Thoreau's Journal: 31-Jul-1855

Mr. Samuel Hoar tells me that about forty-eight years ago, or some two or three years after he came to Concord, where he had an office in the yellow store, there used to be a great many bull-frogs in the mill-pond, which, by their trumping in the night, disturbed the apprentices of a Mr. Joshua Jones who built and lived in the brick house near by and soon after set up the trip-hammer. But, as Mr. H was going one day to or from his office (he boarded this side the Mill-Dam), he found that the apprentices had been round the pond in a boat knocking the frogs in the head; got a good-sized tub nearly full of them. After that scarcely any were heard, and, the trip-hammer being set up soon after, they all disappeared as if frightened away by the sound. But perhaps the cure was worse than the disease, for I know of one, then a young minister studying divinity, who boarded in that very brick house, who was so much disturbed by that trip-hammer that, out of compassion, he was taken in at the old parsonage


Thoreau's Journal: 30-Jul-1853

The tobacco-pipe has also pushed up there amid the dry leaves in the shade. It is abundant now, and here. Both stem and flowers and scales are a pure and delicate crystalline white. What to name it? Sheathed with delicate white scales. It reminded me of a maiden in her robes of purity who has always been nurtured in a shady and vault-like seclusion,—a nun of spotless purity, a daughter of Tellus and Caelum too, making her entrance into the world. Pushing aside the doorway of dry leaves, three sisters of various heights issue from their hidden convent and stand side by side in the presence of the light. We are surprised to see such pure robes come from the bowels of the earth. Yet this white and crystalline purity smacks of the cellar and shade. They come forth to be proved, and stand abashed in presence of the light, with hanging heads and faces toward the ground under their pure white hoods and capes, striving at first to conceal their nakedness and tenderness. A few loose, scant, but beautiful, pearly sheaths alone invested them, and the broader capes of their hoods. The sisters then come forth of spotless purity, but soon, exposed to light and air, their virtue dried black. I was surprised to hear that this was called the tobacco-pipe! Their untried virtue cannot long stand the light and air.


Thoreau's Journal: 29-Jul-1857

I am interested in an indistinct prospect, a distant view, a mere suggestion often, revealing an almost wholly new world to me. I rejoice to get, and am apt to present, a new view. But I find it impossible to present my view to most people. In effect, it would seem that they do not wish to take a new view in any case. Heat lightning flashes, which reveal a distant horizon to our twilight eyes. But my fellows simply assert that it is not broad day, which everybody knows, and fail to perceive the phenomenon at all. I am willing to pass for a fool in my own desperate, perhaps foolish, efforts to persuade them to lift the veil from off the possible and future, which they hold down with both their hands, before their eyes. The most valuable communication or news consists of hints and suggestions. When a truth comes to be known and accepted, it begins to be bad taste to repeat it. Every individual constitution is a probe employed in a new direction, and a wise man will attend to each one’s report.


Thoreau's Journal: 28-July-1860

A man shows me in the street a single bunch of potato-balls (i.e. on one stem) twenty in number, several of them quite an inch in diameter and the whole cluster nearly five inches in diameter as it hangs, to some extent emulating a cluster of grapes. The very sight of them supplies my constitution with all needed potash.


Thoreau's Journal: 27-Jul-1852

We are most disturbed by the sun’s dazzle when it is lowest. Now the upper edge of that low blue bank is gilt where the sun has disappeared, leaving a glory in the horizon through which a few cloudy peaks send raylike shadows. Now a slight rosy blush is spreading north and south over the horizon sky and tingeing a few small scattered clouds in the east. A blue tinge southward makes the very edge of the earth there a mountain. That low bank of cloud in the west is now exactly the color of the mountain, a dark blue. We should think sacredly, with devotion. That is one thing, at least, we may do magnanimously. May not every man have some private affair which he can conduct greatly, unhurriedly? The river is silvery, as it were plated and polished smooth, with the slightest possible tinge of gold, to-night. How beautiful the meanders of a river, thus revealed! How beautiful hills and vales, the whole surface of the earth a succession of these great cups, falling away from dry or rocky edges to gelid green meadows and water in the midst, where night already is setting in! The thrush, now the sun is apparently set, fails not to sing. have I heard the veery lately? All glow on the clouds is gone, except from one higher, small, rosy pink or flesh-colored isle. The sun is now probably set. There are no clouds on high to reflect a golden light into the river.

How cool and assuaging the thrush’s note after the fever of the day! I doubt if they have anything so richly wild in Europe. So long a civilization must have banished it. It will only be heard in America, perchance, while our star is in the ascendant. I should very much be surprised if I were to hear in the strain of the nightingale such unexplored wildness and fertility, reaching to sundown, inciting to emigration. Such a bird must itself have emigrated long ago. Why, then, was I born in America? I might ask.

I would like to ask the assessors what is the value of that blue mountain range in the northwest horizon to Concord, and see if they would laugh or seriously set about calculating it. How poor, comparatively, should we be without it! It would be descending to the scale of the merchant to say it is worth its weight in gold. The privilege of beholding it, as an ornament, a suggestion, a provocation, a heaven on earth. If I were one of the fathers of the town I would not sell this right which we now enjoy for all the merely material wealth and prosperity conceivable. If need were, we would rather all go down together

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Thoreau's Journal: 26-July-1852

Went to Cambridge and Boston to-day. Dr. Harris says that my great moth is the Attacus luna; may be regarded as one of several emperor moths. They are rarely seen, being very liable to be snapped up by birds. Once, as he was crossing the College Yard, he saw the wings of one coming down, which reached the ground just at his feet. What a tragedy! The wings came down as the only evidence that such a creature had soared,—wings large and splendid, which were designed to bear a precious burthen through the upper air. So most poems, even epics, are like the wings come down to earth, while the poet whose adventurous flight they evidence has been snapped up [by] the ravenous vultures of this world.

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Thoreau's Journal: 14-July to 25-July

While this blog is on hiatus, here are the links to 14-July to 25-July:

14-July ... 15-July ... 16-July ... 17-July ... 18-July ... 19-July

20-July ... 21-July ... 22-July ... 23-July ... 24-July ... 25-July

No skipping ahead now; the honor sysyem holds.


Thoreau's Journal: 13-Jul-1857

The price of friendship is the total surrender of yourself; no lesser kindness, no ordinary attentions and offerings will buy it. There is forever that purchase to be made with that wealth which you possess, yet only once in a long while are you advertised of such a commodity. I sometimes awake in the night and think of friendship and its possibilities, a new life and revelation to me, which perhaps I had not experienced for many months. Such transient thoughts have been my nearest approach to realization of it, thoughts I know of no one to communicate to. I suddenly erect myself in my thoughts, or find myself erected, infinite degrees above the possibility of ordinary endeavors, and see for what grand stakes the game of life may be played. Men, with their indiscriminate attentions and ceremonious good-will, offer you trivial baits, which do not tempt: they are not serious enough either for success or failure. I wake up in the night to these higher levels of life, as to a day that begins to dawn, as if my intervening life had been a long night. I catch an echo of the great strain of Friendship played somewhere, and feel compensated for months and years of commonplace. I rise into a diviner atmosphere, in which simply to exist and breathe is a triumph, and my thoughts inevitably tend toward the grand and infinite, as aeronauts report that there is ever an upper current hereabouts which sets toward the ocean. If they rise high enough they go out to sea, and behold the vessels seemingly in mid-air like themselves. It is as if I were serenaded, and the highest and truest compliments were paid me. The universe gives me three cheers.

Friendship is the fruit which the year should bear; it lends it fragrances to the flowers, and it is in vain if we get only a large crop of apples without it. This experience makes us unavailable for the ordinary courtesy and intercourse of men. We can only recognize them where they rise to that level and realize our dream.

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Thoreau's Journal: 12-Jul-1851

Now at least the moon is full, and I walk alone, which is best by night, if not by day always. Your companion must sympathize with the present mood. The conversation must be located where the walkers are, and vary exactly with the scene and events and the contour of the ground. Farewell to those who will talk of nature unnaturally, whose presence is an interruption. I know but one with whom I can walk. I might as well be sitting in a bar-room with them as walk and talk with most. We are never side by side in our thoughts, and we cannot hear each other’s silence. Indeed, we cannot be silent. We are forever breaking silence, that is all, and mending nothing. How can they keep together who are going different ways!

I start a sparrow from her three eggs in the grass, where she had settled for the night. The earliest corn is beginning to show its tassels now, and I scent it as I walk,—a peculiar dry scent. (This afternoon I gathered ripe blackberries, and felt as if autumn had commenced.) Now perchance many sounds and sights only remind me that they once said something to me, and are so by association interesting. I go forth to be reminded of a previous existence, if perchance any memento of it is to be met with hereabouts. I have no doubt that Nature preserves her integrity. Nature is in as rude health as when Homer sang. We may at last by our sympathies be well…

As I return through the orchard, a foolish robin bursts away from his perch unnaturally, with the habits of a man. The air is remarkably still and unobjectionable on the hilltop, and the whole world below is covered as with a gossamer blanket of moonlight. It is just about as yellow as a blanket. It is a great dimly burnished shield with darker blotches on its surface. You have lost some light, it is true, but you have got this simple and magnificent stillness, brooding like genius.

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Thoreau's Journal: 11-Jul-1852

What is called genius is the abundance of life or health, so that whatever addresses the senses, as the flavor of these berries, or the lowing of that cow, which sounds as if it echoed along a cool mountain-side just before night, where odiferous dews perfume the air and there is everlasting vigor, serenity, and expectation of perpetual untarnished morning,—each sight and sound and scent and flavor,—intoxicates with a healthy intoxication. The shrunken stream of life overflows its banks, makes and fertilizes broad intervals, from which generations derive their sustenances. This is the true overflowing of the Nile. So exquisitely sensitive are we, it makes us embrace our fates, and, instead of suffering or indifference, we enjoy and bless. If we have not dissipated the vital, the divine, fluids, there is, then, a circulation of vitality beyond our bodies. The cow is nothing. Heaven is not there, but in the condition of the hearer. I am thrilled to think that I owe a perception to the commonly gross sense of taste, that I have been inspired through the palate, that these berries have fed my brain. After I had been eating these simple, wholesome, ambrosial fruits on this high hillside, I found my senses whetted. I was young again, and whether I stood or sat I was not the same creature.

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Thoreau's Journal: 10-Jul-1840

Nothing was ever so unfamiliar and startling to me as my own thoughts.

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Thoreau's Journal: 09-Jul-1851

Coming out of town,—willingly as usual,—when I saw that reach of Charles River just above the depot, the fair, still water this cloudy evening suggesting the way to eternal peace and beauty, whence it flows, the placid, lake-like fresh water, so unlike the salt brine, affected me not a little. I was reminded of the way in which Wordsworth so coldly speaks of some natural visions or scenes “giving him pleasure.” This is perhaps the first vision of Elysium on this route from Boston. And just then I saw an encampment of Penobscots, their wigwams appearing above the railroad fence, they, too, looking up the river as they sat on the ground, and enjoying the scene. What can be more impressive than to look up a noble river just at evening,—and behold its placid water, reflecting the woods and sky, lapsing inaudibly towards the ocean; to behold as a lake, but know it as a river, tempting the beholder to explore it and his own destiny at once? Haunt of waterfowl. This was above the factories,—all that I saw. That water could never have flowed under a factory. How then could it have reflected the sky?

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Thoreau's Journal: 08-Jul-1852

M___ was telling me last night that he had thought of bathing when he had done his hoeing, of taking some soap and going down to Walden and giving himself a good scrubbing,—but something had occurred to prevent it, and now he will go unwashed to the harvesting, aye, even till the next hoeing is over. Better the faith and practice of the Hindoos who worship the sacred Ganges. We have not faith enough in the Musketaquid to wash in it, even after hoeing. Men stay on shore, keep themselves dry, and drink rum. Pray what were rivers made for? One farmer, who came to bathe in Walden one Sunday while I lived there, told me it was the first bath he had had for fifteen years. Now what kind of religion could his be?

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Thoreau's Journal: 07-Jul-1845

I am glad to remember to-night, as I sit by my door, that I too am at least a remote descendant of that heroic race of men of whom there is tradition. I too sit here on the shore of my Ithaca, a fellow-wanderer and survivor of Ulysses. How symbolical, significant of I know not what, the pitch pine stands here before my door! Unlike any glyph I have seen sculptured or painted yet, one of Nature’s later designs, yet perfect as her Grecian art. There it is, a done tree. Who can mend it? And now where is the generation of heroes whose lives are to pass amid these our northern pines, whose exploits shall appear to posterity pictured amid these strong and shaggy forms? Shall there be only arrows and bows to go with these pines on some pipe-stone quarry at length? There is something more respectable than railroads in these simple relics of the Indian race. What hieroglyphs shall we add to the pipe-stone quarry?

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Thoreau's Journal: 06-Jul-1840

Have no mean hours, but be grateful for every hour, and accept what it brings. The reality will make any sincere record respectable. No day will have been wholly misspent, if one sincere, thoughtful page has been written.

Let the daily tide leave some deposit on these pages, as it leaves sand and shells on the shore. So much increase of terra firma. This may be a calendar of the ebbs and flows of the soul; and on these sheets as a beach, the waves may cast up pearls and seaweed.

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Thoreau's Journal: 05-Jul-1845

Saturday. Walden.—Yesterday I came here to live. My house makes me think of some mountain houses I have seen, which seemed to have a fresher auroral atmosphere about them, as I fancy of the halls of Olympus. I lodged at the house of a saw-miller last summer, on the Caatskill Mountains, high up as Pine Orchard, in the blueberry and raspberry region, where the quiet and cleanliness and coolness seemed to be all one,—which had their ambrosial character. He was the miller of the Kaaterskill Falls. They were a clean and wholesome family, inside and out, like their house. The latter was not plastered, only lathed, and the inner doors were not hung. The house seemed high-placed, airy, and perfumed, fit to entertain a traveling god. It was so high, indeed, that all the music, the broken strains, the waifs and accompaniments of tunes, that swept over the Caatskills, passed through its aisles. Could not man be man in such an abode? And would he ever find out this groveling life. It was the very light and atmosphere in which the works of Grecian art were composed, and in which they rest. They have appropriated to themselves a loftier hall than mortals ever occupy, at least on a level with the mountain-brows of the world. There was wanting a little of the glare of the lower vales, and in its place a pure twilight as became the precincts of heaven. Yet so equable and calm was the season there that you could not tell whether it was morning or noon or evening. Always there was the sound of the morning cricket.

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Thoreau's Journal: 04-Jul-1840

4 o’clock A.M. The Townsend Light Infantry encamped last night in my neighbor’s inclosure.

The night still breathes slumberously over field and wood, when a few soldiers gather about one tent in the twilight, and their band plays an old Scotch air, with bugle and drum and fife attempered to the season. It seems like the morning hymn of creation. The first sounds of the awakening camp, mingled with the chastened strains which so sweetly salute the dawn, impress me as the morning prayer of an army.

And now the morning gun fires. The soldier awakening to creation and awakening it. I am sure none are cowards now. These strains are the roving dreams which steal from tent to tent, and break forth into distinct melody. They are the soldier’s morning thought. Each man awakes himself with lofty emotions, and would do some heroic deed. You need preach no homily to him; he is the stuff they are made of.

The whole course of our lives should be analogous to one day of the soldier’s. His Genius seems to whisper in his ear what demeanor is befitting, and in his bravery and his march he yields a blind and partial obedience.

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Thoreau's Journal: 03-Jul-1854

When I have left the boat a short time the seats become intolerably hot. What luxury to bathe now! It is gloriously hot,—the first of this weather. I cannot get wet enough. I must let the water soak into me. When you come out, it is rapidly dried on you or absorbed into your body, and you want to go in again. I begin to inhabit the planet, and see how I may be naturalized at last.

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Thoreau's Journal: 02-Jul-1858

As you travel northward from Concord, probably the reaches of the Merrimack River, looking up or down them from the bank, will be the first inspiring sight. There is something in the scenery of a broad river equivalent to culture and civilization. Its channel conducts our thoughts as well as bodies to classic and famous ports, and allies us to all that is fair and great. I like to remember that at the end of half a day’s walk I can stand on the bank of the Merrimack. It is just wide enough to interrupt the land and lead my eye and thoughts down its channel to the sea. A river is superior to a lake in its liberating influence. It has motion and indefinite length. A river touching the back of a town is like a wing, it may be unused as yet, but ready to waft it over the world. With its rapid current it is a slightly fluttering wing. River towns are winged towns.

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Thoreau's Journal: 01-Jul-1852

It is more agreeable walking this cloudy day, with a few harmless sun-showers, than it would be in a glaring sunny day. It is pleasant to behold so much of the landscape in the shadow of the clouds, especially to look off from the top of Conantum, under shady walnut boughs, to larger shade in valleys,—all Nine-Acre Corner in the cool shade of a cloud. Roses are in their prime now, growing amid huckleberry bushes, ferns, and sweet-ferns, especially about some dry pond-hole; some paler some more red. Methinks they must have bloomed in vain while only wild men roamed, yet now they only adorn these cows’ pastures.

How well-behaved the cows! When they approach me reclining in the shade, from curiosity, or to receive a whisp of grass, or to share the shade, or to lick the dog held up, like a calf,—though just now they ran at him to toss him,—they do not obtrude. Their company is acceptable, for they can endure the longest pause; they have not got to be entertained. They occupy the most eligible lots in the town. I love to see some pure white about them; they suggest the more neatness.

Borrowed Brigham the wheelwright’s boat at the Corner bridge. He was quite ready to lend it, and took pains to shave down the handle of a paddle for me, conversing the while on the subject of spiritual knocking, which he had asked if I had looked into,—which made him the slower. An obliging man, who understands that I am abroad viewing the works of Nature and not loafing, though he makes the pursuit a semi-religious one, as are all more serious ones to most men. All that is not sporting in the field, as hunting and fishing, is of a religious or else love-cracked character. Another hard-featured but talkative character at the bridge inquired, as I was unlocking the boat, if I knew anything that was good for the rheumatism; but I answered that I had heard of so many and had so little faith in any that I had forgotten them all.

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