Toasting the Clergymen
Thoreau's Journal: 28-Feb-1857

It is a singular infatuation that leads men to become clergymen in regular, or even irregular standing. I pray to be introduced to new men, at whom I may stop short and taste their peculiar sweetness. But in the clergyman of the most liberal sort I see no perfectly independent human nucleus, but I seem to see some indistinct scheme hovering about, to which he has lent himself, to which he belongs. It is a very fine cobweb in the lower stratum of the air, which stronger wings do not even discover. Whatever he may say, he does not know that one day is as good as another. Whatever he may say, he does not know that a man’s creed can never be written, that there are no particular expressions of belief that deserve to be prominent. He dreams of a certain sphere to be filled by him, something less in diameter than a great circle, maybe not greater than a hogshead. All the staves are got out, and his sphere is already hooped. What’s the use of talking to him? When you spoke of a sphere-music he thought only of a thumping on his cask. If he doesn’t know something that nobody else does, that nobody told him, then he’s a telltale. What great interval is there between him who is caught in Africa and made a plantation slave of in the South, and him who is caught in New England and made a Unitarian minister of? In course of time they will abolish the one form of servitude, and, not long after, the other. I do not see the necessity for a man’s getting into a hogshead and so narrowing his sphere, nor for his putting his head into a halter. Here’s a man who can’t butter his own bread, and he has just combined with a thousand like him to make a dipped toast for all eternity!


Emerging from an Icy Captivity
Thoreau's Journal: 27-Feb-1852

The main river is not yet open but in very few places, but the North Branch, which is so much more rapid, is open near Tarbell’s and Harrington’s, where I walked today, and flowing with full tide bordered with ice on either side, sparkles in the clear, cool air, —a silvery sparkle as from a stream that would not soil the sky.

Half the ground is covered with snow. It is a moderately cool and pleasant day near the end of winter. We have almost completely forgotten summer. This restless and now swollen stream has burst its icy fetters, and as I stand looking up it westward for half a mile, where it winds slightly under a high bank, its surface is lit up here and there with a fine-grained silvery sparkle which makes the river appear something celestial, —more than a terrestrial river,— which might have suggested that which surrounded the shield in Homer. If rivers come out of their icy prison thus bright and immortal, shall not I too resume my spring life with joy and hope? Have I no hopes to sparkle on the surface of life’s current?


The Secret Consent of Corn
Thoreau's Journal: 26-Feb-1840

The most important events make no stir on their first taking place, nor indeed in their effects directly. They seem hedged about by secrecy. It is concussion, or the rushing together of air to fill a vacuum, which makes a noise. The great events to which all things consent, and for which they have prepared the way, produce no explosion, for they are gradual, and create no vacuum which requires to be suddenly filled; as a birth takes place in silence, and is whispered about the neighborhood, but an assassination, which is at war with the constitution of things, creates a tumult immediately.

Corn grows in the night.


The Springometer
Thoreau's Journal: 25-Feb-1859

Measure your health by your sympathy with morning and spring. If there is no response in you to the awakening of nature,—if the prospect of an early morning walk does not banish sleep, if the warble of the first bluebird does not thrill you,—know that the morning and the spring of your life are past. Thus may you feel your pulse.


The Tragedies Before Spring
Thoreau's Journal: 24-Feb-1852

Railroad causeway.

I am reminded of spring by the quality of the air. The cock-crowing and even the telegraph harp prophesy it, though the ground is for the most part covered with snow. It is a natural resurrection, an experience of immortality. Observe the poplar’s swollen buds and the brightness of the willow’s bark.

The telegraph harp reminds me of Anacreon. That is the glory of Greece, that we are reminded of her only when in our best estate, our elysian days, when our senses are young and healthy again. I could find a name for every strain or intonation of the harp from one or other of the Grecian bards. I often hear Mimnermus, often Meander.

I am too late by a day or two for the sand foliage on the east side of the Deep Cut. It is glorious to see the soil again, here where a shovel, perchance, will enter it and find no frost. The frost is partly come out of this bank, and it is become dry again in the sun.

The very sound of men’s work reminds, advertises, me of the coming of spring. As I now hear at a distance the sound of the laborer’s sledge on the rails.

The empressement of a little dog when he starts any wild thing in the woods! The woods ring with his barking as if the tragedy of Actaeon were being acted over again.

Talked with two men and a boy fishing on Fair Haven, just before sunset. (Heard the dog bark in Baker’s wood as I came down the brook.) They had caught a fine parcel of pickerel and perch. The perch especially were full of spawn. The boy had caught a large bream which had risen to the surface, in his hands. They had none of them had ever seen one before in the winter, though they sometimes catch chivins. They had also kicked to dearth a muskrat that was crossing the southwest end of the pond on the snow. They told me of two otters being killed in Sudbury this winter, beside some coons near here.

As we grow older, is it not ominous that we have more to write about evening, less about morning? We must associate more with the early hours.


Early Sap
Thoreau's Journal: 23-Feb-1857

I have seen the signs of spring. I have seen a frog swiftly sinking in a pool, or where he dimpled the surface as he leapt in. I have seen the brilliant spotted tortoises stirring at the bottom of the ditches. I have seen the clear sap trickling from the red maple.


Henry Savings Time
Thoreau's Journal: 22-Feb-1841

The whole of the day should not be daytime, nor of the night night-time, but some portion be rescued from time to oversee time in. All our hours must not be current; all our time must not lapse. There must be one hour at least which the day did not bring forth,—of ancient parentage and long-established nobility,—which will be a serene and lofty platform overlooking the rest. We should make our notch every day on our characters, as Robinson Crusoe on his stick. We must be at the helm at least once a day; we must feel the tiller-rope in our hands, and know that if we sail, we steer.


Strange Body
Thoreau's Journal: 21-Feb-1842

I must confess there is nothing so strange to me as my own body. I love any other piece of nature, almost, better.


Thoreau's Journal: 20-Feb-1842

I am amused to see from my window here how busily man has divided and staked off his domain. God must smile at his puny fences running hither and thither everywhere over the land.


Thoreau's Journal: 19-Feb-1855

Many will complain of my lectures that they are transcendental. “Can’t understand them.” “Would you have us return to the savage state?” etc., etc. A criticism true enough, it may be, from their point of view. But the fact is, the earnest lecturer can speak only to his like, and the adapting of himself to his audience is a mere compliment which he pays them. If you wish to know how I think, you must endeavor to put yourself in my place. If you wish me to speak as if I were you, that is another affair.


Thoreau's Journal: 18-Feb-1841

Sometimes I find that I have frequented a higher society during sleep, and my thoughts and actions proceed on a higher level in the morning.


Thoreau's Journal: 17-Feb-1841

Our work should be fitted to and lead on the time, as bud, flower, and fruit lead the circle of the seasons.

The mechanic works no longer than his labor will pay for lights, fuel, and shop rent. Would it not be well for us to consider if our deed will warrant the expense of nature? Will it maintain the sun’s light?

Our actions do not use time independently, as the bud does. They should constitute its lapse. It is their room. But they shuffle after and serve the hour.


Thoreau's Journal: 16-Feb-1859

What we call wildness is a civilization other than our own. The hen-hawk shuns the farmer, but it seeks the friendly shelter and support of the pine. It will not consent to walk in the barn-yard, but it loves to soar above the clouds. It has its own way and is beautiful, when we would fain subject it to our will. So any surpassing work of art is strange and wild to the mass of men, as genius itself. No hawk that soars and steals our poultry is wilder than genius, and none is more persecuted or above persecution. It can never be poet laureate, to say “Pretty Poll” and “Polly want a cracker.”


Thoreau's Journal: 15-Feb-1852

Perhaps I am descended from that Northman named “Thorer the Dog-footed.” Thorer Hund—“he was the most powerful man in the North”—to judge from his name belonged to the same family. Thorer is one of the most, if not the most, common name in the chronicles of the Northmen.


Thoreau's Journal: 9-Feb-1852

Met Sudbury Haines on the river before the Cliffs, come a-fishing. Wearing an old coat, much patched, with many colors. He represents the Indian still. The very patches in his coat and his improvident life do so. I feel that he is as essential a part, nevertheless, of our community as the lawyer in the village. He tells me that he caught three pickerel here the other day that weighed seven pounds altogether. It is the old story. The fisherman is a natural story-teller. No man’s imagination plays more pranks than his, while he is tending his reels and trotting from one to another, or watching his cork in summer. He is ever waiting for the sky to fall. He has sent out a venture. He has a ticket in the lottery of fate, and who knows what it may draw? He ever expects to catch a bigger fish yet. He is the most patient and believing of men. Who else will stand so long in wet places? When the haymaker runs to shelter, he takes down his pole and bends his steps to the river, glad to have a leisure day. He is more like an inhabitant of nature.