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.


DMunro said...


I once spent a week on Monhegan Island in Maine, and your description of your mother's observations before the mechanization of the world reminds me of the quietude of that place.

No electricity for much of the island, and no cars allowed. One evening, at twilight, I looked out from the second floor of the house that we had rented, and I could see only dim light from kerosene lamps leaking out from the houses below.

The dirt roads were no wider than footpaths, meadows or woods on one side -- the harbor or houses on the other. With the day's light fading, I could just make out the figures of residents strolling and chatting softly.

There was a breeze coming in from the water, and it carried the soft sounds of bells bobbing on waves. Louder was the high laughter of vacationers. I imagined them sharing friendship with glasses of hearty wine.

Looking out from my upper window, it occured to me that, long ago, maybe some resident of this house, in a stove-pipe hat or hoop skirt, had witnessed pretty much the same view.

Ian said...

In Maine, on Mount Desert Island, one must ascend a mountain in order to escape the sound of machinery. Roaring engines, rattling jackhammers, buzzing chainsaws, all permeate much of the ground-level wilderness. Many Mainers have both a deep love of machinery and a deep love of nature, which combines to form a strange forest, deep and thick, but also a little loud like a construction site.