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.


Kaitlin D said...

I think that Thoreau is almost rambling in the first part of this entry. Not crazy rambling, but it almost sounds like he is bored and just recollecting what happened during the day. Then again, that was the whole point of his two years: to remember how life works when it is played out in solitude. He states that it is "ominous" that the older we get, the more we write about evening instead of morning. Maybe this evening is symbolic of the later years of life, the ones we can remember. If only we could remember the younger years, there could be something to be learned there. But he also wants to wake up early in the morning and appreciate everything the mornings have to offer as well.

Unknown said...

I really love the message he's putting out. We tend to cut out the mornings these days, whether it be from work, or extra sleep. I know myself that I cut the morning out of my day. It's not my favorite. However, on some days when I wake up early in the Summer, my Grandma (a real early-bird) and I will relax together. I am reminded of the times we spent together when I was young. When I get that sense of the past, I don't want to let morning slip away. Though I may not be taking in nature like Thoreau does, I still find beauty in the things my granny and I would do.

Divya said...

I love the descriptiveness of his day's experience at Walden in the beginning of the entry. I loved the metaphor to Greece and the Elysian fields. I wonder how Thoreau would interact in ancient Athens, were technology and progress of civilization were key aspects of society. Also, "Elysian fields" always indicates utter bliss in my mind, and it complements his entry.

I also considered his thought about writing about the evening more than the morning, which he considers to be ominous. Despite his nest in paradise, Thoreau still exemplifies, or tries to, values of self-discipline, such as waking up early.