the Thoreau Log.
Æt. 24.
January 1841.

Thoreau’s poem “Stanzas” appears in the third issue of the Dial (Dial (1961), 1:314).

1 January 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau pays his father $15 towards a debt (The Personality of Thoreau (1901), 28).

6 January 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes to Cyrus Stow:

Mr Clerk


  I do not wish to be considered a member of the First Parish in this town.

Henry. D. Thoreau.

(The Correspondence (2013, Princeton), 1:72; MS, First Parish in Concord records (Series V, Box 8, Folder 1). Special Collections, Concord (Mass.) Free Public Library)
23 January 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  A day is lapsing. I hear cockerels crowing in the yard, and see them stalking among the chips in the sun. I hear busy feet on the floors, and the whole house jars with industry,. surely the day is well spent, and the time is full to overflowing. Mankind is as busy as the flowers in summer, which make haste to unfold themselves in the forenoon, and close their petals in the afternoon.
(Journal, 1:173-174)
24 January 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I almost shrink from the arduousness of meeting men erectly day by day (Journal, 1:174-176).
25 January 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  To-day I feel the migratory instinct strong in me, and all my members and humors anticipate the breaking up of winter (Journal, 1:176).
26 January 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I had a dream last night which had reference to an act in my life in which I had been most disinterested and true to my highest instinct but completely failed in realizing my hopes; and now, after so many months, in the stillness of sleep, complete justice was rendered me.
(Journal, 1:176-7)
27 January 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  The punishment of sin is not positive, as is the reward of virtue (Journal, 1:177-178).
28 January 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Resistance is a very wholesome and delicious morsel at times. When Venus advanced against the Greeks with resistless valor, it was by far the most natural attitude into which the poet could throw his hero to make him resist heroically. To a devil one might yield gracefully, but a god would be a worthy foe, and would pardon the affront.
(Journal, 1:178-180)
29 January 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  There is something proudly thrilling in the thought that this obedience to conscience and trust in God, which is so solemnly preached in extremities and arduous circumstances, is only to retreat to one’s self, and rely on our own strength. In trivial circumstances I find myself sufficient to myself, and in the most momentous I have no ally but myself, and must silently put by their harm by my own strength, as I did the former. As my own hand bent aside the willow in my path, so must my single arm put to flight the devil and his angels. God is not our ally when we shrink, and neuter when we are bold. If by trusting in God you lose any particle of your vigor, trust in Him no longer. When you trust, do not lay aside your armor, but put it on and buckle it tighter.
(Journal, 1:180-182)
30 January 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Far over the fields, between the tops of yonder wood, I see a slight cloud not larger than the vapor from a kettle, drifting by its own inward purpose in a direction contrary to the planet. As it flits across the dells and defiles of the tree-tops, now seen, then lost beyond a pine, I am curious to know wherein its will resides, for to my eye it has no heart, nor lungs, nor brain, nor any interior and private chamber which it may inhabit . . .

  I saw a team come out of the path in the woods, as though it had never gone in, but belonged there, and only came out like Elisha’s bears. It was wholly of the village, and not at all of the wood . . .

  I tread in the tracks of the fox which has gone before me by some hours, or which perhaps I have started, with such a tiptoe of expectation as if I were on the trail of the Spirit itself which resides in these woods, and expected soon to catch it in its lair . . . Here is the distinct trail of a fox stretching [a] quarter of a mile across the pond . . .

  Fair Haven Pond is scored with the trails of foxes, and you may see where they have gambolled and gone through a hundred evolutions, which testify to a singular listlessness and leisure in nature.

  Suddenly, looking down the river, I saw a fox some sixty rods off, making across to the hills on my left. As the snow lay five inches deep, he made but slow progress, but it was no impediment to me. So, yielding to the instinct of the chase, i tossed my head aloft and bounded away, snuffing the air like a fox-hound, and spurning the world and the Humane Society at each bound. it seemed the woods rang the the hunter’s horn, and Diana and all the satyrs joined in the chase and cheered me on. Olympian and Elean youths were waving palms on the hills. In the meanwhile I gained rapidly on the fox; but he showed a remarkable presence of mind, for, instead of keeping up the face of the hill, which was steep and unwooded in that part, he kept along the slope in the direction of the forest, though he lost ground by it. Notwithstanding his fright, he took no step which was not beautiful. The course on his part was a series of most graceful curves. It was a sort of leopard canter, I should say, as if her were nowise impeded by the snow, but were husbanding his strength all the while. When he doubled I wheeled and cut him off, bounding with fresh vigor, and Antæuslike, recovering my strength each time I touched the snow. having got near enough for a fair view, just as he was slipping into the wood, I gracefully yielded him the palm. He ran as though there were not a bone in his back, occasionally dropping his muzzle to the snow for a rod or two, and then tossing his head aloft when satisfied of his course. When he came to a declivity he put his fore feet together and slid down it like a cat. He trod so softly that you could not have heard it from any nearness, and yet with such expression that it would not have been quite inaudible at any distance. So, hoping this experience would prove a useful lesson to him, I returned to the village by the highway of the river.

(Journal, 1:182-188)
31 January 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  At each step man measures himself against the system. If he cannot actually belay the sun and make it fast to this planet, yet the British man alone spins a yarn in one year which will reach fifty-one times the distance from the earth to the sun.

  So, having his cable ready twisted and coiled, the fixed stars are virtually within his grasp. He carries his lasso coiled at his saddle bow, but is never forced to cast it.

(Journal, 1:188-190)
2 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau borrows $1.35 from his father (The Personality of Thoreau (1901), 28).

3 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  It steads us to be as true to children and boors as to God himself. It is the only attitude which will suit all occasions; it only will make the earth yield her increase, and by it do we effectually expostulate with the wind (Journal, 190-192).

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his journal on 4 February:

  I went to the Rainers’ concert last night in our Court House. When I heard them in Boston, I had some dreams about music: last night, nothing. Last night I enjoyed the audience. I looked with a great degree of pride & affection at the company of my townsmen & townswomen & dreamed of that kingdom & society of Love which we preach.
(The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 7:419)
4 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  When you are once comfortably seated at a public meeting, there is something unmanly in the sitting on tiptoe and qui vive attitude,—the involuntarily rising into your throat, as if gravity had ceased to operate,—when a lady approaches, with quite godlike presumption, to elicit the miracle of a seat where none is. Music will make the most nervous chord vibrate healthily.
(Journal, 1:192-195)
5 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  These Rainers, if they are not brothers and sisters, must be uncles and cousins at least. These Swiss who have come to sing to us, we have no doubt are the flower of the Tyrol (Journal, 1:195-197).
6 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  One may discover a new side to his most intimate friend when for the first time he hears him speak in public. He will be stranger to him as he is more familiar to the audience. The longest intimacy could not foretell how he would behave then. When I observe my friend’s conduct toward others, then chiefly I learn the traits in his character, and in each case I am unprepared for the issue.
(Journal, 1:197-201)
7 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Without greatcoat or drawers I have advanced thus far into the snow-banks of the winter, without thought and with impunity. When I meet my neighbors in muffs and furs and tippets, they look as if they had retreated into the interior fastnesses form some foe invisible to me. They remind me that this is the season of winter, in which it becomes a man to be cold.
(Journal, 1:201-205)
8 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  To be of most service to my brother I must meet him on the most equal and even ground, the platform on which our lives are passing. But how often does politeness permit this? (Journal, 1:205-209).

Thoreau also pays his father $10 towards a debt (The Personality of Thoreau (1901), 28).

9 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Better be defamed than overpraised. Thou canst then justly praise thyself. What notoriety art thou that can be defamed? Who can be praised for what they are not deserve rather to be damned for what they are. It is hard to wear a dress that is too long and loose without stumbling.
(Journal, 2:209-210)
10 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I asked a man to-day if he would rent me some land, and he said he had four acres as good soil “as any outdoors.” It was a true poet’s account of it. He and I, and all the world, went outdoors to breathe the free air and stretch ourselves. For the world is but outdoors,—and we duck behind a panel.
(Journal, 1:210-211)
11 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  True help, for the most part, implies a greatness in him who is to be helped as well as in the helper. It takes a god to be helped even. A great person, though unconsciously, will constantly give you great opportunities to serve him, but a mean one will quite preclude all active benevolence. It needs but simply and greatly to want it for once, that all true men may contend who shall be foremost to render aid. My neighbor’s state must pray to heaven so devoutly yet disinterestedly as he never prayed in words, before my ears can hear. It must ask divinely. But men so cobble and botch their request, that you must stoop as low as they to give them aid. Their meanness would drag down your deed to be a compromise with conscience, and not leave it to be done on the high table-land of the benevolent soul. They would have you doff your bright and knightly armor and drudge for them, —serve them and not God. But if I am to serve them I must not serve the devil.
(Journal, 1:211-212)
12 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Those great men who are unknown to their own generation are already famous in the society of the great who have gone before them. All worldly fame but subsides from their high estimate beyond the stars. We may still keep pace with those who have gone out of nature, for we run on as smooth ground as they. The early and the latter saints are separated by no eternal interval. The child may soon stand face to face with the best father.
(Journal, 1:212-213)
13 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  My neighbor says that his hill-farm is poor stuff and “only fit to hold the world together.” He deserves that God should give him better for so brave a treating of his gifts, instead of humbly putting up therewith (Journal, 1:213-214).
14 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I am confined to the house by bronchitis, and so seek to content myself with that quiet and serene life there is in a warm corner by the fireside, and see the sky through the chimney top . . . The jingling team which is creaking past reminds me of that verse in the Bible which speaks of God being heard in the bells of the horses.
(Journal, 1:214)
15 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  There is elevation in every hour. No part of the earth is so low and withdrawn that the heavens cannot be seen from it, but every part supports the sky. We have only to stand on the eminence of the hour, and look out thence into the empyrean, allowing no pinnacle above us, to command an uninterrupted horizon.
(Journal, 1:214-215)
17 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Our work should be fitted to and lead on the time, as bud, flower, and fruit lead the circle of the seasons. (Journal, 1:215).
18 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I do not judge men by anything they can do. Their greatest deed is the impression they make on me. Some serene, inactive men can do everything. Talent only indicates a depth of character in some direction. We do not acquire the ability to do new deeds, but a new capacity for all deeds.
(Journal, 1:215-216)
19 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  A truly good book attracts very little favor to itself. It is so true that it teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down and commence living on its hint. I do not see how any can be written more, but this is the last effusion of genius. When I read an indifferent book, it seems the best thing I can do, but the inspiring volume hardly leaves me leisure to finish its latter pages. It is slipping out of my fingers while I read. It creates no atmosphere in which it may be perused, but one in which its teachings may be practiced. It confers on me such wealth that I lay it down with the least regret. What I began by reading I must finish by acting.
(Journal, 1:216-218)
20 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  When I am going out for an evening I arrange the fire in my stove, so that I do not fail to find a good one when I return, though it would engage my frequent attention present. So that when I know I am to be at home, I sometimes make believe that I may go out, to save trouble… I hear the faint sound of a viol and voices from the neighboring cottage, and think to myself, “I will believe the Muse only for evermore.” It assures me that no gleam which comes over the serene soul is deceptive. It warns me of a reality and substance, of which the best that I see is but the phantom and shadow. O music, thou tellest me of things of which memory takes no heed; thy strains are whispered aside from memory’s ear.
(Journal, 1:218-219)
21 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  It is hard to preserve equanimity and greatness on that debatable ground between love and esteem. There is nothing so stable and unfluctuating as love. The waves beat steadfast on its shore forever, and its tide has no ebb. It is a resource in all extremities, and a refuge even from itself. And yet love will not be leaned on.
(Journal, 1:219)
22 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Love is the tenderest mood of that which is tough —and the toughest mood of that which is tender. It may be roughly handled as the nettle, or gently as the violet. It has its holidays, but is not made for them (Journal, 1:220-221).
23 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  The care of the body is the highest exercise of prudence. If I have brought this weakness on my lungs, I will consider calmly and disinterestedly how the thing came about, that I may find out the truth and render justice. Then after patience I shall be a wiser man than before.
(Journal, 1:221-222)
26 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I who have been sick hear cattle low in the street with such a healthy ear as prophecies my cure. These sounds lay a finger on my pulse to some purpose. A fragrance comes in at all my senses which proclaims that I am still of Nature the child. The threshing in yonder bran and the tinkling of the anvil come from the same side of Styx with me . . . Nature seems to have given me these hours to pry into her private drawers. I watch the shadow of the insensible perspiration rising from my coat or hand on the wall. I go and feel my pulse in all the recesses of the house and see if I am of force to carry a homely life and comfort into them.
(Journal, 1:222-224)
27 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Life looks as fair at this moment as a summer’s sea, or, a blond dress in a saffron light, with its sun and grass and walled towns so bright and chaste, as fair as my own virtue which would adventure therein. Like a Persian city or hanging gardens in the distance, so washed in light, so untried, only to be thridded by clean thoughts. All its flags are flowing, and tassels streaming, and drapery flapping, like some gay pavilion. The heavens hang over it like some low screen, and seem to undulate in the breeze.
(Journal, 1:224-225)
28 February 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Nothing goes by luck in composition. It allows of no tricks.The best you can write will be the best you are. Every sentence is the result of a long probation. The author’s character is read from title-page to end. Of this he never corrects the proofs. We read it as the essential character of a handwriting without regard to the flourishes. And so of the rest of our actions; it runs as straight as a ruled line through them all, no matter how many curvets about it. Our whole life is taxed for the least thing well done; it is its net result. How we eat, drink, sleep, and use our desultory hours, now in these indifferent days, with no eye to observe and no occasion [to] excite us, determines our authority and capacity for the time to come.
(Journal, 1:225-226)
3 March 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I hear a man blowing a horn this still evening – and it sounds like the plaint of nature in these times (Journal, 1:226-227).

Thoreau is probably invited to join Brook Farm around this time. He writes in his journal on 3 March:

  As for these communities, I think I had rather keep bachelor’s hall in hell than go board in heaven (Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, 100-3; Brook Farm: The Dark Side of Utopia, 133-4; Journal, 1:227).
4 March 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal: 

  We reprove each other unconsciously by our own behavior. Our very carriage and demeanor in the streets should be a reprimand that will go to the conscience of every beholder. An infusion of love from a great soul gives a color to our faults, which will discover them, as lunar caustic detects impurities in water.
(Journal, 1:227-228)
5 March 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  How can our love increase, unless our loveliness increase also? We must securely love each other as we love God, with no more danger that our love be unrequited or ill-bestowed. There is that in my friend before which I must first decay and prove untrue. Love is the least moral and the most. Are the best good in their love? or the worst, bad?
(Journal, 1:228)
6 March 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  An honest misunderstanding is often the ground of future intercourse (Journal, 1:229).
7 to 10 March 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Man as he is, is not the subject of any art, strictly speaking. The naturalist pursues his study with love, but the moralist persecutes his with hate. In man is the material of a picture, with a design partly sketched (Journal, 1:229-237).
9 March 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes to Samuel Gridley Howe:


  I observed in your paper of March 5th an advertisement for an Assistant Teacher in a Public Institution &c—As I expect to be released from my engagements here in a fortnight, I should be glad to hear further of the above—if the vacancy is not already filled.I was graduated at Cambridge in ’37, previous to which date had some experience in school-keeping—and have since been constantly engaged as an instructor—for the first year, as principal of the Academy here, and for the last two, as superintendant of the classical department alone.

  I refer you to Samuel Hoar esq., Rev. R. W. Emerson, or Dr. Josiah Bartlett, of this town, or to Prest Quincy of Harvard University.

Yrs. respectfully
Henry D. Thoreau

(The Correspondence (2013, Princeton), 1:72-73; MS, Samuel Gridley Howe collection (Letters 1840 to 1841, p. 189). Perkins School for the Blind (Watertown, Mass.).
11 March 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Every man understands why a fool sings (Journal, 1:237).
13 March 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  There is a sort of homely truth and naturalness in some books, which is very rare to find, and yet looks quite cheap. There may be nothing lofty in the sentiment, or polished in the expression, but it is careless, countrified talk. The scholar rarely writes as well as the farmer talks.
(Journal, 1:237-239)
15 March 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  When I have access to a man’s barrel of sermons, which were written from week to week, as his life lapsed, though I now know him to live cheerfully and bravely enough, still I cannot conceive what interval there was for laughter and smiles in the midst of so much sadness. Almost in proportion to the sincerity and earnestness of the life will be the sadness of the record. When I reflect that twice a week for so many years he pondered and preached such a sermon, I think he must have been a splenetic and melancholy man, and wonder if his food digested well. It seems as if the fruit of virtue was never a careless happiness.
(Journal, 1:239-240)
17 March. Concord, Mass. 1841.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  The stars go up and down before my only eye. Seasons come round to me alone. I cannot lean so hard on any arm as on a sun beam. So solid men are not to my sincerity as is the shimmer of the fields (Journal, 1:240).
19 March 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  No true and brave person will be content to live on such a footing with his fellow and himself as the laws of every household now require. The house is the very haunt and lair of our vice. I am impatient to withdraw myself from under its roof as an unclean spot. There is no circulation there; it is full of stagnant and mephitic vapors.
(Journal, 1:240)

Ralph Waldo Emerson notes in his journal that he sent a copy of his book Essays to “D. H Thoreau” and 47 other people. The inscription reads “Henry D. Thoreau, from his friend, R.W.E. 19 March 1841” (The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 7:546; Studies in the American Renaissance 1983, 161).

See 21 March.

20 March 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Even the wisest and best are apt to use their lives as the occasion to do something else in than to live greatly. But we should bang as fondly over this work as the finishing and embellishment of a poem (Journal, 1:240-241).
21 March 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  To be associated with others by my friend’s generosity when he bestows a gift is an additional favor to be grateful for (Journal, 1:241).
22 March 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau pays the remaining $13.08 he owes his father (The Personality of Thoreau (1901), 28).

27 March 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Magnanimity, though it look expensive for a short course, is always economy in the long run. Be generous in your poverty, if you would be rich. To make up a great action there are no subordinate mean ones. We can never afford to postpone a true life to-day to any future and anticipated nobleness. We think if by tight economy we can manage to arrive at independence, then indeed we will begin to be generous without stay. We sacrifice all nobleness to a little present meanness. If a man charges you eight hundred pay him eight hundred and fifty, and it will leave a clean edge to the sum. It will be like nature, overflowing and rounded like the bank of a river, not close and precise like a drain or ditch.
(Journal, 1:241-242)
1 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  In reading a work on agriculture, I skip the author’s moral reflections, and the words “Providence” and “He” scattered along the page, to come at the profitable level of what he has to say . . . My author shows he has dealt in corn and turnips and can worship God with the hoe and spade, but spare me his morality.
(Journal, 1:243)

Concord Academy closes due to the failing health of Thoreau and, in particular, his brother John, who is suffering from tuberculosis (The Days of Henry Thoreau (1965), 87).

3 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Friends will not only live in harmony, but in melody (Journal, 1:243).
4 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  The rattling of the tea-kettle below stairs reminds me of the cow-bells I used to hear when berrying in the Great Fields many years ago, sounding distant and deep amid the birches. That cheap piece of tinkling brass which the farmer hangs about his cow’s neck has been more to me than the tons of metal which are swung in the belfry.
(Journal, 1:243-244)
5 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I will build my lodge on the southern slope of some hill, and take there the life the gods send me. Will it not be employment enough to accept gratefully all that is yielded me between sun and sun? (Journal, 1:244).
7 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  My life will wait for nobody, but is being matured still irresistibly while I go about the streets and chaffer with this man and that to secure it a living (Journal, 1:244-246).
8 April 1841.

Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Friends are the ancient and honorable of the earth. The oldest men did not begin friendship. It is older than Hindostan and the Chinese Empire. How long has it been cultivated, and is still the staple article! It is a divine league struck forever. Warm, serene days only bring it out to the surface. There is a friendliness between the sun and the earth in pleasant weather; the gray content of the land is its color.
(Journal, 1:246)

Scituate, Mass. Ellen Sewall writes in her diary:

  A letter from dear Aunty [Prudence Ward] came [to]day. John has given up his school and is now journeying in New Hampshire for the benefit of his health. Poor fellow, I am sorry he cannot follow an occupation which he enjoys so much and in which he satisfied both parents and scholars. Henry is about purchasing a farm in Concord, the “Hallowell place” containing about thirty acres.
(transcript in The Thoreau Society Archives at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods; MS, private owner)
9 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  It would not be hard for some quiet brave man to leap into the saddle to-day and eclipse Napoleon’s career by a grander,—show men at length the meaning of war. One reproaches himself with supineness, that he too has sat quiet in his chamber, and not treated the world to the sound of the trumpet; that the indignation which has so long rankled in his breast does not take to Horse and to the field. The bravest warrior will have to fight his battles in his dreams, and no earthly war note can arouse him.
(Journal, 1:246-247)
10 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I don’t know but we should make life all too tame if we had our own way, and should miss these impulses in a happier time (Journal, 1:247-248).
11 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes his poem “Friendship’s Steadfastness” in his journal:

True friendship is so firm a league
That’s maintenance falls into the even tenor
Of our lives, and is no tie,
But the continuance of our life’s thread.

If 1 would safely keep this new-got pelf,
I have no care henceforth but watch myself,
For lo! it goes untended from my sight,
Waxes and wanes secure with the safe star of night.

See with what liberal step it makes its way,
As we could well afford to let it stray
Throughout the universe, with the sun and moon,
Which would dissolve allegiance as soon . . .

(Journal, 1:248-249)
15 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  The gods are of no sect; they side with no man. When I imagine that Nature inclined rather to some few earnest and faithful souls, and specially existed for them, I go to see an obscure individual who lives under the hill, letting both gods and men alone, and find that strawberries and tomatoes grow for him too in his garden there, and the sun lodges kindly under his hillside, and am compelled to acknowledge the unbribable charity of the gods.

  Any simple, unquestioned mode of life is alluring to men. The man who picks peas steadily for a living is more than respectable. He is to be envied by his neighbors.

(Journal, 1:249)
16 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I have been inspecting my neighbors’ farms to-day and chaffering with the landholders, and I must confess I am startled to find everywhere the old system of things so grim and assured. Wherever I go the farms are run out, and there they lie, and the youth must buy old land and bring it to.
(Journal, 1:249-250)
18 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  My necessities of late have compelled me to study nature as she is related to the farmer,—as she simply satisfies a want of the body. Some interests have got a footing on the earth which I have not made sufficient allowance for. That which built these barns and cleared the land thus had some valor.
(Journal, 1:250)
20 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  To-day I earned seventy-five cents heaving manure out of a pen, and made a good bargain of it (Journal, 1:250-251).
21 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to his brother William:

  Henry Thoreau will come & live with me & work with me (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:393-4).
22 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  There are two classes of authors: the one write the history of their times, the other their biography (Journal, 1:251).

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Margaret Fuller:

  Henry Thoreau is coming to live with me & work with me in the garden & teach me to graft apples . . . Will you not print Henry More? & Henry Thoreau? (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:394-5).
23 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Any greatness is not to be mistaken. Who shall cavil at it? It stands once for all on a level with the heroes of history. It is not to be patronized. It goes alone (Journal, 1:251).
24 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  It has been a cloudy, drizzling day, with occasional brightenings in the mist, when the trill of the tree sparrow seemed to be ushering in sunny hours (Journal, 1:251-252).
25 April 1841.

Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal:

  When I hear a robin sing at sunset, I cannot help contrasting the equanimity of Nature with the bustle and impatience of man. We return from the lyceum and caucus with such a stir and excitement, as if a crisis were at hand (Journal, 1:252-253).

Scituate, Mass.? Ellen Sewall writes in her diary:

  Edmund had a letter from Aunt. Henry T. has not bought his farm after all! The man altered his mind about selling it! I am very sorry for H’s disappointment. John is now at home working in his Father’s shop & has taken part of the garden to cultivate. Poor fellow, his health is poor and he cannot keep school.
(transcript in The Thoreau Society Archives at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods; MS, private owner)
26 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  At R. W. E.’s (Journal, 1:253).
27 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  It is only by a sort of voluntary blindness, and omitting to see, that we know ourselves, as when we see stars with the side of the eye. The nearest approach to discovering what we are is in dreams. It is as hard to see one’s self as to look backwards without turning round. And foolish are they that look in glasses with that intent.
(Journal, 1:253-254)
28 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  We falsely attribute to men a determined character; putting together all their yesterdays and averaging them, we presume we know them. Pity the man who has a character to support. It is worse than a large family. He is silent poor indeed. But in fact character is never explored, nor does it get developed in time, but eternity is its development, time its envelop. In view of this distinction, a sort of divine politeness and heavenly good breeding suggests itself, to address always the enveloped character of a man. I approach a great nature with infinite expectation and uncertainty, not knowing what I may meet. It lies as broad and unexplored before me as a scraggy hillside or pasture. I may hear a fox bark, or a partridge drum, or sonic bird new to these localities may fly up. It lies out there as old, and yet as new. The aspect of the woods varies every clay, what with their growth and the changes of the seasons and the influence of the elements, so that the eye of the forester never twice rests upon the same prospect. Much more does a character show newly and variedly, if directly seen.
(Journal, 1:254-255)
29 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Birds and quadrupeds pass freely through nature, without prop or stilt. But man very naturally carries a stick in his hand, seeking to ally himself by many points to nature, as a warrior stands by his horse’s side with his hand on his mane. We walk the gracefuler for a cane, as the juggler uses a leaded pole to balance him when he dances on a slack wire.
(Journal, 1:255)
30 April 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Where shall we look for standard English but to the words of any man who has a depth of feeling in him? Not in any smooth and leisurely essay. From the gentlemanly windows of the country-seat no sincere eyes are directed upon nature, but from the peasant’s horn windows a true glance and greeting occasionally.
(Journal, 1:255-256)
1 May 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Life in gardens and parlors in unpalatable to me. It wants rudeness and necessity to give it relish (Journal, 1:256).
2 May 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes his poem “Wachusett” in his journal:

Especial I remember thee,
Wachusett, who like me
Standest alone without society.
Thy far blue eye,
A remnant of the sky,
Seen through the clearing or the gorge,
Or from the windows of the forge,
Doth leaven all it passes by.
. . .
(Journal, 1:256-257)

3 May 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  We are all pilots of the most intricate Bahama channels. Beauty may be the sky overhead, but Duty is the water underneath. When I see a man with serene countenance in the sunshine of summer, drinking in peace in the garden or parlor, it looks like a great inward leisure that he enjoys; but in reality he sails on no summer’s sea, but this steady sailing comes of a heavy hand on the tiller. We do not attend to larks and bluebirds so leisurely but that conscience is as erect as the attitude of the listener. The man of principle gets never a holiday. Our true character silently underlies all our words and actions, as the granite underlies the other strata. Its steady pulse does not cease for any deed of ours, as the sap is still ascending in the stalk of the fairest flower.
(Journal, 1:257)
6 May 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  We must sail by a sort of dead reckoning on this course of life, not speak any vessel nor spy any headland, but, in spite of all phenomena, come steadily to port at last (Journal, 1:257-258).

9 May 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes his poems “Westward-ho!” and “The Echo of the Sabbath Bell” in his journal:

The needles of the pine
All to the west incline.
Dong, sounds the brass in the east,
As if for a civic feast,
But I like that sound the best
Out of the fluttering west.

The steeple rings a knell,
But the fairies’ silvery bell
Is the voice of that gentle folk,
Or else the horizon that spoke.
. . .

(Journal, 1:258-259)

10 May 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  A good warning to the restless tourists of these days is contained in the last verses of Claudian’s “Old Man of Verona” (Journal, 1:259-260).
23 May 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal: 

  Books are to be attended to as new sounds merely. Most would be put to a sore trial if the reader should assume the attitude of a listener. They are but a new note in the forest. To our lonely, sober thought the earth is a wild unexplored. Wildness as of the jay and muskrat reigns over the great part of nature. The oven-bird and plover are heard in the horizon. Here is a new book of heroes, come to me like the note of the chewink from over the fen, only over a deeper and wider fen. The pines are unrelenting sifters of thought; nothing petty leaks through them. Let me put my car close, and hear the sough of this book, that I may know if any inspiration yet haunts it. There is always a later edition of every book than the printer roots of, no matter how recently it was published. All nature is a new impression every instant.
(Journal, 1:260)
27 May 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I sit in my boat on Walden, playing the flute this evening, and see the perch, which I seem to have charmed, hovering around me, and the moon travelling over the bottom, which is strewn with the wrecks of the forest, and feel that nothing but the wildest imagination can conceive of the manner of life we are living. Nature is a wizard. The Concord nights are stranger than the Arabian nights.
(Journal, 1:260-261)
30 May 1841. Concord, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Thomas Carlyle:

  One reader and friend of yours dwells now in my house—and, as I hope, for a twelvemonth to come,—Henry Thoreau,—a poet whom you may one day be proud of—a noble manly youth full of melodies & inventions. We work together by day in my garden, & I grow well & strong.
(The Correspondence of Emerson and Carlyle, 300)
31 May 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  When my imagination travels eastward and backward to-those remote years of the gods, I seem to draw near to the habitation of the morning, and the dawn at length has a place (Journal, 1:261).
1 June 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I have seen a Mr. Wattles to-day, from Vermont, and now know where that is and what it is; a reformer, with two soldier’s eyes and shoulders, who began to belabor the world at ten years, a ragged mountain boy, as fifer of a company, with set purpose to remould it from those first years.
(Journal, 1:262)

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to his brother William:

  Our household is now enlarged by the presence of Mary Russell for the summer; of Margaret Fuller for the last fortnight; & of Henry Thoreau who may stay with me a year. I do not remember if I have told you about him: but he is to have his board &c for what labor he chooses to do and he is this far a great benefactor & physician to me for he is an indefatigable & a very skilful laborer & I work with him as I should not without him. and expect now to be suddenly well & strong though I have been a skeleton all the spring until I am ashamed. Thoreau is a scholar & a poet & as full of buds of promise as a young apple tree.
(The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:402)
2 June 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I am brought into the near neighborhood and man become a silent observer of the moon’s paces to-night, by means of a glass, while the frogs are peeping all around me on the earth, and the sound of the accordion seems to come from some bright saloon yonder.
(Journal, 1:262-263).
3 June 1841. Concord, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Thoreau:

My dear Henry

  We have here G. P. Bradford, R. Bartlett, Lippitt C S Wheeler & Mr Alcott. Will you not come down & spend an hour?


(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 44; MS, Ralph Waldo Emerson collection of papers (Series III), Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library)
4 June 1841. Concord, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Caroline Sturgis Tappan:

  Mary Russell is here & Henry Thoreau, not to mention occasional flights of fanatical birds—of croaking or prophesying song (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:403).
6 June 1841. Concord, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his journal:

  Then the good river-god has taken the form of my valiant Henry Thoreau here & introduced me to the riches of his shadowy, starlit, moonlit stream, a lovely new world lying as close & yet as unknown to this vulgar trite one of streets and shops as death to life, or poetry to prose. Through one field only we went to the boat & then left all time, all science, all history, behind us, and entered in Nature with one stroke of a paddle. Take care, good friend! I said, as I looked west into the sunset overhead & underneath, & he with his face toward me rowed towards it,—take care; you know not what you do, dipping your wooden oar into this enchanted liquid, painted with all reds & purples & yellows which glows under & behind you. Presently this glory faded & the stars came and said “Here we are,” & began to cast such private & ineffable beams as to stop all conversation. A holiday, a villeggiatura, a royal revel, the proudest, most magnificent, most heart rejoicing festival that valor & beauty, power & poetry ever decked & enjoyed—it is here, it is this.
(The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 7:454-455)
7 June 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  When I remember the treachery of memory and the manifold accidents to which tradition is liable, how soon the vista of the past closes behind,—as near as night’s crescent to the setting day,—and the dazzling brightness of noon is reduced to the faint glimmer of the evening star, I feel as if it were by a rare indulgence of the fates that any traces of the past are left us,-that my ears which do not hear across the interval over which a crow caws should chance to hear this far-travelled sound. With how little cooperation of the societies, after all, is the past remembered!
(Journal, 1:263-264)

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Thoreau:

My dear Sir,

  Will you not come up to the Cliff this P. M. at any hour convenient to you where our ladies will be greatly gratified to see you & the more they say if you will bring you flute for the echo’s sake; though now the wind blows.


(The Correspondence (Princeton, 2013), 1:75; MS, Ralph Waldo Emerson collection of papers (Series III). Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library)
8 June 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Having but one chair, I am obliged to receive my visitors standing, and, now I think of it, those old sages and heroes must always have met erectly (Journal, 1:264).
13 June 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau attends church with Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:404).

14 June 1841. Concord, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to his wife Lidian, in New York:

  Yesterday Mr Saml Ripley preached the farewell sermon to the old church, which goes down, the spire at least, this week. But your sinful household were for the most part worshipping each in his or her separate oratory in the woodlands—What is droll, Henry Thoreau was the one at church. This P.M. he carries Caroline [Sturgis Tappan] to Fairhaven in his boat.
(The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:404)
July 1841.

Thoreau’s poem “Sic Vita” appears in the fifth issue of the Dial (Dial (1961), 2:81-82).

3 July 1841. Concord, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to his brother William:

  You will like Margaret Fuller’s article on Goethe in the Dial—and Mrs Geo. Ripleys [Sophia Dana Ripley] ‘ letter from Zoar. A Mr Saxton of Greenfield writes I believe on Transcendence. There is a copy of verses by Henry Thoreau—and one little Spenserian sonnet to me! O pudor! by Ellery Channing nothing of mine but the little paragraph about J. Very.
(The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:413)
10 to 12 July 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  A slight sound at evening lifts me up by the ears, and makes life seem inexpressibly serene and grand (Journal, 1:264-265).
11 July 1841. Nantasket Beach, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to his wife Lidian:

  With kindest remembrances to Mary Russell & to Henry Thoreau I have nothing to add but what you should know, that, I am affectionately yours—Waldo E. (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:420).
14 July 1841.

Nantasket Beach, Mass. Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Christopher Gore Ripley:

  If you go to Concord to see Grandfather [Ezra Ripley] you will find in my study, Coleridges Lectures on Shakspeare (making vol 2 I believe, of Literary Remains). Then I have Aubrey; and Schlegel; and Wotton: or Henry Thoreau can probably tell where they are.
(The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:426).

Concord, Mass. Lidian Jackson Emerson writes to her husband Ralph Waldo:

  Henry seems joyful when there is news from you . . . Henry says you gave up having his room partitioned—will it not be an improvement—to the house—even if not wanted for him—to have the room not a thoroughfare (The Selected Letters of Lidian Jackson Emerson, 92)?
15 July 1841. Concord, Mass.

Lidian Jackson Emerson writes to her husband Ralph Waldo:

  Henry has passed these two days in the woods (The Selected Letters of Lidian Jackson Emerson, 93)
18 July 1841. Concord, Mass.

Lidian Jackson Emerson writes to her husband Ralph Waldo:

  You will think my nature changing as well as Mother’s & Henry’s . . . Henry sends you some verses which you will doubtless greet with pleasure (The Selected Letters of Lidian Jackson Emerson, 95-6).
19 July 1841. Scituate, Mass.?

Ellen Sewall writes in her diary:

  Came a kind letter from Mrs. Thoreau to mother asking a visit from Edmund and expressing a desire that I should visit her this summer also. How little does she imagine the reasons I have for declining utterly any such proposal. Mother wrote her a kind refusal of her invitation for Edmund on account of his being engaged in a school at present.
(Transcript in The Thoreau Society Archives at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods; MS, private owner)
20? July 1841. Nantasket Beach, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to his wife Lidian:

  I have read Henry’s verses thrice over with increasing pleasure they are very good . . . In Boston I visited Mr [George?] Bancrofts library & got Elliotts Poems [The Poetical Works of Ebenezer Elliott, the Corn-law Rhymer] which I am quite sure Henry T. will like.
(The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:432-3)

See entry 4 August.

21 July 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes to Lucy Jackson Brown:

Dear Friend,—

  Don’t think I need any prompting to write to you; but what tough earthenware shall I put into my packet to travel over so many hills, and thrid so many woods, as lie between Concord and Plymouth? Thank fortune it is all the way down hill, so they will get safely carried; and yet it seems as if it were writing against time and the sun to send a letter east, for now natural force forwards it. You should go dwell in the West, and then I would deluge you with letters, as boys throw feathers into the air to see the wind take them. I should rather fancy you at evening dwelling far away behind the serene curtain of the West,—the home of fair weather,—than over by the chilly sources of the east wind.

  What quiet thoughts have you nowadays which will float on that east wind to west, for so we may make our worst servants our carriers,—what progress made from can’t to can, in practice and theory? Under this category, you remember, we used to place all our philosophy. Do you have any still, startling, well moments, in which you think grandly, and speak with emphasis? Don’t take this for sarcasm, for not in a year of the gods, I fear, will such a golden approach to plain speaking revolve again. But away with such fears; by a few miles of travel we have not distanced each other’s sincerity.

  I grow savager and savager every day, as if fed on raw meat, and my tameness is only the repose of untamableness. I dream of looking abroad summer and winter, with free gaze, from some mountain-side, while my eyes revolve in an Egyptian slime of health, — I to be nature looking into nature with such easy sympathy as the blue-eyed grass in the meadow looks in the face of the sky. from some such recess I would put forth sublime thoughts daily, as the plant puts forth leaves. Now-a-nights I go on to the hill to see the sun set, as one would go home at evening; the bustle of the village has run on all day, and left me quite in the rear; but I see the sunset, and find that it can wait for my slow virtue.

  But I forget that you think more of this human nature than of this nature I praise. Why won’t you believe that mine is more human than any single man or woman can be? that in it, in the sunset there, are all the qualities that can adorn a household, and that sometimes, in a fluttering leaf, one may hear all your Christianity preached.

  You see how unskillful a letter-writer I am, thus to have come to the end of my sheet when hardly arrived at the beginning of my story. I was going to be soberer, I assure you, but now have only room to add, that if the fates allot you a serene hour, don’t fail to communicate some of its serenity to your friend,

Henry D. Thoreau.

No, no. Improve so rare a gift for yourself, and send me of your leisure.

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 44-46; MS missing)
25 July 1841. Scituate, Mass.?

Ellen Sewall writes in her diary:

After breakfast George [Simmons] gave me his Fast day sermon, the Harrison Fast. We had some chat. I read some of Henry Thoreau’s pieces aloud to them. Charles thought them very pretty. The favorite was, “Up This Pleasant Stream Lets Row”. That is the first piece Henry gave me in, “days long passed, in years not worth remembering”. I wonder if his thoughts ever wander back to those times when the hours sped so pleasantly and we were so happy. I think they do. I little thought then that he cared for me so much as subsequent events have proved.
(Transcript in The Thoreau Society Archives at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods; MS, private owner)
27 July 1841. Concord, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Margaret Fuller:

  As for prose, I think I will promise nothing to this number [of the Dial] as I may have 8 or 9 pages of poetry or what calls itself by your courtesy so. But I have good verses of Henry Thoreau, a sort of ode to the Mountains in our horizon,—you saw a part of it—the piece is now enlarged & in a sort finished. Shall I not ask it, for this number. And now, I bethink me, where sia sheet or two of his verses which last spring or winter I left with you merely for you to read “On friends”? Please to find it, if possible in your now roving camp chest, and put it in with that pacquet you have lately promised, & leave it with the Concord stageman, before you go to Newport.
(The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:435)
28 July 1841. Concord, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to his wife Lidian:

  Henry T. has gone to spend a few days at his father’s for the doing of some work there: I believe he will spend the nights here (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:436-7).
1 August 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  The best thought is not only without sombreness, but even without morality. The universe lies out spread in floods of white light to it. The moral aspect of nature is a jaundice reflected from man. To the innocent there are no cherubim nor angels. Occasionally we rise above the necessity of virtue into an unchangeable morning light, in which we have not to choose in a dilemma between right and wrong, but simply to live right on and breathe the circumambient air. There is no name for this life unless it be the very vitality of vita. Silent is the preacher about this, and silent must ever be, for he who knows it will not preach.
(Journal, 1:265)
4 August 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Nawshawtuct.—Far in the east I read Nature’s Corn Law Rhymes. Here, in sight of Wachusett and these rivers and woods, my mind goes singing to itself of other themes than taxation (Journal, 1:265-266).
6 August 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  As I walk across the yard from the barn to the house through the fog, with a lamp in my hand, I am reminded of the Merrimack nights, and seem to see the sod between tent-ropes (Journal, 1:266-267).
7 August 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  The impression which those sublime sentences made on me last night has awakened me before any cockcrowing. Their influence lingers around me like a fragrance, or as the fog hangs over the earth late into the day (Journal, 1:267).
9 August 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Any book of great authority and genius seems to our imagination to permeate and pervade all space. Its spirit, like a more subtle ether, sweeps along with the prevailing winds of the country. Its influence conveys a new gloss to the meadows and the depths of the wood, and bathes the huckleberries on the hills, as sometimes a new influence in the sky washes in waves over the fields and seems to break on some invisible beach in the air. All things confirm it. It spends the mornings and the evenings.
(Journal, 1:267-270)
12 August 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  We take pleasure in beholding the form of a mountain in the horizon, as if by retiring to this distance we had then first conquered it by our vision, and were made privy to the design of the architect; so when we behold the shadow of our earth on the moon’s disk. When we climb a mountain and observe the lesser irregularities, we do not give credit to the comprehensive and general intelligence which shaped them; but when we see the outline in the horizon, we confess that the hand which moulded those opposite slopes, making one balance the other, worked round a deep centre, and was privy to the plan of the universe. The smallest of nature’s works fits the farthest and widest view, as if it had been referred in its bearings to every point, in space. It harmonizes with the horizon line and the orbits of the planets.
(Journal, 1:270)
13 August 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I have been in the swamp by Charles Miles’s this afternoon, and found it so bosky and sylvan that Art would never have freedom or courage to imitate it (Journal, 1:270-271)
16 August 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  There is a double virtue in the sound that can wake an echo, as in the lowing of the cows this morning. Far out in the horizon that sound travels quite round the town, and invades each recess of the wood, advancing at a grand pace and with a sounding Eastern pomp.
(Journal, 1:271)
17 August 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal on 18 August:

  I sailed on the North River last night with my flute, and my music was a tinkling stream which meandered with the river, and fell from note to note as a brook from rock to rock. I did not hear the strains after they had issued from the flute, but before they were breathed into it, for the original strain precedes the sound by as much as the echo follows after, and the rest is the perquisite of the rocks and trees and beasts. Unpremeditated music is the true gauge which measures the current of our thoughts, the very undertow of our life’s stream.
(Journal, 1:271-274)
19 August 1841. Concord, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Margaret Fuller:

  I send you Henry Thoreau’s verses of the “Fisher” which you requested of him; and his lines “to the Mountains,” which he has been elaborating. He has also given me his new version of his lines on Friendship, which seem to me to be so correct & presentable, beside the high merit of two or three verses, that I believe I shall send them down to the printer with mine tomorrow presuming your consent, for you asked them, did you not? for this number… I have mislaid those translations of Orpheus you sent of Fernald’s, & do not find them tonight; but I do not think them valuable to print. H. D. T. reading the original said “They were not accurate;” & in these antiques, accuracy is the best merit.
(The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:442)
20 August 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  It seems as if no cock lived so far in the horizon but a faint vibration reached me here, spread the wider over earth as the more distant.

  In the morning the crickets snore, in the afternoon they chirp, at midnight they dream.

(Journal, 1:274)
24 August 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Let us wander where we will, the universe is built round about us, and we are central still. By reason of this, if we look into the heavens, they are concave, and if we were to look into a gulf as bottomless, it would be concave also. The sky is curved downward to the earth in the horizon, because I stand in the plain. I draw down its skirts. The stars so low there seem loth to go away from me, but by a circuitous path to be remembering, and returning to me.
(Journal, 1:274)
28 August 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  A great poet will write for his peers alone, and indite no line to an inferior (Journal, 1:274-276).
30 August 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  What is a day, if the day’s work be not done? What are the divisions of time to them who have nothing to do What is the present or the future to him who has no occasion for them, who does not create them by his industry?
(Journal, 1:276-278)
1 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Each generation thinks to inhabit only a west end of the world, and have intercourse with a refined and civilized Nature, not conceiving of her broad equality and republicanism. They think her aristocratic and exclusive because their own estates are narrow. But the sun indifferently selects his rhymes, and with a liberal taste weaves into his verse the planet and the stubble.

  Let us know and conform only to the fashions of eternity.

(Journal, 1:278-279)
2 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I saw a green meadow in the midst of the woods to-day which looked as if dame nature had set her foot there, and it had bloomed in consequence. It was the print of her moccasin (Journal, 1:279-281).
3 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I stay my boat in mid current and look down in the sunny water to see the civil meshes of his nets. The twine looks like a new river-weed and is to the river like a beautiful memento of man, man’s presence in nature discovered as silently and delicately as Robinson discovered that there [were] savages on his island by a footprint in the sand.
(Journal, 1:281-282)
4 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  As I pass along the streets of the village on the day of our annual fair, when the leaves strew the ground, I see how the trees keep just such a holiday all the year. The lively spirits of their sap mount higher than any plow-boy’s let loose that day… Pond Hill.—I see yonder some men in a boat, which floats buoyantly amid the reflections of the trees, like a feather poised in mid-air, or a leaf wafted gently from its twing to the water without turning over. They seem very delicately to have availed themselves of the natural laws, and their floating there looks like a beautiful and successful experiment in philosophy.
(Journal, 1:282-283)
5 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I cannot read much of the best poetry in prose or verse without feeling that it is a partial and exaggerated plaint, rarely a carol as free as Nature’s. That content which the sun shines for between morning and evening is unsung. The Muse solaces herself; she is not delighted but consoled.
(Journal, 1:283-285)
8 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes to Lucy Jackson Brown:

Dear Friend,—

  Your note came wafted to my hand like the first leaf of the Fall on the September wind, and I put only another interpretation upon its lines than upon the veins of those which are soon to be strewed around me. It is nothing but Indian Summer here at present. I mean that any weather seems reserved expressly for our late purposes whenever we happen to be fulfilling them. I do not know what right I have to so much happiness, but rather hold it in reserve till the time of my desert.

  What with the crickets and the crowing of cocks, and the lowing of kine, our Concord life is sonorous enough. Sometimes I hear the cock bestir himself on his perch under my feet, and crow shrilly before dawn; and I think I might have been born any year for all the phenomena I know. We count sixteen eggs daily now, when arithmetic will only fetch the hens up to thirteen; but the world is young, and we wait to see this eccentricity complete its period.

  My verses on Friendship are already printed in the “Dial”; not expanded but reduces to completeness by leaving out the long lines, which always have, or should have, a longer or at least another sense than short ones.

  Just now I am in the mid-sea of verses, and they actually rustle around me as the leaves would round the head of Autumnus himself should he thrust it up through some vales which I know; but, alas! many of them are but crisped and yellow leaves like his, I fear, will deserve no better fate than to make mould for new harvests. I see the stanzas rise around me, verse upon verse, far and near, like the mountains from Agiocochook, not all having a terrestrial existence as yet, even as some of them may be clouds; but I fancy I see the gleam of some Sebago Lake and Silver Cascade, at whose well I may drink one. I am as unfit for any practical purpose—I mean for the furtherance of the world’s ends—as gossamer for ship-timber; and I, who am going to be a pencil-maker tomorrow, can sympathize with God Apollo, who served King Admetus for a while on earth. But I believe he found it for his advantage at last,—as I am sure I shall, though I shall hold the nobler part at least out of the service.

  Don’t attach any undue seriousness to this threnody, for I love my fate to the very core and rind, and could swallow it without paring it, I think. You ask if I have written any more poems? Excepting those which Vulcan is now forging, I have only discharged a few more bolts into the horizon,—in all, three hundred verses,—and sent them, as I may say, over the mountains to Miss Fuller, who may have occasion to remember the old rhyme:—

“Three scipen gode
Comen mid than flode
Three hundred cnihten.”
  But these are far more Vandalic than they. In this narrow sheet there is not room even for one thought to root itself. But you must consider this an odd leaf of a volume, and that volume

Your friend
Henry D. Thoreau.

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 46-47; MS, Clifton Waller Barrett collection. Alderman Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA)

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Margaret Fuller:

  Henry Thoreau says that if you will send him his ‘Mountains’ he will try to scrape or pare them down or cover the peaks with a more presentable greensward (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1939), 2:445).
12 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

Where I have been
There was none seen.
(Journal, 1:285)
13 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Margaret Fuller:

  Send Thoreau’s poem since he promised to mend it . . . H. T. is full of noble madness lately, and I hope more highly of him than ever. I know that nearly all the fine souls have a flaw which defeats every expectation they excite but I must trust these large frames as of less fragility—than the others. Besides to have awakened a great hope in another, is already some fruit is it not?
(The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1939), 2:447)

Around this time, Emerson writes:

[ . . .] astonished one morning by tidings that genius had appeared in a youth who sat near me at table. He had left his work, he had gone rambling none knew whither, he had written hundreds of lines, but he could not tell whether that which was in him was therein told, he could tell nothing but that all was changed, man, beast, heaven, earth, & sea. How gladly we listened! how credulous! Society seemed to be compromised.
(The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 8:83)
14 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  No bravery is to be named with that which can face its own deeds (Journal, 1:285).
16 September 1841. Cambridge, Mass.

Margaret Fuller writes to Ralph Waldo Emerson:

  My brother Richard, who, having utterly relucted from commerce and the city, is now bent on entering college as Sophomore next February. He wants to be with someone capable of fitting him, to board with some farmer the while at a low rate, and chip wood &c for exercise! He has not been able to make such arrangements as he wished at Lancaster and other places to which he is recommended, and I have thought that Henry Thoreau, might be willing to constitute himself his teacher, (for I suppose even those who can live on board nails may sometimes wish to earn a little money) and that some farmer in Concord might afford the desired hospitium. I should like to have Richard in the Concord air; he is a fine, manly youth, and my chief hope. Let him talk with Henry T. if there is any chance of his taking him, but do not trouble yourself with hospitality or care. he can pass the night at the tavern (if he can come to C.) look out quarters for himself… Henry T’s verses. = I have kept “The fisher boy”; that copy was for myself, was it not?
(The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:449 note)
after 16 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Margaret Fuller:

  Richard [Fuller, Margaret’s brother] whom I like very much has come back from his walk with Henry T. and says he will not come, which I regret (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:450).
18 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Barn.—It is a great event, the hearing of a bell ring in one of the neighboring towns, particularly in the night. It excites in me an unusual hilarity, and I feel that I am in season wholly and enjoy a prime and leisure hour.
(Journal, 1:286)
20 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Visited Sampson Wilder of Bolton. His method of setting out peach trees is as follows:—

  Dig a hole six feet square and two deep, and remove the earth; cover the bottom to the depth of six inches with lime and ashes in equal proportions, and upon this spread another layer of equal thickness, of horn parings, tips of horns, bones, and the like, then fill up with a compost of sod and strong animal manure, say four bushels of hog manure to a cartload of sod. Cover the tree – which should be budded at two years old—but slightly, and at the end of two years dig a trench round it three feet from the tree and six inches deep, and fill it with lime and ashes.

For grapes:—

  Let your trench be twelve feet wide and four deep, cover the bottom with paving-stones six inches, then old bricks with mortar attached or loose six inches more, then beef-bones, horns, etc., six more (Captain Bobadil), then a compost similar to the preceding. Set your roots one foot from the north side, the trench running east and west, and bury eight feet of the vine crosswise the trench, not more than eight inches below the surface. Cut it down for three or four years, that root may accumulate, and then train it from the sun up an inclined plane.

(Journal, 1:286)
24 September 1841. Buffalo, N.Y.

Isaiah Thornton Williams writes to Thoreau:

Mr. D. H. Thoreau

My dear Sir,

  Your kind offer to receive and answer any communications from me, is not forgotten. I owe myself an apology for so long neglecting to avail myself of so generous an offer. Since I left Concord I have hardly found rest for the sole of my foot. I have followed the star of my destiny till it has, at length, come and stood over this place. Here I remain engaged in the study of Law — Part of the time I have spent in New Hampshire part in Ohio & part in New York and so precarious was my residence in either place that I have rarely known whither you might direct a letter with any certainty of its reaching me.

  When I left Concord I felt a strong desire to continue the conversation I had so fortunately commenced with some of those whom the Public call Transcendentalists. Their sentiments seemed to me to possess a peculiar fitness. Though full of doubt I felt I was fed & refreshed by those interviews. The doctrines I there heard have ever since, been uppermost in my mind—and like balmy sleep over the weary limbs, have they stolen over me quite unawares. I have not embraced them but they have embraced me—I am led, their willing captive. Yet I feel I have but yet taken the first step. I would know more of this matter. I would be taken by the hand and led up from this darkness and torpidity where I have so long groveled like an earthworm. I know what it is to be a slave to what I thought a Christian faith—and with what rapture do grasp the hand that breaks my chains—& the voice that bids me—live.

  Most of the books you recommended to me I was not able to obtain—“Nature” I found—and language can not express my admiration of it. When gloom like a thick cloud comes over in that I find an amulet that dissipates the darkness and kindles anew my highest hopes. Few copies of Mr Emerson’s Essays have found their way to this place. I have read part of them and am very much delighted with them. Mr. Park’s German I have also found and as much as I should have shrunk from such sentiments a year ago—half, so I already receive them. I have also obtained “Hero Worship”—which of course I read with great interest and as I read I blush for my former bigotry and wonder that I have not known it all before wonder what there is in chains that I should have loved them so much—Mr. E’s oration before the Theological Class at Cambridge I very much want. If you have it in your possession, allow me to beg you to forward it to me & I will return it by mail after perusing it. Also Mr. Alcott’s “Human Culture.” I will offer no apology for asking this favor—for I know you will not require it.

  I find I am not alone here, your principals are working their way even in Buffalo—this emporium of wickedness and sensuality. We look to the east for our guiding star for there our sun did rise. Our motto is that of the Grecian Hero—“Give but to see—and Ajax asks no more.”

  For myself my attention is much engrossed in my studies—entering upon them as I do without a Public Education—I feel that nothing but the most undivided attention and entire devotion to them will ensure me even an ordinary standing in the profession. There is something false in such devotion. I already feel its chilling effects I fear I shall fall into the wake of the profession which is in this section proverbially bestial. Law is a noble profession it calls loudly for men of genius and integrity to fill its ranks. I do not aspire to be a great lawyer. I know I cannot be, but it is the sincere desire of my heart that I may be a true one.
You are ready to ask—how I like the West. I must answer—not very well—I love New England so much that the West is comparatively odious to me. The part of Ohio that I visited was one dead level—often did I strain my eyes to catch a glimpse of some distant mountain—that should transport me in imagination to the wild country of my birth, but the eternal level spread itself on & on & I almost felt myself launched forever. Aloud did I exclaim—“My own blue hills—O, where are they!”—I did not know how much I was indebted to them for the happy hours I’d passed at home. I knew I loved them—and my noble river too—along whose banks I’d roamed half uncertain if in earth or heaven—I never shall—I never can forget them all—though I drive away the remembrances of them which ever in the unguarded moments throngs me laden with ten thousands incidents before forgotten & so talismanic its power—that I wake from the enchantment as from a dream. If I were in New England again I would never leave her but now I am away—I feel forever—I must eat of the Lotus—and forget her. Tis true we have a noble Lake—whose pure waters kiss the foot of our city — and whose bosom bears the burdens of our commerce—her beacon light now looks in upon me through my window as if to watch, lest I should say untruth of that which is her nightly charge. But hills or mountains we have none.

  My sheet is nearly full & I must draw to a close—I fear I have already wearied your patience. Please remember me to those of your friends whose acquaintance I had pleasure to form while in Concord—I engaged to write your brother—Mr Alcott also gave me then the same privilege—which I hope soon to avail myself of. I hope sometime to visit your town again which I remember with so much satisfaction—yet with so much regret—regret that I did not earlier avail myself of the acquaintances, it was my high privilege to make while there and that the lucubrations of earlier years did not better fit me to appreciate & enjoy. I cheer myself with fanning the fading embers of a hope that I shall yet retrieve my fault that such an opportunity will again be extended to me and that I may once more look upon that man whose name I never speak without reverence—whom of all I most admire—almost adore—Mr Emerson—I shall wait with impatience to hear from you.

Believe me

ever yours—

Isaiah T. Williams

“Isaiah William, now a young law student in Buffalo, had resided for a while in Concord, teaching school, and had formed a friendship with Thoreau.”

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 47-50; MS, Henry David Thoreau papers (Series IV). Henry W. and Albert A. Berg collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library)

Thoreau replies 8 October.

25 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Rufus Wilmot Griswold:

  Will you allow me to call your attention to the few pieces in the Dial signed H. D. T. (or, by mistake, D. H. T.) which were written by Henry D. Thoreau, of this town, a graduate of Cambridge in the year 1837. Unless I am greatly mistaken, Mr. Thoreau already deserves and will more and more deserve your attention as a writer of American Poetry.
(Passages from the correspondence and other papers of Rufus W. Griswold, 99)
28 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I anticipate the coming in of spring as a child does the approach of some pomp through a gate of the city (Journal, 1:287).
30 September 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

Better wait
Than be too late.
(Journal, 1:287)
October 1841.

Thoreau’s poem “Friendship” appears in the sixth issue of the Dial (Dial (1961), 2:204-205).

5 October 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes to Lucy Jackson Brown:

Dear Friend,—

  I send you [Isaiah Thornton] Williams’s letter as the last remembrancer to one of those “whose acquaintance he had the pleasure to form while in Concord.” It came quite unexpectedly to me, but I was very glad to receive it, though I hardly know whether my utmost sincerity and interest can inspire a sufficient answer to it. I should like to have you send it back by some convenient opportunity.

  Pray let me known what you are thinking about any day,—what most nearly concerns you. Last winter, you know, you did more than your share of the talking, and I did not complain for want of an opportunity. Imagine your stove-door out of order, at least, and then while I am fixing it you will think of enough things to say.

  What makes the value of your life at present? what dreams have you, and what realizations? You know there is a high table-land which not even the east wind reaches. Now can’t we walk and chat upon its plane still, as if there were no lower latitudes? Surely our two destinies are topics interesting and grand enough for any occasion.

  I hope you have many gleams of serenity and health, or, if your body will grant you no positive respite, that you may, at any rate, enjoy your sickness occasionally, as much as I used to tell of. But here is the bundle going to be done up, so accept a “good-night” from

Henry D. Thoreau.

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 50-51; MS missing)
8 October 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in reply to Isaiah Thornton Williams’ letter of 24 September:

Dear Friend

  I am pleased to hear from you out of the west, as if I heard the note of some singing bird from the midst of its forests, which travellers report so grim and solitary—It is like the breaking up of Winter and the coming in of Spring, when the twigs glitter and tinkle, and the first sparrow twitters in the horizon. I doubt if I can make a good echo—Yet it seems that if a man ever had the satisfaction to say once entirely and irrevocably what he believed to be true he would never leave off to cultivate that skill.

  I suppose if you see any light in the east it must be in the eastern state of your own soul, and not by any means in these New England States. Our eyes perhaps do not rest so long on any as on the few who especially love their own lives—who dwell apart at more generous intervals, and cherish a single purpose behind the formalities of society with such steadiness that of all men only their two eyes seem to meet in one focus. They can be eloquent when they speak—they can be graceful and noble when they act. For my part if I have any creed it is so to live as to preserve and increase the susceptibleness of my nature to noble impulses—first to observe if any light shine on me, and then faithfully to follow it. The Hindoo Scripture says, “Single is each man born; single he dies; single he receives the reward of his good, and single the punishment of his evil deeds.”

  Let us trust that we have a good conscience The steady light whose ray every man knows will be enough for all weathers. If any soul look abroad even today it will not find any word which does it more justice than the New Testament,—yet if it be faithful enough it will have experience of a revelation fresher and directer than that, which will make that to be only the best tradition. The strains of a more heroic faith vibrate through the week days and the fields than through the Sabbath and the Church. To shut the ears to the immediate voice of God, and prefer to know him by report will be the only sin. Any respect we may yield to the paltry expedients of other men like ourselves—to the Church—the State—or the School—seems purely gratuitous, for in our most private experience we are never driven to expediency. Our religion is where our love is. How vain for men to go musing one way, and worshipping another. Let us not fear to worship the muse. Those stern old worthies—Job and David and the rest, had no Sabbath-day worship but sung and revelled in their faith, and I have no doubt that what true faith and love of God there is in this age will appear to posterity in the happy system of some creedless poet.

  I think I can sympathize with your sense of greater freedom.—The return to truth is so simple that not even the nurses can tell when we began to breathe healthily, but recovery took place long before the machinery of life began to play freely again when on our pillow at midnoon or midnight some natural sound fell naturally on the ear. As for creeds and doctrines we are suddenly grown rustic—and from walking in streets and squares—walk broadly in the fields—as if a man were wise enough not to sit in a draft, and get an ague, but moved buoyantly in the breeze.

  It is curious that while you are sighing for New England the scene of our fairest dreams should lie in the west — it confirms me in the opinion that places are well nigh indifferent. Perhaps you have experience that in proportion as our love of nature is deep and pure we are independent upon her. I suspect that ere long when some hours of faithful and earnest life have imparted serenity into your Buffalo day, the sunset on lake Erie will make you forget New England. It was the Greeks made the Greek isle and sky, and men are beginning to find Archipelagos elsewhere as good. But let us not cease to regret the fair and good, for perhaps it is fairer and better to them.

  I am living with Mr. Emerson in very dangerous prosperity. He gave me three pamphlets for you to keep, which I sent last Saturday. The “Explanatory Preface” is by Elizabeth Peabody who was Mr. Alcott’s assistant, and now keeps a bookstore and library in Boston. Pray let me know with what hopes and resolutions you enter upon the study of law—how you are to make it a solid part of your life. After a few words interchanged we shall learn to speak pertinently and not to the air. My brother and Mr Alcott express pleasure in the anticipation of hearing from you and I am sure that the communication of what most nearly concerns you will always be welcome to

Yours Sincerely
H. D. Thoreau

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 53; MS, The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, NY)

Thoreau mistakenly dates the letter “Sept. 8th 1841.” Williams replies 27 November.

9 October 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes to Rufus Wilmot Griswold:

Dear Sir,  I am sorry that I can only place at your disposal three small poems printed in the “Dial”—that called “Sympathy” in no. 1.—“Sic Vita” in no. 5 and “Friendship” in no. 6. If you see fit to reprint these will you please to correct the following errors?
“               5th               “breeze         “haze.

     “                                the eyes                “     our eyes 

     “                                worked                 “     works.

     “            13th    “          deatest                 “     truest. 

     “             4th               “     “friendship”

                                       For our read one.

     “            10th    “          warden               “     warder.

I was born in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1817, and was graduated at Harvard University, in 1837,

Yrs respectfully

Henry D Thoreau

“A note clipped to the manuscript identifies it as correction for an edition of The Poets and Poetry of America, but none of Thoreau’s poems appeared in that or any other Griswold’s anthologies”

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 54; MS, Henry David Thoreau papers (Series III). Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library)
18 October 1841. Concord, Mass.

Margaret Fuller writes to Thoreau:

  I do not find the poem on the mountains improved by mere compression, though it might be by fusion and glow.

  Its merits to me are a noble recognition of nature, two or three manly thoughts, and, in one place, a plaintive music. The image of the ships does not please me originally. It illustrates the greater by the less and effects me as when Byron compares the light on Jura to that of the dark eye of woman. I cannot define my position here, and a large class of readers would differ from me. As the poet goes on to

Unhewn, primeval timber
For knees so stiff, for masts so limber
he seems to chase an image, already rather forced, into conceits.

  Yet now that I have some knowledge of the man, it seems there is no objection I could make to his lines, (with the exception of such offenses against taste as the lines about the humors of the eye &c as to which we are already agreed) which I would not make to himself. He is healthful, sure, of open eye, ready hand, and noble scope. He sets no limits to his life, nor to the invasions of nature; he is no wilfully pragmatical, cautious, ascetic of fantastical. But he is as yet a somewhat bare hill which the warm gales of spring have not visited. Thought lies too detached, truth is seen too much in detail, we can number and rank the substances embedded in the rock. Thus his verses are startling, as much as stern; the thought does not excuse its conscious existance by letting us see its relation with life; there is a want of fluent music. Yet what could a companion do at present unless to tame the guardian of the Alps too early. Leave him at peace amid his native snows. He is friendly; he will find the generous office that shall educate him. It is not a soil for the citron and the rose, but for the whortleberry, the pine or the heather. The unfolding of affections, a wider and deeper human experience, the harmonizing influences of other natures will mould the man, and melt his verse. He will seek thought less and find knowledge the more. I can have no advice or criticism for a person so sincere, but if I give my impression of him I will say He says too constantly of nature She is mine; She is not yours till you have been more hers. Seek the lotus, and take a draught of rapture. Say not so confidently All places, all occasions are alike. This will never come true till you have found it false.

  I do not know that I have more to say now, Perhaps these words will say nothing to you. If intercourse should continue, perhaps a bridge may be made between two minds so widely apart, for I apprehended you in spirit, and you did not seem to mistake me as widely as most of your kind do. If you should find yourself inclined to write to me, as you thought you might, I dare say many thoughts would be suggested to me; many have already by seeing you day by day. Will you finish the poem in your own way and send it for the Dial. Leave out “And seems to milk the sky”

  The image is too low. Mr. Emerson thought so too. Farewell. May Truth be irradiated by Beauty!—Let me know whether you go to the lonely hut, and write me about Shakespeare, if you read him there. I have many thoughts about him which I have never yet been led to express.

Margaret F.

The pencilled paper Mr. E. put into my hands. I have taken the liberty to copy it You expressed one day my own opinion that the moment such a crisis is passed we may speak of it. There is no need of artificial delicacy, of secrecy, it keeps its own secret; it cannot be made false. Thus you will not be sorry that I have seen the paper. Will you not send me some other records of the good week.

“Once again Margaret Fuller rejected manuscript that Thoreau had submitted for publication in the Dial The poem was “With Frontier strength ye stand your ground,” eventually included in his essay “A Walk to Wachusett” and published in the Boston Miscellany for January 1843. Thoreau accepted some of Miss Fuller’s in his final version, but ignored others. The “Lonely hut” is probably a reference to the Hollowell Farm, which Thoreau was talking of purchasing, rather than to any intent thus early to go to Walden. The “good week” indicates that he was already working on his first book.”

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 56-57; MS, Henry David Thoreau collection (Box 1, Folder 4). Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin)
27 November 1841. Buffalo, N.Y.

Isaiah Thornton Williams writes in reply to Thoreau’s letter of 8 October:

My dear Friend

  I feel rebuked as I draw your most interesting letter from my file and sit down to answer it—that I have so long delayed so grateful a task—For though I surely get away from the world & Law long enough to enter within myself and inquire how I am—how I feel and what sentiments and what response my heart gives out in answer to you voice whose notes of sweetest music comes from that “Land of every land the pride Beloved of Heaven o’er all the World beside” “That spot of earth divinely blest—That dearer sweeter spot than all the rest” Yet—when weary and heart sick—when disgusted with the present—and memory, as if to give relief, retires to wander in the ‘Graveyard of the past’—she passes not unmindful nor lingers briefly around that spot where more than in any other I feel I first tasted of that bread I hope will yet nourish my youth strengthen my manhood cheer and solace “whe[n] the daughters of music are brought low.”

  Time’s devastating hand is beginning already to obliterate the traces of my youthful feelings—and I am becoming more & more contented with my present situation and feel less and less a desire inexorable to return and be a child once more.

  This I suppose to be the natural tendency of the circumstances in which I am placed. Man’s ends are shaped for him and he must abide his destiny. This seems a little like futility—yet, how can we avoid the conclusion that the soul is shaped by circumstances and many of those circumstances beyond man’s control? I think that could I always be “true to the dream of Childhood” I should always be happy—I can imagine circumstances in which I think I might be so—but they are not my present circumstances—these are my fate—I would not complain of them did they not war against what I feel to be my highest interest and indeed I will not as it is, for I know not what is my highest good—I know not the goal whither I am bound, and as I do not know but all is well as far as the external is concerned I will trust to the author of my being—the author and creator of those beautiful fields and woods I so much enjoy in my morning and evening walks—the author of the glorious lake sunsets—that all is well. I have already answered your interrogating in relation to my hopes and feelings as I enter upon the study of Law—With so little knowledge—so a-stranger in its walks—with my face only set toward the temple just spying its tapering finger pointing to the heavens as the throne of its justice—its golden dome glittering as though it were the light of that city which “has no need of a candle neither the light of the Sun”—not yet passed under its gateway—or wandered among the trees and flowers of its paradisean garden—viewed the stones of its foundation or laid hold of its massy pillars. I hardly know what to hope or how to feel at all—I must say, if I would speak truly, that I do not “burn with high hopes” Tis not that “the way seems steep and difficult” but that “the event is feared”; tis the prospect of a life in “daily contact with the things I loath” I love the profession It presents a boundless field—a shoreless ocean where my bark may drift—and bound & leap from wave to wave in wild but splendid rays—without the fear of rock or strand. Yet I chose it not so much for the love I bore it for I knew that in it my intercourse must be with the worst specimens of humanity—as knowing that by it I might get more knowledge, dis[c]ipline and intellectual culture than in any other which I could choose simply as a means of livelihood—have more time to devote to literature and philosophy—and, as I have said, be better prepared intellectually for progress in these pursuits than in any other branch of business followed simply to provide for the bodily wants—So—you see—this profession I chose simply as a means to enable me to pursue what I most delight in—and for that end I think it the wisest selection I could make I know this motive will not lead me to any eminence in the profession—yet I do not know as I wish to be great in that respect even if I could—My books tell me that on entering the profession I must bid adieu to literature—everything and give up myself wholy to Law—I thought I would do so for a time—and I sat down to Blackstone with a heavy heart. Adieu ye Classic halls. My Muse adieu! I wept—as I took perhaps my last look of her—her form lessening in the distance—she cast her eye over her shoulder to rest once more on me. O, it was all pity, love and tenderness—I called aloud for her—but she hastened on—grieved, she heeded not my call—It was too much—What ever might by standing as a Lawyer—I would not turn my back to literature—philosophy theology or poetry—Would give them their place & Law its place—A thousand thanks for the pamphlets you forwarded me. I have read them with great pleasure — and shall read them many times more. The Oration at Waterville I very much admire—it is circulating among Mr. E’s admirers in this place who all express great admiration of it—Human Culture I admire more and more as I read it over. I loaned it to a young man who told me on returning it that he had almost committed it to memory—and wished the loan of it again as soon as the other friends had read it.

  I have read some of your poetry in the Dial—I want to see more of it—it transports me to my childhood and makes everything look as playful as when first I looked upon them in my earliest morning. I only wish it were more liquid-smooth I should admire Pope’s Homer if it were for nothing but that it flows so smoothly.

Remember me affectionately to the friends in Concord and believe me

ever yours
I. T. Williams

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 58-60; MS, Henry David Thoreau papers (Series IV). Henry W. and Albert A. Berg collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library)
28 November 1841. Concord, Mass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson records in his account book:

[$15.00 . . . ] Cash to H. D. Thoreau for expenses at Cambridge. in account of his book, advanced. (Studies in the American Renaissance 1980, 242; MS, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s account books. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.).
29 November to 11 December 1841. Cambridge, Mass.

Thoreau lives with Charles Stearns Wheeler temporarily in order to qualify as a “Resident Graduate” at Harvard University, which would allow him to check out books from their library (Concord Saunterer, OS vol. 6, no. 2 (June 1971):4-6).

Probably sometime before Thoreau arrives in Cambridge, Josiah Quincy writes a note to Thaddeus William Harris: “Mr Thoreau being engag[ed] in a work, as he states, for which the aid of our Library is requisite, is hereby authorized, to receive from the library the usual number of volumes—and for ye usual length of time, on the usual conditions until the Corporation can be consulted on his application.”

(The Transcendentalists and Minerva, 2:474)
29 November 1841. Cambridge, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  One must fight his way, after a fashion, even in the most civil and polite society. The most truly kind and gracious have to be won by a sort of valor, for the seeds of suspicion seem to lurk in every spadeful of earth, as well as those of confidence. The president and librarian turn the cold shoulder to your application, though they are known for benevolent persons. They wonder if you can be anything but a thief, contemplating frauds on the Library. It is the instinctive and salutary principle of self-defense; that which makes the cat show her talons when you take her by the paw.
(Journal, 1:287-288)

Thoreau checks out a book called Poetical Tracts, The history of the Anglo-Saxons by Sharon Turner, Illustrations of Anglo-Saxon poetry by John Josias Conybeare, and The works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper, volume 21, edited by Alexander Chalmers from Harvard College Library.

(Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 288)
30 November 1841. Cambridge, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  When looking over the dry and dusty volumes of the English poets, I cannot believe that those fresh and fair creations I had imagined are contained in them . . . I can hardly be serious with myself when I remember that I have come to Cambridge after poetry; and while I am running over the catalogue and collating and selecting, I think if it would not be a shorter way to a complete volume to step at once into the field or wood, with a very low reverence to students and librarians . . . On running over the titles of these books, looking from time to time at their first pages or farther, I am oppressed by an inevitable sadness.
(Journal, 1:288-292)

Thoreau checks out The history of English Poetry by Thomas Warton, volumes 1-4, and The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer, volume 1, from Harvard Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 288).

1 December 1841. Cambridge, Mass.

Thoreau checks out Observations on Popular Antiquities by John Brand, volumes 1 and 2, Poems Never before Printed by Thomas Hoccleve: selected from a ms. in the possession of George Mason, and Certaine learned and elegant workes, of the right honorable Fulke Lord Brooke, written in his youth . . . from Harvard College Library.

(Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 288)
2 December 1841. Cambridge, Mass.

Thoreau checks out Old ballads, historical and narrative, with some of modern date edited by Thomas Evans, volumes 1-4, and Select beauties of ancient English poetry. With remarks by Henry Headley, volumes 1 and 2, from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 288).

6 December 1841. Cambridge, Mass.

Thoreau checks out The works of the English poets, from Chaucer to Cowper edited by Alexander Chalmers, volumes 2 and 4, and Ancient English metrical romances compiled by Joseph Ritson, volumes 1-3, from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 288-9).

7 December 1841. Cambridge, Mass.

Thoreau checks out Ancient metrical tales: printed chiefly from original sources edited by Charles Henry Hartshorne and Heliconia: Comprising a selection of English poetry of the Elizabethan age edited by Thomas Park, volume 2, from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 289).

8 December 1841. Cambridge, Mass.

Thoreau checks out The paradise of dainty devices, reprinted from a transcript of the first edition by Richard Edwards, Popular ballads and songs, from tradition, manuscripts and scarce editions by Robert Jamieson, volumes 1 and 2, A selection from the poetical works of Thomas Carew, and The works of James I, King of Scotland from Harvard College Library.

(Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 289)
9 December 1841. Cambridge, Mass.

Thoreau checks out The glorious lover. A divine poem, upon the adorable mystery of sinners redemption by Benjamin Keach and Theophila, or loves sacrifice. A divine poem by Edward Benlowes from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 289).

10 December 1841. Cambridge, Mass.

Thoreau checks out The works of Sir Walter Ralegh, volume 8, The works of the honourable Sir Philip Sidney, volumes 1-3, and Chronicle of Scottish poetry; from the 13th century to the union of the crowns by James Sibbald, volumes 1-4, from Harvard College Library.

(Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 289)
12 December 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  P.M. Walden.—I seem to discern the very form of the wind when, blowing over the hills, it falls in broad flakes upon the surface of the pond, this subtle element obeying the same law with the least subtle (Journal, 1:192-193).
13 December 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  We constantly anticipate repose. Yet it surely can only be the repose that is in entire and healthy activity. It must be a repose without rust (Journal, 1:293-294).
14 December 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  To hear the sunset described by the old Scotch poet Douglas, as I have seen it, repays me for many weary pages of antiquated Scotch (Journal, 1:294-295).
15 December 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  A mild summer sun shines over forest and lake. The earth looks as fair this morning as the Valhalla of the gods (Journal, 1:295-297).
18 December 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Some men make their due impression upon their generation, because a petty occasion is enough to call forth all their energies; but are there not others who would rise to much higher levels, whom the world has never provoked to make the effort? I believe there are men now living who have never opened their months in a public assembly, in whom nevertheless there is such a well of eloquence that the appetite of any age could never exhaust it; who pine for an occasion worthy of them, and will pine till they are dead; who can admire, as well as the rest, at the flowing speech of the orator. but do yet miss the thunder and lightning; and visible sympathy of the elements which would garnish their own utterance.
(Journal, 1:297-298)
23 December 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  The best man’s spirit makes a fearful sprite to haunt his tomb. The ghost of a priest is no better than that of a highwayman. It is pleasant to hear of one who has blest whole regions after his death by having frequented them while alive, who has prophaned or tabooed no place by being buried in it.
(Journal, 1: 298-299)
24 December 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I want to go soon and live away by the pond, where I shall hear only the wind whispering among the reeds. It will be a success if I shall have left myself behind. But my friends ask what I will do when I get there. Will it not be employment enough to watch the progress of the seasons?
(Journal, 1:299)
25 December 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  I don’t want to feel as if my life were a sojourn any longer. That philosophy cannot be true which so paints it. It is time now that I begin to live (Journal, 1:299)
26 December 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  When I hear this bell ring, I am carried back to years and Sabbaths when I was newer and more innocent, I fear, than now, and it seems to me as if there were a world within a world (Journal, 1:300).
29 December 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  One does not soon learn the trade of life. That one may work out a true life requires more art and delicate skill than any other work. There is need of the nice, fingers of the girl as well as the tough hand of the farmer. The daily work is too often toughening the pericarp of the heart as well as the hand.
(Journal, 1:300-303)
30 December 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  The poet does not have to go out of himself and cease to tattle of his domestic affairs, to win our confidence, but is so broad that we see no limits to his sympathy (Journal, 1:303-305).
31 December 1841. Concord, Mass.

Thoreau writes in his journal:

  Books of natural history make the most cheerful winter reading. I read in Audubon with a thrill of delight when the snow covers the ground, of the magnolia, and the Florida keys, and their warm sea breezes; of the fence-rail, and the cotton-tree, and the migrations of the rice-bird; or of the breaking up of winter in Labrador.
(Journal, 1:305-307)

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