Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

Part 3 out of 6

The waste and decay of physical life, which so often needs repair,
seemed miraculously retarded in such a case, and the vital vigor
stood its ground. I could entertain thus a thousand as well as
twenty; and if any ever went away disappointed or hungry from my
house when they found me at home, they may depend upon it that I
sympathized with them at least. So easy is it, though many
housekeepers doubt it, to establish new and better customs in the
place of the old. You need not rest your reputation on the dinners
you give. For my own part, I was never so effectually deterred from
frequenting a man's house, by any kind of Cerberus whatever, as by
the parade one made about dining me, which I took to be a very
polite and roundabout hint never to trouble him so again. I think I
shall never revisit those scenes. I should be proud to have for the
motto of my cabin those lines of Spenser which one of my visitors
inscribed on a yellow walnut leaf for a card:--

"Arrived there, the little house they fill,
Ne looke for entertainment where none was;
Rest is their feast, and all things at their will:
The noblest mind the best contentment has."

When Winslow, afterward governor of the Plymouth Colony, went
with a companion on a visit of ceremony to Massasoit on foot through
the woods, and arrived tired and hungry at his lodge, they were well
received by the king, but nothing was said about eating that day.
When the night arrived, to quote their own words -- "He laid us on
the bed with himself and his wife, they at the one end and we at the
other, it being only planks laid a foot from the ground and a thin
mat upon them. Two more of his chief men, for want of room, pressed
by and upon us; so that we were worse weary of our lodging than of
our journey." At one o'clock the next day Massasoit "brought two
fishes that he had shot," about thrice as big as a bream. "These
being boiled, there were at least forty looked for a share in them;
the most eat of them. This meal only we had in two nights and a
day; and had not one of us bought a partridge, we had taken our
journey fasting." Fearing that they would be light-headed for want
of food and also sleep, owing to "the savages' barbarous singing,
(for they use to sing themselves asleep,)" and that they might get
home while they had strength to travel, they departed. As for
lodging, it is true they were but poorly entertained, though what
they found an inconvenience was no doubt intended for an honor; but
as far as eating was concerned, I do not see how the Indians could
have done better. They had nothing to eat themselves, and they were
wiser than to think that apologies could supply the place of food to
their guests; so they drew their belts tighter and said nothing
about it. Another time when Winslow visited them, it being a season
of plenty with them, there was no deficiency in this respect.
As for men, they will hardly fail one anywhere. I had more
visitors while I lived in the woods than at any other period in my
life; I mean that I had some. I met several there under more
favorable circumstances than I could anywhere else. But fewer came
to see me on trivial business. In this respect, my company was
winnowed by my mere distance from town. I had withdrawn so far
within the great ocean of solitude, into which the rivers of society
empty, that for the most part, so far as my needs were concerned,
only the finest sediment was deposited around me. Beside, there
were wafted to me evidences of unexplored and uncultivated
continents on the other side.
Who should come to my lodge this morning but a true Homeric or
Paphlagonian man -- he had so suitable and poetic a name that I am
sorry I cannot print it here -- a Canadian, a woodchopper and
post-maker, who can hole fifty posts in a day, who made his last
supper on a woodchuck which his dog caught. He, too, has heard of
Homer, and, "if it were not for books," would "not know what to do
rainy days," though perhaps he has not read one wholly through for
many rainy seasons. Some priest who could pronounce the Greek
itself taught him to read his verse in the Testament in his native
parish far away; and now I must translate to him, while he holds the
book, Achilles' reproof to Patroclus for his sad countenance. --

"Why are you in tears, Patroclus, like a young girl?"
"Or have you alone heard some news from Phthia?
They say that Menoetius lives yet, son of Actor,
And Peleus lives, son of AEacus, among the Myrmidons,
Either of whom having died, we should greatly grieve."

He says, "That's good." He has a great bundle of white oak bark
under his arm for a sick man, gathered this Sunday morning. "I
suppose there's no harm in going after such a thing to-day," says
he. To him Homer was a great writer, though what his writing was
about he did not know. A more simple and natural man it would be
hard to find. Vice and disease, which cast such a sombre moral hue
over the world, seemed to have hardly any existance for him. He was
about twenty-eight years old, and had left Canada and his father's
house a dozen years before to work in the States, and earn money to
buy a farm with at last, perhaps in his native country. He was cast
in the coarsest mould; a stout but sluggish body, yet gracefully
carried, with a thick sunburnt neck, dark bushy hair, and dull
sleepy blue eyes, which were occasionally lit up with expression.
He wore a flat gray cloth cap, a dingy wool-colored greatcoat, and
cowhide boots. He was a great consumer of meat, usually carrying
his dinner to his work a couple of miles past my house -- for he
chopped all summer -- in a tin pail; cold meats, often cold
woodchucks, and coffee in a stone bottle which dangled by a string
from his belt; and sometimes he offered me a drink. He came along
early, crossing my bean-field, though without anxiety or haste to
get to his work, such as Yankees exhibit. He wasn't a-going to hurt
himself. He didn't care if he only earned his board. Frequently he
would leave his dinner in the bushes, when his dog had caught a
woodchuck by the way, and go back a mile and a half to dress it and
leave it in the cellar of the house where he boarded, after
deliberating first for half an hour whether he could not sink it in
the pond safely till nightfall -- loving to dwell long upon these
themes. He would say, as he went by in the morning, "How thick the
pigeons are! If working every day were not my trade, I could get
all the meat I should want by hunting-pigeons, woodchucks, rabbits,
partridges -- by gosh! I could get all I should want for a week in
one day."
He was a skilful chopper, and indulged in some flourishes and
ornaments in his art. He cut his trees level and close to the
ground, that the sprouts which came up afterward might be more
vigorous and a sled might slide over the stumps; and instead of
leaving a whole tree to support his corded wood, he would pare it
away to a slender stake or splinter which you could break off with
your hand at last.
He interested me because he was so quiet and solitary and so
happy withal; a well of good humor and contentment which overflowed
at his eyes. His mirth was without alloy. Sometimes I saw him at
his work in the woods, felling trees, and he would greet me with a
laugh of inexpressible satisfaction, and a salutation in Canadian
French, though he spoke English as well. When I approached him he
would suspend his work, and with half-suppressed mirth lie along the
trunk of a pine which he had felled, and, peeling off the inner
bark, roll it up into a ball and chew it while he laughed and
talked. Such an exuberance of animal spirits had he that he
sometimes tumbled down and rolled on the ground with laughter at
anything which made him think and tickled him. Looking round upon
the trees he would exclaim -- "By George! I can enjoy myself well
enough here chopping; I want no better sport." Sometimes, when at
leisure, he amused himself all day in the woods with a pocket
pistol, firing salutes to himself at regular intervals as he walked.
In the winter he had a fire by which at noon he warmed his coffee in
a kettle; and as he sat on a log to eat his dinner the chickadees
would sometimes come round and alight on his arm and peck at the
potato in his fingers; and he said that he "liked to have the little
fellers about him."
In him the animal man chiefly was developed. In physical
endurance and contentment he was cousin to the pine and the rock. I
asked him once if he was not sometimes tired at night, after working
all day; and he answered, with a sincere and serious look,
"Gorrappit, I never was tired in my life." But the intellectual and
what is called spiritual man in him were slumbering as in an infant.
He had been instructed only in that innocent and ineffectual way in
which the Catholic priests teach the aborigines, by which the pupil
is never educated to the degree of consciousness, but only to the
degree of trust and reverence, and a child is not made a man, but
kept a child. When Nature made him, she gave him a strong body and
contentment for his portion, and propped him on every side with
reverence and reliance, that he might live out his threescore years
and ten a child. He was so genuine and unsophisticated that no
introduction would serve to introduce him, more than if you
introduced a woodchuck to your neighbor. He had got to find him out
as you did. He would not play any part. Men paid him wages for
work, and so helped to feed and clothe him; but he never exchanged
opinions with them. He was so simply and naturally humble -- if he
can be called humble who never aspires -- that humility was no
distinct quality in him, nor could he conceive of it. Wiser men
were demigods to him. If you told him that such a one was coming,
he did as if he thought that anything so grand would expect nothing
of himself, but take all the responsibility on itself, and let him
be forgotten still. He never heard the sound of praise. He
particularly reverenced the writer and the preacher. Their
performances were miracles. When I told him that I wrote
considerably, he thought for a long time that it was merely the
handwriting which I meant, for he could write a remarkably good hand
himself. I sometimes found the name of his native parish handsomely
written in the snow by the highway, with the proper French accent,
and knew that he had passed. I asked him if he ever wished to write
his thoughts. He said that he had read and written letters for
those who could not, but he never tried to write thoughts -- no, he
could not, he could not tell what to put first, it would kill him,
and then there was spelling to be attended to at the same time!
I heard that a distinguished wise man and reformer asked him if
he did not want the world to be changed; but he answered with a
chuckle of surprise in his Canadian accent, not knowing that the
question had ever been entertained before, "No, I like it well
enough." It would have suggested many things to a philosopher to
have dealings with him. To a stranger he appeared to know nothing
of things in general; yet I sometimes saw in him a man whom I had
not seen before, and I did not know whether he was as wise as
Shakespeare or as simply ignorant as a child, whether to suspect him
of a fine poetic consciousness or of stupidity. A townsman told me
that when he met him sauntering through the village in his small
close-fitting cap, and whistling to himself, he reminded him of a
prince in disguise.
His only books were an almanac and an arithmetic, in which last
he was considerably expert. The former was a sort of cyclopaedia to
him, which he supposed to contain an abstract of human knowledge, as
indeed it does to a considerable extent. I loved to sound him on
the various reforms of the day, and he never failed to look at them
in the most simple and practical light. He had never heard of such
things before. Could he do without factories? I asked. He had
worn the home-made Vermont gray, he said, and that was good. Could
he dispense with tea and coffee? Did this country afford any
beverage beside water? He had soaked hemlock leaves in water and
drank it, and thought that was better than water in warm weather.
When I asked him if he could do without money, he showed the
convenience of money in such a way as to suggest and coincide with
the most philosophical accounts of the origin of this institution,
and the very derivation of the word pecunia. If an ox were his
property, and he wished to get needles and thread at the store, he
thought it would be inconvenient and impossible soon to go on
mortgaging some portion of the creature each time to that amount.
He could defend many institutions better than any philosopher,
because, in describing them as they concerned him, he gave the true
reason for their prevalence, and speculation had not suggested to
him any other. At another time, hearing Plato's definition of a man
-- a biped without feathers -- and that one exhibited a cock plucked
and called it Plato's man, he thought it an important difference
that the knees bent the wrong way. He would sometimes exclaim, "How
I love to talk! By George, I could talk all day!" I asked him
once, when I had not seen him for many months, if he had got a new
idea this summer. "Good Lord" -- said he, "a man that has to work
as I do, if he does not forget the ideas he has had, he will do
well. May be the man you hoe with is inclined to race; then, by
gorry, your mind must be there; you think of weeds." He would
sometimes ask me first on such occasions, if I had made any
improvement. One winter day I asked him if he was always satisfied
with himself, wishing to suggest a substitute within him for the
priest without, and some higher motive for living. "Satisfied!"
said he; "some men are satisfied with one thing, and some with
another. One man, perhaps, if he has got enough, will be satisfied
to sit all day with his back to the fire and his belly to the table,
by George!" Yet I never, by any manoeuvring, could get him to take
the spiritual view of things; the highest that he appeared to
conceive of was a simple expediency, such as you might expect an
animal to appreciate; and this, practically, is true of most men.
If I suggested any improvement in his mode of life, he merely
answered, without expressing any regret, that it was too late. Yet
he thoroughly believed in honesty and the like virtues.
There was a certain positive originality, however slight, to be
detected in him, and I occasionally observed that he was thinking
for himself and expressing his own opinion, a phenomenon so rare
that I would any day walk ten miles to observe it, and it amounted
to the re-origination of many of the institutions of society.
Though he hesitated, and perhaps failed to express himself
distinctly, he always had a presentable thought behind. Yet his
thinking was so primitive and immersed in his animal life, that,
though more promising than a merely learned man's, it rarely ripened
to anything which can be reported. He suggested that there might be
men of genius in the lowest grades of life, however permanently
humble and illiterate, who take their own view always, or do not
pretend to see at all; who are as bottomless even as Walden Pond was
thought to be, though they may be dark and muddy.
Many a traveller came out of his way to see me and the inside of
my house, and, as an excuse for calling, asked for a glass of water.
I told them that I drank at the pond, and pointed thither, offering
to lend them a dipper. Far off as I lived, I was not exempted from
the annual visitation which occurs, methinks, about the first of
April, when everybody is on the move; and I had my share of good
luck, though there were some curious specimens among my visitors.
Half-witted men from the almshouse and elsewhere came to see me; but
I endeavored to make them exercise all the wit they had, and make
their confessions to me; in such cases making wit the theme of our
conversation; and so was compensated. Indeed, I found some of them
to be wiser than the so-called overseers of the poor and selectmen
of the town, and thought it was time that the tables were turned.
With respect to wit, I learned that there was not much difference
between the half and the whole. One day, in particular, an
inoffensive, simple-minded pauper, whom with others I had often seen
used as fencing stuff, standing or sitting on a bushel in the fields
to keep cattle and himself from straying, visited me, and expressed
a wish to live as I did. He told me, with the utmost simplicity and
truth, quite superior, or rather inferior, to anything that is
called humility, that he was "deficient in intellect." These were
his words. The Lord had made him so, yet he supposed the Lord cared
as much for him as for another. "I have always been so," said he,
"from my childhood; I never had much mind; I was not like other
children; I am weak in the head. It was the Lord's will, I
suppose." And there he was to prove the truth of his words. He was
a metaphysical puzzle to me. I have rarely met a fellowman on such
promising ground -- it was so simple and sincere and so true all
that he said. And, true enough, in proportion as he appeared to
humble himself was he exalted. I did not know at first but it was
the result of a wise policy. It seemed that from such a basis of
truth and frankness as the poor weak-headed pauper had laid, our
intercourse might go forward to something better than the
intercourse of sages.
I had some guests from those not reckoned commonly among the
town's poor, but who should be; who are among the world's poor, at
any rate; guests who appeal, not to your hospitality, but to your
hospitalality; who earnestly wish to be helped, and preface their
appeal with the information that they are resolved, for one thing,
never to help themselves. I require of a visitor that he be not
actually starving, though he may have the very best appetite in the
world, however he got it. Objects of charity are not guests. Men
who did not know when their visit had terminated, though I went
about my business again, answering them from greater and greater
remoteness. Men of almost every degree of wit called on me in the
migrating season. Some who had more wits than they knew what to do
with; runaway slaves with plantation manners, who listened from time
to time, like the fox in the fable, as if they heard the hounds
a-baying on their track, and looked at me beseechingly, as much as
to say, --

"O Christian, will you send me back?

One real runaway slave, among the rest, whom I helped to forward
toward the north star. Men of one idea, like a hen with one
chicken, and that a duckling; men of a thousand ideas, and unkempt
heads, like those hens which are made to take charge of a hundred
chickens, all in pursuit of one bug, a score of them lost in every
morning's dew -- and become frizzled and mangy in consequence; men
of ideas instead of legs, a sort of intellectual centipede that made
you crawl all over. One man proposed a book in which visitors
should write their names, as at the White Mountains; but, alas! I
have too good a memory to make that necessary.
I could not but notice some of the peculiarities of my visitors.
Girls and boys and young women generally seemed glad to be in the
woods. They looked in the pond and at the flowers, and improved
their time. Men of business, even farmers, thought only of solitude
and employment, and of the great distance at which I dwelt from
something or other; and though they said that they loved a ramble in
the woods occasionally, it was obvious that they did not. Restless
committed men, whose time was an taken up in getting a living or
keeping it; ministers who spoke of God as if they enjoyed a monopoly
of the subject, who could not bear all kinds of opinions; doctors,
lawyers, uneasy housekeepers who pried into my cupboard and bed when
I was out -- how came Mrs. -- to know that my sheets were not as
clean as hers? -- young men who had ceased to be young, and had
concluded that it was safest to follow the beaten track of the
professions -- all these generally said that it was not possible to
do so much good in my position. Ay! there was the rub. The old and
infirm and the timid, of whatever age or sex, thought most of
sickness, and sudden accident and death; to them life seemed full of
danger -- what danger is there if you don't think of any? -- and
they thought that a prudent man would carefully select the safest
position, where Dr. B. might be on hand at a moment's warning. To
them the village was literally a community, a league for mutual
defence, and you would suppose that they would not go
a-huckleberrying without a medicine chest. The amount of it is, if
a man is alive, there is always danger that he may die, though the
danger must be allowed to be less in proportion as he is
dead-and-alive to begin with. A man sits as many risks as he runs.
Finally, there were the self-styled reformers, the greatest bores of
all, who thought that I was forever singing,--

This is the house that I built;
This is the man that lives in the house that I built;

but they did not know that the third line was,

These are the folks that worry the man
That lives in the house that I built.

I did not fear the hen-harriers, for I kept no chickens; but I
feared the men-harriers rather.
I had more cheering visitors than the last. Children come
a-berrying, railroad men taking a Sunday morning walk in clean
shirts, fishermen and hunters, poets and philosophers; in short, all
honest pilgrims, who came out to the woods for freedom's sake, and
really left the village behind, I was ready to greet with --
"Welcome, Englishmen! welcome, Englishmen!" for I had had
communication with that race.

The Bean-Field

Meanwhile my beans, the length of whose rows, added together,
was seven miles already planted, were impatient to be hoed, for the
earliest had grown considerably before the latest were in the
ground; indeed they were not easily to be put off. What was the
meaning of this so steady and self-respecting, this small Herculean
labor, I knew not. I came to love my rows, my beans, though so many
more than I wanted. They attached me to the earth, and so I got
strength like Antaeus. But why should I raise them? Only Heaven
knows. This was my curious labor all summer -- to make this portion
of the earth's surface, which had yielded only cinquefoil,
blackberries, johnswort, and the like, before, sweet wild fruits and
pleasant flowers, produce instead this pulse. What shall I learn of
beans or beans of me? I cherish them, I hoe them, early and late I
have an eye to them; and this is my day's work. It is a fine broad
leaf to look on. My auxiliaries are the dews and rains which water
this dry soil, and what fertility is in the soil itself, which for
the most part is lean and effete. My enemies are worms, cool days,
and most of all woodchucks. The last have nibbled for me a quarter
of an acre clean. But what right had I to oust johnswort and the
rest, and break up their ancient herb garden? Soon, however, the
remaining beans will be too tough for them, and go forward to meet
new foes.
When I was four years old, as I well remember, I was brought
from Boston to this my native town, through these very woods and
this field, to the pond. It is one of the oldest scenes stamped on
my memory. And now to-night my flute has waked the echoes over that
very water. The pines still stand here older than I; or, if some
have fallen, I have cooked my supper with their stumps, and a new
growth is rising all around, preparing another aspect for new infant
eyes. Almost the same johnswort springs from the same perennial
root in this pasture, and even I have at length helped to clothe
that fabulous landscape of my infant dreams, and one of the results
of my presence and influence is seen in these bean leaves, corn
blades, and potato vines.
I planted about two acres and a half of upland; and as it was
only about fifteen years since the land was cleared, and I myself
had got out two or three cords of stumps, I did not give it any
manure; but in the course of the summer it appeared by the
arrowheads which I turned up in hoeing, that an extinct nation had
anciently dwelt here and planted corn and beans ere white men came
to clear the land, and so, to some extent, had exhausted the soil
for this very crop.
Before yet any woodchuck or squirrel had run across the road, or
the sun had got above the shrub oaks, while all the dew was on,
though the farmers warned me against it -- I would advise you to do
all your work if possible while the dew is on -- I began to level
the ranks of haughty weeds in my bean-field and throw dust upon
their heads. Early in the morning I worked barefooted, dabbling
like a plastic artist in the dewy and crumbling sand, but later in
the day the sun blistered my feet. There the sun lighted me to hoe
beans, pacing slowly backward and forward over that yellow gravelly
upland, between the long green rows, fifteen rods, the one end
terminating in a shrub oak copse where I could rest in the shade,
the other in a blackberry field where the green berries deepened
their tints by the time I had made another bout. Removing the
weeds, putting fresh soil about the bean stems, and encouraging this
weed which I had sown, making the yellow soil express its summer
thought in bean leaves and blossoms rather than in wormwood and
piper and millet grass, making the earth say beans instead of grass
-- this was my daily work. As I had little aid from horses or
cattle, or hired men or boys, or improved implements of husbandry, I
was much slower, and became much more intimate with my beans than
usual. But labor of the hands, even when pursued to the verge of
drudgery, is perhaps never the worst form of idleness. It has a
constant and imperishable moral, and to the scholar it yields a
classic result. A very agricola laboriosus was I to travellers
bound westward through Lincoln and Wayland to nobody knows where;
they sitting at their ease in gigs, with elbows on knees, and reins
loosely hanging in festoons; I the home-staying, laborious native of
the soil. But soon my homestead was out of their sight and thought.
It was the only open and cultivated field for a great distance on
either side of the road, so they made the most of it; and sometimes
the man in the field heard more of travellers' gossip and comment
than was meant for his ear: "Beans so late! peas so late!" -- for I
continued to plant when others had begun to hoe -- the ministerial
husbandman had not suspected it. "Corn, my boy, for fodder; corn
for fodder." "Does he live there?" asks the black bonnet of the
gray coat; and the hard-featured farmer reins up his grateful dobbin
to inquire what you are doing where he sees no manure in the furrow,
and recommends a little chip dirt, or any little waste stuff, or it
may be ashes or plaster. But here were two acres and a half of
furrows, and only a hoe for cart and two hands to draw it -- there
being an aversion to other carts and horses -- and chip dirt far
away. Fellow-travellers as they rattled by compared it aloud with
the fields which they had passed, so that I came to know how I stood
in the agricultural world. This was one field not in Mr. Coleman's
report. And, by the way, who estimates the value of the crop which
nature yields in the still wilder fields unimproved by man? The
crop of English hay is carefully weighed, the moisture calculated,
the silicates and the potash; but in all dells and pond-holes in the
woods and pastures and swamps grows a rich and various crop only
unreaped by man. Mine was, as it were, the connecting link between
wild and cultivated fields; as some states are civilized, and others
half-civilized, and others savage or barbarous, so my field was,
though not in a bad sense, a half-cultivated field. They were beans
cheerfully returning to their wild and primitive state that I
cultivated, and my hoe played the Rans des Vaches for them.
Near at hand, upon the topmost spray of a birch, sings the brown
thrasher -- or red mavis, as some love to call him -- all the
morning, glad of your society, that would find out another farmer's
field if yours were not here. While you are planting the seed, he
cries -- "Drop it, drop it -- cover it up, cover it up -- pull it
up, pull it up, pull it up." But this was not corn, and so it was
safe from such enemies as he. You may wonder what his rigmarole,
his amateur Paganini performances on one string or on twenty, have
to do with your planting, and yet prefer it to leached ashes or
plaster. It was a cheap sort of top dressing in which I had entire
As I drew a still fresher soil about the rows with my hoe, I
disturbed the ashes of unchronicled nations who in primeval years
lived under these heavens, and their small implements of war and
hunting were brought to the light of this modern day. They lay
mingled with other natural stones, some of which bore the marks of
having been burned by Indian fires, and some by the sun, and also
bits of pottery and glass brought hither by the recent cultivators
of the soil. When my hoe tinkled against the stones, that music
echoed to the woods and the sky, and was an accompaniment to my
labor which yielded an instant and immeasurable crop. It was no
longer beans that I hoed, nor I that hoed beans; and I remembered
with as much pity as pride, if I remembered at all, my acquaintances
who had gone to the city to attend the oratorios. The nighthawk
circled overhead in the sunny afternoons -- for I sometimes made a
day of it -- like a mote in the eye, or in heaven's eye, falling
from time to time with a swoop and a sound as if the heavens were
rent, torn at last to very rags and tatters, and yet a seamless cope
remained; small imps that fill the air and lay their eggs on the
ground on bare sand or rocks on the tops of hills, where few have
found them; graceful and slender like ripples caught up from the
pond, as leaves are raised by the wind to float in the heavens; such
kindredship is in nature. The hawk is aerial brother of the wave
which he sails over and surveys, those his perfect air-inflated
wings answering to the elemental unfledged pinions of the sea. Or
sometimes I watched a pair of hen-hawks circling high in the sky,
alternately soaring and descending, approaching, and leaving one
another, as if they were the embodiment of my own thoughts. Or I
was attracted by the passage of wild pigeons from this wood to that,
with a slight quivering winnowing sound and carrier haste; or from
under a rotten stump my hoe turned up a sluggish portentous and
outlandish spotted salamander, a trace of Egypt and the Nile, yet
our contemporary. When I paused to lean on my hoe, these sounds and
sights I heard and saw anywhere in the row, a part of the
inexhaustible entertainment which the country offers.
On gala days the town fires its great guns, which echo like
popguns to these woods, and some waifs of martial music occasionally
penetrate thus far. To me, away there in my bean-field at the other
end of the town, the big guns sounded as if a puffball had burst;
and when there was a military turnout of which I was ignorant, I
have sometimes had a vague sense all the day of some sort of itching
and disease in the horizon, as if some eruption would break out
there soon, either scarlatina or canker-rash, until at length some
more favorable puff of wind, making haste over the fields and up the
Wayland road, brought me information of the "trainers." It seemed
by the distant hum as if somebody's bees had swarmed, and that the
neighbors, according to Virgil's advice, by a faint tintinnabulum
upon the most sonorous of their domestic utensils, were endeavoring
to call them down into the hive again. And when the sound died
quite away, and the hum had ceased, and the most favorable breezes
told no tale, I knew that they had got the last drone of them all
safely into the Middlesex hive, and that now their minds were bent
on the honey with which it was smeared.
I felt proud to know that the liberties of Massachusetts and of
our fatherland were in such safe keeping; and as I turned to my
hoeing again I was filled with an inexpressible confidence, and
pursued my labor cheerfully with a calm trust in the future.
When there were several bands of musicians, it sounded as if all
the village was a vast bellows and all the buildings expanded and
collapsed alternately with a din. But sometimes it was a really
noble and inspiring strain that reached these woods, and the trumpet
that sings of fame, and I felt as if I could spit a Mexican with a
good relish -- for why should we always stand for trifles? -- and
looked round for a woodchuck or a skunk to exercise my chivalry
upon. These martial strains seemed as far away as Palestine, and
reminded me of a march of crusaders in the horizon, with a slight
tantivy and tremulous motion of the elm tree tops which overhang the
village. This was one of the great days; though the sky had from my
clearing only the same everlastingly great look that it wears daily,
and I saw no difference in it.
It was a singular experience that long acquaintance which I
cultivated with beans, what with planting, and hoeing, and
harvesting, and threshing, and picking over and selling them -- the
last was the hardest of all -- I might add eating, for I did taste.
I was determined to know beans. When they were growing, I used to
hoe from five o'clock in the morning till noon, and commonly spent
the rest of the day about other affairs. Consider the intimate and
curious acquaintance one makes with various kinds of weeds -- it
will bear some iteration in the account, for there was no little
iteration in the labor -- disturbing their delicate organizations so
ruthlessly, and making such invidious distinctions with his hoe,
levelling whole ranks of one species, and sedulously cultivating
another. That's Roman wormwood -- that's pigweed -- that's sorrel
-- that's piper-grass -- have at him, chop him up, turn his roots
upward to the sun, don't let him have a fibre in the shade, if you
do he'll turn himself t' other side up and be as green as a leek in
two days. A long war, not with cranes, but with weeds, those
Trojans who had sun and rain and dews on their side. Daily the
beans saw me come to their rescue armed with a hoe, and thin the
ranks of their enemies, filling up the trenches with weedy dead.
Many a lusty crest -- waving Hector, that towered a whole foot above
his crowding comrades, fell before my weapon and rolled in the dust.
Those summer days which some of my contemporaries devoted to the
fine arts in Boston or Rome, and others to contemplation in India,
and others to trade in London or New York, I thus, with the other
farmers of New England, devoted to husbandry. Not that I wanted
beans to eat, for I am by nature a Pythagorean, so far as beans are
concerned, whether they mean porridge or voting, and exchanged them
for rice; but, perchance, as some must work in fields if only for
the sake of tropes and expression, to serve a parable-maker one day.
It was on the whole a rare amusement, which, continued too long,
might have become a dissipation. Though I gave them no manure, and
did not hoe them all once, I hoed them unusualy well as far as I
went, and was paid for it in the end, "there being in truth," as
Evelyn says, "no compost or laetation whatsoever comparable to this
continual motion, repastination, and turning of the mould with the
spade." "The earth," he adds elsewhere, "especially if fresh, has a
certain magnetism in it, by which it attracts the salt, power, or
virtue (call it either) which gives it life, and is the logic of all
the labor and stir we keep about it, to sustain us; all dungings and
other sordid temperings being but the vicars succedaneous to this
improvement." Moreover, this being one of those "worn-out and
exhausted lay fields which enjoy their sabbath," had perchance, as
Sir Kenelm Digby thinks likely, attracted "vital spirits" from the
air. I harvested twelve bushels of beans.
But to be more particular, for it is complained that Mr. Coleman
has reported chiefly the expensive experiments of gentlemen farmers,
my outgoes were,--

For a hoe ................................... $ 0.54
Plowing, harrowing, and furrowing ............ 7.50 Too much.
Beans for seed ............................... 3.12+
Potatoes for seed ............................ 1.33
Peas for seed ................................ 0.40
Turnip seed .................................. 0.06
White line for crow fence .................... 0.02
Horse cultivator and boy three hours ......... 1.00
Horse and cart to get crop ................... 0.75
In all .................................. $14.72+

My income was (patrem familias vendacem, non emacem esse
oportet), from

Nine bushels and twelve quarts of beans sold .. $16.94
Five " large potatoes ..................... 2.50
Nine " small .............................. 2.25
Grass ........................................... 1.00
Stalks .......................................... 0.75
In all .................................... $23.44
Leaving a pecuniary profit,
as I have elsewhere said, of .............. $ 8.71+

This is the result of my experience in raising beans: Plant the
common small white bush bean about the first of June, in rows three
feet by eighteen inches apart, being careful to select fresh round
and unmixed seed. First look out for worms, and supply vacancies by
planting anew. Then look out for woodchucks, if it is an exposed
place, for they will nibble off the earliest tender leaves almost
clean as they go; and again, when the young tendrils make their
appearance, they have notice of it, and will shear them off with
both buds and young pods, sitting erect like a squirrel. But above
all harvest as early as possible, if you would escape frosts and
have a fair and salable crop; you may save much loss by this means.
This further experience also I gained: I said to myself, I will
not plant beans and corn with so much industry another summer, but
such seeds, if the seed is not lost, as sincerity, truth,
simplicity, faith, innocence, and the like, and see if they will not
grow in this soil, even with less toil and manurance, and sustain
me, for surely it has not been exhausted for these crops. Alas! I
said this to myself; but now another summer is gone, and another,
and another, and I am obliged to say to you, Reader, that the seeds
which I planted, if indeed they were the seeds of those virtues,
were wormeaten or had lost their vitality, and so did not come up.
Commonly men will only be brave as their fathers were brave, or
timid. This generation is very sure to plant corn and beans each
new year precisely as the Indians did centuries ago and taught the
first settlers to do, as if there were a fate in it. I saw an old
man the other day, to my astonishment, making the holes with a hoe
for the seventieth time at least, and not for himself to lie down
in! But why should not the New Englander try new adventures, and
not lay so much stress on his grain, his potato and grass crop, and
his orchards -- raise other crops than these? Why concern ourselves
so much about our beans for seed, and not be concerned at all about
a new generation of men? We should really be fed and cheered if
when we met a man we were sure to see that some of the qualities
which I have named, which we all prize more than those other
productions, but which are for the most part broadcast and floating
in the air, had taken root and grown in him. Here comes such a
subtile and ineffable quality, for instance, as truth or justice,
though the slightest amount or new variety of it, along the road.
Our ambassadors should be instructed to send home such seeds as
these, and Congress help to distribute them over all the land. We
should never stand upon ceremony with sincerity. We should never
cheat and insult and banish one another by our meanness, if there
were present the kernel of worth and friendliness. We should not
meet thus in haste. Most men I do not meet at all, for they seem
not to have time; they are busy about their beans. We would not
deal with a man thus plodding ever, leaning on a hoe or a spade as a
staff between his work, not as a mushroom, but partially risen out
of the earth, something more than erect, like swallows alighted and
walking on the ground:--

"And as he spake, his wings would now and then
Spread, as he meant to fly, then close again --"

so that we should suspect that we might be conversing with an angel.
Bread may not always nourish us; but it always does us good, it even
takes stiffness out of our joints, and makes us supple and buoyant,
when we knew not what ailed us, to recognize any generosity in man
or Nature, to share any unmixed and heroic joy.
Ancient poetry and mythology suggest, at least, that husbandry
was once a sacred art; but it is pursued with irreverent haste and
heedlessness by us, our object being to have large farms and large
crops merely. We have no festival, nor procession, nor ceremony,
not excepting our cattle-shows and so-called Thanksgivings, by which
the farmer expresses a sense of the sacredness of his calling, or is
reminded of its sacred origin. It is the premium and the feast
which tempt him. He sacrifices not to Ceres and the Terrestrial
Jove, but to the infernal Plutus rather. By avarice and
selfishness, and a grovelling habit, from which none of us is free,
of regarding the soil as property, or the means of acquiring
property chiefly, the landscape is deformed, husbandry is degraded
with us, and the farmer leads the meanest of lives. He knows Nature
but as a robber. Cato says that the profits of agriculture are
particularly pious or just (maximeque pius quaestus), and according
to Varro the old Romans "called the same earth Mother and Ceres, and
thought that they who cultivated it led a pious and useful life, and
that they alone were left of the race of King Saturn."
We are wont to forget that the sun looks on our cultivated
fields and on the prairies and forests without distinction. They
all reflect and absorb his rays alike, and the former make but a
small part of the glorious picture which he beholds in his daily
course. In his view the earth is all equally cultivated like a
garden. Therefore we should receive the benefit of his light and
heat with a corresponding trust and magnanimity. What though I
value the seed of these beans, and harvest that in the fall of the
year? This broad field which I have looked at so long looks not to
me as the principal cultivator, but away from me to influences more
genial to it, which water and make it green. These beans have
results which are not harvested by me. Do they not grow for
woodchucks partly? The ear of wheat (in Latin spica, obsoletely
speca, from spe, hope) should not be the only hope of the
husbandman; its kernel or grain (granum from gerendo, bearing) is
not all that it bears. How, then, can our harvest fail? Shall I
not rejoice also at the abundance of the weeds whose seeds are the
granary of the birds? It matters little comparatively whether the
fields fill the farmer's barns. The true husbandman will cease from
anxiety, as the squirrels manifest no concern whether the woods will
bear chestnuts this year or not, and finish his labor with every
day, relinquishing all claim to the produce of his fields, and
sacrificing in his mind not only his first but his last fruits also.

The Village

After hoeing, or perhaps reading and writing, in the forenoon, I
usually bathed again in the pond, swimming across one of its coves
for a stint, and washed the dust of labor from my person, or
smoothed out the last wrinkle which study had made, and for the
afternoon was absolutely free. Every day or two I strolled to the
village to hear some of the gossip which is incessantly going on
there, circulating either from mouth to mouth, or from newspaper to
newspaper, and which, taken in homoeopathic doses, was really as
refreshing in its way as the rustle of leaves and the peeping of
frogs. As I walked in the woods to see the birds and squirrels, so
I walked in the village to see the men and boys; instead of the wind
among the pines I heard the carts rattle. In one direction from my
house there was a colony of muskrats in the river meadows; under the
grove of elms and buttonwoods in the other horizon was a village of
busy men, as curious to me as if they had been prairie-dogs, each
sitting at the mouth of its burrow, or running over to a neighbor's
to gossip. I went there frequently to observe their habits. The
village appeared to me a great news room; and on one side, to
support it, as once at Redding & Company's on State Street, they
kept nuts and raisins, or salt and meal and other groceries. Some
have such a vast appetite for the former commodity, that is, the
news, and such sound digestive organs, that they can sit forever in
public avenues without stirring, and let it simmer and whisper
through them like the Etesian winds, or as if inhaling ether, it
only producing numbness and insensibility to pain -- otherwise it
would often be painful to bear -- without affecting the
consciousness. I hardly ever failed, when I rambled through the
village, to see a row of such worthies, either sitting on a ladder
sunning themselves, with their bodies inclined forward and their
eyes glancing along the line this way and that, from time to time,
with a voluptuous expression, or else leaning against a barn with
their hands in their pockets, like caryatides, as if to prop it up.
They, being commonly out of doors, heard whatever was in the wind.
These are the coarsest mills, in which all gossip is first rudely
digested or cracked up before it is emptied into finer and more
delicate hoppers within doors. I observed that the vitals of the
village were the grocery, the bar-room, the post-office, and the
bank; and, as a necessary part of the machinery, they kept a bell, a
big gun, and a fire-engine, at convenient places; and the houses
were so arranged as to make the most of mankind, in lanes and
fronting one another, so that every traveller had to run the
gauntlet, and every man, woman, and child might get a lick at him.
Of course, those who were stationed nearest to the head of the line,
where they could most see and be seen, and have the first blow at
him, paid the highest prices for their places; and the few
straggling inhabitants in the outskirts, where long gaps in the line
began to occur, and the traveller could get over walls or turn aside
into cow-paths, and so escape, paid a very slight ground or window
tax. Signs were hung out on all sides to allure him; some to catch
him by the appetite, as the tavern and victualling cellar; some by
the fancy, as the dry goods store and the jeweller's; and others by
the hair or the feet or the skirts, as the barber, the shoemaker,
or the tailor. Besides, there was a still more terrible standing
invitation to call at every one of these houses, and company
expected about these times. For the most part I escaped wonderfully
from these dangers, either by proceeding at once boldly and without
deliberation to the goal, as is recommended to those who run the
gauntlet, or by keeping my thoughts on high things, like Orpheus,
who, "loudly singing the praises of the gods to his lyre, drowned
the voices of the Sirens, and kept out of danger." Sometimes I
bolted suddenly, and nobody could tell my whereabouts, for I did not
stand much about gracefulness, and never hesitated at a gap in a
fence. I was even accustomed to make an irruption into some houses,
where I was well entertained, and after learning the kernels and
very last sieveful of news -- what had subsided, the prospects of
war and peace, and whether the world was likely to hold together
much longer -- I was let out through the rear avenues, and so
escaped to the woods again.
It was very pleasant, when I stayed late in town, to launch
myself into the night, especially if it was dark and tempestuous,
and set sail from some bright village parlor or lecture room, with a
bag of rye or Indian meal upon my shoulder, for my snug harbor in
the woods, having made all tight without and withdrawn under hatches
with a merry crew of thoughts, leaving only my outer man at the
helm, or even tying up the helm when it was plain sailing. I had
many a genial thought by the cabin fire "as I sailed." I was never
cast away nor distressed in any weather, though I encountered some
severe storms. It is darker in the woods, even in common nights,
than most suppose. I frequently had to look up at the opening
between the trees above the path in order to learn my route, and,
where there was no cart-path, to feel with my feet the faint track
which I had worn, or steer by the known relation of particular trees
which I felt with my hands, passing between two pines for instance,
not more than eighteen inches apart, in the midst of the woods,
invariably, in the darkest night. Sometimes, after coming home thus
late in a dark and muggy night, when my feet felt the path which my
eyes could not see, dreaming and absent-minded all the way, until I
was aroused by having to raise my hand to lift the latch, I have not
been able to recall a single step of my walk, and I have thought
that perhaps my body would find its way home if its master should
forsake it, as the hand finds its way to the mouth without
assistance. Several times, when a visitor chanced to stay into
evening, and it proved a dark night, I was obliged to conduct him to
the cart-path in the rear of the house, and then point out to him
the direction he was to pursue, and in keeping which he was to be
guided rather by his feet than his eyes. One very dark night I
directed thus on their way two young men who had been fishing in the
pond. They lived about a mile off through the woods, and were quite
used to the route. A day or two after one of them told me that they
wandered about the greater part of the night, close by their own
premises, and did not get home till toward morning, by which time,
as there had been several heavy showers in the meanwhile, and the
leaves were very wet, they were drenched to their skins. I have
heard of many going astray even in the village streets, when the
darkness was so thick that you could cut it with a knife, as the
saying is. Some who live in the outskirts, having come to town
a-shopping in their wagons, have been obliged to put up for the
night; and gentlemen and ladies making a call have gone half a mile
out of their way, feeling the sidewalk only with their feet, and not
knowing when they turned. It is a surprising and memorable, as well
as valuable experience, to be lost in the woods any time. Often in
a snow-storm, even by day, one will come out upon a well-known road
and yet find it impossible to tell which way leads to the village.
Though he knows that he has travelled it a thousand times, he cannot
recognize a feature in it, but it is as strange to him as if it were
a road in Siberia. By night, of course, the perplexity is
infinitely greater. In our most trivial walks, we are constantly,
though unconsciously, steering like pilots by certain well-known
beacons and headlands, and if we go beyond our usual course we still
carry in our minds the bearing of some neighboring cape; and not
till we are completely lost, or turned round -- for a man needs only
to be turned round once with his eyes shut in this world to be lost
-- do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of nature. Every
man has to learn the points of compass again as often as be awakes,
whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we are lost, in
other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find
ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our
One afternoon, near the end of the first summer, when I went to
the village to get a shoe from the cobbler's, I was seized and put
into jail, because, as I have elsewhere related, I did not pay a tax
to, or recognize the authority of, the State which buys and sells
men, women, and children, like cattle, at the door of its
senate-house. I had gone down to the woods for other purposes.
But, wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their
dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to
their desperate odd-fellow society. It is true, I might have
resisted forcibly with more or less effect, might have run "amok"
against society; but I preferred that society should run "amok"
against me, it being the desperate party. However, I was released
the next day, obtained my mended shoe, and returned to the woods in
season to get my dinner of huckleberries on Fair Haven Hill. I was
never molested by any person but those who represented the State. I
had no lock nor bolt but for the desk which held my papers, not even
a nail to put over my latch or windows. I never fastened my door
night or day, though I was to be absent several days; not even when
the next fall I spent a fortnight in the woods of Maine. And yet my
house was more respected than if it had been surrounded by a file of
soldiers. The tired rambler could rest and warm himself by my fire,
the literary amuse himself with the few books on my table, or the
curious, by opening my closet door, see what was left of my dinner,
and what prospect I had of a supper. Yet, though many people of
every class came this way to the pond, I suffered no serious
inconvenience from these sources, and I never missed anything but
one small book, a volume of Homer, which perhaps was improperly
gilded, and this I trust a soldier of our camp has found by this
time. I am convinced, that if all men were to live as simply as I
then did, thieving and robbery would be unknown. These take place
only in communities where some have got more than is sufficient
while others have not enough. The Pope's Homers would soon get
properly distributed.

"Nec bella fuerunt,
Faginus astabat dum scyphus ante dapes."
"Nor wars did men molest,
When only beechen bowls were in request."

"You who govern public affairs, what need have you to employ
punishments? Love virtue, and the people will be virtuous. The
virtues of a superior man are like the wind; the virtues of a common
man are like the grass -- I the grass, when the wind passes over it,

The Ponds

Sometimes, having had a surfeit of human society and gossip, and
worn out all my village friends, I rambled still farther westward
than I habitually dwell, into yet more unfrequented parts of the
town, "to fresh woods and pastures new," or, while the sun was
setting, made my supper of huckleberries and blueberries on Fair
Haven Hill, and laid up a store for several days. The fruits do not
yield their true flavor to the purchaser of them, nor to him who
raises them for the market. There is but one way to obtain it, yet
few take that way. If you would know the flavor of huckleberries,
ask the cowboy or the partridge. It is a vulgar error to suppose
that you have tasted huckleberries who never plucked them. A
huckleberry never reaches Boston; they have not been known there
since they grew on her three hills. The ambrosial and essential
part of the fruit is lost with the bloom which is rubbed off in the
market cart, and they become mere provender. As long as Eternal
Justice reigns, not one innocent huckleberry can be transported
thither from the country's hills.
Occasionally, after my hoeing was done for the day, I joined
some impatient companion who had been fishing on the pond since
morning, as silent and motionless as a duck or a floating leaf, and,
after practising various kinds of philosophy, had concluded
commonly, by the time I arrived, that he belonged to the ancient
sect of Coenobites. There was one older man, an excellent fisher
and skilled in all kinds of woodcraft, who was pleased to look upon
my house as a building erected for the convenience of fishermen; and
I was equally pleased when he sat in my doorway to arrange his
lines. Once in a while we sat together on the pond, he at one end
of the boat, and I at the other; but not many words passed between
us, for he had grown deaf in his later years, but he occasionally
hummed a psalm, which harmonized well enough with my philosophy.
Our intercourse was thus altogether one of unbroken harmony, far
more pleasing to remember than if it had been carried on by speech.
When, as was commonly the case, I had none to commune with, I used
to raise the echoes by striking with a paddle on the side of my
boat, filling the surrounding woods with circling and dilating
sound, stirring them up as the keeper of a menagerie his wild
beasts, until I elicited a growl from every wooded vale and
In warm evenings I frequently sat in the boat playing the flute,
and saw the perch, which I seem to have charmed, hovering around me,
and the moon travelling over the ribbed bottom, which was strewed
with the wrecks of the forest. Formerly I had come to this pond
adventurously, from time to time, in dark summer nights, with a
companion, and, making a fire close to the water's edge, which we
thought attracted the fishes, we caught pouts with a bunch of worms
strung on a thread, and when we had done, far in the night, threw
the burning brands high into the air like skyrockets, which, coming
down into the pond, were quenched with a loud hissing, and we were
suddenly groping in total darkness. Through this, whistling a tune,
we took our way to the haunts of men again. But now I had made my
home by the shore.
Sometimes, after staying in a village parlor till the family had
all retired, I have returned to the woods, and, partly with a view
to the next day's dinner, spent the hours of midnight fishing from a
boat by moonlight, serenaded by owls and foxes, and hearing, from
time to time, the creaking note of some unknown bird close at hand.
These experiences were very memorable and valuable to me -- anchored
in forty feet of water, and twenty or thirty rods from the shore,
surrounded sometimes by thousands of small perch and shiners,
dimpling the surface with their tails in the moonlight, and
communicating by a long flaxen line with mysterious nocturnal fishes
which had their dwelling forty feet below, or sometimes dragging
sixty feet of line about the pond as I drifted in the gentle night
breeze, now and then feeling a slight vibration along it, indicative
of some life prowling about its extremity, of dull uncertain
blundering purpose there, and slow to make up its mind. At length
you slowly raise, pulling hand over hand, some horned pout squeaking
and squirming to the upper air. It was very queer, especially in
dark nights, when your thoughts had wandered to vast and cosmogonal
themes in other spheres, to feel this faint jerk, which came to
interrupt your dreams and link you to Nature again. It seemed as if
I might next cast my line upward into the air, as well as downward
into this element, which was scarcely more dense. Thus I caught two
fishes as it were with one hook.
The scenery of Walden is on a humble scale, and, though very
beautiful, does not approach to grandeur, nor can it much concern
one who has not long frequented it or lived by its shore; yet this
pond is so remarkable for its depth and purity as to merit a
particular description. It is a clear and deep green well, half a
mile long and a mile and three quarters in circumference, and
contains about sixty-one and a half acres; a perennial spring in the
midst of pine and oak woods, without any visible inlet or outlet
except by the clouds and evaporation. The surrounding hills rise
abruptly from the water to the height of forty to eighty feet,
though on the southeast and east they attain to about one hundred
and one hundred and fifty feet respectively, within a quarter and a
third of a mile. They are exclusively woodland. All our Concord
waters have two colors at least; one when viewed at a distance, and
another, more proper, close at hand. The first depends more on the
light, and follows the sky. In clear weather, in summer, they
appear blue at a little distance, especially if agitated, and at a
great distance all appear alike. In stormy weather they are
sometimes of a dark slate-color. The sea, however, is said to be
blue one day and green another without any perceptible change in the
atmosphere. I have seen our river, when, the landscape being
covered with snow, both water and ice were almost as green as grass.
Some consider blue "to be the color of pure water, whether liquid or
solid." But, looking directly down into our waters from a boat,
they are seen to be of very different colors. Walden is blue at one
time and green at another, even from the same point of view. Lying
between the earth and the heavens, it partakes of the color of both.
Viewed from a hilltop it reflects the color of the sky; but near at
hand it is of a yellowish tint next the shore where you can see the
sand, then a light green, which gradually deepens to a uniform dark
green in the body of the pond. In some lights, viewed even from a
hilltop, it is of a vivid green next the shore. Some have referred
this to the reflection of the verdure; but it is equally green there
against the railroad sandbank, and in the spring, before the leaves
are expanded, and it may be simply the result of the prevailing blue
mixed with the yellow of the sand. Such is the color of its iris.
This is that portion, also, where in the spring, the ice being
warmed by the heat of the sun reflected from the bottom, and also
transmitted through the earth, melts first and forms a narrow canal
about the still frozen middle. Like the rest of our waters, when
much agitated, in clear weather, so that the surface of the waves
may reflect the sky at the right angle, or because there is more
light mixed with it, it appears at a little distance of a darker
blue than the sky itself; and at such a time, being on its surface,
and looking with divided vision, so as to see the reflection, I have
discerned a matchless and indescribable light blue, such as watered
or changeable silks and sword blades suggest, more cerulean than the
sky itself, alternating with the original dark green on the opposite
sides of the waves, which last appeared but muddy in comparison. It
is a vitreous greenish blue, as I remember it, like those patches of
the winter sky seen through cloud vistas in the west before sundown.
Yet a single glass of its water held up to the light is as colorless
as an equal quantity of air. It is well known that a large plate of
glass will have a green tint, owing, as the makers say, to its
"body," but a small piece of the same will be colorless. How large
a body of Walden water would be required to reflect a green tint I
have never proved. The water of our river is black or a very dark
brown to one looking directly down on it, and, like that of most
ponds, imparts to the body of one bathing in it a yellowish tinge;
but this water is of such crystalline purity that the body of the
bather appears of an alabaster whiteness, still more unnatural,
which, as the limbs are magnified and distorted withal, produces a
monstrous effect, making fit studies for a Michael Angelo.
The water is so transparent that the bottom can easily be
discerned at the depth of twenty-five or thirty feet. Paddling over
it, you may see, many feet beneath the surface, the schools of perch
and shiners, perhaps only an inch long, yet the former easily
distinguished by their transverse bars, and you think that they must
be ascetic fish that find a subsistence there. Once, in the winter,
many years ago, when I had been cutting holes through the ice in
order to catch pickerel, as I stepped ashore I tossed my axe back on
to the ice, but, as if some evil genius had directed it, it slid
four or five rods directly into one of the holes, where the water
was twenty-five feet deep. Out of curiosity, I lay down on the ice
and looked through the hole, until I saw the axe a little on one
side, standing on its head, with its helve erect and gently swaying
to and fro with the pulse of the pond; and there it might have stood
erect and swaying till in the course of time the handle rotted off,
if I had not disturbed it. Making another hole directly over it
with an ice chisel which I had, and cutting down the longest birch
which I could find in the neighborhood with my knife, I made a
slip-noose, which I attached to its end, and, letting it down
carefully, passed it over the knob of the handle, and drew it by a
line along the birch, and so pulled the axe out again.
The shore is composed of a belt of smooth rounded white stones
like paving-stones, excepting one or two short sand beaches, and is
so steep that in many places a single leap will carry you into water
over your head; and were it not for its remarkable transparency,
that would be the last to be seen of its bottom till it rose on the
opposite side. Some think it is bottomless. It is nowhere muddy,
and a casual observer would say that there were no weeds at all in
it; and of noticeable plants, except in the little meadows recently
overflowed, which do not properly belong to it, a closer scrutiny
does not detect a flag nor a bulrush, nor even a lily, yellow or
white, but only a few small heart-leaves and potamogetons, and
perhaps a water-target or two; all which however a bather might not
perceive; and these plants are clean and bright like the element
they grow in. The stones extend a rod or two into the water, and
then the bottom is pure sand, except in the deepest parts, where
there is usually a little sediment, probably from the decay of the
leaves which have been wafted on to it so many successive falls, and
a bright green weed is brought up on anchors even in midwinter.
We have one other pond just like this, White Pond, in Nine Acre
Corner, about two and a half miles westerly; but, though I am
acquainted with most of the ponds within a dozen miles of this
centre I do not know a third of this pure and well-like character.
Successive nations perchance have drank at, admired, and fathomed
it, and passed away, and still its water is green and pellucid as
ever. Not an intermitting spring! Perhaps on that spring morning
when Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden Walden Pond was already in
existence, and even then breaking up in a gentle spring rain
accompanied with mist and a southerly wind, and covered with myriads
of ducks and geese, which had not heard of the fall, when still such
pure lakes sufficed them. Even then it had commenced to rise and
fall, and had clarified its waters and colored them of the hue they
now wear, and obtained a patent of Heaven to be the only Walden Pond
in the world and distiller of celestial dews. Who knows in how many
unremembered nations' literatures this has been the Castalian
Fountain? or what nymphs presided over it in the Golden Age? It is
a gem of the first water which Concord wears in her coronet.
Yet perchance the first who came to this well have left some
trace of their footsteps. I have been surprised to detect
encircling the pond, even where a thick wood has just been cut down
on the shore, a narrow shelf-like path in the steep hillside,
alternately rising and falling, approaching and receding from the
water's edge, as old probably as the race of man here, worn by the
feet of aboriginal hunters, and still from time to time unwittingly
trodden by the present occupants of the land. This is particularly
distinct to one standing on the middle of the pond in winter, just
after a light snow has fallen, appearing as a clear undulating white
line, unobscured by weeds and twigs, and very obvious a quarter of a
mile off in many places where in summer it is hardly distinguishable
close at hand. The snow reprints it, as it were, in clear white
type alto-relievo. The ornamented grounds of villas which will one
day be built here may still preserve some trace of this.
The pond rises and falls, but whether regularly or not, and
within what period, nobody knows, though, as usual, many pretend to
know. It is commonly higher in the winter and lower in the summer,
though not corresponding to the general wet and dryness. I can
remember when it was a foot or two lower, and also when it was at
least five feet higher, than when I lived by it. There is a narrow
sand-bar running into it, with very deep water on one side, on which
I helped boil a kettle of chowder, some six rods from the main
shore, about the year 1824, which it has not been possible to do for
twenty-five years; and, on the other hand, my friends used to listen
with incredulity when I told them, that a few years later I was
accustomed to fish from a boat in a secluded cove in the woods,
fifteen rods from the only shore they knew, which place was long
since converted into a meadow. But the pond has risen steadily for
two years, and now, in the summer of '52, is just five feet higher
than when I lived there, or as high as it was thirty years ago, and
fishing goes on again in the meadow. This makes a difference of
level, at the outside, of six or seven feet; and yet the water shed
by the surrounding hills is insignificant in amount, and this
overflow must be referred to causes which affect the deep springs.
This same summer the pond has begun to fall again. It is remarkable
that this fluctuation, whether periodical or not, appears thus to
require many years for its accomplishment. I have observed one rise
and a part of two falls, and I expect that a dozen or fifteen years
hence the water will again be as low as I have ever known it.
Flint's Pond, a mile eastward, allowing for the disturbance
occasioned by its inlets and outlets, and the smaller intermediate
ponds also, sympathize with Walden, and recently attained their
greatest height at the same time with the latter. The same is true,
as far as my observation goes, of White Pond.
This rise and fall of Walden at long intervals serves this use
at least; the water standing at this great height for a year or
more, though it makes it difficult to walk round it, kills the
shrubs and trees which have sprung up about its edge since the last
rise -- pitch pines, birches, alders, aspens, and others -- and,
falling again, leaves an unobstructed shore; for, unlike many ponds
and all waters which are subject to a daily tide, its shore is
cleanest when the water is lowest. On the side of the pond next my
house a row of pitch pines, fifteen feet high, has been killed and
tipped over as if by a lever, and thus a stop put to their
encroachments; and their size indicates how many years have elapsed
since the last rise to this height. By this fluctuation the pond
asserts its title to a shore, and thus the shore is shorn, and the
trees cannot hold it by right of possession. These are the lips of
the lake, on which no beard grows. It licks its chaps from time to
time. When the water is at its height, the alders, willows, and
maples send forth a mass of fibrous red roots several feet long from
all sides of their stems in the water, and to the height of three or
four feet from the ground, in the effort to maintain themselves; and
I have known the high blueberry bushes about the shore, which
commonly produce no fruit, bear an abundant crop under these
Some have been puzzled to tell how the shore became so regularly
paved. My townsmen have all heard the tradition -- the oldest
people tell me that they heard it in their youth -- that anciently
the Indians were holding a pow-wow upon a hill here, which rose as
high into the heavens as the pond now sinks deep into the earth, and
they used much profanity, as the story goes, though this vice is one
of which the Indians were never guilty, and while they were thus
engaged the hill shook and suddenly sank, and only one old squaw,
named Walden, escaped, and from her the pond was named. It has been
conjectured that when the hill shook these stones rolled down its
side and became the present shore. It is very certain, at any rate,
that once there was no pond here, and now there is one; and this
Indian fable does not in any respect conflict with the account of
that ancient settler whom I have mentioned, who remembers so well
when he first came here with his divining-rod, saw a thin vapor
rising from the sward, and the hazel pointed steadily downward, and
he concluded to dig a well here. As for the stones, many still
think that they are hardly to be accounted for by the action of the
waves on these hills; but I observe that the surrounding hills are
remarkably full of the same kind of stones, so that they have been
obliged to pile them up in walls on both sides of the railroad cut
nearest the pond; and, moreover, there are most stones where the
shore is most abrupt; so that, unfortunately, it is no longer a
mystery to me. I detect the paver. If the name was not derived
from that of some English locality -- Saffron Walden, for instance
-- one might suppose that it was called originally Walled-in Pond.
The pond was my well ready dug. For four months in the year its
water is as cold as it is pure at all times; and I think that it is
then as good as any, if not the best, in the town. In the winter,
all water which is exposed to the air is colder than springs and
wells which are protected from it. The temperature of the pond
water which had stood in the room where I sat from five o'clock in
the afternoon till noon the next day, the sixth of March, 1846, the
thermometer having been up to 65x or 70x some of the time, owing
partly to the sun on the roof, was 42x, or one degree colder than
the water of one of the coldest wells in the village just drawn.
The temperature of the Boiling Spring the same day was 45x, or the
warmest of any water tried, though it is the coldest that I know of
in summer, when, beside, shallow and stagnant surface water is not
mingled with it. Moreover, in summer, Walden never becomes so warm
as most water which is exposed to the sun, on account of its depth.
In the warmest weather I usually placed a pailful in my cellar,
where it became cool in the night, and remained so during the day;
though I also resorted to a spring in the neighborhood. It was as
good when a week old as the day it was dipped, and had no taste of
the pump. Whoever camps for a week in summer by the shore of a
pond, needs only bury a pail of water a few feet deep in the shade
of his camp to be independent of the luxury of ice.
There have been caught in Walden pickerel, one weighing seven
pounds -- to say nothing of another which carried off a reel with
great velocity, which the fisherman safely set down at eight pounds
because he did not see him -- perch and pouts, some of each weighing
over two pounds, shiners, chivins or roach (Leuciscus pulchellus), a
very few breams, and a couple of eels, one weighing four pounds -- I
am thus particular because the weight of a fish is commonly its only
title to fame, and these are the only eels I have heard of here; --
also, I have a faint recollection of a little fish some five inches
long, with silvery sides and a greenish back, somewhat dace-like in
its character, which I mention here chiefly to link my facts to
fable. Nevertheless, this pond is not very fertile in fish. Its
pickerel, though not abundant, are its chief boast. I have seen at
one time lying on the ice pickerel of at least three different
kinds: a long and shallow one, steel-colored, most like those caught
in the river; a bright golden kind, with greenish reflections and
remarkably deep, which is the most common here; and another,
golden-colored, and shaped like the last, but peppered on the sides
with small dark brown or black spots, intermixed with a few faint
blood-red ones, very much like a trout. The specific name
reticulatus would not apply to this; it should be guttatus rather.
These are all very firm fish, and weigh more than their size
promises. The shiners, pouts, and perch also, and indeed all the
fishes which inhabit this pond, are much cleaner, handsomer, and
firmer-fleshed than those in the river and most other ponds, as the
water is purer, and they can easily be distinguished from them.
Probably many ichthyologists would make new varieties of some of
them. There are also a clean race of frogs and tortoises, and a few
mussels in it; muskrats and minks leave their traces about it, and
occasionally a travelling mud-turtle visits it. Sometimes, when I
pushed off my boat in the morning, I disturbed a great mud-turtle
which had secreted himself under the boat in the night. Ducks and
geese frequent it in the spring and fall, the white-bellied swallows
(Hirundo bicolor) skim over it, and the peetweets (Totanus
macularius) "teeter" along its stony shores all summer. I have
sometimes disturbed a fish hawk sitting on a white pine over the
water; but I doubt if it is ever profaned by the wind of a gull,
like Fair Haven. At most, it tolerates one annual loon. These are
all the animals of consequence which frequent it now.
You may see from a boat, in calm weather, near the sandy
eastern shore, where the water is eight or ten feet deep, and also
in some other parts of the pond, some circular heaps half a dozen
feet in diameter by a foot in height, consisting of small stones
less than a hen's egg in size, where all around is bare sand. At
first you wonder if the Indians could have formed them on the ice
for any purpose, and so, when the ice melted, they sank to the
bottom; but they are too regular and some of them plainly too fresh
for that. They are similar to those found in rivers; but as there
are no suckers nor lampreys here, I know not by what fish they could
be made. Perhaps they are the nests of the chivin. These lend a
pleasing mystery to the bottom.
The shore is irregular enough not to be monotonous. I have in
my mind's eye the western, indented with deep bays, the bolder
northern, and the beautifully scalloped southern shore, where
successive capes overlap each other and suggest unexplored coves
between. The forest has never so good a setting, nor is so
distinctly beautiful, as when seen from the middle of a small lake
amid hills which rise from the water's edge; for the water in which
it is reflected not only makes the best foreground in such a case,
but, with its winding shore, the most natural and agreeable boundary
to it. There is no rawness nor imperfection in its edge there, as
where the axe has cleared a part, or a cultivated field abuts on it.
The trees have ample room to expand on the water side, and each
sends forth its most vigorous branch in that direction. There
Nature has woven a natural selvage, and the eye rises by just
gradations from the low shrubs of the shore to the highest trees.
There are few traces of man's hand to be seen. The water laves the
shore as it did a thousand years ago.
A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature.
It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the
depth of his own nature. The fluviatile trees next the shore are
the slender eyelashes which fringe it, and the wooded hills and
cliffs around are its overhanging brows.
Standing on the smooth sandy beach at the east end of the pond,
in a calm September afternoon, when a slight haze makes the opposite
shore-line indistinct, I have seen whence came the expression, "the
glassy surface of a lake." When you invert your head, it looks like
a thread of finest gossamer stretched across the valley, and
gleaming against the distant pine woods, separating one stratum of
the atmosphere from another. You would think that you could walk
dry under it to the opposite hills, and that the swallows which skim
over might perch on it. Indeed, they sometimes dive below this
line, as it were by mistake, and are undeceived. As you look over
the pond westward you are obliged to employ both your hands to
defend your eyes against the reflected as well as the true sun, for
they are equally bright; and if, between the two, you survey its
surface critically, it is literally as smooth as glass, except where
the skater insects, at equal intervals scattered over its whole
extent, by their motions in the sun produce the finest imaginable
sparkle on it, or, perchance, a duck plumes itself, or, as I have
said, a swallow skims so low as to touch it. It may be that in the
distance a fish describes an arc of three or four feet in the air,
and there is one bright flash where it emerges, and another where it
strikes the water; sometimes the whole silvery arc is revealed; or
here and there, perhaps, is a thistle-down floating on its surface,
which the fishes dart at and so dimple it again. It is like molten
glass cooled but not congealed, and the few motes in it are pure and
beautiful like the imperfections in glass. You may often detect a
yet smoother and darker water, separated from the rest as if by an
invisible cobweb, boom of the water nymphs, resting on it. From a
hilltop you can see a fish leap in almost any part; for not a
pickerel or shiner picks an insect from this smooth surface but it
manifestly disturbs the equilibrium of the whole lake. It is
wonderful with what elaborateness this simple fact is advertised --
this piscine murder will out -- and from my distant perch I
distinguish the circling undulations when they are half a dozen rods
in diameter. You can even detect a water-bug (Gyrinus) ceaselessly
progressing over the smooth surface a quarter of a mile off; for
they furrow the water slightly, making a conspicuous ripple bounded
by two diverging lines, but the skaters glide over it without
rippling it perceptibly. When the surface is considerably agitated
there are no skaters nor water-bugs on it, but apparently, in calm
days, they leave their havens and adventurously glide forth from the
shore by short impulses till they completely cover it. It is a
soothing employment, on one of those fine days in the fall when all
the warmth of the sun is fully appreciated, to sit on a stump on
such a height as this, overlooking the pond, and study the dimpling
circles which are incessantly inscribed on its otherwise invisible
surface amid the reflected skies and trees. Over this great expanse
there is no disturbance but it is thus at once gently smoothed away
and assuaged, as, when a vase of water is jarred, the trembling
circles seek the shore and all is smooth again. Not a fish can leap
or an insect fall on the pond but it is thus reported in circling
dimples, in lines of beauty, as it were the constant welling up of
its fountain, the gentle pulsing of its life, the heaving of its
breast. The thrills of joy and thrills of pain are
undistinguishable. How peaceful the phenomena of the lake! Again
the works of man shine as in the spring. Ay, every leaf and twig
and stone and cobweb sparkles now at mid-afternoon as when covered
with dew in a spring morning. Every motion of an oar or an insect
produces a flash of light; and if an oar falls, how sweet the echo!
In such a day, in September or October, Walden is a perfect
forest mirror, set round with stones as precious to my eye as if
fewer or rarer. Nothing so fair, so pure, and at the same time so
large, as a lake, perchance, lies on the surface of the earth. Sky
water. It needs no fence. Nations come and go without defiling it.
It is a mirror which no stone can crack, whose quicksilver will
never wear off, whose gilding Nature continually repairs; no storms,
no dust, can dim its surface ever fresh; -- a mirror in which all
impurity presented to it sinks, swept and dusted by the sun's hazy
brush -- this the light dust-cloth -- which retains no breath that
is breathed on it, but sends its own to float as clouds high above
its surface, and be reflected in its bosom still.
A field of water betrays the spirit that is in the air. It is
continually receiving new life and motion from above. It is
intermediate in its nature between land and sky. On land only the
grass and trees wave, but the water itself is rippled by the wind.
I see where the breeze dashes across it by the streaks or flakes of
light. It is remarkable that we can look down on its surface. We
shall, perhaps, look down thus on the surface of air at length, and
mark where a still subtler spirit sweeps over it.
The skaters and water-bugs finally disappear in the latter part
of October, when the severe frosts have come; and then and in
November, usually, in a calm day, there is absolutely nothing to
ripple the surface. One November afternoon, in the calm at the end
of a rain-storm of several days' duration, when the sky was still
completely overcast and the air was full of mist, I observed that
the pond was remarkably smooth, so that it was difficult to
distinguish its surface; though it no longer reflected the bright
tints of October, but the sombre November colors of the surrounding
hills. Though I passed over it as gently as possible, the slight
undulations produced by my boat extended almost as far as I could
see, and gave a ribbed appearance to the reflections. But, as I was
looking over the surface, I saw here and there at a distance a faint
glimmer, as if some skater insects which had escaped the frosts
might be collected there, or, perchance, the surface, being so
smooth, betrayed where a spring welled up from the bottom. Paddling
gently to one of these places, I was surprised to find myself
surrounded by myriads of small perch, about five inches long, of a
rich bronze color in the green water, sporting there, and constantly
rising to the surface and dimpling it, sometimes leaving bubbles on
it. In such transparent and seemingly bottomless water, reflecting
the clouds, I seemed to be floating through the air as in a balloon,
and their swimming impressed me as a kind of flight or hovering, as
if they were a compact flock of birds passing just beneath my level
on the right or left, their fins, like sails, set all around them.
There were many such schools in the pond, apparently improving the
short season before winter would draw an icy shutter over their
broad skylight, sometimes giving to the surface an appearance as if
a slight breeze struck it, or a few rain-drops fell there. When I
approached carelessly and alarmed them, they made a sudden splash
and rippling with their tails, as if one had struck the water with a
brushy bough, and instantly took refuge in the depths. At length
the wind rose, the mist increased, and the waves began to run, and
the perch leaped much higher than before, half out of water, a
hundred black points, three inches long, at once above the surface.
Even as late as the fifth of December, one year, I saw some dimples
on the surface, and thinking it was going to rain hard immediately,
the air being fun of mist, I made haste to take my place at the oars
and row homeward; already the rain seemed rapidly increasing, though
I felt none on my cheek, and I anticipated a thorough soaking. But
suddenly the dimples ceased, for they were produced by the perch,
which the noise of my oars had seared into the depths, and I saw
their schools dimly disappearing; so I spent a dry afternoon after
An old man who used to frequent this pond nearly sixty years
ago, when it was dark with surrounding forests, tells me that in
those days he sometimes saw it all alive with ducks and other
water-fowl, and that there were many eagles about it. He came here
a-fishing, and used an old log canoe which he found on the shore.
It was made of two white pine logs dug out and pinned together, and
was cut off square at the ends. It was very clumsy, but lasted a
great many years before it became water-logged and perhaps sank to
the bottom. He did not know whose it was; it belonged to the pond.
He used to make a cable for his anchor of strips of hickory bark
tied together. An old man, a potter, who lived by the pond before
the Revolution, told him once that there was an iron chest at the
bottom, and that he had seen it. Sometimes it would come floating
up to the shore; but when you went toward it, it would go back into
deep water and disappear. I was pleased to hear of the old log
canoe, which took the place of an Indian one of the same material
but more graceful construction, which perchance had first been a
tree on the bank, and then, as it were, fell into the water, to
float there for a generation, the most proper vessel for the lake.
I remember that when I first looked into these depths there were
many large trunks to be seen indistinctly lying on the bottom, which
had either been blown over formerly, or left on the ice at the last
cutting, when wood was cheaper; but now they have mostly
When I first paddled a boat on Walden, it was completely
surrounded by thick and lofty pine and oak woods, and in some of its
coves grape-vines had run over the trees next the water and formed
bowers under which a boat could pass. The hills which form its
shores are so steep, and the woods on them were then so high, that,
as you looked down from the west end, it had the appearance of an
amphitheatre for some land of sylvan spectacle. I have spent many
an hour, when I was younger, floating over its surface as the zephyr
willed, having paddled my boat to the middle, and lying on my back
across the seats, in a summer forenoon, dreaming awake, until I was
aroused by the boat touching the sand, and I arose to see what shore
my fates had impelled me to; days when idleness was the most
attractive and productive industry. Many a forenoon have I stolen
away, preferring to spend thus the most valued part of the day; for
I was rich, if not in money, in sunny hours and summer days, and
spent them lavishly; nor do I regret that I did not waste more of
them in the workshop or the teacher's desk. But since I left those
shores the woodchoppers have still further laid them waste, and now
for many a year there will be no more rambling through the aisles of
the wood, with occasional vistas through which you see the water.
My Muse may be excused if she is silent henceforth. How can you
expect the birds to sing when their groves are cut down?
Now the trunks of trees on the bottom, and the old log canoe,
and the dark surrounding woods, are gone, and the villagers, who
scarcely know where it lies, instead of going to the pond to bathe
or drink, are thinking to bring its water, which should be as sacred
as the Ganges at least, to the village in a pipe, to wash their
dishes with! -- to earn their Walden by the turning of a cock or
drawing of a plug! That devilish Iron Horse, whose ear-rending
neigh is heard throughout the town, has muddied the Boiling Spring
with his foot, and he it is that has browsed off all the woods on
Walden shore, that Trojan horse, with a thousand men in his belly,
introduced by mercenary Greeks! Where is the country's champion,
the Moore of Moore Hill, to meet him at the Deep Cut and thrust an
avenging lance between the ribs of the bloated pest?
Nevertheless, of all the characters I have known, perhaps Walden
wears best, and best preserves its purity. Many men have been
likened to it, but few deserve that honor. Though the woodchoppers
have laid bare first this shore and then that, and the Irish have
built their sties by it, and the railroad has infringed on its
border, and the ice-men have skimmed it once, it is itself
unchanged, the same water which my youthful eyes fell on; all the
change is in me. It has not acquired one permanent wrinkle after
all its ripples. It is perennially young, and I may stand and see a
swallow dip apparently to pick an insect from its surface as of
yore. It struck me again tonight, as if I had not seen it almost
daily for more than twenty years -- Why, here is Walden, the same
woodland lake that I discovered so many years ago; where a forest
was cut down last winter another is springing up by its shore as
lustily as ever; the same thought is welling up to its surface that
was then; it is the same liquid joy and happiness to itself and its
Maker, ay, and it may be to me. It is the work of a brave man
surely, in whom there was no guile! He rounded this water with his
hand, deepened and clarified it in his thought, and in his will
bequeathed it to Concord. I see by its face that it is visited by
the same reflection; and I can almost say, Walden, is it you?

It is no dream of mine,
To ornament a line;
I cannot come nearer to God and Heaven
Than I live to Walden even.
I am its stony shore,
And the breeze that passes o'er;
In the hollow of my hand
Are its water and its sand,
And its deepest resort
Lies high in my thought.

The cars never pause to look at it; yet I fancy that the
engineers and firemen and brakemen, and those passengers who have a
season ticket and see it often, are better men for the sight. The
engineer does not forget at night, or his nature does not, that he
has beheld this vision of serenity and purity once at least during
the day. Though seen but once, it helps to wash out State Street
and the engine's soot. One proposes that it be called "God's Drop."
I have said that Walden has no visible inlet nor outlet, but it
is on the one hand distantly and indirectly related to Flint's Pond,
which is more elevated, by a chain of small ponds coming from that
quarter, and on the other directly and manifestly to Concord River,
which is lower, by a similar chain of ponds through which in some
other geological period it may have flowed, and by a little digging,
which God forbid, it can be made to flow thither again. If by
living thus reserved and austere, like a hermit in the woods, so
long, it has acquired such wonderful purity, who would not regret
that the comparatively impure waters of Flint's Pond should be
mingled with it, or itself should ever go to waste its sweetness in
the ocean wave?
Flint's, or Sandy Pond, in Lincoln, our greatest lake and inland
sea, lies about a mile east of Walden. It is much larger, being
said to contain one hundred and ninety-seven acres, and is more
fertile in fish; but it is comparatively shallow, and not remarkably
pure. A walk through the woods thither was often my recreation. It
was worth the while, if only to feel the wind blow on your cheek
freely, and see the waves run, and remember the life of mariners. I
went a-chestnutting there in the fall, on windy days, when the nuts
were dropping into the water and were washed to my feet; and one
day, as I crept along its sedgy shore, the fresh spray blowing in my
face, I came upon the mouldering wreck of a boat, the sides gone,
and hardly more than the impression of its flat bottom left amid the
rushes; yet its model was sharply defined, as if it were a large
decayed pad, with its veins. It was as impressive a wreck as one
could imagine on the seashore, and had as good a moral. It is by
this time mere vegetable mould and undistinguishable pond shore,
through which rushes and flags have pushed up. I used to admire the
ripple marks on the sandy bottom, at the north end of this pond,
made firm and hard to the feet of the wader by the pressure of the
water, and the rushes which grew in Indian file, in waving lines,
corresponding to these marks, rank behind rank, as if the waves had
planted them. There also I have found, in considerable quantities,
curious balls, composed apparently of fine grass or roots, of
pipewort perhaps, from half an inch to four inches in diameter, and
perfectly spherical. These wash back and forth in shallow water on
a sandy bottom, and are sometimes cast on the shore. They are
either solid grass, or have a little sand in the middle. At first
you would say that they were formed by the action of the waves, like
a pebble; yet the smallest are made of equally coarse materials,
half an inch long, and they are produced only at one season of the
year. Moreover, the waves, I suspect, do not so much construct as
wear down a material which has already acquired consistency. They
preserve their form when dry for an indefinite period.
Flint's Pond! Such is the poverty of our nomenclature. What
right had the unclean and stupid farmer, whose farm abutted on this
sky water, whose shores he has ruthlessly laid bare, to give his
name to it? Some skin-flint, who loved better the reflecting
surface of a dollar, or a bright cent, in which he could see his own
brazen face; who regarded even the wild ducks which settled in it as
trespassers; his fingers grown into crooked and bony talons from the
long habit of grasping harpy-like; -- so it is not named for me. I
go not there to see him nor to hear of him; who never saw it, who
never bathed in it, who never loved it, who never protected it, who
never spoke a good word for it, nor thanked God that He had made it.
Rather let it be named from the fishes that swim in it, the wild
fowl or quadrupeds which frequent it, the wild flowers which grow by
its shores, or some wild man or child the thread of whose history is
interwoven with its own; not from him who could show no title to it
but the deed which a like-minded neighbor or legislature gave him --
him who thought only of its money value; whose presence perchance
cursed all the shores; who exhausted the land around it, and would
fain have exhausted the waters within it; who regretted only that it
was not English hay or cranberry meadow -- there was nothing to
redeem it, forsooth, in his eyes -- and would have drained and sold
it for the mud at its bottom. It did not turn his mill, and it was
no privilege to him to behold it. I respect not his labors, his
farm where everything has its price, who would carry the landscape,
who would carry his God, to market, if he could get anything for
him; who goes to market for his god as it is; on whose farm nothing
grows free, whose fields bear no crops, whose meadows no flowers,
whose trees no fruits, but dollars; who loves not the beauty of his
fruits, whose fruits are not ripe for him till they are turned to
dollars. Give me the poverty that enjoys true wealth. Farmers are
respectable and interesting to me in proportion as they are poor --
poor farmers. A model farm! where the house stands like a fungus in
a muckheap, chambers for men horses, oxen, and swine, cleansed and
uncleansed, all contiguous to one another! Stocked with men! A
great grease-spot, redolent of manures and buttermilk! Under a high
state of cultivation, being manured with the hearts and brains of
men! As if you were to raise your potatoes in the churchyard! Such
is a model farm.
No, no; if the fairest features of the landscape are to be named
after men, let them be the noblest and worthiest men alone. Let our
lakes receive as true names at least as the Icarian Sea, where
"still the shore" a "brave attempt resounds."
Goose Pond, of small extent, is on my way to Flint's; Fair
Haven, an expansion of Concord River, said to contain some seventy
acres, is a mile southwest; and White Pond, of about forty acres, is
a mile and a half beyond Fair Haven. This is my lake country.
These, with Concord River, are my water privileges; and night and
day, year in year out, they grind such grist as I carry to them.
Since the wood-cutters, and the railroad, and I myself have
profaned Walden, perhaps the most attractive, if not the most
beautiful, of all our lakes, the gem of the woods, is White Pond; --
a poor name from its commonness, whether derived from the remarkable
purity of its waters or the color of its sands. In these as in
other respects, however, it is a lesser twin of Walden. They are so
much alike that you would say they must be connected under ground.
It has the same stony shore, and its waters are of the same hue. As
at Walden, in sultry dog-day weather, looking down through the woods
on some of its bays which are not so deep but that the reflection
from the bottom tinges them, its waters are of a misty bluish-green
or glaucous color. Many years since I used to go there to collect
the sand by cartloads, to make sandpaper with, and I have continued
to visit it ever since. One who frequents it proposes to call it
Virid Lake. Perhaps it might be called Yellow Pine Lake, from the
following circumstance. About fifteen years ago you could see the
top of a pitch pine, of the kind called yellow pine hereabouts,
though it is not a distinct species, projecting above the surface in
deep water, many rods from the shore. It was even supposed by some
that the pond had sunk, and this was one of the primitive forest
that formerly stood there. I find that even so long ago as 1792, in
a "Topographical Description of the Town of Concord," by one of its
citizens, in the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical
Society, the author, after speaking of Walden and White Ponds, adds,
"In the middle of the latter may be seen, when the water is very
low, a tree which appears as if it grew in the place where it now
stands, although the roots are fifty feet below the surface of the
water; the top of this tree is broken off, and at that place
measures fourteen inches in diameter." In the spring of '49 I
talked with the man who lives nearest the pond in Sudbury, who told
me that it was he who got out this tree ten or fifteen years before.
As near as he could remember, it stood twelve or fifteen rods from
the shore, where the water was thirty or forty feet deep. It was in
the winter, and he had been getting out ice in the forenoon, and had
resolved that in the afternoon, with the aid of his neighbors, he
would take out the old yellow pine. He sawed a channel in the ice
toward the shore, and hauled it over and along and out on to the ice
with oxen; but, before he had gone far in his work, he was surprised
to find that it was wrong end upward, with the stumps of the
branches pointing down, and the small end firmly fastened in the
sandy bottom. It was about a foot in diameter at the big end, and
he had expected to get a good saw-log, but it was so rotten as to be
fit only for fuel, if for that. He had some of it in his shed then.
There were marks of an axe and of woodpeckers on the butt. He
thought that it might have been a dead tree on the shore, but was
finally blown over into the pond, and after the top had become
water-logged, while the butt-end was still dry and light, had
drifted out and sunk wrong end up. His father, eighty years old,
could not remember when it was not there. Several pretty large logs
may still be seen lying on the bottom, where, owing to the
undulation of the surface, they look like huge water snakes in
This pond has rarely been profaned by a boat, for there is
little in it to tempt a fisherman. Instead of the white lily, which
requires mud, or the common sweet flag, the blue flag (Iris
versicolor) grows thinly in the pure water, rising from the stony
bottom all around the shore, where it is visited by hummingbirds in
June; and the color both of its bluish blades and its flowers and
especially their reflections, is in singular harmony with the
glaucous water.
White Pond and Walden are great crystals on the surface of the
earth, Lakes of Light. If they were permanently congealed, and
small enough to be clutched, they would, perchance, be carried off
by slaves, like precious stones, to adorn the heads of emperors; but
being liquid, and ample, and secured to us and our successors
forever, we disregard them, and run after the diamond of Kohinoor.
They are too pure to have a market value; they contain no muck. How
much more beautiful than our lives, how much more transparent than
our characters, are they! We never learned meanness of them. How
much fairer than the pool before the farmers door, in which his
ducks swim! Hither the clean wild ducks come. Nature has no human
inhabitant who appreciates her. The birds with their plumage and
their notes are in harmony with the flowers, but what youth or
maiden conspires with the wild luxuriant beauty of Nature? She
flourishes most alone, far from the towns where they reside. Talk
of heaven! ye disgrace earth.

Baker Farm

Sometimes I rambled to pine groves, standing like temples, or
like fleets at sea, full-rigged, with wavy boughs, and rippling with
light, so soft and green and shady that the Druids would have
forsaken their oaks to worship in them; or to the cedar wood beyond
Flint's Pond, where the trees, covered with hoary blue berries,
spiring higher and higher, are fit to stand before Valhalla, and the
creeping juniper covers the ground with wreaths full of fruit; or to
swamps where the usnea lichen hangs in festoons from the white
spruce trees, and toadstools, round tables of the swamp gods, cover
the ground, and more beautiful fungi adorn the stumps, like
butterflies or shells, vegetable winkles; where the swamp-pink and
dogwood grow, the red alderberry glows like eyes of imps, the
waxwork grooves and crushes the hardest woods in its folds, and the
wild holly berries make the beholder forget his home with their
beauty, and he is dazzled and tempted by nameless other wild
forbidden fruits, too fair for mortal taste. Instead of calling on
some scholar, I paid many a visit to particular trees, of kinds
which are rare in this neighborhood, standing far away in the middle
of some pasture, or in the depths of a wood or swamp, or on a
hilltop; such as the black birch, of which we have some handsome
specimens two feet in diameter; its cousin, the yellow birch, with
its loose golden vest, perfumed like the first; the beech, which has
so neat a bole and beautifully lichen-painted, perfect in all its
details, of which, excepting scattered specimens, I know but one
small grove of sizable trees left in the township, supposed by some
to have been planted by the pigeons that were once baited with
beechnuts near by; it is worth the while to see the silver grain
sparkle when you split this wood; the bass; the hornbeam; the Celtis
occidentalis, or false elm, of which we have but one well-grown;
some taller mast of a pine, a shingle tree, or a more perfect
hemlock than usual, standing like a pagoda in the midst of the
woods; and many others I could mention. These were the shrines I
visited both summer and winter.
Once it chanced that I stood in the very abutment of a rainbow's
arch, which filled the lower stratum of the atmosphere, tinging the
grass and leaves around, and dazzling me as if I looked through
colored crystal. It was a lake of rainbow light, in which, for a
short while, I lived like a dolphin. If it had lasted longer it
might have tinged my employments and life. As I walked on the
railroad causeway, I used to wonder at the halo of light around my
shadow, and would fain fancy myself one of the elect. One who
visited me declared that the shadows of some Irishmen before him had
no halo about them, that it was only natives that were so
distinguished. Benvenuto Cellini tells us in his memoirs, that,
after a certain terrible dream or vision which he had during his
confinement in the castle of St. Angelo a resplendent light appeared
over the shadow of his head at morning and evening, whether he was
in Italy or France, and it was particularly conspicuous when the
grass was moist with dew. This was probably the same phenomenon to
which I have referred, which is especially observed in the morning,
but also at other times, and even by moonlight. Though a constant
one, it is not commonly noticed, and, in the case of an excitable
imagination like Cellini's, it would be basis enough for
superstition. Beside, he tells us that he showed it to very few.
But are they not indeed distinguished who are conscious that they
are regarded at all?
I set out one afternoon to go a-fishing to Fair Haven, through
the woods, to eke out my scanty fare of vegetables. My way led
through Pleasant Meadow, an adjunct of the Baker Farm, that retreat
of which a poet has since sung, beginning,--

"Thy entry is a pleasant field,
Which some mossy fruit trees yield
Partly to a ruddy brook,
By gliding musquash undertook,
And mercurial trout,
Darting about."

I thought of living there before I went to Walden. I "hooked" the
apples, leaped the brook, and scared the musquash and the trout. It
was one of those afternoons which seem indefinitely long before one,
in which many events may happen, a large portion of our natural
life, though it was already half spent when I started. By the way
there came up a shower, which compelled me to stand half an hour
under a pine, piling boughs over my head, and wearing my
handkerchief for a shed; and when at length I had made one cast over
the pickerelweed, standing up to my middle in water, I found myself
suddenly in the shadow of a cloud, and the thunder began to rumble
with such emphasis that I could do no more than listen to it. The
gods must be proud, thought I, with such forked flashes to rout a
poor unarmed fisherman. So I made haste for shelter to the nearest
hut, which stood half a mile from any road, but so much the nearer
to the pond, and had long been uninhabited:--

"And here a poet builded,
In the completed years,
For behold a trivial cabin
That to destruction steers."

So the Muse fables. But therein, as I found, dwelt now John Field,
an Irishman, and his wife, and several children, from the
broad-faced boy who assisted his father at his work, and now came
running by his side from the bog to escape the rain, to the
wrinkled, sibyl-like, cone-headed infant that sat upon its father's
knee as in the palaces of nobles, and looked out from its home in
the midst of wet and hunger inquisitively upon the stranger, with
the privilege of infancy, not knowing but it was the last of a noble
line, and the hope and cynosure of the world, instead of John
Field's poor starveling brat. There we sat together under that part
of the roof which leaked the least, while it showered and thundered
without. I had sat there many times of old before the ship was
built that floated his family to America. An honest, hard-working,
but shiftless man plainly was John Field; and his wife, she too was
brave to cook so many successive dinners in the recesses of that
lofty stove; with round greasy face and bare breast, still thinking
to improve her condition one day; with the never absent mop in one
hand, and yet no effects of it visible anywhere. The chickens,
which had also taken shelter here from the rain, stalked about the
room like members of the family, too humanized, methought, to roast
well. They stood and looked in my eye or pecked at my shoe
significantly. Meanwhile my host told me his story, how hard he
worked "bogging" for a neighboring farmer, turning up a meadow with
a spade or bog hoe at the rate of ten dollars an acre and the use of
the land with manure for one year, and his little broad-faced son
worked cheerfully at his father's side the while, not knowing how
poor a bargain the latter had made. I tried to help him with my
experience, telling him that he was one of my nearest neighbors, and
that I too, who came a-fishing here, and looked like a loafer, was
getting my living like himself; that I lived in a tight, light, and
clean house, which hardly cost more than the annual rent of such a
ruin as his commonly amounts to; and how, if he chose, he might in a
month or two build himself a palace of his own; that I did not use
tea, nor coffee, nor butter, nor milk, nor fresh meat, and so did
not have to work to get them; again, as I did not work hard, I did
not have to eat hard, and it cost me but a trifle for my food; but
as he began with tea, and coffee, and butter, and milk, and beef, he
had to work hard to pay for them, and when he had worked hard he had
to eat hard again to repair the waste of his system -- and so it was
as broad as it was long, indeed it was broader than it was long, for
he was discontented and wasted his life into the bargain; and yet he
had rated it as a gain in coming to America, that here you could get
tea, and coffee, and meat every day. But the only true America is
that country where you are at liberty to pursue such a mode of life
as may enable you to do without these, and where the state does not
endeavor to compel you to sustain the slavery and war and other
superfluous expenses which directly or indirectly result from the
use of such things. For I purposely talked to him as if he were a
philosopher, or desired to be one. I should be glad if all the
meadows on the earth were left in a wild state, if that were the
consequence of men's beginning to redeem themselves. A man will not
need to study history to find out what is best for his own culture.
But alas! the culture of an Irishman is an enterprise to be
undertaken with a sort of moral bog hoe. I told him, that as he
worked so hard at bogging, he required thick boots and stout
clothing, which yet were soon soiled and worn out, but I wore light
shoes and thin clothing, which cost not half so much, though he
might think that I was dressed like a gentleman (which, however, was
not the case), and in an hour or two, without labor, but as a
recreation, I could, if I wished, catch as many fish as I should
want for two days, or earn enough money to support me a week. If he
and his family would live simply, they might all go a-huckleberrying
in the summer for their amusement. John heaved a sigh at this, and
his wife stared with arms a-kimbo, and both appeared to be wondering
if they had capital enough to begin such a course with, or
arithmetic enough to carry it through. It was sailing by dead
reckoning to them, and they saw not clearly how to make their port
so; therefore I suppose they still take life bravely, after their
fashion, face to face, giving it tooth and nail, not having skill to
split its massive columns with any fine entering wedge, and rout it
in detail; -- thinking to deal with it roughly, as one should handle
a thistle. But they fight at an overwhelming disadvantage --
living, John Field, alas! without arithmetic, and failing so.
"Do you ever fish?" I asked. "Oh yes, I catch a mess now and
then when I am lying by; good perch I catch. -- "What's your bait?"
"I catch shiners with fishworms, and bait the perch with them."
"You'd better go now, John," said his wife, with glistening and
hopeful face; but John demurred.
The shower was now over, and a rainbow above the eastern woods
promised a fair evening; so I took my departure. When I had got
without I asked for a drink, hoping to get a sight of the well
bottom, to complete my survey of the premises; but there, alas! are
shallows and quicksands, and rope broken withal, and bucket
irrecoverable. Meanwhile the right culinary vessel was selected,
water was seemingly distilled, and after consultation and long delay
passed out to the thirsty one -- not yet suffered to cool, not yet
to settle. Such gruel sustains life here, I thought; so, shutting
my eyes, and excluding the motes by a skilfully directed
undercurrent, I drank to genuine hospitality the heartiest draught I
could. I am not squeamish in such cases when manners are concerned.
As I was leaving the Irishman's roof after the rain, bending my
steps again to the pond, my haste to catch pickerel, wading in
retired meadows, in sloughs and bog-holes, in forlorn and savage
places, appeared for an instant trivial to me who had been sent to
school and college; but as I ran down the hill toward the reddening
west, with the rainbow over my shoulder, and some faint tinkling
sounds borne to my ear through the cleansed air, from I know not
what quarter, my Good Genius seemed to say -- Go fish and hunt far
and wide day by day -- farther and wider -- and rest thee by many
brooks and hearth-sides without misgiving. Remember thy Creator in
the days of thy youth. Rise free from care before the dawn, and
seek adventures. Let the noon find thee by other lakes, and the
night overtake thee everywhere at home. There are no larger fields
than these, no worthier games than may here be played. Grow wild
according to thy nature, like these sedges and brakes, which will
never become English bay. Let the thunder rumble; what if it
threaten ruin to farmers' crops? That is not its errand to thee.
Take shelter under the cloud, while they flee to carts and sheds.
Let not to get a living be thy trade, but thy sport. Enjoy the
land, but own it not. Through want of enterprise and faith men are
where they are, buying and selling, and spending their lives like

O Baker Farm!
"Landscape where the richest element
Is a little sunshine innocent." ...
"No one runs to revel
On thy rail-fenced lea." ...
"Debate with no man hast thou,
With questions art never perplexed,
As tame at the first sight as now,
In thy plain russet gabardine dressed." ...
"Come ye who love,
And ye who hate,
Children of the Holy Dove,
And Guy Faux of the state,
And hang conspiracies
From the tough rafters of the trees!"

Men come tamely home at night only from the next field or
street, where their household echoes haunt, and their life pines
because it breathes its own breath over again; their shadows,
morning and evening, reach farther than their daily steps. We
should come home from far, from adventures, and perils, and
discoveries every day, with new experience and character.
Before I had reached the pond some fresh impulse had brought out
John Field, with altered mind, letting go "bogging" ere this sunset.
But he, poor man, disturbed only a couple of fins while I was
catching a fair string, and he said it was his luck; but when we
changed seats in the boat luck changed seats too. Poor John Field!
-- I trust he does not read this, unless he will improve by it --
thinking to live by some derivative old-country mode in this
primitive new country -- to catch perch with shiners. It is good
bait sometimes, I allow. With his horizon all his own, yet he a
poor man, born to be poor, with his inherited Irish poverty or poor
life, his Adam's grandmother and boggy ways, not to rise in this
world, he nor his posterity, till their wading webbed bog-trotting
feet get talaria to their heels.

Higher Laws

As I came home through the woods with my string of fish,
trailing my pole, it being now quite dark, I caught a glimpse of a
woodchuck stealing across my path, and felt a strange thrill of
savage delight, and was strongly tempted to seize and devour him
raw; not that I was hungry then, except for that wildness which he
represented. Once or twice, however, while I lived at the pond, I
found myself ranging the woods, like a half-starved hound, with a
strange abandonment, seeking some kind of venison which I might
devour, and no morsel could have been too savage for me. The
wildest scenes had become unaccountably familiar. I found in
myself, and still find, an instinct toward a higher, or, as it is
named, spiritual life, as do most men, and another toward a
primitive rank and savage one, and I reverence them both. I love
the wild not less than the good. The wildness and adventure that
are in fishing still recommended it to me. I like sometimes to take
rank hold on life and spend my day more as the animals do. Perhaps
I have owed to this employment and to hunting, when quite young, my
closest acquaintance with Nature. They early introduce us to and
detain us in scenery with which otherwise, at that age, we should
have little acquaintance. Fishermen, hunters, woodchoppers, and
others, spending their lives in the fields and woods, in a peculiar
sense a part of Nature themselves, are often in a more favorable
mood for observing her, in the intervals of their pursuits, than
philosophers or poets even, who approach her with expectation. She
is not afraid to exhibit herself to them. The traveller on the
prairie is naturally a hunter, on the head waters of the Missouri
and Columbia a trapper, and at the Falls of St. Mary a fisherman.
He who is only a traveller learns things at second-hand and by the
halves, and is poor authority. We are most interested when science
reports what those men already know practically or instinctively,
for that alone is a true humanity, or account of human experience.
They mistake who assert that the Yankee has few amusements,
because he has not so many public holidays, and men and boys do not
play so many games as they do in England, for here the more
primitive but solitary amusements of hunting, fishing, and the like
have not yet given place to the former. Almost every New England
boy among my contemporaries shouldered a fowling-piece between the
ages of ten and fourteen; and his hunting and fishing grounds were
not limited, like the preserves of an English nobleman, but were
more boundless even than those of a savage. No wonder, then, that
he did not oftener stay to play on the common. But already a change
is taking place, owing, not to an increased humanity, but to an
increased scarcity of game, for perhaps the hunter is the greatest
friend of the animals hunted, not excepting the Humane Society.
Moreover, when at the pond, I wished sometimes to add fish to my
fare for variety. I have actually fished from the same kind of
necessity that the first fishers did. Whatever humanity I might
conjure up against it was all factitious, and concerned my
philosophy more than my feelings. I speak of fishing only now, for
I had long felt differently about fowling, and sold my gun before I
went to the woods. Not that I am less humane than others, but I did
not perceive that my feelings were much affected. I did not pity
the fishes nor the worms. This was habit. As for fowling, during
the last years that I carried a gun my excuse was that I was
studying ornithology, and sought only new or rare birds. But I
confess that I am now inclined to think that there is a finer way of
studying ornithology than this. It requires so much closer
attention to the habits of the birds, that, if for that reason only,
I have been willing to omit the gun. Yet notwithstanding the
objection on the score of humanity, I am compelled to doubt if
equally valuable sports are ever substituted for these; and when
some of my friends have asked me anxiously about their boys, whether
they should let them hunt, I have answered, yes -- remembering that
it was one of the best parts of my education -- make them hunters,
though sportsmen only at first, if possible, mighty hunters at last,
so that they shall not find game large enough for them in this or
any vegetable wilderness -- hunters as well as fishers of men. Thus
far I am of the opinion of Chaucer's nun, who

"yave not of the text a pulled hen
That saith that hunters ben not holy men."

There is a period in the history of the individual, as of the race,
when the hunters are the "best men," as the Algonquins called them.
We cannot but pity the boy who has never fired a gun; he is no more
humane, while his education has been sadly neglected. This was my
answer with respect to those youths who were bent on this pursuit,
trusting that they would soon outgrow it. No humane being, past the
thoughtless age of boyhood, will wantonly murder any creature which
holds its life by the same tenure that he does. The hare in its
extremity cries like a child. I warn you, mothers, that my
sympathies do not always make the usual philanthropic distinctions.
Such is oftenest the young man's introduction to the forest, and
the most original part of himself. He goes thither at first as a
hunter and fisher, until at last, if he has the seeds of a better
life in him, he distinguishes his proper objects, as a poet or
naturalist it may be, and leaves the gun and fish-pole behind. The
mass of men are still and always young in this respect. In some
countries a hunting parson is no uncommon sight. Such a one might
make a good shepherd's dog, but is far from being the Good Shepherd.
I have been surprised to consider that the only obvious employment,
except wood-chopping, ice-cutting, or the like business, which ever
to my knowledge detained at Walden Pond for a whole half-day any of
my fellow-citizens, whether fathers or children of the town, with
just one exception, was fishing. Commonly they did not think that
they were lucky, or well paid for their time, unless they got a long


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