Walking. - Free Online Library (2024)

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

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my lifewho understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks,--who had agenius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived"from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages,and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre," tothe Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes aSainte-Terrer," a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go tothe Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlersand vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the goodsense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sansterre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, willmean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. Forthis is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in ahouse all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but thesaunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meanderingriver, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course tothe sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the most probablederivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peterthe Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from thehands of the Infidels.

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

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

We have felt that we almost alone hereabouts practiced this nobleart; though, to tell the truth, at least, if their oven assertions areto be received, most of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as I do,but they cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, andindependence which are the capital in this profession. It comes only bythe grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven tobecome a walker. You must be born into the family of the Walkers.Ambulator nascitur, non fit. Some of my townsmen, it is true, canremember and have described to me some walks which they took ten yearsago, in which they were so blessed as to lose themselves for half anhour in the woods; but I know very well that they have confinedthemselves to the highway ever since, whatever pretensions they may maketo belong to this select class, No doubt they were elevated for a momentas by the reminiscence of a previous state of existence, when even theywere foresters and outlaws.

 "When he came to grene wode, In a mery mornynge, There he herde the notes small Of byrdes mery syngynge. "It is ferre gone, sayd Robyn, That I was last here; Me lyste a lytell for to shote At the donne dere." 

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

I, who cannot stay in my chamber for a single day withoutacquiring some rust, and when sometimes I have stolen forth for a walkat the eleventh hour or four o'clock in the afternoon, too late toredeem the day, when the shades of night were already beginning to bemingled with the daylight, have felt as if I had committed some sin tobe atoned for,--I confess that I am astonished at the power ofendurance, to say nothing of the moral insensibility, of my neighborswho confine themselves to shops and offices the whole day for weeks andmonths, aye, and years almost together. I know not what manner of stuffthey are of,--sitting there now at three o'clock in the afternoon,as if it were three o'clock in the morning. Bonaparte may talk ofthe three-o'clock-in-the-morning courage, but it is nothing to thecourage which can sit down cheerfully at this hour in the afternoon overagainst one's self whom you have known all the morning, to starveout a garrison to whom you are bound by such strong ties of sympathy. Iwonder that about this time, or say between four and five o'clockin the afternoon, too late for the morning papers and too early for theevening ones, there is not a general explosion heard up and down thestreet, scattering a legion of antiquated and house-bred notions andwhims to the four winds for an airing,--and so the evil cure itself.

How womankind, who are confined to the house still more than men,stand it I do not know; but I have ground to suspect that most of themdo not stand it at all. When, early in a summer afternoon, we have beenshaking the dust of the village from the skirts of our garments, makinghaste past those houses with purely Doric or Gothic fronts, which havesuch an air of repose about them, my companion whispers that probablyabout these times their occupants are all gone to bed. Then it is that Iappreciate the beauty and the glory of architecture, which itself neverturns in, but forever stands out and erect, keeping watch over theslumberers.

No doubt temperament, and, above all, age, have a good deal to dowith it. As a man grows older, his ability to sit still and followindoor occupations increases. He grows vespertinal in his habits as theevening of life. approaches, till at last he comes forth only justbefore sundown, and gets all the walk that he requires in half anhour.

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

Moreover, you must walk like a camel, which is said to be theonly beast which ruminates when walking. When a traveler askedWordsworth's servant to show him her master's study, sheanswered, "Here is his library, but his study is out ofdoors."

Living much out of doors, in the sun and wind, will no doubtproduce a certain roughness of character,--will cause a thicker cuticleto grow over some of the finer qualities of our nature, as on the faceand hands, or as severe manual labor robs the hands of some of theirdelicacy of touch. So staying in the house, on the other hand, mayproduce a softness and smoothness, not to say thinness of skin,accompanied by an increased sensibility to certain impressions. Perhapswe should be more susceptible to some influences important to ourintellectual and moral growth, if the sun had shone and the wind blownon us a little less; and no doubt it is a nice matter to proportionrightly the thick and thin skin. But methinks that is a scurf that willfall off fast enough,--that the natural remedy is to be found in theproportion which the night bears to the day, the winter to the summer,thought to experience. There will be so much the more air and sunshinein our thoughts. The callous palms of the laborer are conversant withfiner tissues of self-respect and heroism, whose touch thrills theheart, than the languid fingers of idleness. That is mere sentimentalitythat lies abed by day and thinks itself white, far from the tan andcallus of experience.

When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what wouldbecome of us, if we walked only in a garden or a mall? Even some sectsof philosophers have felt the necessity of importing the woods tothemselves, since they did not go to the woods. "They plantedgroves and walks of Platanes," where they took subdialesambulationes in porticos open to the air. Of course it is of no use todirect our steps to the woods, if they do not carry us thither. I amalarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily,without getting there in spirit. In my afternoon walk I would fainforget all my morning occupations and my obligations to society. But itsometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. Thethought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my bodyis,--I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to mysenses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of somethingout of the woods? I suspect myself, and cannot help a shudder, when Ifind myself so implicated even in what are called good works,--for thismay sometimes happen.

My vicinity affords many good walks; and though for so many yearsI have walked almost every day, and sometimes for several days together,I have not yet exhausted them. An absolutely new prospect is a greathappiness, and I can still get this any afternoon. Two or threehours' walking will carry me to as strange a country as I expectever to see. A single farm-house which I had not seen before issometimes as good as the dominions of the King of Dahomey. There is infact a sort of harmony discoverable between the capabilities of thelandscape within a circle of ten miles' radius, or the limits of anafternoon walk, and the threescore years and ten of human life. It willnever become quite familiar to you.

Nowadays almost all man's improvements, so called, as thebuilding of houses, and the cutting down of the forest and of all largetrees, simply deform the landscape, and make it more and more tame andcheap. A people who would begin by burning the fences and let the foreststand! I saw the fences half consumed, their ends lost in the middle ofthe prairie, and some worldly miser with a surveyor looking after hisbounds, while heaven had taken place around him, and he did not see theangels going to and fro, but was looking for an old post-hole in themidst of paradise. I looked again, and saw him standing in the middle ofa boggy stygian fen, surrounded by devils, and he had found his boundswithout a doubt, three little stones, where a stake had been driven, andlooking nearer, I saw that the Prince of Darkness was his surveyor.

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

The village is the place to which the roads tend, a sort ofexpansion of the highway, as a lake of a river. It is the body of whichroads are the arms and legs,--a trivial or quadrivial place, thethoroughfare and ordinary of travelers. The word is from the Latinvilla, which together with via, a way, or more anciently ved and vella,Varro derives from veho, to carry, because the villa is the place to andfrom which things are carried. They who got their living by teaming weresaid vellaturam facere. Hence, too, the Latin word vilis and our vile;also villain. This suggests what kind of degeneracy villagers are liableto. They are wayworn by the travel that goes by and over them, withouttraveling themselves.

Some do not walk at all; others walk in the highways; a few walkacross lots. Roads are made for horses and men of business. I do nottravel in them much, comparatively, because I am not in a hurry to getto any tavern or grocery or livery-stable or depot to which they lead. Iam a good horse to travel, but not from choice a roadster. Thelandscape-painter uses the figures of men to mark a road. He would notmake that use of my figure. I walk out into a Nature such as the oldprophets and poets, Menu, Moses, Homer, Chaucer, walked in. You may nameit America, but it is not America; neither Americus Vespucius, norColumbus, nor the rest were the discoverers of it. There is a trueraccount of it in mythology than in any history of America, so called,that I have seen.

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

THE OLD MARLBOROUGH ROAD.

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

At present, in this vicinity, the best part of the land is notprivate property; the landscape is not owned, and the walker enjoyscomparative freedom. But possibly the day will come when it will bepartitioned off into so-called pleasure-grounds, in which a few willtake a narrow and exclusive pleasure only,--when fences shall bemultiplied, and man-traps and other engines invented to confine men tothe public road, and walking over the surface of God's earth shallbe construed to mean trespassing on some gentleman's grounds. Toenjoy a thing exclusively is commonly to exclude yourself from the trueenjoyment of it. Let us improve our opportunities, then, before the evildays come.

What is it that makes it so hard sometimes to determine whitherwe will walk? I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature,which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. It is notindifferent to us which way we walk. There is a right way; but we arevery liable from heedlessness and stupidity to take the wrong one. Wewould fain take that walk, never yet taken by us through this actualworld, which is perfectly symbolical of the path which we love to travelin the interior and ideal world; and sometimes, no doubt, we find itdifficult to choose our direction, because it does not yet existdistinctly in our idea.

When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither Iwill bend my steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide for me, Ifind, strange and whimsical as it may seem, that I finally andinevitably settle southwest, toward some particular wood or meadow ordeserted pasture or hill in that direction. My needle is slow tosettle,--varies a few degrees, and does not always point due southwest,it is true, and it has good authority for this variation, but it alwayssettles between west and south-southwest. The future lies that way tome, and the earth seems more unexhausted and richer on that side. Theoutline which would bound my walks would be, not a circle, but aparabola, or rather like one of those cometary orbits which have beenthought to be non-returning curves, in this case opening westward, inwhich my house occupies the place of the sun. I turn round and roundirresolute sometimes for a quarter of an hour, until I decide, for athousandth time, that I will walk into the southwest or west. Eastward Igo only by force; but westward I go free. Thither no business leads me.It is hard for me to believe that I shall find fair landscapes orsufficient wildness and freedom behind the eastern horizon. I am notexcited by the prospect of a walk thither; but I believe that the forestwhich I see in the western horizon stretches uninterruptedly toward thesetting sun, and there are no towns nor cities in it of enoughconsequence to disturb me. Let me live where I will, on this side is thecity, on that the wilderness, and ever I am leaving the city more andmore, and withdrawing into the wilderness. I should not lay so muchstress on this fact, if I did not believe that something like this isthe prevailing tendency of my countrymen. I must walk toward Oregon, andnot toward Europe. And that way the nation is moving, and I may say thatmankind progress from east to west. Within a few years we have witnessedthe phenomenon of a southeastward migration, in the settlement ofAustralia; but this affects us as a retrograde movement, and, judgingfrom the moral and physical character of the first generation ofAustralians, has not yet proved a successful experiment. The easternTartars think that there is nothing west beyond Thibet. "The worldends there," say they; "beyond there is nothing but ashoreless sea." It is unmitigated East where they live.

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

I know not how significant it is, or how far it is an evidence ofsingularity, that an individual should thus consent in his pettiest walkwith the general movement of the race; but I know that something akin tothe migratory instinct in birds and quadrupeds,--which, in someinstances, is known to have affected the squirrel tribe, impelling themto a general and mysterious movement, in which they were seen, say some,crossing the broadest rivers, each on its particular chip, with its tailraised for a sail, and bridging narrower streams with their dead,--thatsomething like the furor which affects the domestic cattle it, thespring, and which is referred to a worm in their tails,--affects bothnations and individuals, either perennially or from time to time. Not aflock of wild geese cackles over our town, but it to some extentunsettles the value of real estate here, and, if I were a broker, Ishould probably take that disturbance into account.

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

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

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

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

Where on the globe can there be found an area of equal extentwith that occupied by the bulk of our States, so fertile and so rich andvaried in its productions, and at the same time so habitable by theEuropean, as this is? Michaux, who knew but part of them, says that"the species of large trees are much more numerous in North Americathan in Europe; in the United States there are more than one hundred andforty species that exceed thirty feet in height; in France there are butthirty that attain this size." Later botanists more than confirmhis observations. Humboldt came to America to realize his youthfuldreams of a tropical vegetation, and he beheld it in its greatestperfection in the primitive forests of the Amazon, the most giganticwilderness on the earth, which he has so eloquently described. Thegeographer Guyot, himself a European, goes farther,--farther than I amready to follow him; yet not when he says: "As the plant is madefor the animal, as the vegetable world is made for the animal world,America is made for the man of the Old World. . . . The man of the OldWorld sets out upon his way. Leaving the highlands of Asia, he descendsfrom station to station towards Europe. Each of his steps is marked by anew civilization superior to the preceding, by a greater power ofdevelopment. Arrived at the Atlantic, he pauses on the shore of thisunknown ocean, the bounds of which he knows not, and turns upon hisfootprints for an instant." When he has exhausted the rich soil ofEurope, and reinvigorated himself, "then recommences hisadventurous career westward as in the earliest ages." So farGuyot.

From this western impulse coming in contact with the barrier ofthe Atlantic sprang the commerce and enterprise of modern times. Theyounger Michaux, in his "Travels West of the Alleghanies in1802," says that the common inquiry in the newly settled West was,"'From what part of the world have you come?' As if thesevast and fertile regions would naturally be the place of meeting andcommon country of all the inhabitants of the globe."

To use an obsolete Latin word, I might say, Ex Oriente lux; exOccidente FRUX. From the East light; from the West fruit.

Sir Francis Head, an English traveler and a Governor-General ofCanada, tells us that "in both the northern and southernhemispheres of the New World, Nature has not only outlined her works ona larger scale, but has painted the whole picture with brighter and morecostly colors than she used in delineating and in beautifying the OldWorld. . . . The heavens of America appear infinitely higher, the sky isbluer, the air is fresher, the cold is intenser, the moon looks larger,the stars are brighter, the thunder is louder, the lightning is vivider,the wind is stronger, the rain is heavier, the mountains are higher, therivers longer, the forests bigger, the plains broader." Thisstatement will do at least to set against Buffon's account of thispart of the world and its productions.

Linnaeus said long ago, "Nescio quae facies loeta, glabraplantis Americanis: I know not what there is of joyous and smooth in theaspect of American plants;" and I think that in this country thereare no, or at most very few, Africanoe bestioe, African beasts, as theRomans called them, and that in this respect also it is peculiarlyfitted for the habitation of man. We are told that within three miles ofthe centre of the East-Indian city of Singapore, some of the inhabitantsare annually carried off by tigers; but the traveler can lie down in thewoods at night almost anywhere in North America without fear of wildbeasts.

These are encouraging testimonies. If the moon looks larger herethan in Europe, probably the sun looks larger also. If the heavens ofAmerica appear infinitely higher, and the stars brighter, I trust thatthese facts are symbolical of the height to which the philosophy andpoetry and religion of her inhabitants may one day soar. At length,perchance, the immaterial heaven will appear as much higher to theAmerican mind, and the intimations that star it as much brighter. For Ibelieve that climate does thus react on man,--as there is something inthe mountain-air that feeds the spirit and inspires. Will not man growto greater perfection intellectually as well as physically under theseinfluences? Or is it unimportant how many foggy days there are in hislife? I trust that we shall be more imaginative, that our thoughts willbe clearer, fresher, and more ethereal, as our sky,--our understandingmore comprehensive and broader, like our plains,--our intellectgenerally on a grander scale, like our thunder and lightning, our riversand mountains and forests,--and our hearts shall even correspond inbreadth and depth and grandeur to our inland seas. Perchance there willappear to the traveler something, he knows not what, of loeta andglabra, of joyous and serene, in our very faces. Else to what end doesthe world go on, and why was America discovered?

To Americans I hardly need to say,--

 "Westward the star of empire takes its way." 

As a true patriot, I should be ashamed to think that Adam inparadise was more favorably situated on the whole than the backwoodsmanin this country.

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

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

Soon after, I went to see a panorama of the Mississippi, and as Iworked my way up the river in the light of to-day, and saw thesteamboats wooding up, counted the rising cities, gazed on the freshruins of Nauvoo, beheld the Indians moving west across the stream, and,as before I had looked up the Moselle, now looked up the Ohio and theMissouri and heard the legends of Dubuque and of Wenona'sCliff,--still thinking more of the future than of the past orpresent,--I saw that this was a Rhine stream of a different kind; thatthe foundations of castles were yet to be laid, and the famous bridgeswere yet to be thrown over the river; and I felt that this was theheroic age itself, though we know it not, for the hero is commonly thesimplest and obscurest of men.

The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; andwhat I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is thepreservation of the World. Every tree sends its fibres forth in searchof the Wild. The cities import it at any price. Men plough and sail forit. From the forest and wilderness come the tonics and barks which bracemankind. Our ancestors Were savages. The story of Romulus and Remusbeing suckled by a wolf is not a meaningless fable. The founders ofevery state which has risen to eminence have drawn their nourishment andvigor from a similar wild source. It was because the children of theEmpire were not suckled by the wolf that they were conquered anddisplaced by the children of the northern forests who were.

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

There are some intervals which border the strain of thewood-thrush, to which I would migrate,--wild lands where no settler hassquatted; to which, methinks, I am already acclimated.

The African hunter Cumming tells us that the skin of the eland,as well as that of most other antelopes just killed, emits the mostdelicious perfume of trees and grass. I would have every man so muchlike a wild antelope, so much a part and parcel of Nature, that his veryperson should thus sweetly advertise our senses of his presence, andremind us of those parts of Nature which he most haunts. I feel nodisposition to be satirical, when the trapper's coat emits the odorof musquash even; it is a sweeter scent to me than that which commonlyexhales from the merchant's or the scholar's garments. When Igo into their wardrobes and handle their vestments, I am reminded of nograssy plains and flowery meads which they have frequented, but of dustymerchants' exchanges and libraries rather.

A tanned skin is something more than respectable, and perhapsolive is a fitter color than white for a man,--a denizen of the woods."The pale white man!" I do not wonder that the African pitiedhim. Darwin the naturalist says, "A white man bathing by the sideof a Tahitian was like a plant bleached by the gardener's art,compared with a fine, dark green one, growing vigorously in the openfields."

Ben Jonson exclaims,--

 "How near to good is what is fair!" 

So I would say,--

 How near to good is what is wild! 

Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Notyet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him. One who pressed forwardincessantly and never rested from his labors, who grew fast and madeinfinite demands on life, would always find himself in a new country orwilderness, and surrounded by the raw material of life. He would beclimbing over the prostrate stems of primitive forest-trees.

Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivatedfields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quakingswamps. When, formerly, I have analyzed my partiality for some farmwhich I had contemplated purchasing, I have frequently found that I wasattracted solely by a few square rods of impermeable and unfathomablebog,--a natural sink in one corner of it. That was the jewel whichdazzled me. I derive more of my subsistence from the swamps whichsurround my native town than from the cultivated gardens in the village.There are no richer parterres to my eyes than the dense beds of dwarfandromeda (Cassandra calyculata) which cover these tender places on theearth's surface. Botany cannot go farther than tell me the names ofthe shrubs which grow there,--the high-blueberry, panicled andromeda,lamb-kill, azalea, and rhodora,--all standing in the quaking sphagnum. Ioften think that I should like to have my house front on this mass ofdull red bushes, omitting other flower plots and borders, transplantedspruce and trim box, even graveled walks,--to have this fertile spotunder my windows, not a few imported barrow-fulls of soil only to coverthe sand which was thrown out in digging the cellar. Why not put myhouse, my parlor, behind this plot, instead of behind that meagreassemblage of curiosities, that poor apology for a Nature and Art, whichI call my front yard? It is an effort to clear up and make a decentappearance when the carpenter and mason have departed, though done asmuch for the passer-by as the dweller within. The most tastefulfront-yard fence was never an agreeable object of study to me; the mostelaborate ornaments, acorn-tops, or what not, soon wearied and disgustedme. Bring your sills up to the very edge of the swamp, then (though itmay not be the best place for a dry cellar), so that there be no accesson that side to citizens. Front-yards are not made to walk in, but, atmost, through, and you could go in the back way.

Yes, though you may think me perverse, if it were proposed to meto dwell in the neighborhood of the most beautiful garden that everhuman art contrived, or else of a Dismal Swamp, I should certainlydecide for the swamp. How vain, then, have been all your labors,citizens, for me!

My spirits infallibly rise in proportion to the outwarddreariness. Give me the ocean, the desert, or the wilderness! In thedesert, pure air and solitude compensate for want of moisture andfertility. The traveler Burton says of it: "Your morale improves;you become frank and cordial, hospitable and single-minded. . . . In thedesert, spirituous liquors excite only disgust. There is a keenenjoyment in a mere animal existence." They who have been travelinglong on the steppes of Tartary say: "On reentering cultivatedlands, the agitation, perplexity, and turmoil of civilization oppressedand suffocated us; the air seemed to fail us, and we felt every momentas if about to die of asphyxia." When I would recreate myself, Iseek the darkest wood, the thickest and most interminable and, to thecitizen, most dismal swamp. I enter a swamp as a sacred place,--asanctum sanctorum. There is the strength, the marrow of Nature. Thewild-wood covers the virgin-mould,--and the same soil is good for menand for trees. A man's health requires as many acres of meadow tohis prospect as his farm does loads of muck. There are the strong meatson which he feeds. A town is saved, not more by the righteous men in itthan by the woods and swamps that surround it. A township where oneprimitive forest waves above while another primitive forest rotsbelow,--such a town is fitted to raise not only corn and potatoes, butpoets and philosophers for the coming ages. In such a soil grew Homerand Confucius and the rest, and out of such a wilderness comes theReformer eating locusts and wild honey.

To preserve wild animals implies generally the creation of aforest for them to dwell in or resort to. So it is with man. A hundredyears ago they sold bark in our streets peeled from our own woods. Inthe very aspect of those primitive and rugged trees there was, methinks,a tanning principle which hardened and consolidated the fibres ofmen's thoughts. Ah! already I shudder for these comparativelydegenerate days of my native village, when you cannot collect a load ofbark of good thickness,--and we no longer produce tar andturpentine.

The civilized nations--Greece, Rome, England--have been sustainedby the primitive forests which anciently rotted where they stand. Theysurvive as long as the soil is not exhausted. Alas for human culture!little is to be expected of a nation, when the vegetable mould isexhausted, and it is compelled to make manure of the bones of itsfathers. There the poet sustains himself merely by his own superfluousfat, and the philosopher comes down on his marrow-bones.

It is said to be the task of the American "to work thevirgin soil," and that "agriculture here already assumesproportions unknown everywhere else." I think that the farmerdisplaces the Indian even because he redeems the meadow, and so makeshimself stronger and in some respects more natural. I was surveying fora man the other day a single straight line one hundred and thirty-tworods long, through a swamp, at whose entrance, might have been writtenthe words which Dante read over the entrance to the infernalregions,--"Leave all hope, ye that enter,"--that is, of evergetting out again; where at one time I saw my employer actually up tohis neck and swimming for his life in his property, though it was stillwinter. He had another similar swamp which I could not survey at all,because it was completely under water, and nevertheless, with regard toa third swamp, which I did survey from a distance, he remarked to me,true to his instincts, that he would not part with it for anyconsideration, on account of the mud which it contained. And that manintends to put a girdling ditch round the whole in the course of fortymonths, and so redeem it by the magic of his spade. I refer to him onlyas the type of a class.

The weapons with which we have gained our most importantvictories, which should be handed down as heirlooms from father to son,are not the sword and the lance, but the bushwhack, the turf-cutter, thespade, and the bog-hoe, rusted with the blood of many a meadow. andbegrimed with the dust of many a hard-fought field. The very winds blewthe Indian's corn-field into the meadow, and pointed out the waywhich he had not the skill to follow. He had no better implement withwhich to intrench himself in the land than a clam-shell. But the farmeris armed with plough and spade.

In literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness isbut another name for tameness. It is the uncivilized free and wildthinking in "Hamlet" and the "Iliad," in all theScriptures and Mythologies, not learned in the schools, that delightsus. As the wild duck is more swift and beautiful than the tame, so isthe wild--the mallard--thought, which 'mid falling dews wings itsway above the fens. A truly good book is something as natural, and asunexpectedly and unaccountably fair and perfect, as a wild flowerdiscovered on the prairies of the West or in the jungles of the East.Genius is a light which makes the darkness visible, like thelightning's flash, which perchance shatters the temple of knowledgeitself,--and not a taper lighted at the hearth-stone of the race, whichpales before the light of common day.

English literature, from the days of the minstrels to the LakePoets,--Chaucer and Spenser and Milton, and even Shakespeare,included,--breathes no quite fresh and, in this sense, wild strain. Itis an essentially tame and civilized literature, reflecting Greece andRome. Her wilderness is a greenwood, her wild man a Robin Hood. There isplenty of genial love of Nature, but not so much of Nature herself. Herchronicles inform us when her wild animals, but not when the wild man inher, became extinct.

The science of Humboldt is one thing, poetry is another thing.The poet to-day, notwithstanding all the discoveries of science, and theaccumulated learning of mankind, enjoys no advantage over Homer.

Where is the literature which gives expression to Nature? Hewould be a poet who could impress the winds and streams into hisservice, to speak for him; who nailed words to their primitive senses,as farmers drive down stakes in the spring, which the frost has heaved;who derived his words as often as he used them,--transplanted them tohis page with earth adhering to their roots; whose words were so trueand fresh and natural that they would appear to expand like the buds atthe approach of spring, though they lay half-smothered between two mustyleaves in a library,--aye, to bloom and bear fruit there, after theirkind, annually, for the faithful reader, in sympathy with surroundingNature.

I do not know of any poetry to quote which adequately expressesthis yearning for the Wild. Approached from this side, the best poetryis tame. I do not know where to find in any literature, ancient ormodern, any account which contents me of that Nature with which even Iam acquainted. You will perceive that I demand something which noAugustan nor Elizabethan age, which no culture, in short, can give.Mythology comes nearer to it than anything. How much more fertile aNature, at least, has Grecian mythology its root in than Englishliterature! Mythology is the crop which the Old World bore before itssoil was exhausted, before the fancy and imagination were affected withblight; and which it still bears, wherever its pristine vigor isunabated. All other literatures endure only as the elms which overshadowour houses; but this is like the great dragon-tree of the Western Isles,as old as mankind, and, whether that does or not, will endure as long;for the decay of other literatures makes the soil in which itthrives.

The West is preparing to add its fables to those of the East. Thevalleys of the Ganges, the Nile, and the Rhine having yielded theircrop, it remains to be seen what the valleys of the Amazon, the Plate,the Orinoco, the St. Lawrence, and the Mississippi will produce.Perchance, when, in the course of ages, American liberty has become afiction of the past,--as it is to some extent a fiction of thepresent,--the poets of the world will be inspired by Americanmythology.

The wildest dreams of wild men, even, are not the less true,though they may not recommend themselves to the sense which is mostcommon among Englishmen and Americans to-day. It is not every truth thatrecommends itself to the common sense. Nature has a place for the wildclematis as well as for the cabbage. Some expressions of truth arereminiscent,--others merely sensible, as the phrase is,--othersprophetic. Some forms of disease, even, may prophesy forms of health.The geologist has discovered that the figures of serpents, griffins,flying dragons, and other fanciful embellishments of heraldry, havetheir prototypes in the forms of fossil species which were extinctbefore man was created, and hence "indicate a faint and shadowyknowledge of a previous state of organic existence." The Hindoosdreamed that the earth rested on an elephant, and the elephant on atortoise, and the tortoise on a serpent; and though it may be anunimportant coincidence, it will not be out of place here to state, thata fossil tortoise has lately been discovered in Asia large enough tosupport an elephant. I confess that I am partial to these wild fancies,which transcend the order of time and development. They are thesublimest recreation of the intellect. The partridge loves peas, but notthose that go with her into the pot.

In short, all good things are wild and free. There is somethingin a strain of music, whether produced by an instrument or by the humanvoice,--take the sound of a bugle in a summer night, forinstance,--which by its wildness, to speak without satire, reminds me ofthe cries emitted by wild beasts in their native forests. It is so muchof their wildness as I can understand. Give me for my friends andneighbors wild men, not tame ones. The wildness of the savage is but afaint symbol of the awful ferity with which good men and loversmeet.

I love even to see the domestic animals reassert their nativerights,--any evidence that they have not wholly lost their original wildhabits and vigor; as when my neighbor's cow breaks out of herpasture early in the spring and boldly swims the river, a cold, graytide, twenty-five or thirty rods wide, swollen by the melted snow. It isthe buffalo crossing the Mississippi. This exploit confers some dignityon the herd in my eyes,--already dignified. The seeds of instinct arepreserved under the thick hides of cattle and horses, like seeds in thebowels of the earth, an indefinite period.

Any sportiveness in cattle is unexpected. I saw one day a herd ofa dozen bullocks and cows running about and frisking in unwieldy sport,like huge rats, even like kittens. They shook their heads, raised theirtails, and rushed up and down a hill, and I perceived by their horns, aswell as by their activity, their relation to the deer tribe. But, alas!a sudden loud Whoa! would have damped their ardor at once, reduced themfrom venison to beef, and stiffened their sides and sinews like thelocomotive. Who but the Evil One has cried, "Whoa!" tomankind? Indeed, the life of cattle, like that of many men, is but asort of locomotiveness; they move a side at a time, and man, by hismachinery, is meeting the horse and the ox half-way. Whatever part thewhip has touched is thenceforth palsied. Who would ever think of a sideof any of the supple cat tribe, as we speak of a side of beef?

I rejoice that horses and steers have to be broken before theycan be made the slaves of men, and that men themselves have some wildoats still left to sow before they become submissive members of society.Undoubtedly, all men are not equally fit subjects for civilization; andbecause the majority, like dogs and sheep, are tame by inheriteddisposition, this is no reason why the others should have their naturesbroken that they may be reduced to the same level. Men are in the mainalike, but they were made several in order that they might be various.If a low use is to be served, one man will do nearly or quite as well asanother; if a high one, individual excellence is to be regarded. Any mancan stop a hole to keep the wind away, but no other man could serve sorare a use as the author of this illustration did. Confucius says,"The skins of the tiger and the leopard, when they are tanned, areas the skins of the dog and the sheep tanned." But it is not thepart of a true culture to tame tigers, any more than it is to make sheepferocious; and tanning their skins for shoes is not the best use towhich they can be put.

When looking over a list of men's names in a foreignlanguage, as of military officers, or of authors who have written on aparticular subject, I am reminded once more that there is nothing in aname. The name Menschikoff, for instance, has nothing in it to my earsmore human than a whisker, and it may belong to a rat. As the names ofthe Poles and Russians are to us, so are ours to them. It is as if theyhad been named by the child's rigmarole,--Iery wiery ichery van,tittle-tol-tan. I see in my mind a herd of wild creatures swarming overthe earth, and to each the herdsman has affixed some barbarous sound inhis own dialect. The names of men are of course as cheap and meaninglessas Bose and Tray, the names of dogs.

Methinks it would be some advantage to philosophy, if men werenamed merely in the gross, as they are known. It would be necessary onlyto know the genus and perhaps the race or variety, to know theindividual. We are not prepared to believe that every private soldier ina Roman army had a name of his own,--because we have not supposed thathe had a character of his own.

At present our only true names are nicknames. I knew a boy who,from his peculiar energy, was called "Buster" by hisplaymates, and this rightly supplanted his Christian name. Sometravelers tell us that an Indian had no name given him at first, butearned it, and his name was his fame; and among some tribes he acquireda new name with every new exploit. It is pitiful when a man bears a namefor convenience merely, who has earned neither name nor fame.

I will not allow mere names to make distinctions for me, butstill see men in herds for all them. A familiar name cannot make a manless strange to me. It may be given to a savage who retains in secrethis own wild title earned in the woods. We have a wild savage in us, anda savage name is perchance somewhere recorded as ours. I see that myneighbor, who bears the familiar epithet William, or Edwin, takes it offwith his jacket. It does not adhere to him when asleep or in anger, oraroused by any passion or inspiration. I seem to hear pronounced by someof his kin at such a time his original wild name in some jaw-breaking orelse melodious tongue.

Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours, Nature, lyingall around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, asthe leopard; and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to society,to that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man,--asort of breeding in and in, which produces at most a merely Englishnobility, a civilization destined to have a speedy limit.

In society, in the best institutions of men, it is easy to detecta certain precocity. When we should still be growing children, we arealready little men. Give me a culture which imports much muck from themeadows, and deepens the soil,--not that which trusts to heatingmanures, and improved implements and modes of culture only!

Many a poor sore-eyed student that I have heard of would growfaster, both intellectually and physically, if, instead of sitting up sovery late, he honestly slumbered a fool's allowance.

There may be an excess even of informing light. Niepce, aFrenchman, discovered "actinism," that power in the sun'srays which produces a chemical effect; that granite rocks, and stonestructures, and statues of metal, "are all alike destructivelyacted upon during the hours of sunshine, and, but for provisions ofNature no less wonderful, would soon perish under the delicate touch ofthe most subtile of the agencies of the universe." But he observedthat "those bodies which underwent this change during the daylightpossessed the power of restoring themselves to their original conditionsduring the hours of night, when this excitement was no longerinfluencing them." Hence it has been inferred that "the hoursof darkness are as necessary to the inorganic creation as we know nightand sleep are to the organic kingdom." Not even does the moon shineevery night, but gives place to darkness.

I would not have every man nor every part of a man cultivated,any more than I would have every acre of earth cultivated: part will betillage, but the greater part will be meadow and forest, not onlyserving an immediate use, but preparing a mould against a distantfuture, by the annual decay of the vegetation which it supports.

There are other letters for the child to learn than those whichCadmus invented. The Spaniards have a good term to express this wild anddusky knowledge, Gramatica parda, tawny grammar, a kind of mother-witderived from that same leopard to which I have referred.

We have heard of a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.It is said that knowledge is power; and the like. Methinks there isequal need of a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Ignorance, what wewill call Beautiful Knowledge, a knowledge useful in a higher sense: forwhat is most of our boasted so-called knowledge but a conceit that weknow something, which robs us of the advantage of our actual ignorance?What we call knowledge is often our positive ignorance; ignorance ournegative knowledge. By long years of patient industry and reading of thenewspapers,--for what are the libraries of science but files ofnewspapers?--a man accumulates a myriad facts, lays them up in hismemory, and then when in some spring of his life he saunters abroad intothe Great Fields of thought, he, as it were, goes to grass like a horseand leaves all his harness behind in the stable. I would say to theSociety for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, sometimes,--Go to grass.You have eaten hay long enough. The spring has come with its green crop.The very cows are driven to their country pastures before the end ofMay; though I have heard of one unnatural farmer who kept his cow in thebarn and fed her on hay all the year round. So, frequently, the Societyfor the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge treats its cattle.

A man's ignorance sometimes is not only useful, butbeautiful,--while his knowledge, so called, is oftentimes worse thanuseless, besides being ugly. Which is the best man to deal with,--he whoknows nothing about a subject, and, what is extremely rare, knows thathe knows nothing, or he who really knows something about it, but thinksthat he knows all?

My desire for knowledge is intermittent; but my desire to bathemy head in atmospheres unknown to my feet is perennial and constant. Thehighest that we can attain to is not Knowledge, but Sympathy withIntelligence. I do not know that this higher knowledge amounts toanything more definite than a novel and grand surprise on a suddenrevelation of the insufficiency of all that we called Knowledgebefore,--a discovery that there are more things in heaven and earth thanare dreamed of in our philosophy. It is the lighting up of the mist bythe sun. Man cannot know in any higher sense than this, any more than hecan look serenely and with impunity in the face of the sun: [TEXT NOTREPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII],--"You will not perceive that, as perceivinga particular thing," say the Chaldean Oracles.

There is something servile in the habit of seeking after a lawwhich we may obey. We may study the laws of matter at and for ourconvenience, but a successful life knows no law. It is an unfortunatediscovery certainly, that of a law which binds us where we did not knowbefore that we were bound. Live free, child of the mist,--and withrespect to knowledge we are all children of the mist. The man who takesthe liberty to live is superior to all the laws, by virtue of hisrelation to the law-maker. "That is active duty," says theVishnu Purana, "which is not for our bondage; that is knowledgewhich is for our liberation: all other duty is good only unto weariness;all other knowledge is only the cleverness of an artist."

It is remarkable how few events or crises there are in ourhistories; how little-exercised we have been in our minds; how fewexperiences we have had. I would fain be assured that I am growing apaceand rankly, though my very growth disturb this dull equanimity,--thoughit be with struggle through long, dark, muggy nights or seasons ofgloom. It would be well, if all our lives were a divine tragedy even,instead of this trivial comedy or farce. Dante, Bunyan, and othersappear to have been exercised in their minds more than we: they weresubjected to a kind of culture such as our district schools and collegesdo not contemplate. Even Mahomet, though many may scream at his name,had a good deal more to live for, aye, and to die for, than they havecommonly.

When, at rare intervals, some thought visits one, as perchance heis walking on a railroad, then indeed the cars go by without his hearingthem. But soon, by some inexorable law, our life goes by and the carsreturn.

 "Gentle breeze, that wanderest unseen, And bendest the thistles round Loira of storms, Traveler of the windy glens, Why hast thou left my ear so soon?" 

While almost all men feel an attraction drawing them to society,few are attracted strongly to Nature. In their reaction to Nature menappear to me for the most part, notwithstanding their arts, lower thanthe animals. It is not often a beautiful relation, as in the case of theanimals. How little appreciation of the beauty of the landscape there isamong us! We have to be told that the Greeks called the world [TEXT NOTREPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Beauty, or Order, but we do not see clearly whythey did so, and we esteem it at best only a curious philologicalfact.

For my part, I feel that with regard to Nature I live a sort ofborder life, on the confines of a world into which I make occasional andtransient forays only, and my patriotism and allegiance to the Stateinto whose territories I seem to retreat are those of a moss-trooper.Unto a life which I call natural I would gladly follow even awill-o'-the-wisp through bogs and sloughs unimaginable, but no moonnor firefly has shown me the causeway to it. Nature is a personality sovast and universal that we have never seen one of her features. Thewalker in the familiar fields which stretch around my native townsometimes finds himself in another land than is described in theirowners' deeds, as it were in some far-away field on the confines ofthe actual Concord, where her jurisdiction ceases, and the idea whichthe word Concord suggests ceases to be suggested. These farms which Ihave myself surveyed, these bounds which I have set up, appear dimlystill as through a mist; but they have no chemistry to fix them; theyfade from the surface of the glass; and the picture which the painterpainted stands out dimly from beneath. The world with which we arecommonly acquainted leaves no trace, and it win have no anniversary.

I took a walk on Spaulding's Farm the other afternoon. I sawthe setting sun lighting up the opposite side of a stately pine wood.Its golden rays straggled into the aisles of the wood as into some noblehall. I was impressed as if some ancient and altogether admirable andshining family had settled there in that part of the land calledConcord, unknown to me,--to whom the sun was servant,--who had not goneinto society in the village,--who had not been called on. I saw theirpark, their pleasure-ground, beyond through the wood, inSpaulding's cranberry-meadow. The pines furnished them with gablesas they grew. Their house was not obvious to vision; the trees grewthrough it. I do not know whether I heard the sounds of a suppressedhilarity or not. They seemed to recline on the sunbeams. They have sonsand daughters. They are quite well. The farmer's cart-path, whichleads directly through their hall, does not in the least put them out,as the muddy bottom of a pool is sometimes seen through the reflectedskies. They never heard of Spaulding, and do not know that he is theirneighbor,--notwithstanding I heard him whistle as he drove his teamthrough the house. Nothing can equal the serenity of their lives. Theircoat of arms is simply a lichen. I saw it painted on the pines and oaks.Their attics were in the tops of the trees. They are of no politics.There was no noise of labor. I did not perceive that they were weavingor spinning. Yet I did detect, when the wind lulled and hearing was doneaway, the finest imaginable sweet musical hum,--as of a distant hive inMay, which perchance was the sound of their thinking. They had no idlethoughts, and no one without could see their work, for their industrywas not as in knots and excrescences embayed.

But I find it difficult to remember them. They fade irrevocablyout of my mind even now while I speak, and endeavor to recall them andrecollect myself. It is only after a long and serious effort torecollect my best thoughts that I become again aware of theircohabitancy. If it were not for such families as this, I think I shouldmove out of Concord.

We are accustomed to say in New England that few and fewerpigeons visit us every year. Our forests furnish no mast for them. So,it would seem, few and fewer thoughts visit each growing man from yearto year, for the grove in our minds is laid waste,--sold to feedunnecessary fires of ambition, or sent to mill, and there is scarcely atwig left for them to perch on. They no longer build nor breed with us.In some more genial season, perchance, a faint shadow flits across thelandscape of the mind, cast by the wings of some thought in its vernalor autumnal migration, but, looking up, we are unable to detect thesubstance of the thought itself. Our winged thoughts are turned topoultry. They no longer soar, and they attain only to a Shanghai andCochin-China grandeur. Those gra-a-ate thoughts, those gra-a-ate men youhear of!

We hug the earth,--how rarely we mount! Methinks we might elevateourselves a little more. We might climb a tree, at least. I found myaccount in climbing a tree once. It was a tall white pine, on the top ofa hill; and though I got well pitched, I was well paid for it, for Idiscovered new mountains in the horizon which I had never seenbefore,--so much more of the earth and the heavens. I might have walkedabout the foot of the tree for three-score years and ten, and yet Icertainly should never have seen them. But, above all, I discoveredaround me,--it was near the end of June,--on the ends of the topmostbranches only, a few minute and delicate red cone-like blossoms, thefertile flower of the white pine looking heavenward. I carriedstraightway to the village the topmost spire, and showed it to strangerjurymen who walked the streets,--for it was court-week,--and to farmersand lumber-dealers and wood-choppers and hunters, and not one had everseen the like before, but they wondered as at a star dropped down. Tellof ancient architects finishing their works on the tops of columns asperfectly as on the lower and more visible parts! Nature has from thefirst expanded the minute blossoms of the forest only toward theheavens, above men's heads and unobserved by them. We see only theflowers that are under our feet in the meadows. The pines have developedtheir delicate blossoms on the highest twigs of the wood every summerfor ages, as well over the heads of Nature's red children as of herwhite ones; yet scarcely a farmer or hunter in the land has ever seenthem.

Above all, we cannot afford not to live in the present. He isblessed over all mortals who loses no moment of the passing life inremembering the past. Unless our philosophy hears the co*ck crow in everybarn-yard within our horizon, it is belated. That sound commonly remindsus that we are growing rusty and antique in our employments and habitsof thought. His philosophy comes down to a more recent time than ours.There is something suggested by it that is a newer testament,--thegospel according to this moment. He has not fallen astern; he has got upearly and kept up early, and to be where he is is to be in season, inthe foremost rank of time. It is an expression of the health andsoundness of Nature, a brag for all the world,--healthiness as of aspring burst forth, a new fountain of the Muses, to celebrate this lastinstant of time. Where he lives no fugitive slave laws are passed. Whohas not betrayed his master many times since last he heard thatnote?

The merit of this bird's strain is in its freedom from allplaintiveness. The singer can easily move us to tears or to laughter,but where is he who can excite in us a pure morning joy? When, indoleful dumps, breaking the awful stillness of our wooden sidewalk on aSunday, or, perchance, a watcher in the house of mourning, I hear aco*ckerel crow far or near, I think to myself, "There is one of uswell, at any rate,"--and with a sudden gush return to mysenses.

We had a remarkable sunset one day last November. I was walkingin a meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, justbefore setting, after a cold gray day, reached a clear stratum in thehorizon, and the softest, brightest morning sunlight fell on the drygrass and on the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon and on theleaves of the shrub-oaks on the hillside, while our shadows stretchedlong over the meadow eastward, as if we were the only motes in itsbeams. It was such a light as we could not have imagined a momentbefore, and the air also was so warm and serene that nothing was wantingto make a paradise of that meadow. When we reflected that this was not asolitary phenomenon, never to happen again, but that it would happenforever and ever an infinite number of evenings, and cheer and reassurethe latest child that walked there, it was more glorious still.

The sun sets on some retired meadow, where no house is visible,with all the glory and splendor that it lavishes on cities, andperchance as it has never set before,--where there is but a solitarymarsh-hawk to have his wings gilded by it, or only a musquash looks outfrom his cabin, and there is some little black-veined brook in the midstof the marsh, just beginning to meander, winding slowly round a decayingstump. We walked in so pure and bright a light, gilding the witheredgrass and leaves, so softly and serenely bright, I thought I had neverbathed in such a golden flood, without a ripple or a murmur to it. Thewest side of every wood and rising ground gleamed like the boundary ofElysium, and the sun on our backs seemed like a gentle herdsman drivingus home at evening.

So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shallshine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine intoour minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a greatawakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside inautumn.

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Job: National Engineer

Hobby: Listening to music, Board games, Photography, Ice skating, LARPing, Kite flying, Rugby

Introduction: My name is Barbera Armstrong, I am a lovely, delightful, cooperative, funny, enchanting, vivacious, tender person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.