The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Volume VII (of 20)

Page 12 of 99

Dec. 31. As the least drop of wine tinges the whole goblet, so the least particle of truth colors our whole life. It is never isolated, or simply added as treasure to our stock. When any real progress is made, we unlearn and learn anew what we thought we knew before. We go picking up from year to year and laying side by side the disjecta membra of truth, as he who picked up one by one a row of a hundred stones, and returned with each separately to his basket. 25

(T. 20-21)


Jan. 6. As a child looks forward to the coming of the summer, so could we contemplate with quiet joy the circle of the seasons returning without fail eternally. As the spring came round during so many years of the gods, we could go out to admire and adorn anew our Eden, and yet never tire.


Jan. 15. After all that has been said in praise of the Saxon race, we must allow that our blue-eyed and fair-haired ancestors were originally an ungodly and reckless crew.


Jan. 16. Man is like a cork which no tempest can sink, but it will float securely to its haven at last. The world is never the less beautiful though viewed through a chink or knot-hole.

Jan. 21. Man is the artificer of his own happiness. Let him beware how he complains of the disposition of circumstances, for it is his own disposition he blames. If this is sour, or that rough, or the other steep, let him think if it be not his work. If his look curdles all hearts, 26 let him not complain of a sour reception; if he hobble in his gait, let him not grumble at the roughness of the way; if he is weak in the knees, let him not call the hill steep. This was the pith of the inscription on the wall of the Swedish inn: "You will find at Trolhate excellent bread, meat, and wine, provided you bring them with you!"[22]


Every leaf and twig was this morning covered with a sparkling ice armor; even the grasses in exposed fields were hung with innumerable diamond pendants, which jingled merrily when brushed by the foot of the traveller. It was literally the wreck of jewels and the crash of gems. It was as though some superincumbent stratum of the earth had been removed in the night, exposing to light a bed of untarnished crystals. The scene changed at every step, or as the head was inclined to the right or the left. There were the opal and sapphire and emerald and jasper and beryl and topaz and ruby.[23]

Such is beauty ever,---neither here nor there, now nor then,---neither in Rome nor in Athens, but wherever there is a soul to admire. If I seek her elsewhere because I do not find her at home, my search will prove a fruitless one.


Feb. 7. Zeno, the Stoic, stood in precisely the same relation to the world that I do now. He is, forsooth, bred a merchant---as how many still!---and can trade and barter, and perchance higgle, and moreover he can 27 be shipwrecked and cast ashore at the Pirus, like one of your Johns or Thomases.

He strolls into a shop and is charmed by a book by Xenophon---and straightway he becomes a philosopher. The sun of a new life's day rises to him,---serene and unclouded,---which looks over . And still the fleshly Zeno sails on, shipwrecked, buffeted, tempest-tossed; but the true Zeno sails ever a placid sea. Play high, play low,---rain, sleet, or snow,---it's all the same with the Stoic. "Propriety and decorum" were his Palinurus,---not the base progeny of fashion, but the suggestions of an experienced taste.

When evening comes he sits down unwearied to the review of his day,---what's done that's to be undone,---what not done at all still to be done. Himself Truth's unconcerned helpmate. Another system of book-keeping this than that the Cyprian trader to Phnicia practiced!

This was he who said to a certain garrulous young man, "On this account have we two ears and but one mouth, that we may hear more, and speak less."

That he had talked concerned not our philosopher, but his audience; and herein we may see how it is more noble to hear than to speak. The wisest may apologize that he only said so to hear himself talk, for if he heard not, as well for him had he never spoken. What is all this gabble to the gabbler? Only the silent reap the profit of it.


Feb. 9. It is wholesome advice,---"to be a man amongst folks." Go into society if you will, or if you are unwilling, and take a human interest in its affairs. 28 If you mistake these Messieurs and Mesdames for so many men and women, it is but erring on the safe side,---or, rather, it is their error and not yours. Armed with a manly sincerity, you shall not be trifled with, but drive this business of life. It matters not how many men are to be addressed,---rebuked,---provided one man rebuke them.


To manage the small talk of a party is to make an effort to do what was at first done, admirably because naturally, at your fireside.


Feb. 13. It is hard to subject ourselves to an influence. It must steal upon us when we expect it not, and its work be all done ere we are aware of it. If we make advances, it is shy; if, when we feel its presence, we presume to pry into its free-masonry, it vanishes and leaves us alone in our folly,---brimful but stagnant,---a full channel, it may be, but no inclination.


All fear of the world or consequences is swallowed up in a manly anxiety to do Truth justice.


Feb. 15. The true student will cleave ever to the good, recognizing no Past, no Present; but wherever he emerges from the bosom of time, his course is not with the sun,---eastward or westward,---but ever towards the seashore. Day and night pursues he his 29 devious way, lingering by how many a Pierian spring, how many an Academus grove, how many a sculptured portico!---all which---spring, grove, and portico---lie not so wide but he may take them conveniently in his way.


Feb. 16. In imagination I hie me to Greece as to enchanted ground. No storms vex her coasts, no clouds encircle her Helicon or Olympus, no tempests sweep the peaceful Tempe or ruffle the bosom of the placid gean; but always the beams of the summer's sun gleam along the entablature of the Acropolis, or are reflected through the mellow atmosphere from a thousand consecrated groves and fountains; always her sea-girt isles are dallying with their zephyr guests, and the low of kine is heard along the meads, and the landscape sleeps---valley and hill and woodland---a dreamy sleep. Each of her sons created a new heaven and a new earth for Greece.


Feb. 18. Rightly named Suna-day, or day of the sun. One is satisfied in some angle by wood-house and garden fence to bask in his beams---to exist barely---the livelong day.


I had not been out long to-day when it seemed that a new Spring was already born,---not quite weaned, it is true, but verily entered upon existence. Nature struck up "the same old song in the grass," despite eighteen inches of snow, and I contrived to smuggle away a grin of satisfaction by a smothered "Pshaw! and is that all?" 30

Free Learning Resources