April 1, 1841.
On the Sun Coming Out in the Afternoon.
Methinks all things have traveled since you shined,
But only Time and clouds, Time’s team, have moved;
Again foul weather shall not change my mind,
But in the shade I will believe what in the sun I loved.
* * *
April 1, 1852. Walden is all white ice, but little melted about the shore. The very sight of it when I get so far on the causeway, though I hear the spring note of the chickadee from over the ice, carries my thoughts back at once some weeks toward winter, and a chill comes over them. …
The mountains seen from Bare Hill are very fine now in the horizon, so evanescent, being broadly spotted white and blue like the skins of some animals, the white predominating. The Peterboro’ Hills to the north are almost all white. The snow has melted more on the more southern mountains. With their white mantles, notwithstanding the alternating dark patches, they melt into the sky. Yet perhaps the white portions may be distinguished by the peculiar light of the sun shining on them. …
I hear a robin singing in the woods south of Hosmer’s, just before sunset. It is a sound associated with New England village life. It brings to my thoughts summer evenings when the children are playing in the yards before the doors, and their parents, conversing, sit at the open windows. It foretells all this now, before those summer hours are come.
As I come over the turnpike, the song-sparrow’s jingle comes up from every part of the meadow, as native as the tinkling rills or the blossoms of the spiræa. … Its cheep is like the sound of opening buds.
* * *
April 1, 1853. The rain rests on the downy leaves of the young mulleins in separate, irregular drops, from the irregularity and color looking like ice. The drops quite in the cup of the mullein have a peculiar translucent silveriness, apparently because while they are upheld by the wool the light is reflected which would otherwise be absorbed, as if they were cased in light. The fresh mullein leaves are pushing up amid the brown, unsightly wrecks of last fall, which strew the ground like old clothes. … That early willow by Miles’s has been injured by the rain. The drops rest on the catkins as on the mullein. Though this began to open only day before yesterday, and was the earliest I could find, already I hear the well-known hum of a honey-bee, and one alights on it (also a fly or two), loads himself, circles round with a loud humming, and is off. Where the first willow catkin opens, there will be found the honey-bee also with it. He found this out as soon as I. The stamens have burst out on the side towards the top, like a sheaf of spears, thrust forth to encounter the sun, — so many spears as the garrison can spare, advanced into the summer. With this flower, so much more flower-like or noticeable than any yet, begins a new era in the flower season.
* * *
April 1, 1854. The tree-sparrows, hiemalis, and song-sparrows are particularly lively and musical in the yard this rainy and truly April day. The robin now begins to sing powerfully.
* * *
p.m. Up Assabet to Dodge’s Brook; thence to Farmer’s. April has begun like itself. It is warm and showery, while I sail away with a light southwest wind toward the rock. Sometimes the sun seems just ready to burst out, yet I know it will not. The meadow is becoming bare. It resounds with the sprayey notes of blackbirds. The birds sing this warm and showery day after a fortnight’s cold (yesterday was wet, too), with a universal burst and flood of melody. Great flocks of hiemalis, etc., pass overhead like schools of fishes in the water, many abreast. The white-maple stamens are beginning to peep out from the wet and weather-beaten buds. The earliest alders are just ready to bloom, to show their yellow on the first decidedly warm and sunny day. The water is smooth at last, and dark. lce no longer forms on the oars. It is pleasant to paddle under the dripping hemlocks this dark day. They make more of a wilderness impression than pines. … The hiemalis is in the largest flocks of any at this season. Now see them come drifting over a rising ground, just like snowflakes before a northeast wind!
* * *
April 1, 1855. When I look out the window, I see that the grass on the bank on the south side of the house is already much greener than it was yesterday. As it cannot have grown so suddenly, how shall I account for it? I suspect the reason is that the few green blades are not merely washed bright by the rain, but erect themselves to imbibe its influence, and so are more prominent, while the withered blades are beaten down and flattened by it.
* * *
April 1, 1858. I saw a squirrel’s nest twenty-three or twenty-four feet high in a maple, and climbing to it (for it was so peculiar, having a basket-work of twigs about it, that I did not know but it was a hawk’s nest) I found that it was a very perfect (probably) red squirrel’s nest, made entirely of the now very dark or blackish-green moss, such as grows on the button-bush and on the swampy ground, — a dense mass of it, about one foot through, wattled together, with an inobvious hole on the east side. A tuft of loose moss blowing up about it seemed to answer for a door or porch-covering. The cavity within was quite small, but very snug and warm, where one or two squirrels might lie warm in the severest storm, the dense moss walls being three inches thick, or more. But what was most peculiar was that the nest, though placed over the centre of the tree, where it divided into four or five branches, was regularly and elaborately hedged about and supported by a basket-work of strong twigs stretched across from bough to bough; which twigs I perceived had been gnawed green from the maple itself, the stub ends remaining visible all around. …
* * *
April 2, 1852. Six a.m. To the river-side and Merrick’s pasture. The sun is up. The water in the meadows is perfectly smooth and placid, reflecting the hills and clouds and trees. The air is full of the notes of birds: song-sparrows, redwings, robins (singing a strain), bluebirds, and I hear also a lark, as if all the earth had burst forth into song. The influence of this April morning has reached them, for they live out-of-doors all the night, and there is no danger they will oversleep themselves such a morning. A few weeks ago, before the birds had come, there came to my mind in the night the twittering sound of birds in the early dawn of a spring morning, — a semi-prophecy of it, — and last night I attended mentally; as if I heard the spray-like dreaming sound of the midsummer frog, and realized how glorious and full of revelations it was. The clouds are white, watery, not such as we had in the winter. I see in this fresh morning the shells left by the musk-rats along the shore, and their galleries leading into the meadow, and the bright red cranberries washed up along the shore in the old water-mark. Suddenly there is a blur on the placid surface of the waters, a rippling mistiness, produced, as it were, by a slight morning breeze, and I should be sorry to show it to a stranger now. So is it with our minds. …
How few valuable observations can we make in youth! What if there were united the susceptibility of youth with the discrimination of age! Once I was part and parcel of nature; now I am observant of her. …
It appears to me that to one standing on the heights of philosophy mankind and the works of man will have sunk out of sight altogether; that man is altogether too much insisted on. The poet says the proper study of mankind is man. I say, study to forget all that; take wider views of the universe. That is the egotism of the race. What is this our childish, gossiping, social literature, mainly in the hands of the publishers? Another poet says, “The world is too much with us.” He means, of course, that man is too much with us. In the promulgated views of man in institutions, in the common sense, there is narrowness and delusion. It is our weakness that so exaggerates the virtue of philanthropy and charity, and makes it the highest human attribute. The world will sooner or later tire of philanthropy, and all religion based on it mainly. They cannot long sustain my spirit. In order to avoid delusions, I would fain let man go by, and behold a universe in which man is but a grain of sand. I am sure that those of my thoughts which consist or are contemporaneous with social, personal connections, however humane, are not the wisest and widest, most universal. What is the village, city, State, nation, aye, the citizen’s world, that they should concern a man so much? The thought of them affects me in my wisest hours as when I pass a woodchuck’s hole. It is a comfortable place to nestle in, no doubt, and we have friends—some sympathizing ones, it may be—and a hearth there; but I have only to get up at midnight, ay, to soar or wander a little in my thought by day, to find them all slumbering. Look at our literature; what a poor, puny, social thing, seeking sympathy! The author troubles himself about his readers, would fain have one before he dies. He stands too near his printer; he corrects the proofs. Not satisfied with defiling one another in this world, we would all go to heaven together. To be a good man (that is, a good neighbor in the widest sense) is but little more than to be a good citizen. Mankind is a gigantic institution; it is a community to which most men belong. It is a test I would apply to my companion. Can he forget man? Can he see the world slumbering? I do not value any view of the universe into which man and the institutions of man enter very largely and absorb much attention. Man is but the place where I stand, and the prospect hence is infinite. The universe is not a chamber of mirrors which reflect me when I reflect. I find that there is other than me. Man is a past phenomenon to philosophy; the universe is larger than enough for man’s abode. Some rarely go out-doors; most are always at home at night; very few indeed have stayed out all night once in their lives; fewer still have gone behind the world of humanity, seen its institutions like toadstools by the wayside. …
* * *
April 2, 1853. The tree-sparrows and a few blue snow-birds in company sing (the former) very sweetly in the garden this morning. I now see a faint spot on the breast. It says something like a “twee, twee, chit chit, chit-chit-chee-var-r.” …
The farmers are trembling for their poultry nowadays. I heard the screams of hens and a tumult among their mistresses (at Dugan’s) calling them and scaring away the hawk yesterday. They say they do not lose by hawks in midsummer. White quotes Linnæus as saying of hawks, “Paciscuntur inducias cum avibus quamdiu cucius cucullat,” but White doubts it. … The song-sparrows, the three-spotted, away by the meadow-sides, are very shy and cunning: instead of flying, will frequently trot along the ground under the bushes, or dodge through a wall like a swallow; and I have observed that they generally bring some object, as a rail or branch, between themselves and the face of the walker, — often with outstretched necks will peep at him for five or ten minutes. …
Heard and saw what I call the pine warbler, — “vetter, vetter, vetter, vetter, vet,” — the cool woodland sound. The first this year of the higher-colored birds, after the bluebird and the blackbird’s wing, is it not? It affects me as something more tender. …
We cannot well afford not to see the geese go over a single spring, and so commence our year regularly.
* * *
April 2, 1854. p.m. To Conantum via Nutmeadow Brook. Saw black ducks in water and on land. Can see their light throats a great way off with my glass. They do not dive, but dip. …
The radical leaves of some plants appear to have started, look brighter, — the shepherd spurse and plainly the skunk’s cabbage. In the brook there is the least possible springing yet, — a little yellow lily in the ditch, and sweet-flag starting. I was just sitting on the rail over the brook when I heard something which reminded me of the song of the robin in rainy days in past springs. Why is it that not the note itself, but something which reminds me of it, should affect me most? — the ideal instead of the actual. …
The tree-sparrows make the alders, etc., ring. They have a metallic chirp and a short canary-like warble. They keep company with the hiemalis.
* * *
April 2, 1855. Green is essentially vivid or the color of life, and it is therefore most brilliant when a plant is moist or most alive. … The word, according to Webster, is from the Saxon grêne, to grow, and hence is the color of herbage when growing.
* * *
April 2, 1856. It is evident that it depends on the character of the season whether this flower or that is the most forward, whether there is more or less snow, or cold, or rain, etc. I am tempted to stretch myself on the bare ground above the Cliff, to feel its warmth on my back and smell the earth and the dry leaves. I see and hear flies and bees about. A large buff-edged butterfly flutters by along the edge of the Cliff, Vanessa antiopa. Though so little of the earth is bare, this frail creature has been warmed into life again. Here is the broken shell of one of those large white snails, Helix albolabris, on the top of the Cliff. I am rejoiced to find anything so pretty. I cannot but think it nobler, as it is rarer, to appreciate some beauty than to feel much sympathy with misfortune. The powers are kinder to me when they permit me to enjoy this beauty than if they were to express any amount of compassion for me. I could never excuse them that.
* * *
April 2, 1858. At the spring on the west side of Fairhaven Hill I startle a striped snake. It is a large one, with a white stripe down the dorsal ridge between two black ones, and on each side the last a buff one, and blotchy brown sides, darker towards the tail. Beneath, greenish-yellow. This snake generally has a pinkish cast. There is another, evidently of the same species, but not half so large, with its neck lying affectionately across the first. When seen by itself you might have thought of a distinct species. The dorsal line on this one is bright yellow, though not so bright as the lateral ones and the yellow about the head. Also, the black is more glossy, and this snake has no pink cast. No doubt on almost every such warm bank now you will find a snake lying out. … They allowed me to lift their heads with a stick four or five inches without stirring, nor did they mind the flies that alighted on them, looking steadily at me without the slightest motion of head, body, or eyes, as if they were of marble; and as you looked back at them, you continually forgot that they were real, and not imaginary.
On the side of Fairhaven Hill I go looking for baywings, turning my glass to each sparrow on a rock or tree. At last I see one which flies up straight from a rock eighty or one hundred feet, and warbles a peculiar, long, and pleasant strain, after the manner of the skylark, methinks; and close by I see another, apparently a baywing (though I do not see the white on its tail), and it utters, while sitting, the same subdued, rather peculiar strain. …
It is not important that the poet should say some particular thing, but that he should speak in harmony with nature. The tone and pitch of his voice is the main thing.
It appears to me that the wisest philosophers I know are as foolish as Sancho Panza dreaming of his island. Considering the ends they propose and the obstructions in their path, they are even. One philosopher is feeble enough alone; but observe how each multiplies his difficulties, — by how many unnecessary links he allies himself to the existing state of things. He girds himself for his enterprise with fasting and prayer, and then, instead of pressing forward like a light-armed soldier, with the fewest possible hindrances, he at once hooks on to some immovable institution, and begins to sing and scratch gravel towards his objects. Why, it is as much as the strongest man can do decently to bury his friends and relations, without making a new world of it. But if the philosopher is as foolish as Sancho Panza, he is also as wise, and nothing so truly makes a thing so or so as thinking it so.
* * *
April 2, 1859. As I go down the street just after sunset, I hear many snipe tonight. At this hour, that is, in the twilight, they make a hovering sound high in the air over the villa des, and the inhabitants do not know what to refer it to. It is very easily imitated by a sort of shuddering with the breath. It reminds me of calmer nights. Hardly one in a hundred hears it, and perhaps not nearly so many know what creature makes it. Perhaps no one dreamed of snipe an hour ago, and the air seemed empty of such as they; but as soon as the dusk begins so that a bird’s flight is concealed, you hear this peculiar, spirit-suggesting sound, now far, now near, heard through and above the evening din of the village. I did not hear one when I returned up the street half an hour later.
* * *
April 3, 1841. Friends will not only live in harmony, but in melody.
* * *
April 3, 1842. I can remember when I was more enriched by a few cheap rays of light falling on the pond side than by this broad sunny day. Riches have wings, indeed. The weight of present woe will express the sweetness of past experience. When sorrow comes, how easy it is to remember pleasure! When in winter the bees cannot make new honey, they consume the old.
Experience is in the head and fingers. The heart is inexperienced. …
I have just heard the flicker among the oaks on the hill-side ushering in a new dynasty. It is the age and youth of time. Why did nature set this lure for sickly mortals? Eternity could not begin with more security and momentousness than the spring. The summer’s eternity is reëstablished by this note. All sights and sounds are seen and heard both in time and eternity; and when the eternity of any sight or sound strikes the eye or ear, they are intoxicated with delight.
Sometimes, as through a dim haze, we see objects in their eternal relations. They stand like Stonehenge and the Pyramids, and we wonder who set them up, and what for.
The destiny of the soul can never be studied by the reason, for the modes of the latter are not ecstatic. In the wisest calculation or demonstration I but play a game with myself. I am not to be taken captive by myself. I cannot convince myself. God must convince. I can calculate a problem in arithmetic, but not any morality. Virtue is incalculable, as it is inestimable. Man’s destiny is but virtue or manhood. It is wholly moral to be learned only by the life of the soul. The reason, before it can be applied to such a subject, will have to fetter and restrict it. How can he, step by step, perform that long journey who has not conceived whither he is bound? How can he expect to perform an arduous journey without interruption who has no passport to the end? On this side of man is the actual, and on the other the ideal. The former is the province of the reason, which is even a divine light when directed upon that, but it cannot reach forward into the ideal without blindness. The moon was made to rule by night, but the sun to rule by day. Reason will be but a pale cloud like the moon when one ray of divine light comes to illumine the soul.
* * *
April 3, 1852. They call that northernmost sea, thought to be free from ice, “Polina.” The coldest natures, persevere with them, go far enough, are found to have open sea in the highest latitudes.
* * *
April 3, 1853. Nothing is more saddening than an ineffectual, proud intercourse with those of whom we expect sympathy and encouragement. I repeatedly find myself drawn toward certain persons but to be disappointed. No concessions which are not radical are the least satisfaction. By myself I can live and thrive, but in the society of incompatible friends I starve. To cultivate their society is to cherish a sore which can only be healed by abandoning them. I cannot trust my neighbor whom I know any more than I can trust the law of gravitation and jump off the Cliffs.
The last two Tribunes I have not looked at. I have no time to read newspapers. If you chance to live and move and have your being in that thin stratum in which the events which make the news transpire, thinner than the paper on which it is printed, then these things will fill the world for you. But if von soar above or dive below that plane, you cannot remember nor be reminded of them.
* * *
p.m. To Cliffs. At Hayden’s I hear hylas on two keys or notes. Heard one after the other; the sounds might be mistaken for the varied note of one. The little croakers, too, are very lively there. I get close to them, and witness a great commotion, they half-hopping and half-swimming about with their heads out, apparently in pursuit of each other, perhaps thirty or forty within a few square yards, and fifteen or twenty within one yard. There is not only the incessant lively croaking of many together, as usually heard, but a lower, hoarser, squirming kind of croak, perhaps from the other sex. As I approach nearer, they disperse and bury themselves in the grass at the bottom, only one or two remaining outstretched upon the surface; and at another step, these too conceal themselves.
* * *
April 3, 1856. p.m. To Hunt’s Bridge. It is surprising how the earth on south banks begins to show some greenness in its russet cheeks in this rain and fog, — a precious emerald-green tinge, almost like a green mildew, the growth of the night, a green blush suffusing her cheek, heralded by twittering birds. This sight is no less interesting than the corresponding bloom and ripe blush of the fall. How encouraging to perceive again that faint tinge of green spreading amid the russet on earth’s cheeks! I revive with Nature. Her victory is mine. This is my jewelry. …
I see small flocks of robins running on the bared portions of the meadow; hear the sprayey tinkle of the song-sparrow along the hedges. Hear also the squeaking notes of an advancing flock of red-wings or grackles (am uncertain which make that sound) somewhere high in the sky. At length detect them high overhead, advancing northeast in loose array, with broad, extended front, competing with each other, winging their way to some northern meadow which they remember. The note of some is like the squeaking of many signs, while others accompany them with a steady, dry “tchuk-tchuk.”
H—— is overhauling a vast heap of manure in the rear of his barn, turning the ice within it up to the light. Yet he asks despairingly what life is for, and says he does not expect to stay here long. But I have just come from reading Columella, who describes the same kind of spring look in that, to him, new spring of the world with hope, and I suggest to be brave and hopeful with nature. Human life may be transitory and full of trouble, but the perennial mind whose survey extends from that spring to this, from Columella to H——, is superior to change. I will identify myself with that which did not die with Columella and will not die with H——.
Coming home along the causeway, I hear a robin sing (though faintly) as in May. The road is a path, here and there shoveled through drifts which are considerably higher than a man’s head on each side.
* * *
April 3, 1858. Going down town this morning, I am surprised by the rich strain of the purple finch from the elms. Three or four have arrived and lodged against the elms of our street, which runs east and west across their course, and they are now mingling their loud, rich strain with that of the tree-sparrows, robins, bluebirds, etc. The hearing of this note implies some improvement in the acoustics of the air. It reminds me of that genial state of the air when the elms are in bloom. They sit still over the street, and make a business of warbling. They advertise one, surely, of some additional warmth and serenity. How their note rings over the roofs of the village! You wonder that even the sleepers are not awakened by it, to inquire who is there. And yet probably not another in all the town observes their coming, and not half a dozen ever distinguish them in their lives. But the very mob of the town know the hard names of Germanians or Swiss families who once sang here or elsewhere. …
When I have been out thus the whole day, and spend the whole afternoon returning, it seems to me pitiful and ineffectual to be out, as usual, only in the afternoon, — as if you had come late to a feast, after your betters had done. The afternoon seems at best a long twilight after the fresh and bright forenoon.
The gregariousness of men is their most contemptible and discouraging aspect. See how they follow each other like sheep, not knowing why! Day and Martin’s blacking was preferred by the last generation, and also is by this. They have not so good a reason for preferring this or that religion. Apparently, in ancient times several parties were nearly equally matched. They appointed a committee and made a compromise, agreeing to vote or believe so and so, and they still helplessly abide by that. Men are the inveterate foes of all improvement. Generally speaking, they think more of their hen-houses than of any desirable heaven. If you aspire to anything better than politics, expect no coöperation from men. They will not further anything good. You must prevail of your own force, as a plant sprints and grows by its own vitality.
* * *
April 3, 1859. The bæomyces is in perfection this rainy day. I have for some weeks been insisting on the beauty and richness of the moist and saturated crust of the earth. It has seemed to me more attractive and living than ever, a very sensitive cuticle, teeming with life, especially in the rainy days. I have looked on it as the skin of a pard. And on a more close examination I am borne out by discovering in this now so bright bæomyces, and in other earthy lichens, and in cladonias, and also in the very pretty red and yellow stemmed mosses, a manifest sympathy with and an expression of the general life of the crust. This early and hardy cryptogamous vegetation is, as it were, a flowering of the crust of the earth. Lichens and these mosses which depend on moisture are now most rampant. If you examine it, this brown earth crust is not dead. We need a popular name for the bæomyces. C—— suggests “pink mold.” Perhaps “pink shot or eggs” would do. …
Men’s minds run so much on work and money that the mass instantly associate all literary labor with a pecuniary reward. They are mainly curious to know how much money the lecturer or another gets for his work. They think that the naturalist takes so much pains to collect plants or animals because he is paid for it. An Irishman who saw me in the fields making a minute in my note-book took it for granted that I was casting up my wages, and actually inquired what they came to, as if he had never dreamed of any other use for writing. I might have quoted to him that the wages of sin are death, as the most pertinent answer. What do you get for lecturing now? I am occasionally asked. It is the more amusing, since I only lecture about once a year out of my native town, often not at all; so that I might, if my objects were merely pecuniary, give up the business. Once, when I was walking in Staten Island, looking about me, as usual, a man who saw me would not believe me when I told him that I was indeed from New England, but was not looking at that region with a pecuniary view, — a view to speculation; and he offered me a handsome bonus if I would sell his farm for him.
* * *
April 4, 1839. The atmosphere of morning gives a healthy hue to our prospects. Disease is a sluggard that overtakes, never encounters us. We have the start each day, and may fairly distance him before the dew is off; but if we recline in the bowers of noon, he will, after all, come up with us. The morning dew breeds no cold. We enjoy a diurnal reprieve in the beginning of each day’s creation. In the morning we do not believe in expediency; we will start afresh, and have no patching, no temporary fixtures. In the afternoon man has an interest in the past; his eye is divided, and he sees indifferently well either way.
Drifting in a sultry day on the sluggish waters of the pond, I almost cease to live, and begin to be. A boatman stretched on the deck of his craft, and dallying with the noon, would be as apt an emblem of eternity for me as the serpent with his tail in his mouth. I am never so prone to lose my identity. I am dissolved in the haze.
* * *
April 4, 1841. The rattling of the tea-kettle below stairs reminds me of the cowbells I used to hear when berrying in the Great Fields many years ago, sounding distant and deep amid the birches. That cheap piece of tinkling brass which the farmer hangs about his cow’s neck has been more to me than the tons of metal which are swung in the belfry.
* * *
April 4, 1852. It is refreshing to stand on the face of the Cliff and see the water gliding over the surface of the almost perpendicular rock in a broad, thin sheet, pulsing over it. It reflects the sun for half a mile like a patch of snow. As you stand close by, it brings out the colors of the lichens like polishing or varnish. It is admirable regarded as a dripping fountain. You have lichens and moss on the surface, and starting saxifrage, ferns still green, and huckleberry bushes in the crevices. The rocks never appear so diversified and cracked, as if the chemistry of nature were now in full force. Then the drops falling perpendicularly from a projecting rock have a pleasing geometrical effect.
I see the snow lying thick on the south side of the Peterboro’ Hills, and, though the ground is bare from the sea-shore to their base, I presume it is covered with snow from their base to the icy sea. I feel the raw air, cooled by the snow, on my cheek. Those hills are probably the dividing line at present between the bare ground and the snow-clad ground stretching three thousand miles to the Saskatchewan and Mackenzie, and the icy sea.
* * *
April 4, 1853. p.m. Rain, rain. To Clematis Brook via Lee’s Bridge. Again I notice that early reddish or purplish grass that lies flat on the pools, like a warm blush suffusing the youthful face of the year. A warm, dripping rain heard on one’s umbrella as on a snug roof, and on the leaves without, suggests comfort. We go abroad with a slow but sure contentment, like turtles under their shells. We never feel so comfortable as when we are abroad in a storm with satisfaction. Our comfort is positive then. We are all compact, and our thoughts collected. We walk under the clouds and mists as under a roof. Now we seem to hear the ground a-soaking up the rain, which does not fall ineffectually, as on a frozen surface. We too are penetrated and revived by it. Robins still sing, and song-sparrows more or less, and blackbirds, and the unfailing jay screams. How the thirsty grass rejoices! It has pushed up visibly since morning, and fields that were completely russet yesterday are already tinged with green. We rejoice with the grass. I hear the hollow sound of drops falling into the water under Hubbard’s Bridge, and each one makes a conspicuous bubble which is floated down stream. Instead of ripples, there are a myriad dimples in the stream. The lichens remember the sea to-day; the usually dry cladonias which are so crisp under the feet are full of moist vigor. The rocks speak, and tell the tales inscribed on them. Their inscriptions are brought out. I pause to study their geography. At Conantum-end I saw a red-tailed hawk launch himself away from an oak by the pond at my approach, — a heavy flyer, flapping even like the great bittern at first. Heavy forward. After turning Lee’s Cliff, I heard, methought, more birds singing even than in fair weather, — tree-sparrows, whose song has the character of the canary’s (Fringilla hiemalis) chill-till, the sweet strains of the fox-colored sparrow, song-sparrows, a nut-hatch, jays, crows, bluebirds, robins, and a large congregation of blackbirds. They suddenly alight with great din in a stubble field just over the wall, not perceiving me and my umbrella behind the pitch-pines, and there feed silently. Then, getting uneasy or anxious, they fly up on to an apple-tree, where, being reassured, commences a rich but deafening concert, — “o-gurgle-ee-e, o gurgle-ee-e,” — some of the most liquid notes ever heard, as if produced by some of the water of the Pierian spring flowing through a kind of musical water pipe, and at the same time setting in motion a multitude of fine vibrating metallic springs. Like a shepherd merely meditating most enrapturing glees on such a water pipe. A more liquid bagpipe or clarionet, immersed like bubbles in a thousand sprayey notes, the bubbles half lost in the spray. When I show myself, away they go with a loud, harsh “charr-charr-r.” At first I had heard an inundation of blackbirds approaching, some beating time with a loud “chuck-chuck,” while the rest played a hurried, gurgling fugue.
A rainy day is to the walker in solitude and retirement like the night. Few travelers are about, and they half-hidden under umbrellas and confined to the highways. The thoughts run in a different channel from usual. It is somewhat like the dark day; it is a light night. How cheerful the roar of a brook swollen by the rain, especially if there is no sound of the mill in it! A woodcock went off from the shore of Clematis or Nightshade pond with a few slight, rapid sounds like a watchman’s rattle half-revolved.
* * *
April 4, 1855. p.m. To Clematis Brook via Lee’s. A pleasant day; growing warmer; a slight haze. Now the hedges and apple-trees are alive with fox-colored sparrows all over the town, and their imperfect strains are occasionally heard.
It is a fine air, but more than tempered by the snow in the northwest. All the earth is bright; the very pines glisten, and the water is a bright blue. A gull is circling round Fairhaven Pond, seen white against the woods and hill-sides, looking as if it would dive for a fish every moment, and occasionally resting on the ice. The water above Lee’s Bridge is all alive with ducks. There are many flocks of eight or ten together, their black heads and white breasts seen above the water, — more of them than I have seen before this season, — and a gull with its whole body above the water, perhaps standing where it is shallow.
Not only are the evergreens brighter, but the pools, as that upland one behind Lee’s, the ice as well as snow about their edges being completely melted, have a peculiarly warm and bright April look, as if ready to be inhabited by frogs. …
Returning from Mt. Misery, the pond and river each presented a fine warm view. The slight haze which, in a warmer day at this season, softens the rough surface which the winter has left, and fills the copses seemingly with life, made the landscape remarkably fair. There is a remarkable variety in the view at present from this summit. The sun feels as warm as in June on my ear. Half a mile off, in front, is this Elysian water, high over which two wild ducks are winging their rapid flight eastward through the bright air. On each side and beyond, the earth is clad with a warm russet, more pleasing perhaps than green; arid far beyond all, in the northwest horizon, my eye rests on a range of snow-covered mountains glistening in the sun.
* * *
April 4, 1860. The birds are eager to sing as the flowers to bloom, after raw weather has held them in check.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.