Thoreau writes in his journal:
Virtue is the deed of the bravest. It is that art which demands the greatest confidence and fearlessness. Only some hardy soul ventures upon it. Virtue is a bravery so hardy that it deals in what it has no experience in. The virtuous soul possesses a fortitude and hardihood which not the grenadier nor pioneer can match. It never shrunk. It goes singing to its work. Effort is its relaxation. The rude pioneer work of this world has been done by the most devoted worshippers of beauty. Their resolution has possessed a keener edge than the soldier’s. In winter is their campaign; they never go into quarters. They are elastic under the heaviest burden, under the extremest physical suffering. (Journal, 1:308-9).
Thoreau’s brother John cuts off a small piece of his finger while stropping a razor. After replacing the piece and wrapping it, the wound becomes infected with tetanus (“Warrington” Pen-portraits, 12-13). See entry 11 January.
Thoreau writes in his journal:
The ringing of the church bell is a much more melodious sound than any that is heard within the church. (Journal, 1:309-11).
Thoreau writes in his journal:
I have been popping corn tonight, which is only a more rapid blossoming of the seed under a greater than July heat. The popped corn is a perfect winter flower, hinting of anemones and houstonias. For this little grace man has, mixed in with the vulgarness of his repast, he may well thank his stars. (Journal, 1:311-2)
Thoreau writes in his journal:
I find that whatever hindrances may occur I write just about the same amount of truth in my Journal; for the record is more concentrated, and usually it is some very real and earnest life, after all, that interrupts. All flourishes are omitted.(Journal, 1:312-4).
Thoreau writes in his journal:
I am singularly refreshed in winter when I hear tell of service-berries, pokeweed, juniper. Is not heaven made up of these cheap summer glories? (Journal, 1:315).
Thoreau writes in his journal:
When, as now, in January a south wind melts the snow, and the bare ground appears, covered with sere grass and occasionally wilted green leaves which seem in doubt whether to let go their greenness quite or absorb new juices against the coming year,—in such a season a perfume seems to exhale from the earth itself and the south wind melts my integuments also. Then is she my mother earth. I derive a real vigor from the scent of the gale wafted over the naked ground, as from strong meats, and realize again how man is the pensioner of Nature. We are always conciliated and cheered when we are fed by [such] an influence, and our needs are felt to be part of the domestic economy of Nature. (Journal, 1:315-8).
Thoreau writes in his journal:
One cannot too soon forget his errors and misdemeanors; for [to] dwell long upon them is to add to the offense, and repentance and sorrow can only be displaced by somewhat better, and which is as free and original as if they had not been. Not to grieve long for any action, but to go immediately and do freshly and otherwise, subtracts so much from the wrong. Else we may make the delay of repentance the punishment of the sin. But a great nature will not consider its sins as its own, but be more absorbed in the prospect of that valor and virtue for the future which is more properly it, than in those improper actions which, by being sins, discover themselves to be not it. (Journal, 1:318-9)
Charles Stearns Wheeler checks out The Bruce; or, the history of Robert I. King of Scotland, volumes 1–3 by John Barbour and (bound in one volume) Glaucus and Silla. With other lyrical and pastoral poems by Thomas Lodge and Thealma and Clearchus. A pastoral romance by John Chalkhill from Harvard College Library for Thoreau.
I never yet saw two men sufficiently great to meet as two. In proportion as they are great the differences are fatal, because they are felt not to be partial but total.(Journal, 1:319).
I am amused to see from my window here how busily man has divided and staked off his domain. (Journal, 1:320-1).
I feel as if years had been crowded into the last month, and yet the regularity of what we call time has been so far preserved as that I . . . will be welcome in the present. I have lived ill for the most part because too near myself. I have tripped myself up, so that there was no progress for my own narrowness. I cannot walk conveniently and pleasantly but when I hold myself far off in the horizon. And the soul dilutes the body and makes it passable. My soul and body have tottered along together of late, tripping and hindering one another like unpracticed Siamese twins. They two should walk as one, that no obstacle may be nearer than the firmament. (Journal, 1:321-2)
Thoreau writes in his journal:
Every poet’s muse is circumscribed in her wanderings, and may be well said to haunt some favorite spring or mountain. (Journal, 1:322-3).
Whatever I learn from any circumstances, that especially I needed to know. Events come out of God, and our characters determine them and constrain fate, as much as they determine the words and tone of a friend to us. Hence are they always acceptable as experience, and we do not see how we could have done without them. (Journal, 1:323-4).
The greatest impression of character is made by that person who Consents to have no character. He who sympathizes with and runs through the whole circle of attributes cannot afford to be an individual. Most men stand pledged to themselves, so that their narrow and confined virtue has no suppleness. (Journal, 1:324).
Thoreau also writes to Lucy Jackson Brown:
I believe I have nothing new to tell you, for what was news you have learned from other sources. I am much the same person that I was, who should be so much better; yet when I realize what has transpired, and the greatness of the part I am unconsciously acting, I am thrilled, and it seems as if there were now a history to match it.
Soon after John’s death I listened to a music-box, and if, at any time, that even had seemed inconsistent with the beauty and harmony of the universe, it was then gently constrained into the placid course of nature by those steady notes, in mild and unoffended tone echoing far and wide under the heavens. But I find these things more strange than sad to me. What right have I to grieve, who have not ceased to wonder?
We feel at first as if some opportunities of kindness and sympathy were lost, but learn afterward that any pure grief is ample recompense for all. That is, if we are faithful;—for a spent grief is but sympathy with the soul that disposes events, and is as natural as the resin of Arabian trees.—Only nature has a right to grieve perpetually, for she only is innocent. Soon the ice will melt, and the blackbirds sing along the river which he frequented, as pleasantly as ever. The same everlasting serenity will appear in this face of God, and we will not be sorrowful, if he is not.
We are made happy when reason can discover no occasion for it. The memory of some past moments is more persuasive than the experience of present ones. There have been visions of such breadth and brightness that these motes were invisible in their light.
I do not wish to see John [John Thoreau Jr.] ever again—I mean him who is dead—but that other whom only he would have wished to see, or to be, of whom he was the imperfect representative. For we are not what we are, nor do we treat or esteem each other for such, but for what we are capable of being.
As for Waldo, [Waldo Emerson] he died as the mist rises from the brook, which the sun will soon dart his rays through. Do not the flowers die every autumn? He had not even taken root here. I was not startled to hear that he was dead; — it seemed the most natural event that could happen. His fine organization demanded it, and nature gently yielded its request. It would have been strange if he had lived. Neither will nature manifest any sorrow at his death, but soon the note of the lark will be heard down in the meadow, and fresh dandelions will spring from the old stocks where he plucked them last summer. I have been living ill of late, but am now doing better. How do you live in that Plymouth world, now-a-days? — Please remember me to Mary Russell. [Mary Howland Russell] – You must not blame me if I do talk to the clouds, for I remain Your Friend,
Henry D. Thoreau.
I live in the perpetual verdure of the globe. I die: in the annual decay of nature. (Journal, 1:324-6).
“As for Waldo, he died as the mist rises from the brook which the sun will soon dart his rays through. Do not the flowers die every autumn? He had not even taken root here. I was not startled to hear that he was dead, it seemed the most natural event that could happen. His fine organization demanded it, and Nature gently yielded its request. It would have been strange if he had lived.
Neither will Nature manifest any sorrow at his death, but soon the note of the lark will be heard down in the meadow, and fresh dandelions will spring from the old stock where he plucked them last summer.”
I have invited Henry to send you a letter by this opportunity—and he seems quite ready so to do. He had a sick headache about the time you went away, and has not been quite well since,—has had a cold & weak eyes—and some return of spasmodic affection. But is very bright & interesting and beguiles what time he can do nought else in with playing on the flute. He finds that exercise, which he hoped would be a relief—only increases his ails—so that I have begged him not to feel the care of the wood—and have had Colombe [Antoine Colombe] to work one day upon it—as we were in need both of green & dry hard wood . . .
Henry was yesterday told by G. Minott [George Minot]—that Mr E. had gone to N.Y. to lecture, with the object of raising money to send Mr A. [Amos Bronson Alcott] to England.
We can only live healthily the life the gods assign us. I must receive my life as passively as the willow leaf that flutters over the brook. I must not be for myself, but God’s work, and that is always good. I will wait the breezes patiently, and grow as Nature shall determine. My fate cannot but be grand so. We may live the life of a plant or an animal, without living an animal life. (Journal, 1:326-7).
I see so many “carvels licht, fast tending throw the sea” to your El Dorado, that I am in haste to plant my flag in season on that distant beach, in the name of God and King Henry. There seems to be no occasion why I who have so little to say to you here at home should take pains to send you any of my silence in a letter—Yet since no correspondence can hope to rise above the level of those homely speechless hours, as no spring ever bursts above the level of the still mountain tarn whence it issued — I will not delay to send a venture. As if I were to send you a piece of the house-sill—or a loose casement rather. Do not neighbors sometimes halloo with good will across a field, who yet never chat over a fence?
The sun has just burst through the fog, and I hear blue-birds, song-sparrows, larks, and robins down in the meadow. The other day I walked in the woods, but found myself rather denaturalized by late habits. Yet it is the same nature that [Robert] Burns and [William] Wordsworth loved the same life that [William] Shakspeare and [John] Milton lived. The wind still roars in the wood, as if nothing had happened out of the course of nature. The sound of the waterfall is not interrupted more than if a feather had fallen.
Nature is not ruffled by the rudest blast—The hurricane only snaps a few twigs in some nook of the forest. The snow attains its average depth each winter, and the chic-adee lisps the same notes. The old laws prevail in spite of pestilence and famine. No genius or virtue so rare & revolutionary appears in town or village, that the pine ceases to exude resin in the wood, or beast or bird lays aside its habits.
How plain that death is only the phenomenon of the individual or class. Nature does not recognize it, she finds her own again under new forms without loss. Yet death is beautiful when seen to be a law, and not an accident—It is as common as life. Men die in Tartary, in Ethiopia—in England—in Wisconsin. And after all what portion of this is so serene and living nature can be said to be alive? Do this year’s grasses and foliage outnumber all the past.
Every blade in the field—every leaf in the forest—lays down its life in its season as beautifully as it was taken up. It is the pastime of a full quarter of the year. Dead trees—sere leaves—dried grass and herbs—are not these a good part of our life? And what is that pride of our autumnal scenery but the hectic flush—the sallow and cadaverous countenance of vegetation—its painted throes—with the November air for canvas—
When we look over the fields are we not saddened because the particular flowers or grasses will wither—for the law of their death is the law of new life Will not the land be in good heart because the crops die down from year to year? The herbage cheerfully consents to bloom, and wither, and give place to a new.
So it is with the human plant. We are partial and selfish when we lament the death of the individual, unless our plaint be a paean to the departed soul, and a sigh as the wind sighs over the fields, which no shrub interprets into its private grief.
One might as well go into mourning for every sere leaf—but the more innocent and wiser soul will snuff a fragrance in the gales of autumn, and congratulate Nature upon her health.
After I have imagined thus much will not the Gods feel under obligation to make me realize something as good.
I have just read some good verse by the old Scotch poet John Bellenden—
May nocht be wrocht to our utilitie,
Bot flammis keen & bitter violence;
The more distress, the more intelligence.
Quhay sailis lang in hie prosperitie,
Ar sone oureset be stormis without defence.”
Henry D. Thoreau
Consider what a difference there is between living and dying. To die is not to begin to die, and continue; it is not a state of continuance, but of transientness; but to live is a condition of continuance, and does not mean to be born merely. There is no continuance of death. It is a transient phenomenon. Nature presents nothing in a state of death. (Journal, 1:327-8).
The sad memory of departed friends is soon incrusted over with sublime and pleasing thoughts, as their monuments are overgrown with moss. Nature doth thus kindly heal every wound. (Journal, 1:328).
It is not easy to find one brave enough to play the game of love quite alone with you, but they must get some third person, or world, to countenance them. They thrust others between. Love is so delicate and fastidious that I see not how [it]can ever begin. Do you expect me to love with you, unless you make my love secondary to nothing else? Your words come tainted, if the thought of the world darted between thee and the thought of me. You are not venturous enough for love. It goes alone unscared through wildernesses. (Journal, 1:328-30).
Thoreau also writes to Isaiah Thornton Williams:
I meant to write to you before but John’s [John Thoreau Jr.] death and my own sickness, with other circumstances, prevented. John died of the lock-jaw, as you know, Jan. 11th I have been confined to my chamber for a month with a prolonged shock of the same disorder—from close attention to, and sympathy with him, which I learn is not without precedent. Mr. Emerson [Ralph Waldo Emerson] too has lost his oldest child, Waldo, by scarlet fever, a boy of rare promise, who in the expectation of many was to be one of the lights of his generation.
John was sick but three days from the slightest apparent cause—an insignificant cut on his finger, which gave him no pain, and was more than a week old—but nature does not ask for such causes as man expects—when she is ready there will be cause enough. I mean simply that perhaps we never assign the sufficient cause for anything—though it undoubtedly exists. He was perfectly calm, ever pleasant while reason lasted, and gleams of the same serenity and playfulness shone through his delirium to the last. But I will not disturb his memory. If you knew him, I could not add to your knowledge, and if you did not know him, as I think you could not, it is now too late, and no eulogy of mine would suffice—For my own part I feel that I could not have done without this experience.
What you express with regard to the effect of time on our youthful feelings—which indeed is the theme of universal elegy—reminds me of some verses of Byron—quite rare to find in him, and of his best I think. Probably you remember them.
The freshness of the heart can fall like dew
Which out of all the lovely things we see,
Extracts emotions beautiful and new,
Hived in our bosoms like the bag o’the bee,
Think’st thou the honey with these objects grew
Alas! ‘Twas not in them, but in thy power,
To double even the sweetness of a flower.
No more, no more! Oh! never more, my heart!
Cans’t thou be my sole world, my universe
Once all in all, but now a thing apart,
Thou canst not be my blessing, or my curse;
The illusion’s gone forever- ”
When I consider the universe I am still the youngest born. We do not grow old we rust old. Let us not consent to be old, but to die (live?) rather. Is Truth old? or Virtue—or Faith? If we possess them they will be our elixir vitæ and fount of Youth. It is at least good to remember our innocence; what we regret is not quite lost — Earth sends no sweeter strain to Heaven than this plaint. Could we not grieve perpetually, and by our grief discourage time’s encroachments? All our sin too shall be welcome for such is the material of Wisdom, and through her is our redemption to come.
’Tis true, as you say, “Man’s ends are shaped for him,” but who ever dared confess the extent of his free agency? Though I am weak, I am strong too. If God shapes my ends—he shapes me also—and his means are always equal to his ends. His work does not lack this completeness, that the creature consents. I am my destiny. Was I ever in that straight that it was not sweet to do right? And then for this free agency I would not be free of God certainly—I would only have freedom to defer to him He has not made us solitary agents. He has not made us to do without him Though we must “abide our destiny,” will not he abide it with us? So do the stars and the flowers. My destiny is now arrived—is now arriving. I believe that what I call my circumstances will be a very true history of myself—for God’s works are complete both within and without—and shall I not be content with his success? I welcome my fate for it is not trivial nor whimsical. Is there not a soul in circumstances?—and the disposition of the soul to circumstances—is not that the crowning circumstance of all? But after all it is intra-stances, or how it stands within me that I am concerned about. Moreover circumstances are past, but I am to come, that is to say, they are results of me—but I have not yet arrived at my result.
All impulse, too, is primarily from within The soul which does shape the world is within and central.
I must confess I am apt to consider the trades and professions so many traps which the Devil sets to catch men in — and good luck he has too, if one may judge. But did it ever occur that a man came to want, or the almshouse from consulting his higher instincts? All great good is very present and urgent, and need not be postponed. What did Homer—and Socrates—and Christ and [William] Shakspeare & [George] Fox? Did they have to compound for their leisure, or steal their hours? What a curse would civilization be if it thus ate into the substance of the soul—Who would choose rather the simple grandeur of savage life for the solid leisure it affords? But need we sell our birthright for a mess of pottage? Let us trust that we shall be fed as the sparrows are.
“Grass and earth to sit on, water to wash the feet, and fourthly, affectionate speech are at no time deficient in the mansions of the good”
You may be interested to learn that Mr. Alcott [Amos Bronson Alcott] is going to England in April.
That you may find in Law the profession you love, and the means of spiritual culture, is the wish of your friend
Henry D. Thoreau.
Thoreau writes in his journal:
It is a new day; the sun shines . . . As I am going to the woods I think to take some small book in my pocket whose author has been there already, whose pages will be as good as my thoughts, and will eke them out or show me human life still gleaming in the horizon when the woods have shut out the town. But I can find none . . . Cold Spring.—I hear nothing but a phœbe, and the wind, and the rattling of a chaise in the wood . . . Pond. (Journal, 1:330-2)
I must confess I see no resource but to conclude that conscience was not given us to no purpose, or for a hindrance, but that, however flattering order and expediency may look, it is but the repose of a lethargy; and we will choose rather to be awake, though it be stormy, and maintain ourselves on thus earth and in this life as we may, without signing our death-warrant in the outset. (Journal, 1:332-5).
I have been making pencils all day, and then at evening walked to see an old schoolmate who is going to help make Welland Canal navigable for ships round Niagara. He cannot see any such motives and modes of living as I; professes not to look beyond the securing of certain “creature comforts.” And so we go silently different ways, with all serenity, I in the still moonlight through the village this fair evening to write these thoughts in my journal, and he, forsooth, to mature his schemes to ends as good, maybe, but different. (Journal, 1:335-6)
I should call Carlyle’s writing essentially dramatic, excellent acting, entertaining especially to those who see rather than those who hear, not to be repeated more than a joke. If he did not think who made the joke, how shall we think who hear it? He never consults the oracle, but thinks to utter oracles himself. There is nothing in his books for which lie is not, and does not feel, responsible. (Journal, 1:336).
When I walk in the fields of Concord and meditate on the destiny of this prosperous slip of the Saxon family, the unexhausted energies of this new country, I forget that this which is now Concord was once Musketaquid, and that the American race has had its destiny also . . . I have been walking this afternoon over a pleasant field planted with winter rye, near the house, where this strange people once had their dwelling-place. (Journal, 1:337-9).
My friend is cold and reserved because his love for me is waxing and not waning. (Journal, 1:339-42).
Who is old enough to have learned from experience? (Journal, 1:342).
Nothing can be more useful to a man than a determination not to be hurried.
I have not succeeded if I have an antagonist who fails. It must be humanity’s success.
I cannot think nor utter my thought unless I have infinite room. The cope of heaven is not too high, the sea is not too deep, for him who would unfold a great thought. It must feed me and warm and clothe me. It must be an entertainment to which my whole nature is invited. I must know that the gods are to be my fellow guests.
We cannot well do without our sins; they are the highway of our virtue. (Journal, 1:342).
Plain speech is always a desideratum. Men write in a florid style only because they would match the simple beauties of the plainest speech. They prefer to be misunderstood, rather than come short of its exuberance. (Journal, 1:342-5).
Those authors are successful who do not write down to others, but make their own taste and judgment their audience. By some strange infatuation we forget that we do not approve what yet we recommend to others. It is enough if I please myself with writing; I am then sure of an audience. (Journal, 1:345-7).
Great persons are not soon learned, not even their outlines, but they change like the mountains in the horizon as we ride along. (Journal, 1:347-9).
The wise will not be imposed on by wisdom. You can tell, but what do you know? (Journal, 1:349-51).
Cliffs.—Two little hawks have just come out to play, like butterflies rising one above the other in endless alternation far below me. They swoop from side to side in the broad basin of the tree-tops, with wider and wider surges, as if swung by an invisible pendulum. They stoop down on this side and scale up on that. Suddenly I look up and see a new bird, probably an eagle, quite above me, laboring with the wind not more than forty rods off. It was the largest bird of the falcon kind I ever saw. I was never so impressed by any flight. (Journal, 1:351-2)
How often must one feel, as he looks back on his past life, that he has gained a talent but lost a character! My life has got down into my fingers. My inspiration at length is only so much breath as I can breathe.
Society affects to estimate men by their talents, but really feels and knows them by their characters. What a man does, compared with what he is, is but a small part. To require that our friend possess a certain skill is not to be satisfied till he is something less than our friend.
Friendship should be great promise, a perennial springtime.
I can conceive how the life of the gods may be dull and tame, if it is not disappointed and insatiate.(Journal, 1:352-4).
Though Nature’s laws are more immutable than any despot’s, yet to our daily life they rarely seem rigid, but were lax with license in summer weather. We are not often nor harshly reminded of the things we may not do. I am often astonished to see how long, and with what manifold infringements of the natural laws, some men I meet in the highway maintain life. She does not deny them quarter; they do not die without priest. All the while she rejoices, for if they are not one part of her they are another. I am convinced that consistency is the secret of health. How many a poor man, striving to live a pure life, pines and dies after a life of sickness, and his successors doubt if Nature is not pitiless; while the confirmed and consistent sot, who is content with his rank life like mushrooms, a mass of corruption, still dozes comfortably under a hedge. He has made his peace with himself; there is no strife. Nature is really very kind and liberal to all persons of vicious habits. They take great licenses with her. She does not exhaust them with many excesses. (Journal, 1:354-6).
I cannot forget the majesty of that bird at the Cliff. (Journal, 1:356-7). See entry 27 March.
Set the gray hen. (Journal, 1:358 note).
Genius is so serious as to be grave and sublime rather. Humor takes a narrower vision—however broad and genial it may be— than enthusiasm. Humor delays and looks back. (Journal, 1:358).
I can remember when I was more enriched by a few cheap rays of light falling on the pond-side than by this broad sunny day . . . I have just heard the flicker among the oaks on the hillside ushering in a new dynasty. (Journal, 1:358-60).
I have not written you for a long time—but I am not going to apologize for of course you only wish to hear when & what I wish to write The poor thoughts that have occupied my busy little mind since I last wrote you have been many & often had I seen you should I have inflicted upon your ear the sad narration of them, or at least some of them—& I donot know why I should withhold any of them they were sent by a power above me, at the beck & bidding of another did they come & go—I know that men have but little to do with the affairs of this world—still I feel a responsibility to myself for all things that befall me in life—though to no other. To live this life well I feel a strong desire. I also feel a presentiment that I shall fail in part—if not totally fail to do so. I donot know what it is to live well—or how to do it if I did—between idid and idea I swing like a pendulum—I know ’tis weakness, yet such I am—But I must not disgust you by talking too much of myself. & I know it is not well to afflict myself with my own image. Still it is prety much all I know—I have often repented & as often sinned again—What a succession of falls is life! I wonder if that is the object of it & this that we may know how to stand when it is past—I donot suppose it is of any use to speculate about life—we know but little of it & if it were well for us to know it would be taught us. & I am coming more & more every day to the settled practicable belief that the true mode of life is to live & do from moment to moment the duty or labor before us with no questions about its fitness or end and no thought for the morrow. I sometimes think further—that it is also best to be of men & like them while with them—to love what they love be interested in what they are interested—share their hopes & joys their dejection & sorrows—seek the ends & have the objects of pursuit that they have take their fortunes in life as I must in death & when the curtain shall have fallen—have to think my fortune & fate is & has ever been that of my race—I fear it will be a hard one if it is, but “such is the sovereign doom & such the will of Jove” Of one thing I am certain—My race have an indisputable claim upon my best — all the services I am able to render while I live—I will not withhold from them the pittance due from me—With this thought before me I have endeavoured to join in the reforms of the day—I make Temperance speeches, such as they are—at any rate the best I can—I go to Sabbath School & talk to & endeavour to instruct the children what I can—& where-ever I see an opportunity to do any thing for others I have a kind of general design to lend my aid—though not to interfere with my duties to myself. Whether I am taking the best course to benefit myself & others—that is the question—Yet if I do as well I know—& know as well as I can I shall never accuse myself. After all I am not wholy satisfied with myself or with this view of things I fear there is something beyond & higher I ought to know & seek—Is it given to man in this state of existence to be satisfied? Is not this very dissatisfaction but the breathing of an immortal nature that shipers of eternal progress? Shall not hope change this very dissatisfaction into highest fruition? Say to me in reply what these desultory thoughts suggest to your mind—& as my sheet is nearly full I will say a few words more & fold & forward it for your perusal.
Your letter of March 14 gave me much pleasure though I need not say that I sympathize with you most deeply in the loss you sustain by the death of your brother—I knew him but little—yet I thought I had never met with a more flowing generous spirit—It was not fitted for a col & hard hearted world like this—in such a nature do I see a strong assurance of a better existence when this is over. Ever will his name float down my memory untainted by those folies & crimes. I am forced to associate with those of so many of my race. And Mr Emerson—how did he endure the loss of his child? It was a cruel stroke—did his philosophy come to his aid as does the Christian Faith to administer consolation to the bereaved? I wish to know what were his feelings. for the consolations that a christian faith offers the bereaved & afflicted is one of its strongest holds upon my credulity. If there is consolation from his philosophy in trials like those—it will do much toward settling my belief—I wish to know minutely on this point. I think much on Death & sometimes doubt if my early impressions upon that subject are ever effaced—The fear of it occasions a thousand folies—I feel it is unmanly—but yet “that undiscovered country” Who shall tell us whether to fear—or desire it?
As to myself—I am less homesick than at first though I am not satisfied with the west. nor quite with my profession. Perhaps I ought to be I often think my feelings foolish. Do you think engaged in the practice of law the best way of spending ones life? Let me hear from you soon. I will not be so remiss in my future correspondence—
I. T. Williams
It may be well to premise that no incidents worthy of note occurred during this pilgrimage to the Wachusett. Other adventures than Nature offered we avoided; and we listen[ed], as we went along, to her harmony, thinking that perchance some note of novel sweetness might be struck, which should charm our heart, and awaken within us some new sentiment…
But while meditation’s flow was not impeded, we had got onward, and soon came to a wood that lies between Concord and Stow. Here we cut us each a cane; and I thought on farmers, as I passed out of the wood, and their green fields smiled upon us . . .
Soon we arrived at Stow. This town was once my habitation . . .
Yesterda[y] saw ‘the Dial’ at Greens’ and read it with truest delight. That [torn] of Thoreau’s is worthy of Isaac Walton himself, and the woods [torn] of Concord are classic now. (The Letters of A. Bronson Alcott, 88).
Nathaniel Hawthorne writes in his journal:
Mr. Thorow has twice listened to the music of the spheres, which, for our private convenience, we have packed into a music box. (The American Notebooks, 145).
With all this he has more than a tincture of literature—a deep and true taste for poetry, especially for the elder poets, although more exclusive than is desirable, like all other Transcendentalists, so far as I am acquainted with them. He is a good writer,—at least he has written a good article, a rambling disquisition on Natural History, in the last Dial,—which, he says, was chiefly made up from journals of his own observations. Methinks this article gives a very fair image of his mind and character—so true, minute, and literal in observation, yet giving the spirit as well as letter of what he sees, even as a lake reflects its wooded banks, showing every leaf, yet giving the wild beauty of the whole scene;—then there are passages in the article of cloudy and dreamy metaphysics, partly affected, and partly the natural and attune themselves into spontaneous verse, as they rightfully may, since there is real poetry in him. There is a basis of good sense and moral truth, too, throughout the article, which also is a reflection of his character; for he is not unwise to think and feel, however imperfect in his own mode of action. On the whole, I find him a healthy and wholesome man to know.
After dinner (at which we cut the first water-melon and musk melon that our garden has grown) Mr. Thorow and I walked to the bank of the river; and at a certain point, he shouted for his boat. Forthwith, a young man paddled it across the river and Mr. Thorow and I voyaged further up the stream, which soon became more beautiful than any picture, with its dark and quiet sheet of water, half shaded, half sunny, between high and wooded banks. The late rains have swollen the stream so much, that many trees are standing up to their knees, as it were, in the water; and boughs, which lately swung high in air, now dip and drink deep of the passing wave. As to the poor cardinals, which glowed upon the bank, a few days since, I could see only a few of their scarlet caps, peeping above the water. Mr. Thorow managed the boat so perfectly, either with two paddles or with one, that it seemed instinct with his own will, and to require no physical effort to guide it. He said that, when some Indians visited Concord a few years since, he found that he had acquired, without a teacher, their precise method of propelling and steering a canoe. Nevertheless, being in want of money, the poor fellow was desirous of selling the boat, of which he is so fit a pilot, and which was built by his own hands; so I agreed to give him his price (only seven dollars) and accordingly became possessor of the Musketaquid. I wish I could acquire the aquatic skill of its original owner at as a reasonable a rate.
To-day the lark sings again down in the meadow, and the robin peeps, and the bluebirds, old and young, have revisited their box, as if they would fain repeat the summer without the intervention of winter, if Nature would let them. (Journal, 1:449).
A little girl has just brought me a purple finch or American linnet. (Journal, 1:449).
And simple truth on every tongue
for all the poems are unsung, or some such line which has the one that gave most character to the original and yet I admire the
tread of high souled men.
The atmosphere is so dry and transparent and, as it were, inflammable at this season that a candle in the grass shines white and dazzling, and purer and brighter the farther off it is. (Journal, 451).
H. T. made, last night, the fine remark that, as long as a man stands in his own way, every thing seems to be in his way, governments, society, and even the sun & moon & stars, as astrology may testify. (The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 8:307).
I have been desirous of sending to some of my mystic brethren—some selections from certain writings of mine, that wrote themselves, when “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day.” Some of these are so utterly and entirely out of all my rational faculties, that I can’t put any meaning in them; others I read over, and learn a great deal from. This, I send you, seems to be a sort of Allegory—When you return it, will you be so kind as to tell me all that it means, as there are some parts of it I do not fully understand myself—I have a grateful remembrance of the moment I saw you in. Mr emerson too I have less awe of, and more love for, than formerly His presence has always to me something infinite as well as divine about it. Mrs Emerson I am very desirous of knowing. Your family give my love to—
James Richardson jr