9.29.2014

tired of farming
...Thoreau's Journal: 29-Sep-1851

Found Hosmer carting out manure from under his barn to make room for the winter. He said he was tired of farming, he was too old. Quoted Webster as saying that he had never eaten the bread of idleness for a single day, and thought that the Lord Brougham might have said as much with truth while he was in the opposition, but he did not know that he could say as much of himself. However, he did not wish to be idle, he merely wished to rest.

9.28.2014

whose theme is moonlight
...Thoreau's Journal: 28-Sep-1854

As I complain that the voyager to arctic regions, in his description of the scenery, does not enough remind the reader directly or indirectly of the peculiar dreariness of the scene or of the perpetual twilight of the arctic night, so he whose theme is moonlight will find it hard to illustrate it with the light of the moon alone.

9.27.2014

lost in the clouds
...Thoreau's Journal: 27-Sep-1852

From Smith’s Hill I looked toward the mountain line. Who can believe that the mountain peak which he beholds fifty miles off in the horizon, rising far and faintly blue above an intermediate range, while he stands on his trivial native hills or in the dusty highway, can be the same with which he looked up at once near at hand from a gorge in the midst of primitive woods? For a part of two days I traveled across lots once, loitering by the way, through primitive wood and swamps over the highest peak of the Peterboro Hills to Monadnock, by ways from which all landlords and stage-drivers endeavored to dissuade us. It was not a month ago. But now that I look across the globe in an instant to the dim Monadnock peak, and these familiar fields and corpsewoods appear to occupy the greater part of the interval, I cannot realize that Joe Eavely’s house still stands there at the base of the mountain, and all that long tramp through wild woods with invigorating scents before I got to it. I cannot realize that on the tops of those cool blue ridges are in abundance berries still, bluer than themselves, as if they borrowed their blueness from their locality. From the mountains we do not discern our native hills; but from our native hills we look out easily to the far blue mountains, which seem to preside over them. As I look northwestward to that summit from a Concord cornfield, how little can I realize all the life that is passing between me and it,—the retired up-country farmhouses, the lonely mills, wooded vales, wild rocky pastures, and new clearings on stark mountain-sides, and rivers murmuring through primitive woods! All these, and how much more, I overlook. I see the very peak,—there can be no mistake,—but how much I do not see, that is between me and it! How much I overlook! In this way we see stars. What is it but a faint blue cloud, a mist that may vanish? But what is it, on the other hand, to one who has traveled to it day after day, has threaded the forest and climbed the hills that are between this and that, has tasted the raspberries or the blueberries that grow on it, and the springs that gush from it, has been wearied with climbing its rocky sides, felt the coolness of its summit, and been lost in the clouds there?

9.26.2014

flower of autumn
...Thoreau's Journal: 26-Sep-1852

The increasing scarlet and yellow tints around the meadows and the river remind me of the opening of a vast flower-bud; they are the petals of its corolla, which is of the width of the valleys. It is the flower of autumn, whose expanding bud just begins to blush.

9.25.2014

excited by the smell
...Thoreau's Journal: 25-Sep-1851

Some men are excited by the smell of burning powder, but I thought in my dream last night how much saner to be excited by the smell of new bread.

9.24.2014

old ruts of thought
...Thoreau's Journal: 24-Sep-1859

Though you may have sauntered near to heaven’s gate, when at length you return toward the village you give up the enterprise a little, and you begin to fall into the old ruts of thought, like a roadster. Your thoughts very properly fail to report themselves to headquarters. Your thoughts turn toward night and the evening mail and become begrimed with dust, as if you were just going to put up at (with?) the tavern, or even come to make an exchange with a brother clergyman here on the morrow.

9.23.2014

The telegraph harp
...Thoreau's Journal: 23-Sep-1851

The telegraph harp sounds strongly to-day, in the midst of the rain. I put my ears to the trees and I hear it working terribly within, and anon it swells into a clear tone, which seems to concentrate in the core of the tree, for all the sound seems to proceed from the wood. It is as if you had entered some world-famous cathedral, resounding to some vast organ. The fibres of all things have their tension, and are strained like the strings of a lyre. I feel the very ground tremble under my feet as I stand near the post. The wire vibrates with great power, as if it would strain and rend the wood. What an awful and fateful music it must be to the worms in the wood! No better vermifuge were needed. No danger that worms will attack this wood; such vibrating music would thrill them to death. I scare up large flocks of sparrows in the garden.

9.22.2014

vile weeds
...Thoreau's Journal: 22-Sep-1859

It is remarkable what a curse seems to attach to any place which has long been inhabited by man. Vermin of various kinds abide with him. It is said that the site of Babylon is a desert where the lion and the jackal prowl. If, as here, an ancient cellar is uncovered, there springs up at once a crop of rank and noxious weeds, evidence of a certain unwholesome fertility,—by which perchance the earth relieves herself of the poisonous qualities which have been imparted to her. As if what was foul, baleful, groveling, or obscene in the inhabitants had sunk into the earth and infected it. Certain qualities are there in excess in the soil, and the proper equilibrium will not be obtained until after the sun and the air have purified the spot. The very shade breeds saltpetre. Yet men value this kind of earth highly and will pay a price for it, as if it were as good a soil for virtue as for vice.

In other places you will find henbane and the Jamestown-weed and the like, in cellars,—such herbs as the witches are said to put into their caldron.

It would be fit that the tobacco plant should spring up on the house-site, aye on the grave, of almost every householder of Concord. These vile weeds are sown by vile men. When the house is gone they spring up in the corners of cellars where the cider-casks stood always on tap, for murder and all kindred vices will out. And that rank crowd which lines the gutter, where the wash of the dinner dishes flows, are but distant parasites of the host. What obscene and poisonous weeds, think you, will mark the site of a Slave State?—what kind of Jamestown-weed?

9.21.2014

Thoreau's Journal: 21-Sep-1854

I sometimes seem to myself to owe all my little success, all for which men commend me, to my vices. I am perhaps more willful than others and make enormous sacrifices, even of others’ happiness, it may be, to gain my ends. It would seem even as if nothing good could be accomplished without some vice to aid in it.

9.20.2014

trivial affairs of men
...Thoreau's Journal: 20-Sep-1851

As I go through the fields, endeavoring to recover my tone and sanity and to perceive things truly and simply again, after having been perambulating the bounds of the town all week, and dealing with the most commonplace and worldly-minded men, and emphatically trivial things, I feel as I had committed suicide in a sense. I am again forcibly struck with the truth of the fable of Apollo serving King Admetus, its universal applicability. A fatal coarseness is the result of mixing in the trivial affairs of men. Though I have been associating even with the select men of this and the surrounding towns, I feel inexpressibly begrimed. My Pegasus has lost his wings; he has turned a reptile and gone on his belly. Such things are compatible only with a cheap and superficial life.

The poet must keep himself unstained and aloof. Let him perambulate the bounds of Imagination’s provinces, the realm of faery, and not the insignificant boundaries of towns. The excursions of the imagination are so boundless, the limits of the town so petty.

9.19.2014

the advantages of obscurity
...Thoreau's Journal: 19-Sep-1854

Thinking this afternoon of the prospect of my writing lectures and going abroad to read them the next winter. I realized how incomparably great the advantages of obscurity and poverty which I have enjoyed so long (and may still perhaps enjoy). I thought with what more than princely, with what poetical, leisure I had spent my years hitherto, without care or engagement, fancy-free. I have given myself up to nature; I have lived so many springs and summers and autumns and winters as if I had nothing else to do but live them, and imbibe whatever nutriment they had for me; I have spent a couple of years, for instance, with the flowers chiefly, having none other so binding engagement as to observe when they opened; I could have afforded to spend a whole fall observing the changing tints of the foliage. Ah, how I have thriven on solitude and poverty! I cannot overstate this advantage. I do not see how I could have enjoyed it, if the public had been expecting as much of me as there is danger now that they will. If I go abroad lecturing, how shall I ever recover the lost winter?

9.18.2014

stiffen into statues
...Thoreau's Journal: 18-Sep-1859

Dr. Bartlett handed me a paper to-day, desiring me to subscribe for a statue to Horace Mann. I declined, and said that I thought a man ought not any more to take up room in the world after he was dead. We shall lose one advantage of a man’s dying if we are to have a statue of him forthwith. This is probably meant to be an opposition statue to that of Webster. At this rate they will crowd the streets with them. A man will have to add a clause to his will, “No statue to be made of me.” It is very offensive to my imagination to see the dying stiffen into statues at this rate. We should wait till their bones begin to crumble—and then avoid too near a likeness to the living.

9.17.2014

even-measured
...Thoreau's Journal: 17-Sep-1839

Nature never makes haste; her systems revolve at an even pace. The bud swells imperceptibly, without hurry or confusion, as though the short spring days were an eternity. All her operations seem separately for the time, the single object for which all things tarry. Why, then, should man hasten as if anything less than eternity were allotted for the least deed? Let him consume never so many eons, so that he go about the meanest task well, though it be but the paring of his nails. If the setting sun seems to hurry him to improve the day while it lasts, the chant of the crickets fails not to reassure him, even-measured as of old, teaching him to take his own time henceforth forever. The wise man is restful, never restless or impatient. He each moment abides there where he is, as some walkers actually rest the whole body at each step, while others never relax the muscles of the leg till the accumulated fatigue obliges them to stop short.

As the wise is not anxious that time wait for him, neither does he wait for it.

9.16.2014

southeast storm
...Thoreau's Journal: 16-Sep-1858

When I awake I hear the sound of steady heavy rain. A southeast storm. Our peach tree limbs are broken off by it. It lasts all day, rains a great deal, and scatters many elm boughs and leaves over the street. The wind does damage out of proportion to its strength. The fact is, the trees are unprepared to resist a wind from this quarter and, being loaded with foliage and fruit, suffer so much the more. There will be many windfalls, and fruit will be cheap for awhile.

9.15.2014

dust
...Thoreau's Journal: 15-Sep-1856

Sophia says, bringing company into my sanctum, by way of apology, that I regard the dust on my furniture like the bloom on fruits, not to be swept off. Which reminds me that the bloom on fruits and stems is the only dust which settles on Nature’s furniture.

9.14.2014

costs so much
...Thoreau's Journal: 14-Sep-1855

It costs so much to publish, would it not be better for the author to put his manuscripts in a safe?

9.13.2014

earnestly and rapidly
...Thoreau's Journal: 13-Sep-1852

How earnestly and rapidly each creature, each flower, is fulfilling its part while its day lasts! Nature never lost a day, nor a moment. As the planet in its orbit and around its axis, so do the seasons, so does time, revolve, with a rapidity inconceivable. In the moment, in the eon, well employed, time ever advances with this rapidity. To an idler the man employed is terribly rapid. He that is not behind his time is swift. The immortals are swift. Clear the track! The plant that waited a whole year, and then blossomed the instant it was ready and the earth was ready for it, without the conception of delay, was rapid. To the conscience of the idle man, the stillness of a placid September day sounds like the din and whirl of a factory. Only employment can still this din in the air.

9.11.2014

a great developed head
...Thoreau's Journal: 11-Sep-1852

Genius is like the snapping-turtle, born with a great developed head. They say our brain at birth is one-sixth the weight of our body.

9.10.2014

thus the plant has its day
...Thoreau's Journal: 10-Sep-1860

Leaving Lowell at 7 A.M. in the cars, I observed and admired the dew on a fine grass in the meadows, which was almost as white and silvery as frost when the rays of the newly risen sun fell on it. Some of it was probably the frost of the morning melted. I saw that this phenomenon was confined to one species of grass, which grew in narrow curving lines and small patches along the edges of the meadows or lowest ground,—a grass with very fine stems and branches, which held the dew; in short, that it was what I had falsely called Eragrostic capillaries, but which is probably the Sporobolus serotinus, almost the only, if not the only, grass there in its prime. And thus the plant has its day. Owing to the number of its very fine branches, now in their prime, it holds the dew like a cobweb,—a clear drop at the end and lesser drops or beads all along the fine branches and stems. It grows on the higher parts of the meadow, where other herbage is thin, and is the less apt to be cut; and, seen toward the sun not long after sunrise, it is very conspicuous and bright a quarter of a mile off, like frost work. Call it dew-grass. I find its hyaline seed.

Almost every plant, however humble, has thus its day, and sooner or later becomes the characteristic feature of some part of the landscape or other.

9.09.2014

like a dream
...Thoreau's Journal: 09-Sep-1851

There is a low vapor in the meadows beyond the depot, dense and white, though scarcely higher than a man’s head, concealing the stems of the trees. I see that the oaks, which are so dark and distinctly outlined, are illumined by the moon on the opposite side. This as I go up the back road. A few thin, ineffectual clouds in the sky. I come out thus into the moonlit night, where men are not, as if into a scenery anciently deserted by men. The life of men is like a dream. It is three thousand years since night has had possession. Go forth and hear the crickets chirp at night. Hear if their dynasty is not an ancient one and well founded. I feel the antiquity of the night. She surely repossesses herself of her realms, as if her dynasty were uninterrupted, or she had underlain the day.

9.08.2014

our protectors were coming
...Thoreau's Journal: 08-Sep-1859

The 7th, 8th, and 9th, the State muster is held here. The only observation I have to make is that [Concord] is fuller of dust and more uninhabitable than I ever knew it to be before. Not only the walls, fences, and houses are thickly covered with dust, but the fields and meadows and bushes; and the pads in the river for half a mile from the village are white with it. From a mile or two distant you see a cloud of dust over the town and extending thence to the muster-field. I went to the store the other day to buy a bolt for our front door, for, as I told the storekeeper, the Governor was coming here. “Aye,” said he, “and the Legislature too.” “Then I will take two bolts,” said I. He said that there had been a steady demand for bolts and locks of late, for our protectors were coming. The surface of the roads for three to six inches in depth is a light and dry powder like ashes.

9.07.2014

of the moon
...Thoreau's Journal: 07-Sep-1851

If the wine, the water, which will nourish me grows on the surface of the moon, I will do the best I can to go to the moon for it.

9.06.2014

great resolves to draw breath
...Thoreau's Journal: 06-Sep-1841

Some hours seem not to be occasion for anything, unless for great resolves to draw breath and repose in, so religiously do we postpone all action therein. We do not straight go about to execute our thrilling purpose, but shut our doors behind us, and saunter with prepared mind, as if the half were already done.

9.05.2014

stars of poetry and history
...Thoreau's Journal: 05-Sep-1851

Moonlight on Fair Haven Pond seen from the Cliffs. A sheeny lake in the midst of a boundless forest, the windy surf sounding freshly and wildly in the single pine behind you; the silence of hushed wolves in the wilderness, and, as you fancy, moose looking off from the shores of the lake. The stars of poetry and history and unexplored nature looking down on the scene. This is my world now, with a dull whitish mark curving northward through the forest marking the outlet to the lake. Fair Haven by moonlight lies there like a lake in the Maine wilderness in the midst of a primitive forest untrodden by man. This light and this hour take the civilization all out of landscape. Even in villages dogs bay the moon; in forests like this we listen to hear wolves howl to Cynthia.

9.04.2014

a poem to be called “Concord.”
...Thoreau's Journal: 04-Sep-1841

I think I should write a poem to be called “Concord.” For argument I should have the River, the Woods, the Ponds, the Hills, the Fields, the Swamps and Meadows, the Streets and Buildings, and the Villagers. Then Morning, Noon, and Evening, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, Night, Indian Summer, and the Mountains in the Horizon.

9.03.2014

to inhabit heaven thus partially
...Thoreau's Journal: 03-Sep-1851

As for walking, the inhabitants of large English towns are confined almost exclusively to their parks and to their highways. The few footpaths in their vicinities “are gradually vanishing” says Wilkinson, “under the encroachments of the proprietors.” He proposes that the people’s right to them to be asserted and defended and that they be kept in a passable state at the public expense. “This,” says he, “would be easily done by means of asphalt laid upon a good foundation”!!! So much for walking, in the neighborhood of English large towns.

Think of a man—he may be a genius of some kind—being confined to a highway and a park for his world to range in! I should die from mere nervousness at the thought of such confinement. I should hesitate before I were born, if those terms could be made known to me beforehand. Fenced in forever by those green barriers of fields, where gentlemen are seated! Can they be said to be inhabitants of this globe? Will they be content to inhabit heaven thus partially?

9.02.2014

as sacred a river as the Ganges
...Thoreau's Journal: 02-Sep-1856

How deceptive these maps of western rivers! Methought they were scattered according to the fancy of the map maker,—were dry channels at best,—but it turns out that the Missouri at Nebraska City is three times as wide as the Mississippi at Burlington, and Grasshopper Creek, perhaps will turn out to be as big as the Thames or Hudson.

There was an old gentlemen here to-day who lived in Concord when he was young and remembers how Dr. Ripley talked to him and other little boys from the pulpit, as they came into church with their hands full of lilies, saying that those lilies looked so fresh that they must have been gathered that morning! Therefore they must have committed the sin of bathing this morning! Why, this is as sacred a river as the Ganges, sir.

I feel this difference between great poetry and small: that in the one, the sense outruns and overflows the words; in the other, the words the sense.

9.01.2014

the rule of existence
...Thoreau's Journal: 01-Sep-1851

Is not disease the rule of existence? There is not a lily pad floating on the river but has been riddled by insects. Almost every shrub and tree has its gall, oftentimes esteemed its chief ornament and hardly to be distinguished from the fruit. If misery loves company, misery has company enough. Now, at midsummer, find me a perfect leaf or fruit.