Page:Parsons How to Know the Ferns 7th ed.djvu/209

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Fern flourishes throughout the winter. In one of the October entries in his journal, Thoreau records his satisfaction in the endurance of the hardy ferns:

"Now they are conspicuous amid the withered leaves. You are inclined to approach and raise each frond in succession, moist, trembling, fragile greenness. They linger thus in all moist, clammy swamps under the bare maples and grapevines and witch hazels, and about each trickling spring that is half choked with fallen leaves. What means this persistent vitality? Why were these spared when the brakes and osmundas were stricken down? They stay as if to keep up the spirits of the cold-blooded frogs which have not yet gone into the mud, that the summer may die with decent and graceful moderation. Is not the water of the spring improved by their presence? They fall back and droop here and there like the plumes of departing summer, of the departing year. Even in them I feel an argument for immortality. Death is so far from being universal. The same destroyer does not destroy all. How valuable they are, with the lycopodiums, for cheerfulness. Greenness at the end of the year, after the fall of the leaf, a hale old age. To my eye they are tall and noble as palm-groves, and always some forest nobleness seems to have its haunt under their umbrage. All that was immortal in the swamp herbage seems here crowded into smaller compass, the concentrated greenness of the swamp. How dear they must be to the chickadee and the rabbit! the cool, slowly retreating rear-guard of the swamp army."