Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906)/Volume 7/Chapter 5

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V

1841

(ÆT. 23-24)

Jan. 23. A day is lapsing. I hear cockerels crowing in the yard, and see them stalking among the chips in the sun. I hear busy feet on the floors, and the whole house jars with industry. Surely the day is well spent, and the time is full to overflowing. Mankind is as busy as the flowers in summer, which make haste to unfold themselves in the forenoon, and close their petals in the afternoon.

The momentous topics of human life are always of secondary importance to the business in hand, just as carpenters discuss politics between the strokes of the hammer while they are shingling a roof.[1]

The squeaking of the pump sounds as necessary as the music of the spheres.

The solidity and apparent necessity of this routine insensibly recommend it to me. It is like a cane or a cushion for the infirm, and in view of it all are infirm. If there were but one erect and solid-standing tree in the woods, all creatures would go to rub against it and make sure of their footing. Routine is a ground to stand on, a wall to retreat to; we cannot draw on our boots without bracing ourselves against it.[2] It is the fence over which neighbors lean when they talk. All this Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/260 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/261 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/262 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/263 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/264 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/265 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/266 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/267 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/268 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/269 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/270 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/271 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/272 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/273 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/274 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/275 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/276 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/277 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/278 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/279 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/280 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/281 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/282 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/283 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/284 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/285 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/286 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/287 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/288 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/289 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/290 He that comes as a stranger to my house will have to stay as a stranger. He has made his own reception. But persevering love was never yet refused.

"The vicious count their years, virtuous their acts."

Jonson.

The former consider the length of their service, the latter its quality.

Wait not till I invite thee, but observe
I'm glad to see thee when thou com'st.[3]

The most ardent lover holds yet a private court, and his love can never be so strong or ethereal that there will not be danger that judgment may be rendered against the beloved.

 

I would have men make a greater use of me.[4] Now I must belittle myself to have dealings with them. My friend will show such a noble confidence that I shall aspire to the society of his good opinion. Never presume men less that you may make them more. So far as we respond to our ideal estimate of each other do we have profitable intercourse.

 

A brave man always knows the way, no matter how intricate the roads.

 

Feb. 8. All we have experienced is so much gone within us, and there lies. It is the company we keep. One day, Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/292 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/293 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/294 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/295 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/296 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/297 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/298 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/299 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/300 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/301 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/302 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/303 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/304 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/305 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/306 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/307 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/308 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/309 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/310 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/311 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/312 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/313 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/314 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/315 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/316 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/317 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/318 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/319 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/320 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/321 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/322 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/323 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/324 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/325 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/326 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/327 are doomed men. The world might as well sing a dirge over them forthwith. The farmer's muscles are rigid. He can do one thing long, not many well. His pace seems determined henceforth; he never quickens it. A very rigid Nemesis is his fate. When the right wind blows or a star calls, I can leave this arable and grass ground, without making a will or settling my estate. I would buy a farm as freely as a silken streamer. Let me not think my front windows must face east henceforth because a particular hill slopes that way. My life must undulate still. I will not feel that my wings are clipped when once I have settled on ground which the law calls my own, but find new pinions grown to the old, and talaria to my feet beside.

 

March 30. Tuesday. I find my life growing slovenly when it does not exercise a constant supervision over itself. Its duds accumulate. Next to having lived a day well is a clear and calm overlooking of all our days.

 

FRIENDSHIP

Now we are partners in such legal trade,
We'll look to the beginnings, not the ends,
Nor to pay-day, knowing true wealth is made
For current stock and not for dividends.

 

I am amused when I read how Ben Jonson engaged that the ridiculous masks with which the royal family and nobility were to be entertained should be "grounded upon antiquity and solid learning."[5]

 

April 1.

ON THE SUN COMING OUT IN THE AFTERNOON

Methinks all things have travelled since you shined,
But only Time, and clouds, Time's team, have moved;
Again foul weather shall not change my mind,
But in the shade I will believe what in the sun I loved.

 

In reading a work on agriculture, I skip the author's moral reflections, and the words "Providence" and "He" scattered along the page, to come at the profitable level of what he has to say. There is no science in men's religion; it does not teach me so much as the report of the committee on swine. My author shows he has dealt in corn and turnips and can worship God with the hoe and spade, but spare me his morality.[6]

 

April 3. Friends will not only live in harmony, but in melody.[7]

 

April 4. Sunday. The rattling of the tea-kettle below stairs reminds me of the cow-bells I used to hear when berrying in the Great Fields many years ago, sounding distant and deep amid the birches. That cheap piece of tinkling brass which the farmer hangs about his cow's neck has been more to me than the tons of metal which are swung in the belfry.

 

They who prepare my evening meal below
Carelessly hit the kettle as they go,
With tongs or shovel,
And, ringing round and round,
Out of this hovel
It makes an Eastern temple by the sound.


At first I thought a cow-bell, right at hand
'Mid birches, sounded o'er the open land,
Where I plucked flowers
Many years ago,
Speeding midsummer hours
With such secure delight they hardly seemed to flow.

 

April 5. This long series of desultory mornings does not tarnish the brightness of the prospective days. Surely faith is not dead. Wood, water, earth, air are essentially what they were; only society has degenerated. This lament for a golden age is only a lament for golden men.

 

I only ask a clean seat. I will build my lodge on the southern slope of some hill, and take there the life the gods send me. Will it not be employment enough to accept gratefully all that is yielded me between sun and sun?[8] Even the fox digs his own burrow. If my jacket and trousers, my boots and shoes, are fit to worship God in, they will do. Won't they, Deacon Spaulding?[9]

 

April 7. Wednesday. My life will wait for nobody, but is being matured still irresistibly while I go about the streets and chaffer with this man and that to secure it a living. It will cut its own channel, like the mountain stream, which by the longest ridges and by level prairies is not kept from the sea finally. So flows a man's life, and will reach the sea water, if not by an earthy channel, yet in dew and rain, overleaping all barriers, with rainbows to announce its victory. It can wind as cunningly and unerringly as water that seeks its level; and shall I complain if the gods make it meander? This staying to buy me a farm is as if the Mississippi should stop to chaffer with a clamshell.

What have I to do with plows? I cut another furrow than you see. Where the off ox treads, there is it not, it is farther off; where the nigh ox walks, it will not be, it is nigher still. If corn fails, my crop fails not. What of drought? What of rain? Is not my sand well clayed, my peat well sanded? Is it not underdrained and watered?[10]

 

My ground is high,
But 't is not dry,
What you call dew
Comes filtering through;
Though in the sky,
It still is nigh;
Its soil is blue
And virgin too.


If from your price ye will not swerve,
Why, then I'll think the gods reserve
A greater bargain there above,
Out of their sup'rabundant love
Have meantime better for me cared,
And so will get my stock prepared,
Plows of new pattern, hoes the same,
Designed a different soil to tame,
And sow my seed broadcast in air,
Certain to reap my harvest there.

 

April 8. Friends are the ancient and honorable of the earth. The oldest men did not begin friendship. It is older than Hindostan and the Chinese Empire. How long has it been cultivated, and is still the staple article! It is a divine league struck forever. Warm, serene days only bring it out to the surface. There is a friendliness between the sun and the earth in pleasant weather; the gray content of the land is its color.

 

You can tell what another's suspicions are by what you feel forced to become. You will wear a new character, like a strange habit, in their presence.

 

April 9. Friday. It would not be hard for some quiet brave man to leap into the saddle to-day and eclipse Napoleon's career by a grander,—show men at length the meaning of war. One reproaches himself with supineness, that he too has sat quiet in his chamber, and not treated the world to the sound of the trumpet; that the indignation which has so long rankled in his breast does not take to horse and to the field. The bravest warrior will have to fight his battles in his dreams, and no earthly war note can arouse him. There are who would not run with Leonidas. Only the third-rate Napoleons Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/333 fairyland, but not beyond her ray. We are as much as we see. Faith is sight and knowledge. The hands only serve the eyes. The farthest blue streak in the horizon I can see, I may reach before many sunsets. What I saw alters not; in my night, when I wander, it is still steadfast as the star which the sailor steers by.

Whoever has had one thought quite lonely, and could contentedly digest that in solitude, knowing that none could accept it, may rise to the height of humanity, and overlook all living men as from a pinnacle.

 

Speech never made man master of men, but the eloquently refraining from it.

 

April 11. Sunday. A greater baldness my life seeks, as the crest of some bare hill, which towns and cities do not afford. I want a directer relation with the sun.

 

FRIENDSHIP'S STEADFASTNESS

True friendship is so firm a league
That's maintenance falls into the even tenor
Of our lives, and is no tie,
But the continuance of our life's thread.


If I would safely keep this new-got pelf,
I have no care henceforth but watch myself,
For lo! it goes untended from my sight,
Waxes and wanes secure with the safe star of night.


See with what liberal step it makes its way,
As we could well afford to let it stray
Throughout the universe, with the sun and moon,
Which would dissolve allegiance as soon.


Shall I concern myself for fickleness,
And undertake to make my friends more sure,
When the great gods out of sheer kindliness,
Gave me this office for a sinecure?

 

 

Death cannot come too soon
Where it can come at all,
But always is too late
Unless the fates it call.

 

April 15. Thursday. The gods are of no sect; they side with no man. When I imagine that Nature inclined rather to some few earnest and faithful souls, and specially existed for them, I go to see an obscure individual who lives under the hill, letting both gods and men alone, and find that strawberries and tomatoes grow for him too in his garden there, and the sun lodges kindly under his hillside, and am compelled to acknowledge the unbribable charity of the gods.

Any simple, unquestioned mode of life is alluring to men. The man who picks peas steadily for a living is more than respectable. He is to be envied by his neighbors.

 

April 16. I have been inspecting my neighbors' farms to-day and chaffering with the landholders, and I must confess I am startled to find everywhere the old system Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/336 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/337 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/338 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/339 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/340 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/341 and the whole country full of woods and thickets represented a wild and savage hue." Compare this with the agricultural report.

 

May 1. Saturday. Life in gardens and parlors is unpalatable to me. It wants rudeness and necessity to give it relish. I would at least strike my spade into the earth with as good will as the woodpecker his bill into a tree.[11]

 

May 2.

WACHUSETT[12]

Especial I remember thee,
Wachusett, who like me
Standest alone without society.
Thy far blue eye,
A remnant of the sky,
Seen through the clearing or the gorge,
Or from the windows of the forge,
Doth leaven all it passes by.
Nothing is true
But stands 'tween me and you,
Thou western pioneer,
Who know'st not shame nor fear,
By venturous spirit driven
Under the eaves of heaven;
And canst expand thee there,
And breathe enough of air?
Upholding heaven, holding down earth,
Thy pastime from thy birth,
Not steadied by the one, nor leaning on the other;
May I approve myself thy worthy brother!

 

May 3. Monday. We are all pilots of the most intricate Bahama channels. Beauty may be the sky over head, but Duty is the water underneath. When I see a man with serene countenance in the sunshine of summer, drinking in peace in the garden or parlor, it looks like a great inward leisure that he enjoys; but in reality he sails on no summer's sea, but this steady sailing comes of a heavy hand on the tiller. We do not attend to larks and bluebirds so leisurely but that conscience is as erect as the attitude of the listener. The man of principle gets never a holiday. Our true character silently underlies all our words and actions, as the granite underlies the other strata. Its steady pulse does not cease for any deed of ours, as the sap is still ascending in the stalk of the fairest flower.

 

May 6. Thursday. The fickle person is he that does not know what is true or right absolutely,—who has not an ancient wisdom for a lifetime, but a new prudence for every hour. We must sail by a sort of dead reckoning on this course of life, not speak any vessel nor spy any headland, but, in spite of all phenomena, come steadily to port at last. In general we must have a catholic and universal wisdom, wiser than any particular, and be prudent enough to defer to it always. We are literally wiser than we know. Men do not fail for want of knowledge, but for want of prudence to give wisdom the preference.[13] These low weathercocks on barns and fences show not which way the general and steady current of the wind sets, which brings fair weather or foul, but the vane on the steeple, high up in another stratum of atmosphere, tells that. What we need to know in any case is very simple.[14] I shall not mistake the direction of my life ; if I but know the high land and the main, on this side the Cordilleras, on that the Pacific, I shall know how to run. If a ridge intervene, I have but to seek, or make, a gap to the sea. May 9. Sunday. The pine stands in the woods like an Indian, untamed, with a fantastic wildness about it, even in the clearings. If an Indian warrior were well painted, with pines in the background, he would seem to blend with the trees, and make a harmonious expression. The pitch pines are the ghosts of Philip and Massasoit. The white pine has the smoother features of the squaw. The poet speaks only those thoughts that come un bidden, like the wind that stirs the trees, and men can not help but listen. He is not listened to, but heard. The weathercock might as well dally with the wind as a man pretend to resist eloquence. The breath that inspires the poet has traversed a whole Campagna, and this new climate here indicates that other latitudes are chilled or heated. Speak to men as to gods and you will not be insincere.

 

WESTWARD, HO!

The needles of the pine
All to the west incline.[15]

 

THE ECHO OF THE SABBATH BELL HEARD IN THE WOODS[16]

Dong, sounds the brass in the east,
As if for a civic feast,
But I like that sound the best
Out of the fluttering west.


The steeple rings a knell,
But the fairies' silvery bell
Is the voice of that gentle folk,
Or else the horizon that spoke.


Its metal is not of brass,
But air, and water, and glass,
And under a cloud it is swung,
And by the wind is rung,
With a slim silver tongue.


When the steeple tolls the noon,
It soundeth not so soon,
Yet it rings an earlier hour,
And the sun has not reached its tower.

 

May 10. Monday. A good warning to the restless Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/346 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/347 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/348 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/349 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/350 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/351 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/352 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/353 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/354 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/355 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/356 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/357 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/358 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/359 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/360 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/361 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/362 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/363 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/364 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/365 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/366 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/367 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/368 winter campaign, if you have an ear for the rustling of their camp or an eye for the glancing of their armor, is more inspiring than the Greek or Peninsular war.[17] Any grandeur may find society as great as itself in the forest.

 

Pond Hill.—I see yonder some men in a boat, which floats buoyantly amid the reflections of the trees, like a feather poised in mid-air, or a leaf wafted gently from its twig to the water without turning over. They seem very delicately to have availed themselves of the natural laws, and their floating there looks like a beautiful and successful experiment in philosophy. It reminds me how much more refined and noble the life of man might be made, how its whole economy might be as beautiful as a Tuscan villa,[18]—a new and more catholic art, the art of life, which should have its impassioned devotees and make the schools of Greece and Rome to be deserted.

 

Sept. 5. Saturday. Barn.

Greater is the depth of sadness
Than is any height of gladness.

 

I cannot read much of the best poetry in prose or verse without feeling that it is a partial and exaggerated plaint, rarely a carol as free as Nature's. That content which the sun shines for between morning and evening is unsung. The Muse solaces herself; she is not delighted but consoled.[19] But there are times when we feel a vigor in our limbs, and our thoughts are like a Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/370 Some hours seem not to be occasion for anything, unless for great resolves to draw breath and repose in, so religiously do we postpone all action therein. We do not straight go about to execute our thrilling purpose, but shut our doors behind us, and saunter with prepared mind, as if the half were already done.[20]

Sometimes a day serves only to hold time together.[21]

 

Sept. 12. Sunday.

Where I have been
There was none seen.

 

Sept. 14. No bravery is to be named with that which can face its own deeds.

 

In religion there is no society.

 

Do not dissect a man till he is dead.

 

Love does not analyze its object.

 

We do not know the number of muscles in a caterpillar dead; much less the faculties of a man living.

 

You must believe that I know before you can tell me.

 

To the highest communication I can make no reply; I lend only a silent ear.

 

Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/372 Sept. 28. Tuesday. I anticipate the coming in of spring as a child does the approach of some pomp through a gate of the city.

 

Sept. 30.

Better wait
Than be too late.[22]

 

Nov. 29. Cambridge.—One must fight his way, after a fashion, even in the most civil and polite society. The most truly kind and gracious have to be won by a sort of valor, for the seeds of suspicion seem to lurk in every spadeful of earth, as well as those of confidence. The president and librarian turn the cold shoulder to your application, though they are known for benevolent persons. They wonder if you can be anything but a thief, contemplating frauds on the library. It is the instinctive and salutary principle of self-defense; that which makes the cat show her talons when you take her by the paw.[23]

Certainly that valor which can open the hearts of men is superior to that which can only open the gates of cities.[24]

You must always let people see that they serve themselves more than you, not by your ingratitude, but by sympathy and congratulation. The twenty-first volume of Chalmers's English Poets contains Hoole's and Mickle's Translations. In the shape of a note to the Seventh Book of the Lusiad, Mickle has written a long " Inquiry into the Religious Tenets and Philosophy of the Bramins." Nov. 30. Tuesday. Cambridge. When looking over the dry and dusty volumes of the English poets, I cannot believe that those fresh and fair creations I had imagined are contained in them. English poetry from Gower down, collected into one alcove, and so from the library window compared with the commonest nature, seems very mean. Poetry cannot breathe in the scholar's atmosphere. The Aubreys and Hickeses, with all their learning, prophane it yet indirectly by their zeal. You need not envy his feelings who for the first time has cornered up poetry in an alcove. I can hardly be seri ous with myself when I remember that I have come to Cambridge after poetry; and while I am running over the catalogue and collating and selecting, I think if it would not be a shorter way to a complete volume to step at once into the field or wood, with a very low reverence to students and librarians. Milton did not foresee what company he was to fall into. 1 On run ning over the titles of these books, looking from time to time at their first pages or farther, I am oppressed by an inevitable sadness. One must have come into a 1 [Week, p. 363 ; Riv. 450.] Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/375 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/376 but if, in any cot to east or west and set behind the woods, there is any planetary character illuminating the earth.

 

Packed in my mind lie all the clothes
Which outward nature wears,
For, as its hourly fashions change,
It all things else repairs,


My eyes look inward, not without,
And I but hear myself,
And this new wealth which I have got
Is part of my own pelf.


For while I look for change abroad,
I can no difference find,
Till some new ray of peace uncalled
Lumines my inmost mind,


As, when the sun streams through the wood,
Upon a winter's morn,
Where'er his silent beams may stray
The murky night is gone.


How could the patient pine have known
The morning breeze would come,
Or simple flowers anticipate
The insect's noonday hum,


Till that new light with morning cheer
From far streamed through the aisles,
And nimbly told the forest trees
For many stretching miles?[25]

[Dec.] 12. Sunday. All music is only a sweet striving to express character. Now that lately I have heard of some traits in the character of a fair and earnest maiden whom I had only known superficially, but who has gone hence to make herself more known by distance, they sound like strains of a wild harp music. They make all persons and places who had thus forgotten her to seem late and behindhand. Every maiden conceals a fairer flower and more luscious fruit than any calyx in the field, and if she go with averted face, confiding in her own purity and high resolves, she will make the heavens retrospective, and all nature will humbly confess its queen.[26]

There is apology enough for all the deficiency and shortcoming in the world in the patient waiting of any bud of character to unfold itself.

Only character can command our reverent love. It is all mysteries in itself.

 

What is it gilds the trees and clouds
And paints the heavens so gay,
But yonder fast-abiding light
With its unchanging ray?


I've felt within my inmost soul
Such cheerful morning news,
In the horizon of my mind
I've seen such morning hues,


As in the twilight of the dawn,
When the first birds awake,
Is heard within some silent wood
Where they the small twigs break;


Or in the eastern skies is seen
Before the sun appears,
Foretelling of the summer heats
Which far away he bears.

 

P. M. Walden.—I seem to discern the very form of the wind when, blowing over the hills, it falls in broad flakes upon the surface of the pond, this subtle element obeying the same law with the least subtle. As it falls it spreads itself like a mass of lead dropped upon an anvil. I cannot help being encouraged by this blithe activity in the elements in these degenerate days of men. Who hears the rippling of the rivers will not utterly despair of anything. The wind in the wood yonder sounds like an incessant waterfall, the water dashing and roaring among rocks.

 

[Dec.] 13. Monday. We constantly anticipate repose. Yet it surely can only be the repose that is in entire and healthy activity. It must be a repose without rust. What is leisure but opportunity for more complete and Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/380 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/381 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/382 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/383 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/384 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/385 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/386 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/387 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/388 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/389 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/390 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/391 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/392 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/393 nothing better in its kind. The poets seem to be only more frank and plain-spoken than other men. Their verse is but confessions. They always confide in the reader, and speak privily with him, keeping nothing back.[27]

I know of no safe rule by which to judge of the purity of a former age but that I see that the impure of the present age are not apt to rise to noble sentiments when they speak or write, and suspect, therefore, that there may be more truth than is allowed in the apology that such was the manner of the age.[28]

 

Within the circuit of this plodding life,
There are moments of an azure hue
And as unspotted fair as is the violet
Or anemone, when the spring strews them
By some south woodside; which make untrue
The best philosophy which has so poor an aim
But to console man for his grievance here.
I have remembered when the winter came,
High in my chamber in the frosty nights,
How in the summer past some
Unrecorded beam slanted across
Some upland pasture where the Johnswort grew,
Or heard, amidst the verdure of my mind, the bee's long-smothered hum,
So by the cheap economy of God made rich to go upon my wintry work again.
In the still, cheerful cold of winter nights,
When, in the cold light of the moon,
On every twig and rail and jutting spout
The icy spears are doubling their length
Against the glancing arrows of the sun,
And the shrunk wheels creak along the way,
Some summer accident long past
Of lakelet gleaming in the July beams,
Or hum of bee under the blue flag,
Loitering in the meads, or busy rill
which now stands dumb and still,
its own memorial, purling at its play along the slopes, and through the meadows next, till that its sound was quenched in the staid current of its parent stream.

In memory is the more reality. I have seen how the furrows shone but late upturned, and where the field-fare followed in the rear, when all the fields stood bound and hoar beneath a thick integument of snow.[29]

 

When the snow is falling thick and fast, the flakes nearest you seem to be driving straight to the ground, while the more distant seem to float in the air in a quivering bank, like feathers, or like birds at play, and not as if sent on any errand. So, at a little distance, all the works of Nature proceed with sport and frolic. They are more in the eye and less in the deed.

 

Dec. 31. Friday. Books of natural history make the most cheerful winter reading. I read in Audubon with a thrill of delight, when the snow covers the ground, of the magnolia, and the Florida keys, and their warm sea breezes; of the fence-rail, and the cotton-tree, and Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/396 Page:Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906) v7.djvu/397

  1. [Week, p. 230; Riv. 285.]
  2. [Week, p. 229; Riv. 284, 285.]
  3. [Week, p. 289; Riv. 359.]
  4. [See p. 180.]
  5. [Week, p. 108; Riv. 134.]
  6. [Week, p. 79; Riv. 98.]
  7. [Week, p. 283; Riv. 351.]
  8. [See p. 299.]
  9. [Walden, p. 25; Riv. 39.]
  10. [Week, p. 54; Riv. 67, 68.]
  11. [Week, p. 54; Riv. 67.]
  12. [In Excursions, p. 135 (Riv. 165), these lines are printed as part of a poem beginning, "With frontier strength ye stand your ground." The poem appears also, in extended form, in Week, pp. 170-173; Riv. 212-215.]'
  13. [Week, p. 132; Riv. 164.]
  14. [Week, p. 132; Riv. 164.]
  15. [Excursions, p. 133; Riv. 163.]
  16. [This poem appears in Week, p. 50 (Riv. 62), with some variations and without title.]
  17. [Week, p. 358; Riv 443.]
  18. [Week, p. 48; Riv. 60.]
  19. [Week, p. 393; Riv. 486.]
  20. [Week, p. 111; Riv. 138.]
  21. [See p. 213 for the possible origin of this figure.]
  22. [On the back lining-page of the manuscript Journal volume which ends with this date are the following sentences in pencil:]

    There is another young day let loose to roam the earth.

    Happiness is very unprofitable stock.

    The love which is preached nowadays is an ocean of new milk for a man to swim in. I hear no surf nor surge, but the winds coo over it.

  23. [See Week, pp. xx, xxi; Misc., Riv. 8, 9 (Emerson's Biographical Sketch of Thoreau).]
  24. [Week, p. 291; Riv. 361.]
  25. [This poem, with the four additional stanzas of the next date, appears in the Week, pp. 313, 314 (Riv. 388, 389) under the title of "The Inward Morning." The second stanza is there omitted and there are other alterations.]
  26. [Familiar Letters, Sept., 1852.]
  27. [Week, p. 397; Riv. 490.]
  28. [Week, p. 398; Riv. 491, 492.]
  29. [Excursions, pp. 103, 104; Riv. 127, 128.]