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London: Walter Scott, Ltd., 
24 Warwick Lane, Paternoster Row. 



THOREATT Introductory Note .... rii-xxviii 

ECONOMY . .., .. .1 


HEADING . .. . . . , . . .97 

SOUNDS . ....... 109 

SOLITUDE . . . . . . " . , 127 

VISITORS .... ... 138 

THE BEAN-FIELD ....... 153 

THE VILLAGE , . . . . . .165 

THE PONDS ....... 172 

BAKER FARM . . . , . . . 200 

HIGHER LAWS .... . . 209 

BRUTE NEIGHBOURS . . . . .222 

HOUSE-WARMING ....... 237 


WINTER ANIMALS . . . . . .270 

THE POND IN WINTER ...... 281 

SPRING ........ 297 

CONCLUSION . . . . . . .317 


Excerpt from Week on the Concord and Mcrrimack Rivers . 333 
Sic Vita . . . . . . .334 

Mist 335 

Haze . . 336 

A clover tuft is pillow for my head^ 
And violets quite overtop my shoes. 


/ tJiynkefor to touche also 

The ivorlde whiche newcth everie dale, 

So as I can, so as I maie. 


And thrtf the fields the road runs by 
To many-towered Camelot. 



" Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It 
writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations 
beheld God and Nature face to face ; we, through their eyes. Why should 
we not also enjoy an original relation [to the universe ? Why should not 
we have a poetry and. philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a 
religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs ? . . . The sun 
shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. Let us 
demand our own works, and laws, and worship." EMERSON. 

5OUT twenty miles north-west of Boston (whereof 
it is recorded that whoso is born there need not 
be born again), in Massachusetts, New England, 
lies the little village of Concord, on the banks of 
the river Concord, anciently called Musketaquid, 
or Grass-ground River, which, with a silent motion, like " the 
moccasined tread of an Indian warrior," indolently bears way 
northward to join, at Lowell, its greater brother Merrimac. 
The Concord River, to steal a vignette from the pages of an 
exquisite painter, " idles its sluggish life away in lazy liberty, 
without turning a solitary spindle, or affording even water- 
power enough to grind the corn that grows upon its banks. . . . 
It slumbers between broad prairies, kissing the long meadow 
grass, and bathes the overhanging boughs of elder bushes and 
willows, or the roots of elms and ash trees, and clumps of 

viii THOREAU. 

maple." And the same exquisite painter, Hawthorne, elsewhere 
speaks of the quiet beauty, in keeping with the river, of the 
scenery of Concord ; of the broad and peaceful meadows, of its 
hills, wide swells of land or long and gradual ridges, covered 
with wood, which border them, and of the little white village 
which appears to be embosomed among the hills. 

Into this little white village embosomed among the hills was 
born, on the I2th of July, in the year 1817, Henry David 
Thoreau, scholar-gipsy, poet, naturalist, moralist, and above all, 
what is called transcendentalist. The township of Concord, 
says Mr. F. B. Sanborn, a friend of Thoreau, and one of 
his latest biographers (and to whose little volume, in the 
American Men of Letters series, I may at once express par 
ticular indebtedness), was, in Thoreau s childhood, as it is 
to-day, dotted with frequent old farm-houses, of the ample and 
picturesque kind that bespeaks antiquity and hospitality. In 
such an old farm-house the lad Thoreau grew up. Mr. William 
Ellery Channing, a nephew of Dr. Channing, the poet- 
friend and early biographer of Thoreau, describes it as a 
perfect piece of the old New England style of building, with 
its grey, unpainted boards, and grassy, unfenced door-yard. 
" The house," he says, " stood somewhat isolate and remote 
from thoroughfares ; on the Virginia Road, an old-fashioned, 
winding, at length deserted pathway, the more smiling for its 
forked orchards, tumbling walls, and mossy banks." In front 
ran a constant stream, and about it lay pleasant meadows, with 
deep beds of peat 

Henry David Thoreau was the last male descendant in New 
England of Philippe Thoreau and his wife Marie le Gallais, who, 
a hundred years ago, lived in the parish of St. Helier in Jersey. 
His character, says Emerson in his biographical and critical 
sketch, exhibits occasional traits drawn from his French blood 
in singular combination with a very strong Saxon genius. To 
his native "hauntings of Celtism," we may be inclined, indeed, to 
impute his exuberant ironical wit ; to the French grace in him 
the sentiment of balance and propriety that enables him to 
correct and recover himself in the wildest flights of his extra- 


vagance, his most wilful indictments of society and apotheosis 
of gipsydom, and to invest them with a persuasive air of reason 
ableness. One John Thoreau, a son of this Jersey Philippe and 
Marie, stung, we may suppose, to the spirit of enterprise and 
adventure by the sea-winds of the Channel, took ship to New 
England about 1773, an d in Boston, a few years later, married 
a young lady of Scotch descent, as her name, Burns, would 
imply. Of this marriage, a son, born in 1787, named also John, 
was the father of Henry Thoreau. Mr. Sanborn speaks of 
Thoreau s father as a grave and silent, but inwardly cheerful and 
social person ; a little man, deaf and unobtrusive, who went 
about plainly clad ; which little man, about 1823, after some 
characteristically quiet extravagances, having lost the small 
estate inherited from his father, turned his attention to the then 
lucrative business of pencil-making, and thereby afterwards 
obtained his livelihood. He married, when about twenty-five, 
Miss Cynthia Dunbar, daughter of a Reverend Asa Dunbar. "I 
recollect Mrs. Thoreau," says a lady, " as a handsome, high- 
spirited woman, half-a-head taller than her husband, accom 
plished, after the manner of those days, with a voice of 
remarkable power and sweetness in singing." Thoreau s 
mother, it would appear, was a talkative lady, of a dramatic 
air, earnest, kindly, shrewd, dressy. It was in Concord, in 
April of 1775, that the first armed resistance was made to the 
troops of George III. in the colonial struggle for independence, 
where, (to make the inevitable quotation) : 

" Where once the embattled farmers stood, 
And fired the shot heard round the world, " 

and the submerged buttresses of the old bridge remained to 
attest where " the first faint tide " of war once flowed. And in 
the anti-slavery agitation preceding the great armed struggle 
between North and South, Concord again came into patriotic 
prominence. According to Mr. Sanborn, Mrs. Thoreau (and we 
can imagine it of the impressionable, earnest, dramatic woman), 
and not only Mrs. Thoreau, but the whole Thoreau family, en 
gaged zealously in this, their homestead being for years regarded 


as the head-quarters of abolitionists and a place of refuge for 
fugitive slaves. " The atmosphere of earnest purpose," says 
Mr. Sanborn, whom I cannot do better than quote here in full, 
" which pervaded the great movement for the emancipation of 
the slaves, gave to the Thoreau family an elevation of character 
which was ever after perceptible, and imparted an air of dignity 
to the trivial details of life," and the household our Thoreau 
had a sister and brother older than himself, and a sister younger 
possessed a distinct and marked individuality of its own. 
" To meet one of the Thoreaus was not the same as to encounter 
any other person who might cross your path. Without wealth, 
or power, or social prominence, they still held a rank of their 
own, in scrupulous independence, and with qualities that put 
condescension out of the question. Altogether, this New 
England homestead presents to us a not unpleasant picture. 

But to return to our Bohemian in particular. He was taken 
away to Chelmsford, a place a few miles north of Concord, until 
he was a youngster of six, when he was brought back to his 
native village, and soon began, like other village urchins, and 
like Emerson when a youngster in Boston, to drive his mother s 
cow to pasture in Concord s broad, peaceful meadows. He 
attended school in the village, and prepared for Harvard at one 
Academy, where he became proficient in Greek, and where in 
later years he himself became for a time a master. He went to 
Harvard College, Cambridge (which is no great distance north 
of Concord), at the age of sixteen, and graduated there, 
without academic distinction, some four years later. The 
developing predilections of a decisive individuality would 
naturally lead him from the paths of any prescribed curriculum ; 
but his private reading was close and extensive, covering, as 
Mr. Sanborn implies, Johnson, Goldsmith, Addison, and 
classical English literature of Milton s time and backward 
to Chaucer. Of George Herbert in particular he must 
early have been a close and loving student ; certain verses,* in 
their stanzaic structure, music, and turn of thought, which he 
wrote as a young man, show most obviously Herbert s influence, 
* See Appendix : Sic Vita. 


indeed, they might almost have a niche in Herbert s Temph 
without one readily detecting the anachronism ; and one can 
imagine the ascetic, delicate, passionate, striving spirit of Herbert 
attracting the regard of the young poet and moralist. Thoreau 
began early the practice of versifying, a practice which he 
discontinued almost entirely after he arrived at the age of thirty. 
His methods of versification were curious. It seems to have 
been his habit to compose a couplet, a quatrain, or what not, 
copy it in his journal, and when these stanzas had reached a 
certain number, to string them together. Like Emerson 
himself, Thoreau seems to have possessed but a meagre 
rhythmical faculty, and Emerson criticised his verses as being 
often rude and defective, and though, he says, " the thyme and 
marjoram are not yet honey," marks them as the fruit of the 
true poetic perception. 

To the curriculum of the woods and fields Thoreau took more 
readily than to the academic one ; he had begun his graduation 
as a "bachelor of Nature" as a boy long before he went to 
Harvard, where he was a diligent student of natural history, 
and where he began collecting Indian relics. When about 
twenty, shortly after the naturalist Agassiz s arrival in America, 
Thoreau made collections of fish and turtle for him. " Beneath 
low hills," chaunts Emerson : 

" Beneath low hills, in the broad interval 
Through which at will our Indian rivulet 
Winds mindful still of sannup and of squaw, 
Whose pipe and arrow oft the plough unburies, 
Here in pine houses built of new fallen trees, 
Supplauters of the tribe, the farmers dwell." 

Among these farmers, whose wood-lots he surveyed, whose 
pastures he measured, whose roads he laid out, Thoreau 
delighted to go ; and came to see, says Channing, " the inside 
of every farmer s house and head, his pot of beans, and mug of 
hard cider." He knew the country around "like a fox or a 
bird ;" he could find a path through the woods at night better 
by his feet than his eyes ; " the birds which frequent the stream, 


heron, duck, sheldrake, loon, osprey ; the snake, musk-rat, 
otter, wood-chuck, and fox, on the banks ; the turtle, frog, hyla, 
and cricket, which make the banks vocal, were all known to 
him, and, as it were, townsmen and fellow-creatures," as unto a 
new-world St. Francis of Assisi. 

As a diarist, for copiousness and persistency, he might almost 
be compared to Henri Amiel. He left behind him some thirty 
manuscript volumes. From his daily entries, the practice of 
making which he began at twenty and continued till his death, 
he composed his essays and lectures : thus he composed his 
Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, the record of a 
voyage taken with his much-loved brother John in the year 1839, 
a record, too, " of other and much longer voyages upon less 
tangible rivers than those named in the title." " The book is 
purely American," wrote Alcott in his diary, just after a visit to 
Thoreau, " fragrant with the life of New England woods and 
streams, and could have been written nowhere else. Especially 
am I touched by his (Thoreau s) sufficiency and soundness, his 
aboriginal vigour, as if a man had once more come into 
Nature who knew what Nature meant him to do with her, 
Virgil, and White of Selborne, and Izaak Walton, and Yankee 
settler all in one." He gave his first lecture in Concord Lyceum 
when only twenty, and after the year 1847 Mr. Sanborn says he 
may be considered to have fairly entered on the career of 
lecturer and author ; and though for twenty years Thoreau 
devoted himself to authorship, his income from the profession 
was too scanty to provide for the wants even of one of such 
austere parsimoniousness and simplicity of living as himself. 
A man must earn his daily bread somehow, or, as Thoreau put 
it, Apollo must serve Admetus ; and Admetus, according to Mr. 
Stevenson s sympathetic plaint for that immortal, never got less 
work out of any servant since the world began than out of 
Thoreau. In his system of personal economics, says the friend 
of Admetus, he displayed a vast amount of truly down-east cal 
culation, and adopted poverty like a piece of business. Thoreau } 
in the following pages, confesses that for five years he main 
tained himself by a little simple gardening or primitive agriculture 

Til ORE AU. xiii 

during some six weeks of the year. " The man had as 
good as stolen his livelihood ! " He says he tried trade, but 
found it would take some years to get under-way in that, by 
which time he would probably be on his way to the devil. And 
so he defrauded Admetus in other ways. He would never be 
pecuniarily indebted to another, and until about the age of 
thirty, after which he supported himself mainly by land- 
surveying, contributing to magazines and lecturing, he was 
always ready to seek subsistence as pencil-maker, gardener, 
fence-builder, or even white-washer. Among ourselves, here in 
older England, we may indeed have the democratic member of 
Parliament who ascends the pit-shaft to proceed direct to 
Westminster ; but even he hardly presents to our mind such a 
dramatic antinomy of calling and pursuit as does this New 
England defrauder of Admetus. 

In 1832, after his dispute with his Boston pastorate, Emerson 
resigned his cure, and it was in 1834 that he took up his abode, 
thence to live there permanently, in Concord, dwelling in the 
home of his clerical ancestors, the classical Old Manse of 
Hawthorne, till, marrying in the following year, he removed to 
a house not far from Walden Woods. It was as a young man 
of twenty that Thoreau made Emerson s acquaintance, and in 
1840 he was regarded as one of the coterie as one of the inner 
circle of chivalry of the " intellectual Round Table" of the new- 
world transcendental Camelot, over which Emerson came to 
bear sway as Arthur. At the meetings of this circle in 
Emerson s library there figured notably Alcott, " tall, slender, 
blond ;" young Curtis, fresh from Cambridge ; Hawthorne, shy, 
reclusive, observant, reticent ; and above all, Margaret Fuller, 
plain and even disagreeable in appearance, very unlike extern 
ally the exotic and overwhelmingly beautiful Zenobia into which 
she was transformed by Hawthorne in his Blithedale Romance. 
" The effect of the presence of these superior persons," writes 
one who first met Emerson in Concord, " upon the village itself 
was most remarkable : it was as if a new climate had breath-ik 
upon it and worked germs and growths hitherto unsuspectl- g, 
This little agricultural village presently had libraries, scien* Jly 

xiv THOREA U. 

classes, and lectures, such as many large cities could not show. 1 
And of this transcendental Camelot the chansons de geste, very 
comical chansons too, sometimes, are recorded in the pages of 
the Dial, a magazine which, during four years, from 1840 to 
1844, set forth the views of the group, and to nearly every 
number of which Thoreau was a contributor. " Ideas," says Mr. 
Nichol in his American Literature^ " which filter slowly through 
English soil, and abide there for a generation, flash like comets 
over the electric atmosphere of America." The influence of Emer 
son s thought radiated through an atmosphere already prepared 
to admit its free transit, and to allow the full force of its impact. 
Thus pilgrims, smitten from afar by the Emersonian bolt, soon 
found their way to Concord ; " young visionaries, to whom just 
so much of insight had been imparted as to make life all a 
labyrinth around them, came to seek the clue that should guide 
them out of their self-involved bewilderment. Grey-headed 
theorists, whose systems, at first air, had finally imprisoned 
them in an iron framework, travelled painfully to his door, not 
to seek deliverance, but to invite the free spirit into their own 
thraldom. . . . Uncertain, troubled, earnest wanderers through 
the midnight of the moral world beheld his intellectual fire as a 
beacon on the hill-top, and, climbing the difficult ascent, looked 
forth into the surrounding obscurity more hopefully than 
hitherto. . . . Never was a poor little country village infested 
with such a variety of queer, strangely-dressed, oddly-behaved 
mortals." Fortunate Concord, thus so busy ! with " a great 
intellectual thinker at one end of the village, an exquisite teller 
of tales at the other, and the rows of New England elms 
between." In the heart of all that was going on Thoreau lived 
and moved ; in 1841 he became an inmate of Emerson s house, 
where he remained till the spring of 1843 > a d he would 
participate in these excitements of such anomalous rusticity. 
However, the intellectual stir was there, and often enough 
Efficiently erratic and absurd as its manifestations no doubt 
cu p, Thoreau himself would be influenced to an increased 
j n ital activity and readiness by it. And speaking of Emerson s 
ta ;^ence particularly, as Hawthorne says, it was impossible to 


dwell in his vicinity without inhaling more or less the mountain 
atmosphere of his lofty thought, and Thoreau undoubtedly did 
inhale it, and copiously. Mr. James, who, in his monograph on 
Hawthorne, glances casually with an air of genial cosmopolitan 
cynicism on Thoreau, refers to him as Emerson s moral man 
made flesh, living for the ages and not for Saturday and Sun 
day for the Universe and not for Concord. And Mr. Nichol 
compares him to Emerson in his combination of pantheistic 
theory with intense practical individualism ; in his lofty ideas 
of friendship, religion, love ; in his " communion with fine 
translunary things ; " in the polish of his paragraphs, in the 
fragmentary form of his thought, all apt comparisons enough. 
Though his likeness to Emerson is unquestionable, his pro 
found originality is equally unquestionable, an originality that 
is immediately apprehended, and one which is realised very 
vividly after reading certain Emersonian imitators. He assimi 
lated, but the assimilation was Shakespeare-wise, organic. 
His idiosyncrasy was such that it was constituted to reflect the 
precise phase of the Zeit-geist of which Emerson happened to 
catch the character and be the prime exponent : had it not been 
such he would not have been Thoreau. He is not much more 
responsible for his internal traits of likeness to Emerson than 
for his external traits of likeness, his large nose and sloping 

And this suggests the introduction here of some portraiture of 
the external man. " How deep and clear is the mark that thought 
sets upon a man s face ! " said, startled, a youth, who first beheld 
the Dantesque intensity of his visage, a face not easily to be 
forgotten, as his last biographer declares. " His features were 
prominent, his eyes large, round, and deep-set, under bold brows ; 
the colour verging from blue to grey, as if with the moods of his 
mind." Channing describes him as being of about the average 
height, and of spare build ; and Emerson, descending to biographi 
cal minutiae, records how he was in the habit of wearing a straw 
hat, stout shoes, and strong grey trousers, fit to brave shrub-oak 
and smilax, or to climb a tree for the nest of hawk or squirrel, g, 

The abolition movement has already been alluded to, and oly 



the year 1859, when his friend John Brown, after his Quixotic 
and ill-starred raid, lay wounded and a prisoner, Thoreau, in face 
of the strongest adverse opinion even among abolitionists, and 
his own distaste for public vapouring, came forward, and 
championed the cause of his friend in words which, as Mr. 
Burroughs says, it thrills the blood to read. To the abolitionist 
committee who informed him of their objection, he returned the 
autocratic response : " I did not send to you for advice, but to 
announce that I am to speak ! " and speak he did, despite 
opposition and possible consequences, as a man should speak 
for a friend and a cause he loves. " If this man s acts do not 
create a revival, it will be the severest possible satire on the 
acts and words that do." " I plead not for his life, but his 
character, his immortal life." And after Brown s death he 
wrote : " I never hear of a man named Brown now and I hear 
of them pretty often, I never hear of any particularly brave 
and earnest man, but my first thought is of John Brown and 
what relation he may be to him." This was not the action, 
these were not the words, of a callous indifferentist, as Thoreau 
has been made out to be. He delighted in the society of 
children, of the rustic and unlettered. But unbending in 
ordinary intercourse, refusing to subordinate his individuality 
to that of others, maintaining, as for the most part he did 
throughout his career, a proud isolation, he suffered perhaps a 
refrigeration of spirit, the result of his consistent aloofness 
rather than of an original coldness of disposition. The meaner 
cares and interests which engage most were not for him ; he 
was a man who must necessarily live aloof. Gifted with a 
critical ethical intuition, as habitual as with a Marcus Aurelius, 
and finer, it was inevitable that he should attend to its delicate 
promptings. To him life was a thing to be lived " as tenderly 
and daintily as one would pluck a flower." " To keep the eye 
clear by a sort of exquisite personal alacrity and cleanliness," 
this, with his intimate sense of the relation between physical 
and spiritual, was an object of perpetual solicitude. " The 
G oetic beauty of mere clearness of mind the actually aesthetic 
in iarm of a cold austerity of thought ; as if the kinship of that 

THOREAU. xvii 

to the clearness of physical light were something more than a 
figure of speech," this, too, to quote again from the beautiful 
pages of Mr. Pater s Marius the Epicurean^ expresses some 
thing of which the spirit of Thoreau was peculiarly apprehen 
sive. In his ethical devoutness Thoreau perhaps overshot the 
mark. As the weakness of most men lies in indulgence, so of 
Thoreau it lay in denial, and in his asceticism there was, per 
haps, a subtle element of sensualism ; he indulged himself in 
fine renouncements. 

Thoreau never married. He never made the European 
campaign like other good Americans ; " he listened impatiently 
to ban mots gleaned from London circles." He made excursions, 
often on foot, but these did not extend beyond Maine or Canada, 
and he always returned to Concord. He had a sublime 
parochialism. In his citadel of haughty idealism he could front 
with composure whatever of nobly valiant the world could bring 
against it. 

With this casual introduction to the man, we approach a 
certain episode of his life and considerations suggested by it. 
And so to raise the curtain on WALDEN. 

" If any of my readers," says Hawthorne, " should decide to 
give up civilised life, cities, houses, and whatever moral or 
material enormities in addition to these the perverted ingenuity 
of our race has contrived, let it be in the early autumn. Then 
Nature will love him better than at any other season, and will 
take him to her bosom with a more motherly tenderness." 
However, it was not in early autumn, but in early spring, that 
Thoreau went a-gipsying among the pines, there to build for 
himself a sort of cloistral rustic Academe, where he himself 
only should be master and scholar, both pupil and doctor in 
one. Let us imagine him, then, as one day towards the end of 
March 1845, when, a young fellow of twenty-eight, looking, 
perhaps, at first sight, like a not very picturesque but tolerably 
well-to-do mendicant, rugged and browned, but, on closer 

xviii THOREAU. 

approach, in his glance, in his air, suggesting something 
indefinable, something both wildish and intellectual, faring, 
with the trace of an ironical smile, and the reminiscence of a 
Gallic shrug, to the domicile of the orphic Alcott, and there to 
him preferring his modest petition for the loan of an axe, the 
axe which, he says, with Yankee afterthought, he returned sharper 
than he got. What induced Thoreau to take the step which 
has become so memorable ? why did he retire to the woods ? 
He went to the woods, primarily, not, in Milton s phrase (for 
Thoreau s was very vigorous), because of a " fugitive andcloistered 
virtue, unexercised and unbreathed " that was afraid to sally out 
for its adversary, but must seek a rustic valitudinarian refuge ; 
not, because he was, to summon Mr. Stevenson s stalwart 
euphemism, a skulker 1 though he went for one thing to elude 
as usual his friend Admetus the shepherd, who now most affects 
the town. He went for leisure to complete his literary appren 
ticeship, to test his powers, to know himself and define his 
proper bent ; he went " not to be shipwrecked on vain realities, - 
" to front only the essential facts of life " ; he went that he 
might retire as to a tower of vision whence to survey the world 
and its shows in better optique. It was no affectation that sent 
him thither ; the action was quite native and fit for him, says 
Emerson. He went as, in the circumstances, it was a natural 
and simple thing for him to do. And here he formulated his 
criticism of life, of gipsy naivete ; of noble culture ; and of 
impossible transcendentalism, not, however, without import. 
The narrow view, the little aims, of an unheroic age were 
especially distasteful to him ; and he cries out like a paradoxical 
latter-day John the Baptist in the desert of modern materialism. 

" Come, spur away, 
I have no patience for a longer stay, 
But must go down 

And leave the chargeable noise of this great town. 
I will the country see, 
Where old simplicity, 
Though hid in grey, 
Doth look more gay 
Than foppery in plush and scarlet clad," 

THOREA U. xix 

sings Randolph, like a blithe Cockney Arcadian, posting off to 
country meadows where he shall see 

"... the wholesome girls make hay," 
to a Herrick-land 

" Of brooks, of blossoms, birds and bowers," 

of May-poles, hock-carts, wassails. But Thoreau was no 
trim Arcadian, after the fashion of these idyllic roysterers; 
the Nature whom he knew so intimately, and with whom 
he went to form a closer alliance, was not the Nature 
as they liked to see and paint her, and he went in a 
different spirit, in a different manner, and with a different 
quest. As a sensation of contrast, for the sake of striking red 
against grey, it is worth while thus to picture to ourselves such 
quaint old youthful poetic figures as Randolph and Herrick, 
dancing gaily towards Arcadia figures of another time, another 
land ; to recall natures so sunny, rich, sanguine ; we realise 
the ethnological differences, the differences which climate and 
circumstance, which another environment and a later period, 
have produced. And travelling into another such English 
Arcadia as they sought, we may recall old Izaak Walton, who 
to Alcott suggests Thoreau, sitting on his primrose banks, hear 
ing his birds sing, looking down the meadows whenas he 
thought, " as Charles the Emperor did of the city of Florence, 
that they were too pleasant to be looked on, but only on holi 
days ;" watching, " here a boy gathering lilies and lady-smocks, 
and there a girl cropping culverkeys and cowslips, all to make 
garlands suitable to this present month of May." Or turning 
quite from a bit of old England such as this, and coming into 
the present century and passing abroad, we may think of the rich, 
throbbing, orientalised nature such as Heine, of whose diablerie 
and peculiar grace there is a touch in Thoreau, often gives us 
all roses and nightingales and warm perfume. Thoreau, before 
he went to Walden, and while there, went in the spirit to the 
Persian poetic garden ; but it was not its musky fragrance that 
drew him thither; he quotes the philosophic Sadi rather than the 
sensuous, houri-loving Hafiz. It was with no pretty Arcadianism 


that Thoreau went to the woods : he went, as Wordsworth 
did to his Westmoreland mountains, to take possession as by 
right of birth ; he went 

" A minstrel of the natural year," 

where he might most fittingly exercise his vocation, and 
his prose minstrelsy of nature has in it something clear 
and cool and grey, something autumnal, occidental, some 
thing suggestive of the Wordsworthian baldness ; it suggests 
a lack of warmth which, in Wordsworth s case at least, 
whoso has tramped his Westmoreland and Cumberland 
hill-country, in all the glow and glory of summer, is 
inclined to wonder at. Thoreau seems rather to present to us 
a nature, which, however exquisite the charm of its clear, cold 
light may be, has about it a sentiment of dim correspondence 
with that suggested by the melancholy leafage of the magical 
woods of Arden in one of its moods, as we have glimpses of it 
through its aisles just permitted us by Shakespeare. 

And so we may follow him to his cabin-cloister among the 
pines, and see what sort of a haunt he chose for himself. The 
outpost was not pitched very far from the main battalions, after 
all ; in measurement of mere furlongs, the sanctuary was not 
remote. Crossing the pastures on the south of Concord village, 
and passing through a belt of wood, you would arrive, after a 
mile-and-a-half trudge, at the lakelet of Walden, -a-mile 
long and three-quarters in circumference, " a pure white crystal 
in a setting of emerald ; " "a perfect forest mirror." A few 
rods only from the pond itself, the opposite wooded shore of 
which was the most distant horizon, on the side of a hill edging 
the wood beyond which lay Concord, stood the little cabin, 
clean and airy, in which the atmosphere, charged with the 
pungent perfume of the surrounding pines, lost none of its 
freshness," fit to entertain a travelling god, and where a god 
dess might trail her garments." In this retreat he installed 
himself for two years and two months, and entertained 
himself in his sylvan fashion, finally leaving it with the 
same insouciance with which he went. Here he gardened 


and farmed after his own methods ; here he mused and 
read " the books that circulate round the world ; " here he 
maintained his surveillance over birds, squirrels, muskrats, 
flowers, and trees; and here he chronicled his observations. 
While at Walden he wrote his essay on Carlyle, and edited his 
Week on the Concord and Merrimack River s^ already mentioned, 
and here wrote the greater part of the following pages. Like 
Mr. Stevenson, Mr. Lowell stigmatises him as an idle man, but 
idleness is so alien to the tenour of Thoreau s ethics and think 
ing, that it is impossible to conceive of him as such. A certain 
sublimated sort oifar nietile was part of his system. He con 
fesses that of a summer morning, after bathing, he has sat in 
his sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in reverie, in 
undisturbed solitude and stillness. " I grew in these seasons 
like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work 
of the hands would have been." "The most glorious fact of 
our experience," he says elsewhere, " is not anything we have 
done or may hope to do, but a transient thought, or vision, or 
dream that we have had." Here in fancy presents itself to us a 
picture of Whitman, a fellow poetic vagabond, prone on the 
yellow sand-bank loafing and inviting his soul, " observing a 
spear of summer-grass grow." Thoreau was constantly making 
excursions into the neighbouring village for what he calls his 
homoeopathic doses of gossip, and as one of the lions of the 
place he was frequently besieged by visitors, entertaining some 
times twenty-five or thirty at a time, often many oddities and 
curiosity-hunters among them, no doubt, who bored him, but 
often callers whom he could receive without restraint, " children 
come a-berrying, railroad-men taking a Sunday morning walk 
in clean shirts ; " " in short, all honest pilgrims who came out 
to the woods for freedom s sake," and truly did leave the village 
behind them. Thus the recluse and idler had rather a busy 
time of it, what with doing nothing at all, in the ordinary sense, 
and, in the ordinary sense, doing many things, entertaining 
visitors among them. 

As a physical resource Thoreau needed the open-air life, of 
which he had abundance at Walden. " I think," he says in his 

xxii THOREAU. 

essay entitled Walking^ " 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," and further on, that he cannot stay in 
his chamber a single day without acquiring some rust. He 
expatiates on the art of walking. It requires, he says, a direct 
dispensation from heaven to become a walker ; ambulator 
nascitur nonfit. He complains of having met but few people 
who had the genius for right walking, or 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 a la Sainte Terre," and so got to be 
denominated sainte-terrers, saunterers. " Every walk is a sort 
of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go 
forth and reconquer the Holy Land from the hand of the 
Infidels." Thoreau crusaded the woods in perennial quest of a 
new sylvan Jerusalem. As Mr. Burroughs says in his admirably 
penetrative essay (in which, altogether, probably, is said the 
most significant word about Thoreau), and it is very credible 
of a man who died of pulmonary consumption, that he seems 
to have reacted strongly from a marked tendency to physical 
invalidism. Though somewhere in this volume, in a passage of 
Heinesque suggestion, he declares he is no worshipper of 
Hygeia, but rather of Hebe, cup-bearer to Jupiter, who was 
probably the only thoroughly sound-conditioned, healthy, and 
robust young lady that ever walked the globe ; though he 
professes to prize an unconscious physical sanity which is above 
health ; yet the very care he manifests over that sanity, and the 
stress he lays upon it, seem to imply that for him there was 
something precarious in its possession. And to quote Mr. 
Burroughs again : " What was this never-ending search of his 
for the wild, but a search for health, for something tonic and 
antiseptic in nature? Health, health, give me health, is his 
cry. He had an inappeasable hunger for the pungent, the 
aromatic, the bitter-sweet, for the very rind and salt of the 
globe." Thoreau himself says, " I sometimes feel that I need 
to sit in a far-away cave through three weeks storm, cold and 

THOREA U. xxlli 

wet, to give a tone to my system ! " And in this love of the 
savage, the wild, the cold, is to be discerned, too, a racial 
derivation ; the primitive " untamable French core in him," 
something of the native latent ferocity that underlies even the 
modern Gallic varnish, the " dash of the grey wolf that stalks 
through his ancestral folk-lore." Once or twice he found 
himself ranging the woods like a half-starved hound, with a 
strange abandonment, " seeking some kind of venison which he 
might devour, and no rribrsel could have been too savage." 
Catching glimpse of a woodchuck stealing across his path, he, 
the fastidious vegetarian, was tempted to seize him to devour 
raw ; whereon we behold the talons of the grey wolf 
unconsciously showing out, the wolf gnawed by inward hunger 
who best knows himself speeding recklessly over the snow. 
Hawthorne is said to have derived from Thoreau his idea of the 
character of Donatello in his novel Transformation, but there is 
little of Donatello in Thoreau in so far as Donatello resembles 
the mythical Praxitelean faun, whose woodland traits Hawthorne 
so imaginatively conceives and blends in his conception of 
Donatello ; the creature whose life expands most in the warm, 
sensuous, sunny side of nature. If wild creatures both, Thoreau 
and Donatello, one of the north, the other of the south, are very 
remote kinsmen. 

" That strange apparition," exclaims the writer in Frazer who 
has already been quoted, "who bore the name of Thoreau ! a 
man of such wonderful, even unparalleled, intimacy with nature, 
that his biography, when it is written, will seem like a myth." 
His power of observation seemed to indicate additional senses, 
says Emerson, adding, in the transcendental manner, that "he 
saw as with microscope, heard as with ear-trumpet, and his 
memory was a photographic register of all he saw and heard." 
"As we read him," says Mr. Lowell, "it seems to us as if all out- 
of-doors had kept a diary and become its own Montaigne ; we 
look at the landscape as in a Claude Lorraine glass ; compared 
with his all books of similar aim, even White s Selborne, seem 
dry as a country clergyman s meteorological almanac." Of 
Thoreau s observation of nature, already touched upon, a good 

xxiv THOREAU. 

deal has been written with various differences of critical opinion. 
He had a profound belief in the import of direct observation. 
" What is a course of poetry, or philosophy, or poetry ... or 
the best society, or the most admirable routine of life, compared 
with the discipline of looking always at what is to be seen?" 
" The things immediate to be done are very trivial. I could 
postpone them all to hear this locust sing." "To him who 
contemplates a trait of natural beauty no harm nor dis 
appointment can come." To Thoreau, as Emerson says, 
there was no such thing as size ; the Walden pond was a 
small ocean, the Atlantic a large pond. To him every micro 
cosm was a macrocosm. He was not what is called a scientific 
observer ; he did not investigate anatomy, he made no 
classifications, attempted no systematic co-ordination of the 
organs and traits of bird or animal or plant that interested him ; 
he did not label. Mr. Burroughs, who is qualified to speak as 
a naturalist, says, without desiring to undervalue Thoreau s 
natural history notes, that although he failed to make any new 
scientific contribution, what makes them charming and valuable 
is his rare descriptive power ; " he will give you the simple fact 
with the freshest and finest poetic bloom upon it." He had the 
self-consciousness of the man of culture. His mood was 
subjective rather than objective. His eye, adds Mr. Burroughs, 
was sophisticated with literature, with Concord, with himself. 
He did not love bird or flower for their own sake, with the 
disinterested love of a Gilbert White ; it was their " fine 
effluence " that was his quest ; natural history was but one of 
the doors through which he sought to gain admittance to the 
inner and finer heaven of things." Thoreau says himself that 
man cannot afford to be a naturalist, to look at nature directly, 
but only with the side of his eye. " To look at her is as fatal as 
to look at the head of Medusa. It turns the man of science 
into stone." To Thoreau was the gift, of which the manifest 
ation in literature Mr. Matthew Arnold as critic has chiefly 
taught us to discern by his disengagement of exquisite 
examples, the gift, the power, " of so dealing with things as to 
awaken in us a wonderfully full, new, and intimate sense 


of them, and of our relations to them " ; and it is this power, this 
gift, the quality of which is not scientific, but poetic, the charm 
of which in its frequent expression in Walden will chiefly 
attract the reader. 

In the month of January 1842, Emerson gave in Boston a 
lecture in which occurs the following passage : 

"It is a sign of our times . . that many intelligent and religious 
persons withdraw themselves from the common labours and competi 
tions of the market and the caucus, and betake themselves to a certain 
solitary and critical way of living, from which no solid fruit has yet 
appeared to justify their separation. They hold themselves aloof: 
they feel the disproportion between their faculties and the work 
offered them, and they prefer to remain in the country and perish of 
ennui, to the degradation of such charities and such ambitions as the 
city can propose to them ... to their lofty dream the writing of 
Iliads or Hamlets, or the building of cities or empires, seems 

The very braggadocip, truly, of transcendentalism, delineated 
here, in the attitude of these estimable persons! We recall as akin 
the overdone melodrama of the self-conscious Romanticist of 1830 
at once. So far in contemplating the Walden of Concord, a 
Walden situated in the near, crude, phantasmagoric realities of 
space and time, the transcendental Walden, " as far off as many 
a region viewed nightly by astronomers ; " the Walden in " a 
withdrawn, but for ever new and unprofaned part of the 
Universe," wherein, translated by the spirit of its star-aspiring 
habitant, it had its site just as truly as in Concord, Massachusetts, 
has been overlooked. For Thoreau, the revolter against the 
" despotism of fact," of fact which lies apparently near and 
patent ; the devotee of " the most indefinite waking dream ; " 
the Alpine climber after the elusive, dim, ever-inaccessible 
edelweiss of the spirit, "the everlasting Something j" the 
idealist, the transcendentalist par excellence ; at times to whom, 
though he wrote Walden, the writing of Iliads or Hamlets 
would seem drudgery, must be remembered. In this Walden 
of interlunar space he was at home : why should he be lonely 

xxvi THOREA U. 

there 1 " is not our planet in the Milky Way ? " " How far apart, 
think you, dwell the inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of 
whose disc cannot be appreciated by our instruments?" 
" What sort of space is that which separates a man from his 
fellows and makes him solitary ? " Let us not be shipwrecked 
on vain realities ; let us make no compromises with space and 
time " We know not where we are." For this puissant, 
delicate, arrogant spirit was haunted with the intuition of a 
vast potentiality and destiny, of something star-like and trans 
cendent in the human soul something occult, grandiose, 
supernal. It is the old expression of the amour de Fimpossible 
over again ; the modern reassertion of the medieval Faust- 
spirit in its most supersensible and impalpable form. What is 
called Transcendentalism is that particular shape, which, after 
traversing the Atlantic, in New England a world-wide move 
ment of thought, starting in the latter half of the last century, 
put on. It is the latest outcome, the culminant wave of that 
reaction, the latest development of a European revolution of 
ideas the reaction against the classical literary canons, the 
cut-and-dried philosophy, the social conventions of the 
Eighteenth Century ; of the neo-renascence, now assuming 
new forms. The notable signs and symbols for us of this revo 
lution are, in social theory, names such as that of Rousseau and 
of his spiritual children ; in literature, in England, of Words 
worth, Shelley, Byron, Scott ; in France, of Victor Hugo and 
his accomplices ; in Germany, of Lessing, Herder, Goethe, and 
later Heine ; and in philosophy, of Kant and his successors. 
Emerson, says Mr. Arnold, cannot be called a great philo 
sophical writer ; he is not constructive^ systematic, as an 
Aristotle, Spinoza, or Kant are. Viewing the transcendental 
movement as a prolongation of a vast preceding movement, 
as a tendency of ideas to which birth was given and impulse con 
veyed by a train of anterior ideas, in the phases of philosophic 
idealism and social and individualist theory which it chiefly 
represents, it had got beyond the stage when systematic self- 
justification was necessary to command attention and ensure 
existence j and the Emersonian philosophy is thin, eclectic, 

THOREA U. Jocvii 

volatile ; it expresses the idealistic spirit without seeking, or 
making the effort, to systematically formulate it. In the reaction 
against social convention, the recoil upon nature, the democratic 
idealisation of the individual, Transcendentalism went all to 
the extreme. In the beginnings of the social reaction Rousseau 
is heard protesting against people du bel atr, fashionable 
ladies, against the excessive refinements of the town, and 
professing the admirableness of la vie rustique, not incompatible 
with choiceness of spirit, delicacy, taste ; the life to which a man 
may retire and live a life equal to that of the town ; while, 
later, his continuator St. Pierre decries the many absurdities 
and disorders of social institutions, turning with delight to 
a contemplation of the virgin earth and its first inhabitants, with 
everything in a refreshing state of nature. In all this is the 
genesis of the Thoreau of Walden : without his spiritual ancestry 
he would not have been born and gone there. The belief that 
" a marts a man for d that" means not much more than that a 
poor man is as good as a rich man, perhaps, though it is 
temerity to think so, as a lord ; it means the idealisation of 
the individual in its primitive form, and symptomises a gradual 
convergence of attention towards rights and powers in the 
democratic many, as well as of the aristocratic few. In America 
the idea assumes special dominance in the appearance of the 
Owen and Fourier socialistic communities, contemning even the 
democratic institutions around, and concerned with a bettering 
of the estate of the individual greater than they could expect 
from those institutions, indicating the advancing audacity of 
social criticism, and the greater and greater convergence of 
attention upon the individual, and in the transcendental move 
ment the individual and not the society is placed in the supreme 
foreground. Speaking of it in connection with Carlyle, Mr. 
Lowell says that in its motives, preaching, and results, it 
radically differs from his doctrine ; and of Emerson particularly, 
how his teaching tended notably to the independent develop 
ment of the individual man. With Thoreau society lapses very 
hopelessly into the background indeed, there to be decried, and 
the individual steps to the front, not humbly, but with decision, 

xxviii THOREAU. 

and haunted by a supernal belief in his potentiality. As 
Transcendentalism is the final deliverance of a vast array of 
anterior forces, so the final deliverance of the curious and 
momentous movement thus called is Thoreau. We are now in 
a new current of ideas, the tendencies of which are exemplified 
in art, in criticism, in the novel, in the drama, in the advance of 
science ; tendencies which have been summed up in the most 
elaborated and representative philosophy of the time, called 
Positive. Against what is perhaps impossible, forgetfulness of 
the eternal horizons, the special safeguard and preventative lies 
in the catholicity of the modern spirit, for which the Thoreaus of 
the world have not lived in vain, though to-day it is engaged in 
the study of a lesson other than they taught 

THOREAU, the writer of Walden, died on the 6th of May 1862, 
at the early age of forty-five. His grave, close to that of 
Hawthorne, lies in the beautiful Sleepy Hollow in his native 
Concord. In the words of the great friend who survived him : 
" Wherever there is knowledge, wherever there is virtue, where- 
ever there is beauty, he will find a home." 

W. H. D. 




HEN I wrote the following pages, or rather 
the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the 
woods, a mile from any neighbour, in a 
house which I had built myself, on the 
shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massa 
chusetts, and earned my living by the 
labour of my hands only. I lived there two years and 
two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilised life 

I should not obtrude my affairs so much on the notice of 
my readers if very particular inquiries had not been made, 
by my townsmen concerning my mode of life, which some 
would call impertinent, though they do not appear to me at 
all impertinent, but, considering the circumstances, very 
natural and pertinent. Some have asked what I got to 
eat; if I did not feel lonesome; if I was not afraid ; and 
tho like. Others have been curious to learn what portion 


of my income I devoted to charitable purposes ; and some, 
who have large families, how many poor children I main 
tained. I will therefore ask those of my readers who feel 
no particular interest in me to pardon me if I undertake to 
answer some of these questions in this book. In most 
books, the /, or first person, is omitted ; in this it will be 
retained ; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference. 
We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always 
the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so 
much about myself if there were anybody else whom I 
knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme 
by the narrowness of my experience. Moreover, I, on my 
side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and 
sincere account of his own life, and not merely what ho 
has heard of other men s lives; some such account as he 
would send to his kindred from a distant land ; for if he has 
lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me. 
Perhaps these pages are more particularly addressed to 
poor students. As for the rest of my readers, they will 
accept such portions as apply to them. I trust that none 
will stretch the seams in putting on the coat, for it may do 
good service to him whom it fits. 

I would fain say something, not so much concerning the 
Chinese and Sandwich Islanders as you who read these 
pages, who are said to live in New England ; something 
about your condition, especially your outward condition 
or circumstances in this world, in this town, what it is, 
whether it is necessary that it be as bad as it is, whether it 
cannot be improved as well as not. I have travelled a good 
deal in Concord : and everywhere, in shops, and offices, and 
fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing 
penance in a thousand remarkable ways. What I have 
board of Brahmins sitting exposed to four fires and looking 


in the face of the sun ; or hanging suspended, with their 
heads downward, over flames ; or looking at the heavens 
over their shoulders, "until it becomes impossible for them 
to resume their natural position, while from the twist of 
the neck nothing but liquids can pass into the stomach ; " 
or dwelling, chained for life, at the foot of a tree ; or 
measuring with their bodies, like caterpillars, the breadth 
of vast empires ; or standing on one leg on the tops of 
pillars even these forms of conscious penance are hardly 
more incredible and astonishing than the scenes which I 
daily witness. The twelve labours of Hercules were trifling 
in comparison with those which my neighbours have under 
taken ; for they were only twelve, and had an end \ but I 
could never see that these men slew or captured any monster 
or finished any labour. They have no friend lolas to bum 
with a hot iron the root of the hydra s head, but as soon as 
one head is crushed, two spring up. 

I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is 
to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming 
tools ; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. 
Better if they had been born in the open pasture and 
suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer 
eyes what field they were called to labour in. Who made 
them serfs of the soil 1 Why should they eat their sixty 
acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt ? 
Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they 
are born ? They have got to live a man s life, pushing all 
these things before them, and get on as well as they can. 
How many a poor immortal soul have I met well-nigh 
crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the 
road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by 
forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred 
acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and wood-lot! The 


portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary in 
herited encumbrances, find it labour enough to subdue and 
cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh. 

But men labour under a mistake. The better part of 
the man is soon ploughed into the soil for compost. By a 
seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, 
as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth 
and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. 
It is a fool s life, as they will find when they get to the end 
of it, if not before. It is said that Deucalion and Pyrrha 
created men by throwing stones over their heads behind 
them : 

"Iiulc genus durum sumus, experiensque labornm, 
Et documeuta damns qua simus origine nati." 

Or, as Raleigh rhymes it in his sonorous way : 

"From thence our kind hard-hearted is, enduring pain and care, 
Approving that our bodies of a stony nature are." 

So much for a blind obedience to a blundering oracle, 
throwing the stones over their heads behind them, and not 
seeing where they fell. 

Most men, even in this comparatively free country, 
through mere ignorance and mistake, arc so occupied with 
the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labours of life 
that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. Their 
fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy and tremble 
too much for that. Actually, the labouring man has not 
leisure for a true integrity day by day ; he cannot afford 
to sustain the manliest relations to men ; his labour would 
be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be 
anything but a machine. How can he remember well his 
ignorance which his growth requires who has so of ton 


to use his knowledge ? We should feed and clothe him 
gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, 
before we judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature, 
liko the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most 
delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one 
another thus tenderly. 

Some of you, we all know, are poor, find it hard to live, 
are sometimes, as it were, gasping for breath. I have no 
doubt that some of you who read this book are unable to 
pay for all the dinners which you have actually eaten, or 
for the coats and shoes which are fast wearing or already 
worn out, and have come to this page to spend borrowed or 
stolen time, robbing your creditors of an hour. It is very 
evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live, 
for my sight has been whetted by experience ; always on 
the limits, trying to get into business and trying to get out 
of debt, a very ancient slough, called by the Latins ces 
alienum, another s brass, for some of their coins were made 
of brass ; still living, and dying, and buried by this other s 
brass ; always promising to pay, promising to pay, to 
morrow, and dying to-day, insolvent ; seeking to curry 
favour, to get custom, by how many modes, only not 
state-prison offences; lying, flattering, voting, contracting 
yourselves into a nutshell of civility, or dilating into an 
atmosphere of thin and vaporous generosity, that you may 
persuade your neighbour to let you make his shoes, or his 
hat, or his coat, or his carriage, or import his groceries for 
him; making yourself sick, that you may lay up some 
thing against a sick day, something to be tucked away in 
an old chest, or in a stocking behind the plastering, or, 
more safely, in the brick bank ; no matter where, no 
matter how much or how little. 

I sometimes wonder that we can be so frivolous, I 


may almost say, as to attend to the gross but somewhat 
foreign form of servitude called -Negro Slavery, there are 
so many keen and subtle masters that enslave both north 
and south. It is hard to have a southern overseer ; it 
is worse to have a northern one ; but worst of all when 
you are the slave-driver of yourself. Talk of a divinity 
in man ! Look at the teamster on the highway, wending 
to market by day or night ; does any divinity stir within 
him ? His highest duty to fodder and water his horses ! 
What is his destiny to him compared with the shipping 
interests ? Does not he drive for Squire Make-a-stir ? 
How godlike, how immortal, is he 1 See how he cowers 
and sneaks, how vaguely all the day he fears, not being 
immortal nor divine, but the slave and prisoner of his own 
opinion of himself, a fame won by his own deeds. Public 
opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private 
opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which 
determines, or rather indicates, his fate. Self-emancipation 
even in the West Indian provinces of the fancy and 
imagination, what Wilberforce is there to bring that 
about ? Think, also, of the ladies of the land weaving 
toilet cushions against the last day, not to betray too 
green an interest in their fates ! As if you could kill 
time without injuring eternity. 

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What 
is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the 
desperate city you go intp the desperate country, and 
have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and 
muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is 
concealed even under what are called the games and 
amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for 
this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom 
not to do desperate things. 


When wo consider what, to use the words of the cate 
chism, is the chief end of man, and what are the true 
necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had 
deliberately chosen the common mode of living because 
they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think 
there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures 
remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to 
give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, 
however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What 
everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day 
may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of 
opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would 
sprinkle fertilising rain on their fields. What old people 
say you cannot do you try and find that you can. Old 
deeds for old people, and new deeds for new. Old people 
did not know enough once, perchance, to fetch fuel to keep 
the fire a-going ; new people put a little dry wood under a 
pot, and are whirled round the globe with the speed of 
birds, in a way to kill old people, as the phrase is. Age is 
no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as 
youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost. One 
may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything 
of absolute value by living Practically, the old have no 
very important advice to give the young, their own experi 
ence has been so partial, and their lives have been such 
miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must 
believe ; and it may be that they have some faith left 
which belies that experience, and they are only less young 
than they were. I have lived some thirty years on this 
planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable 
or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told 
me nothing, and probably cannot tell me anything, to the 
purpose. Here is life, an experiment to a great extent 


untried by me ; Lut it docs not avail me that they have tried 
it. If I have any experience which I think valuable, I 
am sure to reflect that this my Mentors said nothing 

One farmer says to me, " You cannot live on vegetable 
food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with ; " 
and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supply 
ing his system with the raw material of bones ; walking all 
the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable- 
made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plough along in 
spite of every obstacle. Some things are really necessaries 
of life in some circles, the most helpless and diseased, which 
in others are luxuries merely, and in others still are entirely 

The whole ground of human life seems to some to have been 
gone over by their predecessors, both the heights and the 
valleys, pid all things to have been cared for. According 
to Evelyn, " the wise Solomon prescribed ordinances for the 
very distances of trees ; and the Roman praetors have 
decided how often you may go into your neighbour s land 
to gather the acorns which fall on it without trespass, and 
what share belongs to that neighbour." Hippocrates has 
even left directions how we should cut our nails ; that is, 
even with the ends of the fingers, neither shorter nor 
longer. Undoubtedly the very tedium and ennui which 
presume to have exhausted the variety and the joys of life 
are as old as Adam. But man s capacities have never been 
measured ; nor are we to judge of what he can do by any 
precedents, so little has been tried. Whatever have been 
thy failures hitherto, " be not afflicted, my child, for who 
shall assign to thee what thou hast left undone ? " 

We might try our lives by a thousand simple tests ; as, 
for instance, that the same sun which ripens my beans 


illumines at once a system of earths like ours. Jf I had 
remembered this it would have prevented some mistakes. 
This was not the light in which I hoed them. The stars 
are the apexes of what wonderful triangles ! What distant 
arid different beings in the various mansions of the universe 
are contemplating the same one at the same moment ! 
Natui e and human life are as various as our several con 
stitutions. Who shall say what prospect life offers to 
another ? Could a greater miracle take place than for us 
to look through each other s eyes for an instant 1 We 
should live in all the ages of the world in an hour ; ay, in 
all the worlds of the ages. History, Poetry, Mythology ! 
I know of no reading of another s experience so startling 
and informing as this would be. 

The greater part of what my neighbours call good I 
believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, 
it is very likely to be my good behaviour. What demon 
possessed me that I behaved so well ? You may say the 
wisest thing you can, old man, you who have lived seventy 
years, not without honour of a kind, I hear an irresist 
ible voice which invites me away from all that. One 
generation abandons the enterprises of another like stranded 

I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than 
\ve do. We may waive just so much care of ourselves 
as we honestly bestow elsewhere. Nature is as well 
adapted to our weakness as to our strength. The incessant 
anxiety and strain of some is a well-nigh incurable form of 
disease. We are made to exaggerate the importance of 
what work we do ; and yet how much is not done by us ! 
or, what if we had been taken sick? How vigilant we 
are ! determined not to live by faith if we can avoid it ; all 
the day long on the alert, at night we unwillingly say 


our prayers and commit ourselves to uncertainties. So 
thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to live, re 
verencing our life, and denying the possibility of change. 
This is the only way, we say ; but there are as many ways 
as there can be drawn radii from one centre. All change 
is a miracle to contemplate ; but it is a miracle which is 
taking place every instant. Confucius said, " To know 
that we know what we know, and that we do not know what 
we do not know, that is true knowledge." When one 
man has reduced a fact of the imagination to be a fact to 
his understanding, I foresee that all men will at length 
establish their lives on that basis. 

Let us consider for a moment what most of the trouble 
and anxiety which I have referred to is about, and how 
much it is necessary that we be troubled, or at least, 
careful. It would be some advantage to live a primitive 
and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward 
civilisation, if only to learn what are the gross necessaries 
of life and what methods have been taken to obtain them ; 
or even to look over the old day-books of the merchants, to 
see what it was that the men most commonly bought at the 
stores, what they stored, that is, what are the grossest 
groceries. For the improvements of ages have had but 
little influence on the essential laws of man s existence : as 
our skeletons, probably, are not to be distinguished from 
those of our ancestors. 

By the words, necessary of life, I mean whatever, of all 
that man obtains by his own exertions, has been from the 
first, or from long use has become, so important to human 
life that few, if any, whether from savageness, or poverty, 
or philosophy, ever attempt to do without it. To many 
creatures there is in this sense but one necessary of life 


Food. To the bison of the prairie it is a few inches of 
palatable grass, with water to drink ; unless he seeks the 
Shelter of the forest or the mountain s shadow. None of 
the brute creation requires more than Food and Shelter. 
The necessaries of life for man in this climate may, accu 
rately enough, be distributed under the several heads of 
Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel ; for not till we have 
secured these are we prepared to entertain the true 
problems of life with freedom and a prospect of success. 
Man has invented, not only houses, but clothes and cooked 
food ; and possibly from the accidental discovery of the 
warmth of fire, and the consequent use of it, at first a 
luxury, arose the present necessity to sit by it. We 
observe cats and dogs acquiring the same second nature. 
By proper Shelter and Clothing we legitimately retain our 
own internal heat ; but with an excess of these, or of Fuel, 
that is, with an external heat greater than our own internal, 
may not cookery properly be said to begin ? Darwin, the 
naturalist, says of the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, that 
while his own party, who were well clothed and sitting 
close to a fire, were far from too warm, these naked savages, 
who were farther off , were observed, to his great surprise, 
" to be streaming with perspiration at undergoing such a 
roasting." So, we are told, the New Hollander goes naked 
with impunity, while the European shivers in his clothes. 
Is it impossible to combine the hardiness of these savages 
with the intellectualncss of the civilised man ? According 
to Liebeg, man s body is a stove, and food the fuel which 
keeps up the internal combustion in the lungs. In cold 
weather we eat more, in warm less. The animal heat is 
the result of a slow combustion, and disease and death take 
place when this is too rapid ; or for want of fuel, or from 
some defect in the draught, the tire goes out. Of course 


the vital heat is not to be confounded with fire ; but so 
much for analogy. It appears, therefore, from the above 
list, that the expression, animal life, is nearly synonymous 
with the expression, animal heat; for while Food may be 
regarded as the Fuel which keeps up the fire within us 
and Fuel serves only to prepare that Food or to increase 
the warmth of our bodies by addition from without 
Shelter and Clothing also serve only to retain the heal thus 
generated and absorbed. 

The grand necessity, then, for our bodies, is to keep 
warm, to keep the vital heat in us. What pains we 
accordingly take, not only with our Food, and Clothing, 
and Shelter, but with our beds, which are our night-clothes, 
robbing the nests and breasts of birds to prepare this shelter 
within a shelter, as the mole has its bed of grass and leaves 
at the end of its burrow ! The poor man is wont to com 
plain that this is a cold world ; and to cold, no less physical 
than social, we refer directly a great part of our ails. The 
summer, in some climates, makes possible to man a sort of 
Elysian life. Fuel, except to cook his Food, is then un 
necessary ; the sun is his fire, and many of the fruits are 
sufficiently cooked by its -rays ; while Food generally is 
more various, and more easily obtained,-and Clothing and 
Shelter are wholly or half unnecessary. At the present 
day, and in this country, as I find by my own experience, 
a few implements, a knife, an axe, a spade, a wheelbarrow, 
etc., and for the studious, lamplight, stationery, and access 
to a few books, rank next to necessaries, and can all be 
obtained at a trifling cost. Yet some, not wise, go to the 
other side of the globe, to barbarous and unhealthy regions, 
and devote themselves to trade for ten or twenty years, in 
order that they may live that is, keep comfortably warm 
and die in New England at last. The luxuriously rich 


are not simply kept comfortably warm, but unnaturally 
hot ; as I implied before, they are cooked, of course cl la, 

Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts 
of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hin 
drances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to 
luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more 
simple and meagre life than the poor. The ancient philo 
sophers, Chinese, Hindoo, Persian, and Greek, were a 
class than which none lias been poorer in outward riches, 
none so rich in inward. We know not much about them. 
It is remarkable that we know so much of them as we 
do. The same is true of the more modern reformers and 
benefactors of their race. None can be an impartial or 
wise observer of human life but from the vantage ground 
of what ive should call voluntary poverty. Of a life of 
luxury the fruit is luxury, whether in agriculture, or com 
merce, or literature, or art. There are now-a-days professors 
of philosophy, but not philosophers. Yet it is admirable 
to profess because it was once admirable to live. To be a 
philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even 
to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live accord 
ing to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, mag 
nanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems 
of life, not only theoretically, but practically. The success 
of great scholars and thinkers is commonly a courtier-like 
success, not kingly, not manly. They make shift to live 
merely by conformity, practically as their fathers did, and 
arc in no sense the progenitors of a nobler race of men. 
But why do men degenerate ever 1 ? What makes families 
run out ? What is the nature of the luxury which ener 
vates and destroys nations ? Are we sure that there is 
none of it in our own lives 1 Th<> philosopher is in advance 


of his age even in the outward form of his life. He is not 
fed, sheltered, clothed, warmed, like his contemporaries. 
How can a man be a philosopher and not maintain his vital 
heat by better methods than other men 1 

When a man is warmed by the several modes which I 
have described, what does he want next 1 Surely not more 
warmth of the same kind, as more and richer food, larger 
and more splendid houses, finer and more abundant clothing, 
more numerous, incessant, and hotter fires, and the like. 
When he has obtained those things which are necessary to 
life, there is another alternative than to obtain the super 
fluities ; and that is, to adventure on life now, his vacation 
from humbler toil having commenced. The soil, it appears, 
is suited to the seed, for it has sent its radicle downward, 
and it may now send its shoot upward also with confidence. 
Why has man rooted himself thus firmly in the earth, but 
that he may rise in the same proportion into the heavens 
above ? for the nobler plants are valued for the fruit they 
bear at last in the air and light, far from the ground, and 
are not treated like the humbler esculents, which, though 
they may be biennials, are cultivated only till they have 
perfected their root, and often cut down at top for this 
purpose, so that most would not know them in their 
flowering season. 

I do not mean to prescribe rules to strong and valiant 
natures, who will mind their own affairs whether in heaven 
or hell, and perchance build more magnificently and spend 
more lavishly than the richest, without ever impoverishing 
themselves, not knowing how they live, if, indeed, there 
are any such, as has been dreamed ; nor to those who find 
their encouragement and inspiration in precisely the present 
condition of things, and cherish it with the fondness and 
enthusiasm of lovers, and, to some extent, I reckon 


myself in this number; I do not speak to those who are 
well employed, in whatever circumstances, and they know 
whether they are well employed or not ; but mainly to 
the mass of men who are discontented, and idly complaining 
of the hardness of their lot or of the times, when they 
might improve them. There are some who complain most 
energetically and inconsolably of any, because they are, aa 
they say, doing their duty. I also have in my mind that 
seemingly wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of 
all, who have accumulated dross, but know not how to use 
it, or get rid of it, and thus have forged their own golden 
or silver fetters. 

If I should attempt to tell how I have desired to spend 
my life in years past, it would probably surprise those of 
my readers who are somewhat acquainted with its actual 
history ; it would certainly astonish those who know no 
thing about it. I will only hint at some of the enterprises 
which I have cherished. 

In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have 
been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on 
my stick too ; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, tho 
past and future, which is precisely the present moment ; to 
toe that line. You will pardon some obscurities, for there 
are more secrets in my trade than in most men s, and yet 
not voluntarily kept, but inseparable from its very nature. 
I would gladly tell all that I know about it, and never paint 
" No Admittance " on my gate. 

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove, 
and am still on their trail. Many are the travellers I have 
spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what 
calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had 
heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen 


the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed aa 
anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves. 

To anticipate, not the sunrise and the dawn merely, but, 
if possible, Nature herself ! How many mornings, summer 
and winter, before yet any neighbour was stirring about his 
business, have I been about mine ! No doubt, many of my 
townsmen have met me returning from this enterprise, 
farmers starting for Boston in the twilight, or woodchoppers 
going to their work. It is true, I never assisted the sun 
materially in his rising, but, doubt not, it was of the last 
importance only to be present at it. 

So many autumn, ay, and winter days, spent outside the 
town, trying to hear what was in the wind, to hear and 
carry it express ! I well-nigh sunk all my capital in it, and 
lost my own breath into the bargain, running in the face of 
it. If it had concerned either of the political parties, 
depend upon it, it would have appeared in the Gazette with 
the earliest intelligence. At other times watching from the 
observatory of some cliff or tree, to telegraph any new 
arrival ; or waiting at evening on the hill-tops for the sky 
to fall, that I might catch something, though I never caught 
much, and that, manna-wise, would dissolve again in the sun. 

For a long time I was reporter to a journal, of no very 
wide circulation, whose editor has never yet seen fit to 
print the bulk of my contributions, and, as is too common 
with writers, I got only my labour for my pains. However, 
in this case my pains were their own reward. 

For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snow 
.storms and rain storms, and did my duty faithfully ; sur 
veyor, if not of highways, then of forest paths all across-lot 
routes, keeping them open, and ravines bridged and pass 
able at all seasons, where the public heel had testified to 
their utility. 


I have looked after the wild stock of tho town, which 
give a faithful herdsman a good deal of trouble by leaping 
fences ; and I have had an eye to tho unfrequented nooks 
and corners of the farm, though I did not always know 
whether Jonas or Solomon worked in a particular field 
to-day that was none of my business. I have watered 
the red huckleberry, the sand cherry and the nettle troo, 
the red pine and the black ash, the white grape and the 
yellow violet, which might have withered else in dry 

Jn short, I went on thus for a long time, I may say it 
without boasting, faithfully minding my business, till it 
became more and more evident that my townsmen would 
not after all admit me into the list of town officers, nor 
make my place a sinecure with a moderate allowance. My 
accounts, which I can swear to have kept faithfully, I 
have, indeed, never got audited, still less accepted, still 
less paid and, settled. However, I have not set my heart 
on that. 

Not long since, a strolling Indian went to sell baskets at 
the house of a well-known lawyer in my neighbourhood. 
"Do you wish to buy any baskets 1" he asked. "No, we 
do not want any," was the reply. " What ! " exclaimed 
the Indian, as he went out the gate, " do you mean to 
starve us ? " Having seen his industrious white neighbours 
so well off, that the lawyer had only to weave arguments, 
and by some magic wealth and standing followed, he had 
said to himself : I will go into business ; I will weave 
baskets ; it is a thing which I can do. Thinking that when 
he had made the baskets he would have done his part, and 
then it would be the white man s to buy them. He had not 
discovered that it was necessary for him to make it worth 
the other s while to buy them, or at least make him think 


that it was so, or to make something else which it would be 
worth his while to buy. I too had woven a kind of basket 
of a delicate texture, but I had not made it worth anyone s 
while to buy them. Yet not the less, in my case, did I 
think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of 
studying how to make it worth men s while to buy my 
baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of sell 
ing them. The life which men praise and regard as suc 
cessful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any 
one kind at the expense of the others ? 

Finding that my fellow-citizens were not likely to offer 
me any room in the court-house, or any curacy or living 
anywhere else, but I must shift for myself, I turned my 
face more exclusively than ever to the woods, where I was 
better known. I determined to go into business at once, 
and not wait to acquire the usual capital, using such slender 
means as I had already got. My purpose in going to 
Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live clearly 
there, but to transact some private business with the fewest 
obstacles ; to be hindered from accomplishing which, for 
want of a little common-sense, a little enterprise, and 
business talent, appeared not so bad as foolish. 

I have always endeavoured to acquire strict business 
habits ; they are indispensable to every man. If your trade 
is with the Celestial Empire, then some small counting-house 
on the coast, in some Salem harbour, will be fixture enough. 
You will export such articles as the country affords, purely 
native products, much ice and pine timber and a little 
granite, always in native bottoms. These will be good 
ventures. To oversee all the details yourself in person ; to be 
at once pilot and captain, and owner and underwriter ; to buy 
and sell and keep the accounts ; to read every letter received, 
and write and read every letter sent; to superintend 


the discharge of imports night and day ; to bo upon 
many parts of the coast almost at the same time ; often the 
richest freight will be discharged upon a Jersey shore ; to 
be your own telegraph, unweariedly sweeping the horizon, 
speaking all passing vessels bound coast-wise ; to keep up a 
steady despatch of commodities, for the supply of such a 
distant and exorbitant market ; to keep yourself informed 
of the state of the markets, prospects of war and peace 
everywhere, and anticipate the tendencies of trade and 
civilisation, taking advantage of the results of all exploring 
expeditions, using new passages and all improvements in 
navigation ; charts to be studied, the position of reefs and 
new lights and buoys to be ascertained, and ever, and ever, 
the logarithmic tables to be corrected, for by the error of 
some calculator the vessel often splits upon a rock that 
should have reached a friendly pier, there is the untold 
fate of La Perouse; universal science to be kept pace 
with, studying the lives of all great discoverers and naviga 
tors, great adventurers and merchants, from Hanno and the 
Phoenicians down to our day ; in fine, account of stock to 
be taken from time to time, to know how you stand. It 
is a labour to task the faculties of a man, such problems 
of profit and loss, of interest, of tare and tret, and gauging 
of all kinds in it, as demand a universal knowledge. 

I have thought that Walclen Pond would be a good place 
for business, not solely on account of the railroad and the 
ice trade ; it oilers advantages which it may not be good 
policy to divulge ; it is a good post and a good founda 
tion. No Neva marshes to be filled ; though you must 
everywhere build on piles of your own driving. It is 
said that a flood-tide, with a westerly wind, and ice in 
the Neva, would sweep St. Petersburg from the face of 
the earth. 


As this business was to be entered into without tlio 
usual capital, it may not be easy to conjecture where those 
means, that will still be indispensable to every such under 
taking, were to be obtained. As for clothing, to come at 
once to the practical part of the question, perhaps we are 
led oftener by the love of novelty, and a regard for the 
opinions of men, in procuring it, than by a true utility. 
Let him who has work to do recollect that the object of 
clothing is, first, to retain the vital heat, and secondly, 
in this state of society, to cover nakedness, and he may 
judge how much of any necessary or important work may 
be accomplished without adding to his wardrobe. Kings 
and queens who wear a suit but once, though made by 
some tailor or dressmaker to their majesties, cannot know 
the comfort of wearing a suit that fits. They are no 
better than wooden horses to hang the clean clothes on. 
Every day our garments become more assimilated to our 
selves, receiving the impress of the wearer s character, 
until we hesitate to lay them aside, without such delay 
and medical appliances and some such solemnity even 
as our bodies. No man ever stood the lower in my 
estimation for having a patch in his clothes : yet I am sure 
that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, 
or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound 
conscience. But even if the rent is not mended, perhaps 
the worst vice betrayed is improvidence. I sometimes try 
my acquaintances by such tests as this ; who could wear a 
patch, or two extra seams only, over the knee? Most 
behaved as if they believed that their prospects for life 
would be ruined if they should do it. It would be easier 
for them to hobble to town with a broken leg than with a 
broken pantaloon. Often if an accident happens to a 
gentleman s legs, they can be mended ; but if a similar 


accident happens to the legs of his pantaloons, there is no 
help for it ; for he considers, not what is truly respectable, 
but what is respected. Wo know but few men, a great 
many coats and breeches. Dress a scarecrow in your last 
shift, you standing shiftless by, who would not soonest 
salute the scarecrow 1 Passing a cornfield the other day, 
close by a hat and coat on a stake, I recognised the owner of 
the farm. He was only a little more weather-beaten than 
when I saw him last. I have heard of a dog that barked 
at every stranger who approached his master s premises 
with clothes on, but was easily quieted by a naked thief. 
It is an interesting question how far men would retain their 
relative rank if they were divested of their clothes. Could 
you, in such a case, tell surely of any company of civilised 
men, which belonged to the most respected class ? When 
Madam Pfeifler, in her adventurous travels round the 
world, from east to west, had got so near home as Asiatic 
llussia, she says that she felt the necessity of wearing other 
than a travelling dress, when she went to meet the authori 
ties, for she " was now in a civilised country, where 

people are judged of by their clothes." Even in our 
democratic New England towns the accidental possession of 
wealth, and its manifestation in dress and equipage alone, 
obtain for the possessor almost universal respect. But 
they who yield such respect, numerous as they are, are so 
far heathen, and need to have a missionary sent to them. 
Ueside, clothes introduced sewing, a kind of work which you 
may call endless ; a woman s dress, at least, is never done. 
A man who has at length found something to do will not 
need to get a new suit to do it in ; for him the old will do, 
that has lain dusty in the garret for an indeterminate 
period. Old shoes will serve a hero longer than they have 
served his valet, if a hero ever has a valet, bare feet are 


older than shoos, and ho can make them do. Only ilioy 
who go to soirees and legislative halls must have new coats, 
coats to change as often as the man changes in them. But 
if my jacket and trousers, my hat and shoes, are fit to 
worship God in, they will do; will they not? Who ever 
saw his old clothes, his old coat, actually worn out, re 
solved into its primitive elements, so that it was not a deed 
of charity to bestow it on some poor boy, by him perchance 
to be bestowed on some poorer still, or shall we say richer, 
who could do with less 1 I say, beware of all enterprises 
that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of 
clothes. If there is not a new man, how can the new 
clothes be made to fit ? If you have any enterprise before 
you, try it in your old clothes. All men want, not some 
thing to do with, but something to do, or rather something 
to be. Perhaps we should never procure a new suit, how 
ever ragged or dirty the old, until we have so conducted, so 
enterprised or sailed in some way, that we feel like new 
men in the old, and that to retain it would be like keeping 
new wine in old bottles. Our moulting season, like that of 
the fowls, must be a crisis in our lives. The loon retires to 
solitary ponds to spend it. Thus also the snake casts its 
slough, and the caterpillar its wormy coat, by an internal 
industry and expansion ; for clothes are but our outmost 
cuticle and mortal coil. Otherwise we shall be found sail 
ing under false colours, and be inevitably cashiered at last 
by our own opinion, as well as that of mankind. 

We don garment after garment, as if we grew like exo 
genous plants by addition without. Our outside and often 
thin and fanciful clothes are our epidermis or false skin, 
which partakes not of our life, and may be stripped off here 
and there without fatal injury ; our thicker garments, con 
stantly worn, are our cellular integument, or cortex; but 


our shirts arc our liber or truo bark, which cannot be re 
moved without girdling and so destroying the man. I 
believe that all races at some seasons wear something 
equivalent to the shirt. It is desirable that a man be clad 
so simply that he can lay his hands on himself in the dark, 
and that he live in all respects so compactly and preparedly, 
that, if an enemy take the town, he can, like the old phil 
osopher, walk out the gate empty-handed without anxiety. 
While one thick garment is, for most purposes, as good as 
three thin ones, and cheap clothing can be obtained at 
prices really to suit customers ; while a thick coat can be 
bought for five dollars, which Avill last as many years, thick 
pantaloons for two dollars, cowhide boots for a dollar and 
a-half a pair, a summer hat for a quarter of a dollar, and a 
winter cap for sixty-two and a-half cents, or a better be 
made at home at a nominal cost, where is he so poor that, 
clad in such a suit, of his own earning, there will not be 
found wise men to do him reverence 1 

When I ask for a garment of a particular form, my 
tailoress tells me gravely, "They do not make them so 
now," not emphasising the " They " at all, as if she quoted 
an authority as impersonal as the Fates, and I find it dif 
ficult to get made what I want, simply because she cannot 
believe that I mean what I say, that I am so rash. When 
I hear this oracular sentence, I am for a moment absorbed 
in thought, emphasising to myself each word separately that 
I may come at the meaning of it, that I may find out by 
what degree of consanguinity They are related to me, and 
what authority they may have in an affair which affects mo 
so nearly ; and, finally, I am inclined to answer her with 
equal mystery, and without any more emphasis of the 
" they," "It is true, they did not make them so recently, 
but they do now." Of what use this measuring of me if she 


docs not measure my character, but only the breadth of my 
shoulders, as it were a peg to hang the coat on ? We wor 
ship not the Graces, nor the Fame, but Fashion. She spins 
and weaves and cuts with full authority. The head monkey 
at Paris puts on a traveller s cap, and all the monkeys in 
America do the same. I sometimes despair of getting any 
thing quite simple and honest done in this world by the 
help of men. They would have to be passed through a 
powerful press first, to squeeze their old notions out of 
them, so that they would not soon get upon their legs again, 
and then there would be some one in the company with a 
maggot in his head, hatched from an egg deposited there 
nobody knows when, for not even fire kills these things, 
and you would have lost your labour. Nevertheless, we 
will not forget that some Egyptian wheat was handed clown 
to us by a mummy. 

On the whole, I think that it cannot be maintained 
that dressing has in this or any country risen to the 
dignity of an art. At present men make shift to wear 
what they can get. Like shipwrecked sailors, they put 
on what they can find on the beach, and at a little distance, 
whether of space or time, laugh at each other s masquerade. 
Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows 
religiously the new. We are amused at beholding the 
costume of Henry VIII., or Queen Elizabeth, as much as 
if it was that of the King and Queen of the Cannibal 
Islands. All costume oft a man is pitiful or grotesque. 
It is only the serious eye peering from and the sincere 
life passed within it, which restrain laughter and con 
secrate the costume of any people. Let Harlequin be 
taken with a fit of the colic, and his trappings will have 
to serve that mood too. When the soldier is hit by a 
cannon-ball, rags are as becoming as purple. 


The childish and savage taste of men and women for 
new patterns keep how many shaking and squinting through 
kaleidoscopes that they may discover the particular figure 
which this generation requires to-day. The manufacturers 
have learned that this taste is merely whimsical. Of two 
patterns which differ only by a few threads more or less of 
u particular colour, the one will be sold readily, the other 
lie on the shelf, though it frequently happens that, after 
the lapse of a season, the latter becomes the most fashion 
able. Comparatively, tattooing is not the hideous custom 
which it is called. It is not barbarous merely because the 
printing is skin-deep and unalterable. 

I cannot believe that our factory system is the best mode 
by which men may get clothing. The condition of tho 
operatives is becoming every day more like that of the 
English ; and it cannot be wondered at, since, as far as 
I have heard or observed, the principal object is, not that 
mankind may be well and honestly clad, but, unquestion 
ably, that the corporations may be enriched. In the long 
run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though 
they should fail immediately, they had better aim at 
something high. 

As for a Shelter, I do not deny that this is now a 
necessary of life, though there are instances of men having 
done without it for long periods in colder countries than 
this. Samuel Laing says that " The Laplander in his skin 
dress, and in a skin bag which he puts over his head and 
shoulders, will sleep night after night on the snow in 
a degree of cold which would extinguish the life of one 
exposed to it in any woollen clothing." He had seen 
them asleep thus. Yet he adds, " They are not hardier than 
other people." But, probably, man did not live long on 


earth without discovering the convenience which there is 
in a house, the domestic comforts, which phrase may have 
originally signified the satisfactions of the house more than 
of the family ; though these must bo extremely partial 
and occasional in those climates where the house is 
associated in our thoughts with winter or the rainy season 
chiefly, and two-thirds of the year, except for a parasol, 
is unnecessary. In our climate, in the summer, it was 
formerly almost solely a covering at night. In the Indian 
gazettes a wigwam was the symbol of a day s march, and 
a row of them cut or painted on the bark of a tree signified 
that so many times they had camped. Man was not made 
so large-limbed and robust but that he must seek to narrow 
his world, and wall iu a space such as fitted him. He 
was at first bare and out of doors ; but though this was 
pleasant enough in serene and warm weather, by daylight, 
the rainy season and the winter, to say nothing of the 
torrid sun, would perhaps have nipped his race in the 
bud if he had not made haste to clothe himself with the 
shelter of a house. Adam and Eve, according to the fable, 
wore the bower before other clothes. Man wanted a 
home, a place of warmth, or comfort, first of physical 
warmth, then the warmth of the affections. 

We may imagine a time when, in the infancy of the 
human race, some enterprising mortal crept into a hollow 
in a rock for shelter. Every child begins the world again, 
to some extent, and loves to stay out-doors, even in wet 
and cold. It plays house as well as horse, having an 
instinct for it. Who does not remember the interest with 
which when young he looked at shelving rocks, or any 
approach to a cave ? It was the natural yearning of that 
portion of our most primitive ancestor which still survived 
in us. From the cave we have advanced to roofs of palm 


leaves, of bark and boughs, of linen woven and stretched, 
of grass and straw, of boards and shingles, of stones and 
tiles. At last, we know not what it is to live in the open air, 
and our lives are domestic in more senses than we think. 
From the hearth to the field is a great distance. It would 
IK! well perhaps if we were to spend more of our clays 
and nights without any obstruction between us and the 
celestial bodies, if the poet did not speak so much from 
under a roof, or the saint dwell there so long. Birds 
do not sing in caves, nor do doves cherish their innocence 
in dovecots. 

However, if one designs to construct a dwelling-house, 
it behoves him to exercise a little Yankee shrewdness, lest 
after all he find himself in a workhouse, a labyrinth without 
a clew, a museum, an almshouse, a prison, or a splendid 
mausoleum instead. Consider first how slight a shelter 
is absolutely necessary. I have .seen Pcnobscot Indians, 
in this town, living in tents of thin cotton cloth, while the 
snow was nearly a foot deep around them, and I thought 
that they would be glad to have it deeper to keep out the 
wind. Formerly, when how to get my living honestly, 
with freedom left for my proper pursuits, was a question 
which vexed me even more than it does now, for unfortun 
ately I am become somewhat callous, I used to see a large 
box by the railroad, six feet long by three wide, in which 
the labourers locked up their tools at night, and it suggested 
to me that every man who was hard pushed might get such a 
one for a dollar, and, having bored a few auger holes in it, to 
admit the air at least, get into it when it rained and at 
night, and hook down the lid, and so have freedom in 
his love, and in his soul be free. This did not appear the 
wor^t, nor by any means a despicable alternative. You 
could sit up a:i late as you pleased, and, whenever you got 


up, go abroad without any landlord or house-lord dogging 
you for rent. Many a man is harassed to death to pay the 
rent of a larger and more luxurious box who would not 
have frozen to death in such a box as this. I am far from 
jesting. Economy is a subject which admits of being 
treated with levity, but it cannot so be disposed of. A 
comfortable house, for a rude and hardy race, that lived 
mostly out of doors, was once made here almost entirely of 
such materials as Nature furnished ready to their hands. 
Gookin, who was superintendent of the Indians subject 
to the Massachusetts Colony, writing in 1674, says, "The 
best of their houses are covered very neatly, tight and 
warm, with barks of trees, slipped from their bodies at 
those seasons when the sap is up, and made into great 
flakes, with pressure of weighty timber, when they are 
green. . . . The meaner sort are covered with mats which 
they make of a kind of bulrush, and are also indifferently 
tight and warm, but not so good as the former. . . . Some 
I have seen, sixty or a hundred feet long and thirty feet 
broad. ... I have often lodged in their wigwams, and 
found them as warm as the best English houses." lie 
adds, that they were commonly carpeted and lined within 
with well-wrought embroidered mats, and were furnished 
with various utensils. The Indians had advanced so far as 
to regulate the effect of the wind by a mat suspended over 
the hole in the roof and moved by a string. Such a lodge 
was in the first instance constructed in a day or two at 
most, and taken down and put up in a few hours ; and 
every family owned one, or its apartment in one. 

In the savage state every family owns a shelter as good 
as the best, and sufficient for its coarser and simpler wants ; 
but I think that I speak within bounds when I say that, 
though the birds of the air have their nests, and the foxes 


their holes, and tho savages their wigwams, in modern 
civilised society not more than one-half the families own a 
shelter. In tho largo towns and cities, where, civilisation 
especially prevails, tho number of those who own a shelter 
is a very small fraction of tho whole. The rest pay an 
annual tax for this outside garment of all, become indis 
pensable summer and winter, which would buy a village 
of Indian wigwams, but now helps to keep them poor as 
long as thoy live. I do not mean to insist hero on tho dis 
advantage of hiring compared with owning, but it is evident 
that the savage owns his shelter because it costs so little, 
while the civilised man hires his commonly because ho 
cannot afford to own it ; nor can he, in tho long run, any 
better afford to hire. But, answers one, by merely paying 
this tax the poor civilised man secures an abode which is a 
palace compared with tho savage s. An annual rent of 
from twenty-five to a hundred dollars these are tho coun 
try rates entitles him to the benefit of tho improvements 
of centuries, spacious apartments, clean paint and paper, 
Rum ford fire-place, back plastering, Venetian blinds, copper 
pump, spring lock, a commodious cellar, and many other 
things. But how happens it that ho who is said to enjoy 
these things is so commonly a. poor civilised man, while tho 
savage, who has them not, is rich as a savage ? If it is 
asserted that civilisation is a real advance in the condition 
of man, and I think that it is, though only the wise 
improve their advantages, it must be shown that it has 
produced better dwellings without making them more 
costly ; and the cost of a thing is the amount of what I 
will call life which is required to bo exchanged for it, imme 
diately or in tho long run. An average house in this 
neighbourhood costs perhaps eight hundred dollars, and to 
lay up this sum will take from ten to fifteen years of the 

3 o WALDEN. 

labourer s life, even if he is not encumbered with a family 
estimating the pecuniary value of every man s labour at 
one dollar t a-day, for if some receive more, others receive 
less so that he must have spent more than half his life 
commonly before his wigwam will be earned. If we sup 
pose him to pay a rent instead, this is but a doubtful choice 
of evils. Would the savage have been wise to exchange his 
wigwam for a palace on these terms 1 

It may be guessed that I reduce almost the whole advan 
tage of holding this superfluous property as a fund in store 
against the future, so far as the individual is concerned, 
mainly to the defraying of funeral expenses. But perhaps 
a man is not required to bury himself. Nevertheless this 
points to an important distinction between the civilised 
man and the savage ; and, no doubt, they have designs on 
us for our benefit, in making the life of a civilised people 
an institution, in which the life of the individual is to a 
great extent absorbed, in order to preserve and perfect that 
of the race. But I wish to show at what a sacrifice this 
advantage is at present obtained, and to suggest that we 
may possibly so live as to secure all the advantage without 
suffering any of the disadvantage. What mean ye by say 
ing that the poor ye have always with you, or that the 
fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children s teeth are 
set on edge ? 

" As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion 
any more to use this proverb in Israel." 

" Behold, all souls are mine ; as the soul of the father, 
so also the soul of the son is mine : the soul that sinncth it 
shall die." 

When I consider my neighbours, the farmers of Concord, 
who are at least as well off as the other classes, I find that 
for the most part they have been toiling twenty, thirty, or 


forty years, that thoy may become the real owners of their 
farms, which commonly they have inherited with encum 
brances, or else bought with hired money, and we may 
regard one-third of that toil as the cost of their houses, 
but commonly they have not paid for them yet. It is true, 
the encumbrances sometimes outweigh the value of tho 
farm, so that the farm itself becomes one great encumbrance, 
and still a man is found to inherit it, being well acquainted 
with it, as he says. On applying to the assessors, I am 
surprised to learn that they cannot at once name a dozen in 
the town who own their farms free and clear. If you would 
know the history of these homesteads, inquire at the bank 
where they are mortgaged. The man who has actually 
paid for his farm with labour on it is so rare that every 
neighbour can point to him. I doubt if there are three 
guch men in Concord. What has been said of the mer 
chants, that a very large majority, even ninety-seven in a 
hundred, are sure to fail, is equally true of the farmers. 
With regard to the merchants, however, one of them says 
pertinently that a great part of their failures are not genuine 
pecuniary failures, but mere failures to fulfil their engage 
ments, because it is inconvenient that is, it is the moral 
character that breaks down. But this puts an infinitely 
worse face on the matter, and suggests, beside, that probably 
not even the other three succeed in saving their souls, but 
are perchance bankrupt in a worse sense than they who fail 
honestly. Bankruptcy and repudiation are the spring 
boards from which much of our civilisation vaults and 
turns its somersets, but the savage stands on the unelastic 
plank of famine. Yet the Middlesex Cattle Show goes off 
here with eclat annually, as if all the joints of the 
agricultural machine were suent. 

The farmer is endeavouring to solve the problem of a 


livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem 
itself. To get his shoe strings he speculates in herds of 
cattle. With consummate skill he has set his trap with a 
hair-spring to catch comfort arid independence, and then, as 
ho turned away, got his own leg into it. This is the 
reason he is poor ; and for a similar reason we are all poor 
in respect to a thousand savage comforts, though surrounded 
by luxuries. As Chapman sings, 

"The false society of men 

for earthly greatness 
All heavenly comforts rarefies to air." 

And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be 
the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that 
has got him. As I understand it, that was a valid objection 
urged by Momus against the house which Minerva made, 
that she " had not made it movable, by which means a bad 
neighbourhood might be avoided ; " and it may still be 
urged, for our houses are such unwieldy property, that we 
are often imprisoned rather than housed in them ; and the 
bad neighbourhood to be avoided is our own scurvy selves. 
I know one or two families, at least, in this town, who, for 
nearly a generation, have been wishing to sell their houses 
in the outskirts and move into the village, but have 
not been able to accomplish it, and only death will set 
them free. 

Granted that the majority are able at last either to own 
or hire the modern house with all its improvements. While 
civilisation has been improving our houses, it has not 
equally improved the men who are to inhabit them. It has 
created palaces, but it was not so easy to create noblemen 
and kings. And if the civilised man s y>ursuits are no 
worthier than the savage s, if he is employed the greater part 


of his life in obtaining gross necessaries and comforts merely, 
why should he have a better dwelling than the former. 

But how do the poor minority fare 1 Perhaps it will bo 
found, that just in proportion as some have been placed in 
outward circumstances above the savage, others have been 
degraded below him. The luxury of one class is counter 
balanced by the indigence of another. On the one side is 
the palace, on the other are the almshouso and " silent 
poor." The myriads who built the pyramids to be the tombs 
of the Pharaohs were fed on garlic, and it may be were not 
decently buried themselves. The mason who finishes the 
cornice of the palace returns at night perchance to a hut not 
so good as a wigwam. It is a mistake to suppose that, in a 
country where the usual evidences of civilisation exist, 
the condition of a very large body of the inhabitants may 
not be as degraded as that of savages. I refer to the 
degraded poor, not now to the degraded rich. To know 
this I should not need to look farther than to the shanties 
which everywhere border our railroads, that last improve 
ment in civilisation ; where I see in my daily walks human 
beings living in sties, and all winter with an open door, for 
the sake of light, without any visible, often imaginable, 
wood pile, and the forms of both old and young are 
permanently contracted by the long habit of shrinking from 
cold and misery, and the development of all their limbs and 
faculties is checked. It certainly is fair to look at that 
class by whose labour the works which distinguish this 
generation are accomplished. Such too, to a greater or less 
extent, is the condition of the operatives of every denomina 
tion in England, which is the great workhouse of the world. 
Or I could refer you to Ireland, which is marked as one of 
the white or enlightened spots on the map. Contrast the 
physical condition of the Irish with that of the North 


American Indian, or the South Sea Islander, or any other 
savage race before it was degraded by contact with the 
civilised man. Yet I have no doubt that that people s rulers 
are as wise as the average of civilised rulers. Their condition 
only proves what squalidness may consist with civilisation. 
I hardly need refer now to the labourers in our Southern 
States who produce the staple exports of this country, and are 
themselves a staple production of the South. But to confine 
myself to those who are said to be in moderate circumstances. 
Most men appear never to have considered what a house 
is, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives 
because they think that they must have such a one as their 
neighbours have. As if one were to wear any sort of coat 
which the tailor might cut out for him, or, gradually 
leaving off palm-leaf hat or cap of woodchuck skin, complain 
of hard times because he could not afford to buy him a 
crown ! It is possible to invent a house still more con 
venient and luxurious than we have, which yet all would 
admit that man could not afford to pay for. Shall we 
always study to obtain more of these things, and not 
sometimes to be content with less ? Shall the respectable 
citizen thus gravely teach, by precept and example, the 
necessity of the young man s providing a certain number of 
superfluous glow-shoes, and umbrellas, and empty guest 
chambers for empty guests, before he dies ? Why should 
not our furniture be as simple as the Arab s or the Indian s? 
When I think of the benefactors of the race, whom we 
have apotheosised as messengers from heaven, bearers of 
divine gifts to man, I do not see in my mind any retinue 
at their heels, any car-load of fashionable furniture. Or 
what if I were to allow would it not be a singular allow 
ance ? that our furniture should be more complex than the 
Arab s, in proportion as we are morally and intellectually 


his superiors ! At the present our houses are cluttered 
with it, and a good housewife would soon sweep out the 
greater part into the dust-hole, and not leave her morning s 
work undone. Morning work ! By the blushes of Aurora 
and the music of Memnon, what should be man s morning 
work in this world ? I had three pieces of limestone on my 
desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be 
dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all 
undusted still, and I threw them out the window in 
disgust. How, then, could I have a furnished house? I 
would rather sit in the open air, for no dust gathers on the 
grass, unless where man has broken ground. 

It is the luxurious and dissipated who set the fashions 
which the herd so diligently follow. The traveller who 
stops at the best houses, so called, soon discovers this, for 
the publicans presume him to be a Sardanapalus, and if he 
resigned himself to their tender mercies he would soon be 
completely emasculated. I think that in the railroad car 
we are inclined to spend more on luxury than on safety 
and convenience, and it threatens without attaining these 
to become no better than a modern drawing-room, with its 
divans, and ottomans, and sunshades, and a hundred other 
oriental things, which we are taking west with us, invented 
for the ladies of the harem and the effeminate natives of 
the Celestial Empire, which Jonathan should be ashamed 
to know the names of. I would rather sit on a pumpkin 
and have it all to myself, than to be crowded on a velvet 
cushion. I would rather ride on earth in an ox -cart with a 
free circulation, than go to heaven in the fancy car of an 
excursion train and breathe a malaria all the way. 

The very simplicity and nakedness of man s life in the 
primitive ages imply this advantage at least, that they left 
him still but a sojouruer in nature. When he was refreshed 


with food and sleep he contemplated his journey again. 
He dwelt, as it were, in a tent in this world, and was either 
threading the valleys, or crossing the plains, or climljing the 
mountain tops. But lo ! men have become the tools of 
their tools. The man who independently plucked the fruits 
when he was hungry is become a farmer ; and he who stood 
under a tree for shelter, a housekeeper. We now no longer 
camp as for a night, but have settled down on earth and 
forgotten heaven. Wo have adopted Christianity merely 
as an improved method of agri-culture. We have built for 
this world a family mansion, and for the next a family 
tomb. The best works of art are the expression of man s 
struggle to free himself from this condition, but the effect 
of our art is merely to make this low state comfortable and 
that higher state to be forgotten. There is actually no 
place in this village for a work of fine art, if any had come 
down to us, to stand, for our lives, our houses and streets, 
furnish no proper pedestal for it. There is not a nail to 
hang a picture on, nor a shelf to receive the bust of a hero or 
a saint. When I consider how our houses are built and paid 
for, or not paid for, and their internal economy managed 
and sustained, I wonder that the floor does not give way 
under the visitor while he is admiring the gewgaws upon 
the mantel-piece, and let him through into the cellar, to 
some solid and honest, though earthy foundation. I 
cannot but perceive that this so-called rich and refined 
life is a thing jumped at, and I do not get on in the 
enjoyment of the fine arts which adorn it, my attention 
being wholly occupied with the jump; for I remember that 
the greatest genuine leap, clue to human muscles alone, oa 
record, is that of certain wandering Arabs, who are said to 
have cleared twenty-five feet on level ground. Without 
factitious support, man is sure to come to earth u^aiu 


beyond that distance. The first question which I am 
tempted to put to the proprietor of such great impropriety 
is, ^Vllo bolsters you ? Are you one of the ninety-seven 
who fail, or the three who succeed? Answer me these 
questions, and then perhaps I may look at your baubles 
and find them ornamental. The cart before the horse is 
neither beautiful nor useful. Before we can adorn our 
houses with beautiful objects the walls must be stripped, 
and our lives must bo stripped, and beautiful housekeeping 
and beautiful living be laid for a foundation : now, a taste for 
the beautiful is most cultivated out of doors, where there is 
no house and no housekeeper. 

Old Johnston, in his " Wonder- Working Providence," 
speaking of the first settlers of this town, with whom he 
was contemporary, tells us that " they burrow themselves in 
the earth for their first shelter under some hillside, and, 
casting the soil aloft upon timber, they make a smoky fire 
against the earth, at the highest side." They did not 
" provide them houses," says he, " till the earth, by the 
Lord s blessing, brought forth bread to feed them," and the 
first year s crop was so light that " they were forced to cut 
their bread very thin for a long season." The secretary of 
the Province of New Netherland, writing in Dutch, in 
1G50, for the information of those who wished to take up 
land there, states more particularly, that " those in New 
Netherland, and especially in New England, who have no 
means to build farm-houses at first according to their wishes, 
dig a square pit in the ground, cellar fashion, six or seven 
feet deep, as long and as broad as they think proper, case 
the earth inside with wood all round the wall, and line the 
wood with the bark of trees or something else to prevent 
the caving-in of the earth ; floor this cellar with plank, and 
wainscot it overhead for a ceiling, raise a roof of spars clear 


up, and cover the spars with bark or green sods, so tliat 
they can live dry and warm in these houses with their entire 
families for two, three, and four years, it being understood 
that partitions are run through those cellars which are 
adapted to the size of the family. The wealthy and prin 
cipal men in New England, in the beginning of the colonies, 
commenced their first dwelling-houses in this fashion, for 
two reasons : firstly, in order not to waste time in building, 
and not to want food the next season ; secondly, in order 
not to discourage poor labouring people whom they brought 
over in numbers from Fatherland. In the course of three 
or four years, when the country became adapted to agri 
culture, they built themselves handsome houses, spending on 
them several thousands." 

In this course which our ancestors took there was a show 
of prudence at least, as if their principle were to satisfy the 
more pressing wants first. But are the more pressing wants 
satisfied now ? When I think of acquiring for myself one 
of our luxurious dwellings, I am deterred, for, so to speak, 
the country is not yet adapted to human culture, and we 
are still forced to cut our spiritual bread far thinner than 
our forefathers did their wheaten. Not that all architec 
tural ornament is to be neglected even in the rudest periods ; 
but let our houses first be lined with beauty, where they 
come in contact with our lives, like the tenement of the 
shell-fish, and not overlaid with it. But, alas ! I have been 
inside one or two of them, and know what they are lined 

Though we are not so degenerate but that we might 
possibly live in a cave or a wigwam, or wear skins to-day, it 
certainly is better to accept the advantages, though so dearly 
bought, which the invention and industry of mankind offer. 
In such a neighbourhood as this, boards and shingles, lime and 


bricks, are cheaper and more easily obtained than suitable 
caves, or whole logs, or bark in sufficient quantities, or even 
well-tempered clay or flat stones. I speak understandingly 
on this subject, for I have made myself acquainted with it 
both theoretically and practically. With a little more wit, we 
might use these materials so as to become richer than the 
richest now are, and make our civilisation a blessing. The 
civilised man is a more experienced and wiser savage. But 
to make haste to my own experiment. 

Near the end of March 1845 I borrowed an axe and 
went down to the woods by Walden Pond, nearest to where 
I intended to build my house, and began to cut down some 
tall arrowy white pines, still in their youth, for timber. It 
is difficult to begin without borrowing, but perhaps it is the 
most generous course thus to permit your fellow-men to 
have an interest in your enterprise. The owner of the 
axe, as he released his hold on it, said that it was the 
apple of his eye ; but I returned it sharper than I received 
it. It was a pleasant hillside where I worked, covered 
with pine woods, through which I looked out on the pond, 
and a small open field in the woods where pines and 
hickories were springing up. The ice in the pond was not 
yet dissolved, though there were some open spaces, and it 
was all dark-coloured and saturated with water. There 
were some slight flurries of snow during the day that I 
worked there ; but for the most part when I came out on to 
the railroad, on my way home, its yellow sand heap 
stretched away gleaming in the hazy atmosphere, and the 
rails shone in the spring sun, and I heard the lark and 
pewee and other birds already come to commence another 
year with us. They were pleasant spring days, in which 
the winter of man s discontent was thawing as well as 


the earth, and the life that had lain torpid began to stretch 
itself. One day, when my axe had come off and I had cut 
a green hickory for a wedge, driving it with a stone, and had 
placed the whole to soak in a pond hole in order to swell 
the wood, I saw a striped snake run into the water, and he 
lay on the bottom, apparently without inconvenience, as 
long as I staid there, or more than a quarter-of-an-hour ; 
perhaps because he had not yet fairly come out of the torpid 
state. It appeared to me that for a like reason men remain 
in their present low and primitive condition ; but if they 
.should feel the influence of the spring of springs arousing 
them, they would of necessity rise to a higher and more 
ethereal life. I had previously seen the snakes in frosty 
mornings in my path with portions of their bodies still 
numb and inflexible, waiting for the sun to thaw them. 
On the 1st of April it rained and melted the ice, and in 
the early part of the day, which was very foggy, I heard a 
stray goose groping about over the pond and cackling as if 
lost, or like the spirit of the fog. 

So I went on for some days cutting and hewing timber, 
and also studs and rafters, all with my narrow axe, not 
having many communicable or scholar-like thoughts, 
singing to myself, 

Men say they know many things ; 
But lo ! they have taken wings, 
The arts and sciences, 
And a thousand appliances ; 
The wind that blows 
}s all that anybody knows. " 

T hewed the main timbers six inches square, most of the 
studs on two sides only, and the rafters and floor timbers 
on one side, leaving the rest of the bark on, so that they 


were just as straight and much stronger than sawed ones. 
Each stick was carefully mortised or tenoned by its stump, 
for I had borrowed other tools by this time. My days in 
the woods were not very long ones ; yet I usually carried 
my dinner of bread and butter, and read the newspaper in 
which it was wrapped, at noon, sitting amid the green pine 
boughs which I had cut off, and to my bread was imparted 
some of their fragrance, for my hands were covered 
with a thick coat of pitch. Before I had done I was more 
the friend than the foe of the pine tree, though I had cut 
clown some of them, having become better acquainted with 
it. Sometimes a rambler in the wood was attracted by the 
sound of my axe, and we chatted pleasantly over the chips 
which I made. 

By the middle of April, for I made no haste in my work, 
but rather made the most of it, my house was framed and 
ready for the raising. I had already bought the shanty of 
James Collins, an Irishman who worked on the Fitchburg 
Railroad, for boards. James Collins shanty was considered 
au uncommonly fine one. When I called to see it he was 
not at home. I walked about the outside, at first unob 
served from within, the window was so deep and high. It 
was of small dimensions, with a peaked cottage roof, and 
not much else to be seen, the dirt being raised five feet all 
round as if it were a compost heap. The roof was the 
soundest part, though a good deal warped and made brittle 
by the sun. Door-sill there was none, but a perennial pas 
sage for the hens under the door board. Mrs. C. came to 
the door and asked me to view it from the inside. The 
hens were driven in by my approach. It was dark, and 
had a dirt floor for the most part, dank, clammy, and 
aguish, only here a board and there a board which would 
not bear removal. She lighted a lamp to show me the inside 


of the roof and the walls, and also that the board floor 
extended under the bed, warning me not to step into the 
cellar, a sort of dust-hole two feet deep. In her own words, 
they were " good boards overhead, good boards all around, 
and a good window," of two whole squares originally, only 
the cat had passed out that way lately. There was a stove, 
a bed, and a place to sit, an infant in the house where it 
was born, a silk parasol, gilt-framed looking-glass, and a 
patent new coffee-mill nailed to an oak sapling, all told. 
The bargain was soon concluded, for James had in the mean 
while returned. I to pay four dollars and twenty-five cents 
to-night, he to vacate at five to-morrow morning, selling to 
nobody else meanwhile : I to take possession at six. It 
were well, he said, to be there early, and anticipate cer 
tain indistinct but wholly unjust claims on the score of 
ground-rent and fuel. This he assured me was the only 
encumbrance. At six I passed him and his family on the 
road. One large bundle held their all, bed, coffee-mill, 
looking-glass, hens, all but the cat; she took to the woods 
and became a wild cat, and, as I learned afterward, trod in 
a trap set for woodchucks, and so became a dead cat at last. 
I took down this dwelling the same morning, drawing the 
nails, and removed it to the pond-side by small cartloads, 
spreading the boards on the grass there to bleach and warp 
back again in the sun. One early thrush gave me a note or 
two as I drove along the woodland path. I was informed 
treacherously by a young Patrick that neighbour Seeley, an 
Irishman, in the intervals of the carting, transferred the 
still tolerable, straight, and drivable nails, staples, and 
spikes to his pocket, and then stood when I came back to 
pass the time of day, and look freshly up, unconcerned, with 
spring thoughts, at the devastation; there being a dearth of 
work, as he said. Ho was there to represent spectatordom, 


and help make this seemingly insignificant event one with 
the removal of the gods of Troy. 

I dug my cellar in the side of a hill sloping to the south, 
where a woodchuck had formerly dug his burrow, down 
through sumach and blackberry roots, and the lowest stain 
of vegetation, six feet square by seven deep, to a fine sand 
where potatoes would not freeze in any winter. The sides 
were left shelving, and not stoned ; but the sun having never 
shone on them, the sand still keeps its place. It was but 
two hours work. I took particular pleasure in this breaking 
of ground, for in almost all latitudes men dig into the earth 
for an equable temperature. Under the most splendid 
house in the city is still to be found the cellar where they 
store their roots as of old, and long after the superstructure 
has disappeared posterity remark its dent in the earth. 
The house is still but a sort of porch at the entrance of a 

At length, in the beginning of May, with the help of 
some of my acquaintances, rather to improve so good an 
occasion for neighbourliness than from any necessity, I set 
up the frame of my house. No man was ever more 
honoured in the character of his raisers than I. They 
are destined, I trust, to assist at the raising of loftier 
structures one day. I began to occupy my house on the 
4th of July, as soon as it was boarded and roofed, for the 
boards were carefully feather-edged and lapped, so that it 
was perfectly impervious to rain, but before boarding I laid 
the foundation of a chimney at one end, bringing two cart 
loads of stones up the hill from the pond in my arms. I 
built the chimney after my hoeing in the fall, before a fire 
became necessary for warmth, doing my cooking in the 
meanwhile out of doors on the ground, early in the morn 
ing; which mode I still think is in some respects more 


convenient and agreeable than the usual one. When it 
stormed before my bread was baked, I fixed a few boards 
over the fire, and sat under them to watch my loaf, and 
passed some pleasant hours in that way. In those days, 
when my hands were much employed, I read but little, but 
the least scraps of paper which lay on the ground, my 
holder, or tablecloth, afforded me as much entertainment j 
in fact, answered the same purpose as the Iliad. 

It would be worth the while to build still more delibcr* 
ately than I did, considering, for instance, what foundation 
a door, a window, a cellar, a garret, have in the nature of 
man, and perchance never raising any superstructure until 
we found a better reason for it than our temporal necessities 
even. There is some of the same fitness in a man s building 
his own house that there is in a bird s building its own nest. 
Who knows but if men constructed their dwellings with 
their own hands, and provided food for themselves and 
families simply and honestly enough, the poetic faculty 
would be universally developed, as birds universally sing 
when they are so engaged ? But alas ! we do like cow- 
birds and cuckoos, which lay their eggs in nests which 
other birds have built, and cheer no traveller with 
their chattering and unmusical notes. Shall we forever 
resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter? 
What does architecture amount to in the experience 
of the mass of men ? I never in all my walks came 
across a man engaged in so simple and natural an occu 
pation as building his house. We belong to the community. 
It is not the tailor alone who is the ninth part of a man : 
it is as much the preacher, and the merchant, and the 
farmer. Where is this division of labour to end ? and 
what object does it finally serve? No doubt another niay 


also think for me ; but it is not therefore desirable that he 
should do so to the exclusion of my thinking for myself. 

Truo, there are architects so-called in this country, and I 
have heard of one at least possessed with the idea of making 
architectural ornaments have a core of truth, a necessity, 
and hence a beauty, as if it were a revelation to him. All 
very well perhaps from his point of view, but only a little 
better than the common dilettantism. A sentimental re 
former in architecture, he began at the cornice, not at the 
foundation. It was only how to put a core of truth within 
the ornaments, that every sugar plum in fact might have an 
almond or caraway seed in it, though I hold that almonds aro 
most wholesome without the sugar, and not how the inhab 
itant, the ind\vellcr, might build truly within and without, 
and let the ornaments take care of themselves. What reason 
able man ever supposed that ornaments were something out 
ward and in the skin merely, that the tortoise got his 
spotted shell, or the shell-fish its mother-of pearl tints, by 
such a contract as the inhabitants of Broadway their Trinity 
Church 1 But a man has no more to do with the style of 
architecture of his house than a tortoise with that of its 
shell : nor need the soldier be so idle as to try to paint the 
precise colour of his virtue on his standard. The enemy will 
find it out. He may turn pale when the trial comes. This 
man seemed to me to lean over the cornice, and timidly 
whisper his half truth to the rude occupants who really 
knew it better than he. What of architectural beauty I now 
see, I know has gradually grown from within outward, out 
of the necessities and character of the indwellcr, who is the 
only builder, out of some unconscious truthfulness, and 
nobleness, without ever a thought for the appearance ; and 
whatever additional beauty of this kind is destined to bo 
produced will be preceded by a like unconscious beauty of 


life. The most interesting dwellings in this country, as the 
painter knows, are the most unpretending, humble log huts 
and cottages of the poor commonly ; it is the life of the 
inhabitants whose shells they are, and not any peculiarity 
in these surfaces merely, which makes them picturesque; 
and equally interesting will be the citizen s suburban box, 
when his life shall be as simple and as agreeable to the 
imagination, and there is as little straining after effect in 
the style of his dwelling. A great proportion of architectural 
ornaments are literally hollow, and a September gale would 
strip them oft , like borrowed plumes, without injury to the 
substantials. They can do without architecture who have 
no olives nor wines in the cellar. What if an equal ado 
were made about the ornaments of style in literature, and 
the architects of our Bibles spent as much time about their 
cornices as the architects of our churches do 1 So are made 
the belles-lettres and the beaux-arts and their professors. 
Much it concerns a man, forsooth, how a few sticks are 
slanted over him or under him, and what colours are daubed 
upon his box. It would signify somewhat, if, in any 
earnest sense, he slanted them and daubed it ; but the spirit 
having departed out of the tenant, it is of a piece with 
constructing his own coffin, the architecture of the grave 
and " carpenter " is but another name for " coffin-maker." 
One man says, in his despair or indifference to life, Take up 
a handful of the earth at your feet, and paint your house that 
colour. Is he thinking of his last and narrow house ? Toss 
up a copper for it as well, What an abundance of leisure 
he must have ! Why do you take up a handful of dirt 1 
Better paint your house your own complexion ; let it turn 
pale or blush for you. An enterprise to improve the style 
of cottage architecture ! When you have got my ornaments 
ready I will wear them. 


Before winter I built a chimney, and shingled the sides of 
my house, which were already impervious to rain, with 
imperfect and sappy shingles made of the first slice of 
the log, whose edges I was obliged to straighten with a 

I have thus a tight shingled and plastered house, ten feet 
wide by fifteen long, eight-feet posts, with a garret and a 
closet, a large window on each side, two trap-doors, one 
door at the end, and a brick fire-place opposite. The exact 
cost of my house, paying the usual price for such materials 
as I used, but not counting the work, all of which was done 
by myself, was as follows : and I give the details because 
very few are able to tell exactly what their houses cost, and 
fewer still, if any, the separate cost of the various materials 
which compose them : 

Boards $8 03 Mostly shanty boards. 

Refuse shingles for roof ami sides 

4 00 


1 25 

Two second-hand windows with glass 

2 43 

One thousand old bricks . 

4 00 

Two casks of lime .... 

2 40 

That was high. 



More than I needed. 

Mantle-tree iron .... 


Nails ..... 

3 90 

Hinges and screws . 




Chalk ...... 


Transportation . . . 

1 40 

J my back. 

In all . . | 

28 12 : 


These are all the materials excepting the timbor, stones, 
and sand, which I claimed by squatter s right. I have also 
a small wood-shed adjoining, made chiefly of the stuff which 
was left after building the house. 


I intend to build me a house which will surpass any on 
the main street in Concord in grandeur and luxury, as soon 
as it pleases me as much and will cost me no more than 
my present one. 

I thus found that the student who wishes for a shelter 
can obtain one for a lifetime at an expense not greater than 
the rent which he now pays annually. If I seem to boast 
more than is becoming, my excuse is that I brag for 
humanity rather than for myself ; and my shortcomings and 
inconsistencies do not affect the truth of my statement. 
Notwithstanding much cant and hypocrisy, chaff which I 
find it difficult to separate from my wheat, but for which 
I am as sorry as any man, I will breathe freely and 
stretch myself in this respect, it is such a relief to both the 
moral and physical system ; "and I am resolved that I will 
not through humility become the devil s attorney. I will 
endeavour to speak a good word for the truth. At Cam 
bridge College the mere rent of a student s room, which is 
only a little larger than my own, is thirty dollars each 
year, though the corporation had the advantage of building 
thirty-two side by side and under one roof, and the 
occupant suffers the inconvenience of many and noisy 
neighbours, and perhaps a residence in the fourth storey. 
I cannot but think that if we had more true wisdom in 
these respects, not only less education would be needed, 
because, forsooth, more would already have been acquired, 
but the pecuniary expense of getting an education would in 
a great measure vanish. Those conveniences which the 
student requires at Cambridge or elsewhere cost him or 
somebody else ten times as great a sacrifice of life as they 
would with proper management on both sides. Those 
things for which the most money is demanded are never 
the tilings which the student most wants. Tuition, for 


instance, is an important item in the terra bill, while for 
the far more valuable education which he gets by associating 
with the most cultivated of his contemporaries no charge is 
made. The mode of founding a college is, commonly, to 
get up a subscription of dollars and cents, and then following 
blindly the principles of a division of labour to its extreme, 
a principle which should never be followed but with cir 
cumspection, to call in a contractor, who makes this a 
subject of speculation, and he employs Irishmen or other 
operatives actually to lay the foundations, while the 
students that are to be are said to be fitting themselves for 
it ; and for these oversights successive generations have to 
pay. I think that it would be better than this, for the 
students, or those who desire to be benefited by it, even to 
lay the foundation themselves. The student who secures 
his coveted leisure and retirement by systematically shirk 
ing any labour necessary to man obtains but an ignoble and 
unprofitable leisure, defrauding himself of the experience 
which alone can make leisure fruitful. " But," says one, 
" you do not mean that the students should go to work with 
their hands instead of their heads 1" I do not mqan that 
exactly, but I mean something which he might think a good 
deal like that ; I mean that they should not play life, or 
study it merely, while the community supports them at this 
expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to 
end. How could youths better learn to live than by at 
once trying the experiment of living 1 Methinks this would 
exercise their minds as much as mathematics. If I wished 
a boy to know something about the arts and sciences, for 
instance, I would not pursue the common course, which is 
merely to send him into the neighbourhood of some pro 
fessor, where anything is professed and practised but tho 
art of life ; to survey the world through a telescope or a 


microscope, and never with his natural eye; to study 
chemistry, and not learn how his bread is made, or 
mechanics, and not learn how it is earned ; to discover new 
satellites to Neptune, and not detect the motes in his eyes, 
or to what vagabond he is a satellite himself ; or to be 
devoured by the monsters that swarm all around him, 
while contemplating the monsters in a drop of vinegar. 
Which would have advanced the most at the end of a month 
the boy who had made his own jack-knife from the ore 
which he had dug and smelted, reading as much as would 
be necessary for this, or the boy who had attended the 
lectures on metallurgy at the Institute in the meanwhile, 
and had received a Rogers penknife from his father 1 
Which would be most likely to cut his fingers 1 ... To my 
astonishment I was informed on leaving college that I had 
studied navigation ! why, if I had taken one turn down 
the harbour I should have known more about it. Even the 
poor student studies and is taught only political economy, 
while that economy of living which is synonymous with 
philosophy is not even sincerely professed in our colleges. 
The consequence is, that while he is reading Adam Smith, 
Ricardo, and Say, he runs his father in debt irretrievably. 

As with our colleges, so with a hundred " modern 
improvements : " there is an illusion about them ; there is 
not always a positive advance. The devil goes on exacting 
compound interest to the last for his early share and 
numerous succeeding investments in them. Our inventions 
are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention 
from serious things. They are but improved means to an 
unimproved end, an end which it was already but too 
easy to arrive at as railroads lead to Boston or Now 
York. We are in great haste to construct a magnetic 
telegraph from Maine to Texas ; but Maine and Texas, 


it may be, have nothing important to communicate. 
Either is in such a predicament as the man who was 
earnest to be introduced to a distinguished deaf woman, 
but when he was presented, and one end of her ear trumpet 
was put into his hand, had nothing to say. As if the 
main object were to talk fast and not to talk sensibly. 
We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the 
old world some weeks nearer to the new ; but perchance 
the first news that will leak through into the broad, flap 
ping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide 
has the whooping cough. After all, the man whose 
horse trots a mile in a minute does not carry the most 
important messages : he is not an evangelist, nor does 
he come round eating locusts and wild honey. I doubt 
if Flying Childers ever carried a peck of corn to the 

One says to me, " I wonder that you do not lay up 
money ; you love to travel ; you might take the cars and go 
to Fitchburg to-day and see the country." But I am 
wiser than that. I have learned that the swiftest traveller 
is he that goes a-foot. I say to my friend, Suppose we try 
who will get there first. The distance is thirty miles ; the 
fare ninety cents. That is almost a day s wages. I 
remember when wages were sixty cents a-day for labourers 
on this very road. Well, I start now on foot, and got 
there before night; I have travelled at that rate by the 
week together. You will in the meanwhile have earned 
your fare, and arrive there some time to-morrow, or 
possibly this evening, if you are lucky enough to get a job 
in season. Instead of going to Fitchburg, you will be 
working here the greater part of the day, And so, if the 
railroad reached round the world, T think that I should 
keep ahead of you ; and as for seeing the country and 

} 52 WALDEN. 

getting experience of that kind, I should have to cut your 
acquaintance altogether. 

Such is the universal law, which no man can ever outwit, 
and with regard to the railroad even we may say it is 
as broad as it is long. To make a railroad round the world 
available to all mankind is equivalent to grading the whole 
surface of the planet. Men have an indistinct notion that 
if they keep up this activity of joint stocks and spades long 
enough all will at length ride somewhere, in next to no time, 
and for nothing ; but though a crowd rushes to the depot, 
and the conductor shouts " All aboard ! " when the smoke 
is blown away and the vapour condensed, it will be per 
ceived that a few are riding, but the rest are run over, 
and it will be called, and will be, " A melancholy accident." 
No doubt they can ride at last who shall have earned their 
fare, that is, if they survive so long, but they will probably 
have lost their elasticity and desire to travel by that time. 
This spending of the best part of one s life earning money 
in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least 
valuable part of it, reminds me of the Englishman who 
went to India to make a fortune first, in order that he 
might return to England and live the life of a poet. lie 
should have gone up garret at once. " What ! " exclaim a 
million Irishmen, starting up from all the shanties in the 
land, " is not this railroad which we have built a good 
thing ? " Yes, I answer, comparatively good that is, you 
might have done worse ; but I wish, as you are brothers of 
mine, that you could have spent your time better than 
digging in this dirt. 

Before I finished my house, wishing to earn ten or twelve 
dollars by some honest and agreeable method, in order to 
meet my unusual expenses, I planted about two acres and 


a half of light and sandy soil near it chiefly with beans, but 
also a small part with potatoes, corn, peas, and turnips. 
The whole lot contains eleven acres, mostly growing up to 
pines and hickories, and was sold the preceding season for 
eight dollars and eight cents an acre. One farmer said that 
it was " good for nothing but to raise cheeping squirrels 
on." I put no manure whatever on this land, not being the 
owner, but merely a squatter, and not expecting to cultivate 
so much again, and I did not quite hoe it all once. I got 
out several cords of stumps in ploughing, which supplied 
me with fuel for a long time, and left small circles of virgin 
mould, easily distinguishable through the summer by the 
greater luxuriance of the beans there. The dead and for 
the most part unmerchantable wood behind my house, and 
the driftwood from the pond, have supplied the remainder 
of my fuel. I was obliged to hire a team and a man for 
the ploughing, though I held the plough myself. My farm 
outgoes for the first season were, for implements, seed, 
work, etc., $14 72|. The seed corn was given me. This 
never costs anything to speak of, unless you plant more 
than enough. I got twelve bushels of beans, and eighteen 
bushels of potatoes, beside some peas and sweet corn. The 
yellow corn and turnips were too late to come to anything. 
My whole income from the farm was 

$23 44. 
Deducting the outgoes, ... 14 72 

There are left $8 711, 

beside produce consumed and on hand at the time this 
estimate was made of the value of $4 50, the amount on 
hand much more than balancing a little grass which I did not 
raise. All things considered, that is, considering the im 
portance of a man s soul and of to-day, notwithstanding 


the short time occupied by my experiment, nay, partly even 
because of its transient character, I believe that that was 
doing better than any farmer in Concord did that year. 

The next year I did better still, for I spaded up all the 
land which I required, about a third of an acre, and I 
learned from the experience of both years, not being in the 
least awed by many celebrated works on husbandry, Arthur 
Young among the rest, that if one would live simply and 
eat only the crop which he raised, and raise no more than 
he ate, and not exchange it for an insufficient quantity of 
more luxurious and expensive things, he would need to 
cultivate only a few rods of ground, and that it would 
be cheaper to spade up that than to use oxen to plough it, 
and to select a fresh spot from time to time than to manure 
the old, and he could do all his necessary farm work, as it 
were, with his left hand at odd hours in the summer ; and 
thus he would not be tied to an ox, or horse, or cow, or pig, 
as at present. I desire to speak impartially on this point, 
and as one not interested in the success or failure of the 
present economical and social arrangements. I was more 
independent than any farmer in Concord, for I was not 
anchored to a house or farm, but could follow the bent of 
my genius, which is a very crooked one, every moment. 
Beside being better off than they already, if my house had 
been burned or my crops had failed, I should have been 
nearly as well off as before. 

I am wont to think that men are not so much the 
keepers of herds as herds are the keepers of men, the 
former are so much the freer. Men and oxen exchange 
work ; but if we consider necessary work only, the oxen 
will be seen to have greatly the advantage, their farm is so 
much the larger. Man does some of his part of the 
exchange work in his six weeks of haying, and it is no 


boy s play. Certainly no nation that lived simply in all 
respects that is, no nation of philosophers would commit 
so great a blunder as to use the labour of animals. True, 
there never was and is not likely soon to be a nation of 
philosophers, nor am I certain it is desirable that there 
should be. However, / should never have broken a horse 
or bull, and taken him to board for any work he might do 
for me, for fear I should become a horse-man or a herds 
man merely ; and if society seems to be the gainer by so 
doing, are we certain that what is one man s gain is not 
another s loss, and that the stable-boy has equal cause with 
his master to be satisfied ? Granted that some public 
works would not have been constructed without this aid, 
and let man share the glory of such with the ox and horse ; 
does it follow that he could not have accomplished works 
yet more worthy of himself in that case? When men 
begin to do, not merely unnecessary or artistic, but lux 
urious and idle work, with their assistance, it is inevitable 
that a few do all the exchange work with the oxen, or, in 
other words, become the slaves of the strongest. Man thus 
not only works for the animal within him, but, for a symbol 
of this, he works for the animal without him. Though we 
have many substantial houses of brick or stone, the pros 
perity of the farmer is still measured by the degree to 
which the barn overshadows the house. This town is said 
to have the largest houses for oxen, cows, and horses here 
abouts, and it is not behindhand in its public buildings ; 
but there are very few halls for free worship or free speech 
in this county. It should not be by their architecture, 
but why not even by their power of abstract thought, that 
nations should seek to commemorate themselves? How 
much more admirable the Bhagvat-Gecta than all the ruing 
of the East ! Towers and temples are the luxury of priuoes. 


A simple and independent mind does not toil at the bidding 
of any prince. Genius is not a retainer to any emperor, 
nor is its material silver, or gold, or marble, except to a 
trifling extent. To what end, pray, is so much stone ham 
mered 1 In Arcadia, when I was there, I did not see any 
hammering stone. Nations are possessed with an insane 
ambition to perpetuate the memory of themselves by the 
amount of hammered stone they leave. What if equal pains 
were taken to smooth and polish their manners 1 One 
piece of good sense would be more memorable than a monu 
ment as high as the moon. I love better to see stones in 
place. The grandeur of Thebes was a vulgar grandeur. 
More sensible is a rod of stone-wall that bounds an honest 
man s field than a hundred-gated Thebes that has wandered 
farther from the true end of life. The religion and civilisa 
tion which are barbaric and heathenish build splendid 
temples, but what you might call Christianity does not. 
Most of the stone a nation hammers goes toward its tomb 
only. It buries itself alive. As for the Pyramids, there is 
nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so 
many men could be found degraded enough to spend their 
lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom 
it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in 
the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs. I might 
possibly invent some excuse for them and him, but I have 
no time for it. As for the religion and love of art of 
the builders, it is much the same all the world over, 
whether the building be an Egyptian temple or the United 
States Bank. It costs more than it comes to. The main 
spring is vanity, assisted by the love of garlic and bread 
and butter. Mr. Balcom, a promising young architect, 
designs it on the back of his Vitruvius, with hard pencil 
and ruler, and the job is let out to Dobson & Sons, 



stonecutters. When the thirty centuries begin to look down 
ou it, mankind begin to look up at it. As for your high 
towers and monuments, there was a crazy fellow once in 
this town who undertook to dig through to China, and he 
got so far that, as he said, he heard the Chinese pots and 
kettles rattle : but I think that I shall not go out of my 
way to admire the hole which he made. Many are con 
cerned about the monuments of the West and the East, 
to know who built them. For my part, I should like to 
know who in those days did not build them, who were 
above such trifling. But to proceed with my statistics. 

By surveying, carpentry, and day-labour of various other 
kinds in the village in the meanwhile fcr I have as many 
trades as fingers I had earned $13 34. The expense of 
food for eight months namely, from July 4th to March 
1st, the time when these estimates were made, though I 
lived there more than two years not counting potatoes, 
a little green corn, and some peas, which I had raised, 
nor considering the value of what was on hand at the last 

Cheapest form of the sacchariiie. 
Cheaper than rye. 

Rice . 

Si 73J 

Molasses . . 

1 73 

Ilye meal . , 

1 04| 

Indian meal . 


Tork . 


Flour . 




Lard . 




Dried apple 


Sweet potatoes 


One pumpkin 


One water-melon . 


Salt . 


1 Costs more than Indian meal, ^ 
/ both money and trouble. 


Yes, I did eat $8 74, all told; but I should not thus 
unblushingly publish my guilt, if I did not know that 
most of my readers were equally guilty with myself, and 
that their deeds would look no better in print. The next 
year I sometimes caught a mess of fish for my dinner, and 
once I went so far as to slaughter a woodchuck which 
ravaged my bean-field, effect his transmigration, as a 
Tartar would say, and devour him, partly for experi 
ment s sake; but though it afforded me a momentary 
enjoyment, notwithstanding a musky flavour, I saw that 
the longest use would not make that a good practice, how 
ever it might seem to have your woodchucks ready dressed 
by the village butcher 

Clothing and some incidental expenses within the same 
dates, though little can be inferred from this item, 
amounted to 

$8 40f 
Oil and some household utensils . . 2 00 

So that all the pecuniary outgoes, excepting for washing 
and mending, which for the most part were done out of the 
house, and their bills have not yet been received, and 
these are all and more than all the ways by which money 
necessarily goes out in this part of the world, were 

House $28 12J 

Farm, one year 14 72 

Food, eight months . . . . 8 74 

Clothing, etc. , eight months . , . 8 40| 

Oil, etc., eight months . . . . 2 00 

In all $61 99| 

I address myself now to those of my readers who have a 
living to get. And to meet this I have for farm produce 


$23 44 
Earned by day-labour .... 13 34 

In all $36 78, 

which, subtracted from the sum of the outgoes, leaves a 
balance of $25 2lf on the one side, this being very nearly 
the means with which I started, and the measure of ex 
penses to be incurred, and, on the other, beside the leisure 
and independence and health thus secured, a comfortable 
house for me as long as I choose to occupy it. 

Those statistics, however accidental and therefore unin- 
structive they may appear, as they have a certain complete 
ness, have a certain value also. Nothing was given me of 
which I have not rendered some account. It appears from 
the above estimate, that my food alone cost me in money 
about twenty-seven cents a-week. It was, for nearly two 
years after this, rye and Indian meal without yeast, pota 
toes, rice, a very little salt pork, molasses, and salt, and 
my drink water. It was fit that I should live on rice, 
mainly, who loved so well the philosophy of India. To 
meet the objections of some inveterate cavillers, I may as 
well state, that if I dined out occasionally, as I always had 
done, and I trust shall have opportunities to do again, 
it was frequently to the detriment of my domestic arrange 
ments. But the dining out, being, as I have stated, a 
constant element, does not in the least affect a comparative 
statement like this. 

I learned from my two years experience that it would 
cost incredibly little trouble to obtain one s necessary food 
even in this latitude ; that a man may use as simple a diet 
as the animals, and yet retain health and strength. I have 
made a satisfactory dinner, satisfactory on several accounts, 
simply oil a dish of purslane (Portulaoa oleracca) which I 


gathered in my corn-field, boiled and salted. I give the 
Latin on account of the savouriness of the trivial name. 
And pray what more can a reasonable man desire, in peace 
ful times, in ordinary noons, than a sufficient number of ears 
of green sweet-corn boiled, with the addition of salt? Even 
the little variety which I used was a yielding to the de 
mands of appetite, and not of health. Yet men have come 
to such a pass that they frequently starve, not for want of 
necessaries, but for want of luxuries ; and I know a good 
woman who thinks that her son lost his life because he took 
to drinking water only. 

The reader will perceive that I am treating the subject 
rather from an economic than a dietetic point of view, and 
he will not venture to put my abstemiousness to the test 
unless he has a well-stocked larder. 

Bread I at first made of pure Indian meal and salt, 
genuine hoe-cakes, which I baked before my fire out of doors 
011 a shingle or the end of a stick of timber sawed oft* in 
building my house; but it was wont to get smoked and to 
have a piny flavor. I tried flour also ; but have at last 
found a mixture of rye and Indian meal most convenient and 
agreeable. In cold weather it was no little amusement 
to bake several small loaves of this in succession, tending 
and turning them as carefully as an Egyptian his hatching 
eggs. They were a real cereal fruit which I ripened, and 
they had to my senses a fragrance like that of other noble 
fruits, which I kept in as long as possible by wrapping 
them in cloths. I made a study of the ancient and indis 
pensable art of bread-making, consulting such authorities as 
offered, going back to the primitive days and first invention 
of the unleavened kind, when from the wildness of nuts 
and meats men first reached the mildness and refinement of 
this diet, and travelling gradually down in my studies 

BREAD. 6 1 

through that accidental souring of the dough which, it is 

supposed, taught the leavening process, and through the 
various fermentations thereafter, till I came to "good, 
sweet, wholesome bread," the staff of life. Leaven, which 
some deem the soul of bread, the spiritus which fills its 
cellular tissue, which is religiously preserved like the vestal 
fire, some precious bottleful, I suppose, first brought 
over in the Mayflower, did the business for America, and 
its influence is still rising, swelling, spreading, in cerealian 
billows over the land, this seed I regularly and faithfully 
procured from the village, till at length one morning I 
forgot the rules and scalded mv yeast ; by which accident 
I discovered that even this was not indispensable, for my 
discoveries were not by the synthetic but analytic process, 
and I have gladly omitted it since, though most house 
wives earnestly assured me that safe and wholesome bread 
without yeast might not be, and elderly people prophesied 
a speedy decay of the vital forces. Yet I find it not to 
be an essential ingredient, and after going without it for a 
year am still in the land of the living ; and I am glad 
to escape the trivialness of carrying a bottleful in my 
pocket, which would sometimes pop and discharge its 
contents to my discomfiture. It is simpler and more 
respectable to omit it. Man is an animal who more than 
any other can adapt himself to all climates and circum 
stances. Neither did I put any salt, soda, or other acid or 
alkali, into my bread. It would seem that I made it 
according to the receipt which Marcus Porcius Cato gavo 
about two centuries before Christ. " Panem depsticium sic 
facito. Manus mortariumque bene lavato. Farinam in 
mortarium indito, aquoe paulatim addito, subigitoque 
pulchre. Ubi bcne subegeris, defingito, coquitoque sub 
tcstu." Which I take to mean " Make kneaded bread 


tli us : Wash your hands and trough well. Put the meal 
into the trough, and water gradually, and knead it 
thoroughly. When you have kneaded it well, mould it, and 
bake it under a cover," that is, in a baking-kettle. Not a 
word about leaven. But I did not always use this staff of 
life. At one time, owing to the emptiness of my purse, I 
saw none of it for more than a month. 

Every New Englander might easily raise all his own bread- 
stuffs in this land of rye and Indian corn, and not depend 
on distant and fluctuating markets for them. Yet so far are 
we from simplicity and independence that, in Concord, 
fresh and sweet meal is rarely sold in the shops, and hominy 
and corn in a still coarser form are hardly used by any. 
For the most part the farmer gives to his cattle and hogs 
the grain of his own producing, and buys flour, which is at 
least no more wholesome, at a greater cost, at the store. I 
saw that I could easily raise my bushel or two of rye and 
Indian corn, for the former will grow on the poorest land, 
and the latter does not require the best, and grind them in 
a hand-mill, and so do without rice and pork ; and if I must 
have some concentrated sweet, I found by experiment that 
I could make a very good molasses either of pumpkins cr 
beets, and I knew that I needed only to set out a few 
maples to obtain it more easily still, and while these were 
growing I could use various substitutes beside those which 
I have named. " For," as the Forefathers sang, 

"We can make liquor to sweeten our lips 
Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips." 

Finally, as for salt, that grossest of groceries, to obtain 
this might be a fit occasion for a visit to the sea-shore, or, if 
I did without it altogether, I should probably drink the 
less water. I do not learn that the Indians ever troubled 
themselves to go after it. 


Thus I could avoid all trade and barter, so far as my food 
was concerned, and having a shelter already, it would only 
remain to get clothing and .fuel. The pantaloons which I 
now wear were woven in a farmer s family, thank Heaven 
there is so much virtue still in man ; for I think the fall 
from the farmer to the operative as great and memorable as 
that from the man to the farmer ; and in a new country 
fuel is an encumbrance. As for a habitat, if I were not 
permitted still to squat, I might purchase one acre at the 
same price for which the land I cultivated was sold namely, 
eight dollars and eight cents. But as it was, I considered 
that I enhanced the value of the land by squatting on it. 

There is a certain class of unbelievers who sometimes ask 
me such questions as, if I think that I can live on vegetable 
food alone ; and to strike at the root of the matter at once, 
for the root is faith, I am accustomed to answer such, that I 
can live on board nails. If they cannot understand that, 
they cannot understand much that I have to say. For my 
part, I am glad to hear of experiments of this kind being 
tried ; as that a young man tried for a fortnight to live on 
hard, raw corn on the ear, using his teeth for all mortar. 
The squirrel tribe tried the same and succeeded. The human 
race is interested in these experiments, though a few old 
women, who are incapacitated for them, or who own their 
thirds in mills, may be alarmed. 

My furniture, part of which I made myself, and the rest 
cost me nothing of which I have not rendered an account, 
consisted of a bed, a table, a desk, three chairs, a looking- 
glass three inches in diameter, a pair of tongs and andirons, 
a kettle, a skillet, and a frying-pan, a dipper, a wash-bowl, 
two knives and forks, three plates, one cup, one spoon, a, 
jug for oil, a jug for molasses, and a japanned lamp. None 


ft BO poor that he need rit on a pumpkin. That in shiftless- 
B0H, There is a plenty of such chairs as I like best in the 
village garrets to be had for taking them away. Furniture ! 
Thank God, I can sit and I can stand without the aid of a 
furniture warehouse. What man but a philosopher would 
not be ashamed to see hia furniture packed in a cart and 
going up country exposed to the light of heaven and the eyes 
of men, a beggarly account of empty boxes? That in 
Hpaulding s furniture. I could never tell from inspecting 
such a load whether it belonged to a so-called rich man 
or a poor one ; the owner always seemed poverty-stricken. 
Indeed, the more you have of such things the poorer you 
are. Each load looks as if it contained the contents of a 
dozen shanties ; and if one shanty is poor, this is a dozen 
times as poor. Pray, for what do we move ever but to get 
rid of our furniture, our exuvia; at last to go from this 
world to another newly furnished, and leave this to be 
burned T It is the same as if all these traps were buckled 
to ft man s belt, and he could not move over the rou^li 
country where our lines are cast without dragging them, 
dragging hin trap. lie was a lucky fox that left his tail in 
the trap. The muHkrat will gnaw his third leg off to be 
free. No wonder man has lost his elasticity. How often 
he is at a dead get ! " Kir, if I may be so bold, what do 
you mean by a dead set?" If you are a r.< < 
you meet a man you will see all that he owns, ay, and much 
that he pretends to disown, behind him, even to his 1. 
furniture and all the trumpery which he saves and will not 
burn, and he will appear to bo harnessed to it and making 
what headway he can. J think that the man is at I 
;M, through a k 

It follow him. J cannot but 
{I OOmfNUHio :;man, 


seemingly free, all girded and ready, speak of 1m "furni- 
is whether it is insured or not "But what shall I 
do with my furniture t" My gay butterfly is entangled in 
a spider s web then. Even those who seem for a long while 
not to have any, if you inquire more narrowly you will find 
have some stored in somebody s barn. I look upon England 
is an old gentleman who is travelling with a great 
deal of baggage, trumpery which has accumulated from 
IOIIL; housekeeping, which ho has not the courage to burn ; 
great trunk, little trunk, bandbox and bundle. Throw 
awav the first three at least. It would surpass the powers 
of a well man now-a-days to take up his bed and walk, and 
I should certainly adviso a sick one to lay down his bed 
and run. When I have met an immigrant tottering under 
a bundle which contained his all looking like an enormous 
wen which had grown out of the nape of his neck I have 
pitied him, not because that was his all, but because he had 
all that to carry. If I have got to drag my trap, I will 
take care that it be a light one and do not nip me in a vital 
part, r-ut perchance it would be -wisest never to put one s 
paw into it. 

I would observe, by the way, that it costs me nothing for 
curtains, for 1 have no gazers to shut out but the sun and 
moon, and I am willing that they should look in. The 
moon will not sour milk nor taint meat of mine, : 
the sun injure my furniture or fade my carpet, and if he is 
sometimes too warm a friend, T find it still better economy 
to retreat behind some curtain which nature- has provided, 
iton to the details of housekeeping. 

A lady \1 me a mat, but as I had no room to 

.thin the house, nor r. within or without 

to shake it, T /. it, preferring to wipe my f 

i the leginnings of evil. 


Not long since I was present at the auction of a deacon s 
effects, for his life had not been ineffectual : 

" The evil that men do lives after them." 

As usual, a great proportion was trumpery which had begun 
to accumulate in his father s day. Among the rest was a 
dried tapeworm. And now, after lying half-a-century 
in his garret and other dust holes, these things were not 
burned ; instead of a bonfire, or purifying destruction of 
them, there was an auction, or increasing of them. The 
neighbours eagerly collected to view them, bought them all 
and carefully transported them to their garrets and dust 
holes, to lie there till their estates are settled, when they 
will start again. When a man dies he kicks the dust. 

The customs of some savage nations might, perchance, be 
profitably imitated by us, for they at least go through the 
semblance of casting their slough annually ; they have the 
idea of the thing, whether they have the reality or not. 
Would it not be well if we were to celebrate such a 
"busk," or "feast of first fruits," as Bartram describes 
to have been the custom of the Mucclasse Indians 1 
"When a town celebrates the busk," says he, "having 
previously provided themselves with new clothes, new pots, 
pans, and other household utensils and furniture, they 
collect all their worn-out clothes and other despicable 
things, sweep and cleanse their houses, squares, and the 
whole town, of their filth, which, with all the remaining 
grain and other old provisions, they cast together into one 
common heap, and consume it with fire. After having 
taken medicine, and fasted for three days, all the fire in the 
town is extinguished. During the fast they abstain from 
the gratification of every appetite and passion whatever. A 


general amnesty is proclaimed ; all malefactors may return 
to their town. 

" On the fourth morning, the high priest, by rubbing dry 
wood together, produces new fire in the public square, from 
whence every habitation in the town is supplied with tho 
new and pure flame." 

They then feast on the new corn and fruits, and dance 
and sing for three days, "and the four following days 
they receive visits and rejoice with their friends from 
neighbouring towns, who have in like manner purified and 
prepared themselves." 

The Mexicans also practised a similar purification at tho 
end of every fifty-two yeai s, in the belief that it was time 
for the world to come to an end. 

I have scarcely heard of a truer sacrament, that is, as the 
dictionary defines it, " outward and visible sign of an in 
ward and spiritual grace," than this, and I have no doubt 
that they were originally inspired directly from Heaven 
to do thus, though they have no biblical record of the 

For more than five years I maintained myself thus solely 
by the labour of my hands, and I found, that by working 
about six weeks in a year, I could meet all the expenses of 
living. The whole of my winters, as well as most of my 
summers, I had free and clear for study. I have thoroughly 
tried school-keeping, and found that my expenses were in 
proportion, or rather out of proportion, to my income, for I 
was obliged to dress and train, not to say think and believe, 
accordingly, and I lost my time into the bargain. As I did 
not teach for the good of my fellow-men, but simply for a 
livelihood, this was a failure. I have tried trade ; but I 
found that it would take ten years to get under way in 


that, and that then I should probably bo on my way to tho 
devil. I was actually afraid that I might by that time bo 
doing what is called a good business. When formerly I 
was looking about to see what I could do for a living, some- 
sad experience in conforming to the wishes of friends being 
fresh in my mind to tax my ingenuity, I thought often and 
seriously of picking huckleberries ; that surely I could do, 
and its small profits might suffice, for my greatest skill has 
been to want but little, so little capital it required, so 
little distraction from my wonted moods, I foolishly thought. 
While my acquaintances went unhesitatingly into trade or 
the professions, I contemplated this occupation as most like 
theirs ; ranging the hills all summer to pick the berries 
which came in my way, and thereafter carelessly dispose of 
them ; so, to keep the flocks of Admetus. I also dreamed 
that I might gather the wild herbs, or carry evergreens to 
such villagers as loved to be reminded of the woods, even to 
the city, by hay-cart loads. But I have since learned that 
trade curses everything it handles ; and though you trade 
in messages from heaven, the whole curse of trade attaches 
to the business. 

As I preferred some things to others, and especially 
valued my freedom, as I could fare hard and yet succeed 
well, I did not wish to spend my time in earning rich car 
pets or other fine furniture, or delicate cookery, or a house 
in the Grecian or the Gothic style just yet. If there are 
any to whom it is no interruption to acquire these things, 
and who know how to use them when acquired, I relinquish 
to them the pursuit. Some are " industrious," and appear 
to love labour for its own sake, or pci-haps because it keeps 
them out of worse mischief; to such I have at present no 
thing to say. Those who would not know what to do with 
more leisure than they now enjoy, I might advise to work 


twice as hard ar, they do, work till they pay fur them 
selves, and get their free papers. For myself 1 found that 
the occupation of a day-labourer was the most independent 
of any, especially as it required only thirty or forty days in 
a year to support one. The labourer s day ends with the 
going down of the sun, and he is then free to devote himself 
to his chosen pursuit, independent of his labour ; but his 
employer, who speculates from month to month, has no 
respite; from one end of the year to the other. 

In short, I am convinced, both by faith and experience, 
that to maintain one s self on this earth is not a hardship 
but a pastime, if we will live simply and wisely ; as the 
pursuits of the simpler nations are still the sports of the 
more artificial. It is not necessary that a man should earn 
his living by the sweat of his brow, unless he sweats easier 
than I do. 

One young man of my acquaintance, who has inherited 
some acres, told me that he thought he should live as I did, 
if he had the means. I would not have any one adopt tny 
mode of living on any account ; for, beside that before he 
has fairly learned it I may have found out another for my 
self, I desire that there may be as many different persons 
in the world as possible ; but I would have each one be 
very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not 
his father s or his mother s or his neighbour s instead. The 
youth may build or plant or sail, only let him not bo 
hindered from doing that which he tolls me he would like to 
do. It is by a mathematical point only that we are wise, 
as the sailor or the fugitive slave keeps the pole-star in his 
eye ; but that is sullicient guidance for all our life. We 
may not arrive at our port within a calculable period, but 
we would preserve the true course. 

Undoubtedly, in this case, what is true for one is truer 


still for a thousand, as a large house is not proportionally 
more expensive than a small one, since one roof may cover, 
one cellar underlie, and one wall separate several apart 
ments. But for my part, I preferred the solitary dwelling. 
Moreover, it will commonly be cheaper to Luild the whole 
yourself than to convince another of the advantage of the 
common wall ; and when you have done this, the common 
partition, to be much cheaper, must be a thin one, and that 
other may prove a bad neighbour, and also not keep his side 
in repair. The only co-operation which is commonly pos 
sible is exceedingly partial and superficial ; and what little 
true co-operation there is, is as if it were not, being a 
harmony inaudible to men. If a man has faith he will co 
operate with equal faith everywhere ; if he has not faith, he 
will continue to live like the rest of the world, whatever 
company he is joined to. To co-operate, in the highest as 
well as the lowest sense, means to get our living together. 
I heard it proposed lately that two young men should travel 
together over the world, the one without money, earning 
his means as he went, before the mast and behind the 
plough, the other carrying a bill of exchange in his pocket. 
It was easy to see that they could not long be companions 
or co-operate, since one would not operate at all. They 
would part at the first interesting crisis in their adventures. 
Above all, as I have implied, the man who goes alone can 
start to-day ; but he who travels with another must wait 
till that other is ready, and it may be a long time before 
they get off. 

But all this is very selfish, I have heard some of my 
townsmen say. I confess that I have hitherto indulged 
very little in philanthropic enterprises. I have made some 
sacrifices to a sense of duty, and among others have 


.sacriiieed lh is pleasure also. There are those who have used 
;;11 their arts to persuade me to undertake the support of some 
poor family in the town ; and if I had nothing to do, for 
the devil finds employment for the idle, I might try niy 
hand at some such pastime as that. However, when I have 
thought to indulge myself in this respect, and lay their 
Heaven under an obligation by maintaining certain poor 
persons in all respects as comfortably as I maintain myself, 
and have even ventured so far as to make them the offer, 
they have one and all unhesitatingly preferred to remain 
poor. While my townsmen and women are devoted in so 
many ways to the good of their fellows, I trust that one at 
least maybe spared to other arid less humane pursuits. You 
must have a genius for charity as well as for anything else. 
As for doing good, that is one of the professions which 
are full. Moreover, I have tried it fairly, and, strange as it 
may seem, am satisfied that it does not agree with my con 
stitution. Probably I should not consciously and deliber 
ately forsake my particular calling to do the good which 
society demands of me, to save the universe from annihila 
tion; and I believe that a like but infinitely greater 
steadfastness elsewhere is all that now preserves it. But I 
would not stand between any man and his genius; and 
to him who does this work, which I decline, with his whole 
heart and soul and life, I would say, Persevere, even if the 
world call it doing evil, as it is most likely they will. 

I am far from supposing that my case is a peculiar one; no 
doubt many of my readers would make a similar defence. 
At doing something, I will not engage that my neighbours 
shall pronounce it good, I do not hesitate to say that I 
should be a capital fellow to hire ; but what that is, it is 
for my employer to find out. What yood I do, in the 
common sense of that word, must be aside from my main 


path, and for the most part wholly unintended. Men say, 
practically, Begin where you are and such as you are, with 
out aiming mainly to become of more worth, and with 
kindness aforethought go about doing good. If I were to 
preach at all in this strain, I should say rather, Set about 
being good. As if the sun should stop when he had kindled 
his fires up to the splendour of a moon or a star of the sixth 
magnitude, and go about like a Robin Goodfellow, peeping 
in at every cottage window, inspiring lunatics, and tainting 
meats, and making darkness visible, instead of steadily 
increasing his genial heat and beneficence till he is of such 
brightness that no mortal can look him in the face, and 
then, in the meanwhile too, going about the world in his 
own orbit, doing it good, or rather, as a truer philosophy 
has discovered, the world going about him getting good. 
When Phaeton, wishing to prove his heavenly birth by his 
beneficence, had the sun s chariot but one day, and drove 
out of the beaten track, he burned several blocks of houses 
in the lower streets of heaven, and scorched the surface of 
the earth, and dried up every spring, and made the great 
desert of Sahara, till at length Jupiter hurled him headlong 
to the earth with a thunderbolt, and the sun, through grief 
at his death, did not shine for a year. 

There is no odour so bad as that which arises from good 
ness tainted. It is human, it is divine, carrion. If I knew 
for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the 
conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life 
as from that dry and parching wind of the African deserts 
called the simoom, which fills the mouth and nose and ears 
and eyes with dust till you are suffocated, for fear I should 
get some of his good done to me, some of its virus mingled 
with my blood. No, in this case I would rather suffer 
evil the natural way. A man is not a good man to me 


because he will feed me if I should be starving, or warm 
me if I should be free/ing, or pull me out of a ditch if I 
should ever fall into one. I can find you a Newfoundland 
dog that will do as much. Philanthropy is not love for 
one s fellow-man in the broadest sense. Howard was no 
doubt an exceedingly kind and worthy man in his way, and 
lias his reward ; but, comparatively speaking, what are a 
hundred Howards to us, if their philanthropy do not help 
us in our best estate, when we are most worthy to be 
helped 1 I never heard of a philanthropic meeting in 
which it was sincerely proposed to do any good to me, or 
the like of me. 

The Jesuits were quite baulked by those Indians who, 
being burned at the stake, suggested new modes of torture 
to their tormentors. Being superior to physical suffering, 
it sometimes chanced that they were superior to any con 
solation which the missionaries could offer ; and the law to 
do as you would be done by fell with less persuasiveness on 
the ears of those, who, for their part, did not care how they 
were done by, who loved their enemies after a new fashion, 
and came very near freely forgiving them all they did. 

Be ure that you give the poor the aid they most need, 
though it be your example which leaves them far behind. 
If you give money, spend yourself with it, and do not 
merely abandon it to them. We make curious mistakes 
sometimes. Often the poor man is not so cold and hungry 
as he is dirty and ragged and gross. It is partly his taste, 
and not merely his misfortune. If you give him money, he 
will perhaps buy more rags with it. I was wont to pity 
the clumsy Irish labourers who cut ice on the pond, in such 
mean and ragged clothes, while I shivered in my more tidy 
and somewhat more fashionable garments, till, one bitter 
cold day, one who had slipped into the water came to my 


house to warm him, and I saw him strip off three pairs of 
pants and two pairs of stockings ere he got down to the skin, 
though they were dirty and ragged enough, it is true, and 
that he could afford to refuse the extra garments which I 
offered him, he had so many intra ones. This ducking was 
the very thing he needed. Then I began to pity myself, and 
I saw that it would be a greater charity to bestow on me a 
flannel shirt than a whole slop-shop on him. There are a 
thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is 
striking at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the 
largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the 
most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he 
strives in vain to relieve. It is the pious slave-breeder 
devoting the proceeds of every tenth slave to buy a 
Sunday s liberty for the rest. Some show their kindness 
to the poor by employing them in their kitchens. Would 
they not be kinder if they employed themselves there 1 ? You 
boast of spending a tenth part of your income in charity : 
maybe you should spend the nine-tenths so, and done with 
it. Society recovei S only a tenth part of the property then. 
Is this owing to the generosity of him in whose possession 
it is found, or to the remissness of the officers of justice? 

Philanthropy is almost the only virtue which is suffi 
ciently appreciated by mankind. Nay, it is greatly over 
rated ; and it is our selfishness which overrates it. A 
robust poor man, one sunny day here in Concord, praised a 
fellow-townsman to me, because, as he said, he was kind to 
the poor, meaning himself. The kind uncles and aunts of 
the race are more esteemed than its true spiritual fathers 
and mothers. I once heard a reverend lecturer on England, 
a man of learning and intelligence, after enumerating her 
scientific, literary, and political worthies, Shakespeare, 
Bacon, Cromwell, Milton, Newton, and others, speak next 


of her Christian heroes, whom, as if his profession required 
it of him, he elevated to a place far above all the rest, as the 
greatest of the great. They were Penn, Howard, and Mrs. 
Fry. Every one must feel the falsehood and cant of this. 
The last were not England s best men and women ; only, 
perhaps, her best philanthropists. 

I would not subtract anything from the praise that is 
due to philanthropy, but merely demand justice for all who 
by their lives and works are a blessing to mankind. I 
do not value chiefly a man s uprightness and benevolence, 
which are, as it were, his stem and leaves. Those plants of 
whose greenness withered we make herb tea for the sick, 
serve but a humble use, and are most employed by quacks. 
I want the flower and fruit of a man ; that some fragrance 
be wafted over from him to me, and some ripeness flavour 
our intercourse. His goodness must not be a partial and 
transitory act, but a constant superfluity, which cost him 
nothing and of which he is unconscious. This is a charity 
that hides a multitude of sins. The philanthropist too often 
surrounds mankind with the remembrance of his own cast-off 
griefs as an atmosphere, and calls it sympathy. We should 
impart our courage, and not our despair, our health and 
ease, and not our disease, and take care that this does not 
spread by contagion. From what southern plains comes up 
the voice of wailing ? Under what latitudes reside the 
heathen to whom we would send light ? Who is that 
intemperate and brutal man whom we would redeem ? If 
anything ail a man, so that he does not perform his func 
tions, if he have a pain in his bowels even, for that is the 
scat of sympathy, he forthwith sets about reforming the 
world. Being a microcosm himself, he discovers, and it is 
a true discovery, and he is the man to make it, that the 
world has been eating green apples ; to his eyes, in fact, 


the globe itself is a great green apple, which there is clanger 
awful to think of that the children of men will nibble 
before it is ripe ; and straightway his drastic philanthropy 
seeks out the Esquimaux and the Patagonian, and embraces 
the populous Indian and Chinese villages ; and, thus, by a 
few years of philanthropic activity, the powers in the mean 
while using him for their own ends, no doubt, he cures 
himself of his dyspepsia, the globe acquires a faint blush on 
one or both of its cheeks, as if it were beginning to be ripe, 
and life loses its crudity and is once more sweet and whole 
some to live. I never dreamed of any enormity greater 
than I have committed. I never knew, and never shall 
know, a worse man than myself. 

I believe that what so saddens the reformer is not his 
sympathy with his fellows in distress, but, though he be the 
holiest son of God, is his private ail. Let this be righted, 
let the spring come to him, the morning rise over his couch, 
and he will forsake his generous companions without 
apology. My excuse for not lecturing against the use of 
tobacco is, that I never chewed it ; that is a penalty which 
reformed tobacco-chewers have to pay ; though there are 
things enough I have chewed which I could lecture against. 
If you should ever be betrayed into any of these philan 
thropies, do not let your left hand know what your right 
hand does, for it is not worth knowing. Rescue the drown 
ing and tie your shoe-strings. Take your time, and set 
about some free labour. 

Our manners have been corrupted by communication 
with the saints. Our hymn-books resound with a melo 
dious cursing of God and enduring him forever. One 
would say that even the prophets and redeemers had rather 
consoled the fears than confirmed the hopes of man. There 
is nowhere recorded a simple and irrepressible satisfaction 


with the gift of life, any memorable praise of God. All 
health and success does me good, hoAvever far off and 
withdrawn it may appear ; all disease and failure helps 
to make me sad and does me evil, however much sympathy 
it may have with me or I with it. If, then, we would 
indeed restore mankind \>y truly Inrlian, botanic, mag 
netic, or natural means, let us first be as simple and 
well as Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hang over 
our own brows, and take up a little life into our pores. Do 
not stay to be an overseer of the poor, but endeavour 
to become one of the worthies of the world. 

I read in the Gulistan, or Flower Garden, of Sheik Sadi 
of Shiraz, that " They asked a wise man, saying, Of the 
many celebrated trees which the Most High God has 
created lofty and umbrageous, they call none azad, or free, 
excepting the cypress, which bears no fruit ; what mystery is 
there in this? He replied, Each has its appropriate 
produce, and appointed season, during the continuance 
of which it is fresh and blooming, and during their absence 
dry and withered ; to neither of which states is the cypress 
exposed, being always flourishing ; and of this nature are 
the azads, or religious independents. Fix not thy heart 
on that which is transitory ; for the Dijlah, or Tigris, will 
continue to flow through Bagdad after the race of caliphs is 
extinct : if thy hand has plenty, be liberal as the date tree ; 
but if it affords nothing to give away, be an azad, or free 
man, like the cypress." 



SI Thou dost presume too much, poor needy wretch, 
To claim a station in the firmament, 
Because thy humble cottage, or thy tub, 
Nurses some lazy or pedantic virtue 
In the cheap sunshine or by shady springs, 
With roots and pot-herbs ; where thy right hand, 
Tearing those humane passions from the mind, 
Upon whose stocks fair blooming virtues flourish, 
Degradeth nature, and benumbeth sense, 
And, Gorgon-like, turns active men to stone. 
We not require the dull society 
Of your necessitated temperance, 
Or of that unnatural stupidity 
That knows no joy nor sorrow : nor your forc d 
Falsely exalted passive fortitude 
Above the active. This low abject brood, 
That fix their seats in mediocrity, 
Become your servile minds ; but we advance 
Such virtues only as admit excess, 
Brave, bounteous acts, regal magnificence, 
All-seeing prudence, magnanimity 
That knows no bound, and that heroic virtue 
For which antiquity hath left no name, 
But patterns only, such as Hercules, 
Achilles, Theseus. Back to thy loath d cell ; 
And when thou scest the new enlightened sphere, 
Study to know but what those worthies were." 



||T a certain season of our life wo are accustomed to 
consider every spot as the possible site of a 
house. I have thus surveyed the country on 
every side within a dozen miles of where I live. 
In imagination I have bought all the farms in succession, for 
all were to be bought, and I knew their price. I walked 
over each farmer s premises, tasted his wild apples, dis 
coursed on husbandry with him, took his farm at his price, 
at any price, mortgaging it to him in my mind ; even put a 
higher price on it, took everything but a deed of it, took 
his word for his deed, for I dearly love to talk, cultivated 
it, and him too to some extent, I trust, and withdrew when 
I had enjoyed it long enough, leaving him to carry it on. 
This experience entitled me to be regarded as a sort of real- 
estate broker by my friends. Wherever I sat, there I 
might live, and the landscape radiated from me accordingly. 
What is a house but a scdes, a seat ? better if a country 
scat. I discovered many a site for a house not likely to be 
soon improved, which some might have thought too far 
from the village, but to my eyes the village was too far 
from it. Well, there I might live, I said ; and there I did 
live, for an hour, a summer and a winter life ; saw how I 


could let the years run off, buffet the winter through, and 
sec the spring come in. The future inhabitants of this 
region, wherever they may place thir houses, may be sure 
that they have been anticipated. An afternoon sufficed to 
lay out the land into orchard, woodlot, and pasture, and 
to decide what fine oaks or pines should be left to stand 
before tho door, and whence each blasted tree could be seen 
to the best advantage; and then I let it lie, fallow per 
chance, for a man is rich in proportion to the number of 
things which he can afford to let alone. 

My imagination carried me so far that I even had the 
refusal of several farms, the refusal was all I wanted, but 
I never got my fingers burned by actual possession. The 
nearest that I came to actual possession was when I bought 
the Hollowell place, and had begun to sort my seeds, and 
collected materials with which to make a wheelbarrow to 
carry it on or off with ; but before the owner gave me a deed 
of it, his wife every man has such a wife changed her 
mind and wished to keep it, and he offered me ten dollars to 
release him. Now, to speak the truth, I had but ten cents 
in the world, and it surpassed my arithmetic to tell, if I was 
that man who had ten cents, or who had a farm, or ten dollars, 
or all together. However, I let him keep the ten dollars and 
the farm too, for I had carried it far enough ; or rather, to be 
generous, I sold him the farm for just what I gave for it, and, 
as he was not a rich man, made him a present of ten dollars, 
and still had my ten cents, and seeds, and materials for a 
wheelbarrow left. I found thus that I had been a rich man 
without any damage to my poverty. But I retained the land 
scape, and have since annually carried off what it yielded 
without a wheelbarrow. With respect to landscapes, 

" I am monarch of all I survey, 

My right there i none to dispute." 


I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed 
the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer 
supposed that he had got a few wild apples only. Why, 
the owner does not know- it for many years when a poet has 
put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible 
fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed it, and got 
all the cream, and left the farmer only the skimmed milk. 

The real attractions of the Hollowell farm, to me, were : its 
complete retirement, being about two miles from the village, 
half-a-mile from the nearest neighbour, and separated from 
the highway by a broad field ; its bounding on the river, 
which the owner said protected it by its fogs from frosts in 
the spring, though that was nothing to me ; the grey colour 
and ruinous state of the house and barn, arid the dilapidated 
fences, which put such an interval between me and the last 
occupant ; the hollow and lichen-covered apple trees, gnawed 
by rabbits, showing what kind of neighbours I should have ; 
but above all, the recollection I had of it from my earliest 
voyages up the river, when the house was concealed behind 
a dense grove of red maples, through which I heard the 
house-dog bark. I was in haste to buy it, before the pro 
prietor finished getting out some rocks, cutting down the 
hollow apple trees, and grubbing up some young birches 
which had sprung up in the pasture, or, in short, had made 
any more of his improvements. To enjoy these advantages 
I was ready to carry it on ; like Atlas, to take the world on 
my shoulders, I have never heard what compensation ho 
received for that, and do all those things which had no 
other motive or excuse but that I might pay for it and be 
unmolested in my possession of it ; for I knew all the while 
that it would yield the most abundant crop of the kind I 
wanted if I could only afford to let it alone. But it turned 
out as 1 have said. 


All that I could say, then, with ivspoct to funning on i\ 
largo scale (I have always cultivated a garden), was, that 
I had had my seeds ready. Many think that seeds improve 
with age. I have no doubt that time discriminates between 
the good and the bad ; and when at last 1 shall plant, I 
shall bo less likely to bo disappointed. But I would say to 
my fellows, onco for all, as long as possible live free and 
uncommitted. It makes but little dillerenco whether you 
are committed to a farm or the county jail. 

Old Cato, whose " Do Ho Rustica" is my "Cultivator," 
says, and the only translation I have seen makes sheer 
nonsense of tho passage, " When you think of getting 
a farm, turn it thus in your mind, not to buy greedily, nor 
spare your pains to look at it, and do not think it enough 
to go round it once. The oftener you go thoro tho more it 
will please you, if it is good." I think I shall not buy 
greedily, but go round and round it as long as 1 live, and 
be buried in it lirst, that it may please me the more at lust. 

Tho present was my next experiment of this kind, which 
I purpose to describe moro at length ; for convenience, 
putting the experience of two years into one. As 1 h:i\<> 
said, I do not propose to write an odo to dejection, but to 
brag as lustily as chanticleer in tho morning, standing on 
his roost, if only to wake my neighbours up. 

When lirst J took up my abode in tho woods, that i , 
began to spend my nights as well as days there, which, hy 
accident, was on Independence Day, on the Ith of July, 
1M.">, my house was not finished for winter, but was merely 
a defence against the ruin, without plastering or chimney, 
the walls being of rough weather stained hoards, \\itli \\ ide 
chinks, which made it cool at night. The upright \\hite 
he\vn studs and freshly planed door and window casin-s 

.RE i LIVED. 83 

gavo it a and airy look, especially in the morning, 
when its timbers were saturated with dew, so that I fancied 
that by noon some sweet gum would exude from them. To 
my imagination it retained throughout the day more or less 
of this auroral character, reminding me of a certain house 
on a mountain which I had visited the year before. This 
was an airy, an unplastercd cabin, fit to entertain a travel 
ling god, and where a goddess might trail her garments. 
The winds which passed over my dwelling were such as 
sweep over .the ridges of mountains, bearing the broken 
strains, or celestial parts only, of terrestrial music. Tho 
morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninter 
rupted ; but few are the ears that hear it. Olympus is but 
the outside of the earth everywhere. 

The only house I had been the owner of before, if I 
except a boat, was a tent, which I used occasionally when 
making excursions in the summer, and this is still rolled up 
in my garret ; but the boat, after passing from hand to 
hand, has gone down the stream of time. With this more 
substantial shelter about mo, I had made some progress 
toward settling in the world. This frame, so slightly clad, 
was a sort of crystallisation around me, and reacted on the 
builder. It was suggestive somewhat as a picture in out 
lines. I did not need to go out doors to take the air, for 
the atmosphere within had lost none of its freshness. It 
was not so much within doors as behind a door where I sat, 
even in the rainiest weather. The llarivansa says, "An 
abode without birds is like a meat without seasoning." Such 
was not my abode, for I found myself suddenly neighbour 
to the birds ; not by having imprisoned one, but having 
caged myself near them. I was not only nearer to some of 
those which commonly frequent the garden and the orchard, 
but to those wilder and more thrilling songsters of the 


forest which never, or rai ely, serenade a villager, tho 
woodtlirush, the vcery, the scarlet tanager, the field sparrow, 
the whippoorwill, and many others. 

I was seated by the shore of a small pond, about a mile 
and a-half south of the village of Concord and somewhat 
higher than it, in the midst of an extensive wood between 
that town and Lincoln, and about two miles south of that 
our only field known to fame, Concord battle ground ; but 
I WAS so low in the woods that the opposite shore, half-a- 
mile off, like the rest, covered with wood, was my most 
distant horizon. For the first week, whenever I looked out 
on the pond, it impressed me like a tarn high up on the one 
side of a mountain, its bottom far above the surface of other 
lakes, and, as the sun arose, I saw it throwing off its nightly 
clothing of mist, and here and there, by degrees, its soft 
ripples or its smooth reflecting surface was revealed, while 
the mists, like ghosts, were stealthily withdrawing in every 
direction into the woods, as at the breaking up of some 
nocturnal conventicle. The very dew seemed to hang upon 
the trees later into the day than usual, as on the sides of 

This small lake was of most value as a neighbour in the 
intervals of a gentle rain-storm in August, when, both air 
and water being perfectly still, but the sky overcast, mid- 
afternoon had all the serenity of evening, and tho wood- 
thrush sang around, and was heard from shore to shore. 
A lake like this is never smoother than at such a time ; 
and tho clear portion of the air above it being .shallow and 
darkened by clouds, the water, full of light and reflections, 
becomes a lower heaven itself so much the more important. 
From a hill-top near by, where tho wood had been recently 
cut oil , there was a pleasing vista southward across tho 
pond, through a wide indentation in the, hills which form 



thn si ion: there, where their opposite sides sloping toward 
each other suggested a stream flowing out in that direction 
through a wooded valley, but stream there was none. 
That way I looked between and over the near green 
hills to some distant and higher ones in the horizon, 
tinged with blue. Indeed, by standing on tip-toe I 
could catch a glimpse of some of the peaks of the 
still bluer and more distant mountain ranges in the 
north-west, those true-blue coins from heaven s own 
mint, and also of some portion of the village. But 
in other directions, even from this point, I could not 
see over or beyond the woods which surrounded me. 
it is well to have some water in your neighbourhood, 
to give buoyancy to and float the earth. One value even of 
the smallest well is, that when you look into it you see that 
earth is not continent but insular. This is as important 
as that it keeps butter cool. When I looked across the 
pond from this peak toward the Sudbury meadows, which 
in time of flood I distinguished elevated perhaps by a mirage 
in their seething valley, like a coin in a basin, all the earth 
beyond the pond appeared like a thin crust insulated and 
floated even by this small sheet of intervening water, and 
I was reminded that this on which I dwelt was but dry 

Though the view from my door was still more contracted, 
1 did not feel crowded or confined in the least. There was 
pasture enough for my imagination. The low shrub-oak 
plutrau to which the opposite shore arose, stretched away 
toward the prairies of the West and the steppes of Tartary, 
affording ample room for all the roving families of men. 
"There are none happy in the world but beings who en 
joy freely a vast horizon," said Damodara, when his herds 
required new and larger pastures. 


Both place and time were changed, and I dwelt nearer to 
those parts of the universe and to those eras in history 
which had most attracted me. Where I lived was as far off 
as many a region viewed nightly by astronomers. We are 
wont to imagine rare and delectable places in some remote 
and more celestial corner of the system, behind the con 
stellation of Cassiopeia s Chair, far from noise and disturb 
ance. I discovered that my house actually had its site in 
such a withdrawn, but for ever new and unprofaned, part 
of the universe. If it were worth the while to settle in 
those parts near to the Pleiades or the Hyades, to Alde- 
baran or Altair, then I was really there, or at an equal 
remoteness from the life which 1 had left behind, dwindled 
and twinkling with as fine a ray to my nearest neighbour, 
and to be seen only in moonless nights by him. Such was 
that part of creation where I had squatted 

"There was a shepherd that did HFC, 

Arid held his thoughts as high 
As were the mounts whereon his flocks 
Did hourly feed him by." 

What should we think of the shepherd s life if his flocks 
always wandered to higher pastures than his thoughts ? 

Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life 
of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Kuture 
herself. I have been as sincere a worshipper of Aurora as 
the Greeks. I got up early and bathed in the pond : that 
was a religious exercise, and one of the best things which I 
did. They say that characters were engraven on the bath 
ing tub of king Tching-thang to this effect: "Renew thyself 
completely each day ; do it again, and again, and forevei 
again." I can understand that. Morning brings back the 
heroic ages. I was as much affected by the faint hum of a 


mosquito making its invisible and unimaginable tour through 
my apartment at earliest dawn, when I was sitting with 
door and windows open, as I could be by any trumpet that 
ever sang of fame. It was Homer s requiem ; itself an 
Iliad and Odyssey in the air, singing its own wrath and 
wanderings. There was something cosmical about it ; a 
standing advertisement, till forbidden, of the everlasting 
vigour and fertility of the world. The morning, which is 
the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening 
hour. Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an 
hour, at least, some part of us awakes which slumbers all 
the rest of the day and night. Little is to be expected of 
that day, if it can be called a day, to which we are not 
awakened by our Genius, but by the mechanical nudgings 
of some servitor, are not awakened by our own newly- 
acquired force and aspirations from within, accompanied bjf 
the undulations of celestial music, instead of factory bells, 
and a fragrance filling the air to a higher life than we fell 
asleep from; and thus the darkness bear its fruit, and prove 
itself to be good, no less than the light. That man who 
does not believe that each day contains an earlier, more 
sacred, and auroral hour than he has yet profaned, has de 
spaired of life, and is pursuing a descending and darkening 
way. After a partial cessation of his sensuous life, the soul 
of man, or its organs rather, are reinvigorated each day, and 
his Genius tries again what noble life it can make. All 
memorable events, I should say, transpire in morning time 
and in a morning atmosphere. The Vedas say, "All intelli 
gences awake with the morning." Poetry and art, and the 
fairest and most memorable of the actions of men, date from 
such an hour. All poets and heroes, like Memnon, are the 
children of Aurora, and emit their music at sunrise. To 
him whose elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the 


sun, the day is a perpetual morning. It matters not what 
the clocks say or the attitudes and labours of men. Morn 
ing is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me. Moral 
reform is the effort to throw off sleep. Why is it that men 
give so poor an account of their day if they have not been 
slumbering 1 ? They are not such poor calculators. If they 
had not been overcome with drowsiness they would have 
performed something. The millions area wake enough for 
physical labour ; but only one in a million is awake enough 
for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred 
millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be 
alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. 
How could I have looked him in the face ? 

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, 
not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of 
the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. 
I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestion 
able ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious 
endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particu 
lar picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few 
objects beautiful ; but it is far more glorious to carve and 
paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we 
look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of 
the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked 
to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contem 
plation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we 
refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we 
get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might 
be done. 

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, 
to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could 
not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to 
die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live 


what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to 
practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I 
wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to 
live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that 
was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive 
jfife into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if 
it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and gen 
uine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world ; 
or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able 
to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For 
most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty 
about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have 
somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man 
here to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever." 

Still we live meanly, like ants ; though the fable tells us 
that we were long ago changed into men ; like pygmies we 
fight with cranes ; it is error upon error, and clout upon 
clout, and our best virtue has for its occasion a superfluous 
and evitable wretchedness. Our life is frittered away by 
detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more 
than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his 
ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, 
simplicity ! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and 
not a hundred or a thousand ; instead of a million count 
half-a-dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. 
In the midst of this chopping sea of civilised life, such are 
the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one 
items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would 
not founder and go the bottom and not make his port 
at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator 
indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three 
meals a-day, if it be necessary eat but one ; instead of a 
hundred dishes, five ; and reduce other things in proportion. 


Our life is like a German Confederacy, made up of petty 
states, with its boundary forever fluctuating, so that even 
a German cannot tell you how it is bounded at any 
moment. The nation itself, with all its so-called internal 
improvements, which, by the way, are all external and 
superficial, is just such an unwieldy and overgrown 
establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped up by 
its own traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense, by 
want of calculation and a worthy aim, as the million 
households in the land ; and the only cure for it as for 
them is in a rigid economy, a stern and more than Spartan 
simplicity of life and elevation of purpose. It lives too 
fast. Men think that it is essential that the Nation have 
commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, 
and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether 
they do or not ; but whether we should live like baboons or 
like men, is a little uncertain. If wo do not get out 
sleepers, and forge rails, and devote days and nights to the 
work, but go to tinkering upon our lives to improve them, 
who will build railroads ? And if railroads are not built, 
how shall we get to heaven in season 1 But if we stay at 
home and nnd our business, who will want railroads 1 We 
do not ride on the railroad ; it rides upon us. Did you 
ever think what those sleepers are that underlie the rail 
road ? Each one is a man, an Irishman, or a Yankee man. 
The rails are laid on them, and they are covered with sand, 
and the cars run smoothly over them. They are sound 
sleepers, I assure you. And every few years a new lot is 
laid down and run over ; so that, if some have the pleasure 
of riding on a rail, others have the misfortune to be ridden 
upon. And when they run over a man that is walking in 
his sleep, a supernumerary sleeper in the wrong position, 
and wake him up, they suddenly stop the cars, and make a 


hue and cry about ifc, as if this were an exception. I am 
glad to know that it takes a gang of men for every live 
miles to keep the sleepers down and level in their beds as it 
is, for this is a sign that they may sometime get up 

Why should wo live with such hurry and waste of life ? 
We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. 
Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take 
a thousand stitches to-day to save nine to-morrow. As for 
ivork, we haven t any of any consequence. We have the 
Saint Vitus dance, and cannot possibly keep our heads 
still. If I should only give a few pulls at the parish 
bell-rope, as for a fire, that is, without setting the bell, there is 
hardly a man on his farm in the outskirts of Concord, not 
withstanding that press of engagements which was his 
excuse so many times this morning, nor a boy, nor a woman, 
J might almost say, but would forsake all and follow that 
sound, not mainly to save property from the flames, but, if 
jv-o will confess the truth, much more to see it burn, since 
burn it must, and we, be it known, did not set it on fire, 
or to see it put out, and have a hand in it, if that is done as 
handsomely ; yes, even if it were the parish church itself. 
Hardly a man takes a half-hour s nap after dinner, but 
when he wakes he holds up his head and asks, "What s 
the news 1 " as if the rest of mankind had stood his 
sentinels. Some give directions to be waked every half- 
hour, doubtless for no other purpose ; and then to pay for 
it, they tell what they have dreamed. After a night s 
sleep the news is as indispensable as the breakfast. "Pray, 
tell me anything new that has happened to a man anywhere 
on this globe," and he reads it over his coffee and rolls, 
that a man has had his eyes gouged out this morning on 
the Wachito River; never dreauiiug the while that he 


lives in the dark unfathomecl mammoth cave of this world, 
and has but the rudiment of an eye himself. 

For my part, I could easily do without the post office. I 
think that there are very few important communications 
made through it. To speak critically, I never received more 
than one or two letters in my life I wrote this some 
years ago that were worth the postage. The penny-post 
is commonly, an institution through which you seriously 
offer a man that penny for his thoughts which is so often 
safely offered in jest. And I am sure that I never read any 
memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man 
robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house 
burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown-up, 
or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad 
dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter, we 
never need read of another. One is enough. If you are 
acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a 
myriad instances and applications it To a philosopher all 
news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it 
are old women over their tea. Yet not a few are greedy after 
this gossip. There was such a rush, as I hear, the other 
day at one of the offices to learn the foreign news by the last 
arrival, that several large squares of plate glass belonging to 
the establishment were broken by the pressure, news which 
I seriously think a ready wit might write a twelvemonth or 
twelve years beforehand with sufficient accuracy. As for 
Spain, for instance, if you know how to throw in Don 
Carlos and the Infanta, and Don Pedro and Seville and 
Granada, from time to time in the right proportions, they 
may have changed the names a little since I saw the 
papers, and serve up a bull-fight when other entertain 
ments fail, it will be true to the letter, and give us as good 
an idea of the exact state or ruin of things in Spain as the 


most succinct and lucid reports under this head in the 
newspapers : and as for England, almost the last significant 
scrap of news from that quarter was the Revolution of 1C 49 ; 
and if you have learned the history of her crops for an 
average year, you never need attend to that thing again, 
unless your speculations are of a merely pecuniary 
character. If one may judge who rarely looks into the 
newspapers, nothing new does ever happen in foreign parts, 
a French revolution not excepted. 

What news ! how much more important to know what 
that is which was never old! "Kieou-he-yu great digni 
tary of the state of Wei) sent a man to Khoung-tseu to 
know his news. Khoung-tseu caused the messenger to be 
seated near him, and questioned him in these terms : What 
is your master doing 1 } The messenger answered with re 
spect : My master desires to diminish the number of his 
faults, but he cannot come to the end of them. The mes 
senger being gone, the philosopher remarked: What a 
worthy messenger ! What a worthy messenger ! " The 
preacher, instead of vexing the ears of drowsy farmers on 
their day of rest at the end of the week, for Sunday is the 
fit conclusion of an ill-spent week, and not the fresh and 
brave beginning of a new one, with this one other draggle- 
tail of a sermon, should shout with thundering voice, 
" Pause ! Avast ! Why so seeming fast, but deadly 

Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, 
while reality is fabulous. If men would steadily observe 
realities only, and not allow themselves to be deluded, life, 
to compare it with such things as we know, would be like a 
fairy talc and the Arabian Nights Entertainments. If we 
respected only what is inevitable and has a right to be, 
music and poetry would resound along the streets. When 


we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and 
worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, 
that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow 
of the reality. This is always exhilarating and sublime. 
By closing the eyes and slumbering, and consenting to be 
deceived by shows, men establish and confirm their daily 
life of routine and habit everywhere, which still is built on 
purely illusory foundations. Children, who play life, dis 
cern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who 
fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by 
experience, that is, by failure. I have read in a Hindoo 
book, that " there was a king s son, who, being expelled in 
infancy from his native city, was brought up by a forester, 
and, growing up to maturity in that state, imagined himself 
to belong to the barbarous race with which he lived. One 
of his father s ministers having discovered him, revealed to 
him what he was, and the misconception of his character 
was removed, and he knew himself to be a prince. So 
soul," continues the Hindoo philosopher, " from the circum 
stances in which it is placed, mistakes its own character, 
until the truth is revealed to it by some holy teacher, and 
then it knows itself to be JSrahme." I perceive that we 
inhabitants of New England live this mean life that we do 
because our vision does not penetrate the surface of things. 
We think that that is which appears to be. If a man 
should walk through this town and see only the reality, 
where, think you, would the "Mill-dam" go to? If he 
should give us an account of the realities he beheld there, 
we should not recognise the place in his description. Look 
at a meeting-house, or a court-house, or a jail, or a shop, or 
a dwelling-house, and say what that thing really is before a 
true gaze, and they would all go to pieces in your account 
of them. Men esteem tiVh remote, in the outskirts of tho 


system, behind the farthest star, before Adam and after the 
last man. In eternity there is indeed something true and 
sublime. But all these times and places and occasions are 
now and here. God himself culminates in the present 
moment, and will never bo more divine in the lapse of all 
the ages. And we are enabled to apprehend at all what is 
sublime and noble only by the perpetual instilling and 
drenching of the reality that surrounds us. The universe 
constantly and obediently answers to our conceptions ; 
whether we travel fast or slow, the track is laid for us. 
Let us spend our lives in conceiving then. The poet or the 
artist never yet had so fair and noble a design but some of 
his posterity at least could accomplish it. 

Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be 
thrown oft the track by every nutshell and mosquito s wing 
that falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, or break 
fast, gently and without perturbation ; let company come and 
let company go, let the bells ring and the children cry, 
determined to make a day of it. Why should we knock 
under and go with the stream 1 Lot us not bo upset and 
overwhelmed in that terrible rapid and whirlpool called a 
dinner, situated in the meridian shallows. Weather this 
danger and you are safe, for the rest of the way is down 
hill. With unrelaxed nerves, with morning vigour, sail by it, 
looking another way, tied to the mast like Ulysses. If the 
engine whistles, let it whistle till it is hoarse for its pains. 
If the bell rings, why should we run 1 We will consider what 
kind of music they are like. Let us settle ourselves, and 
work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and 
slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, 
and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, 
through Paris and London, through New York and Boston 
and Concord, through church and state, through poetry 


and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom 
and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This 
is, and no mistake ; and then begin, having a point d appui, 
below freshet and frost and fire, a place where you might 
found a wall or a state, or set a lamp-post safely, or perhaps 
a gauge, not a Kilometer, but a Realometer, that future 
ages might know how deep a freshet of shams and appear 
ances had gathered from time to time. If you stand right 
fronting and face to face to a fact, you will see the sun 
glimmer on both its surfaces, as if it were a cimeter, and 
feel its sweet edge dividing you through the heart and 
marrow, and so you will happily conclude your mortal 
career. Be it life or death, we crave only reality. If we 
are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and 
feel cold in the extremities ; if we are alive, let us go about 
our business. 

Time is but the stream I go a-fishiiig in. I drink at it; 
but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how 
shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity 
remains. I would drink deeper ; fish in the sky, whose 
bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know 
not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been 
regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. 
The intellect is a cleaver ; it discerns and rifts its way into 
the secret of things. I do not wish to be any more busy 
with my hands than is necessary. My head is hands and 
feet. I feel all my best faculties concentrated- in it. My 
instinct tells me that my head is an organ for burrowing, 
as some creatures use their snout and fore-paws, and with 
it I would mine and burrow my way through these hills. 
I think that the richest vein is somewhere hereabouts ; so 
by the divining rod and thin rising vapours I judge ; and 
here I will begin to mine. 


FTTH a little more deliberation in the choice of 
their pursuits, all men would perhaps become 
essentially students and observers, for certainly 
their nature and destiny are interesting to all 
alike. In accumulating property for ourselves or our pos 
terity, in founding a family or a state, or acquiring famo 
even, we are mortal ; but in dealing with truth we are 
immortal, and need fear no change nor accident. The old 
est Egyptian or Hindoo philosopher raised a corner of the 
veil from the statue of the divinity ; and still the trembling 
robe remains raised, and I gaze upon as fresh a glory as he 
did, since it was I in him that was then so bold, and it is 
he in me that now reviews the vision. No dust has settled 
on that robe : no time has elapsed since that divinity was 
revealed. That time which we really improve, or which is 
improvable, is neither past, present, nor future. 

My residence was more favourable, not only to thought, 
but to serious reading, than a university ; and though I was 
beyond the range of the ordinary circulating library, I had 
more than ever come within the influence of those books 
which circulate round the world, whose sentences were first 
written on bark, and are now merely copied from time to 
time on to linen paper. Says the poet, Mir Camar I ddiu 


Mnsf, " Being seated to run through the region of the 
spiritual world ; I have had this advantage in books. To 
be intoxicated by a single glass of wine ; I have experienced 
this pleasure when I have drunk the liquor of the esoteric 
doctrines." I kept Homer s Iliad on my table through the 
summer, though I looked at his page only now and then. 
Incessant labour with my hands, at first, for I had my 
house to finish and my beans to hoe at the same time, made 
more study impossible. Yet I sustained myself by the 
prospect of such reading in future. I read one or two 
shallow books of travel in the intervals of my work, till 
that employment made me ashamed of myself, and I asked 
where it was then that / lived. 

The student may read Homer or j^schylus in the Greek 
without danger of dissipation or luxuriousness, for it implies 
that he in some measure emulates their heroes, and conse 
crates morning hours to their pages. The heroic books, 
even if printed in the character of our mother tongue, will 
always be in a language dead to degenerate times ; and we 
must laboriously seek the meaning of each word and line, 
conjecturing a larger sense than common use permits out of 
what wisdom, and valour, and generosity we have. The 
modern cheap and fertile press, with all its translations, 
lias done little to bring us nearer to the heroic writers of 
antiquity. They seem as solitary, and the letter in which 
they are printed as rare and curious, as ever. It is worth 
the expense of youthful days and costly hours, if you learn 
only some words of an ancient language, which are raised 
out of the trivialness of the street, to be perpetual sug 
gestions and provocations. It is not in vain that the farmer 
remembers and repeats the few Latin words which he has 
heard. Men sometimes speak as if the study of the classics 
would at length make way for more modern and practical 


studies; but tlic adventurous student will always study 
classics, in whatever language they may be written, and 
however ancient they may be. For what are the classics 
but the noblest recorded thoughts of man ? They are the 
only oracles which are not decayed, and there are such 
answers to the most modern inquiry in them as Delphi and 
Dodona never gave. We might as well omit to study 
Nature because she is old. To read well that is, to read 
true books in. a true spirit is a noble exercise, and one 
that will task the reader more than any exercise which the 
customs of the day esteem. It requires a training such as 
the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the 
whole life to this object. Books must be read as deliber 
ately and reservedly as they were written. It is not enough 
even to be able to speak the language of that nation by 
which they are written, for there is a memorable interval 
between the spoken and the written language, the language 
heard and the language read. The one is commonly transi 
tory a sound, a tongue, a dialect merely, almost brutish, 
and we learn it unconsciously, like the brutes, of our 
mothors. The other is the maturity and experience of 
that : if that is our mother tongue, this is our father tongue, 
a reserved and select expression, too significant to be heard 
by the ear, which we must be born again in order to speak. 
The crowds of men who merely spoke the Greek and Latin 
tongues in the middle ages were not entitled by the accident 
of birth to rend the works of genius written in those lan 
guages ; for these were not written in that Greek or Latin 
which they knew, but in the select language of literature. 
They had not learned the nobler dialects of Greece and 
Rome, but the very materials on which they were written 
were waste paper to them, and they prized instead a cheap 
contemporary literature. 1 ut when the several nations of 


Europe had acquired distinct though rude written languages 
of their own, sufficient for the purposes of their rising 
literatures, then first learning revived, and scholars were 
enabled to discern from that remoteness the treasures of 
antiquity. What the Roman and Grecian multitude could 
not hear, after the lapse of ages a few scholars read, and a 
few scholars only are still reading it. 

However much we may admire the orator s occasional 
bursts of eloquence, the noblest written words are commonly 
as far behind or above the fleeting spoken language as the 
firmament with its stars is behind the clouds. There are 
the stars, and they who can may read them. The astron 
omers forever comment on and observe them. Thoy are not 
exhalations like our daily colloquies and vaporous breath. 
What is called eloquence in the forum is commonly found 
to be rhetoric in the study. The orator yields to the 
inspiration of a transient occasion, and speaks to the mob 
before him, to those who can hear him ; but the writer, 
whose more equable life is his occasion, and who would bo 
distracted by the event and the crowd which inspire the 
orator, speaks to the intellect and heart of mankind, to all 
in any age who can understand him. 

No wonder that Alexander carried the Iliad with him on 
his expeditions in a precious casket. A written word is the 
choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate 
with us and more universal than any other work of art. It 
is the work of art nearest to life itself. It may be trans 
lated into every language, and not only be read but actually 
breathed from all human lips ; not be represented on 
canvas or in marble only, but be carved out of the breath of 
life itself. The symbol of an ancient man s thought becomes 
a modern man s speech. Two thousand summers have im 
parted to the monuments of Grecian literature, as to her 


warbles, only a luaturer golden and autumnal tint, for they 
have carried their own serene and celestial atmosphere into 
all lands to protect them against the corrosion of time 
Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit 
inheritance of generations and nations. Books, the oldest 
and the best, stand naturally and rightfully on the shelves 
of every cottage. They have no cause of their own to plead, 
but while they enlighten and sustain the reader his common 
sense will not refuse them. Their authors are natural and 
irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings 
or emperors, exert an influence on mankind. When the 
illiterate and perhaps scornful trader has earned by enter 
prise and industry his coveted leisure and independence, 
and is admitted to the circles of wealth and fashion, he 
turns inevitably at last to those still higher but yet inac 
cessible circles of intellect and genius, and is sensible only 
of the imperfection of his culture and the vanity and 
insufficiency of all his riches, and further proves his good 
sense by the pains which he takes to secure for his children 
that intellectual culture whose want he so keenly feels ; and 
thus it is that he becomes the founder of a family. 

Those who have not learned to read the ancient classics 
in the language in which they were written must have a 
very imperfect knowledge of the history of the human race ; 
for it is remarkable that no transcript of them has ever 
been made into any modern tongue, unless our civilisation 
itself may be regarded as such a transcript. Homer has 
never yet been printed in English, nor ./Eschylus, nor 
Virgil even, works as refined, as solidly done, and as 
beautiful almost as the morning itself; for later writers, 
say what we will of their genius, have rarely, if ever, 
equalled the elaborate beauty and finish and the lifelong and 
heroic literary labours of the ancients. They only talk of 

ic-2 WALDEN. 

forgetting them who never knew them, it will be soon 
enough to forget them when we have the learning and the 
genius which will enable us to attend to and appreciate 
them. That age will be rich indeed when those relics 
which we call Classics, and the still older and more than 
classic but even less known Scriptures of the nations, shall 
have still further accumulated, when the vaticans shall be 
filled with Vedas and Zendavestas and Bibles, with Homers 
and Dantes and Shakespearea, and all the centuries to come 
shall have successively deposited their trophies in the forum 
of the world. By such a pile we may hope to scale heaven 
at last. 

The works of the great poets have never yet been read 
by mankind, for only great poets can read them. They 
have only been read as the multitude read the stars, at 
most astrologically, not astronomically. Most men have 
learned to read to serve a paltry convenience, as they have 
learned to cipher in order to keep accounts and not be 
cheated in trade ; but of reading as a noble intellectual 
exercise they know little or nothing ; yet this only is read 
ing, in a high sense, not that which lulls us as a luxury and 
suffers the nobler faculties to sleep the while, but what we 
have to stand on tip-toe to read and devote our most alert 
and wakeful hours to. 

I think that having learned our letters we should read the 
best that is in literature, and not be forever repeating our 
a, b, abs, and words of one syllable, in the fourth or fifth 
classes, sitting on the lowest and foremost form all our lives. 
Most men are satisfied if they read or hear read, and per 
chance have been convicted by the wisdom of one good 
book, the Bible, and for the rest of their lives vegetate and 
dissipate their faculties in what is called easy reading. 
There is a work in several volumes in our circulating 


library entitled Little Reading, which I thought referred 
to a town of that name which I had not been to. There 
are those who, like cormorants and ostriches, can digest all 
sorts of this, even after the fullest dinner of meats and 
vegetables, for they suffer nothing to be wasted. If others 
are the machines to provide this provender, they are the 
machines to read it. They read the nine thousandth tale 
about Zebulon and Sephronia, and how they loved as 
none had ever loved before, and neither did the course 
of their true love run smooth, at any rate, how it did 
run and stumble, and get up again and go on ! how some 
poor unfortunate got up on to a steeple,^ who had better 
never have gone up as far as the belfry ; and then, having 
needlessly got him up there, the happy novelist rings the 
bell for all the world to come together and hear, dear ! 
how he did get down again ! For my part, I think that 
they had better metamorphose all such aspiring heroes 
of universal noveldom into man weathercocks, as they used 
to put heroes among the constellations, and let them swing 
round there till they are rusty, and not come down at 
all to bother honest men with their pranks. The next time 
the novelist rings the bell I will not stir though the 
meeting-house burn down. " The Skip of the Tip-Toc-IIop, a 
Romance of the Middle Ages, by the celebrated author 
of Tittle-Tol-Tan, to appear in monthly parts ; a great 
rush ; don t all come together." All this they read with 
saucer eyes, and erect and primitive curiosity, and with 
unwearied gizzard, whose corrugations even yet need no 
sharpening, just as some little four-year-old bencher his 
two-cent gilt-covered edition of Cinderella, without any 
improvement, that I can see, in the pronunciation, or 
accent, or emphasis, or any more skill in extracting or 
inserting the moral. The result is dulness of si "lit, a 

104 WALDEN. 

stagnation of the vital circulations, and a general deliquium 
and sloughing off of all the intellectual faculties. This sort 
of gingerbread is baked daily and more sedulously than 
pure wheat or rye-and-Imlian in almost every oven, and 
finds a surer market. 

The best books are not read even by those who are called 
good readers. What does our Concord culture amount to ? 
There is in this town, with a very few exceptions, no taste 
for the best or for very good books even in English litera 
ture, whose words all can read and spell. Even the college- 
bred and so-called liberally educated men here and elsewhere 
have really little or no acquaintance with the English 
classics and as for the recorded wisdom of mankind, the 
ancient classics and Bibles, which are accessible to all who 
will know of them, there are the feeblest efforts anywhere 
made to become acquainted with them. I know a wood- 
chopper, of middle age, who takes a French paper, not for 
news as he says, for he is above that, but to " keep himself 
in practice," he being a Canadian by birth; and when I 
ask him what he considers the best thing he can do in this 
world, he says, beside this, to keep up and add to his 
English. This is about as much as the college-bred generally 
do or aspire to do, and they take an English paper for the 
purpose. One who has just come from reading perhaps one 
of the best English books will find how many with whom 
he can converse about it? Or suppose he comes from 
reading a Greek or Latin classic in the original, whose 
praises are familiar even to the so-called illiterate ; he will 
find nobody at all to speak to, but must keep silence about 
it. Indeed, there is hardly the professor in our colleges, 
who, if he has mastered the difficulties of the language, has 
proportionately mastered the difficulties of the wit and 
poetry of a Greek poet, and has any sympathy to impart to 


the alert and heroic reader; and as for the sacred Scriptures, 
or Bibles of mankind, who in this town can tell me even 
their titles 1 Most men do not know that any nation but 
the Hebrews have had a scripture. A man, any man, will 
go considerably out of his way to pick up a silver dollar; 
but here are golden words, which the wisest men of 
antiquity have uttered, and whose worth the wise of every 
succeeding age have assured us of ; and yet we learn to 
read only as far as Easy Reading, the primers and class- 
books, and when we leave school, the Little Reading, 
and story books, which are for boys and beginners ; and our 
reading, our conversation and thinking, are all on a very 
low level, worthy only of pygmies and manikins. 

I aspire to be acquainted with wiser men than this our 
Concord soil has produced, whose names are hardly known 
here. Or shall I hear the name of Plato and never read 
his book 1 As if Plato were my townsman and I never 
saw him, my next neighbour and I never heard him speak 
or attended to the wisdom of his words. But how actually 
is it 1 His Dialogues, which contain what was immortal in 
him, lie on the next shelf, and yet I never read them. We 
are under-bred and low-lived and illiterate ; and in this 
respect I confess I do not make any very broad distinction 
between the illiterateness of my townsmen who cannot read 
at all, and the illiterateness of him who has learned to 
read only what is for children and feeble intellects. We 
should be as good as the worthies of antiquity, but partly 
by first knowing how good they were. We are a race of 
tit-men, and soar but little higher in our intellectual flights 
than the columns of the daily paper. 

It is not all books that arc as dull as their readers. 
There are probably words addressed to our condition 
exactly, which, if we could really hear and understand, 


would bo more salutary than the morning or the spring 
to our lives, and possibly put a new aspect on the face of 
things for us. How many a rnan has dated a new era in 
his life from the reading of a book. The book exists for 
us perchance which will explain our miracles and reveal 
new ones. The at present unutterable things we may find 
somewhere uttered. These same questions that disturb 
and puzzle and confound us have in their turn occurred to 
all the wise men ; not one has been omitted ; and each has 
answered them, according to his ability, by his words and 
his life. Moreover, with wisdom we shall learn liberality. 
The solitary hired man on a farm in the outskirts of 
Concord, who has had his second birth and peculiar 
religious experience, and is driven, as he believes, into 
silent gravity and exclusiveness by his faith, may think it 
is not true ; but Zoroaster, thousands of years ago, travelled 
the same road and had the same experience ; but he, being 
wise, knew it to be universal, and treated his neighbours 
accordingly, and is even said to have invented and 
established worship among men. Let him humbly com 
mune with Zoroaster then, and, through the liberalising 
influence of all the worthies, with Jesus Christ himself, and 
let " our church " go by the board. 

We boast that we belong to the nineteenth century, and 
are making the most rapid strides of any nation. But 
consider how little this village does for its own culture. 
I do not wish to flatter my townsmen, nor to be flattered 
by them, for that will not advance either of us. We need 
to be provoked, goaded like oxen, as we are, into a trot. 
We have a comparatively decent system of common schools, 
schools for infants only ; but excepting the half-starved 
Lyceum in the winter, and latterly the puny beginning of 
a library suggested by the state, no school for ourselves. 


We spend more on almost any- article of bodily aliment or 
ailment than on our mental aliment. It is time that we 
had uncommon schools, that we did not leave off our educa 
tion when we begin to be men and women. It is time that 
villages were universities, and their elder inhabitants the 
fellows of universities, with leisure if they are indeed so 
well off to pursue liberal studies the rest of their lives. 
Shall the world be confined to one Paris or one Oxford 
forever ? Cannot students bo boarded here and get a liberal 
education under the skies of Concord? Can we not hire 
some Abelard to lecture to us 1 Alas ! what with foddering 
the cattle and tending the store, we are kept from school 
too long, and our education is sadly neglected. In this 
country, the village should in some respects take the place 
of the nobleman of Europe. It should be the patron of 
the fine arts. It is rich enough. It wants only the 
magnanimity and refinement. It can spend money enough 
on such things as farmers and traders value, but it is 
thought Utopian to propose spending money for things 
which more intelligent men know to be of far more worth. 
This town has spent seventeen thousand dollars on a town- 
house, thank fortune or politics, but probably it will not 
spend so much on living wit, the true meat to put into that 
shell, in a hundred years. The one hundred and twenty- 
five dollars annually subscribed for a Lyceum in the winter 
is better spent than any other equal sum raised in the 
town. If we live in the nineteenth century, why should 
we not enjoy the advantages which the nineteenth century 
offers 1 Why should our life be in any respect provincial 1 
If wo will read newspapers, why not skip the gossip of 
Boston and take the best newspaper in the world at once 1 
not be sucking the pap of neutral family " papers, or 
browsing " Olive- Branches " here in New England. Let 

io8 WALDEN. 

the reports of all the learned societies come to us, and 
we will see if they know anything. Why should we leave 
it to Harper & Brothers and Redding & Co. to select our 
reading? As the nobleman of cultivated taste surrounds 
himself with whatever conduces to his culture, genius 
learning wit books paintings statuary music philo 
sophical instruments, and the like ; so let the village do, 
not stop short at a pedagogue, a parson, a sexton, a parish 
library, and three select men, because our pilgrim fore 
fathers got through a cold winter once on a bleak rock with 
these. To act collectively is according to the spirit of our 
institutions ; and I am confident that, as our circumstances 
are more flourishing, our means are greater than the 
nobleman s. New England can hire all the wise men in 
the world to come and teach her, and board them round 
the while, and not be provincial at all. That is the 
uncommon school we want. Instead of noblemen, let us 
have noble villages of men. If it is necessary, omit one 
bridge over the river, go round a little there, and throw 
one arch at least over the darker gulf of ignorance which 
surrounds us. 


|UT while we are confined to books, though the 
most select and classic, and read only particular 
written languages, which are themselves but 
dialects and provincial, we are in danger of 
forgetting the language which all things and events speak 
without metaphor, which alone is copious and standard. 
Much is published, but little printed. The rays which stream 
through the shutter will be no longer remembered when the 
shutter is wholly removed. No method nor discipline can 
supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert. 
What is a course of history or philosophy, or poetry, no 
matter how well selected, or the best society, or the most 
admirable routine of life, compared with the discipline of 
looking always at what is to be seen 1 Will you be a 
reader, a student merely, or a seer 1 Read your fate, see 
what is before you, and walk on into futurity. 

I did not read books the first summer ; I hoed beans. 
Nay, I often did better than this. There were times when 
I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present 
moment to any work, whether of the head or hands. I love 
a broad margin to my life. Sometimes, in a summer 
morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my 
sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a reverie, 
amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed 


solitude and stillness, while the l>irds sang around or flitted 
noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at 
my west window, or the noise of some traveller s waggon on 
the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. 
I grew in those seasons like, corn in. the night, and they 
were far better than any work of the hands would have 
been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but 
so much over and above my usual allowance. I realised 
what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the for 
saking of works. For the most part, I minded not how the 
hours went. The day advanced as if to light some work of 
mine ; it was morning, and lo ! now it is evening, and 
nothing memorable is accomplished. Instead of singing 
like the birds, I silently smiled at my incessant good 
fortune. As the sparrow had its trill, sitting on the 
hickory before my door, so had I my chuckle or suppressed 
warble which he might hear out of my nest. My days were 
not days of the week, bearing the stamp of any heathen 
deity, nor were they minced into hours and fretted by the 
ticking of a clock ; for I lived like the Puri Indians, of 
whom it is said that " for yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow 
they have only one word, and they express the variety of 
meaning by pointing backward for yesterday, forward for 
to-morrow, and overhead for the passing day." This was 
sheer idleness to my fellow-townsmen, no doubt ; but if the 
birds and flowers had tried me by their standard, I should 
not have been found wanting. A man must find his 
occasions in himself; it is true. The natural day is very 
calm, and will hardly reprove his indolence. 

I had this advantage, at least, in my mode of Kfe, over 
those who were obliged to look abroad for amusement, to 
society and the theatre, that my life itself was become my 
amusement and never ceased to br novel. It was a drama 


of many scones and without an end. If we were always 
indeed getting our living, and regulating our lives accord 
ing to the last and best mode we had learned, we should 
never be troubled with ennui. Follow your genius closely 
enough, and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect 
every hour. Housework was a pleasant pastime. When 
my floor was dirty, I rose early, and, setting all my 
furniture out of doors on the grass, bed and bedstead 
making but one budget, dashed water on the floor, and 
sprinkled white sand from the pond on it, and then with a 
broom scrubbed it clean and white ; and by the time the 
villagers had broken their fast the morning sun had dried 
my house sufficiently to allow me to move in again, and my 
meditations were almost uninterrupted. It was pleasant 
to see my whole household effects on the grass, making a 
little pile like a gipsy s pack, and my three-legged table, 
from which I did not remove the books and pen and ink, 
standing amid the pines and hickories. They seemed glad 
to get out themselves, and as if unwilling to be brought in. 
I was sometimes tempted to stretch an awning over 
them and take my seat there. It was worth the while 
to see the sun shine on these things, and hear the free 
wind blow on them ; so much more interesting most 
familiar objects look out of doors than in the house. A 
bird sits on the next bough, life everlasting grows under 
the fable, and blackberry vines run round its legs; pine 
cones, chestnut burs, and strawberry leaves are strewn 
about. It looked as if this was the way these forms 
came to be transferred to our furniture, to tables, chairs, 
and bedsteads, because they once stood in their midst. 

My house was on the side of a hill, immediately on 
(ho edge of the larger wood, in the midst of a young 
forest of pitch pines and hickories, and half-a-dozen rods 

112 WALDEN. 

from the pond, to which a narrow footpath led down the 
hill. In my front yard grew the strawberry, blackberry, 
and life-everlasting, johnswort and goldenrod, shrub-oaks 
and sand-cherry, blueberry and groundnut. Near the 
end of May, the sand-cherry (cerasus pumila), adorned 
the sides of the path with its delicate flowers arranged 
in umbels cylindrically about its short stems, which last, 
in the fall, weighed down with good-sized and handsome 
cherries, fell over in wreaths like rays on every side. I 
tasted them out of compliment to Nature, though they 
were scarcely palatable. The sumach (rhus ylabra), grew 
luxuriantly about the house, pushing up through the 
embankment which I had made, and growing five or six 
feet the first season. Its broad pinnate tropical leaf was 
pleasant though strange to look on. The large buds, 
suddenly pushing out late in the spring from dry sticks 
which had seemed to be dead, developed themselves as by 
magic into graceful green and tender boughs, an inch in 
diameter ; and sometimes, as I sat at my window, so heed 
lessly did they grow and tax their weak joints, I heard 
a fresh and tender bough suddenly fall like a fan to the 
ground, when there was not a breath of air stirring, broken 
off by its own weight. In August, the large masses of 
berries, which, when in flower, had attracted many wild 
bees, gradually assumed their bright velvety crimson hue, 
and by their weight again bent down and broke the tender 

As I sit at my window this summer afternoon, hawks 
are circling about my clearing j the tantivy of wild pigeons, 
flying by twos and threes athwart my view, or perching 
restless on the white-pine boughs behind my house, gives a 
voice to the air ; a fish-hawk dimples the glassy surface of 

SOUNDS. 113 

tho pond and brings up a fish ; a mink steals out of the 
marsh before my door and seizes a frog by the shore ; the 
sedge is bending under the weight of the reed-birds flitting 
hither and thither ; and for tho last half-hour I have heard 
the rattle of railroad-cars, now dying away and then reviv 
ing like the beat of a partridge, conveying travellers from 
Boston to the country. For I did not live so out of tho 
world as that boy, who, as I hear, was put out to a farmer 
in tho east part of the town, but ere long ran away and 
came home again, quite down at the heel and home-sick. 
Pie had never seen such a dull and out-of-the-way place ; 
the folks were all gone off somewhere ; why, you couldn t 
even hear the whistle ! I doubt if there is such a place in 
Massachusetts now : 

" In truth, our village has become a Lutt 
For one of those fleet railroad shafts, and o er 
Our peaceful plain its soothing sound is Concord." 

The Fitchburg Railroad touches the pond about a hundred 
rods south of where I dwell. I usually go to tho village 
along its causeway, and am, as it were, related to society 
by this link. Tho men on the freight trains, who go over 
the whole length of the road, bow to me as to an old 
acquaintance, they pass me so often, and apparently they 
take mo for an employee : and so I am. I too would fain 
be a track-repairer somewhere in the orbit of the earth. 

The whistle of the locomotive penetrates my woods sum 
mer and winter, sounding like the scream of a hawk sailing 
over some farmer s yard, informing me that many restless 
city merchants are arriving within the circle of the town, 
or adventurous country traders from the other side. As 
they come under one horizon, they shout their warning to 
get off the track to the other, heard sometimes through tho 
circles of two towns. Here come your groceries, country ; 



your rations, countrymen ! Nor is there any man. so inde 
pendent on his farm that he can say them nay. And here s 
your pay for them ! screams the countryman s whistle ; 
timber like long battering-rams going twenty miles an hour 
against the city walls, and chairs enough to seat all the 
weary and heavy-laden that dwell within them. With 
such huge and lumbering civility the country hands a chair 
to the city. All the Indian huckleberry hills are stripped, 
all the cranberry meadows are raked into the city. Up 
comes the cotton, down goes the woven cloth ; up comes the 
silk, clown goes the woollen ; up come the books, but down 
goes the wit that writes them. 

When I meet the engine with its train of cars moving off 
with planetary motion, or, rather, like a comet, for the 
beholder knows not if with that velocity and with that 
direction it will ever revisit this system, since its orbit does 
not look like a returning curve, with its steam-cloud like 
a banner streaming behind in golden and silver wreaths, 
like many a downy cloud which I have seen, high in the 
heavens, unfolding its masses to the light, as if this travel 
ling demigod, this cloud-compeller, would ere long take the 
sunset sky for the livery of his train ; when I hear the iron 
horse make the hills echo with his snort like thunder, 
shaking the earth with his feet, and breathing fire and 
smoke from his nostrils (what kind of winged horse or fiery 
dragon they will put into the new Mythology I don t know), 
it seems as if the earth had got a race now worthy to 
inhabit it. If all were as it seems, and men made the 
elements their servants for noble ends ! If the cloud that 
hangs over the engine were the perspiration of heroic deeds, 
or as beneficent as that which floats over the farmer s 
liflds, then the elements and Nature herself would cheer 
fully accompany men on their errands, and bo their escort 

SOUNDS. 115 

I watch the passage of the morning cars with the same 
feeling that I do the rising of the sun, which is hardly more 
regular. Their train of clouds stretching far behind and 
rising higher and higher, going to heaven while the cars are 
going to Boston, conceals the sun for a minute and casts my 
distant field into the shade, a celestial train beside which the 
petty train of cars which hugs the earth is but the barb of 
the spear. The stabler of the iron horse was up early this 
winter morning by the light of the stars arnid the mountains, 
to fodder and harness his steed. Fire, too, was awakened 
thus early to put the vital heat in him and get him off. If 
the enterprise were as innocent as it is early ! If the snow 
lies deep, they strap on his snow-shoes, and with the giant 
plough plough a furrow from the mountains to the sea-board, 
in which the cars, like a following drill-barrow, sprinkle all 
the restless men and floating merchandise in the country for 
seed. All day the fire-steed flics over the country, stopping 
only that his master may rest, and I am awakened by his 
tramp and defiant snort at midnight, when in some remote 
glen in the woods he fronts the elements incased in ice and 
snow ; and ho will reach his stall only with the morning 
star, to start once more on his travels without rest or 
slumber. Or perchance, at evening, I hear him in his 
stable blowing off the superfluous energy of the day, that ho 
may calm his nerves and cool his liver and brain for a few- 
hours of iron slumber. If the enterprise were as heroic and 
commanding as it is protracted and unwearied ! 

Far through unfrequented woods on the confines of towns, 
where once only the hunter penetrated by day, in tho darkest 
night dart these bright saloons without the knowledge of 
their inhabitants; this moment stopping at some brilliant 
station-house in town or city, where a social crowd is 
gathered, the next in the Dismal Swamp, scaring the owl 

ii6 WALDEN. 

and fox. The startings and arrivals of the cars are now the 
epochs in the village day. They go and come with such re 
gularity and precision, and their whistle can be heard so 
far, that the farmers set their clocks by them, and thus one 
well-conducted institution regulates a whole country. Have 
not men improved somewhat in punctuality since the rail 
road was invented ? Do they not talk and think faster in 
the depot than they did in the stage-office ? There is some 
thing electrifying in the atmosphere of the former place. I 
have been astonished at the miracles it has wrought ; and 
some of my neighbours, who, I should have prophesied, once 
for all, would never get to Boston by so prompt a convey 
ance, are on hand when the bell rings. To do things " rail 
road fashion" is now the by-word; and it is worth the 
while to be warned so often and so sincerely by any power 
to get off its track. There is no stopping to read the riot 
act, no firing over the heads of the mob, in this case. We 
have constructed a fate, an Atropos, that never turns aside. 
(Let that be the name of your engine.) Men are advertised 
that at a certain hour and minute these bolts will be shot 
toward particular points of the compass ; yet it interferes 
with no man s business, and the children go to school on tho 
other track. We live the steadier for it. We are all 
educated thus to be sons of Tell. The air is full of invisible 
bolts. Every path but your own is the path of fate. Keep 
on your own track, then. 

What recommends commerce to me is its enterprise and 
bravery. It does not clasp its hands and pray to Jupiter. 
i see these men every day go about their business with 
more or less courage and content, doing more even than 
they suspect, and perchance better employed than they 
could have consciously devised. I am less affected by their 
heroism who stood up for half-an-hour in the front line at 

SOUNDS. 117 

liucna Vista, than by the steady and cheerful valour of the 
men who inhabit the snow-plough for their winter quarters ; 
who have not merely the three o clock in the morning 
courage, which Bonaparte thought was the rarest, but whose 
courage does not go to rest so early, who go to sleep only 
when the storm sleeps or the sinews of their iron steed are 
frozen. On this morning of the Great Snow, perchance, 
which is still raging and chilling men s blood, I hear the 
muffled tone of their engine bell from out the fog-bank of 
their chilled breath, which announces that the cars are 
coming, without long delay, notwithstanding the veto of a 
New England north-east snow-storm, and I behold the 
ploughmen covered with snow and rime, their heads peer 
ing above the mould-board which is turning down other 
than daisies and the nests of field-mice, like boulders of 
the Sierra Nevada, that occupy an outside place in the 

Commerce is unexpectedly confident and serene, alert, 
adventurous, and unwearied. It is very natural in its 
methods, withal, far more so than many fantastic enter 
prises and sentimental experiments, and hence its singular 
success. I am refreshed and expanded when the freight 
train rattles past me, and I smell the stores which go dis 
pensing their odours all the way from Long Wharf to Lake 
Champlain, reminding me of foreign parts, of coral reefs, 
and Indian oceans, and tropical climes, and the extent of 
the globe. I feel more like a citizen of the world at the 
sight of the palm-leaf which will cover so many flaxen New 
England heads the next summer, the Manilla hemp and 
cocoa-nut husks, the old junk, gunny bags, scrap iron, and 
rusty nails. This car-load of torn sails is more legible and 
interesting now than if they should be wrought into paper 
paid printed books. Who can write so graphically the 

ii8 WALDEN. 

liistory of tlie storms they have weathered as these rents 
have done ? They are proof-sheets which need no correc 
tion. Here goes lumber from the Maine woods, which did 
not go out to sea in the last freshet, risen four dollars on 
the thousand because of what did go out or was split up ; 
pine, spruce, cedar, first, second, third, and fourth qualities, 
so lately all of one quality, to wave over the bear, and 
moose, and caribou. Next rolls Thoraaston lime, a prime 
lot, which will get far among the hills before it gets slacked. 
These rags in bales, of all hues and qualities, the lowest 
condition to which cotton and linen descend, the final result 
of dress, of patterns which are now no longer cried up, 
unless it be in Milwaukie, as those splendid articles, English, 
French, or American prints, ginghams, muslins, etc. 
gathered from all quarters both of fashion and poverty, 
going to become paper of one colour or a few shades only, 
on which, forsooth, will be written tales of real life, high and 
low, and founded on fact ! This closed car smells of salt 
fish, the strong New England and commercial scent, 
reminding me of the Grand Banks and the fisheries. Who 
has not seen a salt fish, thoroughly cured for this world, so 
that nothing can spoil it, and putting the perseverance of 
the saints to the blush 1 with which you may sweep or pave 
the streets, and split your kindlings, and the teamster 
shelter himself and his lading against sun, wind, and rain 
behind it, and the trader, as a Concord trader once did, 
hang it up by his door for a sign when he commences 
business, until at last his oldest customer cannot tell surely 
whether it be animal, vegetable, or mineral, and yet it shall 
be as pure as a snow flake, and if it be put into a pot and 
boiled, will come out an excellent dun fish for a Saturday s 
dinner. Next, Spanish hides, with the tails still preserving 
their twist and the angle of elevation they had when the 

SOUNDS. 119 

oxen that wore them wore careering over the pampas of the 
Spanish main, a type of all obstinacy, and evincing how 
almost hopeless and incurable are all constitutional vices. 
I confess, that practically speaking, when I have learned a 
man s real disposition, I have no hopes of changing it for 
the better or worse in this state of existence. As the 
Orientals say, " A cur s tail may be warmed, and pressed, 
and bound round with ligatures, and after a twelve years 
labour bestowed upon it, still it will retain its natural 
form." The only effectual cure for such inveteracies as 
these tails exhibit is to make glue of them, which I believe 
is what is usually done with them, and then they will stay 
put and stick. Here is a hogshead of molasses or of 
brandy directed to John Smith, Cuttingsville, Vermont, 
some trader among the Green Mountains, who imports for 
the farmers near his clearing, and now perchance stands 
over his bulk-head and thinks of the last arrivals on the 
coast, how they may affect the price for him, telling his 
customers this moment, as he has told them twenty times 
before this morning, that he expects some by the next train 
of prime quality. It is advertised in the Cutlinysuille 

While these things go up other things come down. 
Warned by the whizzing sound, I look up from my book 
and see some tall pine, hewn on far northern hills, which 
has winged its way over the Green Mountains and the 
Connecticut, shot like an arrow through the township 
within ten minutes, and scarce another eye beholds it; 


" to bo the mast 
Of some great ammiral." 

And hark ! here comes the cattle-train bearing the cattle of 
a thousand hills, shoepcots, stables, and cow-yards in the 

120 WALDEN. 

air, drovers with their sticks, and shepherd boys in the 
midst of their flocks, all but the mountain pastures, whirled 
along like leaves blown from the mountains by the Septem 
ber gales. The air is filled with the bleating of calves and 
sheep, and the hustling of oxen, as if a pastoral valley were 
going by. When the old bell-wether at the head rattles 
his bell, the mountains do indeed skip like rams and the 
little hills like lambs. A car-load of drovers, too, in the 
midst, on a level with their droves now, their vocation gone, 
but still clinging to their useless sticks as their badge of 
office. But their dogs, where are they < \ It is a stampede 
to them ; they are quite thrown out ; they have lost the 
scent. Methinks I hear them barking behind the Peter- 
boro Hills, or panting up the western slope of the Green 
Mountains. They will not be in at the death. Their 
vocation, too, is gone. Their fidelity and sagacity are 
below par now. They will slink back to their kennels in 
disgrace, or perchance run wild and strike a league with the 
wolf and the fox. So is your pastoral life whirled past 
and away. But the bell rings, and I must get off the 
track and let the cars go by 

" What s the railroad to me ? 
I never go to see 
Where it ends. 
It fills a few hollows, 
And makes banks for the swallows, 
It sets the sand a-blowing, 
And the blackberries a-growing," 

but I cross it like a cart-path in the woods. I will not 
have my eyes put out and my ears spoiled by its smoke, 
and steam, and hissing. 

Now that the cars are gone by and all the restless world 

SOUNDS. 121 

with them, and the fishes in the pond no longer feel their 
rumbling, I am more alone than ever. For the rest of the 
long afternoon, perhaps, my meditations are interrupted 
only by the faint rattle of a carriage or team along the 
distant highway. 

Sometimes, on Sundays, I heard the bells, the Lincoln, 
Acton, Bedford, or Concord bell, when the wind was favour 
able, a faint, sweet, and, as it were, natural melody, worth 
importing into the wilderness. At a sufficient distance 
over the woods this sound acquires a certain vibratory hum, 
as if the pine needles in the horizon were the strings of a 
harp which it swept. All sound heard at the greatest 
possible distance produces one and the same effect, a 
vibration of the universal lyre, just as the intervening 
atmosphere makes a distant ridge of earth interesting to 
our eyes by the azure tint it imparts to it. There came 
to me in this case a melody which the air had strained, and 
which had conversed with every leaf and needle of the 
wood, that portion of the sound which the elements had 
taken up and modulated and echoed from vale to vale. 
The echo is, to some extent, an original sound, and therein 
is the magic and charm of it. It is not merely a repetition 
of what was worth repeating in the bell, but partly the 
voice of the wood ; the same trivial words and notes sung 
by a wood-nymph. 

At evening, the distant lowing of some cow in the horizon 
beyond the woods sounded sweet and melodious, and at 
first I would mistake it for the voices of certain minstrels 
by whom I was sometimes serenaded, who might be straying 
over hill and dale ; but soon I was not unpleasantly dis 
appointed when it was prolonged into the cheap and natural 
music of the cow. I do not mean to be satirical, but to 
express my appreciation of those youths singing, when I 

122 WALDEN. 

state that I perceived clearly that it was akin to the music 
of the cow, and they were at length one articulation of 

Regularly at half-past seven, in one part of the summer, 
after the evening train had gone by, the whippoorwills 
chanted their vespers for half-ari-hour, sitting on a stump by 
my door, or upon the ridge pole of the house. They would 
begin to sing almost with as much precision as a clock, 
within five minutes of a particular time, referred to the 
setting of the sun, every evening. I had a rare opportunity 
to become acquainted with their habits. Sometimes I heard 
four or five at once in different parts of the wood, by acci 
dent one a bar behind another, and so near me that I 
distinguished not only the cluck after each note, but often 
that singular buzzing sound like a fly in a spider s web, only 
proportionally louder. Sometimes one would circle round 
and round me in the woods a few feet distant as if tethered 
by a string, when probably I was near its eggs. They sang 
at intervals throughout the night, and were again as musical 
as ever just before and about dawn. 

When other birds are still the screech owls take up the 
strain, like mourning women their ancient u-lu-lu. Their 
dismal scream is truly Ben Jonsonian. Wise midnight 
hags ! It is no honest and blunt tu-whit tu-who of the 
poets, but, without jesting, a most solemn graveyard ditty, 
the mutual consolations of suicide lovers remembering the 
pangs and the delights of supernal love in the infernal 
groves. Yet I love to hear .their wailing, their doleful 
responses, trilled along the woodside ; reminding me some 
times of music and singing birds; as if it were the dark and 
tearful side of music, the regrets and sighs that would fain 
be sung. They are the spirits, the low spirits and melan 
choly forebodings, of fallen souls that once in human shape 

SOUNDS. 123 

nightly walked the earth and did the deeds of darkness, now 
expiating their sins with their wailing hymns or threnodies 
in the scenery of their transgressions. They give me a new 
sense of the variety and capacity of that nature which is our 
common dwelling. Oli-o-o-o-o t/tat I never had been bor- 
r-r-r-n I sighs one on this side of the pond, and circles with 
the restlessness of despair to some new perch on the grey 
oaks. Then Tliat I never had been bor-r-r-r-n I echoes 
another on the farther side with tremulous sincerity, and 
bor-r-r-r-n ! comes faintly from far in the Lincoln woods. 

I was also serenaded by a hooting owl. Near at hand 
you could fancy it the most melancholy sound in Nature, as 
if she meant by this to stereotype and make permanent in 
her choir the dying moans of a human being, some poor 
weak relic of mortality who has left hope behind, and howls 
like an animal, yet with human sobs, on entering the dark 
valley, made more awful by a certain gurgling melodious 
ness, I find myself beginning with the letters gl when I try 
to imitate it, expressive of a mind which has reached the 
gelatinous mildewy stage in the mortification of all healthy 
and courageous thought. It reminded me of ghouls and 
idiots and insane howlings. But now one answers from far 
woods in a strain made really melodious by distance, Hoo 
hoo hoo, hoorer hoo ; and indeed for the most part it sug 
gested only pleasing associations, whether heard by day or 
night, summer or winter. 

I rejoice that there are owls. Let them do the idiotic 
and maniacal hooting for men. It is a sound admirably 
suited to swamps and twilight woods which no day illus 
trates, suggesting a vast and undeveloped nature which men 
have not recognised. They represent the stark twilight and 
unsatisfied thoughts which all have. All day the sun has 
shone on the surface of some savage swamp, where the 

124 WALDEN. 

single spruce stands Lung with usnea lichens, and small 
hawks circulate above, and the chicadee lisps amid the ever 
greens, and the partridge and rabbit skulk beneath ; but 
now a more dismal and fitting day dawns, and a different 
race of creatures awakes to express the meaning of Nature 

Late in the evening I heard the distant rumbling of 
waggons over bridges, a sound heard farther than almost 
any other at night, the baying of dogs, and sometimes 
again the lowing of some disconsolate cow in a distant 
barn-yard. In the meanwhile all the shore rang with the 
trump of bull-frogs, the sturdy spirits of ancient wine-bibbers 
and wassailers, still unrepentant, trying to sing a catch in 
their Stygian lake, if the Walden nymphs will pardon the 
comparison, for though there are almost no weeds, there 
are frogs there, who would fain keep up the hilarious rules 
of their old festal tables, though their voices have waxed 
hoarse and solemnly grave, mocking at mirth, and the wine 
has lost its flavour, and become only liquor to distend their 
paunches, and sweet intoxication never comes to drown the 
memory of the past, but mere saturation and waterlogged- 
ness and distention. The most aldermanic, with his chin 
upon a heart-leaf, which serves for a napkin to his drooling 
chaps, under this northern shore quaffs a deep draught of 
the once scorned water, and passes round a cup with the 
ejaculation tr-r-r-oonk, tr-r-r-oonk, tr-r-r-oonk/ and straight 
way comes over the water from some distant cove the same 
pass-word repeated, where the next in seniority and girth 
has gulped down to his mark ; and when this observance 
has made the circuit of the shores, then ejaculates the 
master of ceremonies, with satisfaction, tr-r-r-oonk I and 
each in his turn repeats the same down to the least 
distended, leakiest, and flabbiest paunched, that there be 

SOUNDS. 125 

no mistake ; and then the bowl goes round again and again, 
until the sun disperses the morning mist, and only the 
patriarch is not under the pond, but vainly bellowing 
troonk from time to time, and pausing for a reply. 

I am not sure that ever I heard the sound of cock- 
crowing from my clearing, and I thought that it might bo 
worth the while to keep a cockerel for his music merely, as 
a singing bird. The note of this once wild Indian pheasant 
is certainly the most remarkable of any bird s, and if they 
could be naturalised without being domesticated, it would 
soon become the most famous sound in our woods, sur 
passing the clangour of the goose and the hooting of the 
owl ; and then imagine the cackling of the hens to fill the 
pauses when their lords clarions rested ! No wonder that 
man added this bird to his tame stock, to say nothing of 
the eggs and drumsticks. To walk in a winter morning in 
a wood where these birds abounded, their native woods, 
and hear the wild cockerels crow on the trees, clear and 
shrill for miles over the resounding earth, drowning tho 
feebler notes of other birds, think of it ! It would put 
nations on the alert. Who would not be early to rise, and 
rise earlier and earlier every successive day of his life, till 
he became unspeakably healthy, wealthy, and wise 1 
This foreign bird s note is celebrated by the poets of 
all countries along with the notes of their native 
songsters. All climates agree with brave Chanticleer. He 
is more indigenous even than the natives. His health is 
ever good, his lungs are sound, his spirits never flag. Even 
the sailor on the Atlantic and Pacific is awakened by his 
voice ; but its shrill sound never roused mo from my 
slumbers. I kept neither dog, cat, cow, pig, nor hens, so 
that you would have said there was a deficiency of domestic 
sounds ; neither the churn, nor the spinning-wheel, nor 

126 W ALP EN. 

even the singing of the kettle, nor the hissing of the urn, 
nor children crying, to comfort one. An old-fashioned man 
would have lost his senses or died of ennui before this. 
Not even rats in the wall, for they were starved out, or 
rather were never baited in, only squirrels on the roof 
and under the floor, a whippoorwill on the ridge-pole, a blue- 
jay screaming beneath the window, a hare or woodchuck 
under the house, a screech-owl or a cat-owl behind it, a flock 
of wild geese or a laughing loon on the pond, and a fox to 
bark in the night. Not even a lark or an oriole, those 
mild plantation birds, ever visited my clearing. No cockerels 
to crow now nor hens to cackle in the yard. No yard ! 
but unfenced Nature reaching up to your very sills. A 
young forest growing up under your windows, and wild 
sumachs and blackberry vines breaking through your 
cellar ; sturdy pitch-pines rubbing and creaking against the 
shingles for want of room, their roots reaching quite under 
the house. Instead of a scuttle or a blind blown off in the 
gale, a pine tree snapped off or torn up by the roots 
behind your house for fuel Instead of no path to the 
front yard gate in the Great Snow, no gate, no front 
yard, and no path to the civilised world ! 


PHIS is a delicious evening, when the whole body 
is one sense, and imbibes delight through every 
pore. I go and come with a strango liberty in 
Nature, a part of herself. As I walk along the 
stony shore of the pond in my shirt sleeves, though it is 
cool as well as cloudy and windy, and I see nothing special 
to attract me, all the elements are unusually congenial to 
me. The bull-frogs trump to usher in the night, and the 
note of the whippoorwill is borne on the rippling wind from 
over the water. Sympathy with the fluttering alder and 
poplar leaves almost takes away my breath ; yet, like the 
lake, my serenity is rippled, but not ruffled. These small 
waves raised by the evening wind are as remote from storm 
as the smooth reflecting surface. Though it is now dark, 
the wind still blows and roars in the wood, the waves still 
dash, and some creatures lull the rest with their notes. 
The repose is never complete. The wildest animals do not 
repose, but seek their prey now; the fox, and skunk, and 
rabbit, now roam the fields and woods without fear. They 
are Nature s watchmen, links which connect the days of 
animated life. 

When I return to my house I find that visitors have 
been there and left their cards either a bunch of flowers, 
or a wreath of evergreen, or a name in pencil on a yellow 

128 WALDEN. 

walnut leaf or a chip. They who come rarely to the woods 
take some little piece of the forest into their hands to play 
with by the way, which they leave, either intentionally or 
accidentally. One has peeled a willow wand, woven it into 
a ring, and dropped it on my table. I could always tell if 
visitors had called in my absence, either by the bended 
twigs or grass, or the print of their shoes, and generally of 
what sex, or age, or quality they were by some slight trace 
left, as a flower dropped, or a bunch of grass plucked and 
thrown away, even as far off as the railroad, half-a-inile 
distant, or by the lingering odour of a cigar or pipe. Nay, 
I was frequently notified of the passage of a traveller along 
the highway sixty rods off by the scent of his pipe. 

There is commonly sufficient space about us. Our horizon 
is never quite at our elbows. The thick wood is not just 
at our door, nor the pond, but somewhat is always clearing, 
familiar and worn by us, appropriated and fenced in some 
way, and reclaimed from Nature. For what reason have I 
this vast range and circuit, some square miles of unfrequented 
forest, for my privacy, abandoned to me by men? My 
nearest neighbour is a mile distant, and no house is visible 
from any place but the hill-tops within half-a-mile of my 
own. I have my horizon bounded by woods all to myself ; 
a distant view of the railroad where it touches the pond on 
the one hand, and of the fence which skirts the woodland 
road on the other. But for the most part it is as solitary 
where I live as on the prairies. It is as much Asia or 
Africa as New England. I have, as it were, my own sun, 
and moon, and stars, and a little world all to myself. At 
night there was never a traveller passed my house, or 
knocked at my door, more than if I were the first or last 
man, unless it were in the spring, when at long intervals 
some came from the village to fish for pouts, they plainly 


fished much more in the "Walden Pond of their own na 
tures, and baited their hooks with darkness, but they soon 
retreated, usually with light baskets, and left " the world to 
darkness and to me," and the black kernel of the night was 
never profaned by any human neighbourhood. I believe 
that men are generally still a little afraid of the dark, 
though the witches are all hung, and Christianity and 
candles have been introduced. 

Yet I experienced sometimes that the most sweet and 
tender, the most innocent and encouraging society may be 
found in any natural object, even for the poor misanthrope 
and most melancholy man. There can be no very black 
melancholy to him who lives in the midst of Nature, and 
has his senses still. There was never yet such a storm, but 
it was uiEolian music to a healthy and innocent ear. 
Nothing can rightly compel a simple and brave man to a 
vulgar sadness. While I enjoy the friendship of the sea 
sons I trust that nothing can make life a burden to me. 
The gentle rain which waters my beans and keeps me in 
the house to-day is not drear and melancholy, but good for 
me too. Though it prevents my hoeing them, it is of far 
more worth than my hoeing. If it should continue so long 
as to cause the seeds to rot in the ground and destroy tho 
potatoes in the low lands, it would still be good for the grass 
on tho uplands, and, being good for the grass, it would be 
good for me. Sometimes, when I compare myself with 
other men, it seems as if I were more favoured by the gods 
than they, beyond any deserts that I am conscious of as if 
I had a warrant and surety at their hands which my fellows 
have not, and were especially guided and guarded. I do 
not flatter myself, but if it be possible they flatter me. I 
have never felt lonesome, or in tho least oppressed by a 
sense of solitude, but once, and that was a few weeks after 


130 WALDEN. 

I came to the woods, -when, for an hour, I doubted if the 
near neighbourhood of man was not essential to a serene 
and healthy life. To be alone was something unpleasant. 
But I was at the same time conscious of a slight insanity 
in my mood, and seemed to foresee my recovery. In the 
midst of a gentle rain, while these thoughts prevailed, I was 
suddenly sensible of such sweet and beneficent society in 
Nature, in the very pattering of the drops, and in every 
sound and sight around my house, an infinite and unaccount 
able friendliness all at once like an atmosphere sustaining 
me, as made the fancied advantages of human neighbour 
hood insignificant, and I have never thought of them since. 
Every little pine needle expanded and swelled with sym 
pathy, and befriended me. I was so distinctly made aware 
of the presence of something kindred to me, even in scenes 
which we are accustomed to call wild and dreary, and also 
that the nearest of blood to me and humanest was not a 
person nor a villager, that I thought no place could ever bo 
strange to me again. 

" Mourning untimely consumes the sad ; 
Few are their days in the land of the living, 
Beautiful daughter of Toscar." 

Some of my pleasantest hours were during the long rain 
storms in the spring or fall, which confined me to the house 
for the afternoon as well as the forenoon, soothed by their 
ceaseless roar and pelting ; when an early twilight ushered 
in a long evening in which many thoughts had time to take 
root and unfold themselves. In those driving north-east 
rains which tried the village houses so, when the maids 
stood ready with mop and pail in front entries to keep the 
deluge out, I sat behind my door in my little house, which 
was all entry, and thoroughly enjoyed its protection. In 


ono hc avy thunder-shower the lightning struck a large 
pitch-pine across the pond, making a very conspicuous and 
perfectly regular spiral groove from top to bottom, an inch 
or more deep, and four or five inches wide, as you would 
groove a walking-stick. I passed it again the other day, 
and was struck with awe on looking up and beholding that 
mark, now more distinct than ever, where a terrific and 
resistless bolt came down out of the harmless sky eight 
years ago. Men frequently say to me, "I should think 
you would feel lonesome down there, and want to bo nearer 
to folks, rainy and snowy days and nights especially." I 
am tempted to reply to such This whole earth which we 
inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, 
dwell the two most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the 
breadth of whose disc cannot bo appreciated by our instru 
ments ? Why should I feel lonely 1 is not our planet in 
the Milky Way 1 This which you put seems to me not to 
be the most important question. What sort of space is 
that which separates a man from his fellows and makes 
him solitai-y 1 I have found that no exertion of the legs 
can bring two minds much nearer to one another. What 
do we want most to dwell near to 1 Not to many men 
surely, the dep6t, the post office, the bar-room, the meeting 
house, the school-house, the grocery, Beacon Hill, or the 
Five Points, where men most congregate, but to the peren 
nial source of our life, whence in all our experience we 
have found that to issue, as the willow stands near the 
water and sends out its roots in that direction. This will 
vary with different natures, but this is the place where a 
wise man will dig his cellar. ... I one evening overtook 
one of my townsmen, who had accumulated what is called 
"a handsome property," though I never got a fair view 
of it, on the Walden road, driving a pair of cattle to 

132 WALDEN. 

market, who inquired of me how I could bring my mind 
to give up so many of the comforts of life. I answered 
that I was very sure I liked it passably well ; I was not 
joking. And so I went home to my bed, and left him 
to pick his way through the darkness and the mud to 
Brighton, or Bright-town, which place he would reach 
some time in the morning. 

Any prospect of awakening or coming to life to a dead 
man makes indifferent all times and places. The place 
where that may occur is always the same, and indescribably 
pleasant to all our senses. For the most part we allow only 
outlying and transient circumstances to make our occasions. 
They are, in fact, the cause of our distraction. Nearest to 
all things is that power which fashions their being. Next 
to us the grandest laws are continually being executed. 
Next to us is not the workman whom we have hired, with 
whom we love so well to talk, but the workman whose work 
we are. 

" How vast and profound is the influence of the subtile 
powers of Heaven and of Earth ! " 

" We seek to perceive them, and we do not see them ; 
we seek to hear them, and we do not hear them ; identified 
with the substance of tilings, they cannot be separated from 

"They cause that in all the universe men purify and 
sanctify their hearts, and clothe themselves in their holiday 
garments to offer sacrifices and oblations to their ancestors. 
It is an ocean of subtile intelligences. They are everywhere, 
above us, on our left, or our right ; they environ us on all 

We are the subjects of an experiment which is not a 
little interesting to me. Can we not do without the society 
of our gossips a little while under these circumstances, 


have our own thoughts to cheer us? Confucius says truly, 
" Virtue does not remain as an abandoned orphan ; it must 
of necessity have neighbours." 

With thinking we may be beside ourselves in a sano 
sense. By a conscious effort of the mind we can stand 
aloof from actions and their consequences ; and all things, 
good and bad, go by us like a torrent. We are not wholly 
involved in Nature. I may be either the driftwood in the 
stream, or Indra in the sky looking down on it. I may be 
affected by a theatrical exhibition; on the other hand, I 
may not be affected by an actual event which appears to 
concern me much more. I only know myself as a human 
entity ; the scene, so to speak, of thoughts and affections , 
and am sensible of a certain doubleness by which I can 
stand as remote from myself as from another. However 
intense my experience, I am conscious of the presence and 
criticism of a part of me, which, as it were, is not a part of 
me, but spectator, sharing no experience, but taking note 
of it ; and that is no more I than it is you. When the 
play, it may be the tragedy, of life is over, the spectator 
goes his way. It was a kind of fiction, a work of the 
imagination only, so far as he was concerned. This double- 
ness may easily make us poor neighbours and friends 

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the 
time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon 
wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never 
found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. 
We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad 
among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man 
thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he 
will. Solitude is not measured by the miles of space 
intervene between a man and his fellows. The really 

134 WALDEN. 

diligent student in one of the crowded hives of Cambridge 
College is as solitary as a dervish in the desert. The farmer 
can work alone in the field or the woods all day, hoeing 
or chopping, and not feel lonesome, because he is employed; 
but when he comes home at night he cannot sit down in a 
room alone, at the mercy of his thoughts, but must be 
where he can " see the folks," and recreate, and, as he 
thinks, remunerate himself for his day s solitude ; and 
hence he wonders how the student can sit alone in the 
house all night and most of the day without ennui and 
" the blues ; " but he does not realise that the student, 
though in the house, is still at work in his field, and chop 
ping in 7m woods, as the farmer in his, and in turn seeks 
the same recreation and society that the latter does, though 
it may be a more condensed form of it. 

Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short 
intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value 
for each other. We meet at meals three time a-day, and 
give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that 
we are. We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, 
called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meet 
ing tolerable and that we need not come to open war. 
We meet at the post office, and at the sociable, and about 
the fireside every night ; we live thick and are in each 
other s way, and stumble over one another, and I think 
that we thus lose some respect for one another. Certainly 
less frequency would suffice for all important and hearty 
communications. Consider the girls in a factory, never 
alone, hardly in their dreams. It would be better if there 
were but one inhabitant to a square mile, as where I live. 
The value of a man is not in his skin, that we should touch 

I have heard of a man lost in the woods and dying of 


famine and exhaustion at the foot of a tree, whose loneli 
ness was relieved by the grotesque visions with which; 
owing to bodily weakness, his diseased imagination sur 
rounded him, and which he believed to be real. So also, 
owing to bodily and mental health and strength, we may 
be continually cheered by a like but more normal and 
natural society, and come to know that we are never alone. 

I have a great deal of company in my house ; especially 
in the morning, when nobody calls. Let me suggest a few- 
comparisons, that some one may convey an idea of my 
situation. I am no more lonely than the loon in the pond 
that laughs so loud, or than Walden Pond itself. What 
company has that lonely lake, I pray 1 And yet it has not 
the blue devils, but the blue angels in it, in the azure tint 
of its waters. The sun is alone, except in thick weather, 
when there sometimes appear to be two, but one is a mock 
sun. God is alone, but the devil, he is far from being 
alone ; he sees a great deal of company ; he is legion. I 
am no more lonely than a single mullein or dandelion in a 
pasture, or a bean leaf, or sorrel, or a horse-fly, or a humble 
bee. I am no more lonely than the Mill Brook, or a 
weathercock, or the north star, or the south wind, or an 
April shower, or a January thaw, or the first spider in a new 

I have occasional visits in the long winter evenings, when 
the snow falls fast and the wind howls in the wood, from 
an old settler and original proprietor, who is reported to 
have dug Walden Pond, and stoned it, and fringed it with 
pine woods : who tells me stories of old time and of new 
eternity ; and between us we manage to pass a cheerful 
evening with social mirth and pleasant views of things, 
even without apples or cider, a most wise and humorous 
friend, whom 1 love much, who keeps himself more secret 

1 36 WALDEN. 

than ever did Goffe or Whalley ; and though he is thought 
to be dead, none can show where he is buried. An elderly 
dame, too, dwells in my neighbourhood, invisible to most 
persons, in whoso odorous herb garden I love to stroll 
sometimes, gathering simples and listening to her fables ; 
for she has a genius of unequalled fertility, and her memory 
runs back farther than mythology, and she can tell me the 
original of every fable, and on what fact every one is 
founded, for the incidents occurred when she was young. 
A ruddy and lusty old dame, who delights in all weathers 
nnd seasons, and is likely to outlive all her children yet. 

The indescribable innocence and beneficence of Nature, 
of sun, and wind, and rain, of summer and winter, such 
health, such cheer, they afford forever ! and such sympathy 
have they ever with our race, that all Nature would be 
affected, and the sun s brightness fade, and the winds 
would sigh humanely, and the clouds rain tears, and the 
woods shed their leaves and put on mourning in midsummer, 
if any man should ever for a just cause grieve. Shall I not 
have intelligence with the earth ? Am I not partly leaves 
and vegetable mould myself 1 

What is the pill which will keep us well, serene, con 
tented ? Not my or thy great-grandfather s, but our 
great-grandmother Nature s universal, vegetable, botanic 
medicines, by which she has kept herself young always, 
outlived so many old Parrs in her day, and fed her health 
with their decaying fatness. For my panacea, instead of 
one of those quack vials of a mixture dipped from Acheron 
and the Dead Sea, which come out of those long shallow 
black-schooner-looking waggons which we sometimes see 
made to carry bottles, let me have a draught of undiluted 
morning air. Morning air ! If men will not drink of this 
at the fountain-head of the day, why, then, we must even 


bottle up some and sell it in the shops, for the benefit of 
those who have lost their subscription ticket to morning 
time in this world. But remember, it will not keep quite 
till noonday even in the coolest cellar, but drive out the 
stopples long ere that and follow westward the steps of 
Aurora. I am no worshipper of Hygeia, who was the 
daughter of that old herb-doctor -ffisculapius, and who is 
represented on monuments holding a serpent in one hand, 
and in the other a cup out of which the serpent sometimes 
drinks ; but rather of Hebe, cup-bearer to Jupiter, who was 
the daughter of Juno and wild lettuce, and who had the 
power of restoring gods and men to the vigour of youth. 
She was probably the only thoroughly souiid-conditionedi 
healthy, and robust young lady that ever walked the globe, 
and whenever she came it was spring. 


THINK that I love society as much aa most, and 
am ready enough to fasten myself like a blood 
sucker for the time to any full-blooded man that 
comes in my way. I am naturally no hermit, 
but might possibly sit out the sturdiest frequenter of the 
bar-room, if my business called me thither. 

I had three chairs in my house ; one for solitude, two for 
friendship, three for society. When visitors came in larger 
and unexpected numbers there was but the third chair for 
them all, but they generally economised the room by stand 
ing up. It is surprising how many great men and women a 
small house will contain. I have had twenty-five or thirty 
souls, with their bodies, at once under my roof, and yet we 
often parted without being aware that we had come very 
near to one another. Many of our houses, both public and 
private, with their almost innumerable apartments, their 
huge halls and their cellars for the storage of wines and 
other munitions of peace, appear to me extravagantly large 
for their inhabitants. They are so vast and magnificent 
that the latter seem to be only vermin which infest them. 
I am surprised when the herald blows his summons before 
some Tremont, or Astor, or Middlesex House, to see come 
creeping out over the piazza for all inhabitants a ridiculous 


mouse, which soon again slinks into some hole in the 

One inconvenience I sometimes experienced in so small a 
house, the difficulty of getting to a sufficient distance from 
my guest when we began to utter the big thoughts in big 
words. You want room for your thoughts to get into sail 
ing trim, and run a course or two before they make their 
port. Tho bullet of your thought must have overcome its 
lateral and ricochet motion, and fallen into its last and 
steady course, before it reaches the ear of the hearer, else it 
may plough out again through the side of his head. Also, 
our sentences wanted room to unfold and form their 
columns in the interval. Individuals, like nations, must 
have suitable broad and natural boundaries, even a con 
siderable neutral ground, between them. I have found it 
a singular luxury to talk across the pond to a companion on 
the opposite side. In my house we were so near that we 
could not begin to hear, we could not speak low enough 
to be heard, as when you throw two stones into calm water 
so near that they break each other s undulations. If we 
are merely loquacious and loud talkers, then we can afford 
to stand very near together, cheek-by-jowl, and feel each 
other s breath ; but if we speak reservedly and thoughtfully, 
we want to be farther apart, that all animal heat and mois 
ture may have a chance to evaporate. If we would enjoy 
the most intimate society with that in each of us which is 
without, or above, being spoken to, we must not only be 
silent, but commonly so far apart bodily that we cannot 
possibly hear each other s voice in any case. Referred to 
this standard, speech is for the convenience of those who 
are hard of hearing ; but there are many fine things which 
we cannot say if we have to shout. As the conversation 
began to assume a loftier and grander tone, we gradually 

140 WALDEN. 

shoved our chairs farther apart till they touched the wull 
in opposite corners, and then commonly there was not room 

My " best " room, however my with drawing-room 
always ready for company, on whose carpet the sun rarely 
fell, was the pine wood behind my house. Thither in sum 
mer days, when distinguished guests came, I took them, and 
a priceless domestic swept the floor, and dusted the furniture, 
and kept the things in order. 

If one guest came he sometimes partook of my frugal 
meal, and it was no interruption to conversation to be stir 
ring a hasty-pudding, or watching the rising and maturing 
of a loaf of bread in the ashes, in the meanwhile. But if 
twenty came and sat in my house there was nothing said 
about dinner, though there might be bread enough for two, 
more than if eating were a forsaken habit ; but we naturally 
practised abstinence ; and this was never felt to be an 
offence against hospitality, but the most proper and con 
siderate course. The waste and decay of physical life, 
which so often needs repair, seemed miraculously retarded 
in such a case, and the vital vigour stood its ground. I 
could entertain thus a thousand as well as twenty ; and if 
any ever went away disappointed or hungry from my house 
when they found me at home, they may depend upon it 
that I sympathised with them at least. So easy is it, 
though many housekeepers doubt it, to establish new and 
better customs in the place of the old. You need not rest 
your reputation on the dinners you give. For my own 
part, I was never so effectually deterred from frequenting a 
man s house, by any kind of Cerberus whatever, as by the 
parade one made about dining me, which I took to be a very 
polite and roundabout hint never to trouble him so again. 
I think I shall never revisit those scenes. I should be 


proud to have for the motto of my cabin those lines of 
Spenser -which one of my visitors inscribed on a yellow 
walnut leaf for a card : 

" Arrived there, the little house they fill, 

No look for entertainment where none was ; 
Rest is their feast, and all things at their will : 
The noblest mind the best contentment has." 

When Winslow, afterward governor of the Plymouth 
Colony, went with a companion on a visit of ceremony to 
Massassoit on foot through the woods, and arrived tired 
and hungry at his lodge, they were well received by the 
king, but nothing was said about eating that day. When 
the night arrived, to quote their own words " He laid us 
on the bed with himself and his wife, they at the one end 
and we at the other, it being only plank, laid a foot from 
the ground, and a thin mat upon them. Two more of his 
chief men, for want of room, pressed by and upon us ; so 
that we were worse weary of our lodging than of our 
journey." At one o clock the next day Massassoit " brought 
two fishes that he had shot," about thrice as big as a 
bream; "these being boiled, there were at least forty 
looked for a share in them. The most ate of them. This 
meal only we had in two nights and a day ; and had not 
one of us bought a partridge, we had taken our journey 
fasting." Fearing that they would be light-headed for 
want of food and also sleep, owing to "the savages bar 
barous singing (for they used to sing themselves asleep)," 
and that they might get home while they had strength to 
travel, they departed. As for lodging, it is true they were 
but poorly entertained, though what they found an incon 
venience was no doubt intended for an honour ; but as far 
as eating was concerned, I do not see how the Indiana 

I 4 2 WALDEN. 

could have done bettor. They had nothing to eat them 
selves, and they were wiser than to think that apologies 
could supply the place of food to their guests ; so they drew 
their belts tighter and said nothing about it. Another 
time when Winslow visited them, it being a season of 
plenty with them, there was no deficiency in this respect. 

As for men, they will hardly fail one anywhere. I had 
more visitors while I lived in the woods than at any other 
period of my life ; I mean that I had some. I met several 
there under more favourable circumstances than I could 
anywhere else. But fewer came to see me upon trivial 
business. In this respect, my company was winnowed by 
my mere distance from town. I had withdrawn so far 
within the great ocean of solitude, into which the rivers of 
society empty, that for the most part, so far as my needs 
were concerned, only the finest sediment was deposited 
around me. Beside, there were wafted to me evidences of 
unexplored and uncultivated continents on the other side. 

Who should come to my lodge this morning but a true 
Homeric or Paphlagonian man, he had so suitable and 
poetic a name that I am sorry I cannot print it here, a 
Canadian, a wood-chopper, and post-maker, who can hole 
fifty posts in a day, who made his last supper on a wood- 
chuck which his dog caught. He, too, has heard of Homer, 
and, "if it were not for books," would "not know what 
to do rainy days," though perhaps he has not read one 
wholly through for many rainy seasons. Some priest who 
could pronounce the Greek itself taught him to read his 
verse in the testament in his native parish far away; 
and now I must translate to him, while he holds the 
book, Achilles reproof to Patroclus for his sad coun 
tenance. " Why are you in tears, Patroclus, like a young 


" Or have you alone hoard some news from Fhthial 
They say that Mencetius lives yet, son of Actor, 
And Peleus lives, son of jEacus, among the Myrmidons, 
Either of whom having died, we should greatly grieve." 

He says, " That s good." He has a great bundle of white- 
oak bark under his arm for a sick man, gathered this 
Sunday morning. " I suppose there s no harm in going 
after such a thing to-day," says he. To him Homer was a 
great writer, though what his writing was about he did not 
know. A more simple and natural man it would be hard 
to find. Vice and disease, which cast such a sombre moral 
hue over the world, seemed to have hardly any existence 
for him. He was about twenty-eight years old, and had 
left Canada and his father s house a dozen years before to 
work in the States, and earn money to buy a farm with at 
last, perhaps in his native country. Ho was cast in the 
coarsest mould ; a stout but sluggish body, yet gracefully 
carried, with a thick sunburnt neck, dark bushy hair, and 
dull, sleepy blue eyes, which were_occasionally lit up with 
expression. He wore a flat grey cloth cap, a dingy wool- 
coloured greatcoat, and cowhide boots. He was a great 
consumer of meat, usually carrying his dinner to his work a 
couple of miles past my house for he chopped all summer 
in a tin pail ; cold meats, often cold woodchucks, and 
coflee in a stone bottle which dangled by a string from his 
belt; and sometimes he offered me a drink. He came 
along early, crossing my bean-field, though without anxiety 
or haste to get to his work, such as Yankees exhibit- 
He wasn t a-going to hurt himself. He didn t care 
if he only earned his board. Frequently he would leave 
his dinner in the bushes, when his dog had caught 
a woodchuck by the way, and go back a mile and 
a half to dress it and leave it in the cellar of the house 

144 WALDEN. 

where he boarded, after deliberating first for half-an-hour 
whether he could not sink it in the pond safely till nightfall 
loving to dwell long upon these themes. He would say, 
as he went by in the morning, " How thick the pigeons 
are ! If working every day were not my trade, I could get 
all the meat I should want by hunting, pigeons, wood- 
chucks, rabbits, partridges, by gosh ! I could get all I 
should want for a week in one day." 

He was a skilful chopper, and indulged in some flourishes 
and ornaments in his art. He cut his trees level and close 
to the ground, that the sprouts which came up afterwards 
might be more vigorous and a sled might slide over the 
stumps ; and instead of leaving a whole tree to support his 
corded wood, he would pare it away to a slender stake 
or splinter which you could break off with your hand at last. 

He interested me because he was so quiet and solitary, 
and so happy withal ; a well of good humour and content 
ment which overflowed at his eyes. His mirth was without 
alloy. Sometimes I saw him at his work in the woods, 
felling trees, and he would greet me with a laugh of inex 
pressible satisfaction, and a salutation in Canadian French, 
though he spoke English as well. When I approached him 
he would suspend his work, and with half-suppressed mirth 
lie along the trunk of a pine which he had felled, and, 
peeling off the inner bark, roll it up into a ball and chew it 
while he laughed and talked. Such an exuberance of 
animal spirits had he that he sometimes tumbled down and 
rolled on the ground with laughter at anything which made 
him think and tickled him. Looking round upon the trees 
he would exclaim, " By George ! I can enjoy myself well 
enough here chopping; I want no better sport." Some 
times, when at leisure, he amused himself all day in the 
woods with a pocket pistol, firing salutes to himself at 


regular intervals as he walked. In the winter he had a fire 
by which at noon he warmed his coffee in a kettle ; and as 
he sat on a log to eat his dinner, the chicadees would some 
times come round and alight on his arm and peck at the 
potato in his fingers ; and he said that he " liked to have 
the little fellers about him." 

In him the animal man chiefly was developed. In 
physical endurance and contentment ho was cousin to the 
pine and the rock. I asked him once if ho was not 
sometimes tired at night, after working all day ; and he 
answered, with a sincere and serious look, "Gorrappit, I 
never was tired in my life." But the intellectual and what 
is called spiritual man in him were slumbering as in an 
infant. He had been instructed only in that innocent and 
ineffectual way in which tho Catholic priests teach the 
aborigines, by which the pupil is never educated to the 
degree of consciousness, but only to tho degree of trust and 
reverence, and a child is not made a man, but kept a child. 
When Nature made him, she gave him a strong body and 
contentment for his portion, and propped him on every side 
with reverence and reliance, that he might live out his 
threescore years and ten a child. He was so genuine and 
unsophisticated that no introduction would serve to intro 
duce him, more than if you introduced a woodchuck to 
your neighbour. He had got to find him out as you did. 
He would not play any part. Men paid him wages for 
work, and so helped to feed and clothe him ; but he never 
exchanged opinions with them. He was so simply and 
naturally humble if he can be called humble who never 
aspires that humility was no distinct quality in him, nor 
could he conceive of it. Wiser men were demigods to him. 
If you told him that such a one was coming, he did as if he 
thought that anything so grand would expect nothing of 


I 4 6 WALDEN. 

himself, but take all the responsibility on itself, and let him 
be forgotten still. He never heard the sound of praise. 
He particularly reverenced the writer and the preacher. 
Their performances were miracles. When I told him that 
I wrote considerably, he thought for a long time that it was 
merely the handwriting which I meant, for he could write a 
remarkably good hand himself. I sometimes found the 
name of his native parish handsomely written in the snow- 
by the highway, with the proper French accent, and knew 
that he had passed. I asked him if he ever wished to write 
his thoughts. He said that he had read and written letters 
for those who could not, but he never tried to write 
thoughts, no, he could not, he could not tell what to put 
first, it would kill him, and then there was spelling to be 
attended to at the same time ! 

I heard that a distinguished wise man and reformer 
asked him if he did not want the world to be changed ; 
but he answered with a chuckle of surprise, in his Canadian 
accent, not knowing that the question had ever been enter 
tained before, "No, I like it well enough." It would 
have suggested many things to a philosopher to have 
dealings with him. To a stranger he appeared to know 
nothing of things in general ; yet I sometimes saw in him 
a man whom I had not seen before, and I did not know 
whether he was as wise as Shakespeare or as simply 
ignorant as a child whether to suspect him of a fine poetic 
consciousness or of stupidity. A townsman told me that 
when he met him sauntering through the village in his 
small close-fitting cap, and whistling to himself, he 
reminded him of a prince in disguise. 

His only books were an almanac and an arithmetic, in 
which last he was considerably expert. The former was a 
sort of cyclopaedia to him, which he supposed to contain 


an abstract of human knowledge, as indeed it does to a 
considerable extent. I loved to sound him on the various 
reforms of the day, and he never failed to look at 
them in the most simple and practical light. He had 
never heard of such things before. Could he do without 
factories 1 I asked. He had worn the home-made Vermont 
grey, he said, and that was good. Could he dispense with 
tea and coffee ? Did this country afford any beverage 
beside water 1 He had soaked hemlock leaves in water and 
drank it, and thought that was better than water in warm 
weather. When I asked him if he could do without money, 
he showed the convenience of money in such a way as to 
suggest and coincide with the most philosophical accounts 
of the origin of this institution, and the very derivation of 
the word pecunia. If an ox were his property, and he 
wished to get needles and thread at the store, he thought 
it would be inconvenient and impossible soon to go on 
mortgaging some portion of the creature each time to that 
amount. He could defend many institutions better than 
any philosopher, because, in describing them as they con 
cerned him, ho gave the true reason for their prevalence, 
and speculation had not suggested to him any other. 
At another time, hearing Plato s definition of a man, a 
biped without feathers, and that one exhibited a cock 
plucked and called it Plato s man, he thought it an import 
ant difference that the knees bent the wrong way. He 
would sometimes exclaim, " How I love to talk ! By 
George, I could talk all day ! " I asked him once, when I 
had not seen him for many months, if he had got a new 
idea this summer. " Good Lord ! " said he, " a man that 
has to work as I do, if he does not forget the ideas he has 
had, he will do well. Maybe the man you hoe with is 
inclined to race; then, by gorry, your mind must be there; 

148 WALDEN. 

you think of weeds." lie would sometimes ask me first on 
such occasions, if I had made any improvement. One winter 
day I asked him if he was always satisfied with himself, 
wishing to suggest a substitute within him for the priest 
without, and some higher motive for living. " Satisfied ! " 
said he, " some men are satisfied with one thing, and some 
with another. One man, perhaps, if he has got enough, will 
be satisfied to sit all day with his back to the fire and his 
belly to the table, by George ! " Yet I never, by any 
manoeuvring, could get him to take the spiritual view 
of things ; the highest that he appeared to conceive of 
was a simple expediency, such as you might expect an 
animal to appreciate ; and this, practically, is true of most 
men. If I suggested any improvement in his mode of life, 
he merely answered, without expressing any regret, that it 
was too late. Yet he thoroughly believed in honesty and 
the like virtues. 

There was a certain positive originality, however slight, 
to be detected in him, and I occasionally observed that he 
was thinking for himself and expressing his own opinion 
a phenomenon so rare that I would any day walk ten miles 
to observe it ; and it amounted to the reorigination of 
many of the institutions of society. Though he hesitated, 
and perhaps failed to express himself distinctly, he always 
had a presentable thought behind. Yet his thinking was 
so primitive and immersed in his animal life, that, though 
more promising than a merely learned man s, it rarely 
ripened to anything which can be reported. He suggested 
that there might be men of genius in the lowest grades of 
life, however permanently humble and illiterate, who take 
their own view always, or do not pretend to see at all who 
are as bottomless even as Walden Pond was thought to be, 
though they may be dark and muddy. 


Many a traveller came out of his way to see me and Lho 
inside of niy house, and, as an excuse for calling, asked for 
a glass of water. I told them that I drank at the pond, 
and pointed thither, offering to lend them a dipper. Far 
off as I lived, I was not exempted from that annual visita 
tion which occurs, methinks, about, the first of April, when 
everybody is on the move; and I had my share of good 
luck, though there were some curious specimens among my 
visitors. Half-witted men from the almshouse and elsewhere 
came to see me ; but I endeavoured to make them exercise 
all the wit they had, and make their confessions to me ; in 
such cases making wit the theme of our conversation ; and 
so was compensated. Indeed, I found some of them to be 
wiser than the so-called overseers of the poor and selectmen 
of the town, and thought it was time that the tables were 
turned. With respect to wit, I learned that there .was not 
much difference between the half and the whole. One day, 
in particular, an inoffensive, simple-minded pauper, whom 
with others I had often seen used as fencing stuff, standing 
or sitting on a bushel in the fields to keep cattle and himself 
from straying, visited me, and expressed a wish to live as I 
did. He told me, with the utmost simplicity and truth, 
quite superior, or rather inferior, to anything that is called 
humility, that he was " deficient in intellect." These were 
his words. The Lord had made him so, yet he supposed 
the Lord cared as much for him as for another. " I have 
always been so," said he " from my childhood ; I never had 
much mind ; I was not like other children ; I am weak in 
the head. It was the Lord s will, I suppose." And there he 
was to prove the truth of his words. Ho was a metaphysi 
cal puzzle to me. I have rarely met a fellow-man on such 
promising ground it was so simple and sincere, and so 
true, all that he said. And, true enough, in proportion as 


he appeared to humble himself was he exalted. I did not 
know at first but it was the result of a wise policy. It 
seemed that from such a basis of truth and frankness as 
the poor weak-headed pauper had laid, our intercourse 
might go forward to something better than the intercourse 
of sages. 

I had some guests from those not reckoned commonly 
among the town s poor, but who should be who are among 
the world s poor, at any rate guests who appeal, not to your 
hospitality, but to your hospitalality ; who earnestly wish 
to be helped, and preface their appeal with the information 
that they are resolved, for one thing, never to help them 
selves. I require of a visitor that lie be not actually starv 
ing, though he may have the very best appetite in the world, 
however he got it. Objects of charity are not guests. Men 
who did^not know when their visit had terminated, though 
I went about my business again, answering them from 
greater and greater remoteness. Men of almost every 
degree of wit called on me in the migrating season. Some 
who had more wits than they knew what to do with 
runaway slaves, with plantation manners, who listened from 
time to time, like the fox in the fable, as if they heard 
the hounds a-baying on their track, and looked at me 
beseechingly, as much as to say 

" Christian, will you send me back ? " 

One real runaway slave, among the rest, whom I had helped 
to forward toward the north star. Men of one idea, like a 
hen with one chicken, and that a duckling ; men of a 
thousand ideas, and unkempt heads, like those hens which 
are made to take charge of a hundred chickens, all in 
pursuit of one bug, a score of them lost in every morning s 
dew, and become frizzled and mangy in consequence j men 


of ideas instead of logs, a sort of intellectual centipede that 
made you crawl all over. One man proposed a book in 
which visitors should write their names, as at the White 
Mountains ; but, alas ! I have too good a memory to make 
that necessary. 

I could not but notice some of the peculiarities of my 
visitors. Girls and boys and young women generally 
seemed glad to be in the woods. They looked in the pond 
and at the flowers, and improved their time. Men of 
business, even farmers, thought only of solitude and employ 
ment, and of the great distance at which I dwelt from 
something or other ; and though they said that they loved 
a ramble in the woods occasionally, it was obvious that they 
did not. Restless, committed men, whose time was all taken 
up in getting a living or keeping it ; ministers who spoke of 
God as if they enjoyed a monopoly of the subject, who 
could not bear all kinds of opinions; doctors, lawyers, 
uneasy housekeepers who pried into my cupboard and bed 

when I was out, how came Mrs. to know that my 

sheets were not as clean as hers ? young men who had 
ceased to be young, and had concluded that it was safest to 
follow the beaten track of the professions, all these 
generally said that it was not possible to do so much good 
in my position. Ay ! there was the rub. The old and 
infirm and the timid, of whatever age or sex, thought most 
of sickness, and sudden accident, and death ; to them life 
seemed full of danger, what danger is there if you don t 
think of any ? and they thought that a prudent man would 

carefully select the safest position, where Dr. B might be 

on hand at a moment s warning. To them the village was 
literary a com-munity, a league for mutual defence, and you 
would suppose that they would not go a-huckleberrying 
without a medicine chest. The amount of it is, if a man is 

152 WALDEN. 

alive, there is always danger that he may die, though the 
danger must be allowed to be less in proportion as he is 
dead-and-alive to begin with. A man sits as many risks as 
he runs. Finally, there were the self-styled reformers, the 
greatest bores of all, who thought that I was forever 

" This is the house that I built ; 
This is the man that lives in the house that I built ; " 

but they did not know that the third line was, 

" These are the folks that worry the man 
That lives in the house that I built." 

I did not fear the hen-harriers, for I kept no chickens, but I 
feared the men-harriers rather. 

I had more cheering visitors than the last. Children 
come a-berrying, railroad men taking a Sunday morning 
walk in clean shirts, fishermen and hunters, poets and philo 
sophers, in short, all honest pilgrims, who came out to the 
woods for freedom s sake, and really left the village behind, 
I was ready to greet with, " Welcome, Englishmen ! wel 
come, Englishmen ! " for I had had communication with 
that race. 


ilEANWIIILE my Leans, the length of whose rows, 
added together, was seven miles already planted, 
were impatient to be hoed, for tho earliest had 
grown considerably before the latest were in the 
ground ; indeed, they were not easily to be put off. What 
was the meaning of this so steady and self-respecting, this 
small Herculean labour, I knew not. I came to love my 
rows, my beans,, though so many more than I wanted. 
They attached me to the earth, antl so I got strength like 
Antaeus. But why should I raise them 1 Only Heaven 
knows. This was my curious labour all summer, to make 
this portion of the earth s surface, which had yielded only 
cinquefoil, blackberries, johnswort, and the like, before, 
sweet wild fruits and pleasant flowers, produce instead this 
pulse. What shall I learn of beans or beans of me ? I 
cherish them, I hoe them, early and late I have an eye to 
them ; and this is my day s work. It is a fine broad leaf to 
look on. My auxiliaries are the dews and rains which 
water this dry soil, and what fertility is in the soil itself, 
which for the most part is lean and effete. My enemies 
are worms, cool days, and most of all woodchucks. The last 
have nibbled for me a quarter of an acre clean. But what 
right had I to oust johnswort and the rest, and break up 
their ancient herb garden ? Soon, however, the remaining 

154 WALDEN. 

Loans will be too tough for them, and go forward to meet 
new foes. 

When I was four years old, as I well remember, I was 
brought from Boston to this my native town, through these 
very woods and this field, to the pond. It is one of the 
oldest scenes stamped on my memory. And now to-night 
my flute has waked the echoes over that very water, The 
pines still stand here, older than I ; or, if some have fallen, 
I have cooked my supper with their stumps, and a new 
growth is rising all around, preparing another aspect for 
new infant eyes. Almost the same jolmswort springs from 
the same perennial root in this pasture, and even I have at 
length helped to clothe that fabulous landscape of my infant 
dreams, and one of the results of my presence and influence 
is seen in these bean leaves, corn blades, and potato vines. 

I planted about two acres and a-half of upland ; and as 
it was only about fifteen years since the land was cleared, 
and I myself had got out two or three cords of stumps, I 
did not give it any manure ; but in the course of the 
summer it appeared by the arrow-heads which I turned up 
in hoeing, that an extinct nation had anciently dwelt here 
and planted corn and beans ere white men came to clear 
the land, and so, to some extent, had exhausted the soil for 
this very crop. 

Before yet any woodchuck or squirrel had run across the 
road, or the sun had got above the shrub oaks, while all the 
dew was on, though the farmers warned me against it, I 
would advise you to do all your work if possible while the 
dew is on, I began to level the ranks of haughty weeds in 
my bean-field and throw dust upon their heads. Early in 
the morning I worked barefooted, dabbling like a plastic 
artist in the dewy and crumbling sand, but later in the day 
the sun blistered my feet. There the sun lighted me to hoe 


beans, pacing slowly backward and forward over that 
yellow gravelly upland, between the long green rows, 
fifteen rods, the one end terminating in a shrub oak copse 
where I could rest in the shade, the other in a blackberry 
field where the green berries deepened their tints by the 
time I had made another bout. Removing the weeds, 
putting fresh soil about the bean stems, and enouraging 
this weed which I had sown, making the yellow soil express 
its summer thought in bean leaves and blossoms rather than 
in wormwood and piper and millet grass, making the earth 
say beans instead of grass, this was my daily work. As I 
had little aid from horses or cattle, or hired men or boys, 
or improved implements of husbandry, I was much slower, 
and became much more intimate with my beans than usual. 
But labour of the hands, even when pursued to the verge of 
drudgery, is perhaps never the worst form of idleness. It 
has a constant and imperishable moral, and to the scholar 
it yields a classic result. A very ayricola laboriosus was I 
to travellers bound westward through Lincoln and Way- 
land to nobody knows where ; they sitting at their ease in 
gigs, with elbows on knees, and reins loosely hanging in 
festoons ; I the home-staying, laborious native of the soil. 
Cut soon my homestead was out of their sight and thought. 
It was the only open and cultivated field for a great distance 
on either side of the road, so they made the most of it ; and 
sometimes the man in the field heard more of travellers gossip 
and comment than was meant for his ear : " Beans so late ! 
peas so late ! " for I continued to plant when others had 
began to hoe, the ministerial husbandman had not sus 
pected it. "Corn, my boy, for fodder; corn for fodder." 
" Does he live there 1 " asks the black bonnet of the grey 
coat ; and the hard-featured tarmer reins up his grateful dob 
bin to inquire what you are doing where he sees no manure in 

156 WALDEN. 

the furrow, and recommends a little chip dirt, or any littlo 
waste stuff, or it may be ashes or plaster. But here were 
two acres and a-half of furrows, and only a hoe for cart and 
two hands to draw it, there being an aversion to other 
carts and horses, and chip dirt far away. Fellow-travellers 
as they rattled by compared it aloud with the fields which 
they had passed, so that I came to know how I stood in the 
agricultural world. This was one field not in Mr. Coleman s 
report. And, by the way, who estimates the value of the 
crop which Nature yields in the still wilder fields unim 
proved by man ? The crop of English hay is carefully 
weighed, the moisture calculated, the silicates and the 
potash ; but in all dells and pond holes in the woods and 
pastures and swamps grows a rich and various crop only 
unreaped by man. Mine was, as it were, the connecting 
link between wild and cultivated fields ; as some states are 
civilised, and others half-civilised, and others savage or 
barbarous, so my field was, though not in a bad sense, a 
half -cultivated field. They were beans cheerfully returning 
to their wild and primitive state that I cultivated, and my 
hoe played the Bans des Vaches for them. 

Near at hand, upon the topmost spray of a birch, sings 
the brown-thrasher or red mavis, as some love to call him 
all the morning, glad of your society, that would find 
out another farmer s field if yours were not here. While 
you are planting the seed, he cries, " Drop it, drop it, 
cover it up, cover it up, pull it up, pull it up, pull it up." 
But this was not corn, and so it was safe from such enemies 
as he. You may wonder what his rigmarole, his amateur 
Paganini performances on one string or on twenty, have to 
do with your planting, and yet prefer it to leached ashes 
or plaster. It was a cheap sort of top-dressing in which 
I had entire faith. 


As I drew a still fresher soil about the rows with my 
hoe, I disturbed the ashes of unchronicled nations who in 
primeval years lived under these heavens, and their small 
implements of war and hunting were brought to the light 
of this modern day. They lay mingled with other natural 
stones, some of which bore the marks of having been burned 
by Indian fires, and some by the sun, and also bits of 
pottery and glass brought hither by the recent cultivators 
of the soil. When my hoe tinkled against the stones, that 
music echoed to the woods and the sky, and was an 
accompaniment to my labour which yielded an instant and 
immeasurable crop. It was no longer beans that I hoed 
nor I that hoed beans ; and I remembered with as much 
pity as pride, if I remembered at all, my acquaintances 
who had gone to the city to attend the oratorios. Tho 
night-hawk circled overhead in the sunny afternoons for I 
sometimes made a day of it like a mote in the eye, or 
in heaven s eye, falling from time to time with a swoop and 
a sound as if the heavens were rent, torn at last to very 
rags and tatters, and yet a seamless cope remained ; small 
imps that fill the air and lay their eggs on the ground 
on bare sand or rocks on the tops of hills, where few 
have found them ; graceful and slender like ripples caught 
up from the pond, as leaves are raised by the wind to float 
in the heavens ; such kindredship is in Nature. The hawk 
is aerial brother of the wave which he sails over and 
surveys, those his perfect air-inflated wings answering to 
the elemental unfledged pinions of the sea. Or sometimes 
I watched a pair of hen-hawks circling high in the sky, 
alternately soaring and descending, approaching and leav 
ing one another, as if they were the embodiment of my own 
thoughts. Or I was attracted by the passage of wild 
pigeons from this wood to that, with a slight quivering 

158 WALDEN. 

winnowing sound and carrier haste ; or from under a rotten 
stump my hoe turned up a sluggish, portentous, and out 
landish spotted salamander, a trace of Egypt and the Nile, 
yet our contemporary. When I paused to lean on my hoe, 
these sounds and sights I heard and saw anywhere in 
the row, a part of the inexhaustible entertainment which 
the country offers. 

On gala days the town fires its great guns, which echo 
like pop-guns to these woods, and some waifs of martial 
music occasionally penetrate thus far. To me, away there 
in my bean-field at the other end of the town, the big guns 
sounded as if a puff-ball had burst ; and when there was a 
military turn-out of which I was ignorant, I have sometimes 
had a vague sense all the day of some sort of itching and 
disease in the horizon, as if some eruption would break 
out there soon either scarlatina or canker-rash until at 
length some more favourable puff of wind, making haste 
over the fields and up the Wayland road, brought me 
information of the " trainers." It seemed by the distant 
hum as if somebody s bees had swarmed, and that the neigh 
bours, according to Virgil s advice, by a faint tintinnabulum 
upon the most sonorous of their domestic utensils, were 
endeavouring to call them down into the hive again. And 
when the sound died quite away, and the hum had ceased, 
and the most favourable breezes told no tale, I knew that 
they had got the last drone of them all safely into the 
Middlesex hive, and that now their minds were bent on the 
honey with which it was smeared. 

I felt proud to know that the liberties of Massachusetts 
and of our fatherland were in such safe keeping ; and as I 
turned to my hoeing again I was filled with an inexpressible 
confidence, and pursued my labour cheerfully, with a calm 
trust in the future. 


When there were several bands of musicians, it sounded 
as if all the village was a vast bellows, and all the buildings 
expanded and collapsed alternately with a din. But some 
times it was a really noble and inspiring strain that reached 
these woods, and the trumpet that sings of fame, and I felt 
as if I could spit a Mexican with a good relish, for why 
should we always stand for trifles ? and looked round for a 
woodchuck or a skunk to exercise my chivalry upon. 
Those martial strains seemed as far away as Palestine, and 
reminded mo of a march of crusaders in the horizon, with 
a slight tantivy and tremulous motion of the elm-tree tops 
which overhang the village. This was one of the great 
days ; though the sky had from my clearing only the same 
everlasting great look that it wears daily. 

It was a singular experience that long acquaintance 
which I cultivated with beans, what with planting and 
hoeing, and harvesting, and threshing, and picking over, 
and selling them, the last was the hardest of all, I might 
add eating, for I did taste. I was determined to know 
beans. When they were growing, I used to hoe from five 
o clock in the morning till noon, and commonly spent the 
rest of the day about other affairs. Consider the intimate 
and curious acquaintance one makes with various kinds 
of weeds, it will bear some iteration in the account, for 
there is no little iteration in the labour, disturbing their 
delicate organisations so ruthlessly, and making such 
invidious distinctions with his hoe, levelling whole ranks of 
one species, and sedulously cultivating another. That s 
Roman wormwood, that s pigweed, that s sorrel, that s 
piper-grass, have at him, chop him up, turn his roots 
upward to the sun, don t let him have a fibre in the 
shade ; if you do, he ll turn himself t other side up and be as 
green as a leek in two days. A long war, not with cranes, 

160 WALDEN. 

but with weeds, those Trojans who had sun, and rain, and 
dews on their side. Daily the beans saw me come to their 
rescue armed with a hoe, and thin the ranks of their 
enemies, filling up the trenches with weedy dead. Many a 
lusty crest-waving Hector, that towered a whole foot above 
his crowding comrades, fell before my weapon. 

Those summer days which some of my contemporaries 
devoted to the fine arts in Boston or Rome, and others to 
contemplation in India, and others to trade in London or 
New York, I thus, with the other farmers of New England, 
devoted to husbandry. Not that I wanted beans to eat, 
for I am by nature a Pythagorean, so far as beans are 
concerned, whether they mean porridge or voting, and 
exchanged them for rice; but, perchance, as some must 
work in fields if only for the sake of tropes and expression, 
to serve a parable-maker one day. It was on the whole a 
rare amusement, which, continued too long, might have 
become a dissipation. Though I gave them no manure, 
and did not hoe them all once, I hoed them unusually well 
as far as I went, and was paid for it in the end, "there 
being in truth," as Evelyn says, " no compost or lactation 
whatsoever comparable to this continual motion, repastina- 
tion, and turning of the mould with the spade." "The 
earth," he adds elsewhere, "especially if fresh, has a cer 
tain magnetism in it, by which it attracts the salt, power, 
or virtue (call it either) which gives it life, and is the logic 
of all the labour and stir we keep about it, to sustain us ; 
all dungings and other sordid temperings being but the 
vicars succedaneous to this improvement." Moreover, this 
being one of those "worn out and exhausted lay fields 
which enjoy their Sabbath," had perchance, as Sir Kenelm 
Digby thinks likely, attracted " vital spirits " from the air. 
I harvested twelve bushels of beans. 


But to he more particular, for it is complained that Mr. 
Coleman has reported chiefly the expensive experiments of 
gentlemen farmers, my outgoes were 

For a hoe . $054 

Ploughing, harrowing, and furrowing . 7 50, Too much. 

Beans for seed 3 Vl\ 

Potatoes ,, 1 33 

Peas ,, 0-10 

Turnip seed 06 

White line for crow fence . . . 02 

Horse cultivator and boy three hours . 1 00 

Horse and cart to get crop . ~ . . 75 

In all 14 72<r 

My income was (patrem farnilias vendacem, non emacem 
esse oportet), from 

Nine bushels and twelve quarts of beans sold , . $1G 94 

Five ,, large potatoes 2 50 

Nine small 2 25 

Grass 1 00 

Stalks . 75 

In all $23 44 

Leaving a pecuniary profit, as I have elsewhere said, of 8 71 \ 

This is the result of my experience in raising beans. 
Plant the common small white bush bean about the first of 
June, in rows three feet by eighteen inches apart, being careful 
to select fresh, round, and unmixed seed. First look out for 
worms, and supply vacancies by planting anew. Then look 
out for woodchucks, if it is an exposed place, for they will 
nibble off the earliest tender leaves almost clean as they go ; 
and again, when the young tendrils make their appearance, 
they have notice of it, and will shear them off with both 
buds and young pods, sitting erect like a squirrel. But 
above all harvest as early as possible, if you would escape 
frosts and have a fair and saleable crop ; you may save 
much loss by this means. 


1 62 WALDEN. 

This further experience also I gained. I said to myself, 
I will not plant beans and corn with so much industry 
another summer, but such seeds, if the seed is not lost, as 
sincerity, truth, simplicity, faith, innocence, and the like, 
and see if they will not grow in this soil, even with less 
toil and manurance, and sustain me, for surely it has not been 
exhausted for these crops. Alas ! I said this to myself ; but 
now another summer is gone, and another, and another, and 
I am obliged to say to you, reader, that the seeds which 
I planted, if indeed they were the seeds of those virtues, 
were worm-eaten or had lost their vitality, and so did not 
come up. Commonly men will only be brave as their 
fathers were brave or timid. This generation is very sure to 
plant corn and beans each new year precisely as the Indians 
did centuries ago and taught the first settlers to do, as if 
there were a fate in it. I saw an old man the other day, to 
my astonishment, making the holes with a hoe for the seven 
tieth time at least, and not for himself to lie down in ! 
But why should not the New Englander try new adventures, 
and not lay so much stress on his grain, his potato and 
grass crop, and his orchards, raise other crops than these ? 
Why concern ourselves so much about our beans for seed, 
and not be concerned at all about a new generation of men 1 
We should really be fed and cheered if when we met a man 
we were sure to see that some of the qualities which I have 
named, which we all prize more than those other produc 
tions, but which are for the most part broadcast and 
floating in the air, had taken root and grown in him. 
Here comes such a subtile and ineffable quality, for 
instance, as truth or justice, though the slightest amount or 
new variety of it, along the road. Our ambassadors should 
be instructed to send home such seeds as these, and Con 
gress help to distribute then over all the land. We should 


never stand upon ceremony with sincerity. Wo should 
never cheat and insult and banish one another by our 
meanness, if there were present the kernel of worth and 
friendliness. We should not meet thus in haste. Most 
men I do not meet at all, for they seem not to have time ; 
they are busy about their beans. We would not deal with 
a man thus plodding ever, leaning on a hoe or a spade as a 
staff between his work, not as a mushroom, but partially 
risen out of the earth, something more than erect, like 
swallows alighted and walking on the ground : 

" And as he spake, his wings would now and then 
Spread, as he meant to fly, then close again," 

so that we should suspect that we might be conversing 
with an angel. Bread may not always nourish us, but it 
always does us good ; it even takes stiffness out of our 
joints, and makes us supple and buoyant, when we knew 
not what ailed us, to recognise any generosity in man or 
Nature, to share any unmixed and heroic joy. 

Ancient poetry and mythology suggest, at least, that 
husbandry was once a sacred art ; but it is pursued witli 
irreverent haste and heedlessness by us, our object being to 
have large farms and large crops merely. We have no 
festival, nor procession, nor ceremony, not excepting our 
Cattle Shows and so-called Thanksgivings, by which tho 
farmer expresses a sense of the sacredness of his calling, or 
is reminded of its sacred origin. It is the premium and 
the feast which tempt him. He sacrifices not to Ceres and 
the Terrestrial Jove, but to the infernal Plutus rather. 
By avarice and selfishness, and a grovelling habit, from 
which none of us is free, of regarding tho soil as property, 
or the means of acquiring property chiefly, the landscape is 
deformed, husbandry is degraded with us, and the farmer 

164 WALDEN. 

leads the meanest of lives. He knows Nature but as a 
robber. Cato says that the profits of agriculture are par 
ticularly pious or just (maximeque plus qutzstus), and 
according to Varro the old Romans " called the same earth 
Mother and Ceres, and thought that they who cultivated it 
led a pious and useful life, and that they alone were left of 
the race of King Saturn." 

We are wont to forget that the sun looks on our culti 
vated fields, and on the prairies and forests without 
distinction. They all reflect and absorb his rays alike, and 
the former make but a small part of the glorious picture 
which he beholds in his daily course. In his view the 
earth is all equally cultivated like a garden. Therefore we 
should receive the benefit of his light and heat with a cor 
responding trust and magnanimity. What though I value 
the seed of these beans, and harvest that in the fall of the 
year 1 This broad field which I have looked at so long 
looks not to me as the principal cultivator, but away from 
me to influences more genial to it, which water and make it 
green. These beans have results which are not harvested 
by me. Do they not grow for woodchucks partly ? The 
ear of wheat (in Latin spica, obsoletely spcca, from spe t 
hope) should not be the only hope of the husbandman ; its 
kernel or grain (granum, from gerendo, bearing) is not all 
that it bears. How, then, can our harvest fail ? Shall I 
not rejoice also at the abundance of the weeds whose seeds 
are the granary of the birds 1 It matters little compara 
tively whether the fields fill the farmer s barns. The true 
husbandman will cease from anxiety, as the squirrels mani 
fest no concern whether the woods will bear chestnuts this 
year or not, and finish his labour with every day, relin 
quishing all claim to the produce of his fields, and sacrificing 
in his mind not only his first but his last fruits also, 


jFTER hoeing, or perhaps^ reading and writing, in 
the forenoon, I usually Lathed again in the pond, 
swimming across one of its coves for a stint, and 
washed the dust of labour from my person, or 
smoothed out the last wrinkle which study had made, and 
for the afternoon was absolutely free. Every day or two I 
strolled to the village to hear some of the gossip which is 
incessantly going on there, circulating either from mouth to 
mouth, or from newspaper to newspaper, and which, taken in 
homoeopathic doses, was really as refreshing in its way as 
the rustle of leaves and the peeping of frogs. As I walked in 
the woods to see the birds and squirrels, so I walked in the 
village to see the men and boys ; instead of the wind among 
the pines I heard the carts rattle. In one direction from 
my house there was a colony of muskrats in the river 
meadows ; under the grove of elms and buttonwoods in the 
other horizon was a village of busy men, as curious to me 
as if they had been prairie dogs, each sitting at the mouth 
of its burrow, or running over to a neighbour s to gossip. 
I went there frequently to observe their habits. The 
village appeared to me a great news-room ; and on one side, 
to support it, as once at Bedding & Company s on State 
Street, they kept nuts and raisins, or salt and meal, and 

166 WALDEN, 

other groceries. Some have such a vast appetite for the 
former commodity that is, the news and such sound 
digestive organs, that they can sit forever in public avenues 
without stirring, and let it simmer and whisper through 
them like the Etesian winds, or as if inhaling ether, it only 
producing numbness and insensibility to pain, otherwise 
it would often be painful to hear, without affecting the 
consciousness. I hardly ever failed, when I rambled 
through the village, to see a row of such worthies, either 
sitting on a ladder sunning themselves, with their bodies 
inclined forward and their eyes glancing along the line this 
way and that, from time to time, with a voluptuous 
expression, or else leaning against a barn with their hands 
in their pockets, like caryatides, as if to prop it up. They, 
being commonly out of doors, heard whatever was in the 
wind. These are the coarsest mills, in which all gossip is 
first rudely digested or cracked up before it is emptied 
into finer and more delicate hoppers within doors. I 
observed that the vitals of the village were the grocery, 
the bar-room, the post office, and the bank ; and, as a 
necessary part of the machinery, they kept a bell, a big 
gun, and a fire-engine, at convenient places ; and the houses 
were so arranged as to make the most of mankind, in lanes 
and fronting one another, so that every traveller had to run 
the gauntlet, and every man, woman, and child might get a 
lick at him. Of course, those who were stationed nearest 
to the head of the line, where they could most see and be 
seen, and have the first blow at him, paid the highest prices 
for their place ; and the few straggling inhabitants in the 
outskirts, where long gaps in the line began to occur, and 
the traveller could get over walls or turn aside into cow- 
paths, and so escape, paid a very slight ground or window 
tax. Signs were hung out on all sides to allure him ; some 


to catch him by the appetite, as the tavern and victualling 
cellar ; some by the fancy, as the dry goods store and the 
jeweller s ; and others by the hair, or the feet, or the skirts, 
as the barber, the shoemaker, or the tailor. Besides, there 
was a still more terrible standing invitation to call at every 
one of these houses, and company expected about these 
times. For the most part I escaped wonderfully from these 
dangers, either by proceeding at once boldly and without 
deliberation to the goal, as is rec&mmended to those who 
run the gauntlet, or by keeping rny thoughts on high 
things, like Orpheus, who, " loudly singing the praises of 
the gods to his lyre, drowned the voices of the Sirens, and 
kept out of danger." Sometimes I bolted suddenly, and 
nobody could tell my whereabouts, for I did not stand 
much about gracefulness, and never hesitated at a gap in a 
fence. I was even accustomed to make an irruption into 
some houses, where I was well entertained, and after learn 
ing the kernels and very last sieveful of news, what had 
subsided, the pr-ospccts of war and peace, and whether the 
world was likely to hold together much longer, I was let out 
through the rear avenues, and so escaped to the woods again. 
It was very pleasant, when I staid late in town, to 
launch myself into the night, especially if it was dark and 
temptestuous, and set sail from some bright village parlour 
or lecture room, with a bag of rye or Indian meal upon my 
shoulder, for my snug harbour in the woods, having made 
all tight without and withdrawn under hatches with a 
merry crew of thoughts, leaving only my outer man at 
the helm, or even tying up the helm when it was plain 
sailing. I had many a genial thought by the cabin fire 
" as I sailed." I was never cast away nor distressed in 
any weather, though I encountered some severe storms. It 
is darker in the woods, even in common nights, than most 

1 68 WALDEN. 

suppose. I frequently had to look up at the opening 
between the trees above the path in order to learn my 
route, and, where there was no cart-path, to feel with 
nay feet the faint track which I had worn, or steer by 
the known relation of particular trees which I felt with 
nay hands, passing between two pines for instance, not 
more than eighteen inches apart, in the midst of the woods, 
invariably in the darkest night. Sometimes, after coming 
home thus late in a dark and muggy night, when my feet 
felt the path which my eyes could not see, dreaming and 
absent-minded all the way, until I was aroused by having 
to raise my hand to lift the latch, I have not been able to 
recall a single step of my walk, and I have thought that 
perhaps my body would find its way home if its master 
should forsake it, as the hand finds its way to the mouth 
without assistance. Several times, when a visitor chanced 
to stay into evening, and it proved a dark night, I was 
obliged to conduct him to the cart-path in the rear of the 
house, and then point out to him the direction he was 
to pursue, and in keeping which he was to be guided rather 
by his feet than his eyes. One very dark night I directed 
thus on their way two young men who had been fishing in 
the pond. They lived about a mile off through the woods, 
and were quite used to the route. A day or two after one 
of them told me that they wandered about the greater part 
of the night, close by their own premises, and did not get 
home till toward morning, by which time, as there had been 
several heavy showers in the meanwhile, and the leaves were 
very wet, they were drenched to their skins. I have heard 
of many going astray even in the village streets, when the 
darkness was so thick that you could cut it with a knife, as 
the saying is. Some who live in the outskirts, having conie 
to town a-shopping in their waggons, have been obliged to 


put up for the night ; and ladies and gentlemen making 
a call, have gone half-a-milo out of their way, feeling the 
side-walk only with their feet, and not knowing when 
they turned. It is a surprising and memorable, as well as 
valuable experience, to be lost in the woods at any time. 
Often in a snow-storm, even by day, one will come out 
upon a well-known road and yet find it impossible to tell 
which way leads to the village. Though he knows that 
he has travelled it a thousand times, he cannot recognise a 
feature in it, but it is as strange to him as if it were a road 
in Siberia. By night, of course, the perplexity is infinitely 
greater. In our most trivial walks we are constantly, 
though unconsciously, steering like pilots by certain well- 
known beacons and headlands, and if we go beyond our 
usual course we still carry in our minds the bearing of some 
neighbouring cape ; and not till we are completely lost, or 
turned round, for a man needs only to be turned round 
once with his eyes shut in this world to be lost, do we 
appreciate the vastness and strangeness of Nature. Every 
man has to learn the points of compass again as often as he 
awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till 
we are lost in other words, not till we have lost the world 
do we begin to find ourselves, and realise where we are, and 
the infinite extent of our relations. 

One afternoon, near the end of the first summer, when I 
went to the village to get a shoe from the cobbler s, I was 
seized^ and put into jail, because, as I have elsewhere 
related, I did not pay a tax to, or recognise the authority 
of, the state which buys and sells men, women, and 
children, like cattle at the door of its senate-house. I had 
gone down the woods for other purposes. But, wherever 
a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty 
institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to 

i7c WALDEN. 

their desperate odd-fellow society. It is true, I might have 
resisted forcibly with more or less effect, might have run 
" amok " against society ; but I preferred that society 
should run "amok" against me, it being the desperate 
party. However, I was released the next day, obtained 
my mended shoe, and returned to the woods in season to 
get my dinner of huckleberries on Fair-Haven Hill. I 
was never molested by any person but those who repre 
sented the state. I had no lock nor bolt but for the desk 
which held my papers, not even a nail to put over my latch 
or windows. I never fastened my door night or day, 
though I was to be absent several days; not even when 
the next fall I spent a fortnight in the woods of Maine. 
And yet my house was more respected than if it had been 
surrounded by a file of soldiers. The tired rambler could 
rest and warm himself by my fire, the literary amuse him 
self with the few books on my table, or the curious, by 
opening my closet door, see what was left of my dinner, 
and what prospect I had of a supper. Yet, though many 
people of every class came this way to the pond, I suffered 
no serious inconvenience from these sources, and I never 
missed anything but one small book, a volume of Homer, 
which perhaps was improperly gilded, and this I trust a 
soldier of our camp has found by this time. I am con 
vinced, that if all men were to live as simply as I then 
did, thieving and robbery would be unknown. These take 
place only in communities where some have got morp than 
is sufficient, while others have not enough. The Pope s 
Homers would soon get properly distributed 

"Nee bella fuerunt, 
Faginus astabat dum scyplius ante dapes." 

1 Nor wars did men molest, 
When only beechen bowls were in request." 



"You who govern public afl airs, what need have you to 
employ punishments 1 Love virtue, and the people will 
bo virtuous. The virtues of a superior man are like the 
wind ; the virtues of a common man are like the grass ; 
the grass, when the wind passes over it, bends." 


ilOMETIMES, having had a surfeit of human 
society and gossip, and worn out all my village 
friends, I rambled still farther westward than 
I habitually dwell, into yet more unfrequented 
parts of the town, " to fresh woods and pastures new," or, 
while the sun was setting, made my supper of huckleberries 
and blueberries on Fair-Haven Hill, and laid up a store for 
several days. The fruits do not yield their true flavour to 
the purchaser of them, nor to him who raises them for the 
market. There is but one way to obtain it, yet few take 
that way. If you would know the flavour of huckleberries, 
ask the cow-boy or the partridge. It is a vulgar error to 
suppose that you have tasted huckleberries who never 
plucked them. A huckleberry never reaches Boston ; they 
have not been known there since they grew on her three 
hills. The ambrosial and essential part of the fruit is lost 
with the bloom which is rubbed off in the market-cart, and 
they become mere provender. As long as Eternal Justice 
reigns, not one innocent huckleberry can be transported 
thither from the country s hills. 

Occasionally, after my hoeing was done for the day, I 
joined some impatient companion who had been fishing on 
the poud since morning, as silent and motionless as a duck 


or a floating leaf,- and, after practising various kinds of 
philosophy, had concluded commonly, by the time I arrived, 
that he belonged to the ancient sect of Coenobites. There 
was one older man, an excellent fisher and skilled in all 
kinds of woodcraft, who was pleased to look upon my house 
as a building erected for the convenience of fishermen : and 
I was equally pleased when he sat in my doorway to 
arrange his lines. Once in a while we sat together on the 
pond, he at one end of the boat and I at the other ; but 
not many woixls passed between us, for he had grown deaf 
in his later years, but he occasionally hummed a psalm, 
which harmonised well enough with my philosophy. Our 
intercourse was thus altogether one of unbroken harmony, 
far more pleasing to remember than if it had been carried 
on by speech. When, as was commonly the case, I had 
none to commune with, I used to raise the echoes by 
striking with a paddle on the side of my boat, filling the 
surrounding woods with circling and dilating sound, stirring 
them up as the keeper of a menagerie his wild beasts, until 
I elicited a growl from every wooded vale and hill-side. 

In warm evenings I frequently sat in the boat playing 
the llute, and saw the perch, which I seemed to havo 
charmed, hovering around me, and the moon travelling over 
the ribbed bottom, which was strewed with the wrecks of 
the forest. Formerly I had come to this pond adventur 
ously, from time to time, in dark summer nights, with a 
companion, and making a fire close to the water s edge, 
which we thought attracted the fishes, we caught pouts with 
a bunch of worms strung on a thread, and when we had 
done, far in the night, threw the burning brands high into 
the air like sky-rockets, which, coming down into the pond, 
were quenched with a loud hissing, and we were suddenly 
groping in total darkness. Through this, whistling a tune, 

174 WALDEN. 

we took our way to the haunts of men again. But now I 
had made my home by the shore. 

Sometimes, after staying in a village parlour till tho 
family had all retired, I have returned to the woods, and, 
partly with a view to the next day s dinner, spent the 
hours of midnight fishing from a boat by moonlight, sere 
naded by owls and foxes, and hearing, from time to time, 
the creaking note of some unknown bird close at hand. 
These experiences were very memorable and valuable to 
me, anchored in forty feet of water, and twenty or thirty 
rods from the shore, surrounded sometimes by thousands 
of small perch and shiners, dimpling the surface with their 
tails in the moonlight, and communicating by a long flaxen 
line with mysterious nocturnal fishes which had their 
dwelling forty feet below, or sometimes dragging sixty feet 
of line about the pond as I drifted in the gentle night 
breeze, now and then feeling a slight vibration along it, 
indicative of some life prowling about its extremity, of dull 
uncertain blundering purpose there, and slow to make up its 
mind. At length you slowly raise, pulling hand over hand, 
some horned pout squeaking and squirming to the upper air. 
It was very queer, especially in dark nights, when your 
thoughts had wandered to vast and cosmogonal themes in 
other spheres, to feel this faint jerk, which came to inter 
rupt your dreams and link you to Nature again. It seemed 
as if I might next cast my line upward into the air, as well 
as downward into this element which was scarcely moro 
dense. Thus I caught two fishes, as it were, with one hook. 

The scenery of Walclen is on a humble scale, and, though 
very beautiful, does not approach to grandeur, nor can it 
much concern one who has not long frequented it or lived 
by its shore; yet this pond is so remarkable for its depth 

THE rONDS. 175 

and purity as to merit a particular description. It is a clear 
and deep green well, half -a-milo long and a mile and three- 
quarters in circumference, and contains about sixty -one and 
a-half acres ; a perennial spring in the midst of pine and 
oak woods, without any visible inlet or outlet except by tho 
clouds and evaporation. The surrounding hills rise abruptly 
from the water to the height of forty to eighty feet, though 
on the south-east and cast they attain to about one hundred 
and one hundred and fifty feet respectively, within a 
quarter and a third of a mile. They are exclusively wood 
land. All our Concord waters have two colours at least, 
one when viewed at a distance, and another, more proper, 
close at hand. The iirst depends more on the light, and 
follows the sky. In clear weather, in summer, they appear 
blue at a little distance, especially if agitated, and at a 
great distance all appear alike. In stormy weather they 
arc sometimes of a dark slate colour. The sea, however, is 
said to be blue one day and green another without any 
perceptible change in the atmosphere. I have seen our 
river, when, the landscape being covered with snow, both 
water and ico were almost as green as grass. Some 
consider blue " to be tho colour of pure water, whether 
liquid or solid." But, looking directly down into our 
waters from a boat, they are seen to be of very different 
colours. Walden. is blue at one time and green at another, 
even from tho same point of view. Lying between the 
earth and the heavens, it partakes of tho colour of both. 
Viewed from a hill-top it reflects the colour of tho sky, but 
near at hand it is of a yellowish tint next the shore whero 
you can see the sand, then a light green, which gradually 
deepens to a uniform dark green in the body of the pond. 
In some lights, viewed even from a hill-top, it is of a vivid 
next the shore. Some have referred this to the 

176 WALDEN. 

reflection of the verdure; but it is equally green tliore 
against the railroad sand-bank, and in the spring, before 
the leaves are expanded, and it may be simply the result of 
the prevailing blue mixed with the yellow of the sand. 
Such is the colour of its iris. This is that portion, also, 
where in the spring, the ice being warmed by the heat of 
the sun reflected from the bottom, and also transmitted 
through the earth, melts first and forms a narrow canal 
about the still frozen middle. Like the rest of our waters, 
when much agitated, in clear weather, so that the surface 
of the waves may reflect the sky at the right angle, or 
because there is more light mixed with it, it appears at a 
little distance of a darker blue than the sky itself ; and at 
such a time, being on its surface, and looking with divided 
vision, so as to see the reflection, I have discerned a 
matchless and indescribable light blue, such as watered or 
changeable silks and sword blades suggest, more cerulean 
than the sky itself, alternating with the original dark green 
on the opposite sides of the waves, which last appeared but 
muddy in comparison. It is a vitreous greenish blue, as I 
remember it, like those patches of the winter sky seen 
through cloud vistas in the west before sundown. Yet a 
single glass of its water held up to the light is as colourless 
as an equal quantity of air. It is well known that a largo 
plate of glass will have a green tint, owing, as the makers 
say, to its " body," but a small piece of the same will bo 
colourless. How large a body of Walden water would bo 
required to reflect a green tint I have never proved. The 
water of our river is black or a very dark brown to one 
looking directly down on it, and, like that of most ponds, 
imparts to the body of one bathing in it a yellowish tinge ; 
but this water is of such crystalline purity that the body of 
the bather appears of an alabaster whiteness, still more- 


unnatural, which, as tho limbs are magnified and distorted 
withal, produces a monstrous effect, making fit studies for a 
Michael Angelo. 

The water is so transparent that the bottom can easily bo 
discerned at the depth of twenty-five or thirty feet. 
Paddling over it, you may see many feet beneath the 
surface the schools of perch and shiners, perhaps only an 
inch long, yet the former easily distinguished by their 
transverse bars, and you think that they must be ascetic 
fish that find a subsistence there. Once, in the winter, 
many years ago, when I had been cutting holes through the 
ice in order to catch pickerel, as I stepped ashore I tossed 
my axe back on to tho ice, but, as if some evil genius had 
directed it, it slid four or five rods directly into one of the 
holes, where tho water was twenty-five feet deep. Out of 
curiosity, I lay down on the ice and looked through tho hole, 
until I saw the axe a little on one side, standing on its 
head, with its helve erect and gently swaying to and fro with 
the pulse of the pond ; and there it might have stood erect 
and swaying till in the course of time the handle rotted off, 
if I had not disturbed it. Making another hole directly 
over it with an ice chisel which I had, and cutting down 
the longest birch which I could find in the neighbourhood 
with my knife, I made a slip noose, which I attached to its 
end, and, letting it down carefully, passed it over the knob 
of the handle, and drew it by a line along the birch, and so 
pulled the axe out again. 

The shore is composed of a belt of smooth rounded white 
stones like paving stones, excepting one or two short sand 
beaches, and is so steep that in many places a single leap 
will carry you into the water over your head ; and were it 
not for its remai kable transparency, that would be the last 
to be seen of its bottom till it rose on the opposite side. 

I 7 8 WALDEN. 

Some think it is bottomless. It is nowhere muddy, and a 
casual observer would say that there were no weeds at all 
in it ; and of noticeable plants, except in the little meadows 
recently overflowed, which do not properly belong to it, a 
closer scrutiny does not detect a flag nor a bulrush, nor 
even a lily, yellow or white, but only a few small heart- 
leaves and potamogetons, and perhaps a water-target or 
two ; all which, however, a bather might not perceive ; and 
these plants are clean and bright like the element they 
grow in. The stones extend a rod or two into the water, 
and then the bottom is pure sand, except in the deepest 
parts, where there is usually a little sediment, probably 
from the decay of the leaves which have been wafted on to 
it so many successive falls; and a bright green weed is 
brought up on anchors even in midwinter. 

We have one other pond just like this White Pond in 
Nine Acre Corner, about two and a half miles westerly ; 
but, though I am acquainted with most of the ponds within 
a dozen miles of this centre, I do not know a third of this 
pure and well-like character. Successive nations perchance 
have drank at, admired, and fathomed it, and passed away, 
and still its water is green and pellucid as ever. Not an 
intermitting spring ! Perhaps on that spring morning 
when Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden, Walden 
Pond was already in existence, and even then breaking up 
in a gentle spring rain accompanied with mist and a 
southerly wind, and covered with myriads of ducks and 
geese, which had not heard of the fall, when still such pure 
lakes sufficed them. Even then it had commenced to Hso 
and fall, and had clarified its waters and coloured them of 
the hue they now wear, and obtained a patent of heaven to 
be the only Walden Pond in the world and distiller of 
celestial dews. Who knows in how many unremembered 


nations literatures this has been the Castalian Fountain 1 
or what nymphs presided over it in the Golden Age ? It is 
a gem of the first water, which Concord wears in her 

Yet perchance the first who came to this well have left 
some trace of their footsteps. I have been surprised to 
detect encircling the pond, even where a thick wood has 
just been cut down on the shore, a narrow shelf -like path 
in the steep hill-side, alternately rising and falling, approach 
ing and receding from the water s edge, as old probably 
as the race of man here, worn by the feet of aboriginal 
hunters, and still from time to time unwittingly trodden 
by the present occupants of the land. This is particularly 
distinct to one standing on the middle of the pond in 
winter, just after a light snow has fallen, appearing as a 
clear undulating white line, unobscured by weeds and 
twigs, and very obvious a quarter-of-a-mile off in many 
places where in summer it is hardly distinguishable close at 
hand. The snow reprints it, as it were, in clear white type 
alto-relievo. The ornamented grounds of villas which 
will one day be built here may still preserve some trace 
of this. 

The pond rises and falls, but whether regularly or not, 
and within what period, nobody knows, though, as usual, 
many pretend to know. It is commonly higher in the 
winter and lower in the summer, though not corresponding 
to the general wet and dryness. I can remember when it 
was a foot or two lower, and also when it was at least five 
feet higher, than when I lived by it. There is a narrow 
sand-bar running into it, with very deep water on one side, 
on which I helped to boil a kettle of chowder, some six rods 
from the main shore, about the year 1824, which it has not 
been possible to do for twenty-five years ] and on the other 

i8o WALDEN. 

hand, my friends used to listen with incredulity when I 
told them, that a few years later I wa k accustomed to fish 
from a boat in a secluded cove in the woods, fifteen rods 
from the only shore they knew, which place was long since 
converted into a meadow. But the pond has risen steadily for 
two years, and now, in the summer of 52, is just five feet 
higher than when I lived there, or as high as it was thirty 
years ago, and fishing goes on again in the meadow. 
This makes a difference of level, at the outside, of six 
or seven feet ; and yet the water shed by the surround 
ing hills is insignificant in amount, and this over 
flow must be referred to causes which affect the deep 
springs. This same summer the pond has begun to fall 
again. It is remarkable that this fluctuation, whether 
periodical or not, appears thus to require many years for its 
accomplishment. I have observed one rise and a part of 
two falls, and I expect that a dozen or fifteen years 
hence the water will again be as low as I have ever known 
it. Flints Pond, a mile eastward, allowing for the disturb 
ance occasioned by its inlets and outlets, and the smaller 
intermediate ponds also, sympathise with Walden, and 
recently attained their greatest height at the same time 
with the latter. The same is true, as far as my observation 
goes, of White Pond. 

This rise and fall of Walden at long intervals serves 
this use at least : the water standing at this great height for 
a year or more, though it makes it difficult to walk round 
it, kills the shrubs and trees which have sprung up about 
its edge since the last rise pitch-pines, birches, alders, 
aspens, and others and, falling again, leaves an unobstructed 
shore ; for, unlike many ponds and all waters which are 
subject to a daily tide, its shore is cleanest when the water 
is lowest. On the side of the pond next my house a row 


of pitch-pines fifteen feet high has been killed and tipped 
over as if by a lever, and thus a stop put to their encroach 
ments ; and their size indicates how many years have 
elapsed since the last rise to this height. By this fluctua 
tion the pond asserts its title to a shore, and thus the shore 
is shorn, and the trees cannot hold it by right of possession. 
These are the lips of the lake on which no beard grows. It 
licks its chaps from time to time. When the water is at 
its height, the alders, willows, and maples send forth a mass 
of fibrous red roots several feet long from all sides of their 
stems in the water, and to the height of three or four feet 
from the ground, in the effort to maintain themselves ; and 
I have known the high-blueberry bushes about the shore, 
which commonly produce no fruit, bear an abundant crop 
under these circumstances. 

Some have been puzzled to tell how the shore became so 
regularly paved. My townsmen have all heard the 
tradition the oldest people tell me that they heard it in 
their youth that anciently the Indians were holding a pow 
wow upon a hill there, which rose as high into the heavens 
as the pond now sinks deep into the earth, and they used 
much profanity, as the story goes, though this vice is one of 
which the Indians were never guilty, and while they wero 
thus engaged the hill shook and suddenly sank, and only 
one old squaw, named Waldcn, escaped, and from her the 
pond was named. It has been conjectured that when the 
hill shook, these stones rolled down its side and became the 
present shore. It is very certain, at any rate, that once 
there was no pond here, and now there is one ; and this 
Indian fable does not in any respect conflict with the 
account of that ancient settler whom I have mentioned, 
who remembers so well when he first came here with his 
divining rod, saw a thin vapour rising from the sward, and 

1 82 WALDEN. 

the hazel pointed steadily downward, he concluded to dig a 
well here. As for the stones, many still think that they 
are hardly to be accounted for by the action of the waves 
on these hills ; but I observe that the surrounding hills are 
remarkably full of the same kind of stones, so that they 
have been obliged to pile them up in walls on both sides of 
the railroad cut nearest the pond ; and, moreover, there are 
most stones where the shore is most abrupt; so that, 
unfortunately, it is no longer a mystery to me. I detect the 
paver. If the name was not derived from that of some 
English locality, Saffron "VValdcn, for instance, one might 
suppose that it was called, originally, Walhd-in Pond. 

The pond was my well ready dug. For four months in 
the year its water is as cold as it is pure at all times ; 
and I think that it is then as good as any, if not the best in 
the town. In the winter, all water which is exposed to the 
air is colder than springs and wells which are protected 
from it. The temperature of the pond water which had 
stood in the room where I sat from five o clock in the after 
noon till noon the next day, the 6th of March 1846, the 
thermometer having been up to 65 or 70 some of the 
time, owing partly to the sun on the roof, was 42, or ono 
degree colder than the water of one of the coldest wells in 
the village just drawn. The temperature of the Boiling 
Spring the same day was 45, or the warmest of any water 
tried, though it is the coldest that I know of in summer, 
when, beside, shallow and stagnant surface water is not 
mingled with it. Moreover, in summer, Walden never 
becomes so warm as most water which is exposed to the 
sun, on account of its depth. In the warmest weather I 
usually placed a pailful in my cellar, where it became cool 
in the night, and remained so during the day ; though I 
also resorted to a spring in the neighbourhood. It was as 


good when a v.-cck old as tho day it was dipped, and had no 
tasto of tho pump. Whoever camps for a week in summer 
by the shore of a pond, needs only bury a pail of water a 
few feet deep in the shade of his camp to be independent 
of the luxury of ice. 

There have been caught in Walden, pickerel, one weigh 
ing seven pounds, to say nothing of another which carried 
off a reel with great velocity, which the fisherman safely set 
down at eight pounds because he did not see him, perch and 
pouts, some of each weighing over two pounds, shiners, 
chivins or roach (Leuciscus pulchellus,) a very few breams, 
and a couple of eels, one weighing four pounds, I am thus 
particular because the weight of a fish is commonly its only 
title to fame, and these are the only eels I have heard of 
here ; also, I have a faint recollection of a little fish some 
five inches long, with silvery sides and a greenish back, 
somewhat dace-like in its character, which I mention here 
chiefly to link my facts to fable. Nevertheless, this pond 
is not very fertile in fish. Its pickerel, though not abun 
dant, are its chief boast. I have seen at one time lying on 
the ice pickerel of at least three different kinds ; a long and 
shallow one, steel-coloured, most like those caught in the 
river; a bright golden kind, with greenish reflections and 
remarkably deep, which is the most common here; and 
another golden-coloured, and shaped like the last, but 
peppered on the sides with small dark brown or black spots, 
intermixed with a few faint blood-red ones, very much like 
a trout. The specific name reliculatus would not apply to 
this ; it would be yuttatus rather. These are all very firm 
fish, and weigh more than their size promises. The shiners, 
pouts, and perch also, and indeed all tho fishes which 
inhabit this pond, arc much cleaner, handsomer, and firmer 
fleshed than those in the river and most other ponds, as the 

1 84 WALDEN. 

water is purer, and they can easily be distinguished from 
them. Probably many ichthyologists would make new 
varieties of some of them. There are also a clean race of 
frogs and tortoises, and a few mussels in it ; niusk-rats and 
minks leave their traces about it, and occasionally a travel 
ling mud-turtle visits it. Sometimes, when I pushed off 
my boat in the morning, I disturbed a great mud-turtle 
which had secreted himself under the boat in the night. 
Ducks and geese frequent it in the spring and fall, the 
white-bellied swallows (Hirundo bicolor) skim over it, and 
the peetweets (Totanus macularius) "teter" along its stony 
shores all summer. I have sometimes disturbed a fish-hawk 
sitting on a white-pine over the water ; but I doubt if it is 
ever profaned by the wing of a gull, like Fair-Haven. 
At most it tolerates one annual loon. These are all the 
animals of consequence which frequent it now. 

You may see from a boat, in calm weather, near the 
sandy eastern shore, where the water is eight or ten feet 
deep, and also in some other parts of the pond, some circu 
lar heaps half-a-dozen feet in diameter by a foot in height, 
consisting of small stones less than a hen s egg in size, 
where all around is bare sand. At first you wonder if the 
Indians could have formed them on the ice for any purpose, 
and so, when the ice melted, they sank to the bottom ; but 
they are too regular, and some of them plainly too fresh, for 
that. They are similar to those found in rivers; but as 
there are no suckers nor lampreys here, I know not by 
what iish they could be made. Perhaps they are the nests 
of the chivin. These lend a pleasing mystery to the 

The shore is irregular enough not to be monotonous. I 
have in my mind s eye the western indented with deep 
bays, the bolder northern, and the beautifully-scolloped 


southern shore, where successive capes overlap each other, 
and suggest unexplored coves between. The forest has 
never so good a setting, nor is so distinctly beautiful, as 
when seen from the middle of a small lake amid hills which 
rise from the water s edge ; for the water in which it is 
reflected not only makes the best foreground in such a case, 
but, with its winding shore, the most natural and agreeable 
boundary to it. There is no rawness nor imperfection in 
its edge there, as where the axe has cleared a part, or a 
cultivated field abuts on it. The trees have ample room to 
expand on the water-side, and each sends forth its most 
vigorous branch in that direction. There Nature has 
woven a natural selvage, and the eye rises by just grada 
tions from the low shrubs of the shore to the highest trees. 
There are few traces of man s hand to bo seen. The water 
laves the shore as it did a thousand years ago. 

A lake is the landscape s most beautiful and expressive 
feature. It is earth s eye, looking into which the beholder 
measures the depth of his own nature. The fluviatile 
trees next the shore are the slender eyelashes which fringe 
it, and the wooded hills and clilTs around are its overhanging 

Standing on the smooth sandy beach at the east end of 
the pond, in a calm September afternoon, when a slight 
haze makes the opposite shore-line indistinct, I have seen 
whence came the expression, " the glassy surface of a lake." 
When you invert your head, it looks like a thread of finest 
gossamer stretched across the valley, and gleaming against 
the distant pine woods, separating one stratum of the 
atmosphere from another. You would think that you 
could walk dry under it to the opposite hills, and that the 
swallows which skiui over might perch on it. Indeed, they 
sometimes dive below the line, as it were by mistake, and 

1 86 WALDEN. 

are undeceived. As you look over the pond westward you 
are obliged to employ both your hands to defend your eyes 
against the reflected as well as the true sun, for they are 
equally bright; and if, between the two, you survey its 
surface critically, it is literally as smooth as glass, except 
where the skater insects, at equal intervals scattered over 
its whole extent, by their motions in the sun produce the 
finest imaginable sparkle on it, or, perchance, a duck 
plumes itself, or, as I have said, a swallow skims so low as 
to touch it. It may be that in the distance a fish describes 
an arc of three or four feet in the air, and there is one 
bright flash where it emerges, and another where it strikes 
the water ; sometimes the whole silvery arc is revealed ; 
or here and there, perhaps, is a thistle-down floating on its 
surface, which the fishes dart at and so dimple it again. 
It is like molten glass cooled but not congealed, and the 
few motes in it are pure and beautiful, like the imperfec 
tions in glass. You may often detect a yet smoother and 
darker water, separated from the rest as if by an invisible 
cobweb, boom of the water nymphs, resting on it. From a 
hill-top you can see a fish leap in almost any part ; for not 
a pickerel or shiner picks an insect from this smooth sur 
face but it manifestly disturbs the equilibrium of the whole 
lake. It is wonderful with what elaborateness this simple 
fact is advertised, this piscine murder will out, and 
from my distant perch I distinguish the circling undulations 
when they are half-a-dozen rods in diameter. You can 
even detect a water-bug (Gyrinus) ceaselessly progressing 
over the smooth surface a quarter-of-a-mile off; for they 
furrow the water slightly, making a conspicuous ripple 
bounded by two diverging lines, but the skaters glide over 
it without rippling it perceptibly. When the surface is 
considerably agitated there aro no skaters nor water-bugs 


tn it, but apparently, in calm days, they leave their havens 
and adventurously glide forth from the shore by short 
impulses till they completely cover it. It is a soothing 
employment, on one of those fine days in the fall, when all 
the warmth of the sun is fully appreciated, to sit on a 
stump on such a height as this, overlooking the pond, and 
study the dimpling circles which are incessantly inscribed 
on its otherwise invisible surface amid the reflected skies 
and trees. Over this great expanse there is no disturbance 
but it is thus at once gently smoothed away and assuaged, 
as, when a vase of water is jarred, the trembling circles 
seek the shore, and all is smooth again. Not a fish can 
leap or an insect fall on the pond but it is thus reported in 
circling dimples, in lines of beauty, as it were the constant 
welling-up of its fountain, the gentle pulsing of its life, the 
heaving of its breast. The thrills of joy and thrills of pain 
are undistinguishable. How peaceful the phenomena of 
the lake ! Again the works of man shine as in the spring 
aye, every leaf, and twig, and stone, and cobweb sparkles 
now at mid-afternoon, as when covered with dew in a 
spring morning. Every motion of an oar or an insect 
produces a flash of light ; and if an oar falls, how sweet 
the echo ! 

In such a day, in September or October, Walden is a 
perfect forest mirror, set round with stones as precious to 
my eye as if fewer or rarer. Nothing so fair, so pure, and 
at the same time so large, as a lake, perchance, lies on the 
surface of the earth. Sky water. It needs no fence. 
Nations come and go without defiling it. It is a mirror 
which no stone can crack, whose quicksilver will never 
wear off, whose gilding Nature continually repairs ; no 
storms, no dust, can dim its surface ever fresh ; a mirror 
in which all impurity presented to it sinks, swept and 

1 88 WALDEN. 

dusted by the sun s hazy brush this the light dust-cloth 
which retains no breath that is breathed on it, but sends 
its own to float as clouds high above its surface, and be 
reflected on its bosom still. 

A field of water betrays the spirit that is in the air. It 
is continually receiving new life and motion from above. 
It is intermediate in its nature between land and sky. On 
land only the grass and trees wave, but the water itself is 
rippled by the wind. T see where the breeze dashes across 
it by the streaks or flakes of light. It is remarkable that 
we can look down on its surface. We shall, perhaps, look 
down thus on the surface of air at length, and mark where 
a still subtler spirit sweeps over it. 

The skaters and water-bugs finally disappear in the latte 
part of October, when the severe frosts have come; and 
then and in November, usually, in a calm day, there is 
absolutely nothing to ripple the surface. One November 
afternoon, in the calm at the end of a rain-storm of several 
days duration, when the sky was still completely overcast 
and the air was full of mist, I observed that the pond was 
remarkably smooth, so that it was difficult to distinguish 
its surface ; though it no longer reflected the bright tints of 
October, but the sombre November colours of the surround 
ing hills. Though I passed over it as gently as possible, 
the slight undulations produced by my boat extended almost 
as far as I could see, and gave a ribbed appearance to the 
reflections. But, as I was looking over the surface, I saw 
here and there at a distance a faint glimmer, as if some 
skater insects which had escaped the frosts might be col 
lected there, or, perchance, the surface, being so smooth, 
betrayed where a spring welled up from the bottom. 
Paddling gently to one of these places, I was surprised to 
find myself surrounded by myriads of small perch, about 


five inches long, of a rich bronze colour in tho green water, 
sporting there and constantly rising to the surface and 
dimpling it, sometimes leaving bubbles on it. In such 
transparent and seemingly bottomless water, reflecting the 
clouds, I seemed to be floating through the air as in a 
balloon, and their swimming impressed me as a kind of 
flight or hovering, as if they were a compact flock of birds 
passing just beneath my level on the right or left, their 
fins, like sails, set all around them. There were many such 
schools in the pond, apparently improving the short season 
before winter would draw an icy shutter over their broad 
skylight, sometimes giving to the surface an appearance as 
if a slight breeze struck it, or a few rain-drops fell there. 
When I approached carelessly and alarmed them, they 
made a sudden plash and rippling with their tails, as if one 
had struck the water with a brushy bough, and instantly 
took refuge in the depths. At length the wind rose, the 
mist increased, and the waves began to run, and the perch 
leaped much higher than before, half out of water, a 
hundred black points, three inches long, at once above tho 
surface. Even as late as the 5th of December, one year, I 
saw some dimples on the surface, and thinking it was going 
to rain hard immediately, the air being full of mist, I made 
haste to take my place at the oars and row homewards ; 
already the rain seemed rapidly increasing, though I felt none 
on my check, and I anticipated a thorough soaking. But 
suddenly the dimples ceased, for they were produced by the 
perch, which the noise of my oars had scared into the 
depths, and I saw their schools dimly disappearing ; so I 
spent a dry afternoon after all. 

An old man who used to frequent this pond nearly sixty 
years ago, when it was dark with surrounding forests, tells 
me that in those days he sometimes saw it all alive with 

i go WALDEN. 

ducks and other water-fowl, and that there were many 
eagles about it. lie came here a-fishing, and used an old 
log canoe which he found on the shore. It was made of 
two white-pine logs dug out and pinned together, and was 
cut off square at the ends. It was very clumsy, but lasted 
a great many years before it became water-logged and 
perhaps sank to the bottom. He did not know whose it 
was ; it belonged to the pond. He used to make a cable 
for his anchor of strips of hickory bark tied together. An 
old man, a potter, who lived by the pond before the Revolu 
tion, told him once that there was an iron chest at the 
bottom, and that he had seen it. Sometimes it would come 
floating up to the shore ; but when you went towards it, it 
would go back into deep water and disappear. I was 
pleased to hear of the old log canoe, which took the place 
of an Indian one of the same material but more graceful 
construction, which perchance had first been a tree on the 
bank, and then, as it were, fell into the water, to float there 
for a generation, the most proper vessel for the lake. I 
remember that when I first looked into these depths there 
were many large trunks to be seen indistinctly lying on 
the bottom, which had either been blown over formerly, or 
left on the ice at the last cutting, when wood was cheaper \ 
but now they have mostly disappeared. 

When I first paddled a boat on Walden, it was completely 
surrounded by thick and lofty pine and oak woods, and in 
some of its coves grape vines had run over the trees next 
the water and formed bowers under which a boat could 
pass. The hills which form its shores are so steep, and the 
woods on them were then so high, that, as you looked down 
from the west end, it had the appearance of an amphitheatre 
for some kind of sylvan spectacle. I have spent many an 
hour, when I was younger, floating over its surface as the 


zephyr willed, having paddled my boat to the middle, and 
lying on my back across the seats, in a summer forenoon, 
dreaming awake, until I was aroused by the boat touching 
the sand, and I arose to see what shore my fates had 
impelled me to days when idleness was the most attractive 
and productive industry. Many a forenoon have I stolen 
away, preferring to spend thus the most valued part of the 
day ; for I was rich, if not in money, in sunny hours and 
summer days, and spent them lavishly ; nor do I regret 
that I did not waste more of them in the workshop or the 
teacher s desk. But since I left those shores the wood- 
choppers have still further laid them waste, and now for 
many a year there will be no more rambling through the 
aisles of the wood, with occasional vistas through which 
you see the water. My Muse may be excused if she is 
silent henceforth. How can you expect the birds to sing 
when their groves are cut down 1 

Now the trunks of trees on the bottom, and the old log 
canoe, and the dark surrounding woods, are gone, and the 
villagers, who scarcely know where it lies, instead of going to 
the pond to bathe or drink, are thinking to bring its water, 
which should be as sacred as the Ganges at least, to the 
village in a pipe, to wash their dishes with ! to earn their 
Walden by the turning of a cock or drawing of a plug ! 
That devilish Iron Horse, whose ear-rending neigh is heard 
throughout the town, has muddied the Boiling Spring with 
his foot, and he it is that has browsed off all the woods on 
Walden shore ; that Trojan horse, with a thousand men in 
his belly, introduced by mercenary Greeks ! Where is the 
country s champion, the Moore of Moore Hall, to meet him 
at the Deep Cut and thrust an avenging lance between tho 
ribs of the bloated pest 1 

Nevertheless, of all the characters I have known, perhaps 

I 9 2 WALDEN. 

Waldcn wears best, and best preserves its purity. Many 
men have been likened to it, but few deserve that honour. 
Though the woodchoppers have laid bare first this shore and 
then that, and the Irish have built their styes by it, and 
the railroad has infringed on its border, and the ice-men 
have skimmed it once, it is itself unchanged, the same water 
which my youthful eyes fell on ; all the change is in me. 
It has not acquired one permanent wrinkle after all its 
ripples. It is perennially young, and I may stand and see 
a swallow dip apparently to pick an insect from its surface 
as of yore. It struck me again to-night, as if I had not 
seen it almost daily for more than twenty years, Why, 
here is Walden, the same woodland lake that I discovered 
so many years ago ; where a forest was cut down last 
winter another is springing up by its shore as lustily as ever : 
the same thought is welling up to its surface that was then ; 
it is the same liquid joy and happiness to itself and its 
Maker, ay, and it may be to me. It is the work of a brave 
man surely, in whom there was no guile ! He rounded this 
water with his hand, deepened and clarified it in his 
thought, and in his will bequeathed it to Concord. I see 
by its face that it is visited by the same reflection ; and I 
can almost say, Walden, is it you 1 

" It is no dream of mine, 
To ornament a lino ; 

I cannot come nearer to God and Heaven 
Than I live to Walden even. 
I am its stony shore, 
And the breeze that passes o er ; 
In the hollow of my hand 
Are its water and its sand, 
And its deepest resort 
Lies high in my thought." 

The cars never pause to look at it ; yet I fancy that the 


engineers and firemen and brakesmen, and those passengers 
who have a season ticket and see it often, are better men 
for the sight. The engineer does not forget at night, or his 
nature does not, that he has beheld this vision of serenity 
and purity once at least during the day. Though seen but 
once, it helps to wash out State Street and the engine s 
soot. One proposes that it be called " God s Drop." 

I have said that Walden has no visible inlet nor outlet, 
but it is on the one hand distantly and indirectly related to 
Flint s Pond, which is more elevated, by a chain of small 
ponds coming from that quarter, and on the other directly 
and manifestly to Concord River, which is lower, by a 
similar chain of ponds through which in some other geolo 
gical period it may have flowed, and by a little digging, 
which God forbid, it can be made to flow thither again. If 
by living thus reserved and austere, like a hermit in the 
woods, so long, it has acquired such wonderful purity, who 
would not regret that the comparatively impure waters of 
Flint s Pond should be mingled with it, or itself should ever 
go to waste its sweetness in the ocean wave 1 

Flint s, or Sandy Pond, in Lincoln, our greatest lake and 
inland sea, lies about a mile east of Walden. It is much 
larger, being said to contain one hundred and ninety-seven 
acres, and is more fertile in fish; but it is comparatively 
shallow, and not remarkably pure. A walk through the 
woods thither was often my recreation. It was worth the 
while, if only to feel the wind blow on your cheek freely 
and see the waves run, and remember the life of mariners. 
I went a-chestnutting there in the fall, on windy days, 
when the nuts were dropping into the water and were 
washed to my feet ; and one day, as I crept along its sedgy 
shore, the fresh spray blowing in my face, I came upon the 


194 WALDEN. 

mouldering wreck of a boat, the sides gone, and hardly 
more than the impression of its flat bottom left amid tho 
rushes ; yet its model was sharply defined, as if it were a 
large decayed pad, with its veins. It was as impressive a 
wreck as one could imagine on the sea-shore, and had as 
good a moral. It is by this time mere vegetable mould and 
undistinguishable pond-shore, through which rushes and flags 
have pushed up. I used to admire the ripple marks on the 
sandy bottom, at the north end of this pond, made firm and 
hard to the feet of the wader by the pressure of the water, 
and the rushes which grew in Indian file, in waving lines, 
corresponding to these marks, rank behind rank, as if the 
waves had planted them. There also I have found, in con 
siderable quantities, curious balls, composed apparently of 
fine grass or roots, of pipewort perhaps, from half-an-inch to 
four inches in diameter, and perfectly spherical. These 
wash back and forth in shallow water on a sandy bottom, 
and are sometimes cast on the shore. They are either solid 
grass, or have a little sand in the middle. At first you 
would say that they were formed by the action of the waves, 
like a pebble ; yet the smallest are made of equally coarse 
materials, half-an-inch long, and they are produced only at 
one season of the year. Moreover, the waves, I suspect, do 
not so much construct as wear down a material which has 
already acquired consistency. They preserve their form 
when dry for an indefinite period. 

Flints Pond ! Such is the poverty of our nomenclature. 
What right had the unclean and stupid farmer, whose farm 
abutted on this sky water, whose shores he has ruthlessly 
laid bare, to give his name to it ? Some skin-flint, who 
loved better the reflecting surface of a dollar, or a bright 
cent, in which he could see his own brazen face ; who 
regarded even the wild ducks which settled in it as 


trespassers ; his fingers grown into crooked and horny talons 
from the long habit of grasping harpy-like \ so it is not 
named for me. I go not there to see him nor to hear of 
him ; who never saw it, who never bathed in it, who never 
loved it, who never protected it, who never spoke a good 
word of it, nor thanked God that ho had made it. Rather 
let it be named from the fishes that swim in it, the wild 
fowl or quadrupeds which frequent it, the wild flowers 
which grow by its shores, or some wild man or child the 
thread of whose history is interwoven with its own; 
not from him who could show no title to it but the deed 
which a like-minded neighbour or legislature gave him, 
him who thought only of its money value ; whose presence 
perchance cursed all the shore ; who exhausted the land 
around it, and would fain have exhausted the waters within 
it ; who regretted only that it was not English hay or 
cranberry meadow, there was nothing to redeem it, for 
sooth, in his eyes, and would have drained and sold it 
for the mud at its bottom. It did not turn his mill, 
and it was no privilege to him to behold it. I respect not 
his labours, his farm where everything has its price, who 
would carry the landscape, who would carry his God, to 
market, if he could get anything for him ; who goes to 
market for his god as it is ; on whose farm nothing grows 
free, whose fields bear no crops, whose meadows no flowers, 
whose trees no fruits but dollars ; who loves not the beauty 
of his fruits, whose fruits are not ripe for him till they aro 
turned to dollars. Give me the poverty that enjoys true 
wealth. Farmers are respectable and interesting to me in 
proportion as they are poor, poor farmers. A model 
farm ! where the house stands like a fungus in a muck- 
hoap, chambers for men, horses, oxen, and swine, cleansed 
and uncleansed, all contiguous to one another ! Stocked 

196 WALDEN. 

with men ! A great grease-spot, redolent of manures and 
buttermilk Under a high state of cultivation, being 
manured with the hearts and brains of men ! As if you 
were to raise your potatoes in the churchyard ! Such is a 
model farm. 

No, no ; if the fairest features of the landscape are to be 
named after men, let them be the noblest and worthiest men 
alone. Let our lakes receive as true names at least as the 
Tcarian Sea, where "still the shore" a "brave attempt 

Goose Pond, of small extent, is on my way to Flint s ; 
Fair-Haven, an expansion of Concord River, said to 
contain some seventy acres, is a mile south-west ; and 
White Pond, of about forty acres, is a mile and a-half 
beyond Fair-Haven. This is my lake country. These, 
with Concord River, are my water privileges ; and night 
and day, year in year out, they grind such grist as I carry 
to them. 

Since the woodcutters, and the railroad, and I myself have 
profaned "VValden, perhaps the most attractive, if not the 
most beautiful, of all our lakes, the gem of the woods, is 
White Pond ; a poor name from its commonness, whether 
derived from the remarkable purity of its waters or tho 
colour of its sands. In these as in. other respects, however, 
it is a lesser twin of Walden. They are so much alike that 
you would say they must be connected underground. It 
has the same stony shore, and its waters are of the same 
hue. As at Walden, in sultry dog-day weather, looking 
down through the woods on some of its bays which are not 
so deep but that the reflection from the bottom tinges 
them, its waters are of a misty bluish-green or glaucous 
colour. Many years since I used to go there to collect tho 


KIU id by cart-loads, to make sand-paper with, and I have 
continued to visit it ever since. One who frequents it 
proposes to call it -Virid Lake. Perhaps it might be 
called Yellow-Pine Lake, from the following circumstance. 
About fifteen years ago you could see the top of a pitch- 
pine, of the kind called yellow-pine hereabouts, though it ia 
not a distinct species, projecting above the surface in deep 
water, many rods from the shore. It was even supposed 
by some that the pond had sunk, and this was one of tho 
primitive forest that formerly stood there. I find that even 
so long ago- as 1792, in a Topographical Description of 
tlic, Town of Concord, by one of its citizens, in the 
Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the 
author, after speaking of Walden and White Ponds, adds : 
" In the middle of the latter may be seen, when the water 
is very low, a tree which appears as if it grew in the place 
where it now stands, although the roots are fifty feet below 
the surface of the water ; the top of this tree is broken o(F, 
and at that place measures fourteen inches in diameter." 
In the spring of 49 I talked with a man who lived nearest 
the pond in Sudbury, who told me that it was he who got out 
this tree ten or fifteen years before. As near as he could 
remember, it stood twelve or fifteen rods from the shore, 
where the water was thirty or forty feet deep. It was in the 
winter, and he had been getting out ice in the forenoon, 
and had resolved that in the afternoon, with the aid of his 
neighbours, he would take out the old yellow-pine. He 
sawed a channel in the ice toward the shore, and hauled it 
over and along and out on to the ice with oxen ; but, 
before he had gone far in his work, he was surprised to find 
that it was wrong end upward, with the stumps of tho 
branches pointing down, and the small end firmly fastened 
in the sandy bottom. It was about a foot in diameter at 


the big end, and lie had expected to get a good saw -log, but it 
was so rotten as to be fit only for fuel, if for that. He had 
some of it in his shed then. There were marks of an axe 
and of woodpeckers on the butt. He thought that it might 
have been a dead tree on the shore, but was finally blown 
over into the pond, and after the top had become water 
logged, while the butt-end was still dry and light, had drifted 
out and sunk wrong end up. His father, eighty years old, 
could not remember when it was not there. Several pretty 
large logs may still be seen lying on the bottom, where, 
owing to the undulation of the surface, they look like huge 
water snakes in motion. 

This pond has rarely been profaned by a boat, for there is 
little in it to tempt a fisherman. Instead of the white lily, 
which requires mud, or the common sweet flag, the blue 
flag (Iris versicolor) grows thinly in the pure water, rising 
from the stony bottom all around the shore, where it is 
visited by humming-birds in June, and the colour both 
of its bluish blades and its flowers, and especially their 
reflections, are in singular harmony with the glaucous 

White Pond and Walden are great crystals on the 
surface of the earth, Lakes of Light. If they were per 
manently congealed, and small enough to be clutched, they 
would, perchance, be carried off by slaves, like precious 
stones, to adorn the heads of emperors ; but being liquid, 
and ample, and secured to us and our successors forever, we 
disregard them, and run after the diamond of Koh-i-noor. 
They are too pure to have a market value ; they contain no 
muck. How much more beautiful than our lives, how much 
more transparent than our characters, arc they ! We never 
learned meanness of them. How much fairer than the 
pool before the farmer s door, in which his ducks swim ! 



] I ithcr the clean wild ducks come. Nature has no human 
inhabitant who appreciates her. The birds with their 
plumage and their notes are in harmony with the flowers, 
but what youth or maiden conspires with the wild luxuriant 
beauty of Nature 1 She flourishes most alone, far from the 
towns where they reside. Talk of heaven ! ye disgrace 


SOMETIMES I rambled to pine groves, standing 
like temples, or like fleets at sea, full-rigged, 
with wavy boughs, and rippling with light, so 
soft, and green, and shady, that the Druids 
would have forsaken their oaks to worship in them ; or to 
the cedar wood beyond Flint s Pond, where the trees, 
covered with hoary blueberries, spiring higher and higher, 
are fit to stand before Valhalla, and the creeping juniper 
covers the ground with wreathes full of fruit ; or to swamps 
where the usnea lichen hangs in festoons from the white- 
spruce trees, and toad-stools, round tables of the swamp 
gods, cover the ground, and more beautiful fungi adorn the 
stumps, like butterflies or shells, vegetable winkles ; where 
the swamp-pink and dogwood grow, the red alderberry 
glows like eyes of imps, the waxwork grooves and crushes 
the hardest woods in its folds, and the wild-holly berries 
makes the beholder forget his home with their beauty, and 
he is dazzled and tempted by nameless other wild forbidden 
fruits, too fair for mortal taste. Instead of calling on 
some scholar, I paid many a visit to particular trees, of 
kinds which are rare in this neighbourhood, standing far 
away in the middle of some pasture, or in the depths of a 
wood or swamp, or on a hill-top ; such as the black-birch, of 


which we have some handsome specimens two feet in 
diameter ; its cousin, the yellow-birch, with its loose golden 
vest, perfumed like the first ; the beech, which has so neat 
a bole and beautifully lichen-painted, perfect in all its 
details, of which, excepting scattered specimens, I know 
but one small grove of sizeable trees left in the township, 
supposed by some to have been planted by the pigeons that 
were once baited with beech nuts near by ; it is worth the- 
while to see the silver grain sparkle when you split this 
wood ; the bass ; the hornbeam ; the celtis occidentalis, or 
false elm, of which we have but one well-grown; some 
taller mast of a pine, a shingle tree, or a more perfect 
hemlock than usual, standing like a pagoda in the midst of 
the woods ; and many others I could mention. These were 
the shrines I visited both summer and winter. 

Once it chanced that I stood in the very abutment of a 
rainbow s arch, which filled the lower stratum of the atmos 
phere, tinging the grass and leaves around, and dazzling me 
as if I looked through coloured crystal. It was a lake of 
rainbow light, in which, for a short while, I lived like 
a dolphin. If it had lasted longer it might have tinged my 
employments and life. As I walked on the railroad cause 
way, I used to wonder at the halo of light around my 
shadow, and would fain fancy myself one of the elect. OK 3 
who visited me declared that the shadows of some Irishmen 
before him had no halo about them, that it was only natives 
that were so distinguished. Benvenuto Cellini tells us in 
his memoirs, that, after a certain terrible dream or vision 
which he had during his confinement in the castle of St. 
Angelo, a resplendent light appeared over the shadow of 
his head at morning and evening, whether he was in Italy 
or France, and it was particularly conspicuous when the 
grass was moist with dew. This was probably the same 

202 WALDEN. 

phenomenon to which I have referred, which is especially 
observed in the morning, but also at other times, and even 
by moonlight. Though a constant one, it is not commonly 
noticed, and, in the case of an excitable imagination like 
Cellini s, it would be basis enough for superstition. Besides, 
he tells us that he showed it to very few. But are they 
not indeed distinguished who are conscious that they are 
regarded at all? 

I set out one afternoon to go a-fishing to Fair-Haven, 
through the woods, to eke out my scanty fare of vegetables. 
My way led through Pleasant Meadow, an adjunct of the 
Baker Farm, that retreat of which a poet has since sung, 

" Thy entry is a pleasant field, 
Which some mossy fruit trees yield 
Partly to a ruddy brook, 
By gliding musquash undertook, 
And mercurial trout, 
Darting about." 

1 thought of living there before I went to Walden. I 
"hooked" the apples, leaped the brook, and scared the 
musquash and the trout. It was one of those afternoons 
which seem indefinitely long before one, in which many 
events may happen, a large portion of our natural life, 
though it was already half spent when I started. By the 
way there came up a shower, which compelled mo to 
stand half-an-hour under a pine, piling boughs over my 
head, and wearing my handkerchief for a shed ; and when 
at length I had made one cast over the pickerel-weed, 
standing up to my middle in water, I found myself suddenly 
in the shadow of a cloud, and the thunder began to rumble 
with such emphasis that I could do no more than listen to 


it. The gods must bo proud, thought I, with such forked 
Hashes to rout a poor unarmed fisherman. So I made haste 
for shelter to the nearest hut, which stood half-a-mile from 
any road, but so much the nearer to the pond, and had long 
been uninhabited : 

"And here a poet builded, 

In the completed years, 
For behold a trival cabin 
That to destruction steers." 

So the Muse fables. But therein, as I found, dwelt now 
John Field, an Irishman, and his wife, and several children, 
from the broad-faced boy who assisted his father at his 
work, and now came running by his side from the bog to 
escape the rain, to the wrinkled, sibyl-like, cone-headed 
infant that sat upon its father s knee as in the palaces of 
nobles, and looked out from its home in the midst of web 
and hunger inquisitively upon the stranger, with the 
privilege of infancy, not knowing but it was the last 
of a noble line, and the hope and cynosure of the world, 
instead of John Field s poor starveling brat. There we sat 
together under that part of the roof which leaked the least, 
while it showered and thundered without. I had sat there 
many times of old before the ship was built that floated 
this family to America. An honest, hard-working, but 
shiftless man plainly was John Field ; and his wife she 
too was brave to cook so many successive dinners in the 
recesses of that lofty stove ; with round greasy face and 
bare breast, still thinking to improve her condition one 
day ; with the never-absent mop in one hand, and yet no 
effects of it visible anywhere. The chickens, which had 
also taken shelter here from the rain, stalked about the 
room like members of the family, too humanised methought 
to roast well. They stood and looked in my eye or pecked 

204 WALDEN. 

at my shoe significantly. Meanwhile my host told me his 
story, how hard he worked " bogging " for a neighbouring 
farmer, turning up a meadow with a spade or bog hoe at 
the rate of ten dollars an acre, and the use of the land with 
manure for one year, and his little broad-faced son worked 
cheerfully at his father s side the while, not knowing how 
poor a bargain the latter had made. I tried to help him 
with my experience, telling him that he was one of my 
nearest neighbours, and that I, too, who came a-fishing 
here, and looked like a loafer, was getting my living like 
himself ; that I lived in a tight, light, and clean house, 
which hardly cost more than the annual rent of such a ruin 
as his commonly amounts to ; and how, if he chose, he 
might in a month or two build himself a palace of his own ; 
that I did not use tea, nor coffee, nor butter, nor milk, nor 
fresh meat, and so did not have to work to get them ; again, 
as I did not work hard, I did not have to eat hard, and it 
cost me but a trifle for my food ; but as he began with tea, 
and coffee, and butter, and milk, and beef, he had to work 
hard to pay for them, and when he had worked hard he 
had to eat hard again to repair the waste of his system ; 
and so it was as broad as it was long indeed it was 
broader than it was long for he was discontented, and 
wasted his life into the bargain ; and yet he had rated it as 
a gain in coming to America, that here you could get tea, and 
coffee, and meat every day. But the only true America is 
that country where you are at liberty to pursue such a 
mode of life as may enable you to do without these, and 
where the state does not endeavour to compel you to sus 
tain the slavery, and war, and other superfluous expenses 
which directly or indirectly result from the use of such 
things. For I purposely talked to him as if he were a 
philosopher, or desired to be one. I should be glad if all 



the meadows on the earth were left in a wild state, if that 
were the consequence of men s beginning to redeem them 
selves. A man will not need to study history to find out 
what is best for his own culture. But alas ! the culture of 
an Irishman is an enterprise to be undertaken with a sort of 
moral bog hoe. I told him, that as he worked so hard at 
bogging, he required thick boots and stout clothing, which 
yet were soon soiled and worn out ; but I wore light shoes 
and thin clothing, which cost not half so much, though he 
might think that I was dressed like a gentleman (which, 
however, was not the case), and in an hour or two, without 
labour, but as a recreation, I could, if I wished, catch as 
many fish as I should want for two days, or earn enough 
money to support me a week. If he and his family would 
live simply, they might all go a-huckleberrying in the sum 
mer for their amusement. John heaved a sigh at this, and 
his wife stared with arms akimbo, and both appeared to be 
wondering if they had capital enough to begin such a course 
with, or arithmetic enough to carry it through. It was 
sailing by dead reckoning to them, and they saw not clearly 
how to make their port so ; therefore, I suppose they still 
take life bravely, after their fashion, face to face, giving it 
tooth and nail, not having skill to split its massive columns 
with any fine entering wedge, and rout it in detail think 
ing to deal with it roughly, as one should handle a thistle. 
But they fight at an overwhelming disadvantage, living, 
John Field, alas ! without arithmetic, and failing so. 

"Do you ever fish?" I asked. "0 yes, I catch a mess 
now and then when I am lying by ; good perch I catch." 
" What s your bait 1 " "I catch shiners with fish-worms, 
and bait the perch with them." " You d better go now, 
John," said his wife with glistening and hopeful face ; but 
John demurred. 

206 WALDEN. 

The shower was now over, and a rainbow above tho 
eastern woods promised a fair evening ; so I took my 
departure. When I had got without I asked for a dish, 
hoping to get a sight of the well bottom, to complete my 
survey of the premises ; but there, alas ! are shallows and 
quicksands, and rope broken withal, and bucket irrecover 
able. Meanwhile the right culinary vessel was selected, 
water was seemingly distilled, and after consultation and 
long delay passed out to the thirsty one, not yet suffered 
to cool, nor yet to settle. Such gruel sustains life here, I 
thought ; so, shutting my eyes, and excluding the motes 
by a skilfully directed under-current, I drank to genuine 
hospitality the heartiest draught I could. I am not 
squeamish in such cases when manners are concerned. 

As I was leaving the Irishman s roof after the rain, 
bending my steps again to the pond, my haste to catch 
pickerel, wading in retired meadows, in sloughs and bog- 
holes, in forlorn and savage places, appeared for an instant 
trivial to me who had been sent to school and college ; but 
as I ran down the hill toward the reddening west, with the 
rainbow over my shoulder, and some faint tinkling sounds 
borne to my ear through the cleansed air, from I know not 
what quarter, my Good Genius seemed to say, Go fish and 
hunt far and wide day by day, farther and wider, and 
rest thee by many brooks and hearth-sides without mis 
giving. Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth. 
Rise free from care beyond the dawn, and seek adventures. 
Let the noon find thee by other lakes, and the night over 
take thee everywhere at home. There are no larger fields 
than these, no worthier games than may here be played. 
Grow wild according to thy nature, like these sedges and 
brakes, which will never become English hay. Let the 
thunder rumble ; what if it threaten ruin to farmers crops 1 


that is not its errand to thee. Take shelter under the 
cloud, while they flee to carts and sheds. Let not to get a 
living be thy trade, but thy sport. Enjoy the land, but 
own it not. Through want of enterprise and faith men are 
where they are, buying and selling, and spending their lives 
like serfs. 

O Baker Farm ! 

" Landscape where the richest element 
Is a little sunshine innocent." . . 

" No one runs to revel 
On thy rail-fenced lea." . . 

"Debate with no man hast thou, 

With questions art never perplexed, 
As tame at the first sight as now, 

In thy plain russet gabardine dressed." . . 

" Come ye who love, 

And yo who hate, 
Children of the Holy Dove, 

And Guy Faux of the state, 
And hang conspiracies 
From the tough rafters of the trees ! " 

Men come tamely home at night only from the next field 
or street, where their household echoes haunt, and their life 
pines because it breathes its own breath over again ; their 
shadows morning and evening reach farther than their daily 
steps. Wo should come home from far, from adventures, 
and perils, and discoveries every day, with new experience 
and character. 

Before I had reached the pond some fresh impulse had 
brought out John Field, with altered mind, letting go 
"bogging" ere this sunset. But he, poor man, disturbed 
only a couple of fins while I was catching a fair string, and 



he said it was his luck ; but when we changed seats in the 
boat luck changed seats too. Poor John Field ! I trust 
he does not read this, unless he will improve by it, 
thinking to live by some derivative old country mode in 
this primitive new country, to catch perch with shiners. 
It is good bait sometimes, I allow. With his horizon all 
his own, yet he a poor man, born to be poor, with his 
inherited Irish poverty or poor life, his Adam s grandmother 
and boggy ways, not to rise in this world, he nor his pos 
terity, till their wading, webbed, bog-trotting feet get talaria 
to their heels. 


|S I came home through the woods with my string 
of fish, trailing my pole, it being quite dark, I 
caught a glimpse of a woodchuck stealing across 
my path, and felt a strange thrill of savage 
delight, and was strongly tempted to seize and devour him 
raw ; not that I was hungry then, except for that wildness 
which he represented. Once or twice, however, while I 
lived at the pond, I found myself ranging the woods, like 
a half-starved hound, with a strange abandonment, seeking 
some kind of venison which I might devour, and no morsel 
could have been too savage for me. The wildest scenes had 
become unaccountably familiar. I found in myself, and 
still find, an instinct toward a higher, or, as it is named, 
spiritual life, as do most men, and another toward a primi 
tive rank and savage one, and I reverence them both. I 
love the wild not less than the good. The wildness and 
adventure that are in fishing still recommend it to me. 
I like sometimes to take rank hold on life and spend my 
clay more as the animals do. Perhaps I have owed to this 
employment and to hunting, when quite young, my closest 
acquaintance with Nature. They early introduce us to 
and detain us in scenery with which otherwise, at that age, 
we should have little acquaintance. Fishermen, hunters, 


2io WALDEN. 

wood-clioppers, and others, spending their lives in the fields 
and woods, in a peculiar sense a part of Nature themselves, 
are often in a more favourable mood for observing her, in 
the intervals of their pursuits, than philosophers or poets 
even, who approach her with expectation. She is not 
afraid to exhibit herself to them. The traveller on the 
prairie is naturally a hunter, on the head waters of 
the Missouri and Columbia a trapper, and at the Falls 
of St. Mary a fisherman. He who is only a traveller 
learns things at second-hand and by the halves, and is poor 
authority. We are most interested when science reports 
what those men already know practically or instinctively, 
for that alone is a true humanity, on account of human 

They mistake who assert that the Yankee has few 
amusements, because he has not so many public holidays, 
and men and boys do not play so many games as they do 
in England, for here the more primitive but solitary amuse 
ments of hunting, fishing, and the like have not yet given 
place to the former. Almost every New England boy 
among my contemporaries shouldered a fowling-piece 
between the ages of ten and fourteen ; and his hunting and 
fishing grounds were not limited like the preserves of an 
English nobleman, but were more boundless even than 
those of a savage. No wonder, then, that he did not 
oftener stay to play on the common. But already a change 
is taking place, owing, not to an increased humanity, but to 
an increased scarcity of game, for perhaps the hunter is 
the greatest friend of the animals hunted, not excepting the 
Humane Society. 

Moreover, when at the pond, I wished sometimes to add 
fish to my fare for variety. I have actually fished from the 
same kind of necessity that the first fishers did. Whatever 


humanity I might conjure up against it was all factitious, 
and concerned my philosophy more than my feelings. I 
speak of fishing only now, for I had long felt differently 
about fowling, and sold my gun before I went to tho woods. 
Not that I am less humane than others, but I did not 
perceive that my feelings were much affected. I did not 
pity the fishes nor the worms. This was habit. As for 
fowling, during the last years that I carried a gun my 
excuse was that I was studying ornithology, and sought 
only new or rare birds. But I confess that I am now 
inclined to think that there is a finer way of studying 
ornithology than this. It requires so much closer attention 
to the habits of the birds, that, if for that reason only, 
I have been willing to omit the gun. Yet notwithstanding 
the objection on the score of humanity, I am compelled to 
doubt if equally valuable sports are ever substituted for 
these ; and when some of my friends have asked mo 
anxiously about their boys, whether they should let them 
hunt, I have answered, yes, remembering that it was one 
of the best parts of my education, make them hunters, 
though sportsmen only at first, if possible, mighty hunters 
at last, so that they shall not find game largo enough for 
them in this or any vegetable wilderness, hunters as well 
as fishers of men. Thus far I am of the opinion of 
Chaucer s nun, who 

" yavo not of the text a pulled hen 
That saith that hunters ben not holy men." 

There is a period in the history of the individual, as of the 
race, when the hunters are the " best men," as the 
Algonquins called them. We cannot but pity the boy who 
has never fired a gun; he is no more humane, while his 
education has been sadly neglected. This was my answer 

212 WALDEN. 

with respect to those youths who were bent on this pursuit, 
trusting that they would soon outgrow it. No humane 
being, past the thoughtless age of boyhood, will wantonly 
murder any creature which holds its life by the same 
tenure that he does. The hare in its extremity cries like a 
child. I warn you, mothers, that my sympathies do not 
always make the usual philanthropic distinctions. 

Such is oftenest the young man s introduction to tlit 
forest, and the most original part of himself. He goes 
thither at first as a hunter and fisher, until at last, if he has 
the seeds of a better life in him, he distinguishes his proper 
objects, as a poet or naturalist it may be, and leaves the gun 
and fish-pole behind. The mass of men are still and always 
young in this respect. In some countries a hunting parson 
is no uncommon sight. Such a one might make a good 
shepherd s dog, but is far from being the Good Shepherd. 
I have been surprised to consider that the only obvious 
employment, except wood-chopping, ice-cutting, or the like 
business, which ever to my knowledge detained at Walden 
Pond for a whole half day any of my fellow-citizens, 
whether fathers or children of the town, with just one 
exception, was fishing. Commonly they did not think that 
they were lucky, or well paid for their time, unless they got 
a long string of fish, though they had the opportunity of 
seeing the pond all the while. They might go there a 
thousand times before the sediment of fishing would sink to 
the bottom and leave their purpose pure ; but no doubt 
such a clarifying process would be going on all the while. 
The governor and his council faintly remember the pond, 
for they went a-fishing there when they were boys; but 
now they are too old and dignified to go a-fishing, and so 
they know it no more forever. Yet even they expect to go 
to heaven at last. If the legislature regards it, it is chiefly 



to regulate the number of hooks to be used there ; but they 
know nothing about the hook of hooks Avith which to angle 
for the pond itself, impaling the legislature for a bait. Thus, 
even in civilised communities, the embryo man passes 
through the hunter stage of development. 

I have found repeatedly, of late years, that I cannot fish 
without falling a little in self-respect. I have tried it again 
and again. I have skill at it, and, like many of my fellows, 
a certain instinct for it, which revives from time to time, 
but always when I have done I feel that it would have 
been better if I had not fished. I think that I do not 
mistake. It is a faint intimation, yet so are the first 
streaks of morning. There is unquestionably this instinct 
in me which belongs to the lower orders of creation ; yet 
with every year I am less a fisherman, though without 
more humanity or even wisdom ; at present I am no fisher 
man at all. But I see that if I were to live in a wilderness 
I should again be tempted to become a fisher and hunter in 
earnest. Beside, there is something essentially unclean 
about this diet and all flesh, and I began to see where 
housework commences, and whence the endeavour, which 
costs so much, to wear a tidy and respectable appearance 
each day, to keep the house sweet and free from all ill 
odours and sights. Having been my own butcher, and 
scullion, and cook, as well as the gentleman for whom the 
dishes were served up, I can speak from an unusually com 
plete experience. The practical objection to animal food in 
my case was its uncleaniiess ; and, besides, when I had 
caught, and cleaned, and cooked, and eaten my fish, they 
seemed not to have fed me essentially. It was insignificant 
and unnecessary, and cost more than it came to. A little 
bread or a few potatoes would have done as well, with less 
trouble and filth. Like many of my contemporaries, I had 

214 WALDEN. 

rarely for many years used animal food, or tea, or 
coffee, etc. ; not so much because of any ill effects which I 
had traced to them, as because they were not agreeable to 
my imagination. The repugnance to animal food is not the 
effect of experience, but is an instinct. It appeared more 
beautiful to live low and fare hard in many respects ; and 
though I never did so, I went far enough to please my 
imagination. I believe that every man who has ever been 
earnest to preserve his higher or poetic faculties in the best 
condition has been particularly inclined to abstain from 
animal food, and from much food of any kind. It is a 
significant fact, stated by entomologists, I find it in 
Kirby and Spencc, that "some insects in their perfect 
state, though furnished with organs of feeding, make 
no use of them ; " and they lay it down as " a general 
rule, that almost all insects in this state eat much 
less than in that of larvae. The voracious caterpillar 
when transformed into a butterfly," . . " and the gluttonous 
maggot when become a fly," content themselves with a drop 
or two of honey or some other sweet liquid. The abdomen 
under the wings of the butterfly still represents the larva. 
This is the tid-bit which tempts his insectivorous fate. The 
gross feeder is a man in the larva state; and there are 
whole nations in that condition, nations without fancy or 
imagination, whose vast abdomens betray them. 

It is hard to provide and cook so simple and clean a diet 
as will not offend the imagination ; but this, I think, is to 
be fed when we feed the body ; they should both sit down 
at the same table. Yet perhaps this may be done. The 
fruits eaten temperately need not make us ashamed of our 
appetites, nor interrupt the worthiest pursuits. But put an 
extra condiment into your dish, and it will poison you. It 
is not worth the while to live by rich cookery. Most men 


would fed shame if caught preparing with their own hands 
precisely such a dinner, whether of animal or vegetable 
food, as is every day prepared for them by others. Yet till 
this is otherwise we are not civilised, and, if gentlemen and 
ladies, are not true men and women. This certainly 
suggests what change is to be made. It may be vain to ask 
why the imagination will not be reconciled to flesh and fat. 
I am satisfied that it is not. Is it not a reproach that 
man is a carnivorous animal ? True, he can and does live, 
in a great measure, by preying on other animals ; but this 
is a miserable way, as any one who will go to snaring 
rabbits, or slaughtering lambs, may learn, and he will be 
regarded as a benefactor of his rcice who shall teach man to 
confine himself to a more innocent and wholesome diet. 
Whatever my own practice may be, I have no doubt that it 
is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual 
improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the 
savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came 
in contact with the more civilised. 

If one listens to the faintest but constant suggestions of 
his genius, which are certainly true, he sees not to what 
extremes, or even insanity, it may lead him ; and yet that 
way, as he grows more resolute and faithful, his road lies. 
The faintest assured objection which one healthy man feels 
will at length prevail over the arguments and customs 
of mankind. No man ever followed his genius till it mis 
led him. Though the result were bodily weakness, yet 
perhaps no one can say that the consequences were to bo 
regretted, for these were a life of conformity to higher 
principles. If the day and the night are such that you 
greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers 
and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more 
immortal, that is your success. All nature is your 

2i6 WALDEN. 

congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless 
yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from 
being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. 
We soon forget them. They are the highest reality. Per 
haps the facts most astounding and most real are never 
communicated by man to man. The true harvest of my 
daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as 
the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust 
caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched. 

Yet, for my part, I was never unusually squeamish ; I 
could sometimes cat a fried rat with a good relish, if it were 
necessary. I am glad to have drunk water so long, for the 
same reason that I prefer the natural sky to an opium- 
eater s heaven. I would fain keep sober always ; and 
there are infinite degrees of drunkenness. I believe that 
water is the only drink for a wise man ; wine is not so 
noble a liquor ; and think of dashing the hopes of a morn 
ing with a cup of warm coffee, or of an evening with a dish 
of tea ! Ah, how low I fall when I am tempted by them ! 
Even music may be intoxicating. Such apparently slight 
causes destroyed Greece and Rome, and will destroy 
England and America. Of all ebriosity, who does not 
prefer to be intoxicated by the air he breathes ? I have 
found it to be the most serious objection to coarse labours 
long continued, that they compelled me to eat and drink 
coarsely also. But to tell the truth, I find myself at 
present somewhat less particular in these respects. I carry 
less religion to the table, ask no blessing ; not because I am 
wiser than I was, but, I am obliged to confess, because, 
however much it is to be regretted, with years I have 
grown more coarse and indifferent. Perhaps these ques 
tions are entertained only in youth, as most believe of 
poetry. My practice is "nowhere," my opinion is here. 


Ni \( rlheless I am far from regarding myself as one of 
those privileged ones to whom the Ved refers when it says, 
that " he who has true faith in the Omnipresent Supreme 
Being may eat all that exists," that is, is not bound to 
inquire what is his food, or who prepares it ; and even in 
their case it is to bo observed, as a Hindoo commentator 
lias remarked, that the Vcdant limits this privilege to " the 
time of distress." 

AVho has not sometimes derived an inexpressible satis 
faction from his food in which appetite had no share ? I 
have been thrilled to think that I owed a mental perception 
to the commonly gross sense of taste, that I have been 
inspired through the palate, that some berries which I had 
eaten on a hill-side had fed my genius. "The soul not 
being mistress of herself," says Thseng-tseu, "one looks, 
and one does not see ; one listens, and one does not hear ; one 
eats, and one does not know the savour of food." He who 
distinguishes the true savour of his food can never be a 
glutton ; he who does not cannot be otherwise. A puritan 
may go to his brown-bread crust with as gross an appetite 
as ever an alderman to his turtle. Not that food which 
entereth into the mouth defileth a man, but the appetite 
with which it is eaten. It is neither the quality nor the 
quantity, but the devotion to sensual savours ; when that 
which is eaten is not a viand to sustain our animal, or 
inspire our spiritual life, but food for the worms that possess 
us. If the hunter has a taste for mud-turtles, musk-rats, 
and other such savage tid-bits, the fine lady indulges a taste 
for jelly made of a calf s foot, or for sardines from over the 
sea, and they are even. He goes to the mill-pond, she to 
her preserve-pot. The wonder is how they, how you and I, 
can live this slimy beastly life, eating and drinking. 

Our whole life is startlingly moral There is never an 

218 WALDEN. 

instaait s truce between virtue and vice. Goodness is the 
only investment that never fails. In the music of the harp 
which trembles round the world it is the insisting on this 
which thrills us. The harp is the travelling patterer for 
the Universe s Insurance Company, recommending its laws, 
jind our little goodness is all the assessment that we pay. 
Though the youth at last grows indifferent, the laws of the 
universe are not indifferent, but are forever on the side of 
the most sensitive. Listen to every zephyr for some 
reproof, for it is surely there, and he is unfortunate who 
does not hear it. We cannot touch a string or move a stop 
but the charming moral transfixes us. Many an irksome 
noise, go a long way off, is heard as music, a proud sweet 
satire on the meanness of our lives. 

We are conscious of an animal in us, which awakens in 
proportion as our higher nature slumbers. It is reptile and 
sensual, and perhaps cannot be wholly expelled ; like the 
worms which, even in life and health, occupy our bodies. 
Possibly we may withdraw from it, but never change its 
nature. I fear that it may enjoy a certain health of its 
own; that we may be well, yet not pure. The other day I 
picked up the lower jaw of a hog, with white and sound 
teeth and tusks, which suggested that there was an animal 
health and vigour distinct from the spiritual. This crea 
ture succeeded by other means than temperance and purity. 
" That in which men differ from brute beasts," says Mencius, 
" is a thing very inconsiderable ; the common herd lose it 
very soon; superior men preserve it carefully." Who 
knows what sort of life would result if we had attained to 
purity ? If I knew so wise a man as could teach me purity 
I would go to seek him forthwith. " A command over our 
passions, and over the external senses of the body, and good 
acts, are declared by the Ved to be indispensable in the 


mind s approximation to God." Yet the spirit can for the 
time pi-nude and control every member and function of 
the body, and transmute what in form is the grossest 
sensuality into purity and devotion. The generative energy, 
which, when wo are loose, dissipates and makes us un 
clean, when we are continent invigorates and inspires us. 
Chastity is the flowering of man ; and what are called 
Genius, Heroism, Holiness, and the like, are but various 
fruits which succeed it. Man flows at once to God when 
the channel of purity is open. By turns our purity inspires 
and our impurity casts us down. He is blessed who is 
assured that the animal is dying out in him day by day, 
and the divine being established. Perhaps there is none 
but has cause for shame on account of the inferior and 
brutish nature to which he is allied. I fear that we are 
such gods or demigods only as fauns and satyrs, the divine 
allied to beasts, the creatures of appetite, and that, to some 
extent, our very life is our disgrace 

" Ilow happy a he who hath due place assigned 
To his beasts and disaforested his mind ! 

Can use his horse, goat, wolf, and ev ry beast, 
And is not ass himself to all the rest ! 
Else man not only is the herd of swine, 
But he s those devils too which did incline 
Them to a headlong rage, and made them worse." 

All sensuality is one, though it takes many forms ; all 
purity is one. It is the same whether a man eat, or drink, 
or cohabit, or sleep sensually. They are but one appetite, 
and we only need to see a person do any one of these things 
to know how great a sensualist he is. The impure can 
neither stand nor sit with purity. When the reptile is 
attacked at one mouth of his burrow, he shows himself at 

220 WALDEN. 

another. If you would be chaste, you must be temperate. 
What is chastity ? How shall a man know if he is chaste? 
He shall not know it. We have heard of this virtue, but 
we know not what it is. We speak conformably to the 
rumour which we have heard. From exertion come wisdom 
and purity ; from sloth ignorance and sensuality. In the 
student sensuality is a sluggish habit of mind. An unclean 
person is universally a slothful one, one who sits by a stove, 
whom the sun shines on prostrate, who reposes without 
being fatigued. If you would avoid uncleanness, and all 
the sins, work earnestly, though it be at cleaning a stable. 
Nature is hard to be overcome, but she must be overcome. 
What avails it that you are a Christian, if you are not 
purer than the heathen, if you deny yourself no more, if 
you are not more religious ? I know of many systems of 
religion esteemed heathenish whose precepts fill the reader 
with shame, and provoke him to new endeavours, though it 
be to the performance of rites merely. 

I hesitate to say these things, but it is not because of the 
subject, I care not how obscene my words are, but 
because I cannot speak of them without betraying my 
impurity. We discourse freely without shame of one form 
of sensuality, and are silent about another. We are so 
degraded that we cannot speak simply of the necessary 
functions of human nature. In earlier ages, in some coun 
tries, every function was reverently spoken of and regulated 
by law. Nothing was too trivial for the Hindoo lawgiver, 
however offensive it may be to modern taste. He teaches 
how to eat, drink, cohabit, void excrement and urine, and 
the like, elevating what is mean, and does not falsely 
excuse himself by calling these things trifles. 

Every man is the builder of a temple, called his body, to 
the god he worships, after a style purely his own, nor can he 


got off by hammering marble instead. We are all sculptors 
and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood 
and bones. Any nobleness begins at once to refine a man s 
features, any meanness or sensuality to imbrute them. 

John Farmer sat at his door one September evening, 
ufU r a hard day s work, his mind still running on his labour 
more or less. Having bathed, he sat down to recreate his 
intellectual man. It was a rather cool evening, and somo 
of his neighbours were apprehending a frost. He had not 
attended to the train of his thoughts long when he heard 
some one playing on a flute, and that sound harmonised 
with his mood. Still he thought of his work \ but the bur 
den of his thought was, that though this kept running in 
his head, and he found himself planning and contriving it 
against his will, yet it concerned him very little. It was 
no more than the scurf of his skin, which was constantly 
shuffled off. But the notes of the flute came home to hia 
ears out of a different sphere from that he worked in, and 
suggested work for certain faculties which slumbered in 
him. They gently did away with the street, and the village, 
and the state in which he lived. A voice said to him - 
Why do you stay here and live this mean moiling life, when 
a glorious existence is possible for you ? Those same stars 
twinkle over other fields than these. But how to come out 
of this condition and actually migrate thither ? All that he 
could think of was to practise some new austerity, to let his 
mind descend into his body and redeem it, and treat himself 
with ever-increasing respect. 


)METIMES I had a companion in my fishing, who 
came through the village to my house from tho 
other side of the town, and the catching of the 
dinner was as much a social exercise as tho 
eating of it. 

Hermit. I wonder what the world is doing now. I 
have not heard so much as a locust over the sweet-fern 
these three hours. The pigeons are all asleep upon their 
roosts, no nutter from them. Was that a farmer s noon- 
horn which sounded from beyond the woods just now ? 
The hands are coming in to boiled salt beef, and cider, and 
Indian bread. Why will men worry themselves so ? He 
that does not eat need not work. I wonder how much they 
have reaped. Who would live there where a body can 
never think for the barking of Bose 1 And 0, the house 
keeping ! to keep bright the devil s door-knobs, and scour 
his tubs this bright day ! Better not keep a house. Say, 
some hollow tree ; and then for morning-calls and dinner 
parties ! Only a woodpecker tapping. 0, they swarm ; 
the sun is too warm there ; they are born too far into life 
for me. I have water from the spring, and a loaf of brown 
bread on the shelf. Hark ! I hear a rustling of the leaves. 
Is it some ill-fed village hound yielding to the instinct of 


the cliaso 1 or the lost pig which is said to be in these woods, 
whose tracks I saw after the ruin 1 It comes on apace ; 
my sumachs and sweet-briers tremble. Eh, Mr. Poet, is it 
you ? How do you like the world to-day 1 

Poet. See those clouds ; how they hang ! That s the 
greatest thing I have seen to-day. There s nothing like it in 
old paintings, nothing like it in foreign lands, unless when 
wo were off the coast of Spain. That s a true Mediter 
ranean sky. I thought, as I have my living to get, and 
have not eaten to-day, that I might go a-fishing. That s 
the true industry for poets. It is the only trade I have 
learned. Gome, let s along. 

Hermit. I cannot resist. My brown bread will soon bo 
gone. I will go with you gladly soon, but I am just 
concluding a serious meditation. I think that I am near 
the end of it. Leave me alone, then, for a while. But 
that we may not be delayed, you shall be digging the bait 
meanwhile. Angle-worms are rarely to be met with in 
these parts, where the soil was never fattened with manure; 
the race is nearly extinct. The sport of digging the bait 
is nearly equal to that of catching the fish, when one s 
appetite is not too keen j and this you may have all to 
yourself to-day. I would advise you to set in the spade 
down yonder among the ground-nuts, where you see the 
johnswort waving. I think that I may warrant you one 
worm to every three sods you turn up, if you look well in 
among the roots of the grass, as if you were weeding. Or, 
if you choose to go farther, it will not be unwise, for I have 
found the increase of fair bait to be very nearly as the 
squares of the distances. 

Hermit alone. Let me see ; where was 1 1 Methinks I 
was nearly in this frame of mind ; the world lay about at 
this angle. Shall I go to heaven or a-fishing 1 If I should 

224 WALDEN. 

bring this meditation to an end, would another so sweet 
occasion be likely to offer 1 I was as near being resolved 
into the essence of things as ever I was in my life. I fear 
rny thoughts will not come back to me. If it would do any 
good, I would whistle for them. When they make us an 
offer, is it wise to say, We will think of it ? My thoughts 
have left no track, and I cannot find the path again. 
What was it that I was thinking of 1 It was a very hazy 
day. I will just try these three sentences of Con-fut-sce ; 
they may fetch that state about again. I know not 
whether it was the dumps or a budding ecstasy. Mem. 
There never is but one opportunity of a kind. 

Poet. How now, Hermit, is it too soon? I have got 
just thirteen whole ones, beside several which are imperfect 
or undersized ; but they will do for the smaller fry ; they 
do not cover up the hook so much. Those village worms 
are quite too large ; a shiner may make a meal off one 
without finding the skewer. 

Hermit. Well, then, let s be off. Shall wo to the 
Concord 1 There s good sport there if the water bo not too 

Why do precisely these objects which we behold make a 
world? Why has man just these species of animals for his 
neighbours ; as if nothing but a mouse could have filled 
this crevice ? I suspect that Pilpay & Co. have put animals 
to their best use, for they are all beasts of burden, in a 
sense, made to carry some portion of our thoughts. 

The mice which haunted my house were not the common 
ones, which are said to have been introduced into the 
country, but a wild native kind not found in the village. 
I sent one to a distinguished naturalist, and it interested 
him much. When I was building, one of these had its nest 


underneath the house, and before I had laid the second 
floor, and swept out the shavings, would come out regularly 
at lunch time and pick up the crumbs at my feet. It pro 
bably had never seen a man before ; and it soon became 
quite familiar, and would run over my shoes and up my 
clothes. It could readily ascend the sides of the room by 
short impulses, like a squirrel, which it resembled in its 
motions. At length, as I leaned with my elbow on the 
bench one day, it ran up my clothes, and along my sleeve, 
and round and round the paper which held my dinner, 
while I kept the latter close, and dodged and played at bo- 
peep with it ; and when at last I held still a piece of cheese 
between my thumb and finger, it came and nibbled it, 
sitting in my hand, and afterward cleaned its face and 
paws, like a fly, and walked away. 

A phoebe soon built in my shed, and a robin for protection 
in a pine which grew against the house. In June tho 
partridge (Tetrao umbcllus), which is so shy a bird, led her 
brood past my windows, from tho woods in the rear to the 
front of my house, clucking and calling to them like a hen, 
and in all her behaviour proving herself the hen of tho 
woods. The young suddenly disperse on your approach, at 
a signal from the mother, as if a whirlwind had swept them 
away, and they so exactly resemble the dried leaves and 
twigs that many a traveller has placed his foot in the midst 
of a brood, and heard the whirr of the old bird as she flew 
off, and her anxious calls and mewing, or seen her trail her 
wings to attract his attention, without suspecting their 
neighbourhood. The parent will sometimes roll and spin 
round before you in such a dishabille, that you cannot, for 
a few moments, detect what kind of a creature it is. Tho 
young squat still and flat, often running their heads under 
a leaf, and mind only their mother s directions given from a 


226 WALDEN. 

distance, nor will your approach make them run again and 
betray themselves. You may even tread on them, or have 
your eyes on them for a minute, without discovering them. 
I have held them in my open hand at such a time, and still 
their only care, obedient to their mother and their instinct, 
was to squat there without fear or trembling. So perfect 
is this instinct, that once, when I had laid them on the 
leaves again, and one accidentally fell on its side, it was 
found with the rest in exactly the same position ten 
minutes afterward. They are not callow like the young of 
most birds, but more perfectly developed and precocious 
even than chickens. The remarkably adult yet innocent 
expression of their open and serene eyes is very memorable. 
All intelligence seems reflected in them. They suggest not 
merely the purity of infancy, but a wisdom clarified by 
experience. Such an eye was not born when the bird was, 
but is coeval with the sky it reflects. The woods do not 
yield another such a gem. The traveller does not often 
look into such a limpid well. The ignorant or reckless 
sportsman often shoots the parent at such a time, and 
leaves these innocents to fall a prey to some prowling 
beast or bird, or gradually mingle with the decaying leaves 
which they so much resemble. It is said that when hatched 
by a hen they will directly disperse on some alarm, and so 
are lost, for they never hear the mother s call which gathers 
them again. These were my hens and chickens. 

It is remarkable how many creatures live wild and froo 
though secret in the woods, and still sustain themselves in 
the neighbourhood of towns, suspected by hunters only. 
How retired the otto manages to live here I He grows to 
be four feet long, as big as a small boy, perhaps without any 
human being getting a glimpse of him. I formerly saw tlio 
raccoon in the woods behind where my house is built, and 


probably still heard their whinnering at night. Commonly 
I rested an hour or two in the shade at noon, after planting, 
and ate my lunch, and read a littlo by a spring which was 
the source of a swamp and of a brook, oozing from under 
Brister s Hill, half-a-mile from my field. The approach to 
this was through a succession of descending grassy hollows, 
full of young pitch-pines, into a larger wood about the 
swamp. There, in a very secluded and shaded spot, 
under a spreading white-pine, there was yet a clean firm 
sward to sit on. I had dug out the spring, and mado a well 
of clear grey water, where I could dip up a pailful without 
roiling it, and thither I went for this purpose almost every 
day in midsummer, when the pond was warmest. Thither 
too the woodcock led her brood, to probe the mud for 
worms, flying but a foot above them down the bank, while 
they ran in a troop beneath ; but at last, spying me, she 
would leave her young and circle round and round me, 
nearer and nearer till within four or five feet, pretending 
broken wings and logs, to attract my attention, and get off 
her young, who would already have taken up their march, 
with faint wiry peep, single file through the swamp, as she 
directed. Or I heard the peep of the young when I could 
not see the parent bird. There too the turtle doves sat over 
the spring, or fluttered from bough to bough of the soft 
white-pines over my head ; or the red squirrel, coursing 
down the nearest bough, was particularly familiar and 
inquisitive. You only need sit still long enough in some 
attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may 
exhibit themselves to you by turns. 

I was witness to events of a loss peaceful character. 
Onn clay when I went out to my wood-pile, or rather my 
pile of stumps, I observed two large ants, the one red, the 
other much larger, nearly half-an-inch long, and blade, 

228 WALDEN. 

fiercely contending with one another. Having once got 
hold they never let go, but struggled and wrestled and 
rolled on the chips incessantly. Looking farther, I was 
surprised to find that the chips were covered with such 
combatants, that it was not a dueUum, but a belhim, a war 
between two races of ants, the red always pitted against the 
black, and frequently two red ones to one black. The 
legions of these Myrmidons covered all the hills and vales 
in my wood-yard, and the ground was already strewn with 
the dead and dying, both red and black. It was the only 
battle which I have ever witnessed, the only battle-field I 
ever trod while the battle was raging ; internecine war ; 
the red republicans on the one hand, and the black 
imperialists on the other. On every side they were 
engaged in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I 
could hear, and human soldiers never fought so resolutely. 
I watched a couple that were fast locked in each other s 
embraces, in a little sunny valley amid the chips, now at 
noon-day prepared to fight till the sun went down, or life 
went out. The smaller red champion had fastened himself 
like a vice to his adversary s front, and through all the 
tumblings on that field never for an instant ceased to gnaw 
at one of his feelers near the root, having already caused 
the other to go by the board ; while the stronger black one 
dashed him from side to side, and as I saw on looking 
nearer, had already divested him of several of his members. 
They fought with more pertinacity than bull-dogs. Neither 
manifested the least disposition to retreat. It was evident 
that their battle cry was Conquer or die. In the mean 
while there came along a single red ant on the hill-side of 
this valley, evidently full of excitement, who cither had 
despatched his foe, or had not yet taken part in the battle ; 
probably the latter, for he had lost none of his limbs ; 


whoso mother had charged him to return with his shield or 
upon it. Or perchance he was some Achilles, who had 
nourished his wrath apart, and had now come to avenge or 
rescue his Patroclus. He saw this unequal combat from 
afar for the blacks were nearly twice the size of the red 
he drew near with rapid pace till he stood on his guard 
within half-an inch of the combatants ; then, watching his 
opportunity, he sprang upon the black warrior, and com 
menced his operations near the root of his right fore-leg, 
leaving the foe to select among his own members ; and so 
there were three united for life, as if a new kind of attrac 
tion had been invented which put all other locks and 
cements to shame. I should not have wondered by this 
time to find that they had their respective musical bands 
stationed on some eminent chip, and playing their national 
airs the while, to excite the slow and cheer the dying 
combatants. I was myself excited somewhat even as if 
they had been men. The more you think of it, the less 
the difference. And certainly there is not a fight recorded 
in Concord history, at least, if in the history of America, 
that will bear a moment s comparison with this, whether 
for the numbers engaged in it, or for the patriotism and 
heroism displayed. For numbers and for carnage it was an 
Austerlitz or Dresden. Concord Fight ! Two killed on 
the patriots side, and Luther Blanchard wounded ! Why 
here every ant was a Buttrick, "Fire! for God s sake, 
fire ! " and thousands shared the fate of Davis and Hosmer. 
There was not one hireling there. I have no doubt that 
it was a principle they fought for, as much as our ancestors, 
and not to avoid a threepenny tax on their tea ; and the 
results of this battle will be as important and memorable to 
those whom it concerns as those of the battle of Bunker 
Hill, at least. 

230 WALDEN. 

I took up the chip on which the three I have particularly 
described were struggling, carried it into my house, and 
placed it under a tumbler on my window-sill, in order to see 
the issue. Holding a microscope to the firskmentioned red 
ant, I saw that, though he was assiduously gnawing at the 
near fore-leg of his enemy, having severed his remaining 
feeler, his own breast was all torn away, exposing what 
vitals he had there to the jaws of the black warrior, whose 
breast-plate was apparently too thick for him to pierce ; and 
the dark carbuncles of the sufferer s eyes shone with ferocity 
such as war only could excite. They struggled half-an-hour 
longer under the tumbler, and when I looked again the 
black soldier had severed the heads of his foes from their 
bodies, and the still living heads were hanging on either 
side of him like ghastly trophies at his saddle-bow, still 
apparently as firmly fastened as ever, and he was endeavour 
ing with feeble struggles, being without feelers and with 
only the remnant of a leg, and I know not how many other 
wounds, to divest himself of them ; which at length, after 
half-an-hour more, he accomplished. I raised the glass, and 
he went off over the window-sill in that crippled state. 
Whether he finally survived that combat, and spent the 
remainder of his days in some Hotel des Invalides, I do 
not know ; but I thought that his industry would not be 
worth much thereafter. I never learned which party was 
victorious, nor the cause of the war : but I felt for the 
rest of that day as if I had had my feelings excited and 
harrowed by witnessing the struggle, the ferocity and 
carnage, of a human battle before my door. 

Kirby and Spence tell us that the battles of ants have 
long been celebrated and the date of them recorded, though 
they say that Huber is the only modern author who appears 
to have witnessed them. " jSEneas Sylvius," say they, 


"after giving a very circumstantial account of one contested 
with threat obstinacy by a great and small species on the 
trunk of a pear tree," adds that, " This action was fought 
in the pontificate of Eugenius the Fourth, in the presence 
of Nicholas Pistoriensis, an eminent lawyer, who related 
the whole history of the battle with the greatest fidelity. 
A similar engagement between great and small ants is 
recorded by Olaus Magnus, in which the small ones, being 
victorious, arc said to have buried the bodies of their own 
soldiers, but left those of their giant enemies a prey to the 
birds. This event happened previous to the expulsion of 
the tyrant Christiern the Second from Sweden." The 
battle which I witnessed took place in the Presidency of 
Polk, five years before the passage of Webster s Fugitive- 
Slave Bill. 

Many a village Bose, fit only to course a mud-turtle in a 
victualling cellar, sported his heavy quarters in the woods, 
without the knowledge of his master, and ineffectually 
smelled at old fox burrows and woodchucks holes ; led 
perchance by some slight cur which nimbly threaded the 
wood, and might still inspire a natural terror in its 
denizens ; now far behind his guide, barking like a canine 
bull toward some small squirrel which had treed itself for 
scrutiny, then, cantering off, bending the bushes with his 
weight, imagining that he is on the track of some stray 
member of the jerbilla family. Once I was surprised to see 
a cat walking along the stony shore of the pond, for they 
rarely wander so far from home. The surprise was mutual. 
Nevertheless the most domestic cat, which has lain on 
a rug all her days, appears quite at home in the woods, 
and, by her sly and stealthy behaviour, proves herself more 
native there than the regular inhabitants. Once, when 
berrying, T met with ;i cat with young kittens in the woods, 

232 WALDEN. 

quite wild, and they all, like their mother, had their backs 
up and were fiercely spitting at me. A few years before I 
lived in the woods there was what was called a " winged 
cat " in one of the farm-houses in Lincoln nearest the pond, 
Mr. Gilian Baker s. When I called to see her in June 
1842 she was gone a-hunting in the woods, as was her 
wont (I am not sure whether it was a male or a female, and 
go use the more common pronoun), but her mistress told 
me that she came into the neighbourhood a little more 
than a year before, in April, and was finally taken into 
their house ; that she was of a dark brownish-grey colour, 
with a white spot on her throat, and white feet, and had a 
large bushy tail like a fox ; that in the winter the fur grew 
thick and flatted out along her sides, forming stripes ten 
or twelve inches long by two-and-a-half wide, and under 
her chin like a muff, the upper side loose, the under 
matted like felt, and in the spring these appendages dropped 
off. They gave me a pair of her " wings," which I keep 
still. There is no appearance of a membrane about them. 
Some thought it was part flying-squirrel or some other wild 
animal, which is not impossible, for, according to naturalists, 
prolific hybrids have been produced by the union of the 
marten and domestic cat. This would have been the right 
kind of cat for me to keep, if I had kept any ; for why 
should not a poet s cat be winged as well as his horse ? 

In the fall the loon (Colymbus glacialis) came, as usual, 
to moult and bathe in the pond, mciking the woods ring 
with his wild laughter before I had risen. At rumour of his 
arrival all the Mill-dam sportsmen are on the alert, in gigs 
and on foot, two by two and three by three, with patent 
rifles and conical balls and spy-glasses. They come rustling 
through the woods like autumn leaves, at least ten men to 
one loon. Some station themselves on this side of the 


pond, some on that, for the poor bird cannot be omni 
present ; if he dive here he must come up there. But now 
the kind October wind rises, rustling the leaves and rippling 
the surface of the water, so that 110 loon can be heard or 
seen, though his foes sweep the pond with spy-glasses, and 
make the woods resound with their discharges. The 
wnves generously rise and dash angrily, taking sides 
with all water-fowl, and our sportsmen must beat a re 
treat to town, and shop, and unfinished jobs. But they 
were too often successful. When I went to get a pail of 
water early in the morning I frequently saw this stately 
bird sailing out of my cove within a few rods. If I 
endeavoured to overtake him in a boat, in order to see how 
lie would manoeuvre, he would dive and be completely lost, 
so that I did not discover him again, sometimes, till 
the latter part of the day. But I was more than a match 
for him on the surface. Ho commonly went off in a 

As I was paddling along the north shore one very calm 
October afternoon, for such days especially they settle on to 
the lakes, like the milk-weed down, having looked in vain 
over the pond for a loon, suddenly one, sailing out from the 
shore toward the middle a few rods in front of me, set up 
his wild laugh and betrayed himself. I pursued with a 
paddle and ho dived, but when he came up I was nearer 
than before. He dived again, but I miscalculated the 
direction he would take, and we were fifty rods apart when 
he came to the surface this time, for I had helped to widen 
the interval ; and again he laughed long and loud, and with 
more reason than before. He manoeuvred so cunningly that 
I could not get within half-a-dozen rods of him. Each time, 
when he came to the surface, turning his head this way and 
that, he coolly surveyed the water and the lund, and 


apparently chose his course so that he might come up where 
there was the widest expanse of water and at the greatest 
distance from the boat. It was surprising how quickly he 
made up his mind and put his resolve into execution. He 
led me at once to the widest part of the pond, and could 
not be driven from it. While he was thinking one thing in 
his brain, I was endeavouring to divine his thought in 
mine. It was a pretty game, played on the smooth surface 
of the pond, a man against a loon. Suddenly your 
adversary s checker disappears beneath the board, and 
the problem is to place yours nearest to where his will 
appear again. Sometimes he would come up unexpectedly 
on the opposite side of me, having apparently passed 
directly under the boat. So long-winded was he and so 
unweariable, that when he had swum farthest he would 
immediately plunge again, nevertheless ; and then no wit 
could divine where in the deep pond, beneath the smooth sur 
face, he might be speeding his way like a fish, for he had time 
and ability to visit the bottom of the pond in its deepest 
part. It is said that loons have been caught in the New 
York lakes eighty feet beneath the surface, with hooks set 
for trout, though Walden is deeper than that. How sur 
prised must the fishes be to see this ungainly visitor from 
another sphere speeding his way amid their schools ! Yet 
he appeared to know his course as surely under water as on 
the surface, and swam much faster there. Once or twice I 
saw a ripple where he approached the surface, just put his 
head out to reconnoitre, and instantly dived again. I found 
that it was as well for me to rest on my oars and wait his 
reappearing as to endeavour to calculate where he would 
rise ; for again and again, when I was straining my eyes 
over the surface one way, I would suddenly be startled by 
his unearthly laugh behind me. But why, after displaying 


so much cunning, did he invariably betray himself the 
moment he came up by that loud laugh 1 Did not his white 
breast enough betray him 1 He was indeed a silly loon, I 
thought. I could commonly hear the plash of the water 
when he came up, and so also detected him. Bu.t after an 
hour he seemed as fresh as ever, dived as willingly, and 
swam yet farther than at first. It was surprising to see 
how serenely he sailed off with unruffled breast when he 
came to the surface, doing all the work with his webbed 
feet beneath. His usual note was this demoniac laughter, 
yet somewhat like that of a water-fowl ; but occasionally, 
when he had balked me most successfully and come up a 
long way ofl , he muttered a long-drawn unearthly howl, 
probably more like that of a wolf than any bird ; as when 
a beast puts his muzzle to the ground and deliberately 
howls. This was his looning, perhaps the wildest sound 
that is ever heard here, making the woods ring far and 
wide. I concluded that he laughed in derision of my efforts, 
confident of his own resources. Though the sky was by this 
time overcast, the pond was so smooth that I could see 
where he broke the surface when I did not hear him. His 
white breast, the stillness of the air, and the smoothness of 
the water were all against him. At length, having come 
up fifty rods off, he uttered one of those prolonged howls, as 
if calling on the god of loons to aid him, and immediately 
there came a wind from the east and rippled the surface, and 
filled the whole air with misty rain, and I was impressed as 
if it were the prayer of the loon answered, and his god was 
angry with me, and so I left him disappearing far away on 
the tumultuous surface. 

For hours, in fall days, I watched the ducks cunningly 

tack and veer and hold the middle of the pond, far from the 

portsman tricks which they will have less need to practise 

236 WALDEN. 

in Louisiana bayous. When compelled to rise they would 
sometimes circle round and round and over the pond at a 
considerable height, from which they could easily see to 
other ponds and the river, like black motes in the sky; and, 
when I thought they had gone off thither long since, they 
would settle down by a slanting flight of a quarter-of-a-mile 
on to a distant part which was left free ; but what beside 
safety they got by sailing in the middle of Walden I do not 
know, unless they love its water for the same reason that 
I do. 


j|N October I went a-graping to the river meadows, 
and loaded myself with clusters more precious 
for their beauty and fragrance than for food. 
There too I admired, though I did not gather, 
the cranberries, small waxen gems, pendants of the meadow 
grass, pearly and red, which the farmer plucks with an ugly 
rake, leaving the smooth meadow in a snarl, heedlessly 
measuring them by the bushel and the dollar only, and sells 
the spoils of the meads to Boston and New York ; destined 
to be jammed, to satisfy the tastes of lovers of Nature 
there. So butchers rake the tongues of bison out of tho 
prairie grass, regardless of the torn and drooping plant. 
The barberry s brilliant fruit was likewise food for my eyes 
merely ; but I collected a small store of wild apples for 
coddling, which the proprietor and travellers had over 
looked. When chestnuts were ripe I laid up half-a-bushel 
for winter. It was very exciting at that season to roam 
the then boundless chestnut woods of Lincoln, they now 
sleep their long sleep under the railroad, with a bag on 
my shoulder, and a stick to open burrs with in my hand, 
for I did not always wait for the frost, amid the rustling of 
leaves and the loud reproofs of tho red-squirrels and the 
jays, whoso half-consumed nuts I sometimes stole, for tho 

238 WALDEN. 

burrs which they had selected were sure to contain sound 
ones. Occasionally I climbed and shook the trees. They 
grew also behind my house, and one large tree which almost 
overshadowed it, was, when in flower, a bouquet which 
scented the whole neighbourhood, but the squirrels and the 
jays got most of its fruit ; the last coming in flocks early in. 
the morning and picking the nuts out of the burrs before 
they fell. I relinquished these trees to them and visited 
the more distant woods composed wholly of chestnut. 
These nuts, as far as they went, were a good substitute for 
bread. Many other substitutes might, perhaps, be found. 
Digging one day for fish-worms I discovered the ground-nut 
(Apios tuberosa) on its string, the potato of the aborigines, 
a sort of fabulous fruit, which I had begun to doubt if I 
had ever dug and eaten in childhood, as I had told, and had 
not dreamed it. I had often since seen its crimpled red 
velvety blossom supported by the stems of other plants 
without knowing it to be the same. Cultivation has well 
nigh exterminated it. It has a sweetish taste, much liko 
that of a frost-bitten potato, and I found it better boiled 
than roasted. This tuber seemed like a faint promise of 
Nature to rear her own children and feed them simply hero 
at some future period. In these days of fatted cattle and 
waving grain-fields, this humble root, which was once tho 
totem of an Indian tribe, is quite forgotten, or known only 
by its flowering vine ; but let wild Nature reign here once 
more, and the tender and luxurious English grains will pro 
bably disappear before a myriad of foes, and without the 
care of man the crow may carry back even the last seed of 
corn to the great corn-field of the Indian s God in the south 
west, whence he is said to have brought it ; but the now 
almost exterminated ground-nut will perhaps revive and 
flourish in spite of the frosts and wildness, prove itself 

110 USE- WA RATING. 239 

indigenous, and resume its importance and dignity as tlio 
diet of the hunter tribe. Some Indian Ceres or Minerva 
must have been the inventor and bestower of it ; and when 
the reign of poetry commences here, its leaves and string of 
nuts may be represented on our works of art. 

Already, by the 1st of September, I had seen two or 
three small maples turned scarlet across the pond, beneath 
where the white stems of three aspens diverged, at the 
point of a promontory, next the water. Ah, many a tale 
their colour told ! And gradually from week to week the 
character of each tree came out, and it admired itself 
reflected in the smooth mirror of the lake. Each morning 
the manager of this gallery substituted some new picture, 
distinguished by more brilliant or harmonious colouring, for 
the old upon the walls. 

The wasps came by thousands to my lodge in October, as 
to winter-quarters, and settled on my windows within and 
on the walls overhead, sometimes deterring visitors from 
entering. Each morning, when they were numbed with 
cold, I swept some of them out, but I did not trouble myself 
much to get rid of them ; I even felt complimented by 
their regarding my house as a desirable shelter. They 
never molested me seriously, though they bedded with me ; 
and they gradually disappeared, into what crevices I do not 
know, avoiding winter and unspeakable cold. 

Like the wasps, before I finally went into winter-quarters 
in November, I used to resort to the north-east side of 
Walden, which the sun, reflected from the pitch-pine woods 
and the stony shore, made the fireside of the pond ; it is so 
much pleasanter and wholcsomer to be warmed by the sun 
while you can be, than by an artificial fire. I thus warmed 
myself by the still glowing embers which the summer, like 
a departed hunter, had left. 

240 WALDEN. 

When I came to build ray chimney [ studied masonry. 
My bricks being second-hand ones required to be cleaned 
with a trowel, so that I learned more than usual of the 
qualities of bricks and trowels. The mortar on them was 
fifty years old, and was said to be still growing harder ; 
but this is one of those sayings which men love to repeat 
whether they are true or not. Such sayings themselves 
grow harder and adhere more firmly with age, and it would 
take many blows with a trowel to clean an old wiseacre of 
them. Many of the villages of Mesopotamia are built of 
second-hand bricks of a very good quality, obtained from 
the ruins of Babylon, and the cement on them is older and 
probably harder still. However that may be, I was struck 
by the peculiar toughness of the steel which bore so many 
violent blows without being worn out. As my bricks had 
been in a chimney before, though I did not read the name 
of Nebuchadnezzar on them, I picked out as many fire-place 
bricks as I could find, to save work and waste, and I filled 
the spaces between the bricks about the fire-place with 
stones from the pond shore, and also made my mortar with 
the white sand from the same place. I lingered most about 
the fire-place, as the most vital part of the house. Indeed, 
I worked so deliberately, that though I commenced at the 
ground in the morning, a course of bricks raised a few 
inches above the floor served for my pillow at night ; yet I 
did not get a stiff neck for it that I remember ; my stiff 
neck is of older date. I took a poet to board for a fortnight 
about those times, which caused me to be put to it for 
room. He brought his own knife, though I had two, and 
we used to scour them by thrusting them into the earth. 
He shared with me the labours of cooking. I was pleased 
to see my work rising so square and solid by degrees, and 
reflected, that, if it proceeded slowly, it was calculated to 


endure a long time. The chimney is to some extent an 
independent structure, standing on the ground and rising 
through the house to the heavens ; even after the house is 
burned it still stands sometimes, and its importance and 
independence are apparent. This was toward the end of 
summer. It was now November. 

The north wind had already begun to cool the pond, 
though it took many weeks of steady blowing to accomplish 
it, it is so deep. When I began to have a fire at evening, 
before I plastered my house, the chimney carried smoke 
particularly well, because of the numerous chinks between 
the boards. Yet I passed some cheerful evenings in that 
cool and airy apartment, surrounded by the rough brown 
boards full of knots, and rafters with the bark on high 
overhead. My house never pleased my eye so much after 
it was plastered, though I was obliged to confess that it 
was more comfortable. Should not every apartment in 
which man dwells bo lofty enough to create some obscurity 
overhead, where flickering shadows may play at evening 
about the rafters ? These forms are more agreeable to the 
fancy and imagination than fresco paintings or other the 
most expensive furniture. I now first began to inhabit my 
house, I may say, when I began to use it for warmth as 
well as shelter. I had got a couple of old fire-dogs to keep 
the wood from the hearth, and it did me good to see the 
soot form on the back of the chimney which I had built, 
and I poked the fire with more right and more satisfaction 
than usual. My dwelling was small, and I could hardly 
entertain an echo in it ; but it seemed larger for being a 
single apartment and remote from neighbours. All the 
attractions of a house were concentrated in one room ; it 
was kitchen, chamber, parlour, and keeping-room ; and 


242 WALDEN, 

whatever satisfaction parent or child, master or servant, 
derive from living in a house, I enjoyed it all. Cato says, 
the master of a family (patremfamilias) Tnust have in his 
rustic villa " cellam oleariam, vinariam, dolia multa, uti 
lubeat caritatem expectare, et rei, et virtuti, et gloriae erit," 
that is, " an oil and wine cellar, many casks, so that it 
may be pleasant to expect hard times ; it will be for his 
advantage, and virtue, and glory." I had in my cellar a 
firkin uf potatoes, about two quarts of peas with the weevil 
in them, and on my shelf a little rice, a jug of molasses, 
and of rye and Indian meal a peck each. 

I sometimes dream of a larger and more populous house, 
standing in a golden age, of enduring materials, and with 
out ginger-bread work, which shall still consist of only one 
room, a vast, rude, substantial primitive hall, without ceil 
ing or plastering, with bare rafters and purlins supporting 
a sort of lower heaven over one s head, useful to keep off 
rain and snow ; where the king and queen posts stand out 
to receive your homage, when you have done reverence to 
the prostrate Saturn of an older dynasty on stepping over 
the sill ; a cavernous house, wherein you must reach up a 
torch upon a pole to see the roof ; where some may live in 
the fire-place, some in the recess of a window, and some on 
settles, some at one end of the hall, some at another, and 
some aloft on rafters with the spiders, if they choose ; a 
house which you have got into when you have opened the 
outside door, and the ceremony is over ; where the weary 
traveller may wash, and eat, and converse, and sleep, with 
out further journey; such a shelter as you would be glad to 
reach in a tempestuous night, containing all the essentials 
of a house, and nothing for house-keeping ; where you can 
see all the treasures of the house at one view, and every 
thing hangs upon its peg that a man should use ; at once 


kitchen, pantry, parlour, i-hambor, storo-houso, ami arn-t ; 
where you can seo so necessary a thing as a barrel or a 
Ladder, so convenient a thing as a cupboard, and hear the 
pot boil, and pay your respects to the fire that cooks your 
dinner and the oven that bakes your bread, and the neces 
sary furniture and utensils are the chief ornaments ; where 
the washing is not put out, nor the fire, nor the mistress, 
and perhaps you are sometimes requested to move from olF 
the trap-door, when the cook would descend into the cellar, 
and so learn whether the ground is solid or hollow beneath 
you without stamping. A house whoso inside is as open 
and manifest as a bird s nest, and you cannot go in at the 
front door and out at the back without seeing some of its 
inhabitants; where to be a guest is to be presented with the 
freedom of the house, and not to be carefully excluded from 
seven-eighths of it, shut up in a particular cell, and told to 
make yourself at home there, in solitary confinement. 
Now-a-days the host does not admit you to his hearth, but 
has got the mason to build one for yourself somewhere in 
his alley, and hospitality is the art of Iceeping you at the 
greatest distance. There is as much secrecy about the 
cooking as if he had a design to poison you. I am awaro 
that I have been on many a man s premises, and might 
have been legally ordered off, but I am not awaro that I 
have been in many men s houses. I might visit in my old 
clothes a king and queen who lived simply in such a houso 
as I have described, if I were going their way; but backing 
out of a modern palace will be all that I shall desiro to 
learn, if ever I am caught in one. 

It would seem as if the very language of our parlours 
would, lose all its nerve and degenerate into parlaver 
wholly, our lives pass at such remoteness from its symbol - 1 , 
and its metaphors and tropes are necessarily so fa 

244 WALDEN. 

through slides and dumb-waiters, as it were ; in other 
words, the parlour is so far from the kitchen and workshop. 
The dinner even is only the parable of a dinner, commonly. 
As if only the savage dwelt near enough to Nature and 
Truth to borrow a trope from them. How can the scholar, 
who dwells away in the North-West Territory or the Isle 
of Man, tell what is parliamentary in the kitchen ? 

However, only one or two of my guests were ever bold 
enough to stay and eat a hasty -pudding with me; but 
when they saw that crisis approaching they beat a hasty 
retreat rather, as if it would shake the house to its 
foundations. Nevertheless, it stood through a great many 

I did not plaster till it was freezing weather. I brought 
over some whiter and cleaner sand for this purpose from 
the opposite shore of the pond in a boat, a sort of convey 
ance which would have tempted me to go much farther if 
necessary. My house had in the meanwhile been shingled 
down to the ground on every side. In lathing I was 
pleased to be able to send home each nail with a single 
blow of the hammer, and it was my ambition to transfer 
the plaster from the board to the wall neatly and rapidly. 
I remembered the story of a conceited fellow, who, in fine 
clothes, was wont to lounge about the village once, giving 
advice to workmen. Venturing one day to substitute 
deeds for words, he tumed up his cuffs, seized the 
plasterer s board, and having loaded his trowel without 
mishap, with a complacent look toward the lathing over 
head, made a bold gesture thitherward ; and straightway, 
to his complete discomfiture, received the whole contents in 
his ruffled bosom. I admired anew the economy and con 
venience of plastering, which so effectually shuts out the 
cold and takes a handsome finish, and I learned the various 


casualties lo which the plasterer is liable. I was surprised 
to see how thirsty the bricks were which drank up all the 
moisture in my plaster before I had smoothed it, and how 
many pailfuls of water it takes to christen a new hearth. 
1 had the previous winter made a small quantity of lime by 
burning the shells of the Unio jluviatilis, which our river 
allure] s, for the sake of the experiment; so that I knew where 
my materials came from. I might have got good limestone 
within a mile or two and burned it myself, if I had cared 
to do so. 

The pond had in the meanwhile skimmed over in the 
shadiest and shallowest coves, some days or even weeks 
before the general freezing. The first ice is especially 
interesting and perfect, being hard, dark, and transparent, 
and affords the best opportunity that ever offers for examin 
ing the bottom where it is shallow ; for you can lie at your 
length on ice only an inch thick, like a skater insect on the 
surface of the water, and study the bottom at your leisure, 
only two or three inches distant, like a picture behind a 
glass, and the water is necessarily always smooth then. 
There are many furrows in the sand where some creature 
has travelled about and doubled on its tracks; and, for 
wrecks, it is strewn with the cases of cadis worms made of 
minute grains of white quartz. Perhaps these have creased 
it, for you find some of their cases in the furrows, though 
they are deep and broad for them to make. But the ice 
itself is the object of most interest, though you must im 
prove the earliest opportunity to study it. If you examine 
it closely the morning after it freezes, you find that the 
greater part of the bubbles, which at first appeared to be 
within it, are against its under surface, and that more are 
continually rising from the bottom ; while the i<;e is as yet 

246 WALDEN. 

comparatively solid and dark, that is, you see the water 
through it. These bubbles are from an eightieth to an 
eighth of an inch in diameter, very clear and beautiful, and 
you see your face reflected in them through the ice. There 
may be thirty or forty of them to a square inch. There are 
also already within the ice narrow, oblong, perpendicular 
bubbles about half-an-inch long, sharp cones with the apex 
upward ; or oftener, if the ice is quite fresh, minute 
spherical bubbles, one directly above another, like a string 
of beads. But these within the ice are not so numerous 
nor obvious as those beneath. I sometimes used to cast on 
stones to try the strength of the ice, and those which broke 
through carried in air with them, which formed very large 
and conspicuous white bubbles beneath. One day when I 
came to the same place forty-eight hours afterward, I found 
that those large bubbles were still perfect, though an inch 
more of ice had formed, as I could see distinctly by the 
seam in the edge of a cake. But as the last two days had 
been very warm, like an Indian summer, the ice was not 
now transparent, showing the dark green colour of the 
water, and the bottom, but opaque and whitish or grey, 
and though twice as thick was hardly stronger than before, 
for the air bubbles had greatly expanded under this heat 
and run together, and lost their regularity ; they were no 
longer one directly over another, but often like silvery coins 
poured from a bag, one overlapping another, or in thin 
flakes, as if occupying slight cleavages. The beauty of the ice 
was gone, and it was too late to study the bottom. Being 
curious to know what position my great bubbles occupied 
with regard to the new ice, I broke out a cake containing 
a middling-sized one, and turned it bottom upward. The 
new ice had formed around and under the bubble, so that 
it was included between the two ices. It was wholly in 


the lower ice, but close against the upper, and was flattish, 
or perhaps slightly lenticular, with a rounded edge, a 
quarter-of-an-inch deep by four inches in diameter ; and 
T was surprised to find that directly under the bubble the 
ice was melted with great regularity in the form of a saucer 
reversed, to the height of live-eighths of an inch in the 
middle, leaving a thin partition there between the water 
and the bubble, hardly an eighth-of-an-inch thick ; and in 
many places the small bubbles in this partition had burst 
out downward, and probably there was no ice at all under 
the largest bubbles, which were a foot in diameter. I in 
ferred that the infinite number of minute bubbles which I 
had first seen against the under surface of the ice were now 
frozen in likewise, and that each, in its degree, had operated 
like a burning glass on the ice beneath to melt and rot it. 
These are the little air-guns which contribute to make the 
ice crack and whoop. 

At length the winter set in in good earnest, just as I had 
finished plastering, and the wind began to howl around the 
house as if it had not had permission to do so till then. 
Night after night the geese came lumbering in in the dark 
with a clangour and a whistling of wings, even after the 
ground was covered with snow, some to alight in Walden, 
and some flying low over the woods toward Fair-Haven, 
bound for Mexico. Several times, when returning from the 
village at ten or eleven o clock at night, I heard the tread 
of a flock of geese, or else ducks, on the dry leaves in the 
woods by a pond-hole behind my dwelling, where they had 
come up to feed, and the faint honk or quack of their 
leader as they hurried off. In 1845 Walden froze entirely 
over for the first time on the night of the 22nd of Decem 
ber, Flints and other shallower ponds and the river having 

248 WALDEN. 

been frozen ten days or more; in 46, the 16th; in 49, 
about the 31st ; and in 50, about the 27th of December ; 
in 52, the 5th of January ; in 53, the 31st of December. 
The snow had already covered the ground since the 25th of 
November, and surrounded me suddenly with the scenery 
of winter. I withdrew yet farther into my shell, and en 
deavoured to keep a bright fire both within my house and 
within my breast. My employment out of doors now was 
to collect the dead wood in the forest, bringing it in my 
hands or on my shoulders, or sometimes trailing a dead 
pine tree under each arm to my shed. An old forest fence 
which had seen its best days was a great haul for me. I 
sacrificed it to Vulcan, for it was past serving the god Ter 
minus. How much more interesting an event is that man s 
supper who has just been forth in the snow to hunt, nay, 
you might say, steal, the fuel to cook it with ! His bread 
and meat are sweet. There are enough faggots and waste 
wood of all kinds in the forests of most of our towns to sup 
port many fires, but which at present warm none, and, 
some think, hinder the growth of the young wood. There 
was also the drift-wood of the pond. In the course of the 
summer I had discovered a raft of pitch-pine logs with the 
bark on, pinned together by the Irish when the railroad 
was built. This I hauled up partly on the shore. After 
soaking two years and then lying high six months it was 
perfectly sound, though waterlogged past drying. I amused 
myself one winter day with sliding this piecemeal across the 
pond, nearly half -a-mile, skating behind with one end of a 
log fifteen feet long on my shoulder, and the other on the 
ice ; or I tied several logs together with a birch withe, and 
then, with a longer birch or alder which had a hook at the 
end, dragged them across. Though completely waterlogged 
and almost as heavy as lead, they not only burned long, but 


made a very hot firo ; nay, I thought that they burned 
better for the soaking, as if the pitch, being confined by the 
water, burned longer as in a lamp. 

Gilpin, in his account of the forest borderers of England, 
says that " the encroachments of trespassers, and the houses 
and fences thus raised on the borders of the forest," were 
"considered as great nuisances by the old forest law, and 
were severely punished under the name of purpreslures, 
as tending ad Icrrorem ferarum ad nocumentum forested" 
etc., to the frightening of the game and the detriment of 
the forest. But I was interested in the preservation of the 
venison and the vert more than the hunters or wood- 
choppers, and as much as though I had been the Lord 
Warden himself ; and if any part was burned, though I 
burned it myself by accident, I grieved with a griff that 
lasted longer and was more inconsolable than that of the 
proprietors ; nay, I grieved when it was cut down by the 
proprietors themselves. I would that our farmers when 
they cut down a forest felt some of that awe which the old 
Romans did when they came to thin, or let in the light to, 
a consecrated grove (lucum conlucare), that is, would 
believe that it is sacred to some god. The Roman made an 
expiatory offering, and prayed, Whatever god or goddess 
thou art to whom this grove is sacred, be propitious to me, 
my family, and children, etc. 

It is remarkable what a value is still put upon wood even 
in this age and in this new country a value more per 
manent and universal than that of gold. After all our 
discoveries and inventions no man will go by a pile of wood. 
It is as precious to us as it was to our Saxon and Norman 
ancestors. If they made their bows of it, we make our 
gun-stocks of it. Michaux, more than thirty years ago, 
says that the price of wood for fuel in New York and 

250 WALDEN. 

Philadelphia " nearly equals, and sometimes exceeds, that 
of the best wood in Paris, though this immense capital 
annually requires more than three hundred thousand cords, 
and is surrounded to the distance of three hundred miles 
by cultivated plains." In this town the price of wood rises 
almost steadily, and the only question is, how much higher 
it is to be this year than it was the last. Mechanics and 
tradesmen who come in person to the forest on no other 
errand, are sure to attend the wood auction, and even pay 
a high price for the privilege of gleaning after the wood- 
chopper. It is now many years that men have resorted to 
the forest for fuel and the materials of the arts ; the New 
Englander and the New Hollander, the Parisian and the 
Celt, the farmer and Robin Hood, Goody Blake and Harry 
Gill, in most parts of the world the prince and the peasant, 
the scholar and the savage, equally require still a few sticks 
from the forest to warm them and cook their food. Neither 
could I do without them. 

Every man looks at his wood-pile with a kind of affec- 
tion. I loved to have mine before my window, and the 
more chips the better to remind me of my pleasing work. 
I had an old axe which nobody claimed, with which by 
spells in winter days, on the sunny side of the house, I 
played about the stumps which I had got out of my bean- 
field. As my driver prophesied when I was ploughing, 
they warmed me twice, once while I was splitting them, 
and again when they were on the fire, so that no fuel could 
give out more heat. As for the axe, I was advised to get 
the village blacksmith to "jump" it; but I jumped him, 
and, putting a hickory helve from the woods into it, made 
it do. If it was dull, it was at least hung true. 

A few pieces of fat pine were a great treasure. It is 
interesting to remember how much of this food for fire 


is still concealed in the bowels of the earth. In previous 
y< ;u I had often gone "prospecting" over some bare hill 
side, where a pitch-pine wood had formerly stood, and got 
out the fat pine roots. They are almost indestructible. 
Stumps thirty or forty years old, at least, will still be sound 
at the core, though the sapwood has all become vegetable 
mould, as appears by the scales of the thick bark forming 
a ring level with the earth four or five inches distant from 
the heart. With axe and shovel you explore this mine, and 
follow the marrowy store, yellow as beef tallow, or as if you 
had struck on a vein of gold, deep into the earth. But 
commonly I kindled my fire with the dry leaves of the 
forest, which I had stored up in my shed before the snow 
came. Green hickory finely split makes the wood-chopper s 
kindlings, when he has a camp in the woods. Once in a 
while I got a little of this. When the villagers were 
lighting their fires beyond the horizon, I too gave notice to 
the various wild inhabitants of Waldcn vale, by a smoky 
streamer from my chimney, that I was awake 

" Light- winged Smoke, Icarian bird, 
Melting thy pinions in thy upward flight, 
Lark without song, and messenger of dawn, 
Circling above the hamlets as thy nest ; 
Or else, departing dream, and shadowy form 
Of midnight vision, gathering up thy skirts ; 
By night star- veiling, and by day 
Darkening the light and blotting out the sun ; 
Go thou my incense upward from this hearth, 
And ask the gods to pardon this clear flame." 

1 1 ;ml green wood just cut, though I used but little of 
that, answered my purpose better than any other. 1 some 
times left a good fire when I went to take a walk in a 

252 WALDEN. 

winter afternoon; and when I returned, three or four 
hours afterward, it would be still alive and glowing. My 
house was not empty though I was gone. It was as if I 
had left a cheerful housekeeper behind. It was I and Fire 
that lived there ; and commonly my housekeeper proved 
trustworthy. One day, however, as I was splitting wood, I 
thought that I would just look in at the window and see if 
the house was not on fire ; it was the only time I remem 
ber to have been particularly anxious on this score ; so I 
looked and saw that a spark had caught my bed, and I 
went in and extinguished it when it had burned a place 
as big as my hand. But my house occupied so sunny and 
sheltered a position, and its roof was so low, that I could 
afford to let the fire go out in the middle of almost any 
winter day. 

The moles nested in my cellar, nibbling every third 
potato, and making a snug bed even there of some hair left 
after plastering and of brown paper ; for even the wildest 
animals love comfort and warmth as well as man, and they 
survive the winter only because they are so careful to 
secure them. Some of my friends spoke as if I was coming 
to the woods on purpose to freeze myself. The animal 
merely makes a bed, which he warms with his body in a 
sheltered place ; but man, having discovered fire, boxes up 
some air in a spacious apartment, and warms that, 
instead of robbing himself, makes that his bed, in which he 
can move about divested of more cumbrous clothing, 
maintain a kind of summer in the midst of winter, and 
by means of windows even admit the light, and with a 
lamp lengthen out the day. Thus he goes a step or two 
beyond instinct, and saves a little time for the fine arts. 
Though, when I have been exposed to the rudest blasts 
a long time, my whole body began to grow torpid, when 


I reached the genial atmosphere of my house I soon 
recovered my faculties and prolonged my life. But the 
most luxuriously housed has little to boast of in this respect, 
nor need we trouble ourselves to speculate how the human 
race may be at last destroyed. It would be easy to cut 
their threads any time with a little sharper blast from tho 
north. We go on dating from Cold Fridays and Great 
Snows ; but a little colder Friday, or greater snow, would 
put a period to man s existence on the globe. 

The next winter I used a small cooking-stove for 
economy, since I did not own the forest ; but it did not 
keep fire so well as the open fire-place. Cooking was then, 
for the most part, no longer a poetic, but merely a chemic 
process. It will soon be forgotten, in these days of stoves, 
that we used to roast potatoes in the ashes, after the Indian 
fashion. The stove not only took up room and scented the 
house, but it concealed the fire, and I felt as if I had lost a 
companion. You can always see a face in the fire, The 
labourer, looking into it at evening, purifies his thoughts of 
the dross and earthiness which they have accumulated 
during the day. But I could no longer sit and look into 
the fire and the pertinent words of a poet recurred to 
me with new force : 

"Never, bright flame, may bo denied to me 
Thy dear, life imaging, close sympathy. 
What but my hopes shot upward e er so bright ? 
What but my fortunes sunk so low in night ? 

Why art thou banished from our hearth and hall, 
Thou who art welcomed and beloved by all ? 
Was thy existence then too fanciful 
For our life s common light, who art so dull ? 
Did thy bright gleam mysterious converse hold 
With our congenial souls ? secrets too bold 1 



Well, we arc safe and strong, for now we sit 
Beside a hearth where no dim shadows flit, 
Where nothing cheers nor saddens, but a fire 
Warms feet and hands nor does to more aspire ; 
By whose compact utilitarian heap 
The present may sit down and go to sleep, 
Nor fear the ghosts who from the dim past walkc<l, 
And with us by the unequal light of the old wood fire 


WEATHERED some merry snow-storms, and 
spent some cheerful winter evenings by my fire 
side, while the snow whirled wildly without, and 
even the hooting of the owl was hushed. For 
many weeks I met no one in my walks but those who camo 
occasionally to cut wood and sled it to the village. Tho 
elements, however, abetted me in making a path through 
the deepest snow in the woods, for when I had once gono 
through the wind blew the oak loaves into my tracks, 
where they lodged, and by absorbing the rays of the sun 
melted the snow, and so not only made a dry bed for my 
feet, but in the night their dark line was my guide. For 
human society I was obliged to conjure up the former 
occupants of these woods. Within the memory of many of 
my townsmen the road near which my house stands 
resounded with the laugh and gossip of inhabitants, and the 
woods which border it were notched and dotted with their 
little gardens and dwellings, though it was then much more 
shut in by the forest than now. In some places, within 
my own remembrance, the pines would scrape both sides of 
a chaise at once, and women and children who were com 
pelled to go this way to Lincoln alone and on foot did it 

256 WALDEN. 

with fear, and often ran a good part of tho distance. 
Though mainly but a humble route to neighbouring villages, 
or for the woodman s team, it once amused the traveller 
more than now by its variety, and lingered longer in his 
memory. Where now firm open fields stretch from the 
village to the woods, it then ran through a maple swamp 
on a foundation of logs, the remnants of which, doubtless, 
still underlie the present dusty highway, from the Stratten, 
now the Alms House, Farm, to Brister s Hill. 

East of my bean-field, across the road, lived Cato Ingra- 
ham, slave of Duncan Ingraham, Esquire, gentleman of 
Concord village ; who built his slave a house, and gave him 
permission to live in Walden Woods ; Cato, not Uticensis, 
but Concordiensis. Some say that he was a Guinea Negro. 
There are a few who remember his little patch among tho 
walnuts, which he let grow up till he should be old and 
need them ; but a younger and whiter speculator got them 
at last. He too, however, occupies an equally narrow house 
at present. Cato s half-obliterated cellar hole still remains, 
though known to few, being concealed from the traveller by 
a fringe of pines. It is now filled with the smooth sumach 
(Rhus glabra,) and one of the earliest species of golden-rod 
(Solidago stricta) grows there luxuriantly. 

Here, by the very corner of my field, still nearer to town, 
Zilpha, a coloured woman, had her little house, where she 
spun linen for the townsfolk, making the Walden Woods 
ring with her shrill singing, for she had a loud and notable 
voice. At length, in the war of 1812, her dwelling was sc-t 
on fire by English soldiers, prisoners on parole, when she 
was away, and her cat, and dog, and hens were all burned 
up together. She led a hard life, and somewhat inhumane. 
One old frequenter of these woods remembers, that as he 
passed her house one noon he heard her muttering to 


herself over her gurgling pot, " Ye are all bones, bones ! " 
I have seen bricks amid the oak copse there. 

Down the road, on the right hand, on Brister s Hill, 
lived Brister Freeman, " a handy Negro," slave of Squire 
Cuinmings once, there where grow still the apple-trees 
which Brister planted and tended ; large old trees now, but 
their fruit still wild and ciderish to my taste. Not long 
since I read his epitaph in the old Lincoln burying-ground, 
a little on one side, near the unmarked graves of some 
British grenadiers who fell in the retreat from Concord, 
where he is styled " Sippio Brister," Scipio Africanus ho 
had some title to be called, " a man of colour," as if he 
were discoloured. It also told me, with staring emphasis, 
when he died ; which was but an indirect way of informing 
me that he ever lived. With him dwelt Fenda, his hospi 
table wife, who told fortunes, yet pleasantly, large, round, 
and black, blacker than any of the children of night, such a 
dusky orb as never rose on Concord before or since. 

Farther down the hill, on the left, on the old road in the 
woods, are marks of some homestead of the Stratten family; 
whose orchard once covered all the slope of Brister s Hill, 
but was long since killed out by pitch-pines, excepting a few 
stumps, whose old roots furnish still the wild stocks of many 
a thrifty village tree. 

Nearer yet to town, you come to Breed s location, on the 
other side of the way, just on the edge of the wood ; ground 
famous for the pranks of a demon not distinctly named in 
old mythology, who has acted a prominent and astounding 
part in our New England life, and deserves, as much as any 
mythological character, to have his biography written one 
day ; who first comes in the guise of a friend or hired man, 
and then robs and murders the whole family, New 
England Rum. But history must not yet tell the tragedies 

258 WALDEN. 

enacted hero ; let time intervene in some measure to 
assuage and lend an azure tint to them. Here the most 
indistinct and dubious tradition says that once a tavern 
stood ; the well the same, which tempered the traveller s 
beverage and refreshed his steed. Here then men saluted 
one another, and heard and told tho news, and went their 
ways again. 

Breed s hut was standing only a dozen years ago, though 
it had long been unoccupied. It was about the size of mine. 
It was set on fire by mischievous boys, one election night, 
if I do not mistake. I lived on the edge of tho village then, 
and had just lost myself over Davenant s Gondibert, that 
winter that I laboured with a lethargy, which, by the way, 
I never knew whether to regard as a family complaint, 
having an uncle who goes to sleep shaving himself, and is 
obliged to sprout potatoes in a cellar Sundays, in order to 
keep awake and keep the Sabbath, or as the consequence of 
my attempt to read Chalmers collection of English poetry 
without skipping. It fairly overcame my Nervii. I had 
just sunk my head on this when the bells rung fire, and in 
hot haste the engines rolled that way, led by a straggling 
troop of men and boys, and I among the foremost, for I had 
leaped the brook. We thought it was far south over the 
woods, we who had run to fires before, barn, shop, or 
dwelling-house, or all together. " It s Baker s barn," cried 
one. " It is the Codman Place," affirmed another. And 
then fresh sparks went up above tho wood, as if the roof 
fell in, and we all shouted " Concord to the rescue ! " 
Waggons shot past with furious speed and crushing loads, 
bearing, perchance, among the rest, the agent of the Insur 
ance Company, who was bound to go however far ; and ever 
and anon the engine bell tinkled behind, more slow and sure, 
and rearmost of all, as it was afterward whispered, came 


they who set the fire and gave the alarm. Thus we kept 
on like true idealists, rejecting the evidence of our senses, 
until at a turn in the road wo heard the crackling and 
actually felt the heat of the fire from over the wall, and 
realised, alas ! that we were there. The very nearness of 
the fire but cooled our ardour. At first we thought to 
throw a frog-pond on to it ; but concluded to let it burn, it 
was so far gone and so worthless. So we stood round our 
engine, jostled one another, expressed our sentiments 
through speaking trumpets, or in lower tone referred to the 
great conflagrations which the world has witnessed, includ 
ing Bascom s shop, and, between ourselves, we thought that, 
were wo there in season with our " tub," and a full frog- 
pond by, we could turn that threatened last and universal 
one into another flood. We finally retreated without doing 
any mischief, returned to sleep and Gondibert. But as 
for Gondibert, I would except that passage in the preface 
about wit being the soul s powder, " but most of mankind 
are strangers to wit, as Indians are to powder." 

It chanced that I walked that way across the fields the 
following night, about the same hour, and hearing a low 
moaning at this spot, I drew near in the dark, and discovered 
the only survivor of the family that I know, the heir of both 
its virtues and its vices, who alone was interested in this 
burning, lying on his stomach and looking over the cellar 
wall at the still smouldering cinders beneath, muttering to 
himself, as is his wont. He had been working far off in the 
river meadows all day, and had improved the first moments 
that he could call his own to visit the homo of his fathers 
and his youth. He gazed into the cellar from all sides and 
points of view by turns, always lying down to it, as if there 
was some treasure, which he remembered, concealed between 
the stones, where there was absolutely nothing but a heap 

2 6o WALDEN. 

of bricks and ashes. The house being gone, he looked at 
what there was left. He was soothed by the sympathy 
which my mere presence implied, and showed me, as 
well as the darkness permitted, where the well was covered 
up ; which, thank Heaven, could never be burned ; and he 
groped long about the wall to find the well-sweep which his 
father had cut and mounted, feeling for the iron hook or 
staple by which a burden had been fastened to the heavy 
end, all that he could now cling to, to convince me that it 
was no common " rider." I felt it, and still remark it almost 
daily ; in my walks, for by it hangs the history of a family. 

Once more, on the left, where are seen the well and lilac 
bushes by the wall, in the now open field, lived Nutting and 
Le Grosse. But to return toward Lincoln. 

Farther in the woods than any of these, where the road 
approaches nearest to the pond, Wyman the potter squatted, 
and furnished his townsmen with earthenware, and left 
descendants to succeed him. Neither were they rich in 
worldly goods, holding the land by sufferance while they 
lived ; and there often the sheriff came in vain to collect the 
taxes, and "attached a chip," for form s sake, as I have read 
in his accounts, there being nothing else that he could lay 
his hands on. One day in midsummer, when I was hoeing, 
a man who was carrying a load of pottery to market 
stopped his horse against my field and inquired concerning 
Wyman the younger. He had long ago bought a potter s 
wheel of him, and wished to know what had become of him. 
I had read of the potter s clay and wheel in Scripture, but 
it had never occurred to me that the pots we use were not 
such as had come down unbroken from those days, or grown 
on trees like gourds, and I was pleased to hear that so 
fictile an art was ever practised in my neighbourhood. 

The last inhabitant of these woods before me was an 


Iii liinan, Hugh Quoil, (if I have spelt his name with coil 
enough,) who occupied Wyman s tenement, Col. Quoil, ho 
was called. Rumour said that he had been a soldier at 
Waterloo. If he had lived I should have made hira fight 
his battles over again. His trade here was that of a 
ditcher. Napoleon went to St. Helena; Quoil carne to 
Walden Woods. All I know of him is tragic. He was a 
man of manners, like one who had seen the world, and was 
capable of more civil speech than you could well attend to. 
Ho wore a great-coat in midsummer, being affected with the 
trembling delirium, and his face was the colour of carmine. 
He died in the road at the foot of Brister s Hill shortly 
after I came to the woods, so that I have not remembered 
him as a neighbour. Before his house was pulled down, 
when his comrades avoided it as "an unlucky castle," I 
visited it. There lay his old clothes curled up by use, as if 
they were himself, upon his raised plank bed. His pipe 
lay broken on the hearth, instead of a bowl broken at the 
fountain. The last could never have been the symbol of 
his death, for he confessed to me that, though he had heard 
of Brister s Spring, he had never seen it ; and soiled cards, 
kings of diamonds, spades, and hearts, were scattered over 
the floor. One black chicken which the administrator 
could not catch, black as night and as silent, not even 
croaking, awaiting Reynard, still went to roost in the next 
apartment. In the rear there was the dim outline of a 
garden, which had been planted but had never received its 
first hoeing, owing to those terrible shaking fits, though it 
was now harvest time. It was overrun with Roman worm 
wood and beggar-ticks, which last stuck to my clothes for 
all fruit. The skin of a woodchuck was freshly stretched 
upon the back of the house, a trophy of his last Waterloo, 
but no warm cap or mittens would he want more. 

262 WALDEN. 

Now only a dent in the earth marks the site of thcso 
dwellings, with buried cellar stones, and strawberries, rasp 
berries, thimble-berries, hazel-bushes, and sumachs growing 
in the sunny sward there ; some pitch-pine or gnarled oak 
occupies what was the chimney-nook, and a sweet-scented 
black-pitch, perhaps, waves where the door-stone was. 
Sometimes the well dent is visible, where once a spring 
oozed ; now dry and tearless grass ; or it was covered deep 
not to be discovered till some late day with a flat stone 
under the sod, when the last of the race departed. What a 
sorrowful act must that be, the covering up of wells ! 
coincident with the opening of wells of tears. These cellar 
dents, like deserted fox-burrows, old holes, are all that is 
left where once were the stir and bustle of human life, and 
" fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute," in some form and 
dialect or other were by turns discussed. But all I can 
learn of their conclusions amounts to just this, that " Oato 
and Brister pulled wool ; " which is about as edifying as the 
history of more famous schools of philosophy. 

Still grows the vivacious lilac a generation after the door 
and lintel and the sill are gone, unfolding its sweet-scented 
ilowers each spring, to be plucked by the musing traveller ; 
planted and tended once by children s hands, in front-yard 
plots, now standing by wall-sides in retired pastures, and 
giving place to new-rising forests ; the last of that stirp, 
sole survivor of that family. Little did the dusky children 
think that the puny slip with its two eyes only, which they 
stuck in the ground in the shadow of the house and daily 
watered, would root itself so, and outlive them, and house 
itself, in the rear that shaded it, and grown man s garden 
and orchard, and tell their story faintly to the lone 
wanderer a half century after they had grown up and died, 
blossoming as fair, and smelling as sweet, as in that 


first spring. I mark its still tender, civil, cheerful, lilac 

But this small village, germ of something more, why did 
it fail while Concord keeps its ground ? Were there no 
natural advantages, no water privileges, forsooth 1 Ay, 
the deep Walden Pond and cool Brister s Spring, privilege 
to drink long and healthy draughts at these, all unimproved 
by these men but to dilute their glass. They were univer 
sally a thirsty race. Might not the basket, stable-broom, 
mat-making, corn-parching, linen-spinning, and pottery 
business have thrived here, making the wilderness to blos 
som like the rose, and a numerous posterity have inherited 
the land of their fathers? The sterile soil would at least 
have been proof against a lowland degeneracy. Alas ! how- 
little does the memory of these human inhabitants enhance 
the beauty of the landscape ! Again, perhaps, Nature will 
try, with me for a first settler, and my house raised last 
spring to be the oldest in the hamlet. 

I am not aware that any man has ever built on the spot 
which I occupy. Deliver me from a city built on the site 
of a more ancient city, whose materials are ruins, whose 
gardens cemeteries. The soil is blanched and accursed 
there, and before that becomes necessary the earth itself 
will be destroyed. With such reminiscences I repeopled the 
woods and lulled myself asleep. 

At this season I seldom had a visitor. When the snow 
lay deepest no wanderer ventured near my house for a week 
or fortnight at a time, but there I lived as snug as a 
meadow mouse, or as cattle and poultry which are said to 
have survived for a long time buried in drifts, even without 
food ; or like that early settler s family in the town of 
Button, in this state, whose cottage was completely covered 

264 WALDEN. 

by the great snow of 1717 when he was absent, and an 
Indian found it only by the hole which the chimney s 
breath made in the drift, and so relieved the family. But 
no friendly Indian concerned himself about me ; nor needed 
he, for the master of the house was at home. The Great 
Snow ! How cheerful it is to hear of ! When the farmers 
could not get to the woods and swamps with their teams, 
and were obliged to cut down the shade trees before their 
houses, and when the crust was harder cut off the trees 
in the swamps ten feet from the ground, as it appeared the 
next spring. 

In the deepest snows, the path which I used from the 
highway to my house, about half-a-mile long, might have 
been represented by a meandering dotted line, with wide 
intervals between the dots. For a week of even weather I 
took^ exactly the same number of steps, and of the same 
length, coming and going, stepping deliberately and with 
the precision of a pair of dividers in my own deep tracks, 
to such routine the winter reduces us, yet often they were 
filled with heaven s own blue. But no weather interfered 
fatally with my walks, or rather my going abroad, for I 
frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest 
snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow- 
birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines ; when the 
ice and snow causing their limbs to droop, and so sharpen 
ing their tops, had changed the pines into fir-trees ; wading 
to the tops of the highest hills when the snow was nearly 
two feet deep on a level, and shaking down another snow 
storm on my head at every step; or sometimes creeping and 
floundering thither on my hands and knees, when the 
hunters had gone into winter quarters. One afternoon I 
amused myself by watching a barred owl (Strix nebulosa) 
sitting on one of the lower dead limbs of a white-pine, close 


to the trunk, in broad daylight, I standing within a rod of 
him. lie could hear mo when I moved and crouched the 
snow with my feet, but could not plainly see me. When I 
made most noise he would stretch out his neck, and erect 
his neck feathers, and open his eyes wide ; but their lids 
soon fell again, and he began to nod. I too felt a slum 
berous iniluence after watching him half-an-hour, as he sat 
thus with his eyes half open, like a cat, winged brother of 
the cat. There was only a narrow slit left between their 
lids, by which he preserved a peninsular relation to me ; 
thus, with half-shut eyes, looking out from the land of 
dreams, and endeavouring to realise me, vague object or 
moto that interrupted his visions. At length, on some 
louder noise or my nearer approach, he would grow uneasy 
and sluggishly turn about on his perch, as if impatient at 
having his dreams disturbed ; and when he launched him 
self off, and flapped through the pines, spreading his wings 
to unexpected breadth, I could not hear the slighest sound 
from them. Thus, guided amid the pine boughs rather by 
a delicate sense of their neighbourhood than by sight, feel 
ing his twilight way as it were with his sensitive pinions, 
he found a new perch, where he might in peace await the 
dawning of his day. 

As I walked over the long causeway made for the rail 
road through the meadows, I encountered many a blustering 
and nipping wind, for nowhere has it freer play ; and when 
the frost had smitten me on one cheek, heathen as I was, I 
turned to it the other also. Nor was it much better by the 
carriage road from Brister s Hill. For I came to town still, 
like a friendly Indian, when the contents of the broad open 
fields were all piled up between the walls of the Walden 
road, and half-an-hour sufficed to obliterate the tracks of 
the last traveller. And when I returned new drifts would 


have formed, through which I floundered, where the busy 
north-west wind had been, depositing the powdery snow 
round a sharp angle in the road, and not a rabbit s track, 
nor even the fine print, the small type, of a meadow mouse 
was to be seen. Yet I rarely failed to find, even in mid 
winter, some warm and springy swamp where the grass and 
the skunk-cabbage still put forth with perennial verdure, 
and some hardier bird occasionally awaited the return of 

Sometimes, notwithstanding the snow, when I returned 
from my walk at evening I crossed the deep tracks of a 
wood-chopper leading from my door, and found his pile of 
whittlings on the hearth, and my house filled with the 
odour of his pipe. Or on a Sunday afternoon, if I chanced 
to be at home, I heard the cronching of the snow made by 
the step of a long-headed farmer, who, from far through the 
woods, sought my house, to have a social " crack " one of 
the few of his vocation who are " men on their farms," who 
donned a frock instead of a professor s gown, and is as ready 
to extract the moral out of church or state as to haul a load 
of manure from his barn-yard. We talked of rude and 
simple times, when men sat about large fires in cold, 
bracing weather, with clear heads ; and when other dessert 
failed, we tried our teeth on many a nut which wise squirrels 
have long since abandoned, for those which have the thickest 
shells arc commonly empty. 

The one who came from farthest to my lodge, through 
deepest snows and most dismal tempests, was a poet. A 
farmer, a hunter, a soldier, a reporter, even a philosopher, 
may be daunted ; but nothing can deter a poet, for he is 
actuated by pure love. Who can predict his comings and 
goings ? His business calls him out at all hours, even when 
doctors sleep. We made that small house ring with bois- 


tcrous mirth and resound with tho murmur of much sober 
talk, making amends then to Walden vale for tho long 
silences. Broadway was still and deserted in comparison. 
At suitable intervals there were regular salutes of laughter, 
which might have been referred indifferently to the last- 
uttered or the forthcoming jest. We made many a " bran 
now " theory of life over a dish of gruel, which combined 
the advantages of conviviality with the clear-headedness 
which philosophy requires. 

I should not forget that during my last winter at the 
pond there was another welcome visitor, who at one time 
came through tho village, through snow, and rain, and 
darkness, till he saw my lamp through the trees, and shared 
with me some long winter evenings. One of the last of the 
philosophers, Connecticut gave him to the world, he 
peddled first her wares ; afterwards, as he declares, his 
brains. These he peddles still, prompting God and dis 
gracing man, bearing for fruit his brain only, like the nut 
its kernel. I think that he must be the man of the most 
faith of any alive. His words and attitude always suppose 
a better state of things than other men are acquainted with, 
and ho will be the last man to be disappointed as tho ages 
revolve. He has no venture in the present. But though 
comparatively disregarded now, when his day comes, laws 
unsuspected by most will take effect, and masters of families 
and rulers will come to him for advice. 

"How blind that cannot see serenity ! " 

A true friend of man almost the only friend of human 
progress. An Old Mortality say, rather, an Immortality 
with unwearied patience and faith making plain the 
image engraven in men s bodies, the God of whom they are 
but defaced and leaning monuments. With his hospitable 

263 WALDEN. 

intellect he embraces children, beggars, insane, and scholars, 
and entertains the thought of all, adding to it commonly 
some breadth and elegance. I think that he should keep a 
caravansary on the world s highway, where philosophers of 
all nations might put up, and on his sign should be printed, 
" Entertainment for man, but not for his beast. Enter ye 
1 3at have leisure and a quiet mind, who earnestly seek the 
right road." He is, perhaps, the sanest man, and has the 
fewest crotchets of any I chance to know the same yester 
day and to-morrow. Of yore we had sauntered and talked, 
and effectually put the world behind us ; for he was pledged 
to no institution in it, free-born, ingenuus. Whichever 
way we turned, it seemed that the heavens and the earth 
had met together, since he enhanced the beauty of the 
landscape. A blue-robed man, whose fittest roof is the 
overarching sky which reflects his serenity. I do not see 
how he can ever die Nature cannot spare him. 

Having each some shingles of thought well dried, we sat 
and whittled them, trying our knives, and admiring the 
clear yellowish grain of the pumpkin pine. We waded so 
gently and reverently, or we pulled together so smoothly, 
that the fishes of thought were not scared from the stream, 
nor feared any angler on the bank, but came and went 
grandly, like the clouds which float through the western 
sky, and the mother-o -pearl flocks which sometimes form 
and dissolve there. There we worked, revising mythology, 
rounding a fable here and there, and building castles in the 
air for which earth offered no worthy foundation. Great 
Looker ! Great Expecter ! to converse with whom was a 
New England Night s Entertainment. Ah ! such discourse 
we had, hermit and philosopher, and the old settler I have 
spoken of, we three, it expanded and racked my little 
house ; I should not dare to say how many pounds weight 



there was above the atmospheric pressure on every circular 
inch; it opened its scams so that they had to be caulked 
with much dulness thereafter to stop the consequent leak ; 
but I had enough of that kind of oakum already picked. 

There was one other with whom I had "solid seasons," 
long to be remembered, at his house in the village, and who 
looked in upon me from time to time ; but I had no more 
for society there. 

There too, as everywhere, I sometimes expected the 
Visitor who never comes. The Vishnu Purana says, " The 
householder is to remain at eventide in his court-yard as 
long as it takes to milk a cow, or longer if he pleases, to 
await the arrival of a guest." I often performed this duty 
of hospitality, waited long enough to milk a whole herd of 
cows, but did not see the man approaching from the town. 


j]HEN the ponds wore firmly frozen, they afforded 
not only new and shorter routes to many points, 
but new views from their surfaces of the familiar 
landscape around them. When I crossed Flint s 
Pond, after it was covered with snow, though I had often 
paddled about and skated over it, it was so unexpectedly 
wide and so strange that I could think of nothing but 
Baffin s Bay. The Lincoln hills rose up around me at the 
extremity of a snowy plain, in which I did not remember 
to have stood before ; and the fishermen, at an indetermin 
able distance over the ice, moving slowly about with their 
wolfish dogs, passed for sealers or Esquimaux, or in misty 
weather loomed like fabulous creatures, and I did not know 
whether they were giants or pigmies. I took this course 
when I went to lecture in Lincoln in the evening, travelling 
in no road and passing no house between my own hut and 
the lecture-room. In Goose Pond, which lay in my way, a 
colony of musk-rats dwelt, and raised their cabins high above 
the ice, though none could be seen abroad when I crossed 
it. Walden, being like the rest usually bare of snow, or 
with only shallow and interrupted drifts on it, was my yard 
where I could walk freely when the snow was nearly 
two feet deep on a level elsewhere and the villagers were 


confined to thoir streets. There, far from the village street, 
and, except at very long intervals, from the jingle of sleigh- 
bells, I slid and skated, as in a vast moose-yard well 
trodden, overhung by oak woods and solemn pines bent 
down with snow or bristling with icicles. 

For sounds in winter nights, and often in winter days, I 
hoard the forlorn but melodious notes of a hooting owl 
indefinitely far; such a sound as the frozen earth would 
yield if struck with a suitable plectrum, the very lingua 
vernacula of Walden Wood, and quite familiar to me at 
last, though I never saw the bird while it was making it. 
I seldom opened my door in a winter evening without 
hearing it ; lloo hoo hoo, hoorer hoo, sounded sonorously, 
and the first three syllables accented somewhat like how der 
do; or sometimes hoo hoo only. One night in the beginning of 
winter, before the pond froze over, about nine o clock, I 
was startled by the loud honking of a goose, and, stepping 
to the door, heard the sound of their wings like a tempest 
in the woods as they flew low over my house. They passed 
over the pond toward Fair- Haven, seemingly deterred from 
settling by my light, their commodore honking all the 
while with a regular beat. Suddenly an unmistakable 
cat-owl from very near me, with the most harsh and 
tremendous voice I ever heard from any inhabitant of the 
woods, responded at regular intervals to the goose, as if 
determined to expose and disgrace this intruder from 
Hudson s Bay by exhibiting a greater compass and volume 
of voice in a native, and boo-hoo him out of Concord 
horizon. What do you mean by alarming the citadel at 
this time of night consecrated to me ? Do you think I am 
ever caught napping at such an hour, and that I have not 
got lungs and a larynx as well as yourself ? fioo-hoo, 
boo-hoo, boo-hoo / It was one of the most thrilling discords 

272 WALDEN. 

I ever heard. And yet, if you had a discriminating ear, 
there were in it the elements of a concord such as these 
plains never saw nor heard. 

I also heard the whooping of the ice in the pond, my great 
bed-fellow in that part of Concord, as if it were restless 
in its bed and would fain turn over were troubled with 
flatulency and bad dreams ; or I was waked by the cracking 
of the ground by the frost, as if someone had driven a 
team against my door, and in the morning would find a 
crack in the earth a quarter-of-a-mile long and a third of 
an inch wide. 

Sometimes I heard the foxes as they ranged over the 
snow crust, in moonlight nights, in search of a partridge or 
other game, barking raggedly and demoniacally like forest 
dogs, as if labouring with some anxiety, or seeking expres 
sion, struggling for light and to be dogs outright and run 
freely in the streets; for if we take the ages into our 
account, may there not be a civilisation going on among 
brutes as well as men 1 They seemed to me to be rudi- 
mental, burrowing men, still standing on their defence, 
awaiting their transformation. Sometimes one came near 
to my window, attracted by my light, barked a vulpine 
curse at me, and then retreated. 

Usually the red squirrel (Sciurus Iludsonius) waked me 
in the dawn, coursing over the roof and up and down the 
sides of the house, as if sent out of the woods for this 
purpose. In the course of the winter I threw out half-a- 
bushel of ears of sweet-corn, which had not got ripe, on to 
the snow crust by my door, and was amused by watching 
the motions of the various animals which were baited by it. 
In the twilight and the night the rabbits came regularly 
and made a hearty meal. All day long the red squirrels 
came and went, and afforded me much entertainment by 


their manoeuvres. Ono would approach at first warily 
through the shrub-oaks, running over the snow crust by 
fits and starts like a leaf blown by the wind, now a few 
paces this way, with wonderful speed and waste of energy 
making inconceivable haste with his "trotters," as if it 
were for a wager, and now as many paces that way, but 
never getting on more than half-a-rod at a time; and then 
suddenly pausing with a ludicrous expression and a gratui 
tous somerset, as if all the eyes in the universe were fixed 
on him, for all the motions of a squirrel, even in the most 
solitary recesses of the forest, imply spectators as much as 
those of a dancing girl, wasting more time in delay and 
circumspection than would have sufficed to walk the whole 
distance, I never saw one walk, and then suddenly, 
before you could say Jack Robinson, he would be in the top 
of a young pitch-pine, winding up his clock and chiding all 
imaginary spectators, soliloquising and talking to all the 
universe at the same time, for no reason that I could 
ever detect, or he himself was aware of, I suspect. At 
length he would reach the corn, and selecting a suitable ear, 
brisk about in the same uncertain trigonometrical way 
to the topmost stick of my wood-pile, before my window 
where he looked me in the face, and there sit for hours, 
supplying himself with a new ear from time to time, nibbling 
at first voraciously and throwing the half -naked cobs about ; 
till at length he grew more dainty still and played with his 
food, tasting only the inside of the kernel, and the ear, which 
was hold balanced over the stick by one paw, slipped from 
his careless grasp and fell to the ground, when he would 
look over at it with a ludicrous expression of uncertainty, as 
if suspecting that it had life, with a mind not made up 
whether to get it again, or a new one, or be off; now 
thinking of corn, then listening to hear what was in the 

274 WALDEN. 

wind. So the little impudent fellow would waste many an 
ear in a forenoon; till at last, seizing some longer and 
plumper one, considerably bigger than himself, and skilfully 
balancing it, he would set out with it to the woods, like a 
tiger with a buffalo, by the same zig-zag course and frequent 
pauses, scratching along with it as if it were too heavy for 
him and falling all the while, making its fall a diagonal 
between a perpendicular and horizontal, being determined 
to put it through at any rate ; a singularly frivolous and 
whimsical fellow ; and so he would get off with it to where 
he lived, perhaps carry it to the top of a pine tree forty or 
fifty rods distant, and I would afterwards find the cobs 
strewn about the woods in various directions. 

At length the jays arrive, whose discordant screams 
wore heard long before, as they were warily making their 
approach an eighth of a mile off, and in a stealthy and 
sneaking manner they flit from tree to tree, nearer and 
nearer, and pick up the kernels which the squirrels have 
dropped. Then, sitting on a pitch-pine bough, they attempt 
to swallow in their haste a kernel which is too big for their 
throats and chokes them ; and after great labour they 
disgorge it, and spend an hour in the endeavour to crack it 
by repeated blows with their bills. They were manifestly 
thieves, and I had not much respect for them ; but the 
squirrels, though at first shy, went to work as if they were 
taking what was their own. 

Meanwhile also came the chicadees in flocks, which, 
picking up the crumbs the squirrels had dropped, flew to 
the nearest twig, and, placing them under their claws, 
hammered away at them with their little bills, as if it were 
an insect in the bark, till they were sufficiently reduced for 
their slender throats. A little flock of these tit-mice came 
daily to pick a dinner out of my wood-pile, or the crumbs at 


my door, with faint, Hitting, lisping notes, like the tinkling 
of icicles in the grass, or else with sprightly day, day, day, 
or more rarely, in spring-like days, a wiry summery pho-be 
from the wood-side. They were so familiar that at length 
one alighted on an armful of wood which I was carrying 
in and pecked at the sticks without fear. I once had a 
sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment while I was 
hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more 
distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been 
by any epaulet I could have worn. The squirrels also grew 
at last to bo quite familiar, and occasionally stepped upon 
my shoe, when that was the nearest way. 

When the ground was not yet quite covered, and again 
near the end of winter, when the snow was melted on 
my south hill-side and about my wood-pile, the partridges 
came out of the woods morning and evening to feed there. 
Whichever side you walk in the woods the partridge bursts 
away on whirring wings, jarring the snow from the dry 
leaves and twigs on high, which comes sifting down in the 
sunbeams like golden dust, for this brave bird is not to be 
scared by winter. It is frequently covered up by drifts, 
and, it is said, " sometimes plunges from on wing into the 
soft snow, where it remains concealed for a day or two." I 
used to start them in the open land also, where they had 
come out of the woods at sunset to "bud" the wild 
apple trees. They will come regularly every evening to 
particular trees, where the cunning sportsman lies in wait 
for them, and the distant orchards next the woods suffer 
thus not a little. I am glad that the partridge gets fed, at 
any rate. It is Nature s own bird, which lives on buds 
and diet-drink. 

In dark winter mornings, or in short winter afternoons, I 
sometimes hoard a pack of hounds threading all the woods 

276 WALDEN. 

with hounding cry and yelp, unable to resist the instinct of 
the chase, and the note of the hunting-horn at intervals, 
proving that man was in the rear. The woods ring again, 
and yet no fox bursts forth on to the open level of the 
pond, nor following pack pursuing their Action. And 
perhaps at evening I see the hunters returning with a 
single brush trailing from their sleigh for a trophy, seeking 
their inn. They tell me that if the fox would remain in 
the bosom of the frozen earth he would be safe, or if ho 
would run in a straight line away no fox-hound could over 
take him ; but, having left his pursuers far behind, he stops 
to rest and listen till they come up, and when he runs ho 
circles round to his old haunts, where the hunters await him. 
Sometimes, however, -he will run upon a wall many rods, 
and then leap off far to one side, and he appears to know 
that water will not retain his scent. A hunter told me that 
he once saw a fox pursued by hounds burst out on to 
Walden when the ice was covered with shallow puddles, run 
part way across, and then return to the same shore. Ere 
long the hounds arrived, but here they lost the scent. 
Sometimes a pack hunting by themselves would pass my 
door, and circle round my house, and yelp and hound 
without regarding me, as if afflicted by a species of madness, 
so that nothing could divert them from the pursuit. Thus 
they circle until they fall upon the recent trail of a fox, for 
a wise hound will forsake everything else for this. One 
day a man came to my hut from Lexington to inquire after 
his hound that made a large track, and had been hunting 
for a week by himself. But I fear that he was not the 
wiser for all I told him, for every time I attempted to 
answer his questions he interrupted me by asking, " What 
do you do here ? " He had lost a dog, but found a man. 
One old hunter who has a dry tongue, who used to come 


(o bathe in Walden onrr every year when the water was 
, and at sucli times looked in upon me, told me 
that many years ago he took his gun one afternoon and 
went out for a cruise in Walden Wood ; and as he walked 
the Wayland road he heard the cry of hounds approaching, 
and ere long a fox leaped the wall into the road, and as 
quick as thought leaped the other wall out of the road, and 
his swift bullet had not touched him. Some way behind 
came an old hound and her three pups in full pursuit, hunt 
ing on their own account, and disappeared again in the 
woods. Late in the afternoon, as he was resting in the thick 
woods south of Walden, he heard the voice of the hounds 
far over toward Fair-Haven still pursuing the fox ; and on 
they came, their hounding cry, which made all the woods 
ring, sounding nearer and nearer, now from Well-Meadow, 
now from the Baker Farm. For a long time he stood still 
and listened to their music, so sweet to a hunter s ear, when 
suddenly the fox appeared, threading the solemn aisles with 
an easy coursing pace, whose sound was concealed by a sym 
pathetic rustle of the leaves, swift and still, keeping tho 
ground, leaving his pursuers far behind ; and leaping upon 
a rock amid the woods, he sat erect and listening, with his 
back to the hunter. For a moment compassion restrained 
the latter s arm ; but that was a short-lived mood, and as 
quick as thought can follow thought his piece was levelled, 
and whang I the fox rolling over the rock lay dead on the 
ground. The hunter still kept his place and listened to the 
hounds. Still on they came, and now the near woods 
resounded through all their aisles with their demoniac cry. 
At length the old hound burst into view with muzzle to tho 
ground, and snapping the air as if possessed, and ran 
directly to the rock ; but spying the dead fox she suddenly 
ceased her hounding, as if struck dumb with amazement, 

278 WALDEN. 

and walked round and round him in silence ; and one by 
one her pups arrived, and, like their mother, were sobered 
into silence by the mystery. Then the hunter came forward 
and stood in their midst, and the mystery was solved. 
They waited in silence while he skinned the fox, then 
followed the brush a while, and at length turned off into 
the woods again. That evening a Weston Squire came 
to the Concord hunter s cottage to inquire for his hounds, 
and told how for a week they had been hunting on their 
own account from Weston woods. The Concord hunter 
told him what he knew and offered him the skin ; but the 
other declined it and departed. He did not find his hounds 
that night, but the next day learned that they had crossed 
the river and put up at a farm-house for the night, whence, 
having been well fed, they took their departure early in 
the morning. 

The hunter who told me this could remember one Sam 
Nutting, who used to hunt bears on Fair-Haven Ledges, 
and exchange their skins for rum in Concord village who 
told him, even, that he had seen a moose there. Nutting 
had a famous fox-hound named Burgoyne he pronounced 
it Bugine which my informant used to borrow. In the 
" Waste Book " of an old trader of this town, who was also 
a captain, town-clerk, and representative, I find the follow 
ing entry: Jan. 18th, 1742-3, "John Melven Or. by 
1 Grey Fox 2 3 ;" they are not now found here; and 
in his ledger, Feb. 7th, 1743, Hezekiah Stratton has credit 
" by a Catt skin 1 4 ; " of course, a wild-cat, for 
Stratton was a sergeant in the old French war, and would 
not have got credit for hunting less noble game. Credit is 
given for deer-skins also, and they were daily sold. One 
man still preserves the horns of the last deer that was 
killed in this vicinity, and another party has told me the 


particulars of the hunt in which his uncle was engaged. The 
hunters were formerly a numerous and merry crew here. 
I remember well one gaunt Nimrod who would catch 
up a leaf by the road-side, and play a strain on it wilder 
and more melodious, if my memory serves me, than any 

At midnight, when there was a moon, I sometimes met 
with hounds in my path prowling about the woods, which 
would skulk out of my way, as if afraid, and stand silent 
amid the bushes till I had passed. 

Squirrels and wild mice disputed for my store of nuts. 
There were scores of pitch-pines around my house, from one 
to four inches in diameter, which had been gnawed by mice 
the previous winter, a Norwegian winter for them, for the 
snow lay long and deep, and they were obliged to mix a 
large proportion of pine bark with their other diet. These 
trees were alive ajid apparently flourishing at midsummer, 
and many of them had grown a foot, though completely 
girdled ; but after another winter such were without 
exception dead. It is remarkable that a single mouse 
should thus be allowed a whole pine tree for its dinner, 
gnawing round instead of up and down it ; but perhaps it 
is necessary in order to thin those trees, which are wont to 
grow up densely. 

The hares (Lepus Americanus) were very familiar. One 
hid her form under my house all winter, separated from mo 
only by the flooring, and she startled me each morning by 
her hasty departure when I began to stir, thump, thump, 
thump, striking her head against the floor timbers in her 
hurry. They used to come round my door at dusk to nibble 
the potato parings which I had thrown out, and were so 
nearly the colour of the ground that they could hardly be 
distinguished when still. Sometimes in the twilight I 

28o U ALDEN. 

alternately lost and recovered sight of one sitting motionless 
under my window. When I opened my door in the evening, 
off they would go with a squeak and a bounce. Near at 
hand they only excited my pity. One evening one sat by 
my door two paces from me, at first trembling with fear, 
yet unwilling to move; a poor wee thing, lean and bony, 
with ragged ears and sharp nose, scant tail and slender 
paws. It looked as if Nature no longer contained the 
breed of nobler bloods, but stood on her last toes. Its large 
eyes appeared young and unhealthy, almost dropsical. I 
took a step, and lo, away it scud with an elastic spring over the 
snow crust, straightening its body and its limits into grace 
ful length, and soon put the forest between me and itself, 
the wild free venison, asserting its vigour and the dignity 
of Nature. Not without reason was its slenderness. Such 
then was its nature. (Lepus, licipes, light-foot, some think.) 
What is a country without rabbits, and partridges? 
They are among the most simple and indigenous animal 
products ; ancient and venerable families known to antiquity 
as to modern times; of the very hue and substance of 
Nature, nearest allied to leaves and to the ground, and 
to one another ; it is either winged or it is legged. It is 
hardly as if you had seen a wild creature when a rabbit or a 
partridge bursts away, only a natural one, as much to be 
expected as rustling leaves. The partridge and the rabbit 
are still sure to thrive, like true natives of the soil, what 
ever revolutions occur. If the forest is cut off, the sprouts 
and bushes which spring up afford them concealment, and 
they become more numerous than ever. That must be a 
poor country indeed that does not support a hare. Our 
woods teem with them both, and around every swamp may 
be seen the partridge or rabbit walk, beset with twiggy 
fences and horse-hair snares, which some cow-boy tends. 


FT KIl a still winter night I awoke with the 
impression that some question had been put to 
me, which I had been endeavouring in vain to 
answer in my sleep, as what how when 
whore? But there was dawning Nature, in whom all 
creatures live, looking in at my broad windows with serene 
and satisfied face, and no question on her lips. I awoke to 
an answered question, to Nature and daylight. Tho snow 
lying deep on the earth dotted with young pines, and the 
very slope of the hill on which my house is placed seemed 
to say, Forward ! Nature puts no question, and answers 
none which we mortals ask. She has long ago taken her 
resolution. "O Prince, our eyes contemplate with admira 
tion and transmit to the soul the wonderful and varied 
spectacle of this universe. Tho night veils without doubt 
a part of this glorious creation ; but day comes to reveal to 
us this great work, which extends from earth even into the 
plains of the ether." 

Then to my morning work. First I take an axe and pail 
and go in search of water, if that be not a dream. After a 
cold and snowy night it needed a divining rod to find it. 
Every winter the liquid and trembling surface of the pond, 
which was so sensitive to every breath, and reflected every 

282 WALDEN. 

light and shadow, becomes solid to the depth of a foot or a 
foot-and-a-half, so that it will support the heaviest teams, 
and perchance the snow covers it to an equal depth, and it 
is not to be distinguished from any level field. Like the 
marmots in the surrounding hills, it closes its eyelids and 
becomes dormant for three months or more. Standing on 
the snow-covered plain, as if in a pasture amid the hills, I 
cut my way first through a foot of snow, and then a foot of 
ice, and open a window under my feet, where, kneeling to 
drink, I look down into the quiet parlour of the fishes, 
pervaded by a softened light as through a window of ground 
glass, with its bright sanded floor the same as in summer ; 
there a perennial waveless serenity reigns as in the arnber 
twilight sky, corresponding to the cool and even tempera 
ment of the inhabitants. Heaven is under our feet as well 
as over our heads. 

Early in the morning, while all things are crisp with 
frost, men come with fishing reels and slender lunch, and 
let down their fine lines through the snowy field to take 
pickerel and perch ; wild men, who instinctively follow 
other fashions and trust other authorities than their towns 
men, and by their goings and comings stitch towns together 
in parts where else they would be ripped. They sit and 
eat their luncheon in stout fear-naughts on the dry oak 
leaves on the shore, as wise in natural lore as the citizen is 
in artificial. They never consulted with books, and know 
and can tell much less than they have done. The things 
which they practise are said not yet to be known. Here is 
one fishing for pickerel with grown perch for bait. You 
look into his pail with wonder as into a summer pond, as if 
he kept summer locked up at home, or knew where she had 
retreated. How, pray, did he get these in mid-winter? 
0, he got worms out of rotten logs since the ground froze, 


and so he caught thorn. His life itself passes deeper in 
Nature than the studies of the naturalist penetrate, himself 
a subject for the naturalist. The latter raises the inoss 
and bark gently with his knife in search of insects ; the 
former lays open logs to their core with his axe, and moss 
and bark ily far and wide. He gets his living by barking 
trees. Such a man has some right to fish, and I love to 
Bee Nature carried out in him. The perch swallows the 
grub-worm, the pickerel swallows the perch, and the fisher 
man swallows the pickerel ; and so all the chinks in the 
scale of being are filled. 

When I strolled around the pond in misty weather I was 
sometimes amused by the primitive mode which some ruder 
fisherman had adopted. He would perhaps have placed 
alder branches over the narrow holes in the ice, which were 
four or five rods apart and an equal distance from the shore, 
and having fastened the end of the line to a stick to prevent 
its being pulled through, have passed the slack line over a 
twig of the alder, a foot or more above the ice, and tied a 
dry oak leaf to it, which, being pulled down, would show 
when he had a bite. These alders loomed through the mist 
at regular intervals as you walked half-way round the pond. 

Ah, the pickerel of Waldcn ! when I see them lying on 
the ice, or in the well which the fisherman cuts in the ice, 
making a little hole to admit the water, I am always sur 
prised by their rare beauty, as if they were fabulous fishes, 
they are so foreign to the streets, even to the woods, foreign 
as Arabia to our Concord life. They possess a quite dazz 
ling and a .ascendent beauty, which separates them by a 
wi 1 .icerval from the cadaverous cod and haddock whose 
fame is trumpeted in our streets. They are not green like 
the pines, nor grey like the stones, nor blue like the sky ; 
but they have, to my eyes, if possible, yet rarer colours, 

284 WALDEN. 

like flowers and precious stones, as if they were the pearls, 
the animalised nuclei or crystals of the Walden water. 
They, of course, are Walden all over and all through ; are 
themselves small Waldens in the animal kingdom, Wal- 
denses. It is surprising that they are caught here, that 
in this deep and capacious spring, far beneath the rattling 
teams and chaises and tinkling sleighs that travel the 
Walden road, this great gold and emerald fish swims. I 
never chanced to see its kind in any market ; it would be 
the cynosure of all eyes there. Easily, with a few convul 
sive quirks, they give up their watery ghosts, like a mortal 
translated before his time to the thin air of heaven. 

As I was desirous to recover the long lost bottom of 
Walden Pond, I surveyed it carefully, before the ice broke 
up, early in 46, with compass and chain and sounding line. 
There have been many stories told about the bottom, or 
rather no bottom, of this pond, which certainly had no 
foundation for themselves. It is remarkable how long men 
will believe in the bottomlessness of a pond without taking 
the trouble to sound it. I have visited two such Bottom 
less Ponds in one walk in this neighbourhood. Many have 
believed that Walden reached quite through to the other side 
of the globe. Some who have lain flat on the ice for a long 
time, looking down through the illusive medium, perchance 
with watery eyes into the bargain, and driven to hasty con 
clusions by the fear of catching cold in their breasts, have 
seen vast holes "into which a load of hay might be driven," 
if there were any body to drive it, the undoubted source of 
the Styx and entrance to the Infernal Regions from these 
parts. Others have gone down from the village with a 
" fifty-six " and a waggon load of inch rope, but yet have 
failed to find any bottom ; for while the " fifty-six " was 


resting l>y tho way, they were paying out the rope in the 
vain attempt to fathom their truly immeasurable capacity 
for rnarvellousness. But I can assure my readers that 
Wai den has a reasonably tight bottom at a not unreason 
able, though at an unusual depth. I fathomed it easily 
with a cod-line and a stone weighing about a pound and 
a-lialf, and could tell accurately when the stone left tho 
bottom, by having to pull so much harder before the water 
got underneath to help me. The greatest depth was exactly 
ono hundred and two feet ; to which may be added the five 
feet which it has risen since, making one hundred and seven. 
This is a remarkable depth for so small an area ; yet not an 
inch of it can be spared by the imagination. What if all 
ponds were shallow ? Would it not react on the minds of 
men 1 I am thankful that this pond was made deep and 
pure for a symbol. While men believe in the infinite, some 
ponds will be thought to be bottomless. 

A factory owner, hearing what depth I had found, 
thought that it could not be true, for, judging from his 
acquaintance with dams, sand would not lie at so steep an 
angle. But the deepest ponds are not so deep in propor 
tion to their area as most suppose, and, if drained, would 
not leave very remarkable valleys. They are not like cups 
between the hills ; for this one, which is so unusually deep 
for its area, appears in a vertical section through its centre 
not deeper than a shallow plate. Most ponds, emptied, 
would leave a meadow no more hollow than we frequently 
see. William Gilpin, who is so admirable in all that 
relates to landscapes, and usually so correct, standing at 
the head of Loch Fyne, in Scotland, which he describes as 
" a bay of salt water, sixty or seventy fathoms deep, four 
miles in breadth," and about fifty miles long, surrounded by 
mountains, observes, " If we could have seen it immediately 

286 WALDEN. 

after the diluvian crash, or whatever convulsion of Nature 
occasioned it, before the waters gushed in, what a horrid 
chasm it must have appeared ! 

So high as heaved the tumid hills, so low 
Down sunk a hollow bottom, broad, and deep, 
Capacious bed of waters . " 

But if, using the shortest diameter of Loch Fyne, we apply 
these proportions to Walden, which, as we have seen, 
appears already in a vertical section only like a shallow 
plate, it will appear four times as shallow. So much for 
the increased horrors of the chasm of Loch Fyne when 
emptied. No doubt many a smiling valley with its stretch 
ing corn-fields occupies exactly such a " horrid chasm," from 
which the waters have receded, though it requires the 
insight and the far sight of the geologist to convince the 
unsuspecting inhabitants of this fact. Often an inquisitive 
eye may detect the shores of a primitive lake in the low 
horizon hills, and no subsequent elevation of the pl;iin 
have been necessary to conceal their history. But it is 
easiest, as they who work on the highways know, to find 
the hollows by the puddles after a shower. The amount of 
it is, the imagination, give it the least license, dives deeper 
and soars higher than Nature goes. So, probably, the 
depth of the ocean will be found to be very inconsiderable 
compared with its breadth. 

As I sounded through the ice I could determine the 
shape of the bottom with greater accuracy than is possible 
in surveying harbours which do not freeze over, and I was 
surprised at its general regularity. In the deepest part 
there are several acres more level than almost any 
iield which is exposed to the sun, wind, and plough. In 
one instance, on a line arbitrarily chosen, the depth did not 


vary more than one foot in thirty rods ; and generally, near 
the middle, I could calculate the variation of each one 
hundred feet in any direction beforehand within three or 
four inches. Some are accustomed to speak of deep and 
dangerous holes even in quiet sandy ponds like this, but the 
eflect of water under these circumstances is to level all 
inequalities. The regularity of the bottom and its con 
formity to the shores and the range of the neighbouring 
hills were so perfect that a distant promontory betrayed 
itself in the soundings quite across the pond, and its 
direction could be determined by observing the opposite 
shore. Cape becomes bar, and plain shoal, and valley and 
gorge deep water and channel. 

When I had mapped the pond by the scale of ten rods to 
an inch, and put down the soundings, more than a hundred 
in all, I observed this remarkable coincidence. Having 
noticed that the number indicating the greatest depth was 
apparently in the centre of the map, I laid a rule on the 
map lengthwise, and then breadthwise, and found, to my 
surprise, that the line of greatest length intersected the line 
of greatest breadth exactly at the point of the greatest 
depth, notwithstanding that the middle is so nearly level, 
the outline of the pond far from regular, and the extreme 
length and breadth were got by measuring into the coves ; 
and I said to myself, Who knows but this hint would 
conduct to the deepest part of the ocean as well as of a pond 
or puddle? Is not this the rule also for the height of 
mountains, regarded as the opposite of valleys 1 We know 
that a hill is not highest at its narrowest part. 

Of five coves, three, or all which had been sounded, were 
observed to have a bar quite across their mouths and deeper 
water within, so that the bay tended to be an expansion of 
water within the land not only horizontally but vertically, 

288 WALDEN. 

and to form a basin or independent pond, the direction of 
the two capes showing the course of the bar. Every har 
bour on the sea-coast, also, has its bar at its entrance. In 
proportion as the mouth of the cove was wider compared 
with its length, the water over the bar was deeper compared 
with that in the basin. Given, then, the length and breadth 
of the cove, and the character of the surrounding shore, 
and you have almost elements enough to make out a 
formula for all cases. 

In order to see how nearly I could guess, with this 
experience, at the deepest point in a pond, by observing the 
outlines of its surface and the character of its shores alone, 
I made a plan of White Pond, which contains about forty- 
one acres, and, like this, has no island in it, nor any visible 
inlet or outlet ; and as the line of greatest breadth fell very 
near the line of least breadth, where two opposite capes 
approached each other and two opposite bays receded, I ven 
tured to mark a point a short distance from the latter line, 
but still on the line of greatest length, as the deepest. The 
deepest part was found to be within one hundred feet of 
this, still farther in the direction to which I had inclined, 
and was only one foot deeper, namely, sixty feet. Of course 
a stream running through, or an island in the pond, would 
make the problem much more complicated. 

If we knew all the laws of Nature, we should need only 
one fact, or the description of one actual phenomenon, to 
infer all the particular results at that point. Now we 
know only a few laws, and our result is vitiated, not, of 
course, by any confusion or irregularity in Nature, but by 
our ignorance of essential elements in the calculation. Our 
notions of law and harmony are commonly confined to 
those instances which we detect ; but the harmony which 
results from a far greater number of seemingly conflicting, 


but really concurring, laws, which we have not detected, is 
still more wonderful. The particular laws are as our points 
of view, as, to the traveller, a mountain outline varies with 
every step, and it has an infinite number of profiles, though 
absolutely but one form. Even when cleft or bored through 
it is not comprehended in its entireness. 

What I have observed of the pond is no less true in 
ethics. It is the law of average. Such a rule of the two 
diameters not only guides us toward the sun in the system 
and the heart in man, but draw lines through the length 
and breadth of the aggregate of a man s particular daily 
behaviours and waves of life into his coves and inlets, and 
where they intersect will be the height or depth of his 
character. Perhaps we need only to know how his shores 
trend and his adjacent country or circumstances, to infer 
his depth and concealed bottom. If he is surrounded l>y 
mountainous circumstances, an Achillean shore, whose 
peaks overshadow and are reflected in his bosom, they 
suggest a corresponding depth in him. But a low and 
smooth shore proves him shallow on that side. In ouv 
bodies, a bold projecting brow falls off to and indicates a 
corresponding depth of thought. Also there is a bar across 
the entrance of our every cove, or particular inclination ; 
each is our harbour for a season, in which we are detained 
and partially land-locked. These inclinations are not 
whimsical usually, but their form, size, and direction are 
determined by the promontories of the shore, the ancient 
axis of elevation. When this bar is gradually increased by 
storms, tides, or currents, or there is a subsidence of the 
waters, so that it reaches to the surface, that which was at 
first but an inclination in the shore in which a thought was 
harboured becomes an individual lake, cut off from the ocean, 
wherein the thought secures its own conditions, changes, 


ago WALDRN. 

perhaps, from salt to fresh, becomes a sweet sea, dead sr-a, 
or a marsh. At the advent of each individual into this 
life, may we not suppose that such a bar has risen to the 
surface somewhere ? It is true, we are such poor navigators 
that our thoughts, for the most part, stand off and on upon 
a harbourless coast, are conversant only with the bights of 
the bays of poesy, or steer for the public ports of entry, 
and go into the dry docks of science, where they merely 
refit for this world, and no natural currents concur to 
individualise them. 

As for the inlet or outlet of Walden, I have not 
discovered any but rain and snow and evaporation, though 
perhaps, with a thermometer and a line, such places may 
be found, for where the water flows into the pond it will 
probably be coldest in summer and warmest in winter. 
When the icemen were at work here in 46-7, the cakes 
sent to the shore were one day rejected by those who were 
stacking them up there, not being thick enough to lie side 
by side with the rest ; and the cutters thus discovered that 
the ice over a small space was two or three inches thinner 
than elsewhere, which made them think that there was an 
inlet there. They also showed me in another place what 
they thought was a "leach hole," through which the pond 
leaked out under a hill into a neighbouring meadow, 
pushing me out on a cake of ice to see it. It was a small 
cavity under ten feet of water ; but I think that I can 
warrant the pond not to need soldering till they find a 
worse leak than that. One has suggested that if such a 
" leach hole " should be found, its connection with the 
meadow might be proved by conveying some coloured 
powder or sawdust to the mouth of the hole, and then put 
ting a strainer over the spring in the meadow, which would 
catch some of the particles carried through by the current. 


While T was surveying, the ice, which was sixteen inches 
thick, undulated under a slight wind like water. It is well 
known that a level cannot be used on ice. At one rod from 
the shore its greatest fluctuation, when observed by means 
of a level on land directed toward a graduated staff on the 
ice, was three-quarters of an inch, though the ice appeared 
firmly attached to the shore. It was probably greater in, 
tho middle. Who knows but if our instruments were 
delicate enough we might detect an undulation in the crust 
of the earth 1 When two logs of my level were on. the 
shore and the third on the ice, and the sights were directed 
over the latter, a rise or fall of the ice of an almost infini 
tesimal amount made a difference of several feet on a tree 
across the pond. When I began to cut holes for sounding, 
there were three or four inches of water on the ice under a 
deep snow which had sunk it thus far ; but the water began 
immediately to run into these holes, and continued to run 
for two clays in deep streams, which wore away the ice on 
every side, and contributed essentially, if not mainly, to dry 
the surface of the pond ; for, as the water ran in, it raised 
and floated the ice. This was somewhat like cutting a holo 
in the bottom of a ship to let the water out. When such 
holes freeze, and a rain succeeds, and finally a new freezing 
forms a fresh smooth ice over all, it is beautifully mottled 
internally by dark figures, shaped somewhat like a spider s 
web, what you may call ice rosettes, produced by the 
channels worn by the water flowing from all sides to a 
centre. Sometimes, also, when the ice was covered with 
shallow puddles, I saw a double shadow of myself, one 
standing on the head of the other one on the ice, the other 
on the trees or hill-side. 

While yet it is cold January, and snow and ice are thick 

292 WALDEN. 

and solid, the prudent landlord comes from the village to 
get ice to cool his summer drink ; impressively, even 
pathetically wise, to foresee the heat and thirst of July now 
in January, wearing a thick coat and mittens ! when so 
many things are not provided for. It may be that he lays 
up no treasures in this world which will cool his summer 
drink in the next. He cuts and saws the solid pond, 
unroofs the house of fishes, and carts off their very element 
and air, held fast by chains and stakes like corded wood 
through the favouring winter air, to wintry cellars, to 
underlie the summer there. It looks like solidified azurn, 
as, far off, it is drawn through the streets. These ice- 
cutters are a merry race, full of jest and sport, and when 
I went among them they were wont to invite me to saw 
pit-fashion with them, I standing underneath. 

In the winter of 46-7 there came a hundred men of 
Hyperborean extraction swoop down on to our pond one 
morning, with many car-loads of ungainly-looking farming 
tools, sleds, ploughs, drill-barrows, turf-knives, spades, saws, 
rakes, and each man was armed with a double-pointed pikc- 
stafif, such as is not described in the New-England Farmer 
or the Cultivator. I did not know whether they had come 
to sow a crop of winter rye, or some other kind of grain 
recently introduced from Iceland. As I saw no manure, 
I judged that they meant to skim the land, as I had done, 
thinking the soil was deep and had lain fallow long enough. 
They said that a gentleman farmer, who was behind the 
scenes, wanted to double his money, which, as I understood, 
amounted to half a million already ; but in order to cover 
each one of his dollars with another, he took ofF the only 
coat, ay, the skin itself, of Walden Pond in the midst of a 
hard winter. They went to work at once, ploughing, 
harrowing, rolling, furrowing, in admirable order, as if they 


were bent on. making this a model farm but when 1 was 
looking sharp to sec what kind of seed they dropped into 
tho furrow, a gang of fellows by my side suddenly began to 
hook up the virgin mould itself, with a peculiar jerk, clean 
down to the sand, or rather the water, for it was a very 
springy soil, indeed all tho terra firma there was, and 
haul it away on sleds, and then I guessed that they must 
be cutting peat in a bog. So they came and went every 
day, with a peculiar shriek from the locomotive, from and 
to some point of the polar regions, as it seemed to me, like 
a flock of arctic snow-birds. But sometimes Squaw Walden 
had her revenge, and a hired man, walking behind his team, 
slipped through a crack in the ground down toward 
Tartarus, and he who was so brave before suddenly became 
but the ninth part of a man, almost gave up his animal 
heat, and was glad to take refuge in my house, and acknow 
ledged that there was some virtue in a stove ; or sometimes 
the frozen soil took a piece of steel out of a ploughshare, 
or a plough got set in the furrow and had to be cut out. 

To speak literally, a hundred Irishmen, with Yankee 
overseers, came from Cambridge every day to get out the 
ice. They divided it into cakes by methods too well known 
to require description, and these, being sledded to the shore, 
were rapidly hauled off on to an ice platform, and raised by 
grappling irons and block and tackle, worked by horses, on 
to a stack, as surely as so many barrels of flour, and there 
placed evenly side by side, and row upon row, as if they 
formed the solid base of an obelisk designed to pierce the 
clouds. They told me that in a good day they could get 
out a thousand tons, which was the yield of about one acre. 
Deep ruts and " cradle holes " were worn in the ice, as on 
terra Jirma, by the passage of the sleds over the same track, 
and the horses invariably ate their oats out of cakes of ice 

294 WALDEN. 

hollowed out like buckets. They stacked up the cakes thus 
in the open air in a pile thirty-live feet high on one side 
and six or seven rods square, putting hay between the 
outside layers to exclude the air; for when the wind, 
though never so cold, finds a passage through, it will 
wear large cavities, leaving slight supports or studs only 
here and there, and finally topple it down. At first it 
looked like a vast blue fort or Valhalla ; but when they 
began to tuck the coarse meadow hay into tho crevices, and 
this became covered with rime and icicles, it looked like a 
venerable moss-grown and hoary ruin, built of azure-tinted 
marble, the abode of Winter, that old man we see in the 
almanac his shanty, as if he had a design to estivate with 
us. They calculated that not twenty-five per cent, of this 
would reach its destination, and that two or three per cent, 
would be wasted in the cars. However, a still greater part 
of this heap had a different destiny from what waa 
intended ; for, either because the ico was found not to keep 
so well as was expected, containing more air than usual, or 
for some other reason, it never got to market. This heap, 
made in the winter of 4G-7, and estimated to contain ten 
thousand tons, was finally covered with hay and boards ; 
and though it was unroofed the following July, and a part 
of it carried off, the rest remaining exposed to the sun, it 
stood over that summer and the next winter, and was not 
quite melted till September 1848. Thus the pond recovered 
the greater part. 

Like the water, the "VValden ice, seen near at hand, has a 
green tint, but at a distance is beautifully blue, and you 
can easily tell it from the white ice of the river or the 
merely greenish ice of some ponds, a quarter-of-a-mile off. 
Sometimes one of those great cakes slips from the ice-man s 
sled into the village street, and lies there for a week like a 


groat emerald, an object of interest to all passers. I havo 
noticed that a portion of Walden which in the state of 
water was green, will often, when frozen, appear from the 
same point of view blue. So the hollows about this pond 
will, sometimes, in the winter, be filled with a greenish 
water somewhat like its own, but the next day will havo 
frozen blue. Perhaps the blue colour of water and ice is 
due to the light and air they contain, and the most 
transparent is the bluest. Ice is an interesting subject for 
contemplation. They told me that they had some in the 
ice-houses at Fresh Pond five years old which was as good 
as ever. Why is it that a bucket of water soon becomes 
putrid, but frozen remains sweet forever ? It is commonly 
said that this is the difference between the affections and 
the intellect. 

Thus for sixteen days I saw from my window a hundred 
men at work like busy husbandmen, with teams and horses 
and apparently all the implements of farming, such a 
picture as we see on the first page of the almanac ; and as 
often as I looked out I was reminded of the fable of the 
lark arid the reapers, or the parable of the sower, and the 
like ; and now they are all gone; and in thirty days more, 
probably, I shall look from the same window on the pure 
sea-green "Walden water there, reflecting the clouds and the 
trees, and sending up its evaporations in solitude, and no 
traces will appear that a man has ever stood there. Perhaps 
I shall hear a solitary loon laugh as he dives and plumes 
himself, or shall see a lonely fisher in his boat, like a floating 
leaf, beholding his form reflected in the waves, where lately 
a hundred men securely laboured. 

Thus it appears that the sweltering inhabitants of 
Charleston and New Orleans, of Madras and Bombay and 
Calcutta, drink at my well. In the morning I bathe my 

296 WALDEN. 

intellect in the stupendous and co.smogonal philosophy of 
the Bhagvat Geeta, since whose composition years of the 
gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our 
modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial ; and 
I doubt if that philosophy is not to be referred to a previous 
state of existence, so remote is its sublimity from our 
conceptions. I lay down the book and go to my well for 
water, and lo ! there I meet the servant of the Brahmin, 
priest of Brahma and Vishnu and Indra, who still sits in 
his temple on the Ganges reading the Vedas, or dwells at 
the root of a tree with his crust and water-jug. I meet his 
servant come to draw water for his master, and our buckets, 
as it were, grate together in the same well. The pure 
Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the 
Ganges. With favouring winds it is wafted past the site 
of the fabulous islands of Atlantis and the Hesperides, 
makes the periplus of Hanno, and, floating by Ternate and 
Tidore and the mouth of the Persian Gulf, melts in the 
tropic gales of the Indian seas, and is landed in ports of 
which Alexander only heard the names. 


]HE opening of large tracts by the ice-cutters com 
monly causes a pond to break up earlier ; for the 
water, agitated by the wind, even in cold weather, 
wears away the surrounding ice. But such was 
not the case at Walden that year, for she had soon got a 
thick new garment to take the place of the old. This pond 
never breaks up so soon as the others in this neighbourhood, 
on account both of its greater depth and its having no 
stream passing through it to melt or wear away the ice. I 
never knew it to open in the course of a winter, not 
excepting that of 52-3, which gave the ponds so severe a 
trial. It commonly opens about the 1st of April, a week 
or ten days later than Flints Pond and Fair-Haven, 
beginning to melt on the north side and in the shallower 
parts where it began to freeze. It indicates better than 
any water hereabouts the absolute progress of the season, 
being least affected by transient changes of temperature. 
A severe cold of a few days duration in March may very 
much retard the opening of the former ponds, while the 
temperature of Walden increases almost uninterruptedly, 
A thermometer thrust into the middle of Walden on the 
Gtli of March 1847, stood at 32, or freezing point \ near 
the shore at 33 ; in the middle of Flints Pond, the same 

298 WALDEN. 

day, at 32^ ; at a dozen rods from the shore, in shallow 
water, under ice a foot thick, at 3G. This difference of 
three and a-half degrees between the temperature of the 
deep water and the shallow in the latter pond, and the fact 
that a great proportion of it is comparatively shallow, show 
why it should break up so much sooner than Walden. The 
ice in the shallowest part was at this time several inches 
thinner than in the middle. Tn mid-winter the middle had 
been the warmest and the ice thinnest there. So, also, 
every one who has waded about the shores of a pond in 
summer must have perceived how much warmer the water 
is close to the shore, where only three or four inches deep, 
than a little distance out, and on the surface where it is 
deep, than near the bottom. In spring the sun not only 
exerts an influence through the increased temperature of 
the air and earth, but its heat passes through ice a foot or 
more thick, and is reflected from the bottom in shallow 
water, and so also warms the water and melts the under 
side of the ice, at the same time that it is melting it more 
directly above, making it uneven, and causing the air 
bubbles which it contains to extend themselves upward and 
downward until it is completely honeycombed, and at last 
disappears suddenly in a single spring rain. Ice has its 
grain as well as wood, and when a cake begins to rot or 
"comb," that is, assume the appearance of honeycomb, 
whatever may be its position, the air cells are at right 
angles with what was the water surface. Where there is a 
rock or a log rising near to the surface, the ice over it is 
much thinner, and is frequently quite dissolved by this 
reflected heat ; and I have been told that in the experiment 
at Cambridge to freeze water in a shallow wooden pond, 
though the cold air circulated underneath, and so had 
access to both sides, the reflection of the sun from the 

SPRING. 299 

bottom more than counterbalanced this advantage. When 
a warm rain in the middle of the winter melts off the snow- 
ice from Walden, and leaves a hard dark or transparent ice 
on the middle, there will be a strip of rotten though thicker 
white ice, a rod or more wide, about the shores, created by 
this reflected heat. Also, as I have said, the bubbles them 
selves within the ice operate as burning-glasses to melt the 
ice beneath. 

The phenomena of the year take place every day in a 
pond on a small scale. Every morning, generally speaking, 
the shallow water is being warmed more rapidly than the 
deep, though it may not be made so warm after all, and 
every evening it is being cooled more rapidly until the 
morning. The day is an epitome of the year. The night 
is the winter, the morning and evening are the spring and 
fall, and the noon is the summer. The cracking and 
booming of the ice indicate a change of temperature. One 
pleasant morning after a cold night, 24th February 1850, 
having gone to Flints Pond to spend the day, I noticed 
with surprise, that when I struck the ice with the head of 
my axe, it resounded like a gong for many rods around, or 
as if I had struck on a tight drum-head. The pond began 
to boom about an hour after sunrise, when it felt the 
influence of the sun s rays slanted upon it from over the 
hills ; it stretched itself and yawned like a waking man 
with a gradually increasing tumult, which was kept up 
three or four hours. It took a short siesta at noon, and 
boomed once more toward night, as the sun was with 
drawing his influence. In the right stage of the weather a 
pond fires its evening gun with great regularity. But in 
the middle of the day, being full of cracks, and the air also 
lesy elastic, it had completely lost its resonance, and 
probably fishes and musk rats could not then have been 


stunned by a blow on. it. The fishermen say that the 
"thundering of the pond" scares the fishes and prevents 
their biting. The pond does not thunder every evening, 
and I cannot tell surely when to expect its thundering ; but 
though I may perceive no difference in the weather, it does. 
Who would have suspected so large and cold and thick- 
skinned a thing to be so sensitive ? Yet it has its law to 
which it thunders obedience when it should as surely as the 
buds expand in the spring. The earth is all alive and 
covered with papillae. The largest pond is as sensitive to 
atmospheric changes as the globule of mercury in its tube. 

One attraction in coming to the woods to live was that I 
should have leisure and opportunity to see the spring como 
in. The ice in the pond at length begins to be honey 
combed, and I can set my heel in it as I walk. Fogs and 
rains and warmer suns are gradually melting the snow ; the 
days have grown sensibly longer ; and I see how I shall get 
through the winter without adding to my wood -pile, for 
large fires are no longer necessary. I am on the alert for 
the first signs of spring, to hear the chance note of some 
arriving bird, or the striped squirrel s chirp, for his stores 
must be now nearly exhausted, or see the woodchuck 
venture out of his winter quarters. On the 13th of March, 
after I had heard the bluebird, song-sparrow, and red-wing, 
the ice was still nearly a foot thick. As the weather grew 
warmer it was not sensibly worn away by the water, nor 
broken up and floated off as in rivers, but though it was 
completely melted for half a rod in width about the shore, 
the middle was merely honeycombed and saturated with 
water, so that you could put your foot through it when 
six inches thick ; but by the next day evening, perhaps, 
after a warm rain followed by fog, it would have wholly 


disappeared, all gone off with the fog, spirited away. One 
year I went across the middle only five days before it dis 
appeared entirely. In 1845 Walden was first completely 
open on the 1st of April; in 46, the 25th of March; in 
47, the 8th of April; in 51, the 28th of March; in 52, 
tho 18th of April; in 53, the 23rd of March; in 54, 
aboii t the 7th of April. 

Every incident connected with the breaking up of tho 
rivers and ponds and the settling of the weather is par 
ticularly interesting to us who live in a climate of so great 
extremes. When the warmer days come, they who dwell 
near the river hear the ice crack at night with a startling 
whoop as loud as artillery, as if its icy fetters were rent 
from end to end, and within a few days see it rapidly going 
out. So the alligator comes out of the mud with quakings 
of the earth. One old man, who has been a close observer 
of Nature, and seems as thoroughly wise in regard to all her 
operations as if she had been put upon the stocks when ho 
was a boy, and he had helped to lay her keel, who has 
come to his growth, and can hardly acquire more of natural 
lore if he should live to the age of Methuselah, told mo, 
and I was surprised to hear him express wonder at any 
of Nature s operations, for I thought that there were no 
secrets between them, that one spring day he took his gun 
and boat, and thought that he would have a little sport 
with the ducks. There was ice still on the meadows, but 
it was all gone out of the river, and he dropped down with 
out obstruction from Sudbury, where he lived, to Fair- 
Haven Pond, which he found, unexpectedly, covered for 
the most part with a firm field of ice. It was a warm day, 
and he was surprised to see so great a body of ice remaining. 
Not seeing any ducks, he hid his boat on the north or 
back side of an island in the pond, and then concealed 

302 WALDEN. 

himself in the bushes on the south side to await them. The 
ice was melted for three or four rods from the shore, and 
there was a smooth and warm sheet of water, with a muddy 
bottom, such as the ducks love, within, and he thought it 
likely that some would be along pretty soon. After he had 
lain still there about an hour he heard a k>w and seemingly 
very distant sound, but singularly grand and impressive, 
unlike anything he had ever heard, gradually swelling and 
increasing as if it would have a universal and memorable 
ending, a sullen rush and roar, which seemed to him all at 
once like the sound of a vast body of fowl coming in to 
settle there, and seizing his gun, he started up in haste and 
excited ; but he found, to his surprise, that the whole body 
of the ice had started while he lay there, and drifted in to the 
shore, and the sound he had heard was made by its edge 
grating on the shore, at first gently nibbled and crumbled 
off, but at length heaving up and scattering its wrecks 
along the island to a considerable height before it came to a 

At length the sun s rays have attained the right angle, 
and warm winds blow up mist and rain, and melt the snow 
banks, and the sun dispersing the mist smiles on a checkered 
landscape of russet and white smoking with incense, through 
which the traveller picks his way from islet to islet, cheered 
by the music of a thousand tinkling rills and rivulets, whose 
veins are filled with the blood of winter which they are 
bearing off. 

Few phenomena gave me more delight than to observe 
the forms which thawing sand and clay assume in flowing 
clown the sides of a deep cut on the railroad through which 
I passed on my way to the village a phenomenon not very 
common on so large a scale, though the number of freshly 
exposed banks of the right material must have been greatly 

SPRING. 3 03 

multiplied since railroads were invented. The material 
was sand of every degree of fineness and of various rich 
colours, commonly mixed with a little clay. When the 
frost comes out in the spring, and even in a thawing day in 
the winter, the sand begins to flow down the slopes liko 
lava, sometimes bursting out through the snow and over 
flowing it where no sand was to be seen before. Innumer 
able little streams overlap and interlace one with another, 
exhibiting a sort of hybrid product, which obeys half-way 
the law of currents, and half-way that of vegetation. A.s 
it flows it takes the forms of sappy leaves or vines, making 
heaps of pulpy sprays a foot or more in depth, and resem 
bling, as you look down on them, the laciniated lobed and 
imbricated thalluses of some lichens ; or you are reminded 
of coral, of leopards paws or birds feet, of brains or lungs 
or bowels, and excrements of all kinds. It is a truly 
grotesque vegetation, whose forms and colour we see 
imitated in bronze a sort of architectural foliage more 
ancient and typical than acanthus, chicory, ivy, vine, or 
any vegetable leaves ; destined, perhaps, under some circum 
stances, to become a puzzle to future geologists. The whole 
cut impressed me as if it were a cave with its stalactites 
laid open to the light. The various shades of the sand are 
singularly rich and agreeable, embracing the different iron 
colours brown, grey, yellowish, and reddish. When the 
flowing mass readies the drain at the foot of the bank it 
spreads out flatter into strands, the separate streams losing 
their semi-cylindrical form and gradually becoming more 
flat and broad, running together as they are more moist, till 
they form an almost flat sand, still variously and beautifully 
shaded, but in which you can trace the original forms of 
vegetation ; till at length, in the water itself, they are 
converted into banks, like those formed off the mouths of 

304 WALDEN. 

rivers, and the forms of vegetation are lost in the ripple 
marks on the bottom. 

The whole bank, which is from twenty to forty feet high, 
is sometimes overlaid with a mass of this kind of foliage, or 
sandy rupture, for a quarter-of-a-mile on one or both sides, 
the produce of one spring day. What makes this sand 
foliage remarkable is its springing into existence thus 
suddenly. When I see on the one side the inert bank for 
the sun acts on one side first and on the other this 
luxuriant foliage, the creation of an hour, I am affected as 
if in a peculiar sense I stood in the laboratory of the Artist 
who made the world and me had come to where he was 
still at work, sporting on this bank, and with excess of 
energy strewing his fresh designs about. I feel as if I wero 
nearer to the vitals of the globe, for this sandy overflow is 
something such a foliaceous mass as the vitals of the animal 
body. You find thus in the very sands an anticipation of 
the vegetable leaf. No wonder that the earth expresses 
itself outwardly in leaves, it so labours with the idea 
inwardly. The atoms have already learned this law, and 
are pregnant by it. The overhanging leaf sees here its 
prototype. Internally, whether in the globe or animal 
body, it is a moist thick lobe, a word especially applicable 
to the liver and lungs and the leaves of fat (Aei /ta, labour, 
lapsus, to flow or slip downward, a lapsing ; Ao/3os, globus, 
lobe, globe ; also lap, flap, and many other words), externally 
a dry thin leaf, even as the y*and v are a pressed and dried 
b. The radicals of lobe are Ib, the soft mass of the b (single 
lobed, or B, double lobed, with a liquid I behind it pressing 
it forward. In globe, gib, the guttural g adds to the 
meaning the capacity of the throat. The feathers and 
wings of birds are still drier and thinner leaves. Tims, 
also, you pass from the lumpish grub in the earth to the 

SPRING. 305 

airy and fluttering butterfly. The very globe continually 
transcends and translates itself, and becomes winged in its 
orbit. Even ice begins with delicate crystal leaves, as if it 
had flowed into moulds which the fronds of water plants 
have impressed on the watery mirror. The whole tree 
itself is but one leaf, and rivers are still vaster leaves, whoso 
pulp is intervening earth, and towns and cities are the ovu 
of insects in their axils. 

When the sun withdraws the sand ceases to flow, but in 
the morning the streams will start once more, and branch 
and branch again into a myriad of others. You here see, 
perchance, how blood-vessels are formed. If you look 
closely you observe that first there pushes forward from the 
thawing mass a stream of softened sand with a drop-like 
point, like the ball of the finger, feeling its way slowly and 
blindly downward, until at last, with more heat and 
moisture, as the sun gets higher, the most fluid portion, in 
its effort to obey the law to which the most inert also 
yields, separates from the latter and forms for itself a 
meandering channel or artery within that, in which is seen 
a little silvery stream glancing like lightning from one stage 
of pulpy leaves or branches to another, and ever and anon 
swallowed up in the sand. It is wonderful how rapidly yet 
perfectly the sand organises itself as it flows, using the best 
material its mass affords to form the sharp edges of its 
channel. Such are the sources of rivers. In the silicious 
matter which the water deposits is perhaps the bony 
system, and in the still finer soil and organic matter the 
fleshy fibre or cellular tissue. What is man but a mass of 
thawing clay 1 The ball of the human finger is but a drop 
congealed. The fingers and toes flow to their extent from 
the thawing mass of the body. Who knows what tho 
human body would expand and flow out to under a moro 


306 WALDEN. 

genial heaven ? Is not the hand a spreading palm leaf with 
its lobes and veins 1 The ear may be regarded, fancifully, 
as a lichen, umbilicaria, on the side of the head, with its 
lobe or drop. The lip labium, from labour (?) laps or 
lapses from the sides of the cavernous mouth. The nose is 
a manifest congealed drop or stalactite. The chin is a still 
larger drop, the confluent dripping of the face. The cheeks 
are a slide from the brows into the valley of the faco, 
opposed and diffused by the cheek bones. Each rounded 
lobe of the vegetable leaf, too, is a thick and now loitering 
drop, larger or smaller; the lobes are the fingers of the 
leaf ; and as many lobes as it has, in so many directions it 
tends to flow, and more heat or other genial influences 
would have caused it to flow yet further. 

Thus it seemed that this one hill-side illustrated the 
principle of all the operations of Nature. The Maker 
of this earth but patented a leaf. What Champollion 
will decipher this hieroglyphic for us, that we may turn 
over a new leaf at last 1 This phenomenon is more 
exhilarating to me than the luxuriance and fertility of vine 
yards. True, it is somewhat excrementitious in its 
character, and there is no end to the heaps of liver, lights, 
and bowels, as if the globe were turned wrong side outward ; 
but this suggests at least that Nature has some bowels, and 
there again is mother of humanity. This is the frost 
coming out of the ground ; this is Spring. It precedes the 
green and flowery spring, as mythology precedes regular 
poetry. I know of nothing more purgative of winter fumes 
and indigestions. It convinces me that Earth is still in her 
swaddling-clothes, and stretches forth baby fingers on every 
side. Fresh curls spring from the boldest brow. There is 
nothing inorganic. These foliacious heaps lie along the 
bank like the slag of a furnace, showing that Nature is " in 

SPRING. 307 

full Mast" within. Tho earth is not a more fragment of 
dead history, stratum upon stratum like the leaves of a 
book, to bo studied by geologists and antiquaries chiefly, 
but living poetry liko the leaves of a tree, which precede 
flowers and fruit, not a fossil earth, but a living earth ; 
compared with whose great central life all animal and 
vegetable life is merely parisitic. Its throes will heavo 
our exuviae from their graves. You may melt your metals 
and cast them into the most beautiful moulds you can ; 
they will never excite me like the forms which this molten 
earth flows out into. And not only it, but the institutions 
upon it, are plastic like clay in the hands of the potter. 

Ere long, not only on these banks, but on every hill and 
plain, and in every hollow, the frost comes out of the 
ground like a dormant quadruped from its burrow, and 
seeks the sea with music, or migrates to other climes in 
clouds. Thaw with his gentle persuasion is more powerful 
than Thor with his hammer. The one melts, the other but 
breaks in pieces. 

When the ground was partially bare of snow, and a few- 
warm days had dried its surface somewhat, it was pleasant 
to compare the first tender signs of the infant year just 
peeping forth with the stately beauty of the withered 
vegetation which had withstood the winter, life-everlasting, 
golden-rods, pinweeds, and graceful wild grasses more obvious 
and interesting frequently than in summer even, as if 
their beauty was not ripe till then ; even cotton-grass, cat 
tails, mulleins, johnswort, hard-hack, meadow-sweet, and 
other strong-stemmed plants, those unexhausted granaries 
which entertain the earliest birds, decent weeds, at loast, 
which widowed Nature wears. I am particularly attracted 
by the arching and sheaf -like top of the wool-grass; it 

308 WALDEN. 

brings l>ack the summer to our winter memories, and is 
among the forms which art loves to copy, and which, in the 
vegetable kingdom, have the same relation to types already 
in the mind of man that astronomy has. It is an antique 
style older than Greek or Egyptian. Many of the 
phenomena of Winter are suggestive of an inexpressible 
tenderness and fragile delicacy. We are accustomed to 
hear this king described as a rude and boisterous tyrant ; 
but with the gentleness of a lover he adorns the tresses of 

At the approach of spring the red squirrels got under my 
house, two at a time, directly under my feet, as I sat 
reading or writing, and kept up the queerest chuckling and 
chirruping and vocal pirouetting and gurgling sounds that 
ever were heard ; and when I stamped, they only chirruped 
the louder, as if past all fear and respect in their mad 
pranks, defying humanity to stop them. No you don t 
chickaree chickaree. They were wholly deaf to my argu 
ments, or failed to perceive their force, and fell into a 
strain of invective that was irresistible. 

The first sparrow of spring ! The year beginning with 
younger hope than ever ! The faint silvery warblings 
heard over the partially bare and moist fields from the 
blue-bird, the song-sparrow, and the red-wing, as if the last 
flakes of winter tinkled as they fell ! What at such a time 
are histories, chronologies, traditions, and all written revela 
tions? The brooks sing carols and glees to the spring. 
The marsh-hawk sailing low over the meadow is already 
seeking the first slimy life that awakes. The sinking 
sound of melting snow is heard in all dells, and the ice 
dissolves apace in the ponds. The grass flames up on the 
hillsides like a spring fire, "et primitus oritur herba 
imbribus primoribus evocata," as if the earth sent forth 

SPRING. 309 

an inward heat to greet the returning sun \ not yellow but 
green is the colour of its flame ; the symbol of perpetual 
youth, the grass-blade, like a long green ribbon, streams 
from the sod into the summer, cheeked indeed by the frost, 
but anou pushing on again, lifting its spear of last year s 
hay with the fresh life below. It grows as steadily as the 
rill oozes out of the ground. It is almost identical with 
that, for in tho growing days of June, when the rills are 
dry, the grass blades are their channels, and from year to 
year the herds drink at this perennial green stream, and the 
mower draws from it betimes their winter supply. So our 
human life but dies- down to its root, and still puts forth its 
green blade to eternity. 

Waldcn is melting apace. There is a canal two rods 
wide along the northerly and westerly sides, and wider still 
at the east end. A great field of ice has cracked ofF from 
the main body. I hear a song-sparrow singing from the 
bushes on the shore, olit, olit, olit, chij), chip, chip, che 
char, che wiss, wins, wiss. He too is helping to crack it. 
How handsome the great sweeping curves in the edge of 
the ice, answering somewhat to those of the shore, but 
more regular ! It is unusually hard, owing to the recent 
severe but transient cold, and all watered or waved like a 
palace floor. But the wind slides eastward over its opaque 
surface in vain, till it reaches the living surface beyond. 
It is glorious to behold this ribbon of water sparkling in 
the sun, the bare face of the pond full of glee and youth, as 
if it spoke the joy of the fishes within it, and of the sands 
on its shore, a silvery sheen as from the scales of a 
leuciscus, as it were all one active fish. Such is the con 
trast between winter and spring. Walden was dead and is 
alive again. But this spring it broke up more steadily, as 
I have said. 

310 WALDEN. 

The change from storm and winter to serene and mild 
weather, from dark and sluggish hours to bright and elastic 
ones, is a memorable crisis which all things proclaim. It is 
seemingly instantaneous at last. Suddenly an influx of 
light filled my house, though the evening was at hand, and 
the clouds of winter still overhung it, and the eaves were 
dripping with sleety rain. I looked out the window, and 
lo ! where yesterday was cold grey ice there lay the trans 
parent pond, already calm and full of hope as in a summer 
evening, reflecting a summer evening sky in its bosom, 
though none was visible overhead, as if it had intelligence 
with some remote horizon. I heard a robin in the distance, 
the first I had heard for many a thousand years, methought, 
whose note I shall not forget for many a thousand more, 
the same sweet and powerful song as of yore. the 
evening robin, at the end of a New England summer day ! 
If I could ever find the twig he sits upon ! I mean he ; I 
mean the twig. This at least is not the Turdus migratorius. 
The pitch-pines and shrub-oaks about my house, which had 
so long drooped, suddenly resumed their several characters, 
looked brighter, greener, and more erect and alive, as if 
effectually cleansed and restored by the rain. I knew that 
it would not rain any more. You may tell by looking at 
any twig of the forest, ay, at your very wood-pile, whether 
its winter is past or not. As it grew darker, I was startled 
by the honking of geese flying low over the woods, like 
weary travellers getting in late from southern lakes, and 
indulging at last in unrestrained complaint and mutual 
consolation. Standing at my door, I could hear the rush 
of their wings; when, driving toward my house, they 
suddenly spied my light, and with hushed clamour wheeled 
and settled in the pond. So I came in, and shut the door, 
and passed my first spring night iu the woods. 

SPRING. 311 

In the morning I watched the geese from the door 
through the mist, sailing in the middle of the pond, fifty 
rods off, so large and tumultuous that Walden appeared 
like an artificial pond for their amusement. But when T 
stood on the shore they at once rose up with a great 
flapping of wings at the signal of their commander, and 
when they had got into rank, circled about over my head, 
twenty-nine of them, and then steered straight to Canada, 
with a regular honk from the leader at intervals, trusting 
to break their fast in muddier pools. A " plump " of ducks 
rose at the same time, and took the route to the north in 
the wake of their noisier cousins. 

For a week I heard the circling, groping clangour of some 
solitary goose in the foggy mornings, seeking its companion, 
and still peopling the woods with the sound of a larger life 
than they could sustain. In April the pigeons were seen 
again flying express in small flocks, and in due time I heard 
the martins twittering over my clearing, though it had not 
seemed that the township contained so many that it could 
afford me any, and I fancied that they were peculiarly 
of the ancient race that dwelt in hollow trees ere white 
men came. In almost all climes the tortoise and the 
frog are among the precursors and heralds of this season, 
and birds fly with song and glancing plumage, and plants 
spring and bloom, and winds blow, to correct this slight 
oscillation of the poles and preserve the equilibrium of 

As every season seems best to us in its turn, so the 
coming in of spring is like the creation of Cosmos out of 
Chaos, and the realisation of the Golden Age. 

11 Eurus ad Auroram, Nabathacanue regna recessit, 
Fersidaque, et radiis jnga subdita matutiuis." 

312 WALDEN. 

" Tlie East-Wind withdrew to Aurora and the Nabathaean kingdom, 
And the Persian, and the ridges placed under the morning rays. 

Man was born. Whether that Aitificer of things, 
The origin of a better world, made him from the divine seed ; 
Or the earth being recent and lately sundered from the high 
Ether, returned some seeds of cognate heaven." 

A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. 
So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. 
We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and 
took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the 
grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that 
falls on it ; and did not spend our time in atoning for the 
neglect of past opportunities, which we call doing our duty. 
We loiter in winter while it is already spring. In a 
pleasant spring morning all men s sins are forgiven. Such 
a day is a truce to vice. While such a sun holds out to 
burn, the vilest sinner may return. Through our own 
recovered innocence we discern the innocence of our neigh 
bours. You may have known your neighbour yesterday 
for a thief, a drunkard, or a sensualist, and merely pitied or 
despised him, and despaired of the world; but the sun 
shines bright and warm this first spring morning, recreating 
the world, and you meet him at some serene work, and see 
how his exhausted and debauched veins expand with still 
joy and bless the new day, feel the spring influence with 
the innocence of infancy, and all his faults are forgotten. 
There is not only an atmosphere of good-will about him, 
but even a savour of holiness groping for expression, blindly 
and ineffectually, perhaps, like a new-born instinct, and for 
a short hour the south hill-side echoes to no vulgar jest. 
You see some innocent fair shoots preparing to burst from 
his gnarled rind and try another year s life, tender and 

SPRING. 313 

fresh as the youngest plant. Even ho has entered into 
the joy of his Lord. Why the jailer does not leave open 
his prison doors, why the judge does not dismiss his case, 
why the preacher does not dismiss his congregation ! It 
is because they do not obey the hint which God gives them, 
nor accept the pardon which he freely offers to all. 

"A return to goodness produced each day in the tranquil 
and beneficent breath of the morning, causes that in respect 
to the love of virtue and the hatred of vice, one approaches 
a little the primitive nature of man, as the sprouts of the 
forest which has been felled. In like manner the evil 
which one does in the interval of a day prevents the germs 
of virtues which began to spring up again from developing 
themselves, and destroys them. 

"After the germs of virtue have thus been prevented 
many times from developing themselves, then the beneficent 
breath of evening does not suffice to preserve them. As 
soon as the breath of evening does not suffice longer to 
preserve them, then the nature of man does not differ much 
from that of the brute. Men seeing the nature of this man 
like that of the brute, think that he has never possessed the 
innate faculty of reason. Are those the true and natural 
sentiments of man 1 " 

"The Golden Ago was first created, which without any avenger 
Spontaneously without law cherished fidelity and rectitude. 
Punishment and fear were not ; nor were threatening words read 
On suspended brass ; nor did the suppliant crowd fear 
The words of their judge ; but were safe without an avenger. 
Not yet the pine felled on its mountains had descended 
To the liquid waves that it might see a foreign world, 
And mortals knew no shores but their own. 

There was eternal spring, and placid zephyrs with warm 
Blasts soothed the flowers born without seed." 

314 WALDEN. 

On the 29th of April, as I was fishing from the bank of 
the river near the Nine-Acre-Corner bridge, standing on 
the quaking grass and willow roots, where the musk-rats 
lurk, I heard a singular rattling sound, somewhat like that 
of the sticks which boys play with their fingers, when, 
looking up, I observed a very slight and graceful hawk, like 
a night-hawk, alternately soaring like a ripple and tumbling 
a rod or two over and over, showing the underside of its 
wings, which gleamed like a satin ribbon in the sun, or like 
the pearly inside of a shell. This sight reminded me of 
falconry and what nobleness and poetry are associated with 
that sport. The Merlin it seemed to me it might be called, 
but I care not for its name. It was the most ethereal 
flight I had ever witnessed. It did not simply flutter like 
a butterfly, nor soar like the larger hawks, but it sported 
with proud reliance in the fields of air ; mounting again and 
again with its strange chuckle, it repeated its free and 
beautiful fall, turning over and over like a kite, and then 
recovering from its lofty tumbling, as if it had never set its 
foot on terra firma, It appeared to have no companion in 
the universe sporting there alone and to need none but 
the morning and the ether with which it played. It was 
not lonely, but made all the earth lonely beneath it. 
Where was the parent which hatched it, its kindred, and 
its father in the heavens ? The tenant of the air, it seemed 
related to the earth but by an egg hatched some time in the 
crevice of a crag ; or was its native nest made in the angle 
of a cloud, woven of the rainbow s trimmings and the sunset 
sky, and lined with some soft midsummer haze caught up 
from earth ? Its eyrie now some cliffy cloud. 

Beside this I got a rare mess of golden and silver and 
bright cupreous fishes, which looked like a string of jewels. 
Ah ! I have penetrated to those meadows on the morning 

SPRING. 315 

of many a lirst spring day, jumping from hummock to 
hummock, from willow root to willow root, when the wild 
river valley and the woods were bathed in so pure and 
bright a light as would have waked the dead, if they had 
been slumbering in their graves, as some suppose. There 
needs no stronger proof of immortality. All things must 
live in such a light. O Death, where was thy sting? O 
Grave, where was thy victory, then ? 

Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the 
unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We 
need the tonic of wildness to wade sometimes in marshes 
where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the 
booming of the snipe, to smell the whispering sedge where 
only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, 
and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. At 
the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all 
things, we require that all things be mysterious and un- 
explorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed, 
and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can 
never have enough of Nature. We must be refreshed by 
the sight of inexhaustible vigour, vast and Titanic features 
the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living 
and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain 
which lasts three weeks and produces freshets. We need 
to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life 
pasturing freely where we never wander. We are cheered 
when we observe the vulture feeding on the carrion which 
disgusts and disheartens us, and deriving health and 
strength from the repast. There was a dead horse in the 
path to my house, which compelled me sometimes to go out 
of my way, but the assurance it gave me of the strong 
appetite and inviolable health of Nature was my compensa 
tion for this. I love to see that Nature in so rife with life 

316 WALDEN. 

that myriads can be afforded to be sacrificed and suffered to 
prey on one another ; that tender organisations can be so 
serenely squashed out of existence like pulp tadpoles 
which herons gobble up, and tortoises and toads run over in 
the road ; and that sometimes it has rained flesh and blood ! 
With the liability to accident, we must see how little 
account is to be made of it. The impression made on a 
wise man is that of universal innocence Poison is not 
poisonous after all, nor are any wounds fatal. Compassion 
is a very untenable ground. It must be expeditious. Its 
pleadings will not bear to be stereotyped. 

Early in May, the oaks, hickories, maples, and other 
trees, just putting out amidst the pine woods around the 
pond, imparted a brightness like sunshine to the landscape, 
especially in cloudy days, as if the sun were breaking 
through mists and shining faintly on the hill-sides here and 
there. On the 3rd or 4th of May I saw a loon in the pond, 
and during the first week of the month I heard the whip- 
poor-will, the brown-thrasher, the veery, the wood-pewee, 
the chewink, and other birds. I had heard the wood-thrush 
long before. The phcebe had already come once more and 
looked in at my door and window, to see if my house was 
cavern-like enough for her, sustaining herself on humming- 
wings with clinched talons, as if she held by the air, while 
she surveyed the premises. The sulphur-like pollen of the 
pitch-pine soon covered the pond and the stones and rotten 
wood along the shore, so that you could have collected a 
barrclful. These are the " sulphur showers " we hear of. 
And so the seasons went rolling on into summer, as one 
rambles into higher and higher grass. 

Thus was my first year s life in the woods completed ; 
and the second year was similar to it. I finally left 
Waldcn September 6th, 1847. 


PO the sick the doctors wisely recommend a change 
of air and scenery. Thank Heaven, here is not all 
the world. The buck-eye does not grow in New 
England, and the mocking-bird is rarely heard 
here. The wild goose is more of a cosmopolite than we ; 
he breaks his fast in Canada, takes a luncheon in the Ohio, 
and plumes himself for the night in a southern bayou. 
Even the bison, to some extent, keeps pace with the 
seasons, cropping the pastures of the Colorado only till a 
greener and sweeter grass awaits him by the Yellowstone. 
Yet we think that if rail fences are pulled down, and stone 
walls piled up on our farms, bounds are henceforth set to 
our lives and our fates decided. If you are chosen town- 
clerk, forsooth, you cannot go to Tierra del Fuego this 
summer : but you may go to the land of infernal fire 
nevertheless. The universe is wider than our views of it. 

Yet we should oftener look over the tafferel of our craft, 
like curious passengers, and not make the voyage like 
stupid sailors picking oakum. The other side of the globe 
is but the home of our correspondent. Our voyaging is 
only great circle-sailing, and the doctors prescribe for 
diseases of the skin merely. One hastens to Southern 
Africa to chase the giraffe, but surely that is not the 

3 i 8 WALDEN. 

game he would be after. How long, pray, would a man 
hunt giraffes if he could 1 Snipes and woodcocks also may 
afford rare sport, but I trust it would be nobler game to 
shoot one s self. 

"Direct your eye right inward, and you ll find 
A thousand regions in your mind 
Yet undiscovered. Travel them, and bo 
Expert in home-cosmography." 

What does Africa what does the West stand for 1 Is not 
our own interior white on the chart, black though it may 
prove, like the coast, when discovered 1 Is it the source of 
the Nile, or the Niger, or the Mississippi, or a North- West 
Passage around this continent, that we would find 1 Ai-e 
these the problems which most concern mankind 1 Is 
Franklin the only man who is lost, that his wife should be 
so earnest to find him 1 Does Mr. Grinnell know where he 
himself is 1 Be rather the Mungo Park, the Lewis and 
Clarke and Frobisher, of your own streams and oceans ; 
explore your own higher latitudes with shiploads of 
preserved meats to support you, if they be necessary, and 
pile the empty cans sky-high for a sign. Were preserved 
meats invented to preserve meat merely 1 Nay, be a 
Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, 
opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought. Every 
man is the lord of a realm beside which the earthly empire 
of the Czar is but a petty state, a hummock left by the ice. 
Yet some can be patriotic who have no se^-rcspect, and 
sacrifice the greater to the less. They love the soil which 
makes their graves, but have no sympathy with the spirit 
which may still animate their clay. Patriotism is a maggot 
in their heads. What was the meaning of that South-Sea 
Exploring Expedition, with all its parade and expense, but 
an indirect recognition of the fact that there arc continents 


and seas in the moral world, to which every man is an 
isthmus or an inlet, yet unexplored by him, but that it is 
easier to sail many thousand miles through cold and storm 
and cannibals, in a government ship, with five hundred men 
and boys to assist one, than it is to explore the private sea, 
the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean of one s being alone. 

"Erret, et extremes alter scrutetur Iberos. 
Plus habet hie vitae, plus habet ille viae." 

Let them wander- and scrutinise the outlandish Australians : 
I have moro of God, they more of the road. 

It is not worth the while to go round the world to count 
the cats in Zanzibar. Yet do this even till you can do 
better, and you may perhaps find some " Symmes Hole," by 
which to get at the inside at last. England and France, 
Spain and Portugal, Gold Coast and Slave Coast, all front 
on this private sea ; but no bark from them has ventured 
out of sight of land, though it is without doubt the direct 
way to India. If you would learn to speak all tongues .and 
conform to the customs of all nations, if you would travel 
farther than all travellers, be naturalised in all climes, and 
cause the Sphinx to dash her head against a stone, even 
obey the precept of the old philosopher, and Explore 
thyself. Herein are demanded the eye and the nerve. 
Only the defeated and deserters go to the wars, cowards that 
run away and enlist. Start now on that farthest western 
way, which does not pause at the Mississippi or the Pacific, 
nor conduct toward a worn-out China or Japan, but leads 
on direct a tangent to this sphere, summer and winter, day 
and night, sun down, moon down, and at last earth down 

It is said that Mirabeau took to highway robbery " to 

3 2o WALDEN. 

ascertain what degree of resolution was necessary in order 
to place one s self in formal opposition to the most sacred 
laws of society." He declared that " a soldier who fights 
in the ranks does not require half so much courage as a 
foot-pad," "that honour and religion have never stood in 
the way of a well-considered and a firm resolve." This was 
manly, as the world goes \ and yet it was idle, if not 
desperate. A saner man would have found himself often 
enough " in formal opposition " to what are deemed " the 
most sacred laws of society," through obedience to yet more 
sacred laws, and so have tested his resolution without 
going out of his way. It is not for a man to put himself 
in such an attitude to society, but to maintain himself in 
whatever attitude he finds himself through obedience to the 
laws of his being, which will never be one of opposition to 
a just government, if he should chance to meet with such. 

I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. 
Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to 
live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It 
is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a 
particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves. 
I had not lived there a week before my feet wore a path 
from my door to the pond-side; and though it is five or 
six years since I trod it, it is still quite distinct. It is true 
I fear that others may have fallen into it, and so helped to 
keep it open. The surface of the earth is soft and impres 
sible by the feet of men ; and so with the paths which the 
mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the 
highways of the world how deep the ruts of tradition 
and conformity ! I did not wish to take a cabin passage, 
but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the 
world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the 
mountains. I do not wish to go below now. 


I learned this, at least, by my experiment : that if one 
advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and 
endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will 
meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He 
will put some things behind, will pass an invisible bound 
ary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to 
establish themselves around and within him ; or the old 
laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favour in a more 
liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher 
order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the 
laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude 
will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness 
weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work 
need not be lost ; that is where they should bo. Now put 
the foundations under them. 

It is a ridiculous demand which England and America 
make, that you shall speak so that they can understand 
you. Neither men nor toad-stools grow so. As if that 
were important, and there were not enough to understand 
you without them. As if Nature could support but one 
order of understandings, could not sustain birds as well as 
quadrupeds, flying as well as creeping things, and hush and 
who, which Bright can understand, were the best English. 
As if there were safety in stupidity alone. I fear chiefly 
lest my expression may not be extra-vagant enough may 
not wander far enough beyond the narrow limits of my 
daily experience, so as to be adequate to the truth of which 
I have been convinced. Extra vagance ! it depends on 
how you are yarded. The migrating buffalo, which seeks 
new pastures in another latitude, is not extravagant like 
the cow which kicks over the pail, leaps the cow-yard fence, 
and runs after her calf, in milking time. I desire to speak 
somewhere without bounds ; like a man in a waking 


322 WALDEN. 

.noment, to men in their waking moments; for I am 
convinced that T cannot exaggerate enough even to lay the 
foundation of a true expression. Who that hag heard a 
strain of music feared then lest he should speak extra 
vagantly any more forever 1 In view of the future or 
possible, we should live quite laxly and undefined in front, 
our outlines dim and misty on that side ; as our shadows 
reveal an insensible perspiration toward the sun. The 
volatile truth of our words should continually betray 
the inadequacy of the residual statement. Their truth 
is instantly translated,- its literal monument alone re 
mains. The words which express our faith and piety 
are not definite ; yet they are significant and fragrant like 
frankincense to superior natures. 

Why level downward to our dullest perception always, 
and praise that as common-sense 1 The commonest sense 
is the sense of men asleep, which they express by snoring. 
Sometimes we are inclined to class those who are once-and- 
a-half witted with the half-witted, because we appreciate 
only a third part of their wit. Some would find fault with 
the morning-red, if they ever got up early enough. " They 
pretend," as I hear, "that the verses of Kabir have four 
different senses illusion, spirit, intellect, and the exoteric 
doctrine of the Vedas ; " but in this part of the world it is 
considered a ground for complaint if a man s writings admit 
of more than one interpretation. While England en 
deavours to cure the potato-rot, will not any endeavour to 
cure the brain-rot, which prevails so much more widely and 

I do not suppose that 1 have attained to obscurity, but I 
should be proud if no more fatal fault were found with my 
pages on this score than was k found with the Wai den ice 
Southern customers objected to its blue colour, which is the 


evidence of its purity, as if it were muddy, and preferred 
the Cambridge ice, which is white, but tastes of weeds. 
The purity men love is like the mists which envelop the 
earth, and not like the azure ether beyond. 

Some are dinning in our ears that we Americans, and 
moderns generally, are intellectual dwarfs compared with 
the ancients, or even the Elizabethan men. But what is 
that to the purpose 1 A living dog is better than a dead 
lion. Shall a man go and hang himself because he belongs 
to the race of pigmies, and not be the biggist pigmy that 
he can? Let every one mind his own business, and 
endeavour to be what he was made. 

Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, 
and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not 
keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he 
hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music 
which he hears, however measured or far away. It is not 
important that he should mature as soon as an apple-tree 
or an oak. Shall he turn his spring into summer? If 
the condition of things which we were made for is not yet, 
what were any reality which we can substitute 1 We will 
not be shipwrecked on a vain reality. Shall we with pains 
erect a heaven of blue glass over ourselves, though when it 
is done we shall be sure to gaze still at the true ethereal 
heaven far above, as if the former were not ? 

There was an artist in the city of Kouroo who was dis 
posed to strive after perfection. One day it came into his 
ynind to make a staff. Having considered that in an 
imperfect work time is an ingredient, but into a perfect 
work time does not enter, he said to himself, It shall be 
perfect in all respects, though I should do nothing else in 
my life. He proceeded instantly to the forest for wood, 
being resolved that it should not be made of unsuitable 

324 WALDEN. 

material ; and as he searched for and rejected stick after 
stick, his friends gradually deserted him, for they grew old 
in their works and died, but he grew not older by a 
moment. His singleness of purpose and resolution, and his 
elevated piety, endowed him, without his knowledge, with 
perennial youth. As he made no compromise with Time, 
Time kept out of his way, and only sighed at a distance 
because he could not overcome him. Before he had found 
a stock in all respects suitable the city of Kouroo was a 
hoary ruin, and he sat on one of its mounds to peel the 
stick. Before he had given it the proper shape the dynasty 
of the Candahars was at an end, and with the point of the 
stick he wrote the name of the last of that race in the sand, 
and then resumed his work. By the time he had smoothed 
and polished the staff Ivalpa was no longer the pole-star ; 
and ere he had put on the ferule and the head adorned 
with precious stones, Brahma had awoke and slumbered 
many times. But why do I stay to mention these things 1 
When the finishing stroke was put to his work, it suddenly 
expanded before the eyes of the astonished artist into the 
fairest of all the creations of Brahma. He had made a new 
system in making a staff, a world with full and fair pro 
portions ; in which, though the old cities and dynasties had 
passed away, fairer and more glorious ones had taken their 
places. And now he saw by the heap of shavings still 
fresh at his feet, that, for him and his work, the former 
lapse of time had been an illusion, and that no more time 
had elapsed than is required for a single scintillation from 
the brain of Brahma to fall on and inflame the tinder of a 
mortal brain. The material was pure, and his art was 
pure ; how could the result be other than wonderful ? 

No face which we can give to a matter will stead us so 
well at last as the truth. This alone wears well. For the 


most part, we are not where we are, but in a false position. 
Through an infirmity of our natures, we suppose a case 
and put ourselves into it, and hence are in two cases at the 
same time, and it is doubly difficult to get out. In sane 
moments we regard only the facts, the case that is. Say 
what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is 
better than make-believe. Tom Hyde, the tinker, standing 
on the gallows, was asked if he had anything to say. 
Tell the tailors," said he, " to remember to make a knot 
in their thread before they take the first stitch." His 
companion s prayer is forgotten. 

However mean your life is, meet it and live it ; do not 
shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. 
It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder 
will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it 
is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious 
hours, even in a poor-house. The setting sun is reflected 
from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the 
rich man s abode ; the snow melts before its door as early 
in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as 
contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in 
a palace. The town s poor seem to me often to live the 
most independent lives of any. Maybe they are simply 
great enough to receive without misgiving. Most think 
that they are above being supported by the town ; but it 
oftener happens that they are not above supporting them 
selves by dishonest means, which should be more disre 
putable. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. 
Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether 
clothes or friends. Turn the old ; return to them. Things 
do not change : we change. Sell your clothes and keep 
your thoughts. God will see that you do not want society. 
If I were confined to a corner of a garret all my days, like 

326 WALDEN. 

a spider, the world would be just as large to me while I had 
my thoughts about me. The philosopher said : " From an 
army of three divisions one can take away its general, and 
put it in disorder ; from the man the most abject and vul 
gar one cannot take away his thought." Do not seek so 
anxiously to be developed, to subject yourself to many 
influences to be played on ; it is all dissipation. Humility 
like darkness reveals the heavenly lights. The shadows of 
poverty and meanness gather around us, " and lo ! crea 
tion widens to our view." We are often reminded that if 
there were bestowed on us the wealth of Crcesus, our aims 
must still be the same, and our means essentially the same. 
Moreover, if you are restricted in your range by poverty, if 
you cannot buy books and newspapers, for instance, you are 
but confined to the most significant and vital experiences ; 
you are compelled to deal with the material which yields 
the most sugar and the most starch. It is life near the 
bone where it is sweetest. You are defended from being a 
trifler. No man loses ever on a lower level by magnan 
imity on a higher. Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities 
only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the 

I live in the angle of a leaden wall, into whose composi 
tion was poured a little alloy of bell metal. Often, in the 
repose of my mid-day, there reaches my ears a confused 
tintinnabulum from without. It is the noise of my con 
temporaries. My neighbours tell me of their adventures 
with famous gentlemen and ladies, what notabilities they 
met at the dinner-table ; but I am no more interested in 
such things than in the contents of the Daily Times. The 
interest and the conversation are about costume and man 
ners chiefly; but a goose is a goose still, dress it as you 
will. They tell me of California and Texas, of England 


and the Indies, of the Hon. Mr. of Georgia or of Mas 
sachusetts, all transient and fleeting phenomena, till I am 
ready to leap from their court-yard like the Mameluke bey. 
I delight to come to my bearings, not walk in procession 
with pomp and parade, in a conspicuous place, but to walk 
even with the Builder of the universe, if I may, not to 
live in this restless, nervous, bustling, trivial Nineteenth 
Century, but stand or sit thoughtfully while it goes by. 
What are men celebrating 1 They are all on a committee 
of arrangements, and hourly expect a speech from some 
body. God is only the president of the day, and Webster 
is his orator. I love to weigh, to settle, to gravitate toward 
that which most strongly and rightfully attracts me ; not 
hang by the beam of the scale and try to weigh less, not 
suppose a case, but take the case that is ; to travel the only 
path I can, and that on which no power can resist me. It 
affords me no satisfaction to commence to spring an arch 
before I have got a solid foundation. Let us not play at 
kittlybenders. There is a solid bottom everywhere. We 
read that the traveller asked the boy if the swamp before 
him had a hard bottom. The boy replied that it had. But 
presently the traveller s horse sank in up to the girths, and 
he observed to the boy, " I thought you said that this bog 
had a hard bottom." " So it has," answered the latter, 
" but you have not got half-way to it yet." So it is with 
the bogs and quicksands of society ; but he is an old boy 
that knows it. Only what is thought, said, or done at a 
certain rare coincidence is good. I would not be one of 
those who will foolishly drive a nail into mere lath and 
plastering ; such a deed would keep me awake nights. 
Give me a hammer, and let me feel for the furrowing. Do 
not depend on the putty. Drive a nail home and clinch it 
so faithfully that you can wake up in the night and think 

328 WALDEN. 

of your work with satisfaction, a work at which you would 
not be ashamed to invoke the Muse. So will help you 
God, and so only. Every nail driven should be as another 
rivet in the machine of the universe, you carrying on the 

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. 
I sat at a table where were rich food and wine in abund 
ance, and obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth 
were not ; and I went away hungry from the inhospitable 
board. The hospitality was as cold as the ices. I thought 
that there was no need of ice to freeze them. They talked 
to me of the age of the wine and the fame of the vintage ; 
but I thought of an older, a newer, and purer wine, of a 
more glorious vintage, which they had not got, and could 
not buy. The style, the house and grounds and " entertain 
ment," pass for nothing with me. I called on the king, but 
he made me wait in his hall, and conducted like a man 
incapacitated for hospitality. There was a man in my 
neighbourhood who lived in a hollow tree. His manners 
were truly regal. I should have done better had I called 
on him. 

How long shall we sit in our porticoes practising idle 
and musty virtues, which any work would make imperti 
nent 1 As if one were to begin the day with long-suffering, 
and hire a man to hoe his potatoes ; and in the afternoon 
go forth to practise Christian meekness and charity with 
goodness aforethought ! Consider the China pride and 
stagnant self-complacency of mankind. This generation 
reclines a little to congratulate itself on being the last of 
an illustrious line ; and in Boston and London and Paris 
and Rome, thinking of its long descent, it speaks of its 
progress in art and science and literature with satisfaction. 
There are the Records of the Philosophical Societies, and 


the public Eulogies of Great Men I It is the good Adam 
contemplating his own virtue. " Yes, we have done great 
deeds, and sung divine songs, which shall never die," that 
is, as long as we can remember them. The learned societies 
and great men of Assyria, where are they 1 What youth 
ful philosophers and experimentalists we are ! There is 
not one of my readers who has yet lived a whole human 
life. These may be but the spring months in the life of the 
race. If we have had the seven-years itch, we have not 
seen the seventeen-year locust yet in Concord. We are 
acquainted with a mere pellicle of the globe on which we 
live. Most have not delved six feet beneath the surface, 
nor leaped as many above it. We know not where we are. 
Beside, we are sound asleep nearly half our time. Yet we 
esteem ourselves wise, and have an established order on the 
surface. Truly, we are deep thinkers, we are ambitious 
spirits ! As I stand over the insect crawling amid the pine 
needles on the forest floor, and endeavouring to conceal 
itself from my sight, and ask myself why it will cherish 
those humble thoughts, and hide its head from me who 
might, perhaps, be its benefactor, and impart to its race 
some cheering information, I am reminded of the greater 
Benefactor and Intelligence that stands over me, the human 

There is an incessant influx of novelty into the world, 
and yet we tolerate incredible dulness. I need only sug 
gest what kind of sermons are still listened to in the most 
enlightened countries. There are such words as joy and 
sorrow, but they are only the burden of a psalm, sung with 
a nasal twang, while we believe in the ordinary and mean. 
We think that we can change our clothes only. It is said 
that the British Empire is very large and respectable, and 
that the United States are a first-rate power. We do 

330 WALDEN. 

not believe that a tide rises and falls behind every man 
which can float the British Empire like a chip, if he should 
ever harbour it in his mind. Who knows what sort of 
seventeen-year locust will next come out of the ground 1 
The government of the world I live in was not framed, like 
that of Britain, in after-dinner conversations over the wine. 
The life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise 
this year higher than man has ever known it, and flood the 
parched uplands ; even this may be the eventful year, 
which will drown out all our musk-rats. It was not always 
dry land where we dwell. I see far inland the banks 
which the stream anciently washed, before science began 
to record its freshets. Every one has heard the story 
which has gone the rounds of New England, of a strong 
and beautiful bug which came out of the dry leaf of an old 
table of apple-tree wood, which had stood in a farmer s 
kitchen for sixty years, first in Connecticut, and afterward 
in Massachusetts, from an egg deposited in the living tree 
many years earlier still, as appeared by counting the annual 
layers beyond it ; which was heard gnawing out for several 
weeks, hatched perchance by the heat of an urn. Who 
does not feel his faith in a resurrection and immortality 
strengthened by hearing of this ? Who knows what beau 
tiful and winged life, whose egg has been buried for ages 
under many concentric layers of woodenness in the dead 
dry life of society, deposited at first in the alburnum of 
the green and living tree, which has been gradually con 
verted into the semblance of its well-seasoned tomb, heard 
perchance gnawing out now for years by the astonished 
family of man, as they sat round the festive board, may 
unexpectedly come forth from amidst society s most 
trivial and handselled furniture, to enjoy its perfect summer 
life at last ! 


I do not say that John or Jonathan will realise all this j 
such is the character of that morrow which mere lapse of 
time can never make to dawn. The light -which puts out 
our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which 
we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is 
but a morning star. * 


EMANATING, as does this volume, from a press on the 
shores of Tyne, the following charming reminiscence, from 
Thoreau s A Wee.k on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 
may be appropriately appended : 

I can just remember an old brown-coated man, who was the 
Walton of this stream, who had come over from Newcastle, 
England, with his son the latter a stout and hearty man, who 
had lifted an anchor in his day. A straight old man he was, 
who took his way in silence through the meadows, having 
passed the period of communication with his fellows ; his old 
experienced coat hanging long and straight and brown as the 
yellow-pine bark, glittering with so much smothered sunlight, 
if you stood near enough, no work of art but naturalised at 
length. I often discovered him unexpectedly amid the pads, 
and the grey willows when he moved, fishing in some old 
country method, for youth and age then went a-nshing 
together, full of incommunicable thoughts, perchance about 
his own Tyne and Northumberland. He was always to be 
seen in serene afternoons haunting the river, and almost 
rustling with the sedge ; so many sunny hours in an old man s 
life, entrapping silly fish, almost grown to be the sun s familiar ; 
what need had he of hat or raiment any, having served out his 
time, and seen through such thin disguises ? I have seen how 
his coeval fates rewarded him with the yellow perch, and yet I 
thought his luck was not in proportion to his years ; and I have 
seen when, with slow steps and weighed down with aged 


thoughts, he disappeared with his fish under his low-roofed 
house on the skirts of the village. I think nobody else saw 
him ; nobody else remembers him now, for he soon after died, 
and migrated to new-Tyne streams. His fishing was not a 
sport, not solely a means of subsistence, but a sort of solemn 
sacrament and withdrawal from the world, just as the aged read 
their Bibles. 

Verses alluded to in Introductory Note, pago x : 


I AM a parcel of vain strivings tied 
By a chance bond together, 
Dangling this way and that, their links 
Were made so loose and wide, 

For milder weather. 

A bunch of violets without their roots, 

And sorrel intermixed, 
Encircled it by a wisp of straw 
Once coiled about their shoots, 

The law 
By which I m fixed. 

A nosegay which time clutched from out 

Those fair Elysian fields 
With weeds and broken stems, in haste, 
Doth make the rabble rout 
That waste 
The day he yields. 

And here I bloom for a short hour unseen, 

Drinking my juices up, 
With no root in the land 
To keep my branches green, 

But stand 
In a bare cup. 


Some tender buds were left upon my stem 

In mimicry of life, 
But ah ! the children will not know, 
Till time has withered them, 

The wo 
With which they re rife. 

But now I see I was not plucked for naught, 

And after in life s vase 
Of glass set while I might survive, 
But by a kind hand brought 

To a strange place. 

That stock thus thinned will soon redeem its hours, 

And by another year 
Such as God knows, with freer air 
More fruits and fairer flowers 

Will bear 
While I droop here. 

Among others, the following verses are subjoined in the 
volume entitled Letters to various Persons, by Thoreau, 
edited by Emerson. 



Newfoundland air, 

Fountain-head and source of rivers, 

Dew-cloth, dream drapery, 

And napkin spread by fays ; 

Drifting meadow of the air, 

Where bloom the daisied banks and violets, 

And in whose fenny labyrinth 

The bittern booms and heron wades ; 

Spirit of lakes and seas and rivers, 

Bear only perfumes and the scent 

Of healing herbs to just men s fields. 



WOOF of the fen, ethereal gauze, 
Woven of Nature s richest stuffs, 
Visible heat, air-water, and dry sea, 
Last conquest of the eye ; 
Toil of the day displayed, sun-dust, 
Aerial surf upon the shores of earth, 
Ethereal estuary, frith of light, 
Breakers of air, billows of heat, 
Fine summer spray on inland seas ; 
Bird of the sun, transparent-winged 
Owlet of noon, soft-pinioned, 
From heath or stubble rising without song, 
Establish thy serenity o er the fields. 


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