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

Page 89 of 99

How many an afternoon has been stolen from more profitable, if not more attractive, industry,---afternoons when a good run of custom might have been expected on the main street, such as tempt the ladies out a-shopping,---spent, I say, by me away in the meadows, in the well-nigh hopeless attempt to set the river on fire or be set on fire by it, with such tinder as I had, with such flint as I was. Trying at least to make it flow with milk and honey, as I had heard of, or liquid gold, and drown myself without getting wet,---a laudable enterprise, though I have not much to show for it.

So many autumn days spent outside the town, trying to hear what was in the wind, to hear it and carry it express. I well-nigh sunk all my capital in it, and lost my own breath into the bargain, by running in the face of it. Depend upon it, if it had concerned either of the parties, it would have appeared in the yeoman's gazette, the Freeman, with other earliest intelligence.

For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snow-storms and rain-storms, and did my duty faithfully, though I never received one cent for it.

Surveyor, if not of higher ways, then of forest paths and all across-lot routes, keeping many open ravines bridged and passable at all seasons, where the public heel had testified to the importance of the same, all not only without charge, but even at considerable risk and inconvenience. Many a mower would have forborne to complain had he been aware of the invisible public good that was in jeopardy.

So I went on, I may say without boasting, I trust, faithfully minding my business without a partner, till 435 it became more and more evident that my townsmen would not, after all, admit me into the list of town officers, nor make the place a sinecure with moderate allowance.

I have looked after the wild stock of the town, which pastures in common, and every one knows that these cattle give you a good deal of trouble in the way of leaping fences. I have counted and registered all the eggs I could find at least, and have had an eye to all nooks and corners of the farm, though I didn't always know whether Jonas or Solomon worked in a particular field to-day; that was none of my business. I only knew him for one of the men, and trusted that he was as well employed as I was. I had to make my daily entries in the general farm book, and my duties may sometimes have made me a little stubborn and unyielding.

Many a day spent on the hilltops waiting for the sky to fall, that I might catch something, though I never caught much, only a little, manna-wise, that would dissolve again in the sun.

My accounts, indeed, which I can swear to have been faithfully kept, I have never got audited, still less accepted, still less paid and settled. However, I haven't set my heart upon that.

I have watered the red huckleberry and the sand cherry and the hoopwood [?] tree, and the cornel and spoonhunt and yellow violet, which might have withered else in dry seasons. The white grape.

To find the bottom of Walden Pond, and what inlet and outlet it might have. 436

I found at length that, as they were not likely to offer me any office in the court-house, any curacy or living anywhere else, I must shift for myself, I must furnish myself with the necessaries of life.

Now watching from the observatory of the Cliffs or Annursnack to telegraph any new arrival, to see if Wachusett, Watatic, or Monadnock had got any nearer. Climbing trees for the same purpose. I have been reporter for many years to one of the journals of no very wide circulation, and, as is too common, got only my pains for my labor. Literary contracts are little binding.[483]

The unlimited anxiety, strain, and care of some persons is one very incurable form of disease. Simple arithmetic might have corrected it; for the life of every man has, after all, an epic integrity, and Nature adapts herself to our weaknesses and deficiencies as well as talents.

No doubt it is indispensable that we should do our work between sun and sun, but only a wise man will know what that is. And yet how much work will be left undone, put off to the next day, and yet the system goes on!

We presume commonly to take care of ourselves, and trust as little as possible. Vigilant more or less all our days, we say our prayers at night and commit ourselves to uncertainties, as if in our very days and most vigilant moments the great part were not a necessary trust still.[484] How serenity, anxiety, confidence, fear paint the heavens for us. 437

All the laws of nature will bend and adapt themselves to the least motion of man.

All change is a miracle to contemplate, but it is a miracle which is taking place unobserved every instant; when all is ready it takes place, and only a miracle could stay it.

We [are] compelled to live so thoroughly and sincerely, reflecting on our steps, reverencing our life, that we never make allowance for the possible changes.

We may waive just so much care of ourselves as we devote of care elsewhere.[485] 438

(T. 20-30)

[This chapter consists of paragraphs (chiefly undated) taken from a large commonplace-book containing transcripts from earlier journals. Thoreau drew largely from this book in writing the "Week," and to a less extent in writing "Walden." Passages used in these volumes (as far as noted), and those duplicating earlier journal entries already printed in the preceding pages, have been omitted. All the matter in the book appears to have been written before 1847.]

I was born upon thy bank, river,

My blood flows in thy stream,

And thou meanderest forever

At the bottom of my dream.

This great but silent traveller which had been so long moving past my door at three miles an hour,---might I not trust myself under its escort?

In friendship we worship moral beauty without the formality of religion.

Consider how much the sun and the summer, the buds of spring and the sered leaves of autumn, are related 439 to the cabins of the settlers which we discover on the shore,---how all the rays which paint the landscape radiate from them. The flight of the crow and the gyrations of the hawk have reference to their roofs.

Friends do not interchange their common wealth, but each puts his finger into the private coffer of the other. They will be most familiar, they will be most unfamiliar, for they will be so one and single that common themes will not have to be bandied between them, but in silence they will digest them as one mind; but they will at the same time be so two and double that each will be to the other as admirable and as inaccessible as a star. He will view him as it were through "optic glass,"---"at evening from the top of Fesol." And after the longest earthly period, he will still be in apogee to him.

It [the boat] had been loaded at the door the evening before, half a mile from the river, and provided with wheels against emergencies, but, with the bulky cargo which we stevedores had stowed in it, it proved but an indifferent land carriage. For water and water-casks there was a plentiful supply of muskmelons from our patch, which had just begun to be ripe, and chests and spare spars and sails and tent and guns and munitions for the galleon. And as we pushed it through the meadows to the river's bank, we stepped as lightly about it as if a portion of our own bulk and burden was stored in its hold. We were amazed to find ourselves outside still, with scarcely independent force enough to push or pull effectually. 440

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