From: Thoreau: His Life and Aims. A Study. (1877)
Author: Alexander Hay Japp
Published: James R. Osgood & Company 1877 Boston


IS it possible that some reality underlay the legendary miracles of St. Francis of Assisi?—that we in our Protestant zeal sacrifice the fact in ridding ourselves of the adherent imaginations of a reverent populace? The saint, as we are told, esteemed all living things his brethren, and would do them service. He would have them to listen to his preaching, and they listened; the birds of the air, at his order, hushed their song as he preached; the fishes came willingly into his hand, and waited for their dismissal; the little lambs parted from the flock at his call, and came to him, to furnish a most prevailing illustration of his text; the very wolf was subdued and docile under his word and the charm of his love and authority. Miracle, say the Catholic devotees; all wild invention, say the Protestant dogmatists. The one will have all, the other will accept of none; and so the suggestion of that harmony which once obtained between man and nature, and is still prophesied in unmistakable terms by certain select souls that are sent among us, is absolutely lost to both. For it is not the miraculous or legendary side of the stories of St. Francis’s wonderful rule over the animal world that is of most abiding consequence. That was the adhesive garment in which it became the reverent spirit of the catholic Middle Ages to array them.

  We remember Mr. Freeman’s warning, in speaking of Edward the Confessor: “When a man is once canonized,” he says, “his acts and character immediately pass out of the reach of ordinary criticism. Religious edification, and not historical truth, becomes the aim of all who speak or write of one who has been formally enrolled as an object of religious reverence.”1 But we cautiously act on his maxim here, and discount much. The essential facts which remain attest the truth that sympathy and love in a favored order of constitutions have power to reverse, within certain limits, the stem decree of opposition between man and the brutes, which the necessities, but still more the cruel ravages of the former have caused. Every poet, every lover of nature, has a longing desire to rise to this height of sympathy and sweet companionship with the creatures of wood, and wild, and stream. Burbs, Cowper, Wordsworth, Shelley, not to speak of Shakespeare, seem to be great poets largely by virtue of it: the one sang “the daisy,” and grudged to disturb the contented rest. and industry of a field-mouse; the other found sweet content in training his hares; while the third, with his meditative eye, seemed to see a soul even in daffodils and simple flowers that could give him—

“Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears;”

and the fourth felt impelled to pour out the rapture of his heart as be saw the skylark cleaving the upper air—an “unbodied joy.” But with the poets, the desire remains aspiration merely, else in the new delight of realized bliss, they might cease their singing. There is a class of chosen constitutions which realize, in greater or lesser degree, what the poets sigh after. St. Francis clearly was one of these. After we have stripped off all the adhesions,—all that may be credited to the fantastic tricks of credulous reciters, willing to magnify even for the faith’s sake,—something still remains. He was mighty in love. “He was a man overflowing with sympathy for man and beast,—for God’s creatures—wherever and however be encountered them. Not only was every man his brother, but every animal,—the sheep in the fields, the birds in the branches, the brother-ass on which he rode, the sister bees who took refuge in his kind protection. He was the friend of every thing that suffered or rejoiced; no emotion went beyond his sympathy; his heart rose to see the gladness of nature, and melted over the distresses of the smallest and meanest creature on the face of the earth. And by this divine right of nature, every thing trusted in him. The magnetism of the heart, that power which nobody can define, but which it is impossible to ignore, surrounded him like a special atmosphere. That sense of security and sympathy which, we all acknowledge, draws the nobler domestic animals, horses and dogs, to those who love them, embraced with Francis a wider circle, for he loved every thing that had life:—

“He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us
He made and loveth all.”

  “Such was the unconscious creed of the prophet of Assisi, and there cannot be any doubt that he must have possessed in an almost unexampled degree the power of attracting all creatures to him. With him the sympathetic power was universal; he meant no harm on his part, and had none of that timidity which most of us are moved by in the presence of the most timid of God’s creatures, —that fear that they must misapprehend our intentions and set us down as enemies in disguise, which make our steps stealthy, and our movements treacherous among the little birds, and the wild creatures of the woods and fields. We cannot divest ourselves of the feeling that they must suspect us. But Francis had no such feeling; his sense of brotherhood was real, not fictitious; he had the courage of good intention, feared nothing and was not feared.”2

  “We read not long ago, in the account of a traveller-naturalist, that in some of the primeval forests of the South, rare birds, undisturbed, eyed him inquiringly, without fear, when he was within a yard of the branches where they sat, till, smitten with the scientific passion for specimens, he knocked some of them down with a stick. But after repeated recourse to the stick, we are assured that, though our traveller-naturalist wandered far and wide in these almost boundless forests, no more was be allowed to approach the birds he most sought to reach. It was as though telegrams of misery and fear had in some unknown tongue been sent forth in all directions. The advent of man had become an omen of evil alone.

  Species would appear to vary much, however; and naturalists hardly seem to render so clear reasons as they might for so great differences. Professor Sir Wyville Thomson, Bart., for example, says, in writing of the Falkland Islands:—

  “The Government House is very like a Shetland or Orkney manse, stone-built, slated, and grey, without the least shelter. In the square gross paddock, surrounded by a low wall, between the house and the shore, a very ornamental flock of upland geese were standing and preening their feathers the first time we called there. This tameness of the sea-birds is still more remarkable in the Falkland Islands, and a strange contrast to their extreme wildness in the Straits of Magellan; there we stalked the kelp-goose (Cloephaga antarctica) and the steamer-duck (Micropterus cinereus) day after day, with great labor and but little success, finding great difficulty in getting even within long range of them; while in the Falklands the same species were all about, standing on the shore within stone-throw, or diving and fishing quietly within a few yards of the boats. I was told that they are not now nearly so tame, however, as they were some years ago. Almost every evening we met some one coming into the settlement with a string of upland goose for the pot; and I suppose it is beginning to dawn upon the poor birds that their new neighbors are not so harmless as they look. Very likely it may take some generations of experience to make them thoroughly wary, and the difference between the birds of the islands and those of the straits may probably be that, while the former have been safe in their primeval solitude up to within a recent period, the latter have been selecting themselves for ages on their capacity for eluding the craft of hungry Patagonians and Fuegians.”

  Dr. Darwin tells us, in the introduction to his valuable work, “Plants and Animals under Domestication:” “At the Galapagos Archipelago I pushed with the muzzle of my gun hawks from a branch, and held out a pitcher of water for other birds to alight on and drink. Quadrupeds and birds which have seldom been disturbed by man, dread him no more than do our English birds the cows or horses grazing in the fields.”

  What we are now chiefly concerned to remark is, that such instances may be taken to attest the fact of the existence of an era of greater harmony between man and nature than we have practical knowledge of. It has found a vague record in the mythologies of most nations. One of our own poets has powerfully sung of it as a Paradise Lost,—a paradise, let us hope, that may in part be restored:—

“I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
And fellow-mortal.”

  And as if to keep the tradition alive and in fullest force, every now and then God still sends among us a man or woman with a peculiar, if a limited gift of reconcilement, only great enough to prove that, in the earlier days, the myths might have had a foundation in fact, that Orpheus is really no fable.

  Mr. Cotton, a clergyman, the son of a late Governor of the Bank of England, took bees, in the first place, out to Australia, and afterwards to the islands of the South Pacific. His behavior to his bees was the wonder of all who were in the ships with him. He would call them by certain sounds, and they came to him, covered him as he lay, and he would actually handle and fondle them in such a fashion as would have been to another very dangerous. Then, when he wished to relieve himself of them, he gathered them together as one would a mass of loose worsted into a ball, took the mass near to the hive, and at a given sound or signal, they flew apart and retired to their proper home.

  Then there was Bisset, that wonderful Scotchman, whose success in training and making tractable pigs, turtles, and gold-fish3 amply proved that there lies in most animals undeveloped possibilities of education and companionship for man, and whose experience presented but a new version of that of M. du Rouil, of whose wonderful dogs and his relations to them Mr. Hamerton has given such a striking and touching account in the closing section of his “Chapters on Animals.” We confess that our curiosity respecting the history of these dogs after the death of the master who had developed such marvellous powers in them almost made us address Mr. Hamerton on the subject, and we only refrained from doing so when we thought that no doubt he had already been troubled by questions on that point.

  Mr. Hamerton, in the course of a very interesting section of his volume on animals, thus refers to the late Mr. Waterton, and to the well-known “birds’ friend” in the Tuileries gardens:—

  “The wild bird is not looked upon as a creature to be treated with more hospitality than a wolf; everybody fires at him as at some noxious vermin. Even the scientific naturalist adds yearly to the long catalogue of destruction, to supply his dissecting-room with bodies, and his glass cases with stuffed skins. And so it comes to pass that the wild birds of civilized countries are becoming every year more rare, and we are all as ignorant about them as people must be who have nothing but books of science, without that personal familiarity which alone makes knowledge alive. The late Mr. Waterton, the naturalist, gave a fair example in his gentle hospitality. Round his house, in Yorkshire, was a great space of land, with wood and water, encircled by a protecting wall; within that space no gun was ever fired, it was the guarded paradise of the birds. In their assurance of perfect peace they did not shun man’s friendly observation. Without our stupid destructiveness, there might be many such bird Edens as that. The birds do not avoid us naturally. It has always been noted by voyagers that in lands hitherto uninhabited and unvisited by man, they sat quietly within gunshot, looking at their strange visitors with undismayed curiosity. If men had treated them kindly, they might have been our friends. Did the reader ever happen to meet with the well-known birds’ friend in the garden of the Tuilerics,—an old man, whose life had been saddened by the loss of those he loved, and who sought consolation in his solitude, and found it in the friendship of little birds? They flew about his head, not as the bird in Rubens’s picture of his sons, which is held by a piece of string, but bound by no thread except the invisible one of their gratitude, and affection, and expectation. Not entirely disinterested or unselfish in their love, yet it was full of trust, and that trust quite a personal and peculiar one, for it was given to him alone. A minute before he came into the garden they were wild birds still, and when he had gone home they returned to their lofty trees; but whilst he walked there in the afternoon, they went and talked with him as if he had been their father, settling on his shoulders and his arms, and picking the crumbs close to his careful feet. They must have wondered at his absence when he died; and even now, though things are so changed since then, and the Palace is a blackened ruin, and it seems as if centuries had passed, I believe that the little sparrows and finches still remember their old friend, and would make a fluttering cloud of gladness about his head if he could come from the cemetery where he sleeps, and revisit the chestnut shades.”

  Then there was Mr. Rarey with his horses; and each of us has known some one who had more than ordinary power of attracting or managing this or that class of animal. Madame Sand, one of the most celebrated of French writers, declared herself to possess this power over birds, and described it as hereditary in her family. Its possessors cannot analyze the power nor account for it; it is native, underived, like the gift of singing or the power of pleasing children. The greatest of all later instances is the American, Thoreau. When we read of many of his experiences, we could believe ourselves to be contemplating a modern St. Francis. It is true that in many ways they differed. Thoreau appeared to be contemptuous of authority, and could hardly, we fancy, at any period have been a Catholic; he was more of a pantheist than we could wish; but, then, we find that a certain suggestion of pantheism underlies the idea of the brotherhood of man and brute, and insinuates itself unconsciously into the utterances even of St. Francis. So, in spite of a striking divergence in the circumstances, we find the points of contact or likeness are more prevailing than are the points of difference. We shall perhaps be better able, after studying Thoreau, to distinguish for ourselves between fact and legend in the life of Francis; while the flavor which the saint’s love of nature imparted to his spiritual fervor will illustrate some tendencies in the American. Not seldom the best way to resolve the difficulty and darkness of a remote life is by looking reverently at the reality of a kindred life lived near at hand.

  We have often felt it to be little less than amusing to see how ecclesiastical writers of a certain order have been put to it in dealing with St. Francis and his recorded doings with the animal!,. Their reverence for the man was in odd contrast with the rationalistic tone of thought which colored all their views on this point, and which they could ill escape from. They became lamely apologetic. Even so sympathetic a biographer as Principal Tulloch, of St. Andrews, is all wide-awake lest he should commit himself, and he only glances shyly and unsteadily at this aspect of the matter.4 Had he known that within the memory of hundreds of men still living, nearly all that is credited to St. Francis was actually done by a ‘solitary’ in the woods of Walden, we are persuaded that the very reverend and worthy Principal might have put a somewhat bolder face upon it, and not allowed his ultra-rationalist propensity to triumph quite so far as it has done.

  It is, at all events, with a dim hope of this kind that we have made such an apparently wide and, it may be, unexpected circuit to introduce Thoreau to English readers more fully than he has yet been. If his life and rare capability should be found to shed any light whatsoever upon an old but unique biography, docs it not claim and deserve such attention as we can bestow upon it? If a life, spent for the most part amid the hustle and fervor of American city strife, can illuminate in any degree one of the puzzles of the Middle Ages, we shall not misspend our time in the endeavor to read its main outlines aright.

  Over and above all this it may be said that Thoreau’s life, liberally read, might be taken to show that love of nature, even though allied to mysticism, is a safer road for human nature than that laid open by rationalism and its allies.

  HENRY DAVID THOREAU was born at Concord, Massachusetts, in 1817. He was the youngest son of a French immigrant, who was by trade a lead-pencil maker, and had achieved such a measure of success in his adopted country as enabled him to aim at giving his sons a thoroughly good education. Henry was sent to Harvard University while still young, and graduated in 1837; but he achieved little or no distinction either at school or college. He had his own ways of looking at and doing things, and, as is not seldom the case with genius, be was somewhat slow at working his way to the end of a set problem, though having once done so, it was more than mastered. He would not fall into regular studies, and did not attract the masters. Nor did he make friends of his fellow students, but lived a somewhat solitary life. On leaving college, he and an elder brother kept an academy at Concord for a year or two; and then he was noticeable for his love of rambling abroad in his spare hours, collecting specimens of natural history. He was unlike the sentimentalist, especially in his capacity of attachment to locality, for at no place but Concord did he ever make a permanent home, however much he loved to wander. The most important event of this period was a journey to the White Mountains with his brother John, which seemed to awaken in him new capacities of knowledge and pleasure.

  Of the school teaching he at length got wearied, and then applied himself to his father’s craft, obtaining certificates for having made a better pencil than any then in use. There is a characteristic story told that he and his father, to show the excellence of their work, resolved to make as good a pencil out of paste as those sawed from black lead in London. The result was accomplished, and the certificate was obtained, Thoreau himself claiming a good share of the success, as he found the means to cut the plates. But more characteristic than all, perhaps, is the fact that, when he was congratulated on fortune’s door being thus thrown wide open to him, he declared that he would not make another pencil, as he did not wish to do again what he had done once. At this his friends were, of course, greatly disappointed; but he stood firm and adventured on other industries, doing also a considerable amount of travel and observation during the next few years.

  His mathematical knowledge, and a natural faculty for mensuration, sharpened by his habit of ascertaining the sizes and distances of the objects which interested him, leading naturally to an intimate knowledge of the country about Concord, had caused him to drift into the regular profession of land surveyor. His great accuracy and skill in this work soon found him all the employment that he wanted. The farmers, no less than his townsmen, learned to respect and admire him, though at first they had thought of him only as an odd, unaccountable kind of person. They discovered that he knew more of their lands than they themselves did, and this was a kind of superiority they could appreciate. They came to trust and to love him, too, for genuine qualities of mind and character,—an appreciation and affection which he fully returned.

  His first book, written during this time, grew out of a voyage on the Concord and Merrimac rivers, which he made in 1839, with his brother John, who sympathized with him in many of his tastes, but who died early, and whose death Thoreau deeply lamented. He makes it a special matter of congratulation that they had built their own boat,—a circumstance which, as he fancied, gave such an air of unity and interest as inspired kindred feelings to those of the earliest explorers. He thus describes it:—

  “Our boat, which had cost us a week’s labor in the spring, was in form like a fisherman’s dory, fifteen feet long by three and a half in breadth at the widest part, painted green below, with a border of blue,—with reference to the two elements in which it was to spend its existence. It had been loaded the evening before at our door, half a mile from the river, with potatoes and melons, from a patch which we had cultivated, and a few utensils; and was provided with wheels, in order to be rolled around falls, as well as with two sets of oars, and several slender poles for shoving in shallow places, and also two masts, one of which served for a tent polo at night; for a buffalo’s skin was to be our bed, and a tent of cotton cloth our roof. It was strongly built, but heavy, and hardly of better model than usual. If rightly made, a boat would be a sort of amphibious animal, a creature of two elements, related by one half its structure to some swift and shapely fish, and by the other to some strong-winged and graceful bird. The fish shows where there should be the greater breadth of beam and depth in the hold; its fins direct; where to set the oars, and the tail gives some hint for the form and position of the rudder. The bird shows how to rig and trim the sails, and what form to give the prow that it may balance the boat, and divide the air and water best. These hints we had but partially obeyed. But the eyes, though they are no sailors, will never be satisfied with any model, however fashionable, which does not answer all the requisitions of art. However, as art is all of a ship but the wood, and yet the wood alone will rudely serve the purpose of a ship, so our boat being of wood gladly availed itself of the old law that the heavier shall float the lighter, and though a dull water-fowl, proved a sufficient buoy for our purpose.

‘Were it the will of Heaven, an osier bow
Were vessel safe enough the seas to plow.’

  “Some village friends stood upon a promontory lower down the stream to wave us a last farewell; but we, having already performed these rites, with excusable reserve, as befits those who are embarked on unusual enterprises, who behold but speak not, silently glided past the firm lands of Concord, both peopled cape and lovely summer meadow, with steady sweeps. And yet we did unbend so far as to let our guns speak for us, when at length we had swept out of sight, and thus left the woods to ring again with their echoes; and, it may be, many russet-clad children, lurking in these broad meadows with the bittern and the woodcock and the rail, though wholly concealed by brakes and hard-hack and meadow-sweet, heard our salute that afternoon.”

  The account of this week’s excursion is full of picturesque description,—as it could not fail to be; but it likewise contains many wise reflections, and some fine criticisms of our great authors, Chaucer in particular. Nor is it devoid of scientific interest, though, as yet, he seems more inclined to muse and to make holiday than to do serious work. There is none of the severity of settled purpose about the man or the book. He is gathering materials, but he can afford to make a pastime of his researches, and not to bustle about it. This passage affords us a genial glimpse of the brothers as they go, quietly observing and thinking, and stimulating each other:—

  “We rowed for some hours between glistening banks before the sun had dried the grass and leaves, or the day had established its character. Its serenity at last seemed the more profound and secure from the denseness of the morning’s fog. The river became swifter, and the scenery more pleasing than before. The banks were steep and clayey for the most part, and trickling with water; and where a spring oozed out a few feet above the river, the boatmen had cut a trough out of a slab with their axes, and placed it so as to receive the water and fill their jugs conveniently. Sometimes this purer and cooler water, bursting out from under a pine or a rock, was collected into a basin close to the edge of, and level with, the river,—a fountain-head of the Merrimac. So near along life’s stream are the fountains of innocence and youth, making fertile its sandy margin; and the voyageur will do well to replenish his vessels often at these uncontaminated sources. Some youthful spring, perchance, still empties with tinkling music into the oldest river, even when it is falling into the sea; and we imagine that its music is distinguished by the river gods from the general lapse of the stream, and falls sweeter on their ears in proportion as it is nearer to the ocean. As the evaporations of the river feed thus the unexpected springs which filter through its banks, so perchance our aspirations fall back again in springs on the margin of life’s stream to refreshen and purify it. The yellow and tepid river may float his scow, and cheer his eye with its reflections and its ripples, but the boatman quenches his thirst at this small rill alone. It is this purer and cooler clement that chiefly sustains his life.”

  So they go from point to point, mingling the enjoyments of literature with those of nature; and thus they celebrate their return to their home and its duties:—

  “With a bending sail we glided rapidly by Tyngsboro and Chelmsford, each holding in one hand half of a tart country apple-pie which we had purchased to celebrate our return, and in the other a fragment of the newspaper in which it had been wrapped, devouring these with divided relish and learning the news which had transpired since we sailed. The river here opened into a broad and straight reach of great length, which we bounded merrily over before a smacking breeze, with a devil-may-care look in our faces, and our boat a white bone in its mouth, and a speed which greatly astonished some scow-boatmen whom we met. The wind in the horizon rolled like a flood over valley and plain, and every tree bent to the blast, and the mountains like schoolboys turned their checks to it. They were great and current motions,—the flowing sail, the running stream, the waving tree, the roving wind. The north wind stepped readily into the harness which we had provided, and pulled us along with good will. Sometimes we sailed as gently and steadily as the clouds overhead, watching the receding shores and the motions of our sail; the play of its pulse, so like our own lives, so thin and yet so full of life, so noiseless when it labored hardest, so noisy and impatient when least effective; now bending to some generous impulse of the breeze, and then fluttering and flapping with a kind of human suspense. It was the scale on which the varying temperature of distant atmospheres was graduated, and it was some attraction for us that the breeze it played with had been out of doors so long. Thus we sailed, not being able to fly, but, as next best, making a long furrow in the fields of the Merrimac towards our home, with our wings spread, but never lifting our keel from the watery trench,—gracefully flowing homeward with our brisk and willing team, wind and stream, pulling together, the former yet a wild steer, yoked to her more sedate fellow. It was very near flying, as when the duck rushes through the water with an impulse of the wings, throwing the spray about her before she can rise.”

  His “Walk to Wachusett,” which was undertaken in 1843, has a value beyond its scientific references. It yields an additional proof that, unlike the egotist or solitary, he could easily make himself at home with the common people, and mot with the heartiest hospitality wherever he went. It cost him nothing to enter into their ways; and he never had aught but a pleasant word for thorn now or at any later period. The following account of this walk to Wachusett is given as much for its significant closing words of gratitude as for its admirable description and scientific thought:—

  “As we went on our way late in the afternoon, we refreshed ourselves by bathing our feet in every rill that crossed the road, and anon, as we were able to walk in the shadows of the hills, recovered our morning elasticity. Passing through Sterling, we reached the banks of the Stillwater, in the western part of the town, at evening, where is a small village collected. We fancied that there was already a certain western look about this place, a smell of pines and roar of water, recently confined by dams, belying its name, which wore exceedingly grateful. When the first inroad has been made, a few acres leveled, and a few houses erected, the forest looks wilder than ever. Left to herself, Nature is always more or less civilized, and delights in a certain refinement; but where the axe has encroached upon the edge of the forest, the dead and unsightly limbs of the pine, which she had concealed with green banks of verdure, are exposed to sight. This village had, as yet, no post-office, nor any settled name. In the small villages which we entered, the villagers gazed after us, with a complacent, almost compassionate look, as if we were just making our début in the world at a late hour. ‘Nevertheless,’ did they seem to say, ‘come and study us, and learn men and manners.’ So is each one’s world but a clearing in the forest, so much open and enclosed ground. The landlord had not yet returned from the field with his men, and the cows had yet to be milked. But we remembered the inscription on the wall of the Swedish inn, ‘You will find at Trolhate excellent bread, meat, and wine, provided you bring them with you,’ and were contented. But I must confess it did somewhat disturb our pleasure, in this withdrawn spot, to have our own village newspaper handed us by our host, as if the greatest charm the country offered to the traveller was the facility of communication with the town. Let it recline on its own everlasting hills, and not be looking out from their summits for some petty Boston or New York in the horizon.

  “At intervals we heard the murmuring of water, and the slumberous breathing of crickets throughout the night; and left the inn the next morning in the gray twilight, after it had been hallowed by the night air, and when only the innocent cows were stirring, with a kind of regret. It was only four miles to the base of the mountain, and the scenery was already more picturesque. Our road lay along the course of the Stillwater, which was brawling at the bottom of a deep ravine, filled with pines and rocks, tumbling fresh from the mountains, so soon, alas! to commence its career of usefulness. At first a cloud hung between us and the summit, but it was soon blown away. As we gathered the raspberries, which grew abundantly by the roadside, we fancied that that action was consistent with a lofty prudence, as if the traveller who ascends into a mountainous region should fortify himself by eating of such light ambrosial fruits as grow there, and drinking of the springs which gush out from the mountain sides, as he gradually inhales the subtler and purer atmosphere of those elevated places, thus propitiating the mountain gods by a sacrifice of their own fruits. The gross products of the plains and valleys are for such as dwell therein; but it seemed to us that the juices of this berry had relation to the thin air of the mountain tops.

  “In due time we began to ascend the mountain, passing first through a grand sugar-maple wood which bore the marks of the auger, then a denser forest, which gradually became dwarfed till there were no trees whatever. We at length pitched our tent on the summit. It is but nineteen hundred feet above the village of Princeton, and three thousand above the level of the sea; but by this slight elevation it is infinitely removed from the plain, and when we reached it, we felt a sense of remoteness, as if we had travelled into distant regions, to Arabia Petrea, or the farthest east. A robin upon a staff was the highest object in sight. Swallows were flying about us, and the chewink and cuckoo were heard near at hand. The summit consists of a few acres, destitute of trees, covered with bare rocks, interspersed with blueberry bushes, raspberries, gooseberries, strawberries, moss, and a fine wiry grass. The common yellow lily and dwarf-cornel grow abundantly in the crevices of the rocks. This clear space, which is gently rounded, is bounded a few feet lower by a thick shrubbery of oaks, with maples, aspens, beeches, cherries, and occasionally a mountain-ash intermingled, among which we found the bright blueberries of the Solomon’s seal, and the fruit of the pyrola. From the foundation of a wooden observatory, which was formerly erected on the highest point, forming a rude, hollow structure of stone, a dozen feet in diameter, and five or six in height, we could see Monadnock, in simple grandeur, in the north-west, rising nearly a thousand feet higher, still the ‘far blue mountain,’ though with an altered profile. The first day the weather was so hazy that it was in vain we endeavored to unravel the obscurity. It was like looking into the sky again, and the patches of forest here and there seem to flit like clouds over a lower heaven. As to voyagers of an aerial Polynesia, the earth seemed like a larger island in the ether; on every side, even as low as we, the sky shutting down, like an unfathomable deep around it, a blue Pacific island, where who knows what islanders inhabit? and as we sail near its shores we see the waving of trees, and hear the lowing of kine.

  “We read Virgil and Wordsworth in our tent, with new pleasure there, while waiting for a clearer atmosphere, nor did the weather prevent our appreciating the simple truth and beauty of Peter Bell:—

‘And he had lain beside his asses
On lofty Cheviot hills:’

‘And he had trudged through Yorkshire dales,
Among the rocks and winding scars;
Where deep and low the hamlets lie
Beneath their little patch of sky
And little lot of stars.’

Who knows but this hill may one day be a Helvellyn, or even a Parnassus, and the muses haunt here, and other Homers frequent the neighboring plains—

Not unconcerned Wachusett rears his head
Above the field, so late from Nature won,
With patient brow reserved, as one who read
New annals in the history of man.

  “The blueberries which the mountain afforded, added to the milk we had brought, made our frugal supper, while for entertainment the even-song of the wood-thrush rung along the ridge. Our eyes rested on no painted ceiling nor carpeted hall, but on skies of Nature’s painting, and hills and forests of her embroidery. Before sunset, we rambled along the ridge to the north, while a hawk soared still above us. It was a place where gods might wander so solemn and solitary, and removed from all contagion with the plain. As the evening came on, the haze was condensed in vapor, and the landscape became more distinctly visible, and numerous sheets of water were brought to light.

Et jam summa procul villarum culmina fumant,
Majoresque cadunt altis de montibus umbræ.

And now the tops of the villas smoke afar off,
And the shadows fall longer from the high mountains.

  “As we stood on the stone tower while the sun was setting, we saw the shades of night creep gradually over the valleys of the east, and the inhabitants went into their houses, and shut their doors, while the moon silently rose up, and took possession of that part. And then the same scene was repeated on the west side, as far as Connecticut and the Green Mountains, and the sun’s rays fell on us two alone, of all Now England men.

  “It was the night but one before the full of the moon, so bright that we could see to read distinctly by moonlight, and in the evening strolled over the summit without danger. There was, by chance, a fire blazing on Monadnock that night, which lighted up the whole western horizon, and, by making us aware of a community of mountains, made our position seem less solitary. But at length the wind drove us to the shelter of our tent, and we closed its door for the night, and fell asleep.

  “It was thrilling to hoar the wind roar over the rooks, at intervals when we waked, for it had grown quite cold and windy. The night was in its elements, simple even to majesty in that bleak place,—a bright moonlight and a piercing wind. It was at no time darker than twilight within the tent, and we could easily sec the moon through its transparent roof as we lay; for there was the moon still above us, with Jupiter and Saturn on either hand, looking down on Wachusett, and it was a satisfaction to know that they were our fellow-travellers still, as high and out of our reach as our own destiny. Truly the stars were given for a consolation to man. We should not know but our life were fated to be always grovelling, but it is permitted to behold them, and surely they are deserving of a fair destiny. We see laws which never fail, of whose failure we never conceived; and their lamps burn all the night, too, as well as day, so rich and lavish is that nature which can afford this superfluity of light.

  “The morning twilight began as soon as the moon bad set, and we arose and kindled our fire, whose blaze might have been seen for thirty miles around. As the daylight increased it was remarkable how rapidly the wind went down. There was no dew on the summit, but coldness supplied its place. When the dawn had reached its prime, we enjoyed the view of a distant horizon line, and could fancy ourselves at sea, and the distant hills the waves in the horizon, as seen from the deck of a vessel. The cherry-birds flitted around us, the nut-hatch and flicker were heard among the bushes, the titmouse perched within a few feet, and the song of the wood-thrush again run along the ridge. At length we saw the sun rise up out of the sea, and shine on Massachusetts; and from this moment the atmosphere grew more and more transparent till the time of our departure, and we began to realize the extent of the view, and how the earth, in some degree, answered to the heavens in breadth, the white villages to the constellations in the sky. There was little of the sublimity and grandeur which belong to mountain scenery, but an immense landscape to ponder on a summer’s day. We could see how ample and roomy is nature. As far as the eye could reach, there was little life in the landscape; the few birds that flitted past did not crowd. The travellers on the remote highways, which intersect the country on every side, had no fellow-travellers for miles before or behind. On every side, the eye ranged over successive circles of towns, rising one above another, like the terraces of a vineyard, till they were lost in the horizon. Wachusett is, in fact, the observatory of the State. There lay Massachusetts, spread out before us in its length and breadth, like a map. There was the level horizon, which told of the sea on the east and south, the well-known hills of New Hampshire on the north, and the misty summits of the Hoosac and Green Mountains, first made visible to us the evening before, blue and unsubstantial, like some bank of clouds which the morning wind would dissipate, on the north-west and west. These last distant ranges, on which the eye rests unwearied, commence with an abrupt boulder in the north, beyond the Connecticut, and travel southward, with three or four peaks dimly seen. But Monadnock, rearing its masculine front in the northwest, is the grandest feature. As we beheld it, we knew that it was the height of land between the two rivers, on this side the valley of the Merrimac, on that of the Connecticut, fluctuating with their blue seas of air, these rival vales, already teeming with Yankee men along their respective streams, born to what destiny who shall tell? Watatic and the neighboring hills in this State and in New Hampshire are a continuation of the same elevated range on which we were standing. But that New Hampshire bluff,—that promontory of a State,—lowering day and night on this our State of Massachusetts, will longest haunt our dreams.

  “We could, at length, realize the place mountains occupy on the land, and how they come into the general scheme of the universe.

  “When first we climb their summits and observe their lesser irregularities we do not give credit to the comprehensive intelligence which shaped them; but when afterward we behold their outlines in the horizon, we confess that the hand which moulded their opposite slopes, making one to balance the other, worked round a deep centre, and was privy to the plan of the universe. So is the least part of nature in its bearings referred to all space. These lesser mountain ranges, as well as the Alleghanies, run from the north-east to south-west, and parallel with these mountain streams are the more fluent rivers, answering to the general direction of the coast, the bank of the great ocean stream itself. Even the clouds, with their thin bars, fall into the same direction by preference, and such even is the course of the prevailing winds, and the migration of men and birds. A mountain-chain determines many things for the statesman and philosopher. The improvements of civilization rather creep along its sides than cross its summit. How often is it a barrier to prejudice and fanaticism! In passing over these heights of land, through their thin atmosphere, the follies of the plain are refined and purified; and as many species of plants do not scale their summits, so many species of folly no doubt do not cross the Alleghanies; it is only the hardy mountain plant that creeps quite over the ridge, and descends into the valley beyond.

  “We get a dim notion of the flight of birds, especially of such as fly high in the air, by having ascended a mountain. We can now see what landmarks mountains are to their migrations; how the Catskills and Highlands have hardly sunk to them when Wachusett and Monadnock open a passage to the north-east; how they are guided, too, in their course by the rivers and valleys; and who knows but by the stars, as well as the mountain ranges, and not by the petty landmarks which we use. The bird whose eye takes in the Green Mountains on the one side, and the ocean on the other, need not be at a loss to find its way.

  “At noon we descended the mountain, and, having returned to the abodes of men, turned our faces to the east again; measuring our progress, from time to time, by the more ethereal hues which the mountain assumed. Passing swiftly through Stillwater and Sterling, as with a downward impetus, we found ourselves almost at homo again in the green meadows of Lancaster, so like our own Concord, for both are watered by two streams which unite near their centres, and have many other features in common. There is an unexpected refinement about this scenery; level prairies of great extent, interspersed with elms and hop-fields and groves of trees, give it almost a classic appearance. This it will be remembered, was the scene of Mrs. Rowlandson’s capture, and of other events in the Indian wars, but from this July afternoon, and under that mild exterior, those times seemed as remote as the irruption of the Goth3. They were the dark age of New England. On beholding a picture of a New England village as it then appeared, with a fair open prospect, and a light on trees and river, as if it were broad noon, we find we had not thought the sun shone in those days, or that men lived in broad daylight then. We do not imagine the sun shining on hill and valley during Philip’s war, nor on the war-path of Puagus, or Standish, or Church, or Lovell, with serene summer weather, but a dim twilight or night did those events transpire in. They must have fought in the shade of their own dusky deeds.

  “At length, as we plodded along the dusty roads, our thoughts became as dusty as they; all thought indeed stopped, thinking broke down, or proceeded only passively in a sort of rhythmical cadence of the confused material of thought, and we found ourselves mechanically repeating some familiar measure which timed with our tread; some verse of the Robin Hood ballads, for instance, which one can recommend to travel by.

‘Swearers are swift, sayd lyttle John,
As the wind blows over the hill;
For if it be never so loud this night,
Tomorrow it may be still.’

And so it went up hill and down till a stone interrupted the line, when a new verse was chosen.

‘His shoote it was but loosely shot,
Yet flewe not the arrowe in vaine,
For it met one of the sheriffe’s men,
And William-a-Trent was slaine.’

  “There is, however, this consolation to the most way-worn traveller, upon the dustiest road, that the path his feet describe is so perfectly symbolical of human life,—now climbing the hills, now descending into the vales. From the summits he beholds the heavens and the horizon, from the vales he looks up to the heights again. He is treading his old lessons still, and though he may be very weary and travel-worn, it is yet sincere experience.

  “Leaving the Nashua, we changed our route a little, and arrived at Stillriver village, in the western part of Harvard, just as the sun was setting. From this place, which lies to the northward, upon the western slope of the same range of hills on which we had spent the noon before, in the adjacent town, the prospect is beautiful, and the grandeur of the mountain outlines unsurpassed. There was such a repose and quiet here at this hour, as if the very hill-sides were enjoying the scene, and we passed slowly along, looking back over the country we had traversed; and listening to the evening song of the robin, we could not help contrasting the equanimity of nature with the bustle and impatience of man. His words and actions presume always a crisis near at hand, but she is for ever silent and unpretending.

  “And now that we have returned to the desultory life of the plain, let us endeavor to import a little of that mountain grandeur into it. We will remember within what walls we lie, and understand that this level life too has its summit, und why from the mountain top the deepest valleys have a tinge of blue; that there is elevation in every hour, as no part of the earth is so low that the heavens may not be seen from, and we have only to stand on the summit of our hour to command an uninterrupted horizon.

  “We rested that night at Harvard, and the next morning, while one bent his steps to the nearer village of Groton, the other took his separate and solitary way to the peaceful meadows of Concord; but let him not forget to record the brave hospitality of a farmer and his wife, who generously entertained him at their board, though the poor wayfarer could only congratulate the one on the continuance of hay weather, and silently accept the kindness of the other. Refreshed by this instance of generosity, no less than by the substantial viands set before him, he pusl1ed forward with new vigor, and reached the banks of the Concord before the sun had climbed many degrees into the heavens.”

  His taste for a ‘wild’ life was not completely satisfied by these occasional adventures, and his love of nature and of natural history studies suggested a closer association. For years, when not travelling, he had been an almost daily visitor at Walden wood, the bulk of his surveying work lying in it or near to it. The pleasure his roamings in the woods had afforded him was of so pure and inspiring a kind that he was drawn to seek opportunities to carry out his studies of nature yet more consistently and steadily. So he took a great resolve, and in March of 1845 began the building of his house in Walden wood, which, as often happens, because it has somewhat of an outré look, has occupied a wholly disproportionate place in the general notion of Thoreau. “By the middle of April it was framed and ready for raising,” and by the 4th of July,—not without significance either, being Independence Day,—he went into occupation. He had purchased the boards of an Irishman’s shanty, and exults as he looks on his finished work, that “there is some of the same fitness in a man’s building his own house that there is in a bird’s building its own nest.”

  And a right trim little abode it was, with its one cheerful window and detached offices, if we may at all credit the frontispiece of his first work, “Walden.” He can exult in the fact that by habit men can do with but little shelter, and vastly admires the Penobscot Indians, who have nothing but a thin tent between them and the snow, and do not suffer by it. Thus he finds that savage life attains in one primitive principle the equality which modern societies vainly yearn for,—the poorest having as good a shelter as the highest! Yet his hatred of waste and shiftlessness was as notable as these other traits. He says in one place, “There is none so poor that he need sit on a pumpkin. That is shiftlessness. There are plenty of such chairs as I like best to be had for the taking of them away.” And it is very odd to observe, amid his apparent indifference to wealth and self-interest, the really Yankee way in which he exults in being able to provide for himself with his own hands, so checkmating nature as to have a balance over. His statement of accounts of the cost of the Walden hut is full of unconscious humor. He recalls, with natural complacency, that at Cambridge College the student pays for his room one dollar eighty-seven and a half cents each year more than his house had cost him, and has thereupon some quaint reflections on true education. He congratulates himself on the absence of all ‘baggage,’—‘traps,’ as, he says, the popular slang calls it, and avows his conviction that “to maintain one’s self on this earth is not a hardship, but a pastime, if we will live simply and wisely,”—as the pursuits of the “simple nations are still the sports of the artificial.” He himself tells us, when speaking of his book “Walden:” “When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only.” he devoted a certain time each week to the work of surveying for the farmers near by; all the rest was devoted to observation and study.

  “My house was on the side of a hill, immediately on the edge of the larger wood, in the midst of a young forest of pitch pines and hickories, and half a dozen rods from the pond, to which a narrow foot path led down the hill. In my front yard grew the strawberry, blackberry, and life-everlasting, johnswort, and golden rod, shrub oaks, and sand cherry, blueberry and ground nut. Near the end of May, the sand cherry (cerasus pumila) adorned the sides of the path with its delicate flowers arranged in umbels cylindrically about its short stems, which last, in the fall, weighed down with good sized and handsome cherries, fell over in wreaths like rays on every side. I tasted them out of compliment to nature, though they were scarcely palatable. The sumach (rhus glabra) grew luxuriantly about the house, pushing up through the embankment which I bad made, and growing five or six feet the first season. Its broad pinnate tropical leaf was pleasant though strange to look on. The large buds, suddenly pushing out late in the spring from dry sticks which bad seemed to be dead, developed themselves as by magic into graceful green and tender boughs, an inch in diameter; and sometimes, as I sat at my window, so heedlessly did they grow and tax their weak joints, I beard a fresh and tender bough suddenly fall like a fan to the ground, when there was not a breath of air stirring, broken off by its own weight. In August the large masses of berries, which, when in flower, had attracted many wild bees, gradually assumed their bright velvety crimson hue, and by their weight again bent down and broke the tender limbs.”

  Nevertheless, he has some difficulties and adventures; and must indenture himself for a short while to the stern task-mistress, Experienee, before he can feel himself fully free to fraternize with Nature:—

  “As I had little aid from horses or cattle, or hired men or boys, or improved implements of husbandry, I was much slower, and became much more intimate with my beans than usual. But labor of the hands, even when pursued to the verge of drudgery, is perhaps never the worst form of idleness. It has a constant and imperishable moral, and to the scholar it yields a classic result. A very agricola luboriosus was I to travellers bound westward through Lincoln and Wayland to nobody knows where; they sitting at their case in gigs, with elbows on knees, and reins loosely hanging in festoons; I the home-staying, laborious native of the soil. But soon my homestead was out of their sight and thought. It was the only open and cultivated field for a great distance on either side of the road; so they made the most of it; and sometimes the man in the field heard more of travellers’ gossip and comment than was meant for his ear: ‘Beans so late! peas so late!’—for I continued to plant when others had begun to hoe,—the ministerial husbandman had not suspected it. ‘Corn, my boy, for fodder; corn for fodder.’ ‘Does he live there?’ asks the black bonnet of the gray coat; and the hard-featured farmer reins up his grateful dobbin to inquire what you are doing where he sees no manure in the furrow, and recommends a little chip dirt, or any little waste stuff, or, it may be, ashes or plaster. But here were two acres and a half of furrows, and only a hoe for cart and two hands to draw it,—there being an aversion to other carts and horses,—and chip dirt far away. Fellow-travellers as they rattled by compared it aloud with the fields which they had passed, so that I came to know how I stood in the agricultural world. This was one field not in Mr. Coleman’s report. And, by the way, who estimates the value of the crop which Nature yields in the still wilder fields unimproved by man? The crop of English hay is carefully weighed, the moisture calculated, the silicates and the potash; but in all dells and pond holes in the woods and pastures and swamps grows a rich and various crop only unreaped by man. Mine was, as it were, the connecting link between wild and cultivated fields; as some states are civilized, and others half-civilized, and others savage or barbarous, so my field was, though not in a bad sense, a half-cultivated field. They were beans cheerfully returning to their wild and primitive state that I cultivated, and my hoe played the Ranz des Vaches for them.”

  Even the baking of bread is not so simple as it had seemed, but he takes his own line and learns even where he appears to lose:—

  “Bread I at first made of pure Indian meal and salt, genuine hoe-cakes, which I baked before my fire out of doors on a shingle or the end of a stick of timber sawed off in building my house; but it was wont to get smoked and to have a piny flavor. I tried flour also; but have at last found a mixture of rye and Indian meal most convenient and agreeable. In cold weather it was no little amusement to bake several small loaves of this in succession, tending and turning them as carefully as an Egyptian his hatching eggs. They were a real cereal fruit which I ripened, and they had to my senses a fragrance like that of other noble fruits, which I kept in as long as possible by wrapping them in cloths. I made a study of the ancient and indispensable art of bread-making, consulting such authorities as offered, going back to the primitive days and first invention of the unleavened kind, when from the wildness of nuts and meats men first reached the mildness and refinement of this diet, and travelling gradua1ly down in my studies through that accidental souring of the dough which, it is supposed, taught the leavening process, and through the various fermentations thereafter, till I came to ‘good, sweet, wholesome bread,’ the staff of life. Leaven, which some deem the soul of bread, the spiritus which fills its cellular tissue, which is religiously preserved like the vestal fire,—some precious bottle-full, I suppose, first brought over in the Mayflower did the business for America, and its influence is still rising, swelling, spreading, in cerealian billows over the land,—this seed I regularly and faithfully procured from the village, till at length one morning I forgot the rules, and scalded my yeast, by which accident I discovered that even this was not indispensable,—for my discoveries were not by the synthetic but analytic process,—and I have gladly omitted it since, though most housewives earnestly assured me that safe and wholesome bread without yeast might not be, and elderly people prophesied a speedy decay of the vital forces. Yet I find it not to be an essential ingredient, and, after going without it for a year, am still in the land of the living; and I am glad to escape the trivialness of carrying a bottleful in my pocket, which would sometimes pop and discharge its contents to my discomfiture. It is simpler and more respectable to omit it. Man is an animal who, more than any other, can adapt himself to all climates and circumstances. Neither did I put any sal-soda, or other acid or alkali, into my bread. It would seem that I made it according to the recipe which Marcus Poreius Cato gave about two centuries before Christ: ‘Panem depsticium sic facito. Manus moratoriumque bene lavato. Farjnam in mortarium indito, aquæ paulatim addito, subigitoque pulchre. Ubi bene subegcris, defingito, coquitoque sub testu.’ Which I take to mean, — ‘Make kneaded bread thus. Wash your hands and trough well. Put the meal into the trough, add water gradually, and knead it thoroughly. When you have kneaded it well, mould it, and bake it under a cover,’ that is, in a baking-kettle. Not a word about leaven. But I did not always use this staff of life. At one time, owing to the emptiness of my purse, I saw none of it for more than a month.”

  Having now but few human companions, in the shape of occasional visitors,—Emerson, one of his nearest neighbors, amongst them,—he honestly tried what the lower creatures could do for him. And soon he and they were on the most intimate terms. The fishes came, as it seemed, into his hand if he but dipped it in the stream; the mice would come and playfully oat out of his fingers, and the very mole paid him friendly visits; sparrows alighted on his shoulder at his call, phœbes built in his shed; and the wild partridge with her brood came and fed quietly beneath his window as he sat and looked at them. He himself has thus celebrated his first domestic companions in Walden:—

  “The mice which haunted my house were not the common ones, which are said to have been introduced into the country, but a wild native kind not found in the village. I sent one to a distinguished naturalist, and it interested him much. When I was building, one of these had its nest underneath the house, and before I had laid the second floor, and swept out the shavings, would come out regularly at lunch time and pick up the crumbs at my feet. It probably had never seen a man before; and it soon became quite familiar, and would run over my shoes and up my clothes. It could readily ascend the sides of the room by short impulses, like a squirrel, which it resembled in its motions. At length, as I leaned with my elbow on the bench one day, it ran up my clothes, and along my sleeve, and round and round the paper which held my dinner, while I kept the latter close, and dodged and played at bo-peep with it; and when at last I held still a piece of cheese between my thumb and finger, it came and nibbled it, sitting in my hand, and afterward cleaned its face and paws, like a fly, and walked away.

  “A phœbe soon built in my shed, and a robin for protection in a pine which grew against the house. In June the partridge (Tetrao umbellas), which is so shy a bird, led her brood past my windows, from the woods in the rear to the front of my house, clucking and calling to them like a hen, and in all her behavior proving herself the hen of the woods. The young suddenly disperse on your approach, at a signal from the mother, as if a whirlwind had swept them away; and they so exactly resemble the dried leaves and twigs that many a traveller has placed his foot in the midst of a brood, and heard the whir of the old bird as she flew off, and her anxious calls and mewing, or seen her trail her wings to attract his attention, without suspecting their neighborhood. The parent will sometimes roll and spin round before you in such a déshabille, that you cannot, for a few moments, detect what kind of creature it is. The young squat still and flat, often running their heads under a leaf, and mind only their mother’s directions given from a distance, nor will your approach make them run again and betray themselves. You may even tread on them, or have your eyes on them for a minute, without discovering them. I have held them in my open hand at such a time, and still their only care, obedient to their mother and their instinct, was to squat there without fear or trembling. So perfect is this instinct that once, when I had laid them on the leaves again, and one accidentally fell on its side, it was found with the rest in exactly the same position ten minutes afterwards. They are not callow like the young of most birds, but more fully developed and precocious even than chickens. The remarkably adult yet innocent expression of their open and serene eyes is very memorable. All intelligence seems reflected in them. They suggest not merely the purity of infancy, but a wisdom clarified by experience. Such an eye was not born when the bird was, but is coeval with the sky it reflects. The woods do not yield such another gem. The traveller does not often look into such a limpid well. The ignorant or reckless sportsman often shoots the parent at such a time, and leaves these innocents to fall a prey to some prowling beast or bird, or gradually mingle with the decaying leaves which they so much resemble. It is said that when hatched by a hen they will directly disperse on some alarm, and so are lost, for they never hear the mother’s call which gathers them again. These were my hens and chickens.

  “It is remarkable how many creatures live wild and free, though secret, in the woods, and still sustain themselves in the neighborhood of towns, suspected by hunters only. How retired the otter manages to live here! He grows to be four feet long, as big as a small boy, perhaps without any human being getting a glimpse of him. I formerly saw the raccoon in the woods behind where my house is built, and probably still heard their whinnering at night. Commonly I rested an hour or two in the shade at noon, after planting, and ate my lunch, and read a little by a spring which was the source of a swamp and of a brook, oozing from under Brister’s Hill, half a mile from my field. The approach to this was through a succession of descending grassy hollows full of young pitch pines into a larger wood about the swamp. Here, in a very secluded and shaded spot, under a spreading white-pine, there was yet a clean firm sward to sit on. I had dug out the spring and made a well of clear gray water, where I could dip up a pailful without soiling it, and thither I went for this purpose almost every day in midsummer, when the pond was warmest. Thither, too, the wood-cock led her brood, to probe the mud for worms, flying but n foot above them down the bank, while they ran in a troop beneath; but at last, spying me, she would leave her young and circle round and round me, nearer and nearer till within four or five feet, pretending broken wings and legs, to attract my attention, and get off her young, who would already have taken up their march, with faint wiry peep, single file through the swamp, as she directed. Or I heard the peep of the young when I could not see the parent bird. There, too, the turtle-doves sat over the spring, or fluttered from bough to bough of the soft white pines over my head; or the red squirrel, coursing down the nearest bough, was particularly familiar and inquisitive. You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns.”

  He draws his brute friends towards him as if by secret magnetic attractions, and never seems to fail in the long run in finding what he seeks. One of his friends has given an almost ludicrous account of his helpless endeavors to free himself from the society of a squirrel of a peculiar species which he had taken for a time in order to observe its habits and mode of movement. More than once he conveyed the little creature to the tree from which he had taken it, but it immediately returned to his hand, sat there, and declined to betake itself to its old haunts, at length hiding its head in the folds of his waistcoat; a demonstration that he could not resist. He therefore marched his pet back to the hut.

  This is quite as marvellous and quite as touching as some of the stories told of St. Francis. One day, we read a live leveret was brought to him. His gentle heart was moved to pity, and he said, “Little brother leveret, come to me;” and although he desired the creature to escape, it always returned and nestled in the cloak of the loving Father. The same story is told of a wild rabbit. “It still returned,” says his biographer, Bonaventura, “into the Father’s bosom, as if it had some hidden sense of the pitifulness of his heart.”

  “Thoreau’s intimacy with animals,” says another friend, “suggested what Thomas Fuller records of Butler, the apiologist, that ‘either he had told the bees things, or the bees had told him.’ “And this friend avouches that “snakes coiled round his leg; that fishes swam into his hand, and he took them out of the water;” that he “pulled the woodchuck out of its hole by the tail, and took the foxes under his protection from the hunters.” Nathaniel Hawthorne, in one of his Note-books, tells us that his first hint of Donatello, in “The Marble Faun,” was derived from these attractions and half-animal instincts of Thoreau.

  And the more intimate Thoreau grows with his brute friends the more his respect and love for them rises. He writes, “If we take the age into account, may there not be a civilization going on among brutes as well as men? They seem to me to be rudimental, burrowing men, still standing on their defence, awaiting their transformation.”

  We are fully aware that not a few will be inclined summarily to dismiss our claims for some special sympathetic power in Thoreau by saying that his influence was simply magnetic; and will remind us that in their youth they had “tickled trout,” and so on. To this we should be inclined to reply that, if magnetic attraction accounts for anything in Thoreau, sympathy and patience and spiritual discernment count for far more. The power to ‘tickle trout’ is not uncommon, but Thoreau’s affinities and friendships with animals were not limited to that achievement; he himself claimed that it was a fully realized and active sense of brotherhood that gave him any command he had over the lower creatures.

  Notice too how entirely different is Thoreau’s feeling for the dumb creatures from that which animates the common pet-keeper, who almost seems to aim at destroying the true brute nature, and the dim rudimentary humanity along with it, in order to make them little less than ‘snobs.’ Thoreau, instead of being in reactionary divorce from man, loves the animals because they are manlike, and seem to yearn toward human forms. And to him even inanimate nature looks manward in its constancies, if in nothing else. What a glimpse this passage from Mr. Channing gives us of the man:—

  “Thoreau named all the birds without a gun, a weapon he never used in mature years. He neither killed nor imprisoned any animal, unless driven by acute needs. He brought home a flying squirrel, to study its mode of flight, but quickly carried it back to the wood. He possessed true instincts of topography, and could conceal choice things in the bush and find them again; unlike Gall, who commonly lost his locality and himself, as he tells us, when in the wood, master as he was in playing on the organ. If Thoreau needed a box in his walk he would strip a piece of birch bark off the tree, fold it, when cut straightly, together, and put his tender lichen or brittle creature therein.”

  And, naturally nothing afforded him more delight than to observe the graceful prudence of animals. The shifts to which he had often to put himself to achieve this knowledge without cruelty perhaps did more than aught else to develop in him his wonderful, half-animal sagacities. Mr. Emerson says:—

  “It was a pleasure and a privilege to walk with him. He knew the country like a fox or a bird, and passed through it freely by paths of his own. Under his arm he carried an old music-book to press plants; in his pocket his diary and pencil, a spy-glass for birds, microscope, jack-knife, and twine. . . . The naturalist waded into the pool for the water-plants, and his strong legs were no insignificant part of his armor. On this day he looked for the menyanthes and detected it across the wide pool; and, on examination of the floret, declared that it had been in flower five days. He drew out of his breast-pocket a diary, and read the names of all the plants that should bloom that day, whereof he kept account as a banker docs when his notes fall due: ‘The Cypripedium not due till tomorrow.’ He thought that, if waked up from a trance in this swamp, he could tell by the plants what time of the year it was within two days. The redstart was flying about, and presently the fine grosbeaks, whose brilliant scarlet makes the rash gazer wipe his eye, and whose fine clear note Thoreau compared to that of a tanager which has got rid of its hoarseness. Presently he heard a note which he called that of the night-warbler, a bird he had never identified, had been in search of twelve years, which always, when he saw it, was in the act of diving down into a tree or bush, and which it was vain to seek; the only bird that sings indifferently by night and by day. I told him he must beware of finding and booking it, lest life should have nothing more to show him. He said, ‘What you seek in vain for half your life, one day, you come full upon all the family at dinner. You seek it like a dream, and as soon as you find it, you become its prey.’ His power of observation seemed to indicate additional senses. He saw as with a microscope, heard as with an ear-trumpet, and his memory was a photographic register of all he saw and heard. He once remarked that by night every dwelling-house gives out a bad air, like a slaughter-house. . . . And yet none knew better than he that it is not the fact that imports but the impression or effect of the fact on the mind. . . . His interest in the flower or the bird lay very deep in his mind, was connected with Nature, and the meaning of Nature was never attempted to be defined by him. . . . Our naturalist had perfect magnanimity; he had no secrets; he would carry you to the heron’s haunt, or even to his most prized botanical swamp,—possibly knowing that you could never find it again, yet willing to take his risks. . . . He could pace rods more accurately than another man could measure them with rod and chain. He could find his way in the woods at night better by his feet than by his eyes. He knew every track in the snow and on the ground, and what creature had taken the path in the snow before him.”

  We have this further hint of a point in his method from another hand:—

  “He ascended such hills as Monadnock or Saddleback Mountains by his own path, and would lay down his map on the summit and draw a line to the point he proposed to visit below, perhaps forty miles away in the landscape, and set off bravely to make ‘the short cut.’ The lowland people wondered to see him scaling the heights as if he had lost his way, or at his ‘jumping over their cow-yard fences,’ asking if he had fallen from the clouds.”

  Mr. Channing thus aptly supplements Mr. Emerson’s report:—

  “Alpine and sea plants he admired, besides those of his own village; of the latter, he mostly attended willows, golden-rods, asters, polygonums, sedges, and grasses; fungi and lichens he somewhat affected. He was accustomed to date the day of the month by the appearance of certain flowers, and thus visited special plants for a series of years, in order to form an average; as his white-thorn by Tarbell’s Spring, ‘Good for tomorrow, if not for today.’ The bigness of noted trees, the number of rings, the degree of branching by which their ago may be drawn; the larger forests, such ns that princely ‘Inches Oak-Wood,’ in West Acton, or Wetherbee’s patch, he paid attention to.”

  Another of Thoreau’s trusted friends gives us this glimpse of him in congenial circumstances; that is, amongst the children and students who, in spite of what some critics would have us to regard as his morbidity and brusqueness and repulsive bluntness, came great distances to spend their holiday with him in his retreat:—

  “Sometimes I have gone with Thoreau and his young comrades for an expedition on the river, to gather, it may be, water-lilies. Upon such excursions, his resources for our entertainment wore inexhaustible. He would tell stories of the Indians who once dwelt thereabout, until the children almost looked to see a red man skulking with his arrow on the shore; and every plant or flower on the bank or in the water, and every fish, turtle, frog, lizard about us, was transformed by the wand of his knowledge from the low form into which the spell of our ignorance had reduced it into a mystic beauty. One of his surprises was to thrust his bead softly into the water, and as softly raise up before our astonished eyes a large bright fish, which lay as contentedly in his hand as if they were old acquaintances. If the fish had also dropped a penny from its mouth, it could not have been a more miraculous proceeding to us. We could not then get his secret from him.

  And indeed the secret, as we guess, was not a communicable one under any conditions. That he raised the fish before the eyes of the astonished group was a fact, but a full explanation of it would probably have been more hard for Thoreau than the feat itself.

  “One of the weapons with which he conquered all obstacles in science was patience,” says Emerson. “He knew how to sit immovable as part of the rock he rested on, until the bird, the reptile, the fish, which had retired from him should come back, and resume its habits,—nay, moved by curiosity, should come to him and watch him.” The incident of his Walden life which pleased him most, and which he was wont to repeat with some pride to his more intimate friends, was that, after he had been two or three months in the woods, the wild birds ceased to be afraid of him, and would come and perch upon his shoulder, and sometimes upon his spade, when he was digging in the little patch that supplied him with potatoes. He deemed the honor thus bestowed upon him by the birds to be greater than anything an emperor could have conferred, if he had elevated him to a dukedom.

  Thoreau’s main purpose was to exhibit the points where animal instinct and resource meet human affection and virtue to illustrate each other. The following is certainly well worth quoting in this light:—

  “Man conceitedly names the intelligence and industry of animals instinct, and overlooks their wisdom and fitness of behavior. I saw where the squirrels had carried off the ears of corn, more than twenty rods from the corn-field, to the woods. A little further on, beyond Hubbard’s Brook, I saw a gray squirrel, with an ear of yellow corn a foot long, sitting on the fence fifteen rods from the field. He dropped the com but continued to sit on the rail, where I could hardly see him, it being of the same color with himself, which I have no doubt he was well aware of. He next went to a red maple, where his policy was to conceal himself behind the stem, hanging perfectly still there till I passed, his fur being exactly the color of the bark. When I struck the tree and tried to frighten him, he knew better than to run to the next tree, there being no continuous row by which he might escape; but he merely fled higher up, and put so many leaves between us that it was difficult to discover him. When I threw up a stick to frighten him, he disappeared entirely, though I kept the best watch I could and stood close to the foot of the tree.

  “They are wonderfully cunning!”

  Busy men and women—dwellers in cities, people of society, who make the lower creatures practically serviceable—do undoubtedly, in their passion for discipline and order in horses, dogs, and the rest, come to regard animal life as something so dependent on human character and effort as to deprive it of all real individual interest. “I have often thought,” says Mr. Hamerton, “in noticing the stupid and cruel way in which animals are treated,—the almost constant habit of using them merely as things, and not as if they had the feelings and character of individual beings,—that we have other servants besides human ones, who deserve more consideration than they get.” Against this tendency Thoreau testified, just as he testified unremittingly to the sacredness of human individuality. Science itself—as generally understood—does not help us here, but rather comes in to confirm the artificial notion by absorbing the individual in the class,—the species, the genus, the order. An over-pressed and over-cultivated social life, leaning on science, thus finally inflicts injury on itself by narrowing its sources of true interest, and owes gratitude to the men who honestly recall it to Nature,—to the Wordsworths, the Bewicks, the Thoreaus, the Blackburns. A face-to-face and daily intercourse with her, in seeking traces of the dim human instincts which she seems to shroud so strangely even in her most worthless productions, is a supremely healthy occupation or pastime, since it develops sympathy in enforcing the idea that some ordinances of Nature that man deems harsh may, after all, have a reference to wise and beautiful races other than human. And this has the best concurrence of Scripture. “Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His permission.” With Thoreau animals were rudimentary men; and their human aspect was that preeminently in which their individuality stood revealed. On this ground it was that he based their right to freedom, to toleration, and to a healthier regard in their domesticated condition. Very significant in this light is a noble passage on the horse,—the reader will see that the whole soul of Thoreau speaks in it:—

  “I saw a man a few days since working by the river with a horse carting dirt, and the horse and his relations to him struck me as very remarkable. There was the horse, a mere animated machine, though his tail was brushing off the flies, his whole condition subordinated to the man’s, with no tradition (perhaps no instinct) in him of a time when he was wild and free, completely humanized. No contract had been made with him that he should have the Saturday afternoons or the Sundays, or any holidays, his independence never being recognized; it being now quite forgotten, both by man and horse that the horse was ever free. For I am not aware that there are any wild horses known surely not to be descended from tame ones. He was assisting that man to pull down that bank and spread it over the meadow, only keeping off the flies with his tail, and stamping and catching a mouthful of grass or leaves from time to time on his own account: all the rest for man. It seemed hardly worth while that he should be animated for this. It was plain that the man was not educating the horse not trying to develop his nature, but merely getting work out of him.—

‘Extremes are counted worst of all.’

The mass of animated matter seemed more completely the servant of man than any inanimate. For slaves have their holidays; a heaven is conceded to them (such as it is); but to the horse none. Now and for-ever he is man’s slave. The more I considered, the more the man seemed akin to the horse, only his will was the stronger of the two; for a little further on I saw an Irishman shovelling, who evidently was as much tamed as the horse. He had stipulated that a certain amount of his independence be recognised; and yet he was really but a little more independent. What is a horse but an animal that has lost its liberty? and has man got any more liberty for having robbed the horse! or has he just lost as much of his own, and become more like the horse he has robbed? Is not the other end of the bridle, too, coiled around his neck? Hence stable boys, jockeys, and all that class that are daily transported by fast horses. There he stood with his oblong, square figure (his tail mostly sawed off), seen against the water, brushing off the flies with his stump braced back, while the man was filling the cart.

‘The ill that’s wisely feared is half withstood,
He will redeem our deadly, drooping state.’

  “I regard the horse as a human being in a humble state of existence. Virtue is not left to stand alone. He who practices it will have neighbors.”

  Any one who knows animals knows that a horse has as much individuality as a man. And the more we know even of inferior animals, the more distinct does their individuality become for us. It was from this point of view that Thoreau always wrote of the domestic animals, regretful of the despite done to that which is special in them. Never, perhaps, were the claims of the horse, and indirectly of all the domestic animals, more powerfully put than in the passage we have just given, in which we have disclosed to us clearly the point at which, with Thoreau, the mystery of man’s life touched that of animal life, and raised it up to nearly equal interest, only, however, to increase tenfold the meaning and wonder of that to which it is allied.

  With Thoreau, as with St. Francis, as we have said, the sympathy felt for animals is constantly justified by a reference to a dim but real brotherhood. The brute creatures are ‘undeveloped men;’ they await their transformation, stand on their defence; and it is very easy to see that inseparably bound up with this view, there are certain elements of mysticism—common to “the early saint and the American ‘hut-builder.’ Nay, there is more that is common to them,—the capability to deal decisively with authority when it conflicts with interior development, as seen in St. Francis’s revolt against his parent’s wishes for him, and the excessive honesty which would not tolerate the appearance of virtue or of self denial where it did not exist. We read of St. Francis:—

  “When he was sick and ill he was counselled by one of the brethren to have a fox’s skin sewn inside his frock, to ease him a little with its warmth and softness. Francis was too reasonable even in his asceticism to refuse so natural a comfort; but he had another put outside that he might not have the reputation of greater severity than he actually practised.”

  This is precisely as we should have expected Thoreau to act had he over been advised to assume any secret comfort. He would, like St. Francis, have set up an unmistakable outward sign of the hidden fact; for the appearance of dishonesty or the affectation of virtue was hateful to him.

  A further likeness might well be found in the faith both had in the reforming and purifying power of useful daily work:—

  “The lukewarm,” said St. Francis, “and those who do not work sincerely and humbly, will be rejected by God. I desire that all my brethren should labor at useful occupations, that we may be less of a burden to the people, and also that we may be less subject to maladies of the heart and tongue, and may not be tempted to evil thoughts or evil speaking. Those who cannot work, lot them learn to work. As for the profit of the work, it must not remain at the disposal of the earner but at the will of the superior.”

  It was whilst Thoreau was still resident at Walden, in 1846, that he made his first journey to the backwoods of Maine, which he followed up by two later visits,—the second in 1853 and the third in 1857. The record of these visits he has given in his volume “The Maine Woods,” which is characterised by all his grace of style, his eye for beautiful pictures, and his faculty of finding points of interest in the Indians whose society and aid he had sought. Indeed, it was chiefly with the view of extending his knowledge of the Indians and their arts that these journeys to the Maine woods were undertaken. His ready sympathy with them, and his management of them, is specially noticeable. Their natural reserve was overcome so far that they readily let him into most of their methods so far as they were themselves able to explain them, – which was not always the case, as we shall immediately see. Thus he describes his first introduction to those who were to be his guides in the wilderness:—

  “The next morning we drove along through a high and hilly country, in view of Cold-stream Pond, a beautiful lake four or five miles long, and came into the Houlton road again, here called the Military road, at Lincoln, forty-five miles from Bangor, where there is quite a village for this country, the principal one above Oldtown. Learning that there were several wigwams here on one of the Indian islands, we left our horse and wagon and walked through the forest half a mile to the river, to procure a guide to the mountain. It was not until considerable search that we discovered their habitations,—small huts, in a retired place, where the scenery was unusally soft and beautiful, and the shore skirted with pleasant meadows and graceful elms. We paddled ourselves across to the island-side in a canoe, which we found on the shore. Near where we landed sat an Indian girl ten or twelve years old, on a rook in the water in the sun washing and humming, or moaning a song meanwhile. It was an aboriginal strain. A salmon-spear, made wholly of wood, lay on the shore, such as they might have used before white men came. It had an elastic piece of wood fastened to one side of its point, which slipped over and closed upon the fish, somewhat like the contrivance for holding a bucket at the end of a well-pole. As we walked up to the nearest house, we were met by a sally of a dozen wolfish-looking dogs, which may have been lineal descendants from the ancient Indian dogs, which the first voyageurs describe as ‘their wolves.’ I suppose they were. The occupant won appeared, with a long pole in his hand, with which he beat off the dogs, while he parleyed with us,—a stalwart, but dull and greasy-looking fellow, who told us in his sluggish way in answer to our questions, as if it were the first serious business he had to do that day, that there were Indians going ‘up river,’ he and one other—today, before noon. ‘And who was the other?’ ‘Louis Neptune, who lives in the next house.’ ‘Well let us go over and see Louis together.’ The same doggish reception, and Louis Neptune makes his appearance,—a small wiry man, with puckered and wrinkled face, yet he scorned the chief man of the two; the same as I remembered, who had accompanied Jackson to the mountain in 1837. The same questions were put to Louis, and the same information obtained, while the other Indian stood by. It appeared that they were going to start by noon, with two canoes, to go up Chesuncook to hunt moose, to be gone a month. ‘Well, Louis, suppose you get to the Point’ (to the Five Islands just below Mattawam Reach) ‘to camp; we walk upon the West Branch tomorrow-four of us, and wait for you at the dam, on this side. You overtake us to-morrow or next day, and take us into your canoes. We stop for you, you stop for us. We pay you for your trouble.’ ‘Ye!’ replied Louis; ‘maybe you carry some provisions for all,—some pork, some bread, and so pay?’ He said, ‘We sure get some moose.’ And when I asked if he thought Pomola would let us go up, he answered that we must plant one bottle of rum on the top; he had planted a good many; and when he looked again they were all gone. He had been up two or three times; he had planted letter,—English, German, French, etc. These men were slightly clad in shirt and pantaloons, like laborers with us in warm weather. They did not invite us into their houses, but met us outside. So we left the Indians, thinking ourselves lucky to have secured such guides and companions.”

  His picture of the primitive wilderness is, as we think the reader will admit, penetrated by the very spirit of the forest:—

  “What is most striking in the Maine Wilderness is the continuousness of the forest, with fewer open intervals of glades than you imagined. Except the few burnt lands, the narrow intervals of rivers, the bare tops of the high mountains, and the lakes and streams, the forest is uninterrupted. It is even more grim and wild than you had anticipated, a damp and intricate wilderness, in the spring everywhere wet and miry. The aspect of the country, indeed, is universally stem and savage, excepting the distant views of the forest from hills, and the lake prospects, which are mild and civilizing in a degree. The lakes are something which you are unprepared for; they lie up so high, exposed to the light, and the forest is diminished to a fine fringe on their edges, with here and there a blue mountain, like amethyst jewels set around some jewel of the first water,—so anterior, so superior to all the changes that are to take place on their shores, even now civil and refined, and fair as they can ever be. These are not the artificial forests of an English king, a royal preserve merely. Here prevail no forest laws but those of nature. The aborigines have never been dispossessed, nor Nature disforested.

  “It is a country full of evergreen trees, of mossy silver birches and watery maples, the ground dotted with insipid, small red berries, and strewn with damp and moss-grown rocks, a country diversified with innumerable lakes and rapid streams, peopled with trout, and various species of leucisci, with salmon, shad, and pickerel and other fishes; the forest resounding at rare intervals with the note of the chickadee, the blue jay, and the wood-pecker, the scream of the fish-hawk and the eagle, the laugh of the loon, and the whistle of ducks along the solitary streams; at night, with the hooting of owls and howling of wolves; in summer, swarming with myriads of black flies and mosquitoes, more formidable than wolves to the white man. Such is the home of the moose, the bear, the caribou, the wolf, the beaver, and the Indian. Who shall describe the inexpressible tenderness and immortal life of the grim forest, where Nature, though it be mid-winter, is ever in her spring, where the moss growing and decaying trees are not old, but seem to enjoy a perpetual youth; and blissful, innocent Nature, like a serene infant, is too happy to make a noise, except by a few tinkling, lisping birds and trickling rills?

  “What a place to live, what a place to die and be buried in! There certainly men would live for ever, and laugh at death and the grave. There they could have no such thoughts as are associated with the village graveyard,—that make a grave out of those moist evergreen hammocks!

Die and be buried who will,
I mean to live here still;
My nature grows evermore young,
The primitive pines among.”

  He watches for the impressions produced by the leading sounds of the forest, and records with real poetic skill the most striking of them, asin this paragraph:—

  “In the middle of the night, as indeed each time that we lay on the shore of a lake, we heard the voice of the loon, loud and distinct, from far over the lake. It is a very wild sound, quite in keeping with the place and circumstances of the traveller, and very unlike the voice of a bird. I could lie awake for hours listening to it, it is so thrilling. When camping in such a wilderness as this, you are prepared to hear sounds from some of its inhabitants which will give voice to its wildness,—some idea of bears, wolves, or panthers runs in your head naturally; and when this note is first heard very far off at midnight, as you lie with your ear to the ground, the forest being perfectly still about you, you take it for granted that it is the voice of a wolf or some other wild beast, for only the last part is heard when at a distance,—you conclude that it is a pack of wolves baying the moon, or, perchance, cantering after a moose. Strange as it may seem, the ‘mooing’ of a cow on a mountainside comes nearest to my idea of the voice of a bear; and this bird’s note resembled that. It was the unfailing and characteristic sound of these lakes. We were not so lucky as to hear wolves howl, though that is an occasional serenade. Some friends of mine, who two years ago went up the Caucomgomoc River, were serenaded by wolves while moose-hunting by moonlight. It was a sudden burst as if a hundred demons had broke loose, a startling sound enough, which, if any, would make your hair stand on end; and all was still again. It lasted but a moment, and you’d have thought there were twenty of them, when probably there were only two or three. They heard it twice only, and they said that it gave expression to the wilderness which it lacked before. . . . This of the loon—I do not mean its laugh, but its looning—is a long-drawn call, as it were, something singularly human to my ear, boo-boo-ooooo, like the halooing of a man, in a very high key, having thrown his voice into his head.”

  The abundance of life in the wilderness is also celebrated, and accounts of hunting and fishing are eloquently given. He prefers fishing to hunting, and furnishes this account of the latter:—

  “We had been told by McCauslin that here we should find trout enough; so, while some prepared the camp, the rest fell to fishing. Seizing the birch poles which some party of Indians or white hunters had left on the shore, and baiting our hooks with pork and with trout, as soon as they were caught, we cast our lines into the mouth of the Aboljacknagesic, a clear, swift, shallow stream, which came in from Ktaadn. Instantly a shoal of white chivin (Leucisci pulchelli), silvery roaches, cousin-trout, or what not, large and small, prowling thereabouts, fell upon our bait, and one after another were landed amidst the bushes. Anon their cousins, the true trout, took their turn, and alternately the speckled trout and the silvery roaches swallowed the bait as fast as we could throw in; and the finest specimens of both that I have ever seen, the largest one weighing three pounds, were heaved upon the shore, though at first in vain, to wriggle down into the water again, for we stood in the boat. But soon we learned to remedy this evil; for one who had lost his hook stood on the shore to catch them as they fell in a perfect shower around him, sometimes wet and slippery, full in his face and bosom, as his arms were outstretched to receive them. While yet alive, before their tints had faded, they glistened like the fairest flowers, the product of primitive rivers; and he could hardly trust his senses, as he stood over them, that these jewels should have swung away in the Aboljacknagesic waters for so long, so many dark ages,—these bright fluviatile flowers seen of Indians only, made beautiful, the Lord only knows why, to swim there! I could understand better for this the truth of mythology, the fables of Proteus, and all those beautiful sea-monsters,—how all history, indeed, put to a terrestrial use is .mere history, but put to a celestial is mythology always. . .

  “In the night I dreamed badly of trout fishing; and when at length I woke, it seemed a fable that this painted fish swam so near my couch, and rose to our hooks the last evening, and I doubted if I had not dreamed it all. So I rose before the dawn to test its truth, while my companions were still sleeping. There stood Ktaadn with distinct and cloudless outline in the moonlight; and the rippling of the rapids was the only sound to break the stillness. Standing on the shore, I once more cast my line into the stream, and found the dream to be real, and the fable true. The speckled trout and silvery roach, like flying fish, sped swiftly through the moonlight air, describing bright arcs on the dark side of Ktaadn, until moonlight, now fading into daylight, brought satiety to my mind and the mind of my companions, who had joined me.”

  With ‘Joe,’ his favorite, he goes on special adventures, and then, in favorable moments, gains his confidence, as we find in this passage:—

  “I asked him how he guided himself in the woods. ‘Oh,’ said he, ‘I can tell a good many ways.’ When I pressed him further, he answered, ‘Sometimes I lookum side hill,’ and he glanced toward a high hill or mountain on the eastern shore,—‘great difference between the north and the south, see where the sun has shone most. So trees,—the large limbs bend towards south. Sometimes I lookum locks (rocks).’ I asked what he saw on the rocks, but he did not describe anything in particular, answering vaguely, in a mysterious or drawling tone. ‘Bare locks on lake shore, great difference between N. S. E. W. side,—can tell what le sun has shone on.’ ‘Suppose,’ said I, ‘ that I should take you in a dark night right up here into the middle of the woods a hundred miles, set you down, and turn you round quickly twenty times, could you steer straight to Oldtown?’ ‘Oh, yes,’ said he, ‘have done pretty much same thing. I will tell you. Some years ago I met an old white hunter at Millinocket; very good hunter. He said he could go anywhere in the woods. He wanted to hunt with me that day, so we start. We chase a moose all the forenoon, round and round, till middle of afternoon, when we kill him. Then I said to him, ‘Now you go straight to camp. Don’t go round and round where we’ve been, but go straight.’ He said, ‘I can’t do that, I don’t know where I am.’ ‘Where you think camp?’ I asked. He pointed so. Then I laugh at him. I take the lead, and go right off the other way, cross our tracks many times, straight camp.’ ‘How do you do that?’ asked I. ‘Oh, I can’t tell you,’ he replied; ‘great difference between me and white man.’

  “It appeared as if the sources of information were so various that he did not give a distinct, conscious attention to any one, and so could not really refer to any when questioned about it, but he found his way very much as an animal does. Perhaps what is commonly called instinct in the animal in this case is merely a sharpened and educated sense. . . . The white hunter, with whom I talked in the stage, knew some of the resources of the Indian. He said he steered by the wind, or by the limbs of hemlock, which were largest on the north side; also, sometimes when he knew there was a lake near, by firing his gun, and listening to hear the distance and direction of the echo from it.”

  The Indian plan of crossing lakes in a canoe he thus indicates, as well as the method of carrying canoes, in which he is particularly interested, and enthusiastically praises:—

  “The following will suffice for a common experience in crossing lakes in a canoe. As the forenoon advanced, the wind increased. The last bay which we crossed, before reaching the desolate pier at the north-east carry, was two or three miles over, and the wind was south-westerly. After going a third of the way, the waves had increased so as occasionally to wash into the canoe, and we knew that it was worse and worse ahead. At first we might have turned about, but were not willing to. It would have been of no use to follow the course of the shore, for not only the distance would have been much greater, but the waves ran still higher there on account of the great sweep the wind had. At any rate, it would have been dangerous now to alter our course, because the waves would have struck us at an advantage. It will not do to meet them at right-angles, for then they will wash in both sides; but you must take them quartering. So the Indian stood up in the canoe, and exerted all his skill and strength for a mile or two, while I paddled right along in order to give him more steerage way. For more than a mile he did not allow a single wave to strike the canoe as it would, but turned it quickly from this side to that, so that it would always be on or near the crest of a wave when it broke, where all its force was spent, and we merely settled down with it. At length I jumped out on to the end of the pier, against which the waves were dashing violently, in order to lighten the canoe and catch it at the landing, which was not much sheltered; but, just as I jumped, we took in two or three gallons of water. I remarked to the Indian, ‘You managed that well;’ to which he replied: ‘Ver’ few men do that. Great many waves; when I look out for one, another come quick.’”

  “While the Indian went to get cedar bark, etc., to carry his canoe with, we cooked dinner on the shore, at this end of the carry, in the midst of a sprinkling rain.

  “He prepared his canoe for carrying in this wise: he took a cedar shingle or splint eighteen inches long and four or five wide, rounded at one end, that the corners might not be in the way, and tied it with cedar bark by two holes, made midway, near the edge on each side, to the middle cross-bar of the canoe. When the canoe was lifted upon his head, bottom up, this shingle, with its rounded end uppermost, distributed the weight over his shoulders and head; while a band of cedar bark, tied to the cross-bar on each side of the shingle, passed round his breast, and another longer one, outside of the last, round his forehead; also a band on each side rail served to steer the canoe and keep it from rocking. He thus carried it with his shoulders, head, breast, forehead, and both hands, as if the upper part of his body wore all one hand to clasp and hold it. If you know of a better way, I should like to hear of it. A cedar tree furnished all tl1e gear in this case as it had the wood work of the canoe.”

  The sight of so many and varied woods suggests a reflection:—

  “How far men go for material for their houses! The inhabitants of the most civilized cities, in all ages, send into far, primitive forests, beyond the bounds of their civilization, where the moose, and the bear, and savage dwell, for their pine boards for ordinary use. And, on the other hand, the savage soon receives from cities iron arrow-points, hatchets, and guns, to point his savageness with.

  “The solid and well-defined fir-tops, like sharp and regular spear-heads, black against the sky, gave a peculiar, dark, and sombre look to the forest. The spruce tops have a similar but more rugged outline,—their shafts also merely feathered below. The firs were somewhat oftener regular and dense pyramids. I was struck by this universal spiring upwards of the forest evergreens. The tendency is to slender spiring tops, while they are narrower below. Not only the spruce and fir, but oven the arbor vitæ and white pine, unlike the soft, spreading second growth, of which I saw none, all spire upwards, lifting a dense spear-head of cones—spiral, also—to the light and air, at any rate, while their branches struggle after as they may, as Indians lift the ball over the heads of the crowd in their desperate game. In this they resemble grasses, as also palms somewhat. The hemlock is commonly a tent-like pyramid from the ground to its summit.”

  He saw the manufacture of the bark canoes, and tried his hand not unsuccessfully at managing one in the rapids. the Indian relics he had lighted on in his own haunts made him very curious; but he never found any one who could initiate him into the secret of the making of the stone arrow-heads; and in his last days, when a young friend was setting out for the Rocky Mountains, Thoreau’s charge to him was to find an Indian who could teach him that, saying, “It is well worth a visit to California to learn it.”

  And yet it is not too much to say that Thoreau’s general tendency was rather to undervalue the knowledge that diverts the mind from what lies nearest at hand. In the midst of his severe idealism, which led him to find little value in the object save as it stood in relation to some law, there lay an intense realism, which may be taken for egotism, unless it is seen in relation to the quality which Mr. Emerson signalizes in this paragraph:—

  “He noted what repeatedly befell him, that, after receiving from a distance a rare plant, he would presently find the same in his own haunts. And those pieces of good luck which happen only to good players happened to him. One day, walking with a stranger, who inquired where Indian arrow-heads could be found, he replied, ‘Everywhere,’ and, stooping forward, picked one on the instant from the ground. . . . I think his fancy for referring everything to the meridian of Concord did not grow out of any ignorance or depreciation of other longitudes or latitudes but was rather a playful expression of his convictions of the indifferency of all places, and that the best place for each is where he stands. He expressed it once in this wise: ‘I think nothing is to be hoped from you if this bit of mould under your feet is not sweeter to you to eat than any other in this world.’ . . He returned Kane’s ‘Arctic Voyage’ to a friend of whom he had borrowed it with the remark that ‘most of the phenomena noted might be observed in Concord.’”5

  When once we have come to understand this, such passages as the following do not distract or vex us:—

  “The eye which can appreciate the naked and absolute beauty of scientific truth is far more rare than that which is attracted by a moral one. Few detect the morality in the former or the science in the latter. . . He is not a true man of science who does not bring some sympathy to his studies, and expect to learn something by behavior as well as by application. It is childish to rest in mere coincidences, or of partial and extraneous laws. . . . The fact which interests us most is the life of the naturalist. The purest science is still biographical. Nothing will dignify and elevate science while it is sundered from the moral life of its devotee, and he professes another religion than it teaches.

  “My friends mistake when they communicate facts to me with so much pains. Their presence, even their exaggerations and loose statements, are equally good facts for me! I have no respect for facts except when I would use them, and for the most part I am independent of those which I hear, and can afford to be inaccurate, or in other words, to substitute more present and pressing facts in their place.” It is not at all likely that Thoreau had in his mind that remarkable passage near the close of the Fourth Book of the “Excursion; “but any one who will thoughtfully read that passage will see how near he had come to the experience out of which Wordsworth wrote:—

“Trust me that, for the instructed, time will come
When they shall meet no object but may teach
Some acceptable lesson to their minds
Of human suffering or human joy.
For them shall al things speak of man. They read
Their duties in all forms
; and general laws
And local accidents, shall tend alike
To rouse, to urge; and, with the will confer
The ability to spread the blessings wide
Of true philanthropy. The light of love
Not failing, perseverance from their steps
Departing not, they shall at length obtain
The glorious habit by which sense is made
Subservient still to moral purposes,
Auxiliar to divine. That change shall clothe
The naked spirit, ceasing to deplore
The burthen of existence. Science then
Shall be a precious visitant; and then,
And only then, be worthy of her name

  In all his journeys, Thoreau’s pride was to show himself independent of the encumbrances which most men deem necessary. So that these words, written with special reference to his trip to Canada, which he undertook in 1850, and which he has described in his book, “A Yankee in Canada,” may be taken to apply to them all:—

  “My pack, in fact, was soon made, for I keep a short list of those articles which, from frequent experience, I have found indispensable to the foot traveller; and, when I am about to start, I have only to consult to be sure that nothing is omitted, and, what is more important, nothing superfluous inserted. Most of my fellow-travellers carried carpet-bags, or valises. Sometimes one had two or three tremendous yellow valises in his clutch, at each hitch of the cars, or if we were going to have another rush for seats; and when there was a rush in earnest—and there were not a few—I would see my man in the crowd, with two or three affectionate lusty fellows pressing close, the strap along each side of his arm, between his shoulder and his valises, which held them tight to his back. I could not help asking in my mind, What so great cause for showing Canada to those valises, when perhaps your very nieces had to stay at home for want of an escort? I should have liked to be present when the customhouse officer came aboard of him, and asked him to declare upon his honor if he had anything but wearing apparel in them. Even the elephant carries but a small trunk on his journeys. The perfection of travelling is to travel without baggage. After considerable reflection and experience, I have concluded that the best bag for a foot-traveller is made with a handkerchief, or, if he study appearances, a piece of stiff brown paper, well tied up, with a fresh piece within to put outside when the first is torn. That is good for both town and country,—a bundle which you can carry literally under your arm, and which will shrink and swell with its contents. I never found the carpet-bag of equal capacity, which was not a bundle of itself. We styled ourselves the Knights of the Umbrella and the Bundle; for wherever we went, whether to Notre Dame or Mount Royal, or the Champ-de-Mars, to town mayors or the bishop’s palace, to the citadel, with a bare-legged Highlander for our escort, or to the Plains of Abraham, to dinner or to bed, the umbrella and the bundle went with us; for we wished to be ready to digress at any moment. We made our haven nowhere in particular, but everywhere where our umbrella and bundle were. It would have been an amusing circumstance if the mayor of one of those cities had politely asked us where we were staying. We could only have answered that we were staying with his Honor for the time being. I was amused when, after our return, some green ones inquired if we found ‘it easy to get accommodated;’ as if we went abroad to get accommodated, when we can get that at home!”

  In this short passage, we may say that he gathers up and summarizes his impressions of Canada and its people:—

  “To a traveller from the Old World Canada East may appear like a new country, and its inhabitants like colonists; but to me, coming from New England, and being a very green traveller withal, it appeared as Normandy itself, and realized much that I had heard of Europe and the Middle Ages. Even the names of the humble Canadian villages affected me as if they had been those of the renowned cities of antiquity. To be told by a habitant when I asked the name of a village in sight that it is St. Fereole or St. Anne, the Guardian Angel, or the Holy Joseph’s, or of a mountain, that it was Bélange or St. Hyacinthe! As soon as one leaves the States, these saintly names begin. St. John is the first town you stop at (fortunately we did not see it), and thenceforward the names of the mountains, and streams, and villages reel, if I may so speak, with the intoxication of poetry: Chambly, Longueuil, Pointe aux Trembles, Bartholomy, etc., etc., as if it needed only a little foreign accent, a few more liquids and vowels perchance in the language to make or locate our ideals at once. I began to dream of Provence and the Troubadours, and of places and things which have no existence on the earth. They veiled the Indian and the primitive forest, and the woods towards Hudson’s Bay were only as the forests of France and Germany. I could not at once bring myself to believe that the inhabitants who pronounced daily those beautiful, and to me significant, words lead as prosaic lives as we of New England. In short, the Canada which I saw was not merely a place for railroads to terminate in, and for criminals to run to.

  “When I asked a man if there were any falls on the Riviere au Chien—for I saw that it came over the same high bank with the Montmorency and St. Anne—he answered that there were. ‘How far?’ I inquired. ‘Trois quatres lieue.’ ‘How high?’ ‘Je pense, quatre-vingt-dix pieds;’ that is, ninety feet. We turned aside to look at the falls of the Rivière du Saut à la Puce, half a mile from the road, which before we had passed in our haste and ignorance, and we pronounced them as beautiful as any that we saw; yet they seemed to make no account of them there; and when first we inquired the way to the falls, directed us to Montmorency, seven miles distant. It was evident that this was the country for waterfalls; that every stream that empties into the St. Lawrence, for some hundreds of miles, must have a great fall or cascade on it, and in its passage through the mountains was for a short distance a small Saguenay, with its upright walls. This fall of La Puce, the least remarkable of the four which we visited in this vicinity, we had never heard of till we came to Canada, and yet, so far as I know, there is nothing of the kind in New England to be compared to it. Most travellers in Canada would not hear of it, though they might go so near as hear it. Since my return I find that in the topographical description of the country mention is made of ‘two or three romantic falls’ on this stream, though we saw and heard of but this one. Ask the inhabitants respecting any stream, if there is a fall on it, and they will perchance tell you of something as interesting as Bashpish or the Catskill, which no traveler has ever seen, or, if they have not found it, you may possibly trace up the stream and discover it yourself. Falls there are a ‘drug,’ and we became quite dissatisfied in respect to them. We had too much of them. Besides those which I have referred to, there are a thousand other falls on the St. Lawrence and its tributaries which I have not seen or heard of; and above all there is one which I have hoard of called Niagara, so that I think this river must be the most remarkable for its falls of any in the world.

  “At a house near the western boundary of Chateau Richer, whose master was said to speak a very little English, having recently lived at Quebec, wo got lodging for the night. As usual we had to go down alone to got round to the south side of the house where the door was, away from the road; for these Canadians’ houses have no front door, properly speaking. Every part is for the use of the occupant exclusively, and no part has reference to the traveller or to travel. Every New England house, on the contrary, has a front and a principal door opening to the great world, though it may be on the cold side, for it stands on the highway of nations, and the. road which runs by it comes from the Old World and goes to the far West; but the Canadian’s door opens into his back yard and farm alone, and the road which runs behind his house leads only from the church of one saint to that of another. We found a large family—hired men, wife, and children—just eating their supper. They prepared some for us afterwards. The hired men were a merry crew of short, black-eyed fellows, and the wife a thin-faced, sharp-featured French-Canadian woman. Our host’s English staggered us rather more than any French we had heard yet; indeed we found that even we spoke better French than he did English, and we concluded that a less crime would be committed, on the whole, if we spoke French with him, and in no respect aided or abetted his attempts to speak English. We had a long and merry chat with the family this Sunday evening in their spacious kitchen. While my companions smoked a pipe and parlez-voused with one party, I parlezed and gesticulated with another. The whole family was enlisted, and I kept a little girl writing what was otherwise unintelligible. The geography getting obscure, we called for chalk, and the greasy, oiled table-cloth having been wiped,—for it needed no French, but only a sentence from the universal language of looks on my part to indicate that it needed it,—we drew the St. Lawrence, with its parishes, thereon, and thenceforward went on swimmingly, by turns handling the chalk and committing to the tablecloth what would otherwise have been left in a limbo of unintelligibility. This was greatly to the entertainment of all parties. I was amused to hear how much use they made of the word oui in conversation with one another. After repeated single insertions of it, one would suddenly throw back his head at the same time with his chair, and exclaim rapidly, ‘Oui! oui! oui! oui!’ like a Yankee driving pigs. Our host told us that the farms thereabouts were generally two acres, or three hundred and sixty feet wide by one and a half leagues (?), or a little more than four and a half of our miles deep. This use of the word acre as long measure arises from the fact that the French acre or arpent, the arpent of Paris, makes a square of ten perches of eighteen feet each on a side, a Paris foot being equal to 1.06575 English feet. He said that the wood was cut off about one mile from the river. The rest was ‘bush,’ and beyond that the ‘Queen’s bush.’ Old as the country is, each land-holder bounds on the primitive forest, and fuel bears no price. As I had forgotten the French for sickle, they went out in the evening to the barn and got one, and so clenched the certainty of our understanding one another. Then, wishing to learn if they used the cradle, and not knowing any French word for this instrument, I set up some knives and forks on the blade of the sickle to represent one, at which they all exclaimed that they knew and had used it. When snells were mentioned they went out in the dark and plucked some. They were pretty good. They said they had three kinds of plums growing wild,—blue, white, and red, the two former much alike and the best. Also they asked me if I would have des pommes, some apples, and got me some. They were exceedingly fair and glossy, and it was evident that there was no worm in them; but they were as hard almost as a stone, as if the season was too short to mellow them. We had seen no soft and yellow apples by the road side. I declined eating one, much as I admired it, observing that it would be good dans les printemps,—in the spring. In the morning when the mistress had set the eggs a-frying, she nodded to a thick-set jolly-looking fellow, who rolled up his sleeves, seized the long-handled griddle, and commenced a series of revolutions and evolutions with it, ever and anon tossing its contents into the air, where they turned completely topsy-turvy and came down t’other side up; and this he repeated till they were done. That appeared to be his duty when eggs were concerned. I did not chance to witness this performance, but my companion did, and he pronounced it a masterpiece in its way. This man’s farm, with the buildings, cost seven hundred pounds; some smaller ones two hundred.”

  Though to the end Thoreau remained a true naturalist and lover of the ‘lower brethren,’ he abandoned Walden, as we have hinted, when he believed he had fully served his purpose with it, having resided there two years and two months. Not long after his return his father died, and then, in spite of the protest he had made, he returned to the lead-pencil making, at the call of duty, devoting himself to it with persistent assiduity. He had his own mill, and discovered remarkable punctuality and prudence, providing for those who were thus so far made dependent upon him.

  But it was his delight, as we have seen, still to go on excursions here and there when he had leisure; and sometimes he would organize parties for adventures in regions somewhat distant. Mr. Channing gives us this little glimpse of his last excursion to the White Mountains, in July, 1858, when ‘a friendly coincidence’ happened:—

  “Two of his friends thought they might chance upon him there; and, though he dreamed little of seeing them, he left a note at the Mountain-house, which said where he was going, and told them, if they looked, ‘they would see the smoke of his fire.’ This came to be true, the brush taking the flame, and a smoke rising to be seen all over the valley. Meantime Thoreau, in leaping from one mossy rock to another (after nearly sliding down the snow-crust on the side of Tuckerman’s Ravine, and saved by digging his nails into the snow), had fallen and severely sprained his foot. Before this he had found the Arnica mollis, a plant famous for its healing properties; but he preferred the ice-cold water of the mountain stream, into which he boldly plunged his tortured limb, to reduce the swelling, had the tent spread, and then, the rain beginning to come down, so came his two friends down the mountain as well, their outer integuments decimated with their tramp in the scrub. They had seen the smoke, and here they were in this little tent made for two, the rain falling all the while, and five full-grown men to be packed in for five days and nights, Thoreau unable to move on; but he sat and entertained them heartily. He admired the rose-colored linnæas lining the side of the narrow horse-track through the fir-scrub and the leopard-spotted land below the mountains. He had seen the pines in Fitzwilliam in a primeval wood-lot, and ‘their singular beauty made such an impression that I was forced to turn aside and contemplate them. They were so round and perpendicular that my eyes slid off.’”

  From earliest years, the thought of the complicity of his country in the great sin of slavery had depressed him, and latterly had done much to render him unduly depreciatory of parties and politicians, though he paid his uniform tribute of respect to the anti-slavery party. When at Walden he had, by his personal assistance, aided more than one slave ‘toward the North star.’ His convictions on that point only deepened with the years. When he was followed to the forest for some taxes which he regarded as unjust, and which he refused to pay, and went to jail on account of, it is characteristic that he deems himself henceforth absolved from any other than passive obedience to a State which bought and sold men like chattels at its Congress doors. He had a firm faith that it needed only ONE valiant man to break the ‘devil’s bonds’ in which his country had bound herself. The man who was nearest the right was already, he held, in a majority of one, and his decisive testimony would finally be crowned with success. “I know this well,” he says, “that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I could name,—if ten honest men only,—ay, if one HONEST man in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this co-partnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America.”

  When, in 1841, Anthony Burns—a runaway slave,—was recovered and sent back by the State of Massachusetts, it wholly unfitted him, stoic though he is said to have been, for any work. He could not rest till he had said his say; and in his speech on the occasion occurred this passage:—

  “The effect of a good government is to make life more valuable,—of a bad one to make it less valuable. We can afford that railroad and all merely material stock should lose some of its value; for that only compels us to live more simply and economically; but suppose that the value of life itself should be diminished! How can we make a less demand on man and nature, how live more economically in respect to virtue, and all noble qualities, than we do. I have lived for the last month—and I think that every man in Massachusetts capable of the sentiment of patriotism must have had a similar experience—with the sense of having suffered a vast and indefinite loss. I did not know at first what ailed me. At last it occurred to me that what I had lost was a country. I had never respected the Government near which I lived, but I had foolishly thought that I might manage to live here, minding my private affairs, and forget it. For my part, my old and worthiest pursuits have lost I cannot say how much of their attraction, and I feel that my investment in life here is worth many per cent less since Massachusetts has deliberately sent back an innocent man—Anthony Burns—to slavery. I dwelt before, perhaps, in the illusion that my life passed somewhere only between heaven and hell; but now I cannot persuade myself that I do not dwell wholly within hell. . . . Life itself being worthless, all things with it which minister to it are worthless. I feel that to some extent the State has fatally interfered with my lawful business. I am surprised to see men going about their business as if nothing had happened. I say to myself, ‘Unfortunately, they have not heard the news.’ I am surprised that the man I have just met on horseback should be so earnest to overtake his newly-bought cows running away-since all property is insecure, and if they do not run away again, they may be taken from him when he gets them. Fool! does he not know that his seed corn is worth less this year,—that all beneficent harvests fail as you approach the empire of hell? No prudent men will build a store-house under these circumstances, or engage in any peaceful enterprise which it requires a long time to accomplish. Art is as long as ever, but life is more interrupted and less available for a man’s proper pursuits. It is not an era of repose. We have used up all our inherited freedom. If we would save our lives, we must fight for them.

  “I walk toward one of our ponds; but what signifies the beauty of Nature when men are base? We walk to the lakes to see our serenity reflected in them; when we are not serene, we go not to them. Who can be serene in a country where both the ruler and the ruled are without principle? The remembrance of my country spoils my walk. My thoughts are murder to the State, and involuntarily go plotting against her.

  “But it chanced the other day that I scented a white water-lily, and a season I had waited for had arrived. It is the emblem of purity. It bursts up so pure and fair to the eye, and so sweet to the scent, as if to show us what purity and sweetness reside in, and can be extracted from,—the slime and muck of the earth. I think I have plucked the first one that has opened for a mile. What confirmation of our hopes is in the fragrance of this flower! I shall not so soon despair of the world for it notwithstanding slavery, and the cowardice and want of principle of Northern men. It suggests what kind of laws have prevailed longest and widest, and still prevail, and that the time may come when men’s deeds shall smell as sweet. Such is the odor which the plant emits. If Nature can compound this fragrance still annually, I shall believe her still young and full of vigor, her integrity and genius unimpaired, and that there is virtue even in man, too, who is fitted to perceive and love it. It reminds me that Nature has been partner to no Missouri Compromise. I scent no compromise in the fragrance of the water-lily. It is not a Nymphea Douglasii. In it the sweet, and pure, and innocent are wholly sundered from the obscene and baleful. I do not scent in this the time-serving irresolution of a Massachusetts governor, nor of a Boston mayor. So behave that the odor of your actions may enhance the general sweetness of the atmosphere, that when we behold or scent a flower we may not be reminded how inconsistent your deeds are with it; for all odor is but one form of advertisement of a moral quality, and if fair actions had not been performed, the lily would not smell sweet. The foul slime stands for the sloth and vice of man, the decay of humanity; the fragrant flower that springs from it for the purity and courage which are immortal.

  “Slavery and servility have produced no sweet-scented flower annually, to charm the senses of men, for they have no real life; they are merely a decaying and a death, offensive to all healthy nostrils. We do not complain that they live, but that they do not get buried. Let the living bury them; even they are good for manure.”

  In 1854, he addressed the people of Framingham in words of the same tenor:—

  “Three years ago, just a week after the authorities of Boston assembled to carry back a perfectly innocent man, and one whom they knew to be innocent, into slavery, the inhabitants of Concord caused the bells to be rung and the cannons to be fired, to celebrate their liberty, and the courage and love of liberty of their ancestors who fought at the bridge. As if those three millions had fought for the right to be free themselves, but to hold in slavery three million others. Now-a-days, men wear a fool’s-cap, and call it a liberty-cap. I do not know but there are some who, if they were tied to a whipping-post, and could get but one hand free, would use it to ring the bells, and fire the cannon to celebrate their victory. So some of my townsmen took the liberty to ring and fire. That was the extent of their freedom; and when the sound of the bells died away, their liberty died away also; when the powder was all expended, their liberty went also with the smoke. The joke could be no broader if the inmates of the prisons were to subscribe for all the powder to be used in such salutes, and hire the jailers to do the firing and ringing for them, while they enjoyed it through the grating. . . .

  “Much has been said about American slavery, but I think that we do not even yet realize what slavery is. If I were seriously to propose to Congress to make mankind into sausages, I have no doubt that most of the members would smile at my proposition; and if any believed me to be in earnest, they would think that I proposed something much worse than Congress had ever done. But if any one of them will tell me that to make a man into a sausage would be much worse—would be any worse—than to make him into a slave,—than it was to enact the Fugitive Slave Law,—I will accuse him of foolishness, of intellectual incapacity, of making a distinction without a difference. The one is just as sensible a proposition as the other.

  “I do not wish to believe that the courts were made for fair weather, and for very civil cases merely; but think of leaving it to any court in the land to decide whether more than three millions of people—in this case, a six.th part of a nation—have a right to be freemen or not? . . . The law will never make men free; it is men who have got to make the law free. They are the lovers of law and order who observe the law when the Government breaks it. . . . Whoever can discern truth has received his commission from a higher source than the chiefest justice in the world who can discern only law. He it is that delivers sentence. He finds himself constituted judge of the judge.”

  Nor does he leave his audience with only general denunciation. He has practical suggestions though they are not of a kind to recommend him to the ‘able editors’ who have so much to do with accelerating or retarding that less fine sort of greatness, which results mainly from the publicity of the newspapers.

  “Among measures to be adopted, I would suggest to make as earnest and vigorous an assault on the Press as has already been made, and with effect, on the Church. The Church has much improved within a few years; but the Press is, almost without exception, corrupt. I believe that in this country the Press exerts a greater and a more pernicious influence than the Church did in its worst period in the Middle Ages. We are not a religious people, but we are a nation of politicians. We do not care for the Bible, but we do care for the newspaper. At any meeting of politicians—like that at Concord the other evening, for instance,—how impertinent it would be to quote from the Bible! how pertinent to quote from a newspaper or from the Constitution! The newspaper is a bible which we read every morning and every afternoon, standing and sitting, riding and walking. It is a bible which every man carries in his pocket, which lies on every table and counter, and which the mail and thousands of missionaries are continually dispersing. It is in short the only book which America has printed, and which America reads. So wide is its influence. The editor is a preacher whom you voluntarily support. Your tax is commonly one cent daily, and it costs nothing for pew-hire. But how many of these preachers preach the truth? I repeat the testimony of many an intelligent foreigner, as well as my own convictions, when I say that probably no country was ever ruled by so mean a class of tyrants as, with a few noble exceptions, are the editors of the periodical press in this country. And as they live and rule only by their servility, and appealing to the worse, and not the better, nature of man, the people who read them are in the condition of the dog that returns to his vomit.”

  After this we can the more easily believe that “he detected paltering as readily in dignified and prosperous persons as in beggars, and with equal scorn. Such dangerous frankness,” we are told, was in his dealing, “that his admirers called him that ‘terrible Thoreau,’ as if he spoke when silent, and was still present when he had departed.”

  And when Captain John Brown—with whose honest puritanism of doctrine Thoreau would have had little sympathy—justified his puritan doctrines by his actions, and approved himself the ONE man, with the majority behind him, for whom Thoreau had waited, he accepted him as a ‘true transcendentalist.’

  We here insert some of John Brown’s utterances, to show how his words and his actions harmonized:—

  “I believe in the Golden Rule, sir, and the Declaration of Independence. I think they both mean the same thing; and it is better that a whole generation should pass off the face of the earth—men, women, and children—by a violent death, than that one jot of either should fail in this country.

  “It is nothing to die in a good cause, but an eternal disgrace to sit still in the presence of the barbarities of American slavery.

  “An old man should have more care to end life well than to live long.

  “Duty is the voice of God, and a man is neither worthy of a good home here, or a heaven, that is not willing to be in peril for a good cause.

  “The loss of my family and the trouble in Kansas have shattered my constitution, and I am nothing in the world but to defend the right, and that, by God’s help, I have done and will do.”

  When John Brown was arrested in October, 1859, after having bravely laid the first spark to the train that was at last effectually to blow up the slave-holding interest, Thoreau, notwithstanding his dislike of platforms, felt himself called on to say what he thought. He sent notices to most houses in Concord that he would speak in a public hall on the condition and character of John Brown, on Sunday evening, and invited all to come. The Republican Committee, the Abolitionist Committee, sent him word that it was premature and not advisable. He replied, “I did not send to you for advice, but to announce that I am to speak.” The hall was “filled at an early hour by—people of all parties, and his earnest eulogy of the hero was heard by all respectfully, by many with a sympathy that surprised themselves.” We extract here one of the most memorable passages, which almost looks like a prophecy:—

  “I am here to plead his cause with you. I plead not for his life, but his character,—his immortal life; and so it becomes your cause wholly, and not his in the least. . . . I see now that it was necessary that the bravest and humanest man in the country should be hung. Perhaps be saw it himself. I almost fear that I may yet hear of his deliverance, doubting if a prolonged life, if any life, can do as much good as his death.”

  And he recalls with delight some of the impressions produced on him by his meeting with John Brown some time before:—

  “I noticed that he did not overstate anything, but spoke within bounds. I remember particularly how he referred to what his family had suffered in Kansas, without even giving the least vent to his pent-up fire. . . . When I expressed surprise that he could live in Kansas at all with a price set on his head, and so large a number, including the authorities, exasperated against him, he accounted for it by saying, ‘It is perfectly well understood that I will not be taken.’ Much of the time he had to skulk in swamps, suffering from poverty and from sickness, which was the consequence of exposure, befriended only by Indians and a few whites. But though it might be known that he was lurking in a particular swamp, his foes commonly did not care to go in after him. He could even come out into a town where there were more Border Ruffians than Free State men, and transact some business, without delaying long, and yet not be molested; for, said he, ‘No little handful of men were willing to undertake it, and a large body could not be got together in season.’”

  And after John Brown had been hung, Thoreau wrote in July, 1860:—

  “For my own part, I commonly attend more to nature than to man, but any affecting human event may blind our eyes to natural objects. I was so absorbed in him as to be surprised whenever I detected the routine of the natural world surviving still, or met persons going about their affairs indifferent. It appeared strange to me that the ‘little dipper’ should be still diving quietly in the river, as of yore; and it suggested that this bird might continue to dive here when Concord should be no more.

  “I felt that he, a prisoner in the midst of his enemies, and under sentence of death, if consulted as to his next step or resource, could answer more wisely than all his countrymen beside. He best understood his position; he contemplated it most calmly. Comparatively, all other men, North and South, were beside themselves. Our thoughts could not revert to any greater, or wiser, or better man with whom to contrast him, for he, then and there, was above them all. The man this country was about to hang appeared the greatest and best in it. . . . Nothing could his enemies do but it redounded to his infinite advantage,—that is, to the advantage of his cause. They did not hang him at once, but reserved him to preach to them. They did not hang his four followers with him; that scene was still postponed; and so his victory was prolonged and completed. . . .

  “On the day of his translation I heard, to be sure, that he was hung, but I did not know what that meant; I felt no sorrow on that account; but not for a day or two did I even hear that he was dead, and not after any number of days shall I believe it. Of all the men who were said to be my contemporaries, it seemed to me that John Brown was the only one who had not died. I never hear of a man named Brown now—and I hear of them pretty often,—I never hear of any particular brave and earnest man, but my first thought is of John Brown, and what relation he may be to him. I meet him at every turn. He is more alive than he ever was. He has earned immortality. He is not confined to North Elba nor to Kansas. He is no longer working in secret. He works in public, in the clearest light that shines in the land.”

  Amid all the concern and grief caused him by the conduct of Northern statesmen in their unwise playing into the hands of the slave-holders, by which they could only stave off the evil and intensify the crisis that was inevitable, ho endeavored to pursue his scientific studies, still making excursions here and there. The most notable of these was, perhaps, his great tour to Minnesota and the West, in 1860, when he exulted in finding the crab apple, and in making friends with the Indians there, who interested him vastly. In November of 1860 he took a severe cold, through exposing himself while counting the rings on trees, and when there was snow on the ground. A bronchial affection set in, which caused him great pain. This he bore uncomplainingly, with a stoical fortitude, touched with such tenderness, as made his last days truly typical of his life. Mr. W. E. Channing, who was often with him then, bears witness to the spirit that characterized him:—

  “With an unfaltering trust in God’s mercies, and never deserted by his good genius, he bravely bore the pains of his terrible malady, working steadily at his papers to the last. His patience was unfailing. He knew not aught save resignation; and he did mightily cheer those whose strength was less. As long as he could possibly sit up, he insisted on his chair at the family table, and said, ‘It would not be social to take my meals alone.’ And on hearing an organ in the streets, playing some old tune of his childhood he should never hear again, the tears fell from his eyes, and he said, ‘Give him some money, give him some money.’

‘He was retired as noontide dew,
Or fountain in a noonday grove;
And you must love him ere to you
He would seem worthy of your love.
The outward shows of sky and earth,
Of hill and valley he has viewed;
And impulses of deeper birth
Have come to him in solitude.’”

  He lingered on thus till the following spring, and died on the morning of the 8th of May, 1861. Mr. Alger, who has freely criticised him, has well said:—

  “His interior life, with the relations of thoughts and things, was intensely tender and true, however sorely ajar he may sometimes have been with persons and with the ideas of persons. If he was sour, it was on a store of sweetness; if sad, on a fund of gladness.

  “While we walked in procession up to the church, though the bell tolled the forty-four years he had numbered, we could not deem that he was dead whose ideas and sentiments were so vivid in our souls. As the fading image of pathetic clay lay before us, strewn with wild flowers and forest sprigs, thoughts of its former occupant seemed blent with all the local landscapes. We still recall with emotion the tributary words so fitly spoken by friendly and illustrious lips. The hands of friends reverently lowered the body of the lonely poet into the bosom of the earth, on the pleasant hill-side of his native village, whose prospects will long wait to unfurl themselves to another observer so competent to discriminate their features, and so attuned to their moods. And now that it is too late for any further boon amidst his darling haunts below—

‘There will yet his mother yield
A pillow in her greenest field,
Nor the pure flowers scorn to cover
The clay of their departed lover.’”

1 “History of the Norman Conquest,” vol. ii. p. 21.
2 Mrs. Oliphant’s “St. Frnacis of Assisi,” pp. 118, 119.
3 Bisset’s success with cats and dogs and monkeys only surpassed in some degree what others had accomplished before him; but it stirs something like incredulity when we read of his success with turtles and gold-fishes, and we only recover faith when we find the facts attested. “In the course of six months’ teaching, he made a turtle fetch and carry like a dog; and having chalked the floor and blackened its claws, could direct it to trace out any given name in the company. His confidence even led him to try experiments on a gold-fish. . . . In the course of twelve months, he made the pig—an animal usually supposed the most obstinate and perverse in nature—become most tractable.” Bisset was a native of Perth; and, having trained many animals, and exhibited their performances in Edinburgh, London, Dublin, and other places, died in 1783.
4 “Good words,” 1877, p. 449.
5 Thoreau himself had a theory on the subject, which in more than one point coincided with the view which Professor Williamson has given as explanatory of the appearance of certain Arctic plants at comparatively low levels In Yorkshire. Professor Willlamson says, “The only explanation I can suggest supposes that at a later period, when the sub-alpine mountains of the Lake district, and of Scotland, had emerged sufficiently high to reveal the deep gorges descending their flanks, these gorges were filled with glaciers, large masses of which broke away from time to time, and floated southwards and eastwards, as is well known to have been the case. These floating Icebergs were unquestionably the Instruments in spreading over eastern Yorkshire some of its more superficial drifts and gravels, which originally belonged to the moraines of the glaciers whence the icebergs were detached. I can only conclude that when the period arrived at which some of the upland of eastern Yorkshire appeared above the waters, some stray Icebergs had become stranded upon these newly risen lands and conveyed to them along with these moraine rubbish some of the seeds of the plants in question. How it is that they have survived the Increasing warmth of the atmosphere, and the gradual disappearance of all the sub-alpine conditions which usually seem necessary to their healthy life, I am unable to understand, but that they have succeeded in acclimatizing themselves is an obvious fact.”

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