A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers: Sunday

The river calmly flows,

Through shining banks, through lonely glen,

Where the owl shrieks, though ne’er the cheer of men

Has stirred its mute repose,

Still if you should walk there, you would go there again.”

– Channing.

“The Indians tell us of a beautiful River lying far to the south, which they call Merrimack.” – Sieur de .Monts. Relations of the Jesuits, 1604.

In the morning the river and adjacent country were covered with a dense fog, through which the smoke of our fire curled up like a still subtiler mist; but before we had rowed many rods, the sun arose and the fog rapidly dispersed, leaving a slight steam only to curl along the surface of the water. It was a quiet Sunday morning, with more of the auroral rosy and white than of the yellow light in it, as if it dated from earlier than the fall of man, and still preserved at heathenish integrity ;—

An early unconverted Saint,

Free from noontide or evening taint,

Heathen without reproach,

That did upon the civil day encroach,

And ever since its birth

Had trod the outskirts of the earth.

But the impressions which the morning makes vanish with its dews, and not even the most “ persevering mortal ” can preserve the memory of its freshness to mid-day. As we passed the various islands, or what were islands in the spring, rowing with our backs down stream, we gave names to them. The one on which we had camped we called Fox Island, and one fine densely wooded island surrounded by deep water and overrun by grape vines, which looked like a mass of verdure andand of flowers cast upon the waves, we named Grape Island. From Ball’s Hill to Billerica meeting-house, the river was still twice as broad as in Concord, a deep, dark, and dead stream, flowing between gentle hills and sometimes cliffs, and well wooded all the way. It was a long woodland lake bordered with willows. For long reaches we could see neither house nor cultivated field, nor any sign of the vicinity of man. Now we coasted along some shallow shore by the edge of a dense palisade of bulrushes, which straightly bounded the water as if clipped by art, reminding us of the reed forts of the East Indians, of which we had read; and now the bank slightly raised was overhung with graceful grasses and various species of brake, whose downy stems stood closely grouped and naked as in a vase, while their heads spread several feet on either side.

The dead limbs of the willow were rounded and adorned ‘ by the climbing mikania, mikania scandens, which filled every crevice in the leafy bank, contrasting agreeably with the gray bark of its supporter and the balls of the button-bush. The water willow, saliz Purshiana, when it is of large size and entire, is the most graceful and ethereal of our trees. Its masses of light green foliage, piled one upon another to the height of twenty or thirty feet, seemed to float on the surface of the water, while the slight gray stems and the shore were hardly visible between them. No tree is so wedded to the water,and harmonizes so well with still streams. It is even more graceful than the weeping willow, or any pendulous trees, which dip their branches in the stream instead of being buoyed up by it. Its limbs curved outward over the surface as if attracted by it. It had not a New England but an Oriental character, reminding us of trim Persian gardens, of Haroun Alraschid, and the artificial lakes of the East.

As we thus dipped our way along between fresh masses of foliage overrun with the grape and smaller flowering vines, the surface was so calm, and both air and water so transparent, that the flight of a kingfisher or robin over the river was as distinctly seen reflected in the water below as in the air above. The birds seemed to flit through submerged groves, alighting on the yielding sprays, and their clear notes to come up from below. We were uncertain whether the water floated the land, or the land held the water in its bosom. It was such a season, in short, as that in which one of our Concord poets sailed on its stream, and sung its quiet glories.

There is an inward voice, that in the stream

Sends forth its spirit to the listening ear,

And in a calm content it floweth on,

Like wisdom, welcome with its own respect.

Clear in its breast lie all these beauteous thoughts,

It doth receive the green and graceful trees,

And the gray rocks smile in its peaceful arms.”

And more he sung, but too serious for our page. For every oak and birch, too, growing on the hilltop, as well as for these elms and willows, we knew that there was a graceful ethereal and ideal tree making down from the roots, and sometimes Nature in high tides brings her mirror to its foot and makes it visible . The stillness was intense and almost conscious, as if it were a natural Sabbath, and we fancied that the morning was the evening of a celestial day. The air was so elastic and crystalline that it had the same effect on the landscape that a glass has on a picture, to give it an ideal remoteness and perfection. The landscape was clothed in a mild and quiet light, in which the woods and fences checkered and partitioned it with new regularity, and rough and uneven fields stretched away with lawn-like smoothness to the horizon, and the clouds, finely distinct and picturesque, seemed a fit drapery to hang over fairyland . The world seemed decked for some holiday or prouder pageantry, with silken streamers flying, and the course of our lives to wind on before us like a green lane into a country maze, at the season when fruit trees are in blossom.

Why should not our whole life and its scenery be actually thus fair and distinct ? All our lives want a suitable background. They should at least, like the life of the anchorite, be as impressive to behold as objects in the desert, a broken shaft or crumbling mound against a limitless horizon . Character always secures for itself this advantage, and is thus distinct and unrelated to near or trivial objects, whether things or persons . On this same stream a maiden once sailed in my boat, thus unattended but by invisible guardians, and as she sat in the prow there was nothing but herself between the steersman and the sky. I could then say with the poet, –

“Sweet falls the summer air

Over her frame who sails with me;

Her way like that is beautifully free,

Her nature far more rare,

And is her constant heart of virgin purity.”

At evening, still the very stars seem but this emissaries and reporters of her progress.

Low in the eastern sky

Is set thy glancing eye ;

And though its gracious light

Ne’er riseth to my sight,

Yet every star that climbs

Above the gnarled limbs

Of yonder hill,

Conveys thy gentle will .

Believe I knew thy thought,

And that the zephyrs brought

Thy kindest wishes through,

As mine they bear to you,

That some attentive cloud

Did pause amid the crowd

Over my head,

While gentle things were said .

Believe the thrushes sung,

And that the flower-bells rung,

That herbs exhaled their scent,

And beasts knew what was meant,

The trees a welcome waved,

And lakes their margins laved,

When thy free mind

To my retreat did wind.

It was a summer eve,

The air did gently heave

While yet a low-hung cloud

Thy eastern skies did shroud ;

The lightning’s silent gleam,

Startling my drowsy dream,

Seemed like the flash

Under thy dark eyelash .

Still will I strive to be

As if then Overt with me ;

Whatever path I take,

It shall be for thy sake,

Of gentle slope and wide,

As thou wert by my side,

Without a root

To trip thy gentle foot .

I’ll walk with gentle pace,

And choose the smoothest place

And careful dip the oar,

And shun the winding shore,

And gently steer my boat

Where water-lilies float,

And cardinal-flowers

Stand in their sylvan bowers

It required some rudeness to disturb with our boat the mirror-like surface of the water, in which every twig and blade of grass was so faithfully reflected ; too faithfully indeed for art to imitate, for only Nature may exaggerate herself . The shallowest still water is unfathomable. Wherever the trees and skies are reflected, there is more than Atlantic depth, and no danger of fancy running aground. We notice that it required a separate intention of the eye, a more free and abstracted vision, to see the reflected trees and the sky, than to see the river bottom merely; and so are there manifold visions in the direction of every object, and even the most opaque reflect the heavens from their surface . Some men have their eyes naturally intended to the one and some to the other object.

“A man that looks on glass,

On it may stay his eye,

Or, if lie pleaseth, through it pass,

And the heavens espy.”

Two men in a skiff, whom we passed hereabouts, floating buoyantly amid the reflections of the trees, like a feather in mid-air, or a leaf which is wafted gently from its twig to the water without turning over, seemed still in their element, and to have very delicately availed themselves of the natural laws. Their floating there was a beautiful and successful experiment in natural philosophy, and it served to ennoble in our eyes the art of navigation; for as birds fly and fishes swim, so these men sailed . It reminded us how much fairer and nobler all the actions of man might be, and that our life in its whole economy might be as beautiful as the fairest works of art or nature.

The sun lodged on the old gray cliffs, and glanced from every pad ; the bulrushes and flags seemed to rejoice in the delicious light and air ; the meadows were a-drinking at their leisure; the frogs sat meditating, all Sabbath thoughts, summing up their week, with one eye out on the golden sun, and one toe upon a reed, eying the wondrous universe in which they act their part; the fishes swam more staid and soberly, as maidens go to church ; shoals of golden and silver minnows rose to the surface to behold the heavens, and then sheered off into more sombre aisles ; they swept by as if moved by one mind, continually gliding past each other, and yet preserving the form of their battalion unchanged, as if they were still embraced by the transparent membrane which held the spawn ; a young band of brethren and sisters trying their new fins ; now they wheeled, now shot ahead, and when we drove them to the shore and cut them off, they dexterously tacked and passed underneath the boat. Over the old wooden bridges no traveler crossed, and neither the river nor the fishes avoided to glide between the abutments.

Here was a village not far off behind the woods, Billerica, settled not long ago, and the children still bear the names of the first settlers in this late ” howling wilderness ;” yet to all intents and purposes it is as old as I’ernay or as Mantua, an old gray town where men grow old and sleep already under moss-grown monuments,-outgrow their usefulness. This is ancient Billerica (Villarica?), now in its dotage, named from the English Billericay, and whose Indian name was Shawshine. I never heard that it was young. See, is not nature here gone to decay, farms all run out, meetinghouse grown gray and racked with age? If you would know of its early youth, ask those old gray rocks in the pasture . It has a bell that sounds sometimes as far as Concord woods ; I have heard that, -ay, hear it now. No wonder that such a sound startled the dreaming Indian, and frightened his game, when the first bells were swung on trees, and sounded through the forest beyond the plantations of the white man ; but to-day I like best the echo amid these cliffs and woods. It is no feeble imitation, but rather its original, or as if some rural Orpheus played over the strain again to show how it should sound.

Dong, sounds the brass in the east,

As if to a funeral feast,

But I like that sound the best

Out of the fluttering west.

The steeple ringeth a knell,

But the fairies’ silvery bell

Is the voice of that gentle folk,

Or else the horizon that spoke.

Its metal is not of brass,

But air, and water, and glass,

And under a cloud it is swung,

And by the wind it is rung.

When the steeple tolleth the noon,

It soundeth not so soon,

Yet it rings a far earlier hour,

And the sun has not reached its tower.

On the other hand, the road runs up to Carlisle, city of the woods, which, if it is less civil, is the more natural . It does well hold the earth together . It gets laughed at because it is a small town, I know, but nevertheless it is a place where great men may be born any day, for fair winds and foul blow right on over it without distinction. It has a meeting-house and horse-sheds, a tavern and a blacksmith’s shop, for centre, and a good deal of wood to cut. and cord vet. And

“Bedford, most noble Bedford, I shall not then forget.”

History has remembered thee; especially that meek and humble petition of thy old planters, like the wailing of the Lord’s own people, “To the gentlemen, the selectmen” of Concord, praying to be erected into a separate parish . We can hardly credit that so plaintive a psalm resounded but little more than a century ago along these Babylonish waters.” In the extreme difficult seasons of heat and cold,” said they, “we were ready to say of the Sabbath, Behold what a weariness is it.” “Gentlemen, if our seeking to draw off proceed from any disaffection to our present Reverend Pastor, or the Christian Society with whom we have taken such sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company, then hear us not this day ; but we greatly desire, if God please, to be eased of our burden on the Sabbath, the travel and fatigue thereof, that the word of God may be nigh to us, near to our houses and in our hearts, that we and our little ones may serve the Lord. We hope that God, who stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to set forward temple work, has stirred us up to ask, and will stir you up to grant, the prayer of our petition ; so shall your humble petitioners ever pray, as in duty bound” – And so the temple work went forward here to a happy conclusion. Yonder in Carlisle the building of the temple was many wearisome years delayed, not that there was wanting of Shittim wood, or the gold of Ophir, but a site therefor convenient to all the worshipers ; whether on “Buttrick’s Plain,” or rather on “Poplar Hill.” It was a tedious question.

In this Billerica solid men must have lived, select from year to year; a series of town clerks, at least ; and there are old records that you may search . Some spring the white man came, built him a house, and made a clearing here, letting in the sun, dried up a farm, piled up the old gray stones in fences, cut down the pines around his dwelling, planted orchard seeds brought from the old country, and persuaded the civil apple-tree to blossom next to the wild pine and the juniper, shedding its perfume in the wilderness. Their old stocks still remain. He culled the graceful elm from out the woods and from the riverside, and so refined and smoothed his village plot. He rudely bridged the stream, and drove his team afield into the river meadows, cut the wild grass, and laid bar(, the homes of braver, otter, muskrat, and with the whetting of his scythe scared off the deer and bear. He set up a mill, and fields of English grain sprang in the virgin soil. And with his grain he scattered the seeds of the dandelion and the wild trefoil over the meadows, mingling his English flowers with the wild native ones. The bristling burdock, the sweet-scented catnip, and the humble yarrow planted themselves along his woodland road, they, too, seeking “freedom to worship God” in their uvav. And thus he plants a town. The white man’s mullein soon reigned in Indian corn-fields, and sweet scented English grasses clothed the new soil . Where, then, could the red man set his foot ? The honey-bee hummed through the Massachusetts woods, and sipped the wild-flowers round the Indian’s wigwam, perchance unnoticed, when, with prophetic warning, it stung the red child’s hand, forerunner of that industrious tribe that was to come, and pluck the wild-flower of his race up by the root.

The white man comes, pale as the dawn, with a load of thought, with a slumbering intelligence as a fire raked up, knowing well what he knows, not guessing but calculating; strong in community, yielding obedience to authority ; of experienced race ; of wonderful, wonderful common sense; dull but capable, slow but persevering, severe but ,just, of little humor but genuine ; a laboring man, despising gaine and sport ; building a house that endures, a framed house. IIe buys the Indian’s moccasins and baskets, then buys his hunting-grounds, and at length forgets where he is buried and plows up his bones. And here town records, old, tattered, timeworn, weather-stained chronicles, contain the Indian sachem’s mark perchance, an arrow or a beaver, and the few fatal words by which he deeded his hunting-grounds away. He comes with a list of ancient Saxon, Norman, and Celtic names, and strews them up and down this river, – Framingham, Sudbury, Bedford, Carlisle, Billerica, Chelmsford, -and this is New Angle-land, and these are the New West Saxons, whom the red men call, not Angle-ish or English, but Yengeese, and so at last they are known for Yankees.

When we were opposite to the middle of Billerica, the fields on either hand had a soft and cultivated English aspect, the village spire being seen over the copses which skirt the river, and sometimes an orchard straggled down to the water-side, though, generally, our course this forenoon was the wildest part of our voyage . It seemed that men led a quiet and very civil life there. The inhabitants were plainly cultivators of the earth, and lived under an organized political government. The schoolhouse stood with a meek aspect, entreating a long truce to war and savage life . Every one finds by his own experience, as well as in history, that the era in which men cultivate the apple, and the amenities of the garden, is essentially different from that of the hunter and forest life, and neither can displace the other without loss . We have all had our day-dreams, as well as more prophetic nocturnal vision ; but as for farming, I am convinced that my genius dates from an older era than the agricultural.

I would at least strike my spade into the earth with such careless freedom but accuracy as the woodpecker his bill into a tree. There is in my nature, methinks, a singular yearning toward all wildness. I know of no redeeming qualities in myself but a sincere love for some things, and when I am reproved I fall back on to this ground. `’What have I to do with plows? I cut another furrow than you see. Where the off ox treads, there is it not, it is farther off ; where the nigh ox walks, it will not be, it is nigher still . If corn fails, my crop fails not, and what are drought and rain to me? The rude Saxon pioneer will sometimes pine for that refinement and artificial beauty which are English, and love to hear the sound of such sweet and classical names as the Pentland and Malvern Hills, the Cliffs of Dover and the Trosachs, Richmond, Derwent, and Winandermere, which are to him now instead of the Acropolis and Parthenon, of Baix, and Athens, with its sea-walls, and Arcadia and Tempe.

Greece. who am I that should remember thee,

Thy Marathon and thy Thermopylae?

Is my life vulgar, my fate mean,

Which on these golden memories can lean?

We are apt enough to be pleased with such books as Evelyn’s Sylva, Actearium, and Kalendarium Hortense, but they imply a relaxed nerve in the reader . Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw. There may be an excess of cultivation as well as of anything else, until civilization becomes pathetic. A highly cultivated man, – all whose bones can be bent! whose heaven-born virtues are but good manners! The young pines springing up in the corn-fields from year to year are to me a refreshing fact. We talk of civilizing the Indian, but that is not the name for his improvement . By the wary independence and aloofness of his dim forest life he preserves his intercourse with his native gods, and is admitted from time to time to a rare and peculiar society with Nature . He has glances of starry recognition to which our saloons are strangers . The steady illumination of his genius, dim only because distant, is like the faint but satisfying light of the stars compared with the dazzling but ineffectual and short-lived blaze of candles.

The Society Islanders had their day-born gods, but they were not supposed to be ” of equal antiquity with the atua f auau po, or night-born gods.” It is true, there are the innocent pleasures of country life, and it is sometimes pleasant to make the earth yield her increase, and gather the fruits in their season ; but the heroic spirit will not fail to dream of remoter retirements and more rugged paths. It will have its garden-plots and its parterres elsewhere than on the earth, and gather nuts and berries by the way for its subsistence, or orchard fruits with such heedlessness as berries. We would not always be soothing and taming nature, breaking the horse and the ox, but sometimes ride the horse wild and chase the buffalo . The Indian’s intercourse with Nature is at least such as admits of the greatest independence of each. If he is somewhat of a stranger in her midst, the gardener is too much of a familiar . There is something vulgar and foul in the latter’s closeness to his mistress, something noble and cleanly in the former’s distance. In civilization, as in a southern latitude, man degenerates at length, and yields to the incursion of more northern tribes, –

“Some nation yet shut in

With hills of ice.”

There are other, savager and more primeval aspects of nature than our poets have sung. It is only white man’s poetry. Homer and Ossia,n even can never revive in London or Boston . And yet, behold how these cities are refreshed by the mere tradition, or the imperfectly transmitted fragrance and flavor of these wild fruits . If we could listen but for an instant to the chant of the Indian muse, we should understand why he will not exchange his savageness for civilization . Nations are not whimsical . Steel and blankets are strong temptations ; but the Indian does well to continue Indian.

After sitting in my chamber many days, reading the poets, I have been out early on a foggy morning and heard the crv of an owl in a neighboring wood as from a nature behind the common, unexplored by science or by literature . None of the feathered race has yet realized my youthful conceptions of the woodland depths. I had seen the red Election-birds brought from their recesses on my comrades’ string, and fancied that their plumage would assume stranger and more dazzling colors, like the tints of evening, in proportion as I advanced farther into the darkness and solitude of the forest . Still less have I seen such strong and wilderness tints on any poet’s string.

These modern ingenious sciences and arts do not affect me as those more venerable arts of hunting and fishing, and even of husbandry in its primitive and simple form ; as ancient and honorable trades as the sun and moon and winds pursue, coeval with the faculties of man, and invented when these were invented. We do not know their John Gutenberg, or Richard Arkwright, though the poets would fain make them to have been gradually learned and taught. According to Gower,-

“And ladahel, as saith the boke,

Firste made nette, fishes toke.

Of huntyng eke he fond the chace,

Wbiche nowe is kuowe in many place;

A tent of clothe, with corde and stake,

He sette up first, and did it make.”

Also, Lydgate says : –

“Jason first sayled, in story it is tolde,

Toward Colchos, to wynne the flees of golde,

Ceres the Goddess fond first the tilthe of fonde;

Also, Aristeus fonde first the usage

Of mylke, and cruddis, and of honey smote;

Peryodes, for grete avauntage,

From flyntes smote fuyre, daryng in the roote.”

We read that Aristeus “obtained of Jupiter and Neptune, that the pestilential heat of the dog-days, wherein was great mortality, should be mitigated with wind.” This is one of those dateless benefits conferred on man which have no record in our vulgar day, though we still find some similitude to them in our dreams, in which we have a more liberal and juster apprehension of things, unconstrained by habit, which is then in some measure put off, and divested of memory, which we call history. According to fable, when the island off AEgina was depopulated by sickness, at the instance of AEacus, Jupiter turned the ants into men, that is, as some think, he made men of the inhabitants who lived meanly like ants. This is perhaps the fullest history of those early clays extant.

The fable, which is naturally and truly composed, so as to satisfy the imagination, ere it addresses the understanding, beautiful though strange as a wild-flower, is to the wise man an apothegm, and admits of his most generous interpretation . When we read that Bacchus made the Tyrrhenian mariners read, so that they leaped into the sea, mistaking it for a meadow full of flowers, and so became dolphins, we are not concerned about the historical truth of this, but rather a higher poetical truth. We seem to hear the music of a thought, and care not if the understanding be not gratified. For their beauty, consider the fables of Narcissus, of Endymion, of Memnon son of doming, the representative of all promising youths who have died a premature death, and whose memory is melodiously prolonged to the latest morning ; the beautiful stories of Phaethon, and of the Sirens whose isle shone afar off white with the bones of unburied men; and the pregnant ones of Pan, Prometheus, and the Sphinx ; and that long list of names which have already become part of the universal language of civilized men, and from proper are becoming common names or nouns, -the Sibyls, the Eumenides, the Parcae, the Graces, the Muses, Nemesis, etc.

It is interesting to observe with what singular unanimity the farthest sundered nations and generations consent to give completeness and roundness to an ancient fable, of which they indistinctly appreciate the beauty or the truth. By a faint and dream-like effort, though it be only by the vote of a scientific body, the dullest posterity slowly add some trait to the mythus. As when astronomers call the lately discovered planet Neptune; or the asteroid Astraea, that the Virgin who was driven from earth to heaven at the end of the golden age may have her local habitation in the heavens more distinctly assigned her, -for the slightest recognition of poetic worth is significant . By such slow aggregation has mythology grown from the first . The very nursery tales of this generation were the nursery tales of primeval races. They migrate from east to west, and again from west to east; now expanded into the “tale divine” of bards, now shrunk into a popular rhyme. This is an approach to that universal language which men have sought in vain . This fond reiteration of the oldest expressions of truth by the latest posterity, content with slightly and religiously retouching the old material, is the most impressive proof of a common humanity.

All nations love the same jests and tales, Jews, Christians, and Mahometans, and the same translated suffice for all. All men are children, and of one family. The same tale sends them all to bed, and wakes them in the morning. Joseph Wolff, the missionary, distributed copies of Robinson Crusoe, translated into Arabic, among the Arabs, and they made a great sensation. “Robinson Crusoe’s adventures and wisdom,” says lie, “were read by Mahoinetans in the market-places of Sanaa, Hodyeda, and Lolieya, and admired and believed!” On reading the book, the Arabians exclaimed, “Oh, that Robinson Crusoe must have been a great prophet!”

To some extent, mythology is only the most ancient history and biography . So far from being false or fabulous in the common sense, it contains only enduring and essential truth, the I and you, the here and there, the now and then, being omitted . Either time or rare wisdom, writes it . Before printing was discovered, a century was equal to a thousand years. The poet is he who can write some pure mythology to-day without the aid of posterity . In how few words, for instance, the Greeks would have told the story of Abelard and Heloise, making but a sentence for our classical dictionary, -and then, perchance, have stuck up their names to shine in some corner of the firmament. We moderns, on the other hand, collect only the raw materials of biography and history, ” memoirs to serve for a history,” which itself is but materials to serve for a mythology. How many volumes folio would the Life and Labors of Prometheus have filled, if perchance it had fallen, as perchance it did first, in days of cheap printing! Who knows what shape the fable of Columbus will at length assume, to be confounded with that of Jason and the expedition of the Argonauts . And Franklin, – there may be a line for him in the future classical dictionary, recording what that demigod did, and referring him to some new genealogy. ” Son of — and –. He aided the Americans to gain their independence, instructed mankind in economy, and drew down lightning from the clouds.”

The hidden significance of these fables which is sometimes thought to have been detected, the ethics running parallel to the poetry and history, are not so remarkable as the readiness with which they may be made to express a variety of truths. As if they were the skeletons of still older and more universal truths than any whose flesh and blood they are for the time made to wear. It is like striving to make the sun, or the wind, or the sea symbols to signify exclusively the particular thoughts of our day. But what signifies it? In the mythus a superhuman intelligence uses the unconscious thoughts and dreams of men as its hieroglyphics to address men unborn. In the history of the human mind, these glowing and ruddy fables precede the noonday thoughts of men, as Aurora the sun’s rays. The matutine intellect of the poet, keeping in advance of the glare of philosophy, always dwells in this auroral atmosphere.

As we said before, the Concord is a (lead stream, but its scenery is the more suggestive to the contemplative voyager, and this day its water was fuller of reflections than our pages even. Just before it reaches the falls in Billerica, it is contracted, and becomes swifter and shallower, with a yellow pebbly bottom, hardly passable for a canal-boat, leaving the broader and more stagnant portion above like a lake among the hills . All through the Concord, Bedford, and Billerica meadows we had heard no murmur from its stream, except where some tributary runnel tumbled in, –

Some tumultuous little rill,

Purling round its storied pebble,

Tinkling to the selfsame tune,

From September until June,

Wbich no drought doth e’er enfeeble

Silent flows the parent stream,

And if rocks do lie below,

Smothers with her waves the din,

As it were a youthful sin,

Just as still, and just as slow

But now at length we heard this staid and primitive river rushing to her fall, like any rill . We here left its channel, just above the Billerica Falls, and entered the canal, which runs, or rather is conducted, six miles through the woods to the Merrimack, at Middlesex ; and as we did not care to loiter in this part of our voyage, while one ran along the tow-path drawing the boat by a cord, the other kept it off the shore with a pole, so that we accomplished the whole distance in little more than an hour. This canal, which is the oldest in the country, and has even an antique look beside the more modern railroads, is fed by the Concord, so that we were still floating on its familiar waters. It is so much water which the river lets for the advantage of commerce. There appeared sonic \want of harmony in its scenery, since it was not of equal (late with the woods and meadows through which it is led, and we missed the conciliatory influence of time on land and water; but in the lapse of ages, Nature will recover and indemnify herself, and gradually plant fit shrubs and flowers along its borders . Already the kingfisher sat upon a pine over the water, and the bream and pickerel swam below. Thus all works pass directly out of the hands of the architect into the hands of Nature, to be perfected.

It was a retired and pleasant route, without houses or travelers, except some young men who were lounging upon a bridge in Chelmsford, who leaned impudently over the rails to pry into our concerns, but we caught the eye of the most forward, and looked at him till he was visibly discomfited . Not that there was any peculiar efficacy in our look, but rather a sense of shame left in him which disarmed him.

It is a very true and expressive phrase, “He looked daggers at me,” for the first pattern and prototype of all daggers must have been a glance of the eye . First, there was the glance of Jove’s eye, then his fiery bolt; then, the material gradually hardening, tridents, spears, javelins ; and finally, for the convenience of private men, daggers, krisses, and so forth, were invented. It is wonderful how we get about the streets without being wounded by these delicate and glancing weapons, a man can so nimbly whip out his rapier, or without being noticed carry it unsheathed. Yet it is rare that one gets seriously looked at.

As we passed under the last bridge over the canal, just before reaching the Merrimack, the people coming out of church paused to look at us from above, and apparently, so strong is custom, indulged in some heathenish comparisons ; but we were the truest observers of this sunny clay . According to Hesiod, –

“The seventh is a holy day,

For then Latona brought forth golden-rayed Apollo,”

and by our reckoning this was the seventh day of the week, and not the first. I find among the papers of an old Justice of the Peace and Deacon of the town of Concord, this singular memorandum, which is worth preserving as a relic of an ancient custom. After reforming the spelling and grammar, it runs as follows : “Men that traveled with teams on the Sabbath, December 18, 18()3, were Jeremiah Richardson and Jonas Parker, both of Shirley . They had teams with rigging such as is used to carry barrels, and they were traveling westward. R,ichardson was questioned by the Hon. Ephraim Wood, Esq., and he said that Jonas Parker was his fellow traveler, and he further said that a Mr. Longley was his employer, who promised to bear him out .” We were the men that were gliding northward, this September 1, 1839, with still team, and rigging not the most convenient to carry barrels, unquestioned by any squire or church deacon, and ready to bear ourselves out if need were. In the latter part of the seventeenth century, according to the historian of Dunstable, ” Towns were directed to erect ` a cage’ near the meeting-house, and in this all offenders against the sanctity of the Sabbath were confined .” Society has relaxed a little from its strictness, on(, would say, but I presume that there is not less religion than formerly. If the ligature is found to be loosened in one part, it is only drawn the tighter in another.

You can hardly convince a man of an error in a lifetime, but must content yourself with the reflection that the progress of science is slow. If he is not convinced, his grandchildren may be. The geologists tell us that it took one hundred years to prove that fossils are organic, and one hundred and fifty more to prove that they are not to be referred to the Noachian deluge. I am not sure but I should betake myself in extremities to the liberal divinities of Greece, rather than to my country’s God. Jehovah, though with us he has acquired new attributes, is more absolute and unapproachable, but hardly more divine, than Jove. He is not so much of a gentleman, not so gracious and catholic, he does not exert so intimate and genial an influence on nature, as many a god of the Greeks. I should fear the infinite power and inflexible justice of the almighty mortal hardly as yet apotheosized, so wholly masculine, with no sister Juno, no Apollo, no Venus, nor Minerva, to intercede for me. The Grecian are youthful and erring and fallen gods, with the vices of men, but in many important respects essentially of the divine race. In my Pantheon, Pan still reigns in his pristine glory, with his ruddy face, his flowing beard, and his shaggy body, his pipe and his crook, his nymph Echo, and his chosen daughter Iambe ; for the great god Pan is not (lead, as was rumored . No god ever dies. Perhaps of all the gods of New England and of ancient Greece. I am most constant at his shrine.

It seems to me that the god that is commonly worshiped in civilized countries is not at all olivine, though lie bears a divine name, brat is ihc overwhelming authority and respectability of mankind combined. Men reverence one another, not yet God. If I thought that is could speak with discrimination and impartiality of the nations of Christendom, I should praise them, but it tasks me too much. They seem to be the most civil and humane, but I may be mistaken . Every people have gods to suit their circumstances ; the Society Islanders had a and called Toahitu, “in shape like a dog ; lie saved such as were in danger of falling; from rocks and trees .” I think that we can do without him, as we have not much climbing to do. Among them a man could make himself a god out of a piece of wood in a few minutes, which would frighten him out of his wits.

I fancy that some…