Feb. 7, 1838. Zeno, the Stoic, stood in precisely the same relation to the world that I do now. He is forsooth bred a merchant, as how many still, and can trade, and barter, and perhaps higgle, and moreover be can be shipwrecked and cast ashore at the Piraeus, like one of your Johns or Thomases. He strolls into a shop, and is charmed by a book, by Xenophon, and straightway he becomes a philosopher. The sun of a new life's day rises to him serene and unclouded, which looks over a-rat. And still the fleshly Zeno sails on, shipwrecked, buffeted, tempest-tossed, but the true Zeno sails over a placid sea. Play high, play low, rain, sleet, or snow, it's all the same with the stoic.... When evening comes, he sits down unwearied to the review of his day, what 's done that 's to be undone, what not done at all still to be done; himself Truth's unconcerned helpmate. Another system of book-keeping this, then, that the Cyprian trader to Phoenicia practiced.
This was he who said to a certain garrulous young man, "On this account have we two ears and but one mouth, that we may hear more, and speak less."... The wisest may apologize that he only said so to hear himself talk, for if he heard not, as well for him had he never spoken. What is all this gabble to the gabbier? Only the silent reap the profit of it.
Feb. 7, 1841.... There would be a new year's gift, indeed, if we would bestow on each other our sincerity. We should communicate our wealth, and not purchase that which does not belong to us, for a sign. Why give each other a sign to keep? If we gave the thing itself, there would be no need of a sign....
The eaves are running on the south side of the house, the titmouse lisps in the poplar, the bells are ringing for church, while the sun presides over all and makes his simple warmth more obvious than all else. What shall I do with the hour so like time and yet so fit for eternity? Where in me are these russet patches of ground, and scattered logs and chips in the yard? I do not feel cluttered. — I have some notion what the Johnswort and life-everlasting may be thinking about when the sun shines on me as on them, and turns my prompt thought into just such a seething shimmer. I lie out as indistinct as a heath at noonday. I am evaporating and ascending into the sun....
The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. I have no wealth to bestow on him. If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward. Is not Friendship divine in this? I have myself to respect, but to myself I am not amiable; but my friend is my amiableness personified....
The world has never learned what men can build each other up to be, when both master and pupil work in love....
Wait not till I invite thee, but observe that I am glad to see thee when thou comest.
The most ardent lover holds yet a private court, and his love can never be so strong and ethereal that there will not be danger that judgment be rendered against the beloved....
So far as we respond to our ideal estimate of each other, do we have profitable intercourse.
_Feb. 7, 1857. Hayden, the elder, tells me that the quails have come to his yard every day for about a month, and are just as tame as chickens. They come about his wood shed, he supposes, to pick up the worms that have dropped out of the wood, and when it storms hard, gather together in a corner of the shed. He walks within about three or four feet of them without disturbing them.... They will be about his yard the greater part of the day; were there yesterday, though it was so warm, but now probably can get food enough elsewhere. They go just the same to Poland's across the road. About ten years ago there was a bevy of fifteen that used to come from the same woods, and one day they being in the barn and scared by the cat, four ran into the hay and died there.... Thus it seems in severe winters the quails venture out of the woods, and join the poultry of the farmer's yard, if it be near the edge of the wood. It is remarkable that this bird, which thus half domesticates itself, should not be found wholly domesticated before this.
Feb. 7, 1858.... If possible, come upon the top of a hill unexpectedly, perhaps through woods, and then look off from it to the distant earth which lies behind a bluer veil, before you can see directly down it, i. e., bringing its own near top against the distant landscape.
Feb. 7, 1859. Evidently the distant woods are more blue in a warm and moist or misty day in winter, and is not this connected with the blue in snow in similar days?
Going along the Nut Meadow on Jimmy Miles's road, when I see the sulphur lichens on the rails, brightening with the moisture, I feel like studying them again as a relisher and tonic, to make life go down and digest well, as we use pepper and vinegar and salads. They are a sort of winter green which we gather and assimilate with our eyes. That's the true use of the study of lichens. I expect thus the lichenist will have the keenest relish for Nature in her everyday mood and dress. He will have the appetite of the worm that never dies, of the grub. To study lichens is to get a taste of earth and health, to go gnawing the rails and rocks. This product of the bark is the essence of all tonics. The lichenist extracts nutriment from the very crust of the earth. A taste for this study is an evidence of titanic health, a rare earthiness. It makes not so much blood as soil of life. It fits a man to deal with the barrenest and rockiest experience. A little moisture, a fog, or rain, or melted snow makes his wilderness to blossom like the rose. As some strong animal appetites, not satisfied with starch and muscle and fat, are fain to eat that which eats and digests the contents of the crop, the stomach and entrails themselves, so the lichenist loves the tripe of the rock, that which eats and digests the rocks. He eats the eater. Eat-all may be his name. A Hellenist fattens where others starve. His provender never fails.... There is no such collyrium or salve for sore eyes as these brightening lichens on a moist day. Go bathe and screen your eyes with them in the softened light of the woods.
Feb. 8, 1839. When the poetic frenzy seizes us, we run and scratch with our pen, delighting, like the cock, in the dust we make, but do not detect where the jewel lies which we have in the mean time cast to a distance, or quite covered up again.
Feb. 8, 1841. All we have experienced is so much gone within us, and there lies. It is the company we keep. One day, in health or sickness, it will come out and be remembered. Neither body nor soul forgets anything. The twig always remembers the wind that shook it, and the stone the cuff it received. Ask the old tree and the sand....
Are we not always in youth so long as we face heaven? We may always live in the morning of our days. To him who seeks early, the sun never gets over the edge of the horizon, but his rays fall slanting forever....
My journal is that of me which would else spill over and run to waste, gleanings from the field which in action I reap. I must not live for it, but, in it, for the gods. They are my correspondent to whom daily I send off this sheet, post-paid. I am clerk in their counting-room, and at evening transfer the account from day-book to ledger. It is a leaf which hangs over my head in the path. I bend the twig, and write my prayers on it; then, letting it go, the bough springs up and shows the scrawl to heaven; as if it were not kept shut in my desk, but were as public a leaf as any in nature. It is papyrus by the river side, it is vellum in the pastures, it is parchment on the hills.... Like the sere leaves in yonder vase, these have been gathered far and wide. Upland and lowland, forest and field, have been ransacked.
In our holiest moment, our devil with a leer stands close at hand. He is a very busy devil.... When I go forth with zeal to some good work, my devil is sure to get his robe tucked up the first, and arrives there as soon as I, with a look of sincere earnestness, which puts to shame my best intent.... He has a winning way of recommending himself by making himself useful. How readily he comes into my best project, and does his work with a quiet and steady cheerfulness which even virtue may take pattern from.... I never did a charitable thing, but there he stood, scarce in the rear, hat in hand, partner in the same errand, ready to share the smile of gratitude. Though I shut the door never so quick, and tell him to stay home like a good dog, he will out with me, for I shut in my own legs so, and he escapes in the mean while, and is ready to back and reinforce me in most virtuous deeds. If I turn and say, "Get thee behind me," he then indeed turns too, and takes the lead, though he seems to retire with a pensive and compassionate look, as much as to say, "Ye know not what ye do."
Feb. 8, 1852.... Tuckerman says cunningly, "If the rapt admirer of the wonders and beauties of life and being might well come to learn of our knowledge the laws and the history of what he loves, let us remember that we have the best right to all the pleasure that he has discovered, and that we are not complete if we do not possess it all. Linnaeus was as hearty a lover and admirer of nature, as if he had been nothing more."...
Carried a new cloak to Johnny Riorden. I found that the shanty was warmed by the simple social relations of the Irish. On Sunday they come from the town and stand in the doorway, and so keep out the cold. One is not cold among his brothers and sisters. What if there is less fire on the hearth, if there is more in the heart. These Irish are not succeeding so ill after all. The little boy goes to the primary school, and proves a foremost boy there, and the mother's brother, who has let himself in the village, tells me that he takes "The Flag of Our Union," if that is the paper edited by an Irishman. It is musical news that Johnny does not love to be kept at home from school in deep snows.
Feb. 8, 1854.... Josselyn, speaking of crickets, says, "The Italian who hath them cryed up and down the streets (Grilli cite cantano), and buyeth them to put into his gardens, if he were in New England would gladly be rid of them, they make such a din in the evening." I am more charmed by the Italian's taste than by Josselyn's impatience.
Feb. 8, 1857. Debauched and worn out senses require the violent vibrations of an instrument to excite them, but sound and still youthful senses, not enervated by luxury, hear music in the wind and rain and running water. One would think, from reading the critics, that music was intermittent, as a spring in the desert, dependent on some Paganini or Mozart, or heard only when the Pierians or Euterpeans drive through the villages, but music is perpetual, and only hearing is intermittent. I hear it in the softened air of these warm February days which have broken the back of the winter....
Again and again I congratulate myself on my so-called poverty. I was almost disappointed yesterday to find thirty dollars in my desk which I did not know that I possessed, though now I should be sorry to lose them. The week that I go away to lecture is unspeakably cheapened. The preceding and succeeding days are a mere sloping down to and up from it. In the society of many men, or in the midst of what is called success, I find my life of no account, and my spirits rapidly fall. I would rather be the barrenest pasture lying fallow than cursed with the compliments of kings, than be the sulphurous and accursed desert where Babylon once stood. But when I hear only the rustling oak leaf, or the faint metallic cheep of the tree sparrow, for variety in my winter walk, my life becomes continent, and sweet as the kernel of a nut. I would rather hear a single shrub oak leaf at the end of a wintry glade rustle of its own accord at my approach than receive a ship-load of stars and garters from the strange kings and peoples of the earth. By poverty, i. e., simplicity of life and fewness of incidents, I am solidified and crystallized as a vapor or liquid by cold. It is a singular concentration of strength and energy and flavor. Chastity is perpetual acquaintance with the All. My diffuse and vaporous life becomes as the frost leaves and spiculm radiant as gems on the weeds and stubble in a winter morning. You think I am impoverishing myself by withdrawing from men, but in my solitude I have woven for myself a silken web or chrysalis, and nymph-like shall erelong burst forth a more perfect creature, fitted for a higher society....
And now another friendship is ended.. I do not know what has made my friend doubt me, but I know that in love there is no mistake, and that any estrangement is well-founded. But my destiny is not narrowed, rather, if possible, the broader for it. The heavens withdraw, and arch themselves higher. I am sensible not only of a moral, but even of a grand physical pain, such as gods may feel, about my head and breast, a certain ache and fullness. This rending of a tie, it is not my work nor thine. It is no accident that we may avoid, it is only the award of fate that is affecting us. I know of no eons or periods, no life and death, but these meetings and separations. My life is like a stream that is suddenly dammed and has no outlet. But it rises higher up the hills that shut it in, and will become a deep and silent lake. Certainly there is no event comparable for grandeur with the eternal separation, if we may conceive it so, from a being that we have known. I become in a degree sensible of the meaning of finite and infinite. What a grand significance the word "never" acquires! With one with whom we have walked on high ground, we cannot deal on any lower ground ever after. We have tried so many years to put each other to this immortal use, and have failed. Undoubtedly our good genii have mutually found the material unsuitable. We have hitherto paid each other the highest possible compliment, we have recognized each other constantly as divine, have afforded each other that opportunity to live that no other wealth or kindness can afford. And now for some reason inappreciable by us, it has become necessary for us to withhold this mutual aid. Perchance there is none beside who knows us for a god, and none whom we know for such. Each man and woman is a veritable god or goddess, but to the mass of their fellows disguised. There is only one in each case who sees through the disguise. That one who does not stand so near to any man as to see the divinity in him is truly alone. I am perfectly sad at parting from you. I could better have the earth taken away from under my feet, than the thought of you from my mind. One while I think that some great injury has been done, with which you are implicated; again, that you are no party to it. I fear that there may be incessant tragedies, that one may treat his fellow as a god, but receive somewhat less regard from him. I now almost for the first time fear this. Yet I believe that in the long run there is no such inequality.
Feb. 8, 1860. 2 P. M. Up river to Fair Haven Hill. Thermometer 43°.... There is a peculiarity in the air when the temperature is thus high, and the weather fair at this season, which makes sounds more clear and pervading, as if they trusted themselves abroad farther in this genial state of the air. A different sound comes to my ear now from iron rails which are struck, from the cawing of crows, etc. Sound is not abrupt, piercing, or rending, but softly sweet and musical. There must be a still more genial and milder air before the bluebird's warble can be heard.
Feb. 8,1861. Coldest day yet. — 22° at least (all we can read), at 8 A. M., and so far as I can learn, not above — 6° all day.
Feb. 9, 1838. It is wholesome advice "to be a man amongst folks." — Go into society, if you. will, or if you are unwilling, and take a human interest in its affairs. If you mistake these Messieurs and Mesdames for so many men and women, it is but erring on the safe side, or rather it is their error and not yours. Armed with a manly sincerity, you shall not be trifled with, but drive this business of life. To manage the small talk of a party is to make an effort to do what was at first done admirably, because naturally, at your own fireside.
Feb. 9, 1841...."Whoe'er is raised
For wealth he has not, he is taxed, not praised,"
says Jonson. If you mind the flatterer, you rob yourself, and still cheat him. The fates never exaggerate. Men pass for what they are. The state never fails to get a revenue out of you without a direct tax. What I am praised for which I have not, I put to the account of the gods. It needs a skillful eye to distinguish between their coin and my own. However, there can be no loss either way. For what meed I have earned is equally theirs. Let neither fame nor infamy hit you, but one go as far beyond as the other falls behind. Let the one glance past you to the gods, and the other wallow where it was engendered. The home thrusts are at helmets upon blocks, and my worst foes but stab an armor through.
My life at this moment is like a summer morning when birds are singing. Yet that is false, for nature's is an idle pleasure in comparison. My hour has a more solid serenity.
I have been breaking silence these twenty-three years, and have hardly made a rent in it. Silence has no end. Speech is but the beginning of it. My friend thinks I keep silence who am only choked with letting it out so fast. Does he forget that new mines of secrecy are constantly opening in me?...
When your host shuts his door on you, he incloses you in the dwelling of nature. He thrusts you over the threshold of the world. My foes restore me to my friends. — I might say friendship had no ears, as love has no eyes, for no word is evidence in its court. The least act fulfills more than all words profess. The most gracious speech is but partial kindness, but the smallest genuine deed takes the whole man. If we had waited till doomsday, it could never have been uttered.
Feb. 9, 1852. I am interested to see the seeds of the poke, about a dozen, shiny, black, with a white spot, somewhat like a saba bean in shape, the still full granary of the birds.
9 A. M. Up river to Fair Haven Pond.... Met — on the river,... fishing, wearing an old coat much patched with many colors. He represents the Indian still. The very patches on his coat and his improvident life do so. I feel that he is as essential a part, nevertheless, of our community as the lawyer in the village. He tells me that he caught three pickerel here the other day that weighed seven pounds all together. It is the old story. The fisherman is a natural story-teller. No man's imagination plays more pranks than his, while he is tending his reels, and trotting from one to another, or watching his cork in summer. He is ever waiting for the sky to fall. He has sent out a venture. He has a ticket in the lottery of fate, and who knows what it may draw. He ever expects to catch a bigger fish yet. He is the most patient and believing of men. Who else will stand so long in wet places? When the hay-maker runs to shelter, he takes down his pole, and bends his steps to the river, glad to have a leisure day.... He is more like an inhabitant of nature....
Men tell about the mirage to be seen in certain deserts, and in peculiar states of the atmosphere. The mirage is constant. The state of the atmosphere is continually varying, and to a keen observer objects do not twice present exactly the same appearance. If I invert my head this morning and look at the woods in the horizon, they do not look so far off and elysianlike as in the afternoon. If I mistake not, it is late in the afternoon when the atmosphere is in such a state that we derive the most pleasure from and are most surprised by this experiment. The prospect is thus a constantly varying mirage answering to the condition of our perceptive faculties and our fluctuating imagination. If we incline our heads never so little, the most familiar things begin to put on some new aspect. If we invert our heads completely, our desecrated wood-lot appears far off, incredible, elysian, unprofaned by us. As you cannot swear through glass, no more can you swear through air, the thinnest section of it.... When was not the air as elastic as our spirits.... It is a new glass placed over the picture every hour....
When I break off a twig of green-barked sassafras, as I am going through the woods now, and smell it, I am startled to find it fragrant as in summer. It is an importation of all the spices of Oriental summers into our New England winter, very foreign to the snow and the oak leaves.
Feb. 9, 1853.... Saw the grisly bear near the Haymarket [Boston] to-day, said (?) to weigh nineteen hundred pounds; apparently too much. He looked four feet and a few inches in height by as much in length, not including his great head and his tail, which was invisible. He looked gentle, and continually sucked his claws, and cleaned between them with his tongue. Small eyes and funny little ears. Perfectly bearish, with a strong wild beast scent; fed on Indian meal and water. Hind paws a foot long. Lying down with his feet up against the bars; often sitting up in the corner on his hind quarters.
Feb. 9, 1855. Snowed harder in the night, and blew considerably.... I was so sure this storm would bring snowbirds that I went to the window at ten to look for them, and there they were. Also, a downy woodpecker (perhaps a hairy) flitted high across the street to an elm in front of the house, and commenced assiduously tapping, his head going like a hammer.
Feb. 9, 1858.... Saw, at Simon Brown's, a sketch, apparently made with a pen, on which was written, "Concord Jail, near Boston, America," and on a fresher piece of paper, on which the above was pasted, was written, "The jail in which General Sir Archid Campbell and — Wilson were confined when taken off Boston in America by a French Privateer." A letter on the back side from Mr. Lewis of Framingham to Mr. Brown stated that Mr. Lewis had received the sketch from a grandson of Wilson who drew it. — You are supposed to be in the jail yard, or close to it westward, and see the old jail, gambrel-roofed, the old Hurd house (partly) west of the grave-yard, the grave-yard and Dr. Hurd house, and over the last, and to the north of it, a wooded hill, apparently Windmill Hill. Just north of the Hurd house, beyond it, apparently the Court-house and School-house, both with belfries, also the road to the battle ground, and a distant farmhouse on a hill, French's or Buttrick's, perhaps.
Feb 10, 1841.... Our thoughts and actions may be very private for a long time, for they demand a more catholic publicity to be displayed in than the world can afford. Our best deeds shun the narrow walks of men, and are not ambitious of the faint light the world can shed on them, but delight to unfold themselves in that public ground between God and conscience.... Within, where I resolve and deal with principles, there is more space and room than anywhere without where my hands execute. Men should hear of your virtue only as they hear the creaking of the earth's axle and the music of the spheres. It will fall into the course of nature, and be effectually concealed by publicness.
Feb. 10, 1852. Now if there are any who think I am vainglorious, that I set myself up above others, and crow over their low estate, let me say that I could tell s, pitiful story respecting myself as well as them, if my spirits held out to do it. I could encourage them with a sufficient list of failures, and could flow as humbly as the very gutters themselves.... I think worse of myself than they can possibly think of me, being better acquainted with the man. I put the best face on the matter. I will tell them this secret, if they will not tell it to anybody else.
Write while the heat is in you. When the farmer burns a hole in his yoke, he carries the iron quickly from the fire to the wood, for every moment it is less effectual to penetrate it.... The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts, uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience....
I saw yesterday in the snow on the ice on the S. side of Fair Haven Pond some hundreds of honey bees dead and sunk half an inch below the crust. They had evidently come forth from their hive, perhaps in a large hemlock on the bank close by, and had fallen on the snow, chilled to death. Their bodies extended about three rods from the tree toward the pond.
Feb. 10, 1854.... I observe the great, well-protected buds of the balm of Gilead, spearhead-like. There is no shine upon them now, and their viscidness is not very apparent. A great many willow catkins show a little down peeping from under the points of the scales, but I have no doubt that all this was done last fall. I noticed it then.
Feb. 10, 1855.... I hear the faint metallic chirp of a tree sparrow in the yard from time to time, or perchance the mew of a linaria. It is worth while to let some pigweed grow in your garden, if only to attract these winter visitors. It would be a pity to have these weeds burned in the fall. Of the former, I see in the winter but three or four commonly at a time; of the latter, large flocks. This is in or after considerable snow-storms.
Feb. 10, 1856.... P. M. To Walden. Returning I saw a fox on the railroad,... eight or nine rods from me. He looked of a dirty yellow, and lean. I did not notice the white tip to his tail. Seeing me, he pricked up his ears, and at first ran up and along the E. bank on the crust, then changed his mind, and came down the steep bank, crossed the railroad before me, and gliding up the west bank, disappeared in the woods. He coursed or glided along easily, appearing not to lift his feet high, leaping over obstacles with his tail extended straight behind. He leaped over the ridge of snow about two feet high and three wide between the tracks, very gracefully. I followed examining his tracks. There was about a quarter of an inch of recent snow above the crust, but for the most part he broke in two or three inches. I slumped from one to three feet.... He went off at an easy gliding pace such as he might keep up for a long time, pretty direct after his first turning.
Feb. 10, 1857.... Burton, the traveler, quotes an Arab saying, "Voyaging is a victory," which he refers to the feeling of independence on overcoming the difficulties and dangers of the desert. But I think that commonly voyaging is a defeat, a rout to which the traveler is compelled by want of valor. The traveler's peculiar valor is commonly a bill of exchange. He is at home anywhere but where he was born and bred, petitioning some Sir Joseph Banks or other representative of a Geographical Society to avail himself of his restlessness, and if not receiving a favorable answer, necessarily going off somewhere next morning. It is a prevalent disease which attacks Americans especially, both men and women, the opposite to nostalgia. Yet it does not differ much from nostalgia. I read the story of one voyager round the world, who it seemed to me, having started, had no other object but to get home again, only she took the longest way round. The traveler, fitted out by some Sir Joseph Banks, snatches at a fact or two in behalf of science, as he goes, just as a panther in his leap will take off a man's sleeve, and land twenty feet beyond him, when traveling down hill.
Feb. 10, 1860.... The river where open is very black, as usual, when the waves run high, for each wave casts a shadow. Theophrastus notices that the roughened water is black, and says it is because fewer rays fall on it, and the light is dissipated....
I do not know of any more exhilarating walking than up or down a broad field of smooth ice like this in a cold, glittering, winter day, when your rubbers give you a firm hold on the ice.
Feb. 11, 1841. True help, for the most part, implies a greatness in him who is to be helped as well as in the helper. It takes a god to be helped even. A great person, though unconsciously, will constantly give you great opportunities to serve him, but a mean one will quite preclude all active benevolence. It needs but simply and greatly to want it for once, that all true men may contend who shall be foremost to render aid. My neighbor's state must pray to heaven so devoutly, yet disinterestedly, as he never prayed in words, before my ears can hear. It must ask divinely. But men so cobble and botch their request that you must stoop as low as they to give them aid. Their meanness would drag down your deed to be a compromise with conscience, and not leave it to be done on the high table-land of the benevolent soul.... But if I am to serve them, I must not serve the devil.... We go about mending the times when we should be building the eternity.
Feb. 11, 1852.... I have lived some thirty odd years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably can tell me nothing, to the purpose. There is life, an experiment untried by me, and it does not avail me that you have tried it. If I have any valuable experience I am sure to reflect that this my mentors said nothing about. What were mysteries to the child remain mysteries to the old man.
It is a mistake to suppose that in a country where railroads and steamboats and the printing press and the church, where the usual evidences of civilization exist, the condition of a very large body of the inhabitants may not be as degraded as that of savages.... To know this, I should not need to look farther than to the shanties which everywhere line our railroads, that last improvement in civilization. -But I will refer you to Ireland, which is marked as one of the white, or enlightened spots on the map. Yet I have no doubt that that nation's rulers are as wise as the average of civilized rulers.
Feb. 12. Living all winter with an open door for light, and no visible wood - pile, the forms of old and young are permanently contracted through long shrinking from cold, and their faces pinched by want. I have seen an old crone sitting bare-headed on the hillside in the middle of January, while it was raining, and the ground was slowly thawing under her, knitting there.... There is no greater squalidness in any part of the World. Contrast the condition of these Irish with that of the North American Indian, or the South Sea Islander, or any other savage race before they are degraded by contact with civilized man.
Feb. 11, 1853.... While surveying on the Hunt farm the other day, behind Simon Brown's house, I heard a remarkable echo. In the course of surveying, being obliged to call aloud to my assistant from every side and almost every part of a farm in succession and at various hours of a day, I am pretty sure to discover an echo, if any exists. That day it was encouraging and soothing to hear one. After so many days of comparatively insignificant drudgery with stupid companions, this leisure, this sportiveness, this generosity in nature, sympathizing with the better part of me, somebody I could talk with, one degree at least better than talking with one's self. Ab, Simon Brown's premises harbor a hired man and a hired maid he wots not of; some voice of somebody I pined to hear, with whom I could form a community. I did wish rather to linger there and call all day to the air, and hear my words repeated, but a vulgar necessity dragged me along round the bounds of the farm to hear only the stale answers of my chain-man shouted back to me.... Has it to do with the season of the year? I have since heard an echo on Moore's farm.
It was the memorable event of the day, that echo I heard, not anything my companions said, or the travelers I met, or my thoughts, for they were all mere repetitions or echoes in the worst sense of what I had heard and thought before many times, but this echo was accompanied with novelty, and by its repetition of my voice it did more than double that. It was a profounder Socratic method of suggesting thoughts unutterable to me the speaker. Here was one I heartily love to talk with. Under such favorable auspices, I could converse with myself, could reflect. The hour, the atmosphere, and the conformation of the ground permitted it.
Feb. 11, 1854. 7.30 A. M. Snow fleas lie in black patches like some of those dark, rough lichens on rocks, or like ink spots three or four inches in diameter, about the grass stems or willows, on the ice which froze last night. When I breathe on them, I find them all alive and ready to skip. Also the water, when I break the ice, arouses them.
I saw yesterday in a muddy spring in Tarbell's meadow many cockle shells on the bottom, with their feet out, and marks as if they had been moving.
When I read of the catkins of the alder and the willow, etc., scattering their yellow pollen, they impress me as a vegetation which belongs to the earliest and most innocent dawn of nature, as if they must have preceded other trees in the order of creation, as they precede them annually in their blossoming and leafing.... For how many aeons did the willow shed its yellow pollen annually before man was created!
In the winter we so value the semblance of fruit that even the dry, black female catkins of the alder are an interesting sight, not to mention, on shoots rising a foot or two above these, the red or mulberry male catkins in little parcels dangling at a less than right angle with the stems, and the short female ones at their bases.
Apparently I read Cato and Varro from the same motives that Virgil did, and as I read the almanac, the "N. E. Farmer," or "Cultivator," or Howitt's "Seasons."
Feb. 11, 1856.... Saw a partridge by the river side... which at first I mistook for the top of a fence post above the snow amid some alders. I shouted and waved my hand four rods off to see if it was one, but there was no motion, and I thought surely it must be a post. Nevertheless I resolved to investigate. Within three rods I saw to my surprise that it was indeed a partridge, standing perfectly still, with its head erect and neck stretched upward. It was as complete a deception as if it had designedly placed itself on the line of the fence and in the proper place for a post. It finally stepped off daintily with a teetering gait and head up, and took to wing.
Feb. 11, 1859.... Now, as after a freshet in cold weather, the ice which had formed around and frozen to the trees and bushes along the shore, settling, draws them down to the ground or water, after breaking them extensively. It reminds you of an alligator or other evil genius of the river pulling the trees and bushes, which had come to drink, into the water. If a maple or alder is unfortunate enough to slip its lower limbs into the freshet, dallying with it, their fate is sealed, for the water freezing that night takes fast hold of them like a vise, and when the water runs out from beneath, an irresistible weight brings them down to the ground and holds them there. Only the spring sun will soften the heart of this relentless monster when commonly it is too late.
Feb. 12, 1840.... Knavery is more foolish than folly, since, half knowing its own foolishness, it still persists. The knave has reduced folly to a system, is the prudent, common-sense fool.
Feb. 12, 1851.... I find that it is an excellent walk for variety and novelty and wildness to keep round the edge of the meadow. The ice not being strong enough to bear, and transparent as water, on the bare ground or snow just between the highest water mark and the present water line is a narrow, meandering walk rich in unexpected views and objects. The line of rubbish which marks the higher tides, withered flags and seeds and twigs and cranberries, is to my eyes a very agreeable and significant line which nature traces along the edge of the meadows. It is a strongly marked, enduring, natural line which in summer reminds me that the water has once stood over where I walk. Sometimes the grooved trees tell the same tale. The wrecks of the meadow fill a thousand coves, and tell a thousand tales to those who can read them; our prairial, mediterranean shore.... If you cannot go on the ice, you are then gently compelled to take this course, which is, on the whole, more beautiful, to follow the sinuosities of the meadow.
Feb. 12, 1854.... P. M. Skate to Pantry Brook.... One accustomed to glide over a boundless and variegated ice floor like this cannot be much attracted by tessellated floors and mosaic work. I skate over a thin ice all tessellated, so to speak, or on which you see the forms of the crystals as they shoot.... To make a perfect winter day like this, you must have a clear, sparkling air, with a sheen from the snow, sufficient cold, no wind, and the warmth must come directly from the sun. It must not be a thawing warmth. The tension of nature must not be relaxed. The earth must be resonant, if bare. You hear the lisping music of chickadees from time to time, and the unrelenting steel-cold scream of a jay, unmelted, that never flows into a song, a sort of wintry trumpet, screaming cold, hard, tense, frozen music like the winter sky itself.... There is no hint of incubation in the jay's scream. There is no cushion for sound now. It tears our ears.
I frequently see three or four old white birches standing together on the edge of a pond or meadow, and am struck by the pleasing manner in which they will commonly be grouped, how they spread so as to make room for each other, and make an agreeable impression upon the eye. Methinks I have seen groups of three in different places arranged almost exactly alike.
Returning I overhauled a muskrat's house by Bidens Brook. For want of other material it was composed of grass flags, and in a great measure (one half ) of twigs and sticks, mostly sweet-gale, both dead and alive, and roots, from six inches to two feet in length. These were in fact the principal material of it, and it was a large one, two feet above the ice. I was surprised to find that these sticks, both green and dead, had the greater part of them been gnawed off by the rat, and some were nearly half an inch in diameter. They were cut off not at a right angle, with a smooth cut, but by successive cuts, smooth as with a knife, the twig being at the same time bent down, which produced a sloping, and, so to speak, terraced surface. I did not know before that the muskrat resembled the beaver in this respect also. It was chiefly the sweet-gale thus cut, commonly the top left on two feet long, but sometimes cut off six inches long.
I see, as I skate, reflected from the surface of the ice, flakes of rainbow, somewhat like cobwebs, where the great slopes of the crystallization fall at the right angle, six inches or a foot across, but at so small an angle with the horizon that they had seemed absolutely flat and level before. Think of this kind of mosaic and tessellation for your floor, composed of crystals variously set, made up of surfaces not absolutely level, though level to the touch of the feet and to the noonday eye, but just enough inclined to reflect the colors of the rainbow when the sun gets low.
Feb. 12, 1857. 7.30 A. M. The caterpillar which I placed last night on the snow beneath the thermometer is frozen stiff again, this time not being curled up, the temperature being — 6° now. Yet being placed on the mantel-piece, it thaws and begins to crawl in five or ten minutes, before the rear part of its body is limber. Perhaps they were revived last week when the thermometer stood at 52° and 53°.
Feb. 12, 1860. 2 P. M. 22°. Walk up river to Fair Haven Pond. Clear and windy..,.. In this cold, clear, rough air from the N. W. we walk amid what simple surroundings, surrounded •by our thoughts or imaginary objects.... Above me is a cloudless blue sky, beneath is the sky blue, i. e., sky-reflecting ice, with patches of snow scattered over it like mackerel clouds. At a distance in several directions I see the tawny earth streaked or spotted with white, where the bank, or hills and fields appear, or the green-black, evergreen forests, or the brown, or russet, or tawny deciduous woods, and here and there, where the agitated surface of the river is exposed, the blue-black water. That dark-eyed water, especially where I see it at right angles with the direction of the sun, is it not the first sign of spring? How its darkness contrasts with the general lightness of the winter! It has more life in it than any part of the earth's surface. It is where one of the arteries of the earth is palpable, visible. In winter not only some creatures, but the very earth is partially dormant. Vegetation ceases, and rivers, to some extent, cease to flow. Therefore when I see the water exposed in mid-winter, it is as if I saw a skunk or even a striped squirrel out. It is as if the woodchuck consoled himself, and snuffed the air to see if it were warm enough to be trusted. It excites me to see early in the spring that black artery leaping once more through the snow-clad town. All is tumult and life there.... Where this artery is shallowest, i. e., comes nearest to the surface and runs swiftest, there it shows itself soonest, and you may see its pulse beat. There are the wrists, temples of the earth where I feel its pulse with my eye. The living waters, not the dead earth.... Returning just before sunset, I see the ice beginning to be green, and a rose color to be reflected from the low snow patches. I see the color from the snow first where there is some shade, as where the shadow of a maple falls afar over the ice and snow. From this is reflected a purple tinge when I see none elsewhere. Some shadow or twilight then is necessary, umbra mixed with the reflected sun. Off Holden wood where the low rays fall on the river through the fringe of the wood, the patches are not rose color, but a very dark purple, like a grape, and thus there are all degrees from pure white to black. As I cross Hubbard's broad meadow, the snow patches are a most beautiful crystalline purple, like the petals of some flowers, or as if tinged with cranberry juice....
I walk over a smooth green sea or æquor, the sun just disappearing in the cloudless horizon, amid thousands of these flat isles as purple as the petals of a flower. It would not be more enchanting to walk amid the purple clouds of the sunset sky. And, by the way, this is but a sunset sky under our feet, produced by the same law, the same slanting rays and twilight. Here the clouds are these patches of snow or frozen vapor, and the ice is the greenish sky between them. Thus all of heaven is realized on earth. You have seen those purple, fortunate isles in the sunset heavens, and that green and amber sky between them. Would you believe that you could ever walk amid those isles? You can on many a winter evening. I have done so a hundred times.
Thus the sky and the earth sympathize, and are subject to the same laws, and in the horizon they, as it were, meet and are seen to be
We have such a habit of looking away that we see not what is around us. How few, are aware that in winter, when the earth is covered with snow and ice, the phenomenon of the sunset sky is double. The one is on the earth around us, the other in the horizon.
Feb. 13, 1838. It is hard to subject ourselves to an influence. It must steal upon us when we expect it not, and its work be all done ere we are aware of it. If we make advances, it is shy; if, when we feel its presence, we presume to pry into its freemasonry, it vanishes, and leaves us alone in our folly.
All fear of the world or consequences is swallowed up in a manly anxiety to do truth justice.
Feb. 13, 1840. An act of integrity is to an act of duty what the French verb titre is to devoir. Duty is that which devrait titre. Duty belongs to the understanding, but genius is not dutiful.... The perfect man has both genius and talent; the one is his head, the other, his foot. By one, he is; by the other, he lives. The consciousness of man is the consciousness of God, the end of the world.
The very thrills of genius are disorganizing. The body is never quite acclimated to its atmosphere, but how often succumbs, and goes into a decline.
Feb. 13, 1841. By the truthfulness of our story to-day, we help explain ourselves for all our life henceforth. How we hamper and belay ourselves by the least exaggeration. The truth is God's concern; he will sustain it. But who can afford to maintain a lie? We have taken away one of the pillars of Hercules, and must support the world on our shoulders, who might have walked freely upon it.
Feb. 13, 1851. Skated to Sudbury. A beautiful summer-like day. The meadows were frozen just enough to bear. Examined now the fleets of ice flakes close at hand. They are a very singular and interesting phenomenon which I do not remember to have seen. I should say that when the water was frozen about as thick as pasteboard, a violent gust had here and there broken it up, and while the wind and waves held it on its edge, the increasing cold froze it in firmly. So it seemed, for the flakes were, for the most part, turned one way, i. e., standing on one side, you saw only their edges, on another, the N. E. or S. W., their sides. They were commonly of a triangular form, like a shoulder-of-mutton (?) sail, slightly scalloped, like shells. They looked like a fleet of a thousand mackerel fishers under a press of sail, careering before a smacking breeze. Sometimes the sun and wind had reduced them to the thinness of writing paper, and they fluttered and rustled and tinkled merrily. I skated through them and scattered their wrecks around. Every half mile or mile, as you skate up the river, you see these crystal fleets....
Again I saw to-day half a mile off in Sudbury a sandy spot on the top of a hill, where I prophesied that I should find traces of the Indians. When within a dozen rods, I distinguished the foundation of a lodge, and merely passing over it, I saw many fragments of the arrowhead stone. I have frequently distinguished these localities half a mile off, gone forward, and picked up arrowheads.
Saw in a warm, muddy brook in Sudbury, quite open and exposed, the skunk - cabbage spathes above water. The tops of the spathes were frost-bitten, but the fruit sound. There was one partly expanded, the first flower of the season, for it is a flower. I doubt if there is a month without its flower....
In society, in the best institutions of men, I remark a certain precocity. When we should be growing children, we are already little men. Infants as we are, we make haste to be weaned from our great mother's breast, and cultivate our parts by intercourse with one another.... I would not have every man, nor every part of a man, cultivated any more than I would have every acre of earth cultivated. Some must be preparing a mould by the annual decay of the forests which they sustain.
Feb. 13, 1852. Color, which is the poet's wealth, is so expensive, that most take to mere outline or pencil sketches, and become men of science.
Feb. 13, 1855.... The tracks of partridges are more remarkable in this snow than usual, it is so light, being, at the same time, a foot deep.... I see where many have dived into the snow, apparently last night, on the side of a shrub oak hollow. In four places they have passed quite underneath it for more than a foot; in one place, eighteen inches. They appear to have dived or burrowed into it, then passed along a foot or more underneath, and squatted there, perhaps with their heads out.... I scared one from its hole only half a rod in front of me, now at 11 A. M.... It is evidently a hardy bird, and in the above respects, too, is like the rabbit, which squats under a brake or bush in the snow. I see the traces of the latter in hollows in the snow in such places, their forms....
One of these pigweeds in the yard lasts the snowbirds all winter. After every snow-storm, they revisit it. How inexhaustible their granary.
To resume the subject of partridges, looking farther in an open place... amid the shrub oaks and low pitch pines, I found as many as twenty or thirty places where partridges had lodged in the snow apparently the last night or the night before. You could see commonly where their bodies had first struck the snow, and furrowed it for a foot or two, twenty-six inches wide, then entered and gone underneath two feet, and rested at the farther end.... Is it not likely that they remain quite under the snow there, and do not put their heads out till ready to start? They do not go under deep, and the gallery they make is mostly filled up behind them, leaving only a thin crust above. Then invariably just beyond this resting place, you could see the marks made by their wings when they took their departure. These distinct impressions made by their wings on the pure snow, so common on all hands, though the bird that made it is gone, and there is no trace beyond, affect me like sonic mystic Oriental symbol, the winged globe or what not, as if made by a spirit. In some places you would see a furrow and hollow in the snow where there was no track for rods around, as if a large snow-ball or cannon-ball had struck it, where apparently the birds had not paused in their flight. It is evidently a regular thing with them thus to lodge in the snow.
Feb. 13, 1859. P. M. On ice to Fair Haven Pond.... The yellowish ice which froze yesterday and last night is thickly and evenly strewn with fibrous frost crystals very much like bits of asbestos, an inch or more long, sometimes arranged like a star or rosette, one for every inch or two.... I think this is the vapor from the water which, found its way up through the ice, and froze in the night. It is sprinkled like some kind of grain, and is in certain places much more thickly strewn, as where a little snow shows itself above the ice. — The old ice is covered with a dry, powdery snow about one inch deep, from which as I walk toward the sun, this perfectly clear, bright afternoon at half - past three o'clock, the colors of the rainbow are reflected from a myriad fine facets. It is as if the dust of diamonds and other precious stones were spread all around. The blue and red predominate. Though I distinguish these colors everywhere toward the sun, they are so much more abundantly reflected to me from two directions that I see two distinct rays or arms, so to call them, of this rainbow-like dust stretching away from me and about half a dozen feet wide, the two arms including an angle of about 60°. When I look from the sun, I see merely dazzling white points. I can easily see some of these dazzling grains fifteen or twenty rods distant on any side, though the facet which reflects the light cannot be more than a tenth or twelfth of an inch at most. Yet I might easily, and commonly do, overlook all this.
Winter comes to make walking possible where there was no walking in summer. Not till winter can we take possession of the whole of our territory. I have three great highways raying out from one centre which is near my door. I may walk down the main river, or up either of its two branches. Could any avenues be contrived more convenient? With the river I am not compelled to walk in the tracks of horses.
Never is there so much light in the air as in one of these bright winter afternoons when all the earth is covered with new-fallen snow, and there is not a cloud in the sky. The sky is much the darkest side, like the bluish lining of an egg - shell. With this white earth beneath, and that spotless, skimmed-milk sky above him, man is but a black speck inclosed in a white egg-shell.
Sometimes, in our prosaic moods, life appears to us but a certain number more of days like those we have lived, to be cheered not by more friends and friendship, but probably fewer and less, as perchance we anticipate the end of this day before it is done, close the shutters, and, with a cheerless resignation, commence the barren evening whose fruitless end we clearly see. We despondingly think that all of life which is left is only this experience repeated a certain number of times, and so it would be, if it were not for the faculty of imagination.
The wonderful stillness of a winter day! the sources of sound are, as it were, frozen up. Scarcely a tinkling rill of it is to be heard. When we listen, we hear only that sound of the surf of our internal sea rising and swelling in our ears as in two sea-shells. It is the sabbath of the year, stillness audible, or at most we hear the ice belching and crackling, as if struggling for utterance.
A transient acquaintance with any phenomenon is not sufficient to make it completely the subject of your muse. You must be so conversant with it as to remember it, and be reminded of it long afterward, while it lies remotely fair and elysian in the horizon, approachable only by the imagination.
Feb. 13, 1860.... It is surprising what a variety of distinct colors the winter can show us, using but few pigments. The principal charm of a winter walk over ice is perhaps the peculiar and pure colors exhibited. There is the red of the sunset sky and of the snow at evening, and in rainbow flocks during the day, and in sun-dogs.
The blue of the sky, and of the ice and water reflected, and of shadows on snow.
The yellow of the sun, and the morning and evening sky, and of the sedge (or straw color, bright when lit on the edge of ice at evening), and all these three colors in hoar frost crystals.
Then there is the purple of the snow in drifts or on hills, of the mountains, and the clouds at evening.
The green of evergreen woods, of the ice and water, and of the sky toward evening.
The orange of the sky at evening.
The white of snow and clouds, and the black of clouds, of water agitated, and water saturating thin snow or ice.
The russet, and brown, gray, etc., of deciduous woods.
The tawny of the bare earth.
I suspect that the green and rose (or purple) are not noticed on ice and snow unless it is pretty cold, and perhaps there is less greenness of the ice now than in December when the days were shorter. The ice now may be too old and white.... The sun being in a cloud, partly obscured, I see a very dark purple tinge on the flat drifts on the ice, earlier than usual, and when afterward the sun comes out below the cloud, I see no purple nor rose. Hence it seems that the twilight has as much or more to do with this phenomenon, supposing the sun to be low, than the slight angle of its rays with the horizon.
Always you have to contend with the stupidity of men. It is like a stiff soil, a hard pan. If you go deeper than usual, you are sure to meet with a pan made harder even by the superficial cultivation. The stupid you have always with you. Men are more obedient at first to words than to ideas. They mind names more than things. Read them a lecture on "Education," naming the subject, and they will think they have heard something important, but call it "Transcendentalism," and they will think it moonshine. Or halve your lecture, and put a psalm at the beginning and a prayer at the end of it, and they will pronounce it good without thinking.
The Scripture rule, "Unto him that hath, shall be given," is true of composition. The more you have thought and written on a given theme, the more you can still write. Thought breeds thought. It grows under your hands.
Feb. 14,1840.... A very meagre natural history suffices to make me a child. Only their names and genealogy make me love fishes. I would know even the number of their fin rays, and how many scales compose the lateral line. I fancy I am amphibious and swim in all the brooks and pools in the neighborhood, with the perch and bream, or doze under the pads of our river amid the winding aisles and corridors formed by their stems, with the stately pickerel.
Feb. 14,1841. I am confined to the house by bronchitis, and so seek to content myself with that quiet and serene life there is in a warm corner by the fireside, and see the sky through the chimney - top. Sickness should not be allowed to extend farther than the body. We need only to retreat farther within us, to preserve uninterrupted the continuity of serene hours to the end of our lives. As soon as I find my chest is not of tempered steel, and heart of adamant, I bid good-by to them and look out for a new nature. I will be liable to no accidents.
I shall never be poor while I can command a still hour in which to take leave of my sin.
Feb. 14, 1851. Consider the farmer who is commonly regarded as the healthiest man. He may be the toughest, but he is not the healthiest.
He has lost his elasticity. He can neither run nor jump. Health is the free use and command of all our faculties, and equal development. His is the health of the ox, an overworked buffalo. His joints are stiff. The resemblance is true even in particulars. He is cast away in a pair of cowhide boots, and travels at an ox's pace.... It would do him good to be thoroughly shampooed to make him supple. His health is an insensibility to all influence. But only the healthiest man in the world is sensible to the finest influence; he who is affected by more or less electricity in the air.
We shall see but a little way, if we require to understand what we see. How few things can a man measure with the tape of his understanding! How many greater things might he be seeing in the mean while One afternoon in the fall, November 21st, I saw Fair Haven Pond with its island and meadow; between the island and the shore, a strip of perfectly smooth water in the lee of the island and two ducks sailing on it, and something more I saw which cannot easily be described, which made me say to myself that the landscape could not be improved. I did not see how it could be improved. Yet I do not know what these things can be. I begin to see such objects only when I leave off understanding them, and after wards remember them. I did not appreciate them before. But I get no farther than this. How adapted these forms and colors to our eyes, a meadow and its islands. What are these things? Yet the hawks and the ducks keep so aloof, and nature is so reserved. We are made to love the river and the meadow, as the wind to ripple the water.
Feb. 14, 1852.... I hate that my motive for visiting a friend should be that I want society, that it should lie in my poverty and weakness, and not in his and my riches and strength. His friendship should make me strong enough to do without him.
Feb. 14, 1854. P. M. Down railroad. A moist, thawing, cloudy afternoon, preparing to rain. The telegraph resounds at every post. The finest strain from the American lyre. In Stow's wood by the deep Cut, bear the quah quah, of the white-breasted, black-capped nuthatch. I went up the bank and stood by the fence. A little family of titmice gathered about me searching for their food both on the ground and on the trees with great industry and intentness, now and then pursuing each other. There were two nuthatches at least talking to each other. One hung with his head down on a large pitch pine pecking the bark for a long time, leaden blue above, with a black cap and white breast. It uttered almost constantly a faint but sharp... creak, difficult to trace home, which appeared to be answered by a baser and louder quah, quah, from the other. A downy woodpecker with the red spot on his hind head and his cassock open behind, showing his white robe, kept up an incessant loud tapping on another pitch pine. All at once, an active little brown creeper makes its appearance, a small, rather slender bird with a long tail and sparrow-colored back, and white beneath. It commences at the bottom of a tree and glides up very rapidly, then suddenly darts to the bottom of a new tree, and repeats the same movement, not resting long in one place, or on one tree. These birds are all feeding and flitting along together, but the chickadees are the most numerous and the most confiding. I notice that three of the four kinds thus associated, viz., the chickadee, nuthatch, and woodpecker, have black crowns, at least the first two, very conspicuous black caps. I cannot but think that this sprightly association and readiness to burst into song have to do with the prospect of spring, more light, and warmth, and thawing weather. The titmice keep up an incessant, faint, tinkling tchip; now and then one utters a brief day-day-day, and once or twice one commenced a gurgling strain quite novel, startling, and spring-like. Beside this I heard the distant crowing of cocks, and the divine humming of the telegraph, all spring-promising sounds. The chickadee has quite a variety of notes. The phoebe one I did not hear to-day.
Feb. 14, 1856.... How impatient, how rampant, how precocious these osiers! They have hardly made two shoots from the sand in as many springs, when silvery catkins burst out along them, and anon, golden blossoms and downy seeds, spreading their race with incredible rapidity. Thus they multiply and clan together. Thus they take advantage even of the railroad, which elsewhere disturbs and invades their domains. May I ever be in as good spirits" as a willow. They never despair. Is there no moisture longer in Nature which they can transmute into sap? They are emblems of youth, joy, and everlasting life. Scarcely is their growth restrained by winter, but their silvery down peeps forth in the warmest days in January (?).
Feb. 14, 1857.... It is a fine, somewhat spring-like day. The ice is softening so that skates begin to cut in, and numerous caterpillars are now crawling about on the ice and snow, the thermometer in the shade N. of house standing at 42°. So it appears that they must often thaw in the course of the winter and find nothing to eat.
Feb. 15,1840. The good seem to inhale a generous atmosphere, and to be bathed in a more precious light than other men. Accordingly, Virgil describes the seder beatas thus,Largior hic campos æther et lumine vestit
Purpureo: Solemque suum, sua sidera nôrunt.
Feb. 15, 1851. Alas I alas! when my friend begins to deal in confessions, breaks silence, makes a theme of friendship (which then is always something past), and descends to merely human relations. As long as there is a spark of love remaining, cherish that alone. Only that can be kindled into a flame. — I thought that friendship, that love was possible between us. I thought that we had not withdrawn very far asunder. But now that my friend rashly, thoughtlessly, profanely speaks, recognizing the distance between us, that distance seems infinitely increased. Of our friends we do not incline to speak, to complain to others; we would not disturb the foundations of confidence that may still be.
Why should we not still continue to live with the intensity and rapidity of infants? Is not the world, are not the heavens, as unfathomed as ever? Have we exhausted any joy, any sentiment?
Feb. 15, 1852. Perhaps I am descended from the Northman named "Thorer, the Dog-footed." Thorer Hund, to judge from his name, belonged to the same family. "He was one of the most powerful men in the north." Thorer is one of the most common names in the chronicles of the Northmen, if not the most so.
Feb. 15, 1855.... All day a steady, warm, imprisoning rain, carrying off the snow, not unmusical on my roof. It is a rare time for the student and reader who cannot go abroad in the P. at., provided he can keep awake, for we are wont to be as drowsy as cats in such weather. Without, it is not walking, but wading. It is so long since I have heard it, that the steady rushing, soaking sound of the rain on the shingles is musical. The fire needs no replenishing, and we save our fuel. It seems like a distant forerunner of spring. It is because I am allied to the elements that the sound of the rain is thus soothing to me. This sound sinks into my spirit, as the water into the earth, reminding me of the season when snow and ice will be no more, when the earth will be thawed, and drink up the rain as fast as it falls.
Feb. 15, 1858. To Cambridge and Boston. Saw at a menagerie a Canada lynx, said to have been taken at the White Mountains. It looked much like a monstrous gray cat standing on stilts, with its tail cut to five inches, a tuft of hair on each ear, and a ruff under the throat.
Feb. 15, 1861.... A kitten is so flexible that she is almost double. The hind parts are equivalent to another kitten with which the fore part plays. She does not discover that her tail belongs to her till you tread upon it. How eloquent she can be with her tail. She jumps into a chair and then stands on her hind legs to look out the window, looks steadily at objects far and near, first gazing this side, then that, for she loves to look out a window as much as any gossip. Ever and anon she bends back her ears to hear what is going on within the room, and all the while her eloquent tail is reporting the progress and success of her survey by speaking gestures.... Then what a delicate hint she can give with her tail, passing perhaps underneath as you sit at table, and letting the tip of her tail just touch your legs, as much as to say I am here and ready for that milk or meat, though she may not be so forward as to look round at you when she emerges. — Only skin deep lies the feral nature of the cat unchanged still. I just had the misfortune to rock on to our cat's legs, as she was lying playfully spread out under my chair. Imagine the sound that arose, and which was excusable, but what will you say to the fierce growls and flashing eyes with which she met me for a quarter of an hour thereafter. No tiger in its jungle could have been savager.
Feb. 16, 1841. For how slight an accident shall two noble souls wait to bring them together.
Feb. 16, 1852. It is interesting to meet an ox with handsomely spreading horns. There is a great variety of sizes and forms, though one horn commonly matches the other. I am willing to turn out for those that spread their branches wide. Large and spreading horns, I fancy, indicate a certain vegetable force and naturalization in the wearer; they soften and ease off the distinction between the animal and the vegetable, the unhorned animals and the trees.... The deer that run in the woods, as the moose, for instance, carry perfect trees on their heads. The French call them "bois." No wonder there are fables of centaurs and the like. No wonder there is a story of a hunter who when his bullets failed fired cherry stones into the heads of his game and so trees sprouted out of them, and the hunter refreshed himself with the cherries. It is a perfect piece of mythology which belongs to these days. Oxen, which are deanimalized, to some extent, approach nearer to the vegetable, perchance, than bulls and cows, and hence their bulky bodies, and large and spreading horns. Nothing more natural than that a deer should appear with a tree growing out of his head.
Feb. 16, 1854. By this time in the winter I do not look for those clear sparkling mornings and delicate leaf frosts which seem to belong to the earlier part of the winter, as if the air were now somewhat tarnished and debauched, had lost its virgin purity.
Every judgment and action of a man qualifies every other, i. e., corrects our estimation of every other, as, for instance, a man's idea of immortality who is a member of a church, or his praise of you coupled with his praise of those whom you do not esteem. For, in this sense, a man is awfully consistent above his own consciousness. All a man's strength and all his weakness go to make up the authority of any particular opinion which he may utter.... If he is your friend, you may have to consider that he loves you, but perchance he also loves gingerbread....
Columella, after saying that many authors had believed that the climate, qualitatem cceli statumque, was changed by lapse of time, longo cevi situ, refers to Hipparchus as having given out that the time would be when the poles of the earth would be moved from their places, tempus fore quo cardines mundi loco moverentur; and as confirmatory of this, he, Columella, goes on to say that the vine and olive flourish now in some places where formerly they failed. He gives the names of about fifty authors who had treated de rusticis rebus before him.
Feb. 16, 1857.... I perceive that some commonly talented persons are enveloped and confined by a certain crust of manners, which, though it may sometimes be a fair and transparent enamel, yet only repels and saddens the beholder, since by its rigidity it seems to repress all further expansion. They are viewed as at a distance, like an insect under a tumbler. They have, as it were, prematurely hardened both seed and shell, and this has severely taxed, if not put a period to, the life of the plant. This is to stand upon your dignity.... Such pen sons are after all but hardened sinners in a mild sense. The pearl is a hardened sinner. Manners get to be human parchment, in which sensible books are often bound and honorable titles engrossed, though they may be very stiff and dry.
Feb. 16, 1859. From the entrance of the mill road, I look back through the sunlight, this soft afternoon, to some white pine tops near Jenny Dugan's. Their flattish boughs rest stratum above stratum like a cloud, a green mackerel sky, hardly reminding me of the concealed earth so far beneath. They are like a flaky crust of the earth, a more ethereal, terebinthine, evergreen earth. It occurs to me that my eyes rest on them with the same pleasure as do those of the henhawk which has been nestled in them. My eyes nibble the piny sierra which makes the horizon's edge as a hungry man nibbles a cracker. The henhawk and the pine are friends. The same thing which keeps the henhawk in the woods, away from cities, keeps me here. That bird settles with confidence on a white pine top, and not upon your weather-cock. That bird will not be poultry of yours, lays no eggs for you, forever hides its nest. Though willed or wild, it is not willful in its wildness. The unsympathizing man regards the wildness of some animals, their strangeness to him, as a sin, as if all their virtue consisted in their tamableness. He has always a charge in his gun ready for their extermination. What we call wildness is a civilization other than our own. The hen-hawk shuns the farmer, but it seeks the friendly shelter and support of the pine. It will not consent to walk in the barnyard, but it loves to soar above the clouds. It has its own way and is beautiful when we would fain subject it to our will. So any surpassing work of art is strange and wild to the mass of men, as is genius itself. No hawk that soars and steals our poultry is wilder than genius, and none is more persecuted or above persecution. It can never be poet laureate, to say, "Pretty Poll," and "Polly want a cracker."
Feb. 17, 1841. Our work should be fitted to and lead on the time, as bud, flower, and fruit lead the circle of the seasons. — The mechanic works no longer than his labor will pay for lights, fuel, and shop rent. Would it not be well for us to consider if our deed will warrant the expense of nature? Will it maintain the sun's light? — Our actions do not use time independently, as the bud does. They should constitute its lapse. It is their room. But they shuffle after and serve the hour.
Feb. 17, 1852. Perhaps the peculiar attractiveness of those western vistas was partly owing to the shortness of the days, when we naturally look to the heavens and make the most of the little light, when we live an arctic life, when the woodchopper's axe reminds us of twilight at three o'clock in the afternoon, when the morning and the evening literally make the whole day, when we travel as it were through the portals of the night, and the way is narrow as well as blocked with snow, when, too, the sun has the least opportunity to fill the air with vapor....
If you would read books on botany, go to the fathers of the science. Read Linnaeus at once, and come down from him as far as you please. I lost much time reading the florists. It is remarkable how little the mass of those interested in botany are acquainted with Linnaeus. I doubt if his "Philosophia Botanica," which Rousseau, Sprengel, and others praised so highly, has ever been translated into English. It is simpler, more easy to understand, than any of the hundred manuals to which it has given birth. A few. pages of cuts representing the different parts of plants, with their botanical names attached, are worth whole volumes of explanation. According to the classification of Linnfflus, I come under the head of Miscellaneous Botanophilists. "Botanophili sunt qui varia de vegetabilibus tradiderunt, licet ea non proprie ad scientiam Botanicam spectant."
Feb. 17, 1854. P. M. To Gowing's Swamp.... The mice tracks are very amusing. It is surprising how numerous they are, and yet I rarely see a mouse. They must be nocturnal in their habits. Any tussocky ground is scored with them. I see, too, where they have run over the ice on the swamp (there is a mere sugaring of snow on it), ever trying to make an entrance, to get beneath it. You see deep and distinct channels in the snow in some places, as if a whole colony had long traveled to and fro in them, a highway, a well-known trail, but suddenly they will come to an end. And yet they have not dived beneath the surface, for you see where the single traveler who did it all has nimbly hopped along, as if suddenly scared, making but a slight impression, squirrel-like, in the snow. The squirrel also, though rarely, will make a channel for a short distance.... I suspect that the mice sometimes build their nests in bushes from the foundation, for... where I found two mice nests last fall, I find one begun with a very few twigs and some moss, close by where the others were, at the same height, and also on Prinos bushes, plainly the work of mice wholly.
Feb. 18, 1838.... I had not been out long to-day when it seemed that a new spring was already born; not quite weaned, it is true, but verily entered upon existence. Nature struck up "the same old song in the grass," despite eighteen inches of snow....
Feb. 18, 1840. All romance is grounded on friendship. What is this rural, this pastoral, this poetic life but its invention? Does not the moon shine for Endymion? Smooth pastures and mild airs are for some Coridon and Phyllis. Paradise belongs to Adam and Eve. Plato's Republic is governed by Platonic love.
Feb. 18, 1841.... My recent growth does not appear in any visible new talent; but its deed will enter into my gaze when I look into the sky or vacancy. It will help me to consider ferns and everlasting.
Man is like a tree which is limited to no age, but grows as long as it has its root in the ground. We have only to live in the alburnum, and not in the old wood.
A man is the hydrostatic paradox, the counterpoise of the system. You have studied flowers and birds cheaply enough, but you must lay yourself out to buy him.
Feb. 18, 1842.... I have a commonplace book for facts, and another for poetry, but I find it difficult always to preserve the vague distinction which I had in my mind, for the most interesting and beautiful facts are so much the more poetry, and that is their. success. They are translated from earth to heaven. I see that if my facts were sufficiently vital and significant, perhaps transmuted more into the substance of the human mind, I should need but one book of poetry to contain them all.
It is impossible for the same person to see things from the poet's point of view and that of the man of science. The poet's second love may be science (not his first), when use has worn off the bloom. I realize that men may be born to a condition of mind at which others arrive in middle age by the decay of their poetic faculties.
Feb. 18, 1854.... It is a little affecting to walk over the hills now, looking at the reindeer lichens here and there amid the snow, and remember that erelong we shall find violets also in their midst. What an odds the season makes The birds know it; whether a rose-tinted water lily is sailing amid the pads, or neighbor Hobson is getting out his ice with a cross-cut saw, while his oxen are eating their stalks. I noticed that the ice which Garrison cut the other day contained the lily pads and stems within it. How different their environment now from when the queenly flower, floating on the trembling surface, exhaled its perfume amid a cloud of insects!...
What a contrast between the upper and under side of many leaves, the indurated and colored upper side, and the tender, more or less colorless under side, male and female, even when they are almost equally exposed. The under side is commonly white, however, as turned away from the light toward the earth. Many in which the contrast is finest are narrow, revolute leaves, like the delicate and beautiful andromeda polifolia, the ledum, kalmia glauca.... The handsome lanceolate leaves of the andromeda polifolia, dark, but pure and uniform dull red above, strongly revolute, and of a delicate bluish-white beneath, deserve to be copied on works of art.
Feb. 18, 1857.... P. M. The frost out of the ground and the ways settled in many places.... I am excited by this wonderful air, and go listening for the note of the bluebird or other comer. The very grain of the air seems to have undergone a change, and is ready to split into the form of the bluebird's warble. Methinks if it were visible, or I could cast up some fine dust which would betray it, it would take a corresponding shape. The bluebird does not come till the air consents, and his wedge will enter easily....
What a poem is this of spring, so often repeated I am thrilled when I hear it spoken of as the Spring of such a year, that Fytte of the glorious epic.
Feb. 18, 1860.... I think the most important requisite in describing an animal is to be sure that you give its character and spirit, for in that you have, without error, the sum and effect of all its parts, known and unknown. You must tell what it is to man. Surely the most important part of an animal is its anima, its vital spirit, on which is based its character, and all the particulars by which it most concerns us. Yet most scientific books which treat of animals leave this out altogether, and what they describe are, as it were, phenomena of dead matter. What is most interesting in a dog, for instance, is his attachment to his master, his intelligence, courage, and the like, and not his anatomical structure, and even many habits which affect us less. If you have undertaken to write the biography of an animal, you must present to us the living creature, i. e., a result which no man •can understand. He can only, in his degree, report the impression made by it on him. Science, in many departments of Natural History, does not pretend to go beyond the shell, i. e., it does not get to animated nature at all. A history of animated nature must itself be animated. The ancients, one would say, with their Gorgons, Sphinxes, Satyrs, Mantichora, etc., could imagine more than existed, while the moderns cannot imagine so much as exists.
We are as often injured as benefited by our systems, for, in fact, no human system is a true one. A name is at most a convenience, and carries no information with it. As soon as I begin to be aware of the life of any creature, I forget its name. When we have learned to distinguish creatures, the sooner we forget their names the better, so far as any true appreciation of them is concerned. I think, therefore, that the best and most harmless names are those which are an imitation of the voice or note of an animal, as they are the most poetic ones. But the name adheres only to the accepted and conventional bird or quadruped, never an instant to the real one. There is always something ridiculous in the name of a great man, as if he were named John Smith. The name is convenient in communicating with others, but it is not to be remembered when I communicate with myself.
If you look over a list of medicinal recipes in vogue in the last century, how foolish and useless they are seen to be, and yet we use equally absurd ones with faith to-day.
.Feb. 19, 1841. A truly good book... teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. I do not see how any can be written more, but this is the last effusion of genius.... It is slipping out of my fingers while I read. It creates no atmosphere in which it may be perused, but one in which its teachings may be practiced. It confers on me such wealth that I lay it down with the least regret. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting. So I cannot stay to hear a good sermon, and applaud at the conclusion, but shall be half-way to Thermopylae before that.
We linger in manhood to tell the dreams of our childhood, and they are half forgotten ere we acquire the faculty of expressing them.
It is the unexplored grandeur of the storm which keeps up the spirits of the traveler. When I contemplate a hard and bare life in the woods, I find my last consolation in its untrivialness. Shipwreck is less distressing because the breakers do not trifle with us. We are resigned as long as we recognize the sober and solemn mystery of nature. The dripping mariner finds consolation and sympathy in the infinite sublimity of the storm. It is a moral force as well as he. With courage he can lay down his life on the strand, for it never turned a deaf ear to him, nor has he ever exhausted its sympathy.
In the love of narrow souls I make many short voyages, but in vain. I find no sea room But in great souls, I sail before the wind without a watch, and never reach the shore.
Feb. 19, 1852. The sky appears broader now than it did. The day has opened its eyelids wider. The lengthening of the days, commenced a good while ago, is a kind of forerunner of the spring. Of course it is then that the ameliorating cause begins to work.
To White Pond.... The strains from my muse are as rare nowadays or of late years as the notes of birds in the winter, the faintest occasional tinkling sound, and mostly of the woodpecker kind, or the harsh jay, or the crow. It never melts into a song, only the day-day-day of an inquisitive titmouse.
Everywhere snow, gathered into sloping drifts about the walls and fences, and beneath the snow the frozen ground, and men are compelled to deposit the summer's provision in burrows in the earth, like the ground squirrel. Many creatures, daunted by the prospect, migrated in the fall, but man remains, and walks over the frozen snow crust, and over the stiffened rivers and ponds, and draws now upon his summer stores. Life is reduced to its lowest terms. There is no home for you now in this freezing wind, but in that shelter which you prepared in the summer. You steer straight across the fields to that in season. I can with difficulty tell when I am over the river. There is a similar crust over my heart. Where I rambled in the summer, and gathered flowers, and rested on the grass by the brook side in the shade, now no grass, nor flowers, nor brook, nor shade, but cold unvaried snow, stretching mile after mile, and no place to sit. Look at White Pond, that crystal drop that was, in which the umbrageous shore was reflected, and schools of fabulous perch and shiners rose to the surface, and where with difficulty you made your way along the pebbly shore in a summer afternoon, to the bathing place. Now you stalk rapidly across where it was, muffled in your cloak, over a more level snow field than usual, furrowed by the wind; its finny inhabitants and its pebbly shore all hidden and forgotten, and you would shudder at the thought of wetting your feet.
A fine display of the northern lights after ten P. M., flashing up from all parts of the horizon to the zenith, where there was a kind of core formed, stretching S.S.E. N.N.W., surrounded by what looked like a permanent white cloud, which, however, was very variable in form. The light flashes or trembles upward, as if it were the light of the sun reflected from a frozen mist in the upper atmosphere.
Feb. 19, 1854.... To Fair Haven by river, back by railroad.... The large moths apparently love the neighborhood of water, and are wont to suspend. their cocoons over the edge of the meadow and river, places more or less inaccessible to men, at least. I saw a button-bush with what, at first sight, looked like the open pods of the locust or of the water aselepias, attached. They were the light, ash-colored cocoons of the Attacus Promethea, with the completely withered and faded leaves wrapped around them, carefully and admirably secured to the twigs by fine silk wound round the leaf stalk and the twig. They add nothing to the strength of the cocoon, being deciduous, but aid in deception. They are taken at a little distance for a few curled and withered leaves left on. Though the particular twigs on which you find some cocoons may never, or very rarely, retain any leaves, there are enough leaves left on other shrubs and trees to warrant the adoption of this disguise. Yet it is startling to think that the inference has in this case been drawn by some mind, that as most other plants retain some leaves, the walker will suspect these also to.
Each and all such disguises and other resources remind us that not merely some poor worm's instinct, as we call it, but the mind of the universe rather, which we share, has been intended upon each particular object. All the wit in the world was brought to bear on each case to secure its end. It was long ago in a full senate of all intellects determined how cocoons had best be suspended. Kindred mind with mine, that approves and admires, decided it so....
Much study, a weariness of the flesh! Ah, but did they not intend that we should read and ponder, who covered the whole earth with alphabets, primers, or Bibles, coarse or fine print? The very debris of the cliffs... are covered with geographic lichens. No surface is permitted to be bare long.... Was not he who creates lichens the abettor of Cadmus when he invented letters? Types almost arrange themselves into words and sentences, as dust arranges itself under the magnet. Print! it is a close-hugging lichen that forms on a favorable surface, which paper offers. The linen gets itself wrought into paper that the song of the shirt may be printed on it. Who placed us with eyes between a microscopic and a telescopic world?
Feb. 19, 1855. Many will complain of my lectures that they are transcendental, can't under stand them. "Would you have us return to the savage state?" etc., etc., a criticism true enough, it may be, from their point of view. But the fact is, the earnest lecturer can speak only to his like, and adapting himself to his audience is a mere compliment which he pays them. If you wish to know how I think, you must endeavor to put yourself in my place. If you wish me to speak as if I were you, that is another affair.
Feb. 19, 1857. A man cannot be said to succeed in this life who does not satisfy one friend.
Feb. 19, 1858. The traveler is defended and calloused. He deals with surfaces, has a great coat on; but he who stays at home and writes about homely things gives us naked and tender thoughts and sentiments.
Feb. 20, 1840. The coward's hope is suspicion; the hero's doubt, a sort of hope. The gods neither hope nor doubt.
Feb. 20, 1841. When I am going out for an evening, I arrange the fire in my stove so that I do not fail to find a good one when I return, though it would have engaged my frequent attention, present; so that when I know I am to be at home, I sometimes make believe that I may go out to save trouble. And this is the art of living, too, to leave our life in a condition to go alone, and not to require a constant supervision. We will then sit down serenely to live, as by the side of a stove.
When I sit in earnest, nothing must stand: All must be sedentary with me.
I hear the faint sound of a viol and voices from the neighboring cottage, and think to myself, I will believe the muse only forevermore. It assures me that no gleam which comes over the serene soul is deceptive. It warns me of a reality and substance of which the best that I see is but the phantom and shadow. 0 Music, thou tellest me of things of which memory takes no heed; thy strains are whispered aside from memory's ear.... Thou openest all my senses to catch the least hint, and givest me no thought. It would be good to sit at my door of summer evenings forever, and hear thy strains. Thou makest me to toy with speech, or walk content without it.... I am pleased to think how ignorant and shiftless the Wisest are.
My imperfect sympathies with my friend are a cheerful, glimmering light in the valley.
Feb. 20, 1842. I never yet saw two men sufficiently great to meet as two. In proportion as they are great, the differences are fatal, because they are felt not to be partial, but total. Frankness to him who is unlike me will lead to the utter denial of him.... When two approach to meet, they incur no petty dangers; they run terrible risks. Between the sincere there will be no civilities. No greatness seems prepared for the little decorums; even savage unmannerliness it meets from equal greatness.
My path hitherto has been like a road through a diversified country, now climbing high mountains, then descending into the lowest vales. From the summits I saw the heavens, from the vales I looked up at the heights again. In prosperity I remember God, or memory is one with consciousness; in adversity I remember my own elevation, and only hope to see God again....
The death of friends should inspire us as much as their lives. If they are great and rich enough, they will leave consolation to the mourners before the expenses of their funerals. It will not be hard to part with worth, because it is worthy. How can any good depart? It does not go and come, but we.
Feb. 20, 1856. P. Up Assabet. See a broad and distinct otter trail made last night or yesterday. It came out to the river through the low woods N. of Pinxter swamp, making a very conspicuous trail from seven to nine or ten inches wide and three or four deep, with sometimes singularly upright sides, as if a square timber had been drawn along, but commonly rounded. It made some short turns and zigzags, passed under limbs which were only five inches above the snow, not over them, had apparently slid down all banks and declivities, making a uniform, broad, hollow trail there, without any marks of its feet. On reaching the river, it had come along under the bank, from time to time looking into the crevices, where it might get under the ice, sometimes ascending the bank and sliding back. On level ground its trail had this appearance
... tracks of feet twenty to twenty-four inches apart, but sometimes there was no track of the -feet for twenty-five feet, frequently for six. In the last case there was a swelling in the outline as above.... It entered a hole under the ice at Assabet spring, from which it has not issued.
Feb. 20, 1857. What is the relation between a bird and the ear that appreciates its melody, to whom, perchance, it is more chanting and significant than to any one else? Certainly they are intimately related, and the one was made for the other. It is a natural fact. If I were to discover that a certain kind of stone by the pond shore was affected, say partially disintegrated, by a particular natural sound, as of a bird or insect, I see that one could not be completely described without describing the other. I am that stone by the pond side.
What is hope, what is expectation, but a seed time whose harvest cannot fail, an irresistible expedition of the mind, at length to be victorious?
Feb. 20, 1859. Have just read "Counterparts, or the Cross of Love," by the author of "Charles Auchester." It is very interesting, its illustration of Love and Friendship, as showing how much we can know of each other through sympathy merely, without any of the ordinary information. You know about a person who deeply interests you more than you can be told. A look, a gesture, an act, which to everybody else is insignificant, tells you more about that one than words can.... If he wished to conceal something from you, it would be apparent. It is as if a bird told you.... Sometimes from the altered manner of a friend which no cloak can possibly conceal, we know that something has happened, and what it was, all the essential particulars, though it would be a long story to tell, though it may involve the agency of four or five persons, who never breathed it to you, yet you are sure as if you detected all their tracks in the wood. You are the more sure, because, in the case of love, effects follow their causes more inevitably than usual, this being a controlling power.
How much the writer lives and endures in coming before the public so often! A few years or books are with him equal to a long life of experience, suffering, etc. It is well if he does not become hardened. He learns how to bear contempt, and to despise himself. He makes, as it were, a post-mortem examination of himself before he is dead. Such is art.
Feb. 21, 1842.... I must confess there is nothing so strange to me as my own body. I love any other piece of nature, almost, better.
I was always conscious of sounds in nature which my ears could not hear, that I caught but a prelude to a strain. She always retreats as I advance. Away behind and behind is she and her meaning. Will not this faith and expectation make itself ears at length? I never saw to the end, nor heard to the end, but the best part was unseen and unheard.
I am like a feather floating in the atmosphere. On every side is depth unfathomable.
I have lived ill [of late] for the most part, because too near myself. I have tripped myself up, so that there was no progress for my own narrowness. I cannot walk conveniently and pleasantly but when I hold myself far off in the horizon, but when the soul dilutes the body and makes it passable. My soul and body have tottered along together,... tripping and hindering one another, like unpracticed Siamese twins. They two should walk as one that no obstacle may be nearer than the firmament. There must be some narrowness in the soul that compels one to have secrets.
Feb. 21, 1855.... A clear air, with a northwesterly March-like wind, as yesterday. What is the peculiarity in the air that both the invalid in his chamber and the traveler on the highway say, "These are perfect March days"? The wind is rapidly drying up the earth, and elevated sands already begin to look whitish. How much light there is in the sky and on the surface of the russet earth! It is reflected in a flood from all cleansed surfaces which rain and snow have washed, from the railroad rails, the mica on the rocks and the silvery latebrie of insects there, and I never saw the white houses of the village more brightly white. Now look for au early crop of arrowheads, for they will shine. When I have entered the wooded hollow on the east of the Deep Cut, it is novel and pleasant to hear the sound of the dry leaves and twigs, which have so long been damp and silent, crackling again under my feet, though there is still considerable snow along wall-sides, etc., and to see the holes and galleries recently made by the mice (?) in the fine withered grass of such places. I see the peculiar softened blue sky of spring over the tops of the pines, and when I am sheltered from the wind I feel the warmer sun of the season reflected from the withered grass and twigs on the side of this elevated hollow.... When the leaves on the forest floor are dried and begin to rustle under such a sun and wind as these, the news is told to how many myriads of grubs that underlie them! When I perceive this dryness under my feet, I feel as if I had got a new sense, or rather I realize what was incredible to me before, that there is a new life in nature beginning to awake.... It is whispered through all the aisles of the forest that another spring is approaching. The wood mouse listens at the mouth of his burrow, and the chickadee passes the news along. We now notice the snow on the mountains, because on the remote rim of the horizon its whiteness contrasts with the russet and darker hues of our bare fields. I looked at the Peterboro mountains, with my glass, from Fair Haven hill. I think there can be no more arctic scene than these mountains, on the edge of the horizon, completely crusted over with snow, the sun shining on them, seen through a telescope over bare russet fields and dark forests, with perhaps a house on some bare ridge seen against them. They look like great loaves incrusted with pure white sugar, and I think this must have been the origin of the name "sugar-loaf" sometimes given to mountains, and not their form. We look thus from russet fields into a landscape still sleeping under the mantle of winter. The snow on the mountains has, in this case, a singular smooth and crusty appearance, and by contrast you see even single evergreens rising here and there above it; and where a promontory casts a shadow along the mountain side, I saw what looked like a large lake of misty, bluish water on the side of the farther Peterboro mountain, its edges or shore very distinctly defined. This I concluded was the shadow of another part of the mountain, and it suggested that in like manner what on the surface of the moon is taken for water may be shadows.
Feb. 21, 1860.... It was their admiration of nature that made the ancients attribute those magnanimous qualities, which are surely to be found in man, to the lion, as her masterpiece. It is only by a readiness or preparedness to see more than appears in a creature that we can appreciate what is manifest.
Feb. 21, 1861.... This plucking and stripping of a pine cone is a business which he [the squirrel] and his family understand perfectly.... He does not prick his fingers, nor pitch his whiskers, nor gnaw the solid cone any more than he needs to. Having sheared off the twigs and needles that may be in his way (for, like a skillful wood-chopper, he first secures room and verge enough), be neatly cuts off the stout stem of the cone with a few strokes of his chisels, and it is his. To be sure, he may let it fall to the ground, and look down at it for a moment curiously, as if it were not his. But he is taking note where it lies, that he may add it to his heap of a hundred more like it, and it is only so much the more his for his seeming carelessness. And when he comes to open it, observe how he proceeds. He holds it in his hands a solid embossed cone, so bard it almost rings at the touch of his teeth. He pauses for a moment, perhaps. but it is not because he does not know how to begin. He only listens to hear what is in the wind. He knows better than to cut off the top, and work his way downward against a cheval-defrise of advanced scales and prickles, or to gnaw into the side for three quarters of an inch in the face of many armed shields. He whirls it bottom upward in a twinkling, where the scales are smallest and the prickles slight or none, and the short stem is cut so close as not to be in his way, and there he proceeds to cut through the thin and tender bases of the scales, and each stroke tells, laying bare at once a couple of seeds. Thus be strips it as easily as if its scales were chaff, and so rapidly, twirling it as he advances, that you cannot tell how he does it till you drive him off, and inspect his unfinished work. If there ever was an age of the world when the squirrels opened their cones at the wrong end, it was not the golden age, at any rate.
Feb. 22, 1841.... Friends will be much apart. They will respect more each other's privacy than their communion, for therein is the fulfillment of our high aims and the conclusion of our arguments. That we know and would associate with, not only has high intents, but goes on high errands, and has much private business. The hours my friend devotes to me were snatched from a higher society. He is hardly a gift level to me, but I have to reach up to take it....
We have to go into retirement religiously, and enhance our meeting by rarity and a degree of unfamiliarity. Would you know why I see thee so seldom, my friend? In solitude I have been making up a packet for thee.
Some actions which grow out of common but natural relations affect me strangely, as sometimes the behavior of a mother to her children. So quiet and noiseless an action often moves me more than many sounding exploits.
Feb. 22, 1852.... Every man will take such views as he can afford to take. Views one would think were the most expensive guests to entertain. I perceive that the reason my neighbor cannot entertain certain views is the narrow limits within which he is obliged to live on account of the smallness of his means. His instinct tells him that it will not do to relax his hold here, and take hold where he cannot keep hold.
Feb. 22, 1855.... J. Farmer showed me an ermine weasel he caught in a trap three or four weeks ago. They are not very uncommon about his barns. All white but the tip of the tail. Two conspicuous canine teeth in each jaw. In summer they are distinguished from the red weasel, which is a little smaller, by the length of their tails particularly, six or more inches, while the red one's is not more than two inches long.... He had seen a partridge drum standing on a wall; said it stood very upright, and produced the sound by striking its wings together behind its back, as a cock often does, but did not strike the wall nor its body. This he is sure of, and declares that he is mistaken who affirms the contrary, though it were Audubon himself. Wilson says he " begins to strike with his stiffened wings," while standing on a log, but does not say what he strikes, though one would infer it was either the log or his body. Peabody says he beats his body with his wings.
Feb. 22, 1856.... Now first, the snow melting and the ice beginning to soften, I see those slender, grayish-winged insects creeping with closed wings over the snow-clad ice. Have seen none before this winter. They are on all parts of the river, of all sizes, from one third of an inch to an inch long; are to be seen every warm day afterward.
Feb. 23, 1841.... There is a subtle elixir in society which makes it a fountain of health to the sick. We want no consolation which is not the overflow of our friend's health. We will have no condolence, who are not dolent ourselves. We would have our friend come and respire healthily before us with the fragrance of many meadows and heaths in his breath, and we will inhabit his body while our own recruits. — Nothing is so good medicine in sickness as to witness some nobleness in another which will advertise us of health. In sickness it is our faith that ails, and noble deeds reassure us.
That anybody has thought of you on some indifferent occasion frequently implies more good will than you had reason to expect. You have henceforth a stronger motive for conduct. We do not know how many amiable thoughts are current.
Feb. 23, 1842.... True politeness is only hope and trust in men. It never addresses a fallen or falling man, but salutes a rising generation. It does not flatter, but only congratulates.
Feb. 28, 1853.... I think myself in a wilder country, and a little nearer to primitive times, when I read in old books which spell the word savages with an 1 (salvages), like John Smith's "General Historie of Virginia," etc., reminding me of the derivation of the word from sylva, some of the wild wood and its bristling branches still left in their language. The savages they describe are really salvages, men of the woods.
Feb. 23, 1854. A. M. The snow drives horizontally from the north or northwesterly in long waving lines like the outline of a swell or billow.
P. M. Saw some of those architectural drifts forming. The fine snow came driving along over the field like steam curling from a roof. As the current rises to go over the wall, it produces a lull in the angle made by the wall and the ground, and accordingly just enough snow is deposited there to fill the triangular calm, but the greater part passes over, and is deposited in the larger calm. A portion of the wind also apparently passes through the chinks of the wall, and curves upward against the main drift, appearing to carve it, and perforate it in various fashions, holding many snowy particles in suspension, in vertical eddies. I am not sure to what extent the drift is carved and perforated, and how far the snow is originally deposited in these forms.
Feb. 23, 1855.... Mr. L. says that he and his son George fired at white swans in Texas on the water, and though George shot two with ball, and killed them, the others in each case gathered about them, and crowded them off out of their reach.
Feb. 23, 1856.... I read in the papers that the ocean is frozen, or has been lately, on the back side of Cape Cod, at the Highland Light, one mile out from the shore (not to bear or walk on probably), a phenomenon which, it is said, the oldest have not witnessed before.
Feb. 23, 1857. r. n. See two yellow-spotted tortoises in the ditch S. of Trillium wood. You saunter expectant in the mild air along the soft edge of a ditch filled with melted snow, and paved with leaves in some sheltered place, yet perhaps with some ice at one end still, and are thrilled to see stirring mid the leaves at the bottom, sluggishly burying themselves from your sight again, these brilliantly spotted creatures. There are commonly two, at least. The tortoise is stirring in the ditches again. In your latest spring, they still look incredibly strange when first seen, and not like cohabitants and contemporaries of yours.
I say in my thought to my neighbor van) was once my friend, It is of no use to speak the truth to you. You will not hear it. What then shall I say to you?
At the instant that I seem to be saying farewell forever -to one who has been my friend, I find myself unexpectedly near to him, and it is our very nearness and dearness to each other that gives depth and significance to that "forever." Thus I am a helpless prisoner, and these chains I have no skill to break. While I think I have broken one link, I have been forging another. — I have not yet known a Friendship to cease, I think. I fear I have experienced its decaying. Morning, noon, and night, I suffer a physical pain, an aching of the breast which unfits me for my tasks. It is perhaps most intense at evening. With respect to Friendship I feel like a wreck that is driving before the gale, with a crew suffering from hunger and thirst, not knowing what shore, if any, they may reach, so long have I breasted the conflicting waves of this sentinent, my seams open and my timbers laid bare. I float on Friendship's sea simply because my specific gravity is less than its, but no longer that stanch and graceful vessel that careened so buoyantly over it. My planks and timbers are scattered. At most I hope to make a sort of raft of Friendship on which with a few of our treasures we may float to some land. — That aching of the breast, the grandest pain that man endures, which no ether can assuage!
You cheat me, you keep me at a distance with your manners. I know of no other dishonesty, no other devil. Why this doubleness, these compliments? They are the worst of lies. A lie is not worse between traders than a compliment between friends. I would not, I cannot speak. I will let you feel my thought, my feeling. — Friends! They are united for good, for evil. They can delight each other as none other can. Lying on lower levels is but a trivial offense compared with civility and compliments on the level of Friendship.
I visit my friend for joy, not for disturbance. If my coming hinders him in the least conceivable degree, I will exert myself to the utmost to stay away. I will get the Titans to help me stand aloof, will labor night and day to construct a rampart between us. If my coming casts but the shadow of a shadow before it, I will retreat swifter than the wind, and more untrackable. I will be gone irrevocably, if possible, before he fears that I am coming.
If the teeth ache, they can be pulled. If the heart aches, what then? Shall we pluck it out?
Must friends then expect the fate of those oriental twins, that one shall at last bear about the corpse of the other, by that same ligature that bound him to a living companion?
Look before you leap. Let the isthmus be cut through, unless sea meets sea at exactly the same level, unless a perfect understanding and equilibrium has been established from the beginning around Cape Horn and that unnamed northern cape, what a tumult! It is Atlantic and Atlantic, or Atlantic and Pacific.
I have seen signs of the spring. I have seen a frog swiftly sinking in a pool, or where he dimpled the surface as he leapt in, I have seen the brilliant spotted tortoise stirring at the bottom of ditches, I have seen the clear sap trickling from the red maple.
Feb. 23, 1859. [Worcester.] P. M. Walk to Quinsigamond Pond, where was very good skating yesterday, but this very pleasant and warm day it is suddenly quite too soft. I was just saying to B — that I should look for hard ice in the shade or on the N. side of some hill close to the shore, though skating was out of the question elsewhere, when looking up I saw a gentleman and lady very gracefully gyrating, and, as it were, courtesying to each other, in a small bay under such a hill on the opposite shore of the pond. Intervening bushes and shore concealed the ice, so that their swift and graceful motions, their bodies inclined at various angles, as they gyrated forward and backward about a small space, looking as if they would hit each other, reminded me of the circling of two winged insects in the air, or hawks receding and approaching.
I first hear and then see eight or ten bluebirds going over.
Feb. 23, 1860. 3 P. M. Thermometer 58° and snow almost gone, river rising. We have not had so warm a day since the beginning of December, which was unusually warm. I walk over the moist Nawshawtuck hillside, and see the green radical leaves of the buttercup, shepherd's purse, sorrel, chickweed, cerastium, etc., revealed.
A fact must be the vehicle of some humanity in order to interest us. Otherwise it is like giving a man a stone when he asks for bread. Ultimately the moral is all in all, and we do not mind it if inferior truth is sacrificed to superior, as when the annalist fables, and makes animals speak and act like men. It must be warm, moist, incarnated, have been breathed on at least. A man has not seen a thing who has not felt it.