5.31.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 31-May-1858

There was a slight sea-turn, the wind coming cool and easterly this morning, which at first I mistook for the newly leafing deciduous trees investing the evergreens, which is a kind of sea-turn in harmony with the other. I remember that the stage-drivers riding back and forth daily from Concord to Boston and becoming weather-wise perforce, often meeting the sea-breeze on its way to the country, were wont to show their weather wisdom by telling anxious travelers that it was nothing but a sea-turn.

Thoreau's Journal: 30-May-1853

The morning wind forever blows; the poem of the world is uninterrupted, but few are the ears that hear it. Forever that strain of the harp which soothed the Cerberus and called me back to life is sounding. Olympus is the outside of the earth everywhere.

5.30.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 29-May-1857

With all this opportunity, this comedy and tragedy, how near all men come to doing nothing! It is strange that they did not make us more intense and emphatic, that they do not goad us into some action. Generally, with all our desires and restlessness, we are no more likely to embark in any enterprise than a tree is to walk to a more favorable locality.

5.28.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 28-May-1854

The F. hyemalis, fox-colored sparrow, rusty grackles, tree sparrows, have all gone by; also the purple finch. The snipe has ceased to boom. I have not heard the phoebe of late, and methinks the bluebird and the robin are not heard so often (the former certainly not). Those tumultuous morning concerts of sparrows, tree and song, hyemalis, and grackles, like leaves on the trees are past, and the woodland quire will rather be diminished than increased henceforth.

5.27.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 27-May-1851

I saw an organ-grinder this morning before a rich man’s house, thrilling the street with harmony, loosening the very paving stones and tearing the routine of life to rags and tatters, when the lady of the house shoved up a window and in a semiphilanthropic tone inquired if he wanted anything to eat. But he, very properly it seemed to me, kept on grinding and paid no attention to her question, feeding her ears with melody unasked for. So the world shoves up its window and interrogates the poet, and sets him to gauging ale casks in return. It seemed to me that the music suggested that the recompense should be as fine as the gift. It would be much nobler to enjoy the music, though you paid no money for it, than to presume always a beggarly relation. It is after all, perhaps, the best instrumental music that we have.

5.26.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 26-May-1857

My mother was telling to-night of the sounds she used to hear summer nights when she was young and lived on the Virginia Road,—the lowing of cows, or cackling of geese, or the beating of a drum as far off as Hildreth’s, but above all Joe Merriam whistling to his team, for he was an admirable whistler. Says she used to get up at midnight and go and sit on the door-step when all in the house were asleep, and she could hear nothing in the world but the ticking of the clock in the house behind her.

5.25.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 25-May-1851

A fine, freshening air, a little hazy, that bathes and washes everything, saving the day from extreme heat. Walked to the hills south of Wayland by the road by Deacon Farrar’s. First vista just beyond Merron’s, looking west down a valley, with a verdant-columned elm at the extremity of the vale and the blue hills and the horizon beyond. These are the resting-places in a walk. We love to see any part of the earth tinged with blue, cerulean, the color of the sky, the celestial color. I wonder that houses are not oftener located mainly that they may command particular rare prospects, every convenience yielding to this. The farmer would never suspect what it was you were buying, and such sites would be the cheapest of any. A site where you might avail yourself of the art of Nature for three thousand years, which could never be materially changed or taken from you, a noble inheritance for your children. The true sites for human dwellings are unimproved. They command no price in the market. Men will pay something to look into a traveling showman’s box, but not to look upon the fairest prospects on the earth. A vista where you have the near green horizon contrasted with the blue one, terrestrial with celestial earth. The prospect of a vast horizon must be accessible in our neighborhood. Where men of enlarged views may be educated. An unchangeable kind of wealth, a real estate.

5.24.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 24-May-1853

Talked, or tried to talk, with R.W.E. Lost my time—nay, almost my identity. He, assuming a false opposition where there was no difference of opinion, talked to the wind—told me what I knew—and I lost my time trying to imagine myself somebody else to oppose him.

5.23.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 23-May-1854

We soon get through with Nature. She excites an expectation which she cannot satisfy. The merest child which has rambled into a copsewood dreams of a wilderness so wild and strange and inexhaustible as nature can never show him. The red-bird which I saw on my companion’s string on election days I thought but the outmost sentinel of the wild, immortal camp,—of the wild and dazzling infantry of the wilderness,—that the deeper woods abounded with redder birds still; but, now that I have threaded all our woods and waded the swamps, I have never yet met with his compeer, still less his wilder kindred. The red-bird which is the last of nature is but the first of God.

5.22.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 22-May-1853

When yesterday Sophia and I were rowing past Mr. Prichard’s land, where the river is bordered by a row of elms and low willows, at 6 P.M., we heard a singular note of distress as if it were from a catbird—a loud, vibrating, catbird sort of note, as if the catbird’s mew were imitated by a smart vibrating spring. Blackbirds and others were flitting about, apparently attracted by it. At first, thinking it was merely some peevish catbird or red-wing, I was disregarding it, but on second thought turned the bows to the shore, looking into the trees as well as over the shore, thinking some bird might be in distress, caught by a snake or in a forked twig. The hovering birds dispersed at my approach; the note of distress sounded louder and nearer as I approached the shore covered with low osiers. The sound came from the ground, not from the trees. I saw a little black animal making haste to meet the boat under the osiers. A young muskrat? a mink? No, it was a little dot of a kitten. It was scarcely six inches long from the face to the base—or I might as well say the tip—of the tail, for the latter was a short, sharp pyramid, perfectly perpendicular but not swelled in the least. It was a very handsome and precocious kitten, in perfectly good condition, its breadth being considerably more than one third of its length. Leaving its mewing, it came scrambling over the stones as fast as its weak legs would permit straight to me. I took it up and dropped it into the boat, but while I was pushing off it ran to Sophia, who held it while we rowed homeward. Evidently it had not been weaned—was smaller than we remembered that kittens ever were—almost infinitely small; yet it had hailed a boat, its life being in danger, and saved itself. Its performance, considering its age and amount of experience, was more wonderful than that of any young mathematician or musician that I have read of.

5.19.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 19-May-1859

It is a warm, muggy, rainy evening, when the night-hawks commonly spark and the whip-poor-will is heard.

5.18.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 18-May-1852

It is a fine clear atmosphere, only the mountains blue. A slight seething but no haze. Shall we have much of this weather after this? There is scarcely a flock of cloud in the sky. The heaven is now broad and open to the earth in these longest days. The world can never be more beautiful than now, for, combined with the tender fresh green, you have this remarkable clearness of the air. I doubt if the landscape will be any greener.

The landscape is most beautiful looking towards the sun (in the orchard on Fair Haven) at four. First, there is this green slope on which I sit, looking down between the rows of apple trees jut being clothed with tender green,—sometimes underneath them to the sparkling water, or over through them, or seeing them against the sky. Secondly, the outline of this bank or hill is drawn against the water far below; the river still high, a beautifully bright sheen on the water there, though it is elsewhere a dull slaty-blue color, a sober rippled surface. A fine sparkling shimmer in front, owing to the remarkable clearness of the atmosphere (clarified by the May storm?). Thirdly, on either side of the wood beyond the river are patches of bright, tender, yellowish, velvety green grass in meadows and on hillsides. It is like a short furred mantle now and bright as if it had the sun on it. Those great fields of green affect me as did those early green blades by the Corner Spring,—like a fire flaming up from the earth. The earth proves itself well alive even in the skin. No scurf on it, only a browner color on the barren tops of hills. Fourthly, the forest, the dark-green pines, wonderfully distinct, near and erect, with their distinct dark stems, spring tops, regularly disposed branches, and silvery light on their needles. They seem to wear an aspect as much fresher and livelier as the other trees,— though their growth can hardly be perceptible yet,—as if they had been washed by the rains and the air. They are now being invested with the light, sunny, yellowish-green of the deciduous trees. This tender foliage, putting so much light and life into the landscape, is the remarkable feature at this date. The week when the deciduous trees are generally and conspicuously expanding their leaves. The various tints of gray oaks and yellowish-green birches and aspens and hickories, and the red or scarlet tops where maple keys are formed (the blossoms are now over),—these last the high color (rosaceous?) in the bouquet. And fifthly, I detect a great stretch of high-backed, mostly bare, grassy pasture country between this and the Nashua, spotted with pines and forests, which I had formerly taken for forest uninterrupted. And finally, sixthly, Wachusett rising in the background, slightly veiled in bluish mist,—toward which all these seem to slope gradually upward,—and those grassy hillsides in the foreground, seen but as patches of bare grassy ground on a spur of that distant mountain.

5.17.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 17-May-1858

It rains gently from time to time as I walk, but I see a farmer with his boys, John Hosmer, still working in the rain, bent on finishing his planting. He is slowly getting a soaking, quietly dropping manure in the furrows. The rain is good for thought. It is especially agreeable to me as I enter the wood and hear the soothing dripping on the leaves. It domiciliates me in nature. The woods are the more like a house for the rain; the few slight noises sound more hollow in them; the birds hop nearer; the very trees seem still and pensive. The clouds are but a higher roof. The clouds and rain confine me to near objects, the surface of the earth and the trees.

5.16.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 16-May-1858

A hummingbird yesterday came into the next house and was caught. Flew about our parlor to-day and tasted Sophia’s flowers. In some lights you saw none of the colors of its throat. In others, in the shade the throat was clear bright scarlet, but in the sun it glowed with splendid metallic, fiery reflections about the neck and throat. It uttered from time to time, as it flew, a faint squeaking chirp or chirrup. The hum sounded more hollow when it approached a flower. Its wings fanned the air so forcibly that you felt the cool wind they raised a foot off, and nearer it was very remarkable. Does not this very motion of the wings keep a bird cool in hot weather?

5.15.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 15-May-1852

The first cricket’s chirrup which I have chanced to hear now falls on my ear and makes me forget all else; all else is a thin and moveable crust down to that depth where he resides eternally. He already foretells autumn. Deep under the dry border of some rock in this hillside he sits, and makes the finest singing of birds outward and insignificant, his own song is so much deeper and more significant. His voice has set me thinking, philosophizing, moralizing at once. It is not so wildly melodious, but it is wiser and more mature than that of the wood thrush. With this elixir I see clear through the summer now to autumn, and any summer works seems frivolous. I am disposed to ask this humblebee that hurries humming past so busily if he knows what he is about. At one leap I go from the just opened buttercup to the life-everlasting. This singer has antedated autumn. His strain is superior (inferior?) to seasons. It annihilates time and space; the summer is for time-servers.

5.14.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 14-May-1852

Most men are easily transplanted from here there, for they have so little root—no tap root,—or their roots penetrate so little way, that you can thrust a shovel quite under them and take them up, roots and all.

5.13.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 13-May-1852

Where are the men who dwell in thought? Talk,—that is palaver! at which men hurrah and clap! The manners of the bear are so far good that he does not pay you any compliments.

5.12.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 12-May-1857

How rarely I meet with a man who can be free, even in thought! We live according to rule. Some men are bedridden; all world-ridden. I take my neighbor, an intellectual man, out into the woods and invite him to take a new and absolute view of things, to empty clean out his thoughts all institutions of men and start again; but he can’t do it, he sticks to his traditions and his crochets. He thinks that governments, colleges, newspapers, etc., are from everlasting to everlasting.

The Salix cordata, var. Torreyana is distinguished by its naked ovaries more or less red-brown, with flesh-colored stigmas, with a distinct slender wholly rachis and conspicuous stalks, giving the ament a loose and open appearance.

When I consider how many species of willow have been planted along the railroad causeway within ten years, of which no one knows the history, and not one in Concord beside myself can tell the name of one, so that it is quite a discovery to identify a single one in a year, and yet within this period the seeds of all these kinds have been conveyed from some other locality to this, I am reminded how much is going on that man wots not of.

5.11.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 11-May-1854

While at the Falls, I feel the air cooled and hear the mutterings of distant thunder in the northwest and see a dark cloud in that direction indistinctly through the wood. That distant thunder-shower very much cools our atmosphere. And I make haste through the woods homeward via Hubbard’s Close. Hear the evergreen-forest note. The true poet will ever live aloof from society, wild to it, as the finest singer is the wood thrush, a forest bird. The shower is apparently going by on the north. There is a low, dark, blue-black arch, crescent-like, in the horizon, sweeping the distant earth there with a dusky, rainy brush, and all men, like the earth, seem to wear an aspect of expectation. There is an uncommon stillness here, disturbed only by a rush of the wind from time to time. In the village I meet men making haste to their homes, for, though the heavy cloud has gone quite by, the shower will probably strike us with its tail. Rock maple keys, etc., now two inches long, probably been out some days. Those by the path on Common not out at all. Now I have got home there is at last a still cooler wind with a rush, and at last a smart shower, slanting to the ground, without thunder.

My errand this afternoon was chiefly to look at the gooseberry at Saw Mill Brook.

5.10.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 10-May-1853

I proceed down the Turnpike. The masses of the golden willow are seen in the distance on either side of the way, twice as high as the road is wide, conspicuous against the distant, still half-russet hills and forests, for the green grass hardly yet prevails over the dead stubble, and the woods are but just beginning to gray. The female willow is a shade greener. At this season the traveler passes through a golden gate on causeways where these willows are planted, as if he were approaching the entrance to Fairyland; and there will surely be found the yellowbird, and already from a distance is heard his note, a tche tche tche tcha tchar tcha,—ah, willow, willow. Could not he truly arrange for us the difficult family of the willows better than Borrer, or Barrat of Middletown? And as he passes between the portals, a sweet fragrance is wafted to him; he not only breathes but scents and tastes the air, and he hears the low humming or susurrus of a myriad insects which are feeding on its sweets. It is, apparently, these that attract the yellowbird. The golden gates of the year, the May-gate. The traveler cannot pass out of Concord by the highways in any direction without passing between such portals,—graceful, curving, drooping, wand-like twigs, on which leaves and blossoms appear together.

5.09.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 09-May-1858

A dandelion perfectly gone to seed, a complete globe, a system in itself.

5.08.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 08-May-1857

Within a week I have made a pair of corduroy pants, which cost when done $1.60. They are of that peculiar clay-color, reflecting the light from portions of their surface. They have this advantage, that, beside being very strong, they will look about as well three months hence as now,—or as ill, some would say. Most of my friends are disturbed by my wearing them. I can get four or five pairs for what one ordinary pair would cost in Boston, and each of the former will last two or three times as long under the same circumstances. The tailor said that the stuff was not made in this country; that it was worn by the Irish at home, and now they would not look at it, but others would not wear it, durable and cheap as it is, because it is worn by the Irish. Moreover I like the color on other accounts. Anything but black clothes.

5.07.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 07-May-1855

5 A.M. To Island.

Finger-cold and windy. The sweet-flags showed themselves about in their pads. Hear Maryland yellowthroat. Many grackles still in flocks singing on trees, male and female, the latter a very dark or black ash, but with silvery eye. I suspect the red-wings are building. Large white maples began to leaf yesterday, at least, generally; one now shows considerably across the river. The aspen is earlier. Viburnum dentatum yesterday leafed. Bass to-morrow (some shoots sheltered now).

5.06.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 06-May-1854

All that a man has to say or do that can possibly concern mankind, is in some shape or other to tell the story of his love,—to sing; and, if he is fortunate and keeps alive, he will be forever in love. This alone is to be alive to the extremities. It is a pity that this divine creature should ever suffer from cold feet; a still greater pity that the coldness so often reaches to his heart. I look over the report of the doings of a scientific association and am surprised that there is so little life to be reported; I am put off with a parcel of dry technical terms. Anything living is easily and naturally expressed in popular language. I cannot help suspecting that the life of these learned professors has been almost as inhuman and wooden as a rain-gauge or self-registering magnetic machine. They communicate no fact which rises to the temperature of blood-heat. It doesn’t amount to one rhyme.

5.05.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 05-May-1859

Am struck by the beauty of the yellow birches, now fairly begun to be in bloom, at Yellow Birch, or Botrychium, Swamp. It is perhaps the handsomest tree or shrub yet in bloom (apparently opened yesterday), of similar character to the alders and poplars, but larger and of higher color. You see a great tree all hung with long yellow or golden tassels at the end of its slender, drooping spray, in clusters at intervals of a few inches or a foot. These are all dangling and incessantly waving in the wind, —a great display of lively blossoms (lively both by their color and motion) without a particle of leaf. Yet they are dense enough to reveal the outline of the tree, seen against the bare twigs of itself and other trees. The tassels of this one in bloom are elongated to two or three times the length of those of another not in bloom by its side. These dancing tassels have the effect of the leaves of the tremble. Those not quite open have a rich, dark, speckled or braided look, almost equally handsome. Golden tassels all trembling in the gentlest breeze, the only signs of life on the trees. A careless observer might not notice them at all. The reawakened springy life of the swamp, the product of its golden veins. These graceful pendants, not in too heavy or dense masses, but thinly dispersed with a noble moderation. Great vegetable chandeliers they stand in the swamp.

5.04.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 04-May-1852

R.W.E. tells me he does not like Haynes as well as I do. I tell him that he makes better manure than most men.

5.03.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 03-May-1857

Up and down the town, men and boys that are under subjection are polishing their shoes and brushing their go-to-meeting clothes. I, a descendant of Northmen who worshipped Thor, spend my time worshipping neither Thor nor Christ; a descendant of Northmen who sacrificed men and horses, sacrifice neither men nor horses. I care not for Thor nor for the Jews. I sympathize not to-day with those who go to church in newest clothes and sit quietly in straight-backed pews. I sympathize rather with the boy who has none to look after him, who borrows a boat and a paddle and in common clothes sets out to explore these temporary vernal lakes. I meet such a boy paddling along under a sunny bank, with bare feet and his pants rolled up to his knees, ready to leap into the water at a moment’s warning. Better for him to read “Robinson Crusoe” than Baxter’s “Saints’ Rest.”

5.02.2005

5.01.2005

Thoreau's Journal: 01-May-1859

Science is inhuman. Things seen with a microscope begin to be insignificant. So described, they are as monstrous as if they should be magnified a thousand diameters. Suppose I should see and describe men and houses and trees and birds as if they were a thousand times larger than they are! With our prying instruments we disturb the balance and harmony of nature.