrats, and other such savage tid-bits,the fine lady indulges a taste for jelly made of a calf’s foot, or forsardines from over the sea, and they are even. He goes to the mill-pond, she toher preserve-pot. The wonder is how they, how you and I, can live this slimy,beastly life, eating and drinking.

Our whole life is startlingly moral. There is never an instant’s trucebetween virtue and vice. Goodness is the only investment that never fails. Inthe music of the harp which trembles round the world it is the insisting onthis which thrills us. The harp is the travelling patterer for theUniverse’s Insurance Company, recommending its laws, and our littlegoodness is all the assessment that we pay. Though the youth at last growsindifferent, the laws of the universe are not indifferent, but are forever onthe side of the most sensitive. Listen to every zephyr for some reproof, for itis surely there, and he is unfortunate who does not hear it. We cannot touch astring or move a stop but the charming moral transfixes us. Many an irksomenoise, go a long way off, is heard as music, a proud sweet satire on themeanness of our lives.

We are conscious of an animal in us, which awakens in proportion as our highernature slumbers. It is reptile and sensual, and perhaps cannot be whollyexpelled; like the worms which, even in life and health, occupy our bodies.Possibly we may withdraw from it, but never change its nature. I fear that itmay enjoy a certain health of its own; that we may be well, yet not pure. Theother day I picked up the lower jaw of a hog, with white and sound teeth andtusks, which suggested that there was an animal health and vigor distinct fromthe spiritual. This creature succeeded by other means than temperance andpurity. “That in which men differ from brute beasts,” says Mencius,“is a thing very inconsiderable; the common herd lose it very soon;superior men preserve it carefully.” Who knows what sort of life wouldresult if we had attained to purity? If I knew so wise a man as could teach mepurity I would go to seek him forthwith. “A command over our passions,and over the external senses of the body, and good acts, are declared by theVed to be indispensable in the mind’s approximation to God.” Yetthe spirit can for the time pervade and control every member and function ofthe body, and transmute what in form is the grossest sensuality into purity anddevotion. The generative energy, which, when we are loose, dissipates and makesus unclean, when we are continent invigorates and inspires us. Chastity is theflowering of man; and what are called Genius, Heroism, Holiness, and the like,are but various fruits which succeed it. Man flows at once to God when thechannel of purity is open. By turns our purity inspires and our impurity castsus down. He is blessed who is assured that the animal is dying out in him dayby day, and the divine being established. Perhaps there is none but has causefor shame on account of the inferior and brutish nature to which he is allied.I fear that we are such gods or demigods only as fauns and satyrs, the divineallied to beasts, the creatures of appetite, and that, to some extent, our verylife is our disgrace.—

“How happy’s he who hath due place assigned
To his beasts and disafforested his mind!
Can use this horse, goat, wolf, and ev’ry beast,
And is not ass himself to all the rest!
Else man not only is the herd of swine,
But he’s those devils too which did incline
Them to a headlong rage, and made them worse.”

All sensuality is one, though it takes many forms; all purity is one. It is thesame whether a man eat, or drink, or cohabit, or sleep sensually. They are butone appetite, and we only need to see a person do any one of these things toknow how great a sensualist he is. The impure can neither stand nor sit withpurity. When the reptile is attacked at one mouth of his burrow, he showshimself at another. If you would be chaste, you must be temperate. What ischastity? How shall a man know if he is chaste? He shall not know it. We haveheard of this virtue, but we know not what it is. We speak conformably to therumor which we have heard. From exertion come wisdom and purity; from slothignorance and sensuality. In the student sensuality is a sluggish habit ofmind. An unclean person is universally a slothful one, one who sits by a stove,whom the sun shines on prostrate, who reposes without being fatigued. If youwould avoid uncleanness, and all the sins, work earnestly, though it be atcleaning a stable. Nature is hard to be overcome, but she must be overcome.What avails it that you are Christian, if you are not purer than the heathen,if you deny yourself no more, if you are not more religious? I know of manysystems of religion esteemed heathenish whose precepts fill the reader withshame, and provoke him to new endeavors, though it be to the performance ofrites merely.

I hesitate to say these things, but it is not because of the subject,—Icare not how obscene my words are,—but because I cannot speak ofthem without betraying my impurity. We discourse freely without shame of oneform of sensuality, and are silent about another. We are so degraded that wecannot speak simply of the necessary functions of human nature. In earlierages, in some countries, every function was reverently spoken of and regulatedby law. Nothing was too trivial for the Hindoo lawgiver, however offensive itmay be to modern taste. He teaches how to eat, drink, cohabit, void excrementand urine, and the like, elevating what is mean, and does not falsely excusehimself by calling these things trifles.

Every man is the builder of a temple, called his body, to the god he worships,after a style purely his own, nor can he get off by hammering marble instead.We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and bloodand bones. Any nobleness begins at once to refine a man’s features, anymeanness or sensuality to imbrute them.

John Farmer sat at his door one September evening, after a hard day’swork, his mind still running on his labor more or less. Having bathed, he satdown to re-create his intellectual man. It was a rather cool evening, and someof his neighbors were apprehending a frost. He had not attended to the train ofhis thoughts long when he heard some one playing on a flute, and that soundharmonized with his mood. Still he thought of his work; but the burden of histhought was, that though this kept running in his head, and he found himselfplanning and contriving it against his will, yet it concerned him very little.It was no more than the scurf of his skin, which was constantly shuffled off.But the notes of the flute came home to his ears out of a different sphere fromthat he worked in, and suggested work for certain faculties which slumbered inhim. They gently did away with the street, and the village, and the state inwhich he lived. A voice said to him,—Why do you stay here and live thismean moiling life, when a glorious existence is possible for you? Those samestars twinkle over other fields than these.—But how to come out of thiscondition and actually migrate thither? All that he could think of was topractise some new austerity, to let his mind descend into his body and redeemit, and treat himself with ever increasing respect.

Brute Neighbors

Sometimes I had a companion in my fishing, who came through the village to myhouse from the other side of the town, and the catching of the dinner was asmuch a social exercise as the eating of it.

Hermit. I wonder what the world is doing now. I have not heard so muchas a locust over the sweet-fern these three hours. The pigeons are all asleepupon their roosts,—no flutter from them. Was that a farmer’s noonhorn which sounded from beyond the woods just now? The hands are coming in toboiled salt beef and cider and Indian bread. Why will men worry themselves so?He that does not eat need not work. I wonder how much they have reaped. Whowould live there where a body can never think for the barking of Bose? And O,the housekeeping! to keep bright the devil’s door-knobs, and scour histubs this bright day! Better not keep a house. Say, some hollow tree; and thenfor morning calls and dinner-parties! Only a woodpecker tapping. O, theyswarm; the sun is too warm there; they are born too far into life for me. Ihave water from the spring, and a loaf of brown bread on the shelf.—Hark!I hear a rustling of the leaves. Is it some ill-fed village hound yielding tothe instinct of the chase? or the lost pig which is said to be in these woods,whose tracks I saw after the rain? It comes on apace; my sumachs andsweet-briers tremble.—Eh, Mr. Poet, is it you? How do you like the worldto-day?

Poet. See those clouds; how they hang! That’s the greatest thing Ihave seen to-day. There’s nothing like it in old paintings, nothing likeit in foreign lands,—unless when we were off the coast of Spain.That’s a true Mediterranean sky. I thought, as I have my living to get,and have not eaten to-day, that I might go a-fishing. That’s the trueindustry for poets. It is the only trade I have learned. Come, let’salong.

Hermit. I cannot resist. My brown bread will soon be gone. I will gowith you gladly soon, but I am just concluding a serious meditation. I thinkthat I am near the end of it. Leave me alone, then, for a while. But that wemay not be delayed, you shall be digging the bait meanwhile. Angle-worms arerarely to be met with in these parts, where the soil was never fattened withmanure; the race is nearly extinct. The sport of digging the bait is nearlyequal to that of catching the fish, when one’s appetite is not too keen;and this you may have all to yourself to-day. I would advise you to set in thespade down yonder among the ground-nuts, where you see the johnswort waving. Ithink that I may warrant you one worm to every three sods you turn up, if youlook well in among the roots of the grass, as if you were weeding. Or, if youchoose to go farther, it will not be unwise, for I have found the increase offair bait to be very nearly as the squares of the distances.

Hermit alone. Let me see; where was I? Methinks I was nearly in thisframe of mind; the world lay about at this angle. Shall I go to heaven ora-fishing? If I should soon bring this meditation to an end, would another sosweet occasion be likely to offer? I was as near being resolved into theessence of things as ever I was in my life. I fear my thoughts will not comeback to me. If it would do any good, I would whistle for them. When they makeus an offer, is it wise to say, We will think of it? My thoughts have left notrack, and I cannot find the path again. What was it that I was thinking of? Itwas a very hazy day. I will just try these three sentences of Con-fut-see; theymay fetch that state about again. I know not whether it was the dumps or abudding ecstasy. Mem. There never is but one opportunity of a kind.

Poet. How now, Hermit, is it too soon? I have got just thirteen wholeones, beside several which are imperfect or undersized; but they will do forthe smaller fry; they do not cover up the hook so much. Those village worms arequite too large; a shiner may make a meal off one without finding the skewer.

Hermit. Well, then, let’s be off. Shall we to the Concord?There’s good sport there if the water be not too high.

Why do precisely these objects which we behold make a world? Why has man justthese species of animals for his neighbors; as if nothing but a mouse couldhave filled this crevice? I suspect that Pilpay & Co. have put animals totheir best use, for they are all beasts of burden, in a sense, made to carrysome portion of our thoughts.

The mice which haunted my house were not the common ones, which are said tohave been introduced into the country, but a wild native kind not found in thevillage. I sent one to a distinguished naturalist, and it interested him much.When I was building, one of these had its nest underneath the house, and beforeI had laid the second floor, and swept out the shavings, would come outregularly at lunch time and pick up the crumbs at my feet. It probably hadnever seen a man before; and it soon became quite familiar, and would run overmy shoes and up my clothes. It could readily ascend the sides of the room byshort impulses, like a squirrel, which it resembled in its motions. At length,as I leaned with my elbow on the bench one day, it ran up my clothes, and alongmy sleeve, and round and round the paper which held my dinner, while I kept thelatter close, and dodged and played at bopeep with it; and when at last I heldstill a piece of cheese between my thumb and finger, it came and nibbled it,sitting in my hand, and afterward cleaned its face and paws, like a fly, andwalked away.

A phœbe soon built in my shed, and a robin for protection in a pine whichgrew against the house. In June the partridge (Tetrao umbellus,) whichis so shy a bird, led her brood past my windows, from the woods in the rear tothe front of my house, clucking and calling to them like a hen, and in all herbehavior proving herself the hen of the woods. The young suddenly disperse onyour approach, at a signal from the mother, as if a whirlwind had swept themaway, and they so exactly resemble the dried leaves and twigs that many atraveler has placed his foot in the midst of a brood, and heard the whir of theold bird as she flew off, and her anxious calls and mewing, or seen her trailher wings to attract his attention, without suspecting their neighborhood. Theparent will sometimes roll and spin round before you in such a dishabille, thatyou cannot, for a few moments, detect what kind of creature it is. The youngsquat still and flat, often running their heads under a leaf, and mind onlytheir mother’s directions given from a distance, nor will your approachmake them run again and betray themselves. You may even tread on them, or haveyour eyes on them for a minute, without discovering them. I have held them inmy open hand at such a time, and still their only care, obedient to theirmother and their instinct, was to squat there without fear or trembling. Soperfect is this instinct, that once, when I had laid them on the leaves again,and one accidentally fell on its side, it was found with the rest in exactlythe same position ten minutes afterward. They are not callow like the young ofmost birds, but more perfectly developed and precocious even than chickens. Theremarkably adult yet innocent expression of their open and serene eyes is verymemorable. All intelligence seems reflected in them. They suggest not merelythe purity of infancy, but a wisdom clarified by experience. Such an eye wasnot born when the bird was, but is coeval with the sky it reflects. The woodsdo not yield another such a gem. The traveller does not often look into such alimpid well. The ignorant or reckless sportsman often shoots the parent at sucha time, and leaves these innocents to fall a prey to some prowling beast orbird, or gradually mingle with the decaying leaves which they so much resemble.It is said that when hatched by a hen they will directly disperse on somealarm, and so are lost, for they never hear the mother’s call whichgathers them again. These were my hens and chickens.

It is remarkable how many creatures live wild and free though secret in thewoods, and still sustain themselves in the neighborhood of towns, suspected byhunters only. How retired the otter manages to live here! He grows to be fourfeet long, as big as a small boy, perhaps without any human being getting aglimpse of him. I formerly saw the raccoon in the woods behind where my houseis built, and probably still heard their whinnering at night. Commonly I restedan hour or two in the shade at noon, after planting, and ate my lunch, and reada little by a spring which was the source of a swamp and of a brook, oozingfrom under Brister’s Hill, half a mile from my field. The approach tothis was through a succession of descending grassy hollows, full of youngpitch-pines, into a larger wood about the swamp. There, in a very secluded andshaded spot, under a spreading white-pine, there was yet a clean, firm sward tosit on. I had dug out the spring and made a well of clear gray water, where Icould dip up a pailful without roiling it, and thither I went for this purposealmost every day in midsummer, when the pond was warmest. Thither, too, thewood-cock led her brood, to probe the mud for worms, flying but a foot abovethem down the bank, while they ran in a troop beneath; but at last, spying me,she would leave her young and circle round and round me, nearer and nearer tillwithin four or five feet, pretending broken wings and legs, to attract myattention, and get off her young, who would already have taken up their march,with faint wiry peep, single file through the swamp, as she directed. Or Iheard the peep of the young when I could not see the parent bird. There too theturtle-doves sat over the spring, or fluttered from bough to bough of the softwhite-pines over my head; or the red squirrel, coursing down the nearest bough,was particularly familiar and inquisitive. You only need sit still long enoughin some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibitthemselves to you by turns.

I was witness to events of a less peaceful character. One day when I went outto my wood-pile, or rather my pile of stumps, I observed two large ants, theone red, the other much larger, nearly half an inch long, and black, fiercelycontending with one another. Having once got hold they never let go, butstruggled and wrestled and rolled on the chips incessantly. Looking farther, Iwas surprised to find that the chips were covered with such combatants, that itwas not a duellum, but a bellum, a war between two races of ants,the red always pitted against the black, and frequently two red ones to oneblack. The legions of these Myrmidons covered all the hills and vales in mywood-yard, and the ground was already strewn with the dead and dying, both redand black. It was the only battle which I have ever witnessed, the onlybattle-field I ever trod while the battle was raging; internecine war; the redrepublicans on the one hand, and the black imperialists on the other. On everyside they were engaged in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I couldhear, and human soldiers never fought so resolutely. I watched a couple thatwere fast locked in each other’s embraces, in a little sunny valley amidthe chips, now at noon-day prepared to fight till the sun went down, or lifewent out. The smaller red champion had fastened himself like a vice to hisadversary’s front, and through all the tumblings on that field never foran instant ceased to gnaw at one of his feelers near the root, having alreadycaused the other to go by the board; while the stronger black one dashed himfrom side to side, and, as I saw on looking nearer, had already divested him ofseveral of his members. They fought with more pertinacity than bull-dogs.Neither manifested the least disposition to retreat. It was evident that theirbattle-cry was Conquer or die. In the mean while there came along a single redant on the hill-side of this valley, evidently full of excitement, who eitherhad despatched his foe, or had not yet taken part in the battle; probably thelatter, for he had lost none of his limbs; whose mother had charged him toreturn with his shield or upon it. Or perchance he was some Achilles, who hadnourished his wrath apart, and had now come to avenge or rescue his Patroclus.He saw this unequal combat from afar,—for the blacks were nearly twicethe size of the red,—he drew near with rapid pace till he stood on hisguard within half an inch of the combatants; then, watching his opportunity, hesprang upon the black warrior, and commenced his operations near the root ofhis right fore-leg, leaving the foe to select among his own members; and sothere were three united for life, as if a new kind of attraction had beeninvented which put all other locks and cements to shame. I should not havewondered by this time to find that they had their respective musical bandsstationed on some eminent chip, and playing their national airs the while, toexcite the slow and cheer the dying combatants. I was myself excited somewhateven as if they had been men. The more you think of it, the less thedifference. And certainly there is not the fight recorded in Concord history,at least, if in the history of America, that will bear a moment’scomparison with this, whether for the numbers engaged in it, or for thepatriotism and heroism displayed. For numbers and for carnage it was anAusterlitz or Dresden. Concord Fight! Two killed on the patriots’ side,and Luther Blanchard wounded! Why here every ant was aButtrick,—“Fire! for God’s sake fire!”—andthousands shared the fate of Davis and Hosmer. There was not one hirelingthere. I have no doubt that it was a principle they fought for, as much as ourancestors, and not to avoid a three-penny tax on their tea; and the results ofthis battle will be as important and memorable to those whom it concerns asthose of the battle of Bunker Hill, at least.

I took up the chip on which the three I have particularly described werestruggling, carried it into my house, and placed it under a tumbler on mywindow-sill, in order to see the issue. Holding a microscope to thefirst-mentioned red ant, I saw that, though he was assiduously gnawing at thenear fore-leg of his enemy, having severed his remaining feeler, his own breastwas all torn away, exposing what vitals he had there to the jaws of the blackwarrior, whose breastplate was apparently too thick for him to pierce; and thedark carbuncles of the sufferer’s eyes shone with ferocity such as waronly could excite. They struggled half an hour longer under the tumbler, andwhen I looked again the black soldier had severed the heads of his foes fromtheir bodies, and the still living heads were hanging on either side of himlike ghastly trophies at his saddle-bow, still apparently as firmly fastened asever, and he was endeavoring with feeble struggles, being without feelers andwith only the remnant of a leg, and I know not how many other wounds, to divesthimself of them; which at length, after half an hour more, he accomplished. Iraised the glass, and he went off over the window-sill in that crippled state.Whether he finally survived that combat, and spent the remainder of his days insome Hotel des Invalides, I do not know; but I thought that his industry wouldnot be worth much thereafter. I never learned which party was victorious, northe cause of the war; but I felt for the rest of that day as if I had had myfeelings excited and harrowed by witnessing the struggle, the ferocity andcarnage, of a human battle before my door.

Kirby and Spence tell us that the battles of ants have long been celebrated andthe date of them recorded, though they say that Huber is the only modern authorwho appears to have witnessed them. “Æneas Sylvius,” say they,“after giving a very circumstantial account of one contested with greatobstinacy by a great and small species on the trunk of a pear tree,” addsthat “‘This action was fought in the pontificate of Eugenius theFourth, in the presence of Nicholas Pistoriensis, an eminent lawyer, whorelated the whole history of the battle with the greatest fidelity.’ Asimilar engagement between great and small ants is recorded by Olaus Magnus, inwhich the small ones, being victorious, are said to have buried the bodies oftheir own soldiers, but left those of their giant enemies a prey to the birds.This event happened previous to the expulsion of the tyrant Christiern theSecond from Sweden.” The battle which I witnessed took place in thePresidency of Polk, five years before the passage of Webster’sFugitive-Slave Bill.

Many a village Bose, fit only to course a mud-turtle in a victualling cellar,sported his heavy quarters in the woods, without the knowledge of his master,and ineffectually smelled at old fox burrows and woodchucks’ holes; ledperchance by some slight cur which nimbly threaded the wood, and might stillinspire a natural terror in its denizens;—now far behind his guide,barking like a canine bull toward some small squirrel which had treed itselffor scrutiny, then, cantering off, bending the bushes with his weight,imagining that he is on the track of some stray member of the jerbilla family.Once I was surprised to see a cat walking along the stony shore of the pond,for they rarely wander so far from home. The surprise was mutual. Neverthelessthe most domestic cat, which has lain on a rug all her days, appears quite athome in the woods, and, by her sly and stealthy behavior, proves herself morenative there than the regular inhabitants. Once, when berrying, I met with acat with young kittens in the woods, quite wild, and they all, like theirmother, had their backs up and were fiercely spitting at me. A few years beforeI lived in the woods there was what was called a “winged cat” inone of the farm-houses in Lincoln nearest the pond, Mr. Gilian Baker’s.When I called to see her in June, 1842, she was gone a-hunting in the woods, aswas her wont, (I am not sure whether it was a male or female, and so use themore common pronoun,) but her mistress told me that she came into theneighborhood a little more than a year before, in April, and was finally takeninto their house; that she was of a dark brownish-gray color, with a white spoton her throat, and white feet, and had a large bushy tail like a fox; that inthe winter the fur grew thick and flatted out along her sides, forming stripesten or twelve inches long by two and a half wide, and under her chin like amuff, the upper side loose, the under matted like felt, and in the spring theseappendages dropped off. They gave me a pair of her “wings,” which Ikeep still. There is no appearance of a membrane about them. Some thought itwas part flying-squirrel or some other wild animal, which is not impossible,for, according to naturalists, prolific hybrids have been produced by the unionof the marten and domestic cat. This would have been the right kind of cat forme to keep, if I had kept any; for why should not a poet’s cat be wingedas well as his horse?

In the fall the loon (Colymbus glacialis) came, as usual, to moult andbathe in the pond, making the woods ring with his wild laughter before I hadrisen. At rumor of his arrival all the Mill-dam sportsmen are on the alert, ingigs and on foot, two by two and three by three, with patent rifles and conicalballs and spy-glasses. They come rustling through the woods like autumn leaves,at least ten men to one loon. Some station themselves on this side of the pond,some on that, for the poor bird cannot be omnipresent; if he dive here he mustcome up there. But now the kind October wind rises, rustling the leaves andrippling the surface of the water, so that no loon can be heard or seen, thoughhis foes sweep the pond with spy-glasses, and make the woods resound with theirdischarges. The waves generously rise and dash angrily, taking sides with allwater-fowl, and our sportsmen must beat a retreat to town and shop andunfinished jobs. But they were too often successful. When I went to get a pailof water early in the morning I frequently saw this stately bird sailing out ofmy cove within a few rods. If I endeavored to overtake him in a boat, in orderto see how he would manœuvre, he would dive and be completely lost, so that Idid not discover him again, sometimes, till the latter part of the day. But Iwas more than a match for him on the surface. He commonly went off in a rain.

As I was paddling along the north shore one very calm October afternoon, forsuch days especially they settle on to the lakes, like the milkweed down,having looked in vain over the pond for a loon, suddenly one, sailing out fromthe shore toward the middle a few rods in front of me, set up his wild laughand betrayed himself. I pursued with a paddle and he dived, but when he came upI was nearer than before. He dived again, but I miscalculated the direction hewould take, and we were fifty rods apart when he came to the surface this time,for I had helped to widen the interval; and again he laughed long and loud, andwith more reason than before. He manœuvred so cunningly that I could not getwithin half a dozen rods of him. Each time, when he came to the surface,turning his head this way and that, he cooly surveyed the water and the land,and apparently chose his course so that he might come up where there was thewidest expanse of water and at the greatest distance from the boat. It wassurprising how quickly he made up his mind and put his resolve into execution.He led me at once to the widest part of the pond, and could not be driven fromit. While he was thinking one thing in his brain, I was endeavoring to divinehis thought in mine. It was a pretty game, played on the smooth surface of thepond, a man against a loon. Suddenly your adversary’s checker disappearsbeneath the board, and the problem is to place yours nearest to where his willappear again. Sometimes he would come up unexpectedly on the opposite side ofme, having apparently passed directly under the boat. So long-winded was he andso unweariable, that when he had swum farthest he would immediately plungeagain, nevertheless; and then no wit could divine where in the deep pond,beneath the smooth surface, he might be speeding his way like a fish, for hehad time and ability to visit the bottom of the pond in its deepest part. It issaid that loons have been caught in the New York lakes eighty feet beneath thesurface, with hooks set for trout,—though Walden is deeper than that. Howsurprised must the fishes be to see this ungainly visitor from another spherespeeding his way amid their schools! Yet he appeared to know his course assurely under water as on the surface, and swam much faster there. Once or twiceI saw a ripple where he approached the surface, just put his head out toreconnoitre, and instantly dived again. I found that it was as well for me torest on my oars and wait his reappearing as to endeavor to calculate where hewould rise; for again and again, when I was straining my eyes over the surfaceone way, I would suddenly be startled by his unearthly laugh behind me. Butwhy, after displaying so much cunning, did he invariably betray himself themoment he came up by that loud laugh? Did not his white breast enough betrayhim? He was indeed a silly loon, I thought. I could commonly hear the splash ofthe water when he came up, and so also detected him. But after an hour heseemed as fresh as ever, dived as willingly and swam yet farther than at first.It was surprising to see how serenely he sailed off with unruffled breast whenhe came to the surface, doing all the work with his webbed feet beneath. Hisusual note was this demoniac laughter, yet somewhat like that of a water-fowl;but occasionally, when he had balked me most successfully and come up a longway off, he uttered a long-drawn unearthly howl, probably more like that of awolf than any bird; as when a beast puts his muzzle to the ground anddeliberately howls. This was his looning,—perhaps the wildest sound thatis ever heard here, making the woods ring far and wide. I concluded that helaughed in derision of my efforts, confident of his own resources. Though thesky was by this time overcast, the pond was so smooth that I could see where hebroke the surface when I did not hear him. His white breast, the stillness ofthe air, and the smoothness of the water were all against him. At length,having come up fifty rods off, he uttered one of those prolonged howls, as ifcalling on the god of loons to aid him, and immediately there came a wind fromthe east and rippled the surface, and filled the whole air with misty rain, andI was impressed as if it were the prayer of the loon answered, and his god wasangry with me; and so I left him disappearing far away on the tumultuoussurface.

For hours, in fall days, I watched the ducks cunningly tack and veer and holdthe middle of the pond, far from the sportsman; tricks which they will haveless need to practise in Louisiana bayous. When compelled to rise they wouldsometimes circle round and round and over the pond at a considerable height,from which they could easily see to other ponds and the river, like black motesin the sky; and, when I thought they had gone off thither long since, theywould settle down by a slanting flight of a quarter of a mile on to a distantpart which was left free; but what beside safety they got by sailing in themiddle of Walden I do not know, unless they love its water for the same reasonthat I do.


In October I went a-graping to the river meadows, and loaded myself withclusters more precious for their beauty and fragrance than for food. Theretoo I admired, though I did not gather, the cranberries, small waxen gems,pendants of the meadow grass, pearly and red, which the farmer plucks with anugly rake, leaving the smooth meadow in a snarl, heedlessly measuring them bythe bushel and the dollar only, and sells the spoils of the meads to Boston andNew York; destined to be jammed, to satisfy the tastes of lovers ofNature there. So butchers rake the tongues of bison out of the prairie grass,regardless of the torn and drooping plant. The barberry’s brilliant fruitwas likewise food for my eyes merely; but I collected a small store of wildapples for coddling, which the proprietor and travellers had overlooked. Whenchestnuts were ripe I laid up half a bushel for winter. It was very exciting atthat season to roam the then boundless chestnut woods of Lincoln,—they nowsleep their long sleep under the railroad,—with a bag on my shoulder, anda stick to open burrs with in my hand, for I did not always wait for the frost,amid the rustling of leaves and the loud reproofs of the red-squirrels and thejays, whose half-consumed nuts I sometimes stole, for the burrs which they hadselected were sure to contain sound ones. Occasionally I climbed and shook thetrees. They grew also behind my house, and one large tree, which almostovershadowed it, was, when in flower, a bouquet which scented the wholeneighborhood, but the squirrels and the jays got most of its fruit; the lastcoming in flocks early in the morning and picking the nuts out of the burrsbefore they fell. I relinquished these trees to them and visited the moredistant woods composed wholly of chestnut. These nuts, as far as they went,were a good substitute for bread. Many other substitutes might, perhaps, befound. Digging one day for fish-worms, I discovered the ground-nut (Apiostuberosa) on its string, the potato of the aborigines, a sort of fabulousfruit, which I had begun to doubt if I had ever dug and eaten in childhood, asI had told, and had not dreamed it. I had often since seen its crimpled redvelvety blossom supported by the stems of other plants without knowing it to bethe same. Cultivation has well nigh exterminated it. It has a sweetish taste,much like that of a frostbitten potato, and I found it better boiled thanroasted. This tuber seemed like a faint promise of Nature to rear her ownchildren and feed them simply here at some future period. In these days offatted cattle and waving grain-fields this humble root, which was once thetotem of an Indian tribe, is quite forgotten, or known only by itsflowering vine; but let wild Nature reign here once more, and the tender andluxurious English grains will probably disappear before a myriad of foes, andwithout the care of man the crow may carry back even the last seed of corn tothe great cornfield of the Indian’s God in the south-west, whence he issaid to have brought it; but the now almost exterminated ground-nut willperhaps revive and flourish in spite of frosts and wildness, prove itselfindigenous, and resume its ancient importance and dignity as the diet of thehunter tribe. Some Indian Ceres or Minerva must have been the inventor andbestower of it; and when the reign of poetry commences here, its leaves andstring of nuts may be represented on our works of art.

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Already, by the first of September, I had seen two or three small maples turnedscarlet across the pond, beneath where the white stems of three aspensdiverged, at the point of a promontory, next the water. Ah, many a tale theircolor told! And gradually from week to week the character of each tree cameout, and it admired itself reflected in the smooth mirror of the lake. Eachmorning the manager of this gallery substituted some new picture, distinguishedby more brilliant or harmonious coloring, for the old upon the walls.

The wasps came by thousands to my lodge in October, as to winter quarters, andsettled on my windows within and on the walls over-head, sometimes deterringvisitors from entering. Each morning, when they were numbed with cold, I sweptsome of them out, but I did not trouble myself much to get rid of them; I evenfelt complimented by their regarding my house as a desirable shelter. Theynever molested me seriously, though they bedded with me; and they graduallydisappeared, into what crevices I do not know, avoiding winter and unspeakablecold.

Like the wasps, before I finally went into winter quarters in November, I usedto resort to the north-east side of Walden, which the sun, reflected from thepitch-pine woods and the stony shore, made the fire-side of the pond; it is somuch pleasanter and wholesomer to be warmed by the sun while you can be, thanby an artificial fire. I thus warmed myself by the still glowing embers whichthe summer, like a departed hunter, had left.

When I came to build my chimney I studied masonry. My bricks being second-handones required to be cleaned with a trowel, so that I learned more than usualof the qualities of bricks and trowels. The mortar on them was fifty years old,and was said to be still growing harder; but this is one of those sayings whichmen love to repeat whether they are true or not. Such sayings themselves growharder and adhere more firmly with age, and it would take many blows with atrowel to clean an old wiseacre of them. Many of the villages of Mesopotamiaare built of second-hand bricks of a very good quality, obtained from the ruinsof Babylon, and the cement on them is older and probably harder still. Howeverthat may be, I was struck by the peculiar toughness of the steel which bore somany violent blows without being worn out. As my bricks had been in a chimneybefore, though I did not read the name of Nebuchadnezzar on them, I picked outas many fire-place bricks as I could find, to save work and waste, and I filledthe spaces between the bricks about the fire-place with stones from the pondshore, and also made my mortar with the white sand from the same place. Ilingered most about the fireplace, as the most vital part of the house. Indeed,I worked so deliberately, that though I commenced at the ground in the morning,a course of bricks raised a few inches above the floor served for my pillow atnight; yet I did not get a stiff neck for it that I remember; my stiff neck isof older date. I took a poet to board for a fortnight about those times, whichcaused me to be put to it for room. He brought his own knife, though I had two,and we used to scour them by thrusting them into the earth. He shared with methe labors of cooking. I was pleased to see my work rising so square and solidby degrees, and reflected, that, if it proceeded slowly, it was calculated toendure a long time. The chimney is to some extent an independent structure,standing on the ground and rising through the house to the heavens; even afterthe house is burned it still stands sometimes, and its importance andindependence are apparent. This was toward the end of summer. It was nowNovember.

The north wind had already begun to cool the pond, though it took many weeks ofsteady blowing to accomplish it, it is so deep. When I began to have a fire atevening, before I plastered my house, the chimney carried smoke particularlywell, because of the numerous chinks between the boards. Yet I passed somecheerful evenings in that cool and airy apartment, surrounded by the roughbrown boards full of knots, and rafters with the bark on high overhead. Myhouse never pleased my eye so much after it was plastered, though I was obligedto confess that it was more comfortable. Should not every apartment in whichman dwells be lofty enough to create some obscurity over-head, where flickeringshadows may play at evening about the rafters? These forms are more agreeableto the fancy and imagination than fresco paintings or other the most expensivefurniture. I now first began to inhabit my house, I may say, when I began touse it for warmth as well as shelter. I had got a couple of old fire-dogs tokeep the wood from the hearth, and it did me good to see the soot form on theback of the chimney which I had built, and I poked the fire with more right andmore satisfaction than usual. My dwelling was small, and I could hardlyentertain an echo in it; but it seemed larger for being a single apartment andremote from neighbors. All the attractions of a house were concentrated in oneroom; it was kitchen, chamber, parlor, and keeping-room; and whateversatisfaction parent or child, master or servant, derive from living in a house,I enjoyed it all. Cato says, the master of a family (patremfamilias)must have in his rustic villa “cellam oleariam, vinariam, dolia multa,uti lubeat caritatem expectare, et rei, et virtuti, et gloriæ erit,”that is, “an oil and wine cellar, many casks, so that it may be pleasantto expect hard times; it will be for his advantage, and virtue, andglory.” I had in my cellar a firkin of potatoes, about two quarts of peaswith the weevil in them, and on my shelf a little rice, a jug of molasses, andof rye and Indian meal a peck each.

I sometimes dream of a larger and more populous house, standing in a goldenage, of enduring materials, and without ginger-bread work, which shall stillconsist of only one room, a vast, rude, substantial, primitive hall, withoutceiling or plastering, with bare rafters and purlins supporting a sort of lowerheaven over one’s head,—useful to keep off rain and snow; where theking and queen posts stand out to receive your homage, when you have donereverence to the prostrate Saturn of an older dynasty on stepping over thesill; a cavernous house, wherein you must reach up a torch upon a pole to seethe roof; where some may live in the fire-place, some in the recess of a window,and some on settles, some at one end of the hall, some at another, and somealoft on rafters with the spiders, if they choose; a house which you have gotinto when you have opened the outside door, and the ceremony is over; where theweary traveller may wash, and eat, and converse, and sleep, without furtherjourney; such a shelter as you would be glad to reach in a tempestuous night,containing all the essentials of a house, and nothing for house-keeping; whereyou can see all the treasures of the house at one view, and every thing hangsupon its peg, that a man should use; at once kitchen, pantry, parlor, chamber,store-house, and garret; where you can see so necessary a thing as a barrel ora ladder, so convenient a thing as a cupboard, and hear the pot boil, and payyour respects to the fire that cooks your dinner and the oven that bakes yourbread, and the necessary furniture and utensils are the chief ornaments; wherethe washing is not put out, nor the fire, nor the mistress, and perhaps you aresometimes requested to move from off the trap-door, when the cook would descendinto the cellar, and so learn whether the ground is solid or hollow beneath youwithout stamping. A house whose inside is as open and manifest as abird’s nest, and you cannot go in at the front door and out at the backwithout seeing some of its inhabitants; where to be a guest is to be presentedwith the freedom of the house, and not to be carefully excluded from seveneighths of it, shut up in a particular cell, and told to make yourself at homethere,—in solitary confinement. Nowadays the host does not admit you tohis hearth, but has got the mason to build one for yourself somewhere inhis alley, and hospitality is the art of keeping you at the greatestdistance. There is as much secrecy about the cooking as if he had a design topoison you. I am aware that I have been on many a man’s premises, andmight have been legally ordered off, but I am not aware that I have been inmany men’s houses. I might visit in my old clothes a king and queen wholived simply in such a house as I have described, if I were going their way;but backing out of a modern palace will be all that I shall desire to learn, ifever I am caught in one.

It would seem as if the very language of our parlors would lose all its nerveand degenerate into palaver wholly, our lives pass at such remotenessfrom its symbols, and its metaphors and tropes are necessarily so far fetched,through slides and dumb-waiters, as it were; in other words, the parlor is sofar from the kitchen and workshop. The dinner even is only the parable of adinner, commonly. As if only the savage dwelt near enough to Nature and Truthto borrow a trope from them. How can the scholar, who dwells away in the NorthWest Territory or the Isle of Man, tell what is parliamentary in the kitchen?

However, only one or two of my guests were ever bold enough to stay and eat ahasty-pudding with me; but when they saw that crisis approaching they beat ahasty retreat rather, as if it would shake the house to its foundations.Nevertheless, it stood through a great many hasty-puddings.

I did not plaster till it was freezing weather. I brought over some whiter andcleaner sand for this purpose from the opposite shore of the pond in a boat, asort of conveyance which would have tempted me to go much farther if necessary.My house had in the mean while been shingled down to the ground on every side.In lathing I was pleased to be able to send home each nail with a single blowof the hammer, and it was my ambition to transfer the plaster from the board tothe wall neatly and rapidly. I remembered the story of a conceited fellow, who,in fine clothes, was wont to lounge about the village once, giving advice toworkmen. Venturing one day to substitute deeds for words, he turned up hiscuffs, seized a plasterer’s board, and having loaded his trowel withoutmishap, with a complacent look toward the lathing overhead, made a bold gesturethitherward; and straightway, to his complete discomfiture, received the wholecontents in his ruffled bosom. I admired anew the economy and convenience ofplastering, which so effectually shuts out the cold and takes a handsomefinish, and I learned the various casualties to which the plasterer is liable.I was surprised to see how thirsty the bricks were which drank up all themoisture in my plaster before I had smoothed it, and how many pailfuls of waterit takes to christen a new hearth. I had the previous winter made a smallquantity of lime by burning the shells of the Unio fluviatilis, whichour river affords, for the sake of the experiment; so that I knew where mymaterials came from. I might have got good limestone within a mile or two andburned it myself, if I had cared to do so.

The pond had in the mean while skimmed over in the shadiest and shallowestcoves, some days or even weeks before the general freezing. The first ice isespecially interesting and perfect, being hard, dark, and transparent, andaffords the best opportunity that ever offers for examining the bottom where itis shallow; for you can lie at your length on ice only an inch thick, like askater insect on the surface of the water, and study the bottom at yourleisure, only two or three inches distant, like a picture behind a glass, andthe water is necessarily always smooth then. There are many furrows in the sandwhere some creature has travelled about and doubled on its tracks; and, forwrecks, it is strewn with the cases of cadis worms made of minute grains ofwhite quartz. Perhaps these have creased it, for you find some of their casesin the furrows, though they are deep and broad for them to make. But the iceitself is the object of most interest, though you must improve the earliestopportunity to study it. If you examine it closely the morning after itfreezes, you find that the greater part of the bubbles, which at first appearedto be within it, are against its under surface, and that more are continuallyrising from the bottom; while the ice is as yet comparatively solid and dark,that is, you see the water through it. These bubbles are from an eightieth toan eighth of an inch in diameter, very clear and beautiful, and you see yourface reflected in them through the ice. There may be thirty or forty of them toa square inch. There are also already within the ice narrow oblongperpendicular bubbles about half an inch long, sharp cones with the apexupward; or oftener, if the ice is quite fresh, minute spherical bubbles onedirectly above another, like a string of beads. But these within the ice arenot so numerous nor obvious as those beneath. I sometimes used to cast onstones to try the strength of the ice, and those which broke through carried inair with them, which formed very large and conspicuous white bubbles beneath.One day when I came to the same place forty-eight hours afterward, I found thatthose large bubbles were still perfect, though an inch more of ice had formed,as I could see distinctly by the seam in the edge of a cake. But as the lasttwo days had been very warm, like an Indian summer, the ice was not nowtransparent, showing the dark green color of the water, and the bottom, butopaque and whitish or gray, and though twice as thick was hardly stronger thanbefore, for the air bubbles had greatly expanded under this heat and runtogether, and lost their regularity; they were no longer one directly overanother, but often like silvery coins poured from a bag, one overlappinganother, or in thin flakes, as if occupying slight cleavages. The beauty of theice was gone, and it was too late to study the bottom. Being curious to knowwhat position my great bubbles occupied with regard to the new ice, I broke outa cake containing a middling sized one, and turned it bottom upward. The newice had formed around and under the bubble, so that it was included between thetwo ices. It was wholly in the lower ice, but close against the upper, and wasflattish, or perhaps slightly lenticular, with a rounded edge, a quarter of aninch deep by four inches in diameter; and I was surprised to find that directlyunder the bubble the ice was melted with great regularity in the form of asaucer reversed, to the height of five eighths of an inch in the middle,leaving a thin partition there between the water and the bubble, hardly aneighth of an inch thick; and in many places the small bubbles in this partitionhad burst out downward, and probably there was no ice at all under the largestbubbles, which were a foot in diameter. I inferred that the infinite number ofminute bubbles which I had first seen against the under surface of the ice werenow frozen in likewise, and that each, in its degree, had operated like aburning glass on the ice beneath to melt and rot it. These are the littleair-guns which contribute to make the ice crack and whoop.

At length the winter set in in good earnest, just as I had finished plastering,and the wind began to howl around the house as if it had not had permission todo so till then. Night after night the geese came lumbering in in the dark witha clangor and a whistling of wings, even after the ground was covered withsnow, some to alight in Walden, and some flying low over the woods toward FairHaven, bound for Mexico. Several times, when returning from the village at tenor eleven o’clock at night, I heard the tread of a flock of geese, orelse ducks, on the dry leaves in the woods by a pond-hole behind my dwelling,where they had come up to feed, and the faint honk or quack of their leader asthey hurried off. In 1845 Walden froze entirely over for the first time on thenight of the 22d of December, Flint’s and other shallower ponds and theriver having been frozen ten days or more; in ’46, the 16th; in’49, about the 31st; and in ’50, about the 27th of December; in’52, the 5th of January; in ’53, the 31st of December. The snow hadalready covered the ground since the 25th of November, and surrounded mesuddenly with the scenery of winter. I withdrew yet farther into my shell, andendeavored to keep a bright fire both within my house and within my breast. Myemployment out of doors now was to collect the dead wood in the forest,bringing it in my hands or on my shoulders, or sometimes trailing a dead pinetree under each arm to my shed. An old forest fence which had seen its bestdays was a great haul for me. I sacrificed it to Vulcan, for it was pastserving the god Terminus. How much more interesting an event is thatman’s supper who has just been forth in the snow to hunt, nay, you mightsay, steal, the fuel to cook it with! His bread and meat are sweet. There areenough fagots and waste wood of all kinds in the forests of most of our townsto support many fires, but which at present warm none, and, some think, hinderthe growth of the young wood. There was also the drift-wood of the pond. In thecourse of the summer I had discovered a raft of pitch-pine logs with the barkon, pinned together by the Irish when the railroad was built. This I hauled uppartly on the shore. After soaking two years and then lying high six months itwas perfectly sound, though waterlogged past drying. I amused myself one winterday with sliding this piecemeal across the pond, nearly half a mile, skatingbehind with one end of a log fifteen feet long on my shoulder, and the other onthe ice; or I tied several logs together with a birch withe, and then, with alonger birch or alder which had a hook at the end, dragged them across. Thoughcompletely waterlogged and almost as heavy as lead, they not only burned long,but made a very hot fire; nay, I thought that they burned better for thesoaking, as if the pitch, being confined by the water, burned longer, as in alamp.

Gilpin, in his account of the forest borderers of England, says that “theencroachments of trespassers, and the houses and fences thus raised on theborders of the forest,” were “considered as great nuisances by theold forest law, and were severely punished under the name ofpurprestures, as tending ad terrorem ferarum—ad nocumentumforestæ, &c.,” to the frightening of the game and the detrimentof the forest. But I was interested in the preservation of the venison and thevert more than the hunters or woodchoppers, and as much as though I had beenthe Lord Warden himself; and if any part was burned, though I burned it myselfby accident, I grieved with a grief that lasted longer and was moreinconsolable than that of the proprietors; nay, I grieved when it was cut downby the proprietors themselves. I would that our farmers when they cut down aforest felt some of that awe which the old Romans did when they came to thin,or let in the light to, a consecrated grove (lucum conlucare), that is,would believe that it is sacred to some god. The Roman made an expiatoryoffering, and prayed, Whatever god or goddess thou art to whom this grove issacred, be propitious to me, my family, and children, &c.

It is remarkable what a value is still put upon wood even in this age and inthis new country, a value more permanent and universal than that of gold. Afterall our discoveries and inventions no man will go by a pile of wood. It is asprecious to us as it was to our Saxon and Norman ancestors. If they made theirbows of it, we make our gun-stocks of it. Michaux, more than thirty years ago,says that the price of wood for fuel in New York and Philadelphia “nearlyequals, and sometimes exceeds, that of the best wood in Paris, though thisimmense capital annually requires more than three hundred thousand cords, andis surrounded to the distance of three hundred miles by cultivatedplains.” In this town the price of wood rises almost steadily, and theonly question is, how much higher it is to be this year than it was the last.Mechanics and tradesmen who come in person to the forest on no other errand,are sure to attend the wood auction, and even pay a high price for theprivilege of gleaning after the woodchopper. It is now many years that men haveresorted to the forest for fuel and the materials of the arts; the NewEnglander and the New Hollander, the Parisian and the Celt, the farmer andRobinhood, Goody Blake and Harry Gill, in most parts of the world the princeand the peasant, the scholar and the savage, equally require still a few sticksfrom the forest to warm them and cook their food. Neither could I do withoutthem.

Every man looks at his wood-pile with a kind of affection. I love to have minebefore my window, and the more chips the better to remind me of my pleasingwork. I had an old axe which nobody claimed, with which by spells in winterdays, on the sunny side of the house, I played about the stumps which I had gotout of my bean-field. As my driver prophesied when I was ploughing, they warmedme twice, once while I was splitting them, and again when they were on thefire, so that no fuel could give out more heat. As for the axe, I was advisedto get the village blacksmith to “jump” it; but I jumped him, and,putting a hickory helve from the woods into it, made it do. If it was dull, itwas at least hung true.

A few pieces of fat pine were a great treasure. It is interesting to rememberhow much of this food for fire is still concealed in the bowels of the earth.In previous years I had often gone “prospecting” over some barehill-side, where a pitch-pine wood had formerly stood, and got out the fat pineroots. They are almost indestructible. Stumps thirty or forty years old, atleast, will still be sound at the core, though the sapwood has all becomevegetable mould, as appears by the scales of the thick bark forming a ringlevel with the earth four or five inches distant from the heart. With axe andshovel you explore this mine, and follow the marrowy store, yellow as beeftallow, or as if you had struck on a vein of gold, deep into the earth. Butcommonly I kindled my fire with the dry leaves of the forest, which I hadstored up in my shed before the snow came. Green hickory finely split makes thewoodchopper’s kindlings, when he has a camp in the woods. Once in a whileI got a little of this. When the villagers were lighting their fires beyond thehorizon, I too gave notice to the various wild inhabitants of Walden vale, by asmoky streamer from my chimney, that I was awake.—

Light-winged Smoke, Icarian bird,
Melting thy pinions in thy upward flight,
Lark without song, and messenger of dawn,
Circling above the hamlets as thy nest;
Or else, departing dream, and shadowy form
Of midnight vision, gathering up thy skirts;
By night star-veiling, and by day
Darkening the light and blotting out the sun;
Go thou my incense upward from this hearth,
And ask the gods to pardon this clear flame.

Hard green wood just cut, though I used but little of that, answered my purposebetter than any other. I sometimes left a good fire when I went to take a walkin a winter afternoon; and when I returned, three or four hours afterward, itwould be still alive and glowing. My house was not empty though I was gone. Itwas as if I had left a cheerful housekeeper behind. It was I and Fire thatlived there; and commonly my housekeeper proved trustworthy. One day, however,as I was splitting wood, I thought that I would just look in at the window andsee if the house was not on fire; it was the only time I remember to have beenparticularly anxious on this score; so I looked and saw that a spark had caughtmy bed, and I went in and extinguished it when it had burned a place as big asmy hand. But my house occupied so sunny and sheltered a position, and its roofwas so low, that I could afford to let the fire go out in the middle of almostany winter day.

The moles nested in my cellar, nibbling every third potato, and making a snugbed even there of some hair left after plastering and of brown paper; for eventhe wildest animals love comfort and warmth as well as man, and they survivethe winter only because they are so careful to secure them. Some of my friendsspoke as if I was coming to the woods on purpose to freeze myself. The animalmerely makes a bed, which he warms with his body, in a sheltered place; butman, having discovered fire, boxes up some air in a spacious apartment, andwarms that, instead of robbing himself, makes that his bed, in which he canmove about divested of more cumbrous clothing, maintain a kind of summer in themidst of winter, and by means of windows even admit the light, and with a lamplengthen out the day. Thus he goes a step or two beyond instinct, and saves alittle time for the fine arts. Though, when I had been exposed to the rudestblasts a long time, my whole body began to grow torpid, when I reached thegenial atmosphere of my house I soon recovered my faculties and prolonged mylife. But the most luxuriously housed has little to boast of in this respect,nor need we trouble ourselves to speculate how the human race may be at lastdestroyed. It would be easy to cut their threads any time with a little sharperblast from the north. We go on dating from Cold Fridays and Great Snows; but alittle colder Friday, or greater snow, would put a period to man’sexistence on the globe.

The next winter I used a small cooking-stove for economy, since I did not ownthe forest; but it did not keep fire so well as the open fire-place. Cooking wasthen, for the most part, no longer a poetic, but merely a chemic process. Itwill soon be forgotten, in these days of stoves, that we used to roast potatoesin the ashes, after the Indian fashion. The stove not only took up room andscented the house, but it concealed the fire, and I felt as if I had lost acompanion. You can always see a face in the fire. The laborer, looking into itat evening, purifies his thoughts of the dross and earthiness which they haveaccumulated during the day. But I could no longer sit and look into the fire,and the pertinent words of a poet recurred to me with new force.—

“Never, bright flame, may be denied to me
Thy dear, life imaging, close sympathy.
What but my hopes shot upward e’er so bright?
What but my fortunes sunk so low in night?

Why art thou banished from our hearth and hall,
Thou who art welcomed and beloved by all?
Was thy existence then too fanciful
For our life’s common light, who are so dull?
Did thy bright gleam mysterious converse hold
With our congenial souls? secrets too bold?
Well, we are safe and strong, for now we sit
Beside a hearth where no dim shadows flit,
Where nothing cheers nor saddens, but a fire
Warms feet and hands—nor does to more aspire;
By whose compact utilitarian heap
The present may sit down and go to sleep,
Nor fear the ghosts who from the dim past walked,
And with us by the unequal light of the old wood fire talked.”

Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors

I weathered some merry snow storms, and spent some cheerful winter evenings bymy fire-side, while the snow whirled wildly without, and even the hooting of theowl was hushed. For many weeks I met no one in my walks but those who cameoccasionally to cut wood and sled it to the village. The elements, however,abetted me in making a path through the deepest snow in the woods, for when Ihad once gone through the wind blew the oak leaves into my tracks, where theylodged, and by absorbing the rays of the sun melted the snow, and so not onlymade a dry bed for my feet, but in the night their dark line was my guide. Forhuman society I was obliged to conjure up the former occupants of these woods.Within the memory of many of my townsmen the road near which my house standsresounded with the laugh and gossip of inhabitants, and the woods which borderit were notched and dotted here and there with their little gardens anddwellings, though it was then much more shut in by the forest than now. In someplaces, within my own remembrance, the pines would scrape both sides of achaise at once, and women and children who were compelled to go this way toLincoln alone and on foot did it with fear, and often ran a good part of thedistance. Though mainly but a humble route to neighboring villages, or for thewoodman’s team, it once amused the traveller more than now by itsvariety, and lingered longer in his memory. Where now firm open fields stretchfrom the village to the woods, it then ran through a maple swamp on afoundation of logs, the remnants of which, doubtless, still underlie thepresent dusty highway, from the Stratton, now the Alms House, Farm, toBrister’s Hill.

East of my bean-field, across the road, lived Cato Ingraham, slave of DuncanIngraham, Esquire, gentleman, of Concord village, who built his slave a house,and gave him permission to live in Walden Woods;—Cato, not Uticensis, butConcordiensis. Some say that he was a Guinea Negro. There are a few whoremember his little patch among the walnuts, which he let grow up till heshould be old and need them; but a younger and whiter speculator got them atlast. He too, however, occupies an equally narrow house at present.Cato’s half-obliterated cellar hole still remains, though known to few,being concealed from the traveller by a fringe of pines. It is now filled withthe smooth sumach (Rhus glabra,) and one of the earliest species ofgolden-rod (Solidago stricta) grows there luxuriantly.

Here, by the very corner of my field, still nearer to town, Zilpha, a coloredwoman, had her little house, where she spun linen for the townsfolk, making theWalden Woods ring with her shrill singing, for she had a loud and notablevoice. At length, in the war of 1812, her dwelling was set on fire by Englishsoldiers, prisoners on parole, when she was away, and her cat and dog and henswere all burned up together. She led a hard life, and somewhat inhumane. Oneold frequenter of these woods remembers, that as he passed her house one noonhe heard her muttering to herself over her gurgling pot,—“Ye are allbones, bones!” I have seen bricks amid the oak copse there.

Down the road, on the right hand, on Brister’s Hill, lived BristerFreeman, “a handy Negro,” slave of Squire Cummings once,—therewhere grow still the apple-trees which Brister planted and tended; large oldtrees now, but their fruit still wild and ciderish to my taste. Not long sinceI read his epitaph in the old Lincoln burying-ground, a little on one side,near the unmarked graves of some British grenadiers who fell in the retreatfrom Concord,—where he is styled “Sippio Brister,”—ScipioAfricanus he had some title to be called,—“a man of color,” asif he were discolored. It also told me, with staring emphasis, when he died;which was but an indirect way of informing me that he ever lived. With himdwelt Fenda, his hospitable wife, who told fortunes, yetpleasantly,—large, round, and black, blacker than any of the children ofnight, such a dusky orb as never rose on Concord before or since.

Farther down the hill, on the left, on the old road in the woods, are marks ofsome homestead of the Stratton family; whose orchard once covered all the slopeof Brister’s Hill, but was long since killed out by pitch pines,excepting a few stumps, whose old roots furnish still the wild stocks of many athrifty village tree.

Nearer yet to town, you come to Breed’s location, on the other side ofthe way, just on the edge of the wood; ground famous for the pranks of a demonnot distinctly named in old mythology, who has acted a prominent and astoundingpart in our New England life, and deserves, as much as any mythologicalcharacter, to have his biography written one day; who first comes in the guiseof a friend or hired man, and then robs and murders the wholefamily,—New-England Rum. But history must not yet tell the tragediesenacted here; let time intervene in some measure to assuage and lend an azuretint to them. Here the most indistinct and dubious tradition says that once atavern stood; the well the same, which tempered the traveller’s beverageand refreshed his steed. Here then men saluted one another, and heard and toldthe news, and went their ways again.

Breed’s hut was standing only a dozen years ago, though it had long beenunoccupied. It was about the size of mine. It was set on fire by mischievousboys, one Election night, if I do not mistake. I lived on the edge of thevillage then, and had just lost myself over Davenant’s Gondibert, thatwinter that I labored with a lethargy,—which, by the way, I never knewwhether to regard as a family complaint, having an uncle who goes to sleepshaving himself, and is obliged to sprout potatoes in a cellar Sundays, inorder to keep awake and keep the Sabbath, or as the consequence of my attemptto read Chalmers’ collection of English poetry without skipping. Itfairly overcame my Nervii. I had just sunk my head on this when the bells rungfire, and in hot haste the engines rolled that way, led by a straggling troopof men and boys, and I among the foremost, for I had leaped the brook. Wethought it was far south over the woods,—we who had run to firesbefore,—barn, shop, or dwelling-house, or all together. “It’sBaker’s barn,” cried one. “It is the Codman place,”affirmed another. And then fresh sparks went up above the wood, as if the rooffell in, and we all shouted “Concord to the rescue!” Wagons shotpast with furious speed and crushing loads, bearing, perchance, among the rest,the agent of the Insurance Company, who was bound to go however far; and everand anon the engine bell tinkled behind, more slow and sure; and rearmost ofall, as it was afterward whispered, came they who set the fire and gave thealarm. Thus we kept on like true idealists, rejecting the evidence of oursenses, until at a turn in the road we heard the crackling and actually feltthe heat of the fire from over the wall, and realized, alas! that we werethere. The very nearness of the fire but cooled our ardor. At first we thoughtto throw a frog-pond on to it; but concluded to let it burn, it was so far goneand so worthless. So we stood round our engine, jostled one another, expressedour sentiments through speaking-trumpets, or in lower tone referred to thegreat conflagrations which the world has witnessed, including Bascom’sshop, and, between ourselves, we thought that, were we there in season with our“tub,” and a full frog-pond by, we could turn that threatened lastand universal one into another flood. We finally retreated without doing anymischief,—returned to sleep and Gondibert. But as for Gondibert, I wouldexcept that passage in the preface about wit being the soul’spowder,—“but most of mankind are strangers to wit, as Indians areto powder.”

It chanced that I walked that way across the fields the following night, aboutthe same hour, and hearing a low moaning at this spot, I drew near in the dark,and discovered the only survivor of the family that I know, the heir of bothits virtues and its vices, who alone was interested in this burning, lying onhis stomach and looking over the cellar wall at the still smouldering cindersbeneath, muttering to himself, as is his wont. He had been working far off inthe river meadows all day, and had improved the first moments that he couldcall his own to visit the home of his fathers and his youth. He gazed into thecellar from all sides and points of view by turns, always lying down to it, asif there was some treasure, which he remembered, concealed between the stones,where there was absolutely nothing but a heap of bricks and ashes. The housebeing gone, he looked at what there was left. He was soothed by the sympathywhich my mere presence implied, and showed me, as well as the darknesspermitted, where the well was covered up; which, thank Heaven, could never beburned; and he groped long about the wall to find the well-sweep which hisfather had cut and mounted, feeling for the iron hook or staple by which aburden had been fastened to the heavy end,—all that he could now clingto,—to convince me that it was no common “rider.” I felt it,and still remark it almost daily in my walks, for by it hangs the history of afamily.

Once more, on the left, where are seen the well and lilac bushes by the wall,in the now open field, lived Nutting and Le Grosse. But to return towardLincoln.

Farther in the woods than any of these, where the road approaches nearest tothe pond, Wyman the potter squatted, and furnished his townsmen with earthenware, and left descendants to succeed him. Neither were they rich in worldlygoods, holding the land by sufferance while they lived; and there often thesheriff came in vain to collect the taxes, and “attached a chip,”for form’s sake, as I have read in his accounts, there being nothing elsethat he could lay his hands on. One day in midsummer, when I was hoeing, a manwho was carrying a load of pottery to market stopped his horse against my fieldand inquired concerning Wyman the younger. He had long ago bought apotter’s wheel of him, and wished to know what had become of him. I hadread of the potter’s clay and wheel in Scripture, but it had neveroccurred to me that the pots we use were not such as had come down unbrokenfrom those days, or grown on trees like gourds somewhere, and I was pleased tohear that so fictile an art was ever practiced in my neighborhood.

The last inhabitant of these woods before me was an Irishman, Hugh Quoil (if Ihave spelt his name with coil enough,) who occupied Wyman’stenement,—Col. Quoil, he was called. Rumor said that he had been a soldierat Waterloo. If he had lived I should have made him fight his battles overagain. His trade here was that of a ditcher. Napoleon went to St. Helena; Quoilcame to Walden Woods. All I know of him is tragic. He was a man of manners,like one who had seen the world, and was capable of more civil speech than youcould well attend to. He wore a great coat in mid-summer, being affected with thetrembling delirium, and his face was the color of carmine. He died in the roadat the foot of Brister’s Hill shortly after I came to the woods, so thatI have not remembered him as a neighbor. Before his house was pulled down, whenhis comrades avoided it as “an unlucky castle,” I visited it. Therelay his old clothes curled up by use, as if they were himself, upon his raisedplank bed. His pipe lay broken on the hearth, instead of a bowl broken at thefountain. The last could never have been the symbol of his death, for heconfessed to me that, though he had heard of Brister’s Spring, he hadnever seen it; and soiled cards, kings of diamonds spades and hearts, werescattered over the floor. One black chicken which the administrator could notcatch, black as night and as silent, not even croaking, awaiting Reynard, stillwent to roost in the next apartment. In the rear there was the dim outline of agarden, which had been planted but had never received its first hoeing, owingto those terrible shaking fits, though it was now harvest time. It was over-runwith Roman wormwood and beggar-ticks, which last stuck to my clothes for allfruit. The skin of a woodchuck was freshly stretched upon the back of thehouse, a trophy of his last Waterloo; but no warm cap or mittens would he wantmore.

Now only a dent in the earth marks the site of these dwellings, with buriedcellar stones, and strawberries, raspberries, thimble-berries, hazel-bushes,and sumachs growing in the sunny sward there; some pitch-pine or gnarled oakoccupies what was the chimney nook, and a sweet-scented black-birch, perhaps,waves where the door-stone was. Sometimes the well dent is visible, where oncea spring oozed; now dry and tearless grass; or it was covered deep,—not tobe discovered till some late day,—with a flat stone under the sod, whenthe last of the race departed. What a sorrowful act must that be,—thecovering up of wells! coincident with the opening of wells of tears. Thesecellar dents, like deserted fox burrows, old holes, are all that is left whereonce were the stir and bustle of human life, and “fate, free-will,foreknowledge absolute,” in some form and dialect or other were by turnsdiscussed. But all I can learn of their conclusions amounts to just this, that“Cato and Brister pulled wool;” which is about as edifying as thehistory of more famous schools of philosophy.

Still grows the vivacious lilac a generation after the door and lintel and thesill are gone, unfolding its sweet-scented flowers each spring, to be pluckedby the musing traveller; planted and tended once by children’s hands, infront-yard plots,—now standing by wall-sides in retired pastures, andgiving place to new-rising forests;—the last of that stirp, sole survivorof that family. Little did the dusky children think that the puny slip with itstwo eyes only, which they stuck in the ground in the shadow of the house anddaily watered, would root itself so, and outlive them, and house itself in therear that shaded it, and grown man’s garden and orchard, and tell theirstory faintly to the lone wanderer a half century after they had grown up anddied,—blossoming as fair, and smelling as sweet, as in that first spring.I mark its still tender, civil, cheerful, lilac colors.

But this small village, germ of something more, why did it fail while Concordkeeps its ground? Were there no natural advantages,—no water privileges,forsooth? Ay, the deep Walden Pond and cool Brister’sSpring,—privilege to drink long and healthy draughts at these, allunimproved by these men but to dilute their glass. They were universally athirsty race. Might not the basket, stable-broom, mat-making, corn-parching,linen-spinning, and pottery business have thrived here, making the wildernessto blossom like the rose, and a numerous posterity have inherited the land oftheir fathers? The sterile soil would at least have been proof against alow-land degeneracy. Alas! how little does the memory of these humaninhabitants enhance the beauty of the landscape! Again, perhaps, Nature willtry, with me for a first settler, and my house raised last spring to be theoldest in the hamlet.

I am not aware that any man has ever built on the spot which I occupy. Deliverme from a city built on the site of a more ancient city, whose materials areruins, whose gardens cemeteries. The soil is blanched and accursed there, andbefore that becomes necessary the earth itself will be destroyed. With suchreminiscences I repeopled the woods and lulled myself asleep.

At this season I seldom had a visitor. When the snow lay deepest no wandererventured near my house for a week or fortnight at a time, but there I lived assnug as a meadow mouse, or as cattle and poultry which are said to havesurvived for a long time buried in drifts, even without food; or like thatearly settler’s family in the town of Sutton, in this state, whosecottage was completely covered by the great snow of 1717 when he was absent,and an Indian found it only by the hole which the chimney’s breath madein the drift, and so relieved the family. But no friendly Indian concernedhimself about me; nor needed he, for the master of the house was at home. TheGreat Snow! How cheerful it is to hear of! When the farmers could not get tothe woods and swamps with their teams, and were obliged to cut down the shadetrees before their houses, and when the crust was harder, cut off the trees inthe swamps, ten feet from the ground, as it appeared the next spring.

In the deepest snows, the path which I used from the highway to my house, abouthalf a mile long, might have been represented by a meandering dotted line, withwide intervals between the dots. For a week of even weather I took exactly thesame number of steps, and of the same length, coming and going, steppingdeliberately and with the precision of a pair of dividers in my own deeptracks,—to such routine the winter reduces us,—yet often they werefilled with heaven’s own blue. But no weather interfered fatally with mywalks, or rather my going abroad, for I frequently tramped eight or ten milesthrough the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or ayellow-birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines; when the ice and snowcausing their limbs to droop, and so sharpening their tops, had changed thepines into fir-trees; wading to the tops of the highest hills when the snow wasnearly two feet deep on a level, and shaking down another snow-storm on my headat every step; or sometimes creeping and floundering thither on my hands andknees, when the hunters had gone into winter quarters. One afternoon I amusedmyself by watching a barred owl (Strix nebulosa) sitting on one of thelower dead limbs of a white-pine, close to the trunk, in broad daylight, Istanding within a rod of him. He could hear me when I moved and cronched thesnow with my feet, but could not plainly see me. When I made most noise hewould stretch out his neck, and erect his neck feathers, and open his eyeswide; but their lids soon fell again, and he began to nod. I too felt aslumberous influence after watching him half an hour, as he sat thus with hiseyes half open, like a cat, winged brother of the cat. There was only a narrowslit left between their lids, by which he preserved a peninsular relation tome; thus, with half-shut eyes, looking out from the land of dreams, andendeavoring to realize me, vague object or mote that interrupted his visions.At length, on some louder noise or my nearer approach, he would grow uneasy andsluggishly turn about on his perch, as if impatient at having his dreamsdisturbed; and when he launched himself off and flapped through the pines,spreading his wings to unexpected breadth, I could not hear the slightest soundfrom them. Thus, guided amid the pine boughs rather by a delicate sense oftheir neighborhood than by sight, feeling his twilight way as it were withhis sensitive pinions, he found a new perch, where he might in peace await thedawning of his day.

As I walked over the long causeway made for the railroad through the meadows, Iencountered many a blustering and nipping wind, for nowhere has it freer play;and when the frost had smitten me on one cheek, heathen as I was, I turned toit the other also. Nor was it much better by the carriage road fromBrister’s Hill. For I came to town still, like a friendly Indian, whenthe contents of the broad open fields were all piled up between the walls ofthe Walden road, and half an hour sufficed to obliterate the tracks of the lasttraveller. And when I returned new drifts would have formed, through which Ifloundered, where the busy north-west wind had been depositing the powdery snowround a sharp angle in the road, and not a rabbit’s track, nor even thefine print, the small type, of a meadow mouse was to be seen. Yet I rarelyfailed to find, even in mid-winter, some warm and springly swamp where the grassand the skunk-cabbage still put forth with perennial verdure, and some hardierbird occasionally awaited the return of spring.

Sometimes, notwithstanding the snow, when I returned from my walk at evening Icrossed the deep tracks of a woodchopper leading from my door, and found hispile of whittlings on the hearth, and my house filled with the odor of hispipe. Or on a Sunday afternoon, if I chanced to be at home, I heard thecronching of the snow made by the step of a long-headed farmer, who from farthrough the woods sought my house, to have a social “crack;” one ofthe few of his vocation who are “men on their farms;” who donned afrock instead of a professor’s gown, and is as ready to extract the moralout of church or state as to haul a load of manure from his barn-yard. Wetalked of rude and simple times, when men sat about large fires in coldbracing weather, with clear heads; and when other dessert failed, we tried ourteeth on many a nut which wise squirrels have long since abandoned, for thosewhich have the thickest shells are commonly empty.

The one who came from farthest to my lodge, through deepest snows and mostdismal tempests, was a poet. A farmer, a hunter, a soldier, a reporter, even aphilosopher, may be daunted; but nothing can deter a poet, for he is actuatedby pure love. Who can predict his comings and goings? His business calls himout at all hours, even when doctors sleep. We made that small house ring withboisterous mirth and resound with the murmur of much sober talk, making amendsthen to Walden vale for the long silences. Broadway was still and deserted incomparison. At suitable intervals there were regular salutes of laughter, whichmight have been referred indifferently to the last uttered or the forth-comingjest. We made many a “bran new” theory of life over a thin dish ofgruel, which combined the advantages of conviviality with the clear-headednesswhich philosophy requires.

I should not forget that during my last winter at the pond there was anotherwelcome visitor, who at one time came through the village, through snow andrain and darkness, till he saw my lamp through the trees, and shared with mesome long winter evenings. One of the last of thephilosophers,—Connecticut gave him to the world,—he peddled first herwares, afterwards, as he declares, his brains. These he peddles still,prompting God and disgracing man, bearing for fruit his brain only, like thenut its kernel. I think that he must be the man of the most faith of any alive.His words and attitude always suppose a better state of things than other menare acquainted with, and he will be the last man to be disappointed as the agesrevolve. He has no venture in the present. But though comparatively disregardednow, when his day comes, laws unsuspected by most will take effect, and mastersof families and rulers will come to him for advice.—

“How blind that cannot see serenity!”

A true friend of man; almost the only friend of human progress. An OldMortality, say rather an Immortality, with unwearied patience and faith makingplain the image engraven in men’s bodies, the God of whom they are butdefaced and leaning monuments. With his hospitable intellect he embraceschildren, beggars, insane, and scholars, and entertains the thought of all,adding to it commonly some breadth and elegance. I think that he should keep acaravansary on the world’s highway, where philosophers of all nationsmight put up, and on his sign should be printed, “Entertainment for man,but not for his beast. Enter ye that have leisure and a quiet mind, whoearnestly seek the right road.” He is perhaps the sanest man and has thefewest crotchets of any I chance to know; the same yesterday and tomorrow. Ofyore we had sauntered and talked, and effectually put the world behind us; forhe was pledged to no institution in it, freeborn, ingenuus. Whicheverway we turned, it seemed that the heavens and the earth had met together, sincehe enhanced the beauty of the landscape. A blue-robed man, whose fittest roofis the overarching sky which reflects his serenity. I do not see how he canever die; Nature cannot spare him.

Having each some shingles of thought well dried, we sat and whittled them,trying our knives, and admiring the clear yellowish grain of the pumpkin pine.We waded so gently and reverently, or we pulled together so smoothly, that thefishes of thought were not scared from the stream, nor feared any angler on thebank, but came and went grandly, like the clouds which float through thewestern sky, and the mother-o’-pearl flocks which sometimes form anddissolve there. There we worked, revising mythology, rounding a fable here andthere, and building castles in the air for which earth offered no worthyfoundation. Great Looker! Great Expecter! to converse with whom was a NewEngland Night’s Entertainment. Ah! such discourse we had, hermit andphilosopher, and the old settler I have spoken of,—we three,—itexpanded and racked my little house; I should not dare to say how manypounds’ weight there was above the atmospheric pressure on every circularinch; it opened its seams so that they had to be calked with much dulnessthereafter to stop the consequent leak;—but I had enough of that kind ofoakum already picked.

There was one other with whom I had “solid seasons,” long to beremembered, at his house in the village, and who looked in upon me from time totime; but I had no more for society there.

There too, as every where, I sometimes expected the Visitor who never comes. TheVishnu Purana says, “The house-holder is to remain at eventide in hiscourt-yard as long as it takes to milk a cow, or longer if he pleases, to awaitthe arrival of a guest.” I often performed this duty of hospitality,waited long enough to milk a whole herd of cows, but did not see the manapproaching from the town.

Winter Animals

When the ponds were firmly frozen, they afforded not only new and shorterroutes to many points, but new views from their surfaces of the familiarlandscape around them. When I crossed Flint’s Pond, after it was coveredwith snow, though I had often paddled about and skated over it, it was sounexpectedly wide and so strange that I could think of nothing butBaffin’s Bay. The Lincoln hills rose up around me at the extremity of asnowy plain, in which I did not remember to have stood before; and thefishermen, at an indeterminable distance over the ice, moving slowly about withtheir wolfish dogs, passed for sealers or Esquimaux, or in misty weatherloomed like fabulous creatures, and I did not know whether they were giants orpygmies. I took this course when I went to lecture in Lincoln in the evening,travelling in no road and passing no house between my own hut and the lectureroom. In Goose Pond, which lay in my way, a colony of muskrats dwelt, andraised their cabins high above the ice, though none could be seen abroad when Icrossed it. Walden, being like the rest usually bare of snow, or with onlyshallow and interrupted drifts on it, was my yard, where I could walk freelywhen the snow was nearly two feet deep on a level elsewhere and the villagerswere confined to their streets. There, far from the village street, and exceptat very long intervals, from the jingle of sleigh-bells, I slid and skated, asin a vast moose-yard well trodden, overhung by oak woods and solemn pines bentdown with snow or bristling with icicles.

For sounds in winter nights, and often in winter days, I heard the forlorn butmelodious note of a hooting owl indefinitely far; such a sound as the frozenearth would yield if struck with a suitable plectrum, the very linguavernacula of Walden Wood, and quite familiar to me at last, though I neversaw the bird while it was making it. I seldom opened my door in a winterevening without hearing it; Hoo hoo hoo, hoorer, hoo, soundedsonorously, and the first three syllables accented somewhat like how derdo; or sometimes hoo hoo only. One night in the beginning ofwinter, before the pond froze over, about nine o’clock, I was startled bythe loud honking of a goose, and, stepping to the door, heard the sound oftheir wings like a tempest in the woods as they flew low over my house. Theypassed over the pond toward Fair Haven, seemingly deterred from settling by mylight, their commodore honking all the while with a regular beat. Suddenly anunmistakable cat-owl from very near me, with the most harsh and tremendousvoice I ever heard from any inhabitant of the woods, responded at regularintervals to the goose, as if determined to expose and disgrace this intruderfrom Hudson’s Bay by exhibiting a greater compass and volume of voice ina native, and boo-hoo him out of Concord horizon. What do you mean byalarming the citadel at this time of night consecrated to me? Do you think I amever caught napping at such an hour, and that I have not got lungs and a larynxas well as yourself? Boo-hoo, boo-hoo, boo-hoo! It was one of the mostthrilling discords I ever heard. And yet, if you had a discriminating ear,there were in it the elements of a concord such as these plains never saw norheard.

I also heard the whooping of the ice in the pond, my great bed-fellow in thatpart of Concord, as if it were restless in its bed and would fain turn over,were troubled with flatulency and had dreams; or I was waked by the cracking ofthe ground by the frost, as if some one had driven a team against my door, andin the morning would find a crack in the earth a quarter of a mile long and athird of an inch wide.

Sometimes I heard the foxes as they ranged over the snow crust, in moonlightnights, in search of a partridge or other game, barking raggedly anddemoniacally like forest dogs, as if laboring with some anxiety, or seekingexpression, struggling for light and to be dogs outright and run freely in thestreets; for if we take the ages into our account, may there not be acivilization going on among brutes as well as men? They seemed to me to berudimental, burrowing men, still standing on their defence, awaiting theirtransformation. Sometimes one came near to my window, attracted by my light,barked a vulpine curse at me, and then retreated.

Usually the red squirrel (Sciurus Hudsonius) waked me in the dawn,coursing over the roof and up and down the sides of the house, as if sent outof the woods for this purpose. In the course of the winter I threw out half abushel of ears of sweet-corn, which had not got ripe, on to the snow crust bymy door, and was amused by watching the motions of the various animals whichwere baited by it. In the twilight and the night the rabbits came regularly andmade a hearty meal. All day long the red squirrels came and went, and affordedme much entertainment by their manœuvres. One would approach at first warilythrough the shrub-oaks, running over the snow crust by fits and starts like aleaf blown by the wind, now a few paces this way, with wonderful speed andwaste of energy, making inconceivable haste with his “trotters,” asif it were for a wager, and now as many paces that way, but never getting onmore than half a rod at a time; and then suddenly pausing with a ludicrousexpression and a gratuitous somerset, as if all the eyes in the universe werefixed on him,—for all the motions of a squirrel, even in the mostsolitary recesses of the forest, imply spectators as much as those of a dancinggirl,—wasting more time in delay and circumspection than would havesufficed to walk the whole distance,—I never saw one walk,—and thensuddenly, before you could say Jack Robinson, he would be in the top of a youngpitch-pine, winding up his clock and chiding all imaginary spectators,soliloquizing and talking to all the universe at the same time,—for noreason that I could ever detect, or he himself was aware of, I suspect. Atlength he would reach the corn, and selecting a suitable ear, frisk about inthe same uncertain trigonometrical way to the top-most stick of my wood-pile,before my window, where he looked me in the face, and there sit for hours,supplying himself with a new ear from time to time, nibbling at firstvoraciously and throwing the half-naked cobs about; till at length he grew moredainty still and played with his food, tasting only the inside of the kernel,and the ear, which was held balanced over the stick by one paw, slipped fromhis careless grasp and fell to the ground, when he would look over at it with aludicrous expression of uncertainty, as if suspecting that it had life, with amind not made up whether to get it again, or a new one, or be off; now thinkingof corn, then listening to hear what was in the wind. So the little impudentfellow would waste many an ear in a forenoon; till at last, seizing some longerand plumper one, considerably bigger than himself, and skilfully balancing it,he would set out with it to the woods, like a tiger with a buffalo, by the samezig-zag course and frequent pauses, scratching along with it as if it were tooheavy for him and falling all the while, making its fall a diagonal between aperpendicular and horizontal, being determined to put it through at anyrate;—a singularly frivolous and whimsical fellow;—and so he wouldget off with it to where he lived, perhaps carry it to the top of a pine treeforty or fifty rods distant, and I would afterwards find the cobs strewn aboutthe woods in various directions.

At length the jays arrive, whose discordant screams were heard long before, asthey were warily making their approach an eighth of a mile off, and in astealthy and sneaking manner they flit from tree to tree, nearer and nearer,and pick up the kernels which the squirrels have dropped. Then, sitting on apitch-pine bough, they attempt to swallow in their haste a kernel which is toobig for their throats and chokes them; and after great labor they disgorge it,and spend an hour in the endeavor to crack it by repeated blows with theirbills. They were manifestly thieves, and I had not much respect for them; butthe squirrels, though at first shy, went to work as if they were taking whatwas their own.

Meanwhile also came the chickadees in flocks, which, picking up the crumbs thesquirrels had dropped, flew to the nearest twig, and, placing them under theirclaws, hammered away at them with their little bills, as if it were an insectin the bark, till they were sufficiently reduced for their slender throats. Alittle flock of these tit-mice came daily to pick a dinner out of my wood-pile,or the crumbs at my door, with faint flitting lisping notes, like the tinklingof icicles in the grass, or else with sprightly day day day, or morerarely, in spring-like days, a wiry summery phe-be from the wood-side.They were so familiar that at length one alighted on an armful of wood which Iwas carrying in, and pecked at the sticks without fear. I once had a sparrowalight upon my shoulder for a moment while I was hoeing in a village garden,and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I shouldhave been by any epaulet I could have worn. The squirrels also grew at last tobe quite familiar, and occasionally stepped upon my shoe, when that was thenearest way.

When the ground was not yet quite covered, and again near the end of winter,when the snow was melted on my south hill-side and about my wood-pile, thepartridges came out of the woods morning and evening to feed there. Whicheverside you walk in the woods the partridge bursts away on whirring wings, jarringthe snow from the dry leaves and twigs on high, which comes sifting down in thesun-beams like golden dust; for this brave bird is not to be scared by winter.It is frequently covered up by drifts, and, it is said, “sometimesplunges from on wing into the soft snow, where it remains concealed for a dayor two.” I used to start them in the open land also, where they had comeout of the woods at sunset to “bud” the wild apple-trees. They willcome regularly every evening to particular trees, where the cunning sportsmanlies in wait for them, and the distant orchards next the woods suffer thus nota little. I am glad that the partridge gets fed, at any rate. It isNature’s own bird which lives on buds and diet-drink.

In dark winter mornings, or in short winter afternoons, I sometimes heard apack of hounds threading all the woods with hounding cry and yelp, unable toresist the instinct of the chase, and the note of the hunting horn atintervals, proving that man was in the rear. The woods ring again, and yet nofox bursts forth on to the open level of the pond, nor following pack pursuingtheir Actæon. And perhaps at evening I see the hunters returning with asingle brush trailing from their sleigh for a trophy, seeking their inn. Theytell me that if the fox would remain in the bosom of the frozen earth he wouldbe safe, or if he would run in a straight line away no fox-hound could overtakehim; but, having left his pursuers far behind, he stops to rest and listen tillthey come up, and when he runs he circles round to his old haunts, where thehunters await him. Sometimes, however, he will run upon a wall many rods, andthen leap off far to one side, and he appears to know that water will notretain his scent. A hunter told me that he once saw a fox pursued by houndsburst out on to Walden when the ice was covered with shallow puddles, run partway across, and then return to the same shore. Ere long the hounds arrived, buthere they lost the scent. Sometimes a pack hunting by themselves would pass mydoor, and circle round my house, and yelp and hound without regarding me, as ifafflicted by a species of madness, so that nothing could divert them from thepursuit. Thus they circle until they fall upon the recent trail of a fox, for awise hound will forsake every thing else for this. One day a man came to my hutfrom Lexington to inquire after his hound that made a large track, and had beenhunting for a week by himself. But I fear that he was not the wiser for all Itold him, for every time I attempted to answer his questions he interrupted meby asking, “What do you do here?” He had lost a dog, but found aman.

One old hunter who has a dry tongue, who used to come to bathe in Walden onceevery year when the water was warmest, and at such times looked in upon me,told me that many years ago he took his gun one afternoon and went out for acruise in Walden Wood; and as he walked the Wayland road he heard the cry ofhounds approaching, and ere long a fox leaped the wall into the road, and asquick as thought leaped the other wall out of the road, and his swift bullethad not touched him. Some way behind came an old hound and her three pups infull pursuit, hunting on their own account, and disappeared again in the woods.Late in the afternoon, as he was resting in the thick woods south of Walden, heheard the voice of the hounds far over toward Fair Haven still pursuing thefox; and on they came, their hounding cry which made all the woods ringsounding nearer and nearer, now from Well-Meadow, now from the Baker Farm. Fora long time he stood still and listened to their music, so sweet to ahunter’s ear, when suddenly the fox appeared, threading the solemn aisleswith an easy coursing pace, whose sound was concealed by a sympathetic rustleof the leaves, swift and still, keeping the ground, leaving his pursuers farbehind; and, leaping upon a rock amid the woods, he sat erect and listening,with his back to the hunter. For a moment compassion restrained thelatter’s arm; but that was a short-lived mood, and as quick as thoughtcan follow thought his piece was levelled, and whang!—the foxrolling over the rock lay dead on the ground. The hunter still kept his placeand listened to the hounds. Still on they came, and now the near woodsresounded through all their aisles with their demoniac cry. At length the oldhound burst into view with muzzle to the ground, and snapping the air as ifpossessed, and ran directly to the rock; but spying the dead fox she suddenlyceased her hounding as if struck dumb with amazement, and walked round andround him in silence; and one by one her pups arrived, and, like their mother,were sobered into silence by the mystery. Then the hunter came forward andstood in their midst, and the mystery was solved. They waited in silence whilehe skinned the fox, then followed the brush a while, and at length turned offinto the woods again. That evening a Weston Squire came to the Concordhunter’s cottage to inquire for his hounds, and told how for a week theyhad been hunting on their own account from Weston woods. The Concord huntertold him what he knew and offered him the skin; but the other declined it anddeparted. He did not find his hounds that night, but the next day learned thatthey had crossed the river and put up at a farm-house for the night, whence,having been well fed, they took their departure early in the morning.

The hunter who told me this could remember one Sam Nutting, who used to huntbears on Fair Haven Ledges, and exchange their skins for rum in Concordvillage; who told him, even, that he had seen a moose there. Nutting had afamous fox-hound named Burgoyne,—he pronounced it Bugine,—which myinformant used to borrow. In the “Wast Book” of an old trader ofthis town, who was also a captain, town-clerk, and representative, I find thefollowing entry. Jan. 18th, 1742–3, “John Melven Cr. by 1 Grey Fox0—2—3;” they are not now found here; and in his ledger, Feb.7th, 1743, Hezekiah Stratton has credit “by ½ a Catt skin0—1—4½;” of course, a wild-cat, for Stratton was a sergeantin the old French war, and would not have got credit for hunting less noblegame. Credit is given for deer skins also, and they were daily sold. One manstill preserves the horns of the last deer that was killed in this vicinity,and another has told me the particulars of the hunt in which his uncle wasengaged. The hunters were formerly a numerous and merry crew here. I rememberwell one gaunt Nimrod who would catch up a leaf by the road-side and play astrain on it wilder and more melodious, if my memory serves me, than anyhunting-horn.

At midnight, when there was a moon, I sometimes met with hounds in my pathprowling about the woods, which would skulk out of my way, as if afraid, andstand silent amid the bushes till I had passed.

Squirrels and wild mice disputed for my store of nuts. There were scores ofpitch-pines around my house, from one to four inches in diameter, which hadbeen gnawed by mice the previous winter,—a Norwegian winter for them, forthe snow lay long and deep, and they were obliged to mix a large proportion ofpine bark with their other diet. These trees were alive and apparentlyflourishing at mid-summer, and many of them had grown a foot, though completelygirdled; but after another winter such were without exception dead. It isremarkable that a single mouse should thus be allowed a whole pine tree for itsdinner, gnawing round instead of up and down it; but perhaps it is necessary inorder to thin these trees, which are wont to grow up densely.

The hares (Lepus Americanus) were very familiar. One had her form undermy house all winter, separated from me only by the flooring, and she startledme each morning by her hasty departure when I began to stir,—thump, thump,thump, striking her head against the floor timbers in her hurry. They used tocome round my door at dusk to nibble the potato parings which I had thrown out,and were so nearly the color of the ground that they could hardly bedistinguished when still. Sometimes in the twilight I alternately lost andrecovered sight of one sitting motionless under my window. When I opened mydoor in the evening, off they would go with a squeak and a bounce. Near at handthey only excited my pity. One evening one sat by my door two paces from me, atfirst trembling with fear, yet unwilling to move; a poor wee thing, lean andbony, with ragged ears and sharp nose, scant tail and slender paws. It lookedas if Nature no longer contained the breed of nobler bloods, but stood on herlast toes. Its large eyes appeared young and unhealthy, almost dropsical. Itook a step, and lo, away it scud with an elastic spring over the snow crust,straightening its body and its limbs into graceful length, and soon put theforest between me and itself,—the wild free venison, asserting its vigorand the dignity of Nature. Not without reason was its slenderness. Such thenwas its nature. (Lepus, levipes, light-foot, some think.)

What is a country without rabbits and partridges? They are among the mostsimple and indigenous animal products; ancient and venerable families known toantiquity as to modern times; of the very hue and substance of Nature, nearestallied to leaves and to the ground,—and to one another; it is eitherwinged or it is legged. It is hardly as if you had seen a wild creature when arabbit or a partridge bursts away, only a natural one, as much to be expectedas rustling leaves. The partridge and the rabbit are still sure to thrive, liketrue natives of the soil, whatever revolutions occur. If the forest is cut off,the sprouts and bushes which spring up afford them concealment, and they becomemore numerous than ever. That must be a poor country indeed that does notsupport a hare. Our woods teem with them both, and around every swamp may beseen the partridge or rabbit walk, beset with twiggy fences and horse-hairsnares, which some cow-boy tends.

The Pond in Winter

After a still winter night I awoke with the impression that some question hadbeen put to me, which I had been endeavoring in vain to answer in my sleep, aswhat—how—when—where? But there was dawning Nature, in whomall creatures live, looking in at my broad windows with serene and satisfiedface, and no question on her lips. I awoke to an answered question, toNature and daylight. The snow lying deep on the earth dotted with young pines,and the very slope of the hill on which my house is placed, seemed to say,Forward! Nature puts no question and answers none which we mortals ask. She haslong ago taken her resolution. “O Prince, our eyes contemplate withadmiration and transmit to the soul the wonderful and varied spectacle of thisuniverse. The night veils without doubt a part of this glorious creation; butday comes to reveal to us this great work, which extends from earth even intothe plains of the ether.”

Then to my morning work. First I take an axe and pail and go in search ofwater, if that be not a dream. After a cold and snowy night it needed adivining rod to find it. Every winter the liquid and trembling surface of thepond, which was so sensitive to every breath, and reflected every light andshadow, becomes solid to the depth of a foot or a foot and a half, so that itwill support the heaviest teams, and perchance the snow covers it to an equaldepth, and it is not to be distinguished from any level field. Like the marmotsin the surrounding hills, it closes its eye-lids and becomes dormant for threemonths or more. Standing on the snow-covered plain, as if in a pasture amid thehills, I cut my way first through a foot of snow, and then a foot of ice, andopen a window under my feet, where, kneeling to drink, I look down into thequiet parlor of the fishes, pervaded by a softened light as through a window ofground glass, with its bright sanded floor the same as in summer; there aperennial waveless serenity reigns as in the amber twilight sky, correspondingto the cool and even temperament of the inhabitants. Heaven is under our feetas well as over our heads.

Early in the morning, while all things are crisp with frost, men come withfishing reels and slender lunch, and let down their fine lines through thesnowy field to take pickerel and perch; wild men, who instinctively followother fashions and trust other authorities than their townsmen, and by theirgoings and comings stitch towns together in parts where else they would beripped. They sit and eat their luncheon in stout fear-naughts on the dry oakleaves on the shore, as wise in natural lore as the citizen is in artificial.They never consulted with books, and know and can tell much less than they havedone. The things which they practise are said not yet to be known. Here is onefishing for pickerel with grown perch for bait. You look into his pail withwonder as into a summer pond, as if he kept summer locked up at home, or knewwhere she had retreated. How, pray, did he get these in mid-winter? O, he gotworms out of rotten logs since the ground froze, and so he caught them. Hislife itself passes deeper in Nature than the studies of the naturalistpenetrate; himself a subject for the naturalist. The latter raises the moss andbark gently with his knife in search of insects; the former lays open logs totheir core with his axe, and moss and bark fly far and wide. He gets his livingby barking trees. Such a man has some right to fish, and I love to see Naturecarried out in him. The perch swallows the grub-worm, the pickerel swallows theperch, and the fisher-man swallows the pickerel; and so all the chinks in thescale of being are filled.

When I strolled around the pond in misty weather I was sometimes amused by theprimitive mode which some ruder fisherman had adopted. He would perhaps haveplaced alder branches over the narrow holes in the ice, which were four or fiverods apart and an equal distance from the shore, and having fastened the end ofthe line to a stick to prevent its being pulled through, have passed the slackline over a twig of the alder, a foot or more above the ice, and tied a dry oakleaf to it, which, being pulled down, would show when he had a bite. Thesealders loomed through the mist at regular intervals as you walked half wayround the pond.

Ah, the pickerel of Walden! when I see them lying on the ice, or in the wellwhich the fisherman cuts in the ice, making a little hole to admit the water, Iam always surprised by their rare beauty, as if they were fabulous fishes, theyare so foreign to the streets, even to the woods, foreign as Arabia to ourConcord life. They possess a quite dazzling and transcendent beauty whichseparates them by a wide interval from the cadaverous cod and haddock whosefame is trumpeted in our streets. They are not green like the pines, nor graylike the stones, nor blue like the sky; but they have, to my eyes, if possible,yet rarer colors, like flowers and precious stones, as if they were the pearls,the animalized nuclei or crystals of the Walden water. They, of course,are Walden all over and all through; are themselves small Waldens in the animalkingdom, Waldenses. It is surprising that they are caught here,—that inthis deep and capacious spring, far beneath the rattling teams and chaises andtinkling sleighs that travel the Walden road, this great gold and emerald fishswims. I never chanced to see its kind in any market; it would be the cynosureof all eyes there. Easily, with a few convulsive quirks, they give up theirwatery ghosts, like a mortal translated before his time to the thin air ofheaven.

The Project Gutenberg eBook of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau (2)

As I was desirous to recover the long lost bottom of Walden Pond, I surveyed itcarefully, before the ice broke up, early in ’46, with compass and chainand sounding line. There have been many stories told about the bottom, orrather no bottom, of this pond, which certainly had no foundation forthemselves. It is remarkable how long men will believe in the bottomlessness ofa pond without taking the trouble to sound it. I have visited two suchBottomless Ponds in one walk in this neighborhood. Many have believed thatWalden reached quite through to the other side of the globe. Some who have lainflat on the ice for a long time, looking down through the illusive medium,perchance with watery eyes into the bargain, and driven to hasty conclusions bythe fear of catching cold in their breasts, have seen vast holes “intowhich a load of hay might be driven,” if there were any body to drive it,the undoubted source of the Styx and entrance to the Infernal Regions fromthese parts. Others have gone down from the village with a“fifty-six” and a wagon load of inch rope, but yet have failed tofind any bottom; for while the “fifty-six” was resting by the way,they were paying out the rope in the vain attempt to fathom their trulyimmeasurable capacity for marvellousness. But I can assure my readers thatWalden has a reasonably tight bottom at a not unreasonable, though at anunusual, depth. I fathomed it easily with a cod-line and a stone weighing abouta pound and a half, and could tell accurately when the stone left the bottom,by having to pull so much harder before the water got underneath to help me.The greatest depth was exactly one hundred and two feet; to which may be addedthe five feet which it has risen since, making one hundred and seven. This is aremarkable depth for so small an area; yet not an inch of it can be spared bythe imagination. What if all ponds were shallow? Would it not react on theminds of men? I am thankful that this pond was made deep and pure for a symbol.While men believe in the infinite some ponds will be thought to be bottomless.

A factory owner, hearing what depth I had found, thought that it could not betrue, for, judging from his acquaintance with dams, sand would not lie at sosteep an angle. But the deepest ponds are not so deep in proportion to theirarea as most suppose, and, if drained, would not leave very remarkable valleys.They are not like cups between the hills; for this one, which is so unusuallydeep for its area, appears in a vertical section through its centre not deeperthan a shallow plate. Most ponds, emptied, would leave a meadow no more hollowthan we frequently see. William Gilpin, who is so admirable in all that relatesto landscapes, and usually so correct, standing at the head of Loch Fyne, inScotland, which he describes as “a bay of salt water, sixty or seventyfathoms deep, four miles in breadth,” and about fifty miles long,surrounded by mountains, observes, “If we could have seen it immediatelyafter the diluvian crash, or whatever convulsion of Nature occasioned it,before the waters gushed in, what a horrid chasm must it have appeared!

So high as heaved the tumid hills, so low
Down sunk a hollow bottom broad and deep,
Capacious bed of waters—.”

But if, using the shortest diameter of Loch Fyne, we apply these proportions toWalden, which, as we have seen, appears already in a vertical section only likea shallow plate, it will appear four times as shallow. So much for theincreased horrors of the chasm of Loch Fyne when emptied. No doubt manya smiling valley with its stretching cornfields occupies exactly such a“horrid chasm,” from which the waters have receded, though itrequires the insight and the far sight of the geologist to convince theunsuspecting inhabitants of this fact. Often an inquisitive eye may detect theshores of a primitive lake in the low horizon hills, and no subsequentelevation of the plain has been necessary to conceal their history. But it iseasiest, as they who work on the highways know, to find the hollows by thepuddles after a shower. The amount of it is, the imagination give it the leastlicense, dives deeper and soars higher than Nature goes. So, probably, thedepth of the ocean will be found to be very inconsiderable compared with itsbreadth.

As I sounded through the ice I could determine the shape of the bottom withgreater accuracy than is possible in surveying harbors which do not freezeover, and I was surprised at its general regularity. In the deepest part thereare several acres more level than almost any field which is exposed to the sunwind and plough. In one instance, on a line arbitrarily chosen, the depth didnot vary more than one foot in thirty rods; and generally, near the middle, Icould calculate the variation for each one hundred feet in any directionbeforehand within three or four inches. Some are accustomed to speak of deepand dangerous holes even in quiet sandy ponds like this, but the effect ofwater under these circumstances is to level all inequalities. The regularity ofthe bottom and its conformity to the shores and the range of the neighboringhills were so perfect that a distant promontory betrayed itself in thesoundings quite across the pond, and its direction could be determined byobserving the opposite shore. Cape becomes bar, and plain shoal, and valley andgorge deep water and channel.

When I had mapped the pond by the scale of ten rods to an inch, and put downthe soundings, more than a hundred in all, I observed this remarkablecoincidence. Having noticed that the number indicating the greatest depth wasapparently in the centre of the map, I laid a rule on the map lengthwise, andthen breadthwise, and found, to my surprise, that the line of greatest lengthintersected the line of greatest breadth exactly at the point ofgreatest depth, notwithstanding that the middle is so nearly level, the outlineof the pond far from regular, and the extreme length and breadth were got bymeasuring into the coves; and I said to myself, Who knows but this hint wouldconduct to the deepest part of the ocean as well as of a pond or puddle? Is notthis the rule also for the height of mountains, regarded as the opposite ofvalleys? We know that a hill is not highest at its narrowest part.

Of five coves, three, or all which had been sounded, were observed to have abar quite across their mouths and deeper water within, so that the bay tendedto be an expansion of water within the land not only horizontally butvertically, and to form a basin or independent pond, the direction of the twocapes showing the course of the bar. Every harbor on the sea-coast, also, hasits bar at its entrance. In proportion as the mouth of the cove was widercompared with its length, the water over the bar was deeper compared with thatin the basin. Given, then, the length and breadth of the cove, and thecharacter of the surrounding shore, and you have almost elements enough to makeout a formula for all cases.

In order to see how nearly I could guess, with this experience, at the deepestpoint in a pond, by observing the outlines of its surface and the character ofits shores alone, I made a plan of White Pond, which contains about forty-oneacres, and, like this, has no island in it, nor any visible inlet or outlet;and as the line of greatest breadth fell very near the line of least breadth,where two opposite capes approached each other and two opposite bays receded, Iventured to mark a point a short distance from the latter line, but still onthe line of greatest length, as the deepest. The deepest part was found to bewithin one hundred feet of this, still farther in the direction to which I hadinclined, and was only one foot deeper, namely, sixty feet. Of course, a streamrunning through, or an island in the pond, would make the problem much morecomplicated.

If we knew all the laws of Nature, we should need only one fact, or thedescription of one actual phenomenon, to infer all the particular results atthat point. Now we know only a few laws, and our result is vitiated, not, ofcourse, by any confusion or irregularity in Nature, but by our ignorance ofessential elements in the calculation. Our notions of law and harmony arecommonly confined to those instances which we detect; but the harmony whichresults from a far greater number of seemingly conflicting, but reallyconcurring, laws, which we have not detected, is still more wonderful. Theparticular laws are as our points of view, as, to the traveller, a mountainoutline varies with every step, and it has an infinite number of profiles,though absolutely but one form. Even when cleft or bored through it is notcomprehended in its entireness.

What I have observed of the pond is no less true in ethics. It is the law ofaverage. Such a rule of the two diameters not only guides us toward the sun inthe system and the heart in man, but draw lines through the length and breadthof the aggregate of a man’s particular daily behaviors and waves of lifeinto his coves and inlets, and where they intersect will be the height or depthof his character. Perhaps we need only to know how his shores trend and hisadjacent country or circumstances, to infer his depth and concealed bottom. Ifhe is surrounded by mountainous circumstances, an Achillean shore, whose peaksovershadow and are reflected in his bosom, they suggest a corresponding depthin him. But a low and smooth shore proves him shallow on that side. In ourbodies, a bold projecting brow falls off to and indicates a corresponding depthof thought. Also there is a bar across the entrance of our every cove, orparticular inclination; each is our harbor for a season, in which we aredetained and partially land-locked. These inclinations are not whimsicalusually, but their form, size, and direction are determined by the promontoriesof the shore, the ancient axes of elevation. When this bar is graduallyincreased by storms, tides, or currents, or there is a subsidence of thewaters, so that it reaches to the surface, that which was at first but aninclination in the shore in which a thought was harbored becomes an individuallake, cut off from the ocean, wherein the thought secures its own conditions,changes, perhaps, from salt to fresh, becomes a sweet sea, dead sea, or amarsh. At the advent of each individual into this life, may we not suppose thatsuch a bar has risen to the surface somewhere? It is true, we are such poornavigators that our thoughts, for the most part, stand off and on upon aharborless coast, are conversant only with the bights of the bays of poesy, orsteer for the public ports of entry, and go into the dry docks of science,where they merely refit for this world, and no natural currents concur toindividualize them.

As for the inlet or outlet of Walden, I have not discovered any but rain andsnow and evaporation, though perhaps, with a thermometer and a line, suchplaces may be found, for where the water flows into the pond it will probablybe coldest in summer and warmest in winter. When the ice-men were at work herein ’46–7, the cakes sent to the shore were one day rejected by those whowere stacking them up there, not being thick enough to lie side by side withthe rest; and the cutters thus discovered that the ice over a small space wastwo or three inches thinner than elsewhere, which made them think that therewas an inlet there. They also showed me in another place what they thought wasa “leach hole,” through which the pond leaked out under a hill intoa neighboring meadow, pushing me out on a cake of ice to see it. It was a smallcavity under ten feet of water; but I think that I can warrant the pond not toneed soldering till they find a worse leak than that. One has suggested, thatif such a “leach hole” should be found, its connection with themeadow, if any existed, might be proved by conveying some colored powder orsawdust to the mouth of the hole, and then putting a strainer over the springin the meadow, which would catch some of the particles carried through by thecurrent.

While I was surveying, the ice, which was sixteen inches thick, undulated undera slight wind like water. It is well known that a level cannot be used on ice.At one rod from the shore its greatest fluctuation, when observed by means of alevel on land directed toward a graduated staff on the ice, was three quartersof an inch, though the ice appeared firmly attached to the shore. It wasprobably greater in the middle. Who knows but if our instruments were delicateenough we might detect an undulation in the crust of the earth? When two legsof my level were on the shore and the third on the ice, and the sights weredirected over the latter, a rise or fall of the ice of an almost infinitesimalamount made a difference of several feet on a tree across the pond. When Ibegan to cut holes for sounding, there were three or four inches of water onthe ice under a deep snow which had sunk it thus far; but the water beganimmediately to run into these holes, and continued to run for two days in deepstreams, which wore away the ice on every side, and contributed essentially, ifnot mainly, to dry the surface of the pond; for, as the water ran in, it raisedand floated the ice. This was somewhat like cutting a hole in the bottom of aship to let the water out. When such holes freeze, and a rain succeeds, andfinally a new freezing forms a fresh smooth ice over all, it is beautifullymottled internally by dark figures, shaped somewhat like a spider’s web,what you may call ice rosettes, produced by the channels worn by the waterflowing from all sides to a centre. Sometimes, also, when the ice was coveredwith shallow puddles, I saw a double shadow of myself, one standing on the headof the other, one on the ice, the other on the trees or hill-side.

While yet it is cold January, and snow and ice are thick and solid, the prudentlandlord comes from the village to get ice to cool his summer drink;impressively, even pathetically wise, to foresee the heat and thirst of Julynow in January,—wearing a thick coat and mittens! when so many things arenot provided for. It may be that he lays up no treasures in this world whichwill cool his summer drink in the next. He cuts and saws the solid pond,unroofs the house of fishes, and carts off their very element and air, heldfast by chains and stakes like corded wood, through the favoring winter air, towintry cellars, to underlie the summer there. It looks like solidified azure,as, far off, it is drawn through the streets. These ice-cutters are a merryrace, full of jest and sport, and when I went among them they were wont toinvite me to saw pit-fashion with them, I standing underneath.

In the winter of ’46–7 there came a hundred men of Hyperborean extractionswoop down on to our pond one morning, with many car-loads of ungainly-lookingfarming tools, sleds, ploughs, drill-barrows, turf-knives, spades, saws, rakes,and each man was armed with a double-pointed pike-staff, such as is notdescribed in the New-England Farmer or the Cultivator. I did not know whetherthey had come to sow a crop of winter rye, or some other kind of grain recentlyintroduced from Iceland. As I saw no manure, I judged that they meant to skimthe land, as I had done, thinking the soil was deep and had lain fallow longenough. They said that a gentleman farmer, who was behind the scenes, wanted todouble his money, which, as I understood, amounted to half a million already;but in order to cover each one of his dollars with another, he took off theonly coat, ay, the skin itself, of Walden Pond in the midst of a hard winter.They went to work at once, ploughing, harrowing, rolling, furrowing, inadmirable order, as if they were bent on making this a model farm; but when Iwas looking sharp to see what kind of seed they dropped into the furrow, a gangof fellows by my side suddenly began to hook up the virgin mould itself, with apeculiar jerk, clean down to the sand, or rather the water,—for it was avery springy soil,—indeed all the terra firma there was,—andhaul it away on sleds, and then I guessed that they must be cutting peat in abog. So they came and went every day, with a peculiar shriek from thelocomotive, from and to some point of the polar regions, as it seemed to me,like a flock of arctic snow-birds. But sometimes Squaw Walden had her revenge,and a hired man, walking behind his team, slipped through a crack in the grounddown toward Tartarus, and he who was so brave before suddenly became but theninth part of a man, almost gave up his animal heat, and was glad to takerefuge in my house, and acknowledged that there was some virtue in a stove; orsometimes the frozen soil took a piece of steel out of a ploughshare, or aplough got set in the furrow and had to be cut out.

To speak literally, a hundred Irishmen, with Yankee overseers, came fromCambridge every day to get out the ice. They divided it into cakes by methodstoo well known to require description, and these, being sledded to the shore,were rapidly hauled off on to an ice platform, and raised by grappling ironsand block and tackle, worked by horses, on to a stack, as surely as so manybarrels of flour, and there placed evenly side by side, and row upon row, as ifthey formed the solid base of an obelisk designed to pierce the clouds. Theytold me that in a good day they could get out a thousand tons, which was theyield of about one acre. Deep ruts and “cradle holes” were worn inthe ice, as on terra firma, by the passage of the sleds over the sametrack, and the horses invariably ate their oats out of cakes of ice hollowedout like buckets. They stacked up the cakes thus in the open air in a pilethirty-five feet high on one side and six or seven rods square, putting haybetween the outside layers to exclude the air; for when the wind, though neverso cold, finds a passage through, it will wear large cavities, leaving slightsupports or studs only here and there, and finally topple it down. At first itlooked like a vast blue fort or Valhalla; but when they began to tuck thecoarse meadow hay into the crevices, and this became covered with rime andicicles, it looked like a venerable moss-grown and hoary ruin, built ofazure-tinted marble, the abode of Winter, that old man we see in thealmanac,—his shanty, as if he had a design to estivate with us. Theycalculated that not twenty-five per cent of this would reach its destination,and that two or three per cent would be wasted in the cars. However, a stillgreater part of this heap had a different destiny from what was intended; for,either because the ice was found not to keep so well as was expected,containing more air than usual, or for some other reason, it never got tomarket. This heap, made in the winter of ’46–7 and estimated to containten thousand tons, was finally covered with hay and boards; and though it wasunroofed the following July, and a part of it carried off, the rest remainingexposed to the sun, it stood over that summer and the next winter, and was notquite melted till September 1848. Thus the pond recovered the greater part.

Like the water, the Walden ice, seen near at hand, has a green tint, but at adistance is beautifully blue, and you can easily tell it from the white ice ofthe river, or the merely greenish ice of some ponds, a quarter of a mile off.Sometimes one of those great cakes slips from the ice-man’s sled into thevillage street, and lies there for a week like a great emerald, an object ofinterest to all passers. I have noticed that a portion of Walden which in thestate of water was green will often, when frozen, appear from the same point ofview blue. So the hollows about this pond will, sometimes, in the winter, befilled with a greenish water somewhat like its own, but the next day will havefrozen blue. Perhaps the blue color of water and ice is due to the light andair they contain, and the most transparent is the bluest. Ice is an interestingsubject for contemplation. They told me that they had some in the ice-houses atFresh Pond five years old which was as good as ever. Why is it that a bucket ofwater soon becomes putrid, but frozen remains sweet forever? It is commonlysaid that this is the difference between the affections and the intellect.

Thus for sixteen days I saw from my window a hundred men at work like busyhusbandmen, with teams and horses and apparently all the implements of farming,such a picture as we see on the first page of the almanac; and as often as Ilooked out I was reminded of the fable of the lark and the reapers, or theparable of the sower, and the like; and now they are all gone, and in thirtydays more, probably, I shall look from the same window on the pure sea-greenWalden water there, reflecting the clouds and the trees, and sending up itsevaporations in solitude, and no traces will appear that a man has ever stoodthere. Perhaps I shall hear a solitary loon laugh as he dives and plumeshimself, or shall see a lonely fisher in his boat, like a floating leaf,beholding his form reflected in the waves, where lately a hundred men securelylabored.

Thus it appears that the sweltering inhabitants of Charleston and New Orleans,of Madras and Bombay and Calcutta, drink at my well. In the morning I bathe myintellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagvat Geeta,since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison withwhich our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial; and I doubt ifthat philosophy is not to be referred to a previous state of existence, soremote is its sublimity from our conceptions. I lay down the book and go to mywell for water, and lo! there I meet the servant of the Bramin, priest ofBrahma and Vishnu and Indra, who still sits in his temple on the Ganges readingthe Vedas, or dwells at the root of a tree with his crust and water jug. I meethis servant come to draw water for his master, and our buckets as it were gratetogether in the same well. The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacredwater of the Ganges. With favoring winds it is wafted past the site of thefabulous islands of Atlantis and the Hesperides, makes the periplus of Hanno,and, floating by Ternate and Tidore and the mouth of the Persian Gulf, melts inthe tropic gales of the Indian seas, and is landed in ports of which Alexanderonly heard the names.


The opening of large tracts by the ice-cutters commonly causes a pond to breakup earlier; for the water, agitated by the wind, even in cold weather, wearsaway the surrounding ice. But such was not the effect on Walden that year, forshe had soon got a thick new garment to take the place of the old. This pondnever breaks up so soon as the others in this neighborhood, on account both ofits greater depth and its having no stream passing through it to melt or wearaway the ice. I never knew it to open in the course of a winter, not exceptingthat of ’52–3, which gave the ponds so severe a trial. It commonly opensabout the first of April, a week or ten days later than Flint’s Pond andFair-Haven, beginning to melt on the north side and in the shallower partswhere it began to freeze. It indicates better than any water hereabouts theabsolute progress of the season, being least affected by transient changes oftemperature. A severe cold of a few days’ duration in March may very muchretard the opening of the former ponds, while the temperature of Waldenincreases almost uninterruptedly. A thermometer thrust into the middle ofWalden on the 6th of March, 1847, stood at 32°, or freezing point; near theshore at 33°; in the middle of Flint’s Pond, the same day, at32½°; at a dozen rods from the shore, in shallow water, under ice afoot thick, at 36°. This difference of three and a half degrees between thetemperature of the deep water and the shallow in the latter pond, and the factthat a great proportion of it is comparatively shallow, show why it shouldbreak up so much sooner than Walden. The ice in the shallowest part was at thistime several inches thinner than in the middle. In mid-winter the middle hadbeen the warmest and the ice thinnest there. So, also, every one who has wadedabout the shores of the pond in summer must have perceived how much warmer thewater is close to the shore, where only three or four inches deep, than alittle distance out, and on the surface where it is deep, than near the bottom.In spring the sun not only exerts an influence through the increasedtemperature of the air and earth, but its heat passes through ice a foot ormore thick, and is reflected from the bottom in shallow water, and so alsowarms the water and melts the under side of the ice, at the same time that itis melting it more directly above, making it uneven, and causing the airbubbles which it contains to extend themselves upward and downward until it iscompletely honeycombed, and at last disappears suddenly in a single springrain. Ice has its grain as well as wood, and when a cake begins to rot or“comb,” that is, assume the appearance of honey-comb, whatever maybe its position, the air cells are at right angles with what was the watersurface. Where there is a rock or a log rising near to the surface the ice overit is much thinner, and is frequently quite dissolved by this reflected heat;and I have been told that in the experiment at Cambridge to freeze water in ashallow wooden pond, though the cold air circulated underneath, and so hadaccess to both sides, the reflection of the sun from the bottom more thancounterbalanced this advantage. When a warm rain in the middle of the wintermelts off the snow-ice from Walden, and leaves a hard dark or transparent iceon the middle, there will be a strip of rotten though thicker white ice, a rodor more wide, about the shores, created by this reflected heat. Also, as I havesaid, the bubbles themselves within the ice operate as burning-glasses to meltthe ice beneath.

The phenomena of the year take place every day in a pond on a small scale.Every morning, generally speaking, the shallow water is being warmed morerapidly than the deep, though it may not be made so warm after all, and everyevening it is being cooled more rapidly until the morning. The day is anepitome of the year. The night is the winter, the morning and evening are thespring and fall, and the noon is the summer. The cracking and booming of theice indicate a change of temperature. One pleasant morning after a cold night,February 24th, 1850, having gone to Flint’s Pond to spend the day, Inoticed with surprise, that when I struck the ice with the head of my axe, itresounded like a gong for many rods around, or as if I had struck on a tightdrum-head. The pond began to boom about an hour after sunrise, when it felt theinfluence of the sun’s rays slanted upon it from over the hills; itstretched itself and yawned like a waking man with a gradually increasingtumult, which was kept up three or four hours. It took a short siesta at noon,and boomed once more toward night, as the sun was withdrawing his influence. Inthe right stage of the weather a pond fires its evening gun with greatregularity. But in the middle of the day, being full of cracks, and the airalso being less elastic, it had completely lost its resonance, and probablyfishes and muskrats could not then have been stunned by a blow on it. Thefishermen say that the “thundering of the pond” scares the fishesand prevents their biting. The pond does not thunder every evening, and Icannot tell surely when to expect its thundering; but though I may perceive nodifference in the weather, it does. Who would have suspected so large and coldand thick-skinned a thing to be so sensitive? Yet it has its law to which itthunders obedience when it should as surely as the buds expand in the spring.The earth is all alive and covered with papillæ. The largest pond is assensitive to atmospheric changes as the globule of mercury in its tube.

One attraction in coming to the woods to live was that I should have leisureand opportunity to see the spring come in. The ice in the pond at length beginsto be honey-combed, and I can set my heel in it as I walk. Fogs and rains andwarmer suns are gradually melting the snow; the days have grown sensiblylonger; and I see how I shall get through the winter without adding to mywood-pile, for large fires are no longer necessary. I am on the alert for thefirst signs of spring, to hear the chance note of some arriving bird, or thestriped squirrel’s chirp, for his stores must be now nearly exhausted, orsee the woodchuck venture out of his winter quarters. On the 13th of March,after I had heard the bluebird, song-sparrow, and red-wing, the ice was stillnearly a foot thick. As the weather grew warmer it was not sensibly worn awayby the water, nor broken up and floated off as in rivers, but, though it wascompletely melted for half a rod in width about the shore, the middle wasmerely honey-combed and saturated with water, so that you could put your footthrough it when six inches thick; but by the next day evening, perhaps, after awarm rain followed by fog, it would have wholly disappeared, all gone off withthe fog, spirited away. One year I went across the middle only five days beforeit disappeared entirely. In 1845 Walden was first completely open on the 1st ofApril; in ’46, the 25th of March; in ’47, the 8th of April; in’51, the 28th of March; in ’52, the 18th of April; in ’53,the 23d of March; in ’54, about the 7th of April.

Every incident connected with the breaking up of the rivers and ponds and thesettling of the weather is particularly interesting to us who live in a climateof so great extremes. When the warmer days come, they who dwell near the riverhear the ice crack at night with a startling whoop as loud as artillery, as ifits icy fetters were rent from end to end, and within a few days see it rapidlygoing out. So the alligator comes out of the mud with quakings of the earth.One old man, who has been a close observer of Nature, and seems as thoroughlywise in regard to all her operations as if she had been put upon the stockswhen he was a boy, and he had helped to lay her keel,—who has come to hisgrowth, and can hardly acquire more of natural lore if he should live to theage of Methuselah,—told me, and I was surprised to hear him expresswonder at any of Nature’s operations, for I thought that there were nosecrets between them, that one spring day he took his gun and boat, and thoughtthat he would have a little sport with the ducks. There was ice still on themeadows, but it was all gone out of the river, and he dropped down withoutobstruction from Sudbury, where he lived, to Fair-Haven Pond, which he found,unexpectedly, covered for the most part with a firm field of ice. It was a warmday, and he was surprised to see so great a body of ice remaining. Not seeingany ducks, he hid his boat on the north or back side of an island in the pond,and then concealed himself in the bushes on the south side, to await them. Theice was melted for three or four rods from the shore, and there was a smoothand warm sheet of water, with a muddy bottom, such as the ducks love, within,and he thought it likely that some would be along pretty soon. After he hadlain still there about an hour he heard a low and seemingly very distant sound,but singularly grand and impressive, unlike any thing he had ever heard,gradually swelling and increasing as if it would have a universal and memorableending, a sullen rush and roar, which seemed to him all at once like the soundof a vast body of fowl coming in to settle there, and, seizing his gun, hestarted up in haste and excited; but he found, to his surprise, that the wholebody of the ice had started while he lay there, and drifted in to the shore,and the sound he had heard was made by its edge grating on the shore,—atfirst gently nibbled and crumbled off, but at length heaving up and scatteringits wrecks along the island to a considerable height before it came to a standstill.

At length the sun’s rays have attained the right angle, and warm windsblow up mist and rain and melt the snow banks, and the sun dispersing the mistsmiles on a checkered landscape of russet and white smoking with incense,through which the traveller picks his way from islet to islet, cheered by themusic of a thousand tinkling rills and rivulets whose veins are filled with theblood of winter which they are bearing off.

Few phenomena gave me more delight than to observe the forms which thawing sandand clay assume in flowing down the sides of a deep cut on the railroad throughwhich I passed on my way to the village, a phenomenon not very common on solarge a scale, though the number of freshly exposed banks of the right materialmust have been greatly multiplied since railroads were invented. The materialwas sand of every degree of fineness and of various rich colors, commonly mixedwith a little clay. When the frost comes out in the spring, and even in athawing day in the winter, the sand begins to flow down the slopes like lava,sometimes bursting out through the snow and overflowing it where no sand was tobe seen before. Innumerable little streams overlap and interlace one withanother, exhibiting a sort of hybrid product, which obeys half way the law ofcurrents, and half way that of vegetation. As it flows it takes the forms ofsappy leaves or vines, making heaps of pulpy sprays a foot or more in depth,and resembling, as you look down on them, the laciniated, lobed, and imbricatedthalluses of some lichens; or you are reminded of coral, of leopard’spaws or birds’ feet, of brains or lungs or bowels, and excrements of allkinds. It is a truly grotesque vegetation, whose forms and color we seeimitated in bronze, a sort of architectural foliage more ancient and typicalthan acanthus, chiccory, ivy, vine, or any vegetable leaves; destined perhaps,under some circumstances, to become a puzzle to future geologists. The wholecut impressed me as if it were a cave with its stalactites laid open to thelight. The various shades of the sand are singularly rich and agreeable,embracing the different iron colors, brown, gray, yellowish, and reddish. Whenthe flowing mass reaches the drain at the foot of the bank it spreads outflatter into strands, the separate streams losing their semi-cylindricalform and gradually becoming more flat and broad, running together as they aremore moist, till they form an almost flat sand, still variously andbeautifully shaded, but in which you can trace the original forms ofvegetation; till at length, in the water itself, they are converted intobanks, like those formed off the mouths of rivers, and the forms ofvegetation are lost in the ripple marks on the bottom.

The whole bank, which is from twenty to forty feet high, is sometimes overlaidwith a mass of this kind of foliage, or sandy rupture, for a quarter of a mileon one or both sides, the produce of one spring day. What makes this sandfoliage remarkable is its springing into existence thus suddenly. When I see onthe one side the inert bank,—for the sun acts on one sidefirst,—and on the other this luxuriant foliage, the creation of an hour,I am affected as if in a peculiar sense I stood in the laboratory of the Artistwho made the world and me,—had come to where he was still at work,sporting on this bank, and with excess of energy strewing his fresh designsabout. I feel as if I were nearer to the vitals of the globe, for this sandyoverflow is something such a foliaceous mass as the vitals of the animal body.You find thus in the very sands an anticipation of the vegetable leaf. Nowonder that the earth expresses itself outwardly in leaves, it so labors withthe idea inwardly. The atoms have already learned this law, and are pregnant byit. The overhanging leaf sees here its prototype. Internally, whether inthe globe or animal body, it is a moist thick lobe, a word especiallyapplicable to the liver and lungs and the leaves of fat,(λείβω, labor, lapsus, to flow or slipdownward, a lapsing; λοβος, globus, lobe,globe; also lap, flap, and many other words,) externally a dry thinleaf, even as the f and v are a pressed and driedb. The radicals of lobe are lb, the soft mass of theb (single lobed, or B, double lobed,) with the liquid l behind itpressing it forward. In globe, glb, the guttural g adds to themeaning the capacity of the throat. The feathers and wings of birds are stilldrier and thinner leaves. Thus, also, you pass from the lumpish grub in theearth to the airy and fluttering butterfly. The very globe continuallytranscends and translates itself, and becomes winged in its orbit. Even icebegins with delicate crystal leaves, as if it had flowed into moulds which thefronds of water plants have impressed on the watery mirror. The whole treeitself is but one leaf, and rivers are still vaster leaves whose pulp isintervening earth, and towns and cities are the ova of insects in their axils.

When the sun withdraws the sand ceases to flow, but in the morning the streamswill start once more and branch and branch again into a myriad of others. Youhere see perchance how blood vessels are formed. If you look closely youobserve that first there pushes forward from the thawing mass a stream ofsoftened sand with a drop-like point, like the ball of the finger, feeling itsway slowly and blindly downward, until at last with more heat and moisture, asthe sun gets higher, the most fluid portion, in its effort to obey the law towhich the most inert also yields, separates from the latter and forms foritself a meandering channel or artery within that, in which is seen a littlesilvery stream glancing like lightning from one stage of pulpy leaves orbranches to another, and ever and anon swallowed up in the sand. It iswonderful how rapidly yet perfectly the sand organizes itself as it flows,using the best material its mass affords to form the sharp edges of itschannel. Such are the sources of rivers. In the silicious matter which thewater deposits is perhaps the bony system, and in the still finer soil andorganic matter the fleshy fibre or cellular tissue. What is man but a mass ofthawing clay? The ball of the human finger is but a drop congealed. The fingersand toes flow to their extent from the thawing mass of the body. Who knows whatthe human body would expand and flow out to under a more genial heaven? Is notthe hand a spreading palm leaf with its lobes and veins? The ear may beregarded, fancifully, as a lichen, umbilicaria, on the side of the head,with its lobe or drop. The lip—labium, from labor(?)—laps or lapses from the sides of the cavernous mouth. The nose is amanifest congealed drop or stalactite. The chin is a still larger drop, theconfluent dripping of the face. The cheeks are a slide from the brows into thevalley of the face, opposed and diffused by the cheek bones. Each rounded lobeof the vegetable leaf, too, is a thick and now loitering drop, larger orsmaller; the lobes are the fingers of the leaf; and as many lobes as it has, inso many directions it tends to flow, and more heat or other genial influenceswould have caused it to flow yet farther.

Thus it seemed that this one hillside illustrated the principle of all theoperations of Nature. The Maker of this earth but patented a leaf. WhatChampollion will decipher this hieroglyphic for us, that we may turn over a newleaf at last? This phenomenon is more exhilarating to me than the luxurianceand fertility of vineyards. True, it is somewhat excrementitious in itscharacter, and there is no end to the heaps of liver lights and bowels, as ifthe globe were turned wrong side outward; but this suggests at least thatNature has some bowels, and there again is mother of humanity. This is thefrost coming out of the ground; this is Spring. It precedes the green andflowery spring, as mythology precedes regular poetry. I know of nothing morepurgative of winter fumes and indigestions. It convinces me that Earth is stillin her swaddling clothes, and stretches forth baby fingers on every side. Freshcurls spring from the baldest brow. There is nothing inorganic. Thesefoliaceous heaps lie along the bank like the slag of a furnace, showing thatNature is “in full blast” within. The earth is not a mere fragmentof dead history, stratum upon stratum like the leaves of a book, to be studiedby geologists and antiquaries chiefly, but living poetry like the leaves of atree, which precede flowers and fruit,—not a fossil earth, but a livingearth; compared with whose great central life all animal and vegetable life ismerely parasitic. Its throes will heave our exuviæ from their graves. You maymelt your metals and cast them into the most beautiful moulds you can; theywill never excite me like the forms which this molten earth flows out into. Andnot only it, but the institutions upon it, are plastic like clay in the handsof the potter.

Ere long, not only on these banks, but on every hill and plain and in everyhollow, the frost comes out of the ground like a dormant quadruped from itsburrow, and seeks the sea with music, or migrates to other climes in clouds.Thaw with his gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer. Theone melts, the other but breaks in pieces.

When the ground was partially bare of snow, and a few warm days had dried itssurface somewhat, it was pleasant to compare the first tender signs of theinfant year just peeping forth with the stately beauty of the witheredvegetation which had withstood the winter,—life-everlasting, golden-rods,pinweeds, and graceful wild grasses, more obvious and interesting frequentlythan in summer even, as if their beauty was not ripe till then; evencotton-grass, cat-tails, mulleins, johnswort, hard-hack, meadow-sweet, andother strong stemmed plants, those unexhausted granaries which entertain theearliest birds,—decent weeds, at least, which widowed Nature wears. I amparticularly attracted by the arching and sheaf-like top of the wool-grass; itbrings back the summer to our winter memories, and is among the forms which artloves to copy, and which, in the vegetable kingdom, have the same relation totypes already in the mind of man that astronomy has. It is an antique styleolder than Greek or Egyptian. Many of the phenomena of Winter are suggestive ofan inexpressible tenderness and fragile delicacy. We are accustomed to hearthis king described as a rude and boisterous tyrant; but with the gentleness ofa lover he adorns the tresses of Summer.

At the approach of spring the red-squirrels got under my house, two at a time,directly under my feet as I sat reading or writing, and kept up the queerestchuckling and chirruping and vocal pirouetting and gurgling sounds that everwere heard; and when I stamped they only chirruped the louder, as if past allfear and respect in their mad pranks, defying humanity to stop them. No youdon’t—chickaree—chickaree. They were wholly deaf to myarguments, or failed to perceive their force, and fell into a strain ofinvective that was irresistible.

The first sparrow of spring! The year beginning with younger hope than ever!The faint silvery warblings heard over the partially bare and moist fields fromthe blue-bird, the song-sparrow, and the red-wing, as if the last flakes ofwinter tinkled as they fell! What at such a time are histories, chronologies,traditions, and all written revelations? The brooks sing carols and glees tothe spring. The marsh-hawk sailing low over the meadow is already seeking thefirst slimy life that awakes. The sinking sound of melting snow is heard in alldells, and the ice dissolves apace in the ponds. The grass flames up on thehillsides like a spring fire,—“et primitus oritur herba imbribusprimoribus evocata,”—as if the earth sent forth an inward heat togreet the returning sun; not yellow but green is the color of itsflame;—the symbol of perpetual youth, the grass-blade, like a long greenribbon, streams from the sod into the summer, checked indeed by the frost, butanon pushing on again, lifting its spear of last year’s hay with thefresh life below. It grows as steadily as the rill oozes out of the ground. Itis almost identical with that, for in the growing days of June, when the rillsare dry, the grass blades are their channels, and from year to year the herdsdrink at this perennial green stream, and the mower draws from it betimes theirwinter supply. So our human life but dies down to its root, and still putsforth its green blade to eternity.

Walden is melting apace. There is a canal two rods wide along the northerly andwesterly sides, and wider still at the east end. A great field of ice hascracked off from the main body. I hear a song-sparrow singing from the busheson the shore,—olit, olit, olit,chip,chip, chip, che char,—che wiss, wiss,wiss. He too is helping to crack it. How handsome the great sweepingcurves in the edge of the ice, answering somewhat to those of the shore, butmore regular! It is unusually hard, owing to the recent severe but transientcold, and all watered or waved like a palace floor. But the wind slideseastward over its opaque surface in vain, till it reaches the living surfacebeyond. It is glorious to behold this ribbon of water sparkling in the sun, thebare face of the pond full of glee and youth, as if it spoke the joy of thefishes within it, and of the sands on its shore,—a silvery sheen as fromthe scales of a leuciscus, as it were all one active fish. Such is thecontrast between winter and spring. Walden was dead and is alive again. Butthis spring it broke up more steadily, as I have said.

The change from storm and winter to serene and mild weather, from dark andsluggish hours to bright and elastic ones, is a memorable crisis which allthings proclaim. It is seemingly instantaneous at last. Suddenly an influx oflight filled my house, though the evening was at hand, and the clouds of winterstill overhung it, and the eaves were dripping with sleety rain. I looked outthe window, and lo! where yesterday was cold gray ice there lay the transparentpond already calm and full of hope as in a summer evening, reflecting a summerevening sky in its bosom, though none was visible overhead, as if it hadintelligence with some remote horizon. I heard a robin in the distance, thefirst I had heard for many a thousand years, methought, whose note I shall notforget for many a thousand more,—the same sweet and powerful song as ofyore. O the evening robin, at the end of a New England summer day! If I couldever find the twig he sits upon! I mean he; I mean the twig. Thisat least is not the Turdus migratorius. The pitch-pines and shrub-oaksabout my house, which had so long drooped, suddenly resumed their severalcharacters, looked brighter, greener, and more erect and alive, as ifeffectually cleansed and restored by the rain. I knew that it would not rainany more. You may tell by looking at any twig of the forest, ay, at your verywood-pile, whether its winter is past or not. As it grew darker, I was startledby the honking of geese flying low over the woods, like weary travellersgetting in late from southern lakes, and indulging at last in unrestrainedcomplaint and mutual consolation. Standing at my door, I could hear the rush oftheir wings; when, driving toward my house, they suddenly spied my light, andwith hushed clamor wheeled and settled in the pond. So I came in, and shut thedoor, and passed my first spring night in the woods.

In the morning I watched the geese from the door through the mist, sailing inthe middle of the pond, fifty rods off, so large and tumultuous that Waldenappeared like an artificial pond for their amusement. But when I stood on theshore they at once rose up with a great flapping of wings at the signal oftheir commander, and when they had got into rank circled about over my head,twenty-nine of them, and then steered straight to Canada, with a regularhonk from the leader at intervals, trusting to break their fast inmuddier pools. A “plump” of ducks rose at the same time and tookthe route to the north in the wake of their noisier cousins.

For a week I heard the circling, groping clangor of some solitary goose in thefoggy mornings, seeking its companion, and still peopling the woods with thesound of a larger life than they could sustain. In April the pigeons were seenagain flying express in small flocks, and in due time I heard the martinstwittering over my clearing, though it had not seemed that the townshipcontained so many that it could afford me any, and I fancied that they werepeculiarly of the ancient race that dwelt in hollow trees ere white men came.In almost all climes the tortoise and the frog are among the precursors andheralds of this season, and birds fly with song and glancing plumage, andplants spring and bloom, and winds blow, to correct this slight oscillation ofthe poles and preserve the equilibrium of Nature.

As every season seems best to us in its turn, so the coming in of spring islike the creation of Cosmos out of Chaos and the realization of the GoldenAge.—

“Eurus ad Auroram Nabathæaque regna recessit,
Persidaque, et radiis juga subdita matutinis.”

“The East-Wind withdrew to Aurora and the Nabathæan kingdom,
And the Persian, and the ridges placed under the morning rays


Man was born. Whether that Artificer of things,
The origin of a better world, made him from the divine seed;
Or the earth, being recent and lately sundered from the high
Ether, retained some seeds of cognate heaven.”

A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. So our prospectsbrighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should be blessed if we lived inthe present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, likethe grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it;and did not spend our time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities,which we call doing our duty. We loiter in winter while it is already spring.In a pleasant spring morning all men’s sins are forgiven. Such a day is atruce to vice. While such a sun holds out to burn, the vilest sinner mayreturn. Through our own recovered innocence we discern the innocence of ourneighbors. You may have known your neighbor yesterday for a thief, a drunkard,or a sensualist, and merely pitied or despised him, and despaired of the world;but the sun shines bright and warm this first spring morning, re-creating theworld, and you meet him at some serene work, and see how his exhausted anddebauched veins expand with still joy and bless the new day, feel the springinfluence with the innocence of infancy, and all his faults are forgotten.There is not only an atmosphere of good will about him, but even a savor ofholiness groping for expression, blindly and ineffectually perhaps, like anew-born instinct, and for a short hour the south hill-side echoes to no vulgarjest. You see some innocent fair shoots preparing to burst from his gnarledrind and try another year’s life, tender and fresh as the youngest plant.Even he has entered into the joy of his Lord. Why the jailer does not leaveopen his prison doors,—why the judge does not dismis his case,—whythe preacher does not dismiss his congregation! It is because they do not obeythe hint which God gives them, nor accept the pardon which he freely offers toall.

“A return to goodness produced each day in the tranquil and beneficentbreath of the morning, causes that in respect to the love of virtue and thehatred of vice, one approaches a little the primitive nature of man, as thesprouts of the forest which has been felled. In like manner the evil which onedoes in the interval of a day prevents the germs of virtues which began tospring up again from developing themselves and destroys them.

“After the germs of virtue have thus been prevented many times fromdeveloping themselves, then the beneficent breath of evening does not sufficeto preserve them. As soon as the breath of evening does not suffice longer topreserve them, then the nature of man does not differ much from that of thebrute. Men seeing the nature of this man like that of the brute, think that hehas never possessed the innate faculty of reason. Are those the true andnatural sentiments of man?”

“The Golden Age was first created, which without any avenger
Spontaneously without law cherished fidelity and rectitude.
Punishment and fear were not; nor were threatening words read
On suspended brass; nor did the suppliant crowd fear
The words of their judge; but were safe without an avenger.
Not yet the pine felled on its mountains had descended
To the liquid waves that it might see a foreign world,
And mortals knew no shores but their own.
There was eternal spring, and placid zephyrs with warm
Blasts soothed the flowers born without seed.”

On the 29th of April, as I was fishing from the bank of the river near theNine-Acre-Corner bridge, standing on the quaking grass and willow roots, wherethe muskrats lurk, I heard a singular rattling sound, somewhat like that of thesticks which boys play with their fingers, when, looking up, I observed a veryslight and graceful hawk, like a night-hawk, alternately soaring like a rippleand tumbling a rod or two over and over, showing the underside of its wings,which gleamed like a satin ribbon in the sun, or like the pearly inside of ashell. This sight reminded me of falconry and what nobleness and poetry areassociated with that sport. The Merlin it seemed to me it might be called: butI care not for its name. It was the most ethereal flight I had ever witnessed.It did not simply flutter like a butterfly, nor soar like the larger hawks, butit sported with proud reliance in the fields of air; mounting again and againwith its strange chuckle, it repeated its free and beautiful fall, turning overand over like a kite, and then recovering from its lofty tumbling, as if it hadnever set its foot on terra firma. It appeared to have no companion inthe universe,—sporting there alone,—and to need none but the morningand the ether with which it played. It was not lonely, but made all the earthlonely beneath it. Where was the parent which hatched it, its kindred, and itsfather in the heavens? The tenant of the air, it seemed related to the earthbut by an egg hatched some time in the crevice of a crag;—or was itsnative nest made in the angle of a cloud, woven of the rainbow’strimmings and the sunset sky, and lined with some soft midsummer haze caught upfrom earth? Its eyry now some cliffy cloud.

Beside this I got a rare mess of golden and silver and bright cupreous fishes,which looked like a string of jewels. Ah! I have penetrated to those meadows onthe morning of many a first spring day, jumping from hummock to hummock, fromwillow root to willow root, when the wild river valley and the woods werebathed in so pure and bright a light as would have waked the dead, if they hadbeen slumbering in their graves, as some suppose. There needs no stronger proofof immortality. All things must live in such a light. O Death, where was thysting? O Grave, where was thy victory, then?

Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests andmeadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness,—to wadesometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear thebooming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder andmore solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close tothe ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn allthings, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that landand sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us becauseunfathomable. We can never have enough of Nature. We must be refreshed by thesight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and Titanic features, the sea-coast with itswrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, thethunder cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets. Weneed to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freelywhere we never wander. We are cheered when we observe the vulture feeding onthe carrion which disgusts and disheartens us and deriving health and strengthfrom the repast. There was a dead horse in the hollow by the path to my house,which compelled me sometimes to go out of my way, especially in the night whenthe air was heavy, but the assurance it gave me of the strong appetite andinviolable health of Nature was my compensation for this. I love to see thatNature is so rife with life that myriads can be afforded to be sacrificed andsuffered to prey on one another; that tender organizations can be so serenelysquashed out of existence like pulp,—tadpoles which herons gobble up, andtortoises and toads run over in the road; and that sometimes it has rainedflesh and blood! With the liability to accident, we must see how little accountis to be made of it. The impression made on a wise man is that of universalinnocence. Poison is not poisonous after all, nor are any wounds fatal.Compassion is a very untenable ground. It must be expeditious. Its pleadingswill not bear to be stereotyped.

Early in May, the oaks, hickories, maples, and other trees, just putting outamidst the pine woods around the pond, imparted a brightness like sunshine tothe landscape, especially in cloudy days, as if the sun were breaking throughmists and shining faintly on the hill-sides here and there. On the third orfourth of May I saw a loon in the pond, and during the first week of the monthI heard the whippoorwill, the brown-thrasher, the veery, the wood-pewee, thechewink, and other birds. I had heard the wood-thrush long before. Thephœbe had already come once more and looked in at my door and window, tosee if my house was cavern-like enough for her, sustaining herself on hummingwings with clinched talons, as if she held by the air, while she surveyed thepremises. The sulphur-like pollen of the pitch-pine soon covered the pond andthe stones and rotten wood along the shore, so that you could have collected abarrel-ful. This is the “sulphur showers” we hear of. Even inCalidas’ drama of Sacontala, we read of “rills dyed yellow with thegolden dust of the lotus.” And so the seasons went rolling on intosummer, as one rambles into higher and higher grass.

Thus was my first year’s life in the woods completed; and the second yearwas similar to it. I finally left Walden September 6th, 1847.


To the sick the doctors wisely recommend a change of air and scenery. ThankHeaven, here is not all the world. The buck-eye does not grow in New England,and the mocking-bird is rarely heard here. The wild-goose is more of acosmopolite than we; he breaks his fast in Canada, takes a luncheon in theOhio, and plumes himself for the night in a southern bayou. Even the bison, tosome extent, keeps pace with the seasons, cropping the pastures of the Coloradoonly till a greener and sweeter grass awaits him by the Yellowstone. Yet wethink that if rail-fences are pulled down, and stone-walls piled up on ourfarms, bounds are henceforth set to our lives and our fates decided. If you arechosen town-clerk, forsooth, you cannot go to Tierra del Fuego this summer: butyou may go to the land of infernal fire nevertheless. The universe is widerthan our views of it.

Yet we should oftener look over the tafferel of our craft, like curiouspassengers, and not make the voyage like stupid sailors picking oakum. Theother side of the globe is but the home of our correspondent. Our voyaging isonly great-circle sailing, and the doctors prescribe for diseases of the skinmerely. One hastens to Southern Africa to chase the giraffe; but surely that isnot the game he would be after. How long, pray, would a man hunt giraffes if hecould? Snipes and woodcocks also may afford rare sport; but I trust it would benobler game to shoot one’s self.—

“Direct your eye right inward, and you’ll find
A thousand regions in your mind
Yet undiscovered. Travel them, and be
Expert in home-cosmography.”

(Video) Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, Part 2 (ASMR Quiet Reading for Relaxation & Sleep)

What does Africa,—what does the West stand for? Is not our own interiorwhite on the chart? black though it may prove, like the coast, when discovered.Is it the source of the Nile, or the Niger, or the Mississippi, or a North-WestPassage around this continent, that we would find? Are these the problems whichmost concern mankind? Is Franklin the only man who is lost, that his wifeshould be so earnest to find him? Does Mr. Grinnell know where he himself is?Be rather the Mungo Park, the Lewis and Clarke and Frobisher, of your ownstreams and oceans; explore your own higher latitudes,—with shiploads ofpreserved meats to support you, if they be necessary; and pile the empty canssky-high for a sign. Were preserved meats invented to preserve meat merely?Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening newchannels, not of trade, but of thought. Every man is the lord of a realm besidewhich the earthly empire of the Czar is but a petty state, a hummock left bythe ice. Yet some can be patriotic who have no self-respect, andsacrifice the greater to the less. They love the soil which makes their graves,but have no sympathy with the spirit which may still animate their clay.Patriotism is a maggot in their heads. What was the meaning of that South-SeaExploring Expedition, with all its parade and expense, but an indirectrecognition of the fact, that there are continents and seas in the moral worldto which every man is an isthmus or an inlet, yet unexplored by him, but thatit is easier to sail many thousand miles through cold and storm and cannibals,in a government ship, with five hundred men and boys to assist one, than it isto explore the private sea, the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean of one’s beingalone.—

“Erret, et extremos alter scrutetur Iberos.
Plus habet hic vitæ, plus habet ille viæ.”

Let them wander and scrutinize the outlandish Australians.
I have more of God, they more of the road.

It is not worth the while to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar.Yet do this even till you can do better, and you may perhaps find some“Symmes’ Hole” by which to get at the inside at last. Englandand France, Spain and Portugal, Gold Coast and Slave Coast, all front on thisprivate sea; but no bark from them has ventured out of sight of land, though itis without doubt the direct way to India. If you would learn to speak alltongues and conform to the customs of all nations, if you would travel fartherthan all travellers, be naturalized in all climes, and cause the Sphinx to dashher head against a stone, even obey the precept of the old philosopher, andExplore thyself. Herein are demanded the eye and the nerve. Only the defeatedand deserters go to the wars, cowards that run away and enlist. Start now onthat farthest western way, which does not pause at the Mississippi or thePacific, nor conduct toward a worn-out China or Japan, but leads on direct atangent to this sphere, summer and winter, day and night, sun down, moon down,and at last earth down too.

It is said that Mirabeau took to highway robbery “to ascertain whatdegree of resolution was necessary in order to place one’s self in formalopposition to the most sacred laws of society.” He declared that “asoldier who fights in the ranks does not require half so much courage as afoot-pad,”—“that honor and religion have never stood in theway of a well-considered and a firm resolve.” This was manly, as theworld goes; and yet it was idle, if not desperate. A saner man would have foundhimself often enough “in formal opposition” to what are deemed“the most sacred laws of society,” through obedience to yet moresacred laws, and so have tested his resolution without going out of his way. Itis not for a man to put himself in such an attitude to society, but to maintainhimself in whatever attitude he find himself through obedience to the laws ofhis being, which will never be one of opposition to a just government, if heshould chance to meet with such.

I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to methat I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time forthat one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particularroute, and make a beaten track for ourselves. I had not lived there a weekbefore my feet wore a path from my door to the pond-side; and though it is fiveor six years since I trod it, it is still quite distinct. It is true, I fearthat others may have fallen into it, and so helped to keep it open. The surfaceof the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the pathswhich the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of theworld, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity! I did not wish to take acabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world,for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish togo below now.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently inthe direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he hasimagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will putsome things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and moreliberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or theold laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, andhe will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as hesimplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, andsolitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. Ifyou have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is wherethey should be. Now put the foundations under them.

It is a ridiculous demand which England and America make, that you shall speakso that they can understand you. Neither men nor toad-stools grow so. As ifthat were important, and there were not enough to understand you without them.As if Nature could support but one order of understandings, could not sustainbirds as well as quadrupeds, flying as well as creeping things, and hushand who, which Bright can understand, were the best English. As ifthere were safety in stupidity alone. I fear chiefly lest my expression may notbe extra-vagant enough, may not wander far enough beyond the narrowlimits of my daily experience, so as to be adequate to the truth of which Ihave been convinced. Extra vagance! it depends on how you are yarded.The migrating buffalo, which seeks new pastures in another latitude, is notextravagant like the cow which kicks over the pail, leaps the cow-yard fence,and runs after her calf, in milking time. I desire to speak somewherewithout bounds; like a man in a waking moment, to men in their wakingmoments; for I am convinced that I cannot exaggerate enough even to lay thefoundation of a true expression. Who that has heard a strain of music fearedthen lest he should speak extravagantly any more forever? In view of the futureor possible, we should live quite laxly and undefined in front, our outlinesdim and misty on that side; as our shadows reveal an insensible perspirationtoward the sun. The volatile truth of our words should continually betray theinadequacy of the residual statement. Their truth is instantlytranslated; its literal monument alone remains. The words which expressour faith and piety are not definite; yet they are significant and fragrantlike frankincense to superior natures.

Why level downward to our dullest perception always, and praise that as commonsense? The commonest sense is the sense of men asleep, which they express bysnoring. Sometimes we are inclined to class those who areonce-and-a-half-witted with the half-witted, because we appreciate only a thirdpart of their wit. Some would find fault with the morning-red, if they ever gotup early enough. “They pretend,” as I hear, “that the versesof Kabir have four different senses; illusion, spirit, intellect, and theexoteric doctrine of the Vedas;” but in this part of the world it isconsidered a ground for complaint if a man’s writings admit of more thanone interpretation. While England endeavors to cure the potato-rot, will notany endeavor to cure the brain-rot, which prevails so much more widely andfatally?

I do not suppose that I have attained to obscurity, but I should be proud if nomore fatal fault were found with my pages on this score than was found with theWalden ice. Southern customers objected to its blue color, which is theevidence of its purity, as if it were muddy, and preferred the Cambridge ice,which is white, but tastes of weeds. The purity men love is like the mistswhich envelop the earth, and not like the azure ether beyond.

Some are dinning in our ears that we Americans, and moderns generally, areintellectual dwarfs compared with the ancients, or even the Elizabethan men.But what is that to the purpose? A living dog is better than a dead lion. Shalla man go and hang himself because he belongs to the race of pygmies, and not bethe biggest pygmy that he can? Let every one mind his own business, andendeavor to be what he was made.

Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperateenterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it isbecause he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears,however measured or far away. It is not important that he should mature as soonas an apple-tree or an oak. Shall he turn his spring into summer? If thecondition of things which we were made for is not yet, what were any realitywhich we can substitute? We will not be shipwrecked on a vain reality. Shall wewith pains erect a heaven of blue glass over ourselves, though when it is donewe shall be sure to gaze still at the true ethereal heaven far above, as if theformer were not?

There was an artist in the city of Kouroo who was disposed to strive afterperfection. One day it came into his mind to make a staff. Having consideredthat in an imperfect work time is an ingredient, but into a perfect work timedoes not enter, he said to himself, It shall be perfect in all respects, thoughI should do nothing else in my life. He proceeded instantly to the forest forwood, being resolved that it should not be made of unsuitable material; and ashe searched for and rejected stick after stick, his friends gradually desertedhim, for they grew old in their works and died, but he grew not older by amoment. His singleness of purpose and resolution, and his elevated piety,endowed him, without his knowledge, with perennial youth. As he made nocompromise with Time, Time kept out of his way, and only sighed at a distancebecause he could not overcome him. Before he had found a stock in all respectssuitable the city of Kouroo was a hoary ruin, and he sat on one of its moundsto peel the stick. Before he had given it the proper shape the dynasty of theCandahars was at an end, and with the point of the stick he wrote the name ofthe last of that race in the sand, and then resumed his work. By the time hehad smoothed and polished the staff Kalpa was no longer the pole-star; and erehe had put on the ferrule and the head adorned with precious stones, Brahma hadawoke and slumbered many times. But why do I stay to mention these things? Whenthe finishing stroke was put to his work, it suddenly expanded before the eyesof the astonished artist into the fairest of all the creations of Brahma. Hehad made a new system in making a staff, a world with full and fairproportions; in which, though the old cities and dynasties had passed away,fairer and more glorious ones had taken their places. And now he saw by theheap of shavings still fresh at his feet, that, for him and his work, theformer lapse of time had been an illusion, and that no more time had elapsedthan is required for a single scintillation from the brain of Brahma to fall onand inflame the tinder of a mortal brain. The material was pure, and his artwas pure; how could the result be other than wonderful?

No face which we can give to a matter will stead us so well at last as thetruth. This alone wears well. For the most part, we are not where we are, butin a false position. Through an infinity of our natures, we suppose a case, andput ourselves into it, and hence are in two cases at the same time, and it isdoubly difficult to get out. In sane moments we regard only the facts, the casethat is. Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better thanmake-believe. Tom Hyde, the tinker, standing on the gallows, was asked if hehad anything to say. “Tell the tailors,” said he, “toremember to make a knot in their thread before they take the firststitch.” His companion’s prayer is forgotten.

However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hardnames. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. Thefault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is.You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in apoor-house. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the alms-house asbrightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door asearly in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedlythere, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace. The town’s poorseem to me often to live the most independent lives of any. May be they aresimply great enough to receive without misgiving. Most think that they areabove being supported by the town; but it oftener happens that they are notabove supporting themselves by dishonest means, which should be moredisreputable. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not troubleyourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old;return to them. Things do not change; we change. Sell your clothes and keepyour thoughts. God will see that you do not want society. If I were confined toa corner of a garret all my days, like a spider, the world would be just aslarge to me while I had my thoughts about me. The philosopher said: “Froman army of three divisions one can take away its general, and put it indisorder; from the man the most abject and vulgar one cannot take away histhought.” Do not seek so anxiously to be developed, to subject yourselfto many influences to be played on; it is all dissipation. Humility likedarkness reveals the heavenly lights. The shadows of poverty and meannessgather around us, “and lo! creation widens to our view.” We areoften reminded that if there were bestowed on us the wealth of Crœsus, ouraims must still be the same, and our means essentially the same. Moreover, ifyou are restricted in your range by poverty, if you cannot buy books andnewspapers, for instance, you are but confined to the most significant andvital experiences; you are compelled to deal with the material which yields themost sugar and the most starch. It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.You are defended from being a trifler. No man loses ever on a lower level bymagnanimity on a higher. Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Moneyis not required to buy one necessary of the soul.

I live in the angle of a leaden wall, into whose composition was poured alittle alloy of bell metal. Often, in the repose of my mid-day, there reachesmy ears a confused tintinnabulum from without. It is the noise of mycontemporaries. My neighbors tell me of their adventures with famous gentlemenand ladies, what notabilities they met at the dinner-table; but I am no moreinterested in such things than in the contents of the Daily Times. The interestand the conversation are about costume and manners chiefly; but a goose is agoose still, dress it as you will. They tell me of California and Texas, ofEngland and the Indies, of the Hon. Mr. —— of Georgia or ofMassachusetts, all transient and fleeting phenomena, till I am ready to leapfrom their court-yard like the Mameluke bey. I delight to come to mybearings,—not walk in procession with pomp and parade, in a conspicuousplace, but to walk even with the Builder of the universe, if I may,—notto live in this restless, nervous, bustling, trivial Nineteenth Century, butstand or sit thoughtfully while it goes by. What are men celebrating? They areall on a committee of arrangements, and hourly expect a speech from somebody.God is only the president of the day, and Webster is his orator. I love toweigh, to settle, to gravitate toward that which most strongly and rightfullyattracts me;—not hang by the beam of the scale and try to weighless,—not suppose a case, but take the case that is; to travel the onlypath I can, and that on which no power can resist me. It affords me nosatisfaction to commence to spring an arch before I have got a solidfoundation. Let us not play at kittly-benders. There is a solid bottom everywhere. We read that the traveller asked the boy if the swamp before him had ahard bottom. The boy replied that it had. But presently the traveller’shorse sank in up to the girths, and he observed to the boy, “I thoughtyou said that this bog had a hard bottom.” “So it has,”answered the latter, “but you have not got half way to it yet.” Soit is with the bogs and quicksands of society; but he is an old boy that knowsit. Only what is thought, said, or done at a certain rare coincidence is good. Iwould not be one of those who will foolishly drive a nail into mere lath andplastering; such a deed would keep me awake nights. Give me a hammer, and letme feel for the furring. Do not depend on the putty. Drive a nail home andclinch it so faithfully that you can wake up in the night and think of yourwork with satisfaction,—a work at which you would not be ashamed toinvoke the Muse. So will help you God, and so only. Every nail driven should beas another rivet in the machine of the universe, you carrying on the work.

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. I sat at a table wherewere rich food and wine in abundance, and obsequious attendance, but sincerityand truth were not; and I went away hungry from the inhospitable board. Thehospitality was as cold as the ices. I thought that there was no need of ice tofreeze them. They talked to me of the age of the wine and the fame of thevintage; but I thought of an older, a newer, and purer wine, of a more gloriousvintage, which they had not got, and could not buy. The style, the house andgrounds and “entertainment” pass for nothing with me. I called onthe king, but he made me wait in his hall, and conducted like a manincapacitated for hospitality. There was a man in my neighborhood who lived ina hollow tree. His manners were truly regal. I should have done better had Icalled on him.

How long shall we sit in our porticoes practising idle and musty virtues, whichany work would make impertinent? As if one were to begin the day withlong-suffering, and hire a man to hoe his potatoes; and in the afternoon goforth to practise Christian meekness and charity with goodness aforethought!Consider the China pride and stagnant self-complacency of mankind. Thisgeneration inclines a little to congratulate itself on being the last of anillustrious line; and in Boston and London and Paris and Rome, thinking of itslong descent, it speaks of its progress in art and science and literature withsatisfaction. There are the Records of the Philosophical Societies, and thepublic Eulogies of Great Men! It is the good Adam contemplating his ownvirtue. “Yes, we have done great deeds, and sung divine songs, whichshall never die,”—that is, as long as we can remember them.The learned societies and great men of Assyria,—where are they? Whatyouthful philosophers and experimentalists we are! There is not one of myreaders who has yet lived a whole human life. These may be but the springmonths in the life of the race. If we have had the seven-years’ itch, wehave not seen the seventeen-year locust yet in Concord. We are acquainted witha mere pellicle of the globe on which we live. Most have not delved six feetbeneath the surface, nor leaped as many above it. We know not where we are.Beside, we are sound asleep nearly half our time. Yet we esteem ourselves wise,and have an established order on the surface. Truly, we are deep thinkers, weare ambitious spirits! As I stand over the insect crawling amid the pineneedles on the forest floor, and endeavoring to conceal itself from my sight,and ask myself why it will cherish those humble thoughts, and hide its headfrom me who might, perhaps, be its benefactor, and impart to its race somecheering information, I am reminded of the greater Benefactor and Intelligencethat stands over me the human insect.

There is an incessant influx of novelty into the world, and yet we tolerateincredible dulness. I need only suggest what kind of sermons are still listenedto in the most enlightened countries. There are such words as joy and sorrow,but they are only the burden of a psalm, sung with a nasal twang, while webelieve in the ordinary and mean. We think that we can change our clothes only.It is said that the British Empire is very large and respectable, and that theUnited States are a first-rate power. We do not believe that a tide rises andfalls behind every man which can float the British Empire like a chip, if heshould ever harbor it in his mind. Who knows what sort of seventeen-year locustwill next come out of the ground? The government of the world I live in was notframed, like that of Britain, in after-dinner conversations over the wine.

The life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise this year higherthan man has ever known it, and flood the parched uplands; even this may be theeventful year, which will drown out all our muskrats. It was not always dryland where we dwell. I see far inland the banks which the stream ancientlywashed, before science began to record its freshets. Every one has heard thestory which has gone the rounds of New England, of a strong and beautiful bugwhich came out of the dry leaf of an old table of apple-tree wood, which hadstood in a farmer’s kitchen for sixty years, first in Connecticut, andafterward in Massachusetts,—from an egg deposited in the living tree manyyears earlier still, as appeared by counting the annual layers beyond it; whichwas heard gnawing out for several weeks, hatched perchance by the heat of anurn. Who does not feel his faith in a resurrection and immortality strengthenedby hearing of this? Who knows what beautiful and winged life, whose egg hasbeen buried for ages under many concentric layers of woodenness in the dead drylife of society, deposited at first in the alburnum of the green and livingtree, which has been gradually converted into the semblance of itswell-seasoned tomb,—heard perchance gnawing out now for years by theastonished family of man, as they sat round the festive board,—mayunexpectedly come forth from amidst society’s most trivial and handselledfurniture, to enjoy its perfect summer life at last!

I do not say that John or Jonathan will realize all this; but such is thecharacter of that morrow which mere lapse of time can never make to dawn. Thelight which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to whichwe are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.



I heartily accept the motto,—“That government is best which governsleast;” and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly andsystematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also Ibelieve—“That government is best which governs not atall;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind ofgovernment which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient;but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes,inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standingarmy, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also atlast be brought against a standing government. The standing army is onlyan arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is onlythe mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equallyliable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it.Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a fewindividuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in theoutset, the people would not have consented to this measure.

This American government,—what is it but a tradition, though arecent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, buteach instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality andforce of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. Itis a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves; and, if ever they shoulduse it in earnest as a real one against each other, it will surely split.But it is not the less necessary for this; for the people must have somecomplicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea ofgovernment which they have. Governments show thus how successfully men canbe imposed on, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It isexcellent, we must all allow; yet this government never of itselffurthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of itsway. It does not keep the country free. It does not settlethe West. It does not educate. The character inherent in theAmerican people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would havedone somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way.For government is an expedient, by which men would fain succeed in lettingone another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, thegoverned are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were notmade of India rubber, would never manage to bounce over obstacles whichlegislators are continually putting in their way; and, if one were to judgethese men wholly by the effects of their actions, and not partly by theirintentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with thosemischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.

But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who callthemselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, butat once a better government. Let every man make known what kind ofgovernment would command his respect, and that will be one step towardobtaining it.

After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the handsof the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue,to rule, is not because they are most likely to be in the right, norbecause this seems fairest to the minority, but because they arephysically the strongest. But a government in which the majority rule inall cases can not be based on justice, even as far as men understand it.Can there not be a government in which the majorities do not virtuallydecide right and wrong, but conscience?—in which majorities decideonly those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Mustthe citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign hisconscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I thinkthat we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirableto cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The onlyobligation which I have a right to assume, is to do at any time what Ithink right. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience;but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with aconscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of theirrespect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents ofinjustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for the law is,that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates,powder-monkeys and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale tothe wars, against their wills, aye, against their common sense andconsciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces apalpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnablebusiness in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined.Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, atthe service of some unscrupulous man in power? Visit the Navy Yard, andbehold a marine, such a man as an American government can make, or such asit can make a man with its black arts, a mere shadow and reminiscenceof humanity, a man laid out alive and standing, and already, as one maysay, buried under arms with funeral accompaniment, though it may be

“Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
As his corpse to the ramparts we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
O’er the grave where our hero we buried.”

The mass of men serve the State thus, not as men mainly, but as machines,with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers,constables, posse comitatus, &c. In most cases there is no freeexercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they putthemselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men canperhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such commandno more respect than men of straw, or a lump of dirt. They have the samesort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonlyesteemed good citizens. Others, as most legislators, politicians, lawyers,ministers, and office-holders, serve the state chiefly with their heads;and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely toserve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few, asheroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men,serve the State with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist itfor the most part; and they are commonly treated by it as enemies. A wiseman will only be useful as a man, and will not submit to be“clay,” and “stop a hole to keep the wind away,”but leave that office to his dust at least:

“I am too high-born to be propertied,
To be a secondary at control,
Or useful serving-man and instrument
To any sovereign state throughout the world.”

He who gives himself entirely to his fellow-men appears to them uselessand selfish; but he who gives himself partially to them is pronounced abenefactor and philanthropist.

How does it become a man to behave toward the American government today? Ianswer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. I cannotfor an instant recognize that political organization as mygovernment which is the slave’s government also.

All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuseallegiance to and to resist the government, when its tyranny or itsinefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such isnot the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution of’75. If one were to tell me that this was a bad government becauseit taxed certain foreign commodities brought to its ports, it is mostprobable that I should not make an ado about it, for I can do withoutthem: all machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough goodto counter-balance the evil. At any rate, it is a great evil to make astir about it. But when the friction comes to have its machine, andoppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such amachine any longer. In other words, when a sixth of the population of anation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and awhole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, andsubjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest mento rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is thatfact, that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invadingarmy.

Paley, a common authority with many on moral questions, in his chapter onthe “Duty of Submission to Civil Government,” resolves allcivil obligation into expediency; and he proceeds to say, “that solong as the interest of the whole society requires it, that is, so long asthe established government cannot be resisted or changed without publicinconveniency, it is the will of God that the established government beobeyed, and no longer.”—“This principle being admitted,the justice of every particular case of resistance is reduced to acomputation of the quantity of the danger and grievance on the one side,and of the probability and expense of redressing it on the other.”Of this, he says, every man shall judge for himself. But Paley appearsnever to have contemplated those cases to which the rule of expediencydoes not apply, in which a people, as well as an individual, must dojustice, cost what it may. If I have unjustly wrested a plank from adrowning man, I must restore it to him though I drown myself. This,according to Paley, would be inconvenient. But he that would save hislife, in such a case, shall lose it. This people must cease to holdslaves, and to make war on Mexico, though it cost them their existence asa people.

In their practice, nations agree with Paley; but does anyone think thatMassachusetts does exactly what is right at the present crisis?

“A drab of state, a cloth-o’-silver slut,
To have her train borne up, and her soul trail in the dirt.”

Practically speaking, the opponents to a reform in Massachusetts are not ahundred thousand politicians at the South, but a hundred thousandmerchants and farmers here, who are more interested in commerce andagriculture than they are in humanity, and are not prepared to do justiceto the slave and to Mexico, cost what it may. I quarrel not withfar-off foes, but with those who, near at home, co-operate with, and dothe bidding of those far away, and without whom the latter would beharmless. We are accustomed to say, that the mass of men are unprepared;but improvement is slow, because the few are not materially wiser orbetter than the many. It is not so important that many should be as goodas you, as that there be some absolute goodness somewhere; for that willleaven the whole lump. There are thousands who are in opinionopposed to slavery and to the war, who yet in effect do nothing to put anend to them; who, esteeming themselves children of Washington andFranklin, sit down with their hands in their pockets, and say that theyknow not what to do, and do nothing; who even postpone the question offreedom to the question of free-trade, and quietly read the prices-currentalong with the latest advices from Mexico, after dinner, and, it may be,fall asleep over them both. What is the price-current of an honest man andpatriot today? They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes theypetition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect. They will wait,well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer haveit to regret. At most, they give only a cheap vote, and a feeblecountenance and Godspeed, to the right, as it goes by them. There are ninehundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man; but it iseasier to deal with the real possessor of a thing than with the temporaryguardian of it.

All voting is a sort of gaming, like chequers or backgammon, with a slightmoral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions;and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is notstaked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitallyconcerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to themajority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency.Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It isonly expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wiseman will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it toprevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue inthe action of masses of men. When the majority shall at length vote forthe abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent toslavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished bytheir vote. They will then be the only slaves. Only his votecan hasten the abolition of slavery who asserts his own freedom by hisvote.

I hear of a convention to be held at Baltimore, or elsewhere, for theselection of a candidate for the Presidency, made up chiefly of editors,and men who are politicians by profession; but I think, what is it to anyindependent, intelligent, and respectable man what decision they may cometo, shall we not have the advantage of his wisdom and honesty,nevertheless? Can we not count upon some independent votes? Are there notmany individuals in the country who do not attend conventions? But no: Ifind that the respectable man, so called, has immediately drifted from hisposition, and despairs of his country, when his country has more reasonsto despair of him. He forthwith adopts one of the candidates thus selectedas the only available one, thus proving that he is himselfavailable for any purposes of the demagogue. His vote is of no moreworth than that of any unprincipled foreigner or hireling native, who mayhave been bought. Oh for a man who is a man, and, as my neighborsays, has a bone in his back which you cannot pass your hand through! Ourstatistics are at fault: the population has been returned too large. Howmany men are there to a square thousand miles in the country?Hardly one. Does not America offer any inducement for men to settle here?The American has dwindled into an Odd Fellow,—one who may be knownby the development of his organ of gregariousness, and a manifest lack ofintellect and cheerful self-reliance; whose first and chief concern, oncoming into the world, is to see that the alms-houses are in good repair;and, before yet he has lawfully donned the virile garb, to collect a fundfor the support of the widows and orphans that may be; who, in short,ventures to live only by the aid of the Mutual Insurance company, whichhas promised to bury him decently.

It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself tothe eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may stillproperly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least,to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not togive it practically his support. If I devote myself to other pursuits andcontemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue themsitting upon another man’s shoulders. I must get off him first, thathe may pursue his contemplations too. See what gross inconsistency istolerated. I have heard some of my townsmen say, “I should like tohave them order me out to help put down an insurrection of the slaves, orto march to Mexico,—see if I would go;” and yet these very menhave each, directly by their allegiance, and so indirectly, at least, bytheir money, furnished a substitute. The soldier is applauded who refusesto serve in an unjust war by those who do not refuse to sustain the unjustgovernment which makes the war; is applauded by those whose own act andauthority he disregards and sets at naught; as if the State were penitentto that degree that it hired one to scourge it while it sinned, but not tothat degree that it left off sinning for a moment. Thus, under the name ofOrder and Civil Government, we are all made at last to pay homage to andsupport our own meanness. After the first blush of sin, comes itsindifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were, unmoral, andnot quite unnecessary to that life which we have made.

The broadest and most prevalent error requires the most disinterestedvirtue to sustain it. The slight reproach to which the virtue ofpatriotism is commonly liable, the noble are most likely to incur. Thosewho, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government,yield to it their allegiance and support, are undoubtedly its mostconscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles toreform. Some are petitioning the State to dissolve the Union, to disregardthe requisitions of the President. Why do they not dissolve itthemselves,—the union between themselves and the State,—andrefuse to pay their quota into its treasury? Do not they stand in samerelation to the State, that the State does to the Union? And have not thesame reasons prevented the State from resisting the Union, which haveprevented them from resisting the State?

How can a man be satisfied to entertain an opinion merely, and enjoyit? Is there any enjoyment in it, if his opinion is that he isaggrieved? If you are cheated out of a single dollar by your neighbor, youdo not rest satisfied with knowing you are cheated, or with saying thatyou are cheated, or even with petitioning him to pay you your due; but youtake effectual steps at once to obtain the full amount, and see that youare never cheated again. Action from principle,—the perception andthe performance of right,—changes things and relations; it isessentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything whichwas. It not only divided states and churches, it divides families; aye, itdivides the individual, separating the diabolical in him from thedivine.

Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavorto amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall wetransgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this,think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority toalter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would beworse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that theremedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is itnot more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherishits wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why doesit not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults,and do better than it would have them? Why does it always crucifyChrist, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washingtonand Franklin rebels?

One would think, that a deliberate and practical denial of its authoritywas the only offence never contemplated by government; else, why hasit not assigned its definite, its suitable and proportionate penalty? Ifa man who has no property refuses but once to earn nine shillings for theState, he is put in prison for a period unlimited by any law that I know,and determined only by the discretion of those who placed him there; but ifhe should steal ninety times nine shillings from the State, he is soonpermitted to go at large again.

If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine ofgovernment, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wearsmooth,—certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has aspring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, thenperhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than theevil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agentof injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be acounter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at anyrate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.

As for adopting the ways which the State has provided for remedying theevil, I know not of such ways. They take too much time, and a man’slife will be gone. I have other affairs to attend to. I came into thisworld, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live init, be it good or bad. A man has not every thing to do, but something; andbecause he cannot do every thing, it is not necessary that he shoulddo something wrong. It is not my business to be petitioningthe Governor or the Legislature any more than it is theirs to petition me;and, if they should not hear my petition, what should I do then? But inthis case the State has provided no way: its very Constitution is theevil. This may seem to be harsh and stubborn and unconcilliatory; but itis to treat with the utmost kindness and consideration the only spiritthat can appreciate or deserves it. So is all change for the better, likebirth and death which convulse the body.

I do not hesitate to say, that those who call themselves abolitionistsshould at once effectually withdraw their support, both in person andproperty, from the government of Massachusetts, and not wait till theyconstitute a majority of one, before they suffer the right to prevailthrough them. I think that it is enough if they have God on their side,without waiting for that other one. Moreover, any man more right than hisneighbors constitutes a majority of one already.

I meet this American government, or its representative, the Stategovernment, directly, and face to face, once a year, no more, inthe person of its tax-gatherer; this is the only mode in which a mansituated as I am necessarily meets it; and it then says distinctly,Recognize me; and the simplest, the most effectual, and, in the presentposture of affairs, the indispensablest mode of treating with it on thishead, of expressing your little satisfaction with and love for it, is todeny it then. My civil neighbor, the tax-gatherer, is the very man I haveto deal with,—for it is, after all, with men and not with parchmentthat I quarrel,—and he has voluntarily chosen to be an agent of thegovernment. How shall he ever know well what he is and does as an officerof the government, or as a man, until he is obliged to consider whether heshall treat me, his neighbor, for whom he has respect, as a neighbor andwell-disposed man, or as a maniac and disturber of the peace, and see ifhe can get over this obstruction to his neighborliness without a ruder andmore impetuous thought or speech corresponding with his action? I knowthis well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I couldname,—if ten honest men only,—aye, if one HONESTman, in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, wereactually to withdraw from this copartnership, and be locked up in thecounty jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. Forit matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once welldone is done for ever. But we love better to talk about it: that we say isour mission. Reform keeps many scores of newspapers in its service, butnot one man. If my esteemed neighbor, the State’s ambassador, whowill devote his days to the settlement of the question of human rights inthe Council Chamber, instead of being threatened with the prisons ofCarolina, were to sit down the prisoner of Massachusetts, that State whichis so anxious to foist the sin of slavery upon her sister,—though atpresent she can discover only an act of inhospitality to be the ground ofa quarrel with her,—the Legislature would not wholly waive thesubject of the following winter.

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just manis also a prison. The proper place today, the only place whichMassachusetts has provided for her freer and less desponding spirits, isin her prisons, to be put out and locked out of the State by her own act,as they have already put themselves out by their principles. It is therethat the fugitive slave, and the Mexican prisoner on parole, and theIndian come to plead the wrongs of his race, should find them; on thatseparate, but more free and honorable ground, where the State places thosewho are not with her but against her,—the only housein a slave-state in which a free man can abide with honor. If any thinkthat their influence would be lost there, and their voices no longerafflict the ear of the State, that they would not be as an enemy withinits walls, they do not know by how much truth is stronger than error, norhow much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who hasexperienced a little in his own person. Cast your whole vote, not a stripof paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless whileit conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it isirresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. If the alternative is tokeep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State willnot hesitate which to choose. If a thousand men were not to pay theirtax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as itwould be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shedinnocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceablerevolution, if any such is possible. If the tax-gatherer, or any otherpublic officer, asks me, as one has done, “But what shall Ido?” my answer is, “If you really wish to do any thing, resignyour office.” When the subject has refused allegiance, and theofficer has resigned his office, then the revolution is accomplished. Buteven suppose blood should flow. Is there not a sort of blood shed when theconscience is wounded? Through this wound a man’s real manhood andimmortality flow out, and he bleeds to an everlasting death. I see thisblood flowing now.

I have contemplated the imprisonment of the offender, rather than theseizure of his goods,—though both will serve the samepurpose,—because they who assert the purest right, and consequentlyare most dangerous to a corrupt State, commonly have not spent much timein accumulating property. To such the State renders comparatively smallservice, and a slight tax is wont to appear exorbitant, particularly ifthey are obliged to earn it by special labor with their hands. If therewere one who lived wholly without the use of money, the State itself wouldhesitate to demand it of him. But the rich man—not to make anyinvidious comparison—is always sold to the institution which makeshim rich. Absolutely speaking, the more money, the less virtue; for moneycomes between a man and his objects, and obtains them for him; it wascertainly no great virtue to obtain it. It puts to rest many questionswhich he would otherwise be taxed to answer; while the only new questionwhich it puts is the hard but superfluous one, how to spend it. Thus hismoral ground is taken from under his feet. The opportunities of living arediminished in proportion as what are called the “means” areincreased. The best thing a man can do for his culture when he is rich isto endeavor to carry out those schemes which he entertained when he waspoor. Christ answered the Herodians according to their condition.“Show me the tribute-money,” said he;—and one took apenny out of his pocket;—if you use money which has the image ofCæsar on it, and which he has made current and valuable, that is, ifyou are men of the State, and gladly enjoy the advantages ofCæsar’s government, then pay him back some of his own when hedemands it; “Render therefore to Cæsar that which is Cæsar’sand to God those things which are God’s,”—leaving them nowiser than before as to which was which; for they did not wish to know.

When I converse with the freest of my neighbors, I perceive that, whateverthey may say about the magnitude and seriousness of the question, andtheir regard for the public tranquillity, the long and the short of thematter is, that they cannot spare the protection of the existinggovernment, and they dread the consequences of disobedience to it to theirproperty and families. For my own part, I should not like to think that Iever rely on the protection of the State. But, if I deny the authority ofthe State when it presents its tax-bill, it will soon take and waste allmy property, and so harass me and my children without end. This is hard.This makes it impossible for a man to live honestly and at the same timecomfortably in outward respects. It will not be worth the while toaccumulate property; that would be sure to go again. You must hire orsquat somewhere, and raise but a small crop, and eat that soon. You mustlive within yourself, and depend upon yourself, always tucked up and readyfor a start, and not have many affairs. A man may grow rich in Turkeyeven, if he will be in all respects a good subject of the Turkishgovernment. Confucius said,—“If a State is governed by theprinciples of reason, poverty and misery are subjects of shame; if a Stateis not governed by the principles of reason, riches and honors are thesubjects of shame.” No: until I want the protection of Massachusettsto be extended to me in some distant southern port, where my liberty isendangered, or until I am bent solely on building up an estate at home bypeaceful enterprise, I can afford to refuse allegiance to Massachusetts,and her right to my property and life. It costs me less in every sense toincur the penalty of disobedience to the State, than it would to obey. Ishould feel as if I were worth less in that case.

Some years ago, the State met me in behalf of the church, and commanded meto pay a certain sum toward the support of a clergyman whose preaching myfather attended, but never I myself. “Pay it,” it said, “orbe locked up in the jail.” I declined to pay. But, unfortunately,another man saw fit to pay it. I did not see why the schoolmaster shouldbe taxed to support the priest, and not the priest the schoolmaster; for Iwas not the State’s schoolmaster, but I supported myself byvoluntary subscription. I did not see why the lyceum should not presentits tax-bill, and have the State to back its demand, as well as thechurch. However, at the request of the selectmen, I condescended to makesome such statement as this in writing:—“Know all men by thesepresents, that I, Henry Thoreau, do not wish to be regarded as a member ofany incorporated society which I have not joined.” This I gave tothe town-clerk; and he has it. The State, having thus learned that I didnot wish to be regarded as a member of that church, has never made a likedemand on me since; though it said that it must adhere to its originalpresumption that time. If I had known how to name them, I should then havesigned off in detail from all the societies which I never signed on to;but I did not know where to find such a complete list.

I have paid no poll-tax for six years. I was put into a jail once on thisaccount, for one night; and, as I stood considering the walls of solidstone, two or three feet thick, the door of wood and iron, a foot thick,and the iron grating which strained the light, I could not help beingstruck with the foolishness of that institution which treated me as if Iwere mere flesh and blood and bones, to be locked up. I wondered that itshould have concluded at length that this was the best use it could put meto, and had never thought to avail itself of my services in some way. Isaw that, if there was a wall of stone between me and my townsmen, therewas a still more difficult one to climb or break through, before they couldget to be as free as I was. I did nor for a moment feel confined, and thewalls seemed a great waste of stone and mortar. I felt as if I alone ofall my townsmen had paid my tax. They plainly did not know how to treatme, but behaved like persons who are underbred. In every threat and inevery compliment there was a blunder; for they thought that my chiefdesire was to stand the other side of that stone wall. I could not butsmile to see how industriously they locked the door on my meditations,which followed them out again without let or hindrance, and theywere really all that was dangerous. As they could not reach me, they hadresolved to punish my body; just as boys, if they cannot come at someperson against whom they have a spite, will abuse his dog. I saw that theState was half-witted, that it was timid as a lone woman with her silverspoons, and that it did not know its friends from its foes, and I lost allmy remaining respect for it, and pitied it.

Thus the state never intentionally confronts a man’s sense,intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed withsuperior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was notborn to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who isthe strongest. What force has a multitude? They only can force me who obeya higher law than I. They force me to become like themselves. I do nothear of men being forced to live this way or that by massesof men. What sort of life were that to live? When I meet a governmentwhich says to me, “Your money or your life,” why should I bein haste to give it my money? It may be in a great strait, and not knowwhat to do: I cannot help that. It must help itself; do as I do. It is notworth the while to snivel about it. I am not responsible for thesuccessful working of the machinery of society. I am not the son of theengineer. I perceive that, when an acorn and a chestnut fall side by side,the one does not remain inert to make way for the other, but both obeytheir own laws, and spring and grow and flourish as best they can, tillone, perchance, overshadows and destroys the other. If a plant cannot liveaccording to its nature, it dies; and so a man.

The night in prison was novel and interesting enough. The prisoners intheir shirt-sleeves were enjoying a chat and the evening air in thedoor-way, when I entered. But the jailer said, “Come, boys, it istime to lock up;” and so they dispersed, and I heard the sound oftheir steps returning into the hollow apartments. My room-mate wasintroduced to me by the jailer as “a first-rate fellow and a cleverman.” When the door was locked, he showed me where to hang my hat,and how he managed matters there. The rooms were whitewashed once a month;and this one, at least, was the whitest, most simply furnished, andprobably the neatest apartment in town. He naturally wanted to know where Icame from, and what brought me there; and, when I had told him, I askedhim in my turn how he came there, presuming him to be an honest man, ofcourse; and, as the world goes, I believe he was. “Why,” saidhe, “they accuse me of burning a barn; but I never did it.” Asnear as I could discover, he had probably gone to bed in a barn whendrunk, and smoked his pipe there; and so a barn was burnt. He had thereputation of being a clever man, had been there some three months waitingfor his trial to come on, and would have to wait as much longer; but hewas quite domesticated and contented, since he got his board for nothing,and thought that he was well treated.

He occupied one window, and I the other; and I saw, that, if one stayedthere long, his principal business would be to look out the window. I hadsoon read all the tracts that were left there, and examined where formerprisoners had broken out, and where a grate had been sawed off, and heardthe history of the various occupants of that room; for I found that evenhere there was a history and a gossip which never circulated beyond thewalls of the jail. Probably this is the only house in the town whereverses are composed, which are afterward printed in a circular form, butnot published. I was shown quite a long list of verses which were composedby some young men who had been detected in an attempt to escape, whoavenged themselves by singing them.

I pumped my fellow-prisoner as dry as I could, for fear I should never seehim again; but at length he showed me which was my bed, and left me toblow out the lamp.

It was like travelling into a far country, such as I had never expected tobehold, to lie there for one night. It seemed to me that I never had heardthe town-clock strike before, nor the evening sounds of the village; forwe slept with the windows open, which were inside the grating. It was tosee my native village in the light of the Middle Ages, and our Concord wasturned into a Rhine stream, and visions of knights and castles passedbefore me. They were the voices of old burghers that I heard in thestreets. I was an involuntary spectator and auditor of whatever was doneand said in the kitchen of the adjacent village-inn—a wholly new andrare experience to me. It was a closer view of my native town. I wasfairly inside of it. I never had seen its institutions before. This is oneof its peculiar institutions; for it is a shire town. I began tocomprehend what its inhabitants were about.

In the morning, our breakfasts were put through the hole in the door, insmall oblong-square tin pans, made to fit, and holding a pint ofchocolate, with brown bread, and an iron spoon. When they called for thevessels again, I was green enough to return what bread I had left; but mycomrade seized it, and said that I should lay that up for lunch or dinner.Soon after, he was let out to work at haying in a neighboring field,whither he went every day, and would not be back till noon; so he bade megood-day, saying that he doubted if he should see me again.

When I came out of prison,—for some one interfered, and paid thetax,—I did not perceive that great changes had taken place on thecommon, such as he observed who went in a youth, and emerged a gray-headedman; and yet a change had to my eyes come over the scene,—thetown, and State, and country,—greater than any that mere time couldeffect. I saw yet more distinctly the State in which I lived. I saw towhat extent the people among whom I lived could be trusted as goodneighbors and friends; that their friendship was for summer weather only;that they did not greatly purpose to do right; that they were a distinctrace from me by their prejudices and superstitions, as the Chinamen andMalays are; that, in their sacrifices to humanity they ran no risks, noteven to their property; that, after all, they were not so noble but theytreated the thief as he had treated them, and hoped, by a certain outwardobservance and a few prayers, and by walking in a particular straightthough useless path from time to time, to save their souls. This may be tojudge my neighbors harshly; for I believe that most of them are not awarethat they have such an institution as the jail in their village.

It was formerly the custom in our village, when a poor debtor came out ofjail, for his acquaintances to salute him, looking through their fingers,which were crossed to represent the grating of a jail window, “Howdo ye do?” My neighbors did not thus salute me, but first looked atme, and then at one another, as if I had returned from a long journey. Iwas put into jail as I was going to the shoemaker’s to get a shoewhich was mended. When I was let out the next morning, I proceeded tofinish my errand, and, having put on my mended shoe, joined a huckleberryparty, who were impatient to put themselves under my conduct; and in halfan hour,—for the horse was soon tackled,—was in the midst of ahuckleberry field, on one of our highest hills, two miles off; and thenthe State was nowhere to be seen.

This is the whole history of “My Prisons.”

I have never declined paying the highway tax, because I am as desirous ofbeing a good neighbor as I am of being a bad subject; and, as forsupporting schools, I am doing my part to educate my fellow-countrymennow. It is for no particular item in the tax-bill that I refuse to pay it.I simply wish to refuse allegiance to the State, to withdraw and standaloof from it effectually. I do not care to trace the course of my dollar,if I could, till it buys a man, or a musket to shoot one with,—thedollar is innocent,—but I am concerned to trace the effects of myallegiance. In fact, I quietly declare war with the State, after myfashion, though I will still make use and get what advantages of her Ican, as is usual in such cases.

If others pay the tax which is demanded of me, from a sympathy with theState, they do but what they have already done in their own case, orrather they abet injustice to a greater extent than the State requires. Ifthey pay the tax from a mistaken interest in the individual taxed, to savehis property or prevent his going to jail, it is because they have notconsidered wisely how far they let their private feelings interfere withthe public good.

This, then, is my position at present. But one cannot be too much on hisguard in such a case, lest his actions be biassed by obstinacy, or an undueregard for the opinions of men. Let him see that he does only what belongsto himself and to the hour.

I think sometimes, Why, this people mean well; they are only ignorant;they would do better if they knew how: why give your neighbors this painto treat you as they are not inclined to? But I think, again, this is noreason why I should do as they do, or permit others to suffer much greaterpain of a different kind. Again, I sometimes say to myself, When manymillions of men, without heat, without ill-will, without personal feelingof any kind, demand of you a few shillings only, without the possibility,such is their constitution, of retracting or altering their presentdemand, and without the possibility, on your side, of appeal to any othermillions, why expose yourself to this overwhelming brute force? You do notresist cold and hunger, the winds and the waves, thus obstinately; youquietly submit to a thousand similar necessities. You do not put your headinto the fire. But just in proportion as I regard this as not wholly abrute force, but partly a human force, and consider that I have relationsto those millions as to so many millions of men, and not of mere brute orinanimate things, I see that appeal is possible, first andinstantaneously, from them to the Maker of them, and, secondly, from themto themselves. But, if I put my head deliberately into the fire, there isno appeal to fire or to the Maker of fire, and I have only myself toblame. If I could convince myself that I have any right to be satisfiedwith men as they are, and to treat them accordingly, and not according, insome respects, to my requisitions and expectations of what they and Iought to be, then, like a good Mussulman and fatalist, I should endeavorto be satisfied with things as they are, and say it is the will of God.And, above all, there is this difference between resisting this and apurely brute or natural force, that I can resist this with some effect;but I cannot expect, like Orpheus, to change the nature of the rocks andtrees and beasts.

I do not wish to quarrel with any man or nation. I do not wish to splithairs, to make fine distinctions, or set myself up as better than myneighbors. I seek rather, I may say, even an excuse for conforming to thelaws of the land. I am but too ready to conform to them. Indeed I havereason to suspect myself on this head; and each year, as the tax-gatherercomes round, I find myself disposed to review the acts and position of thegeneral and state governments, and the spirit of the people to discover apretext for conformity.

“We must affect our country as our parents,
And if at any time we alienate
Out love of industry from doing it honor,
We must respect effects and teach the soul
Matter of conscience and religion,
And not desire of rule or benefit.”

I believe that the State will soon be able to take all my work of thissort out of my hands, and then I shall be no better patriot than myfellow-countrymen. Seen from a lower point of view, the Constitution, withall its faults, is very good; the law and the courts are very respectable;even this State and this American government are, in many respects, veryadmirable, and rare things, to be thankful for, such as a great many havedescribed them; seen from a higher still, and the highest, who shall saywhat they are, or that they are worth looking at or thinking of at all?

However, the government does not concern me much, and I shall bestow thefewest possible thoughts on it. It is not many moments that I live under agovernment, even in this world. If a man is thought-free, fancy-free,imagination-free, that which is not never for a long time appearingto be to him, unwise rulers or reformers cannot fatally interrupthim.

I know that most men think differently from myself; but those whose livesare by profession devoted to the study of these or kindred subjectscontent me as little as any. Statesmen and legislators, standing socompletely within the institution, never distinctly and nakedly behold it.They speak of moving society, but have no resting-place without it. Theymay be men of a certain experience and discrimination, and have no doubtinvented ingenious and even useful systems, for which we sincerely thankthem; but all their wit and usefulness lie within certain not very widelimits. They are wont to forget that the world is not governed by policyand expediency. Webster never goes behind government, and so cannot speakwith authority about it. His words are wisdom to those legislators whocontemplate no essential reform in the existing government; but forthinkers, and those who legislate for all time, he never once glances atthe subject. I know of those whose serene and wise speculations on thistheme would soon reveal the limits of his mind’s range andhospitality. Yet, compared with the cheap professions of most reformers,and the still cheaper wisdom and eloquence of politicians in general, hisare almost the only sensible and valuable words, and we thank Heaven forhim. Comparatively, he is always strong, original, and, above all,practical. Still his quality is not wisdom, but prudence. Thelawyer’s truth is not Truth, but consistency or a consistentexpediency. Truth is always in harmony with herself, and is not concernedchiefly to reveal the justice that may consist with wrong-doing. He welldeserves to be called, as he has been called, the Defender of theConstitution. There are really no blows to be given by him but defensiveones. He is not a leader, but a follower. His leaders are the men of’87. “I have never made an effort,” he says, “andnever propose to make an effort; I have never countenanced an effort, andnever mean to countenance an effort, to disturb the arrangement asoriginally made, by which the various States came into the Union.”Still thinking of the sanction which the Constitution gives to slavery, hesays, “Because it was part of the original compact,—let itstand.” Notwithstanding his special acuteness and ability, he isunable to take a fact out of its merely political relations, and behold itas it lies absolutely to be disposed of by the intellect,—what, forinstance, it behoves a man to do here in America today with regard toslavery, but ventures, or is driven, to make some such desperate answer asthe following, while professing to speak absolutely, and as a privateman,—from which what new and singular code of social duties might beinferred?—“The manner,” says he, “in which thegovernments of those States where slavery exists are to regulate it, isfor their own consideration, under the responsibility to theirconstituents, to the general laws of propriety, humanity, and justice, andto God. Associations formed elsewhere, springing from a feeling ofhumanity, or any other cause, have nothing whatever to do with it. Theyhave never received any encouragement from me and they never will.”

They who know of no purer sources of truth, who have traced up its streamno higher, stand, and wisely stand, by the Bible and the Constitution, anddrink at it there with reverence and humanity; but they who behold whereit comes trickling into this lake or that pool, gird up their loins oncemore, and continue their pilgrimage toward its fountain-head.

No man with a genius for legislation has appeared in America. They arerare in the history of the world. There are orators, politicians, andeloquent men, by the thousand; but the speaker has not yet opened hismouth to speak who is capable of settling the much-vexed questions of theday. We love eloquence for its own sake, and not for any truth which itmay utter, or any heroism it may inspire. Our legislators have not yetlearned the comparative value of free-trade and of freedom, of union, andof rectitude, to a nation. They have no genius or talent for comparativelyhumble questions of taxation and finance, commerce and manufactures andagriculture. If we were left solely to the wordy wit of legislators inCongress for our guidance, uncorrected by the seasonable experience andthe effectual complaints of the people, America would not long retain herrank among the nations. For eighteen hundred years, though perchance Ihave no right to say it, the New Testament has been written; yet where isthe legislator who has wisdom and practical talent enough to avail himselfof the light which it sheds on the science of legislation.

The authority of government, even such as I am willing to submitto,—for I will cheerfully obey those who know and can do better thanI, and in many things even those who neither know nor can do sowell,—is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have thesanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over myperson and property but what I concede to it. The progress from anabsolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, isa progress toward a true respect for the individual. Even the Chinesephilosopher was wise enough to regard the individual as the basis of theempire. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possiblein government? Is it not possible to take a step further towardsrecognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a reallyfree and enlightened State, until the State comes to recognize theindividual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own powerand authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please myselfwith imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, andto treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would notthink it inconsistent with its own repose, if a few were to live aloof fromit, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the dutiesof neighbors and fellow-men. A State which bore this kind of fruit, andsuffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for astill more perfect and glorious State, which also I have imagined, but notyet anywhere seen.


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What is the main idea of Walden by Henry David Thoreau? ›

The main idea of "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau is to find the meaning of life. He set out to contemplate life and himself and to find out man's role in the world.

What is Thoreau's main point in conclusion? ›

Thoreau concludes by acknowledging that the average “John or Jonathon” reading his words will not understand them, but that this does not matter. A new day is dawning, and the sun “is a morning star” heralding a new life to come.

How many editions of Walden are there? ›

Thoreau's popularity continued: six editions of Walden were published in 1948, eleven in 1958, and twenty-three in 1968, along with many editions of his other works.

Is Walden out of copyright? ›

Captions Edit. English: Title page from first edition of Henry David Thoreau's Walden (1854). This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1927.

What does Walden symbolize? ›

Walden is viewed not only as a philosophical treatise on labour, leisure, self-reliance, and individualism but also as an influential piece of nature writing. It is considered Thoreau's masterwork.

What is Thoreau's most famous quote? ›

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.

Why does Thoreau leave Walden Pond? ›

Eventually, finding himself restless and in need of inspiration, Thoreau decided to carve out a new life in nature. “He wanted to get away from the rat race of manufacturing and commerce,” Ward says.

What does Thoreau mean by the sun is but a morning star? ›

Venus is the evening star and suddenly, because of Thoreau's scientific knowledge, he reminds us that our sun, which we don't ordinarily think of in this way, is, in fact, a star; he does this by calling it a “morning star.” He also reminds us that each day will dawn to us, but he says only if we are awake.

How long did Thoreau live at Walden Pond? ›

In 1845, 27 year-old Henry David Thoreau built a simple house on the shore of Walden Pond on land owned by his friend and influential writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. He lived here for two years, two months and two days.

Which version of Walden is best? ›

Walden by Henry David Thoreau, the Original Version is the Best Version on the Barnes and Noble Website by far. It is worth every penny!!! Buy this one and the rest of this Self Improvement Collection published by Emerson Huxley.

Is Walden a hard read? ›

Walden is a difficult book to read for three reasons: First, it was written in an older prose, which uses surgically precise language, extended, allegorical metaphors, long and complex paragraphs and sentences, and vivid, detailed, and insightful descriptions.

How long does it take to read Walden? ›

The average reader will spend 3 hours and 16 minutes reading this book at 250 WPM (words per minute).

What are the four necessities of life according to Thoreau? ›

Thoreau identifies only four necessities: food, shelter, clothing, and fuel. Since nature itself does much to provide these, a person willing to accept the basic gifts of nature can live off the land with minimal toil.

Is Thoreau in the public domain? ›

About Copyright

Thoreau, who died in 1862, are in the public domain. We intended not to use any copyrighted material for this site or, if not possible, to indicate the copyright of the respective object.

What is the deep Walden statement? ›

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

What does the pond in Walden symbolize? ›

Walden Pond

Certainly it symbolizes the alternative to, and withdrawal from, social conventions and obligations. But it also symbolizes the vitality and tranquility of nature.

How is Walden an example of transcendentalism? ›

In his essay Walden, Thoreau affirms the Transcendentalist belief of living simply by emphasizing the thought of living with only the essentials and the importance of self reliance. Thoreau supports the ideal of living simply through the emphasis of only living with what one needs.

What is Thoreau's motto? ›

Thoreau begins Civil Disobedience by saying that he agrees with the motto, "That government is best which governs least." Indeed, he says, men will someday be able to have a government that does not govern at all.

What is Thoreau's most famous poem? ›

Thoreau's importance as a philosophical writer was little appreciated during his lifetime, but his two most noted works, Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854) and “Civil Disobedience” (1849), gradually developed a following, and by the latter half of the 20th century, had become classic texts in American thought.

What did Thoreau believe? ›

He was a well-known advocate of transcendentalism, or the belief in the inherent goodness of people and nature, making a virtue of self-reliance. In his essay … On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, Thoreau once wrote “That government is best which governs not at all”.

What does the last paragraph in Walden mean? ›

The last paragraph is about John Field, by comparison with Thoreau "a poor man, born to be poor . . . not to rise in this world" — a man impoverished spiritually as well as materially.

What was the main reason Thoreau went to the woods to write? ›

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

What are Thoreau's views on slavery? ›

While Thoreau opposed slavery, his principal response was to resist it passively, rather than to crusade for its abolition. In contrast, William Lloyd Garrison (1805–1879) was moved to devote all of his energy and resources to a tireless crusade for abolition.

What is Thoreau's relationship with nature? ›

Thoreau advocates a perfect harmony between mankind and nature. He believes that man and animals are not enemies, they are friends and equal inhabitants of the earth. He criticizes the human-centered attitude towards nature.

What does Thoreau ask his readers to do at the end of the text? ›

4a) summarize: what is Thoreau asking his readers to do? He is asking his readers to resist what they don't believe in.

What is Thoreau's purpose for writing where I lived and what I lived for? ›

Thoreau's purpose in the text is to convince readers on what an ideal life is. As mentioned before, Thoreau believes that life must be simple in order to enjoy.

What are 3 significant things about Thoreau? ›

The following are the top ten facts about Henry David Thoreau;
  • He invented the grinding machine to improve pencils. ...
  • He started a forest fire at the age of 26 years. ...
  • Henry and his brother proposed to the same woman. ...
  • He was a minimalist. ...
  • He led a social life. ...
  • He was a member of the Boston Society of Natural History.
20 Feb 2022

Did Thoreau's mom really do his laundry? ›

As is a favorite point of Thoreau's critics, the wild life he lived was rather tame. His mother famously helped him out with laundry and food over the two years, and he had guests over regularly.

What did Thoreau do after Walden Pond? ›

After Thoreau's time at Walden, he wrote magazine articles and became an avid abolitionist, working to smuggle escaped enslaved people to freedom through the Underground Railroad. He died in 1862.

Is Walden a great book? ›

Walden remains a 5-star read, and is an essential book for everyone to read, at least once in their life, even if it is in the latter phases.

Is Walden fiction or nonfiction? ›

The 100 best nonfiction books: No 64 – Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854) | Society books | The Guardian.

Is Walden a fiction? ›

Walden is a fiction, an imaginative creation; it is not a strict "autobiography" in the sense that we usually assign to that word. The "I" voice we hear bragging "as lustily as chanticleer in the morning" is Thoreau's representation of himself in 1854, as he would like to be, as he hopes to be someday.

Why did I go into the woods? ›

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Who lived at Walden Pond? ›

The writer, transcendentalist, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau lived on the northern shore of the pond for two years starting in the summer of 1845.

Where did Thoreau write Walden? ›

The American transcendentalist writer's work is a first-person account of his experimental time of simple living at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, starting in 1845, for two years and two months.

How many words are in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? ›

Books that are 100,000 words long
Gone GirlGillian Flynn145,719
Throne of GlassSarah J. Maas113,665
The Golden CompassPhilip Pullman112,815
McTeagueFrank Norris112,737
The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnMark Twain109,571
25 more rows
11 May 2019

What is the deep Walden statement? ›

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

What is Thoreau's viewpoint in the passage? ›

What was Thoreau's initial viewpoint? Living life to its fullest meant living in nature.

What was the purpose of Thoreau's experiment at Walden Pond? ›

Thoreau lived at the pond for two years, two months and two days. His idea was to conduct an experiment in simple living, to lead a life according to nature and to determine the real necessities of life.

What is Thoreau's purpose for writing where I lived and what I lived for? ›

Thoreau's purpose in the text is to convince readers on what an ideal life is. As mentioned before, Thoreau believes that life must be simple in order to enjoy.

What did Thoreau mean by I did not wish to live what was not life? ›

In this statement is is trying to distinguish between the life that he already has and the life that he wants in solitude away from civilization so that he has time to think through the deeper meaning of life.

Is Walden an easy read? ›

Walden is a difficult book to read for three reasons: First, it was written in an older prose, which uses surgically precise language, extended, allegorical metaphors, long and complex paragraphs and sentences, and vivid, detailed, and insightful descriptions.

What did Thoreau learn from his experiment of life in the woods? ›

What did Thoreau learn from his experiment in the woods? that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagines, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

What are the two government policies Thoreau most objects to? ›

4. The two government policies Thoreau most objects to is the creation of the Fugitive Slave act and the reasons of starting the Mexican war.

Why does Thoreau refer to Civil Disobedience as a duty? ›

Thoreau refers to civil disobedience as not simply a right, but as a duty merely because individuals are responsible for the actions taken by the government. The government is only what the people let it be, and it can be corrupted and abused if men allow it be.

How does Thoreau define Civil Disobedience? ›

In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau's basic premise is that a higher law than civil law demands the obedience of the individual. Human law and government are subordinate. In cases where the two are at odds with one another, the individual must follow his conscience and, if necessary, disregard human law.

What was the main reason Thoreau went to the woods to write? ›

He settled in a forest on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and built himself a tiny cabin. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,” he famously wrote in Walden.

What does Thoreau mean by the sun is but a morning star? ›

Venus is the evening star and suddenly, because of Thoreau's scientific knowledge, he reminds us that our sun, which we don't ordinarily think of in this way, is, in fact, a star; he does this by calling it a “morning star.” He also reminds us that each day will dawn to us, but he says only if we are awake.

Which of the following best describes the central idea of the text Walden? ›

Which of the following best describes a central idea of the text? Life should be lived without complication or hurry in order to find meaning.

What does Thoreau mean when he says that the character of the voters is not staked in voting? ›

What does Thoreau mean when he says that “the character of the voters is not staked” in voting? He means the voter's character is not at stake in the election; the voter has nothing personal to lose because he has turned over responsibility for the decision to the majority.

Which state is best overall structure of Walden quizlet? ›

Which best states the overall structure of Walden? The work describes Thoreau's thoughts over the course of a year spent immersed in the natural world.


1. Stardew Valley + Walden: Part 1
2. Banned Book Week 2013 Read Out On the Duty of Civil Disobedience
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3. Civil Disobedience - Videobook 🎧 Audiobook with Scrolling Text 📖
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4. Night & Moonlight / Walden Pond in Winter, by HD Thoreau | ASMR Quiet Reading for Relaxation & Sleep
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5. Civil Disobedience - Videobook 🎧 Audiobook with Scrolling Text 📖
(Ion Books)
6. A Winter Walk, by Henry David Thoreau (ASMR Quiet Reading for Relaxation & Sleep)
(Boring Books for Bedtime Sleep Podcast)

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