Swamps Quotations


Yes, though you may think me perverse, if it were proposed to me to dwell in the neighborhood of the most beautiful garden that ever human art contrived, or else of a Dismal Swamp, I should certainly decide for the swamp.


I have been surprised to discover the amount and the various kinds of life which a single shallow swamp will sustain.

Journal, 1850

Surely one may as profitably be soaked in the juices of a swamp for one day as pick his way dry-shod over sand. Cold and damp, — are they not as rich experience as warmth and dryness?

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps.


If anybody else — any farmer, at least — should spend an hour thus evading about here in this secluded swamp, barelegged, intent on the sphagnum, filling his pocket only, with no rake in his hand and no bag or bushel on the bank, lie would be pronounced insane and have a guardian put over him; but if he’ll spend his tune skimming and watering his mill: and selling his small potatoes for large Ones, or generally in skinning flints, lie will probably be made guardian of somebody else.

Journal, 30 August 1856

I enter a swamp as a sacred place — a sanctum sanctorum. There is the strength — the marrow of Nature.


Would it not be well to describe some of those rough all-day walks across lots? — as that of the 15th, picking our way over quaking meadows and swamps and occasionally slipping into the muddy batter midleg deep; jumping or fording ditches and brooks; forcing our way through dense blueberry swamps, where there is water beneath and bushes above … now through a dense pine wood, descending into a rank, dry swamp, where the cinnamon fern rises above your head, with isles of poison-dogwood …

Journal, 27 August 1854

Beck Stow’s Swamp! What an incredible spot to think of in town or city! When life looks sandy and barren, is reduced to its lowest terms, we have no appetite, and it has no flavor, then let me visit such a swamp as this, deep and impenetrable, where the earth quakes for a rod around you at every step, with its open water where the swallows skim and twitter, its meadow and cotton-grass, its dense patches of dwarf  andromeda, now brownish-green, with clumps of blueberry bushes, its spruces and its verdurous border of woods imbowering it on every side . The trees now in the rain look heavy and rich all day, as commonly at twilight, drooping with the weight of wet leaves.

Journal, 17 July 1852

I must call that swamp of E. Hubbard’s west of the Hunt Pasture, Yellow Birch Swamp. There are more of those trees than anywhere else in town that I know… The sight of these trees affects me more than California gold. I measured one five feet and two inches in circumference at six feet from the ground. We have the silver and the golden birch. This is like a fair, flaxen-haired sister of the dark-complexioned black birch, with golden ringlets. How lustily it takes hold of the swampy soil, and braces itself! And here flows a dark cherry-wood or wine-colored brook over the iron-red sands in the somber swamp, — swampy wine. In an undress, this tree. Ah, time will come when these will be all gone.

Journal, 4 January 1853

Would it not be a luxury to stand up to one’s chin in some retired swamp for a whole summer’s day, scenting the sweet-fern and bilberry blows, and lulled by the minstrelsy of gnats and mosquitoes?

Journal, 16 June 1840

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