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Title: Excursions
Author: Thoreau, Henry David, 1817-1862
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Excursions" ***

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[Illustration: Portrait of Thoreau]


MR. THOREAU'S WRITINGS.

I. WALDEN. 1 vol. 16mo. Price $1.25.

II. A WEEK ON THE CONCORD AND MERRIMACK RIVERS. 1 vol. 12mo. Price $1.50.



    EXCURSIONS.

    BY

    HENRY D. THOREAU.


    1863



    CONTENTS.


  BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

  NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS

  A WALK TO WACHUSETT

  THE LANDLORD

  A WINTER WALK

  THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES

  WALKING

  AUTUMNAL TINTS

  WILD APPLES

  NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.

BY R.W. EMERSON.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU was the last male descendant of a French ancestor who
came to this country from the Isle of Guernsey. His character exhibited
occasional traits drawn from this blood in singular combination with a
very strong Saxon genius.

He was born in Concord, Massachusetts, on the 12th of July, 1817. He was
graduated at Harvard College in 1837, but without any literary
distinction. An iconoclast in literature, he seldom thanked colleges for
their service to him, holding them in small esteem, whilst yet his debt to
them was important. After leaving the University, he joined his brother in
teaching a private school, which he soon renounced. His father was a
manufacturer of lead-pencils, and Henry applied himself for a time to this
craft, believing he could make a better pencil than was then in use. After
completing his experiments, he exhibited his work to chemists and artists
in Boston, and having obtained their certificates to its excellence and to
its equality with the best London manufacture, he returned home contented.
His friends congratulated him that he had now opened his way to fortune.
But he replied, that he should never make another pencil. "Why should I?
I would not do again what I have done once." He resumed his endless walks
and miscellaneous studies, making every day some new acquaintance with
Nature, though as yet never speaking of zoölogy or botany, since, though
very studious of natural facts, he was incurious of technical and textual
science.

At this time, a strong, healthy youth, fresh from college, whilst all his
companions were choosing their profession, or eager to begin some
lucrative employment, it was inevitable that his thoughts should be
exercised on the same question, and it required rare decision to refuse
all the accustomed paths, and keep his solitary freedom at the cost of
disappointing the natural expectations of his family and friends: all the
more difficult that he had a perfect probity, was exact in securing his
own independence, and in holding every man to the like duty. But Thoreau
never faltered. He was a born protestant. He declined to give up his large
ambition of knowledge and action for any narrow craft or profession,
aiming at a much more comprehensive calling, the art of living well.
If he slighted and defied the opinions of others, it was only that he was
more intent to reconcile his practice with his own belief. Never idle or
self-indulgent, he preferred, when he wanted money, earning it by some
piece of manual labor agreeable to him, as building a boat or a fence,
planting, grafting, surveying, or other short work, to any long
engagements. With his hardy habits and few wants, his skill in wood-craft,
and his powerful arithmetic, he was very competent to live in any part of
the world. It would cost him less time to supply his wants than another.
He was therefore secure of his leisure.

A natural skill for mensuration, growing out of his mathematical
knowledge, and his habit of ascertaining the measures and distances of
objects which interested him, the size of trees, the depth and extent of
ponds and rivers, the height of mountains, and the air-line distance of
his favorite summits,--this, and his intimate knowledge of the territory
about Concord, made him drift into the profession of land-surveyor. It had
the advantage for him that it led him continually into new and secluded
grounds, and helped his studies of Nature. His accuracy and skill in this
work were readily appreciated, and he found all the employment he wanted.

He could easily solve the problems of the surveyor, but he was daily beset
with graver questions, which he manfully confronted. He interrogated every
custom, and wished to settle all his practice on an ideal foundation. He
was a protestant _à l'outrance_, and few lives contain so many
renunciations. He was bred to no profession; he never married; he lived
alone; he never went to church; he never voted; he refused to pay a tax to
the State: he ate no flesh, he drank no wine, he never knew the use of
tobacco; and, though a naturalist, he used neither trap nor gun. He chose,
wisely, no doubt, for himself, to be the bachelor of thought and Nature.
He had no talent for wealth, and knew how to be poor without the least
hint of squalor or inelegance. Perhaps he fell into his way of living
without forecasting it much, but approved it with later wisdom.

"I am often reminded," he wrote in his journal, "that, if I had bestowed
on me the wealth of Croesus, my aims must be still the same, and my means
essentially the same." He had no temptations to fight against,--no
appetites, no passions, no taste for elegant trifles. A fine house, dress,
the manners and talk of highly cultivated people were all thrown away on
him. He much preferred a good Indian, and considered these refinements as
impediments to conversation, wishing to meet his companion on the simplest
terms. He declined invitations to dinner-parties, because there each was
in every one's way, and he could not meet the individuals to any purpose.
"They make their pride," he said, "in making their dinner cost much; I
make my pride in making my dinner cost little." When asked at table what
dish he preferred, he answered, "The nearest." He did not like the taste
of wine, and never had a vice in his life. He said,--"I have a faint
recollection of pleasure derived from smoking dried lily-stems, before I
was a man. I had commonly a supply of these. I have never smoked anything
more noxious."

He chose to be rich by making his wants few, and supplying them himself.
In his travels, he used the railroad only to get over so much country as
was unimportant to the present purpose, walking hundreds of miles,
avoiding taverns, buying a lodging in farmers' and fishermen's houses, as
cheaper, and more agreeable to him, and because there he could better find
the men and the information he wanted.

There was somewhat military in his nature not to be subdued, always manly
and able, but rarely tender, as if he did not feel himself except in
opposition. He wanted a fallacy to expose, a blunder to pillory, I may say
required a little sense of victory, a roll of the drum, to call his powers
into full exercise. It cost him nothing to say No; indeed, he found it
much easier than to say Yes. It seemed as if his first instinct on hearing
a proposition was to controvert it, so impatient was he of the limitations
of our daily thought. This habit, of course, is a little chilling to the
social affections; and though the companion would in the end acquit him of
any malice or untruth, yet it mars conversation. Hence, no equal companion
stood in affectionate relations with one so pure and guileless. "I love
Henry," said one of his friends, "but I cannot like him; and as for taking
his arm, I should as soon think of taking the arm of an elm-tree."

Yet, hermit and stoic as he was, he was really fond of sympathy, and threw
himself heartily and childlike into the company of young people whom he
loved, and whom he delighted to entertain, as he only could, with the
varied and endless anecdotes of his experiences by field and river. And he
was always ready to lead a huckleberry party or a search for chestnuts or
grapes. Talking, one day, of a public discourse, Henry remarked, that
whatever succeeded with the audience was bad. I said, "Who would not like
to write something which all can read, like 'Robinson Crusoe'? and who
does not see with regret that his page is not solid with a right
materialistic treatment, which delights everybody?" Henry objected, of
course, and vaunted the better lectures which reached only a few persons.
But, at supper, a young girl, understanding that he was to lecture at the
Lyceum, sharply asked him, "whether his lecture would be a nice,
interesting story, such as she wished to hear, or whether it was one of
those old philosophical things that she did not care about." Henry turned
to her, and bethought himself, and, I saw, was trying to believe that he
had matter that might fit her and her brother, who were to sit up and go
to the lecture, if it was a good one for them.

He was a speaker and actor of the truth,--born such,--and was ever running
into dramatic situations from this cause. In any circumstance, it
interested all bystanders to know what part Henry would take, and what he
would say; and he did not disappoint expectation, but used an original
judgment on each emergency. In 1845 he built himself a small framed house
on the shores of Walden Pond, and lived there two years alone, a life of
labor and study. This action was quite native and fit for him. No one who
knew him would tax him with affectation. He was more unlike his neighbors
in his thought than in his action. As soon as he had exhausted the
advantages of that solitude, he abandoned it. In 1847, not approving some
uses to which the public expenditure was applied, he refused to pay his
town tax, and was put in jail. A friend paid the tax for him, and he was
released. The like annoyance was threatened the next year. But, as his
friends paid the tax, notwithstanding his protest, I believe he ceased to
resist. No opposition or ridicule had any weight with him. He coldly and
fully stated his opinion without affecting to believe that it was the
opinion of the company. It was of no consequence, if every one present
held the opposite opinion. On one occasion he went to the University
Library to procure some books. The librarian refused to lend them. Mr.
Thoreau repaired to the President, who stated to him the rules and usages,
which permitted the loan of books to resident graduates, to clergymen who
were alumni, and to some others resident within a circle of ten miles'
radius from the College. Mr. Thoreau explained to the President that the
railroad had destroyed the old scale of distances,--that the library was
useless, yes, and President and College useless, on the terms of his
rules,--that the one benefit he owed to the College was its library,--
that, at this moment, not only his want of books was imperative, but he
wanted a large number of books, and assured him that he, Thoreau, and not
the librarian, was the proper custodian of these. In short, the President
found the petitioner so formidable, and the rules getting to look so
ridiculous, that he ended by giving him a privilege which in his hands
proved unlimited thereafter.

No truer American existed than Thoreau. His preference of his country and
condition was genuine, and his aversation from English and European
manners and tastes almost reached contempt. He listened impatiently to
news or _bon mots_ gleaned from London circles; and though he tried to be
civil, these anecdotes fatigued him. The men were all imitating each
other, and on a small mould. Why can they not live as far apart as
possible, and each be a man by himself? What he sought was the most
energetic nature; and he wished to go to Oregon, not to London. "In every
part of Great Britain," he wrote in his diary, "are discovered traces of
the Romans, their funereal urns, their camps, their roads, their
dwellings. But New England, at least, is not based on any Roman ruins. We
have not to lay the foundations of our houses on the ashes of a former
civilization."

But, idealist as he was, standing for abolition of slavery, abolition of
tariffs, almost for abolition of government, it is needless to say he
found himself not only unrepresented in actual politics, but almost
equally opposed to every class of reformers. Yet he paid the tribute of
his uniform respect to the Anti-Slavery Party. One man, whose personal
acquaintance he had formed, he honored with exceptional regard. Before the
first friendly word had been spoken for Captain John Brown, after the
arrest, he sent notices to most houses in Concord, that he would speak in
a public hall on the condition and character of John Brown, on Sunday
evening, and invited all people to come. The Republican Committee, the
Abolitionist Committee, sent him word that it was premature and not
advisable. He replied,--"I did not send to you for advice, but to announce
that I am to speak." The hall was filled at an early hour by people of all
parties, and his earnest eulogy of the hero was heard by all respectfully,
by many with a sympathy that surprised themselves.

It was said of Plotinus that he was ashamed of his body, and 'tis very
likely he had good reason for it,--that his body was a bad servant, and he
had not skill in dealing with the material world, as happens often to men
of abstract intellect. But Mr. Thoreau was equipped with a most adapted
and serviceable body. He was of short stature, firmly built, of light
complexion, with strong, serious blue eyes, and a grave aspect,--his face
covered in the late years with a becoming beard. His senses were acute,
his frame well-knit and hardy, his hands strong and skilful in the use of
tools. And there was a wonderful fitness of body and mind. He could pace
sixteen rods more accurately than another man could measure them with rod
and chain. He could find his path in the woods at night, he said, better
by his feet than his eyes. He could estimate the measure of a tree very
well by his eyes; he could estimate the weight of a calf or a pig, like a
dealer. From a box containing a bushel or more of loose pencils, he could
take up with his hands fast enough just a dozen pencils at every grasp. He
was a good swimmer, runner, skater, boatman, and would probably outwalk
most countrymen in a day's journey. And the relation of body to mind was
still finer than we have indicated. He said he wanted every stride his
legs made. The length of his walk uniformly made the length of his
writing. If shut up in the house, he did not write at all.

He had a strong common sense, like that which Rose Flammock, the weaver's
daughter, in Scott's romance, commends in her father, as resembling a
yardstick, which, whilst it measures dowlas and diaper, can equally well
measure tapestry and cloth of gold. He had always a new resource. When I
was planting forest-trees, and had procured half a peck of acorns, he said
that only a small portion of them would be sound, and proceeded to examine
them, and select the sound ones. But finding this took time, he said, "I
think, if you put them all into water, the good ones will sink;" which
experiment we tried with success. He could plan a garden, or a house, or a
barn; would have been competent to lead a "Pacific Exploring Expedition";
could give judicious counsel in the gravest private or public affairs.

He lived for the day, not cumbered and mortified by his memory. If he
brought you yesterday a new proposition, he would bring you to-day another
not less revolutionary. A very industrious man, and setting, like all
highly organized men, a high value on his time, he seemed the only man of
leisure in town, always ready for any excursion that promised well, or for
conversation prolonged into late hours. His trenchant sense was never
stopped by his rules of daily prudence, but was always up to the new
occasion. He liked and used the simplest food, yet, when some one urged a
vegetable diet, Thoreau thought all diets a very small matter, saying that
"the man who shoots the buffalo lives better than the man who boards at
the Graham House." He said,--"You can sleep near the railroad, and never
be disturbed: Nature knows very well what sounds are worth attending to,
and has made up her mind not to hear the railroad-whistle. But things
respect the devout mind, and a mental ecstasy was never interrupted." He
noted, what repeatedly befell him, that, after receiving from a distance a
rare plant, he would presently find the same in his own haunts. And those
pieces of luck which happen only to good players happened to him. One day,
walking with a stranger, who inquired where Indian arrow-heads could he
found, he replied, "Everywhere," and, stooping forward, picked one on the
instant from the ground. At Mount Washington, in Tuckerman's Ravine,
Thoreau had a bad fall, and sprained his foot. As he was in the act of
getting up from his fall, he saw for the first time the leaves of the
_Arnica mollis_.

His robust common sense, armed with stout hands, keen perceptions, and
strong will, cannot yet account for the superiority which shone in his
simple and hidden life. I must add the cardinal fact, that there was an
excellent wisdom in him, proper to a rare class of men, which showed him
the material world as a means and symbol. This discovery, which sometimes
yields to poets a certain casual and interrupted light, serving for the
ornament of their writing, was in him an unsleeping insight; and whatever
faults or obstructions of temperament might cloud it, he was not
disobedient to the heavenly vision. In his youth, he said, one day, "The
other world is all my art: my pencils will draw no other; my jack-knife
will cut nothing else; I do not use it as a means." This was the muse and
genius that ruled his opinions, conversation, studies, work, and course of
life. This made him a searching judge of men. At first glance he measured
his companion, and, though insensible to some fine traits of culture,
could very well report his weight and calibre. And this made the
impression of genius which his conversation often gave.

He understood the matter in hand at a glance, and saw the limitations
and poverty of those he talked with, so that nothing seemed concealed
from such terrible eyes. I have repeatedly known young men of sensibility
converted in a moment to the belief that this was the man they were in
search of, the man of men, who could tell them all they should do.
His own dealing with them was never affectionate, but superior,
didactic,--scorning their petty ways,--very slowly conceding, or not
conceding at all, the promise of his society at their houses, or even at
his own. "Would he not walk with them?" "He did not know. There was
nothing so important to him as his walk; he had no walks to throw away on
company." Visits were offered him from respectful parties, but he declined
them. Admiring friends offered to carry him at their own cost to the
Yellow-Stone River,--to the West Indies,--to South America. But though
nothing could be more grave or considered than his refusals, they remind
one in quite new relations of that fop Brummel's reply to the gentleman
who offered him his carriage in a shower, "But where will _you_ ride,
then?"--and what accusing silences, and what searching and irresistible
speeches, battering down all defences, his companions can remember!

Mr. Thoreau dedicated his genius with such entire love to the fields,
hills, and waters of his native town, that he made them known and
interesting to all reading Americans, and to people over the sea.
The river on whose banks he was born and died he knew from its springs to
its confluence with the Merrimack. He had made summer and winter
observations on it for many years, and at every hour of the day and the
night. The result of the recent survey of the Water Commissioners
appointed by the State of Massachusetts he had reached by his private
experiments, several years earlier. Every fact which occurs in the bed,
on the banks, or in the air over it; the fishes, and their spawning and
nests, their manners, their food; the shad-flies which fill the air on a
certain evening once a year, and which are snapped at by the fishes so
ravenously that many of these die of repletion; the conical heaps of small
stones on the river-shallows, one of which heaps will sometimes overfill a
cart,--these heaps the huge nests of small fishes; the birds which
frequent the stream, heron, duck, sheldrake, loon, osprey; the snake,
musk-rat, otter, woodchuck, and fox, on the banks; the turtle, frog, hyla,
and cricket, which make the banks vocal,--were all known to him, and, as
it were, townsmen and fellow-creatures; so that he felt an absurdity or
violence in any narrative of one of these by itself apart, and still more
of its dimensions on an inch-rule, or in the exhibition of its skeleton,
or the specimen of a squirrel or a bird in brandy. He liked to speak of
the manners of the river, as itself a lawful creature, yet with exactness,
and always to an observed fact. As he knew the river, so the ponds in this
region.

One of the weapons he used, more important than microscope or
alcohol-receiver to other investigators, was a whim which grew on him by
indulgence, yet appeared in gravest statement, namely, of extolling his
own town and neighborhood as the most favored centre for natural
observation. He remarked that the Flora of Massachusetts embraced almost
all the important plants of America,--most of the oaks, most of the
willows, the best pines, the ash, the maple, the beech, the nuts. He
returned Kane's "Arctic Voyage" to a friend of whom he had borrowed it,
with the remark, that "most of the phenomena noted might be observed in
Concord." He seemed a little envious of the Pole, for the coincident
sunrise and sunset, or five minutes' day after six months: a splendid
fact, which Annursnuc had never afforded him. He found red snow in one of
his walks, and told me that he expected to find yet the _Victoria regia_
in Concord. He was the attorney of the indigenous plants, and owned to a
preference of the weeds to the imported plants, as of the Indian to the
civilized man,--and noticed, with pleasure, that the willow bean-poles of
his neighbor had grown more than his beans. "See these weeds," he said,
"which have been hoed at by a million farmers all spring and summer, and
yet have prevailed, and just now come out triumphant over all lanes,
pastures, fields, and gardens, such is their vigor. We have insulted them
with low names, too,--as Pigweed, Wormwood, Chickweed, Shad-Blossom." He
says, "They have brave names, too,--Ambrosia, Stellaria, Amelanchia,
Amaranth, etc."

I think his fancy for referring everything to the meridian of Concord did
not grow out of any ignorance or depreciation of other longitudes or
latitudes, but was rather a playful expression of his conviction of the
indifferency of all places, and that the best place for each is where he
stands. He expressed it once in this wise:--"I think nothing is to be
hoped from you, if this bit of mould under your feet is not sweeter to you
to eat than any other in this world, or in any world."

The other weapon with which he conquered all obstacles in science was
patience. He knew how to sit immovable, a part of the rock he rested on,
until the bird, the reptile, the fish, which had retired from him,
should come back, and resume its habits, nay, moved by curiosity, should
come to him and watch him.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to walk with him. He knew the country
like a fox or a bird, and passed through it as freely by paths of his own.
He knew every track in the snow or on the ground, and what creature had
taken this path before him. One must submit abjectly to such a guide, and
the reward was great. Under his arm he carried an old music-book to press
plants; in his pocket, his diary and pencil, a spy-glass for birds,
microscope, jack-knife, and twine. He wore straw hat, stout shoes, strong
gray trousers, to brave shrub-oaks and smilax, and to climb a tree for a
hawk's or a squirrel's nest. He waded into the pool for the water-plants,
and his strong legs were no insignificant part of his armor. On the day
I speak of he looked for the Menyanthes, detected it across the wide pool,
and, on examination of the florets, decided that it had been in flower
five days. He drew out of his breast-pocket his diary, and read the names
of all the plants that should bloom on this day, whereof he kept account
as a banker when his notes fall due. The Cypripedium not due till
to-morrow. He thought, that, if waked up from a trance, in this swamp,
he could tell by the plants what time of the year it was within two days.
The redstart was flying about, and presently the fine grosbeaks, whose
brilliant scarlet makes the rash gazer wipe his eye, and whose fine clear
note Thoreau compared to that of a tanager which has got rid of its
hoarseness. Presently he heard a note which he called that of the
night-warbler, a bird he had never identified, had been in search of
twelve years, which always, when he saw it, was in the act of diving down
into a tree or bush, and which it was vain to seek; the only bird that
sings indifferently by night and by day. I told him he must beware of
finding and booking it, lest life should have nothing more to show him.
He said, "What you seek in vain for, half your life, one day you come full
upon all the family at dinner. You seek it like a dream, and as soon as
you find it you become its prey."

His interest in the flower or the bird lay very deep in his mind, was
connected with Nature,--and the meaning of Nature was never attempted to
be defined by him. He would not offer a memoir of his observations to the
Natural History Society. "Why should I? To detach the description from its
connections in my mind would make it no longer true or valuable to me: and
they do not wish what belongs to it." His power of observation seemed to
indicate additional senses. He saw as with microscope, heard as with
ear-trumpet, and his memory was a photographic register of all he saw and
heard. And yet none knew better than he that it is not the fact that
imports, but the impression or effect of the fact on your mind. Every fact
lay in glory in his mind, a type of the order and beauty of the whole.
His determination on Natural History was organic. He confessed that he
sometimes felt like a hound or a panther, and, if born among Indians,
would have been a fell hunter. But, restrained by his Massachusetts
culture, he played out the game in this mild form of botany and
ichthyology. His intimacy with animals suggested what Thomas Fuller
records of Butler the apiologist, that "either he had told the bees things
or the bees had told him." Snakes coiled round his leg; the fishes swam
into his hand, and he took them out of the water; he pulled the woodchuck
out of its hole by the tail, and took the foxes under his protection from
the hunters. Our naturalist had perfect magnanimity; he had no secrets: he
would carry you to the heron's haunt, or even to his most prized botanical
swamp,--possibly knowing that you could never find it again, yet willing
to take his risks.

No college ever offered him a diploma, or a professor's chair; no academy
made him its corresponding secretary, its discoverer, or even its member.
Whether these learned bodies feared the satire of his presence. Yet so
much knowledge of Nature's secret and genius few others possessed, none in
a more large and religious synthesis. For not a particle of respect had he
to the opinions of any man or body of men, but homage solely to the truth
itself; and as he discovered everywhere among doctors some leaning of
courtesy, it discredited them. He grew to be revered and admired by his
townsmen, who had at first known him only as an oddity. The farmers who
employed him as a surveyor soon discovered his rare accuracy and skill,
his knowledge of their lands, of trees, of birds, of Indian remains, and
the like, which enabled him to tell every farmer more than he knew before
of his own farm; so that he began to feel as if Mr. Thoreau had better
rights in his land than he. They felt, too, the superiority of character
which addressed all men with a native authority.

Indian relics abound in Concord,--arrow-heads, stone chisels, pestles, and
fragments of pottery; and on the river-bank, large heaps of clam-shells
and ashes mark spots which the savages frequented. These, and every
circumstance touching the Indian, were important in his eyes. His visits
to Maine were chiefly for love of the Indian. He had the satisfaction of
seeing the manufacture of the bark-canoe, as well as of trying his hand in
its management on the rapids. He was inquisitive about the making of the
stone arrow-head, and in his last days charged a youth setting out for the
Rocky Mountains to find an Indian who could tell him that: "It was well
worth a visit to California to learn it." Occasionally, a small party of
Penobscot Indians would visit Concord, and pitch their tents for a few
weeks in summer on the river-bank. He failed not to make acquaintance with
the best of them; though he well knew that asking questions of Indians is
like catechizing beavers and rabbits. In his last visit to Maine he had
great satisfaction from Joseph Polis, an intelligent Indian of Oldtown,
who was his guide for some weeks.

He was equally interested in every natural fact. The depth of his
perception found likeness of law throughout Nature, and I know not any
genius who so swiftly inferred universal law from the single fact. He was
no pedant of a department. His eye was open to beauty, and his ear to
music. He found these, not in rare conditions, but wheresoever he went.
He thought the best of music was in single strains; and he found poetic
suggestion in the humming of the telegraph-wire.

His poetry might be bad or good; he no doubt wanted a lyric facility and
technical skill; but he had the source of poetry in his spiritual
perception. He was a good reader and critic, and his judgment on poetry
was to the ground of it. He could not be deceived as to the presence or
absence of the poetic element in any composition, and his thirst for this
made him negligent and perhaps scornful of superficial graces. He would
pass by many delicate rhythms, but he would have detected every live
stanza or line in a volume, and knew very well where to find an equal
poetic charm in prose. He was so enamored of the spiritual beauty that
he held all actual written poems in very light esteem in the comparison.
He admired Aeschylus and Pindar; but, when some one was commending them,
he said that "Aeschylus and the Greeks, in describing Apollo and Orpheus,
had given no song, or no good one. They ought not to have moved trees, but
to have chanted to the gods such a hymn as would have sung all their old
ideas out of their heads, and new ones in." His own verses are often rude
and defective. The gold does not yet run pure, is drossy and crude. The
thyme and marjoram are not yet honey. But if he want lyric fineness and
technical merits, if he have not the poetic temperament, he never lacks
the causal thought, showing that his genius was better than his talent.
He knew the worth of the Imagination for the uplifting and consolation of
human life, and liked to throw every thought into a symbol. The fact you
tell is of no value, but only the impression. For this reason his presence
was poetic, always piqued the curiosity to know more deeply the secrets of
his mind. He had many reserves, an unwillingness to exhibit to profane
eyes what was still sacred in his own, and knew well how to throw a poetic
veil over his experience. All readers of "Walden" will remember his
mythical record of his disappointments:--

"I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtledove, and am still on
their trail. Many are the travellers I have spoken concerning them,
describing their tracks, and what calls they answered to. I have met one
or two who had heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen
the dove disappear behind a cloud; and they seemed as anxious to recover
them as if they had lost them themselves." ["Walden" p.20]

His riddles were worth the reading, and I confide, that, if at any time I
do not understand the expression, it is yet just. Such was the wealth of
his truth that it was not worth his while to use words in vain. His poem
entitled "Sympathy" reveals the tenderness under that triple steel of
stoicism, and the intellectual subtilty it could animate. His classic poem
on "Smoke" suggests Simonides, but is better than any poem of Simonides.
His biography is in his verses. His habitual thought makes all his poetry
a hymn to the Cause of causes, the Spirit which vivifies and controls his
own.

  "I hearing get, who had but ears,
  And sight, who had but eyes before;
  I moments live, who lived but years,
  And truth discern, who knew but learning's lore."

And still more in these religious lines:--

  "Now chiefly is my natal hour,
  And only now my prime of life;
  I will not doubt the love untold,
  Which not my worth or want hath bought,
  Which wooed me young, and wooes me old,
  And to this evening hath me brought."

Whilst he used in his writings a certain petulance of remark in reference
to churches or churchmen, he was a person of a rare, tender, and absolute
religion, a person incapable of any profanation, by act or by thought. Of
course, the same isolation which belonged to his original thinking and
living detached him from the social religious forms. This is neither to be
censured nor regretted. Aristotle long ago explained it, when he said,
"One who surpasses his fellow-citizens in virtue is no longer a part of
the city. Their law is not for him, since he is a law to himself."

Thoreau was sincerity itself, and might fortify the convictions of
prophets in the ethical laws by his holy living. It was an affirmative
experience which refused to be set aside. A truth-speaker he, capable of
the most deep and strict conversation; a physician to the wounds of any
soul; a friend, knowing not only the secret of friendship, but almost
worshipped by those few persons who resorted to him as their confessor and
prophet, and knew the deep value of his mind and great heart. He thought
that without religion or devotion of some kind nothing great was ever
accomplished: and he thought that the bigoted sectarian had better bear
this in mind.

His virtues, of course, sometimes ran into extremes. It was easy to trace
to the inexorable demand on all for exact truth that austerity which made
this willing hermit more solitary even than he wished. Himself of a
perfect probity, he required not less of others. He had a disgust at
crime, and no worldly success could cover it. He detected paltering as
readily in dignified and prosperous persons as in beggars, and with equal
scorn. Such dangerous frankness was in his dealing that his admirers
called him "that terrible Thoreau," as if he spoke when silent, and was
still present when he had departed. I think the severity of his ideal
interfered to deprive him of a healthy sufficiency of human society.

The habit of a realist to find things the reverse of their appearance
inclined him to put every statement in a paradox. A certain habit of
antagonism defaced his earlier writings,--a trick of rhetoric not quite
outgrown in his later, of substituting for the obvious word and thought
its diametrical opposite. He praised wild mountains and winter forests for
their domestic air, in snow and ice he would find sultriness, and
commended the wilderness for resembling Rome and Paris. "It was so dry,
that you might call it wet."

The tendency to magnify the moment, to read all the laws of Nature in the
one object or one combination under your eye, is of course comic to those
who do not share the philosopher's perception of identity. To him there
was no such thing as size. The pond was a small ocean; the Atlantic, a
large Walden Pond. He referred every minute fact to cosmical laws. Though
he meant to be just, he seemed haunted by a certain chronic assumption
that the science of the day pretended completeness, and he had just found
out that the _savans_ had neglected to discriminate a particular botanical
variety, had failed to describe the seeds or count the sepals. "That is to
say," we replied, "the blockheads were not born in Concord; but who said
they were? It was their unspeakable misfortune to be born in London, or
Paris, or Rome; but, poor fellows, they did what they could, considering
that they never saw Bateman's Pond, or Nine-Acre Corner, or Becky-Stow's
Swamp. Besides, what were you sent into the world for, but to add this
observation?"

Had his genius been only contemplative, he had been fitted to his life,
but with his energy and practical ability he seemed born for great
enterprise and for command; and I so much regret the loss of his rare
powers of action, that I cannot help counting it a fault in him that he
had no ambition. Wanting this, instead of engineering for all America, he
was the captain of a huckleberry party. Pounding beans is good to the end
of pounding empires one of these days; but if, at the end of years, it is
still only beans!

But these foibles, real or apparent, were fast vanishing in the incessant
growth of a spirit so robust and wise, and which effaced its defeats with
new triumphs. His study of Nature was a perpetual ornament to him, and
inspired his friends with curiosity to see the world through his eyes, and
to hear his adventures. They possessed every kind of interest.

He had many elegances of his own, whilst he scoffed at conventional
elegance. Thus, he could not bear to hear the sound of his own steps, the
grit of gravel; and therefore never willingly walked in the road, but in
the grass, on mountains and in woods. His senses were acute, and he
remarked that by night every dwelling-house gives out bad air, like a
slaughter-house. He liked the pure fragrance of melilot. He honored
certain plants with special regard, and, over all, the pond-lily,--then,
the gentian, and the _Mikania scandens_, and "life-everlasting," and a
bass-tree which he visited every year when it bloomed, in the middle of
July. He thought the scent a more oracular inquisition than the
sight,--more oracular and trustworthy. The scent, of course, reveals
what is concealed from the other senses. By it he detected earthiness.
He delighted in echoes, and said they were almost the only kind of kindred
voices that he heard. He loved Nature so well, was so happy in her
solitude, that he became very jealous of cities, and the sad work which
their refinements and artifices made with man and his dwelling. The axe
was always destroying his forest. "Thank God," he said, "they cannot cut
down the clouds!" "All kinds of figures are drawn on the blue ground with
this fibrous white paint."

I subjoin a few sentences taken from his unpublished manuscripts, not only
as records of his thought and feeling, but for their power of description
and literary excellence.

"Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in
the milk."

"The chub is a soft fish, and tastes like boiled brown paper salted."

"The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or,
perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and at length the middle-aged
man concludes to built a wood-shed with them."

"The locust z-ing."

"Devil's-needles zigzagging along the Nut-Meadow brook."

"Sugar is not so sweet to the palate as sound to the healthy ear."

"I put on some hemlock-boughs, and the rich salt crackling of their leaves
was like mustard to the ear, the crackling of uncountable regiments. Dead
trees love the fire."

"The bluebird carries the sky on his back."

"The tanager flies through the green foliage as if it would ignite the
leaves."

"If I wish for a horse-hair for my compass-sight, I must go to the stable;
but the hair-bird, with her sharp eyes, goes to the road."

"Immortal water, alive even to the superficies."

"Fire is the most tolerable third party."

"Nature made ferns for pure leaves, to show what she could do in that
line."

"No tree has so fair a bole and so handsome an instep as the beech."

"How did these beautiful rainbow-tints get into the shell of the
fresh-water clam, buried in the mud at the bottom of our dark river?"

"Hard are the times when the infant's shoes are second-foot."

"We are strictly confined to our men to whom we give liberty."

"Nothing is so much to be feared as fear. Atheism may comparatively be
popular with God himself."

"Of what significance the things you can forget? A little thought is
sexton to all the world."

"How can we expect a harvest of thought who have not had a seed-time of
character?"

"Only he can be trusted with gifts who can present a face of bronze to
expectations."

"I ask to be melted. You can only ask of the metals that they be tender to
the fire that melts them. To nought else can they be tender."

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a flower known to botanists, one of the same genus with our
summer plant called "Life-Everlasting," a _Gnaphalium_ like that, which
grows on the most inaccessible cliffs of the Tyrolese mountains, where the
chamois dare hardly venture, and which the hunter, tempted by its beauty,
and by his love, (for it is immensely valued by the Swiss maidens,) climbs
the cliffs to gather, and is sometimes found dead at the foot, with the
flower in his hand. It is called by botanists the _Gnaphalium
leontopodium_, but by the Swiss _Edelweisse_, which signifies _Noble
Purity_. Thoreau seemed to me living in the hope to gather this plant,
which belonged to him of right. The scale on which his studies proceeded
was so large as to require longevity, and we were the less prepared for
his sudden disappearance. The country knows not yet, or in the least part,
how great a son it has lost. It seems an injury that he should leave in
the midst his broken task, which none else can finish,--a kind of
indignity to so noble a soul, that it should depart out of Nature before
yet he has been really shown to his peers for what he is. But he, at
least, is content. His soul was made for the noblest society; he had in a
short life exhausted the capabilities of this world; wherever there is
knowledge, wherever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty, he will
find a home.



    EXCURSIONS.


NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS.
[Footnote: _Reports--on the Fishes, Reptiles, and Birds; the Herbaceous
Plants and Quadrupeds; the Insects Injurious to Vegetation; and the
Invertebrate Animals of Massachusetts_. Published agreeably to an Order of
the Legislature, by the Commissioners on the Zoölogical and Botanical
Survey of the State.]
[1842.]

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 the migrations of the rice-bird; of
the breaking up of winter in Labrador, and the melting of the snow on the
forks of the Missouri; and owe an accession of health to these
reminiscences of luxuriant nature.

Within the circuit of this plodding life,
There enter moments of an azure hue,
Untarnished fair as is the violet
Or anemone, when the spring strews them
By some meandering rivulet, which make
The best philosophy untrue that aims
But to console man for his grievances.
I have remembered when the winter came,
High in my chamber in the frosty nights,
When in the still light of the cheerful moon,
On every twig and rail and jutting spout,
The icy spears were adding to their length
Against the arrows of the coming sun,
How in the shimmering noon of summer past
Some unrecorded beam slanted across
The upland pastures where the Johnswort grew;
Or heard, amid the verdure of my mind,
The bee's long smothered hum, on the blue flag
Loitering amidst the mead; or busy rill,
Which now through all its course stands still and dumb
Its own memorial,--purling at its play
Along the slopes, and through the meadows next,
Until its youthful sound was hushed at last
In the staid current of the lowland stream;
Or seen the furrows shine but late upturned,
And where the fieldfare followed in the rear,
When all the fields around lay bound and hoar
Beneath a thick integument of snow.
So by God's cheap economy made rich
To go upon my winter's task again.

I am singularly refreshed in winter when I hear of service-berries,
poke-weed, juniper. Is not heaven made up of these cheap summer glories?
There is a singular health in those words, Labrador and East Main, which
no desponding creed recognizes. How much more than Federal are these
States. If there were no other vicissitudes than the seasons, our interest
would never tire. Much more is adoing than Congress wots of. What journal
do the persimmon and the buckeye keep, and the sharp-shinned hawk? What is
transpiring from summer to winter in the Carolinas, and the Great Pine
Forest, and the Valley of the Mohawk? The merely political aspect of the
land is never very cheering; men are degraded when considered as the
members of a political organization. On this side all lands present only
the symptoms of decay. I see but Bunker Hill and Sing-Sing, the District
of Columbia and Sullivan's Island, with a few avenues connecting them. But
paltry are they all beside one blast of the east or the south wind which
blows over them.

In society you will not find health, but in nature. Unless our feet at
least stood in the midst of nature, all our faces would be pale and livid.
Society is always diseased, and the best is the most so. There is no scent
in it so wholesome as that of the pines, nor any fragrance so penetrating
and restorative as the life-everlasting in high pastures. I would keep
some book of natural history always by me as a sort of elixir, the reading
of which should restore the tone of the system. To the sick, indeed,
nature is sick, but to the well, a fountain of health. To him who
contemplates a trait of natural beauty no harm nor disappointment can
come. The doctrines of despair, of spiritual or political tyranny or
servitude, were never taught by such as shared the serenity of nature.
Surely good courage will not flag here on the Atlantic border, as long as
we are flanked by the Fur Countries. There is enough in that sound to
cheer one under any circumstances. The spruce, the hemlock, and the pine
will not countenance despair. Methinks some creeds in vestries and
churches do forget the hunter wrapped in furs by the Great Slave Lake, and
that the Esquimaux sledges are drawn by dogs, and in the twilight of the
northern night, the hunter does not give over to follow the seal and
walrus on the ice. They are of sick and diseased imaginations who would
toll the world's knell so soon. Cannot these sedentary sects do better
than prepare the shrouds and write the epitaphs of those other busy living
men? The practical faith of all men belies the preacher's consolation.
What is any man's discourse to me, if I am not sensible of something in it
as steady and cheery as the creak of crickets? In it the woods must be
relieved against the sky. Men tire me when I am not constantly greeted and
refreshed as by the flux of sparkling streams. Surely joy is the condition
of life. Think of the young fry that leap in ponds, the myriads of insects
ushered into being on a summer evening, the incessant note of the hyla
with which the woods ring in the spring, the nonchalance of the butterfly
carrying accident and change painted in a thousand hues upon its wings, or
the brook minnow stoutly stemming the current, the lustre of whose scales
worn bright by the attrition is reflected upon the bank.

We fancy that this din of religion, literature, and philosophy, which is
heard in pulpits, lyceums, and parlors, vibrates through the universe,
and is as catholic a sound as the creaking of the earth's axle; but if a
man sleep soundly, he will forget it all between sunset and dawn. It is
the three-inch swing of a pendulum in a cupboard, which the great pulse of
nature vibrates by and through each instant. When we lift our eyelids and
open our ears, it disappears with smoke and rattle like the cars on a
railroad. When I detect a beauty in any of the recesses of nature, I am
reminded, by the serene and retired spirit in which it requires to be
contemplated, of the inexpressible privacy of a life,--how silent and
unambitious it is. The beauty there is in mosses must be considered from
the holiest, quietest nook. What an admirable training is science for the
more active warfare of life. Indeed, the unchallenged bravery, which these
studies imply, is far more impressive than the trumpeted valor of the
warrior. I am pleased to learn that Thales was up and stirring by night
not unfrequently, as his astronomical discoveries prove. Linnaeus, setting
out for Lapland, surveys his "comb" and "spare shirt," "leathern breeches"
and "gauze cap to keep off gnats," with as much complacency as Bonaparte a
park of artillery for the Russian campaign. The quiet bravery of the man
is admirable. His eye is to take in fish, flower, and bird, quadruped and
biped. Science is always brave, for to know, is to know good; doubt and
danger quail before her eye. What the coward overlooks in his hurry, she
calmly scrutinizes, breaking ground like a pioneer for the array of arts
that follow in her train. But cowardice is unscientific; for there cannot
be a science of ignorance. There may be a science of bravery, for that
advances; but a retreat is rarely well conducted; if it is, then is it an
orderly advance in the face of circumstances.

But to draw a little nearer to our promised topics. Entomology extends the
limits of being in a new direction, so that I walk in nature with a sense
of greater space and freedom. It suggests besides, that the universe is
not rough-hewn, but perfect in its details. Nature will bear the closest
inspection; she invites us to lay our eye level with the smallest leaf,
and take an insect view of its plain. She has no interstices; every part
is full of life. I explore, too, with pleasure, the sources of the myriad
sounds which crowd the summer noon, and which seem the very grain and
stuff of which eternity is made. Who does not remember the shrill
roll-call of the harvest fly? There were ears for these sounds in Greece
long ago, as Anacreon's ode will show.

"We pronounce thee happy, Cicada,
For on the tops of the trees,
Drinking a little dew,
Like any king thou singest,
For thine are they all,
Whatever thou seest in the fields,
And whatever the woods bear.
Thou art the friend of the husbandmen,
In no respect injuring any one;
And thou art honored among men,
Sweet prophet of summer.
The Muses love thee,
And Phoebus himself loves thee,
And has given thee a shrill song;
Age does not wrack thee,
Thou skilful, earthborn, song-loving,
Unsuffering, bloodless one;
Almost thou art like the gods."

In the autumn days, the creaking of crickets is heard at noon over all the
land, and as in summer they are heard chiefly at nightfall, so then by
their incessant chirp they usher in the evening of the year. Nor can all
the vanities that vex the world alter one whit the measure that night has
chosen. Every pulse-beat is in exact time with the cricket's chant and the
tickings of the deathwatch in the wall. Alternate with these if you can.

About two hundred and eighty birds either reside permanently in the State,
or spend the summer only, or make us a passing visit. Those which spend
the winter with us have obtained our warmest sympathy. The nut-hatch and
chicadee flitting in company through the dells of the wood, the one
harshly scolding at the intruder, the other with a faint lisping note
enticing him on; the jay screaming in the orchard; the crow cawing in
unison with the storm; the partridge, like a russet link extended over
from autumn to spring, preserving unbroken the chain of summers; the hawk
with warrior-like firmness abiding the blasts of winter; the robin
[Footnote: A white robin, and a white quail have occasionally been seen.
It is mentioned in Audubon as remarkable that the nest of a robin should
be found on the ground; but this bird seems to be less particular than
most in the choice of a building spot. I have seen its nest placed under
the thatched roof of a deserted barn, and in one instance, where the
adjacent country was nearly destitute of trees, together with two of the
phoebe, upon the end of a board in the loft of a saw-mill, but a few feet
from the saw, which vibrated several inches with the motion of the
machinery.]
and lark lurking by warm springs in the woods; the familiar snow-bird
culling a few seeds in the garden, or a few crumbs in the yard; and
occasionally the shrike, with heedless and unfrozen melody bringing back
summer again;--

His steady sails he never furls
At any time o' year,
And perching now on Winter's curls,
He whistles in his ear.

As the spring advances, and the ice is melting in the river, our earliest
and straggling visitors make their appearance. Again does the old Teian
poet sing, as well for New England as for Greece, in the

RETURN OF SPRING.

"Behold, how Spring appearing,
The Graces send forth roses;
Behold, how the wave of the sea
Is made smooth by the calm;
Behold, how the duck dives;
Behold, how the crane travels;
And Titan shines constantly bright.
The shadows of the clouds are moving;
The works of man shine;
The earth puts forth fruits;
The fruit of the olive puts forth.
The cup of Bacchus is crowned,
Along the leaves, along the branches,
The fruit, bending them down, flourishes."

The ducks alight at this season in the still water, in company with the
gulls, which do not fail to improve an east wind to visit our meadows, and
swim about by twos and threes, pluming themselves, and diving to peck at
the root of the lily, and the cranberries which the frost has not
loosened. The first flock of geese is seen beating to north, in long
harrows and waving lines; the gingle of the song-sparrow salutes us from
the shrubs and fences; the plaintive note of the lark comes clear and
sweet from the meadow; and the bluebird, like an azure ray, glances past
us in our walk. The fish-hawk, too, is occasionally seen at this season
sailing majestically over the water, and he who has once observed it will
not soon forget the majesty of its flight. It sails the air like a ship of
the line, worthy to struggle with the elements, falling back from time to
time like a ship on its beam ends, and holding its talons up as if ready
for the arrows, in the attitude of the national bird. It is a great
presence, as of the master of river and forest. Its eye would not quail
before the owner of the soil, but make him feel like an intruder on its
domains. And then its retreat, sailing so steadily away, is a kind of
advance. I have by me one of a pair of ospreys, which have for some years
fished in this vicinity, shot by a neighboring pond, measuring more than
two feet in length, and six in the stretch of its wings. Nuttall mentions
that "The ancients, particularly Aristotle, pretended that the ospreys
taught their young to gaze at the sun, and those who were unable to do so
were destroyed. Linnaeus even believed, on ancient authority, that one of
the feet of this bird had all the toes divided, while the other was partly
webbed, so that it could swim with one foot, and grasp a fish with the
other." But that educated eye is now dim, and those talons are nerveless.
Its shrill scream seems yet to linger in its throat, and the roar of the
sea in its wings. There is the tyranny of Jove in its claws, and his wrath
in the erectile feathers of the head and neck. It reminds me of the
Argonautic expedition, and would inspire the dullest to take flight over
Parnassus.

The booming of the bittern, described by Goldsmith and Nuttall, is
frequently heard in our fens, in the morning and evening, sounding like
a pump, or the chopping of wood in a frosty morning in some distant
farm-yard. The manner in which this sound is produced I have not seen
anywhere described. On one occasion, the bird has been seen by one of my
neighbors to thrust its bill into the water, and suck up as much as it
could hold, then raising its head, it pumped it out again with four or
five heaves of the neck, throwing it two or three feet, and making the
sound each time.

At length the summer's eternity is ushered in by the cackle of the flicker
among the oaks on the hill-side, and a new dynasty begins with calm
security.

In May and June the woodland quire is in full tune, and given the immense
spaces of hollow air, and this curious human ear, one does not see how the
void could be better filled.

  Each summer sound
  Is a summer round.

As the season advances, and those birds which make us but a passing visit
depart, the woods become silent again, and but few feathers ruffle the
drowsy air. But the solitary rambler may still find a response and
expression for every mood in the depths of the wood.

Sometimes-I hear the veery's[+] clarion,
Or brazen trump of the impatient jay,
And in secluded woods the chicadee
Doles out her scanty notes, which sing the praise
Of heroes, and set forth the loveliness
Of virtue evermore.

[Footnote +: This bird, which is so well described by Nuttall, but is
apparently unknown by the author of the Report, is one of the most common
in the woods in this vicinity, and in Cambridge I have heard the college
yard ring with its trill. The boys call it "_yorrick_," from the sound of
its querulous and chiding note, as it flits near the traveller through the
underwood. The cowbird's egg is occasionally found in its nest, as
mentioned by Audubon.]

The phoebe still sings in harmony with the sultry weather by the brink of
the pond, nor are the desultory hours of noon in the midst of the village
without their minstrel.

Upon the lofty elm-tree sprays
The vireo rings the changes sweet,
During the trivial summer days,
Striving to lift our thoughts above the street.

With the autumn begins in some measure a new spring. The plover is heard
whistling high in the air over the dry pastures, the finches flit from
tree to tree, the bobolinks and flickers fly in flocks, and the goldfinch
rides on the earliest blast, like a winged hyla peeping amid the rustle of
the leaves. The crows, too, begin now to congregate; you may stand and
count them as they fly low and straggling over the landscape, singly or by
twos and threes, at intervals of half a mile, until a hundred have passed.

I have seen it suggested somewhere that the crow was brought to this
country by the white man; but I shall as soon believe that the white man
planted these pines and hemlocks. He is no spaniel to follow our steps;
but rather flits about the clearings like the dusky spirit of the Indian,
reminding me oftener of Philip and Powhatan, than of Winthrop and Smith.
He is a relic of the dark ages. By just so slight, by just so lasting a
tenure does superstition hold the world ever; there is the rook in
England, and the crow in New England.

Thou dusky spirit of the wood,
Bird of an ancient brood,
Flitting thy lonely way,
A meteor in the summer's day,
From wood to wood, from hill to hill,
Low over forest, field, and rill,
What wouldst thou say?
Why shouldst thou haunt the day?
What makes thy melancholy float?
What bravery inspires thy throat,
And bears thee up above the clouds,
Over desponding human crowds,
Which far below
Lay thy haunts low?

The late walker or sailor, in the October evenings, may hear the
murmurings of the snipe, circling over the meadows, the most spirit-like
sound in nature; and still later in the autumn, when the frosts have
tinged the leaves, a solitary loon pays a visit to our retired ponds,
where he may lurk undisturbed till the season of moulting is passed,
making the woods ring with his wild laughter. This bird, the Great
Northern Diver, well deserves its name; for when pursued with a boat, it
will dive, and swim like a fish under water, for sixty rods or more, as
fast as a boat can be paddled, and its pursuer, if he would discover his
game again, must put his ear to the surface to hear where it comes up.
When it comes to the surface, it throws the water off with one shake of
its wings, and calmly swims about until again disturbed.

These are the sights and sounds which reach our senses oftenest during the
year. But sometimes one hears a quite new note, which has for background
other Carolinas and Mexicos than the books describe, and learns that his
ornithology has done him no service.

It appears from the Report that there are about forty quadrupeds belonging
to the State, and among these one is glad to hear of a few bears, wolves,
lynxes, and wildcats.

When our river overflows its banks in the spring, the wind from the
meadows is laden with a strong scent of musk, and by its freshness
advertises me of an unexplored wildness. Those backwoods are not far off
then. I am affected by the sight of the cabins of the musk-rat, made of
mud and grass, and raised three or four feet along the river, as when I
read of the barrows of Asia. The musk-rat is the beaver of the settled
States. Their number has even increased within a few years in this
vicinity. Among the rivers which empty into the Merrimack, the Concord is
known to the boatmen as a dead stream. The Indians are said to have called
it Musketaquid, or Prairie River. Its current being much more sluggish,
and its water more muddy than the rest, it abounds more in fish and game
of every kind. According to the History of the town, "The fur-trade was
here once very important. As early as 1641, a company was formed in the
colony, of which Major Willard of Concord was superintendent, and had the
exclusive right to trade with the Indians in furs and other articles; and
for this right they were obliged to pay into the public treasury one
twentieth of all the furs they obtained." There are trappers in our midst
still, as well as on the streams of the far West, who night and morning go
the round of their traps, without fear of the Indian. One of these takes
from one hundred and fifty to two hundred musk-rats in a year, and even
thirty-six have been shot by one man in a day. Their fur, which is not
nearly as valuable as formerly, is in good condition in the winter and
spring only; and upon the breaking up of the ice, when they are driven out
of their holes by the water, the greatest number is shot from boats,
either swimming or resting on their stools, or slight supports of grass
and reeds, by the side of the stream. Though they exhibit considerable
cunning at other times, they are easily taken in a trap, which has only to
be placed in their holes, or wherever they frequent, without any bait
being used, though it is sometimes rubbed with their musk. In the winter
the hunter cuts holes in the ice, and shoots them when they come to the
surface. Their burrows are usually in the high banks of the river, with
the entrance under water, and rising within to above the level of high
water. Sometimes their nests, composed of dried meadow grass and flags,
may be discovered where the bank is low and spongy, by the yielding of the
ground under the feet. They have from three to seven or eight young in the
spring.

Frequently, in the morning or evening, a long ripple is seen in the still
water, where a musk-rat is crossing the stream, with only its nose above
the surface, and sometimes a green bough in its mouth to build its house
with. When it finds itself observed, it will dive and swim five or six
rods under water, and at length conceal itself in its hole, or the weeds.
It will remain under water for ten minutes at a time, and on one occasion
has been seen, when undisturbed, to form an air-bubble under the ice,
which contracted and expanded as it breathed at leisure. When it suspects
danger on shore, it will stand erect like a squirrel, and survey its
neighborhood for several minutes, without moving.

In the fall, if a meadow intervene between their burrows and the stream,
they erect cabins of mud and grass, three or four feet high, near its
edge. These are not their breeding-places, though young are sometimes
found in them in late freshets, but rather their hunting-lodges, to which
they resort in the winter with their food, and for shelter. Their food
consists chiefly of flags and fresh-water muscles, the shells of the
latter being left in large quantities around their lodges in the spring.

The Penobscot Indian wears the entire skin of a musk-rat, with the legs
and tail dangling, and the head caught under his girdle, for a pouch, into
which he puts his fishing tackle, and essences to scent his traps with.

The bear, wolf, lynx, wildcat, deer, beaver, and marten, have disappeared;
the otter is rarely if ever seen here at present; and the mink is less
common than formerly.

Perhaps of all our untamed quadrupeds, the fox has obtained the widest and
most familiar reputation, from the time of Pilpay and Aesop to the present
day. His recent tracks still give variety to a winter's walk. I tread in
the steps of the fox that has gone before me by some hours, or which
perhaps I have started, with such a tiptoe of expectation, as if I were on
the trail of the Spirit itself which resides in the wood, and expected
soon to catch it in its lair. I am curious to know what has determined its
graceful curvatures, and how surely they were coincident with the
fluctuations of some mind. I know which way a mind wended, what horizon it
faced, by the setting of these tracks, and whether it moved slowly or
rapidly, by their greater or less intervals and distinctness; for the
swiftest step leaves yet a lasting trace. Sometimes you will see the
trails of many together, and where they have gambolled and gone through a
hundred evolutions, which testify to a singular listlessness and leisure
in nature.

When I see a fox run across the pond on the snow, with the carelessness of
freedom, or at intervals trace his course in the sunshine along the ridge
of a hill, I give up to him sun and earth as to their true proprietor. He
does not go in the sun, but it seems to follow him, and there is a visible
sympathy between him and it. Sometimes, when the snow lies light, and but
five or six inches deep, you may give chase and come up with one on foot.
In such a case he will show a remarkable presence of mind, choosing only
the safest direction, though he may lose ground by it. Notwithstanding his
fright, he will take no step which is not beautiful. His pace is a sort of
leopard canter, as if he were in nowise impeded by the snow, but were
husbanding his strength all the while. When the ground is uneven, the
course is a series of graceful curves, conforming to the shape of the
surface. He runs as though there were not a bone in his back. Occasionally
dropping his muzzle to the ground for a rod or two, and then tossing his
head aloft, when satisfied of his course. When he comes to a declivity, he
will put his forefeet together, and slide swiftly down it, shoving the
snow before him. He treads so softly that you would hardly hear it from
any nearness, and yet with such expression that it would not be quite
inaudible at any distance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of fishes, seventy-five genera and one hundred and seven species are
described in the Report. The fisherman will be startled to learn that
there are but about a dozen kinds in the ponds and streams of any inland
town; and almost nothing is known of their habits. Only their names and
residence make one love fishes. I would know even the number of their
fin-rays, and how many scales compose the lateral line. I am the wiser in
respect to all knowledges, and the better qualified for all fortunes, for
knowing that there is a minnow in the brook. Methinks I have need even of
his sympathy, and to be his fellow in a degree.

I have experienced such simple delight in the trivial matters of fishing
and sporting, formerly, as might have inspired the muse of Homer or
Shakspeare; and now, when I turn the pages and ponder the plates of the
Angler's Souvenir, I am fain to exclaim,--

               "Can these things be,
  And overcome us like a summer's cloud?"

Next to nature, it seems as if man's actions were the most natural, they
so gently accord with her. The small seines of flax stretched across the
shallow and transparent parts of our river, are no more intrusion than the
cobweb in the sun. I stay my boat in midcurrent, and look down in the
sunny water to see the civil meshes of his nets, and wonder how the
blustering people of the town could have done this elvish work. The twine
looks like a new river weed, and is to the river as a beautiful memento of
man's presence in nature, discovered as silently and delicately as a
footprint in the sand.

When the ice is covered with snow, I do not suspect the wealth under my
feet; that there is as good as a mine under me wherever I go. How many
pickerel are poised on easy fin fathoms below the loaded wain. The
revolution of the seasons must be a curious phenomenon to them. At length
the sun and wind brush aside their curtain, and they see the heavens
again.

Early in the spring, after the ice has melted, is the time for spearing
fish. Suddenly the wind shifts from northeast and east to west and south,
and every icicle, which has tinkled on the meadow grass so long, trickles
down its stem, and seeks its level unerringly with a million comrades. The
steam curls up from every roof and fence.

  I see the civil sun drying earth's tears,
  Her tears of joy, which only faster flow.

In the brooks is heard the slight grating sound of small cakes of ice,
floating with various speed, full of content and promise, and where the
water gurgles under a natural bridge, you may hear these hasty rafts hold
conversation in an undertone. Every rill is a channel for the juices of
the meadow. In the ponds the ice cracks with a merry and inspiriting din,
and down the larger streams is whirled grating hoarsely, and crashing its
way along, which was so lately a highway for the woodman's team and the
fox, sometimes with the tracks of the skaters still fresh upon it, and the
holes cut for pickerel. Town committees anxiously inspect the bridges and
causeways, as if by mere eye-force to intercede with the ice, and save the
treasury.

The river swelleth more and more,
Like some sweet influence stealing o'er
The passive town; and for a while
Each tussuck makes a tiny isle,
Where, on some friendly Ararat,
Resteth the weary water-rat.

No ripple shows Musketaquid,
Her very current e'en is hid,
As deepest souls do calmest rest,
When thoughts are swelling in the breast,
And she that in the summer's drought
Doth make a rippling and a rout,
Sleeps from Nabshawtuck to the Cliff,
Unruffled by a single skiff.
But by a thousand distant hills
The louder roar a thousand rills,
And many a spring which now is dumb,
And many a stream with smothered hum,
Doth swifter well and faster glide,
Though buried deep beneath the tide.

Our village shows a rural Venice,
Its broad lagoons where yonder fen is;
As lovely as the Bay of Naples
Yon placid cove amid the maples;
And in my neighbor's field of corn
I recognize the Golden Horn.

Here Nature taught from year to year,
When only red men came to hear,
Methinks 'twas in this school of art
Venice and Naples learned their part;
But still their mistress, to my mind,
Her young disciples leaves behind.

The fisherman now repairs and launches his boat. The best time for
spearing is at this season, before the weeds have begun to grow, and while
the fishes lie in the shallow water, for in summer they prefer the cool
depths, and in the autumn they are still more or less concealed by the
grass. The first requisite is fuel for your crate; and for this purpose
the roots of the pitchpine are commonly used, found under decayed stumps,
where the trees have been felled eight or ten years.

With a crate, or jack, made of iron hoops, to contain your fire, and
attached to the bow of your boat about three feet from the water, a
fish-spear with seven tines, and fourteen feet long, a large basket, or
barrow, to carry your fuel and bring back your fish, and a thick outer
garment, you are equipped for a cruise. It should be a warm and still
evening; and then with a fire crackling merrily at the prow, you may
launch forth like a cucullo into the night. The dullest soul cannot go
upon such an expedition without some of the spirit of adventure; as if
he had stolen the boat of Charon and gone down the Styx on a midnight
expedition into the realms of Pluto. And much speculation does this
wandering star afford to the musing nightwalker, leading him on and on,
jack-o'lantern-like, over the meadows; or, if he is wiser, he amuses
himself with imagining what of human life, far in the silent night, is
flitting mothlike round its candle. The silent navigator shoves his craft
gently over the water, with a smothered pride and sense of benefaction, as
if he were the phosphor, or light-bringer, to these dusky realms, or some
sister moon, blessing the spaces with her light. The waters, for a rod or
two on either hand and several feet in depth, are lit up with more than
noonday distinctness, and he enjoys the opportunity which so many have
desired, for the roofs of a city are indeed raised, and he surveys the
midnight economy of the fishes. There they lie in every variety of
posture; some on their backs, with their white bellies uppermost, some
suspended in midwater, some sculling gently along with a dreamy motion of
the fins, and others quite active and wide awake,--a scene not unlike what
the human city would present. Occasionally he will encounter a turtle
selecting the choicest morsels, or a musk-rat resting on a tussuck. He may
exercise his dexterity, if he sees fit, on the more distant and active
fish, or fork the nearer into his boat, as potatoes out of a pot, or even
take the sound sleepers with his hands. But these last accomplishments he
will soon learn to dispense with, distinguishing the real object of his
pursuit, and find compensation in the beauty and never-ending novelty of
his position. The pines growing down to the water's edge will show newly
as in the glare of a conflagration; and as he floats under the willows
with his light, the song-sparrow will often wake on her perch, and sing
that strain at midnight, which she had meditated for the morning. And when
he has done, he may have to steer his way home through the dark by the
north star, and he will feel himself some degrees nearer to it for having
lost his way on the earth.

The fishes commonly taken in this way are pickerel, suckers, perch, eels,
pouts, breams, and shiners,--from thirty to sixty weight in a night.
Some are hard to be recognized in the unnatural light, especially the
perch, which, his dark bands being exaggerated, acquires a ferocious
aspect. The number of these transverse bands, which the Report states to
be seven, is, however, very variable, for in some of our ponds they have
nine and ten even.

       *       *       *       *       *

It appears that we have eight kinds of tortoises, twelve snakes,--but one
of which is venomous,--nine frogs and toads, nine salamanders, and one
lizard, for our neighbors.

I am particularly attracted by the motions of the serpent tribe. They make
our hands and feet, the wings of the bird, and the fins of the fish seems
very superfluous, as if nature had only indulged her fancy in making them.
The black snake will dart into a bush when pursued, and circle round and
round with an easy and graceful motion, amid the thin and bare twigs, five
or six feet from the ground, as a bird flits from bough to bough, or hang
in festoons between the forks. Elasticity and flexibleness in the simpler
forms of animal life are equivalent to a complex system of limbs in the
higher; and we have only to be as wise and wily as the serpent, to perform
as difficult feats without the vulgar assistance of hands and feet.

In May, the snapping turtle, _Emysaurus serpentina,_ is frequently taken
on the meadows and in the river. The fisherman, taking sight over the calm
surface, discovers its snout projecting above the water, at the distance
of many rods, and easily secures his prey through its unwillingness to
disturb the water by swimming hastily away, for, gradually drawing its
head under, it remains resting on some limb or clump of grass. Its eggs,
which are buried at a distance from the water, in some soft place, as a
pigeon-bed, are frequently devoured by the skunk. It will catch fish by
daylight, as a toad catches flies, and is said to emit a transparent fluid
from its mouth to attract them.

Nature has taken more care than the fondest parent for the education and
refinement of her children. Consider the silent influence which flowers
exert, no less upon the ditcher in the meadow than the lady in the bower.
When I walk in the woods, I am reminded that a wise purveyor has been
there before me; my most delicate experience is typified there. I am
struck with the pleasing friendships and unanimities of nature, as when
the lichen on the trees takes the form of their leaves. In the most
stupendous scenes you will see delicate and fragile features, as slight
wreaths of vapor, dewlines, feathery sprays, which suggest a high
refinement, a noble blood and breeding, as it were. It is not hard to
account for elves and fairies; they represent this light grace, this
ethereal gentility. Bring a spray from the wood, or a crystal from the
brook, and place it on your mantel, and your household ornaments will seem
plebeian beside its nobler fashion and bearing. It will wave superior
there, as if used to a more refined and polished circle. It has a salute
and a response to all your enthusiasm and heroism.

In the winter, I stop short in the path to admire how the trees grow up
without forethought, regardless of the time and circumstances. They do not
wait as man does, but now is the golden age of the sapling. Earth, air,
sun, and rain, are occasion enough; they were no better in primeval
centuries. The "winter of _their_ discontent" never comes. Witness the
buds of the native poplar standing gayly out to the frost on the sides of
its bare switches. They express a naked confidence. With cheerful heart
one could be a sojourner in the wilderness, if he were sure to find there
the catkins of the willow or the alder. When I read of them in the
accounts of northern adventurers, by Baffin's Bay or Mackenzie's river, I
see how even there too I could dwell. They are our little vegetable
redeemers. Methinks our virtue will hold out till they come again. They
are worthy to have had a greater than Minerva or Ceres for their inventor.
Who was the benignant goddess that bestowed them on mankind?

Nature is mythical and mystical always, and works with the license and
extravagance of genius. She has her luxurious and florid style as well as
art. Having a pilgrim's cup to make, she gives to the whole, stem, bowl,
handle, and nose, some fantastic shape, as if it were to be the car of
some fabulous marine deity, a Nereus or Triton.

In the winter, the botanist needs not confine himself to his books and
herbarium, and give over his out-door pursuits, but may study a new
department of vegetable physiology, what may be called crystalline botany,
then. The winter of 1837 was unusually favorable for this. In December of
that year, the Genius of vegetation seemed to hover by night over its
summer haunts with unusual persistency. Such a hoarfrost, as is very
uncommon here or anywhere, and whose full effects can never be witnessed
after sunrise, occurred several times. As I went forth early on a still
and frosty morning, the trees looked like airy creatures of darkness
caught napping; on this side huddled together with their gray hairs
streaming in a secluded valley, which the sun had not penetrated; on that
hurrying off in Indian file along some watercourse, while the shrubs and
grasses, like elves and fairies of the night, sought to hide their
diminished heads in the snow. The river, viewed from the high bank,
appeared of a yellowish green color, though all the landscape was white.
Every tree, shrub, and spire of grass, that could raise its head above the
snow, was covered with a dense ice-foliage, answering, as it were, leaf
for leaf to its summer dress. Even the fences had put forth leaves in the
night. The centre, diverging, and more minute fibres were perfectly
distinct, and the edges regularly indented. These leaves were on the side
of the twig or stubble opposite to the sun, meeting it for the most part
at right angles, and there were others standing out at all possible angles
upon these and upon one another, with no twig or stubble supporting them.
When the first rays of the sun slanted over the scene, the grasses seemed
hung with innumerable jewels, which jingled merrily as they were brushed
by the foot of the traveller, and reflected all the hues of the rainbow
as he moved from side to side. It struck me that these ghost leaves, and
the green ones whose forms they assume, were the creatures of but one law;
that in obedience to the same law the vegetable juices swell gradually
into the perfect leaf, on the one hand, and the crystalline particles
troop to their standard in the same order, on the other. As if the
material were indifferent, but the law one and invariable, and every plant
in the spring but pushed up into and filled a permanent and eternal mould,
which, summer and winter forever, is waiting to be filled.

This foliate structure is common to the coral and the plumage of birds,
and to how large a part of animate and inanimate nature. The same
independence of law on matter is observable in many other instances, as in
the natural rhymes, when some animal form, color, or odor, has its
counterpart in some vegetable. As, indeed, all rhymes imply an eternal
melody, independent of any particular sense.

As confirmation of the fact, that vegetation is but a kind of
crystallization, every one may observe how, upon the edge of the melting
frost on the window, the needle-shaped particles are bundled together
so as to resemble fields waving with grain, or shocks rising here and
there from the stubble; on one side the vegetation of the torrid zone,
high-towering palms and widespread banyans, such as are seen in pictures
of oriental scenery; on the other, arctic pines stiff frozen, with
downcast branches.

Vegetation has been made the type of all growth; but as in crystals the
law is more obvious, their material being more simple, and for the most
part more transient and fleeting, would it not be as philosophical as
convenient to consider all growth, all filling up within the limits of
nature, but a crystallization more or less rapid?

On this occasion, in the side of the high bank of the river, wherever
the water or other cause had formed a cavity, its throat and outer edge,
like the entrance to a citadel, bristled with a glistening ice-armor.
In one place you might see minute ostrich-feathers, which seemed the
waving plumes of the warriors filing into the fortress; in another, the
glancing, fan-shaped banners of the Lilliputian host; and in another, the
needle-shaped particles collected into bundles, resembling the plumes of
the pine, might pass for a phalanx of spears. From the under side of the
ice in the brooks, where there was a thicker ice below, depended a mass of
crystallization, four or five inches deep, in the form of prisms, with
their lower ends open, which, when the ice was laid on its smooth side,
resembled the roofs and steeples of a Gothic city, or the vessels of a
crowded haven under a press of canvas. The very mud in the road, where the
ice had melted, was crystallized with deep rectilinear fissures, and the
crystalline masses in the sides of the ruts resembled exactly asbestos in
the disposition of their needles. Around the roots of the stubble and
flower-stalks, the frost was gathered into the form of irregular conical
shells, or fairy rings. In some places the ice-crystals were lying upon
granite rocks, directly over crystals of quartz, the frost-work of a
longer night, crystals of a longer period, but to some eye unprejudiced by
the short term of human life, melting as fast as the former.

In the Report on the Invertebrate Animals, this singular fact is recorded,
which teaches us to put a new value on time and space. "The distribution
of the marine shells is well worthy of notice as a geological fact. Cape
Cod, the right arm of the Commonwealth, reaches out into the ocean, some
fifty or sixty miles. It is nowhere many miles wide; but this narrow point
of land has hitherto proved a barrier to the migrations of many species of
Mollusca. Several genera and numerous species, which are separated by the
intervention of only a few miles of land, are effectually prevented from
mingling by the Cape, and do not pass from one side to the other.... Of
the one hundred and ninety-seven marine species, eighty-three do not pass
to the south shore, and fifty are not found on the north shore of the
Cape."

That common muscle, the _Unio complanalus_, or more properly
_fluviatilis_, left in the spring by the musk-rat upon rocks and stumps,
appears to have been an important article of food with the Indians. In one
place, where they are said to have feasted, they are found in large
quantities, at an elevation of thirty feet above the river, filling the
soil to the depth of a foot, and mingled with ashes and Indian remains.

The works we have placed at the head of our chapter, with as much license,
as the preacher selects his text, are such as imply more labor than
enthusiasm. The State wanted complete catalogues of its natural riches,
with such additional facts merely as would be directly useful.

The reports on Fishes, Reptiles, Insects, and Invertebrate Animals,
however, indicate labor and research, and have a value independent of the
object of the legislature.

Those on Herbaceous Plants and Birds cannot be of much value, as long as
Bigelow and Nuttall are accessible. They serve but to indicate, with more
or less exactness, what species are found in the State. We detect several
errors ourselves, and a more practised eye would no doubt expand the list.

The Quadrupeds deserved a more final and instructive report than they have
obtained.

These volumes deal much in measurements and minute descriptions, not
interesting to the general reader, with only here and there a colored
sentence to allure him, like those plants growing in dark forests, which
bear only leaves without blossoms. But the ground was comparatively
unbroken, and we will not complain of the pioneer, if he raises no flowers
with his first crop. Let us not underrate the value of a fact; it will one
day flower in a truth. It is astonishing how few facts of importance are
added in a century to the natural history of any animal. The natural
history of man himself is still being gradually written. Men are knowing
enough after their fashion. Every countryman and dairymaid knows that the
coats of the fourth stomach of the calf will curdle milk, and what
particular mushroom is a safe and nutritious diet. You cannot go into any
field or wood, but it will seem as if every stone had been turned, and the
bark on every tree ripped up. But, after all, it is much easier to
discover than to see when the cover is off! It has been well said that
"the attitude of inspection is prone." Wisdom does not inspect, but
behold. We must look a long time before we can see. Slow are the
beginnings of philosophy. He has something demoniacal in him, who can
discern a law or couple two facts. We can imagine a time when,--"Water
runs down hill,"--may have been taught in the schools. The true man of
science will know nature better by his finer organization; he will smell,
taste, see, hear, feel, better than other men. His will be a deeper and
finer experience. We do not learn by inference and deduction, and the
application of mathematics to philosophy, but by direct intercourse and
sympathy. It is with science as with ethics,--we cannot know truth by
contrivance and method; the Baconian is as false as any other, and with
all the helps of machinery and the arts, the most scientific will still be
the healthiest and friendliest man, and possess a more perfect Indian
wisdom.



A WALK TO WACHUSETT.

[1843.]

  The needles of the pine
  All to the west incline.

CONCORD, _July_ 19, 1842.

Summer and winter our eyes had rested on the dim outline of the mountains
in our horizon, to which distance and indistinctness lent a grandeur not
their own, so that they served equally to interpret all the allusions of
poets and travellers; whether with Homer, on a spring morning, we sat down
on the many-peaked Olympus, or, with Virgil and his compeers, roamed the
Etrurian and Thessalian hills, or with Humboldt measured the more modern
Andes and Teneriffe. Thus we spoke our mind to them, standing on the
Concord cliffs.--

With frontier strength ye stand your ground,
With grand content ye circle round,
Tumultuous silence for all sound,
Ye distant nursery of rills,
Monadnock, and the Peterboro' hills;
Like some vast fleet,
Sailing through rain and sleet,
Through winter's cold and summer's heat;
Still holding on, upon your high emprise,
Until ye find a shore amid the skies;
Not skulking close to land,
With cargo contraband.
For they who sent a venture out by ye
Have set the sun to see
Their honesty.
Ships of the line, each one,
Ye to the westward run,
Always before the gale,
Under a press of sail,
With weight of metal all untold.
I seem to feel ye, in my firm seat here,
Immeasurable depth of hold,
And breadth of beam, and length of running gear.

Methinks ye take luxurious pleasure
In your novel western leisure;
So cool your brows, and freshly blue,
As Time had nought for ye to do;
For ye lie at your length,
An unappropriated strength,
Unhewn primeval timber,
For knees so stiff, for masts so limber;
The stock of which new earths are made,
One day to be our western trade,
Fit for the stanchions of a world
Which through the seas of space is hurled.

While we enjoy a lingering ray,
Ye still o'ertop the western day,
Reposing yonder, on God's croft,
Like solid stacks of hay.
Edged with silver, and with gold,
The clouds hang o'er in damask fold,
And with such depth of amber light
The west is dight,
Where still a few rays slant,
That even heaven seems extravagant.
On the earth's edge mountains and trees
Stand as they were on air graven,
Or as the vessels in a haven
Await the morning breeze.
I fancy even
Through your defiles windeth the way to heaven;
And yonder still, in spite of history's page,
Linger the golden and the silver age;
Upon the laboring gale
The news of future centuries is brought,
And of new dynasties of thought,
From your remotest vale.

But special 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 on 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 can'st 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!

At length, like Rasselas, and other inhabitants of happy valleys, we
resolved to scale the blue wall which bound the western horizon, though
not without misgivings, that thereafter no visible fairy land would exist
for us. But we will not leap at once to our journey's end, though near,
but imitate Homer, who conducts his reader over the plain, and along the
resounding sea, though it be but to the tent of Achilles. In the spaces of
thought are the reaches of land and water, where men go and come. The
landscape lies far and fair within, and the deepest thinker is the
farthest travelled.

At a cool and early hour on a pleasant morning in July, my companion and I
passed rapidly through Acton and Stow, stopping to rest and refresh us on
the bank of a small stream, a tributary of the Assabet, in the latter
town. As we traversed the cool woods of Acton, with stout staves in our
hands, we were cheered by the song of the red-eye, the thrushes, the
phoebe, and the cuckoo; and as we passed through the open country, we
inhaled the fresh scent of every field, and all nature lay passive, to be
viewed and travelled. Every rail, every farm-house, seen dimly in the
twilight, every tinkling sound told of peace and purity, and we moved
happily along the dank roads, enjoying not such privacy as the day leaves
when it withdraws, but such as it has not profaned. It was solitude with
light; which is better than darkness. But anon, the sound of the mower's
rifle was heard in the fields, and this, too, mingled with the lowing
kine.

This part of our route lay through the country of hops, which plant
perhaps supplies the want of the vine in American scenery, and may remind
the traveller of Italy, and the South of France, whether he traverses the
country when the hop-fields, as then, present solid and regular masses of
verdure, hanging in graceful festoons from pole to pole; the cool coverts
where lurk the gales which refresh the wayfarer; or in September, when the
women and children, and the neighbors from far and near, are gathered to
pick the hops into long troughs; or later still, when the poles stand
piled in vast pyramids in the yards, or lie in heaps by the roadside.

The culture of the hop, with the processes of picking, drying in the kiln,
and packing for the market, as well as the uses to which it is applied,
so analogous to the culture and uses of the grape, may afford a theme for
future poets.

The mower in the adjacent meadow could not tell us the name of the brook
on whose banks we had rested, or whether it had any, but his younger
companion, perhaps his brother, knew that it was Great Brook. Though they
stood very near together in the field, the things they knew were very far
apart; nor did they suspect each other's reserved knowledge, till the
stranger came by. In Bolton, while we rested on the rails of a cottage
fence, the strains of music which issued from within, probably in
compliment to us, sojourners, reminded us that thus far men were fed by
the accustomed pleasures. So soon did we, wayfarers, begin to learn that
man's life is rounded with the same few facts, the same simple relations
everywhere, and it is vain to travel to find it new. The flowers grow more
various ways than he. But coming soon to higher land, which afforded a
prospect of the mountains, we thought we had not travelled in vain, if it
were only to hear a truer and wilder pronunciation of their names, from
the lips of the inhabitants; not _Way_-tatic, _Way_-chusett, but
_Wor_-tatic, _Wor_-chusett. It made us ashamed of our tame and civil
pronunciation, and we looked upon them as born and bred farther west than
we. Their tongues had a more generous accent than ours, as if breath was
cheaper where they wagged. A countryman, who speaks but seldom, talks
copiously, as it were, as his wife sets cream and cheese before you
without stint. Before noon we had reached the highlands overlooking the
valley of Lancaster, (affording the first fair and open prospect into the
west,) and there, on the top of a hill, in the shade of some oaks, near to
where a spring bubbled out from a leaden pipe, we rested during the heat
of the day, reading Virgil, and enjoying the scenery. It was such a place
as one feels to be on the outside of the earth, for from it we could, in
some measure, see the form and structure of the globe. There lay
Wachusett, the object of our journey, lowering upon us with unchanged
proportions, though with a less ethereal aspect than had greeted our
morning gaze, while further north, in successive order, slumbered its
sister mountains along the horizon.

We could get no further into the Aeneid than

  --atque altae moenia Romae,
  --and the wall of high Rome,

before we were constrained to reflect by what myriad tests a work of
genius has to be tried; that Virgil, away in Rome, two thousand years off,
should have to unfold his meaning, the inspiration of Italian vales, to
the pilgrim on New England hills. This life so raw and modern, that so
civil and ancient; and yet we read Virgil, mainly to be reminded of the
identity of human nature in all ages, and, by the poet's own account, we
are both the children of a late age, and live equally under the reign of
Jupiter.

"He shook honey from the leaves, and removed fire,
And stayed the wine, everywhere flowing in rivers;
That experience, by meditating, might invent various arts
By degrees, and seek the blade of corn in furrows,
And strike out hidden fire from the veins of the flint."

The old world stands serenely behind the new, as one mountain yonder
towers behind another, more dim and distant. Rome imposes her story still
upon this late generation. The very children in the school we had that
morning passed, had gone through her wars, and recited her alarms, ere
they had heard of the wars of neighboring Lancaster. The roving eye still
rests inevitably on her hills, and she still holds up the skirts of the
sky on that side, and makes the past remote.

The lay of the land hereabouts is well worthy the attention of the
traveller. The hill on which we were resting made part of an extensive
range, running from southwest to northeast, across the country, and
separating the waters of the Nashua from those of the Concord, whose banks
we had left in the morning; and by bearing in mind this fact, we could
easily determine whither each brook was bound that crossed our path.
Parallel to this, and fifteen miles further west, beyond the deep and
broad valley in which lie Groton, Shirley, Lancaster, and Boylston, runs
the Wachusett range, in the same general direction. The descent into the
valley on the Nashua side, is by far the most sudden; and a couple of
miles brought us to the southern branch of the Nashua, a shallow but rapid
stream, flowing between high and gravelly banks. But we soon learned that
there were no _gelidae valles_ into which we had descended, and missing
the coolness of the morning air, feared it had become the sun's turn to
try his power upon us.

  "The sultry sun had gained the middle sky,
   And not a tree, and not an herb was nigh."

and with melancholy pleasure we echoed the melodious plaint of our
fellow-traveller, Hassan, in the desert,--

  "Sad was the hour, and luckless was the day,
   When first from Schiraz' walls I bent my way."

The air lay lifeless between the hills, as in a seething caldron, with no
leaf stirring, and instead of the fresh odor of grass and clover, with
which we had before been regaled, the dry scent of every herb seemed
merely medicinal. Yielding, therefore, to the heat, we strolled into the
woods, and along the course of a rivulet, on whose banks we loitered,
observing at our leisure the products of these new fields. He who
traverses the woodland paths, at this season, will have occasion to
remember the small drooping bell-like flowers and slender red stem of the
dogs-bane, and the coarser stem and berry of the poke, which are both
common in remoter and wilder scenes; and if "the sun casts such a
reflecting heat from the sweet fern," as makes him faint, when he is
climbing the bare hills, as they complained who first penetrated into
these parts, the cool fragrance of the swamp pink restores him again, when
traversing the valleys between.

As we went on our way late in the afternoon, we refreshed ourselves by
bathing our feet in every rill that crossed the road, and anon, as we were
able to walk in the shadows of the hills, recovered our morning
elasticity. Passing through Sterling, we reached the banks of the
Stillwater, in the western part of the town, at evening, where is a small
village collected. We fancied that there was already a certain western
look about this place, a smell of pines and roar of water, recently
confined by dams, belying its name, which were exceedingly grateful. When
the first inroad has been made, a few acres levelled, and a few houses
erected, the forest looks wilder than ever. Left to herself, nature is
always more or less civilized, and delights in a certain refinement; but
where the axe has

encroached upon the edge of the forest, the dead and unsightly limbs of
the pine, which she had concealed with green banks of verdure, are exposed
to sight. This village had, as yet, no post-office, nor any settled name.
In the small villages which we entered, the villagers gazed after us, with
a complacent, almost compassionate look, as if we were just making our
_debut_ in the world at a late hour. "Nevertheless," did they seem to say,
"come and study us, and learn men and manners." So is each one's world but
a clearing in the forest, so much open and inclosed ground. The landlord
had not yet returned from the field with his men, and the cows had yet to
be milked. But we remembered the inscription on the wall of the Swedish
inn, "You will find at Trolhate excellent bread, meat, and wine, provided
you bring them with you," and were contented. But I must confess it did
somewhat disturb our pleasure, in this withdrawn spot, to have our own
village newspaper handed us by our host, as if the greatest charm the
country offered to the traveller was the facility of communication with
the town. Let it recline on its own everlasting hills, and not be looking
out from their summits for some petty Boston or New York in the horizon.

At intervals we heard the murmuring of water, and the slumberous breathing
of crickets throughout the night; and left the inn the next morning in the
gray twilight, after it had been hallowed by the night air, and when only
the innocent cows were stirring, with a kind of regret. It was only four
miles to the base of the mountain, and the scenery was already more
picturesque. Our road lay along the course of the Stillwater, which was
brawling at the bottom of a deep ravine, filled with pines and rocks,
tumbling fresh from the mountains, so soon, alas! to commence its career
of usefulness. At first, a cloud hung between us and the summit, but it
was soon blown away. As we gathered the raspberries, which grew abundantly
by the roadside, we fancied that that action was consistent with a lofty
prudence, as if the traveller who ascends into a mountainous region should
fortify himself by eating of such light ambrosial fruits as grow there;
and, drinking of the springs which gush out from the mountain sides, as he
gradually inhales the subtler and purer atmosphere of those elevated
places, thus propitiating the mountain gods, by a sacrifice of their own
fruits. The gross products of the plains and valleys are for such as dwell
therein; but it seemed to us that the juices of this berry had relation to
the thin air of the mountain-tops.

In due time we began to ascend the mountain, passing, first, through a
grand sugar maple wood, which bore the marks of the augur, then a denser
forest, which gradually became dwarfed, till there were no trees whatever.
We at length pitched our tent on the summit. It is but nineteen hundred
feet above the village of Princeton, and three thousand above the level of
the sea; but by this slight elevation it is infinitely removed from the
plain, and when we reached it, we felt a sense of remoteness, as if we had
travelled into distant regions, to Arabia Petrea, or the farthest east. A
robin upon a staff, was the highest object in sight. Swallows were flying
about us, and the chewink and cuckoo were heard near at hand. The summit
consists of a few acres, destitute of trees, covered with bare rocks,
interspersed with blueberry bushes, raspberries, gooseberries,
strawberries, moss, and a fine wiry grass. The common yellow lily, and
dwarf-cornel, grow abundantly in the crevices of the rocks. This clear
space, which is gently rounded, is bounded a few feet lower by a thick
shrubbery of oaks, with maples, aspens, beeches, cherries, and
occasionally a mountain-ash intermingled, among which we found the bright
blueberries of the Solomon's Seal, and the fruit of the pyrola. From the
foundation of a wooden observatory, which was formerly erected on the
highest point, forming a rude, hollow structure of stone, a dozen feet in
diameter, and five or six in height, we could see Monadnock, in simple
grandeur, in the northwest, rising nearly a thousand feet higher, still
the "far blue mountain," though with an altered profile. The first day the
weather was so hazy that it was in vain we endeavored to unravel the
obscurity. It was like looking into the sky again, and the patches of
forest here and there seemed to flit like clouds over a lower heaven. As
to voyagers of an aërial Polynesia, the earth seemed like a larger island
in the ether; on every side, even as low as we, the sky shutting down,
like an unfathomable deep, around it, a blue Pacific island, where who
knows what islanders inhabit? and as we sail near its shores we see the
waving of trees, and hear the lowing of kine.

We read Virgil and Wordsworth in our tent, with new pleasure there, while,
waiting for a clearer atmosphere, nor did the weather prevent our
appreciating the simple truth and beauty of Peter Bell:

"And he had lain beside his asses,
 On lofty Cheviot hills."

"And he had trudged through Yorkshire dales,
 Among the rocks and winding _scars_,
 Where deep and low the hamlets lie
 Beneath their little patch of sky,
 And little lot of stars."

Who knows but this hill may one day be a Helvellyn, or even a Parnassus,
and the Muses haunt here, and other Homers frequent the neighboring
plains,

Not unconcerned Wachusett rears his head
  Above the field, so late from nature won,
With patient brow reserved, as one who read
  New annals in the history of man.

The blue-berries which the mountain afforded, added to the milk we had
brought, made our frugal supper, while for entertainment the evensong of
the wood-thrush rung along the ridge. Our eyes rested on no painted
ceiling nor carpeted hall, but on skies of nature's painting, and hills
and forests of her embroidery. Before sunset, we rambled along the ridge
to the north, while a hawk soared still above us. It was a place where
gods might wander, so solemn and solitary, and removed from all contagion
with the plain. As the evening came on, the haze was 'condensed in vapor,
and the landscape became more distinctly visible, and numerous sheets of
water were brought to light.

Et jam summa procul villarum culmina fumant,
Majoresque cadunt altis de montibus umbrae.

And now the tops of the villas smoke afar off,
And the shadows fall longer from the high mountains.

As we stood on the stone tower while the sun was setting, we saw the
shades of night creep gradually over the valleys of the east, and the
inhabitants went into their houses, and shut their doors, while the moon
silently rose up, and took possession of that part. And then the same
scene was repeated on the west side, as far as the Connecticut and the
Green Mountains, and the sun's rays fell on us two alone, of all New
England men.

It was the night but one before the full of the moon, so bright that we
could see to read distinctly by moonlight, and in the evening strolled
over the summit without danger. There was, by chance, a fire blazing on
Monadnock that night, which lighted up the whole western horizon, and by
making us aware of a community of mountains, made our position seem less
solitary. But at length the wind drove us to the shelter of our tent, and
we closed its door for the night, and fell asleep.

It was thrilling to hear the wind roar over the rocks, at intervals when
we waked, for it had grown quite cold and windy. The night was in its
elements, simple even to majesty in that bleak place,--a bright moonlight
and a piercing wind. It was at no time darker than twilight within the
tent, and we could easily see the moon through its transparent roof as we
lay; for there was the moon still above us, with Jupiter and Saturn on
either hand, looking down on Wachusett, and it was a satisfaction to know
that they were our fellow-travellers still, as high and out of our reach
as our own destiny. Truly the stars were given for a consolation to man.
We should not know but our life were fated to be always grovelling, but it
is permitted to behold them, and surely they are deserving of a fair
destiny. We see laws which never fail, of whose failure we never
conceived; and their lamps burn all the night, too, as well as all day,--
so rich and lavish is that nature which can afford this superfluity of
light.

The morning twilight began as soon as the moon had set, and we arose and
kindled our fire, whose blaze might have been seen for thirty miles
around. As the daylight increased, it was remarkable how rapidly the wind
went down. There was no dew on the summit, but coldness supplied its
place. When the dawn had reached its prime, we enjoyed the view of a
distinct horizon line, and could fancy ourselves at sea, and the distant
hills the waves in the horizon, as seen from the deck of a vessel. The
cherry-birds flitted around us, the nuthatch and flicker were heard among
the bushes, the titmouse perched within a few feet, and the song of the
wood-thrush again rung along the ridge. At length we saw the sun rise up
out of the sea, and shine on Massachusetts; and from this moment the
atmosphere grew more and more transparent till the time of our departure,
and we began to realize the extent of the view, and how the earth, in some
degree, answered to the heavens in breadth, the white villages to the
constellations in the sky. There was little of the sublimity and grandeur
which belong to mountain scenery, but an immense landscape to ponder on a
summer's day. We could see how ample and roomy is nature. As far as the
eye could reach, there was little life in the landscape; the few birds
that flitted past did not crowd. The travellers on the remote highways,
which intersect the country on every side, had no fellow-travellers for
miles, before or behind. On every side, the eye ranged over successive
circles of towns, rising one above another, like the terraces of a
vineyard, till they were lost in the horizon. Wachusett is, in fact, the
observatory of the State. There lay Massachusetts, spread out before us in
its length and breadth, like a map. There was the level horizon, which
told of the sea on the east and south, the well-known hills of New
Hampshire on the north, and the misty summits of the Hoosac and Green
Mountains, first made visible to us the evening before, blue and
unsubstantial, like some bank of clouds which the morning wind would
dissipate, on the northwest and west. These last distant ranges, on which
the eye rests unwearied, commence with an abrupt boulder in the north,
beyond the Connecticut, and travel southward, with three or four peaks
dimly seen. But Monadnock, rearing its masculine front in the northwest,
is the grandest feature. As we beheld it, we knew that it was the height
of land between the two rivers, on this side the valley of the Merrimack,
or that of the Connecticut, fluctuating with their blue seas of
air,--these rival vales, already teeming with Yankee men along their
respective streams, born to what destiny who shall tell? Watatic, and the
neighboring hills in this State and in New Hampshire, are a continuation
of the same elevated range on which we were standing. But that New
Hampshire bluff,--that promontory of a State,--lowering day and night on
this our State of Massachusetts, will longest haunt our dreams.

We could, at length, realize the place mountains occupy on the land, and
how they come into the general scheme of the universe. When first we climb
their summits and observe their lesser irregularities, we do not give
credit to the comprehensive intelligence which shaped them; but when
afterward we behold their outlines in the horizon, we confess that the
hand which moulded their opposite slopes, making one to balance the other,
worked round a deep centre, and was privy to the plan of the universe. So
is the least part of nature in its bearings referred to all space. These
lesser mountain ranges, as well as the Alleghanies, run from northeast to
southwest, and parallel with these mountain streams are the more fluent
rivers, answering to the general direction of the coast, the bank of the
great ocean stream itself. Even the clouds, with their thin bars, fall
into the same direction by preference, and such even is the course of the
prevailing winds, and the migration of men and birds. A mountain-chain
determines many things for the statesman and philosopher. The improvements
of civilization rather creep along its sides than cross its summit. How
often is it a barrier to prejudice and fanaticism? In passing over these
heights of land, through their thin atmosphere, the follies of the plain
are refined and purified; and as many species of plants do not scale their
summits, so many species of folly no doubt do not cross the Alleghanies;
it is only the hardy mountain plant that creeps quite over the ridge, and
descends into the valley beyond.

We get a dim notion of the flight of birds, especially of such as fly high
in the air, by having ascended a mountain. We can now see what landmarks
mountains are to their migrations; how the Catskills and Highlands have
hardly sunk to them, when Wachusett and Monadnock open a passage to the
northeast; how they are guided, too, in their course by the rivers and
valleys; and who knows but by the stars, as well as the mountain ranges,
and not by the petty landmarks which we use. The bird whose eye takes in
the Green Mountains on the one side, and the ocean on the other, need not
be at a loss to find its way.

At noon we descended the mountain, and having returned to the abodes of
men, turned our faces to the east again; measuring our progress, from time
to time, by the more ethereal hues which the mountain assumed. Passing
swiftly through Stillwater and Sterling, as with a downward impetus, we
found ourselves almost at home again in the green meadows of Lancaster, so
like our own Concord, for both are watered by two streams which unite near
their centres, and have many other features in common. There is an
unexpected refinement about this scenery; level prairies of great extent,
interspersed with elms and hop-fields and groves of trees, give it almost
a classic appearance. This, it will be remembered, was the scene of Mrs.
Kowlandson's capture, and of other events in the Indian wars, but from
this July afternoon, and under that mild exterior, those times seemed as
remote as the irruption of the Goths. They were the dark age of New
England. On beholding a picture of a New England village as it then
appeared, with a fair open prospect, and a light on trees and river, as if
it were broad noon, we find we had not thought the sun shone in those
days, or that men lived in broad daylight then. We do not imagine the sun
shining on hill and valley during Philip's war, nor on the war-path of
Paugus, or Standish, or Church, or Lovell, with serene summer weather, but
a dim twilight or night did those events transpire in. They must have
fought in the shade of their own dusky deeds.

At length, as we plodded along the dusty roads, our thoughts became as
dusty as they; all thought indeed stopped, thinking broke down, or
proceeded only passively in a sort of rhythmical cadence of the confused
material of thought, and we found ourselves mechanically repeating some
familiar measure which timed with our tread; some verse of the Robin Hood
ballads, for instance, which one can recommend to travel by.

"Swearers are swift, sayd lyttle John,
As the wind blows over the hill;
For if it be never so loud this night,
To-morrow it may be still."

And so it went up hill and down till a stone interrupted the line, when a
new verse was chosen.

"His shoote it was but loosely shot,
  Yet flewe not the arrowe in vaine,
For it met one of the sheriffe's men,
  And William-a-Trent was slaine."

There is, however, this consolation to the most way-worn traveller, upon
the dustiest road, that the path his feet describe is so perfectly
symbolical of human life,--now climbing the hills, now descending into the
vales. From the summits he beholds the heavens and the horizon, from the
vales he looks up to the heights again. He is treading his old lessons
still, and though he may be very weary and travel-worn, it is yet sincere
experience.

Leaving the Nashua, we changed our route a little, and arrived at
Stillriver Village, in the western part of Harvard, just as the sun was
setting. From this place, which lies to the northward, upon the western
slope of the same range of hills on which we had spent the noon before, in
the adjacent town, the prospect is beautiful, and the grandeur of the
mountain outlines unsurpassed. There was such a repose and quiet here at
this hour, as if the very hill-sides were enjoying the scene, and we
passed slowly along, looking back over the country we had traversed, and
listening to the evening song of the robin, we could not help contrasting
the equanimity of nature with the bustle and impatience of man. His words
and actions presume always a crisis near at hand, but she is forever
silent and unpretending.

And now that we have returned to the desultory life of the plain, let us
endeavor to import a little of that mountain grandeur into it. We will
remember within what walls we lie, and understand that this level life too
has its summit, and why from the mountain-top the deepest valleys have a
tinge of blue; that there is elevation in every hour, as no part of the
earth is so low that the heavens may not be seen from, and we have only to
stand on the summit of our hour to command an uninterrupted horizon.

We rested that night at Harvard, and the next morning, while one bent his
steps to the nearer village of Groton, the other took his separate and
solitary way to the peaceful meadows of Concord; but let him not forget to
record the brave hospitality of a farmer and his wife, who generously
entertained him at their board, though the poor wayfarer could only
congratulate the one on the continuance of hayweather, and silently accept
the kindness of the other. Refreshed by this instance of generosity, no
less than by the substantial viands set before him, he pushed forward with
new vigor, and reached the banks of the Concord before the sun had climbed
many degrees into the heavens.



THE LANDLORD.

[1843.]


Under the one word, house, are included the school-house, the alms-house,
the jail, the tavern, the dwelling-house; and the meanest shed or cave in
which men live contains the elements of all these. But nowhere on the
earth stands the entire and perfect house. The Parthenon, St. Peter's, the
Gothic minster, the palace, the hovel, are but imperfect executions of an
imperfect idea. Who would dwell in them? Perhaps to the eye of the gods,
the cottage is more holy than the Parthenon, for they look down with no
especial favor upon the shrines formally dedicated to them, and that
should be the most sacred roof which shelters most of humanity. Surely,
then, the gods who are most interested in the human race preside over the
Tavern, where especially men congregate. Methinks I see the thousand
shrines erected to Hospitality shining afar in all countries, as well
Mahometan and Jewish, as Christian, khans, and caravansaries,
and inns, whither all pilgrims without distinction resort.

Likewise we look in vain, east or west over the earth, to find the perfect
man; but each represents only some particular excellence. The Landlord is
a man of more open and general sympathies, who possesses a spirit of
hospitality which is its own reward, and feeds and shelters men from pure
love of the creatures. To be sure, this profession is as often filled by
imperfect characters, and such as have sought it from unworthy motives, as
any other, but so much the more should we prize the true and honest
Landlord when we meet with him.

Who has not imagined to himself a country inn, where the traveller shall
really feel _in_, and at home, and at his public-house, who was before at
his private house; whose host is indeed a _host_, and a _lord_ of the
_land_, a self-appointed brother of his race; called to his place, beside,
by all the winds of heaven and his good genius, as truly as the preacher
is called to preach; a man of such universal sympathies, and so broad and
genial a human nature, that he would fain sacrifice the tender but narrow
ties of private friendship, to a broad, sunshiny, fair-weather-and-foul
friendship for his race; who loves men, not as a philosopher, with
philanthropy, nor as an overseer of the poor, with charity, but by a
necessity of his nature, as he loves dogs and horses; and standing at his
open door from morning till night, would fain see more and more of them
come along the highway, and is never satiated. To him the sun and moon are
but travellers, the one by day and the other by night; and they too
patronize his house. To his imagination all things travel save his
sign-post and himself; and though you may be his neighbor for years, he
will show you only the civilities of the road. But on the other hand,
while nations and individuals are alike selfish and exclusive, he loves
all men equally; and if he treats his nearest neighbor as a stranger,
since he has invited all nations to share his hospitality, the farthest
travelled is in some measure kindred to him who takes him into the bosom
of his family.

He keeps a house of entertainment at the sign of the Black Horse or the
Spread Eagle, and is known far and wide, and his fame travels with
increasing radius every year. All the neighborhood is in his interest, and
if the traveller ask how far to a tavern, he receives some such answer as
this: "Well, sir, there's a house about three miles from here, where they
haven't taken down their sign yet; but it's only ten miles to Slocum's,
and that's a capital house, both for man and beast." At three miles he
passes a cheerless barrack, standing desolate behind its sign-post,
neither public nor private, and has glimpses of a discontented couple
who have mistaken their calling. At ten miles see where the Tavern
stands,--really an _entertaining_ prospect,--so public and inviting that
only the rain and snow do not enter. It is no gay pavilion, made of bright
stuffs, and furnished with nuts and gingerbread, but as plain and sincere
as a caravansary; located in no Tarrytown, where you receive only the
civilities of commerce, but far in the fields it exercises a primitive
hospitality, amid the fresh scent of new hay and raspberries, if it be
summer time, and the tinkling of cow-bells from invisible pastures; for it
is a land flowing with milk and honey, and the newest milk courses in a
broad, deep stream across the premises.

In these retired places the tavern is first of all a house--elsewhere,
last of all, or never,--and warms and shelters its inhabitants. It is as
simple and sincere in its essentials as the caves in which the first men
dwelt, but it is also as open and public. The traveller steps across the
threshold, and lo! he too is master, for he only can be called proprietor
of the house here who behaves with most propriety in it. The Landlord
stands clear back in nature, to my imagination, with his axe and spade
felling trees and raising potatoes with the vigor of a pioneer; with
Promethean energy making nature yield her increase to supply the wants of
so many; and he is not so exhausted, nor of so short a stride, but that he
comes forward even to the highway to this wide hospitality and publicity.
Surely, he has solved some of the problems of life. He comes in at his
backdoor, holding a log fresh cut for the hearth upon his shoulder with
one hand, while he greets the newly arrived traveller with the other.

Here at length we have free range, as not in palaces, nor cottages, nor
temples, and intrude nowhere. All the secrets of housekeeping are
exhibited to the eyes of men, above and below, before and behind. This is
the necessary way to live, men have confessed, in these days, and shall he
skulk and hide? And why should we have any serious disgust at kitchens?
Perhaps they are the holiest recess of the house. There is the hearth,
after all,--and the settle, and the fagots, and the kettle, and the
crickets. We have pleasant reminiscences of these. They are the heart, the
left ventricle, the very vital part of the house. Here the real and
sincere life which we meet in the streets was actually fed and sheltered.
Here burns the taper that cheers the lonely traveller by night, and from
this hearth ascend the smokes that populate the valley to his eyes by day.
On the whole, a man may not be so little ashamed of any other part of his
house, for here is his sincerity and earnest, at least. It may not be here
that the besoms are plied most,--it is not here that they need to be, for
dust will not settle on the kitchen floor more than in nature.

Hence it will not do for the Landlord to possess too fine a nature. He
must have health above the common accidents of life, subject to no modern
fashionable diseases; but no taste, rather a vast relish or appetite.
His sentiments on all subjects will be delivered as freely as the wind
blows; there is nothing private or individual in them, though still
original, but they are public, and of the hue of the heavens over his
house,--a certain out-of-door obviousness and transparency not to be
disputed. What he does, his manners are not to be complained of, though
abstractly offensive, for it is what man does, and in him the race is
exhibited. When he eats, he is liver and bowels, and the whole digestive
apparatus to the company, and so all admit the thing is done. He must have
no idiosyncrasies, no particular bents or tendencies to this or that, but
a general, uniform, and healthy development, such as his portly person
indicates, offering himself equally on all sides to men. He is not one of
your peaked and inhospitable men of genius, with particular tastes, but,
as we said before, has one uniform relish, and taste which never aspires
higher than a tavern-sign, or the cut of a weather-cock. The man of
genius, like a dog with a bone, or the slave who has swallowed a diamond,
or a patient with the gravel, sits afar and retired, off the road, hangs
out no sign of refreshment for man and beast, but says, by all possible
hints and signs, I wish to be alone--good-by--farewell. But the landlord
can afford to live without privacy. He entertains no private thought, he
cherishes no solitary hour, no Sabbath day, but thinks,--enough to assert
the dignity of reason,--and talks, and reads the newspaper. What he does
not tell to one traveller, he tells to another. He never wants to be
alone, but sleeps, wakes, eats, drinks, sociably, still remembering his
race. He walks abroad through the thoughts of men, and the Iliad and
Shakspeare are tame to him, who hears the rude but homely incidents of
the road from every traveller. The mail might drive through his brain in
the midst of his most lonely soliloquy, without disturbing his equanimity,
provided it brought plenty of news and passengers. There can be no
_pro_-fanity where there is no fane behind, and the whole world may see
quite round him. Perchance his lines have fallen to him in dustier places,
and he has heroically sat down where two roads meet, or at the Four
Corners, or the Five Points, and his life is sublimely trivial for the
good of men. The dust of travel blows ever in his eyes, and they preserve
their clear, complacent look. The hourlies and half-hourlies, the dailies
and weeklies, whirl on well-worn tracks, round and round his house, as if
it were the goal in the stadium, and still he sits within in unruffled
serenity, with no show of retreat. His neighbor dwells timidly behind a
screen of poplars and willows, and a fence with sheaves of spears at
regular intervals, or defended against the tender palms of visitors by
sharp spikes,--but the traveller's wheels rattle over the door-step of the
tavern, and he cracks his whip in the entry. He is truly glad to see you,
and sincere as the bull's-eye over his door. The traveller seeks to find,
wherever he goes, some one who will stand in this broad and catholic
relation to him, who will be an inhabitant of the land to him a stranger,
and represent its human nature, as the rock stands for its inanimate
nature; and this is he. As his crib furnishes provender for the
traveller's horse, and his larder provisions for his appetite, so his
conversation furnishes the necessary aliment to his spirits. He knows very
well what a man wants, for he is a man himself, and as it were the
farthest travelled, though he has never stirred from his door. He
understands his needs and destiny. He would be well fed and lodged, there
can be no doubt, and have the transient sympathy of a cheerful companion,
and of a heart which always prophesies fair weather. And after all the
greatest men, even, want much more the sympathy which every honest fellow
can give, than that which the great only can impart. If he is not the most
upright, let us allow him this praise, that he is the most downright of
men. He has a hand to shake and to be shaken, and takes a sturdy and
unquestionable interest in you, as if he had assumed the care of you, but
if you will break your neck, he will even give you the best advice as to
the method.

The great poets have not been ungrateful to their landlords. Mine host of
the Tabard Inn, in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, was an honor to
his profession:--

"A semely man our Hoste was, with alle,
For to han been an marshal in an halle.
A large man he was, with eyen stepe;
A fairer burgeis is ther nou in Chepe:
Bold of his speche, and wise, and well ytaught,
And of manhood him lacked righte naught.
Eke thereto, was he right a mery man,
And after souper plaien he began,
And spake of mirthe amonges other thinges,
Whan that we hadden made our reckoninges."

He is the true house-band, and centre of the company--of greater
fellowship and practical social talent than any. He it is that proposes
that each shall tell a tale to while away the time to Canterbury, and
leads them himself, and concludes with his own tale:--

"Now, by my fader's soule that is ded,
But ye be mery, smiteth of my hed:
Hold up your hondes withouten more speche."

If we do not look up to the Landlord, we look round for him on all
emergencies, for he is a man of infinite experience, who unites hands with
wit. He is a more public character than a statesman,--a publican, and not
consequently a sinner; and surely, he, if any, should be exempted from
taxation and military duty.

Talking with our host is next best and instructive to talking with one's
self. It is a more conscious soliloquy; as it were, to speak generally,
and try what we would say provided we had an audience. He has indulgent
and open ears, and does not require petty and particular statements.
"Heigho!" exclaims the traveller. Them's my sentiments, thinks mine host,
and stands ready for what may come next, expressing the purest sympathy by
his demeanor. "Hot as blazes!" says the other,--"Hard weather, sir,--not
much stirring nowadays," says he. He is wiser than to contradict his guest
in any case; he lets him go on, he lets him travel.

The latest sitter leaves him standing far in the night, prepared to live
right on, while suns rise and set, and his "good night" has as brisk a
sound as his "good morning;" and the earliest riser finds him tasting his
liquors in the bar ere flies begin to buzz, with a countenance fresh as
the morning star over the sanded floor,--and not as one who had watched
all night for travellers. And yet, if beds be the subject of conversation,
it will appear that no man has been a sounder sleeper in his time.

Finally, as for his moral character, we do not hesitate to say, that he
has no grain of vice or meanness in him, but represents just that degree
of virtue which all men relish without being obliged to respect. He is a
good man, as his bitters are good,--an unquestionable goodness. Not what
is called a good man,--good to be considered, as a work of art in
galleries and museums,--but a good fellow, that is, good to be associated
with. Who ever thought of the religion of an innkeeper--whether he was
joined to the Church, partook of the sacrament, said his prayers, feared
God, or the like? No doubt he has had his experiences, has felt a change,
and is a firm believer in the perseverance of the saints. In this last, we
suspect, does the peculiarity of his religion consist. But he keeps an
inn, and not a conscience. How many fragrant charities and sincere social
virtues are implied in this, daily offering of himself to the public. He
cherishes good will to all, and gives the wayfarer as good and honest
advice to direct him on his road as the priest.

To conclude, the tavern will compare favorably with the church. The church
is the place where prayers and sermons are delivered, but the tavern is
where they are to take effect, and if the former are good, the latter
cannot be bad.



A WINTER WALK.

[1843.]


The wind has gently murmured through the blinds, or puffed with feathery
softness against the windows, and occasionally sighed like a summer zephyr
lifting the leaves along, the livelong night. The meadow-mouse has slept
in his snug gallery in the sod, the owl has sat in a hollow tree in the
depth of the swamp, the rabbit, the squirrel, and the fox have all been
housed. The watch-dog has lain quiet on the hearth, and the cattle have
stood silent in their stalls. The earth itself has slept, as it were its
first, not its last sleep, save when some street-sign or wood-house door
has faintly creaked upon its hinge, cheering forlorn nature at her
midnight work,--the only sound awake twixt Venus and Mars,--advertising us
of a remote inward warmth, a divine cheer and fellowship, where gods are
met together, but where it is very bleak for men to stand. But while the
earth has slumbered, all the air has been alive with feathery flakes
descending, as if some northern Ceres reigned, showering her silvery grain
over all the fields.

We sleep, and at length awake to the still reality of a winter morning.
The snow lies warm as cotton or down upon the window-sill; the broadened
sash and frosted panes admit a dim and private light, which enhances the
snug cheer within. The stillness of the morning is impressive. The floor
creaks under our feet as we move toward the window to look abroad through
some clear space over the fields. We see the roofs stand under their snow
burden. From the eaves and fences hang stalactites of snow, and in the
yard stand stalagmites covering some concealed core. The trees and shrubs
rear white arms to the sky on every side; and where were walls and fences,
we see fantastic forms stretching in frolic gambols across the dusky
landscape, as if nature had strewn her fresh designs over the fields by
night as models for man's art.

Silently we unlatch the door, letting the drift fall in, and step abroad
to face the cutting air. Already the stars have lost some of their
sparkle, and a dull, leaden mist skirts the horizon. A lurid brazen light
in the east proclaims the approach of day, while the western landscape is
dim and spectral still, and clothed in a sombre Tartarian light, like the
shadowy realms. They are Infernal sounds only that you hear,--the crowing
of cocks, the barking of dogs, the chopping of wood, the lowing of kine,
all seem to come from Pluto's barn-yard and beyond the Styx;--not for any
melancholy they suggest, but their twilight bustle is too solemn and
mysterious for earth. The recent tracks of the fox or otter, in the yard,
remind us that each hour of the night is crowded with events, and the
primeval nature is still working and making tracks in the snow. Opening
the gate, we tread briskly along the lone country road, crunching the dry
and crisped snow under our feet, or aroused by the sharp clear creak of
the wood-sled, just starting for the distant market, from the early
farmer's door, where it has lain the summer long, dreaming amid the chips
and stubble; while far through the drifts and powdered windows we see the
farmer's early candle, like a paled star, emitting a lonely beam, as if
some severe virtue were at its matins there. And one by one the smokes
begin to ascend from the chimneys amidst the trees and snows.

The sluggish smoke curls up from some deep dell,
The stiffened air exploring in the dawn,
And making slow acquaintance with the day;
Delaying now upon its heavenward course,
In wreathed loiterings dallying with itself,
With as uncertain purpose and slow deed,
As its half-wakened master by the hearth,
Whose mind still slumbering and sluggish thoughts
Have not yet swept into the onward current
Of the new day;--and now it streams afar,
The while the chopper goes with step direct,
And mind intent to swing the early axe.

First in the dusky dawn he sends abroad
His early scout, his emissary, smoke,
The earliest, latest pilgrim from the roof,
To feel the frosty air, inform the day;
And while he crouches still beside the hearth,
Nor musters courage to unbar the door,
It has gone down the glen with the light wind,
And o'er the plain unfurled its venturous wreath,
Draped the tree-tops, loitered upon the hill,
And warmed the pinions of the early bird;
And now, perchance, high in the crispy air,
Has caught sight of the day o'er the earth's edge,
And greets its master's eye at his low door,
As some refulgent cloud in the upper sky.

We hear the sound of wood-chopping at the farmers' doors, far over the
frozen earth, the baying of the house-dog, and the distant clarion of the
cock. Though the thin and frosty air conveys only the finer particles of
sound to our ears, with short and sweet vibrations, as the waves subside
soonest on the purest and lightest liquids, in which gross substances sink
to the bottom. They come clear and bell-like, and from a greater distance
in the horizon, as if there were fewer impediments than in summer to make
them faint and ragged. The ground is sonorous, like seasoned wood, and
even the ordinary rural sounds are melodious, and the jingling of the ice
on the trees is sweet and liquid. There is the least possible moisture in
the atmosphere, all being dried up, or congealed, and it is of such
extreme tenuity and elasticity, that it becomes a source of delight.
The withdrawn and tense sky seems groined like the aisles of a cathedral,
and the polished air sparkles as if there were crystals of ice floating in
it. As they who have resided in Greenland tell us, that, when it freezes,
"the sea smokes like burning turf-land, and a fog or mist arises, called
frost-smoke," which "cutting smoke frequently raises blisters on the face
and hands, and is very pernicious to the health." But this pure stinging
cold is an elixir to the lungs, and not so much a frozen mist, as a
crystallized midsummer haze, refined and purified by cold.

The sun at length rises through the distant woods, as if with the faint
clashing swinging sound of cymbals, melting the air with his beams, and
with such rapid steps the morning travels, that already his rays are
gilding the distant western mountains. Meanwhile we step hastily along
through the powdery snow, warmed by an inward heat, enjoying an Indian
summer still, in the increased glow of thought and feeling. Probably if
our lives were more conformed to nature, we should not need to defend
ourselves against her heats and colds, but find her our constant nurse and
friend, as do plants and quadrupeds. If our bodies were fed with pure and
simple elements, and not with a stimulating and heating diet, they would
afford no more pasture for cold than a leafless twig, but thrive like the
trees, which find even winter genial to their expansion.

The wonderful purity of nature at this season is a most pleasing fact.
Every decayed stump and moss-grown stone and rail, and the dead leaves of
autumn, are concealed by a clean napkin of snow. In the bare fields and
tinkling woods, see what virtue survives. In the coldest and bleakest
places, the warmest charities still maintain a foothold. A cold and
searching wind drives away all contagion, and nothing can withstand it but
what has a virtue in it; and accordingly, whatever we meet with in cold
and bleak places, as the tops of mountains, we respect for a sort of
sturdy innocence, a Puritan toughness. All things beside seem to be called
in for shelter, and what stays out must be part of the original frame of
the universe, and of such valor as God himself. It is invigorating to
breathe the cleansed air. Its greater fineness and purity are visible to
the eye, and we would fain stay out long and late, that the-gales may sigh
through us, too, as through the leafless trees, and fit us for the
winter:--as if we hoped so to borrow some pure and steadfast virtue, which
will stead us in all seasons.

There is a slumbering subterranean fire in nature which never goes out,
and which no cold can chill. It finally melts the great snow, and in
January or July is only buried under a thicker or thinner covering. In the
coldest day it flows somewhere, and the snow melts around every tree. This
field of winter rye, which sprouted late in the fall, and now speedily
dissolves the snow, is where the fire is very thinly covered. We feel
warmed by it. In the winter, warmth stands for all virtue, and we resort
in thought to a trickling rill, with its bare stones shining in the sun,
and to warm springs in the woods, with as much eagerness as rabbits and
robins. The steam which rises from swamps and pools, is as dear and
domestic as that of our own kettle. What fire could ever equal the
sunshine of a winter's day, when the meadow mice come out by the
wallsides, and the chicadee lisps in the defiles of the wood? The warmth
comes directly from the sun, and is not radiated from the earth, as in
summer; and when we feel his beams on our backs as we are treading some
snowy dell, we are grateful as for a special kindness, and bless the sun
which has followed us into that by-place.

This subterranean fire has its altar in each man's breast, for in the
coldest day, and on the bleakest hill, the traveller cherishes a warmer
fire within the folds of his cloak than is kindled on any hearth. A
healthy man, indeed, is the complement of the seasons, and in winter,
summer is in his heart. There is the south. Thither have all birds and
insects migrated, and around the warm springs in his breast are gathered
the robin and the lark.

At length, having reached the edge of the woods, and shut out the gadding
town, we enter within their covert as we go under the roof of a cottage,
and cross its threshold, all ceiled and banked up with snow. They are glad
and warm still, and as genial and cheery in winter as in summer. As we
stand in the midst of the pines, in the nickering and checkered light
which straggles but little way into their maze, we wonder if the towns
have ever heard their simple story. It seems to us that no traveller has
ever explored them, and notwithstanding the wonders which science is
elsewhere revealing every day, who would not like to hear their annals?
Our humble villages in the plain are their contribution. We borrow from
the forest the boards which shelter, and the sticks which warm us. How
important is their evergreen to the winter, that portion of the summer
which does not fade, the permanent year, the unwithered grass. Thus
simply, and with little expense of altitude, is the surface of the earth
diversified. What would human life be without forests, those natural
cities? From the tops of mountains they appear like smooth shaven lawns,
yet whither shall we walk but in this taller grass?

In this glade covered with bushes of a year's growth, see how the silvery
dust lies on every seared leaf and twig, deposited in such infinite and
luxurious forms as by their very variety atone for the absence of color.
Observe the tiny tracks of mice around every stem, and the triangular
tracks of the rabbit. A pure elastic heaven hangs over all, as if the
impurities of the summer sky, refined and shrunk by the chaste winter's
cold, had been winnowed from the heavens upon the earth.

Nature confounds her summer distinctions at this season. The heavens seem
to be nearer the earth. The elements are less reserved and distinct. Water
turns to ice, rain to snow. The day is but a Scandinavian night. The
winter is an arctic summer.

How much more living is the life that is in nature, the furred life which
still survives the stinging nights, and, from amidst fields and woods
covered with frost and snow, sees the sun rise.

      "The foodless wilds
  Pour forth their brown inhabitants.".

The gray squirrel and rabbit are brisk and playful in the remote glens,
even on the morning of the cold Friday. Here is our Lapland and Labrador,
and for our Esquimaux and Knistenaux, Dog-ribbed Indians, Novazemblaites,
and Spitzbergeners, are there not the ice-cutter and wood-chopper, the
fox, musk-rat, and mink?

Still, in the midst of the arctic day, we may trace the summer to its
retreats, and sympathize with some contemporary life. Stretched over the
brooks, in the midst of the frost-bound meadows, we may observe the
submarine cottages of the caddice-worms, the larvae of the Plicipennes.
Their small cylindrical cases built around themselves, composed of flags,
sticks, grass, and withered leaves, shells, and pebbles, in form and color
like the wrecks which strew the bottom,--now drifting along over the
pebbly bottom, now whirling in tiny eddies and dashing down steep falls,
or sweeping rapidly along with the current, or else swaying to and fro at
the end of some grass-blade or root. Anon they will leave their sunken
habitations, and, crawling up the stems of plants, or to the surface, like
gnats, as perfect insects henceforth, flutter over the surface of the
water, or sacrifice their short lives in the flame of our candles at
evening. Down yonder little glen the shrubs are drooping under their
burden, and the red alder-berries contrast with the white ground. Here are
the marks of a myriad feet which have already been abroad. The sun rises
as proudly over such a glen, as over the valley of the Seine or the Tiber,
and it seems the residence of a pure and self-subsistent valor, such as
they never witnessed; which never knew defeat nor fear. Here reign the
simplicity and purity of a primitive age, and a health and hope far remote
from towns and cities. Standing quite alone, far in the forest, while the
wind is shaking down snow from the trees, and leaving the only human
tracks behind us, we find our reflections of a richer variety than the
life of cities. The chicadee and nuthatch are more inspiring society than
statesmen and philosophers, and we shall return to these last, as to more
vulgar companions. In this lonely glen, with its brook draining the
slopes, its creased ice and crystals of all hues, where the spruces and
hemlocks stand up on either side, and the rush and sere wild oats in the
rivulet itself, our lives are more serene and worthy to contemplate.

As the day advances, the heat of the sun is reflected by the hill-sides,
and we hear a faint but sweet music, where flows the rill released from
its fetters, and the icicles are melting on the trees; and the nuthatch
and partridge are heard and seen. The south wind melts the snow at noon,
and the bare ground appears with its withered grass and leaves, and we are
invigorated by the perfume which exhales from it, as by the scent of
strong meats.

Let us go into this deserted woodman's hut, and see how he has passed the
long winter nights and the short and stormy days. For here man has lived
under this south hill-side, and it seems a civilized and public spot. We
have such associations as when the traveller stands by the ruins of
Palmyra or Hecatompolis. Singing birds and flowers perchance have begun to
appear here, for flowers as well as weeds follow in the footsteps of man.
These hemlocks whispered over his head, these hickory logs were his fuel,
and these pitch-pine roots kindled his fire; yonder fuming rill in the
hollow, whose thin and airy vapor still ascends as busily as ever, though
he is far off now, was his well. These hemlock boughs, and the straw upon
this raised platform, were his bed, and this broken dish held his drink.
But he has not been here this season, for the phoebes built their nest
upon this shelf last summer. I find some embers left, as if he had but
just gone out, where he baked his pot of beans; and while at evening he
smoked his pipe, whose stemless bowl lies in the ashes, chatted with his
only companion, if perchance he had any, about the depth of the snow on
the morrow, already falling fast and thick without, or disputed whether
the last sound was the screech of an owl, or the creak of a bough, or
imagination only; and through this broad chimney throat, in the late
winter evening, ere he stretched himself upon the straw, he looked up to
learn the progress of the storm, and, seeing the bright stars of
Cassiopeia's chair shining brightly down upon him, fell contentedly
asleep. See how many traces from which we may learn the chopper's history.
From this stump we may guess the sharpness of his axe, and, from the slope
of the stroke, on which side he stood, and whether he cut down the tree
without going round it or changing hands; and, from the flexure of the
splinters, we may know which way it fell. This one chip contains inscribed
on it the whole history of the wood-chopper and of the world. On this
scrap of paper, which held his sugar or salt, perchance, or was the
wadding of his gun, sitting on a log in the forest, with what interest we
read the tattle of cities, of those larger huts, empty and to let, like
this, in High Streets and Broadways. The eaves are dripping on the south
side of this simple roof, while the titmouse lisps in the pine, and the
genial warmth of the sun around the door is somewhat kind and human.

After two seasons, this rude dwelling does not deform the scene. Already
the birds resort to it, to build their nests, and you may track to its
door the feet of many quadrupeds. Thus, for a long time, nature overlooks
the encroachment and profanity of-man. The wood still cheerfully and
unsuspiciously echoes the strokes of the axe that fells it, and while they
are few and seldom, they enhance its wildness, and all the elements strive
to naturalize the sound.

Now our path begins to ascend gradually to the top of this high hill,
from whose precipitous south side we can look over the broad country, of
forest and field and river, to the distant snowy mountains. See yonder
thin column of smoke curling up through the woods from some invisible
farm-house; the standard raised over some rural homestead. There must be
a warmer and more genial spot there below, as where we detect the vapor
from a spring forming a cloud above the trees. What fine relations are
established between the traveller who discovers this airy column from some
eminence in the forest, and him who sits below. Up goes the smoke as
silently and naturally as the vapor exhales from the leaves, and as busy
disposing itself in wreathes as the housewife on the hearth below. It is a
hieroglyphic of man's life, and suggests more intimate and important
things than the boiling of a pot. Where its fine column rises above the
forest, like an ensign, some human life has planted itself,--and such is
the beginning of Rome, the establishment of the arts, and the foundation
of empires, whether on the prairies of America, or the steppes of Asia.

And now we descend again to the brink of this woodland lake, which lies in
a hollow of the hills, as if it were their expressed juice, and that of
the leaves, which are annually steeped in it. Without outlet or inlet to
the eye, it has still its history, in the lapse of its waves, in the
rounded pebbles on its shore, and in the pines which grow down to its
brink. It has not been idle, though sedentary, but, like Abu Musa, teaches
that "sitting still at home is the heavenly way; the going out is the way
of the world." Yet in its evaporation it travels as far as any. In summer
it is the earth's liquid eye; a mirror in the breast of nature. The sins
of the wood are washed out in it. See how the woods form an amphitheatre
about it, and it is an arena for all the genialness of nature. All trees
direct the traveller to its brink, all paths seek it out, birds fly to it,
quadrupeds flee to it, and the very ground inclines toward it. It is
nature's saloon, where she has sat down to her toilet. Consider her silent
economy and tidiness; how the sun comes with his evaporation to sweep the
dust from its surface each morning, and a fresh surface is constantly
welling up; and annually, after whatever impurities have accumulated
herein, its liquid transparency appears again in the spring. In summer a
hushed music seems to sweep across its surface. But now a plain sheet of
snow conceals it from our eyes, except where the wind has swept the ice
bare, and the sere leaves are gliding from side to side, tacking and
veering on their tiny voyages. Here is one just keeled up against a pebble
on shove, a dry beech-leaf, rocking still, as if it would start again. A
skilful engineer, methinks, might project its course since it fell from
the parent stem. Here are all the elements for such a calculation. Its
present position, the direction of the wind, the level of the pond, and
how much more is given. In its scarred edges and veins is its log rolled
up.

We fancy ourselves in the interior of a larger house. The surface of the
pond is our deal table or sanded floor, and the woods rise abruptly from
its edge, like the walls of a cottage. The lines set to catch pickerel
through the ice look like a larger culinary preparation, and the men stand
about on the white ground like pieces of forest furniture. The actions of
these men, at the distance of half a mile over the ice and snow, impress
us as when we read the exploits of Alexander in history. They seem not
unworthy of the scenery, and as momentous as the conquest of kingdoms.

Again we have wandered through the arches of the wood, until from its
skirts we hear the distant booming of ice from yonder bay of the river, as
if it were moved by some other and subtler tide than oceans know. To me it
has a strange sound of home, thrilling as the voice of one's distant and
noble kindred. A mild summer sun shines over forest and lake, and though
there is but one green leaf for many rods, yet nature enjoys a serene
health. Every sound is fraught with the same mysterious assurance of
health, as well now the creaking of the boughs in January, as the soft
sough of the wind in July.

When Winter fringes every bough
  With his fantastic wreath,
And puts the seal of silence now
  Upon the leaves beneath;

When every stream in its pent-house
  Goes gurgling on its way,
And in his gallery the mouse
  Nibbleth the meadow hay;

Methinks the summer still is nigh,
  And lurketh underneath,
As that same meadow-mouse doth lie
  Snug in that last year's heath.

And if perchance the chicadee
  Lisp a faint note anon,
The snow is summer's canopy,
  Which she herself put on.

Fair blossoms deck the cheerful trees,
  And dazzling fruits depend,
The north wind sighs a summer breeze,
  The nipping frosts to fend,

Bringing glad tidings unto me,
  The while I stand all ear,
Of a serene eternity,
  Which need not winter fear.

Out on the silent pond straightway
  The restless ice doth crack,
And pond sprites merry gambols play
  Amid the deafening rack.

Eager I hasten to the vale,
  As if I heard brave news,
How nature held high festival,
  Which it were hard to lose.

I gambol with my neighbor ice,
  And sympathizing quake,
As each new crack darts in a trice
  Across the gladsome lake.

One with the cricket in the ground,
  And fagot on the hearth,
Resounds the rare domestic sound
  Along the forest path.

Before night we will take a journey on skates along the course of this
meandering river, as full of novelty to one who sits by the cottage fire
all the winter's day, as if it were over the polar ice, with Captain Parry
or Franklin; following the winding of the stream, now flowing amid hills,
now spreading out into fair meadows, and forming a myriad coves and bays
where the pine and hemlock overarch. The river flows in the rear of the
towns, and we see all things from a new and wilder side. The fields and
gardens come down to it with a frankness, and freedom from pretension,
which they do not wear on the highway. It is the outside and edge of the
earth. Our eyes are not offended by violent contrasts. The last rail of
the farmer's fence is some swaying willow bough, which still preserves its
freshness, and here at length all fences stop, and we no longer cross any
road. We may go far up within the country now by the most retired and
level road, never climbing a hill, but by broad levels ascending to the
upland meadows. It is a beautiful illustration of the law of obedience,
the flow of a river; the path for a sick man, a highway down which an
acorn cup may float secure with its freight. Its slight occasional falls,
whose precipices would not diversify the landscape, are celebrated by mist
and spray, and attract the traveller from far and near. From the remote
interior, its current conducts him by broad and easy steps, or by one
gentle inclined plane, to the sea. Thus by an early and constant yielding
to the inequalities of the ground, it secures itself the easiest passage.

No domain of nature is quite closed to man at all times, and now we draw
near to the empire of the fishes. Our feet glide swiftly over unfathomed
depths, where in summer our line tempted the pout and perch, and where the
stately pickerel lurked in the long corridors formed by the bulrushes. The
deep, impenetrable marsh, where the heron waded, and bittern squatted, is
made pervious to our swift shoes, as if a thousand railroads had been made
into it. With one impulse we are carried to the cabin of the musk-rat,
that earliest settler, and see him dart away under the transparent ice,
like a furred fish, to his hole in the bank; and we glide rapidly over
meadows where lately "the mower whet his scythe," through beds of frozen
cranberries mixed with meadow grass. We skate near to where the blackbird,
the pewee, and the kingbird hung their nests over the water, and the
hornets builded from the maple in the swamp. How many gay warblers
following the sun, have radiated from this nest of silver-birch and
thistledown. On the swamp's outer edge was hung the supermarine village,
where no foot penetrated. In this hollow tree the wood-duck reared her
brood, and slid away each day to forage in yonder fen.

In winter, nature is a cabinet of curiosities, full of dried specimens, in
their natural order and position. The meadows and forests are a _hortus
siccus_. The leaves and grasses stand perfectly pressed by the air without
screw or gum, and the birds' nests are not hung on an artificial twig, but
where they builded them. We go about dryshod to inspect the summer's work
in the rank swamp, and see what a growth have got the alders, the willows,
and the maples; testifying to how many warm suns, and fertilizing dews and
showers. See what strides their boughs took in the luxuriant summer,--and
anon these dormant buds will carry them onward and upward another span
into the heavens.

Occasionally we wade through fields of snow, under whose depths the river
is lost for many rods, to appear again to the right or left, where we
least expected; still holding on its way underneath, with a faint,
stertorous, rumbling sound, as if, like the bear and marmot, it too had
hibernated, and we had followed its faint summer-trail to where it earthed
itself in snow and ice. At first we should have thought that rivers would
be empty and dry in midwinter, or else frozen solid till the spring thawed
them; but their volume is not diminished even, for only a superficial cold
bridges their surface. The thousand springs which feed the lakes and
streams are flowing still. The issues of a few surface springs only are
closed, and they go to swell the deep reservoirs. Nature's wells are below
the frost. The summer brooks are not filled with snow-water, nor does the
mower quench his thirst with that alone. The streams are swollen when the
snow melts in the spring, because nature's work has been delayed, the
water being turned into ice and snow, whose particles are less smooth and
round, and do not find their level so soon.

Far over the ice, between the hemlock woods and snow-clad hills, stands
the pickerel fisher, his lines set in some retired cove, like a Finlander,
with his arms thrust into the pouches of his dreadnought; with dull,
snowy, fishy thoughts, himself a finless fish, separated a few inches from
his race; dumb, erect, and made to be enveloped in clouds and snows, like
the pines on shore. In these wild scenes, men stand about in the scenery,
or move deliberately and heavily, having sacrificed the sprightliness and
vivacity of towns to the dumb sobriety of nature. He does not make the
scenery less wild, more than the jays and musk-rats, but stands there as a
part of it, as the natives are represented in the voyages of early
navigators, at Nootka Sound, and on the Northwest coast, with their furs
about them, before they were tempted to loquacity by a scrap of iron. He
belongs to the natural family of man, and is planted deeper in nature and
has more root than the inhabitants of towns. Go to him, ask what luck, and
you will learn that he too is a worshipper of the unseen. Hear with what
sincere deference and waving gesture in his tone, he speaks of the lake
pickerel, which he has never seen, his primitive and ideal race of
pickerel. He is connected with the shore still, as by a fish-line, and yet
remembers the season when he took fish through the ice on the pond, while
the peas were up in his garden at home.

But now, while we have loitered, the clouds have gathered again, and a few
straggling snow-flakes are beginning to descend. Faster and faster they
fall, shutting out the distant objects from sight. The snow falls on every
wood and field, and no crevice is forgotten; by the river and the pond, on
the hill and in the valley. Quadrupeds are confined to their coverts, and
the birds sit upon their perches this peaceful hour. There is not so much
sound as in fair weather, but silently and gradually every slope, and the
gray walls and fences, and the polished ice, and the sere leaves, which
were not buried before, are concealed, and the tracks of men and beasts
are lost. With so little effort does nature reassert her rule and blot out
the traces of men. Hear how Homer has described the same. "The snow-flakes
fall thick and fast on a winter's day. The winds are lulled, and the snow
falls incessant, covering the tops of the mountains, and the hills, and
the plains where the lotus-tree grows, and the cultivated fields, and they
are falling by the inlets and shores of the foaming sea, but are silently
dissolved by the waves." The snow levels all things, and infolds them
deeper in the bosom of nature, as, in the slow summer, vegetation creeps
up to the entablature of the temple, and the turrets of the castle, and
helps her to prevail over art.

The surly night-wind rustles through the wood, and warns us to retrace our
steps, while the sun goes down behind the thickening storm, and birds seek
their roosts, and cattle their stalls.

      "Drooping the lab'rer ox
  Stands covered o'er with snow, and _now_ demands
  The fruit of all his toil."

Though winter is represented in the almanac as an old man, facing the wind
and sleet, and drawing his cloak about him, we rather think of him as a
merry wood-chopper, and warm-blooded youth, as blithe as summer. The
unexplored grandeur of the storm keeps up the spirits of the traveller. It
does not trifle with us, but has a sweet earnestness. In winter we lead a
more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under
drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose
chimneys the smoke cheerfully ascends. The imprisoning drifts increase the
sense of comfort which the house affords, and in the coldest days we are
content to sit over the hearth and see the sky through the chimney top,
enjoying the quiet and serene life that may be had in a warm corner by the
chimney side, or feeling our pulse by listening to the low of cattle in
the street, or the sound of the flail in distant barns all the long
afternoon. No doubt a skilful physician could determine our health by
observing how these simple and natural sounds affected us. We enjoy now,
not an oriental, but a boreal leisure, around warm stoves and fireplaces,
and watch the shadow of motes in the sunbeams.

Sometimes our fate grows too homely and familiarly serious ever to be
cruel. Consider how for three months the human destiny is wrapped in furs.
The good Hebrew Revelation takes no cognizance of all this cheerful snow.
Is there no religion for the temperate and frigid zones? We know of no
scripture which records the pure benignity of the gods on a New England
winter night. Their praises have never been sung, only their wrath
deprecated. The best scripture, after all, records but a meagre faith. Its
saints live reserved and austere. Let a brave devout man spend the year in
the woods of Maine or Labrador, and see if the Hebrew Scriptures speak
adequately to his condition and experience, from the setting in of winter
to the breaking up of the ice.

Now commences the long winter evening around the farmer's hearth, when the
thoughts of the indwellers travel far abroad, and men are by nature and
necessity charitable and liberal to all creatures. Now is the happy
resistance to cold, when the farmer reaps his reward, and thinks of his
preparedness for winter, and, through the glittering panes, sees with
equanimity "the mansion of the northern bear," for now the storm is over,

      "The full ethereal round,
Infinite worlds disclosing to the view,
Shines out intensely keen; and all one cope
Of starry glitter glows from pole to pole."



THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES.
[An Address read to the Middlesex Agricultural Society, in Concord,
September, 1860.]

Every man is entitled to come to Cattle-show, even a transcendentalist;
and for my part I am more interested in the men than in the cattle. I wish
to see once more those old familiar faces, whose names I do not know,
which for me represent the Middlesex country, and come as near being
indigenous to the soil as a white man can; the men who are not above their
business, whose coats are not too black, whose shoes do not shine very
much, who never wear gloves to conceal their hands. It is true, there are
some queer specimens of humanity attracted to our festival, but all are
welcome. I am pretty sure to meet once more that weak-minded and whimsical
fellow, generally weak-bodied too, who prefers a crooked stick for a cane;
perfectly useless, you would say, only _bizarre_, fit for a cabinet, like
a petrified snake. A ram's horn would be as convenient, and is yet more
curiously twisted. He brings that much indulged bit of the country with
him, from some town's end or other, and introduces it to Concord groves,
as if he had promised it so much sometime. So some, it seems to me, elect
their rulers for their crookedness. But I think that a straight stick
makes the best cane, and an upright man the best ruler. Or why choose a
man to do plain work who is distinguished for his oddity? However, I do
not know but you will think that they have committed this mistake who
invited me to speak to you to-day.

In my capacity of surveyor, I have often talked with some of you, my
employers, at your dinner-tables, after having gone round and round and
behind your farming, and ascertained exactly what its limits were.
Moreover, taking a surveyor's and a naturalist's liberty, I have been in
the habit of going across your lots much oftener than is usual, as many
of you, perhaps to your sorrow, are aware. Yet many of you, to my relief,
have seemed not to be aware of it; and when I came across you in some
out-of-the-way nook of your farms, have inquired, with an air of surprise,
if I were not lost, since you had never seen me in that part of the town
or county before; when, if the truth were known, and it had not been for
betraying my secret, I might with more propriety have inquired if _you_
were not lost, since I had never seen _you_ there before. I have several
times shown the proprietor the shortest way out of his wood-lot.

Therefore, it would seem that I have some title to speak to you to-day;
and considering what that title is, and the occasion that has called us
together, I need offer no apology if I invite your attention, for the few
moments that are allotted me, to a purely scientific subject.

At those dinner-tables referred to, I have often been asked, as many of
you have been, if I could tell how it happened, that when a pine wood was
cut down an oak one commonly sprang up, and _vice versa_. To which I have
answered, and now answer, that I can tell,--that it is no mystery to me.
As I am not aware that this has been clearly shown by any one, I shall lay
the more stress on this point. Let me lead you back into your wood-lots
again.

When, hereabouts, a single forest tree or a forest springs up naturally
where none of its kind grew before, I do not hesitate to say, though in
some quarters still it may sound paradoxical, that it came from a seed. Of
the various ways by which trees are _known_ to be propagated,--by
transplanting, cuttings, and the like,--this is the only supposable one
under these circumstances. No such tree has ever been known to spring from
anything else. If any one asserts that it sprang from something else, or
from nothing, the burden of proof lies with him.

It remains, then, only to show how the seed is transported from where it
grows, to where it is planted. This is done chiefly by the agency of the
wind, water, and animals. The lighter seeds, as those of pines and maples,
are transported chiefly by wind and water; the heavier, as acorns and
nuts, by animals.

In all the pines, a very thin membrane, in appearance much like an
insect's wing, grows over and around the seed, and independent of it,
while the latter is being developed within its base. Indeed this is often
perfectly developed, though the seed is abortive; nature being, you would
say, more sure to provide the means of transporting the seed, than to
provide the seed to be transported. In other words, a beautiful thin sack
is woven around the seed, with a handle to it such as the wind can take
hold of, and it is then committed to the wind, expressly that it may
transport the seed and extend the range of the species; and this it does,
as effectually, as when seeds are sent by mail in a different kind of sack
from the patent-office. There is a patent-office at the seat of government
of the universe, whose managers are as much interested in the dispersion
of seeds as anybody at Washington can be, and their operations are
infinitely more extensive and regular.

There is then no necessity for supposing that the pines have sprung up
from nothing, and I am aware that I am not at all peculiar in asserting
that they come from seeds, though the mode of their propagation _by
nature_ has been but little attended to. They are very extensively raised
from the seed in Europe, and are beginning to be here.

When you cut down an oak wood, a pine wood will not _at once_ spring up
there unless there are, or have been, quite recently, seed-bearing pines
near enough for the seeds to be blown from them. But, adjacent to a forest
of pines, if you prevent other crops from growing there, you will surely
have an extension of your pine forest, provided the soil is suitable.

As for the heavy seeds and nuts which are not furnished with wings, the
notion is still a very common one that, when the trees which bear these
spring up where none of their kind were noticed before, they have come
from seeds or other principles spontaneously generated there in an unusual
manner, or which have lain dormant in the soil for centuries, or perhaps
been called into activity by the heat of a burning. I do not believe these
assertions, and I will state some of the ways in which, according to my
observation, such forests are planted and raised.

Every one of these seeds, too, will be found to be winged or legged in
another fashion. Surely it is not wonderful that cherry-trees of all kinds
are widely dispersed, since their fruit is well known to be the favorite
food of various birds. Many kinds are called bird-cherries, and they
appropriate many more kinds, which are not so called. Eating cherries is a
bird-like employment, and unless we disperse the seeds occasionally, as
they do, I shall think that the birds have the best right to them. See how
artfully the seed of a cherry is placed in order that a bird may be
compelled to transport it--in the very midst of a tempting pericarp, so
that the creature that would devour this must commonly take the stone also
into its mouth or bill. If you ever ate a cherry, and did not make two
bites of it, you must have perceived it--right in the centre of the
luscious morsel, a large earthy residuum left on the tongue. We thus take
into our mouths cherry stones as big as peas, a dozen at once, for Nature
can persuade us to do almost anything when she would compass her ends.
Some wild men and children instinctively swallow these, as the birds do
when in a hurry, it being the shortest way to get rid of them. Thus,
though these seeds are not provided with vegetable wings, Nature has
impelled the thrush tribe to take them into their bills and fly away with
them; and they are winged in another sense, and more effectually than the
seeds of pines, for these are carried even against the wind. The
consequence is, that cherry-trees grow not only here but there. The same
is true of a great many other seeds.

But to come to the observation which suggested these remarks. As I have
said, I suspect that I can throw some light on the fact, that when
hereabouts a dense pine wood is cut down, oaks and other hard woods may at
once take its place. I have got only to show that the acorns and nuts,
provided they are grown in the neighborhood, are regularly planted in such
woods; for I assert that if an oak-tree has not grown within ten miles,
and man has not carried acorns thither, then an oak wood will not spring
up _at once_, when a pine wood is cut down.

Apparently, there were only pines there before. They are cut off, and
after a year or two you see oaks and other hard woods springing up there,
with scarcely a pine amid them, and the wonder commonly is, how the seed
could have lain in the ground so long without decaying. But the truth is,
that it has not lain in the ground so long, but is regularly planted each
year by various quadrupeds and birds.

In this neighborhood, where oaks and pines are about equally dispersed,
if you look through the thickest pine wood, even the seemingly unmixed
pitch-pine ones, you will commonly detect many little oaks, birches, and
other hard woods, sprung from seeds carried into the thicket by squirrels
and other animals, and also blown thither, but which are over-shadowed and
choked by the pines. The denser the evergreen wood, the more likely it is
to be well planted with these seeds, because the planters incline to
resort with their forage to the closest covert. They also carry it into
birch and other woods. This planting is carried on annually, and the
oldest seedlings annually die; but when the pines are cleared off, the
oaks, having got just the start they want, and now secured favorable
conditions, immediately spring up to trees.

The shade of a dense pine wood, is more unfavorable to the springing up of
pines of the same species than of oaks within it, though the former may
come up abundantly when the pines are cut, if there chance to be sound
seed in the ground.

But when you cut off a lot of hard wood, very often the little pines mixed
with it have a similar start, for the squirrels have carried off the nuts
to the pines, and not to the more open wood, and they commonly make pretty
clean work of it; and moreover, if the wood was old, the sprouts will be
feeble or entirely fail; to say nothing about the soil being, in a
measure, exhausted for this kind of crop.

If a pine wood is surrounded by a white oak one chiefly, white oaks may be
expected to succeed when the pines are cut. If it is surrounded, instead
by an edging of shrub-oaks, then you will probably have a dense shrub-oak
thicket.

I have no time to go into details, but will say, in a word, that while the
wind is conveying the seeds of pines into hard woods and open lands, the
squirrels and other animals are conveying the seeds of oaks and walnuts
into the pine woods, and thus a rotation of crops is kept up.

I affirmed this confidently many years ago, and an occasional examination
of dense pine woods confirmed me in my opinion. It has long been known to
observers that squirrels bury nuts in the ground, but I am not aware that
any one has thus accounted for the regular succession of forests.

On the 24th of September, in 1857, as I was paddling down the Assabet, in
this town, I saw a red squirrel run along the bank under some herbage,
with something large in its mouth. It stopped near the foot of a hemlock,
within a couple of rods of me, and, hastily pawing a hole with its
forefeet, dropped its booty into it, covered it up, and retreated part way
up the trunk of the tree. As I approached the shore to examine the
deposit, the squirrel, descending part way, betrayed no little anxiety
about its treasure, and made two or three motions to recover it before it
finally retreated. Digging there, I found two green pig-nuts joined
together, with the thick husks on, buried about an inch and a half under
the reddish soil of decayed hemlock leaves,--just the right depth to plant
it. In short, this squirrel was then engaged in accomplishing two objects,
to wit, laying up a store of winter food for itself, and planting a
hickory wood for all creation. If the squirrel was killed, or neglected
its deposit, a hickory would spring up. The nearest hickory tree was
twenty rods distant. These nuts were there still just fourteen days later,
but were gone when I looked again, November 21, or six weeks later still.

I have since examined more carefully several dense woods, which are said
to be, and are apparently exclusively pine, and always with the same
result. For instance, I walked the same day to a small, but very dense and
handsome white-pine grove, about fifteen rods square, in the east part of
this town. The trees are large for Concord, being from ten to twenty
inches in diameter, and as exclusively pine as any wood that I know.
Indeed, I selected this wood because I thought it the least likely to
contain anything else. It stands on an open plain or pasture, except that
it adjoins another small pine wood, which has a few little oaks in it, on
the southeast side. On every other side, it was at least thirty rods from
the nearest woods. Standing on the edge of this grove and looking through
it, for it is quite level and free from underwood, for the most part bare,
red-carpeted ground, you would have said that there was not a hard wood
tree in it, young or old. But on looking carefully along over its floor I
discovered, though it was not till my eye had got used to the search,
that, alternating with thin ferns, and small blueberry bushes, there was,
not merely here and there, but as often as every five feet and with a
degree of regularity, a little oak, from three to twelve inches high, and
in one place I found a green acorn dropped by the base of a pine.

I confess, I was surprised to find my theory so perfectly proved in this
case. One of the principal agents in this planting, the red squirrels,
were all the while curiously inspecting me, while I was inspecting their
plantation. Some of the little oaks had been browsed by cows, which
resorted to this wood for shade.

After seven or eight years, the hard woods evidently find such a locality
unfavorable to their growth, the pines being allowed to stand. As an
evidence of this, I observed a diseased red-maple twenty-five feet long,
which had been recently prostrated, though it was still covered with green
leaves, the only maple in any position in the wood.

But although these oaks almost invariably die if the pines are not cut
down, it is probable that they do better for a few years under their
shelter than they would anywhere else.

The very extensive and thorough experiments of the English, have at length
led them to adopt a method of raising oaks almost precisely like this,
which somewhat earlier had been adopted by nature and her squirrels here;
they have simply rediscovered the value of pines as nurses for oaks. The
English experimenters seem early and generally, to have found out the
importance of using trees of some kind, as nurse-plants for the young
oaks. I quote from Loudon what he describes as "the ultimatum on the
subject of planting and sheltering oaks,"--"an abstract of the practice
adopted by the government officers in the national forests" of England,
prepared by Alexander Milne.

At first some oaks had been planted by themselves, and others mixed with
Scotch pines; "but in all cases," says Mr. Milne, "where oaks were planted
actually among the pines, and surrounded by them, [though the soil might
be inferior,] the oaks were found to be much the best." "For several years
past, the plan pursued has been to plant the inclosures with Scotch pines
only, [a tree very similar to our pitch-pine,] and when the pines have got
to the height of five or six feet, then to put in good strong oak plants
of about four or five years' growth among the pines,--not cutting away any
pines at first, unless they happen to be so strong and thick as to
overshadow the oaks. In about two years, it becomes necessary to shred the
branches of the pines, to give light and air to the oaks, and in about two
or three more years to begin gradually to remove the pines altogether,
taking out a certain number each year, so that, at the end of twenty or
twenty-five years, not a single Scotch pine shall be left; although, for
the first ten or twelve years, the plantation may have appeared to contain
nothing else but pine. The advantage of this mode of planting has been
found to be that the pines dry and ameliorate the soil, destroying the
coarse grass and brambles which frequently choke and injure oaks; and that
no mending over is necessary, as scarcely an oak so planted is found to
fail."

Thus much the English planters have discovered by patient experiment, and,
for aught I know, they have taken out a patent for it; but they appear not
to have discovered that it was discovered before, and that they are merely
adopting the method of Nature, which she long ago made patent to all.
She is all the while planting the oaks amid the pines without our
knowledge, and at last, instead of government officers, we send a party of
wood-choppers to cut down the pines, and so rescue an oak forest, at which
we wonder as if it had dropped from the skies.

As I walk amid hickories, even in August, I hear the sound of green
pig-nuts falling from time to time, cut off by the chickaree over my head.
In the fall, I notice on the ground, either within or in the neighborhood
of oak woods, on all sides of the town, stout oak twigs three or four
inches long, bearing half-a-dozen empty acorn-cups, which twigs have been
gnawed off by squirrels, on both sides of the nuts, in order to make them
more portable. The jays scream and the red squirrels scold while you are
clubbing and shaking the chestnut trees, for they are there on the same
errand, and two of a trade never agree. I frequently see a red or gray
squirrel cast down a green chestnut bur, as I am going through the woods,
and I used to think, sometimes, that they were cast at me. In fact, they
are so busy about it, in the midst of the chestnut season, that you cannot
stand long in the woods without hearing one fall. A sportsman told me that
he had, the day before,--that was in the middle of October,--seen a green
chestnut bur dropt on our great river meadow, fifty rods from the nearest
wood, and much further from the nearest chestnut-tree, and he could not
tell how it came there. Occasionally, when chestnutting in midwinter, I
find thirty or forty nuts in a pile, left in its gallery, just under the
leaves, by the common wood-mouse (_mus leucopus_).

But especially, in the winter, the extent to which this transportation and
planting of nuts is carried on is made apparent by the snow. In almost
every wood, you will see where the red or gray squirrels have pawed down
through the snow in a hundred places, sometimes two feet deep, and almost
always directly to a nut or a pine-cone, as directly as if they had
started from it and bored upward,--which you and I could not have done. It
would be difficult for us to find one before the snow falls. Commonly, no
doubt, they had deposited them there in the fall. You wonder if they
remember the localities, or discover them by the scent. The red squirrel
commonly has its winter abode in the earth under a thicket of evergreens,
frequently under a small clump of evergreens in the midst of a deciduous
wood. If there are any nut-trees, which still retain their nuts, standing
at a distance without the wood, their paths often lead directly to and
from them. We, therefore, need not suppose an oak standing here and there
_in_ the wood in order to seed it, but if a few stand within twenty or
thirty rods of it, it is sufficient.

I think that I may venture to say that every white-pine cone that falls to
the earth naturally in this town, before opening and losing its seeds, and
almost every pitch-pine one that falls at all, is cut off by a squirrel,
and they begin to pluck them long before they are ripe, so that when the
crop of white-pine cones is a small one, as it commonly is, they cut off
thus almost every one of these before it fairly ripens. I think, moreover,
that their design, if I may so speak, in cutting them off green, is,
partly, to prevent their opening and losing their seeds, for these are the
ones for which they dig through the snow, and the only white-pine cones
which contain anything then. I have counted in one heap, within a diameter
of four feet, the cores of 239 pitch-pine cones which had been cut off and
stripped by the red squirrel the previous winter.

The nuts thus left on the surface, or buried just beneath it, are placed
in the most favorable circumstances for germinating. I have sometimes
wondered how those which merely fell on the surface of the earth got
planted; but, by the end of December, I find the chestnut of the same year
partially mixed with the mould, as it were, under the decaying and mouldy
leaves, where there is all the moisture and manure they want, for the nuts
fall first. In a plentiful year, a large proportion of the nuts are thus
covered loosely an inch deep, and are, of course, somewhat concealed from
squirrels. One winter, when the crop had been abundant, I got, with the
aid of a rake, many quarts of these nuts as late as the tenth of January,
and though some bought at the store the same day were more than half of
them mouldy, I did not find a single mouldy one among these which I picked
from under the wet and mouldy leaves, where they had been snowed on once
or twice. Nature knows how to pack them best. They were still plump and
tender. Apparently, they do not heat there, though wet. In the spring they
were all sprouting.

Loudon says that "when the nut [of the common walnut of Europe] is to be
preserved through the winter for the purpose of planting in the following
spring, it should be laid in a rot-heap, as soon as gathered, with the
husk on; and the heap should be turned over frequently in the course of
the winter."

Here, again, he is stealing Nature's "thunder." How can a poor mortal do
otherwise? for it is she that finds fingers to steal with, and the
treasure to be stolen. In the planting of the seeds of most trees, the
best gardeners do no more than follow Nature, though they may not know it.
Generally, both large and small ones are most sure to germinate, and
succeed best, when only beaten into the earth with the back of a spade,
and then covered with leaves or straw. These results to which planters
have arrived, remind us of the experience of Kane and his companions at
the North, who, when learning to live in that climate, were surprised to
find themselves steadily adopting the customs of the natives, simply
becoming Esquimaux. So, when we experiment in planting forests, we find
ourselves at last doing as Nature does. Would it not be well to consult
with Nature in the outset? for she is the most extensive and experienced
planter of us all, not excepting the Dukes of Athol.

In short, they who have not attended particularly to this subject are but
little aware to what an extent quadrupeds and birds are employed,
especially in the fall, in collecting, and so disseminating and planting
the seeds of trees. It is the almost constant employment of the squirrels
at that season and you rarely meet with one that has not a nut in its
mouth, or is not just going to get one. One squirrel-hunter of this town
told me that he knew of a walnut-tree which bore particularly good nuts,
but that on going to gather them one fall, he found that he had been
anticipated by a family of a dozen red squirrels. He took out of the tree,
which was hollow, one bushel and three pecks by measurement, without the
husks, and they supplied him and his family for the winter. It would be
easy to multiply instances of this kind. How commonly in the fall you see
the cheek-pouches of the striped squirrel distended by a quantity of nuts!
This species gets its scientific name _Tamias_, or the steward, from its
habit of storing up nuts and other seeds. Look under a nut-tree a month
after the nuts have fallen, and see what proportion of sound nuts to the
abortive ones and shells you will find ordinarily. They have been already
eaten, or dispersed far and wide. The ground looks like a platform before
a grocery, where the gossips of the village sit to crack nuts and less
savory jokes. You have come, you would say, after the feast was over, and
are presented with the shells only.

Occasionally, when threading the woods in the fall, you will hear a sound
as if some one had broken a twig, and, looking up, see a jay pecking at an
acorn, or you will see a flock of them at once about it, in the top of an
oak, and hear them break them off. They then fly to a suitable limb, and
placing the acorn under one foot, hammer away at it busily, making a sound
like a woodpecker's tapping, looking round from time to time to see if any
foe is approaching, and soon reach the meat, and nibble at it, holding up
their heads to swallow, while they hold the remainder very firmly with
their claws. Nevertheless, it often drops to the ground before the bird
has done with it. I can confirm what Wm. Bartram wrote to Wilson, the
Ornithologist, that "The jay is one of the most useful agents in the
economy of nature, for disseminating forest trees and other nuciferous and
hard-seeded vegetables on which they feed. Their chief employment during
the autumnal season is foraging to supply their winter stores. In
performing this necessary duty they drop abundance of seed in their flight
over fields, hedges, and by fences, where they alight to deposit them in
the post-holes, &c. It is remarkable what numbers of young trees rise up
in fields and pastures after a wet winter and spring. These birds alone
are capable, in a few years' time, to replant all the cleared lands."

I have noticed that squirrels also frequently drop their nuts in open
land, which will still further account for the oaks and walnuts which
spring up in pastures, for, depend on it, every new tree comes from a
seed. When I examine the little oaks, one or two years old, in such
places, I invariably find the empty acorn from which they sprung.

So far from the seed having lain dormant in the soil since oaks grew there
before, as many believe, it is well known that it is difficult to preserve
the vitality of acorns long enough to transport them to Europe; and it is
recommended in Loudon's Arboretum, as the safest course, to sprout them in
pots on the voyage. The same authority states that "very few acorns of any
species will germinate after having been kept a year," that beechmast,
"only retains its vital properties one year," and the black-walnut,
"seldom more than six months after it has ripened." I have frequently
found that in November, almost every acorn left on the ground had sprouted
or decayed. What with frost, drouth, moisture, and worms, the greater part
are soon destroyed. Yet it is stated by one botanical writer that "acorns
that have lain for centuries, on being ploughed up, have soon vegetated."

Mr. George B. Emerson, in his valuable Report on the Trees and Shrubs of
this State, says of the pines: "The tenacity of life of the seeds is
remarkable. They will remain for many years unchanged in the ground,
protected by the coolness and deep shade of the forest above them. But
when the forest is removed, and the warmth of the sun admitted, they
immediately vegetate." Since he does not tell us on what observation his
remark is founded, I must doubt its truth. Besides, the experience of
nurserymen makes it the more questionable.

The stories of wheat raised from seed buried with an ancient Egyptian, and
of raspberries raised from seed found in the stomach of a man in England,
who is supposed to have died sixteen or seventeen hundred years ago, are
generally discredited, simply because the evidence is not conclusive.

Several men of science, Dr. Carpenter among them, have used the statement
that beach-plums sprang up in sand which was dug up forty miles inland in
Maine, to prove that the seed had lain there a very long time, and some
have inferred that the coast has receded so far. But it seems to me
necessary to their argument to show, first, that beach-plums grow only on
a beach. They are not uncommon here, which is about half that distance
from the shore; and I remember a dense patch a few miles north of us,
twenty-five miles inland, from which the fruit was annually carried to
market. How much further inland they grow, I know not. Dr. Chas. T.
Jackson speaks of finding "beach-plums" (perhaps they were this kind) more
than one hundred miles inland in Maine.

It chances that similar objections lie against all the more notorious
instances of the kind on record.

Yet I am prepared to believe that some seeds, especially small ones, may
retain their vitality for centuries under favorable circumstances. In the
spring of 1859, the old Hunt House, so called, in this town, whose chimney
bore the date 1703, was taken down. This stood on land which belonged to
John Winthrop, the first Governor of Massachusetts, and a part of the
house was evidently much older than the above date, and belonged to the
Winthrop family. For many years, I have ransacked this neighborhood for
plants, and I consider myself familiar with its productions. Thinking of
the seeds which are said to be sometimes dug up at an unusual depth in the
earth, and thus to reproduce long extinct plants, it occurred to me last
fall that some new or rare plants might have sprung up in the cellar of
this house, which had been covered from the light so long. Searching there
on the 22d of September, I found, among other rank weeds, a species of
nettle (_Urtica urens_), which I had not found before; dill, which I had
not seen growing spontaneously; the Jerusalem oak (_Chenopodium botrys_),
which I had seen wild in but one place; black nightshade (_Solanum
nigrum_), which is quite rare hereabouts, and common tobacco, which,
though it was often cultivated here in the last century, has for fifty
years been an unknown plant in this town, and a few months before this not
even I had heard that one man in the north part of the town, was
cultivating a few plants for his own use. I have no doubt that some or all
of these plants sprang from seeds which had long been buried under or
about that house, and that that tobacco is an additional evidence that the
plant was formerly cultivated here. The cellar has been filled up this
year, and four of those plants, including the tobacco, are now again
extinct in that locality.

It is true, I have shown that the animals consume a great part of the
seeds of trees, and so, at least, effectually prevent their becoming
trees; but in all these cases, as I have said, the consumer is compelled
to be at the same time the disperser and planter, and this is the tax
which he pays to nature. I think it is Linnaeus, who says, that while the
swine is rooting for acorns, he is planting acorns.

Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has
been, I have great faith in a seed--a, to me, equally mysterious origin
for it. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to
expect wonders. I shall even believe that the millennium is at hand, and
that the reign of justice is about to commence, when the Patent Office, or
Government, begins to distribute, and the people to plant the seeds of
these things.'

In the spring of 1857, I planted six seeds sent to me from the Patent
Office, and labelled, I think, "_Poitrine jaune grosse,_" large yellow
squash. Two came up, and one bore a squash which weighed 123-1/2 pounds,
the other bore four, weighing together 186-1/4 pounds. Who would have
believed that there was 310 pounds of _poitrine jaune grosse_ in that
corner of my garden? These seeds were the bait I used to catch it, my
ferrets which I sent into its burrow, my brace of terriers which unearthed
it. A little mysterious hoeing and manuring was all the _abra cadabra
presto-change,_ that I used, and lo! true to the label, they found for me
310 pounds of _poitrine jaune grosse_ there, where it never was known to
be, nor was before. These talismen had perchance sprung from America at
first, and returned to it with unabated force. The big squash took a
premium at your fair that fall, and I understood that the man who bought
it, intended to sell the seeds for ten cents a piece. (Were they not cheap
at that?) But I have more hounds of the same breed. I learn that one which
I despatched to a distant town, true to its instinct, points to the large
yellow squash there, too, where no hound ever found it before, as its
ancestors did here and in France.

Other seeds I have which will find other things in that corner of my
garden, in like fashion, almost any fruit you wish, every year for ages,
until the crop more than fills the whole garden. You have but little more
to do, than throw up your cap for entertainment these American days.
Perfect alchemists I keep, who can transmute substances without end; and
thus the corner of my garden is an inexhaustible treasure-chest. Here you
can dig, not gold, but the value which gold merely represents; and there
is no Signor Blitz about it. Yet farmers' sons will stare by the hour to
see a juggler draw ribbons from his throat, though he tells them it is all
deception. Surely, men love darkness rather than light.



WALKING.

[1862.]


I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as
contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil,--to regard man as an
inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of
society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic
one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the
school-committee, and every one of you will take care of that.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who
understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks,--who had a
genius, so to speak, for _sauntering_: which word is beautifully derived
"from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and
asked charity, under pretence of going _à la Sainte Terre_" to the Holy
Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a _Sainte-Terrer_," a
Saunterer,--a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their
walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who
do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some,
however, would derive the word from _sans terre_, without land or a home,
which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home,
but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful
sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest
vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant
than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the
shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the
most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by
some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from
the hands of the Infidels.

It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers,
nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our
expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old
hearth-side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our
steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit
of undying adventure, never to return,--prepared to send back our embalmed
hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave
father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends,
and never see them again,--if you have paid your debts, and made your
will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready
for a walk.

To come down to my own experience, my companion and I, for I sometimes
have a companion, take pleasure in fancying ourselves knights of a new, or
rather an old, order,--not Equestrians or Chevaliers, not Ritters or
riders, but Walkers, a still more ancient and honorable class, I trust.
The chivalric and heroic spirit which once belonged to the Rider seems now
to reside in, or perchance to have subsided into, the Walker,--not the
Knight, but Walker Errant. He is a sort of fourth estate, outside of
Church and State and People.

We have felt that we almost alone hereabouts practised this noble art;
though, to tell the truth, at least, if their own assertions are to be
received, moat of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as I do, but they
cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and
independence, which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by
the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become
a walker. You must be born into the family of the Walkers. _Ambulator
nascitur, non fit._ Some of my townsmen, it is true, can remember and have
described to me some walks which they took ten years ago, in which they
were so blessed as to lose themselves for half an hour in the woods; but I
know very well that they have confined themselves to the highway ever
since, whatever pretensions they may make to belong to this select class.
No doubt they were elevated for a moment as by the reminiscence of a
previous state of existence, when even they were foresters and outlaws.

"When he came to grene wode,
  In a mery mornynge,
There he herde the notes small
  Of byrdes mery syngynge.

"It is ferre gone, sayd Robyn,
  That I was last here;
Me lyste a lytell for to shote
  At the donne dere."

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four
hours a day at least,--and it is commonly more than that,--sauntering
through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all
worldly engagements. You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts, or a
thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and
shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the
afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them,--as if the legs
were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon,--I think that they
deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.

I, who cannot stay in my chamber for a single day without acquiring some
rust, and when sometimes I have stolen forth for a walk at the eleventh
hour of four o'clock in the afternoon, too late to redeem the day, when
the shades of night were already beginning to be mingled with the
daylight, have felt as if I had committed some sin to be atoned for,--I
confess that I am astonished at the power of endurance, to say nothing of
the moral insensibility, of my neighbors who confine themselves to shops
and offices the whole day for weeks and months, ay, and years almost
together. I know not what manner of stuff they are of,--sitting there now
at three o'clock in the afternoon, as if it were three o'clock in the
morning. Bonaparte may talk of the three-o'clock-in-the-morning courage,
but it is nothing to the courage which can sit down cheerfully at this
hour in the afternoon over against one's self whom you have known all the
morning, to starve out a garrison to whom you are bound by such strong
ties of sympathy. I wonder that about this time, or say between four and
five o'clock in the afternoon, too late for the morning papers and too
early for the evening ones, there is not a general explosion heard up and
down the street, scattering a legion of antiquated and house-bred notions
and whims to the four winds for an airing,--and so the evil cure itself.

How womankind, who are confined to the house still more than men, stand it
I do not know; but I have ground to suspect that most of them do not
_stand_ it at all. When, early in a summer afternoon, we have been shaking
the dust of the village from the skirts of our garments, making haste past
those houses with purely Doric or Gothic fronts, which have such an air of
repose about them, my companion whispers that probably about these times
their occupants are all gone to bed. Then it is that I appreciate the
beauty and the glory of architecture, which itself never turns in, but
forever stands out and erect, keeping watch over the slumberers.

No doubt temperament, and, above all, age, have a good deal to do with it.
As a man grows older, his ability to sit still and follow indoor
occupations increases. He grows vespertinal in his habits as the evening
of life approaches, till at last he comes forth only just before sundown,
and gets all the walk that he requires in half an hour.

But the walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking
exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours,--as
the swinging of dumb-bells or chairs; but is itself the enterprise and
adventure of the day. If you would get exercise, go in search of the
springs of life. Think of a man's swinging dumb-bells for his health, when
those springs are bubbling up in far-off pastures unsought by him!

Moreover, you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast
which ruminates when walking. When a traveller asked Wordsworth's servant
to show him her master's study, she answered, "Here is his library, but
his study is out of doors."

Living much out of doors, in the sun and wind, will no doubt produce a
certain roughness of character,--will cause a thicker cuticle to grow over
some of the finer qualities of our nature, as on the face and hands, or as
severe manual labor robs the hands of some of their delicacy of touch. So
staying in the house, on the other hand, may produce a softness and
smoothness, not to say thinness of skin, accompanied by an increased
sensibility to certain impressions. Perhaps we should be more susceptible
to some influences important to our intellectual and moral growth, if the
sun had shone and the wind blown on us a little less; and no doubt it is a
nice matter to proportion rightly the thick and thin skin. But methinks
that is a scurf that will fall off fast enough,--that the natural remedy
is to be found in the proportion which the night bears to the day, the
winter to the summer, thought to experience. There will be so much the
more air and sunshine in our thoughts. The callous palms of the laborer
are conversant with finer tissues of self-respect and heroism, whose touch
thrills the heart, than the languid fingers of idleness. That is mere
sentimentality that lies abed by day and thinks itself white, far from the
tan and callus of experience.

When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become
of us, if we walked only in a garden or a mall? Even some sects of
philosophers have felt the necessity of importing the woods to themselves,
since they did not go to the woods. "They planted groves and walks of
Platanes," where they took _subdiales ambulationes_ in porticos open to
the air. Of course it is of no use to direct our steps to the woods, if
they do not carry us thither. I am alarmed when it happens that I have
walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. In
my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my
obligations to society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily
shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head, and I
am not where my body is,--I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain
return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking
of something out of the woods? I suspect myself, and cannot help a
shudder, when I find myself so implicated even in what are called good
works,--for this may sometimes happen.

My vicinity affords many good walks; and though for so many years I have
walked almost every day, and sometimes for several days together, I have
not yet exhausted them. An absolutely new prospect is a great happiness,
and I can still get this any afternoon. Two or three hours' walking will
carry me to as strange a country as I expect ever to see. A single
farmhouse which I had not seen before is sometimes as good as the
dominions of the King of Dahomey. There is in fact a sort of harmony
discoverable between the capabilities of the landscape within a circle of
ten miles' radius, or the limits of an afternoon walk, and the threescore
years and ten of human life. It will never become quite familiar to you.

Nowadays almost all man's improvements, so called, as the building of
houses, and the cutting down of the forest and of all large trees, simply
deform the landscape, and make it more and more tame and cheap. A people
who would begin by burning the fences and let the forest stand! I saw the
fences half consumed, their ends lost in the middle of the prairie, and
some worldly miser with a surveyor looking after his bounds, while heaven
had taken place around him, and he did not see the angels going to and
fro, but was looking for an old post-hole in the midst of paradise. I
looked again, and saw him standing in the middle of a boggy, stygian fen,
surrounded by devils, and he had found his bounds without a doubt, three
little stones, where a stake had been driven, and looking nearer, I saw
that the Prince of Darkness was his surveyor.

I can easily walk ten, fifteen, twenty, any number of miles, commencing at
my own door, without going by any house, without crossing a road except
where the fox and the mink do: first along by the river, and then the
brook, and then the meadow and the wood-side. There are square miles in my
vicinity which have no inhabitant. From many a hill I can see civilization
and the abodes of man afar. The farmers and their works are scarcely more
obvious than woodchucks and their burrows. Man and his affairs, church and
state and school, trade and commerce, and manufactures and agriculture,
even politics, the most alarming of them all,--I am pleased to see how
little space they occupy in the landscape. Politics is but a narrow field,
and that still narrower highway yonder leads to it. I sometimes direct the
traveller thither. If you would go to the political world, follow the
great road,--follow that market-man, keep his dust in your eyes, and it
will lead you straight to it; for it, too, has its place merely, and does
not occupy all space. I pass from it as from a bean-field into the forest,
and it is forgotten. In one half-hour I can walk off to some portion of
the earth's surface where a man does not stand from one year's end to
another, and there, consequently, politics are not, for they are but as
the cigar-smoke of a man.

The village is the place to which the roads tend, a sort of expansion of
the highway, as a lake of a river. It is the body of which roads are the
arms and legs,--a trivial or quadrivial place, the thoroughfare and
ordinary of travellers. The word is from the Latin _villa_, which,
together with _via_, a way, or more anciently _ved_ and _vella_, Varro
derives from _veho_, to carry, because the villa is the place to and from
which things are carried. They who got their living by teaming were said
_vellaturam facere_. Hence, too, apparently, the Latin word _vilis_ and
our vile; also _villain_. This suggests what kind of degeneracy villagers
are liable to. They are wayworn by the travel that goes by and over them,
without travelling themselves.

Some do not walk at all; others walk in the highways; a few walk across
lots. Roads are made for horses and men of business. I do not travel in
them much, comparatively, because I am not in a hurry to get to any tavern
or grocery or livery-stable or depot to which they lead. I am a good horse
to travel, but not from choice a roadster. The landscape-painter uses the
figures of men to mark a road. He would not make that use of my figure. I
walk out into a Nature such as the old prophets and poets, Menu, Moses,
Homer, Chaucer, walked in. You may name it America, but it is not America:
neither Atnericus Vespucius, nor Columbus, nor the rest were the
discoverers of it. There is a truer account of it in mythology than in any
history of America, so called, that I have seen.

However, there are a few old roads that may be trodden with profit, as if
they led somewhere now that they are nearly discontinued. There is the Old
Marlborough Road, which does not go to Marlborough now, methinks, unless
that is Marlborough where it carries me. I am the bolder to speak of it
here, because I presume that there are one or two such roads in every
town.

    THE OLD MARLBOROUGH ROAD.

    Where they once dug for money,
    But never found any;
    Where sometimes Martial Miles
    Singly files,
    And Elijah Wood,
    I fear for no good:
    No other man,
    Save Elisha Dugan,--
    O man of wild habits,
    Partridges and rabbits,
    Who hast no cares
    Only to set snares,
    Who liv'st all alone,
    Close to the bone,
    And where life is sweetest
    Constantly eatest.
When the spring stirs my blood
  With the instinct to travel,
  I can get enough gravel
On the Old Marlborough Road.
    Nobody repairs it,
    For nobody wears it;
    It is a living way,
    As the Christians say.
Not many there be
  Who enter therein,
Only the guests of the
  Irishman Quin.
What is it, what is it,
  But a direction out there,
And the bare possibility
  Of going somewhere?
    Great guide-boards of stone,
    But travellers none;
    Cenotaphs of the towns
    Named on their crowns.
    It is worth going to see
    Where you _might_ be.
    What king
    Did the thing,
    I am still wondering;
    Set up how or when,
    By what selectmen,
    Gourgas or Lee,
    Clark or Darby?
    They're a great endeavor
    To be something forever;
    Blank tablets of stone,
    Where a traveller might groan,
    And in one sentence
    Grave all that is known;
    Which another might read,
    In his extreme need.
    I know one or two
    Lines that would do,
    Literature that might stand
    All over the land,
    Which a man could remember
    Till next December,
    And read again in the spring,
    After the thawing.
If with fancy unfurled
  You leave your abode,
You may go round the world
  By the Old Marlborough Road.

At present, in this vicinity, the best part of the land is not private
property; the landscape is not owned, and the walker enjoys comparative
freedom. But possibly the day will come when it will be partitioned off
into so-called pleasure-grounds, in which a few will take a narrow and
exclusive pleasure only,--when fences shall be multiplied, and man-traps
and other engines invented to confine men to the _public_ road, and
walking over the surface of God's earth shall be construed to mean
trespassing on some gentleman's grounds. To enjoy a thing exclusively is
commonly to exclude yourself from the true enjoyment of it. Let us improve
our opportunities, then, before the evil days come.

       *       *       *       *       *

What is it that makes it so hard sometimes to determine whither we will
walk? I believe that there is a subtile magnetism in Nature, which, if we
unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. It is not indifferent to
us which way we walk. There is a right way; but we are very liable from
heedlessness and stupidity to take the wrong one. We would fain take that
walk, never yet taken by us through this actual world, which is perfectly
symbolical of the path which we love to travel in the interior and ideal
world; and sometimes, no doubt, we find it difficult to choose our
direction, because it does not yet exist distinctly in our idea.

When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I will
bend my steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide for me, I find,
strange and whimsical as it may seem, that I finally and inevitably settle
southwest, toward some particular wood or meadow or deserted pasture or
hill in that direction. My needle is slow to settle,--varies a few
degrees, and does not always point due southwest, it is true, and it has
good authority for this 'variation, but it always settles between west and
south-southwest. The future lies that way to me, and the earth seems more
unexhausted and richer on that side. The outline which would bound my
walks would be, not a circle, but a parabola, or rather like one of those
cometary orbits which have been thought to be non-returning curves, in
this case opening westward, in which my house occupies the place of the
sun. I turn round and round irresolute sometimes for a quarter of an hour,
until I decide, for a thousandth time, that I will walk into the southwest
or west. Eastward I go only by force; but westward I go free. Thither no
business leads me. It is hard for me to believe that I shall find fair
landscapes or sufficient wildness and freedom behind the eastern horizon.
I am not excited by the prospect of a walk thither; but I believe that the
forest which I see in the western horizon stretches uninterruptedly toward
the setting sun, and there are no towns nor cities in it of enough
consequence to disturb me. Let me live where I will, on this side is the
city, on that the wilderness, and ever I am leaving the city more and
more, and withdrawing into the wilderness. I should not lay so much stress
on this fact, if I did not believe that something like this is the
prevailing tendency of my countrymen. I must walk toward Oregon, and not
toward Europe. And that way the nation is moving, and I may say that
mankind progress from east to west. Within a few years we have witnessed
the phenomenon of a southeastward migration, in the settlement of
Australia; but this affects us as a retrograde movement, and, judging from
the moral and physical character of the first generation of Australians,
has not yet proved a successful experiment. The eastern Tartars think that
there is nothing west beyond Thibet. "The world ends there," say they,
"beyond there is nothing but a shoreless sea." It is unmitigated East
where they live.

We go eastward to realize history and study the works of art and
literature, retracing the steps of the race; we go westward as into the
future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure. The Atlantic is a
Lethean stream, in our passage over which we have had an opportunity to
forget the Old World and its institutions. If we do not succeed this time,
there is perhaps one more chance for the race left before it arrives on
the banks of the Styx; and that is in the Lethe of the Pacific, which is
three times as wide.

I know not how significant it is, or how far it is an evidence of
singularity, that an individual should thus consent in his pettiest walk
with the general movement of the race; but I know that something akin to
the migratory instinct in birds and quadrupeds,--which, in some instances,
is known to have affected the squirrel tribe, impelling them to a general
and mysterious movement, in which they were seen, say some, crossing the
broadest rivers, each on its particular chip, with its tail raised for a
sail, and bridging narrower streams with their dead,--that something like
the _furor_ which affects the domestic cattle in the spring, and which is
referred to a worm in their tails,--affects both nations and individuals,
either perennially or from time to time. Not a flock of wild geese cackles
over our town, but it to some extent unsettles the value of real estate
here, and, if I were a broker, I should probably take that disturbance
into account.

  "Than longen folk to gon on pilgrimages,
   And palmeres for to seken strange strondes."

Every sunset which I witness inspires me with the desire to go to a West
as distant and as fair as that into which the sun goes down. He appears to
migrate westward daily, and tempt us to follow him. He is the Great
Western Pioneer whom the nations follow. We dream all night of those
mountain-ridges in the horizon, though they may be of vapor only, which
were last gilded by his rays. The island of Atlantis, and the islands and
gardens of the Hesperides, a sort of terrestrial paradise, appear to have
been the Great West of the ancients, enveloped in mystery and poetry. Who
has not seen in imagination, when looking into the sunset sky, the gardens
of the Hesperides, and the foundation of all those fables?

Columbus felt the westward tendency more strongly than any before. He
obeyed it, and found a New World for Castile and Leon. The herd of men in
those days scented fresh pastures from afar.

  "And now the sun had stretched out all the hills,
   And now was dropped into the western bay;
   At last _he_ rose, and twitched his mantle blue;
   To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new."

Where on the globe can there be found an area of equal extent with that
occupied by the bulk of our States, so fertile and so rich and varied in
its productions, and at the same time so habitable by the European, as
this is? Michaux, who knew but part of them, says that "the species of
large trees are much more numerous in North America than in Europe; in the
United States there are more than one hundred and forty species that
exceed thirty feet in height; in France there are but thirty that attain
this size." Later botanists more than confirm his observations. Humboldt
came to America to realize his youthful dreams of a tropical vegetation,
and he beheld it in its greatest perfection in the primitive forests of
the Amazon, the most gigantic wilderness on the earth, which he has so
eloquently described. The geographer Guyot, himself a European, goes
farther,--farther than I am ready to follow him; yet not when he says,--
"As the plant is made for the animal, as the vegetable world is made for
the animal world, America is made for the man of the Old World.... The man
of the Old World sets out upon his way. Leaving the highlands of Asia, he
descends from station to station towards Europe. Each of his steps is
marked by a new civilization superior to the preceding, by a greater power
of development. Arrived at the Atlantic, he pauses on the shore of this
unknown ocean, the bounds of which he knows not, and turns upon his
footprints for an instant." When he has exhausted the rich soil of Europe,
and reinvigorated himself, "then recommences his adventurous career
westward as in the earliest ages." So far Guyot.

From this western impulse coming in contact with the barrier of the
Atlantic sprang the commerce and enterprise of modern times. The younger
Michaux, in his "Travels West of the Alleghanies in 1802," says that the
common inquiry in the newly settled West was, "'From what part of the
world have you come?' As if these vast and fertile regions would naturally
be the place of meeting and common country of all the inhabitants of the
globe."

To use an obsolete Latin word, I might say, _Ex Oriente lux; ex Occidente
FRUX_. From the East light; from the West fruit.

Sir Francis, Head, an English traveller and a Governor-General of Canada,
tells us that "in both the northern and southern hemispheres of the New
World, Nature has not only outlined her works on a larger scale, but has
painted the whole picture with brighter and more costly colors than she
used in delineating and in beautifying the Old World.... The heavens of
America appear infinitely higher, the sky is bluer, the air is fresher,
the cold is intenser, the moon looks larger, the stars are brighter, the
thunder is louder, the lightning is vivider, the wind is stronger, the
rain is heavier, the mountains are higher, the rivers longer, the forests
bigger, the plains broader." This statement will do at least to set
against Buffon's account of this part of the world and its productions.

Linnaeus said long ago, "Nescio quae facies _laeta, glabra_ plantis
Americanis: I know not what there is of joyous and smooth in the aspect of
American plants;" and I think that in this country there are no, or at
most very few, _Africanae bestiae_, African beasts, as the Romans called
them, and that in this respect also it is peculiarly fitted for the
habitation of man. We are told that within three miles of the centre of
the East-Indian city of Singapore, some of the inhabitants are annually
carried off by tigers; but the traveller can lie down in the woods at
night almost anywhere in North America without fear of wild beasts.

These are encouraging testimonies. If the moon looks larger here than in
Europe, probably the sun looks larger also. If the heavens of America
appear infinitely higher, and the stars brighter, I trust that these facts
are symbolical of the height to which the philosophy and poetry and
religion of her inhabitants may one day soar. At length, perchance, the
immaterial heaven will appear as much higher to the American mind, and the
intimations that star it as much brighter. For I believe that climate does
thus react on man,--as there is something in the mountain-air that feeds
the spirit and inspires. Will not man grow to greater perfection
intellectually as well as physically under these influences? Or is it
unimportant how many foggy days there are in his life? I trust that we
shall be more imaginative, that our thoughts will be clearer, fresher, and
more ethereal, as our sky,--our understanding more comprehensive and
broader, like our plains,--our intellect generally on a grander scale,
like our thunder and lightning, our rivers and mountains and forests,--and
our hearts shall even correspond in breadth and depth and grandeur to our
inland seas. Perchance there will appear to the traveller something, he
knows not what, of _laeta_ and _glabra_, of joyous and serene, in our very
faces. Else to what end does the world go on, and why was America
discovered?

To Americans I hardly need to say,--

  "Westward the star of empire takes its way."

As a true patriot, I should be ashamed to think that Adam in paradise was
more favorably situated on the whole than the backwoodsman in this
country.

Our sympathies in Massachusetts are not confined to New England; though we
may be estranged from the South, we sympathize with the West. There is the
home of the younger sons, as among the Scandinavians they took to the sea
for their inheritance. It is too late to be studying Hebrew; it is more
important to understand even the slang of to-day.

Some months ago I went to see a panorama of the Rhine. It was like a dream
of the Middle Ages. I floated down its historic stream in something more
than imagination, under bridges built by the Romans, and repaired by later
heroes, past cities and castles whose very names were music to my ears,
and each of which was the subject of a legend. There were Ehrenbreitstein
and Rolandseck and Coblentz, which I knew only in history. They were ruins
that interested me chiefly. There seemed to come up from its waters and
its vine-clad hills and valleys a hushed music as of Crusaders departing
for the Holy Land. I floated along under the spell of enchantment, as if I
had been transported to an heroic age, and breathed an atmosphere of
chivalry.

Soon after, I went to see a panorama of the Mississippi, and as I worked
my way up the river in the light of to-day, and saw the steamboats wooding
up, counted the rising cities, gazed on the fresh ruins of Nauvoo, beheld
the Indians moving west across the stream, and, as before I had looked up
the Moselle now looked up the Ohio and the Missouri, and heard the legends
of Dubuque and of Wenona's Cliff,--still thinking more of the future than
of the past or present,--I saw that this was a Rhine stream of a different
kind; that the foundations of castles were yet to be laid, and the famous
bridges were yet to be thrown over the river; and I felt that _this was
the heroic age itself_, though we know it not, for the hero is commonly
the simplest and obscurest of men.

       *       *       *       *       *

The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I
have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the
World. Every tree sends its fibres forth in search of the Wild. The cities
import it at any price. Men plough and sail for it. From the forest and
wilderness come the tonics and barks which brace mankind. Our ancestors
were savages. The story of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf is
not a meaningless fable. The founders of every State which has risen to
eminence have drawn their nourishment and vigor from a similar wild
source. It was because the children of the Empire were not suckled by the
wolf that they were conquered and displaced by the children of the
Northern forests who were.

I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the
corn grows. We require an infusion of hemlock-spruce or arbor-vitae in our
tea. There is a difference between eating and drinking for strength and
from mere gluttony. The Hottentots eagerly devour the marrow of the koodoo
and other antelopes raw, as a matter of course. Some of our Northern
Indians eat raw the marrow of the Arctic reindeer, as well as various
other parts, including the summits of the antlers, as long as they are
soft. And herein, perchance, they have stolen a march on the cooks of
Paris. They get what usually goes to feed the fire. This is probably
better than stall-fed beef and slaughter-house pork to make a man of. Give
me a wildness whose glance no civilization can endure,--as if we lived on
the marrow of koodoos devoured raw.

There are some intervals which border the strain of the wood-thrush, to
which I would migrate,--wild lands where no settler has squatted; to
which, methinks, I am already acclimated.

The African hunter Cummings tells us that the skin of the eland, as well
as that of most other antelopes just killed, emits the most delicious
perfume of trees and grass. I would have every man so much like a wild
antelope, so much a part and parcel of Nature, that his very person should
thus sweetly advertise our senses of his presence, and remind us of those
parts of Nature which he most haunts. I feel no disposition to be
satirical, when the trapper's coat emits the odor of musquash even; it is
a sweeter scent to me than that which commonly exhales from the merchant's
or the scholar's garments. When I go into their wardrobes and handle their
vestments, I am reminded of no grassy plains and flowery meads which they
have frequented, but of dusty merchants' exchanges and libraries rather.

A tanned skin is something more than respectable, and perhaps olive is a
fitter color than white for a man,--a denizen of the woods. "The pale
white man!" I do not wonder that the African pitied him. Darwin the
naturalist says, "A white man bathing by the side of a Tahitian was like a
plant bleached by the gardener's art, compared with a fine, dark green
one, growing vigorously in the open fields."

Ben Jonson exclaims,--

  "How near to good is what is fair!"

So I would say,--

  How near to good is what is _wild_!

Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet
subdued to man, its presence refreshes him. One who pressed forward
incessantly and never rested from his labors, who grew fast and made
infinite demands on life, would always find himself in a new country or
wilderness, and surrounded by the raw material of life. He would be
climbing over the prostrate stems of primitive forest-trees.

Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in
towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps. When,
formerly, I have analyzed my partiality for some farm which I had
contemplated purchasing, I have frequently found that I was attracted
solely by a few square rods of impermeable and unfathomable bog,--a
natural sink in one corner of it. That was the jewel which dazzled me. I
derive more of my subsistence from the swamps which surround my native
town than from the cultivated gardens in the village. There are no richer
parterres to my eyes than the dense beds of dwarf andromeda _(Cassandra
calyculata_) which cover these tender places on the earth's surface.
Botany cannot go farther than tell me the names of the shrubs which grow
there,--the high-blueberry, panicled andromeda, lamb-kill, azalea, and
rhodora,--all standing in the quaking sphagnum. I often think that I
should like to have my house front on this mass of dull red bushes,
omitting other flower plots and borders, transplanted spruce and trim box,
even gravelled walks,--to have this fertile spot under my windows, not a
few imported barrow-fulls of soil only to cover the sand which was thrown
out in digging the cellar. Why not put my house, my parlor, behind this
plot, instead of behind that meagre assemblage of curiosities, that poor
apology for a Nature and Art, which I call my front-yard? It is an effort
to clear up and make a decent appearance when the carpenter and mason have
departed, though done as much for the passer-by as the dweller within. The
most tasteful front-yard fence was never an agreeable object of study to
me; the most elaborate ornaments, acorn-tops, or what not, soon wearied
and disgusted me. Bring your sills up to the very edge of the swamp, then,
(though it may not be the best place for a dry cellar,) so that there be
no access on that side to citizens. Front-yards are not made to walk in,
but, at most, through, and you could go in the back way.

Yes, though you may think me perverse, if it were proposed to me to dwell
in the neighborhood of the most beautiful garden that ever human art
contrived, or else of a Dismal swamp, I should certainly decide for the
swamp. How vain, then, have been all your labors, citizens, for me!

My spirits infallibly rise in proportion to the outward dreariness. Give
me the ocean, the desert or the wilderness! In the desert, pure air and
solitude compensate for want of moisture and fertility. The traveller
Burton says of it,--"Your _morale_ improves; you become frank and cordial,
hospitable and single-minded..... In the desert, spirituous liquors excite
only disgust. There is a keen enjoyment in a mere animal existence." They
who have been travelling long on the steppes of Tartary say,--"On
reëntering cultivated lands, the agitation, perplexity, and turmoil of
civilization oppressed and suffocated us; the air seemed to fail us, and
we felt every moment as if about to die of asphyxia." When I would
recreate myself, I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and most
interminable, and, to the citizen, most dismal swamp. I enter a swamp as a
sacred place,--a _sanctum sanctorum_. There is the strength, the marrow of
Nature. The wild-wood covers the virgin mould,--and the same soil is good
for men and for trees. A man's health requires as many acres of meadow to
his prospect as his farm does loads of muck. There are the strong meats on
which he feeds. A town is saved, not more by the righteous men in it than
by the woods and swamps that surround it. A township where one primitive
forest waves above, while another primitive forest rots below,--such a
town is fitted to raise not only corn and potatoes, but poets and
philosophers for the coming ages. In such a soil grew Homer and Confucius
and the rest, and out of such a wilderness comes the Reformer eating
locusts and wild honey.

To preserve wild animals implies generally the creation of a forest for
them to dwell in or resort to. So it is with man. A hundred years ago they
sold bark in our streets peeled from our own woods. In the very aspect of
those primitive and rugged trees, there was, methinks, a tanning principle
which hardened and consolidated the fibres of men's thoughts. Ah! already
I shudder for these comparatively degenerate days of my native village,
when you cannot collect a load of bark of good thickness,--and we no
longer produce tar and turpentine.

The civilized nations--Greece, Rome, England--have been sustained by the
primitive forests which anciently rotted where they stand. They survive as
long as the soil is not exhausted. Alas for human culture! little is to be
expected of a nation, when the vegetable mould is exhausted, and it is
compelled to make manure of the bones of its fathers. There the poet
sustains himself merely by his own superfluous fat, and the philosopher
comes down on his marrow-bones.

It is said to be the task of the American "to work the virgin soil," and
that "agriculture here already assumes proportions unknown everywhere
else." I think that the farmer displaces the Indian even because he
redeems the meadow, and so makes himself stronger and in some respects
more natural. I was surveying for a man the other day a single straight
line one hundred and thirty-two rods long, through a swamp, at whose
entrance might have been written the words which Dante read over the
entrance to the infernal regions,--"Leave all hope, ye that enter,"--that
is, of ever getting out again; where at one time I saw my employer
actually up to his neck and swimming for his life in his property, though
it was still winter. He had another similar swamp which I could not survey
at all, because it was completely under water, and nevertheless, with
regard to a third swamp, which I did _survey_ from a distance, he remarked
to me, true to his instincts, that he would not part with it for any
consideration, on account of the mud which it contained. And that man
intends to put a girdling ditch round the whole in the course of forty
months, and so redeem it by the magic of his spade. I refer to him only as
the type of a class.

The weapons with which we have gained our most important victories, which
should be handed down as heirlooms from father to son, are not the sword
and the lance, but the bushwhack, the turf-cutter, the spade, and the
bog-hoe, rusted with the blood of many a meadow, and begrimed with the
dust of many a hard-fought field. The very winds blew the Indian's
cornfield into the meadow, and pointed out the way which he had not the
skill to follow. He had no better implement with which to intrench himself
in the land than a clam-shell. But the farmer is armed with plough and
spade.

In Literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is but
another name for tameness. It is the uncivilized free and wild thinking in
"Hamlet" and the "Iliad," in all the Scriptures and Mythologies, not
learned in the schools, that delights us. As the wild duck is more swift
and beautiful than the tame, so is the wild--the mallard--thought, which
'mid falling dews wings its way above the fens. A truly good book is
something as natural, and as unexpectedly and unaccountably fair and
perfect, as a wild flower discovered on the prairies of the West or in the
jungles of the East. Genius is a light which makes the darkness visible,
like the lightning's flash, which perchance shatters the temple of
knowledge itself,--and not a taper lighted at the hearth-stone of the
race, which pales before the light of common day.

English literature, from the days of the minstrels to the Lake Poets,--
Chaucer and Spenser and Milton, and even Shakspeare, included,--breathes
no quite fresh and in this sense wild strain. It is an essentially tame
and civilized literature, reflecting Greece and Rome. Her wilderness is a
green wood,--her wild man a Robin Hood. There is plenty of genial love of
Nature, but not so much of Nature herself. Her chronicles inform us when
her wild animals, but not when the wild man in her, became extinct.

The science of Humboldt is one thing, poetry is another thing. The poet
to-day, notwithstanding all the discoveries of science, and the
accumulated learning of mankind, enjoys no advantage over Homer.

Where is the literature which gives expression to Nature? He would be a
poet who could impress the winds and streams into his service, to speak
for him; who nailed words to their primitive senses, as farmers drive down
stakes in the spring, which the frost has heaved; who derived his words as
often as he used them,--transplanted them to his page with earth adhering
to their roots; whose words were so true and fresh and natural that they
would appear to expand like the buds at the approach of spring, though
they lay half-smothered between two musty leaves in a library,--ay, to
bloom and bear fruit there, after their kind, annually, for the faithful
reader, in sympathy with surrounding Nature.

I do not know of any poetry to quote which adequately expresses this
yearning for the Wild. Approached from this side, the best poetry is tame.
I do not know where to find in any literature, ancient or modern, any
account which contents me of that Nature with which even I am acquainted.
You will perceive that I demand something which no Augustan nor
Elizabethan age, which no _culture_, in short, can give. Mythology comes
nearer to it than anything. How much more fertile a Nature, at least, has
Grecian mythology its root in than English literature! Mythology is the
crop which the Old World bore before its soil was exhausted, before the
fancy and imagination were affected with blight; and which it still bears,
wherever its pristine vigor is unabated. All other literatures endure only
as the elms which overshadow our houses; but this is like the great
dragon-tree of the Western Isles, as old as mankind, and, whether that
does or not, will endure as long; for the decay of other literatures makes
the soil in which it thrives.

The West is preparing to add its fables to those of the East. The valleys
of the Ganges, the Nile, and the Rhine, having yielded their crop, it
remains to be seen what the valleys of the Amazon, the Plate, the Orinoco,
the St. Lawrence, and the Mississippi will produce. Perchance, when, in
the course of ages, American liberty has become a fiction of the past,--as
it is to some extent a fiction of the present,--the poets of the world
will be inspired by American mythology.

The wildest dreams of wild men, even, are not the less true, though they
may not recommend themselves to the sense which is most common among
Englishmen and Americans today. It is not every truth that recommends
itself to the common sense. Nature has a place for the wild clematis as
well as for the cabbage. Some expressions of truth are reminiscent,--
others merely _sensible_, as the phrase is,--others prophetic. Some forms
of disease, even, may prophesy forms of health. The geologist has
discovered that the figures of serpents, griffins, flying dragons, and
other fanciful embellishments of heraldry, have their prototypes in the
forms of fossil species which were extinct before man was created, and
hence "indicate a faint and shadowy knowledge of a previous state of
organic existence." The Hindoos dreamed that the earth rested on an
elephant, and the elephant on a tortoise, and the tortoise on a serpent;
and though it may be an unimportant coincidence, it will not be out of
place here to state, that a fossil tortoise has lately been discovered in
Asia large enough to support an elephant. I confess that I am partial to
these wild fancies, which transcend the order of time and development.
They are the sublimest recreation of the intellect. The partridge loves
peas, but not those that go with her into the pot.

In short, all good things are wild and free. There is something in
a strain of music, whether produced by an instrument or by the human
voice,--take the sound of a bugle in a summer night, for instance,--which
by its wildness, to speak without satire, reminds me of the cries emitted
by wild beasts in their native forests. It is so much of their wildness as
I can understand. Give me for my friends and neighbors wild men, not tame
ones. The wildness of the savage is but a faint symbol of the awful ferity
with which good men and lovers meet.

I love even to see the domestic animals reassert their native rights,--any
evidence that they have not wholly lost their original wild habits and
vigor; as when my neighbor's cow breaks out of her pasture early in the
spring and boldly swims the river, a cold, gray tide, twenty-five or
thirty rods wide, swollen by the melted snow. It is the buffalo crossing
the Mississippi. This exploit confers some dignity on the herd in my
eyes,--already dignified. The seeds of instinct are preserved under the
thick hides of cattle and horses, like seeds in the bowels of the earth,
an indefinite period.

Any sportiveness in cattle is unexpected. I saw one day a herd of a dozen
bullocks and cows running about and frisking in unwieldly sport, like huge
rats, even like kittens. They shook their heads, raised their tails, and
rushed up and down a hill, and I perceived by their horns, as well as by
their activity, their relation to the deer tribe. But, alas! a sudden loud
_Whoa_! would have damped their ardor at once, reduced them from venison
to beef, and stiffened their sides and sinews like the locomotive. Who but
the Evil One has cried, "Whoa!" to mankind? Indeed, the life of cattle,
like that of many men, is but a sort of locomotiveness; they move a side
at a time, and man, by his machinery, is meeting the horse and the ox
half-way. Whatever part the whip has touched is thenceforth palsied. Who
would ever think of a _side_ of any of the supple cat tribe, as we speak
of a _side_ of beef?

I rejoice that horses and steers have to be broken before they can be made
the slaves of men, and that men themselves have some, wild oats still left
to sow before they become submissive members of society. Undoubtedly, all
men are not equally fit subjects for civilization; and because the
majority, like dogs and sheep, are tame by inherited disposition, this is
no reason why the others should have their natures broken that they may be
reduced to the same level. Men are in the main alike, but they were made
several in order that they might be various. If a low use is to be served,
one man will do nearly or quite as well as another; if a high one,
individual excellence is to be regarded. Any man can stop a hole to keep
the wind away, but no other man could serve so rare a use as the author of
this illustration did. Confucius says,--"The skins of the tiger and the
leopard, when they are tanned, are as the skins of the dog and the sheep
tanned." But it is not the part of a true culture to tame tigers, any more
than it is to make sheep ferocious; and tanning their skins for shoes is
not the best use to which they can be put.

When looking over a list of men's names in a foreign language, as of
military officers, or of authors who have written on a particular subject,
I am reminded once more that there is nothing in a name. The name
Menschikoff, for instance, has nothing in it to my ears more human than a
whisker, and it may belong to a rat. As the names of the Poles and
Russians are to us, so are ours to them. It is as if they had been named
by the child's rigmarole,--_Iery wiery ichery van, tittle-tol-tan._ I see
in my mind a herd of wild creatures swarming over the earth, and to each
the herdsman has affixed some barbarous sound in his own dialect. The
names of men are of course as cheap and meaningless as _Bose_ and _Tray_,
the names of dogs.

Methinks it would be some advantage to philosophy, if men were named
merely in the gross, as they are known. It would be necessary only to know
the genus and perhaps the race or variety, to know the individual. We are
not prepared to believe that every private soldier in a Roman army had a
name of his own,--because we have not supposed that he had a character of
his own. At present our only true names are nicknames. I knew a boy who,
from his peculiar energy, was called "Buster" by his playmates, and this
rightly supplanted his Christian name. Some travellers tell us that an
Indian had no name given him at first, but earned it, and his name was his
fame; and among some tribes he acquired a new name with every new exploit.
It is pitiful when a man bears a name for convenience merely, who has
earned neither name nor fame.

I will not allow mere names to make distinctions for me, but still see men
in herds for all them. A familiar name cannot make a man less strange to
me. It may be given to a savage who retains in secret his own wild title
earned in the woods. We have a wild savage in us, and a savage name is
perchance somewhere recorded as ours. I see that my neighbor, who bears
the familiar epithet William, or Edwin, takes it off with his jacket. It
does not adhere to him when asleep or in anger, or aroused by any passion
or inspiration. I seem to hear pronounced by some of his kin at such a
time his original wild name in some jaw-breaking or else melodious tongue.

Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours, Nature, lying all
around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as the
leopard; and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to society, to
that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man,--a sort of
breeding in and in, which produces at most a merely English nobility, a
civilization destined to have a speedy limit.

In society, in the best institutions of men, it is easy to detect a
certain precocity. When we should still be growing children, we are
already little men. Give me a culture which imports much muck from the
meadows, and deepens the soil,--not that which trusts to heating manures,
and improved implements and modes of culture only!

Many a poor sore-eyed student that I have heard of would grow faster, both
intellectually and physically, if, instead of sitting up so very late, he
honestly slumbered a fool's allowance.

There may be an excess even of informing light. Niépce, a Frenchman,
discovered "actinism," that power in the sun's rays which produces a
chemical effect,--that granite rocks, and stone structures, and statues of
metal, "are all alike destructively acted upon during the hours of
sunshine, and, but for provisions of Nature no less wonderful, would soon
perish under the delicate touch of the most subtile of the agencies of
the universe." But he observed that "those bodies which underwent this
change during the daylight possessed the power of restoring themselves to
their original conditions during the hours of night, when this excitement
was no-longer influencing them." Hence it has been inferred that "the
hours of darkness are as necessary to the inorganic creation as we know
night and sleep are to the organic kingdom." Not even does the moon shine
every night, but gives place to darkness.

I would not have every man nor every part of a man cultivated, any more
than I would have every acre of earth cultivated: part will be tillage,
but the greater part will be meadow and forest, not only serving an
immediate use, but preparing a mould against a distant future, by the
annual decay of the vegetation which it supports.

There are other letters for the child to learn than those which Cadmus
invented. The Spaniards have a good term to express this wild and dusky
knowledge,--_Gramática parda_, tawny grammar,--a kind of mother-wit
derived from that same leopard to which I have referred.

We have heard of a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. It is
said that knowledge is power; and the like. Methinks there is equal need
of a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Ignorance, what we will call
Beautiful Knowledge, a knowledge useful in a higher sense: for what is
most of our boasted so-called knowledge but a conceit that we know
something, which robs us of the advantage of our actual ignorance? What we
call knowledge is often our positive ignorance; ignorance our negative
knowledge. By long years of patient industry and reading of the
newspapers,--for what are the libraries of science but files of
newspapers?--a man accumulates a myriad facts, lays them up in his memory,
and then when in some spring of his life he saunters abroad into the Great
Fields of thought, he, as it were, goes to grass like a horse, and leaves
all his harness behind in the stable. I would say to the Society for the
Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, sometimes,--Go to grass. You have eaten hay
long enough. The spring has come with its green crop. The very cows are
driven to their country pastures before the end of May; though I have
heard of one unnatural farmer who kept his cow in the barn and fed her on
hay all the year round. So, frequently, the Society for the Diffusion of
Useful Knowledge treats its cattle.

A man's ignorance sometimes is not only useful, but beautiful,--while his
knowledge, so called, is oftentimes worse than useless, besides being
ugly. Which is the best man to deal with,--he who knows nothing about a
subject, and, what is extremely rare, knows that he knows nothing, or he
who really knows something about it, but thinks that he knows all?

My desire for knowledge is intermittent; but my desire to bathe my head in
atmospheres unknown to my feet is perennial and constant. The highest that
we can attain to is not Knowledge, but Sympathy with Intelligence. I do
not know that this higher knowledge amounts to anything more definite than
a novel and grand surprise on a sudden revelation of the insufficiency of
all that we called Knowledge before,--a discovery that there are more
things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy. It is
the lighting up of the mist by the sun. Man cannot _know_ in any higher
sense than this, any more than he can look serenely and with impunity in
the face of sun: [Greek: 'Os thi noon, ou keiuou uoaeseis],--"You will not
perceive that, as perceiving a particular thing," say the Chaldean
Oracles.

There is something servile in the habit of seeking after a law which we
may obey. We may study the laws of matter at and for our convenience, but
a successful life knows no law. It is an unfortunate discovery certainly,
that of a law which binds us where we did not know before that we were
bound. Live free, child of the mist,--and with respect to knowledge we are
all children of the mist. The man who takes the liberty to live is
superior to all the laws, by virtue of his relation to the law-maker.
"That is active duty," says the Vishnu Parana, "which is not for our
bondage; that is knowledge which is for our liberation: all other duty is
good only unto weariness; all other knowledge is only the cleverness of an
artist."

       *       *       *       *       *

It is remarkable how few events or crises there are in our histories; how
little exercised we have been in our minds; how few experiences we have
had. I would fain be assured that I am growing apace and rankly, though my
very growth disturb this dull equanimity,--though it be with struggle
through long, dark, muggy nights or seasons of gloom. It would be well, if
all our lives were a divine tragedy even, instead of this trivial comedy
or farce. Dante, Bunyan, and others, appear to have been exercised in
their minds more than we: they were subjected to a kind of culture such as
our district schools and colleges do not contemplate. Even Mahomet, though
many may scream at his name, had a good deal more to live for, ay, and to
die for, than they have commonly.

When, at rare intervals, some thought visits one, as perchance he is
walking on a railroad, then indeed the cars go by without his hearing
them. But soon, by some inexorable law, our life goes by and the cars
return.

  "Gentle breeze, that wanderest unseen,
   And bendest the thistles round Loira of storms,
   Traveller of the windy glens,
   Why hast thou left my ear so soon?"

While almost all men feel an attraction drawing them to society, few are
attracted strongly to Nature. In their relation to Nature men appear to me
for the most part, notwithstanding their arts, lower than the animals. It
is not often a beautiful relation, as in the case of the animals. How
little appreciation of the beauty of the landscape there is among us! We
have to be told that the Greeks called the world [Greek: Kosmos], Beauty,
or Order, but we do not see clearly why they did so, and we esteem it at
best only a curious philological fact.

For my part, I feel that with regard to Nature I live a sort of border
life, on the confines of a world into which I make occasional and
transional and transient forays only, and my patriotism and allegiance
to the State into whose territories I seem to retreat are those of a
moss-trooper. Unto a life which I call natural I would gladly follow even
a will-o'-the-wisp through bogs and sloughs unimaginable, but no moon nor
fire-fly has shown me the causeway to it. Nature is a personality so vast
and universal that we have never seen one of her features. The walker in
the familiar fields which stretch around my native town sometimes finds
himself in another land than is described in their owners' deeds, as it
were in some far-away field on the confines of the actual Concord, where
her jurisdiction ceases, and the idea which the word Concord suggests
ceases to be suggested. These farms which I have myself surveyed, these
bounds which I have set up, appear dimly still as through a mist; but they
have no chemistry to fix them; they fade from the surface of the glass;
and the picture which the painter painted stands out dimly from beneath.
The world with which we are commonly acquainted leaves no trace, and it
will have no anniversary.

I took a walk on Spaulding's Farm the other afternoon. I saw the setting
sun lighting up the opposite side of a stately pine wood. Its golden rays
straggled into the aisles of the wood as into some noble hall. I was
impressed as if some ancient and altogether admirable and shining family
had settled there in that part of the land called Concord, unknown to
me,--to whom the sun was servant,--who had not gone into society in
the village,--who had not been called on. I saw their park, their
pleasure-ground, beyond through the wood, in Spaulding's cranberry-meadow.
The pines furnished them with gables as they grew. Their house was not
obvious, to vision; the trees grew through it. I do not know whether I
heard the sounds of a suppressed hilarity or not. They seemed to recline
on the sunbeams. They have sons and daughters. They are quite well. The
farmer's cart-path, which leads directly through their hall, does not in
the least put them out,--as the muddy bottom of a pool is sometimes seen
through the reflected skies. They never heard of Spaulding, and do not
know that he is their neighbor,--notwithstanding I heard him whistle as he
drove his team through the house. Nothing can equal the serenity of their
lives. Their coat of arms is simply a lichen. I saw it painted on the
pines and oaks. Their attics were in the tops of the trees. They are of no
politics. There was no noise of labor. I did not perceive that they were
weaving or spinning. Yet I did detect, when the wind lulled and hearing
was done away, the finest imaginable sweet musical hum,--as of a distant
hive in May, which perchance was the sound of their thinking. They had no
idle thoughts, and no one without could see their work, for their industry
was not as in knots and excrescences embayed.

But I find it difficult to remember them. They fade irrevocably out of my
mind even now while I speak and endeavor to recall them, and recollect
myself. It is only after a long and serious effort to recollect my best
thoughts that I become again aware of their cohabitancy. If it were not
for such families as this, I think I should move out of Concord.

       *       *       *       *       *

We are accustomed to say in New England that few and fewer pigeons visit
us every year. Our forests furnish no mast for them. So, it would seem,
few and fewer thoughts visit each growing man from year to year, for the
grove in our minds is laid waste,--sold to feed unnecessary fires of
ambition, or sent to mill, and there is scarcely a twig left for them to
perch on. They no longer build nor breed with us. In some more genial
season, perchance, a faint shadow flits across the landscape of the mind,
cast by the _wings_ of some thought in its vernal or autumnal migration,
but, looking up, we are unable to detect the substance of the thought
itself. Our winged thoughts are turned to poultry. They no longer soar,
and they attain only to a Shanghai and Cochin-China grandeur. Those
_gra-a-ate thoughts_, those _gra-a-ate men_ you hear of!

       *       *       *       *       *

We hug the earth,--how rarely we mount! Methinks we might elevate
ourselves a little more. We might climb a tree, at least. I found my
account in climbing a tree once. It was a tall white pine, on the top of a
hill; and though I got well pitched, I was well paid for it, for I
discovered new mountains in the horizon which I had never seen before,--so
much more of the earth and the heavens. I might have walked about the foot
of the tree for threescore years and ten, and yet I certainly should never
have seen them. But, above all, I discovered around me,--it was near the
end of June,--on the ends of the topmost branches only, a few minute and
delicate red cone-like blossoms, the fertile flower of the white pine
looking heavenward. I carried straightway to the village the topmost
spire, and showed it to stranger jurymen who walked the streets,--for it
was court-week,--and to farmers and lumber-dealers and wood-choppers and
hunters, and not one had ever seen the like before, but they wondered as
at a star dropped down. Tell of ancient architects finishing their works
on the tops of columns as perfectly as on the lower and more visible
parts! Nature has from the first expanded the minute blossoms of the
forest only toward the heavens, above men's heads and unobserved by them.
We see only the flowers that are under our feet in the meadows. The pines
have developed their delicate blossoms on the highest twigs of the wood
every summer for ages, as well over the heads of Nature's red children as
of her white ones; yet scarcely a farmer or hunter in the land has ever
seen them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Above all, we cannot afford not to live in the present. He is blessed over
all mortals who loses no moment of the passing life in remembering the
past. Unless our philosophy hears the cock crow in every barn-yard within
our horizon, it is belated. That sound commonly reminds us that we are
growing rusty and antique in our employments and habits of thought. His
philosophy comes down to a more recent time than ours. There is something
suggested by it that is a newer testament,--the gospel according to this
moment. He has not fallen astern; he has got up early, and kept up early,
and to be where he is to be in season, in the foremost rank of time. It is
an expression of the health and soundness of Nature, a brag for all the
world,--healthiness as of a spring burst forth, a new fountain of the
Muses, to celebrate this last instant of time. Where he lives no fugitive
slave laws are passed. Who has not betrayed his master many times since
last he heard that note?

The merit of this bird's strain is in its freedom from all plaintiveness.
The singer can easily move us to tears or to laughter, but where is he who
can excite in us a pure morning joy? When, in doleful dumps, breaking the
awful stillness of our wooden sidewalk on a Sunday, or, perchance, a
watcher in the house of mourning, I hear a cockerel crow far or near, I
think to myself, "There is one of us well, at any rate,"--and with a
sudden gush return to my senses.

We had a remarkable sunset one day last November. I was walking in a
meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, just before
setting, after a cold gray day, reached a clear stratum in the horizon,
and the softest, brightest morning sunlight fell on the dry grass and on
the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon, and on the leaves of the
shrub-oaks on the hill-side, while our shadows stretched long over the
meadow eastward, as if we were the only motes in its beams. It was such a
light as we could not have imagined a moment before, and the air also was
so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradise of that
meadow. When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon, never
to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever an infinite
number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the latest child that walked
there, it was more glorious still.

The sun sets on some retired meadow, where no house is visible, with all
the glory and splendor that it lavishes on cities, and perchance, as it
has never set before,--where there is but a solitary marsh-hawk to have
his wings gilded by it, or only a musquash looks out from his cabin, and
there is some little black-veined brook in the midst of the marsh, just
beginning to meander, winding slowly round a decaying stump. We walked in
so pure and bright a light, gilding the withered grass and leaves, so
softly and serenely bright, I thought I had never bathed in such a golden
flood, without a ripple or a murmur to it. The west side of every wood and
rising ground gleamed like the boundary of Elysium, and the sun on our
backs seemed like a gentle herdsman driving us home at evening.

So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more
brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and
hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm
and serene and golden as on a bank-side in autumn.



AUTUMNAL TINTS.

[1862.]


Europeans coming to America are surprised by the brilliancy of our
autumnal foliage. There is no account of such a phenomenon in English
poetry, because the trees acquire but few bright colors there. The most
that Thomson says on this subject in his "Autumn" is contained in the
lines,--

  "But see the fading many-colored woods,
   Shade deepening over shade, the country round
   Imbrown; a crowded umbrage, dusk and dun,
   Of every hue, from wan declining green to sooty dark":--

and in the line in which he speaks of

         "Autumn beaming o'er the yellow woods."

The autumnal change of our woods has not made a deep impression on our own
literature yet. October has hardly tinged our poetry.

A great many, who have spent their lives in cities, and have never chanced
to come into the country at this season, have never seen this, the flower,
or rather the ripe fruit, of the year. I remember riding with one such
citizen, who, though a fortnight too, late for the most brilliant tints,
was taken by surprise, and would not believe that there had been any
brighter. He had never heard of this phenomenon before. Not only many in
our towns have never witnessed it, but it is scarcely remembered by the
majority from year to year.

Most appear to confound changed leaves with withered ones, as if they were
to confound ripe apples with rotten ones. I think that the change to some
higher color in a leaf is an evidence that it has arrived at a late and
perfect maturity, answering to the maturity of fruits. It is generally the
lowest and oldest leaves which change first. But as the perfect winged and
usually bright-colored insect is short-lived, so the leaves ripen but to
fall.

Generally, every fruit, on ripening, and just before it falls, when it
commences a more independent and individual existence, requiring less
nourishment from any source, and that not so much from the earth through
its stem as from the sun and air, acquires a bright tint. So do leaves.
The physiologist says it is "due to an increased absorption of oxygen."
That is the scientific account of the matter,--only a reassertion of the
fact. But I am more interested in the rosy cheek than I am to know what
particular diet the maiden fed on. The very forest and herbage, the
pellicle of the earth, must acquire a bright color, an evidence of its
ripeness,--as if the globe itself were a fruit on its stem, with ever a
cheek toward the sun.

Flowers are but colored leaves, fruits but ripe ones. The edible part of
most fruits is, as the physiologist says, "the parenchyma or fleshy tissue
of the leaf," of which they are formed.

Our appetites have commonly confined our views of ripeness and its
phenomena, color, mellowness, and perfectness, to the fruits which we eat,
and we are wont to forget that an immense harvest which we do not eat,
hardly use at all, is annually ripened by Nature. At our annual Cattle
Shows and Horticultural Exhibitions, we make, as we think, a great show of
fair fruits, destined, however, to a rather ignoble end, fruits not valued
for their beauty chiefly. But round about and within our towns there is
annually another show of fruits, on an infinitely grander scale, fruits
which address our taste for beauty alone.

October is the month for painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round
the world. As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint
just before they fall, so the year near its setting. October is its sunset
sky; November the later twilight.

I formerly thought that it would be worth the while to get a specimen leaf
from each changing tree, shrub, and herbaceous plant, when it had acquired
its brightest characteristic color, in its transition from the green to
the brown state, outline it, and copy its color exactly, with paint in a
book, which should be entitled, "_October, or Autumnal Tints_";--beginning
with the earliest reddening,--Woodbine and the lake of radical leaves, and
coming down through the Maples, Hickories, and Sumachs, and many
beautifully freckled leaves less generally known, to the latest Oaks and
Aspens. What a memento such a book would be! You would need only to turn
over its leaves to take a ramble through the autumn woods whenever you
pleased. Or if I could preserve the leaves themselves, unfaded, it would
be better still. I have made but little progress toward such a book, but I
have endeavored, instead, to describe all these bright tints in the order
in which they present themselves. The following are some extracts from my
notes.

THE PURPLE GRASSES.

By the twentieth of August, everywhere in woods and swamps, we are
reminded of the fall, both by the richly spotted Sarsaparilla-leaves and
Brakes, and the withering and blackened Skunk-Cabbage and Hellebore, and,
by the river-side, the already blackening Pontederia.

The Purple Grass (_Eragrostis pectinacea_) is now in the height of its
beauty. I remember still when I first noticed this grass particularly.
Standing on a hillside near our river, I saw, thirty or forty rods off, a
stripe of purple half a dozen rods long, under the edge of a wood, where
the ground sloped toward a meadow. It was as high-colored and interesting,
though not quite so bright, as the patches of Rhexia, being a darker
purple, like a berry's stain laid on close and thick. On going to and
examining it, I found it to be a kind of grass in bloom, hardly a foot
high, with but few green blades, and a fine spreading panicle of purple
flowers, a shallow, purplish mist trembling around me. Close at hand it
appeared but a dull purple, and made little impression on the eye; it was
even difficult to detect; and if you plucked a single plant, you were
surprised to find how thin it was, and how little color it had. But viewed
at a distance in a favorable light, it was of a fine lively purple,
flower-like, enriching the earth. Such puny causes combine to produce
these decided effects. I was the more surprised and charmed because grass
is commonly of a sober and humble color.

With its beautiful purple blush it reminds me, and supplies the place, of
the Rhexia, which is now leaving off, and it is one of the most
interesting phenomena of August. The finest patches of it grow on waste
strips or selvages of land at the base of dry hills, just above the edge
of the meadows, where the greedy mower does not deign to swing his scythe;
for this is a thin and poor grass, beneath his notice. Or, it may be,
because it is so beautiful he does not know that it exists; for the same
eye does not see this and Timothy. He carefully gets the meadow hay and
the more nutritious grasses which grow next to that, but he leaves this
fine purple mist for the walker's harvest,--fodder for his fancy stock.
Higher up the hill, perchance, grow also Blackberries, John's-Wort, and
neglected, withered, and wiry June-Grass. How fortunate that it grows in
such places, and not in the midst of the rank grasses which are annually
cut! Nature thus keeps use and beauty distinct. I know many such
localities, where it does not fail to present itself annually, and paint
the earth with its blush. It grows on the gentle slopes, either in a
continuous patch or in scattered and rounded tufts a foot in diameter, and
it lasts till it is killed by the first smart frosts.

In most plants the corolla or calyx is the part which attains the highest
color, and is the most attractive; in many it is the seed-vessel or fruit;
in others, as the Red Maple, the leaves; and in others still it is the
very culm itself which is the principal flower or blooming part.

The last is especially the case with the Poke or Garget (_Phytolacca
decandra_). Some which stand under our cliffs quite dazzle me with their
purple stems now and early in September. They are as interesting to me as
most flowers, and one of the most important fruits of our autumn. Every
part is flower, (or fruit,) such is its superfluity of color,--stem,
branch, peduncle, pedicel, petiole, and even the at length yellowish
purple-veined leaves. Its cylindrical racemes of berries of various hues,
from green to dark purple, six or seven inches long, are gracefully
drooping on all sides, offering repasts to the birds; and even the sepals
from which the birds have picked the berries are a brilliant lake-red,
with crimson flame-like reflections, equal to anything of the kind,--all
on fire with ripeness. Hence the _lacca_, from _lac_, lake. There are at
the same time flower-buds, flowers, green berries, dark purple or ripe
ones, and these flower-like sepals, all on the same plant.

We love to see any redness in the vegetation of the temperate zone. It is
the color of colors. This plant speaks to our blood. It asks a bright sun
on it to make it show to best advantage, and it must be seen at this
season of the year. On warm hillsides its stems are ripe by the
twenty-third of August. At that date I walked through a beautiful grove of
them, six or seven feet high, on the side of one of our cliffs, where they
ripen early. Quite to the ground they were a deep brilliant purple with a
bloom, contrasting with the still clear green leaves. It appears a rare
triumph of Nature to have produced and perfected such a plant, as if this
were enough for a summer. What a perfect maturity it arrives at! It is the
emblem of a successful life concluded by a death not premature, which is
an ornament to Nature. What if we were to mature as perfectly, root and
branch, glowing in the midst of our decay, like the Poke! I confess that
it excites me to behold them. I cut one for a cane, for I would fain
handle and lean on it. I love to press the berries between my fingers, and
see their juice staining my hand. To walk amid these upright, branching
casks of purple wine, which retain and diffuse a sunset glow, tasting each
one with your eye, instead of counting the pipes on a London dock, what a
privilege! For Nature's vintage is not confined to the vine. Our poets
have sung of wine, the product of a foreign plant which commonly they
never saw, as if our own plants had no juice in them more than the
singers. Indeed, this has been called by some the American Grape, and,
though a native of America, its juices are used in some foreign countries
to improve the color of the wine; so that the poetaster may be celebrating
the virtues of the Poke without knowing it. Here are berries enough to
paint afresh the western sky, and play the bacchanal with, if you will.
And what flutes its ensanguined stems would make, to be used in such a
dance! It is truly a royal plant. I could spend the evening of the year
musing amid the Poke-stems. And perchance amid these groves might arise at
last a new school of philosophy or poetry. It lasts all through September.

At the same time with this, or near the end of August, a to me very
interesting genus of grasses, Andropogons, or Beard-Grasses, is in
its prime. _Andropogon furcatus_, Forked Beard-Grass, or call it
Purple-Fingered Grass; _Andropogon scoparius,_ Purple Wood Grass; and
_Andropogon_ (now called _Sorghum_) _nutans_, Indian-Grass. The first is a
very tall and slender-culmed grass, three to seven feet high, with four or
five purple finger-like spikes raying upward from the top. The second is
also quite slender, growing in tufts two feet high by one wide, with culms
often somewhat curving, which, as the spikes go out of bloom, have a
whitish fuzzy look. These two are prevailing grasses at this season on
dry and sandy fields and hillsides. The culms of both, not to mention
their pretty flowers, reflect a purple tinge, and help to declare the
ripeness of the year. Perhaps I have the more sympathy with them because
they are despised by the farmer, and occupy sterile and neglected soil.
They are high-colored, like ripe grapes, and express a maturity which the
spring did not suggest. Only the August sun could have thus burnished
these culms and leaves. The farmer has long since done his upland haying,
and he will not condescend to bring his scythe to where these slender wild
grasses have at length flowered thinly; you often see spaces of bare sand
amid them. But I walk encouraged between the tufts of Purple Wood-Grass,
over the sandy fields, and along the edge of the Shrub-Oaks, glad to
recognize these simple contemporaries. With thoughts cutting a broad
swathe I "get" them, with horse-raking thoughts I gather them into
windrows. The fine-eared poet may hear the whetting of my scythe. These
two were almost the first grasses that I learned to distinguish, for I had
not known by how many friends I was surrounded,--I had seen them simply as
grasses standing. The purple of their culms also excites me like that of
the Poke-Weed stems.

Think what refuge there is for one, before August is over, from college
commencements and society that isolates! I can skulk amid the tufts
of Purple Wood-Grass on the borders of the "Great Fields." Wherever I
walk these afternoons, the Purple-Fingered Grass also stands like a
guide-board, and points my thoughts to more poetic paths than they have
lately travelled.

A man shall perhaps rush by and trample down plants as high as his head,
and cannot be said to know that they exist, though he may have cut many
tons of them, littered his stables with them, and fed them to his cattle
for years. Yet, if he ever favorably attends to them, he may be overcome
by their beauty. Each humblest plant, or weed, as we call it, stands there
to express some thought or mood of ours; and yet how long it stands in
vain! I had walked over those Great Fields so many Augusts, and never yet
distinctly recognized these purple companions that I had there. I had
brushed against them and trodden on them, forsooth; and now, at last,
they, as it were, rose up and blessed me. Beauty and true wealth are
always thus cheap and despised. Heaven might be defined as the place which
men avoid. Who can doubt that these grasses, which the farmer says are of
no account to him, find some compensation in your appreciation of them? I
may say that I never saw them before,--though, when I came to look them
face to face, there did come down to me a purple gleam from previous
years; and now, wherever I go, I see hardly anything else. It is the reign
and presidency of the Andropogons.

Almost the very sands confess the ripening influence of the August sun,
and methinks, together with the slender grasses waving over them, reflect
a purple tinge. The impurpled sands! Such is the consequence of all this
sunshine absorbed into the pores of plants and of the earth. All sap or
blood is now wine-colored. At last we have not only the purple sea, but
the purple land.

The Chestnut Beard-Grass, Indian-Grass, or Wood-Grass, growing here and
there in waste places, but more rare than the former, (from two to four or
five feet high,) is still handsomer and of more vivid colors than its
congeners, and might well have caught the Indian's eye. It has a long,
narrow, one-sided, and slightly nodding panicle of bright purple and
yellow flowers, like a banner raised above its reedy leaves. These bright
standards are now advanced on the distant hill-sides, not in large armies,
but in scattered troops or single file, like the red men. They stand thus
fair and bright, representative of the race which they are named after,
but for the most part unobserved as they. The expression of this grass
haunted me for a week, after I first passed and noticed it, like the
glance of an eye. It stands like an Indian chief taking a last look at his
favorite hunting-grounds.

THE RED MAPLE.

By the twenty-fifth of September, the Red Maples generally are beginning
to be ripe. Some large ones have been conspicuously changing for a week,
and some single trees are now very brilliant. I notice a small one, half a
mile off across a meadow, against the green wood-side there, a far
brighter red than the blossoms of any tree in summer, and more
conspicuous. I have observed this tree for several autumns invariably
changing earlier than its fellows, just as one tree ripens its fruit
earlier than another. It might serve to mark the season, perhaps. I should
be sorry, if it were cut down. I know of two or three such trees in
different parts of our town, which might, perhaps, be propagated from, as
early ripeners or September trees, and their seed be advertised in the
market, as well as that of radishes, if we cared as much about them.

At present these burning bushes stand chiefly along the edge of the
meadows, or I distinguish them afar on the hillsides here and there.
Sometimes you will see many small ones in a swamp turned quite crimson
when all other trees around are still perfectly green, and the former
appear so much the brighter for it. They take you by surprise, as you are
going by on one side, across the fields, thus early in the season, as if
it were some gay encampment of the red men, or other foresters, of whose
arrival you had not heard.

Some single trees, wholly bright scarlet, seen against others of their
kind still freshly green, or against evergreens, are more memorable than
whole groves will be by-and-by. How beautiful, when a whole tree is like
one great scarlet fruit full of ripe juices, every leaf, from lowest limb
to topmost spire, all aglow, especially if you look toward the sun! What
more remarkable object can there be in the landscape? Visible for miles,
too fair to be believed. If such a phenomenon occurred but once, it would
be handed down by tradition to posterity, and get into the mythology at
last.

The whole tree thus ripening in advance of its fellows attains a singular
preeminence, and sometimes maintains it for a week or two. I am thrilled
at the sight of it, bearing aloft its scarlet standard for the regiment of
green-clad foresters around, and I go half a mile out of my way to examine
it. A single tree becomes thus the crowning beauty of some meadowy vale,
and the expression of the whole surrounding forest is at once more
spirited for it.

A small Red Maple has grown, perchance, far away at the head of some
retired valley, a mile from any road, unobserved. It has faithfully
discharged the duties of a Maple there, all winter and summer, neglected
none of its economies, but added to its stature in the virtue which
belongs to a Maple, by a steady growth for so many months, never having
gone gadding abroad, and is nearer heaven than it was in the spring.
It has faithfully husbanded its sap, and afforded a shelter to the
wandering bird, has long since ripened its seeds and committed them to
the winds, and has the satisfaction of knowing, perhaps, that a thousand
little well-behaved Maples are already settled in life somewhere.
It deserves well of Mapledom. Its leaves have been asking it from time
to time, in a whisper, "When shall we redden?" And now, in this month
of September, this month of travelling, when men are hastening to the
sea-side, or the mountains, or the lakes, this modest Maple, still without
budging an inch, travels in its reputation,--runs up its scarlet flag on
that hillside, which shows that it has finished its summer's work before
all other trees, and withdraws from the contest. At the eleventh hour of
the year, the tree which no scrutiny could have detected here when it was
most industrious is thus, by the tint of its maturity, by its very
blushes, revealed at last to the careless and distant traveller, and leads
his thoughts away from the dusty road into those brave solitudes which it
inhabits. It flashes out conspicuous with all the virtue and beauty of a
Maple,--_Acer rubrum_. We may now read its title, or _rubric_, clear. Its
_virtues_, not its sins, are as scarlet.

Notwithstanding the Red Maple is the most intense scarlet of any of our
trees, the Sugar-Maple has been the most celebrated, and Michaux in his
"Sylva" does not speak of the autumnal color of the former. About the
second of October, these trees, both large and small, are most brilliant,
though many are still green. In "sprout-lands" they seem to vie with one
another, and ever some particular one in the midst of the crowd will be of
a peculiarly pure scarlet, and by its more intense color attract our eye
even at a distance, and carry off the palm. A large Red-Maple swamp, when
at the height of its change, is the most obviously brilliant of all
tangible things, where I dwell, so abundant is this tree with us. It
varies much both in form and color. A great many are merely yellow, more
scarlet, others scarlet deepening into crimson, more red than common. Look
at yonder swamp of Maples mixed with Pines, at the base of a Pine-clad
hill, a quarter of a mile off, so that you get the full effect of the
bright colors, without detecting the imperfections of the leaves, and see
their yellow, scarlet, and crimson fires, of all tints, mingled and
contrasted with the green. Some Maples are yet green, only yellow or
crimson-tipped on the edges of their flakes, like the edges of a Hazel-Nut
burr; some are wholly brilliant scarlet, raying out regularly and finely
every way, bilaterally, like the veins of a leaf; others, of more
irregular form, when I turn my head slightly, emptying out some of its
earthiness and concealing the trunk of the tree, seem to rest heavily
flake on flake, like yellow and scarlet clouds, wreath upon wreath, or
like snowdrifts driving through the air, stratified by the wind. It adds
greatly to the beauty of such a swamp at this season, that, even though
there may be no other trees interspersed, it is not seen as a simple mass
of color, but, different trees being of different colors and hues, the
outline of each crescent tree-top is distinct, and where one laps on to
another. Yet a painter would hardly venture to make them thus distinct a
quarter of a mile off.

As I go across a meadow directly toward a low rising ground this bright
afternoon, I see, some fifty rods off toward the sun, the top of a Maple
swamp just appearing over the sheeny russet edge of the hill, a stripe
apparently twenty rods long by ten feet deep, of the most intensely
brilliant scarlet, orange, and yellow, equal to any flowers or fruits, or
any tints ever painted. As I advance, lowering the edge of the hill which
makes the firm foreground or lower frame of the picture, the depth of the
brilliant grove revealed steadily increases, suggesting that the whole of
the inclosed valley is filled with such color. One wonders that the
tithing-men and fathers of the town are not out to see what the trees mean
by their high colors and exuberance of spirits, fearing that some mischief
is brewing. I do not see what the Puritans did at this season, when the
Maples blaze out in scarlet. They certainly could not have worshipped in
groves then. Perhaps that is what they built meeting-houses and fenced
them round with horse-sheds for.

THE ELM.

Now, too, the first of October, or later, the Elms are at the height of
their autumnal beauty, great brownish-yellow masses, warm from their
September oven, hanging over the highway Their leaves are perfectly ripe.
I wonder if there is any answering ripeness in the lives of the men who
live beneath them. As I look down our street, which is lined with them,
they remind me both by their form and color of yellowing sheaves of grain,
as if the harvest had indeed come to the village itself, and we might
expect to find some maturity and _flavor_ in the thoughts of the villagers
at last. Under those bright rustling yellow piles just ready to fall on
the heads of the walkers, how can any crudity or greenness of thought or
act prevail? When I stand where half a dozen large Elms droop over a
house, it is as if I stood within a ripe pumpkin-rind, and I feel as
mellow as if I were the pulp, though I may be somewhat stringy and seedy
withal. What is the late greenness of the English Elm, like a cucumber out
of season, which does not know when to have done, compared with the early
and golden maturity of the American tree? The street is the scene of a
great harvest-home. It would be worth the while to set out these trees, if
only for their autumnal value. Think of these great yellow canopies or
parasols held over our heads and houses by the mile together, making the
village all one and compact,--an _ulmarium_, which is at the same time a
nursery of men! And then how gently and unobserved they drop their burden
and let in the sun when it is wanted, their leaves not heard when they
fall on our roofs and in our streets; and thus the village parasol is shut
up and put away! I see the market-man driving into the village, and
disappearing under its canopy of Elm-tops, with _his_ crop, as into a
great granary or barn-yard. I am tempted to go thither as to a husking of
thoughts, now dry and ripe, and ready to be separated from their
integuments; but, alas! I foresee that it will be chiefly husks and little
thought, blasted pig-corn, fit only for cob-meal,--for, as you sow, so
shall you reap.

FALLEN LEAVES.

By the sixth of October the leaves generally begin to fall, in successive
showers, after frost or rain; but the principal leaf-harvest, the acme of
the _Fall_, is commonly about the sixteenth. Some morning at that date
there is perhaps a harder frost than we have seen, and ice formed under
the pump, and now, when the morning wind rises, the leaves come down in
denser showers than ever. They suddenly form thick beds or carpets on the
ground, in this gentle air, or even without wind, just the size and form
of the tree above. Some trees, as small Hickories, appear to have dropped
their leaves instantaneously, as a soldier grounds arms at a signal; and
those of the Hickory, being bright yellow still, though withered, reflect
a blaze of light from the ground where they lie. Down they have come on
all sides, at the first earnest touch of autumn's wand, making a sound
like rain.

Or else it is after moist and rainy weather that we notice how great a
fall of leaves there has been in the night, though it may not yet be the
touch that loosens the Rock-Maple leaf. The streets are thickly strewn
with the trophies, and fallen Elm-leaves make a dark brown pavement under
our feet. After some remarkably warm Indian-summer day or days, I perceive
that it is the unusual heat which, more than anything, causes the leaves
to fall, there having been, perhaps, no frost nor rain for some time. The
intense heat suddenly ripens and wilts them, just as it softens and ripens
peaches and other fruits, and causes them to drop.

The leaves of late Red Maples, still bright, strew the earth, often
crimson-spotted on a yellow ground, like some wild apples,--though they
preserve these bright colors on the ground but a day or two, especially
if it rains. On causeways I go by trees here and there all bare and
smoke-like, having lost their brilliant clothing; but there it lies,
nearly as bright as ever, on the ground on one side, and making nearly as
regular a figure as lately on the tree, I would rather say that I first
observe the trees thus flat on the ground like a permanent colored shadow,
and they suggest to look for the boughs that bore them. A queen might be
proud to walk where these gallant trees have spread their bright cloaks in
the mud. I see wagons roll over them as a shadow or a reflection, and the
drivers heed them just as little as they did their shadows before.

Birds'-nests, in the Huckleberry and other shrubs, and in trees, are
already being filled with the withered leaves. So many have fallen in the
woods, that a squirrel cannot run after a falling nut without being heard.
Boys are raking them in the streets, if only for the pleasure of dealing
with such clean crisp substances. Some sweep the paths scrupulously neat,
and then stand to see the next breath strew them with new trophies. The
swamp-floor is thickly covered, and the _Lycopodium lucidulum_ looks
suddenly greener amid them. In dense woods they half-cover pools that are
three or four rods long. The other day I could hardly find a well-known
spring, and even suspected that it had dried up, for it was completely
concealed by freshly fallen leaves; and when I swept them aside and
revealed it, it was like striking the earth, with Aaron's rod, for a new
spring. Wet grounds about the edges of swamps look dry with them. At one
swamp, where I was surveying, thinking to step on a leafy shore from a
rail, I got into the water more than a foot deep. When I go to the river
the day after the principal fall of leaves, the sixteenth, I find my boat
all covered, bottom and seats, with the leaves of the Golden Willow under
which it is moored, and I set sail with a cargo of them rustling under my
feet. If I empty it, it will be full again to-morrow. I do not regard them
as litter, to be swept out, but accept them as suitable straw or matting
for the bottom of my carriage. When I turn up into the mouth of the
Assabet, which is wooded, large fleets of leaves are floating on its
surface, as it were getting out to sea, with room to tack; but next the
shore, a little farther up, they are thicker than foam, quite concealing
the water for a rod in width, under and amid the Alders, Button-Bushes,
and Maples, still perfectly light and dry, with fibre unrelaxed; and at a
rocky bend where they are met and stopped by the morning wind, they
sometimes form a broad and dense crescent quite across the river. When I
turn my prow that way, and the wave which it makes strikes them, list what
a pleasant rustling from these dry substances grating on one another!
Often it is their undulation only which reveals the water beneath them.
Also every motion of the wood-turtle on the shore is betrayed by their
rustling there. Or even in mid-channel, when the wind rises, I hear them
blown with a rustling sound. Higher up they are slowly moving round and
round in some great eddy which the river makes, as that at the "Leaning
Hemlocks," where the water is deep, and the current is wearing into the
bank.

Perchance, in the afternoon of such a day, when the water is perfectly
calm and full of reflections, I paddle gently down the main stream, and,
turning up the Assabet, reach a quiet cove, where I unexpectedly find
myself surrounded by myriads of leaves, like fellow-voyagers, which seem
to have the same purpose, or want of purpose, with myself. See this great
fleet of scattered leaf-boats which we paddle amid, in this smooth
river-bay, each one curled up on every side by the sun's skill, each nerve
a stiff spruce-knee,--like boats of hide, and of all patterns, Charon's
boat probably among the rest, and some with lofty prows and poops, like
the stately vessels of the ancients, scarcely moving in the sluggish
current,--like the great fleets, the dense Chinese cities of boats, with
which you mingle on entering some great mart, some New York or Canton,
which we are all steadily approaching together. How gently each has been
deposited on the water! No violence has been used towards them yet,
though, perchance, palpitating hearts were present at the launching. And
painted ducks, too, the splendid wood-duck among the rest, often come to
sail and float amid the painted leaves,--barks of a nobler model still!

What wholesome herb-drinks are to be had in the swamps now! What strong
medicinal, but rich, scents from the decaying leaves! The rain falling on
the freshly dried herbs and leaves, and filling the pools and ditches into
which they have dropped thus clean and rigid, will soon convert them into
tea,--green, black, brown, and yellow teas, of all degrees of strength,
enough to set all Nature a gossiping. Whether we drink them or not, as
yet, before their strength is drawn, these leaves, dried on great Nature's
coppers, are of such various pure and delicate tints as might make the
fame of Oriental teas.

How they are mixed up, of all species, Oak and Maple and Chestnut and
Birch! But Nature is not cluttered with them; she is a perfect husbandman;
she stores them all. Consider what a vast crop is thus annually shed on
the earth! This, more than any mere grain or seed, is the great harvest of
the year. The trees are now repaying the earth with interest what they
have taken from it. They are discounting. They are about to add a leaf's
thickness to the depth of the soil. This is the beautiful way in which
Nature gets her muck, while I chaffer with this man and that, who talks to
me about sulphur and the cost of carting. We are all the richer for their
decay. I am more interested in this crop than in the English grass alone
or in the corn. It prepares the virgin mould for future cornfields and
forests, on which the earth fattens. It keeps our homestead in good heart.

For beautiful variety no crop can be compared with this. Here is not
merely the plain yellow of the grains, but nearly all the colors that we
know, the brightest blue not excepted: the early blushing Maple, the
Poison-Sumach blazing its sins as scarlet, the mulberry Ash, the rich
chrome-yellow of the Poplars, the brilliant red Huckleberry, with which
the hills' backs are painted, like those of sheep. The frost touches them,
and, with the slightest breath of returning day or jarring of earth's
axle, see in what showers they come floating down! The ground is all
party-colored with them. But they still live in the soil, whose fertility
and bulk they increase, and in the forests that spring from it. They stoop
to rise, to mount higher in coming years, by subtle chemistry, climbing by
the sap in the trees, and the sapling's first fruits thus shed, transmuted
at last, may adorn its crown, when, in after-years, it has become the
monarch of the forest.

It is pleasant to walk over the beds of these fresh, crisp, and rustling
leaves. How beautifully they go to their graves! how gently lay themselves
down and turn to mould!--painted of a thousand hues, and fit to make the
beds of us living. So they troop to their last resting-place, light and
frisky. They put on no weeds, but merrily they go scampering over the
earth, selecting the spot, choosing a lot, ordering no iron fence,
whispering all through the woods about it,--some choosing the spot where
the bodies of men are mouldering beneath, and meeting them half-way. How
many flutterings before they rest quietly in their graves! They that
soared so loftily, how contentedly they return to dust again, and are laid
low, resigned to lie and decay at the foot of the tree, and afford
nourishment to new generations of their kind, as well as to flutter on
high! They teach us how to die. One wonders if the time will ever come
when men, with their boasted faith in immortality, will lie down as
gracefully and as ripe,--with such an Indian-summer serenity will shed
their bodies, as they do their hair and nails.

When the leaves fall, the whole earth is a cemetery pleasant to walk in. I
love to wander and muse over them in their graves. Here are no lying nor
vain epitaphs. What though you own no lot at Mount Auburn? Your lot is
surely cast somewhere in this vast cemetery, which has been consecrated
from of old. You need attend no auction to secure a place. There is room
enough here. The Loose-strife shall bloom and the Huckleberry-bird sing
over your bones. The woodman and hunter shall be your sextons, and the
children shall tread upon the borders as much as they will. Let us walk in
the cemetery of the leaves,--this is your true Greenwood Cemetery.

THE SUGAR-MAPLE.

But think not that the splendor of the year is over; for as one leaf does
not make a summer, neither does one falling leaf make an autumn. The
smallest Sugar-Maples in our streets make a great show as early as the
fifth of October, more than any other trees there. As I look up the Main
Street, they appear like painted screens standing before the houses;
yet many are green. But now, or generally by the seventeenth of October,
when almost all Red Maples, and some White Maples, are bare, the large
Sugar-Maples also are in their glory, glowing with yellow and red, and
show unexpectedly bright and delicate tints. They are remarkable for the
contrast they often afford of deep blushing red on one half and green on
the other. They become at length dense masses of rich yellow with a deep
scarlet blush, or more than blush, on the exposed surfaces. They are the
brightest trees now in the street.

The large ones on our Common are particularly beautiful. A delicate, but
warmer than golden yellow is now the prevailing color, with scarlet
cheeks. Yet, standing on the east side of the Common just before sundown,
when the western light is transmitted through them, I see that their
yellow even, compared with the pale lemon yellow of an Elm close by,
amounts to a scarlet, without noticing the bright scarlet portions.
Generally, they are great regular oval masses of yellow and scarlet. All
the sunny warmth of the season, the Indian-summer, seems to be absorbed in
their leaves. The lowest and inmost leaves next the bole are, as usual, of
the most delicate yellow and green, like the complexion of young men
brought up in the house. There is an auction on the Common to-day, but its
red flag is hard to be discerned amid this blaze of color.

Little did the fathers of the town anticipate this brilliant success, when
they caused to be imported from farther in the country some straight poles
with their tops cut off, which they called Sugar-Maples; and, as I
remember, after they were set out, a neighboring merchant's clerk, by way
of jest, planted beans about them. Those which were then jestingly called
bean-poles are to-day far the most beautiful objects noticeable in our
streets. They are worth all and more than they have cost,--though one of
the selectmen, while setting them out, took the cold which occasioned his
death,--if only because they have filled the open eyes of children with
their rich color unstintedly so many Octobers. We will not ask them to
yield us sugar in the spring, while they afford us so fair a prospect in
the autumn. Wealth in-doors may be the inheritance of few, but it is
equally distributed on the Common. All children alike can revel in this
golden harvest.

Surely trees should be set in our streets with a view to their October
splendor; though I doubt whether this is ever considered by the "Tree
Society." Do you not think it will make some odds to these children that
they were brought up under the Maples? Hundreds of eyes are steadily
drinking in this color, and by these teachers even the truants are caught
and educated the moment they step abroad. Indeed, neither the truant nor
the studious is at present taught color in the schools. These are instead
of the bright colors in apothecaries' shops and city windows. It is a pity
that we have no more _Red_ Maples, and some Hickories, in our streets as
well. Our paint-box is very imperfectly filled. Instead of, or beside,
supplying such paint-boxes as we do, we might supply these natural colors
to the young. Where else will they study color under greater advantages?
What School of Design can vie with this? Think how much the eyes of
painters of all kinds, and of manufacturers of cloth and paper, and
paper-stainers, and countless others, are to be educated by these autumnal
colors. The stationer's envelopes may be of very various tints, yet, not
so various as those of the leaves of a single tree. If you want a
different shade or tint of a particular color, you have only to look
farther within or without the tree or the wood. These leaves are not many
dipped in one dye, as at the dye-house, but they are dyed in light of
infinitely various degrees of strength, and left to set and dry there.

Shall the names of so many of our colors continue to be derived from those
of obscure foreign localities, as Naples yellow, Prussian blue, raw
Sienna, burnt Umber, Gamboge?--(surely the Tyrian purple must have faded
by this time),--or from comparatively trivial articles of commerce,--
chocolate, lemon, coffee, cinnamon, claret?--(shall we compare our
Hickory to a lemon, or a lemon to a Hickory?)--or from ores and oxides
which few ever see? Shall we so often, when describing to our neighbors
the color of something we have seen, refer them, not to some natural
object in our neighborhood, but perchance to a bit of earth fetched from
the other side of the planet, which possibly they may find at the
apothecary's, but which probably neither they nor we ever saw? Have we not
an _earth_ under our feet,--ay, and a sky over our heads? Or is the
last _all_ ultramarine? What do we know of sapphire, amethyst, emerald,
ruby, amber, and the like,--most of us who take these names in vain? Leave
these precious words to cabinet-keepers, virtuosos, and maids-of-honor,--
to the Nabobs, Begums, and Chobdars of Hindostan, or wherever else. I do
not see why, since America and her autumn woods have been discovered, our
leaves should not compete with the precious stones in giving names to
colors; and, indeed, I believe that in course of time the names of some of
our trees and shrubs, as well as flowers, will get into our popular
chromatic nomenclature.

But of much more importance than a knowledge of the names and distinctions
of color is the joy and exhilaration which these colored leaves excite.
Already these brilliant trees throughout the street, without any more
variety, are at least equal to an annual festival and holiday, or a week
of such. These are cheap and innocent gala-days, celebrated by one and all
without the aid of committees or marshals, such a show as may safely be
licensed, not attracting gamblers or rum-sellers, not requiring any
special police to keep the peace. And poor indeed must be that New-England
village's October which has not the Maple in its streets. This October
festival costs no powder, nor ringing of bells, but every tree is a living
liberty-pole on which a thousand bright flags are waving.

No wonder that we must have our annual Cattle-Show, and Fall Training,
and perhaps Cornwallis, our September Courts, and the like. Nature
herself holds her annual fair in October, not only in the streets, but
in every hollow and on every hill-side. When lately we looked into that
Red-Maple swamp all ablaze, where the trees were clothed in their vestures
of most dazzling tints, did it not suggest a thousand gypsies beneath,--a
race capable of wild delight,--or even the fabled fawns, satyrs, and
wood-nymphs come back to earth? Or was it only a congregation of wearied
wood-choppers, or of proprietors come to inspect their lots, that we
thought of? Or, earlier still, when we paddled on the river through that
fine-grained September air, did there not appear to be something new going
on under the sparkling surface of the stream, a shaking of props, at
least, so that we made haste in order to be up in time? Did not the rows
of yellowing Willows and Button-Bushes on each side seem like rows of
booths, under which, perhaps, some fluviatile egg-pop equally yellow was
effervescing? Did not all these suggest that man's spirits should rise as
high as Nature's,--should hang out their flag, and the routine of his life
be interrupted by an analogous expression of joy and hilarity?

No annual training or muster of soldiery, no celebration with its scarfs
and banners, could import into the town a hundredth part of the annual
splendor of our October. We have only to set the trees, or let them stand,
and Nature will find the colored drapery,--flags of all her nations, some
of whose private signals hardly the botanist can read,--while we walk
under the triumphal arches of the Elms. Leave it to Nature to appoint the
days, whether the same as in neighboring States or not, and let the clergy
read her proclamations, if they can understand them. Behold what a
brilliant drapery is her Woodbine flag! What public-spirited merchant,
think you, has contributed this part of the show? There is no handsomer
shingling and paint than this vine, at present covering a whole side of
some houses. I do not believe that the Ivy _never sere_ is comparable to
it. No wonder it has been extensively introduced into London. Let us have
a good many Maples and Hickories and Scarlet Oaks, then, I say. Blaze
away! Shall that dirty roll of bunting in the gun-house be all the colors
a village can display? A village is not complete unless it have these
trees to mark the season in it. They are important, like the town-clock. A
village that has them not will not be found to work well. It has a screw
loose, an essential part is wanting. Let us have Willows for spring, Elms
for summer, Maples and Walnuts and Tupeloes for autumn, Evergreens for
winter, and Oaks for all seasons. What is a gallery in a house to a
gallery in the streets, which every market-man rides through, whether he
will or not? Of course, there is not a picture-gallery in the country
which would be worth so much to us as is the western view at sunset under
the Elms of our main street. They are the frame to a picture which is
daily painted behind them. An avenue of Elms as large as our largest and
three miles long would seem to lead to some admirable place, though only
C---- were at the end of it.

A village needs these innocent stimulants of bright and cheering prospects
to keep off melancholy and superstition. Show me two villages, one
embowered in trees and blazing with all the glories of October, the other
a merely trivial and treeless waste, or with only a single tree or two for
suicides, and I shall be sure that in the latter will be found the most
starved and bigoted religionists and the most desperate drinkers. Every
washtub and milkcan and gravestone will be exposed. The inhabitants will
disappear abruptly behind their barns and houses, like desert Arabs amid
their rocks, and I shall look to see spears in their hands. They will be
ready to accept the most barren and forlorn doctrine,--as that the world
is speedily coming to an end, or has already got to it, or that they
themselves are turned wrong side outward. They will perchance crack their
dry joints at one another and call it a spiritual communication.

But to confine ourselves to the Maples. What if we were to take half as
much pains in protecting them as we do in setting them out,--not stupidly
tie our horses to our dahlia-stems?

What meant the fathers by establishing this _perfectly living_ institution
before the church,--this institution which needs no repairing nor
repainting, which is continually enlarged and repaired by its growth?
Surely they

  "Wrought in a sad sincerity;
   Themselves from God they could not free;
   They _planted_ better than they knew;--
   The conscious _trees_ to beauty grew."

Verily these Maples are cheap preachers, permanently settled, which preach
their half-century, and century, ay, and century-and-a-half sermons, with
constantly increasing unction and influence, ministering to many
generations of men; and the least we can do is to supply them with
suitable colleagues as they grow infirm.

THE SCARLET OAK.

Belonging to a genus which is remarkable for the beautiful form of its
leaves, I suspect that some Scarlet-Oak leaves surpass those of all other
Oaks in the rich and wild beauty of their outlines. I judge from an
acquaintance with twelve species, and from drawings which I have seen of
many others.

Stand under this tree and see how finely its leaves are cut against the
sky,--as it were, only a few sharp points extending from a midrib. They
look like double, treble, or quadruple crosses. They are far more ethereal
than the less deeply scolloped Oak-leaves. They have so little leafy
_terra firma_ that they appear melting away in the light, and scarcely
obstruct our view. The leaves of very young plants are, like those of
full-grown Oaks of other species, more entire, simple, and lumpish in
their outlines; but these, raised high on old trees, have solved the leafy
problem. Lifted higher and higher, and sublimated more and more, putting
off some earthiness and cultivating more intimacy with the light each
year, they have at length the least possible amount of earthy matter, and
the greatest spread and grasp of skyey influences. There they dance, arm
in arm with the light,--tripping it on fantastic points, fit partners in
those aerial halls. So intimately mingled are they with it, that, what
with their slenderness and their glossy surfaces, you can hardly tell at
last what in the dance is leaf and what is light. And when no zephyr
stirs, they are at most but a rich tracery to the forest-windows.

I am again struck with their beauty, when, a month later, they thickly
strew the ground in the woods, piled one upon another under my feet. They
are then brown above, but purple beneath. With their narrow lobes and
their bold deep scollops reaching almost to the middle, they suggest that
the material must be cheap, or else there has been a lavish expense in
their creation, as if so much had been cut out. Or else they seem to us
the remnants of the stuff out of which leaves have been cut with a die.
Indeed, when they lie thus one upon another, they remind me of a pile of
scrap-tin.

Or bring one home, and study it closely at your leisure, by the fireside.
It is a type, not from any Oxford font, not in the Basque nor the
arrow-headed character, not found on the Rosetta Stone, but destined to be
copied in sculpture one day, if they ever get to whittling stone here.
What a wild and pleasing outline, a combination of graceful curves and
angles! The eye rests with equal delight on what is not leaf and on what
is leaf,--on the broad, free, open sinuses, and on the long, sharp,
bristle-pointed lobes. A simple oval outline would include it all, if you
connected the points of the leaf; but how much richer is it than that,
with its half-dozen deep scollops, in which the eye and thought of the
beholder are embayed! If I were a drawing-master, I would set my pupils to
copying these leaves, that they might learn to draw firmly and gracefully.

Regarded as water, it is like a pond with half a dozen broad rounded
promontories extending nearly to its middle, half from each side, while
its watery bays extend far inland, like sharp friths, at each of whose
heads several fine streams empty in,--almost a leafy archipelago.

But it oftener suggests land, and, as Dionysius and Pliny compared
the form of the Morea to that of the leaf of the Oriental Plane-tree,
so this leaf reminds me of some fair wild island in the ocean, whose
extensive coast, alternate rounded bays with smooth strands, and
sharp-pointed rocky capes, mark it as fitted for the habitation of man,
and destined to become a centre of civilization at last. To the sailor's
eye, it is a much-indented shore. Is it not, in fact, a shore to the
aerial ocean, on which the windy surf beats? At sight of this leaf we are
all mariners,--if not vikings, buccaneers, and filibusters. Both our love
of repose and our spirit of adventure are addressed. In our most casual
glance, perchance, we think, that, if we succeed in doubling those sharp
capes, we shall find deep, smooth, and secure havens in the ample bays.
How different from the White-Oak leaf, with its rounded headlands, on
which no lighthouse need be placed! That is an England, with its long
civil history, that may be read. This is some still unsettled New-found
Island or Celebes. Shall we go and be rajahs there?

By the twenty-sixth of October the large Scarlet Oaks are in their prime,
when other Oaks are usually withered. They have been kindling their fires
for a week past, and now generally burst into a blaze. This alone of _our_
indigenous deciduous trees (excepting the Dogwood, of which I do not know
half a dozen, and they are but large bushes) is now in its glory. The two
Aspens and the Sugar-Maple come nearest to it in date, but they have lost
the greater part of their leaves. Of evergreens, only the Pitch-Pine is
still commonly bright.

But it requires a particular alertness, if not devotion to these
phenomena, to appreciate the wide-spread, but late and unexpected glory of
the Scarlet Oaks. I do not speak here of the small trees and shrubs, which
are commonly observed, and which are now withered, but of the large trees.
Most go in and shut their doors, thinking that bleak and colorless
November has already come, when some of the most brilliant and memorable
colors are not yet lit.

This very perfect and vigorous one, about forty feet high, standing in an
open pasture, which was quite glossy green on the twelfth, is now, the
twenty-sixth, completely changed to bright dark scarlet,--every leaf,
between you and the sun, as if it had been dipped into a scarlet dye. The
whole tree is much like a heart in form, as well as color. Was not this
worth waiting for? Little did you think, ten days ago, that that cold
green tree would assume such color as this. Its leaves are still firmly
attached, while those of other trees are falling around it. It seems to
say,--"I am the last to blush, but I blush deeper than any of ye. I bring
up the rear in my red coat. We Scarlet ones, alone of Oaks, have not given
up the fight."

The sap is now, and even far into November, frequently flowing fast in
these trees, as in Maples in the spring; and apparently their bright
tints, now that most other Oaks are withered, are connected with this
phenomenon. They are full of life. It has a pleasantly astringent,
acorn-like taste, this strong Oak-wine, as I find on tapping them with my
knife.

Looking across this woodland valley, a quarter of a mile wide, how rich
those Scarlet Oaks, embosomed in Pines, their bright red branches
intimately intermingled with them! They have their full effect there. The
Pine-boughs are the green calyx to their red petals. Or, as we go along a
road in the woods, the sun striking endwise through it, and lighting up
the red tents of the Oaks, which on each side are mingled with the liquid
green of the Pines, makes a very gorgeous scene. Indeed, without the
evergreens for contrast, the autumnal tints would lose much of their
effect.

The Scarlet Oak asks a clear sky and the brightness of late October days.
These bring out its colors. If the sun goes into a cloud, they become
comparatively indistinct. As I sit on a cliff in the southwest part of our
town, the sun is now getting low, and the woods in Lincoln, south and east
of me, are lit up by its more level rays; and in the Scarlet Oaks,
scattered so equally over the forest, there is brought out a more
brilliant redness than I had believed was in them. Every tree of this
species which is visible in those directions, even to the horizon, now
stands out distinctly red. Some great ones lift their red backs high above
the woods, in the next town, like huge roses with a myriad of fine petals;
and some more slender ones, in a small grove of White Pines on Pine Hill
in the east, on the very verge of the horizon, alternating with the Pines
on the edge of the grove, and shouldering them with their red coats, look
like soldiers in red amid hunters in green. This time it is Lincoln green,
too. Till the sun got low, I did not believe that there were so many red
coats in the forest army. Theirs is an intense burning red, which would
lose some of its strength, methinks, with every step you might take toward
them; for the shade that lurks amid their foliage does not report itself
at this distance, and they are unanimously red. The focus of their
reflected color is in the atmosphere far on this side. Every such tree
becomes a nucleus of red, as it were, where, with the declining sun, that
color grows and glows. It is partly borrowed fire, gathering strength from
the sun on its way to your eye. It has only some comparatively dull red
leaves for a rallying-point, or kindling-stuff, to start it, and it
becomes an intense scarlet or red mist, or fire, which finds fuel for
itself in the very atmosphere. So vivacious is redness. The very rails
reflect a rosy light at this hour and season. You see a redder tree than
exists.

If you wish to count the Scarlet Oaks, do it now. In a clear day stand
thus on a hill-top in the woods, when the sun is an hour high, and every
one within range of your vision, excepting in the west, will be revealed.
You might live to the age of Methuselah and never find a tithe of them,
otherwise. Yet sometimes even in a dark day I have thought them as bright
as I ever saw them. Looking westward, their colors are lost in a blaze of
light; but in other directions the whole forest is a flower-garden, in
which these late roses burn, alternating with green, while the so-called
"gardeners," walking here and there, perchance, beneath, with spade and
water-pot, see only a few little asters amid withered leaves.

These are _my_ China-asters, _my_ late garden-flowers. It costs me nothing
for a gardener. The falling leaves, all over the forest, are protecting
the roots of my plants. Only look at what is to be seen, and you will have
garden enough, without deepening the soil in your yard. We have only to
elevate our view a little, to see the whole forest as a garden. The
blossoming of the Scarlet Oak,--the forest-flower, surpassing all in
splendor, (at least since the Maple)! I do not know but they interest me
more than the Maples, they are so widely and equally dispersed throughout
the forest; they are so hardy, a nobler tree on the whole;--our chief
November flower, abiding the approach of winter with us, imparting warmth
to early November prospects. It is remarkable that the latest bright color
that is general should be this deep, dark scarlet and red, the intensest
of colors. The ripest fruit of the year; like the cheek of a hard, glossy,
red apple, from the cold Isle of Orleans, which will not be mellow for
eating till next spring! When I rise to a hilltop, a thousand of these
great Oak roses, distributed on every side, as far as the horizon! I
admire them four or five miles off! This my unfailing prospect for a
fortnight past! This late forest-flower surpasses all that spring or
summer could do. Their colors were but rare and dainty specks
comparatively, (created for the near-sighted, who walk amid the humblest
herbs and underwoods,) and made no impression on a distant eye. Now it is
an extended forest or a mountain-side, through or along which we journey
from day to day, that bursts into bloom. Comparatively, our gardening is
on a petty scale,--the gardener still nursing a few asters amid dead
weeds, ignorant of the gigantic asters and roses, which, as it were,
overshadow him, and ask for none of his care. It is like a little red
paint ground on a saucer, and held up against the sunset sky. Why not take
more elevated and broader views, walk in the great garden, not skulk in a
little "debauched" nook of it? consider the beauty of the forest, and not
merely of a few impounded herbs?

Let your walks now be a little more adventurous; ascend the hills. If,
about the last of October, you ascend any hill in the outskirts of our
town, and probably of yours, and look over the forest, you may see--well,
what I have endeavored to describe. All this you surely _will_ see, and
much more, if you are prepared to see it,--if you _look_ for it.
Otherwise, regular and universal as this phenomenon is, whether you stand
on the hill-top or in the hollow, you will think for threescore years and
ten that all the wood is, at this season, sere and brown. Objects are
concealed from our view, not so much because they are out of the course of
our visual ray as because we do not bring our minds and eyes to bear on
them; for there is no power to see in the eye itself, any more than in any
other jelly. We do not realize how far and widely, or how near and
narrowly, we are to look. The greater part of the phenomena of Nature are
for this reason concealed from us all our lives. The gardener sees only
the gardener's garden. Here, too, as in political economy, the supply
answers to the demand. Nature does not cast pearls before swine. There is
just as much beauty visible to us in the landscape as we are prepared to
appreciate,--not a grain more. The actual objects which one man will see
from a particular hill-top are just as different from those which another
will see as the beholders are different. The Scarlet Oak must, in a sense,
be in your eye when you go forth. We cannot see anything until we are
possessed with the idea of it, take it into our heads,--and then we can
hardly see anything else. In my botanical rambles, I find, that, first,
the idea, or image, of a plant occupies my thoughts, though it may seem
very foreign to this locality,--no nearer than Hudson's Bay,--and for some
weeks or months I go thinking of it, and expecting it, unconsciously, and
at length I surely see it. This is the history of my finding a score or
more of rare plants, which I could name. A man sees only what concerns
him. A botanist absorbed in the study of grasses does not distinguish the
grandest Pasture Oaks. He, as it were, tramples down Oaks unwittingly in
his walk, or at most sees only their shadows. I have found that it
required a different intention of the eye, in the same locality, to see
different plants, even when they were closely allied, as _Juncaceoe_ and
_Gramineoe_: when I was looking for the former, I did not see the latter
in the midst of them. How much more, then, it requires different
intentions of the eye and of the mind to attend to different departments
of knowledge! How differently the poet and the naturalist look at objects!

Take a New-England selectman, and set him on the highest of our hills, and
tell him to look,--sharpening his sight to the utmost, and putting on the
glasses that suit him best, (ay, using a spy-glass, if he likes,)--and
make a full report. What, probably, will he _spy_?--what will he _select_
to look at? Of course, he will see a Brocken spectre of himself. He will
see several meeting-houses, at least, and, perhaps, that somebody ought to
be assessed higher than he is, since he has so handsome a wood-lot. Now
take Julius Caesar, or Immanuel Swedenborg, or a Fegee-Islander, and set
him up there. Or suppose all together, and let them compare notes
afterward. Will it appear that they have enjoyed the same prospect? What
they will see will be as different as Rome was from Heaven or Hell, or the
last from the Fegee Islands. For aught we know, as strange a man as any of
these is always at our elbow.

Why, it takes a sharp-shooter to bring down even such trivial game as
snipes and woodcocks; he must take very particular aim, and know what he
is aiming at. He would stand a very small chance, if he fired at random
into the sky, being told that snipes were flying there. And so is it with
him that shoots at beauty; though he wait till the sky falls, he will not
bag any, if he does not already know its seasons and haunts, and the color
of its wing,--if he has not dreamed of it, so that he can _anticipate_ it;
then, indeed, he flushes it at every step, shoots double and on the wing,
with both barrels, even in cornfields. The sportsman trains himself,
dresses and watches unweariedly, and loads and primes for his particular
game. He prays for it, and offers sacrifices, and so he gets it. After due
and long preparation, schooling his eye and hand, dreaming awake and
asleep, with gun and paddle and boat he goes out after meadow-hens, which
most of his townsmen never saw nor dreamed of, and paddles for miles
against a head-wind, and wades in water up to his knees, being out all day
without his dinner, and _therefore_ he gets them. He had them half-way
into his bag when he started, and has only to shove them down. The true
sportsman can shoot you almost any of his game from his windows: what else
has he windows or eyes for? It comes and perches at last on the barrel of
his gun; but the rest of the world never see it _with the feathers on_.
The geese fly exactly under his zenith, and honk when they get there, and
he will keep himself supplied by firing up his chimney; twenty musquash
have the refusal of each one of his traps before it is empty. If he lives,
and his game-spirit increases, heaven and earth shall fail him sooner than
game; and when he dies, he will go to more extensive, and, perchance,
happier hunting-grounds. The fisherman, too, dreams of fish, sees a
bobbing cork in his dreams, till he can almost catch them in his
sink-spout. I knew a girl who, being sent to pick huckleberries, picked
wild gooseberries by the quart, where no one else knew that there were
any, because she was accustomed to pick them up country where she came
from. The astronomer knows where to go star-gathering, and sees one
clearly in his mind before any have seen it with a glass. The hen
scratches and finds her food right under where she stands; but such is not
the way with the hawk.

These bright leaves which I have mentioned are not the exception, but the
rule; for I believe that all leaves, even grasses and mosses, acquire
brighter colors just before their fall. When you come to observe
faithfully the changes of each humblest plant, you find that each has,
sooner or later, its peculiar autumnal tint; and if you undertake to make
a complete list of the bright tints, it will be nearly as long as a
catalogue of the plants in your vicinity.



WILD APPLES.

(1862.)


THE HISTORY OF THE APPLE-TREE.

It is remarkable how closely the history of the Apple-tree is connected
with that of man. The geologist tells us that the order of the _Rosaceae_,
which includes the Apple, also the true Grasses, and the _Labiatae_ or
Mints, were introduced only a short time previous to the appearance of man
on the globe.

It appears that apples made a part of the food of that unknown primitive
people whose traces have lately been found at the bottom of the Swiss
lakes, supposed to be older than the foundation of Rome, so old that they
had no metallic implements. An entire black and shrivelled Crab-Apple has
been recovered from their stores.

Tacitus says of the ancient Germans, that they satisfied their hunger with
wild apples (_agrestia poma_) among other things.

Niebuhr observes that "the words for a house, a field, a plough,
ploughing, wine, oil, milk, sheep, apples, and others relating to
agriculture and the gentler way of life, agree in Latin and Greek, while
the Latin words for all objects pertaining to war or the chase are utterly
alien from the Greek." Thus the apple-tree may be considered a symbol of
peace no less than the olive.

The apple was early so important, and generally distributed, that its name
traced to its root in many languages signifies fruit in general. [Greek:
Maelon], in Greek, means an apple, also the fruit of other trees, also a
sheep and any cattle, and finally riches in general.

The apple-tree has been celebrated by the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, and
Scandinavians. Some have thought that the first human pair were tempted by
its fruit. Goddesses are fabled to have contended for it, dragons were set
to watch it, and heroes were employed to pluck it.

The tree is mentioned in at least three places in the Old Testament, and
its fruit in two or three more. Solomon sings,--"As the apple-tree among
the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons." And again,--"Stay
me with flagons, comfort me with apples." The noblest part of man's
noblest feature is named from this fruit, "the apple of the eye."

The apple-tree is also mentioned by Homer and Herodotus. Ulysses saw in
the glorious garden of Alcinous "pears and pomegranates, and apple-trees
bearing beautiful fruit" (kai maeleui aglaokarpoi). And according to
Homer, apples were among the fruits which Tantalus could not pluck, the
wind ever blowing their boughs away from him. Theophrastus knew and
described the apple-tree as a botanist.

According to the Prose Edda, "Iduna keeps in a box the apples which the
gods, when they feel old age approaching, have only to taste of to become
young again. It is in this manner that they will be kept in renovated
youth until Ragnarök" (or the destruction of the gods).

I learn from Loudon that "the ancient Welsh bards were rewarded for
excelling in song by the token of the apple-spray;" and "in the Highlands
of Scotland the apple-tree is the badge of the-clan Lamont."

The apple-tree (_Pyrus malus_) belongs chiefly to the northern temperate
zone. Loudon says, that "it grows spontaneously in every part of Europe
except the frigid zone, and throughout Western Asia, China, and Japan." We
have also two or three varieties of the apple indigenous in North America.
The cultivated apple-tree was first introduced into this country by the
earliest settlers, and is thought to do as well or better here than
anywhere else. Probably some of the varieties which are now cultivated
were first introduced into Britain by the Romans.

Pliny, adopting the distinction of Theophrastus, says,--"Of trees there
are some which are altogether wild (_sylvestres_), some more civilized
(_urbaniores_)." Theophrastus includes the apple among the last; and,
indeed, it is in this sense the most civilized of all trees. It is as
harmless as a dove, as beautiful as a rose, and as valuable as flocks and
herds. It has been longer cultivated than any other, and so is more
humanized; and who knows but, like the dog, it will at length be no longer
traceable to its wild original? It migrates with man, like the dog and
horse and cow: first, perchance, from Greece to Italy, thence to England,
thence to America; and our Western emigrant is still marching steadily
toward the setting sun with the seeds of the apple in his pocket, or
perhaps a few young trees strapped to his load. At least a million
apple-trees are thus set farther westward this year than any cultivated
ones grew last year. Consider how the Blossom-Week, like the Sabbath, is
thus annually spreading over the prairies; for when man migrates, he
carries with him not only his birds, quadrupeds, insects, vegetables, and
his very sward, but his orchard also.

The leaves and tender twigs are an agreeable food to many domestic
animals, as the cow, horse, sheep, and goat; and the fruit is sought after
by the first, as well as by the hog. Thus there appears to have existed
a natural alliance between these animals and this tree from the first.
"The fruit of the Crab in the forests of France" is said to be "a great
resource for the wild-boar."

Not only the Indian, but many indigenous insects, birds, and quadrupeds,
welcomed the apple-tree to these shores. The tent-caterpillar saddled her
eggs on the very first twig that was formed, and it has since shared her
affections with the wild cherry; and the canker-worm also in a measure
abandoned the elm to feed on it. As it grew apace, the bluebird, robin,
cherry-bird, king-bird, and many more, came with haste and built their
nests and warbled in its boughs, and so became orchard-birds, and
multiplied more than ever. It was an era in the history of their race.
The downy woodpecker found such a savory morsel under its bark, that he
perforated it in a ring quite round the tree, before he left it,--a thing
which he had never done before, to my knowledge. It did not take the
partridge long to find out how sweet its buds were, and every winter eve
she flew, and still flies, from the wood, to pluck them, much to the
farmer's sorrow. The rabbit, too, was not slow to learn the taste of its
twigs and bark; and when the fruit was ripe, the squirrel half-rolled,
half-carried it to his hole; and even the musquash crept up the bank from
the brook at evening, and greedily devoured it, until he had worn a path
in the grass there; and when it was frozen and thawed, the crow and the
jay were glad to taste it occasionally. The owl crept into the first
apple-tree that became hollow, and fairly hooted with delight, finding it
just the place for him; so, settling down into it, he has remained there
ever since.

My theme being the Wild Apple, I will merely glance at some of the seasons
in the annual growth of the cultivated apple, and pass on to my special
province.

The flowers of the apple are perhaps the most beautiful of any tree's, so
copious and so delicious to both sight and scent. The walker is frequently
tempted to turn and linger near some more than usually handsome one, whose
blossoms are two thirds expanded. How superior it is in these respects to
the pear, whose blossoms are neither colored nor fragrant!

By the middle of July, green apples are so large as to remind us of
coddling, and of the autumn. The sward is commonly strewed with little
ones which fall still-born, as it were,--Nature thus thinning them for us.
The Roman writer Palladius said,--"If apples are inclined to fall before
their time, a stone placed in a split root will retain them." Some such
notion, still surviving, may account for some of the stones which we see
placed to be overgrown in the forks of trees. They have a saying in
Suffolk, England,--

  "At Michaelmas time, or a little before,
   Half an apple goes to the core."

Early apples begin to be ripe about the first of August; but I think that
none of them are so good to eat as some to smell. One is worth more to
scent your handkerchief with than any perfume which they sell in the
shops. The fragrance of some fruits is not to be forgotten, along with
that of flowers. Some gnarly apple which I pick up in the road reminds me
by its fragrance of all the wealth of Pomona,--carrying me forward to
those days when they will be collected in golden and ruddy heaps in the
orchards and about the cider-mills.

A week or two later, as you are going by orchards or gardens, especially
in the evenings, you pass through a little region possessed by the
fragrance of ripe apples, and thus enjoy them without price, and without
robbing anybody.

There is thus about all natural products a certain volatile and ethereal
quality which represents their highest value, and which cannot be
vulgarized, or bought and sold. No mortal has ever enjoyed the perfect
flavor of any fruit, and only the godlike among men begin to taste its
ambrosial qualities. For nectar and ambrosia are only those fine flavors
of every earthly fruit which our coarse palates fail to perceive,--just as
we occupy the heaven of the gods without knowing it. When I see a
particularly mean man carrying a load of fair and fragrant early apples to
market, I seem to see a contest going on between him and his horse, on the
one side, and the apples on the other, and, to my mind, the apples always
gain it. Pliny says that apples are the heaviest of all things, and that
the oxen begin to sweat at the mere sight of a load of them. Our driver
begins to lose his load the moment he tries to transport them to where
they do not belong, that is, to any but the most beautiful. Though he gets
out from time to time, and feels of them, and thinks they are all there, I
see the stream of their evanescent and celestial qualities going to heaven
from his cart, while the pulp and skin and core only are going to market.
They are not apples, but pomace. Are not these still Iduna's apples, the
taste of which keeps the gods forever young? and think you that they will
let Loki or Thjassi carry them off to Jötunheim, while they grow wrinkled
and gray? No, for Ragnarök, or the destruction of the gods, is not yet.

There is another thinning of the fruit, commonly near the end of August or
in September, when the ground is strewn with windfalls; and this happens
especially when high winds occur after rain. In some orchards you may see
fully three quarters of the whole crop on the ground, lying in a circular
form beneath the trees, yet hard and green,--or, if it is a hill-side,
rolled far down the hill. However, it is an ill wind that blows nobody any
good. All the country over, people are busy picking up the windfalls, and
this will make them cheap for early apple-pies.

In October, the leaves falling, the apples are more distinct on the trees.
I saw one year in a neighboring town some trees fuller of fruit than I
remember to have ever seen before, small yellow apples hanging over the
road. The branches were gracefully drooping with their weight, like a
barberry-bush, so that the whole tree acquired a new character. Even the
topmost branches, instead of standing erect, spread and drooped in all
directions; and there were so many poles supporting the lower ones, that
they looked like pictures of banian-trees. As an old English manuscript
says, "The mo appelen the tree bereth, the more sche boweth to the folk."

Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits. Let the most beautiful or the
swiftest have it. That should be the "going" price of apples.

Between the fifth and twentieth of October I see the barrels lie under the
trees. And perhaps I talk with one who is selecting some choice barrels to
fulfil an order. He turns a specked one over many times before he leaves
it out. If I were to tell what is passing in my mind, I should say that
every one was specked which he had handled; for he rubs off all the bloom,
and those fugacious ethereal qualities leave it. Cool eveings prompt the
farmers to make haste, and at length I see only the ladders here and there
left leaning against the trees.

It would be well, if we accepted these gifts with more joy and gratitude,
and did not think it enough simply to put a fresh load of compost about
the tree. Some old English customs are suggestive at least. I find them
described chiefly in Brand's "Popular Antiquities." It appears that "on
Christmas eve the farmers and their men in Devonshire take a large bowl of
cider, with a toast in it, and carrying it in state to the orchard, they
salute the apple-trees with much ceremony, in order to make them bear well
the next season." This salutation consists in "throwing some of the cider
about the roots of the tree, placing bits of the toast on the branches,"
and then, "encircling one of the best bearing trees in the orchard, they
drink the following toast three several times:--

  'Here's to thee, old apple-tree,
 Whence thou mayst bud, and whence thou mayst blow,
 And whence thou mayst bear apples enow!
   Hats-full! caps-full!
   Bushel, bushel, sacks-full!
   And my pockets full, too! Hurra!'"

Also what was called "apple-howling" used to be practised in various
counties of England on New-Year's eve. A troop of boys visited the
different orchards, and, encircling the apple-trees, repeated the
following words:--

  "Stand fast, root! bear well, top!
   Pray God send us a good howling crop:
   Every twig, apples big;
   Every bow, apples enow!"

"They then shout in chorus, one of the boys accompanying them on a cow's
horn. During this ceremony they rap the trees with their sticks." This is
called "wassailing" the trees, and is thought by some to be "a relic of
the heathen sacrifice to Pomona."

Herrick sings,--

  "Wassaile the trees that they may beare
   You many a plum and many a peare;
   For more or less fruits they will bring
   As you so give them wassailing."

Our poets have as yet a better right to sing of cider than of wine; but it
behooves them to sing better than English Phillips did, else they will do
no credit to their Muse.

THE WILD APPLE.

So much for the more civilized apple-trees (_urbaniores_, as Pliny
calls them). I love better to go through the old orchards of ungrafted
apple-trees, at whatever season of the year,--so irregularly planted:
sometimes two trees standing close together; and the rows so devious that
you would think that they not only had grown while the owner was sleeping,
but had been set out by him in a somnambulic state. The rows of grafted
fruit will never tempt me to wander amid them like these. But I now, alas,
speak rather from memory than from any recent experience, such ravages
have been made!

Some soils, like a rocky tract called the Easterbrooks Country in my
neighborhood, are so suited to the apple, that it will grow faster in them
without any care, or if only the ground is broken up once a year, than it
will in many places with any amount of care. The owners of this tract
allow that the soil is excellent for fruit, but they say that it is so
rocky that they have not patience to plough it, and that, together with
the distance, is the reason why it is not cultivated. There are, or were
recently, extensive orchards there standing without order. Nay, they
spring up wild and bear well there in the midst of pines, birches, maples,
and oaks. I am often surprised to see rising amid these trees the rounded
tops of apple-trees glowing with red or yellow fruit; in harmony with the
autumnal tints of the forest.

Going up the side of a cliff about the first of November, I saw a vigorous
young apple-tree, which, planted by birds or cows, had shot up amid the
rocks and open woods there, and had now much fruit on it, uninjured by
the frosts, when all cultivated apples were gathered. It was a rank
wild growth, with many green leaves on it still, and made an impression
of thorniness. The fruit was hard and green, but looked as if it would be
palatable in the winter. Some was dangling on the twigs, but more
half-buried in the wet leaves under the tree, or rolled far down the hill
amid the rocks. The owner knows nothing of it. The day was not observed
when it first blossomed, nor when it first bore fruit, unless by the
chickadee. There was no dancing on the green beneath it in its honor, and
now there is no hand to pluck its fruit,--which is only gnawed by
squirrels, as I perceive. It has done double duty,--not only borne this
crop, but each twig has grown a foot into the air. And this is _such_
fruit! bigger than many berries, we must admit, and carried home will be
sound and palatable next spring. What care I for Iduna's apples so long as
I can get these?

When I go by this shrub thus late and hardy, and see its dangling fruit,
I respect the tree, and I am grateful for Nature's bounty, even though
I cannot eat it. Here on this rugged and woody hill-side has grown an
apple-tree, not planted by man, no relic of a former orchard, but a
natural growth, like the pines and oaks. Most fruits which we prize and
use depend entirely on our care. Corn and grain, potatoes, peaches,
melons, etc., depend altogether on our planting; but the apple emulates
man's independence and enterprise. It is not simply carried, as I have
said, but, like him, to some extent, it has migrated to this New World,
and is even, here and there, making its way amid the aboriginal trees;
just as the ox and dog and horse sometimes run wild and maintain
themselves.

Even the sourest and crabbedest apple, growing in the most unfavorable
position, suggests such thoughts as these, it is so noble a fruit.

THE CRAB.

Nevertheless, _our_ wild apple is wild only like myself, perchance, who
belong not to the aboriginal race here, but have strayed into the woods
from the cultivated stock. Wilder still, as I have said, there grows
elsewhere in this country a native and aboriginal Crab-Apple, _Malus
coronaria_, "whose nature has not yet been modified by cultivation."
It is found from Western New-York to Minnesota, and southward. Michaux
says that its ordinary height "is fifteen or eighteen feet, but it is
sometimes found twenty-five or thirty feet high," and that the large ones
"exactly resemble the common apple-tree." "The flowers are white mingled
with rose-color, and are collected in corymbs." They are remarkable for
their delicious odor. The fruit, according to him, is about an inch and a
half in diameter, and is intensely acid. Yet they make fine sweetmeats,
and also cider of them. He concludes, that "if, on being cultivated, it
does not yield new and palatable varieties, it will at least be celebrated
for the beauty of its flowers, and for the sweetness of its perfume."

I never saw the Crab-Apple till May, 1861. I had heard of it through
Michaux, but more modern botanists, so far as I know, have not treated it
as of any peculiar importance. Thus it was a half-fabulous tree to me. I
contemplated a pilgrimage to the "Glades," a portion of Pennsylvania where
it was said to grow to perfection. I thought of sending to a nursery for
it, but doubted if they had it, or would distinguish it from European
varieties. At last I had occasion to go to Minnesota, and on entering
Michigan I began to notice from the cars a tree with handsome rose-colored
flowers. At first I thought it some variety of thorn; but it was not long
before the truth flashed on me, that this was my long-sought Crab-Apple.
It was the prevailing flowering shrub or tree to be seen from the cars at
that season of the year,--about the middle of May. But the cars never
stopped before one, and so I was launched on the bosom of the Mississippi
without having touched one, experiencing the fate of Tantalus. On arriving
at St. Anthony's Falls, I was sorry to be told that I was too far north
for the Crab-Apple. Nevertheless I succeeded in finding it about eight
miles west of the Falls; touched it and smelled it, and secured a
lingering corymb of flowers for my herbarium. This must have been near its
northern limit.

HOW THE WILD APPLE GROWS.

But though these are indigenous, like the Indians, I doubt whether they
are any hardier than those backwoodsmen among the apple-trees, which,
though descended from cultivated stocks, plant themselves in distant
fields and forests, where the soil is favorable to them. I know of no
trees which have more difficulties to contend with, and which more
sturdily resist their foes. These are the ones whose story we have to
tell. It oftentimes reads thus:--

Near the beginning of May, we notice little thickets of apple-trees just
springing up in the pastures where cattle have been,--as the rocky ones of
our Easterbrooks Country, or the top of Nobscot Hill, in Sudbury. One or
two of these perhaps survive the drought and other accidents,--their very
birthplace defending them against the encroaching grass and some other
dangers, at first.

In two years' time 't had thus
  Reached the level of the rocks,
Admired the stretching world,
  Nor feared the wandering flocks.

But at this tender age
  Its sufferings began:
There came a browsing ox
 And cut it down a span.

This time, perhaps, the ox does not notice it amid the grass; but the next
year, when it has grown more stout, he recognizes it for a fellow-emigrant
from the old country, the flavor of whose leaves and twigs he well knows;
and though at first he pauses to welcome it, and express his surprise, and
gets for answer, "The same cause that brought you here brought me," he
nevertheless browses it again, reflecting, it may be, that he has some
title to it.

Thus cut down annually, it does not despair; but, putting forth two short
twigs for every one cut off, it spreads out low along the ground in the
hollows or between the rocks, growing more stout and scrubby, until it
forms, not a tree as yet, but a little pyramidal, stiff, twiggy mass,
almost as solid and impenetrable as a rock. Some of the densest and most
impenetrable clumps of bushes that I have ever seen, as well on account of
the closeness and stubbornness of their branches as of their thorns, have
been these wild-apple scrubs. They are more like the scrubby fir and black
spruce on which you stand, and sometimes walk, on the tops of mountains,
where cold is the demon they contend with, than anything else. No wonder
they are prompted to grow thorns at last, to defend themselves against
such foes. In their thorniness, however, there is no malice, only some
malic acid.

The rocky pastures of the tract I have referred to,--for they maintain
their ground best in a rocky field,--are thickly sprinkled with these
little tufts, reminding you often of some rigid gray mosses or lichens,
and you see thousands of little trees just springing up between them, with
the seed still attached to them.

Being regularly clipped all around each year by the cows, as a hedge with
shears, they are often of a perfect conical or pyramidal form, from one to
four feet high, and more or less sharp, as if trimmed by the gardener's
art. In the pastures on Nobscot Hill and its spurs, they make fine dark
shadows when the sun is low. They are also an excellent covert from hawks
for many small birds that roost and build in them. Whole flocks perch in
them at night, and I have seen three robins' nests in one which was six
feet in diameter.

No doubt many of these are already old trees, if you reckon from the day
they were planted, but infants still when you consider their development
and the long life before them. I counted the annual rings of some which
were just one foot high, and as wide as high, and found that they were
about twelve years old, but quite sound and thrifty! They were so low that
they were unnoticed by the walker, while many of their contemporaries from
the nurseries were already bearing considerable crops. But what you gain
in time is perhaps in this case, too, lost in power,--that is, in the
vigor of the tree. This is their pyramidal state.

The cows continue to browse them thus for twenty years or more, keeping
them down and compelling them to spread, until at last they are so broad
that they become their own fence, when some interior shoot, which their
foes cannot reach, darts upward with joy: for it has not forgotten its
high calling, and bears its own peculiar fruit in triumph.

Such are the tactics by which it finally defeats its bovine foes. Now, if
you have watched the progress of a particular shrub, you will see that it
is no longer a simple pyramid or cone, but that out of its apex there
rises a sprig or two, growing more lustily perchance than an orchard-tree,
since the plant now devotes the whole of its repressed energy to these
upright parts. In a short time these become a small tree, an inverted
pyramid resting on the apex of the other, so that the whole has now the
form of a vast hour-glass. The spreading bottom, having served its
purpose, finally disappears, and the generous tree permits the now
harmless cows to come in and stand in its shade, and rub against and
redden its trunk, which has grown in spite of them, and even to taste a
part of its fruit, and so disperse the seed.

Thus the cows create their own shade and food; and the tree, its
hour-glass being inverted, lives a second life, as it were.

It is an important question with some nowadays, whether you should trim
young apple-trees as high as your nose or as high as your eyes. The ox
trims them up as high as he can reach, and that is about the right height,
I think.

In spite of wandering kine, and other adverse circumstances, that despised
shrub, valued only by small birds as a covert and shelter from hawks, has
its blossom-week at last, and in coarse of time its harvest, sincere,
though small.

By the end of some October, when its leaves have fallen, I frequently see
such a central sprig, whose progress I have watched, when I thought it had
forgotten its destiny, as I had, bearing its first crop of small green or
yellow or rosy fruit, which the cows cannot get at over the bushy and
thorny hedge which surrounds it, and I make haste to taste the new and
undescribed variety. We have all heard of the numerous varieties of fruit
invented by Van Mons and Knight. This is the system of Van Cow, and she
has invented far more and more memorable varieties than both of them.

Through what hardships it may attain to bear a sweet fruit! Though
somewhat small, it may prove equal, if not superior, in flavor to that
which has grown in a garden,--will perchance be all the sweeter and more
palatable for the very difficulties it has had to contend with. Who knows
but this chance wild fruit, planted by a cow or a bird on some remote and
rocky hillside, where it is as yet unobserved by man, may be the choicest
of all its kind, and foreign potentates shall hear of it, and royal
societies seek to propagate it, though the virtues of the perhaps truly
crabbed owner of the soil may never be heard of,--at least, beyond the
limits of his village? It was thus the Porter and the Baldwin grew.

Every wild-apple shrub excites our expectation thus, somewhat as every
wild child. It is, perhaps, a prince in disguise. What a lesson to man! So
are human beings, referred to the highest standard, the celestial fruit
which they suggest and aspire to bear, browsed on by fate; and only the
most persistent and strongest genius defends itself and prevails, sends a
tender scion upward at last, and drops its perfect fruit on the ungrateful
earth. Poets and philosophers and statesmen thus spring up in the country
pastures, and outlast the hosts of unoriginal men.

Such is always the pursuit of knowledge. The celestial fruits, the golden
apples of the Hesperides, are ever guarded by a hundred-headed dragon
which never sleeps, so that it is an Herculean labor to pluck them.

This is one, and the most remarkable way, in which the wild apple is
propagated; but commonly it springs up at wide intervals in woods and
swamps, and by the sides of roads, as the soil may suit it, and grows with
comparative rapidity. Those which grow in dense woods are very tall and
slender. I frequently pluck from these trees a perfectly mild and tamed
fruit. As Palladius says, "_Et injussu consternitur ubere mali_": And the
ground is strewn with the fruit of an unbidden apple-tree.

It is an old notion, that, if these wild trees do not bear a valuable
fruit of their own, they are the best stocks by which to transmit to
posterity the most highly prized qualities of others. However, I am not in
search of stocks, but the wild fruit itself, whose fierce gust has
suffered no "inteneration." It is not my

               "highest plot
       To plant the Bergamot."

THE FRUIT, AND ITS FLAVOR.

The time for wild apples is the last of October and the first of November.
They then get to be palatable, for they ripen late, and they are still
perhaps as beautiful as ever. I make a great account of these fruits,
which the farmers do not think it worth the while to gather,--wild flavors
of the Muse, vivacious and inspiriting. The farmer thinks that he has
better in his barrels, but he is mistaken, unless he has a walker's
appetite and imagination, neither of which can he have.

Such as grow quite wild, and are left out till the first of November, I
presume that the owner does not mean to gather. They belong to children as
wild as themselves,--to certain active boys that I know,--to the wild-eyed
woman of the fields, to whom nothing comes amiss, who gleans after all the
world,--and, moreover, to us walkers. We have met with them, and they are
ours. These rights, long enough insisted upon, have come to be an
institution in some old countries, where they have learned how to live. I
hear that "the custom of grippling, which may be called apple-gleaning,
is, or was formerly, practised in Herefordshire. It consists in leaving a
few apples, which are called the gripples, on every tree, after the
general gathering, for the boys, who go with climbing-poles and bags to
collect them."

As for those I speak of, I pluck them as a wild fruit, native to this
quarter of the earth,--fruit of old trees that have been dying ever since
I was a boy and are not yet dead, frequented only by the woodpecker and
the squirrel, deserted now by the owner, who has not faith enough to look
under their boughs. From the appearance of the tree-top, at a little
distance, you would expect nothing but lichens to drop from it, but your
faith is rewarded by finding the ground strewn with spirited fruit,--some
of it, perhaps, collected at squirrel-holes, with the marks of their teeth
by which they carried them,--some containing a cricket or two silently
feeding within, and some, especially in damp days, a shelless snail. The
very sticks and stones lodged in the tree-top might have convinced you of
the savoriness of the fruit which has been so eagerly sought after in past
years.

I have seen no account of these among the "Fruits and Fruit-Trees of
America," though they are more memorable to my taste than the grafted
kinds; more racy and wild American flavors do they possess, when October
and November, when December and January, and perhaps February and March
even, have assuaged them somewhat. An old farmer in my neighborhood, who
always selects the right word, says that "they have a kind of bow-arrow
tang."

Apples for grafting appear to have been selected commonly, not so much for
their spirited flavor, as for their mildness, their size, and bearing
qualities,--not so much for their beauty, as for their fairness and
soundness. Indeed, I have no faith in the selected lists of pomological
gentlemen. Their "Favorites" and "None-suches" and "Seek-no-farthers,"
when I have fruited them, commonly turn out very tame and forgetable.
They are eaten with comparatively little zest, and have no real _tang_ nor
_smack_ to them.

What if some of these wildings are acrid and puckery, genuine _verjuice_,
do they not still belong to the _Pomaceae_, which are uniformly innocent
and kind to our race? I still begrudge them to the cider-mill. Perhaps
they are not fairly ripe yet.

No wonder that these small and high-colored apples are thought to make the
best cider. Loudon quotes from the "Herefordshire Report," that "apples of
a small size are always, if equal in quality, to be preferred to those of
a larger size, in order that the rind and kernel may bear the greatest
proportion to the pulp, which affords the weakest and most watery juice."
And he says, that, "to prove this, Dr. Symonds, of Hereford, about the
year 1800, made one hogshead of cider entirely from the rinds and cores of
apples, and another from the pulp only, when the first was found of
extraordinary strength and flavor, while the latter was sweet and
insipid."

Evelyn says that the "Red-strake" was the favorite cider-apple in his day;
and he quotes one Dr. Newburg as saying, "In Jersey 't is a general
observation, as I hear, that the more of red any apple has in its rind,
the more proper it is for this use. Pale-faced apples they exclude as much
as may be from their cider-vat." This opinion still prevails.

All apples are good in November. Those which the farmer leaves out as
unsalable, and unpalatable to those who frequent the markets, are choicest
fruit to the walker. But it is remarkable that the wild apple, which I
praise as so spirited and racy when eaten in the fields or woods, being
brought into the house, has frequently a harsh and crabbed taste.
The Saunterer's Apple not even the saunterer can eat in the house.
The palate rejects it there, as it does haws and acorns, and demands a
tamed one; for there you miss the November air, which is the sauce it is
to be eaten with. Accordingly, when Tityrus, seeing the lengthening
shadows, invites Meliboeus to go home and pass the night with him, he
promises him _mild_ apples and soft chestnuts,--_mitia poma, castaneae
molles_. I frequently pluck wild apples of so rich and spicy a flavor that
I wonder all orchardists do not get a scion from that tree, and I fail not
to bring home my pockets full. But perchance, when I take one out of my
desk and taste it in my chamber, I find it unexpectedly crude,--sour
enough to set a squirrel's teeth on edge and make a jay scream.

These apples have hung in the wind and frost and rain till they have
absorbed the qualities of the weather or season, and thus are highly
_seasoned,_ and they _pierce_ and _sting_ and _permeate_ us with their
spirit. They must be eaten in _season_, accordingly,--that is,
out-of-doors.

To appreciate the wild and sharp flavors of these October fruits, it is
necessary that you be breathing the sharp October or November air. The
out-door air and exercise which the walker gets give a different tone to
his palate, and he craves a fruit which the sedentary would call harsh and
crabbed. They must be eaten in the fields, when your system is all aglow
with exercise, when the frosty weather nips your fingers, the wind rattles
the bare boughs or rustles the few remaining leaves, and the jay is heard
screaming around. What is sour in the house a bracing walk makes sweet.
Some of these apples might be labelled, "To be eaten in the wind."

Of course no flavors are thrown away; they are intended for the taste that
is up to them. Some apples have two distinct flavors, and perhaps one-half
of them must be eaten in the house, the other out-doors. One Peter Whitney
wrote from Northborough in 1782, for the Proceedings of the Boston
Academy, describing an apple-tree in that town "producing fruit of
opposite qualities, part of the same apple being frequently sour and the
other sweet;" also some all sour, and others all sweet, and this diversity
on all parts of the tree.

There is a wild apple on Nawshawtuck Hill in my town which has to me a
peculiarly pleasant bitter tang, not perceived till it is three-quarters
tasted. It remains on the tongue. As you eat it, it smells exactly like a
squash-bug. It is a sort of triumph to eat and relish it.

I hear that the fruit of a kind of plum-tree in Provence is "called
_Prunes sibarelles_, because it is impossible to whistle after having
eaten them, from their sourness." But perhaps they were only eaten in the
house and in summer, and if tried out-of-doors in a stinging atmosphere,
who knows but you could whistle an octave higher and clearer?

In the fields only are the sours and bitters of Nature appreciated; just
as the wood-chopper eats his meal in a sunny glade, in the middle of a
winter day, with content, basks in a sunny ray there and dreams of summer
in a degree of cold which, experienced in a chamber, would make a student
miserable. They who are at work abroad are not cold, but rather it is they
who sit shivering in houses. As with temperatures, so with flavors; as,
with cold and heat, so with sour and sweet. This natural raciness, the
sours and bitters which the diseased palate refuses, are the true
condiments.

Let your condiments be in the condition of your senses. To appreciate the
flavor of these wild apples requires vigorous and healthy senses,
_papillae_ firm and erect on the tongue and palate, not easily flattened
and tamed.

From my experience with wild apples, I can understand that there may be
reason for a savage's preferring many kinds of food which the civilized
man rejects. The former has the palate of an out-door man. It takes a
savage or wild taste to appreciate a wild fruit.

What a healthy out-of-door appetite it takes to relish the apple of life,
the apple of the world, then!

  "Nor is it every apple I desire,
   Nor that which pleases every palate best;
   'T is not the lasting Deuxan I require,
   Nor yet the red-cheeked Greening I request,
   Nor that which first beshrewed the name of wife,
   Nor that whose beauty caused the golden strife:
   No, no I bring me an apple from the tree of life."

So there is one _thought_ for the field, another for the house. I would
have my thoughts, like wild apples, to be food for walkers, and will not
warrant them to be palatable, if tasted in the house.

THEIR BEAUTY.

Almost all wild apples are handsome. They cannot be too gnarly and crabbed
and rusty to look at. The gnarliest will have some redeeming traits even
to the eye. You will discover some evening redness dashed or sprinkled on
some protuberance or in some cavity. It is rare that the summer lets an
apple go without streaking or spotting it on some part of its sphere. It
will have some red stains, commemorating the mornings and evenings it has
witnessed; some dark and rusty blotches, in memory of the clouds and
foggy, mildewy days that have passed over it; and a spacious field of
green reflecting the general face of Nature,--green even as the fields; or
a yellow ground, which implies a milder flavor,--yellow as the harvest, or
russet as the hills.

Apples, these I mean, unspeakably fair,--apples not of Discord, but of
Concord! Yet not so rare but that the homeliest may have a share. Painted
by the frosts, some a uniform clear bright yellow, or red, or crimson, as
if their spheres had regularly revolved, and enjoyed the influence of the
sun on all sides alike,--some with the faintest pink blush imaginable,--
some brindled with deep red streaks like a cow, or with hundreds of fine
blood-red rays running regularly from the stem-dimple to the blossom-end,
like meridional lines, on a straw-colored ground,--some touched with a
greenish rust, like a fine lichen, here and there, with crimson blotches
or eyes more or less confluent and fiery when wet,--and others gnarly, and
freckled or peppered all over on the stem side with fine crimson spots on
a white ground, as if accidentally sprinkled from the brush of Him who
paints the autumn leaves. Others, again, are sometimes red inside,
perfused with a beautiful blush, fairy food, too beautiful to eat,--apple
of the Hesperides, apple of the evening sky! But like shells and pebbles
on the sea-shore, they must be seen as they sparkle amid the withering
leaves in some dell in the woods, in the autumnal air, or as they lie in
the wet grass, and not when they have wilted and faded in the house.

THE NAMING OF THEM.

It would be a pleasant pastime to find suitable names for the hundred
varieties which go to a single heap at the cider-mill. Would it not tax a
man's invention,--no one to be named after a man, and all in the _lingua
vernacula_? Who shall stand godfather at the christening of the wild
apples? It would exhaust the Latin and Greek languages, if they were used,
and make the _lingua vernacula_ flag. We should have to call in the
sunrise and the sunset, the rainbow and the autumn woods and the wild
flowers, and the woodpecker and the purple finch and the squirrel and the
jay and the butterfly, the November traveller and the truant boy, to our
aid.

In 1836 there were in the garden of the London Horticultural Society more
than fourteen hundred distinct sorts. But here are species which they have
not in their catalogue, not to mention the varieties which our Crab might
yield to cultivation.

Let us enumerate a few of these. I find myself compelled, after all, to
give the Latin names of some for the benefit of those who live where
English is not spoken,--for they are likely to have a world-wide
reputation.

There is, first of all, the Wood-Apple (_Malus sylvatica_); the Blue-Jay
Apple; the Apple which grows in Dells in the Woods, (_sylvestrivallis_,)
also in Hollows in Pastures (_campestrivallis_); the Apple that
grows in an old Cellar-Hole (_Malus cellaris_); the Meadow-Apple;
the Partridge-Apple; the Truant's Apple, (_Cessatoris_,) which no boy
will ever go by without knocking off some, however _late_ it may be;
the Saunterer's Apple,--you must lose yourself before you can find
the way to that; the Beauty of the Air (_Decus Aeris_); December-Eating;
the Frozen-Thawed _(gelato-soluta),_ good only in that state; the Concord
Apple, possibly the same with the _Musketaquidensis_; the Assabet Apple;
the Brindled Apple; Wine of New England; the Chickaree Apple; the Green
Apple _(Malus viridis);_--this has many synonymes; in an imperfect
state, it is the _Cholera morbifera aut dysenterifera, puerulis
dilectissima_;--the Apple which Atalanta stopped to pick up; the
Hedge-Apple _(Malus Sepium_); the Slug-Apple _(limacea)_; the
Railroad-Apple, which perhaps came from a core thrown out of the cars;
the Apple whose Fruit we tasted in our Youth; our Particular Apple,
not to be found in any catalogue,--_Pedestrium Solatium_; also the Apple
where hangs the Forgotten Scythe; Iduna's Apples, and the Apples which
Loki found in the Wood; and a great many more I have on my list, too
numerous to mention,--all of them good. As Bodaeus exclaims, referring to
the cultivated kinds, and adapting Virgil to his case, so I, adapting
Bodaeus,--

  "Not if I had a hundred tongues, a hundred mouths,
   An iron voice, could I describe all the forms
   And reckon up all the names of these _wild apples_."

THE LAST GLEANING.

By the middle of November the wild apples have lost some of their
brilliancy, and have chiefly fallen. A great part are decayed on the
ground, and the sound ones are more palatable than before. The note of
the chickadee sounds now more distinct, as you wander amid the old trees,
and the autumnal dandelion is half-closed and tearful. But still, if you
are a skilful gleaner, you may get many a pocket-full even of grafted
fruit, long after apples are supposed to be gone out-of-doors. I know
a Blue-Pearmain tree, growing within the edge of a swamp, almost as good
as wild. You would not suppose that there was any fruit left there,
on the first survey, but you must look according to system. Those which
lie exposed are quite brown and rotten now, or perchance a few still show
one blooming cheek here and there amid the wet leaves. Nevertheless,
with experienced eyes, I explore amid the bare alders and the
huckleberry-bushes and the withered sedge, and in the crevices of the
rocks, which are full of leaves, and pry under the fallen and decaying
ferns, which, with apple and alder leaves, thickly strew the ground. For I
know that they lie concealed, fallen into hollows long since and covered
up by the leaves of the tree itself,--a proper kind of packing. From these
lurking-places, anywhere within the circumference of the tree, I draw
forth the fruit, all wet and glossy, maybe nibbled by rabbits and hollowed
out by crickets and perhaps with a leaf or two cemented to it (as Curzon
an old manuscript from a monastery's mouldy cellar), but still with a rich
bloom on it, and at least as ripe and well kept, if not better than those
in barrels, more crisp and lively than they. If these resources fail to
yield anything, I have learned to look between the bases of the suckers
which spring thickly from some horizontal limb, for now and then one
lodges there, or in the very midst of an alder-clump, where they are
covered by leaves, safe from cows which may have smelled them out. If I am
sharp-set, for I do not refuse the Blue-Pearmain, I fill my pockets on
each side; and as I retrace my steps in the frosty eve, being perhaps four
or five miles from home, I eat one first from this side, and then from
that, to keep my balance.

I learn from Topsell's Gesner, whose authority appears to be Albertus,
that the following is the way in which the hedgehog collects and carries
home his apples. He says,--"His meat is apples, worms, or grapes: when he
findeth apples or grapes on the earth, he rolleth himself upon them, until
he have filled all his prickles, and then carrieth them home to his den,
never bearing above one in his mouth; and if it fortune that one of them
fall off by the way, he likewise shaketh off all the residue, and
walloweth upon them afresh, until they be all settled upon his back again.
So, forth he goeth, making a noise like a cart-wheel; and if he have any
young ones in his nest, they pull off his load wherewithal he is loaded,
eating thereof what they please, and laying up the residue for the time to
come."

THE "FROZEN-THAWED" APPLE.

Toward the end of November, though some of the sound ones are yet more
mellow and perhaps more edible, they have generally, like the leaves, lost
their beauty, and are beginning to freeze. It is finger-cold, and prudent
farmers get in their barrelled apples, and bring you the apples and cider
which they have engaged; for it is time to put them into the cellar.
Perhaps a few on the ground show their red cheeks above the early snow,
and occasionally some even preserve their color and soundness under the
snow throughout the winter. But generally at the beginning of the winter
they freeze hard, and soon, though undecayed, acquire the color of a baked
apple.

Before the end of December, generally, they experience their first
thawing. Those which a month ago were sour, crabbed, and quite unpalatable
to the civilized taste, such at least as were frozen while sound, let a
warmer sun come to thaw them, for they are extremely sensitive to its
rays, are found to be filled with a rich, sweet cider, better than any
bottled cider that I know of, and with which I am better acquainted than
with wine. All apples are good in this state, and your jaws are the
cider-press. Others, which have more substance, are a sweet and luscious
food,--in my opinion of more worth than the pine-apples which are imported
from the West Indies. Those which lately even I tasted only to repent of
it,--for I am semi-civilized,--which the farmer willingly left on the
tree, I am now glad to find have the property of hanging on like the
leaves of the young oaks. It is a way to keep cider sweet without boiling.
Let the frost come to freeze them first, solid as stones, and then the
rain or a warm winter day to thaw them, and they will seem to have
borrowed a flavor from heaven through the medium of the air in which they
hang. Or perchance you find, when you get home, that those which rattled
in your pocket have thawed, and the ice is turned to cider. But after the
third or fourth freezing and thawing they will not be found so good.

What are the imported half-ripe fruits of the torrid South, to this
fruit matured by the cold of the frigid North? These are those crabbed
apples with which I cheated my companion, and kept a smooth face that
I might tempt him to eat. Now we both greedily fill our pockets with
them,--bending to drink the cup and save our lappets from the overflowing
juice,--and grow more social with their wine. Was there one that hung so
high and sheltered by the tangled branches that our sticks could not
dislodge it?

It is a fruit never carried to market, that I am aware of,--quite distinct
from the apple of the markets, as from dried apple and cider,--and it is
not every winter that produces it in perfection.

       *       *       *       *       *

The era of the Wild Apple will soon be past. It is a fruit which will
probably become extinct in New England. You may still wander through old
orchards of native fruit of great extent, which for the most part went to
the cider-mill, now all gone to decay. I have heard of an orchard in a
distant town, on the side of a hill, where the apples rolled down and lay
four feet deep against a wall on the lower side, and this the owner cut
down for fear they should be made into cider. Since the temperance reform
and the general introduction of grafted fruit, no native apple-trees, such
as I see everywhere in deserted pastures, and where the woods have grown
up around them, are set out. I fear that he who walks over these fields a
century hence will not know the pleasure of knocking off wild apples. Ah,
poor man, there are many pleasures which he will not know! Notwithstanding
the prevalence of the Baldwin and the Porter, I doubt if so extensive
orchards are set out to-day in my town as there were a century ago, when
those vast straggling cider-orchards were planted, when men both ate and
drank apples, when the pomace-heap was the only nursery, and trees cost
nothing but the trouble of setting them out. Men could afford then to
stick a tree by every wall-side and let it take its chance. I see nobody
planting trees to-day in such out-of-the-way places, along the lonely
roads and lanes, and at the bottom of dells in the wood. Now that they
have grafted trees, and pay a price for them, they collect them into a
plat by their houses, and fence them in,--and the end of it all will be
that we shall be compelled to look for our apples in a barrel.

This is "The word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.

"Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land!
Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?...

"That which the palmer-worm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that
which the locust hath left hath the canker-worm eaten; and that which the
canker-worm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten.

"Awake, ye drunkards, and weep! and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because
of the new wine! for it is cut off from your mouth.

"For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose
teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek-teeth of a great
lion.

"He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig-tree; he hath made it clean
bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white....

"Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen! howl, O ye vine-dressers!...

"The vine is dried up, and the fig-tree languisheth; the pomegranate-tree,
the palm-tree also, and the apple-tree, even all the trees of the field,
are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men."



NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT.

Chancing to take a memorable walk by moonlight some years ago, I resolved
to take more such walks, and make acquaintance with another side of
nature: I have done so.

According to Pliny, there is a stone in Arabia called Selenites, "wherein
is a white, which increases and decreases with the moon." My journal for
the last year or two, has been _selenitic_ in this sense.

Is not the midnight like Central Africa to most of us? Are we not tempted
to explore it,--to penetrate to the shores of its lake Tchad, and discover
the source of its Nile, perchance the Mountains of the Moon? Who knows
what fertility and beauty, moral and natural, are there to be found? In
the Mountains of the Moon, in the Central Africa of the night, there is
where all Niles have their hidden heads. The expeditions up the Nile as
yet extend but to the Cataracts, or perchance to the mouth of the White
Nile; but it is the Black Nile that concerns us.

I shall be a benefactor if I conquer some realms from the night, if I
report to the gazettes anything transpiring about us at that season worthy
of their attention,--if I can show men that there is some beauty awake
while they are asleep,--if I add to the domains of poetry.

Night is certainly more novel and less profane than day. I soon discovered
that I was acquainted only with its complexion, and as for the moon, I had
seen her only as it were through a crevice in a shutter, occasionally. Why
not walk a little way in her light?

Suppose you attend to the suggestions which the moon makes for one month,
commonly in vain, will it not be very different from anything in
literature or religion? But why not study this Sanscrit? What if one moon
has come and gone with its world of poetry, its weird teachings, its
oracular suggestions,--so divine a creature freighted with hints for me,
and I have not used her? One moon gone by unnoticed?

I think it was Dr. Chalmers who said, criticising Coleridge, that for his
part he wanted ideas which he could see all round, and not such as he must
look at away up in the heavens. Such a man, one would say, would never
look at the moon, because she never turns her other side to us. The light
which comes from ideas which have their orbit as distant from the earth,
and which is no less cheering and enlightening to the benighted traveller
than that of the moon and stars, is naturally reproached or nicknamed as
moonshine by such. They are moonshine, are they? Well, then do your
night-travelling when there is no moon to light you; but I will be
thankful for the light that reaches me from the star of least magnitude.
Stars are lesser or greater only as they appear to us so. I will be
thankful that I see so much as one side of a celestial idea,--one side of
the rainbow,--and the sunset sky.

Men talk glibly enough about moonshine, as if they knew its qualities very
well, and despised them; as owls might talk of sunshine. None of your
sunshine,--but this word commonly means merely something which they do not
understand,--which they are abed and asleep to, however much it may be
worth their while to be up and awake to it.

It must be allowed that the light of the moon, sufficient though it is for
the pensive walker, and not disproportionate to the inner light we have,
is very inferior in quality and intensity to that of the sun. But the moon
is not to be judged alone by the quantity of light she sends to us, but
also by her influence on the earth and its inhabitants. "The moon
gravitates toward the earth, and the earth reciprocally toward the moon."
The poet who walks by moonlight is conscious of a tide in his thought
which is to be referred to lunar influence. I will endeavor to separate
the tide in my thoughts from the current distractions of the day. I would
warn my hearers that they must not try my thoughts by a daylight standard,
but endeavor to realize that I speak out of the night. All depends on your
point of view. In Drake's "Collection of Voyages," Wafer says of some
Albinoes among the Indians of Darien, "They are quite white, but their
whiteness is like that of a horse, quite different from the fair or pale
European, as they have not the least tincture of a blush or sanguine
complexion. * * * Their eyebrows are milk-white, as is likewise the hair
of their heads, which is very fine. * * * They seldom go abroad in the
daytime, the sun being disagreeable to them, and causing their eyes, which
are weak and poring, to water, especially if it shines towards them, yet
they see very well by moonlight, from which we call them moon-eyed."

Neither in our thoughts in these moonlight walks, methinks, is there "the
least tincture of a blush or sanguine complexion," but we are
intellectually and morally Albinoes,--children of Endymion,--such is the
effect of conversing much with the moon.

I complain of Arctic voyagers that, they do not enough remind us of the
constant peculiar dreariness of the scenery, and the perpetual twilight of
the Arctic night. So he whose theme is moonlight, though he may find it
difficult, must, as it were, illustrate it with the light of the moon
alone.

Many men walk by day; few walk by night. It is a very different season.
Take a July night, for instance. About ten o'clock,--when man is asleep,
and day fairly forgotten,--the beauty of moonlight is seen over lonely
pastures where cattle are silently feeding. On all sides novelties present
themselves. Instead of the sun there are the moon and stars, instead of
the wood-thrush there is the whip-poor-will,--instead of butterflies in
the meadows, fire-flies, winged sparks of fire! who would have believed
it? What kind of cool deliberate life dwells in those dewy abodes
associated with a spark of fire? So man has fire in his eyes, or blood, or
brain. Instead of singing birds, the half-throttled note of a cuckoo
flying over, the croaking of frogs, and the intenser dream of crickets.
But above all, the wonderful trump of the bull-frog, ringing from Maine to
Georgia. The potato-vines stand upright, the corn grows apace, the bushes
loom, the grain-fields are boundless. On our open river terraces once
cultivated by the Indian, they appear to occupy the ground like an army,--
their heads nodding in the breeze.

Small trees and shrubs are seen in the midst, overwhelmed as by an
inundation. The shadows of rocks and trees, and shrubs and hills, are more
conspicuous than the objects themselves. The slightest irregularities in
the ground are revealed by the shadows, and what the feet find
comparatively smooth, appears rough and diversified in consequence. For
the same reason the whole landscape is more variegated and picturesque
than by day. The smallest recesses in the rocks are dim and cavernous; the
ferns in the wood appear of tropical size. The sweet fern and indigo in
overgrown wood-paths wet you with dew up to your middle. The leaves of the
shrub-oak are shining as if a liquid were flowing over them. The pools
seen through the trees are as full of light as the sky. "The light of the
day takes refuge in their bosoms," as the Purana says of the ocean. All
white objects are more remarkable than by day. A distant cliff looks like
a phosphorescent space on a hillside. The woods are heavy and dark. Nature
slumbers. You see the moonlight reflected from particular stumps in the
recesses of the forest, as if she selected what to shine on. These small
fractions of her light remind one of the plant called moon-seed,--as if
the moon were sowing it in such places.

In the night the eyes are partly closed or retire into the head. Other
senses take the lead. The walker is guided as well by the sense of smell.
Every plant and field and forest emits its odor now, swamp-pink in the
meadow and tansy in the road; and there is the peculiar dry scent of corn
which has begun to show its tassels. The senses both of hearing and
smelling are more alert. We hear the tinkling of rills which we never
detected before. From time to time, high up on the sides of hills, you
pass through a stratum of warm air. A blast which has come up from the
sultry plains of noon. It tells of the day, of sunny noon-tide hours and
banks, of the laborer wiping his brow and the bee humming amid flowers. It
is an air in which work has been done,--which men have breathed. It
circulates about from wood-side to hill-side like a dog that has lost its
master, now that the sun is gone. The rocks retain all night the warmth of
the sun which they have absorbed. And so does the sand. If you dig a few
inches into it you find a warm bed. You lie on your back on a rock in a
pasture on the top of some bare hill at midnight, and speculate on the
height of the starry canopy. The stars are the jewels of the night, and
perchance surpass anything which day has to show. A companion with whom I
was sailing one very windy but bright moonlight night, when the stars were
few and faint, thought that a man could get along with _them_,--though he
was considerably reduced in his circumstances,--that they were a kind of
bread and cheese that never failed.

No wonder that there have been astrologers, that some have conceived that
they were personally related to particular stars. Dubartas, as translated
by Sylvester, says he'll

    "not believe that the great architect
  With all these fires the heavenly arches decked
  Only for show, and with these glistering shields,
  T' awake poor shepherds, watching in the fields."
  He'll "not believe that the least flower which pranks
  Our garden borders, or our common banks,
  And the least stone, that in her warming lap
  Our mother earth doth covetously wrap,
  Hath some peculiar virtue of its own,
  And that the glorious stars of heav'n have none."

And Sir Walter Raleigh well says, "the stars are instruments of far
greater use, than to give an obscure light, and for men to gaze on after
sunset;" and he quotes Plotinus as affirming that they "are significant,
but not efficient;" and also Augustine as saying, "_Deus regit inferiora
corpora per superiora_:" God rules the bodies below by those above. But
best of all is this which another writer has expressed: "_Sapiens
adjuvabit opus astrorum quemadmodum agricola terrae naturam_:" a wise man
assisteth the work of the stars as the husbandman helpeth the nature of
the soil.

It does not concern men who are asleep in their beds, but it is very
important to the traveller, whether the moon shines brightly or is
obscured. It is not easy to realize the serene joy of all the earth, when
she commences to shine unobstructedly, unless you have often been abroad
alone in moonlight nights. She seems to be waging continual war with the
clouds in your behalf. Yet we fancy the clouds to be _her_ foes also. She
comes on magnifying her dangers by her light, revealing, displaying them
in all their hugeness and blackness, then suddenly casts them behind into
the light concealed, and goes her way triumphant through a small space of
clear sky.

In short, the moon traversing, or appearing to traverse, the small clouds
which lie in her way, now obscured by them, now easily dissipating and
shining through them, makes the drama of the moonlight night to all
watchers and night-travellers. Sailors speak of it as the moon eating up
the clouds. The traveller all alone, the moon all alone, except for his
sympathy, overcoming with incessant victory whole squadrons of clouds
above the forests and lakes and hills. When she is obscured he so
sympathizes with her that he could whip a dog for her relief, as Indians
do. When she enters on a clear field of great extent in the heavens, and
shines unobstructedly, he is glad. And when she has fought her way through
all the squadron of her foes, and rides majestic in a clear sky unscathed,
and there are no more any obstructions in her path, he cheerfully and
confidently pursues his way, and rejoices in his heart, and the cricket
also seems to express joy in its song.

How insupportable would be the days, if the night with its dews and
darkness did not come to restore the drooping world. As the shades begin
to gather around us, our primeval instincts are aroused, and we steal
forth from our lairs, like the inhabitants of the jungle, in search of
those silent and brooding thoughts which are the natural prey of the
intellect.

Richter says that "The earth is every day overspread with the veil of
night for the same reason as the cages of birds are darkened, viz: that we
may the more readily apprehend the higher harmonies of thought in the hush
and quiet of darkness. Thoughts which day turns into smoke and mist, stand
about us in the night as light and flames; even as the column which
fluctuates above the crater of Vesuvius, in the daytime appears a pillar
of cloud, but by night a pillar of fire."

There are nights in this climate of such serene and majestic beauty, so
medicinal and fertilizing to the spirit, that methinks a sensitive nature
would not devote them to oblivion, and perhaps there is no man but would
be better and wiser for spending them out of doors, though he should sleep
all the next day to pay for it; should sleep an Endymion sleep, as the
ancients expressed it,--nights which warrant the Grecian epithet
ambrosial, when, as in the land of Beulah, the atmosphere is charged with
dewy fragrance, and with music, and we take our repose and have our dreams
awake,--when the moon, not secondary to the sun,

            "gives us his blaze again,
  Void of its flame, and sheds a softer day.
  Now through the passing cloud she seems to stoop,
  Now up the pure cerulean rides sublime."

Diana still hunts in the New England sky.

  "In Heaven queen she is among the spheres.
    She, mistress-like, makes all things to be pure.
  Eternity in her oft change she bears;
    She Beauty is; by her the fair endure.

  Time wears her not; she doth his chariot guide;
    Mortality below her orb is placed;
  By her lie virtues of the stars down slide;
    By her is Virtue's perfect image cast."

The Hindoos compare the moon to a saintly being who has reached the last
stage of bodily existence.

Great restorer of antiquity, great enchanter. In a mild night, when the
harvest or hunter's moon shines unobstructedly, the houses in our village,
whatever architect they may have had by day, acknowledge only a master.
The village street is then as wild as the forest. New and old things are
confounded. I know not whether I am sitting on the ruins of a wall, or on
the material which is to compose a new one. Nature is an instructed and
impartial teacher, spreading no crude opinions, and flattering none; she
will be neither radical nor conservative. Consider the moonlight, so
civil, yet so savage!

The light is more proportionate to our knowledge than that of day. It is
no more dusky in ordinary nights, than our mind's habitual atmosphere, and
the moonlight is as bright as our most illuminated moments are.

  "In such a night let me abroad remain
   Till morning breaks, and all's confused again."

Of what significance the light of day, if it is not the reflection of an
inward dawn?--to what purpose is the veil of night withdrawn, if the
morning reveals nothing to the soul? It is merely garish and glaring.

When Ossian in his address to the sun exclaims,

  "Where has darkness its dwelling?
   Where is the cavernous home of the stars,
   When thou quickly followest their steps,
   Pursuing them like a hunter in the sky,--
   Thou climbing the lofty hills,
   They descending on barren mountains?"

who does not in his thought accompany the stars to their "cavernous home,"
"descending" with them "on barren mountains?"

Nevertheless, even by night the sky is blue and not black, for we see
through the shadow of the earth into the distant atmosphere of day, where
the sunbeams are revelling.

THE END.





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