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

Page 21 of 99

Feb. 9. It takes a man to make a room silent.


Feb. 10.

When the world grows old by the chimney-side,

Then forth to the youngling rocks I glide,

Where over the water, and over the land,

The bells are booming on either hand.

Now up they go ding, then down again dong,

And awhile they swing to the same old song,

And the metal goes round at a single bound,

A-lulling the fields with its measured sound,

Till the tired tongue falls with a lengthened boom

As solemn and loud as the crack of doom. 74

Then changed is their measure to tone upon tone,

And seldom it is that one sound comes alone,

For they ring out their peals in a mingled throng,

And the breezes waft the loud ding-dong along.

When the echo has reached me in this lone vale,

I am straightway a hero in coat of mail,

I tug at my belt and I march on my post,

And feel myself more than a match for a host.

I am on the alert for some wonderful Thing

Which somewhere 's a-taking place;

'Tis perchance the salute which our planet doth ring

When it meeteth another in space.


Feb. 25.

Hark! hark! from out the thickest fog

Warbles with might and main

The fearless shrike, as all agog

To find in fog his gain.

His steady sails he never furls

At any time o' year,

And, perched now on Winter's curls,

He whistles in his ear.[53]


March 3. He must be something more than natural,---even supernatural. Nature will not speak through but along with him. His voice will not proceed from her 75 midst, but, breathing on her, will make her the expression of his thought. He then poetizes when he takes a fact out of nature into spirit. He speaks without reference to time or place. His thought is one world, hers another. He is another Nature,---Nature's brother. Kindly offices do they perform for one another. Each publishes the other's truth.


April 4. The atmosphere of morning gives a healthy hue to our prospects. Disease is a sluggard that overtakes, never encounters, us. We have the start each day, and may fairly distance him before the dew is off; but if we recline in the bowers of noon, he will come up with us after all. The morning dew breeds no cold. We enjoy a diurnal reprieve in the beginning of each day's creation. In the morning we do not believe in expediency; we will start afresh, and have no patching, no temporary fixtures. The afternoon man has an interest in the past; his eye is divided, and he sees indifferently well either way.


Drifting in a sultry day on the sluggish waters of the pond, I almost cease to live and begin to be. A boatman stretched on the deck of his craft and dallying with the noon would be as apt an emblem of eternity for me as the serpent with his tail in his mouth. I am never so prone to lose my identity. I am dissolved in the haze.


April 7. Sunday. The tediousness and detail of execution never occur to the genius projecting; it always 76 antedates the completion of its work. It condescends to give time a few hours to do its bidding in.


Most have sufficient contempt for what is mean to resolve that they will abstain from it, and a few virtue enough to abide by their resolution, but not often does one attain to such lofty contempt as to require no resolution to be made.


April 8. There goes a six-horse team, and a man by its side. He has rolled out of his cradle into a Tom-and-Jerry, and goes about his business while Nature goes about hers, without standing agape at his condition. As though sixty years were not enough for these things! What have death, and the cholera, and the immortal destiny of man, to do with the shipping interests? There is an unexplained bravery in this. What with bare astonishment one would think that man had his hands full for so short a term. But this is no drawback on the lace-working and cap-making interests. Some attain to such a degree of sang-froid and nonchalance as to be weavers of toilet cushions and manufacturers of pinheads, without once flinching or the slightest affection of the nerves, for the period of a natural life.[54]


April 9. Fat roots of pine lying in rich veins as of gold or silver, even in old pastures where you would least expect it, make you realize that you live in the 77 youth of the world, and you begin to know the wealth of the planet. Human nature is still in its prime, then. Bring axe, pickaxe, and shovel, and tap the earth here where there is most sap. The marrowy store gleams like some vigorous sinew, and you feel a new suppleness in your own limbs. These are the traits that conciliate man's moroseness, and make him civil to his fellows; every such pine root is a pledge of suavity. If he can discover absolute barrenness in any direction there will be some excuse for peevishness.


April 14. There is a terra firma in society as well as in geography, some whose ports you may make by dead reckoning in all weather. All the rest are but floating and fabulous Atlantides which sometimes skirt the western horizon of our intercourse. They impose only on seasick mariners who have put into some Canary Island on the frontiers of society.


April 24. Why should we concern ourselves with what has happened to us, and the unaccountable fickleness of events, and not rather [with] how we have happened to the universe, and it has demeaned itself in consequence? Let us record in each case the judgment we have awarded to circumstances.


Cheap persons will stand upon ceremony, because there is no other ground; but to the great of the 78 earth we need no introduction, nor do they need any to us.


April 25. If we see the reality in things, of what moment is the superficial and apparent? Take the earth and all the interests it has known,---what are they beside one deep surmise that pierces and scatters them? The independent beggar disposes of all with one hearty, significant curse by the roadside. 'Tis true they are not worth a "tinker's damn."


April 30. Of some illuminated pictures which I saw last evening, one representing the plain of Babylon, with only a heap of brick-dust in the centre, and an uninterrupted horizon bounding the desert, struck me most. I would see painted a boundless expanse of desert, prairie, or sea, without other object than the horizon. The heavens and the earth,---the first and last painting,---where is the artist who shall undertake it?

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