the creaking of earth’s axle
...Thoreau's Journal: 20-Aug-1851

I hear a cricket in the Depot field, walk a rod or two, and find the note proceeds from near a rock. Partly under a rock, between it and the roots of the grass, he lies concealed,—for I pull away the withered grass with my hands,—uttering his night-like creak, with a vibratory motion of his wings, and flattering himself that it is night, because he has shut out the day. He was a black fellow nearly an inch long, with two long, slender feelers. They plainly avoid the light and hide their heads in the grass. At any rate they regard this as the evening of the year. They are remarkably secret and unobserved, considering how much noise they make. Every milkman has heard them all his life; it is the sound that fills his ears as he drives along. But what one has ever got off his cart to go in search of one? I see smaller ones moving stealthily about, whose note I do not know. Whoever distinguished their various notes, which fill the crevices in each other’s song? It would be a curious ear indeed, that distinguished the species of the crickets which it heard, and traced even the earth-song home, each part to its particular performer. I am afraid to be so knowing. They are shy as birds, these little bodies. Those nearest me continually cease their song as I walk, so that the singers are always a rod distant, and I cannot easily detect one. It is difficult, moreover, to judge correctly whence the sound proceeds. Perhaps this wariness is necessary to save them from insectivorous birds, which would otherwise speedily find out so loud a singer. They are somewhat protected by the universalness of the sound, each one’s song being merged and lost in the general concert, as if it were the creaking of earth’s axle.


Courtney said...

You stand quietly until they sing again.

I love the earth's axle bit. It seems Thoreau ends all these journal entries with a single line that neatly packages the whole deal. I like that style.

son rivers said...

Thoreau certainly has style. As well as substance.

michael jameson said...

i miss the summer sound of crickets more or as much as the green of the season its the sound of the night, and nothing makes me smile more as i sleep,a very handsome regal creature. michael jameson

vanjulio said...

whenever I hear those crickets I am tempted to think my mind has slipped into their binaural stream forever, but this act of thinking reminds me I'm at home, sheltered in my bed and far too clumsy and civilized to live physically in their world. I can only visit their tone for the brief moment I'm unaware of it.