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Full text of "Excursions"

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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. 
TICKNOR AND FIELDS, PUBLISHERS. 



last 




EXCURSIONS. 



BY 

HENRY D. THOREAU. 

AUTHOR OF " WARDEN," AND " A WEEK ON THE CONCORD AND 
MERRIMACK KIVERS." 



ojK^r^ 

I 

Library. 




TICK NOR AND FIELDS 
1863. 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1863, by 

TICKNOR & FIELDS, 
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts. 



RIVERSIDE, CAMBRIDGE: 
STEREOTYPED AND PRINTED BY H. 0. HOUGHTON. 



CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 7 

NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS . . 37 

A WALK TO WACHUSETT 73 

THE LANDLORD 97 

A WINTER WALK 109 

THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES . . 135 

WALKING 161 

AUTUMNAL TINTS ...... 215 

WILD APPLES 266 

NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT 307 




BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 

BY R. W. EMERSON. 



HENRY DAVID THOREAU was the last male de 
scendant of a French ancestor who came to this coun 
try from the Isle of Guernsey. His character exhibited 
occasional traits drawn from this blood in singular com 
bination 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 icon 
oclast 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 him 
self 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 Lon 
don 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 



8 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 

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 zoology 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 col 
lege, whilst all his companions were choosing their pro 
fession, 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 profes 
sion, aiming at a much more comprehensive calling, the 
art of living well. If he slighted and defied the opin 
ions 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 engage 
ments. With his hardy habits atod 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 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 9 

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 inti 
mate 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 founda 
tion. He was a protestant a Foutrance, 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 natural 
ist, 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 r how 
to be poor without the least hint of squalor or inele 
gance. Perhaps he fell into his way of living without 
forecasting it much, but approved it with later wisdom. 



10 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 

" I am often reminded," he wrote in his journal, " that, 
if I had bestowed on me the wealth of Crossus, 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 culti 
vated people were all thrown away on him. He much 
preferred a good Indian, and considered these refine 
ments as impediments to conversation, wishing to meet 
his companion on the simplest terms. He declined invi 
tations 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 mak 
ing 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 unim 
portant 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 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 11 

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 noth 
ing 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, a 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, liermit 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 lec 
tures which reached only a few persons. But, at sup- 



12 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 

per, 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 thp 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 expec 
tation, but used an original judgment on each emer 
gency. 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 annoy 
ance 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 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 13 

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 re 
paired 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 Presi 
dent 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 pref 
erence of his country and condition was genuine, and 
his aversation from English and European manners 
and tastes almost reached contempt. He listened im 
patiently 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 



14 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 

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 sla 
very, abolition of tariffs, almost for abolition of govern 
ment, it is needless to say he found himself not only un 
represented 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 Repub 
lican 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 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 15 

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 com 
plexion, with strong, serious blue eyes, and a grave 
aspect, his face covered in the late years with a be 
coming 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 esti 
mate 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 pen 
cils, 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, iii 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 



16 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 

to examine them, and select the sound ones. But find 
ing 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 propo 
sition, he would bring you to-day another not less revo 
lutionary. 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 dis 
turbed : 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 In- 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 17 

dian arrow-heads could be found, he replied, " Every 
where," and, stooping forward, picked one on the instant 
from the ground. At Mount Washington, in Tucker- 
man'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 hid 
den 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 un 
sleeping 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 
2 



18 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 

with, so that nothing seemed concealed from such ter 
rible 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 deal 
ing 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 Brum- 
mel's reply to the gentleman who offered him his car 
riage 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. 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 19 

The result of the recent survey of the "Water Com 
missioners 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 spawn 
ing 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, towns 
men 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 
awn town and neighborhood as the most favored centre 
for natural observation. He remarked that the Flora 
of Massachusetts embraced almost all the important 



20 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 

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 Annurs- 
nuc 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 attor 
ney 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 gar 
dens, 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 me 
ridian 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 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 21 

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 ob 
stacles 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 



22 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 

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 din 
ner. 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 observa 
tions 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 io 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. 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 23 

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 mat you could never find it again, yet 
willing to take his risks. 

No college ever offered him a diploma, or a profes 
sor'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 knowl- 



24 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 

edge 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 manu 
facture 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 through 
out Nature, and I know not any genius who so swiftly 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 25 

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 con 
ditions, but wheresoever he went. He thought the best 
of music was in single strains ; and he found poetic sug 
gestion 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 pres 
ence or absence of the poetic element in any compo 
sition, 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 com 
parison. He admired JEschylus and Pindar ; but, when 
some one was commending them, he said that "^Eschy- 
lus and the Greeks, in describing Apollo and Orpheus, 
had given no song, or 110 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 



26 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 

genius was better than his talent. He knew the worth 
of the Imagination for the uplifting and consolation of 
human life, atfd 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 unwill 
ingness 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 disappoint 
ments : 

" I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle 
dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travel 
lers 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." * 

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 un 
der that triple steel of stoicism, and the intellectual sub- 
tilty 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 habit 
ual thought makes all his poetry a hymn. to the Cause 
* "Walden," p. 20. 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 27 

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 relig 
ious 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 



28 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 

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 her 
mit more solitary even than he wished. Plimself 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 pros 
perous 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 out 
grown 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 Home and Paris. "It 
was so dry, that you might call it wet." 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 29 

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 re 
ferred 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 pretend 
ed completeness, and he had just found out that the 
savans had neglected to discriminate a particular botani 
cal 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 Lon 
don, or Paris, or Rome ; but, poor fellows, they did 
what they could, considering that they never saw Bate- 
man'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 abil 
ity he seemed born for great enterprise and for com 
mand ; and I so much regret the loss of his rare pow 
ers 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 vanish- 



30 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 

ing 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 sec 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 cer 
tain 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." 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 31 

I subjoin a few sentences taken from his unpublished 
manuscripts, not only as records of his thought and feel 
ing, 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 con 
cludes 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." 



32 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 

" No tree has so fair a bole and so handsome an in 
step 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." 

u 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 inac 
cessible 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 im 
mensely 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 leontopodiurn, but by the Swiss Edelweisse, 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 33 

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 pro 
ceeded 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 capabili 
ties of this world ; wherever there is knowledge, wher 
ever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty, he will 
find a home. 



EXCURSIONS. 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS* 

[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, 

* Reports on the Fishes, Reptiles, and Birds ; the Herbaceous Plants 
and Quadrupeds ; the Insects Injurious to Vegetation ; and the Inver 
tebrate Animals of Massachusetts. Published agreeably to an Order 
of the Legislature, by the Commissioners on the Zoological and Bo 
tanical Survey of the State. 



38 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

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 de 
sponding 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 per 
simmon and the buckeye keep, and the sharp- 
shinned hawk ? What is transpiring from sum- 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 39 

mer 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 consid 
ered 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 pal 
try 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 whole 
some 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 doc 
trines 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 



40 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

long as we are flanked by the Fur Countries. 
There is enough in that sound to cheer one 
under any circumstances. The spruce, the hem 
lock, 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 re 
lieved 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 con 
dition 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 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 41 

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, lyce- 
ums, 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 cup 
board, 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 contem 
plated, 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 train 
ing 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 dis 
coveries prove. Linnaeus, setting out for Lap 
land, surveys his " comb " and " spare shirt," 



42 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

" 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, quadru 
ped 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 cir 
cumstances. 

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 sug 
gests 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. 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 43 

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, 
Unsufferlng, 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 tick- 



44 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

ings 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 en 
ticing him on ; the jay screaming in the or 
chard; the crow cawing in unison with the 
storm ; the partridge, like a russet link extended 
over from autumn to spring, preserving un 
broken the chain of summers; the hawk with 
warrior-like firmness abiding the blasts of win 
ter; the robin* 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 heed 
less and unfrozen melody bringing back summer 
again ; 

* 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 partic 
ular 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 in 
stance, 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. 



NATURAL HISTOUY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 45 

His steady sails lie 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 the*nselves, and diving to peck at the 
root of the lily, and the cranberries which the 



46 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

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 plain 
tive 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, fall 
ing 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. Lin 
naeus even believed, on ancient authority, that 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 47 

one of the feet of this bird had all the toes di 
vided, while the other was partly webbed, so 
that it could swim with one foot, and grasp a 
fish with the other." Bat 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 Par 
nassus. 

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 man 
ner 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. 



48 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

In May and June the woodland quire is in 
full tune, and given the immense spaces of hol 
low 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. 

The phcebe 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. 

* This bird, which is so well described by Nuttall, but is appar 
ently unknown by the author of the Report, is one of the most con- 
mon in the woods in this vicinity, and in Cambridge I have heard 
the college yard ring with its trill. The boys call it " jomcfc," from 
the sound of its querulous and chiding note, as it flits near the trav 
eller through the underwood. The cowbird's egg is occasionally 
found in its nest, as mentioned by Audubon. 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 49 

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, 

4 



50 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

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 eve 
nings, 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 dis 
cover 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. 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 51 

These are the sights and sounds which reach 
our senses oftenest during the year. But some 
times one hears a quite new note, which has for 
background other Carolinas and Mexicos than 
the books describe, and learns that his ornithol 
ogy 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 fresh 
ness 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 Merri- 
mack, the Concord is known to the boatmen as 
a dead stream. The Indians are said to have 
called it Musketaquid, or Prairie River. Its cur 
rent 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 His 
tory of the town, " The fur-trade was here once 



52 NATURAI/HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

very important As early as 1641, a company 
was formed in the colony, of which Major Wil- 
lard 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 val 
uable 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 some 
times 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 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 53 

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 con 
tracted 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 



54 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

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 ah 1 our untamed quadrupeds, the 
fox has obtained the widest and most famil 
iar reputation, from the time of Pilpay and 
^Esop 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 deter 
mined 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 distinct 
ness ; for the swiftest step leaves yet a lasting 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 55 

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 in 
tervals 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, choos 
ing 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 hus 
banding his strength all the while. When the 
ground is uneven, the course is a series of grace 
ful curves, conforming to the shape of the sur 
face. 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 



56 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

forefeet together, and slide swiftly down it, shov 
ing the snow before him. He treads so softly 
that you would hardly hear it from any near 
ness, and yet with such expression that it would 
not be quite inaudible at any distance. 

Of fishes, seventy-five genera and one hun 
dred and seven species are described in the Re 
port. 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 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 57 

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 bluster 
ing 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 me 
mento 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 fath 
oms 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. 



58 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

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 vari 
ous speed, full of content and promise, and 
where the water gurgles under a natural bridge, 
you may hear these hasty rafts hold conver 
sation in an undertone. Every rill is a chan 
nel for the juices of the meadow. In the 
ponds the ice cracks with a merry and inspirit 
ing din, and down the larger streams is whirled 
grating hoarsely, and crashing its way along, 
which was so lately a highway for the wood 
man'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, 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 59 

And she that in the summer's drought 
Doth make a rippling and a rout, 
Sleeps from Nahshawtuck 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 sea 
son, before the weeds have began 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 pitch- 
pine are commonly used, found under decayed 



60 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

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 expe 
dition 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'lan- 
tern-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 navi 
gator 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 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 61 

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 pos 
ture ; some on their backs, with their white bel 
lies uppermost, some suspended in midwater, 
some sculling gently along with a dreamy mo 
tion of the fins, and others quite active and wide 
awake, a scene not unlike what the human 
city would present. Occasionally he will en 
counter 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 dis 
pense 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 



62 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

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 unnat 
ural 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 tor 
toises, twelve snakes, but one of which is 
venomous, nine frogs and toads, nine sala 
manders, 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 seemfcj 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 be 
tween the forks. Elasticity and flexibleness in 
the simpler forms of animal life are equivalent 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 63 

to a complex system of limbs in the higher; and 
we have only to be as wise and wily as the ser 
pent, to perform as difficult feats without the 
vulgar assistance of hands and feet. 

In May, the snapping turtle, Emysaurus ser- 
pentina, 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 unwill 
ingness to disturb the water by swimming has 
tily 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 



64 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

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 no 
ble blood and breeding, as it were. It is not 
hard to account for elves and fairies ; they rep 
resent 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 re 
sponse to all your enthusiasm and heroism. 

In the winter, I stop short in the path to ad 
mire 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 u winter of their dis 
content" 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 Mac- 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 65 

kenzie'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 Ne- 
reus 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 De 
cember of that year, the Genius of vegetation 
seemed to hover by night over its summer 
haunts with unusual persistency. Such a hoar 
frost, 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 
5 



66 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS, 

napping ; on this side huddled together with 
their gray hairs streaming in a secluded valley, 
which the sun had not penetrated ; on that hur 
rying off in Indian file along some watercourse, 
while the shrubs and grasses, like elves and 
fairies of the night, sought to hide their dimin 
ished 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 per 
fectly 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 rain 
bow 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 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 67 

but one law ; that in obedience to the same law 
the vegetable juices swell gradually into the per 
fect 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 observa 
ble in many other instances, as in the natural 
rhymes, when some animal form, color, or odor, 
has its counterpart in some vegetable. As, in 
deed, all rhymes imply an eternal melody, inde 
pendent 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 wav 
ing with grain, or shocks rising here and there 
from the stubble ; on one side the vegetation of 
the torrid zone, high-towering palms and wide 
spread banyans, such as are seen in pictures of 
oriental scenery ; on the other, arctic pines stiff 
frozen, with downcast branches. 



68 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

Vegetation has been made the type of all 
growth ; but as in crystals the law is more ob 
vious, their material being more simple, and for 
the most part more transient and fleeting, would 
it not be as philosophical as convenient to con 
sider 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 bun 
dles, 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 crystal 
lization, four or five inches deep, in the form of 
prisms, with their lower ends open, w r hich, 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 rec 
tilinear fissures, and the crystalline masses in 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 69 

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 mi 
grations of many species of Mollusca. Several 
genera and numerous species, which are separ 
ated 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 complanatus, 






70 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

or more properly fluviatllis, 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, fill 
ing 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 addi 
tional 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 can 
not be of much value, as long as Bigelow and 
Nuttall are accessible. They serve but to indi 
cate, 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 
arid minute descriptions, not interesting to the 



NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 71 

general reader, with only here and there a col 
ored sentence to allure him, like those plants 
growing in dark forests, which bear only leaves 
without blossoms. But the ground was com 
paratively 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 some 
thing 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 



72 NATURAL HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS. 

science will know nature better by his finer or 
ganization ; he will smell, taste, see, hear, feel, 
better than other men. His will be a deeper 
and finer experience. We do not learn by infer 
ence and deduction, and the application of math 
ematics to philosophy, but by direct intercourse 
and sympathy. It is with science as with eth 
ics, 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.] 



3?he 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 hori 
zon, 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 An 
des 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, 






74 A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 

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. 



A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 75 

Edged with silver, and with gold, 

The clouds hang o'er in daniask 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 ? 



76 A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 

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 visi 
ble 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 resound 
ing 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 land 
scape lies far and fair within, and the deepest 
thinker is the farthest travelled. 

At a cool and early hour on a pleasant morn 
ing 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 tribu 
tary 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 phcebe, 
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, 






A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 77 

seen dimly in the twilight, every tinkling sound 
told of peace and purity, and we moved hap 
pily along the dank roads, enjoying not such 
privacy as the day leaves when it withdraws, 
but such as it has not profaned. It was soli 
tude 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 coun 
try 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 Sep 
tember, 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 ap 
plied, so analogous to the culture and uses of 
the grape, may afford a theme for future poets. 

The mower in the adjacent meadow could 



78 A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 

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 pleas 
ures. 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 in habitants; not JF&#-tatic, TF^-chusett, but 
TFbr-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 



A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 79 

sets cream and cheese before you without stint. 
Before noort we had reached the highlands over 
looking 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 pro 
portions, 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 ^Eneid than 

atque altse 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 in 
spiration 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 Vir 
gil, mainly to be reminded of the identity of 
human nature in all ages, and, by the poet's 



80 A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 

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 morn 
ing 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 wor 
thy the attention of the traveller. The hill on 
which we were resting made part of an exten 
sive range, running from southwest to north 
east, across the country, and separating the 
waters of the Nashua from those of the Con 
cord, whose banks we had left in the morning ; 
and by bearing in mind this fact, we could ea 
sily determine whither each brook was bound 
that crossed our path. Parallel to this, and fif- 



A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 81 

teen miles further west, beyond the deep and 
broad valley in which lie Groton, Shirley, Lan 
caster, 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 shal 
low but rapid stream, flowing between high and 
gravelly banks. But we soon learned that there 
were no gelidce voiles into which we had de 
scended, and missing the coolness of the morn 
ing 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 in 
stead of the fresh odor of grass and clover, with 
which we had before been regaled, the dry scent 
of every herb seemed merely medicinal. Yield 
ing, therefore, to the heat, we strolled into the 
woods, and along the course of a rivulet, on 
whose banks we loitered, observing at our leis- 



82 A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 

ure the products of these new fields. He who 
traverses the woodland paths, at this season, 
will have occasion to remember the small droop 
ing 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 re 
flecting 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 
I of water, recently confined by dams, belying its 
name, which were exceedingly grateful. When 
the first inroad has been made, a few acres lev 
elled, and a few houses erected, the forest looks 
wilder than ever. Left to herself, nature is al 
ways more or less civilized, and delights in 
a certain refinement; but where the axe has 



A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 83 

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 compassion 
ate 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 in 
closed ground. The landlord had not yet re 
turned 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 news 
paper 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 wa 
ter, and the slumberous breathing of crickets 



84 A WALK TO WACHUSKTT. 

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 re 
gret. 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 con 
sistent 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 atmos 
phere 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 moun 
tain, passing, first, through a grand sugar maple- 



A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 85 

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 nine 
teen hundred feet above the village of Princeton, 
and three thousand above the level of the sea ; 
but by this slight elevation it is infinitely re 
moved 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 inter 
mingled, among which we found the bright blue 
berries 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 



86 A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 

six in height, we could see Monadnock, in 
simple grandeur, in the northwest, rising nearly 
a thousand feet higher, still the " far blue moun 
tain," though with an altered profile. The 
first day the weather was so hazy that it 
was in vain we endeavored to unravel the ob 
scurity. 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 aerial 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 in 
habit ? 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 .scar, 1 ?, 
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 



A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 87 

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 even 
song of the wood-thrush rung along the ridge. 
Our eyes rested on no painted ceiling nor car 
peted hall, but on skies of nature's painting, 
and hills and forests of her embroidery. Be 
fore 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 sol 
emn and solitary, and removed frQm all conta 
gion with the plain. As the evening canie on, 
the haze was condensed in vapor, and the land 
scape became more distinctly visible, and nu 
merous sheets of water were brought to light. 

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



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 



88 A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 

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 Moun 
tains, 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 dis 
tinctly 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 hori 
zon, and by making us aware of a community 
of mountains, made our position seem less soli 
tary. 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 domp on Wachu- 



A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 89 

sett, 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 hori 
zon 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 flit 
ted 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 at- 



90 A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 

mosphere grew more and more transparent till 
the time of our departure, and we began to real 
ize 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 sum 
mer'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, ris 
ing 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 be 
fore 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, 



A WALK TO WACHUSETT. .91 

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, rear 
ing 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, al 
ready 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 Hamp 
shire bluff, that promontory of a State, low 
ering day and night on this our State of Massa 
chusetts, will longest haunt our dreams. 

We could, at length, realize the place moun 
tains 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, 



92 . A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 

and was privy to the plan of tn"e universe. So 
is the least part of nature in its bearings refer 
red 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 pass 
ing 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 migra 
tions ; how the Catskills and Highlands have 
hardly sunk to them, when Wachusett and 



A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 93 

Monadnock open a passage to the northeast; 
how they are guided, too, in their course by the 
rivers and valleys; 1 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 prog 
ress, 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 Jjancas- 
ter, so like our own Concord, for both are wa 
tered by two streams which unite near their 
centres, and have many other features in com 
mon. There is an unexpected refinement about 
this scenery ; level prairies of great extent, inter 
spersed 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. 
Rowlandson'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 be- 



94 A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 

holding 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 day 
light 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 rhythmi 
cal 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. 



A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 95 

" 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 set 
ting. From this place, which lies to the north 
ward, 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 un 
surpassed. 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. 



96 A WALK TO WACHUSETT. 

His words and actions presume always a crisis 
near at hand, but she is forever silent and unpre 
tending. 

And now that we have returned to the desul 
tory 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 val 
leys 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 Con 
cord ; but let him not forget to record the brave 
hospitality of a farmer and his wife, who gener 
ously 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 for 
ward 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 ded 
icated 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 caravansa 
ries, and inns, whither all pilgrims without dis 
tinction resort. 

7 



98 THE LANDLORD. 

fcifcewisej wre look in vain, east or west over 
the earth, to find the perfect man; but each rep 
resents 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 imper 
fect 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-housefwho 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 $o preach ; a man of such uni 
versal 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 philoso 
pher, 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 stand 
ing at his open door from morning till night, 



THE LANDLORD. 99 

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 
patronise 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 indi 
viduals 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 trav 
elled 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 neigh 
borhood is in his interest, and if the traveller ask 
how far to a tavern, he receives some such an 
swer 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 



100 THE LANDLORD. 

mistaken their calling. At ten miles see where 
the Tavern stands, really an entertaining' pros 
pect, 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 hospital 
ity, amid the fresh scent of new hay and rasp 
berries, 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 sim 
ple 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 thresh 
old, 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 pota 
toes with the vigor of a pioneer ; with Prome 
thean energy making nature yield her increase to 
supply the wants of so many ; and he is riot so 



THE LANDLORD. 101 

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 



102 THE LANDLORD. 

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 pos 
sess 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 individ 
ual 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, j When he eats, he 
is liver and bowels, and the whole digestive 
apparatus to the company, and so all admit the 
thing is done, j^e 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 him 
self 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 



THE LANDLORD. 103 

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 af 
ford 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 trav 
eller, 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 jm>-fanity where there is no fane be 
hind, 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 triv 
ial for the good of men. The dust of travel 






104 THE LANDLORD. 

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 re 
lation to him, who will be an inhabitant of the 
land to hrrrxa stranger, and represent its human 
nature, as the rock stands for its inanimate na 
ture ; and this is he. As his crib furnishes prov 
ender 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 



THE LANDLORD. 105 

cheerful companion, and of a heart which always 
prophesies fair weather. And after all the great 
est 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 
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 ban been^an marshal in an halle. 

A large man he was, with eyen stepe ; 

A fairer burgeis is ther non 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 



106 THE LANDLORD. 

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 (led, 

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 conse 
quently a sinner ; and surely, he, if any, should 
be exempted from taxation and military duty. 

Talking with our host is next best and in 
structive 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 par 
ticular 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 con 
tradict his guest in any case ; he lets him go on, 
he lets him travel. 



THE LANDLORD. 107 

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 trav 
ellers. And yet, if beds be the subject of con 
versation, 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 de 
gree of virtue which all men relish without be 
ing obliged to respect. He is a good man, as 
his bitters are good, an unquestionable good 
ness. 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 persever 
ance of the saints. In this last, we suspect, 
does the peculiarity of his religion consist But 
he keeps an inn, and not a conscience. v^How 



108 THE LANDLORD. 

many fragrant charities and sincere social vir 
tues are implied in this daily offering of him 
self 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 favor 
ably 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. 



Library. 

: : - v "-' . 
tZBZzzzzzxzzzX^ 

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 live 
long 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 rab 
bit, 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 



110 A WINTER WALK. 

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 cover 
ing 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 ap 
proach of day, while the western landscape is 
dim and spectral still, and clothed in a sombre 
Tartarian light, like the shadowy realms. They 



A WINTER WALK. Ill 

are Infernal sounds only that you hear, the 
crowing of cocks, the barking of dogs, the chop 
ping 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, 
l)ut their twilight bustle is too solemn and mys 
terious 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 pow 
dered 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 th 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 ; 
Delating now upon its heavenward course, 
In* wreathed loiterings dallying with itself, 
With as uncertain purpose and slow deed, 



112 A WINTER WALK. 

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 bay 
ing of the house-dog, and the distant clarion of 
the cock. Though the thin and frosty air cpn- 
veys 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 



A WINTER WALK. 113 

to make them faint and ragged. The ground is 
sonorous, like seasoned wood, and even the or 
dinary rural sounds are melodious, and the jing 
ling of the ice on the trees is sweet and liquid. 
There is the least possible moisture in the at 
mosphere, 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 per 
nicious 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 feel- 
8 



114 A WINTER WALK. 

ing. Probably if our lives were more conformed 
to nature, we should not need to defend our 
selves 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 nap 
kin 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; 
arid 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 



A WINTER WALK. 115 

fain stay out long and late, that the 1 - 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 di 
rectly 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 kind- 



116 A WINTER WALK. 

ness, 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 com 
plement of the seasons, and in winter, summer 
is in his heart. There is the south. Thitlier 
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 flickering and checkered light which strag 
gles 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^he wonders which 
science is elsewhere revealing every day, who 
would not like to hear their annals? Oar hum 
ble villages in the plain are their contribution. 
We borrow from the forest the boards which 
shelter, and the sticks which warm us. How 



A WINTER WALK. 117 

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 ap 
pear 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 tri 
angular 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 dis 
tinct. Water turns to ice, rain to snow. The 
day is but a Scandinavian night. The winter 
is an arctic summer. 

V-How much more living is the life that is in 
nature-pXhe furred life which still survives the 
stinging nights, and, from amidst fields and 



118 A WINTER WALK. 

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 play 
ful in the remote glens, even on the morning of 
the cold Friday. Here is our Lapland and Lab 
rador, and for our Esquimaux and Knistenaux, 
Dog-ribbed Indians, Novazemblaites, and Spitz- 
bergeners, 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 larvaB of the Plicipennes. 
Their small cylindrical cases built around them 
selves, composed of flags, sticks, grass, and with 
ered leaves, shells, and pebbles, in form and 
color like the wrecks which strew the bottom, 
now drifting along overjhe 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 



A WINTER WALK. 119 



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. ' \ Stand 
ing 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 nut 
hatch 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 



120 A WINTER WALK. 

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 Hecatornpolis. 
Singing birds and flowers perchance have begun 
to appear here, for flowers as well as weeds fol 
low 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 phaebes built their nest upon 
this shelf last summer. I find some embers left, 



A WINTER WALK. 121 

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 chim 
ney 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 with 
out going round it or changing hands ; and, 
from the flexure of the splinters, we may know 
which way it fell. This one chip contains in 
scribed 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 tat 
tle of cities, of those larger huts, empty and to 
let, like this, in High Streets and Broadways. 



122 A WINTER WALK. 

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 cheer 
fully 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 estab 
lished 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 



A WINTER WALK. 123 

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 begin 
ning of Rome, the establishment, of the arts, and 
the foundation of empires, whether on the prai 
ries 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 " silting 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 sum 
mer 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 



124 A WINTER WALK. 

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 sur 
face 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 shore, a dry 
beech-leaf, rocking still, as if it would start 
again. A skilful engineer, methinks, might pro 
ject 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 



A WINTER WALK. 125 

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 un 
worthy 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 su -.Ti 
mer 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, 



126 A WINTER WALK. 

As that same meadow- mo use 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 mej 
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. 

I 

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. 



A WINTER WALK. 127 

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 form 
ing 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, w T hich they do not wear on the high 
way. 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 sway 
ing willow bough, which still preserves its fresh 
ness, 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 



128 A WINTER WALK. 

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 con 
stant 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 em 
pire 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, impenetra 
ble 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 cran 
berries 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 thistle 
down. On the swamp's outer edge was hung 
the supermarine village, where no foot pene- 



A WINTER WALK. 129 

trated. 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 fertiliz 
ing dews and showers. See what strides their 
boughs took in the luxuriant summer, and 
anon these dormant buds will carry them on 
ward 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 ; 
9 



130 A WINTER WALK. 

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 bis 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 ajid 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 Fin- 
lander, 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 



A WINTER WALK. 131 

voyages of early navigators, at Nootka Sound, 
and on the Northwest coast, with their fur, 
about them, before they were tempted to loquac 
ity by a scrap of iron. He belongs to the nat 
ural 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 un- 
seen. Hear with what sincere deference and 
waving gesture in his tone, he speaks of the 
lake pickerel, which he has never seen, his prim 
itive and ideal race of pickerel. He is connected 
with the shore still, as by a fish-line, and yet re 
members 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 show- 
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 



132 A WINTER WALK. 

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 inces 
sant, 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 waives." 
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 a^s a merry wood-chopper, and warm-blooded 
youth, as blithe as summer. The unexplored 



A WINTER WALK. . 133 

grandeur o 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 chim 
neys the smoke cheerfully ascends. The im 
prisoning 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 sl|y 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 soupds 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 fufcs. 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 wjjich records 
the pure benignity of the gods on a New Eng- 



134 A WINTER WALK. 

land 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.* 

[I860.] 

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 famil 
iar 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 busi 
ness, 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; per 
fectly 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 in 
dulged bit of the country with him, from some 
town's end or other, and introduces it to Con- 

* An Address read to the Middlesex Agricultural Society, in Con 
cord, September, 1860. 



136 THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 

cord 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 up 
right 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 s<5me 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 sur 
veyor'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-theway 
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. 



THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 137 

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 par 
adoxical, that it came from a seed. Of the va 
rious ways by which trees are known to be prop 
agated, 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. 



138 THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 

It remains, then, only to show howthe 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 ap 
pearance 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 han 
dle 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 pat 
ent-office at the seat of government of the uni 
verse, whose managers are as much interested 
in the dispersion of seeds as anybody at Wash 
ington can be, and their operations are infinitely 
more extensive and regular. 

There is then no necessity for supposing that 



THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 139 

the pines have sprung up from nothing, and I 
am aware that I am not at all peculiar in assert 
ing 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-bear 
ing 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 dor 
mant 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. 



140 THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 

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*-A 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 art 
fully 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 com 
pass 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 pro 
vided 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 



THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 141 

seeds of pines, for these are carried even against 
the wind. The consequence is, that cherry-trees 
grow"hot only here but4;here. The same is true 
of a great many other seeds. 

But to come to the observation which sug 
gested these remarks. As I have said, I sus 
pect 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 car 
ried 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 be 
fore. They are cut off, and after a year or two 
you see oaks ano! 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 decay 
ing. Bat 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 



142 THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 

unmixed pitch-pine ones, you will commonly 
detect many little oaks, birches, and other 
hard woods, sprung frem 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 an 
nually, 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 



THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 143 

nothing about the soil being, in a measure, ex 
hausted for this kind of crop. 

If a pine wood is surrounded by a white oak 
one chiefly, white oaks may be expected to suc 
ceed 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 jn 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 



144 THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 

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 to 
gether, 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 de 
posit, 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 ap 
parently 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 be 
cause I thought it the least likely to contain 



THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 145 

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 discov 
ered, 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 mere 
ly 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 prin 
cipal 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 re 
sorted to this wood for sjiade. 

After seven or eight years, the hard woods 
evidently find such a locality unfavorable to 
their growth, the pines being allowed to stand. 
10 



146 THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 

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 posi 
tion 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 them 
selves, 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 



THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 147 

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 twen 
ty-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 noth 
ing 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 neces 
sary, as scarcely an oak so planted is found to 
fail." 

Thus much the English planters have discov 
ered by patient experiment, and, for aught I 
know, they have taken out a patent for it ; but 



148 THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 

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 gre&n chestnut bur, as I am going 
through the woods, and I used to think, some 
times, that they were cast at me. In fact, they 
are so busy about it, in the midst of the chest 
nut season, that you cannot stand long in the 



THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 149 

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 chest 
nut 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, 



150 THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 

which still retain their nuts, standing at a dis 
tance 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 of 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, more 
over, that their design, if I may so speak, in cut 
ting 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 any 
thing 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 some 
times wondered how those which merely fell on 
the surface of the earth got planted ; but, by the 



THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 151 

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 con 
cealed 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. Ap 
parently, they do not heat there, though wet. In 
the spring they were all sprouting. 

Loudon says that " when the nut [of the com 
mon 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 treas- 



152 THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 

ure 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 stead 
ily adopting the customs of the natives, simply 
becoming Esquimaux. So, when we experiment 
in planting forests, we find. ourselves at last do 
ing 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 particu 
larly to this subject are but little aware to what 
an extent quadrupeds and birds are employed, 
especially in the fall, in collecting, and so dissem 
inating 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 



THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 153 

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 measure 
ment, without the husks, and they supplied him 
and his family for the winter. It would be easy 
to multiply instances of this kind. How com 
monly in the fall you see the cheek-pouches of 
the striped squirrel distended by a quantity of 
nuts ! This species gets its scientific name Ta- 
miaSj 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 gro 
cery, 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 



154 THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 

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, hold 
ing up their heads to swallow, while they hold 
the remainder very firmly with their claws. Nev 
ertheless, 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 sup 
ply then* winter stores. In performing this ne 
cessary 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. 



THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 155 

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 recom 
mended 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 ri 
pened." I have frequently found that in Novem 
ber, 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 re 
markable. They will remain for many years un 
changed 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. 



156 THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREKS. 

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 six 
teen or seventeen hundred years ago, are gen 
erally 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 car 
ried 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. 



THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 157 

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 neigh 
borhood for plants, and I consider myself famil 
iar 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 repro 
duce long extinct plants, it occurred to me last 
fall that some new or rare plants might have 
sprung up in the ceUar 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 Je 
rusalem oak ( Chenopodium botrys), which I had 
seen wild in but one place ; black nightshade 
(Solanuryi nigrum), which is quite rare here 
abouts, and common tobacco, which, though 
it was often cultivated here in the last century, 
has for fifty years been an unknown plant in 



158 THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 

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 con 
sume 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 con 
sumer 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 Lmna?us, 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 ori 
gin 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 Govern 
ment, begins to distribute, and the people to 
plant the seeds of these things. 



THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 159 

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| pounds, the other bore four, 
weighing together 186| pounds. Who would 
have believed that there was 310 pounds of 
poitrine jaune grosse in that corner of my gar 
den? These seeds were the bait I used to 
catch it, rny 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 



160 THE SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES. 

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 inex 
haustible treasure-chest. Here you can dig, not 
gold, but the value which gold merely repre 
sents ; 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 abso 
lute 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 d la 
Sainte Terre" to the Holy Land, till the chil 
dren exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte- Terr er" 
a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who 
never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as 
11 



162 WALKING. 

they pretend^ are indeed mere idlers and vaga 
bonds ; 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 mean 
dering river, which is all the while sedulously 
seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I 
prefer the first, which, indeed, is the most prob 
able 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 ex 
peditions 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 adven 
ture, never to return, prepared to send back 
our embalmed hearts' only as relics to our deso 
late kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father 



WALKING. 163 

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 com 
panion, take pleasure in fancying ourselves 
knights of a new, or rather an old, order, not 
Equestrians or Chevaliers, not Hitters or riders, 
but Walkers, a still more ancient and honorable 
class, I trust. The chivalric and heroic spirit 
which once belonged to the Elder seems now to 
reside in, or perchance to have subsided into, 
the Walker, not the Knight, but Walker Er 
rant. 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, 
most of my townsmen would fain walk some 
times, as I doj but they cannot. No wealth can 
buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and indepen 
dence, 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 ft. Some 
of my townsmen, it is true, can remember and 



164 WALKING. 

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 ele 
vated 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 Eobyn, 

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, 
QI a thousand pounds. When sometimes I arn 
reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers 
stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but 
all tl^prfternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, 
so many of them, as if the legs were made to 



WALKING. 165 

sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon, I 
think that they deserve some credit for not hav 
ing 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 ani 
astonished at the power of endurance, to say 
nothing of the moral insensibility, of my neigh 
bors who confine themselves to shops and offices 
the whole day for weeks and months, ay, and 
years almost together. I know not what man 
ner 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 



166 WALKING. 

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 gar 
ments, making haste past those houses with 
purely Doric or Gothic fronts, which have such 
an air of repose afeout 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 architec 
ture, 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 in 
door occupations increases. He grows vesper- 
tinal in his habits as the evening of life ap 
proaches, 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 irakin to taking exercise, as it is called, as 



WALKING. 167 

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 Words 
worth'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 na 
ture, as on the face and hands, or as severe man 
ual labor robs the hands of some of their deli 
cacy of touch. So staying in the house, on the 
other hand, may produce a softness and smooth 
ness, 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 
arid thin skin. But methinks that is a scurf that 



168 WALKING. 

will fall off fast enough, that the natural rem 
edy is to be found in the proportion which the 
night bears to the day, the winter to the sum 
mer, 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 subdi- 
ales 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 hap- 
"pens 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 



WALKING. 169 

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 to 
gether, I have not yet exhausted them. An ab 
solutely 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 farm 
house which I had not seen before is sometimes 
as good as the dominions of the King of Daho 
mey. There is in fact a sort of harmony dis 
coverable between the capabilities of the land 
scape 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 be 
come quite familiar to you. 

Nowadays almost all man's improvements, so 
called, as the building of houses, and the cut 
ting 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 



170 WALKING. 

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 look 
ing 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 in 
habitant. From many a hill I can see civili 
zation and the abodes of man afar. The farm 
ers 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 agricul 
ture, 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 nar- 



WALKING. 171 

row field, and that still narrower highway yon 
der 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 for 
gotten. 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 travel 
lers. 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, be 
cause the villa is the place to and from which 
things are carried. They who got their living 
by teaming were said vellaturam facer e. 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. 



172 WALKING. 

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 fig 
ures 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 
Americus Vespucius, nor Columbus, nor the rest 
were the discoverers of it. There is a truer ac 
count 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 



WALKING. 173 



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. 



174 WALKING. 

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 compara 
tive 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 



WALKING. 175 

narrow and exclusive pleasure only, when fen 
ces 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 ex 
clusively 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, un 
certain 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, 



176 WALKING. 

toward some particular wood or meadow or de 
serted pasture or hill in that direction. My nee 
dle 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-south 
west. 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 oc 
cupies 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. East 
ward 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 pros 
pect of a walk thither; but I believe that the 
forest which I see in the western horizon stretch 
es 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 wilder 
ness, and ever T am leaving the city more and 



WALKING. . 177 

more, and withdrawing into the wilderness. 1 
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 Eu 
rope. 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 phe 
nomenon 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 genera 
tion of Australians, has not yet proved a success 
ful 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 pas 
sage 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. 
12 



178 WALKING. 

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, impel 
ling 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. 



WALKING. 179 

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 par 
adise, appear to have been the Great West of 
the ancients, enveloped in mystery and poetry. 
Who has not seen in imagination, when look 
ing into the sunset sky, the gardens of the Hes 
perides, 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 rn^ich 
more numerous in North America than in|Eu- 
rope ; in the United States there are more than 



180 WALKING. 

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 fol 
low 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 de 
scends from station to station towards Europe. 
Each of his steps is marked by a new civili 
zation 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 rein- 
vigorated himself, u then recommences his ad 
venturous career westward as in the earliest 
ages." So far Guyot. 

From this western impulse coming in contact 



WALKING. 181 

with the barrier of the Atlantic sprang the com 
merce 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 Orients 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 hemi 
spheres 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 for 
ests 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. 



182 WALKING. 

Linnaeus said long ago, " Nescio quae facies 
Iceta, 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, Africaner bestioe, 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 Singa 
pore, some of the inhabitants are annually car 
ried 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, prob 
ably the sun looks larger also. If the heavens 
of America appear infinitely higher, and the 
stars brighter, I trust that these facts are sym 
bolical of the height to which the philosophy 
and poetry and religion of her inhabitants may 
one day soar. At length, perchance, the imma 
terial 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 perfec 
tion intellectually as well as physically under 



WALKING. 183 

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 moun 
tains and forests, and our hearts shall even 
correspond in breadth and depth and grandeur 
to our inland seas. Perchance there will ap 
pear to the traveller something, he knows not 
what, of Iceta and glabra, of joyous and se 
rene, in our very faces. Else to what end does 
the world go on, and why was America dis 
covered ? 

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 favoiably sit 
uated 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 



184 WALKING. 

be studying Hebrew; it is more important to 
understand even the slang of to-day. 

Some months ago I went to see a pano 
rama 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 re 
paired 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 en 
chantment, 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 steam 
boats 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 



WALKING. 185 

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 pre 
paring to say is, that in Wildness is the preser 
vation 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 Re 
mus being suckled by a wolf is not a meaning 
less fable. The founders of every State which 
has risen to eminence have drawn their nourish 
ment and vigor from a similar wild source. It 
was because the children of the Empire were 
not suckled by the wolf that they were con 
quered 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 



186 WALKING. 

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 rein 
deer, as well as various other parts, including 
the summits of the antlers, as v 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 squat 
ted ; to which, methinks, I am already accli 
mated. 

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 de 
licious 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 



WALKING. 187 

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 gar 
ments. 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' ex 
changes and libraries rather. 

A tanned skin is something more than re 
spectable, 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 pres 
ence refreshes him. One who pressed forward 
incessantly and never rested from his labors, 



188 WALKING. 

who grew fast and made infinite demands on 
life, would always find himself in a new country 
or wilderness, and surrounded by the raw mate 
rial 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 pur 
chasing, 1 have frequently found that I was 
attracted solely by a few square rods of imper 
meable 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 ten 
der places on the earth's surface. Botany can 
not go farther than tell me the names of the 
shrubs which grow there, the high -blueberry, 
panicled andromeda, lamb-kill, azalea, and rho- 
doraj 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, trans 
planted spruce and trim box, even gravelled 



WALKING. 189 

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 car 
penter 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 elab 
orate 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 neighbor 
hood of the most beautiful garden that ever hu 
man 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 



190 WALKING. 

desert or the wilderness ! In the desert, pure 
air and solitude compensate for want of moist 
ure 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 dis 
gust. There is a keen enjoyment in a mere 
animal existence." They who have been trav 
elling long on the steppes of Tartary say, 
" On reentering 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 town 
ship where one primitive forest waves above? 
while another primitive forest rots below, 
such a town is fitted to raise not only corn 



WALKING. 191 

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 consol 
idated the fibres of men's thoughts. Ah ! already 
I shudder for these comparatively degenerate 
days of my native village, when you cannot col 
lect a load of bark of good thickness, and we 
no longer produce tar and turpentine. 

The civilized nations Greece, Rome, Eng 
land have been sustained by the primitive for 
ests 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 exhaust 
ed, 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 



192 WALKING. 

already assumes proportions unknown every 
where else." I think that the farmer displaces 
the Indian even because he redeems the meadow, 
and so makes himself stronger and in some re 
spects 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, u 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 prop 
erty, though it was still winter. He had an 
other 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 bush- 



WALKING. 193 

whack, 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 corn 
field 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. Dulness is but another name for tameness. 
It is the uncivilized free and wild thinking in 
" Hamlet" anof 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 unexpect 
edly 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 literatim e, from the days of the min 
strels to the Lake Poets, Chaucer and Spen- 

13 



194 WALKING. 

ser and Milton, and even Shakspeare, included, 

breathes notquite 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, notwith 
standing all the discoveries of science, and the 
accumulated learning of mankind, enjoys no 
advantage over Homer. 

Where is the literature which gives expres 
sion 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 ad 
hering 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 surround 
ing Nature. 



WALKING. 195 

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 lit 
erature, ancient or modern, any account which 
contents me of that Nature with which even I 
am acquainted. You will perceive that I de 
mand something which no Augustan nor Eliza 
bethan 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 lit 
erature ! 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. Law 
rence, and the Mississippi will produce. Per- 



196 WALKING. 

chance, 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 recom 
mend themselves to the sense which is most 
common among Englishmen and Americans to 
day. 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 embellish 
ments of heraldry, have their prototypes in the 
forms of fossil species which were extinct be 
fore 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 ser 
pent; 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 dis 
covered in Asia large enough to support an ele- 



WALKING. 197 

phant. I confess that I am partial to these wild 
fancies, which transcend the order of time and 
development. They are the sublimest recrea 
tion 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 under 
stand. 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 re 
assert 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 Mis 
sissippi. 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 bow 
els of the earth, an indefinite period. 



198 WALKING. 

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 man 
kind? 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 machin 
ery, is meeting the horse and the ox half-way. 
Whatever part the whip has touched is thence 
forth 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 submis 
sive 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 



WALKING. 199 

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, indi 
vidual 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 au 
thor 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, lery wiery ichery van^ 
tittle-lol-tan. I see in my mind a herd of wild 
creatures swarming over the earth, and to each 



200 WALKING. 

the herdsman has affixed some barbarous sound 
in his own dialect. The names of men are of 
course as cheap and meaningless as JBose and 
Tray, the names of dogs. 

Methinks it would be some advantage to phi 
losophy, 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 va 
riety, to know the individual. We are not pre 
pared 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 pecu 
liar energy, was called "Buster" by his play 
mates, 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 distinc 
tions 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, 



WALKING. 201 

and a savage name is perchance somewhere re 
corded 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 pro 
nounced 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 leop 
ard ; and yet we are so early weaned from her 
breast to society, to that culture which is exclu 
sively 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 



202 WALKING. 

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. Niepce, a Frenchman, discovered " actin 
ism," that power in the sun's rays which pro 
duces 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 deli 
cate 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 them 
selves to their original conditions during the 
hours of night, when this excitement was no 
longer influencing them." Hence it has been in 
ferred that " the hours of darkness are as neces 
sary 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 till 
age, 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. 



WALKING. 203 

There are other letters for the child to learn 
than those which Cadmus invented. The Span 
iards have a good term to express this wild and 
dusky knowledge, Gramdtica 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 Ig 
norance, 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 accu 
mulates 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 



204 WALKING. 

are driven to their country pastures before the 
end of May ; though I have heard of one un 
natural farmer who kept his cow in the barn and 
fed her on hay all the year round. So, fre 
quently, 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 some 
thing about it, but thinks that he knows all ? 

My desire for knowledge is intermittent ; but 
my desire to bathe my head in atmospheres un 
known to my feet is perennial and constant. 
The highest that we can attain to is not Knowl 
edge, 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 in 
sufficiency of all that we called Knowledge be 
fore, a discovery that there are more things in 
heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our 
philosophy. It is the lightmg 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 : 'Os rl 



WALKING. 



ov Ktivov vorjo-eis, " You will not perceive that, 
as perceiving a particular thing," say the Chal 
dean 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, dhild 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 Purana, "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 experi 
ences 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 



206 WALKING. 

even, instead of this trivial comedy or farce. 
Dante, Bunyan, and others, appear to have been 
exercisegl 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 vibits 
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 draw 
ing them to society, few are attracted strongly 
to Nature. In their relation to Nature men ap 
pear 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 appredMfcfl of the beauty 
of the landscape there is among us ! We have 
to be told that the Greeks called the world 
Kooyzos, Beauty, or Order, but we do not see 
clearly why they did so, and we e_stear it at 
best only a curious philological fact. 



WALKING. 207 

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 tran- 
sional and transient forays only, and my patriot 
ism and allegiance to the State into whose ter 
ritories 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 univer 
sal that we have never seen one of her features. 
The walker in the familiar fields which stretch 
around my native town sometimes finds him 
self 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 



208 WALKING. 

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 shin 
ing family had settled there in that part of the 
land called Concord, unknown to rne, 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 Spauld- 
ing'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 



WALKING. 209 

not perceive that they were weaving or spin 
ning. Yet I did detect, when the wind lulled 
and hearing was done away, the finest imagin 
able 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 in 
dustry 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 recol 
lect myself. It is only after a long and serious 
effort to recollect my best thoughts that I be 
come 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 rnast 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 unneces 
sary 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, 

14 



210 WALKING. 

cast by the wing's 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 poul 
try. 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 hori 
zon 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 three 
score years and ten, and yet I certainly should 
never have seen them. But, above all, I dis 
covered 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 lum- 



WALKING. 211 

ber-dealers and wood-choppers and hunters, and 
not one had ever seen the like before, but they 
\vondered 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 oL^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 ah 1 mortals who 
loses no moment of the passing life in remem 
bering 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 an 
tique 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, 



212 WALKING. 

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 free 
dom 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 morn 
ing 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 



WALKING. 213 

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 be 
fore, 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 hap 
pen 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 splen 
dor 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 begin 
ning to meander, winding slowly round a de 
caying 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, with 
out 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. 



214 WALKING. 

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 se 
rene 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 " Au 
tumn" 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 



216 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

remember riding with one such citizen, who, 
though a fortnight too late for the most bril 
liant 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 wit 
nessed 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, an 
swering to the maturity of fruits. It is generally 
the lowest and oldest leaves which change first. 
But as the perfect winged and^usually bright- col 
ored 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 inde 
pendent 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 reas- 
sertion of the fact. But I am more interested 
in the rosy cheek than I am to know what par- 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 217 

ticular diet the maiden fed on. The very forest 
and herbage, the pellicle of the earth, must ac 
quire 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 im 
mense harvest which we do not eat, hardly use 
at all, is annually ripened by Nature. At our 
annual Cattle Shows and Horticultural Exhibi 
tions, we make, as we think, a great show of 
fair fruits, destined, however, to a rather ignoble 
end, fruits riot 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 ; No 
vember the later twilight. 



218 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

I formerly thought that it would be worth the 
while to get a specimen leaf from each chang 
ing 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 ear 
liest 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 me 
mento 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- 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 219 

leaves and Brakes, and the withering and black 
ened Skunk-Cabbage and Hellebore, and, by 
the river-side, the already blackening Pontede- 
ria. 

The Purple Grass (Eragrostis pectindcea) 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 shal 
low, purplish mist trembling around me. Close 
at hand it appeared but a dull purple, and made 
little impression on the eye ; it was even diffi 
cult 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 dis 
tance 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 hum 
ble color. 



220 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

With its beautiful purple blush it reminds me, 
and supplies the place, of the Rhoxia, which is 
now leaving off, and it is one of the most in 
teresting 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, per 
chance, 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. 9 

In most plants the corolla or calyx is the part 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 221 

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 decdndra). 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 sever) inches 
long, are gracefully drooping on all sides, offer 
ing 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 re 
flections, 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. 



222 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

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, con 
trasting with the still clear green leaves. It ap 
pears a rare triumph of Nature to have pro 
duced 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 prema 
ture, 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 be 
hold 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 up 
right, 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 pro- 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 223 

duct 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 ensan 
guined 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 ; Andro- 
pogon scoparius, Purple Wood- Grass ; and An- 
dropogon (now called Sorghum) nutans^ Indian- 
Grass. The first is a very tall and slender- 
calmed grass, three to seven feet high, with 
four or five purple finger-like spikes raying up 
ward from the top. The second is also quite 
slender, growing in tufts two feet high by 



224 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

one wide, with culms often somewhat curving, 
which, as the spikes go out of bloom, have 
a whitish fuzzy look. These two are prevail 
ing grasses at this season on dry and sandy 
fields and hillsides. The culms of both, not 
to mention their pretty flowers, reflect a pur 
ple 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 encour 
aged between the tufts of furple Wood- Grass, 
over the sandy fields, and along the edge of 
the Shrub-Oaks, glad to recognize these sim 
ple contemporaries. With thoughts cutting a 
broad swathe I " get " them, with horse-rak 
ing 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, 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 225 

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 bor 
ders 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 

15 



226 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

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 appreci 
ation 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, to 
gether with the slender grasses waving over 
them, reflect a purple tinge. The impurpled 
sands ! Such is the consequence of all this sun 
shine absorbed into the pores of plants and of 
the earth. All sap or blood is now wine-col 
ored. 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 nod 
ding panicle of bright purple and yellow flow 
ers, like a banner raised above its reedy leaves. 
These bright standards are now advanced on 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 227 

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, repre 
sentative of the race which they are named af 
ter, 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- 
ground*. 

THE RED MAPLE. 

BY the twenty -fifth of September, the Red Ma 
ples generally are beginning to be ripe. Some 
large ones have been conspicuously changing 
for a week r 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 in 
variably 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 



228 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

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 1 distinguish 
them afar on the hillsides here and there. Some 
times 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 beauti 
ful, 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 remark 
able object can there be in the landscape ? Vis 
ible /or 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 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 229 

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 rnile 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 f#om any road, unobserved. It has faith 
fully discharged the duties of a Maple there, all 
winter and summer, neglected none of its econ 
omies, 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 know 
ing, 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 travellingj 
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 reputa- 



230 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

tion, 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, re 
vealed at last to the careless and distant travel 
ler, and leads his thoughts away from the dusty 
road into those brave solitudes which it inhab 
its. It flashes out conspicuous with all the vir 
tue 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 Mi- 
chaux in his " Sylva " does not speak of the 
autumnal color of the former. About the sec 
ond of October, these trees, both large and 
small, are most brilliant, though many are still 
green. In ^sprouVlands" 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 at 
tract 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 obvi 
ously brilliant of all tangible things, where I 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 231 

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 
foil 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 scar 
let clouds, wreath upon wreath, or like snow 
drifts driving through the air, straf'fied 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 



232 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

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 twen 
ty rods long by ten feet deep, of the most in 
tensely 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, sug 
gesting 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, 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 233 

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 yel 
lowing 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 witb the early and golden ma 
turity 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 vil 
lage all one and compact, an uhnarium^ which 



234 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

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'disap- 
pearing 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, 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 235 

appear to have dropped their leaves instantane 
ously, 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 au 
tumn'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 pave 
ment 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 yel 
low 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 cloth 
ing ; but there it lies, nearly as bright as ever, 



236 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

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 rak 
ing 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 



AUTUMNAL "TINTS. 237 

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 sur 
veying, 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 prin 
cipal 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 lit 
ter, to be swept out, but accept them as suit 
able straw or matting for the bottom of my car 
riage. 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 Ma 
ples, still perfectly light and dry, with fibre un- 
relaxed ; 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 sub 
stances grating on one another! Often it is 



238 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

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 re 
flections, 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 pur 
pose, with myself. See this great fleet of scat 
tered 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 ap- 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 239 

preaching together. How gently each has been 
deposited on the water ! No violence has been 
used towards them yet, though, perchance, pal 
pitating 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 con 
vert 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, theke 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 Na 
ture 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 



240 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

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 fat 
tens. It keeps our homestead in good heart. 

For beautiful variety no crop can be com 
pared 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 show 
ers they come floating down ! The ground is 
all party-colored with them. But they still live 
in the soil, whose fertility and bulk they in 
crease, 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 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 241 

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 beauti 
fully 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 flutter- 
ings before they rest quietly in their graves ! 
They that soared so loftily, how contentedly 
they return to dust again, and are laid low, re 
signed 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 eyer 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 

16 



242 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

cemetery pleasant to walk in. I love to wan 
der 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 sum 
mer, neither does one falling leaf make an au 
tumn. 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, glow- 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 243 

ing with yellow and red, and show unexpectedly 
bright and delicate tints. They are remarkable 
for the contrast they often afford of deep blush 
ing 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 particu 
larly 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 Com 
mon to-day, but its red flag is hard to be dis 
cerned amid this blaze of color. 

Little did the fathers of the town anticipate 
this brilliant success, when they caused to be im- 



244 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

ported from farther in the country some straight 
poles with their tops cut off, which they called 
S ugar- 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 notice 
able 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 in 
heritance 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 J,>y 
these teachers even the truants are caught and 
educated the moment they step abroad. Indeed, 
neither the truant nor the studious is at present 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 245 

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 imper 
fectly 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 sta 
tioner'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 arti- 



246 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

cles of commerce, chocolate, lemon, coffee, 
cinnamon, claret ? (shall we compare our 
Hickory to a lemon, or a lemon to a Hick 
ory ?) 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 apothe 
cary'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 Amer 
ica 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 knowl 
edge of the names and distinctions of color is 
the joy and exhilaration which these colored 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 247 

leaves excite. Already these brilliant trees 
throughout the street, without any more variety, 
are at least equal to an annual festival and holi 
day, 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 



248 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

we paddled on the river through that fine-grained 
September air, did there not appear to be some 
thing 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 fluvia- 
tile 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 in 
terrupted 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 un 
derstand them. Behold what a brilliant drap 
ery is her Woodbine flag ! What public- spir 
ited merchant, think you, has contributed this 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 249 

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 compara 
ble 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 com 
plete, 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 au 
tumn, 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 
Elrns 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 seern to 
lead to some admirable place, though only 
C were at the end of it. 



250 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

A village needs these innocent stimulants of 
bright and cheering prospects to keep off melan 
choly 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 lat 
ter 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 disap 
pear 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 com 
ing 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 communi 
cation. 

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 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 251 

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, per 
manently settled, which preach their half-cen 
tury, 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 mid 
rib. They look like double, treble, or quadruple 
crosses. They are far more ethereal than the 



252 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

less deeply scolloped Oak-leaves. They have 
so little leafy terra ftrma that they appear melt 
ing 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, arid 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 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 253 

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 whit 
tling 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 out 
line 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 



254 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

friths, at each of whose heads several fine 
streams empty in, almost a leafy archipel 
ago. 

But it oftener suggests land, and, as Diony- 
sius 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 Eng 
land, 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 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 255 

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 com 
monly 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 



256 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

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 Novem 
ber, 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 astrin 
gent, acorn-like taste, this strong Oak-wine, as 
I find on tapping them with my knife. 

Looking across this woodland valley, a quar 
ter 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 end 
wise 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 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 257 

very gorgeous scene. Indeed, without the ever 
greens 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 Lin 
coln, 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 shoul 
dering them with their red coats, look like sol 
diers 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, me- 
thinks, with every step you might take toward 

17 



258 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

them ; for the shade that lurks amid their foli 
age 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 bor 
rowed fire, gathering strength from the sun on 
its way to your eye. It has only some compar 
atively 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 viva 
cious 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 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 259 

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 pro 
tecting 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, sur 
passing all in splendor, (at least since the Ma 
ple) ! 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 hill 
top, a thousand of these great Oak roses, dis 
tributed on every side, as far as the horizon ! 
I admire them four or five miles off! This my 



260 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

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 impres 
sion 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 " de 
bauched " 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 adven 
turous ; 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 pre 
pared to see it, if you look for it. Otherwise, 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 261 

regular and universal as this phenomenon is, 
whether you stand on the hill-top or in the hol 
low, 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 gar 
dener's garden. Here, too, as in political econ 
omy, 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 behold 
ers 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 botan 
ical rambles, I find, that, first, the idea, or image, 
of a plant occupies my thoughts, though it may 



262 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

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 distin 
guish 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 inten 
tion of the eye, in the same locality, to see 
different plants, even when they were closely 
allied, as Juncaceas and Gramineos : 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 put 
ting 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 sev- 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 263 

eral 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 com 
pare 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 wood 
cocks ; 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 bar 
rels, even in cornfields. The sportsman trains 
himself, dresses and watches unweariedly, and 
loads and primes for his particular game. He 



264 AUTUMNAL TINTS. 

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 shaU 
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 



AUTUMNAL TINTS. 265 

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 
Rosacece, which includes the Apple, also the 
true Grasses, and the Labiate, 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 storps. 

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

Niebuhr observes that " the words for a house, 



WILD APPLES. 267 

a field, a plough, ploughing, wine, oil, milk, 
sheep, apples, and others relating to agricul 
ture 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 ap 
ple-tree may be considered a symbol of peace 
no less than the olive. 

The apple was early so important, and gener 
ally distributed, that its name traced to its root 
in many languages signifies fruit in general. 
M>}Aoi/, 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 



268 WILD APPLES. 

and Herodotus. Ulysses saw in the glorious 
garden of Alcinoiis "pears and pomegranates, 
and apple-trees bearing beautiful fruit " (K<U 
M\iai dyAaoKapTroi). 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 
Ragnarok" (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 High 
lands of Scotland the apple-tree is the badge of 
the clan Lamont." 

The apple-tree (Pyrus malm) belongs chiefly 
to the northern temperate zone. Loudori 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 in 
digenous in North America. The cultivated 
apple-tree was first introduced into this coun 
try by the earliest settlers, and is thought to 
do as well or better here than anywhere else. 






WILD APPLES. 269 

Probably some of the varieties which are now 
cultivated were first introduced into Britain by 
the Romans. 

Pliny, adopting the distinction of Theophras- 
tus, 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 valu 
able as flocks and herds. It has been longer 
cultivated than any other, and so is more hu 
manized ; 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. 



270 WILD APPLES. 

The leaves and tender twigs are an agree 
able 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-caterpil 
lar saddled her eggs on the very first twig 
that was formed, and it has since shared her 
affections with the wild cherry ; and the can 
ker-worm also in a measure abandoned the 
elm to feed on it. As it grew apace, the blue 
bird, 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 



WILD APPLES. 271 

wood, to pluck them, much to the farmer's sor 
row. 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 greed 
ily devoured it, until he had worn a path in the 
grass there ; and when it was frozen and thaw 
ed, the crow and the jay were glad to taste it 
occasionally. The owl crept into the first ap 
ple-tree that became hollow, arid 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 fre 
quently tempted to turn and linger near some 
more than usually handsome one, whose blos 
soms 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 au 
tumn. The sward is commonly strewed with 



272 WILD APPLES. 

little ones which fall still-born, as it were, Na 
ture 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 fra 
grance 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, car 
rying 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 or 
chards 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. 






WILD APPLES. 273 

There is thus about all natural products a cer 
tain volatile and ethereal quality which represents 
their highest value, and which cannot be vulgar 
ized, or bought and sold. No mortal has ever en 
joyed 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 oc 
cupy 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, \vhile 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 
18 



274 WILD APPLES. 

Loki or Thjassi carry them off to Jotunheim, 
while they grow wrinkled and gray ? No, for 
Ragnarok, or the destruction of the gods, is not 
yet. 

There is another thinning of the fruit, com 
monly 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 yel 
low 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 sup 
porting the lower ones, that they looked like pic 
tures of banian-trees. As an old English manu 
script says, " The mo appelen the tree bcTeth, 
the more sche boweth to the folk." 



WILD APPLES. 275 

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 bar 
rels 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 eve- 
ings 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 



276 WILD APPLES. 

branches," and then, " encircling one of the best 
bearing trees in the orchard, they drink the fol 
lowing toast three several times : 

' Here's to thee, old apple-tree, 

Whence thou inayst bud, and whence thou inayst 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 ac 
companying 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." 



WILD APPLES. 277 

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 bet 
ter 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 de 
vious 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 arnid 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 



278 WILD APPLES. 

have not patience to plough it, and that, to 
gether with the distance, is the reason why it is 
not cultivated. There are, or were recently, ex 
tensive 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 per- 






WILD APPLES. 279 

ceive. 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 enter 
prise. 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, grow 
ing in the most unfavorable position, suggests 
such thoughts as these, it is' so noble a fruit. 



230 WILD APPLES. 

THE CRAB. 

Nevertheless, our wild apple is wild only like 
myself, perchance, who belong not to the abo 
riginal 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, 
Mains 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 resem 
ble the common apple-tree." " The flowers are 
white mingled with rose -color, and are col 
lected 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 con 
cludes, 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 



WILD APPLES. 281 

treated it as of any peculiar importance. Thus 
it was a half-fabulous tree to me. I contem 
plated a pilgrimage to the " Glades," a por 
tion 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-col 
ored flowers. At first I thought it some va 
riety 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 flow 
ering 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, ex 
periencing 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. 



282- WILD APPLES. 

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 ac 
cidents, 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. 



WILD APPLES. 283 

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 stub 
bornness 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. 



284 WILD APPLES. 

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 devel 
opment 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 flirifty ! They were so low that they 
were unnoticed by the walker, while many of 
their contemporaries from the nurseries were 



WILD APPLES 285 

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 for 
gotten its high calling, and bears its own pecul 
iar 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 pur 
pose, 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. 



286 WILD APPLES. 

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 nowa 
days, 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 
course 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 



WILD APPLES. 287 

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 hill 
side, where it is as yet unobserved by man, may 
be the choicest of all its kind, and foreign poten 
tates 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 vil 
lage ? It was thus the Porter and the Baldwin 
grew. 

Every wild-apple shrub excites our expectation 
thus, somewhat as every wild child. It is, per 
haps, 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 gen 
ius 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- 



288 WILD APPLES. ' 

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 com 
monly 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 consterni- 
tur ubere mali " : Arid 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. How 
ever, 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 Oc 
tober 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 



WILD APPLES. 289 

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 bar* 
rels, 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 chil 
dren 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 outs. 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 gather 
ing, 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 

19 



290 WILD APPLES. 

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 No 
vember, when December and January, and per 
haps February and March even, have assuaged 
them somewhat. An old farmer in my neigh 
borhood, who always selects the right word, 
says that " they have a kind of bow-arrow 
tang." 

Apples for grafting appear to have been se 
lected commonly, not so much for their spirited 
flavor, as for their mildness, their size, and bear- 



WILD APPLES. 291 

ing qualities, not so much for their beauty, as 
for their fairness and soundness. Indeed, I have 
no faith in the selected lists of pomological gen 
tlemen. Their " Favorites " and " None-suches " 
and " Seek-no-farthers," when I have fruited 
them, commonly turn out very tame and forget- 
able. 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 be 
long to the Pomacece, which are uniformly inno 
cent 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. Lou- 
don 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 Here 
ford, about the year 1800, made one hogshead 
of cider entirely from the rinds and cores of ap 
ples, 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 



292 WILD APPLES. 

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 re 
markable 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 fre 
quently a harsh and crabbed taste. The Saun- 
terer'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 
Melibceus to go home and pass the night with 
him, he promises him mild apples and soft chest 
nuts, mitia poma, castanece molles. I fre 
quently 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, 



WILD APPLES. 293 

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 sea 
soned^ 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 exer 
cise, 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 per 
haps one-half of them must be eaten in the 
house, the other out-doors. One Peter Whitney 



294 WILD APPLES. 

wrote from Northborough in 1782, for the Pro 
ceedings of the Boston Academy, describing an 
apple-tree in that town " producing fruit of op 
posite 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 



WILD APPLES. 295 

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, 
papillce 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 sav 
age'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 ! 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 war 
rant them to be palatable, if tasted in the house. 



296 WILD APPLES. 



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 redeem 
ing 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 streak 
ing 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, ap 
ples 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- 



WILD APPLES. 297 

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 accident 
ally sprinkled from the brush of Him who paints 
the autumn leaves. Others, again, are some 
times 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 autum 
nal 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 suit 
able 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 



298 WILD APPLES. 

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 but 
terfly, the November traveller and the truant 
boy, to our aid. 

In 1836 there were in the garden of the Lon 
don 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 my 
self 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 Par 
tridge-Apple ; the Truant's Apple, (Cessatoris,) 
'which no boy will ever go by without knocking 
off some, however late it may be; the Saun- 
terer's Apple, you must lose yourself before 
you can find the way to that ; the Beauty of 
the Air (Decus Aeris) ; December-Eating ; the 



WILD APPLES. 299 

Frozen-Thawed (g-elato-soluta), good only in that 
state ; the Concord Apple, possibly the same 
with the Mnsketaquidensis ; the Assabet Apple; 
the Brindled Apple ; Wine of New England ; 
the Chickaree Apple ; the Green Apple (Mains 
viridis) ; this has many synonymes ; in an 
imperfect state, it is the Cholera morbifera aut 
dysenterifera, pnerulis dilectissima ; the Apple 
which Atalanta stopped to pick up ; the Hedge- 
Apple (Mains Sepinm) ; the Slug- Apple (lima- 
cea) ; the Railroad- Apple, which perhaps came 
from a core thrown out of the cars ; the Apple 
whose Fruit we tasted in our Youth ; our Par 
ticular 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 
Boda3us 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 



300 WILD APPLES. 

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-Pear- 
main tree, growing within the edge of a swamp, 
almost as good as wild. You would not sup 
pose that there was any fruit left there, on the 
first survey, but you must look according to sys 
tem. 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 huckle 
berry-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 per 
haps with a leaf or two cemented to it (as 
Curzon an old manuscript from a monastery's 



WILD APPLES. 301 

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 horizon 
tal 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 ap 
ples 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 for 
tune that one of them fall off by the way, he 
likewise shaketh off all the residue, and wallow- 
eth 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 



302 WILD APPLES. 

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, andprudent 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 un 
palatable 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, 



WILD APPLES. 303 

sweet cider, better than any bottled cider that 
I know of, and with which I am better ac 
quainted 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 prop 
erty 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, ttiat 
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 



304 WILD APPLES. 

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 dis 
lodge 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. 305 

wild apples. Ah, poor man, there are many 
pleasures which he will not know ! Notwith 
standing 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 
i n? 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 

20 



306 WILD APPLES. 

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 lan- 
guisheth ; 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 moon 
light some years ago, I resolved to take more 
such walks, and make acquaintance with an 
other side of nature : I have done so. 

According to Pliny, there is a stone in Arabia 
called Selenites, " wherein is a white, which in 
creases and decreases with the moon." My 
journal for the last year or two, has been selen 
itic 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 con 
cerns us. 

I shall be a benefactor if I conquer some 



308 NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT. 

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 ac 
quainted 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 
J 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 teach 
ings, its oracular suggestions, so divine a crea 
ture freighted with hints for me, and I have not 
used her ? One moon gone by unnoticed ? 

I think it was Dr. Chalmers who said, criticis 
ing 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 be- 



NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT. 309 

nighted traveller than that of the moon and 
stars, is naturally reproached or nicknaied 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 un 
derstand, 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 



310 NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT. 

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 cur 
rent 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, AJ1 depends on your 
point of view. In Drake's " Collection of Voy 
ages," Wafer says of some Albinoes among the 
Indians of Darien, They are quite white, but 
their whiteness is like that of a horse, quite dif 
ferent 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 disagree 
able 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 moon 
light, 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 in 
tellectually 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 



NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT. 311 

dreariness of the scenery, and the perpetual twi 
light 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 novel 
ties present themselves. Instead of the sun 
there are the moon and stars, instead of the 
wood-thrush there is the whip-poor-will, in 
stead 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-throt 
tled 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. 



312 NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT. 

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 com 
paratively 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 in 
digo 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 remark 
able 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 se 
lected 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 
Iptaces. 

In the night the eyes are partly closed or retire 



NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT. 313 

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 hum 
ming 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 moon 
light night, when the stars were few and faint, 



314 NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT. 

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 per 
sonally 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 in- 
feriora corpora per superiora : " God rules the 
bodies below by those above. But best of all is 
this which another writer has expressed : " Sa 
piens adjuvabit opus astrorum quemadmodum ag- 
ricola terrce naturam : " a wise man assisteth 



NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT.. 315 

the work of the stars as the husbandman help- 
eth the nature of the soil. 

It does not concern men who are asleep in 
their beds, but it is very important to the trav 
eller, 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 dan 
gers 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. f Sailors speak of it as the moon eat 
ing up the clouds. The traveller all alone, the 
moon all alone, except for his sympathy, over 
coming 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 



316 .NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT. 

Indians do. When she enters on a clear field of 
great extent in the heavens, and shines unob- 
structedly, 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 se- 



NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT. 317 

rene and majestic beauty, so medicinal and fer 
tilizing 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 Beu- 
lah, the atmosphere is charged with dewy fra 
grance, 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 the 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. 



318 NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT. 

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 ma 
terial 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 knowl 
edge than that of day. It is no more dusky in 
ordinary nights, than our mind's habitual atmos 
phere, 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 ex 
claims, 

" Where has darkness its -dwelling ? 
Where is the cavernous home of the stars, 



NIGHT AND MOONLIGHT. 319 

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. 




CAMBRIDGE: PRINTED BY H. o. HOUGHTON. 



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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY