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

Page 9 of 99


Nov. 12. I yet lack discernment to distinguish the whole lesson of to-day; but it is not lost,---it will come to me at last. My desire is to know what I have lived, that I may know how to live henceforth.


Nov. 13. This shall be the test of innocence---if I can hear a taunt, and look out on this friendly moon, pacing the heavens in queen-like majesty, with the accustomed yearning.


Truth is ever returning into herself. I glimpse one feature to-day, another to-morrow; and the next day they are blended.


Nov. 15. "And now that it is evening, a few clouds in the mild atmosphere rest upon the mountains, more stand still than move in the heavens, and immediately after sunset the chirping of crickets begins to increase; then feels one once more at home in the world, and not 10 as an alien,---an exile. I am contented as though I had been born and brought up here, and now returned from a Greenland or whaling voyage. Even the dust of my Fatherland, as it is whirled about the wagon, which for so long a time I had not seen, is welcome. The clock-and-bell jingling of the crickets is very agreeable, penetrating, and not without a meaning. Pleasant is it when roguish boys whistle in emulation of a field of such songstresses. One imagines that they really enhance each other. The evening is perfectly mild as the day. Should an inhabitant of the south, coming from the south, hear of my rapture, he would deem me very childish. Alas! what I here express have I long felt under an unpropitious heaven. And now this joy is to me an exception, which I am henceforth to enjoy,---a necessity of my nature."---Italinische Reise.[6]


Nov. 16. There goes the river, or rather is, "in serpent error wandering," the jugular vein of Musketaquid. Who knows how much of the proverbial moderation of the inhabitants was caught from its dull circulation?

The snow gives the landscape a washing-day appearance,---here a streak of white, there a streak of dark; it is spread like a napkin over the hills and meadows. This must be a rare drying day, to judge from the vapor that floats over the vast clothes-yard.

A hundred guns are firing and a flag flying in the village in celebration of the whig victory. Now a short dull report,---the mere disk of a sound, shorn of its 11 beams,---and then a puff of smoke rises in the horizon to join its misty relatives in the skies.


He gives such a glowing description of the old tower, that they who had been born and brought up in the neighborhood must needs look over their shoulders, "that they might behold with their eyes, what I had praised to their ears, ... and I added nothing, not even the ivy which for centuries had decorated the walls."---Italinische Reise.[7]


Nov. 17. Now the king of day plays at bo-peep round the world's corner, and every cottage window smiles a golden smile,---a very picture of glee. I see the water glistening in the eye. The smothered breathings of awakening day strike the ear with an undulating motion; over hill and dale, pasture and woodland, come they to me, and I am at home in the world.


If there is nothing new on earth, still there is something new in the heavens. We have always a resource in the skies. They are constantly turning a new page to view. The wind sets the types in this blue ground, and the inquiring may always read a new truth.[8]


Nov. 18. "Pulsae referunt ad sidera valles"[9] is such 12 a line as would save an epic; and how finely he concludes his "agrestem musam," now that Silenus has done, and the stars have heard his story,---

"Cogere donec oves stabulis, numerumque referre

Jussit, et invito processit Vesper Olympo."


Nature makes no noise. The howling storm, the rustling leaf, the pattering rain are no disturbance, there is an essential and unexplored harmony in them. Why is it that thought flows with so deep and sparkling a current when the sound of distant music strikes the ear? When I would muse I complain not of a rattling tune on the piano---a Battle of Prague even---if it be harmony, but an irregular, discordant drumming is intolerable.


When a shadow flits across the landscape of the soul, where is the substance? Has it always its origin in sin? and is that sin in me?


Nov. 20. I would read Virgil, if only that I might be reminded of the identity of human nature in all ages. I take satisfaction in "jam laeto turgent in palmite gemmae," or "Strata jacent passim sua quaeque sub arbore poma." It was the same world, and the same men inhabited it.[10]


Nov. 21. One must needs climb a hill to know what a world he inhabits. In the midst of this Indian summer 13 I am perched on the topmost rock of Nawshawtuct, a velvet wind blowing from the southwest. I seem to feel the atoms as they strike my cheek. Hills, mountains, steeples stand out in bold relief in the horizon, while I am resting on the rounded boss of an enormous shield, the river like a vein of silver encircling its edge, and thence the shield gradually rises to its rim, the horizon. Not a cloud is to be seen, but villages, villas, forests, mountains, one above another, till they are swallowed up in the heavens.[11] The atmosphere is such that, as I look abroad upon the length and breadth of the land, it recedes from my eye, and I seem to be looking for the threads of the velvet.

Thus I admire the grandeur of my emerald carriage, with its border of blue, in which I am rolling through space.


Nov. 26. I look around for thoughts when I am overflowing myself. While I live on, thought is still in embryo,---it stirs not within me. Anon it begins to assume shape and comeliness, and I deliver it, and clothe it in its garment of language. But alas! how often when thoughts choke me do I resort to a spat on the back, or swallow a crust, or do anything but expectorate them!


Nov. 28. Every tree, fence, and spire of grass that could raise its head above the snow was this morning covered with a dense hoar frost. The trees looked like airy creatures of darkness caught napping. On this side 14 they were huddled together, their gray hairs streaming, in a secluded valley which the sun had not yet penetrated, and on that they went hurrying off in Indian file by hedgerows and watercourses, while the shrubs and grasses, like elves and fairies of the night, sought to hide their diminished heads in the snow.

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