Thoreau's Journal: 13-Aug-1854

First marked dog day; sultry and with misty clouds. For ten days or so we have had comparatively cool, fall-like weather.

I remember only with a pang the past spring and summer thus far. I have not been an early riser. Society seems to have invaded and overrun me. I have drank tea and coffee and made myself cheap and vulgar. My days have been all noontides, without sacred mornings and evenings. I desire to rise early henceforth, to associate with those whose influence is elevating, to have such dreams and waking thoughts that my diet may not be indifferent to me.

P.M. — To Bare Hill, Lincoln, via railroad.

I have not chanced to hear the bullfrogs trump much, if any, since the middle of July. This is a quite hot day again, after cooler weather. A few small red maples about blush now a dull red. For about a month I think I have particularly noticed the light under sides of leaves, especially maples. I see small flocks of grass-birds, etc. In Macintosh’s field (pasture), some dwarf acalypha some time out. The erechthites down begins to fly. Some of these plants are six feet high. I see where the pasture thistles have apparently been picked to pieces (for their seed? by the goldfinch?), and the seedless down strews the ground.

Huckleberries begin to be wormy, but are still sound on Bare Hill. Now the mountains are concealed by the dog-day haze, and the view is of dark ridges of forest, one behind the other, separated by misty valleys. Squirrels have begun to eat hazelnuts, and I see their dry husks on the ground turned reddish-brown.

The change, decay, and fall of the brakes in the woods, etc., is perhaps more autumnal than any sight. They are more show than the aralia. Some are quite brown and shriveled, others yellow, others yellow and brown, others yellow, brown, and green, making a very rich and parti-colored or checkered work, as of plaited straw,—bead or straw work or ivory; others are still green with brown spots. In respect to these and many other plants of this size and habit, it is already fall. They stand yellow and yellowing all through the woods,—none perhaps so conspicuous as the brake. At Thrush Alley, was surprised to behold how many birch leaves had turned yellow,—every other one,—while clear, fresh, leather-colored ones strewed the ground with a pretty thick bed under each tree. So far as the birches go it is a perfect autumnal scene there.


Dave said...

By "brakes" I presume he means bracken fern. Is "aralia" wild sarsaparilla, or Hercules' club? I'm guessing the former, since it is more nearly the same height as bracken.

Greg said...

Dave, you bring up an interesting problem that arises when I read Thoreau as a naturalist. He identifies much with an almost colloquial terminology. Not to say that what has worked out in 2004 as standard terminology is better or even proper, but it certainly differs. I think we need an annotated Journal. Now who out there can spend his/her lifetime doing that. A worthy effort indeed, but one of biblical proportions.