Henry D. Thoreau

Part 2 out of 4

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
northeast; 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 home 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.
Kowlandson'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 Goths. 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
Paugus, 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,
To-morrow 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

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 forever
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, and 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 hayweather, 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 pushed forward with
new vigor, and reached the banks of the Concord before the sun had climbed
many degrees into the heavens.



Under the one word, house, are included the school-house, the alms-house,
the jail, the tavern, the dwelling-house; and the meanest shed or cave in
which men live contains the elements of all these. But nowhere on the
earth stands the entire and perfect house. The Parthenon, St. Peter's, the
Gothic minster, the palace, the hovel, are but imperfect executions of an
imperfect idea. Who would dwell in them? Perhaps to the eye of the gods,
the cottage is more holy than the Parthenon, for they look down with no
especial favor upon the shrines formally dedicated to them, and that
should be the most sacred roof which shelters most of humanity. Surely,
then, the gods who are most interested in the human race preside over the
Tavern, where especially men congregate. Methinks I see the thousand
shrines erected to Hospitality shining afar in all countries, as well
Mahometan and Jewish, as Christian, khans, and caravansaries,
and inns, whither all pilgrims without distinction resort.

Likewise we look in vain, east or west over the earth, to find the perfect
man; but each represents only some particular excellence. The Landlord is
a man of more open and general sympathies, who possesses a spirit of
hospitality which is its own reward, and feeds and shelters men from pure
love of the creatures. To be sure, this profession is as often filled by
imperfect characters, and such as have sought it from unworthy motives, as
any other, but so much the more should we prize the true and honest
Landlord when we meet with him.

Who has not imagined to himself a country inn, where the traveller shall
really feel _in_, and at home, and at his public-house, who was before at
his private house; whose host is indeed a _host_, and a _lord_ of the
_land_, a self-appointed brother of his race; called to his place, beside,
by all the winds of heaven and his good genius, as truly as the preacher
is called to preach; a man of such universal sympathies, and so broad and
genial a human nature, that he would fain sacrifice the tender but narrow
ties of private friendship, to a broad, sunshiny, fair-weather-and-foul
friendship for his race; who loves men, not as a philosopher, with
philanthropy, nor as an overseer of the poor, with charity, but by a
necessity of his nature, as he loves dogs and horses; and standing at his
open door from morning till night, would fain see more and more of them
come along the highway, and is never satiated. To him the sun and moon are
but travellers, the one by day and the other by night; and they too
patronize his house. To his imagination all things travel save his
sign-post and himself; and though you may be his neighbor for years, he
will show you only the civilities of the road. But on the other hand,
while nations and individuals are alike selfish and exclusive, he loves
all men equally; and if he treats his nearest neighbor as a stranger,
since he has invited all nations to share his hospitality, the farthest
travelled is in some measure kindred to him who takes him into the bosom
of his family.

He keeps a house of entertainment at the sign of the Black Horse or the
Spread Eagle, and is known far and wide, and his fame travels with
increasing radius every year. All the neighborhood is in his interest, and
if the traveller ask how far to a tavern, he receives some such answer as
this: "Well, sir, there's a house about three miles from here, where they
haven't taken down their sign yet; but it's only ten miles to Slocum's,
and that's a capital house, both for man and beast." At three miles he
passes a cheerless barrack, standing desolate behind its sign-post,
neither public nor private, and has glimpses of a discontented couple
who have mistaken their calling. At ten miles see where the Tavern
stands,--really an _entertaining_ prospect,--so public and inviting that
only the rain and snow do not enter. It is no gay pavilion, made of bright
stuffs, and furnished with nuts and gingerbread, but as plain and sincere
as a caravansary; located in no Tarrytown, where you receive only the
civilities of commerce, but far in the fields it exercises a primitive
hospitality, amid the fresh scent of new hay and raspberries, if it be
summer time, and the tinkling of cow-bells from invisible pastures; for it
is a land flowing with milk and honey, and the newest milk courses in a
broad, deep stream across the premises.

In these retired places the tavern is first of all a house--elsewhere,
last of all, or never,--and warms and shelters its inhabitants. It is as
simple and sincere in its essentials as the caves in which the first men
dwelt, but it is also as open and public. The traveller steps across the
threshold, and lo! he too is master, for he only can be called proprietor
of the house here who behaves with most propriety in it. The Landlord
stands clear back in nature, to my imagination, with his axe and spade
felling trees and raising potatoes with the vigor of a pioneer; with
Promethean energy making nature yield her increase to supply the wants of
so many; and he is not so exhausted, nor of so short a stride, but that he
comes forward even to the highway to this wide hospitality and publicity.
Surely, he has solved some of the problems of life. He comes in at his
backdoor, holding a log fresh cut for the hearth upon his shoulder with
one hand, while he greets the newly arrived traveller with the other.

Here at length we have free range, as not in palaces, nor cottages, nor
temples, and intrude nowhere. All the secrets of housekeeping are
exhibited to the eyes of men, above and below, before and behind. This is
the necessary way to live, men have confessed, in these days, and shall he
skulk and hide? And why should we have any serious disgust at kitchens?
Perhaps they are the holiest recess of the house. There is the hearth,
after all,--and the settle, and the fagots, and the kettle, and the
crickets. We have pleasant reminiscences of these. They are the heart, the
left ventricle, the very vital part of the house. Here the real and
sincere life which we meet in the streets was actually fed and sheltered.
Here burns the taper that cheers the lonely traveller by night, and from
this hearth ascend the smokes that populate the valley to his eyes by day.
On the whole, a man may not be so little ashamed of any other part of his
house, for here is his sincerity and earnest, at least. It may not be here
that the besoms are plied most,--it is not here that they need to be, for
dust will not settle on the kitchen floor more than in nature.

Hence it will not do for the Landlord to possess too fine a nature. He
must have health above the common accidents of life, subject to no modern
fashionable diseases; but no taste, rather a vast relish or appetite.
His sentiments on all subjects will be delivered as freely as the wind
blows; there is nothing private or individual in them, though still
original, but they are public, and of the hue of the heavens over his
house,--a certain out-of-door obviousness and transparency not to be
disputed. What he does, his manners are not to be complained of, though
abstractly offensive, for it is what man does, and in him the race is
exhibited. When he eats, he is liver and bowels, and the whole digestive
apparatus to the company, and so all admit the thing is done. He must have
no idiosyncrasies, no particular bents or tendencies to this or that, but
a general, uniform, and healthy development, such as his portly person
indicates, offering himself equally on all sides to men. He is not one of
your peaked and inhospitable men of genius, with particular tastes, but,
as we said before, has one uniform relish, and taste which never aspires
higher than a tavern-sign, or the cut of a weather-cock. The man of
genius, like a dog with a bone, or the slave who has swallowed a diamond,
or a patient with the gravel, sits afar and retired, off the road, hangs
out no sign of refreshment for man and beast, but says, by all possible
hints and signs, I wish to be alone--good-by--farewell. But the landlord
can afford to live without privacy. He entertains no private thought, he
cherishes no solitary hour, no Sabbath day, but thinks,--enough to assert
the dignity of reason,--and talks, and reads the newspaper. What he does
not tell to one traveller, he tells to another. He never wants to be
alone, but sleeps, wakes, eats, drinks, sociably, still remembering his
race. He walks abroad through the thoughts of men, and the Iliad and
Shakspeare are tame to him, who hears the rude but homely incidents of
the road from every traveller. The mail might drive through his brain in
the midst of his most lonely soliloquy, without disturbing his equanimity,
provided it brought plenty of news and passengers. There can be no
_pro_-fanity where there is no fane behind, and the whole world may see
quite round him. Perchance his lines have fallen to him in dustier places,
and he has heroically sat down where two roads meet, or at the Four
Corners, or the Five Points, and his life is sublimely trivial for the
good of men. The dust of travel blows ever in his eyes, and they preserve
their clear, complacent look. The hourlies and half-hourlies, the dailies
and weeklies, whirl on well-worn tracks, round and round his house, as if
it were the goal in the stadium, and still he sits within in unruffled
serenity, with no show of retreat. His neighbor dwells timidly behind a
screen of poplars and willows, and a fence with sheaves of spears at
regular intervals, or defended against the tender palms of visitors by
sharp spikes,--but the traveller's wheels rattle over the door-step of the
tavern, and he cracks his whip in the entry. He is truly glad to see you,
and sincere as the bull's-eye over his door. The traveller seeks to find,
wherever he goes, some one who will stand in this broad and catholic
relation to him, who will be an inhabitant of the land to him a stranger,
and represent its human nature, as the rock stands for its inanimate
nature; and this is he. As his crib furnishes provender for the
traveller's horse, and his larder provisions for his appetite, so his
conversation furnishes the necessary aliment to his spirits. He knows very
well what a man wants, for he is a man himself, and as it were the
farthest travelled, though he has never stirred from his door. He
understands his needs and destiny. He would be well fed and lodged, there
can be no doubt, and have the transient sympathy of a cheerful companion,
and of a heart which always prophesies fair weather. And after all the
greatest men, even, want much more the sympathy which every honest fellow
can give, than that which the great only can impart. If he is not the most
upright, let us allow him this praise, that he is the most downright of
men. He has a hand to shake and to be shaken, and takes a sturdy and
unquestionable interest in you, as if he had assumed the care of you, but
if you will break your neck, he will even give you the best advice as to
the method.

The great poets have not been ungrateful to their landlords. Mine host of
the Tabard Inn, in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, was an honor to
his profession:--

"A semely man our Hoste was, with alle,
For to han been an marshal in an halle.
A large man he was, with eyen stepe;
A fairer burgeis is ther nou in Chepe:
Bold of his speche, and wise, and well ytaught,
And of manhood him lacked righte naught.
Eke thereto, was he right a mery man,
And after souper plaien he began,
And spake of mirthe amonges other thinges,
Whan that we hadden made our reckoninges."

He is the true house-band, and centre of the company--of greater
fellowship and practical social talent than any. He it is that proposes
that each shall tell a tale to while away the time to Canterbury, and
leads them himself, and concludes with his own tale:--

"Now, by my fader's soule that is ded,
But ye be mery, smiteth of my hed:
Hold up your hondes withouten more speche."

If we do not look up to the Landlord, we look round for him on all
emergencies, for he is a man of infinite experience, who unites hands with
wit. He is a more public character than a statesman,--a publican, and not
consequently a sinner; and surely, he, if any, should be exempted from
taxation and military duty.

Talking with our host is next best and instructive to talking with one's
self. It is a more conscious soliloquy; as it were, to speak generally,
and try what we would say provided we had an audience. He has indulgent
and open ears, and does not require petty and particular statements.
"Heigho!" exclaims the traveller. Them's my sentiments, thinks mine host,
and stands ready for what may come next, expressing the purest sympathy by
his demeanor. "Hot as blazes!" says the other,--"Hard weather, sir,--not
much stirring nowadays," says he. He is wiser than to contradict his guest
in any case; he lets him go on, he lets him travel.

The latest sitter leaves him standing far in the night, prepared to live
right on, while suns rise and set, and his "good night" has as brisk a
sound as his "good morning;" and the earliest riser finds him tasting his
liquors in the bar ere flies begin to buzz, with a countenance fresh as
the morning star over the sanded floor,--and not as one who had watched
all night for travellers. And yet, if beds be the subject of conversation,
it will appear that no man has been a sounder sleeper in his time.

Finally, as for his moral character, we do not hesitate to say, that he
has no grain of vice or meanness in him, but represents just that degree
of virtue which all men relish without being obliged to respect. He is a
good man, as his bitters are good,--an unquestionable goodness. Not what
is called a good man,--good to be considered, as a work of art in
galleries and museums,--but a good fellow, that is, good to be associated
with. Who ever thought of the religion of an innkeeper--whether he was
joined to the Church, partook of the sacrament, said his prayers, feared
God, or the like? No doubt he has had his experiences, has felt a change,
and is a firm believer in the perseverance of the saints. In this last, we
suspect, does the peculiarity of his religion consist. But he keeps an
inn, and not a conscience. How many fragrant charities and sincere social
virtues are implied in this, daily offering of himself to the public. He
cherishes good will to all, and gives the wayfarer as good and honest
advice to direct him on his road as the priest.

To conclude, the tavern will compare favorably with the church. The church
is the place where prayers and sermons are delivered, but the tavern is
where they are to take effect, and if the former are good, the latter
cannot be bad.



The wind has gently murmured through the blinds, or puffed with feathery
softness against the windows, and occasionally sighed like a summer zephyr
lifting the leaves along, the livelong night. The meadow-mouse has slept
in his snug gallery in the sod, the owl has sat in a hollow tree in the
depth of the swamp, the rabbit, the squirrel, and the fox have all been
housed. The watch-dog has lain quiet on the hearth, and the cattle have
stood silent in their stalls. The earth itself has slept, as it were its
first, not its last sleep, save when some street-sign or wood-house door
has faintly creaked upon its hinge, cheering forlorn nature at her
midnight work,--the only sound awake twixt Venus and Mars,--advertising us
of a remote inward warmth, a divine cheer and fellowship, where gods are
met together, but where it is very bleak for men to stand. But while the
earth has slumbered, all the air has been alive with feathery flakes
descending, as if some northern Ceres reigned, showering her silvery grain
over all the fields.

We sleep, and at length awake to the still reality of a winter morning.
The snow lies warm as cotton or down upon the window-sill; the broadened
sash and frosted panes admit a dim and private light, which enhances the
snug cheer within. The stillness of the morning is impressive. The floor
creaks under our feet as we move toward the window to look abroad through
some clear space over the fields. We see the roofs stand under their snow
burden. From the eaves and fences hang stalactites of snow, and in the
yard stand stalagmites covering some concealed core. The trees and shrubs
rear white arms to the sky on every side; and where were walls and fences,
we see fantastic forms stretching in frolic gambols across the dusky
landscape, as if nature had strewn her fresh designs over the fields by
night as models for man's art.

Silently we unlatch the door, letting the drift fall in, and step abroad
to face the cutting air. Already the stars have lost some of their
sparkle, and a dull, leaden mist skirts the horizon. A lurid brazen light
in the east proclaims the approach of day, while the western landscape is
dim and spectral still, and clothed in a sombre Tartarian light, like the
shadowy realms. They are Infernal sounds only that you hear,--the crowing
of cocks, the barking of dogs, the chopping of wood, the lowing of kine,
all seem to come from Pluto's barn-yard and beyond the Styx;--not for any
melancholy they suggest, but their twilight bustle is too solemn and
mysterious for earth. The recent tracks of the fox or otter, in the yard,
remind us that each hour of the night is crowded with events, and the
primeval nature is still working and making tracks in the snow. Opening
the gate, we tread briskly along the lone country road, crunching the dry
and crisped snow under our feet, or aroused by the sharp clear creak of
the wood-sled, just starting for the distant market, from the early
farmer's door, where it has lain the summer long, dreaming amid the chips
and stubble; while far through the drifts and powdered windows we see the
farmer's early candle, like a paled star, emitting a lonely beam, as if
some severe virtue were at its matins there. And one by one the smokes
begin to ascend from the chimneys amidst the trees and snows.

The sluggish smoke curls up from some deep dell,
The stiffened air exploring in the dawn,
And making slow acquaintance with the day;
Delaying now upon its heavenward course,
In wreathed loiterings dallying with itself,
With as uncertain purpose and slow deed,
As its half-wakened master by the hearth,
Whose mind still slumbering and sluggish thoughts
Have not yet swept into the onward current
Of the new day;--and now it streams afar,
The while the chopper goes with step direct,
And mind intent to swing the early axe.

First in the dusky dawn he sends abroad
His early scout, his emissary, smoke,
The earliest, latest pilgrim from the roof,
To feel the frosty air, inform the day;
And while he crouches still beside the hearth,
Nor musters courage to unbar the door,
It has gone down the glen with the light wind,
And o'er the plain unfurled its venturous wreath,
Draped the tree-tops, loitered upon the hill,
And warmed the pinions of the early bird;
And now, perchance, high in the crispy air,
Has caught sight of the day o'er the earth's edge,
And greets its master's eye at his low door,
As some refulgent cloud in the upper sky.

We hear the sound of wood-chopping at the farmers' doors, far over the
frozen earth, the baying of the house-dog, and the distant clarion of the
cock. Though the thin and frosty air conveys only the finer particles of
sound to our ears, with short and sweet vibrations, as the waves subside
soonest on the purest and lightest liquids, in which gross substances sink
to the bottom. They come clear and bell-like, and from a greater distance
in the horizon, as if there were fewer impediments than in summer to make
them faint and ragged. The ground is sonorous, like seasoned wood, and
even the ordinary rural sounds are melodious, and the jingling of the ice
on the trees is sweet and liquid. There is the least possible moisture in
the atmosphere, all being dried up, or congealed, and it is of such
extreme tenuity and elasticity, that it becomes a source of delight.
The withdrawn and tense sky seems groined like the aisles of a cathedral,
and the polished air sparkles as if there were crystals of ice floating in
it. As they who have resided in Greenland tell us, that, when it freezes,
"the sea smokes like burning turf-land, and a fog or mist arises, called
frost-smoke," which "cutting smoke frequently raises blisters on the face
and hands, and is very pernicious to the health." But this pure stinging
cold is an elixir to the lungs, and not so much a frozen mist, as a
crystallized midsummer haze, refined and purified by cold.

The sun at length rises through the distant woods, as if with the faint
clashing swinging sound of cymbals, melting the air with his beams, and
with such rapid steps the morning travels, that already his rays are
gilding the distant western mountains. Meanwhile we step hastily along
through the powdery snow, warmed by an inward heat, enjoying an Indian
summer still, in the increased glow of thought and feeling. Probably if
our lives were more conformed to nature, we should not need to defend
ourselves against her heats and colds, but find her our constant nurse and
friend, as do plants and quadrupeds. If our bodies were fed with pure and
simple elements, and not with a stimulating and heating diet, they would
afford no more pasture for cold than a leafless twig, but thrive like the
trees, which find even winter genial to their expansion.

The wonderful purity of nature at this season is a most pleasing fact.
Every decayed stump and moss-grown stone and rail, and the dead leaves of
autumn, are concealed by a clean napkin of snow. In the bare fields and
tinkling woods, see what virtue survives. In the coldest and bleakest
places, the warmest charities still maintain a foothold. A cold and
searching wind drives away all contagion, and nothing can withstand it but
what has a virtue in it; and accordingly, whatever we meet with in cold
and bleak places, as the tops of mountains, we respect for a sort of
sturdy innocence, a Puritan toughness. All things beside seem to be called
in for shelter, and what stays out must be part of the original frame of
the universe, and of such valor as God himself. It is invigorating to
breathe the cleansed air. Its greater fineness and purity are visible to
the eye, and we would fain stay out long and late, that the-gales may sigh
through us, too, as through the leafless trees, and fit us for the
winter:--as if we hoped so to borrow some pure and steadfast virtue, which
will stead us in all seasons.

There is a slumbering subterranean fire in nature which never goes out,
and which no cold can chill. It finally melts the great snow, and in
January or July is only buried under a thicker or thinner covering. In the
coldest day it flows somewhere, and the snow melts around every tree. This
field of winter rye, which sprouted late in the fall, and now speedily
dissolves the snow, is where the fire is very thinly covered. We feel
warmed by it. In the winter, warmth stands for all virtue, and we resort
in thought to a trickling rill, with its bare stones shining in the sun,
and to warm springs in the woods, with as much eagerness as rabbits and
robins. The steam which rises from swamps and pools, is as dear and
domestic as that of our own kettle. What fire could ever equal the
sunshine of a winter's day, when the meadow mice come out by the
wallsides, and the chicadee lisps in the defiles of the wood? The warmth
comes directly from the sun, and is not radiated from the earth, as in
summer; and when we feel his beams on our backs as we are treading some
snowy dell, we are grateful as for a special kindness, and bless the sun
which has followed us into that by-place.

This subterranean fire has its altar in each man's breast, for in the
coldest day, and on the bleakest hill, the traveller cherishes a warmer
fire within the folds of his cloak than is kindled on any hearth. A
healthy man, indeed, is the complement of the seasons, and in winter,
summer is in his heart. There is the south. Thither have all birds and
insects migrated, and around the warm springs in his breast are gathered
the robin and the lark.

At length, having reached the edge of the woods, and shut out the gadding
town, we enter within their covert as we go under the roof of a cottage,
and cross its threshold, all ceiled and banked up with snow. They are glad
and warm still, and as genial and cheery in winter as in summer. As we
stand in the midst of the pines, in the nickering and checkered light
which straggles but little way into their maze, we wonder if the towns
have ever heard their simple story. It seems to us that no traveller has
ever explored them, and notwithstanding the wonders which science is
elsewhere revealing every day, who would not like to hear their annals?
Our humble villages in the plain are their contribution. We borrow from
the forest the boards which shelter, and the sticks which warm us. How
important is their evergreen to the winter, that portion of the summer
which does not fade, the permanent year, the unwithered grass. Thus
simply, and with little expense of altitude, is the surface of the earth
diversified. What would human life be without forests, those natural
cities? From the tops of mountains they appear like smooth shaven lawns,
yet whither shall we walk but in this taller grass?

In this glade covered with bushes of a year's growth, see how the silvery
dust lies on every seared leaf and twig, deposited in such infinite and
luxurious forms as by their very variety atone for the absence of color.
Observe the tiny tracks of mice around every stem, and the triangular
tracks of the rabbit. A pure elastic heaven hangs over all, as if the
impurities of the summer sky, refined and shrunk by the chaste winter's
cold, had been winnowed from the heavens upon the earth.

Nature confounds her summer distinctions at this season. The heavens seem
to be nearer the earth. The elements are less reserved and distinct. Water
turns to ice, rain to snow. The day is but a Scandinavian night. The
winter is an arctic summer.

How much more living is the life that is in nature, the furred life which
still survives the stinging nights, and, from amidst fields and woods
covered with frost and snow, sees the sun rise.

"The foodless wilds
Pour forth their brown inhabitants.".

The gray squirrel and rabbit are brisk and playful in the remote glens,
even on the morning of the cold Friday. Here is our Lapland and Labrador,
and for our Esquimaux and Knistenaux, Dog-ribbed Indians, Novazemblaites,
and Spitzbergeners, are there not the ice-cutter and wood-chopper, the
fox, musk-rat, and mink?

Still, in the midst of the arctic day, we may trace the summer to its
retreats, and sympathize with some contemporary life. Stretched over the
brooks, in the midst of the frost-bound meadows, we may observe the
submarine cottages of the caddice-worms, the larvae of the Plicipennes.
Their small cylindrical cases built around themselves, composed of flags,
sticks, grass, and withered leaves, shells, and pebbles, in form and color
like the wrecks which strew the bottom,--now drifting along over the
pebbly bottom, now whirling in tiny eddies and dashing down steep falls,
or sweeping rapidly along with the current, or else swaying to and fro at
the end of some grass-blade or root. Anon they will leave their sunken
habitations, and, crawling up the stems of plants, or to the surface, like
gnats, as perfect insects henceforth, flutter over the surface of the
water, or sacrifice their short lives in the flame of our candles at
evening. Down yonder little glen the shrubs are drooping under their
burden, and the red alder-berries contrast with the white ground. Here are
the marks of a myriad feet which have already been abroad. The sun rises
as proudly over such a glen, as over the valley of the Seine or the Tiber,
and it seems the residence of a pure and self-subsistent valor, such as
they never witnessed; which never knew defeat nor fear. Here reign the
simplicity and purity of a primitive age, and a health and hope far remote
from towns and cities. Standing quite alone, far in the forest, while the
wind is shaking down snow from the trees, and leaving the only human
tracks behind us, we find our reflections of a richer variety than the
life of cities. The chicadee and nuthatch are more inspiring society than
statesmen and philosophers, and we shall return to these last, as to more
vulgar companions. In this lonely glen, with its brook draining the
slopes, its creased ice and crystals of all hues, where the spruces and
hemlocks stand up on either side, and the rush and sere wild oats in the
rivulet itself, our lives are more serene and worthy to contemplate.

As the day advances, the heat of the sun is reflected by the hill-sides,
and we hear a faint but sweet music, where flows the rill released from
its fetters, and the icicles are melting on the trees; and the nuthatch
and partridge are heard and seen. The south wind melts the snow at noon,
and the bare ground appears with its withered grass and leaves, and we are
invigorated by the perfume which exhales from it, as by the scent of
strong meats.

Let us go into this deserted woodman's hut, and see how he has passed the
long winter nights and the short and stormy days. For here man has lived
under this south hill-side, and it seems a civilized and public spot. We
have such associations as when the traveller stands by the ruins of
Palmyra or Hecatompolis. Singing birds and flowers perchance have begun to
appear here, for flowers as well as weeds follow in the footsteps of man.
These hemlocks whispered over his head, these hickory logs were his fuel,
and these pitch-pine roots kindled his fire; yonder fuming rill in the
hollow, whose thin and airy vapor still ascends as busily as ever, though
he is far off now, was his well. These hemlock boughs, and the straw upon
this raised platform, were his bed, and this broken dish held his drink.
But he has not been here this season, for the phoebes built their nest
upon this shelf last summer. I find some embers left, as if he had but
just gone out, where he baked his pot of beans; and while at evening he
smoked his pipe, whose stemless bowl lies in the ashes, chatted with his
only companion, if perchance he had any, about the depth of the snow on
the morrow, already falling fast and thick without, or disputed whether
the last sound was the screech of an owl, or the creak of a bough, or
imagination only; and through this broad chimney throat, in the late
winter evening, ere he stretched himself upon the straw, he looked up to
learn the progress of the storm, and, seeing the bright stars of
Cassiopeia's chair shining brightly down upon him, fell contentedly
asleep. See how many traces from which we may learn the chopper's history.
From this stump we may guess the sharpness of his axe, and, from the slope
of the stroke, on which side he stood, and whether he cut down the tree
without going round it or changing hands; and, from the flexure of the
splinters, we may know which way it fell. This one chip contains inscribed
on it the whole history of the wood-chopper and of the world. On this
scrap of paper, which held his sugar or salt, perchance, or was the
wadding of his gun, sitting on a log in the forest, with what interest we
read the tattle of cities, of those larger huts, empty and to let, like
this, in High Streets and Broadways. The eaves are dripping on the south
side of this simple roof, while the titmouse lisps in the pine, and the
genial warmth of the sun around the door is somewhat kind and human.

After two seasons, this rude dwelling does not deform the scene. Already
the birds resort to it, to build their nests, and you may track to its
door the feet of many quadrupeds. Thus, for a long time, nature overlooks
the encroachment and profanity of-man. The wood still cheerfully and
unsuspiciously echoes the strokes of the axe that fells it, and while they
are few and seldom, they enhance its wildness, and all the elements strive
to naturalize the sound.

Now our path begins to ascend gradually to the top of this high hill,
from whose precipitous south side we can look over the broad country, of
forest and field and river, to the distant snowy mountains. See yonder
thin column of smoke curling up through the woods from some invisible
farm-house; the standard raised over some rural homestead. There must be
a warmer and more genial spot there below, as where we detect the vapor
from a spring forming a cloud above the trees. What fine relations are
established between the traveller who discovers this airy column from some
eminence in the forest, and him who sits below. Up goes the smoke as
silently and naturally as the vapor exhales from the leaves, and as busy
disposing itself in wreathes as the housewife on the hearth below. It is a
hieroglyphic of man's life, and suggests more intimate and important
things than the boiling of a pot. Where its fine column rises above the
forest, like an ensign, some human life has planted itself,--and such is
the beginning of Rome, the establishment of the arts, and the foundation
of empires, whether on the prairies of America, or the steppes of Asia.

And now we descend again to the brink of this woodland lake, which lies in
a hollow of the hills, as if it were their expressed juice, and that of
the leaves, which are annually steeped in it. Without outlet or inlet to
the eye, it has still its history, in the lapse of its waves, in the
rounded pebbles on its shore, and in the pines which grow down to its
brink. It has not been idle, though sedentary, but, like Abu Musa, teaches
that "sitting still at home is the heavenly way; the going out is the way
of the world." Yet in its evaporation it travels as far as any. In summer
it is the earth's liquid eye; a mirror in the breast of nature. The sins
of the wood are washed out in it. See how the woods form an amphitheatre
about it, and it is an arena for all the genialness of nature. All trees
direct the traveller to its brink, all paths seek it out, birds fly to it,
quadrupeds flee to it, and the very ground inclines toward it. It is
nature's saloon, where she has sat down to her toilet. Consider her silent
economy and tidiness; how the sun comes with his evaporation to sweep the
dust from its surface each morning, and a fresh surface is constantly
welling up; and annually, after whatever impurities have accumulated
herein, its liquid transparency appears again in the spring. In summer a
hushed music seems to sweep across its surface. But now a plain sheet of
snow conceals it from our eyes, except where the wind has swept the ice
bare, and the sere leaves are gliding from side to side, tacking and
veering on their tiny voyages. Here is one just keeled up against a pebble
on shove, a dry beech-leaf, rocking still, as if it would start again. A
skilful engineer, methinks, might project its course since it fell from
the parent stem. Here are all the elements for such a calculation. Its
present position, the direction of the wind, the level of the pond, and
how much more is given. In its scarred edges and veins is its log rolled

We fancy ourselves in the interior of a larger house. The surface of the
pond is our deal table or sanded floor, and the woods rise abruptly from
its edge, like the walls of a cottage. The lines set to catch pickerel
through the ice look like a larger culinary preparation, and the men stand
about on the white ground like pieces of forest furniture. The actions of
these men, at the distance of half a mile over the ice and snow, impress
us as when we read the exploits of Alexander in history. They seem not
unworthy of the scenery, and as momentous as the conquest of kingdoms.

Again we have wandered through the arches of the wood, until from its
skirts we hear the distant booming of ice from yonder bay of the river, as
if it were moved by some other and subtler tide than oceans know. To me it
has a strange sound of home, thrilling as the voice of one's distant and
noble kindred. A mild summer sun shines over forest and lake, and though
there is but one green leaf for many rods, yet nature enjoys a serene
health. Every sound is fraught with the same mysterious assurance of
health, as well now the creaking of the boughs in January, as the soft
sough of the wind in July.

When Winter fringes every bough
With his fantastic wreath,
And puts the seal of silence now
Upon the leaves beneath;

When every stream in its pent-house
Goes gurgling on its way,
And in his gallery the mouse
Nibbleth the meadow hay;

Methinks the summer still is nigh,
And lurketh underneath,
As that same meadow-mouse doth lie
Snug in that last year's heath.

And if perchance the chicadee
Lisp a faint note anon,
The snow is summer's canopy,
Which she herself put on.

Fair blossoms deck the cheerful trees,
And dazzling fruits depend,
The north wind sighs a summer breeze,
The nipping frosts to fend,

Bringing glad tidings unto me,
The while I stand all ear,
Of a serene eternity,
Which need not winter fear.

Out on the silent pond straightway
The restless ice doth crack,
And pond sprites merry gambols play
Amid the deafening rack.

Eager I hasten to the vale,
As if I heard brave news,
How nature held high festival,
Which it were hard to lose.

I gambol with my neighbor ice,
And sympathizing quake,
As each new crack darts in a trice
Across the gladsome lake.

One with the cricket in the ground,
And fagot on the hearth,
Resounds the rare domestic sound
Along the forest path.

Before night we will take a journey on skates along the course of this
meandering river, as full of novelty to one who sits by the cottage fire
all the winter's day, as if it were over the polar ice, with Captain Parry
or Franklin; following the winding of the stream, now flowing amid hills,
now spreading out into fair meadows, and forming a myriad coves and bays
where the pine and hemlock overarch. The river flows in the rear of the
towns, and we see all things from a new and wilder side. The fields and
gardens come down to it with a frankness, and freedom from pretension,
which they do not wear on the highway. It is the outside and edge of the
earth. Our eyes are not offended by violent contrasts. The last rail of
the farmer's fence is some swaying willow bough, which still preserves its
freshness, and here at length all fences stop, and we no longer cross any
road. We may go far up within the country now by the most retired and
level road, never climbing a hill, but by broad levels ascending to the
upland meadows. It is a beautiful illustration of the law of obedience,
the flow of a river; the path for a sick man, a highway down which an
acorn cup may float secure with its freight. Its slight occasional falls,
whose precipices would not diversify the landscape, are celebrated by mist
and spray, and attract the traveller from far and near. From the remote
interior, its current conducts him by broad and easy steps, or by one
gentle inclined plane, to the sea. Thus by an early and constant yielding
to the inequalities of the ground, it secures itself the easiest passage.

No domain of nature is quite closed to man at all times, and now we draw
near to the empire of the fishes. Our feet glide swiftly over unfathomed
depths, where in summer our line tempted the pout and perch, and where the
stately pickerel lurked in the long corridors formed by the bulrushes. The
deep, impenetrable marsh, where the heron waded, and bittern squatted, is
made pervious to our swift shoes, as if a thousand railroads had been made
into it. With one impulse we are carried to the cabin of the musk-rat,
that earliest settler, and see him dart away under the transparent ice,
like a furred fish, to his hole in the bank; and we glide rapidly over
meadows where lately "the mower whet his scythe," through beds of frozen
cranberries mixed with meadow grass. We skate near to where the blackbird,
the pewee, and the kingbird hung their nests over the water, and the
hornets builded from the maple in the swamp. How many gay warblers
following the sun, have radiated from this nest of silver-birch and
thistledown. On the swamp's outer edge was hung the supermarine village,
where no foot penetrated. In this hollow tree the wood-duck reared her
brood, and slid away each day to forage in yonder fen.

In winter, nature is a cabinet of curiosities, full of dried specimens, in
their natural order and position. The meadows and forests are a _hortus
siccus_. The leaves and grasses stand perfectly pressed by the air without
screw or gum, and the birds' nests are not hung on an artificial twig, but
where they builded them. We go about dryshod to inspect the summer's work
in the rank swamp, and see what a growth have got the alders, the willows,
and the maples; testifying to how many warm suns, and fertilizing dews and
showers. See what strides their boughs took in the luxuriant summer,--and
anon these dormant buds will carry them onward and upward another span
into the heavens.

Occasionally we wade through fields of snow, under whose depths the river
is lost for many rods, to appear again to the right or left, where we
least expected; still holding on its way underneath, with a faint,
stertorous, rumbling sound, as if, like the bear and marmot, it too had
hibernated, and we had followed its faint summer-trail to where it earthed
itself in snow and ice. At first we should have thought that rivers would
be empty and dry in midwinter, or else frozen solid till the spring thawed
them; but their volume is not diminished even, for only a superficial cold
bridges their surface. The thousand springs which feed the lakes and
streams are flowing still. The issues of a few surface springs only are
closed, and they go to swell the deep reservoirs. Nature's wells are below
the frost. The summer brooks are not filled with snow-water, nor does the
mower quench his thirst with that alone. The streams are swollen when the
snow melts in the spring, because nature's work has been delayed, the
water being turned into ice and snow, whose particles are less smooth and
round, and do not find their level so soon.

Far over the ice, between the hemlock woods and snow-clad hills, stands
the pickerel fisher, his lines set in some retired cove, like a Finlander,
with his arms thrust into the pouches of his dreadnought; with dull,
snowy, fishy thoughts, himself a finless fish, separated a few inches from
his race; dumb, erect, and made to be enveloped in clouds and snows, like
the pines on shore. In these wild scenes, men stand about in the scenery,
or move deliberately and heavily, having sacrificed the sprightliness and
vivacity of towns to the dumb sobriety of nature. He does not make the
scenery less wild, more than the jays and musk-rats, but stands there as a
part of it, as the natives are represented in the voyages of early
navigators, at Nootka Sound, and on the Northwest coast, with their furs
about them, before they were tempted to loquacity by a scrap of iron. He
belongs to the natural family of man, and is planted deeper in nature and
has more root than the inhabitants of towns. Go to him, ask what luck, and
you will learn that he too is a worshipper of the unseen. Hear with what
sincere deference and waving gesture in his tone, he speaks of the lake
pickerel, which he has never seen, his primitive and ideal race of
pickerel. He is connected with the shore still, as by a fish-line, and yet
remembers the season when he took fish through the ice on the pond, while
the peas were up in his garden at home.

But now, while we have loitered, the clouds have gathered again, and a few
straggling snow-flakes are beginning to descend. Faster and faster they
fall, shutting out the distant objects from sight. The snow falls on every
wood and field, and no crevice is forgotten; by the river and the pond, on
the hill and in the valley. Quadrupeds are confined to their coverts, and
the birds sit upon their perches this peaceful hour. There is not so much
sound as in fair weather, but silently and gradually every slope, and the
gray walls and fences, and the polished ice, and the sere leaves, which
were not buried before, are concealed, and the tracks of men and beasts
are lost. With so little effort does nature reassert her rule and blot out
the traces of men. Hear how Homer has described the same. "The snow-flakes
fall thick and fast on a winter's day. The winds are lulled, and the snow
falls incessant, covering the tops of the mountains, and the hills, and
the plains where the lotus-tree grows, and the cultivated fields, and they
are falling by the inlets and shores of the foaming sea, but are silently
dissolved by the waves." The snow levels all things, and infolds them
deeper in the bosom of nature, as, in the slow summer, vegetation creeps
up to the entablature of the temple, and the turrets of the castle, and
helps her to prevail over art.

The surly night-wind rustles through the wood, and warns us to retrace our
steps, while the sun goes down behind the thickening storm, and birds seek
their roosts, and cattle their stalls.

"Drooping the lab'rer ox
Stands covered o'er with snow, and _now_ demands
The fruit of all his toil."

Though winter is represented in the almanac as an old man, facing the wind
and sleet, and drawing his cloak about him, we rather think of him as a
merry wood-chopper, and warm-blooded youth, as blithe as summer. The
unexplored grandeur of the storm keeps up the spirits of the traveller. It
does not trifle with us, but has a sweet earnestness. In winter we lead a
more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under
drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose
chimneys the smoke cheerfully ascends. The imprisoning drifts increase the
sense of comfort which the house affords, and in the coldest days we are
content to sit over the hearth and see the sky through the chimney top,
enjoying the quiet and serene life that may be had in a warm corner by the
chimney side, or feeling our pulse by listening to the low of cattle in
the street, or the sound of the flail in distant barns all the long
afternoon. No doubt a skilful physician could determine our health by
observing how these simple and natural sounds affected us. We enjoy now,
not an oriental, but a boreal leisure, around warm stoves and fireplaces,
and watch the shadow of motes in the sunbeams.

Sometimes our fate grows too homely and familiarly serious ever to be
cruel. Consider how for three months the human destiny is wrapped in furs.
The good Hebrew Revelation takes no cognizance of all this cheerful snow.
Is there no religion for the temperate and frigid zones? We know of no
scripture which records the pure benignity of the gods on a New England
winter night. Their praises have never been sung, only their wrath
deprecated. The best scripture, after all, records but a meagre faith. Its
saints live reserved and austere. Let a brave devout man spend the year in
the woods of Maine or Labrador, and see if the Hebrew Scriptures speak
adequately to his condition and experience, from the setting in of winter
to the breaking up of the ice.

Now commences the long winter evening around the farmer's hearth, when the
thoughts of the indwellers travel far abroad, and men are by nature and
necessity charitable and liberal to all creatures. Now is the happy
resistance to cold, when the farmer reaps his reward, and thinks of his
preparedness for winter, and, through the glittering panes, sees with
equanimity "the mansion of the northern bear," for now the storm is over,

"The full ethereal round,
Infinite worlds disclosing to the view,
Shines out intensely keen; and all one cope
Of starry glitter glows from pole to pole."

[An Address read to the Middlesex Agricultural Society, in Concord,
September, 1860.]

Every man is entitled to come to Cattle-show, even a transcendentalist;
and for my part I am more interested in the men than in the cattle. I wish
to see once more those old familiar faces, whose names I do not know,
which for me represent the Middlesex country, and come as near being
indigenous to the soil as a white man can; the men who are not above their
business, whose coats are not too black, whose shoes do not shine very
much, who never wear gloves to conceal their hands. It is true, there are
some queer specimens of humanity attracted to our festival, but all are
welcome. I am pretty sure to meet once more that weak-minded and whimsical
fellow, generally weak-bodied too, who prefers a crooked stick for a cane;
perfectly useless, you would say, only _bizarre_, fit for a cabinet, like
a petrified snake. A ram's horn would be as convenient, and is yet more
curiously twisted. He brings that much indulged bit of the country with
him, from some town's end or other, and introduces it to Concord groves,
as if he had promised it so much sometime. So some, it seems to me, elect
their rulers for their crookedness. But I think that a straight stick
makes the best cane, and an upright man the best ruler. Or why choose a
man to do plain work who is distinguished for his oddity? However, I do
not know but you will think that they have committed this mistake who
invited me to speak to you to-day.

In my capacity of surveyor, I have often talked with some of you, my
employers, at your dinner-tables, after having gone round and round and
behind your farming, and ascertained exactly what its limits were.
Moreover, taking a surveyor's and a naturalist's liberty, I have been in
the habit of going across your lots much oftener than is usual, as many
of you, perhaps to your sorrow, are aware. Yet many of you, to my relief,
have seemed not to be aware of it; and when I came across you in some
out-of-the-way nook of your farms, have inquired, with an air of surprise,
if I were not lost, since you had never seen me in that part of the town
or county before; when, if the truth were known, and it had not been for
betraying my secret, I might with more propriety have inquired if _you_
were not lost, since I had never seen _you_ there before. I have several
times shown the proprietor the shortest way out of his wood-lot.

Therefore, it would seem that I have some title to speak to you to-day;
and considering what that title is, and the occasion that has called us
together, I need offer no apology if I invite your attention, for the few
moments that are allotted me, to a purely scientific subject.

At those dinner-tables referred to, I have often been asked, as many of
you have been, if I could tell how it happened, that when a pine wood was
cut down an oak one commonly sprang up, and _vice versa_. To which I have
answered, and now answer, that I can tell,--that it is no mystery to me.
As I am not aware that this has been clearly shown by any one, I shall lay
the more stress on this point. Let me lead you back into your wood-lots

When, hereabouts, a single forest tree or a forest springs up naturally
where none of its kind grew before, I do not hesitate to say, though in
some quarters still it may sound paradoxical, that it came from a seed. Of
the various ways by which trees are _known_ to be propagated,--by
transplanting, cuttings, and the like,--this is the only supposable one
under these circumstances. No such tree has ever been known to spring from
anything else. If any one asserts that it sprang from something else, or
from nothing, the burden of proof lies with him.

It remains, then, only to show how the seed is transported from where it
grows, to where it is planted. This is done chiefly by the agency of the
wind, water, and animals. The lighter seeds, as those of pines and maples,
are transported chiefly by wind and water; the heavier, as acorns and
nuts, by animals.

In all the pines, a very thin membrane, in appearance much like an
insect's wing, grows over and around the seed, and independent of it,
while the latter is being developed within its base. Indeed this is often
perfectly developed, though the seed is abortive; nature being, you would
say, more sure to provide the means of transporting the seed, than to
provide the seed to be transported. In other words, a beautiful thin sack
is woven around the seed, with a handle to it such as the wind can take
hold of, and it is then committed to the wind, expressly that it may
transport the seed and extend the range of the species; and this it does,
as effectually, as when seeds are sent by mail in a different kind of sack
from the patent-office. There is a patent-office at the seat of government
of the universe, whose managers are as much interested in the dispersion
of seeds as anybody at Washington can be, and their operations are
infinitely more extensive and regular.

There is then no necessity for supposing that the pines have sprung up
from nothing, and I am aware that I am not at all peculiar in asserting
that they come from seeds, though the mode of their propagation _by
nature_ has been but little attended to. They are very extensively raised
from the seed in Europe, and are beginning to be here.

When you cut down an oak wood, a pine wood will not _at once_ spring up
there unless there are, or have been, quite recently, seed-bearing pines
near enough for the seeds to be blown from them. But, adjacent to a forest
of pines, if you prevent other crops from growing there, you will surely
have an extension of your pine forest, provided the soil is suitable.

As for the heavy seeds and nuts which are not furnished with wings, the
notion is still a very common one that, when the trees which bear these
spring up where none of their kind were noticed before, they have come
from seeds or other principles spontaneously generated there in an unusual
manner, or which have lain dormant in the soil for centuries, or perhaps
been called into activity by the heat of a burning. I do not believe these
assertions, and I will state some of the ways in which, according to my
observation, such forests are planted and raised.

Every one of these seeds, too, will be found to be winged or legged in
another fashion. Surely it is not wonderful that cherry-trees of all kinds
are widely dispersed, since their fruit is well known to be the favorite
food of various birds. Many kinds are called bird-cherries, and they
appropriate many more kinds, which are not so called. Eating cherries is a
bird-like employment, and unless we disperse the seeds occasionally, as
they do, I shall think that the birds have the best right to them. See how
artfully the seed of a cherry is placed in order that a bird may be
compelled to transport it--in the very midst of a tempting pericarp, so
that the creature that would devour this must commonly take the stone also
into its mouth or bill. If you ever ate a cherry, and did not make two
bites of it, you must have perceived it--right in the centre of the
luscious morsel, a large earthy residuum left on the tongue. We thus take
into our mouths cherry stones as big as peas, a dozen at once, for Nature
can persuade us to do almost anything when she would compass her ends.
Some wild men and children instinctively swallow these, as the birds do
when in a hurry, it being the shortest way to get rid of them. Thus,
though these seeds are not provided with vegetable wings, Nature has
impelled the thrush tribe to take them into their bills and fly away with
them; and they are winged in another sense, and more effectually than the
seeds of pines, for these are carried even against the wind. The
consequence is, that cherry-trees grow not only here but there. The same
is true of a great many other seeds.

But to come to the observation which suggested these remarks. As I have
said, I suspect that I can throw some light on the fact, that when
hereabouts a dense pine wood is cut down, oaks and other hard woods may at
once take its place. I have got only to show that the acorns and nuts,
provided they are grown in the neighborhood, are regularly planted in such
woods; for I assert that if an oak-tree has not grown within ten miles,
and man has not carried acorns thither, then an oak wood will not spring
up _at once_, when a pine wood is cut down.

Apparently, there were only pines there before. They are cut off, and
after a year or two you see oaks and other hard woods springing up there,
with scarcely a pine amid them, and the wonder commonly is, how the seed
could have lain in the ground so long without decaying. But the truth is,
that it has not lain in the ground so long, but is regularly planted each
year by various quadrupeds and birds.

In this neighborhood, where oaks and pines are about equally dispersed,
if you look through the thickest pine wood, even the seemingly unmixed
pitch-pine ones, you will commonly detect many little oaks, birches, and
other hard woods, sprung from seeds carried into the thicket by squirrels
and other animals, and also blown thither, but which are over-shadowed and
choked by the pines. The denser the evergreen wood, the more likely it is
to be well planted with these seeds, because the planters incline to
resort with their forage to the closest covert. They also carry it into
birch and other woods. This planting is carried on annually, and the
oldest seedlings annually die; but when the pines are cleared off, the
oaks, having got just the start they want, and now secured favorable
conditions, immediately spring up to trees.

The shade of a dense pine wood, is more unfavorable to the springing up of
pines of the same species than of oaks within it, though the former may
come up abundantly when the pines are cut, if there chance to be sound
seed in the ground.

But when you cut off a lot of hard wood, very often the little pines mixed
with it have a similar start, for the squirrels have carried off the nuts
to the pines, and not to the more open wood, and they commonly make pretty
clean work of it; and moreover, if the wood was old, the sprouts will be
feeble or entirely fail; to say nothing about the soil being, in a
measure, exhausted for this kind of crop.

If a pine wood is surrounded by a white oak one chiefly, white oaks may be
expected to succeed when the pines are cut. If it is surrounded, instead
by an edging of shrub-oaks, then you will probably have a dense shrub-oak

I have no time to go into details, but will say, in a word, that while the
wind is conveying the seeds of pines into hard woods and open lands, the
squirrels and other animals are conveying the seeds of oaks and walnuts
into the pine woods, and thus a rotation of crops is kept up.

I affirmed this confidently many years ago, and an occasional examination
of dense pine woods confirmed me in my opinion. It has long been known to
observers that squirrels bury nuts in the ground, but I am not aware that
any one has thus accounted for the regular succession of forests.

On the 24th of September, in 1857, as I was paddling down the Assabet, in
this town, I saw a red squirrel run along the bank under some herbage,
with something large in its mouth. It stopped near the foot of a hemlock,
within a couple of rods of me, and, hastily pawing a hole with its
forefeet, dropped its booty into it, covered it up, and retreated part way
up the trunk of the tree. As I approached the shore to examine the
deposit, the squirrel, descending part way, betrayed no little anxiety
about its treasure, and made two or three motions to recover it before it
finally retreated. Digging there, I found two green pig-nuts joined
together, with the thick husks on, buried about an inch and a half under
the reddish soil of decayed hemlock leaves,--just the right depth to plant
it. In short, this squirrel was then engaged in accomplishing two objects,
to wit, laying up a store of winter food for itself, and planting a
hickory wood for all creation. If the squirrel was killed, or neglected
its deposit, a hickory would spring up. The nearest hickory tree was
twenty rods distant. These nuts were there still just fourteen days later,
but were gone when I looked again, November 21, or six weeks later still.

I have since examined more carefully several dense woods, which are said
to be, and are apparently exclusively pine, and always with the same
result. For instance, I walked the same day to a small, but very dense and
handsome white-pine grove, about fifteen rods square, in the east part of
this town. The trees are large for Concord, being from ten to twenty
inches in diameter, and as exclusively pine as any wood that I know.
Indeed, I selected this wood because I thought it the least likely to
contain anything else. It stands on an open plain or pasture, except that
it adjoins another small pine wood, which has a few little oaks in it, on
the southeast side. On every other side, it was at least thirty rods from
the nearest woods. Standing on the edge of this grove and looking through
it, for it is quite level and free from underwood, for the most part bare,
red-carpeted ground, you would have said that there was not a hard wood
tree in it, young or old. But on looking carefully along over its floor I
discovered, though it was not till my eye had got used to the search,
that, alternating with thin ferns, and small blueberry bushes, there was,
not merely here and there, but as often as every five feet and with a
degree of regularity, a little oak, from three to twelve inches high, and
in one place I found a green acorn dropped by the base of a pine.

I confess, I was surprised to find my theory so perfectly proved in this
case. One of the principal agents in this planting, the red squirrels,
were all the while curiously inspecting me, while I was inspecting their
plantation. Some of the little oaks had been browsed by cows, which
resorted to this wood for shade.

After seven or eight years, the hard woods evidently find such a locality
unfavorable to their growth, the pines being allowed to stand. As an
evidence of this, I observed a diseased red-maple twenty-five feet long,
which had been recently prostrated, though it was still covered with green
leaves, the only maple in any position in the wood.

But although these oaks almost invariably die if the pines are not cut
down, it is probable that they do better for a few years under their
shelter than they would anywhere else.

The very extensive and thorough experiments of the English, have at length
led them to adopt a method of raising oaks almost precisely like this,
which somewhat earlier had been adopted by nature and her squirrels here;
they have simply rediscovered the value of pines as nurses for oaks. The
English experimenters seem early and generally, to have found out the
importance of using trees of some kind, as nurse-plants for the young
oaks. I quote from Loudon what he describes as "the ultimatum on the
subject of planting and sheltering oaks,"--"an abstract of the practice
adopted by the government officers in the national forests" of England,
prepared by Alexander Milne.

At first some oaks had been planted by themselves, and others mixed with
Scotch pines; "but in all cases," says Mr. Milne, "where oaks were planted
actually among the pines, and surrounded by them, [though the soil might
be inferior,] the oaks were found to be much the best." "For several years
past, the plan pursued has been to plant the inclosures with Scotch pines
only, [a tree very similar to our pitch-pine,] and when the pines have got
to the height of five or six feet, then to put in good strong oak plants
of about four or five years' growth among the pines,--not cutting away any
pines at first, unless they happen to be so strong and thick as to
overshadow the oaks. In about two years, it becomes necessary to shred the
branches of the pines, to give light and air to the oaks, and in about two
or three more years to begin gradually to remove the pines altogether,
taking out a certain number each year, so that, at the end of twenty or
twenty-five years, not a single Scotch pine shall be left; although, for
the first ten or twelve years, the plantation may have appeared to contain
nothing else but pine. The advantage of this mode of planting has been
found to be that the pines dry and ameliorate the soil, destroying the
coarse grass and brambles which frequently choke and injure oaks; and that
no mending over is necessary, as scarcely an oak so planted is found to

Thus much the English planters have discovered by patient experiment, and,
for aught I know, they have taken out a patent for it; but they appear not
to have discovered that it was discovered before, and that they are merely
adopting the method of Nature, which she long ago made patent to all.
She is all the while planting the oaks amid the pines without our
knowledge, and at last, instead of government officers, we send a party of
wood-choppers to cut down the pines, and so rescue an oak forest, at which
we wonder as if it had dropped from the skies.

As I walk amid hickories, even in August, I hear the sound of green
pig-nuts falling from time to time, cut off by the chickaree over my head.
In the fall, I notice on the ground, either within or in the neighborhood
of oak woods, on all sides of the town, stout oak twigs three or four
inches long, bearing half-a-dozen empty acorn-cups, which twigs have been
gnawed off by squirrels, on both sides of the nuts, in order to make them
more portable. The jays scream and the red squirrels scold while you are
clubbing and shaking the chestnut trees, for they are there on the same
errand, and two of a trade never agree. I frequently see a red or gray
squirrel cast down a green chestnut bur, as I am going through the woods,
and I used to think, sometimes, that they were cast at me. In fact, they
are so busy about it, in the midst of the chestnut season, that you cannot
stand long in the woods without hearing one fall. A sportsman told me that
he had, the day before,--that was in the middle of October,--seen a green
chestnut bur dropt on our great river meadow, fifty rods from the nearest
wood, and much further from the nearest chestnut-tree, and he could not
tell how it came there. Occasionally, when chestnutting in midwinter, I
find thirty or forty nuts in a pile, left in its gallery, just under the
leaves, by the common wood-mouse (_mus leucopus_).

But especially, in the winter, the extent to which this transportation and
planting of nuts is carried on is made apparent by the snow. In almost
every wood, you will see where the red or gray squirrels have pawed down
through the snow in a hundred places, sometimes two feet deep, and almost
always directly to a nut or a pine-cone, as directly as if they had
started from it and bored upward,--which you and I could not have done. It
would be difficult for us to find one before the snow falls. Commonly, no
doubt, they had deposited them there in the fall. You wonder if they
remember the localities, or discover them by the scent. The red squirrel
commonly has its winter abode in the earth under a thicket of evergreens,
frequently under a small clump of evergreens in the midst of a deciduous
wood. If there are any nut-trees, which still retain their nuts, standing
at a distance without the wood, their paths often lead directly to and
from them. We, therefore, need not suppose an oak standing here and there
_in_ the wood in order to seed it, but if a few stand within twenty or
thirty rods of it, it is sufficient.

I think that I may venture to say that every white-pine cone that falls to
the earth naturally in this town, before opening and losing its seeds, and
almost every pitch-pine one that falls at all, is cut off by a squirrel,
and they begin to pluck them long before they are ripe, so that when the
crop of white-pine cones is a small one, as it commonly is, they cut off
thus almost every one of these before it fairly ripens. I think, moreover,
that their design, if I may so speak, in cutting them off green, is,
partly, to prevent their opening and losing their seeds, for these are the
ones for which they dig through the snow, and the only white-pine cones
which contain anything then. I have counted in one heap, within a diameter
of four feet, the cores of 239 pitch-pine cones which had been cut off and
stripped by the red squirrel the previous winter.

The nuts thus left on the surface, or buried just beneath it, are placed
in the most favorable circumstances for germinating. I have sometimes
wondered how those which merely fell on the surface of the earth got
planted; but, by the end of December, I find the chestnut of the same year
partially mixed with the mould, as it were, under the decaying and mouldy
leaves, where there is all the moisture and manure they want, for the nuts
fall first. In a plentiful year, a large proportion of the nuts are thus
covered loosely an inch deep, and are, of course, somewhat concealed from
squirrels. One winter, when the crop had been abundant, I got, with the
aid of a rake, many quarts of these nuts as late as the tenth of January,
and though some bought at the store the same day were more than half of
them mouldy, I did not find a single mouldy one among these which I picked
from under the wet and mouldy leaves, where they had been snowed on once
or twice. Nature knows how to pack them best. They were still plump and
tender. Apparently, they do not heat there, though wet. In the spring they
were all sprouting.

Loudon says that "when the nut [of the common walnut of Europe] is to be
preserved through the winter for the purpose of planting in the following
spring, it should be laid in a rot-heap, as soon as gathered, with the
husk on; and the heap should be turned over frequently in the course of
the winter."

Here, again, he is stealing Nature's "thunder." How can a poor mortal do
otherwise? for it is she that finds fingers to steal with, and the
treasure to be stolen. In the planting of the seeds of most trees, the
best gardeners do no more than follow Nature, though they may not know it.
Generally, both large and small ones are most sure to germinate, and
succeed best, when only beaten into the earth with the back of a spade,
and then covered with leaves or straw. These results to which planters
have arrived, remind us of the experience of Kane and his companions at
the North, who, when learning to live in that climate, were surprised to
find themselves steadily adopting the customs of the natives, simply
becoming Esquimaux. So, when we experiment in planting forests, we find
ourselves at last doing as Nature does. Would it not be well to consult
with Nature in the outset? for she is the most extensive and experienced
planter of us all, not excepting the Dukes of Athol.

In short, they who have not attended particularly to this subject are but
little aware to what an extent quadrupeds and birds are employed,
especially in the fall, in collecting, and so disseminating and planting
the seeds of trees. It is the almost constant employment of the squirrels
at that season and you rarely meet with one that has not a nut in its
mouth, or is not just going to get one. One squirrel-hunter of this town
told me that he knew of a walnut-tree which bore particularly good nuts,
but that on going to gather them one fall, he found that he had been
anticipated by a family of a dozen red squirrels. He took out of the tree,
which was hollow, one bushel and three pecks by measurement, without the
husks, and they supplied him and his family for the winter. It would be
easy to multiply instances of this kind. How commonly in the fall you see
the cheek-pouches of the striped squirrel distended by a quantity of nuts!
This species gets its scientific name _Tamias_, or the steward, from its
habit of storing up nuts and other seeds. Look under a nut-tree a month
after the nuts have fallen, and see what proportion of sound nuts to the
abortive ones and shells you will find ordinarily. They have been already
eaten, or dispersed far and wide. The ground looks like a platform before
a grocery, where the gossips of the village sit to crack nuts and less
savory jokes. You have come, you would say, after the feast was over, and
are presented with the shells only.

Occasionally, when threading the woods in the fall, you will hear a sound
as if some one had broken a twig, and, looking up, see a jay pecking at an
acorn, or you will see a flock of them at once about it, in the top of an
oak, and hear them break them off. They then fly to a suitable limb, and
placing the acorn under one foot, hammer away at it busily, making a sound
like a woodpecker's tapping, looking round from time to time to see if any
foe is approaching, and soon reach the meat, and nibble at it, holding up
their heads to swallow, while they hold the remainder very firmly with
their claws. Nevertheless, it often drops to the ground before the bird
has done with it. I can confirm what Wm. Bartram wrote to Wilson, the
Ornithologist, that "The jay is one of the most useful agents in the
economy of nature, for disseminating forest trees and other nuciferous and
hard-seeded vegetables on which they feed. Their chief employment during
the autumnal season is foraging to supply their winter stores. In
performing this necessary duty they drop abundance of seed in their flight
over fields, hedges, and by fences, where they alight to deposit them in
the post-holes, &c. It is remarkable what numbers of young trees rise up
in fields and pastures after a wet winter and spring. These birds alone
are capable, in a few years' time, to replant all the cleared lands."

I have noticed that squirrels also frequently drop their nuts in open
land, which will still further account for the oaks and walnuts which
spring up in pastures, for, depend on it, every new tree comes from a
seed. When I examine the little oaks, one or two years old, in such
places, I invariably find the empty acorn from which they sprung.

So far from the seed having lain dormant in the soil since oaks grew there
before, as many believe, it is well known that it is difficult to preserve
the vitality of acorns long enough to transport them to Europe; and it is
recommended in Loudon's Arboretum, as the safest course, to sprout them in
pots on the voyage. The same authority states that "very few acorns of any
species will germinate after having been kept a year," that beechmast,
"only retains its vital properties one year," and the black-walnut,
"seldom more than six months after it has ripened." I have frequently
found that in November, almost every acorn left on the ground had sprouted
or decayed. What with frost, drouth, moisture, and worms, the greater part
are soon destroyed. Yet it is stated by one botanical writer that "acorns
that have lain for centuries, on being ploughed up, have soon vegetated."

Mr. George B. Emerson, in his valuable Report on the Trees and Shrubs of
this State, says of the pines: "The tenacity of life of the seeds is
remarkable. They will remain for many years unchanged in the ground,
protected by the coolness and deep shade of the forest above them. But
when the forest is removed, and the warmth of the sun admitted, they
immediately vegetate." Since he does not tell us on what observation his
remark is founded, I must doubt its truth. Besides, the experience of
nurserymen makes it the more questionable.

The stories of wheat raised from seed buried with an ancient Egyptian, and
of raspberries raised from seed found in the stomach of a man in England,
who is supposed to have died sixteen or seventeen hundred years ago, are
generally discredited, simply because the evidence is not conclusive.

Several men of science, Dr. Carpenter among them, have used the statement
that beach-plums sprang up in sand which was dug up forty miles inland in
Maine, to prove that the seed had lain there a very long time, and some
have inferred that the coast has receded so far. But it seems to me
necessary to their argument to show, first, that beach-plums grow only on
a beach. They are not uncommon here, which is about half that distance
from the shore; and I remember a dense patch a few miles north of us,
twenty-five miles inland, from which the fruit was annually carried to
market. How much further inland they grow, I know not. Dr. Chas. T.
Jackson speaks of finding "beach-plums" (perhaps they were this kind) more
than one hundred miles inland in Maine.

It chances that similar objections lie against all the more notorious
instances of the kind on record.

Yet I am prepared to believe that some seeds, especially small ones, may
retain their vitality for centuries under favorable circumstances. In the
spring of 1859, the old Hunt House, so called, in this town, whose chimney
bore the date 1703, was taken down. This stood on land which belonged to
John Winthrop, the first Governor of Massachusetts, and a part of the
house was evidently much older than the above date, and belonged to the
Winthrop family. For many years, I have ransacked this neighborhood for
plants, and I consider myself familiar with its productions. Thinking of
the seeds which are said to be sometimes dug up at an unusual depth in the
earth, and thus to reproduce long extinct plants, it occurred to me last
fall that some new or rare plants might have sprung up in the cellar of
this house, which had been covered from the light so long. Searching there
on the 22d of September, I found, among other rank weeds, a species of
nettle (_Urtica urens_), which I had not found before; dill, which I had
not seen growing spontaneously; the Jerusalem oak (_Chenopodium botrys_),
which I had seen wild in but one place; black nightshade (_Solanum
nigrum_), which is quite rare hereabouts, and common tobacco, which,
though it was often cultivated here in the last century, has for fifty
years been an unknown plant in this town, and a few months before this not
even I had heard that one man in the north part of the town, was
cultivating a few plants for his own use. I have no doubt that some or all
of these plants sprang from seeds which had long been buried under or
about that house, and that that tobacco is an additional evidence that the
plant was formerly cultivated here. The cellar has been filled up this
year, and four of those plants, including the tobacco, are now again
extinct in that locality.

It is true, I have shown that the animals consume a great part of the
seeds of trees, and so, at least, effectually prevent their becoming
trees; but in all these cases, as I have said, the consumer is compelled
to be at the same time the disperser and planter, and this is the tax
which he pays to nature. I think it is Linnaeus, who says, that while the
swine is rooting for acorns, he is planting acorns.

Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has
been, I have great faith in a seed--a, to me, equally mysterious origin
for it. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to
expect wonders. I shall even believe that the millennium is at hand, and
that the reign of justice is about to commence, when the Patent Office, or
Government, begins to distribute, and the people to plant the seeds of
these things.'

In the spring of 1857, I planted six seeds sent to me from the Patent
Office, and labelled, I think, "_Poitrine jaune grosse,_" large yellow
squash. Two came up, and one bore a squash which weighed 123-1/2 pounds,
the other bore four, weighing together 186-1/4 pounds. Who would have
believed that there was 310 pounds of _poitrine jaune grosse_ in that
corner of my garden? These seeds were the bait I used to catch it, my
ferrets which I sent into its burrow, my brace of terriers which unearthed
it. A little mysterious hoeing and manuring was all the _abra cadabra
presto-change,_ that I used, and lo! true to the label, they found for me
310 pounds of _poitrine jaune grosse_ there, where it never was known to
be, nor was before. These talismen had perchance sprung from America at
first, and returned to it with unabated force. The big squash took a
premium at your fair that fall, and I understood that the man who bought
it, intended to sell the seeds for ten cents a piece. (Were they not cheap
at that?) But I have more hounds of the same breed. I learn that one which
I despatched to a distant town, true to its instinct, points to the large
yellow squash there, too, where no hound ever found it before, as its
ancestors did here and in France.

Other seeds I have which will find other things in that corner of my
garden, in like fashion, almost any fruit you wish, every year for ages,
until the crop more than fills the whole garden. You have but little more
to do, than throw up your cap for entertainment these American days.
Perfect alchemists I keep, who can transmute substances without end; and
thus the corner of my garden is an inexhaustible treasure-chest. Here you
can dig, not gold, but the value which gold merely represents; and there
is no Signor Blitz about it. Yet farmers' sons will stare by the hour to
see a juggler draw ribbons from his throat, though he tells them it is all
deception. Surely, men love darkness rather than light.



I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as
contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil,--to regard man as an
inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of
society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic
one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the
school-committee, and every one of you will take care of that.

* * * * *

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who
understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks,--who had a
genius, so to speak, for _sauntering_: which word is beautifully derived
"from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and
asked charity, under pretence of going _ la Sainte Terre_" to the Holy
Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a _Sainte-Terrer_," a
Saunterer,--a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their
walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who
do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some,
however, would derive the word from _sans terre_, without land or a home,
which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home,
but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful
sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest
vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant
than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the
shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the
most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by
some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from
the hands of the Infidels.

It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers,
nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our
expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old
hearth-side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our
steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit
of undying adventure, never to return,--prepared to send back our embalmed
hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave
father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends,
and never see them again,--if you have paid your debts, and made your
will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready
for a walk.

To come down to my own experience, my companion and I, for I sometimes
have a companion, take pleasure in fancying ourselves knights of a new, or
rather an old, order,--not Equestrians or Chevaliers, not Ritters or
riders, but Walkers, a still more ancient and honorable class, I trust.
The chivalric and heroic spirit which once belonged to the Rider seems now
to reside in, or perchance to have subsided into, the Walker,--not the
Knight, but Walker Errant. He is a sort of fourth estate, outside of
Church and State and People.

We have felt that we almost alone hereabouts practised this noble art;
though, to tell the truth, at least, if their own assertions are to be
received, moat of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as I do, but they
cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and
independence, which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by
the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become
a walker. You must be born into the family of the Walkers. _Ambulator
nascitur, non fit._ Some of my townsmen, it is true, can remember and have
described to me some walks which they took ten years ago, in which they
were so blessed as to lose themselves for half an hour in the woods; but I
know very well that they have confined themselves to the highway ever
since, whatever pretensions they may make to belong to this select class.
No doubt they were elevated for a moment as by the reminiscence of a
previous state of existence, when even they were foresters and outlaws.

"When he came to grene wode,
In a mery mornynge,
There he herde the notes small
Of byrdes mery syngynge.

"It is ferre gone, sayd Robyn,
That I was last here;
Me lyste a lytell for to shote
At the donne dere."

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four
hours a day at least,--and it is commonly more than that,--sauntering
through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all
worldly engagements. You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts, or a
thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and
shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the
afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them,--as if the legs
were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon,--I think that they
deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.

I, who cannot stay in my chamber for a single day without acquiring some
rust, and when sometimes I have stolen forth for a walk at the eleventh
hour of four o'clock in the afternoon, too late to redeem the day, when
the shades of night were already beginning to be mingled with the
daylight, have felt as if I had committed some sin to be atoned for,--I
confess that I am astonished at the power of endurance, to say nothing of
the moral insensibility, of my neighbors who confine themselves to shops
and offices the whole day for weeks and months, ay, and years almost
together. I know not what manner of stuff they are of,--sitting there now
at three o'clock in the afternoon, as if it were three o'clock in the
morning. Bonaparte may talk of the three-o'clock-in-the-morning courage,
but it is nothing to the courage which can sit down cheerfully at this
hour in the afternoon over against one's self whom you have known all the
morning, to starve out a garrison to whom you are bound by such strong
ties of sympathy. I wonder that about this time, or say between four and
five o'clock in the afternoon, too late for the morning papers and too
early for the evening ones, there is not a general explosion heard up and
down the street, scattering a legion of antiquated and house-bred notions
and whims to the four winds for an airing,--and so the evil cure itself.

How womankind, who are confined to the house still more than men, stand it
I do not know; but I have ground to suspect that most of them do not
_stand_ it at all. When, early in a summer afternoon, we have been shaking
the dust of the village from the skirts of our garments, making haste past
those houses with purely Doric or Gothic fronts, which have such an air of
repose about them, my companion whispers that probably about these times
their occupants are all gone to bed. Then it is that I appreciate the
beauty and the glory of architecture, which itself never turns in, but
forever stands out and erect, keeping watch over the slumberers.

No doubt temperament, and, above all, age, have a good deal to do with it.
As a man grows older, his ability to sit still and follow indoor
occupations increases. He grows vespertinal in his habits as the evening
of life approaches, till at last he comes forth only just before sundown,
and gets all the walk that he requires in half an hour.

But the walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking
exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours,--as
the swinging of dumb-bells or chairs; but is itself the enterprise and
adventure of the day. If you would get exercise, go in search of the
springs of life. Think of a man's swinging dumb-bells for his health, when
those springs are bubbling up in far-off pastures unsought by him!

Moreover, you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast
which ruminates when walking. When a traveller asked Wordsworth's servant
to show him her master's study, she answered, "Here is his library, but
his study is out of doors."

Living much out of doors, in the sun and wind, will no doubt produce a
certain roughness of character,--will cause a thicker cuticle to grow over
some of the finer qualities of our nature, as on the face and hands, or as
severe manual labor robs the hands of some of their delicacy of touch. So
staying in the house, on the other hand, may produce a softness and
smoothness, not to say thinness of skin, accompanied by an increased
sensibility to certain impressions. Perhaps we should be more susceptible
to some influences important to our intellectual and moral growth, if the
sun had shone and the wind blown on us a little less; and no doubt it is a
nice matter to proportion rightly the thick and thin skin. But methinks
that is a scurf that will fall off fast enough,--that the natural remedy
is to be found in the proportion which the night bears to the day, the
winter to the summer, thought to experience. There will be so much the
more air and sunshine in our thoughts. The callous palms of the laborer
are conversant with finer tissues of self-respect and heroism, whose touch
thrills the heart, than the languid fingers of idleness. That is mere
sentimentality that lies abed by day and thinks itself white, far from the
tan and callus of experience.

When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become
of us, if we walked only in a garden or a mall? Even some sects of
philosophers have felt the necessity of importing the woods to themselves,
since they did not go to the woods. "They planted groves and walks of
Platanes," where they took _subdiales ambulationes_ in porticos open to
the air. Of course it is of no use to direct our steps to the woods, if
they do not carry us thither. I am alarmed when it happens that I have
walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. In
my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my
obligations to society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily
shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head, and I
am not where my body is,--I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain
return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking
of something out of the woods? I suspect myself, and cannot help a
shudder, when I find myself so implicated even in what are called good
works,--for this may sometimes happen.

My vicinity affords many good walks; and though for so many years I have
walked almost every day, and sometimes for several days together, I have
not yet exhausted them. An absolutely new prospect is a great happiness,
and I can still get this any afternoon. Two or three hours' walking will
carry me to as strange a country as I expect ever to see. A single
farmhouse which I had not seen before is sometimes as good as the
dominions of the King of Dahomey. There is in fact a sort of harmony
discoverable between the capabilities of the landscape within a circle of
ten miles' radius, or the limits of an afternoon walk, and the threescore
years and ten of human life. It will never become quite familiar to you.

Nowadays almost all man's improvements, so called, as the building of
houses, and the cutting down of the forest and of all large trees, simply
deform the landscape, and make it more and more tame and cheap. A people
who would begin by burning the fences and let the forest stand! I saw the
fences half consumed, their ends lost in the middle of the prairie, and
some worldly miser with a surveyor looking after his bounds, while heaven
had taken place around him, and he did not see the angels going to and
fro, but was looking for an old post-hole in the midst of paradise. I
looked again, and saw him standing in the middle of a boggy, stygian fen,
surrounded by devils, and he had found his bounds without a doubt, three
little stones, where a stake had been driven, and looking nearer, I saw
that the Prince of Darkness was his surveyor.

I can easily walk ten, fifteen, twenty, any number of miles, commencing at
my own door, without going by any house, without crossing a road except
where the fox and the mink do: first along by the river, and then the
brook, and then the meadow and the wood-side. There are square miles in my
vicinity which have no inhabitant. From many a hill I can see civilization
and the abodes of man afar. The farmers and their works are scarcely more
obvious than woodchucks and their burrows. Man and his affairs, church and
state and school, trade and commerce, and manufactures and agriculture,
even politics, the most alarming of them all,--I am pleased to see how
little space they occupy in the landscape. Politics is but a narrow field,
and that still narrower highway yonder leads to it. I sometimes direct the
traveller thither. If you would go to the political world, follow the
great road,--follow that market-man, keep his dust in your eyes, and it
will lead you straight to it; for it, too, has its place merely, and does
not occupy all space. I pass from it as from a bean-field into the forest,
and it is forgotten. In one half-hour I can walk off to some portion of
the earth's surface where a man does not stand from one year's end to
another, and there, consequently, politics are not, for they are but as
the cigar-smoke of a man.

The village is the place to which the roads tend, a sort of expansion of
the highway, as a lake of a river. It is the body of which roads are the
arms and legs,--a trivial or quadrivial place, the thoroughfare and
ordinary of travellers. The word is from the Latin _villa_, which,
together with _via_, a way, or more anciently _ved_ and _vella_, Varro
derives from _veho_, to carry, because the villa is the place to and from
which things are carried. They who got their living by teaming were said
_vellaturam facere_. Hence, too, apparently, the Latin word _vilis_ and
our vile; also _villain_. This suggests what kind of degeneracy villagers
are liable to. They are wayworn by the travel that goes by and over them,
without travelling themselves.

Some do not walk at all; others walk in the highways; a few walk across
lots. Roads are made for horses and men of business. I do not travel in
them much, comparatively, because I am not in a hurry to get to any tavern
or grocery or livery-stable or depot to which they lead. I am a good horse
to travel, but not from choice a roadster. The landscape-painter uses the
figures of men to mark a road. He would not make that use of my figure. I
walk out into a Nature such as the old prophets and poets, Menu, Moses,
Homer, Chaucer, walked in. You may name it America, but it is not America:
neither Atnericus Vespucius, nor Columbus, nor the rest were the
discoverers of it. There is a truer account of it in mythology than in any
history of America, so called, that I have seen.

However, there are a few old roads that may be trodden with profit, as if
they led somewhere now that they are nearly discontinued. There is the Old
Marlborough Road, which does not go to Marlborough now, methinks, unless
that is Marlborough where it carries me. I am the bolder to speak of it
here, because I presume that there are one or two such roads in every


Where they once dug for money,
But never found any;
Where sometimes Martial Miles
Singly files,
And Elijah Wood,
I fear for no good:
No other man,
Save Elisha Dugan,--
O man of wild habits,
Partridges and rabbits,
Who hast no cares
Only to set snares,
Who liv'st all alone,
Close to the bone,
And where life is sweetest
Constantly eatest.
When the spring stirs my blood
With the instinct to travel,
I can get enough gravel
On the Old Marlborough Road.
Nobody repairs it,
For nobody wears it;
It is a living way,
As the Christians say.
Not many there be
Who enter therein,
Only the guests of the
Irishman Quin.
What is it, what is it,
But a direction out there,
And the bare possibility
Of going somewhere?
Great guide-boards of stone,
But travellers none;
Cenotaphs of the towns
Named on their crowns.
It is worth going to see
Where you _might_ be.
What king
Did the thing,
I am still wondering;
Set up how or when,
By what selectmen,
Gourgas or Lee,
Clark or Darby?
They're a great endeavor
To be something forever;
Blank tablets of stone,
Where a traveller might groan,
And in one sentence
Grave all that is known;
Which another might read,
In his extreme need.
I know one or two
Lines that would do,
Literature that might stand
All over the land,
Which a man could remember
Till next December,
And read again in the spring,
After the thawing.
If with fancy unfurled
You leave your abode,
You may go round the world
By the Old Marlborough Road.

At present, in this vicinity, the best part of the land is not private
property; the landscape is not owned, and the walker enjoys comparative
freedom. But possibly the day will come when it will be partitioned off
into so-called pleasure-grounds, in which a few will take a narrow and
exclusive pleasure only,--when fences shall be multiplied, and man-traps
and other engines invented to confine men to the _public_ road, and
walking over the surface of God's earth shall be construed to mean
trespassing on some gentleman's grounds. To enjoy a thing exclusively is
commonly to exclude yourself from the true enjoyment of it. Let us improve
our opportunities, then, before the evil days come.

* * * * *

What is it that makes it so hard sometimes to determine whither we will
walk? I believe that there is a subtile magnetism in Nature, which, if we
unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. It is not indifferent to
us which way we walk. There is a right way; but we are very liable from
heedlessness and stupidity to take the wrong one. We would fain take that
walk, never yet taken by us through this actual world, which is perfectly
symbolical of the path which we love to travel in the interior and ideal
world; and sometimes, no doubt, we find it difficult to choose our
direction, because it does not yet exist distinctly in our idea.

When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I will
bend my steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide for me, I find,
strange and whimsical as it may seem, that I finally and inevitably settle
southwest, toward some particular wood or meadow or deserted pasture or
hill in that direction. My needle is slow to settle,--varies a few
degrees, and does not always point due southwest, it is true, and it has
good authority for this 'variation, but it always settles between west and
south-southwest. The future lies that way to me, and the earth seems more
unexhausted and richer on that side. The outline which would bound my
walks would be, not a circle, but a parabola, or rather like one of those
cometary orbits which have been thought to be non-returning curves, in
this case opening westward, in which my house occupies the place of the
sun. I turn round and round irresolute sometimes for a quarter of an hour,
until I decide, for a thousandth time, that I will walk into the southwest
or west. Eastward I go only by force; but westward I go free. Thither no
business leads me. It is hard for me to believe that I shall find fair
landscapes or sufficient wildness and freedom behind the eastern horizon.
I am not excited by the prospect of a walk thither; but I believe that the
forest which I see in the western horizon stretches uninterruptedly toward
the setting sun, and there are no towns nor cities in it of enough
consequence to disturb me. Let me live where I will, on this side is the
city, on that the wilderness, and ever I am leaving the city more and
more, and withdrawing into the wilderness. I should not lay so much stress
on this fact, if I did not believe that something like this is the
prevailing tendency of my countrymen. I must walk toward Oregon, and not
toward Europe. And that way the nation is moving, and I may say that
mankind progress from east to west. Within a few years we have witnessed
the phenomenon of a southeastward migration, in the settlement of
Australia; but this affects us as a retrograde movement, and, judging from
the moral and physical character of the first generation of Australians,
has not yet proved a successful experiment. The eastern Tartars think that
there is nothing west beyond Thibet. "The world ends there," say they,
"beyond there is nothing but a shoreless sea." It is unmitigated East
where they live.

We go eastward to realize history and study the works of art and
literature, retracing the steps of the race; we go westward as into the
future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure. The Atlantic is a
Lethean stream, in our passage over which we have had an opportunity to
forget the Old World and its institutions. If we do not succeed this time,
there is perhaps one more chance for the race left before it arrives on
the banks of the Styx; and that is in the Lethe of the Pacific, which is
three times as wide.

I know not how significant it is, or how far it is an evidence of
singularity, that an individual should thus consent in his pettiest walk
with the general movement of the race; but I know that something akin to
the migratory instinct in birds and quadrupeds,--which, in some instances,
is known to have affected the squirrel tribe, impelling them to a general
and mysterious movement, in which they were seen, say some, crossing the
broadest rivers, each on its particular chip, with its tail raised for a
sail, and bridging narrower streams with their dead,--that something like
the _furor_ which affects the domestic cattle in the spring, and which is
referred to a worm in their tails,--affects both nations and individuals,
either perennially or from time to time. Not a flock of wild geese cackles
over our town, but it to some extent unsettles the value of real estate
here, and, if I were a broker, I should probably take that disturbance
into account.

"Than longen folk to gon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken strange strondes."

Every sunset which I witness inspires me with the desire to go to a West
as distant and as fair as that into which the sun goes down. He appears to
migrate westward daily, and tempt us to follow him. He is the Great
Western Pioneer whom the nations follow. We dream all night of those
mountain-ridges in the horizon, though they may be of vapor only, which
were last gilded by his rays. The island of Atlantis, and the islands and
gardens of the Hesperides, a sort of terrestrial paradise, appear to have
been the Great West of the ancients, enveloped in mystery and poetry. Who
has not seen in imagination, when looking into the sunset sky, the gardens
of the Hesperides, and the foundation of all those fables?

Columbus felt the westward tendency more strongly than any before. He
obeyed it, and found a New World for Castile and Leon. The herd of men in
those days scented fresh pastures from afar.

"And now the sun had stretched out all the hills,
And now was dropped into the western bay;
At last _he_ rose, and twitched his mantle blue;
To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new."

Where on the globe can there be found an area of equal extent with that
occupied by the bulk of our States, so fertile and so rich and varied in
its productions, and at the same time so habitable by the European, as
this is? Michaux, who knew but part of them, says that "the species of
large trees are much more numerous in North America than in Europe; in the
United States there are more than one hundred and forty species that
exceed thirty feet in height; in France there are but thirty that attain
this size." Later botanists more than confirm his observations. Humboldt
came to America to realize his youthful dreams of a tropical vegetation,
and he beheld it in its greatest perfection in the primitive forests of
the Amazon, the most gigantic wilderness on the earth, which he has so
eloquently described. The geographer Guyot, himself a European, goes
farther,--farther than I am ready to follow him; yet not when he says,--
"As the plant is made for the animal, as the vegetable world is made for
the animal world, America is made for the man of the Old World.... The man
of the Old World sets out upon his way. Leaving the highlands of Asia, he
descends from station to station towards Europe. Each of his steps is
marked by a new civilization superior to the preceding, by a greater power
of development. Arrived at the Atlantic, he pauses on the shore of this
unknown ocean, the bounds of which he knows not, and turns upon his
footprints for an instant." When he has exhausted the rich soil of Europe,
and reinvigorated himself, "then recommences his adventurous career
westward as in the earliest ages." So far Guyot.

From this western impulse coming in contact with the barrier of the
Atlantic sprang the commerce and enterprise of modern times. The younger
Michaux, in his "Travels West of the Alleghanies in 1802," says that the
common inquiry in the newly settled West was, "'From what part of the
world have you come?' As if these vast and fertile regions would naturally
be the place of meeting and common country of all the inhabitants of the

To use an obsolete Latin word, I might say, _Ex Oriente lux; ex Occidente
FRUX_. From the East light; from the West fruit.

Sir Francis, Head, an English traveller and a Governor-General of Canada,
tells us that "in both the northern and southern hemispheres of the New
World, Nature has not only outlined her works on a larger scale, but has
painted the whole picture with brighter and more costly colors than she
used in delineating and in beautifying the Old World.... The heavens of
America appear infinitely higher, the sky is bluer, the air is fresher,
the cold is intenser, the moon looks larger, the stars are brighter, the
thunder is louder, the lightning is vivider, the wind is stronger, the
rain is heavier, the mountains are higher, the rivers longer, the forests
bigger, the plains broader." This statement will do at least to set
against Buffon's account of this part of the world and its productions.

Linnaeus said long ago, "Nescio quae facies _laeta, glabra_ plantis
Americanis: I know not what there is of joyous and smooth in the aspect of
American plants;" and I think that in this country there are no, or at
most very few, _Africanae bestiae_, African beasts, as the Romans called
them, and that in this respect also it is peculiarly fitted for the
habitation of man. We are told that within three miles of the centre of
the East-Indian city of Singapore, some of the inhabitants are annually
carried off by tigers; but the traveller can lie down in the woods at
night almost anywhere in North America without fear of wild beasts.

These are encouraging testimonies. If the moon looks larger here than in
Europe, probably the sun looks larger also. If the heavens of America
appear infinitely higher, and the stars brighter, I trust that these facts
are symbolical of the height to which the philosophy and poetry and
religion of her inhabitants may one day soar. At length, perchance, the
immaterial heaven will appear as much higher to the American mind, and the
intimations that star it as much brighter. For I believe that climate does
thus react on man,--as there is something in the mountain-air that feeds
the spirit and inspires. Will not man grow to greater perfection
intellectually as well as physically under these influences? Or is it
unimportant how many foggy days there are in his life? I trust that we
shall be more imaginative, that our thoughts will be clearer, fresher, and
more ethereal, as our sky,--our understanding more comprehensive and
broader, like our plains,--our intellect generally on a grander scale,
like our thunder and lightning, our rivers and mountains and forests,--and
our hearts shall even correspond in breadth and depth and grandeur to our
inland seas. Perchance there will appear to the traveller something, he
knows not what, of _laeta_ and _glabra_, of joyous and serene, in our very
faces. Else to what end does the world go on, and why was America

To Americans I hardly need to say,--

"Westward the star of empire takes its way."

As a true patriot, I should be ashamed to think that Adam in paradise was
more favorably situated on the whole than the backwoodsman in this

Our sympathies in Massachusetts are not confined to New England; though we
may be estranged from the South, we sympathize with the West. There is the
home of the younger sons, as among the Scandinavians they took to the sea
for their inheritance. It is too late to be studying Hebrew; it is more
important to understand even the slang of to-day.

Some months ago I went to see a panorama of the Rhine. It was like a dream
of the Middle Ages. I floated down its historic stream in something more
than imagination, under bridges built by the Romans, and repaired by later
heroes, past cities and castles whose very names were music to my ears,
and each of which was the subject of a legend. There were Ehrenbreitstein
and Rolandseck and Coblentz, which I knew only in history. They were ruins
that interested me chiefly. There seemed to come up from its waters and
its vine-clad hills and valleys a hushed music as of Crusaders departing
for the Holy Land. I floated along under the spell of enchantment, as if I
had been transported to an heroic age, and breathed an atmosphere of

Soon after, I went to see a panorama of the Mississippi, and as I worked
my way up the river in the light of to-day, and saw the steamboats wooding
up, counted the rising cities, gazed on the fresh ruins of Nauvoo, beheld
the Indians moving west across the stream, and, as before I had looked up
the Moselle now looked up the Ohio and the Missouri, and heard the legends
of Dubuque and of Wenona's Cliff,--still thinking more of the future than
of the past or present,--I saw that this was a Rhine stream of a different
kind; that the foundations of castles were yet to be laid, and the famous
bridges were yet to be thrown over the river; and I felt that _this was
the heroic age itself_, though we know it not, for the hero is commonly
the simplest and obscurest of men.

* * * * *

The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I
have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the
World. Every tree sends its fibres forth in search of the Wild. The cities
import it at any price. Men plough and sail for it. From the forest and
wilderness come the tonics and barks which brace mankind. Our ancestors
were savages. The story of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf is
not a meaningless fable. The founders of every State which has risen to
eminence have drawn their nourishment and vigor from a similar wild
source. It was because the children of the Empire were not suckled by the
wolf that they were conquered and displaced by the children of the
Northern forests who were.

I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the
corn grows. We require an infusion of hemlock-spruce or arbor-vitae in our
tea. There is a difference between eating and drinking for strength and
from mere gluttony. The Hottentots eagerly devour the marrow of the koodoo
and other antelopes raw, as a matter of course. Some of our Northern
Indians eat raw the marrow of the Arctic reindeer, as well as various
other parts, including the summits of the antlers, as long as they are
soft. And herein, perchance, they have stolen a march on the cooks of
Paris. They get what usually goes to feed the fire. This is probably
better than stall-fed beef and slaughter-house pork to make a man of. Give
me a wildness whose glance no civilization can endure,--as if we lived on


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