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

Page 16 of 99


May 3-4. Boston to Portland.

What, indeed, is this earth to us of New England 47 but a field for Yankee speculation? The Nantucket whaler goes a-fishing round it, and so knows it,---what it is, how long, how broad, and that no tortoise sustains it. He who has visited the confines of his real estate, looking out on all sides into space, will feel a new inducement to be the lord of creation.

We must all pay a small tribute to Neptune; the chief engineer must once have been seasick.

Midnight---head over the boat's side---between sleeping and waking---with glimpses of one or more lights in the vicinity of Cape Ann. Bright moonlight---the effect heightened by seasickness. Beyond that light yonder have my lines hitherto been cast, but now I know that there lies not the whole world, for I can say it is there and not here.

May 4. Portland. There is a proper and only right way to enter a city, as well as to make advances to a strange person; neither will allow of the least forwardness nor bustle. A sensitive person can hardly elbow his way boldly, laughing and talking, into a strange town, without experiencing some twinges of conscience, as when he has treated a stranger with too much familiarity.

May 5. Portland to Bath via Brunswick; Bath to Brunswick.

Each one's world is but a clearing in the forest, so much open and inclosed ground. When the mail coach rumbles into one of these, the villagers gaze after you with a compassionate look, as much as to say: "Where have you been all this time, that you make your dbut in the world at this late hour? Nevertheless, here we 48 are; come and study us, that you may learn men and manners."

May 6. Brunswick to Augusta via Gardiner and Hallowell.

May 7. We occasionally meet an individual of a character and disposition so entirely the reverse of our own that we wonder if he can indeed be another man like ourselves. We doubt if we ever could draw any nearer to him, and understand him. Such was the old English gentleman whom I met with to-day in H. Though I peered in at his eyes I could not discern myself reflected therein. The chief wonder was how we could ever arrive at so fair-seeming an intercourse upon so small ground of sympathy. He walked and fluttered like a strange bird at my side, prying into and making a handle of the least circumstance. The bustle and rapidity of our communication were astonishing; we skated in our conversation. All at once he would stop short in the path, and, in an abstracted air, query whether the steamboat had reached Bath or Portland, addressing me from time to time as his familiar genius, who could understand what was passing in his mind without the necessity of uninterrupted oral communication.

May 8. Augusta to Bangor via China.

May 10. Bangor to Oldtown.

The railroad from Bangor to Oldtown is civilization shooting off in a tangent into the forest. I had much conversation with an old Indian at the latter place, who sat dreaming upon a scow at the waterside and striking his deer-skin moccasins against the planks, while his 49 arms hung listlessly by his side. He was the most communicative man I had met. Talked of hunting and fishing, old times and new times. Pointing up the Penobscot, he observed, "Two or three mile up the river one beautiful country!" and then, as if he would come as far to meet me as I had gone to meet him, he exclaimed, "Ugh! one very hard time!" But he had mistaken his man.

May 11. Bangor to Belfast via Saturday Cove.

May 12. Belfast.

May 13. To Castine by sailboat "Cinderilla [sic]."

May 14. Castine to Belfast by packet, Captain Skinner. Found the Poems of Burns and an odd volume of the "Spectator" in the cabin.

May 15. Belfast to Bath via Thomaston.

May 16. To Portland.

May 17. To Boston and Concord.


May 21.

The school-boy loitered on his way to school,

Scorning to live so rare a day by rule.

So mild the air a pleasure 'twas to breathe,

For what seems heaven above was earth beneath.

Soured neighbors chatted by the garden pale,

Nor quarrelled who should drive the needed nail;

The most unsocial made new friends that day,

As when the sun shines husbandmen make hay.

How long I slept I know not, but at last

I felt my consciousness returning fast, 50

For Zephyr rustled past with leafy tread,

And heedlessly with one heel grazed my head.

My eyelids opened on a field of blue,

For close above a nodding violet grew;

A part of heaven it seemed, which one could scent,

Its blue commingling with the firmament.


June 3.

True, our converse a stranger is to speech;

Only the practiced ear can catch the surging words

That break and die upon thy pebbled lips.

Thy flow of thought is noiseless as the lapse of thy own waters,

Wafted as is the morning mist up from thy surface,

So that the passive Soul doth breathe it in,

And is infected with the truth thou wouldst express.

E'en the remotest stars have come in troops

And stooped low to catch the benediction

Of thy countenance. Oft as the day came round,

Impartial has the sun exhibited himself

Before thy narrow skylight; nor has the moon

For cycles failed to roll this way

As oft as elsewhither, and tell thee of the night.

No cloud so rare but hitherward it stalked,

And in thy face looked doubly beautiful.

O! tell me what the winds have writ for the last thousand years

On the blue vault that spans thy flood,

Or sun transferred and delicately reprinted 51

For thy own private reading. Somewhat

Within these latter days I've read,

But surely there was much that would have thrilled the Soul,

Which human eye saw not.

I would give much to read that first bright page,

Wet from a virgin press, when Eurus, Boreas,

And the host of airy quill-drivers

First dipped their pens in mist.

June 14.

Truth, Goodness, Beauty,---those celestial thrins,[32]

Continually are born; e'en now the Universe,

With thousand throats, and eke with greener smiles,

Its joy confesses at their recent birth.

Strange that so many fickle gods, as fickle as the weather,

Throughout Dame Nature's provinces should always pull together.

June 16.

In the busy streets, domains of trade,

Man is a surly porter, or a vain and hectoring bully,

Who can claim no nearer kindredship with me

Than brotherhood by law.

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