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

Page 8 of 99

So this constant abrasion and decay makes the soil of my future growth. As I live now so shall I reap. If 4 I grow pines and birches, my virgin mould will not sustain the oak; but pines and birches, or, perchance, weeds and brambles, will constitute my second growth.[4]


Oct 25. She appears, and we are once more children; we commence again our course with the new year. Let the maiden no more return, and men will become poets for very grief. No sooner has winter left us time to regret her smiles, than we yield to the advances of poetic frenzy. "The flowers look kindly at us from the beds with their child eyes, and in the horizon the snow of the far mountains dissolves into light vapor."---Goethe, Torquato Tasso.


"He seems to avoid---even to flee from us,---

To seek something which we know not,

And perhaps he himself after all knows not."---Ibid.

Oct 26.

"His eye hardly rests upon the earth;

His ear hears the one-clang of nature;

What history records,---what life gives,---

Directly and gladly his genius takes it up:

His mind collects the widely dispersed,

And his feeling animates the inanimate.

Often he ennobles what appeared to us common,

And the prized is as nothing to him.

In his own magic circle wanders 5

The wonderful man, and draws us

With him to wander, and take part in it:

He seems to draw near to us, and remains afar from us:

He seems to be looking at us, and spirits, forsooth,

Appear to him strangely in our places."---Ibid.


"A noble man has not to thank a private circle for his culture. Fatherland and world must work upon him. Fame and infamy must he learn to endure. He will be constrained to know himself and others. Solitude shall no more lull him with her flattery. The foe will not, the friend dares not, spare him. Then, striving, the youth puts forth his strength, feels what he is, and feels himself soon a man."

"A talent is builded in solitude,

A character in the stream of the world."

"He only fears man who knows him not, and he who avoids him will soonest misapprehend him."---Ibid.


"As nature decks her inward rich breast in a green variegated dress, so clothes he all that can make men honorable in the blooming garb of the fable.... The well of superfluity bubbles near, and lets us see variegated wonder-fishes. The air is filled with rare birds, the meads and copses with strange herds, wit lurks half concealed in the verdure, and wisdom from time to time lets sound from a golden cloud sustained words, while 6 frenzy wildly seems to sweep the well-toned lute, yet holds itself measured in perfect time."


"That beauty is transitory which alone you seem to honor."---Goethe, Torquato Tasso.


Oct. 27. The prospect is limited to Nobscot and Annursnack. The trees stand with boughs downcast like pilgrims beaten by a storm, and the whole landscape wears a sombre aspect.

So when thick vapors cloud the soul, it strives in vain to escape from its humble working-day valley, and pierce the dense fog which shuts out from view the blue peaks in its horizon, but must be content to scan its near and homely hills.


Oct 29. Two ducks, of the summer or wood species, which were merrily dabbling in their favorite basin, struck up a retreat on my approach, and seemed disposed to take French leave, paddling off with swan-like majesty. They are first-rate swimmers, beating me at a round pace, and---what was to me a new trait in the duck character---dove every minute or two and swam several feet under water, in order to escape our attention. Just before immersion they seemed to give each other a significant nod, and then, as if by a common understanding, 'twas heels up and head down in the shaking of a duck's wing. When they reappeared, it was amusing 7 to observe with what a self-satisfied, darn-it-how-he-nicks-'em air they paddled off to repeat the experiment.


A curious incident happened some four or six weeks ago which I think it worth the while to record. John and I had been searching for Indian relics, and been successful enough to find two arrowheads and a pestle, when, of a Sunday evening, with our heads full of the past and its remains, we strolled to the mouth of Swamp Bridge Brook. As we neared the brow of the hill forming the bank of the river, inspired by my theme, I broke forth into an extravagant eulogy on those savage times, using most violent gesticulations by way of illustration. "There on Nawshawtuct," said I, "was their lodge, the rendezvous of the tribe, and yonder, on Clamshell Hill, their feasting ground. This was, no doubt, a favorite haunt; here on this brow was an eligible lookout post. How often have they stood on this very spot, at this very hour, when the sun was sinking behind yonder woods and gilding with his last rays the waters of the Musketaquid, and pondered the day's success and the morrow's prospects, or communed with the spirit of their fathers gone before them to the land of shades!

"Here," I exclaimed, "stood Tahatawan; and there" (to complete the period) "is Tahatawan's arrowhead."

We instantly proceeded to sit down on the spot I had pointed to, and I, to carry out the joke, to lay bare an ordinary stone which my whim had selected, when lo! the first I laid hands on, the grubbing stone that was to 8 be, proved a most perfect arrowhead, as sharp as if just from the hands of the Indian fabricator!!!


Oct. 30. First we have the gray twilight of the poets, with dark and barry clouds diverging to the zenith. Then glows the intruding cloud in the east, as if it bore a precious jewel in its bosom; a deep round gulf of golden gray indenting its upper edge, while slender rules of fleecy vapor, radiating from the common centre, like light-armed troops, fall regularly into their places.


Nov. 3. If one would reflect, let him embark on some placid stream, and float with the current. He cannot resist the Muse. As we ascend the stream, plying the paddle with might and main, snatched and impetuous thoughts course through the brain. We dream of conflict, power, and grandeur. But turn the prow down stream, and rock, tree, kine, knoll, assuming new and varying positions, as wind and water shift the scene, favor the liquid lapse of thought, far-reaching and sublime, but ever calm and gently undulating.


Nov. 5. Truth strikes us from behind, and in the dark, as well as from before and in broad daylight.


Nov. 9. It is the rill whose "silver sands and pebbles sing eternal ditties with the spring." The early frosts bridge its narrow channel, and its querulous note 9 is hushed. Only the flickering sunlight on its sandy bottom attracts the beholder. But there are souls whose depths are never fathomed,---on whose bottom the sun never shines. We get a distant view from the precipitous banks, but never a draught from their mid-channels. Only a sunken rock or fallen oak can provoke a murmur, and their surface is a stranger to the icy fetters which bind fast a thousand contributory rills.[5]

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