9.22.2014

vile weeds
...Thoreau's Journal: 22-Sep-1859

It is remarkable what a curse seems to attach to any place which has long been inhabited by man. Vermin of various kinds abide with him. It is said that the site of Babylon is a desert where the lion and the jackal prowl. If, as here, an ancient cellar is uncovered, there springs up at once a crop of rank and noxious weeds, evidence of a certain unwholesome fertility,—by which perchance the earth relieves herself of the poisonous qualities which have been imparted to her. As if what was foul, baleful, groveling, or obscene in the inhabitants had sunk into the earth and infected it. Certain qualities are there in excess in the soil, and the proper equilibrium will not be obtained until after the sun and the air have purified the spot. The very shade breeds saltpetre. Yet men value this kind of earth highly and will pay a price for it, as if it were as good a soil for virtue as for vice.

In other places you will find henbane and the Jamestown-weed and the like, in cellars,—such herbs as the witches are said to put into their caldron.

It would be fit that the tobacco plant should spring up on the house-site, aye on the grave, of almost every householder of Concord. These vile weeds are sown by vile men. When the house is gone they spring up in the corners of cellars where the cider-casks stood always on tap, for murder and all kindred vices will out. And that rank crowd which lines the gutter, where the wash of the dinner dishes flows, are but distant parasites of the host. What obscene and poisonous weeds, think you, will mark the site of a Slave State?—what kind of Jamestown-weed?

9.21.2014

Thoreau's Journal: 21-Sep-1854

I sometimes seem to myself to owe all my little success, all for which men commend me, to my vices. I am perhaps more willful than others and make enormous sacrifices, even of others’ happiness, it may be, to gain my ends. It would seem even as if nothing good could be accomplished without some vice to aid in it.

9.20.2014

trivial affairs of men
...Thoreau's Journal: 20-Sep-1851

As I go through the fields, endeavoring to recover my tone and sanity and to perceive things truly and simply again, after having been perambulating the bounds of the town all week, and dealing with the most commonplace and worldly-minded men, and emphatically trivial things, I feel as I had committed suicide in a sense. I am again forcibly struck with the truth of the fable of Apollo serving King Admetus, its universal applicability. A fatal coarseness is the result of mixing in the trivial affairs of men. Though I have been associating even with the select men of this and the surrounding towns, I feel inexpressibly begrimed. My Pegasus has lost his wings; he has turned a reptile and gone on his belly. Such things are compatible only with a cheap and superficial life.

The poet must keep himself unstained and aloof. Let him perambulate the bounds of Imagination’s provinces, the realm of faery, and not the insignificant boundaries of towns. The excursions of the imagination are so boundless, the limits of the town so petty.

9.19.2014

the advantages of obscurity
...Thoreau's Journal: 19-Sep-1854

Thinking this afternoon of the prospect of my writing lectures and going abroad to read them the next winter. I realized how incomparably great the advantages of obscurity and poverty which I have enjoyed so long (and may still perhaps enjoy). I thought with what more than princely, with what poetical, leisure I had spent my years hitherto, without care or engagement, fancy-free. I have given myself up to nature; I have lived so many springs and summers and autumns and winters as if I had nothing else to do but live them, and imbibe whatever nutriment they had for me; I have spent a couple of years, for instance, with the flowers chiefly, having none other so binding engagement as to observe when they opened; I could have afforded to spend a whole fall observing the changing tints of the foliage. Ah, how I have thriven on solitude and poverty! I cannot overstate this advantage. I do not see how I could have enjoyed it, if the public had been expecting as much of me as there is danger now that they will. If I go abroad lecturing, how shall I ever recover the lost winter?

9.18.2014

stiffen into statues
...Thoreau's Journal: 18-Sep-1859

Dr. Bartlett handed me a paper to-day, desiring me to subscribe for a statue to Horace Mann. I declined, and said that I thought a man ought not any more to take up room in the world after he was dead. We shall lose one advantage of a man’s dying if we are to have a statue of him forthwith. This is probably meant to be an opposition statue to that of Webster. At this rate they will crowd the streets with them. A man will have to add a clause to his will, “No statue to be made of me.” It is very offensive to my imagination to see the dying stiffen into statues at this rate. We should wait till their bones begin to crumble—and then avoid too near a likeness to the living.

9.17.2014

even-measured
...Thoreau's Journal: 17-Sep-1839

Nature never makes haste; her systems revolve at an even pace. The bud swells imperceptibly, without hurry or confusion, as though the short spring days were an eternity. All her operations seem separately for the time, the single object for which all things tarry. Why, then, should man hasten as if anything less than eternity were allotted for the least deed? Let him consume never so many eons, so that he go about the meanest task well, though it be but the paring of his nails. If the setting sun seems to hurry him to improve the day while it lasts, the chant of the crickets fails not to reassure him, even-measured as of old, teaching him to take his own time henceforth forever. The wise man is restful, never restless or impatient. He each moment abides there where he is, as some walkers actually rest the whole body at each step, while others never relax the muscles of the leg till the accumulated fatigue obliges them to stop short.

As the wise is not anxious that time wait for him, neither does he wait for it.

9.16.2014

southeast storm
...Thoreau's Journal: 16-Sep-1858

When I awake I hear the sound of steady heavy rain. A southeast storm. Our peach tree limbs are broken off by it. It lasts all day, rains a great deal, and scatters many elm boughs and leaves over the street. The wind does damage out of proportion to its strength. The fact is, the trees are unprepared to resist a wind from this quarter and, being loaded with foliage and fruit, suffer so much the more. There will be many windfalls, and fruit will be cheap for awhile.