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Excursions by Henry D. Thoreau

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the marrow of koodoos devoured raw.

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

The African hunter Cummings tells us that the skin of the eland, as well
as that of most other antelopes just killed, emits the most delicious
perfume of trees and grass. I would have every man so much like a wild
antelope, so much a part and parcel of Nature, that his very person should
thus sweetly advertise our senses of his presence, and remind us of those
parts of Nature which he most haunts. I feel no disposition to be
satirical, when the trapper's coat emits the odor of musquash even; it is
a sweeter scent to me than that which commonly exhales from the merchant's
or the scholar's garments. When I go into their wardrobes and handle their
vestments, I am reminded of no grassy plains and flowery meads which they
have frequented, but of dusty merchants' exchanges and libraries rather.

A tanned skin is something more than respectable, and perhaps olive 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 pitied him. Darwin the
naturalist says, "A white man bathing by the side of a Tahitian was like a
plant bleached by the gardener's art, compared with a fine, dark green
one, growing vigorously in the open fields."

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. Not yet
subdued to man, its presence refreshes him. One who pressed forward
incessantly and never rested from his labors, who grew fast and made
infinite demands on life, would always find himself in a new country or
wilderness, and surrounded by the raw material of life. He would be
climbing over the prostrate stems of primitive forest-trees.

Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in
towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps. When,
formerly, I have analyzed my partiality for some farm which I had
contemplated purchasing, I have frequently found that I was attracted
solely by a few square rods of impermeable and unfathomable bog,--a
natural sink in one corner of it. That was the jewel which dazzled me. I
derive more of my subsistence from the swamps which surround my native
town than from the cultivated gardens in the village. There are no richer
parterres to my eyes than the dense beds of dwarf andromeda _(Cassandra
calyculata_) which cover these tender places on the earth's surface.
Botany cannot go farther than tell me the names of the shrubs which grow
there,--the high-blueberry, panicled andromeda, lamb-kill, azalea, and
rhodora,--all standing in the quaking sphagnum. I often think that I
should like to have my house front on this mass of dull red bushes,
omitting other flower plots and borders, transplanted spruce and trim box,
even gravelled walks,--to have this fertile spot under my windows, not a
few imported barrow-fulls of soil only to cover the sand which was thrown
out in digging the cellar. Why not put my house, my parlor, behind this
plot, instead of behind that meagre assemblage of curiosities, that poor
apology for a Nature and Art, which I call my front-yard? It is an effort
to clear up and make a decent appearance when the carpenter and mason have
departed, though done as much for the passer-by as the dweller within. The
most tasteful front-yard fence was never an agreeable object of study to
me; the most elaborate ornaments, acorn-tops, or what not, soon wearied
and disgusted me. Bring your sills up to the very edge of the swamp, then,
(though it may not be the best place for a dry cellar,) so that there be
no access on that side to citizens. Front-yards are not made to walk in,
but, at most, through, and you could go in the back way.

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

My spirits infallibly rise in proportion to the outward dreariness. Give
me the ocean, the desert or the wilderness! In the desert, pure air and
solitude compensate for want of moisture and fertility. The traveller
Burton says of it,--"Your _morale_ improves; you become frank and cordial,
hospitable and single-minded..... In the desert, spirituous liquors excite
only disgust. There is a keen enjoyment in a mere animal existence." They
who have been travelling long on the steppes of Tartary say,--"On
reëntering cultivated lands, the agitation, perplexity, and turmoil of
civilization oppressed and suffocated us; the air seemed to fail us, and
we felt every moment as if about to die of asphyxia." When I would
recreate myself, I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and most
interminable, and, to the citizen, most dismal swamp. I enter a swamp as a
sacred place,--a _sanctum sanctorum_. There is the strength, the marrow of
Nature. The wild-wood covers the virgin mould,--and the same soil is good
for men and for trees. A man's health requires as many acres of meadow to
his prospect as his farm does loads of muck. There are the strong meats on
which he feeds. A town is saved, not more by the righteous men in it than
by the woods and swamps that surround it. A township where one primitive
forest waves above, while another primitive forest rots below,--such a
town is fitted to raise not only corn and potatoes, but poets and
philosophers for the coming ages. In such a soil grew Homer and Confucius
and the rest, and out of such a wilderness comes the Reformer eating
locusts and wild honey.

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

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

It is said to be the task of the American "to work the virgin soil," and
that "agriculture here already assumes proportions unknown everywhere
else." I think that the farmer displaces the Indian even because he
redeems the meadow, and so makes himself stronger and in some respects
more natural. I was surveying for a man the other day a single straight
line one hundred and thirty-two rods long, through a swamp, at whose
entrance might have been written the words which Dante read over the
entrance to the infernal regions,--"Leave all hope, ye that enter,"--that
is, of ever getting out again; where at one time I saw my employer
actually up to his neck and swimming for his life in his property, though
it was still winter. He had another similar swamp which I could not survey
at all, because it was completely under water, and nevertheless, with
regard to a 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 any
consideration, on account of the mud which it contained. And that man
intends to put a girdling ditch round the whole in the course of forty
months, and so redeem it by the magic of his spade. I refer to him only as
the type of a class.

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

In Literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is but
another name for tameness. It is the uncivilized free and wild thinking in
"Hamlet" and the "Iliad," in all the Scriptures and Mythologies, not
learned in the schools, that delights us. As the wild duck is more swift
and beautiful than the tame, so is the wild--the mallard--thought, which
'mid falling dews wings its way above the fens. A truly good book is
something as natural, and as unexpectedly and unaccountably fair and
perfect, as a wild flower discovered on the prairies of the West or in the
jungles of the East. Genius is a light which makes the darkness visible,
like the lightning's flash, which perchance shatters the temple of
knowledge itself,--and not a taper lighted at the hearth-stone of the
race, which pales before the light of common day.

English literature, from the days of the minstrels to the Lake Poets,--
Chaucer and Spenser and Milton, and even Shakspeare, included,--breathes
no quite fresh and in this sense wild strain. It is an essentially tame
and civilized literature, reflecting Greece and Rome. Her wilderness is a
green wood,--her wild man a Robin Hood. There is plenty of genial love of
Nature, but not so much of Nature herself. Her chronicles inform us when
her wild animals, but not when the wild man in her, became extinct.

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

Where is the literature which gives expression to Nature? He would be a
poet who could impress the winds and streams into his service, 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 to his page with earth adhering
to their roots; whose words were so true and fresh and natural that they
would appear to expand like the buds at the approach of spring, though
they lay half-smothered between two musty leaves in a library,--ay, to
bloom and bear fruit there, after their kind, annually, for the faithful
reader, in sympathy with surrounding Nature.

I do not know of any poetry to quote which adequately expresses this
yearning for the Wild. Approached from this side, the best poetry is tame.
I do not know where to find in any literature, ancient or modern, any
account which contents me of that Nature with which even I am acquainted.
You will perceive that I demand something which no Augustan nor
Elizabethan age, which no _culture_, in short, can give. Mythology comes
nearer to it than anything. How much more fertile a Nature, at least, has
Grecian mythology its root in than English literature! Mythology is the
crop which the Old World bore before its soil was exhausted, before the
fancy and imagination were affected with blight; and which it still bears,
wherever its pristine vigor is unabated. All other literatures endure only
as the elms which overshadow our 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 it thrives.

The West is preparing to add its fables to those of the East. The valleys
of the Ganges, the Nile, and the Rhine, having yielded their crop, 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 a fiction of the past,--as
it is to some extent a fiction of the present,--the poets of the world
will be inspired by American mythology.

The wildest dreams of wild men, even, are not the less true, though they
may not recommend themselves to the sense which is most common among
Englishmen and Americans today. It is not every truth that recommends
itself to the common sense. Nature has a place for the wild clematis as
well as for the cabbage. Some expressions of truth are reminiscent,--
others merely _sensible_, as the phrase is,--others prophetic. 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, have their prototypes in the
forms of fossil species which were extinct before man was created, and
hence "indicate a faint and shadowy knowledge of a previous state of
organic existence." The Hindoos dreamed that the earth rested on an
elephant, and the elephant on a tortoise, and the tortoise on a serpent;
and though it may be an unimportant coincidence, it will not be out of
place here to state, that a fossil tortoise has lately been discovered in
Asia large enough to support an elephant. I confess that I am partial to
these wild fancies, which transcend the order of time and development.
They are the sublimest recreation of the intellect. The partridge loves
peas, but not those that go with her into the pot.

In short, all good things are wild and free. There is something in
a strain of music, whether produced by an instrument or by the human
voice,--take the sound of a bugle in a summer night, for instance,--which
by its wildness, to speak without satire, reminds me of the cries emitted
by wild beasts in their native forests. It is so much of their wildness as
I can understand. Give me for my friends and neighbors wild men, not tame
ones. The wildness of the savage is but a faint symbol of the awful ferity
with which good men and lovers meet.

I love even to see the domestic animals reassert their native rights,--any
evidence that they have not wholly lost their original wild habits and
vigor; as when my neighbor's cow breaks out of her pasture early in the
spring and boldly swims the river, a cold, gray tide, twenty-five or
thirty rods wide, swollen by the melted snow. It is the buffalo crossing
the Mississippi. This exploit confers some dignity on the herd in my
eyes,--already dignified. The seeds of instinct are preserved under the
thick hides of cattle and horses, like seeds in the bowels of the earth,
an indefinite period.

Any sportiveness in cattle is unexpected. I saw one day a herd of a dozen
bullocks and cows running about and frisking in unwieldly sport, like huge
rats, even like kittens. They shook their heads, raised their tails, and
rushed up and down a hill, and I perceived by their horns, as well as by
their activity, their relation to the deer tribe. But, alas! a sudden loud
_Whoa_! would have damped their ardor at once, reduced them from venison
to beef, and stiffened their sides and sinews like the locomotive. Who but
the Evil One has cried, "Whoa!" to mankind? Indeed, the life of cattle,
like that of many men, is but a sort of locomotiveness; they move a side
at a time, and man, by his machinery, is meeting the horse and the ox
half-way. Whatever part the whip has touched is thenceforth palsied. Who
would ever think of a _side_ of 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 they can be made
the slaves of men, and that men themselves have some, wild oats still left
to sow before they become submissive members of society. Undoubtedly, all
men are not equally fit subjects for civilization; and because the
majority, like dogs and sheep, are tame by inherited disposition, this is
no reason why the others should have their natures broken that they may be
reduced to the same level. Men are in the main alike, 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 as another; if a high one,
individual excellence is to be regarded. Any man can stop a hole to keep
the wind away, but no other man could serve so rare a use as the author of
this illustration did. Confucius says,--"The skins of the tiger and the
leopard, when they are tanned, are as the skins of the dog and the sheep
tanned." But it is not the part of a true culture to tame tigers, any more
than it is to make sheep ferocious; and tanning their skins for shoes is
not the best use to which they can be put.

When looking over a list of men's names in a foreign language, as of
military officers, or of authors who have written on a particular subject,
I am reminded once more that there is nothing in a name. The name
Menschikoff, for instance, has nothing in it to my ears more human than a
whisker, and it may belong to a rat. As the names of the Poles and
Russians are to us, so are ours to them. It is as if they had 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 over the earth, and to each
the herdsman has affixed some barbarous sound in his own dialect. The
names of men are of course as cheap and meaningless as _Bose_ and _Tray_,
the names of dogs.

Methinks it would be some advantage to philosophy, if men were named
merely in the gross, as they are known. It would be necessary only to know
the genus and perhaps the race or variety, to know the individual. We are
not prepared to believe that every private soldier in a Roman army had a
name of his own,--because we have not supposed that he 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 his playmates, and this
rightly supplanted his Christian name. Some travellers tell us that an
Indian had no name given him at first, but earned it, and his name was his
fame; and among some tribes he acquired a new name with every new exploit.
It is pitiful when a man bears a name for convenience merely, who has
earned neither name nor fame.

I will not allow mere names to make distinctions for me, but still see men
in herds for all them. A familiar name cannot make a man less strange to
me. It may be given to a savage who retains in secret his own wild title
earned in the woods. We have a wild savage in us, and a savage name is
perchance somewhere recorded as ours. I see that my neighbor, who bears
the familiar epithet William, or Edwin, takes it off with his jacket. It
does not adhere to him when asleep or in anger, or aroused by any passion
or inspiration. I seem to hear pronounced by some of his kin at such a
time his original wild name in some jaw-breaking or else melodious tongue.

Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours, Nature, lying all
around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as the
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,--a sort of
breeding in and in, which produces at most a merely English nobility, a
civilization destined to have a speedy limit.

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

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

There may be an excess even of informing light. Niépce, a Frenchman,
discovered "actinism," that power in the sun's rays which produces a
chemical effect,--that granite rocks, and stone structures, and statues of
metal, "are all alike destructively acted upon during the hours of
sunshine, and, but for provisions of Nature no less wonderful, would soon
perish under the delicate touch of the most subtile of the agencies of
the universe." But he observed that "those bodies which underwent this
change during the daylight possessed the power of restoring themselves to
their original conditions during the hours of night, when this excitement
was no-longer influencing them." Hence it has been inferred that "the
hours of darkness are as necessary to the inorganic creation as we know
night and sleep are to the organic kingdom." Not even does the moon shine
every 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 be tillage,
but the greater part will be meadow and forest, not only serving an
immediate use, but preparing a mould against a distant future, by the
annual decay of the vegetation which it supports.

There are other letters for the child to learn than those which Cadmus
invented. The Spaniards have a good term to express this wild and dusky
knowledge,--_Gramática parda_, tawny grammar,--a kind of mother-wit
derived 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 is equal need
of a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Ignorance, what we will call
Beautiful Knowledge, a knowledge useful in a higher sense: for what is
most of our boasted so-called knowledge but a conceit that we know
something, which robs us of the advantage of our actual ignorance? What we
call knowledge is often our positive ignorance; ignorance our negative
knowledge. By long years of patient industry and reading of the
newspapers,--for what are the libraries of science but files of
newspapers?--a man accumulates a myriad facts, lays them up in his memory,
and then when in some spring of his life he saunters abroad into the Great
Fields of thought, he, as it were, goes to grass like a horse, and leaves
all his harness behind in the stable. I would say to the Society 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 of May; though I have
heard of one unnatural farmer who kept his cow in the barn and fed her on
hay all the year round. So, frequently, the Society for the Diffusion of
Useful Knowledge treats its cattle.

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

My desire for knowledge is intermittent; but my desire to bathe my head in
atmospheres unknown to my feet is perennial and constant. The highest that
we can attain to is not Knowledge, but Sympathy with Intelligence. I do
not know that this higher knowledge amounts to anything more definite than
a novel and grand surprise on a sudden revelation of the insufficiency of
all that we called Knowledge before,--a discovery that there are more
things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy. It is
the lighting up of the mist by the sun. Man cannot _know_ in any higher
sense than this, any more than he can look serenely and with impunity in
the face of sun: [Greek: 'Os thi noon, ou keiuou uoaeseis],--"You will not
perceive that, as perceiving a particular thing," say the Chaldean

There is something servile in the habit of seeking after a law which we
may obey. We may study the laws of matter at and for our convenience, but
a successful life knows no law. It is an unfortunate discovery certainly,
that of a law which binds us where we did not know before that we were
bound. Live free, child of the mist,--and with respect to knowledge we are
all children of the mist. The man who takes the liberty to live is
superior to all the laws, by virtue of his relation to the law-maker.
"That is active duty," says the Vishnu Parana, "which is not for our
bondage; that is knowledge which is for our liberation: all other duty is
good only unto weariness; all other knowledge is only the cleverness of an

* * * * *

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

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

"Gentle breeze, that wanderest unseen,
And bendest the thistles round Loira of storms,
Traveller 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 relation to Nature men appear to me
for the most part, notwithstanding their arts, lower than the animals. It
is not often a beautiful relation, as in the case of the animals. How
little appreciation of the beauty of the landscape there is among us! We
have to be told that the Greeks called the world [Greek: Kosmos], Beauty,
or Order, but we do not see clearly why they did so, and we esteem it at
best only a curious philological fact.

For my part, I feel that with regard to Nature I live a sort of border
life, on the confines of a world into which I make occasional and
transional and transient forays only, and my patriotism and allegiance
to the State into whose territories I seem to retreat are those of a
moss-trooper. Unto a life which I call natural I would gladly follow even
a will-o'-the-wisp through bogs and sloughs unimaginable, but no moon nor
fire-fly has shown me the causeway to it. Nature is a personality so vast
and universal that we have never seen one of her features. The walker in
the familiar fields which stretch around my native town sometimes finds
himself in another land than is described in their owners' deeds, as it
were in some far-away field on the confines of the actual Concord, where
her jurisdiction ceases, and the idea which the word Concord suggests
ceases to be suggested. These farms which I have myself surveyed, these
bounds which I have set up, appear dimly still as through a mist; but they
have no chemistry to fix them; they fade from the surface of the glass;
and the picture which the painter painted stands out dimly from beneath.
The world with which we are commonly acquainted leaves no trace, and it
will have no anniversary.

I took a walk on Spaulding's Farm the other afternoon. I saw the 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 noble hall. I was
impressed as if some ancient and altogether admirable and shining family
had settled there in that part of the land called Concord, unknown to
me,--to whom the sun was servant,--who had not gone into society in
the village,--who had not been called on. I saw their park, their
pleasure-ground, beyond through the wood, in Spaulding's cranberry-meadow.
The pines furnished them with gables as they grew. Their house was not
obvious, to vision; the trees grew through it. I do not know whether I
heard the sounds of a suppressed hilarity or not. They seemed to recline
on the sunbeams. They have sons and daughters. They are quite well. The
farmer's cart-path, which leads directly through their hall, does not in
the least put them out,--as the muddy bottom of a pool is sometimes seen
through the reflected skies. They never heard of Spaulding, and do not
know that he is their neighbor,--notwithstanding I heard him whistle as he
drove his team through the house. Nothing can equal the serenity of their
lives. Their coat 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
weaving or spinning. Yet I did detect, when the wind lulled and hearing
was done away, the finest imaginable sweet musical hum,--as of a distant
hive in May, which perchance was the sound of their thinking. They had no
idle thoughts, and no one without could see their work, for their industry
was not as in knots and excrescences embayed.

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

* * * * *

We are accustomed to say in New England that few and fewer pigeons visit
us every year. Our forests furnish no mast for them. So, it would seem,
few and fewer thoughts visit each growing man from year to year, for the
grove in our minds is laid waste,--sold to feed unnecessary fires of
ambition, or sent to mill, and there is scarcely a twig 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 the landscape of the mind,
cast by the _wings_ of some thought in its vernal or autumnal migration,
but, looking up, we are unable to detect the substance of the thought
itself. Our winged thoughts are turned to poultry. They no longer soar,
and they attain only to a Shanghai and Cochin-China grandeur. Those
_gra-a-ate thoughts_, those _gra-a-ate men_ you hear of!

* * * * *

We hug the earth,--how rarely we mount! Methinks we might elevate
ourselves a little more. We might climb a tree, at least. I found my
account in climbing a tree once. It was a tall white pine, on the top of a
hill; and though I got well pitched, I was well paid for it, for I
discovered new mountains in the horizon which I had never seen before,--so
much more of the earth and the heavens. I might have walked about the foot
of the tree for threescore years and ten, and yet I certainly should never
have seen them. But, above all, I discovered around me,--it was near the
end of June,--on the ends of the topmost branches only, a few minute and
delicate red cone-like blossoms, the fertile flower of the white pine
looking heavenward. I carried straightway to the village the topmost
spire, and showed it to stranger jurymen who walked the streets,--for it
was court-week,--and to farmers and lumber-dealers and wood-choppers and
hunters, and not one had ever seen the like before, but they wondered as
at a star dropped down. Tell of ancient architects finishing their works
on the tops of columns as perfectly as on the lower and more visible
parts! Nature has from the first expanded the minute blossoms of the
forest only toward the heavens, above men's heads and unobserved by them.
We see only the flowers that are under our feet in the meadows. The pines
have developed their delicate blossoms on the highest twigs of the wood
every summer for ages, as well over the heads of Nature's red children as
of her white ones; yet scarcely a farmer or hunter in the land has ever
seen them.

* * * * *

Above all, we cannot afford not to live in the present. He is blessed over
all mortals who loses no moment of the passing life in remembering the
past. Unless our philosophy hears the cock crow in every barn-yard within
our horizon, it is belated. That sound commonly reminds us that we are
growing rusty and antique in our employments and habits of thought. His
philosophy comes down to a more recent time than ours. There is something
suggested by it that is a newer testament,--the gospel according to this
moment. He has not fallen astern; he has got up early, and kept up early,
and to be where he is to be in season, in the foremost rank of time. It is
an expression of the health and soundness of Nature, a brag for all the
world,--healthiness as of a spring burst forth, a new fountain of the
Muses, to celebrate this last instant of time. Where he lives no fugitive
slave laws are passed. Who has not betrayed his master many times since
last he heard that note?

The merit of this bird's strain is in its freedom from all plaintiveness.
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, in doleful dumps, breaking the
awful stillness of our wooden sidewalk on a Sunday, or, perchance, a
watcher in the house of mourning, I hear a cockerel crow far or near, I
think to myself, "There is one of us well, at any rate,"--and with a
sudden gush return to my senses.

We had a remarkable sunset one day last November. I was walking in a
meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, just before
setting, after a cold gray day, reached a clear stratum in the horizon,
and the softest, brightest morning sunlight fell on the dry grass and on
the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon, and on the leaves of the
shrub-oaks on the hill-side, while our shadows stretched long over the
meadow eastward, as if we were the only motes in its beams. It was such a
light as we could not have imagined a moment before, and the air also was
so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradise of that
meadow. When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon, never
to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever an infinite
number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the 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, and perchance, as it
has never set before,--where there is but a solitary marsh-hawk to have
his wings gilded by it, or only a musquash looks out from his cabin, and
there is some little black-veined brook in the midst of the marsh, just
beginning to meander, winding slowly round a decaying stump. We walked in
so pure and bright a light, gilding the withered grass and leaves, so
softly and serenely bright, I thought I had never bathed in such a golden
flood, without a ripple or a murmur to it. The west side of every wood and
rising ground gleamed like the boundary of Elysium, and the sun on our
backs seemed like a gentle herdsman driving us home at evening.

So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more
brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and
hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm
and serene and golden as on a bank-side in autumn.



Europeans coming to America are surprised by the brilliancy of our
autumnal foliage. There is no account of such a phenomenon in English
poetry, because the trees acquire but few bright colors there. The most
that Thomson says on this subject in his "Autumn" is contained in the

"But see the fading many-colored woods,
Shade deepening over shade, the country round
Imbrown; a crowded umbrage, dusk and dun,
Of every hue, from wan declining green to sooty dark":--

and in the line in which he speaks of

"Autumn beaming o'er the yellow woods."

The autumnal change of our woods has not made a deep impression on our own
literature yet. October has hardly tinged our poetry.

A great many, who have spent their lives in cities, and have never chanced
to come into the country at this season, have never seen this, the flower,
or rather the ripe fruit, of the year. I remember riding with one such
citizen, who, though a fortnight too, late for the most brilliant tints,
was taken by surprise, and would not believe that there had been any
brighter. He had never heard of this phenomenon before. Not only many in
our towns have never witnessed it, but it is scarcely remembered by the
majority from year to year.

Most appear to confound changed leaves with withered ones, as if they were
to confound ripe apples with rotten ones. I think that the change to some
higher color in a leaf is an evidence that it has arrived at a late and
perfect maturity, answering to the maturity of fruits. It is generally the
lowest and oldest leaves which change first. But as the perfect winged and
usually bright-colored insect is short-lived, so the leaves ripen but to

Generally, every fruit, on ripening, and just before it falls, when it
commences a more independent and individual existence, requiring less
nourishment from any source, and that not so much from the earth through
its stem as from the sun and air, acquires a bright tint. So do leaves.
The physiologist says it is "due to an increased absorption of oxygen."
That is the scientific account of the matter,--only a reassertion of the
fact. But I am more interested in the rosy cheek than I am to know what
particular diet the maiden fed on. The very forest and herbage, the
pellicle of the earth, must acquire a bright color, an evidence of its
ripeness,--as if the globe itself were a fruit on its stem, with ever a
cheek toward the sun.

Flowers are but colored leaves, fruits but ripe ones. The edible part of
most fruits is, as the physiologist says, "the parenchyma or fleshy tissue
of the leaf," of which they are formed.

Our appetites have commonly confined our views of ripeness and its
phenomena, color, mellowness, and perfectness, to the fruits which we eat,
and we are wont to forget that an immense harvest which we do not eat,
hardly use at all, is annually ripened by Nature. At our annual Cattle
Shows and Horticultural Exhibitions, we make, as we think, a great show of
fair fruits, destined, however, to a rather ignoble end, fruits not valued
for their beauty chiefly. But round about and within our towns there is
annually another show of fruits, on an infinitely grander scale, fruits
which address our taste for beauty alone.

October is the month for painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round
the world. As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint
just before they fall, so the year near its setting. October is its sunset
sky; November the later twilight.

I formerly thought that it would be worth the while to get a specimen leaf
from each changing tree, shrub, and herbaceous plant, when it had acquired
its brightest characteristic color, in its transition from the green to
the brown state, outline it, and copy its color exactly, with paint in a
book, which should be entitled, "_October, or Autumnal Tints_";--beginning
with the earliest reddening,--Woodbine and the lake of radical leaves, and
coming down through the Maples, Hickories, and Sumachs, and many
beautifully freckled leaves less generally known, to the latest Oaks and
Aspens. What a memento such a book would be! You would need only to turn
over its leaves to take a ramble through the autumn woods whenever you
pleased. Or if I could preserve the leaves themselves, unfaded, it would
be better still. I have made but little progress toward such a book, but I
have endeavored, instead, to describe all these bright tints in the order
in which they present themselves. The following are some extracts from my


By the twentieth of August, everywhere in woods and swamps, we are
reminded of the fall, both by the richly spotted Sarsaparilla-leaves and
Brakes, and the withering and blackened Skunk-Cabbage and Hellebore, and,
by the river-side, the already blackening Pontederia.

The Purple Grass (_Eragrostis pectinacea_) is now in the height of its
beauty. I remember still when I first noticed this grass particularly.
Standing on a hillside near our river, I saw, thirty or forty rods off, a
stripe of purple half a dozen rods long, under the edge of a wood, where
the ground sloped toward a meadow. It was as high-colored and interesting,
though not quite so bright, as the patches of Rhexia, being a darker
purple, like a berry's stain laid on close and thick. On going to and
examining it, I found it to be a kind of grass in bloom, hardly a foot
high, with but few green blades, and a fine spreading panicle of purple
flowers, a shallow, purplish mist trembling around me. Close at hand it
appeared but a dull purple, and made little impression on the eye; it was
even difficult to detect; and if you plucked a single plant, you were
surprised to find how thin it was, and how little color it had. But viewed
at a distance in a favorable light, it was of a fine lively purple,
flower-like, enriching the earth. Such puny causes combine to produce
these decided effects. I was the more surprised and charmed because grass
is commonly of a sober and humble color.

With its beautiful purple blush it reminds me, and supplies the place, of
the Rhexia, which is now leaving off, and it is one of the most
interesting phenomena of August. The finest patches of it grow on waste
strips or selvages of land at the base of dry hills, just above the edge
of the meadows, where the greedy mower does not deign to swing his scythe;
for this is a thin and poor grass, beneath his notice. Or, it may be,
because it is so beautiful he does not know that it exists; for the same
eye does not see this and Timothy. He carefully gets the meadow hay and
the more nutritious grasses which grow next to that, but he leaves this
fine purple mist for the walker's harvest,--fodder for his fancy stock.
Higher up the hill, perchance, grow also Blackberries, John's-Wort, and
neglected, withered, and wiry June-Grass. How fortunate that it grows in
such places, and not in the midst of the rank grasses which are annually
cut! Nature thus keeps use and beauty distinct. I know many such
localities, where it does not fail to present itself annually, and paint
the earth with its blush. It grows on the gentle slopes, either in a
continuous patch or in scattered and rounded tufts a foot in diameter, and
it lasts till it is killed by the first smart frosts.

In most plants the corolla or calyx is the part which attains the highest
color, and is the most attractive; in many it is the seed-vessel or fruit;
in others, as the Red Maple, the leaves; and in others still it is the
very culm itself which is the principal flower or blooming part.

The last is especially the case with the Poke or Garget (_Phytolacca
decandra_). Some which stand under our cliffs quite dazzle me with their
purple stems now and early in September. They are as interesting to me as
most flowers, and one of the most important fruits of our autumn. Every
part is flower, (or fruit,) such is its superfluity of color,--stem,
branch, peduncle, pedicel, petiole, and even the at length yellowish
purple-veined leaves. Its cylindrical racemes of berries of various hues,
from green to dark purple, six or seven inches long, are gracefully
drooping on all sides, offering repasts to the birds; and even the sepals
from which the birds have picked the berries are a brilliant lake-red,
with crimson flame-like reflections, equal to anything of the kind,--all
on fire with ripeness. Hence the _lacca_, from _lac_, lake. There are at
the same time flower-buds, flowers, green berries, dark purple or ripe
ones, and these flower-like sepals, all on the same plant.

We love to see any redness in the vegetation of the temperate zone. It is
the color of colors. This plant speaks to our blood. It asks a bright sun
on it to make it show to best advantage, and it must be seen at this
season of the year. On warm hillsides its stems are ripe by the
twenty-third of August. At that date I walked through a beautiful grove of
them, six or seven feet high, on the side of one of our cliffs, where they
ripen early. Quite to the ground they were a deep brilliant purple with a
bloom, contrasting with the still clear green leaves. It appears a rare
triumph of Nature to have produced and perfected such a plant, as if this
were enough for a summer. What a perfect maturity it arrives at! It is the
emblem of a successful life concluded by a death not premature, which is
an ornament to Nature. What if we were to mature as perfectly, root and
branch, glowing in the midst of our decay, like the Poke! I confess that
it excites me to behold them. I cut one for a cane, for I would fain
handle and lean on it. I love to press the berries between my fingers, and
see their juice staining my hand. To walk amid these upright, branching
casks of purple wine, which retain and diffuse a sunset glow, tasting each
one with your eye, instead of counting the pipes on a London dock, what a
privilege! For Nature's vintage is not confined to the vine. Our poets
have sung of wine, the product of a foreign plant which commonly they
never saw, as if our own plants had no juice in them more than the
singers. Indeed, this has been called by some the American Grape, and,
though a native of America, its juices are used in some foreign countries
to improve the color of the wine; so that the poetaster may be celebrating
the virtues of the Poke without knowing it. Here are berries enough to
paint afresh the western sky, and play the bacchanal with, if you will.
And what flutes its ensanguined stems would make, to be used in such a
dance! It is truly a royal plant. I could spend the evening of the year
musing amid the Poke-stems. And perchance amid these groves might arise at
last a new school of philosophy or poetry. It lasts all through September.

At the same time with this, or near the end of August, a to me very
interesting genus of grasses, Andropogons, or Beard-Grasses, is in
its prime. _Andropogon furcatus_, Forked Beard-Grass, or call it
Purple-Fingered Grass; _Andropogon scoparius,_ Purple Wood Grass; and
_Andropogon_ (now called _Sorghum_) _nutans_, Indian-Grass. The first is a
very tall and slender-culmed grass, three to seven feet high, with four or
five purple finger-like spikes raying upward from the top. The second is
also quite slender, growing in tufts two feet high by one wide, with culms
often somewhat curving, which, as the spikes go out of bloom, have a
whitish fuzzy look. These two are prevailing grasses at this season on
dry and sandy fields and hillsides. The culms of both, not to mention
their pretty flowers, reflect a purple tinge, and help to declare the
ripeness of the year. Perhaps I have the more sympathy with them because
they are despised by the farmer, and occupy sterile and neglected soil.
They are high-colored, like ripe grapes, and express a maturity which the
spring did not suggest. Only the August sun could have thus burnished
these culms and leaves. The farmer has long since done his upland haying,
and he will not condescend to bring his scythe to where these slender wild
grasses have at length flowered thinly; you often see spaces of bare sand
amid them. But I walk encouraged between the tufts of Purple Wood-Grass,
over the sandy fields, and along the edge of the Shrub-Oaks, glad to
recognize these simple contemporaries. With thoughts cutting a broad
swathe I "get" them, with horse-raking thoughts I gather them into
windrows. The fine-eared poet may hear the whetting of my scythe. These
two were almost the first grasses that I learned to distinguish, for I had
not known by how many friends I was surrounded,--I had seen them simply as
grasses standing. The purple of their culms also excites me like that of
the Poke-Weed stems.

Think what refuge there is for one, before August is over, from college
commencements and society that isolates! I can skulk amid the tufts
of Purple Wood-Grass on the borders of the "Great Fields." Wherever I
walk these afternoons, the Purple-Fingered Grass also stands like a
guide-board, and points my thoughts to more poetic paths than they have
lately travelled.

A man shall perhaps rush by and trample down plants as high as his head,
and cannot be said to know that they exist, though he may have cut many
tons of them, littered his stables with them, and fed them to his cattle
for years. Yet, if he ever favorably attends to them, he may be overcome
by their beauty. Each humblest plant, or weed, as we call it, stands there
to express some thought or mood of ours; and yet how long it stands in
vain! I had walked over those Great Fields so many Augusts, and never yet
distinctly recognized these purple companions that I had there. I had
brushed against them and trodden on them, forsooth; and now, at last,
they, as it were, rose up and blessed me. Beauty and true wealth are
always thus cheap and despised. Heaven might be defined as the place which
men avoid. Who can doubt that these grasses, which the farmer says are of
no account to him, find some compensation in your appreciation of them? I
may say that I never saw them before,--though, when I came to look them
face to face, there did come down to me a purple gleam from previous
years; and now, wherever I go, I see hardly anything else. It is the reign
and presidency of the Andropogons.

Almost the very sands confess the ripening influence of the August sun,
and methinks, together with the slender grasses waving over them, reflect
a purple tinge. The impurpled sands! Such is the consequence of all this
sunshine absorbed into the pores of plants and of the earth. All sap or
blood is now wine-colored. At last we have not only the purple sea, but
the purple land.

The Chestnut Beard-Grass, Indian-Grass, or Wood-Grass, growing here and
there in waste places, but more rare than the former, (from two to four or
five feet high,) is still handsomer and of more vivid colors than its
congeners, and might well have caught the Indian's eye. It has a long,
narrow, one-sided, and slightly nodding panicle of bright purple and
yellow flowers, like a banner raised above its reedy leaves. These bright
standards are now advanced on the distant hill-sides, not in large armies,
but in scattered troops or single file, like the red men. They stand thus
fair and bright, representative of the race which they are named after,
but for the most part unobserved as they. The expression of this grass
haunted me for a week, after I first passed and noticed it, like the
glance of an eye. It stands like an Indian chief taking a last look at his
favorite hunting-grounds.


By the twenty-fifth of September, the Red Maples generally are beginning
to be ripe. Some large ones have been conspicuously changing for a week,
and some single trees are now very brilliant. I notice a small one, half a
mile off across a meadow, against the green wood-side there, a far
brighter red than the blossoms of any tree in summer, and more
conspicuous. I have observed this tree for several autumns invariably
changing earlier than its fellows, just as one tree ripens its fruit
earlier than another. It might serve to mark the season, perhaps. I should
be sorry, if it were cut down. I know of two or three such trees in
different parts of our town, which might, perhaps, be propagated from, as
early ripeners or September trees, and their seed be advertised in the
market, as well as that of radishes, if we cared as much about them.

At present these burning bushes stand chiefly along the edge of the
meadows, or I distinguish them afar on the hillsides here and there.
Sometimes you will see many small ones in a swamp turned quite crimson
when all other trees around are still perfectly green, and the former
appear so much the brighter for it. They take you by surprise, as you are
going by on one side, across the fields, thus early in the season, as if
it were some gay encampment of the red men, or other foresters, of whose
arrival you had not heard.

Some single trees, wholly bright scarlet, seen against others of their
kind still freshly green, or against evergreens, are more memorable than
whole groves will be by-and-by. How beautiful, when a whole tree is like
one great scarlet fruit full of ripe juices, every leaf, from lowest limb
to topmost spire, all aglow, especially if you look toward the sun! What
more remarkable object can there be in the landscape? Visible for miles,
too fair to be believed. If such a phenomenon occurred but once, it would
be handed down by tradition to posterity, and get into the mythology at

The whole tree thus ripening in advance of its fellows attains a singular
preeminence, and sometimes maintains it for a week or two. I am thrilled
at the sight of it, bearing aloft its scarlet standard for the regiment of
green-clad foresters around, and I go half a mile out of my way to examine
it. A single tree becomes thus the crowning beauty of some meadowy vale,
and the expression of the whole surrounding forest is at once more
spirited for it.

A small Red Maple has grown, perchance, far away at the head of some
retired valley, a mile from any road, unobserved. It has faithfully
discharged the duties of a Maple there, all winter and summer, neglected
none of its economies, but added to its stature in the virtue which
belongs to a Maple, by a steady growth for so many months, never having
gone gadding abroad, and is nearer heaven than it was in the spring.
It has faithfully husbanded its sap, and afforded a shelter to the
wandering bird, has long since ripened its seeds and committed them to
the winds, and has the satisfaction of knowing, perhaps, that a thousand
little well-behaved Maples are already settled in life somewhere.
It deserves well of Mapledom. Its leaves have been asking it from time
to time, in a whisper, "When shall we redden?" And now, in this month
of September, this month of travelling, when men are hastening to the
sea-side, or the mountains, or the lakes, this modest Maple, still without
budging an inch, travels in its reputation,--runs up its scarlet flag on
that hillside, which shows that it has finished its summer's work before
all other trees, and withdraws from the contest. At the eleventh hour of
the year, the tree which no scrutiny could have detected here when it was
most industrious is thus, by the tint of its maturity, by its very
blushes, revealed at last to the careless and distant traveller, and leads
his thoughts away from the dusty road into those brave solitudes which it
inhabits. It flashes out conspicuous with all the virtue and beauty of a
Maple,--_Acer rubrum_. We may now read its title, or _rubric_, clear. Its
_virtues_, not its sins, are as scarlet.

Notwithstanding the Red Maple is the most intense scarlet of any of our
trees, the Sugar-Maple has been the most celebrated, and Michaux in his
"Sylva" does not speak of the autumnal color of the former. About the
second of October, these trees, both large and small, are most brilliant,
though many are still green. In "sprout-lands" they seem to vie with one
another, and ever some particular one in the midst of the crowd will be of
a peculiarly pure scarlet, and by its more intense color attract our eye
even at a distance, and carry off the palm. A large Red-Maple swamp, when
at the height of its change, is the most obviously brilliant of all
tangible things, where I dwell, so abundant is this tree with us. It
varies much both in form and color. A great many are merely yellow, more
scarlet, others scarlet deepening into crimson, more red than common. Look
at yonder swamp of Maples mixed with Pines, at the base of a Pine-clad
hill, a quarter of a mile off, so that you get the full effect of the
bright colors, without detecting the imperfections of the leaves, and see
their yellow, scarlet, and crimson fires, of all tints, mingled and
contrasted with the green. Some Maples are yet green, only yellow or
crimson-tipped on the edges of their flakes, like the edges of a Hazel-Nut
burr; some are wholly brilliant scarlet, raying out regularly and finely
every way, bilaterally, like the veins of a leaf; others, of more
irregular form, when I turn my head slightly, emptying out some of its
earthiness and concealing the trunk of the tree, seem to rest heavily
flake on flake, like yellow and scarlet clouds, wreath upon wreath, or
like snowdrifts driving through the air, stratified by the wind. It adds
greatly to the beauty of such a swamp at this season, that, even though
there may be no other trees interspersed, it is not seen as a simple mass
of color, but, different trees being of different colors and hues, the
outline of each crescent tree-top is distinct, and where one laps on to
another. Yet a painter would hardly venture to make them thus distinct a
quarter of a mile off.

As I go across a meadow directly toward a low rising ground this bright
afternoon, I see, some fifty rods off toward the sun, the top of a Maple
swamp just appearing over the sheeny russet edge of the hill, a stripe
apparently twenty rods long by ten feet deep, of the most intensely
brilliant scarlet, orange, and yellow, equal to any flowers or fruits, or
any tints ever painted. As I advance, lowering the edge of the hill which
makes the firm foreground or lower frame of the picture, the depth of the
brilliant grove revealed steadily increases, suggesting that the whole of
the inclosed valley is filled with such color. One wonders that the
tithing-men and fathers of the town are not out to see what the trees mean
by their high colors and exuberance of spirits, fearing that some mischief
is brewing. I do not see what the Puritans did at this season, when the
Maples blaze out in scarlet. They certainly could not have worshipped in
groves then. Perhaps that is what they built meeting-houses and fenced
them round with horse-sheds for.


Now, too, the first of October, or later, the Elms are at the height of
their autumnal beauty, great brownish-yellow masses, warm from their
September oven, hanging over the highway Their leaves are perfectly ripe.
I wonder if there is any answering ripeness in the lives of the men who
live beneath them. As I look down our street, which is lined with them,
they remind me both by their form and color of yellowing sheaves of grain,
as if the harvest had indeed come to the village itself, and we might
expect to find some maturity and _flavor_ in the thoughts of the villagers
at last. Under those bright rustling yellow piles just ready to fall on
the heads of the walkers, how can any crudity or greenness of thought or
act prevail? When I stand where half a dozen large Elms droop over a
house, it is as if I stood within a ripe pumpkin-rind, and I feel as
mellow as if I were the pulp, though I may be somewhat stringy and seedy
withal. What is the late greenness of the English Elm, like a cucumber out
of season, which does not know when to have done, compared with the early
and golden maturity of the American tree? The street is the scene of a
great harvest-home. It would be worth the while to set out these trees, if
only for their autumnal value. Think of these great yellow canopies or
parasols held over our heads and houses by the mile together, making the
village all one and compact,--an _ulmarium_, which is at the same time a
nursery of men! And then how gently and unobserved they drop their burden
and let in the sun when it is wanted, their leaves not heard when they
fall on our roofs and in our streets; and thus the village parasol is shut
up and put away! I see the market-man driving into the village, and
disappearing under its canopy of Elm-tops, with _his_ crop, as into a
great granary or barn-yard. I am tempted to go thither as to a husking of
thoughts, now dry and ripe, and ready to be separated from their
integuments; but, alas! I foresee that it will be chiefly husks and little
thought, blasted pig-corn, fit only for cob-meal,--for, as you sow, so
shall you reap.


By the sixth of October the leaves generally begin to fall, in successive
showers, after frost or rain; but the principal leaf-harvest, the acme of
the _Fall_, is commonly about the sixteenth. Some morning at that date
there is perhaps a harder frost than we have seen, and ice formed under
the pump, and now, when the morning wind rises, the leaves come down in
denser showers than ever. They suddenly form thick beds or carpets on the
ground, in this gentle air, or even without wind, just the size and form
of the tree above. Some trees, as small Hickories, appear to have dropped
their leaves instantaneously, as a soldier grounds arms at a signal; and
those of the Hickory, being bright yellow still, though withered, reflect
a blaze of light from the ground where they lie. Down they have come on
all sides, at the first earnest touch of autumn's wand, making a sound
like rain.

Or else it is after moist and rainy weather that we notice how great a
fall of leaves there has been in the night, though it may not yet be the
touch that loosens the Rock-Maple leaf. The streets are thickly strewn
with the trophies, and fallen Elm-leaves make a dark brown pavement under
our feet. After some remarkably warm Indian-summer day or days, I perceive
that it is the unusual heat which, more than anything, causes the leaves
to fall, there having been, perhaps, no frost nor rain for some time. The
intense heat suddenly ripens and wilts them, just as it softens and ripens
peaches and other fruits, and causes them to drop.

The leaves of late Red Maples, still bright, strew the earth, often
crimson-spotted on a yellow ground, like some wild apples,--though they
preserve these bright colors on the ground but a day or two, especially
if it rains. On causeways I go by trees here and there all bare and
smoke-like, having lost their brilliant clothing; but there it lies,
nearly as bright as ever, on the ground on one side, and making nearly as
regular a figure as lately on the tree, I would rather say that I first
observe the trees thus flat on the ground like a permanent colored shadow,
and they suggest to look for the boughs that bore them. A queen might be
proud to walk where these gallant trees have spread their bright cloaks in
the mud. I see wagons roll over them as a shadow or a reflection, and the
drivers heed them just as little as they did their shadows before.

Birds'-nests, in the Huckleberry and other shrubs, and in trees, are
already being filled with the withered leaves. So many have fallen in the
woods, that a squirrel cannot run after a falling nut without being heard.
Boys are raking them in the streets, if only for the pleasure of dealing
with such clean crisp substances. Some sweep the paths scrupulously neat,
and then stand to see the next breath strew them with new trophies. The
swamp-floor is thickly covered, and the _Lycopodium lucidulum_ looks
suddenly greener amid them. In dense woods they half-cover pools that are
three or four rods long. The other day I could hardly find a well-known
spring, and even suspected that it had dried up, for it was completely
concealed by freshly fallen leaves; and when I swept them aside and
revealed it, it was like striking the earth, with Aaron's rod, for a new
spring. Wet grounds about the edges of swamps look dry with them. At one
swamp, where I was surveying, thinking to step on a leafy shore from a
rail, I got into the water more than a foot deep. When I go to the river
the day after the principal fall of leaves, the sixteenth, I find my boat
all covered, bottom and seats, with the leaves of the Golden Willow under
which it is moored, and I set sail with a cargo of them rustling under my
feet. If I empty it, it will be full again to-morrow. I do not regard them
as litter, to be swept out, but accept them as suitable straw or matting
for the bottom of my carriage. When I turn up into the mouth of the
Assabet, which is wooded, large fleets of leaves are floating on its
surface, as it were getting out to sea, with room to tack; but next the
shore, a little farther up, they are thicker than foam, quite concealing
the water for a rod in width, under and amid the Alders, Button-Bushes,
and Maples, still perfectly light and dry, with fibre unrelaxed; and at a
rocky bend where they are met and stopped by the morning wind, they
sometimes form a broad and dense crescent quite across the river. When I
turn my prow that way, and the wave which it makes strikes them, list what
a pleasant rustling from these dry substances grating on one another!
Often it is their undulation only which reveals the water beneath them.
Also every motion of the wood-turtle on the shore is betrayed by their
rustling there. Or even in mid-channel, when the wind rises, I hear them
blown with a rustling sound. Higher up they are slowly moving round and
round in some great eddy which the river makes, as that at the "Leaning
Hemlocks," where the water is deep, and the current is wearing into the

Perchance, in the afternoon of such a day, when the water is perfectly
calm and full of reflections, I paddle gently down the main stream, and,
turning up the Assabet, reach a quiet cove, where I unexpectedly find
myself surrounded by myriads of leaves, like fellow-voyagers, which seem
to have the same purpose, or want of purpose, with myself. See this great
fleet of scattered leaf-boats which we paddle amid, in this smooth
river-bay, each one curled up on every side by the sun's skill, each nerve
a stiff spruce-knee,--like boats of hide, and of all patterns, Charon's
boat probably among the rest, and some with lofty prows and poops, like
the stately vessels of the ancients, scarcely moving in the sluggish
current,--like the great fleets, the dense Chinese cities of boats, with
which you mingle on entering some great mart, some New York or Canton,
which we are all steadily approaching together. How gently each has been
deposited on the water! No violence has been used towards them yet,
though, perchance, palpitating hearts were present at the launching. And
painted ducks, too, the splendid wood-duck among the rest, often come to
sail and float amid the painted leaves,--barks of a nobler model still!

What wholesome herb-drinks are to be had in the swamps now! What strong
medicinal, but rich, scents from the decaying leaves! The rain falling on
the freshly dried herbs and leaves, and filling the pools and ditches into
which they have dropped thus clean and rigid, will soon convert them into
tea,--green, black, brown, and yellow teas, of all degrees of strength,
enough to set all Nature a gossiping. Whether we drink them or not, as
yet, before their strength is drawn, these leaves, dried on great Nature's
coppers, are of such various pure and delicate tints as might make the
fame of Oriental teas.

How they are mixed up, of all species, Oak and Maple and Chestnut and
Birch! But Nature is not cluttered with them; she is a perfect husbandman;
she stores them all. Consider what a vast crop is thus annually shed on
the earth! This, more than any mere grain or seed, is the great harvest of
the year. The trees are now repaying the earth with interest what they
have taken from it. They are discounting. They are about to add a leaf's
thickness to the depth of the soil. This is the beautiful way in which
Nature gets her muck, while I chaffer with this man and that, who talks to
me about sulphur and the cost of carting. We are all the richer for their
decay. I am more interested in this crop than in the English grass alone
or in the corn. It prepares the virgin mould for future cornfields and
forests, on which the earth fattens. It keeps our homestead in good heart.

For beautiful variety no crop can be compared with this. Here is not
merely the plain yellow of the grains, but nearly all the colors that we
know, the brightest blue not excepted: the early blushing Maple, the
Poison-Sumach blazing its sins as scarlet, the mulberry Ash, the rich
chrome-yellow of the Poplars, the brilliant red Huckleberry, with which
the hills' backs are painted, like those of sheep. The frost touches them,
and, with the slightest breath of returning day or jarring of earth's
axle, see in what showers they come floating down! The ground is all
party-colored with them. But they still live in the soil, whose fertility
and bulk they increase, and in the forests that spring from it. They stoop
to rise, to mount higher in coming years, by subtle chemistry, climbing by
the sap in the trees, and the sapling's first fruits thus shed, transmuted
at last, may adorn its crown, when, in after-years, it has become the
monarch of the forest.

It is pleasant to walk over the beds of these fresh, crisp, and rustling
leaves. How beautifully they go to their graves! how gently lay themselves
down and turn to mould!--painted of a thousand hues, and fit to make the
beds of us living. So they troop to their last resting-place, light and
frisky. They put on no weeds, but merrily they go scampering over the
earth, selecting the spot, choosing a lot, ordering no iron fence,
whispering all through the woods about it,--some choosing the spot where
the bodies of men are mouldering beneath, and meeting them half-way. How
many flutterings before they rest quietly in their graves! They that
soared so loftily, how contentedly they return to dust again, and are laid
low, resigned to lie and decay at the foot of the tree, and afford
nourishment to new generations of their kind, as well as to flutter on
high! They teach us how to die. One wonders if the time will ever come
when men, with their boasted faith in immortality, will lie down as
gracefully and as ripe,--with such an Indian-summer serenity will shed
their bodies, as they do their hair and nails.

When the leaves fall, the whole earth is a cemetery pleasant to walk in. I
love to wander and muse over them in their graves. Here are no lying nor
vain epitaphs. What though you own no lot at Mount Auburn? Your lot is
surely cast somewhere in this vast cemetery, which has been consecrated
from of old. You need attend no auction to secure a place. There is room
enough here. The Loose-strife shall bloom and the Huckleberry-bird sing
over your bones. The woodman and hunter shall be your sextons, and the
children shall tread upon the borders as much as they will. Let us walk in
the cemetery of the leaves,--this is your true Greenwood Cemetery.


But think not that the splendor of the year is over; for as one leaf does
not make a summer, neither does one falling leaf make an autumn. The
smallest Sugar-Maples in our streets make a great show as early as the
fifth of October, more than any other trees there. As I look up the Main
Street, they appear like painted screens standing before the houses;
yet many are green. But now, or generally by the seventeenth of October,
when almost all Red Maples, and some White Maples, are bare, the large
Sugar-Maples also are in their glory, glowing with yellow and red, and
show unexpectedly bright and delicate tints. They are remarkable for the
contrast they often afford of deep blushing red on one half and green on
the other. They become at length dense masses of rich yellow with a deep
scarlet blush, or more than blush, on the exposed surfaces. They are the
brightest trees now in the street.

The large ones on our Common are particularly beautiful. A delicate, but
warmer than golden yellow is now the prevailing color, with scarlet
cheeks. Yet, standing on the east side of the Common just before sundown,
when the western light is transmitted through them, I see that their
yellow even, compared with the pale lemon yellow of an Elm close by,
amounts to a scarlet, without noticing the bright scarlet portions.
Generally, they are great regular oval masses of yellow and scarlet. All
the sunny warmth of the season, the Indian-summer, seems to be absorbed in
their leaves. The lowest and inmost leaves next the bole are, as usual, of
the most delicate yellow and green, like the complexion of young men
brought up in the house. There is an auction on the Common to-day, but its
red flag is hard to be discerned amid this blaze of color.

Little did the fathers of the town anticipate this brilliant success, when
they caused to be imported from farther in the country some straight poles
with their tops cut off, which they called Sugar-Maples; and, as I
remember, after they were set out, a neighboring merchant's clerk, by way
of jest, planted beans about them. Those which were then jestingly called
bean-poles are to-day far the most beautiful objects noticeable in our
streets. They are worth all and more than they have cost,--though one of
the selectmen, while setting them out, took the cold which occasioned his
death,--if only because they have filled the open eyes of children with
their rich color unstintedly so many Octobers. We will not ask them to
yield us sugar in the spring, while they afford us so fair a prospect in
the autumn. Wealth in-doors may be the inheritance of few, but it is
equally distributed on the Common. All children alike can revel in this
golden harvest.

Surely trees should be set in our streets with a view to their October
splendor; though I doubt whether this is ever considered by the "Tree
Society." Do you not think it will make some odds to these children that
they were brought up under the Maples? Hundreds of eyes are steadily
drinking in this color, and by these teachers even the truants are caught
and educated the moment they step abroad. Indeed, neither the truant nor
the studious is at present taught color in the schools. These are instead
of the bright colors in apothecaries' shops and city windows. It is a pity
that we have no more _Red_ Maples, and some Hickories, in our streets as
well. Our paint-box is very imperfectly filled. Instead of, or beside,
supplying such paint-boxes as we do, we might supply these natural colors
to the young. Where else will they study color under greater advantages?
What School of Design can vie with this? Think how much the eyes of
painters of all kinds, and of manufacturers of cloth and paper, and
paper-stainers, and countless others, are to be educated by these autumnal
colors. The stationer's envelopes may be of very various tints, yet, not
so various as those of the leaves of a single tree. If you want a
different shade or tint of a particular color, you have only to look
farther within or without the tree or the wood. These leaves are not many
dipped in one dye, as at the dye-house, but they are dyed in light of
infinitely various degrees of strength, and left to set and dry there.

Shall the names of so many of our colors continue to be derived from those
of obscure foreign localities, as Naples yellow, Prussian blue, raw
Sienna, burnt Umber, Gamboge?--(surely the Tyrian purple must have faded
by this time),--or from comparatively trivial articles of commerce,--
chocolate, lemon, coffee, cinnamon, claret?--(shall we compare our
Hickory to a lemon, or a lemon to a Hickory?)--or from ores and oxides
which few ever see? Shall we so often, when describing to our neighbors
the color of something we have seen, refer them, not to some natural
object in our neighborhood, but perchance to a bit of earth fetched from
the other side of the planet, which possibly they may find at the
apothecary's, but which probably neither they nor we ever saw? Have we not
an _earth_ under our feet,--ay, and a sky over our heads? Or is the
last _all_ ultramarine? What do we know of sapphire, amethyst, emerald,
ruby, amber, and the like,--most of us who take these names in vain? Leave
these precious words to cabinet-keepers, virtuosos, and maids-of-honor,--
to the Nabobs, Begums, and Chobdars of Hindostan, or wherever else. I do
not see why, since America and her autumn woods have been discovered, our
leaves should not compete with the precious stones in giving names to
colors; and, indeed, I believe that in course of time the names of some of
our trees and shrubs, as well as flowers, will get into our popular
chromatic nomenclature.

But of much more importance than a knowledge of the names and distinctions
of color is the joy and exhilaration which these colored leaves excite.
Already these brilliant trees throughout the street, without any more
variety, are at least equal to an annual festival and holiday, or a week
of such. These are cheap and innocent gala-days, celebrated by one and all
without the aid of committees or marshals, such a show as may safely be
licensed, not attracting gamblers or rum-sellers, not requiring any
special police to keep the peace. And poor indeed must be that New-England
village's October which has not the Maple in its streets. This October
festival costs no powder, nor ringing of bells, but every tree is a living
liberty-pole on which a thousand bright flags are waving.

No wonder that we must have our annual Cattle-Show, and Fall Training,
and perhaps Cornwallis, our September Courts, and the like. Nature
herself holds her annual fair in October, not only in the streets, but
in every hollow and on every hill-side. When lately we looked into that
Red-Maple swamp all ablaze, where the trees were clothed in their vestures
of most dazzling tints, did it not suggest a thousand gypsies beneath,--a
race capable of wild delight,--or even the fabled fawns, satyrs, and
wood-nymphs come back to earth? Or was it only a congregation of wearied
wood-choppers, or of proprietors come to inspect their lots, that we
thought of? Or, earlier still, when we paddled on the river through that
fine-grained September air, did there not appear to be something new going
on under the sparkling surface of the stream, a shaking of props, at
least, so that we made haste in order to be up in time? Did not the rows
of yellowing Willows and Button-Bushes on each side seem like rows of
booths, under which, perhaps, some fluviatile egg-pop equally yellow was
effervescing? Did not all these suggest that man's spirits should rise as
high as Nature's,--should hang out their flag, and the routine of his life
be interrupted by an analogous expression of joy and hilarity?

No annual training or muster of soldiery, no celebration with its scarfs
and banners, could import into the town a hundredth part of the annual
splendor of our October. We have only to set the trees, or let them stand,
and Nature will find the colored drapery,--flags of all her nations, some
of whose private signals hardly the botanist can read,--while we walk
under the triumphal arches of the Elms. Leave it to Nature to appoint the
days, whether the same as in neighboring States or not, and let the clergy
read her proclamations, if they can understand them. Behold what a
brilliant drapery is her Woodbine flag! What public-spirited merchant,
think you, has contributed this part of the show? There is no handsomer
shingling and paint than this vine, at present covering a whole side of
some houses. I do not believe that the Ivy _never sere_ is comparable to
it. No wonder it has been extensively introduced into London. Let us have
a good many Maples and Hickories and Scarlet Oaks, then, I say. Blaze
away! Shall that dirty roll of bunting in the gun-house be all the colors
a village can display? A village is not complete unless it have these
trees to mark the season in it. They are important, like the town-clock. A
village that has them not will not be found to work well. It has a screw
loose, an essential part is wanting. Let us have Willows for spring, Elms
for summer, Maples and Walnuts and Tupeloes for autumn, Evergreens for
winter, and Oaks for all seasons. What is a gallery in a house to a
gallery in the streets, which every market-man rides through, whether he
will or not? Of course, there is not a picture-gallery in the country
which would be worth so much to us as is the western view at sunset under
the Elms of our main street. They are the frame to a picture which is
daily painted behind them. An avenue of Elms as large as our largest and
three miles long would seem to lead to some admirable place, though only
C---- were at the end of it.

A village needs these innocent stimulants of bright and cheering prospects
to keep off melancholy and superstition. Show me two villages, one
embowered in trees and blazing with all the glories of October, the other
a merely trivial and treeless waste, or with only a single tree or two for
suicides, and I shall be sure that in the latter will be found the most
starved and bigoted religionists and the most desperate drinkers. Every
washtub and milkcan and gravestone will be exposed. The inhabitants will
disappear abruptly behind their barns and houses, like desert Arabs amid
their rocks, and I shall look to see spears in their hands. They will be
ready to accept the most barren and forlorn doctrine,--as that the world
is speedily coming to an end, or has already got to it, or that they
themselves are turned wrong side outward. They will perchance crack their
dry joints at one another and call it a spiritual communication.

But to confine ourselves to the Maples. What if we were to take half as
much pains in protecting them as we do in setting them out,--not stupidly
tie our horses to our dahlia-stems?

What meant the fathers by establishing this _perfectly living_ institution
before the church,--this institution which needs no repairing nor
repainting, which is continually enlarged and repaired by its growth?
Surely they

"Wrought in a sad sincerity;
Themselves from God they could not free;
They _planted_ better than they knew;--
The conscious _trees_ to beauty grew."

Verily these Maples are cheap preachers, permanently settled, which preach
their half-century, and century, ay, and century-and-a-half sermons, with
constantly increasing unction and influence, ministering to many
generations of men; and the least we can do is to supply them with
suitable colleagues as they grow infirm.


Belonging to a genus which is remarkable for the beautiful form of its
leaves, I suspect that some Scarlet-Oak leaves surpass those of all other
Oaks in the rich and wild beauty of their outlines. I judge from an
acquaintance with twelve species, and from drawings which I have seen of
many others.

Stand under this tree and see how finely its leaves are cut against the
sky,--as it were, only a few sharp points extending from a midrib. They
look like double, treble, or quadruple crosses. They are far more ethereal
than the less deeply scolloped Oak-leaves. They have so little leafy
_terra firma_ that they appear melting away in the light, and scarcely
obstruct our view. The leaves of very young plants are, like those of
full-grown Oaks of other species, more entire, simple, and lumpish in
their outlines; but these, raised high on old trees, have solved the leafy
problem. Lifted higher and higher, and sublimated more and more, putting
off some earthiness and cultivating more intimacy with the light each
year, they have at length the least possible amount of earthy matter, and
the greatest spread and grasp of skyey influences. There they dance, arm
in arm with the light,--tripping it on fantastic points, fit partners in
those aerial halls. So intimately mingled are they with it, that, what
with their slenderness and their glossy surfaces, you can hardly tell at
last what in the dance is leaf and what is light. And when no zephyr
stirs, they are at most but a rich tracery to the forest-windows.

I am again struck with their beauty, when, a month later, they thickly
strew the ground in the woods, piled one upon another under my feet. They
are then brown above, but purple beneath. With their narrow lobes and
their bold deep scollops reaching almost to the middle, they suggest that
the material must be cheap, or else there has been a lavish expense in
their creation, as if so much had been cut out. Or else they seem to us
the remnants of the stuff out of which leaves have been cut with a die.
Indeed, when they lie thus one upon another, they remind me of a pile of

Or bring one home, and study it closely at your leisure, by the fireside.
It is a type, not from any Oxford font, not in the Basque nor the
arrow-headed character, not found on the Rosetta Stone, but destined to be
copied in sculpture one day, if they ever get to whittling stone here.
What a wild and pleasing outline, a combination of graceful curves and
angles! The eye rests with equal delight on what is not leaf and on what
is leaf,--on the broad, free, open sinuses, and on the long, sharp,
bristle-pointed lobes. A simple oval outline would include it all, if you
connected the points of the leaf; but how much richer is it than that,
with its half-dozen deep scollops, in which the eye and thought of the
beholder are embayed! If I were a drawing-master, I would set my pupils to
copying these leaves, that they might learn to draw firmly and gracefully.

Regarded as water, it is like a pond with half a dozen broad rounded
promontories extending nearly to its middle, half from each side, while
its watery bays extend far inland, like sharp friths, at each of whose
heads several fine streams empty in,--almost a leafy archipelago.

But it oftener suggests land, and, as Dionysius and Pliny compared
the form of the Morea to that of the leaf of the Oriental Plane-tree,
so this leaf reminds me of some fair wild island in the ocean, whose
extensive coast, alternate rounded bays with smooth strands, and
sharp-pointed rocky capes, mark it as fitted for the habitation of man,
and destined to become a centre of civilization at last. To the sailor's
eye, it is a much-indented shore. Is it not, in fact, a shore to the
aerial ocean, on which the windy surf beats? At sight of this leaf we are
all mariners,--if not vikings, buccaneers, and filibusters. Both our love
of repose and our spirit of adventure are addressed. In our most casual
glance, perchance, we think, that, if we succeed in doubling those sharp
capes, we shall find deep, smooth, and secure havens in the ample bays.
How different from the White-Oak leaf, with its rounded headlands, on
which no lighthouse need be placed! That is an England, with its long
civil history, that may be read. This is some still unsettled New-found
Island or Celebes. Shall we go and be rajahs there?

By the twenty-sixth of October the large Scarlet Oaks are in their prime,
when other Oaks are usually withered. They have been kindling their fires
for a week past, and now generally burst into a blaze. This alone of _our_
indigenous deciduous trees (excepting the Dogwood, of which I do not know
half a dozen, and they are but large bushes) is now in its glory. The two
Aspens and the Sugar-Maple come nearest to it in date, but they have lost
the greater part of their leaves. Of evergreens, only the Pitch-Pine is
still commonly bright.

But it requires a particular alertness, if not devotion to these
phenomena, to appreciate the wide-spread, but late and unexpected glory of
the Scarlet Oaks. I do not speak here of the small trees and shrubs, which
are commonly observed, and which are now withered, but of the large trees.
Most go in and shut their doors, thinking that bleak and colorless
November has already come, when some of the most brilliant and memorable
colors are not yet lit.

This very perfect and vigorous one, about forty feet high, standing in an
open pasture, which was quite glossy green on the twelfth, is now, the
twenty-sixth, completely changed to bright dark scarlet,--every leaf,
between you and the sun, as if it had been dipped into a scarlet dye. The
whole tree is much like a heart in form, as well as color. Was not this
worth waiting for? Little did you think, ten days ago, that that cold
green tree would assume such color as this. Its leaves are still firmly
attached, while those of other trees are falling around it. It seems to
say,--"I am the last to blush, but I blush deeper than any of ye. I bring
up the rear in my red coat. We Scarlet ones, alone of Oaks, have not given
up the fight."

The sap is now, and even far into November, frequently flowing fast in
these trees, as in Maples in the spring; and apparently their bright
tints, now that most other Oaks are withered, are connected with this
phenomenon. They are full of life. It has a pleasantly astringent,
acorn-like taste, this strong Oak-wine, as I find on tapping them with my

Looking across this woodland valley, a quarter of a mile wide, how rich
those Scarlet Oaks, embosomed in Pines, their bright red branches
intimately intermingled with them! They have their full effect there. The
Pine-boughs are the green calyx to their red petals. Or, as we go along a
road in the woods, the sun striking endwise through it, and lighting up
the red tents of the Oaks, which on each side are mingled with the liquid
green of the Pines, makes a very gorgeous scene. Indeed, without the
evergreens for contrast, the autumnal tints would lose much of their

The Scarlet Oak asks a clear sky and the brightness of late October days.
These bring out its colors. If the sun goes into a cloud, they become
comparatively indistinct. As I sit on a cliff in the southwest part of our
town, the sun is now getting low, and the woods in Lincoln, south and east
of me, are lit up by its more level rays; and in the Scarlet Oaks,
scattered so equally over the forest, there is brought out a more
brilliant redness than I had believed was in them. Every tree of this
species which is visible in those directions, even to the horizon, now
stands out distinctly red. Some great ones lift their red backs high above
the woods, in the next town, like huge roses with a myriad of fine petals;
and some more slender ones, in a small grove of White Pines on Pine Hill
in the east, on the very verge of the horizon, alternating with the Pines
on the edge of the grove, and shouldering them with their red coats, look
like soldiers in red amid hunters in green. This time it is Lincoln green,
too. Till the sun got low, I did not believe that there were so many red
coats in the forest army. Theirs is an intense burning red, which would
lose some of its strength, methinks, with every step you might take toward
them; for the shade that lurks amid their foliage does not report itself
at this distance, and they are unanimously red. The focus of their
reflected color is in the atmosphere far on this side. Every such tree
becomes a nucleus of red, as it were, where, with the declining sun, that
color grows and glows. It is partly borrowed fire, gathering strength from
the sun on its way to your eye. It has only some comparatively dull red
leaves for a rallying-point, or kindling-stuff, to start it, and it
becomes an intense scarlet or red mist, or fire, which finds fuel for
itself in the very atmosphere. So vivacious is redness. The very rails
reflect a rosy light at this hour and season. You see a redder tree than

If you wish to count the Scarlet Oaks, do it now. In a clear day stand
thus on a hill-top in the woods, when the sun is an hour high, and every
one within range of your vision, excepting in the west, will be revealed.
You might live to the age of Methuselah and never find a tithe of them,
otherwise. Yet sometimes even in a dark day I have thought them as bright
as I ever saw them. Looking westward, their colors are lost in a blaze of
light; but in other directions the whole forest is a flower-garden, in
which these late roses burn, alternating with green, while the so-called
"gardeners," walking here and there, perchance, beneath, with spade and
water-pot, see only a few little asters amid withered leaves.

These are _my_ China-asters, _my_ late garden-flowers. It costs me nothing
for a gardener. The falling leaves, all over the forest, are protecting
the roots of my plants. Only look at what is to be seen, and you will have
garden enough, without deepening the soil in your yard. We have only to
elevate our view a little, to see the whole forest as a garden. The
blossoming of the Scarlet Oak,--the forest-flower, surpassing all in
splendor, (at least since the Maple)! I do not know but they interest me
more than the Maples, they are so widely and equally dispersed throughout
the forest; they are so hardy, a nobler tree on the whole;--our chief
November flower, abiding the approach of winter with us, imparting warmth
to early November prospects. It is remarkable that the latest bright color
that is general should be this deep, dark scarlet and red, the intensest
of colors. The ripest fruit of the year; like the cheek of a hard, glossy,
red apple, from the cold Isle of Orleans, which will not be mellow for
eating till next spring! When I rise to a hilltop, a thousand of these
great Oak roses, distributed on every side, as far as the horizon! I
admire them four or five miles off! This my unfailing prospect for a
fortnight past! This late forest-flower surpasses all that spring or
summer could do. Their colors were but rare and dainty specks
comparatively, (created for the near-sighted, who walk amid the humblest
herbs and underwoods,) and made no impression on a distant eye. Now it is
an extended forest or a mountain-side, through or along which we journey
from day to day, that bursts into bloom. Comparatively, our gardening is
on a petty scale,--the gardener still nursing a few asters amid dead
weeds, ignorant of the gigantic asters and roses, which, as it were,
overshadow him, and ask for none of his care. It is like a little red
paint ground on a saucer, and held up against the sunset sky. Why not take
more elevated and broader views, walk in the great garden, not skulk in a
little "debauched" nook of it? consider the beauty of the forest, and not
merely of a few impounded herbs?

Let your walks now be a little more adventurous; ascend the hills. If,
about the last of October, you ascend any hill in the outskirts of our
town, and probably of yours, and look over the forest, you may see--well,
what I have endeavored to describe. All this you surely _will_ see, and
much more, if you are prepared to see it,--if you _look_ for it.
Otherwise, regular and universal as this phenomenon is, whether you stand
on the hill-top or in the hollow, you will think for threescore years and
ten that all the wood is, at this season, sere and brown. Objects are
concealed from our view, not so much because they are out of the course of
our visual ray as because we do not bring our minds and eyes to bear on
them; for there is no power to see in the eye itself, any more than in any
other jelly. We do not realize how far and widely, or how near and
narrowly, we are to look. The greater part of the phenomena of Nature are
for this reason concealed from us all our lives. The gardener sees only
the gardener's garden. Here, too, as in political economy, the supply
answers to the demand. Nature does not cast pearls before swine. There is
just as much beauty visible to us in the landscape as we are prepared to
appreciate,--not a grain more. The actual objects which one man will see
from a particular hill-top are just as different from those which another
will see as the beholders are different. The Scarlet Oak must, in a sense,
be in your eye when you go forth. We cannot see anything until we are
possessed with the idea of it, take it into our heads,--and then we can
hardly see anything else. In my botanical rambles, I find, that, first,
the idea, or image, of a plant occupies my thoughts, though it may seem
very foreign to this locality,--no nearer than Hudson's Bay,--and for some
weeks or months I go thinking of it, and expecting it, unconsciously, and
at length I surely see it. This is the history of my finding a score or
more of rare plants, which I could name. A man sees only what concerns
him. A botanist absorbed in the study of grasses does not distinguish the
grandest Pasture Oaks. He, as it were, tramples down Oaks unwittingly in
his walk, or at most sees only their shadows. I have found that it
required a different intention of the eye, in the same locality, to see
different plants, even when they were closely allied, as _Juncaceoe_ and
_Gramineoe_: when I was looking for the former, I did not see the latter
in the midst of them. How much more, then, it requires different
intentions of the eye and of the mind to attend to different departments
of knowledge! How differently the poet and the naturalist look at objects!

Take a New-England selectman, and set him on the highest of our hills, and
tell him to look,--sharpening his sight to the utmost, and putting on the
glasses that suit him best, (ay, using a spy-glass, if he likes,)--and
make a full report. What, probably, will he _spy_?--what will he _select_
to look at? Of course, he will see a Brocken spectre of himself. He will
see several meeting-houses, at least, and, perhaps, that somebody ought to
be assessed higher than he is, since he has so handsome a wood-lot. Now
take Julius Caesar, or Immanuel Swedenborg, or a Fegee-Islander, and set
him up there. Or suppose all together, and let them compare notes
afterward. Will it appear that they have enjoyed the same prospect? What
they will see will be as different as Rome was from Heaven or Hell, or the
last from the Fegee Islands. For aught we know, as strange a man as any of
these is always at our elbow.

Why, it takes a sharp-shooter to bring down even such trivial game as
snipes and woodcocks; he must take very particular aim, and know what he
is aiming at. He would stand a very small chance, if he fired at random
into the sky, being told that snipes were flying there. And so is it with
him that shoots at beauty; though he wait till the sky falls, he will not
bag any, if he does not already know its seasons and haunts, and the color
of its wing,--if he has not dreamed of it, so that he can _anticipate_ it;
then, indeed, he flushes it at every step, shoots double and on the wing,
with both barrels, even in cornfields. The sportsman trains himself,
dresses and watches unweariedly, and loads and primes for his particular
game. He prays for it, and offers sacrifices, and so he gets it. After due
and long preparation, schooling his eye and hand, dreaming awake and
asleep, with gun and paddle and boat he goes out after meadow-hens, which
most of his townsmen never saw nor dreamed of, and paddles for miles
against a head-wind, and wades in water up to his knees, being out all day
without his dinner, and _therefore_ he gets them. He had them half-way
into his bag when he started, and has only to shove them down. The true
sportsman can shoot you almost any of his game from his windows: what else
has he windows or eyes for? It comes and perches at last on the barrel of
his gun; but the rest of the world never see it _with the feathers on_.
The geese fly exactly under his zenith, and honk when they get there, and
he will keep himself supplied by firing up his chimney; twenty musquash
have the refusal of each one of his traps before it is empty. If he lives,
and his game-spirit increases, heaven and earth shall fail him sooner than
game; and when he dies, he will go to more extensive, and, perchance,
happier hunting-grounds. The fisherman, too, dreams of fish, sees a
bobbing cork in his dreams, till he can almost catch them in his
sink-spout. I knew a girl who, being sent to pick huckleberries, picked
wild gooseberries by the quart, where no one else knew that there were
any, because she was accustomed to pick them up country where she came
from. The astronomer knows where to go star-gathering, and sees one
clearly in his mind before any have seen it with a glass. The hen
scratches and finds her food right under where she stands; but such is not
the way with the hawk.

These bright leaves which I have mentioned are not the exception, but the
rule; for I believe that all leaves, even grasses and mosses, acquire
brighter colors just before their fall. When you come to observe
faithfully the changes of each humblest plant, you find that each has,
sooner or later, its peculiar autumnal tint; and if you undertake to make
a complete list of the bright tints, it will be nearly as long as a
catalogue of the plants in your vicinity.




It is remarkable how closely the history of the Apple-tree is connected
with that of man. The geologist tells us that the order of the _Rosaceae_,
which includes the Apple, also the true Grasses, and the _Labiatae_ or
Mints, were introduced only a short time previous to the appearance of man
on the globe.

It appears that apples made a part of the food of that unknown primitive
people whose traces have lately been found at the bottom of the Swiss
lakes, supposed to be older than the foundation of Rome, so old that they
had no metallic implements. An entire black and shrivelled Crab-Apple has
been recovered from their stores.

Tacitus says of the ancient Germans, that they satisfied their hunger with
wild apples (_agrestia poma_) among other things.

Niebuhr observes that "the words for a house, a field, a plough,
ploughing, wine, oil, milk, sheep, apples, and others relating to
agriculture and the gentler way of life, agree in Latin and Greek, while
the Latin words for all objects pertaining to war or the chase are utterly
alien from the Greek." Thus the apple-tree may be considered a symbol of
peace no less than the olive.

The apple was early so important, and generally distributed, that its name
traced to its root in many languages signifies fruit in general. [Greek:
Maelon], in Greek, means an apple, also the fruit of other trees, also a
sheep and any cattle, and finally riches in general.

The apple-tree has been celebrated by the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, and
Scandinavians. Some have thought that the first human pair were tempted by
its fruit. Goddesses are fabled to have contended for it, dragons were set
to watch it, and heroes were employed to pluck it.

The tree is mentioned in at least three places in the Old Testament, and
its fruit in two or three more. Solomon sings,--"As the apple-tree among
the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons." And again,--"Stay
me with flagons, comfort me with apples." The noblest part of man's
noblest feature is named from this fruit, "the apple of the eye."

The apple-tree is also mentioned by Homer and Herodotus. Ulysses saw in
the glorious garden of Alcinous "pears and pomegranates, and apple-trees
bearing beautiful fruit" (kai maeleui aglaokarpoi). And according to
Homer, apples were among the fruits which Tantalus could not pluck, the
wind ever blowing their boughs away from him. Theophrastus knew and
described the apple-tree as a botanist.

According to the Prose Edda, "Iduna keeps in a box the apples which the
gods, when they feel old age approaching, have only to taste of to become
young again. It is in this manner that they will be kept in renovated
youth until Ragnarök" (or the destruction of the gods).

I learn from Loudon that "the ancient Welsh bards were rewarded for
excelling in song by the token of the apple-spray;" and "in the Highlands
of Scotland the apple-tree is the badge of the-clan Lamont."

The apple-tree (_Pyrus malus_) belongs chiefly to the northern temperate
zone. Loudon says, that "it grows spontaneously in every part of Europe
except the frigid zone, and throughout Western Asia, China, and Japan." We
have also two or three varieties of the apple indigenous in North America.
The cultivated apple-tree was first introduced into this country by the
earliest settlers, and is thought to do as well or better here than
anywhere else. Probably some of the varieties which are now cultivated
were first introduced into Britain by the Romans.

Pliny, adopting the distinction of Theophrastus, says,--"Of trees there
are some which are altogether wild (_sylvestres_), some more civilized
(_urbaniores_)." Theophrastus includes the apple among the last; and,
indeed, it is in this sense the most civilized of all trees. It is as
harmless as a dove, as beautiful as a rose, and as valuable as flocks and
herds. It has been longer cultivated than any other, and so is more
humanized; and who knows but, like the dog, it will at length be no longer
traceable to its wild original? It migrates with man, like the dog and
horse and cow: first, perchance, from Greece to Italy, thence to England,
thence to America; and our Western emigrant is still marching steadily
toward the setting sun with the seeds of the apple in his pocket, or
perhaps a few young trees strapped to his load. At least a million
apple-trees are thus set farther westward this year than any cultivated
ones grew last year. Consider how the Blossom-Week, like the Sabbath, is
thus annually spreading over the prairies; for when man migrates, he
carries with him not only his birds, quadrupeds, insects, vegetables, and
his very sward, but his orchard also.

The leaves and tender twigs are an agreeable food to many domestic
animals, as the cow, horse, sheep, and goat; and the fruit is sought after
by the first, as well as by the hog. Thus there appears to have existed
a natural alliance between these animals and this tree from the first.
"The fruit of the Crab in the forests of France" is said to be "a great
resource for the wild-boar."

Not only the Indian, but many indigenous insects, birds, and quadrupeds,
welcomed the apple-tree to these shores. The tent-caterpillar saddled her
eggs on the very first twig that was formed, and it has since shared her
affections with the wild cherry; and the canker-worm also in a measure
abandoned the elm to feed on it. As it grew apace, the bluebird, robin,
cherry-bird, king-bird, and many more, came with haste and built their
nests and warbled in its boughs, and so became orchard-birds, and
multiplied more than ever. It was an era in the history of their race.
The downy woodpecker found such a savory morsel under its bark, that he
perforated it in a ring quite round the tree, before he left it,--a thing
which he had never done before, to my knowledge. It did not take the
partridge long to find out how sweet its buds were, and every winter eve
she flew, and still flies, from the wood, to pluck them, much to the
farmer's sorrow. The rabbit, too, was not slow to learn the taste of its
twigs and bark; and when the fruit was ripe, the squirrel half-rolled,
half-carried it to his hole; and even the musquash crept up the bank from
the brook at evening, and greedily devoured it, until he had worn a path
in the grass there; and when it was frozen and thawed, the crow and the
jay were glad to taste it occasionally. The owl crept into the first
apple-tree that became hollow, and fairly hooted with delight, finding it
just the place for him; so, settling down into it, he has remained there
ever since.

My theme being the Wild Apple, I will merely glance at some of the seasons
in the annual growth of the cultivated apple, and pass on to my special

The flowers of the apple are perhaps the most beautiful of any tree's, so
copious and so delicious to both sight and scent. The walker is frequently
tempted to turn and linger near some more than usually handsome one, whose
blossoms are two thirds expanded. How superior it is in these respects to
the pear, whose blossoms are neither colored nor fragrant!

By the middle of July, green apples are so large as to remind us of
coddling, and of the autumn. The sward is commonly strewed with little
ones which fall still-born, as it were,--Nature thus thinning them for us.
The Roman writer Palladius said,--"If apples are inclined to fall before
their time, a stone placed in a split root will retain them." Some such
notion, still surviving, may account for some of the stones which we see
placed to be overgrown in the forks of trees. They have a saying in
Suffolk, England,--

"At Michaelmas time, or a little before,
Half an apple goes to the core."

Early apples begin to be ripe about the first of August; but I think that
none of them are so good to eat as some to smell. One is worth more to
scent your handkerchief with than any perfume which they sell in the
shops. The fragrance of some fruits is not to be forgotten, along with
that of flowers. Some gnarly apple which I pick up in the road reminds me
by its fragrance of all the wealth of Pomona,--carrying me forward to
those days when they will be collected in golden and ruddy heaps in the
orchards and about the cider-mills.

A week or two later, as you are going by orchards or gardens, especially
in the evenings, you pass through a little region possessed by the
fragrance of ripe apples, and thus enjoy them without price, and without
robbing anybody.

There is thus about all natural products a certain volatile and ethereal
quality which represents their highest value, and which cannot be
vulgarized, or bought and sold. No mortal has ever enjoyed the perfect
flavor of any fruit, and only the godlike among men begin to taste its
ambrosial qualities. For nectar and ambrosia are only those fine flavors
of every earthly fruit which our coarse palates fail to perceive,--just as
we occupy the heaven of the gods without knowing it. When I see a
particularly mean man carrying a load of fair and fragrant early apples to
market, I seem to see a contest going on between him and his horse, on the
one side, and the apples on the other, and, to my mind, the apples always
gain it. Pliny says that apples are the heaviest of all things, and that
the oxen begin to sweat at the mere sight of a load of them. Our driver
begins to lose his load the moment he tries to transport them to where
they do not belong, that is, to any but the most beautiful. Though he gets
out from time to time, and feels of them, and thinks they are all there, I
see the stream of their evanescent and celestial qualities going to heaven
from his cart, while the pulp and skin and core only are going to market.
They are not apples, but pomace. Are not these still Iduna's apples, the
taste of which keeps the gods forever young? and think you that they will
let Loki or Thjassi carry them off to Jötunheim, while they grow wrinkled
and gray? No, for Ragnarök, or the destruction of the gods, is not yet.

There is another thinning of the fruit, commonly near the end of August or
in September, when the ground is strewn with windfalls; and this happens
especially when high winds occur after rain. In some orchards you may see
fully three quarters of the whole crop on the ground, lying in a circular
form beneath the trees, yet hard and green,--or, if it is a hill-side,
rolled far down the hill. However, it is an ill wind that blows nobody any
good. All the country over, people are busy picking up the windfalls, and
this will make them cheap for early apple-pies.

In October, the leaves falling, the apples are more distinct on the trees.
I saw one year in a neighboring town some trees fuller of fruit than I
remember to have ever seen before, small yellow apples hanging over the
road. The branches were gracefully drooping with their weight, like a
barberry-bush, so that the whole tree acquired a new character. Even the
topmost branches, instead of standing erect, spread and drooped in all
directions; and there were so many poles supporting the lower ones, that
they looked like pictures of banian-trees. As an old English manuscript
says, "The mo appelen the tree bereth, the more sche boweth to the folk."

Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits. Let the most beautiful or the
swiftest have it. That should be the "going" price of apples.

Between the fifth and twentieth of October I see the barrels lie under the
trees. And perhaps I talk with one who is selecting some choice barrels to
fulfil an order. He turns a specked one over many times before he leaves
it out. If I were to tell what is passing in my mind, I should say that
every one was specked which he had handled; for he rubs off all the bloom,
and those fugacious ethereal qualities leave it. Cool eveings prompt the
farmers to make haste, and at length I see only the ladders here and there
left leaning against the trees.

It would be well, if we accepted these gifts with more joy and gratitude,
and did not think it enough simply to put a fresh load of compost about
the tree. Some old English customs are suggestive at least. I find them
described chiefly in Brand's "Popular Antiquities." It appears that "on
Christmas eve the farmers and their men in Devonshire take a large bowl of
cider, with a toast in it, and carrying it in state to the orchard, they
salute the apple-trees with much ceremony, in order to make them bear well
the next season." This salutation consists in "throwing some of the cider
about the roots of the tree, placing bits of the toast on the branches,"
and then, "encircling one of the best bearing trees in the orchard, they
drink the following toast three several times:--

'Here's to thee, old apple-tree,
Whence thou mayst bud, and whence thou mayst blow,
And whence thou mayst bear apples enow!
Hats-full! caps-full!
Bushel, bushel, sacks-full!
And my pockets full, too! Hurra!'"

Also what was called "apple-howling" used to be practised in various
counties of England on New-Year's eve. A troop of boys visited the
different orchards, and, encircling the apple-trees, repeated the
following words:--

"Stand fast, root! bear well, top!
Pray God send us a good howling crop:
Every twig, apples big;
Every bow, apples enow!"

"They then shout in chorus, one of the boys accompanying them on a cow's
horn. During this ceremony they rap the trees with their sticks." This is
called "wassailing" the trees, and is thought by some to be "a relic of
the heathen sacrifice to Pomona."

Herrick sings,--

"Wassaile the trees that they may beare
You many a plum and many a peare;
For more or less fruits they will bring
As you so give them wassailing."

Our poets have as yet a better right to sing of cider than of wine; but it
behooves them to sing better than English Phillips did, else they will do
no credit to their Muse.


So much for the more civilized apple-trees (_urbaniores_, as Pliny
calls them). I love better to go through the old orchards of ungrafted
apple-trees, at whatever season of the year,--so irregularly planted:
sometimes two trees standing close together; and the rows so devious that
you would think that they not only had grown while the owner was sleeping,
but had been set out by him in a somnambulic state. The rows of grafted
fruit will never tempt me to wander amid them like these. But I now, alas,
speak rather from memory than from any recent experience, such ravages
have been made!

Some soils, like a rocky tract called the Easterbrooks Country in my
neighborhood, are so suited to the apple, that it will grow faster in them
without any care, or if only the ground is broken up once a year, than it
will in many places with any amount of care. The owners of this tract
allow that the soil is excellent for fruit, but they say that it is so
rocky that they have not patience to plough it, and that, together with
the distance, is the reason why it is not cultivated. There are, or were
recently, extensive orchards there standing without order. Nay, they
spring up wild and bear well there in the midst of pines, birches, maples,
and oaks. I am often surprised to see rising amid these trees the rounded
tops of apple-trees glowing with red or yellow fruit; in harmony with the
autumnal tints of the forest.

Going up the side of a cliff about the first of November, I saw a vigorous
young apple-tree, which, planted by birds or cows, had shot up amid the
rocks and open woods there, and had now much fruit on it, uninjured by
the frosts, when all cultivated apples were gathered. It was a rank
wild growth, with many green leaves on it still, and made an impression
of thorniness. The fruit was hard and green, but looked as if it would be
palatable in the winter. Some was dangling on the twigs, but more
half-buried in the wet leaves under the tree, or rolled far down the hill
amid the rocks. The owner knows nothing of it. The day was not observed
when it first blossomed, nor when it first bore fruit, unless by the
chickadee. There was no dancing on the green beneath it in its honor, and
now there is no hand to pluck its fruit,--which is only gnawed by
squirrels, as I perceive. It has done double duty,--not only borne this
crop, but each twig has grown a foot into the air. And this is _such_
fruit! bigger than many berries, we must admit, and carried home will be
sound and palatable next spring. What care I for Iduna's apples so long as
I can get these?

When I go by this shrub thus late and hardy, and see its dangling fruit,
I respect the tree, and I am grateful for Nature's bounty, even though
I cannot eat it. Here on this rugged and woody hill-side has grown an
apple-tree, not planted by man, no relic of a former orchard, but a
natural growth, like the pines and oaks. Most fruits which we prize and
use depend entirely on our care. Corn and grain, potatoes, peaches,
melons, etc., depend altogether on our planting; but the apple emulates
man's independence and enterprise. It is not simply carried, as I have
said, but, like him, to some extent, it has migrated to this New World,
and is even, here and there, making its way amid the aboriginal trees;
just as the ox and dog and horse sometimes run wild and maintain

Even the sourest and crabbedest apple, growing in the most unfavorable
position, suggests such thoughts as these, it is so noble a fruit.


Nevertheless, _our_ wild apple is wild only like myself, perchance, who
belong not to the aboriginal race here, but have strayed into the woods
from the cultivated stock. Wilder still, as I have said, there grows
elsewhere in this country a native and aboriginal Crab-Apple, _Malus
coronaria_, "whose nature has not yet been modified by cultivation."
It is found from Western New-York to Minnesota, and southward. Michaux
says that its ordinary height "is fifteen or eighteen feet, but it is
sometimes found twenty-five or thirty feet high," and that the large ones
"exactly resemble the common apple-tree." "The flowers are white mingled
with rose-color, and are collected in corymbs." They are remarkable for
their delicious odor. The fruit, according to him, is about an inch and a
half in diameter, and is intensely acid. Yet they make fine sweetmeats,
and also cider of them. He concludes, that "if, on being cultivated, it
does not yield new and palatable varieties, it will at least be celebrated
for the beauty of its flowers, and for the sweetness of its perfume."

I never saw the Crab-Apple till May, 1861. I had heard of it through
Michaux, but more modern botanists, so far as I know, have not treated it
as of any peculiar importance. Thus it was a half-fabulous tree to me. I
contemplated a pilgrimage to the "Glades," a portion of Pennsylvania where
it was said to grow to perfection. I thought of sending to a nursery for
it, but doubted if they had it, or would distinguish it from European
varieties. At last I had occasion to go to Minnesota, and on entering
Michigan I began to notice from the cars a tree with handsome rose-colored
flowers. At first I thought it some variety of thorn; but it was not long
before the truth flashed on me, that this was my long-sought Crab-Apple.
It was the prevailing flowering shrub or tree to be seen from the cars at
that season of the year,--about the middle of May. But the cars never
stopped before one, and so I was launched on the bosom of the Mississippi
without having touched one, experiencing the fate of Tantalus. On arriving
at St. Anthony's Falls, I was sorry to be told that I was too far north
for the Crab-Apple. Nevertheless I succeeded in finding it about eight
miles west of the Falls; touched it and smelled it, and secured a
lingering corymb of flowers for my herbarium. This must have been near its
northern limit.


But though these are indigenous, like the Indians, I doubt whether they
are any hardier than those backwoodsmen among the apple-trees, which,
though descended from cultivated stocks, plant themselves in distant
fields and forests, where the soil is favorable to them. I know of no
trees which have more difficulties to contend with, and which more
sturdily resist their foes. These are the ones whose story we have to
tell. It oftentimes reads thus:--

Near the beginning of May, we notice little thickets of apple-trees just
springing up in the pastures where cattle have been,--as the rocky ones of
our Easterbrooks Country, or the top of Nobscot Hill, in Sudbury. One or
two of these perhaps survive the drought and other accidents,--their very
birthplace defending them against the encroaching grass and some other
dangers, at first.

In two years' time 't had thus
Reached the level of the rocks,
Admired the stretching world,
Nor feared the wandering flocks.

But at this tender age
Its sufferings began:
There came a browsing ox
And cut it down a span.

This time, perhaps, the ox does not notice it amid the grass; but the next
year, when it has grown more stout, he recognizes it for a fellow-emigrant
from the old country, the flavor of whose leaves and twigs he well knows;
and though at first he pauses to welcome it, and express his surprise, and
gets for answer, "The same cause that brought you here brought me," he
nevertheless browses it again, reflecting, it may be, that he has some
title to it.

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