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A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers by Henry David Thoreau

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seen such men, nor shall see them, as Perithous, and Dryas, and
," that is probably Washington, sole "Shepherd of
the People." And when Apollo has now six times rolled westward,
or seemed to roll, and now for the seventh time shows his face in
the east, eyes wellnigh glazed, long glassed, which have
fluctuated only between lamb's wool and worsted, explore
ceaselessly some good sermon book. For six days shalt thou labor
and do all thy knitting, but on the seventh, forsooth, thy
reading. Happy we who can bask in this warm September sun, which
illumines all creatures, as well when they rest as when they
toil, not without a feeling of gratitude; whose life is as
blameless, how blameworthy soever it may be, on the Lord's
Mona-day as on his Suna-day.

There are various, nay, incredible faiths; why should we be
alarmed at any of them? What man believes, God believes. Long
as I have lived, and many blasphemers as I have heard and seen, I
have never yet heard or witnessed any direct and conscious
blasphemy or irreverence; but of indirect and habitual, enough.
Where is the man who is guilty of direct and personal insolence
to Him that made him?

One memorable addition to the old mythology is due to this
era,--the Christian fable. With what pains, and tears, and blood
these centuries have woven this and added it to the mythology of
mankind. The new Prometheus. With what miraculous consent, and
patience, and persistency has this mythus been stamped on the
memory of the race! It would seem as if it were in the progress
of our mythology to dethrone Jehovah, and crown Christ in his

If it is not a tragical life we live, then I know not what to
call it. Such a story as that of Jesus Christ,--the history of
Jerusalem, say, being a part of the Universal History. The
naked, the embalmed, unburied death of Jerusalem amid its
desolate hills,--think of it. In Tasso's poem I trust some
things are sweetly buried. Consider the snappish tenacity with
which they preach Christianity still. What are time and space to
Christianity, eighteen hundred years, and a new world?--that the
humble life of a Jewish peasant should have force to make a New
York bishop so bigoted. Forty-four lamps, the gift of kings, now
burning in a place called the Holy Sepulchre;--a church-bell
ringing;--some unaffected tears shed by a pilgrim on Mount
Calvary within the week.--

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, when I forget thee, may my right hand
forget her cunning."

"By the waters of Babylon there we sat down, and we wept when we
remembered Zion."

I trust that some may be as near and dear to Buddha, or Christ,
or Swedenborg, who are without the pale of their churches. It is
necessary not to be Christian to appreciate the beauty and
significance of the life of Christ. I know that some will have
hard thoughts of me, when they hear their Christ named beside my
Buddha, yet I am sure that I am willing they should love their
Christ more than my Buddha, for the love is the main thing, and I
like him too. "God is the letter Ku, as well as Khu." Why need
Christians be still intolerant and superstitious? The
simple-minded sailors were unwilling to cast overboard Jonah at
his own request.--

"Where is this love become in later age?
Alas! 'tis gone in endless pilgrimage
From hence, and never to return, I doubt,
Till revolution wheel those times about."

One man says,--

"The world's a popular disease, that reigns
Within the froward heart and frantic brains
Of poor distempered mortals."

Another, that

"all the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players."

The world is a strange place for a playhouse to stand within it.
Old Drayton thought that a man that lived here, and would be a
poet, for instance, should have in him certain "brave,
translunary things," and a "fine madness" should possess his
brain. Certainly it were as well, that he might be up to the
occasion. That is a superfluous wonder, which Dr. Johnson
expresses at the assertion of Sir Thomas Browne that "his life
has been a miracle of thirty years, which to relate, were not
history but a piece of poetry, and would sound like a fable." The
wonder is, rather, that all men do not assert as much. That
would be a rare praise, if it were true, which was addressed to
Francis Beaumont,--"Spectators sate part in your tragedies."

Think what a mean and wretched place this world is; that half the
time we have to light a lamp that we may see to live in it. This
is half our life. Who would undertake the enterprise if it were
all? And, pray, what more has day to offer? A lamp that burns
more clear, a purer oil, say winter-strained, that so we may
pursue our idleness with less obstruction. Bribed with a little
sunlight and a few prismatic tints, we bless our Maker, and stave
off his wrath with hymns.

I make ye an offer,
Ye gods, hear the scoffer,
The scheme will not hurt you,
If ye will find goodness, I will find virtue.
Though I am your creature,
And child of your nature,
I have pride still unbended,
And blood undescended,
Some free independence,
And my own descendants.
I cannot toil blindly,
Though ye behave kindly,
And I swear by the rood,
I'll be slave to no God.
If ye will deal plainly,
I will strive mainly,
If ye will discover,
Great plans to your lover,
And give him a sphere
Somewhat larger than here.

"Verily, my angels! I was abashed on account of my servant, who
had no Providence but me; therefore did I pardon him."--_The
Gulistan of Sadi._

Most people with whom I talk, men and women even of some
originality and genius, have their scheme of the universe all cut
and dried,--very _dry_, I assure you, to hear, dry enough to
burn, dry-rotted and powder-post, methinks,--which they set up
between you and them in the shortest intercourse; an ancient and
tottering frame with all its boards blown off. They do not walk
without their bed. Some, to me, seemingly very unimportant and
unsubstantial things and relations, are for them everlastingly
settled,--as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the like. These
are like the everlasting hills to them. But in all my wanderings
I never came across the least vestige of authority for these
things. They have not left so distinct a trace as the delicate
flower of a remote geological period on the coal in my grate.
The wisest man preaches no doctrines; he has no scheme; he sees
no rafter, not even a cobweb, against the heavens. It is clear
sky. If I ever see more clearly at one time than at another, the
medium through which I see is clearer. To see from earth to
heaven, and see there standing, still a fixture, that old Jewish
scheme! What right have you to hold up this obstacle to my
understanding you, to your understanding me! You did not invent
it; it was imposed on you. Examine your authority. Even Christ,
we fear, had his scheme, his conformity to tradition, which
slightly vitiates his teaching. He had not swallowed all
formulas. He preached some mere doctrines. As for me, Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob are now only the subtilest imaginable essences,
which would not stain the morning sky. Your scheme must be the
framework of the universe; all other schemes will soon be ruins.
The perfect God in his revelations of himself has never got to
the length of one such proposition as you, his prophets, state.
Have you learned the alphabet of heaven and can count three? Do
you know the number of God's family? Can you put mysteries into
words? Do you presume to fable of the ineffable? Pray, what
geographer are you, that speak of heaven's topography? Whose
friend are you that speak of God's personality? Do you, Miles
Howard, think that he has made you his confidant? Tell me of the
height of the mountains of the moon, or of the diameter of space,
and I may believe you, but of the secret history of the Almighty,
and I shall pronounce thee mad. Yet we have a sort of family
history of our God,--so have the Tahitians of theirs,--and some
old poet's grand imagination is imposed on us as adamantine
everlasting truth, and God's own word! Pythagoras says, truly
enough, "A true assertion respecting God, is an assertion of
God"; but we may well doubt if there is any example of this in

The New Testament is an invaluable book, though I confess to
having been slightly prejudiced against it in my very early days
by the church and the Sabbath school, so that it seemed, before I
read it, to be the yellowest book in the catalogue. Yet I early
escaped from their meshes. It was hard to get the commentaries
out of one's head and taste its true flavor.--I think that
Pilgrim's Progress is the best sermon which has been preached
from this text; almost all other sermons that I have heard, or
heard of, have been but poor imitations of this.--It would be a
poor story to be prejudiced against the Life of Christ because
the book has been edited by Christians. In fact, I love this
book rarely, though it is a sort of castle in the air to me,
which I am permitted to dream. Having come to it so recently and
freshly, it has the greater charm, so that I cannot find any to
talk with about it. I never read a novel, they have so little
real life and thought in them. The reading which I love best is
the scriptures of the several nations, though it happens that I
am better acquainted with those of the Hindoos, the Chinese, and
the Persians, than of the Hebrews, which I have come to last.
Give me one of these Bibles and you have silenced me for a while.
When I recover the use of my tongue, I am wont to worry my
neighbors with the new sentences; but commonly they cannot see
that there is any wit in them. Such has been my experience with
the New Testament. I have not yet got to the crucifixion, I have
read it over so many times. I should love dearly to read it
aloud to my friends, some of whom are seriously inclined; it is
so good, and I am sure that they have never heard it, it fits
their case exactly, and we should enjoy it so much together,--but
I instinctively despair of getting their ears. They soon show,
by signs not to be mistaken, that it is inexpressibly wearisome
to them. I do not mean to imply that I am any better than my
neighbors; for, alas! I know that I am only as good, though I
love better books than they.

It is remarkable that, notwithstanding the universal favor with
which the New Testament is outwardly received, and even the
bigotry with which it is defended, there is no hospitality shown
to, there is no appreciation of, the order of truth with which it
deals. I know of no book that has so few readers. There is none
so truly strange, and heretical, and unpopular. To Christians,
no less than Greeks and Jews, it is foolishness and a
stumbling-block. There are, indeed, severe things in it which no
man should read aloud more than once.--"Seek first the kingdom of
heaven."--"Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth."--"If
thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the
poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven."--"For what is a
man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own
soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"--Think
of this, Yankees!--"Verily, I say unto you, if ye have faith as a
grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove
hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be
impossible unto you."--Think of repeating these things to a New
England audience! thirdly, fourthly, fifteenthly, till there are
three barrels of sermons! Who, without cant, can read them
aloud? Who, without cant, can hear them, and not go out of the
meeting-house? They never _were_ read, they never _were_ heard.
Let but one of these sentences be rightly read, from any pulpit
in the land, and there would not be left one stone of that
meeting-house upon another.

Yet the New Testament treats of man and man's so-called spiritual
affairs too exclusively, and is too constantly moral and
personal, to alone content me, who am not interested solely in
man's religious or moral nature, or in man even. I have not the
most definite designs on the future. Absolutely speaking, Do
unto others as you would that they should do unto you, is by no
means a golden rule, but the best of current silver. An honest
man would have but little occasion for it. It is golden not to
have any rule at all in such a case. The book has never been
written which is to be accepted without any allowance. Christ
was a sublime actor on the stage of the world. He knew what he
was thinking of when he said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away,
but my words shall not pass away." I draw near to him at such a
time. Yet he taught mankind but imperfectly how to live; his
thoughts were all directed toward another world. There is
another kind of success than his. Even here we have a sort of
living to get, and must buffet it somewhat longer. There are
various tough problems yet to solve, and we must make shift to
live, betwixt spirit and matter, such a human life as we can.

A healthy man, with steady employment, as wood-chopping at fifty
cents a cord, and a camp in the woods, will not be a good subject
for Christianity. The New Testament may be a choice book to him
on some, but not on all or most of his days. He will rather go
a-fishing in his leisure hours. The Apostles, though they were
fishers too, were of the solemn race of sea-fishers, and never
trolled for pickerel on inland streams.

Men have a singular desire to be good without being good for
anything, because, perchance, they think vaguely that so it will
be good for them in the end. The sort of morality which the
priests inculcate is a very subtle policy, far finer than the
politicians, and the world is very successfully ruled by them as
the policemen. It is not worth the while to let our imperfections
disturb us always. The conscience really does not, and ought not
to monopolize the whole of our lives, any more than the heart or
the head. It is as liable to disease as any other part. I have
seen some whose consciences, owing undoubtedly to former
indulgence, had grown to be as irritable as spoilt children, and
at length gave them no peace. They did not know when to swallow
their cud, and their lives of course yielded no milk.

Conscience is instinct bred in the house,
Feeling and Thinking propagate the sin
By an unnatural breeding in and in.
I say, Turn it out doors,
Into the moors.
I love a life whose plot is simple,
And does not thicken with every pimple,
A soul so sound no sickly conscience binds it,
That makes the universe no worse than 't finds it.
I love an earnest soul,
Whose mighty joy and sorrow
Are not drowned in a bowl,
And brought to life to-morrow;
That lives one tragedy,
And not seventy;
A conscience worth keeping,
Laughing not weeping;
A conscience wise and steady,
And forever ready;
Not changing with events,
Dealing in compliments;
A conscience exercised about
Large things, where one _may_ doubt.
I love a soul not all of wood,
Predestinated to be good,
But true to the backbone
Unto itself alone,
And false to none;
Born to its own affairs,
Its own joys and own cares;
By whom the work which God begun
Is finished, and not undone;
Taken up where he left off,
Whether to worship or to scoff;
If not good, why then evil,
If not good god, good devil.
Goodness!--you hypocrite, come out of that,
Live your life, do your work, then take your hat.
I have no patience towards
Such conscientious cowards.
Give me simple laboring folk,
Who love their work,
Whose virtue is a song
To cheer God along.

I was once reproved by a minister who was driving a poor beast to
some meeting-house horse-sheds among the hills of New Hampshire,
because I was bending my steps to a mountain-top on the Sabbath,
instead of a church, when I would have gone farther than he to
hear a true word spoken on that or any day. He declared that I
was "breaking the Lord's fourth commandment," and proceeded to
enumerate, in a sepulchral tone, the disasters which had befallen
him whenever he had done any ordinary work on the Sabbath. He
really thought that a god was on the watch to trip up those men
who followed any secular work on this day, and did not see that
it was the evil conscience of the workers that did it. The
country is full of this superstition, so that when one enters a
village, the church, not only really but from association, is the
ugliest looking building in it, because it is the one in which
human nature stoops the lowest and is most disgraced. Certainly,
such temples as these shall erelong cease to deform the
landscape. There are few things more disheartening and disgusting
than when you are walking the streets of a strange village on the
Sabbath, to hear a preacher shouting like a boatswain in a gale
of wind, and thus harshly profaning the quiet atmosphere of the
day. You fancy him to have taken off his coat, as when men are
about to do hot and dirty work.

If I should ask the minister of Middlesex to let me speak in his
pulpit on a Sunday, he would object, because I do not _pray_ as
he does, or because I am not _ordained_. What under the sun are
these things?

Really, there is no infidelity, now-a-days, so great as that
which prays, and keeps the Sabbath, and rebuilds the churches.
The sealer of the South Pacific preaches a truer doctrine. The
church is a sort of hospital for men's souls, and as full of
quackery as the hospital for their bodies. Those who are taken
into it live like pensioners in their Retreat or Sailor's Sung
Harbor, where you may see a row of religious cripples sitting
outside in sunny weather. Let not the apprehension that he may
one day have to occupy a ward therein, discourage the cheerful
labors of the able-souled man. While he remembers the sick in
their extremities, let him not look thither as to his goal. One
is sick at heart of this pagoda worship. It is like the beating
of gongs in a Hindoo subterranean temple. In dark places and
dungeons the preacher's words might perhaps strike root and grow,
but not in broad daylight in any part of the world that I know.
The sound of the Sabbath bell far away, now breaking on these
shores, does not awaken pleasing associations, but melancholy and
sombre ones rather. One involuntarily rests on his oar, to humor
his unusually meditative mood. It is as the sound of many
catechisms and religious books twanging a canting peal round the
earth, seeming to issue from some Egyptian temple and echo along
the shore of the Nile, right opposite to Pharaoh's palace and
Moses in the bulrushes, startling a multitude of storks and
alligators basking in the sun.

Everywhere "good men" sound a retreat, and the word has gone
forth to fall back on innocence. Fall forward rather on to
whatever there is there. Christianity only hopes. It has hung
its harp on the willows, and cannot sing a song in a strange
land. It has dreamed a sad dream, and does not yet welcome the
morning with joy. The mother tells her falsehoods to her child,
but, thank Heaven, the child does not grow up in its parent's
shadow. Our mother's faith has not grown with her experience.
Her experience has been too much for her. The lesson of life was
too hard for her to learn.

It is remarkable, that almost all speakers and writers feel it to
be incumbent on them, sooner or later, to prove or to acknowledge
the personality of God. Some Earl of Bridgewater, thinking it
better late than never, has provided for it in his will. It is a
sad mistake. In reading a work on agriculture, we have to skip
the author's moral reflections, and the words "Providence" and
"He" scattered along the page, to come at the profitable level of
what he has to say. What he calls his religion is for the most
part offensive to the nostrils. He should know better than
expose himself, and keep his foul sores covered till they are
quite healed. There is more religion in men's science than there
is science in their religion. Let us make haste to the report of
the committee on swine.

A man's real faith is never contained in his creed, nor is his
creed an article of his faith. The last is never adopted. This
it is that permits him to smile ever, and to live even as bravely
as he does. And yet he clings anxiously to his creed, as to a
straw, thinking that that does him good service because his sheet
anchor does not drag.

In most men's religion, the ligature, which should be its
umbilical cord connecting them with divinity, is rather like that
thread which the accomplices of Cylon held in their hands when
they went abroad from the temple of Minerva, the other end being
attached to the statue of the goddess. But frequently, as in
their case, the thread breaks, being stretched, and they are left
without an asylum.

"A good and pious man reclined his head on the bosom of
contemplation, and was absorbed in the ocean of a revery. At
the instant when he awaked from his vision, one of his friends,
by way of pleasantry, said, What rare gift have you brought us
from that garden, where you have been recreating? He replied,
I fancied to myself and said, when I can reach the rose-bower,
I will fill my lap with the flowers, and bring them as a
present to my friends; but when I got there, the fragrance of
the roses so intoxicated me, that the skirt dropped from my
hands.----`O bird of dawn! learn the warmth of affection from
the moth; for that scorched creature gave up the ghost, and
uttered not a groan: These vain pretenders are ignorant of him
they seek after; for of him that knew him we never heard
again:--O thou! who towerest above the flights of conjecture,
opinion, and comprehension; whatever has been reported of thee
we have heard and read; the congregation is dismissed, and life
drawn to a close; and we still rest at our first encomium of

By noon we were let down into the Merrimack through the locks at
Middlesex, just above Pawtucket Falls, by a serene and
liberal-minded man, who came quietly from his book, though his
duties, we supposed, did not require him to open the locks on
Sundays. With him we had a just and equal encounter of the eyes,
as between two honest men.

The movements of the eyes express the perpetual and unconscious
courtesy of the parties. It is said, that a rogue does not look
you in the face, neither does an honest man look at you as if he
had his reputation to establish. I have seen some who did not
know when to turn aside their eyes in meeting yours. A truly
confident and magnanimous spirit is wiser than to contend for the
mastery in such encounters. Serpents alone conquer by the
steadiness of their gaze. My friend looks me in the face and
sees me, that is all.

The best relations were at once established between us and this
man, and though few words were spoken, he could not conceal a
visible interest in us and our excursion. He was a lover of the
higher mathematics, as we found, and in the midst of some vast
sunny problem, when we overtook him and whispered our conjectures.
By this man we were presented with the freedom of the Merrimack.
We now felt as if we were fairly launched on the ocean-stream of
our voyage, and were pleased to find that our boat would float on
Merrimack water. We began again busily to put in practice those
old arts of rowing, steering, and paddling. It seemed a strange
phenomenon to us that the two rivers should mingle their waters
so readily, since we had never associated them in our thoughts.

As we glided over the broad bosom of the Merrimack, between
Chelmsford and Dracut, at noon, here a quarter of a mile wide,
the rattling of our oars was echoed over the water to those
villages, and their slight sounds to us. Their harbors lay as
smooth and fairy-like as the Lido, or Syracuse, or Rhodes, in our
imagination, while, like some strange roving craft, we flitted
past what seemed the dwellings of noble home-staying men, seemingly
as conspicuous as if on an eminence, or floating upon a tide
which came up to those villagers' breasts. At a third of a mile
over the water we heard distinctly some children repeating their
catechism in a cottage near the shore, while in the broad
shallows between, a herd of cows stood lashing their sides, and
waging war with the flies.

Two hundred years ago other catechizing than this was going on
here; for here came the Sachem Wannalancet, and his people, and
sometimes Tahatawan, our Concord Sachem, who afterwards had a
church at home, to catch fish at the falls; and here also came
John Eliot, with the Bible and Catechism, and Baxter's Call to
the Unconverted, and other tracts, done into the Massachusetts
tongue, and taught them Christianity meanwhile. "This place,"
says Gookin, referring to Wamesit,

"being an ancient and capital seat of Indians, they come to
fish; and this good man takes this opportunity to spread the
net of the gospel, to fish for their souls."--"May 5th, 1674,"
he continues, "according to our usual custom, Mr. Eliot and
myself took our journey to Wamesit, or Pawtuckett; and arriving
there that evening, Mr. Eliot preached to as many of them as
could be got together, out of Matt. xxii. 1-14, the parable
of the marriage of the king's son. We met at the wigwam of one
called Wannalancet, about two miles from the town, near
Pawtuckett falls, and bordering upon Merrimak river. This
person, Wannalancet, is the eldest son of old Pasaconaway, the
chiefest sachem of Pawtuckett. He is a sober and grave person,
and of years, between fifty and sixty. He hath been always
loving and friendly to the English." As yet, however, they had
not prevailed on him to embrace the Christian religion. "But
at this time," says Gookin, "May 6, 1674,"--"after some
deliberation and serious pause, he stood up, and made a speech
to this effect:--`I must acknowledge I have, all my days, used
to pass in an old canoe, (alluding to his frequent custom to
pass in a canoe upon the river,) and now you exhort me to
change and leave my old canoe, and embark in a new canoe, to
which I have hitherto been unwilling; but now I yield up myself
to your advice, and enter into a new canoe, and do engage to
pray to God hereafter.'" One "Mr. Richard Daniel, a gentleman
that lived in Billerica," who with other "persons of quality"
was present, "desired brother Eliot to tell the sachem from
him, that it may be, while he went in his old canoe, he passed
in a quiet stream; but the end thereof was death and
destruction to soul and body. But now he went into a new
canoe, perhaps he would meet with storms and trials, but yet he
should be encouraged to persevere, for the end of his voyage
would be everlasting rest."--"Since that time, I hear this
sachem doth persevere, and is a constant and diligent hearer of
God's word, and sanctifieth the Sabbath, though he doth travel
to Wamesit meeting every Sabbath, which is above two miles; and
though sundry of his people have deserted him, since he
subjected to the gospel, yet he continues and persists."--
_Gookin's Hist. Coll. of the Indians in New England_, 1674.

Already, as appears from the records, "At a General Court
held at Boston in New England, the 7th of the first month,
1643-4."--"Wassamequin, Nashoonon, Kutchamaquin, Massaconomet,
and Squaw Sachem, did voluntarily submit themselves" to the
English; and among other things did "promise to be willing from
time to time to be instructed in the knowledge of God." Being
asked "Not to do any unnecessary work on the Sabbath day,
especially within the gates of Christian towns," they answered,
"It is easy to them; they have not much to do on any day, and
they can well take their rest on that day."--"So," says Winthrop,
in his Journal, "we causing them to understand the articles, and
all the ten commandments of God, and they freely assenting to
all, they were solemnly received, and then presented the Court
with twenty-six fathom more of wampom; and the Court gave each of
them a coat of two yards of cloth, and their dinner; and to them
and their men, every of them, a cup of sack at their departure;
so they took leave and went away."

What journeyings on foot and on horseback through the wilderness,
to preach the Gospel to these minks and muskrats! who first, no
doubt, listened with their red ears out of a natural hospitality
and courtesy, and afterward from curiosity or even interest, till
at length there were "praying Indians," and, as the General Court
wrote to Cromwell, the "work is brought to this perfection, that
some of the Indians themselves can pray and prophesy in a
comfortable manner."

It was in fact an old battle and hunting ground through which we
had been floating, the ancient dwelling-place of a race of
hunters and warriors. Their weirs of stone, their arrowheads and
hatchets, their pestles, and the mortars in which they pounded
Indian corn before the white man had tasted it, lay concealed in
the mud of the river bottom. Tradition still points out the
spots where they took fish in the greatest numbers, by such arts
as they possessed. It is a rapid story the historian will have
to put together. Miantonimo,--Winthrop,--Webster. Soon he comes
from Montaup to Bunker Hill, from bear-skins, parched corn, bows
and arrows, to tiled roofs, wheat-fields, guns and swords.
Pawtucket and Wamesit, where the Indians resorted in the fishing
season, are now Lowell, the city of spindles and Manchester of
America, which sends its cotton cloth round the globe. Even we
youthful voyagers had spent a part of our lives in the village of
Chelmsford, when the present city, whose bells we heard, was its
obscure north district only, and the giant weaver was not yet
fairly born. So old are we; so young is it.

We were thus entering the State of New Hampshire on the bosom of
the flood formed by the tribute of its innumerable valleys. The
river was the only key which could unlock its maze, presenting
its hills and valleys, its lakes and streams, in their natural
order and position. The MERRIMACK, or Sturgeon River, is formed
by the confluence of the Pemigewasset, which rises near the Notch
of the White Mountains, and the Winnipiseogee, which drains the
lake of the same name, signifying "The Smile of the Great
Spirit." From their junction it runs south seventy-eight miles to
Massachusetts, and thence east thirty-five miles to the sea. I
have traced its stream from where it bubbles out of the rocks of
the White Mountains above the clouds, to where it is lost amid
the salt billows of the ocean on Plum Island beach. At first it
comes on murmuring to itself by the base of stately and retired
mountains, through moist primitive woods whose juices it
receives, where the bear still drinks it, and the cabins of
settlers are far between, and there are few to cross its stream;
enjoying in solitude its cascades still unknown to fame; by long
ranges of mountains of Sandwich and of Squam, slumbering like
tumuli of Titans, with the peaks of Moosehillock, the Haystack,
and Kearsarge reflected in its waters; where the maple and the
raspberry, those lovers of the hills, flourish amid temperate
dews;--flowing long and full of meaning, but untranslatable as
its name Pemigewasset, by many a pastured Pelion and Ossa, where
unnamed muses haunt, tended by Oreads, Dryads, Naiads, and
receiving the tribute of many an untasted Hippocrene. There are
earth, air, fire, and water,--very well, this is water, and down
it comes.

Such water do the gods distil,
And pour down every hill
For their New England men;
A draught of this wild nectar bring,
And I'll not taste the spring
Of Helicon again.

Falling all the way, and yet not discouraged by the lowest fall.
By the law of its birth never to become stagnant, for it has come
out of the clouds, and down the sides of precipices worn in the
flood, through beaver-dams broke loose, not splitting but
splicing and mending itself, until it found a breathing-place in
this low land. There is no danger now that the sun will steal it
back to heaven again before it reach the sea, for it has a
warrant even to recover its own dews into its bosom again with
interest at every eve.

It was already the water of Squam and Newfound Lake and
Winnipiseogee, and White Mountain snow dissolved, on which we
were floating, and Smith's and Baker's and Mad Rivers, and Nashua
and Souhegan and Piscataquoag, and Suncook and Soucook and
Contoocook, mingled in incalculable proportions, still fluid,
yellowish, restless all, with an ancient, ineradicable
inclination to the sea.

So it flows on down by Lowell and Haverhill, at which last place
it first suffers a sea change, and a few masts betray the
vicinity of the ocean. Between the towns of Amesbury and Newbury
it is a broad commercial river, from a third to half a mile in
width, no longer skirted with yellow and crumbling banks, but
backed by high green hills and pastures, with frequent white
beaches on which the fishermen draw up their nets. I have passed
down this portion of the river in a steamboat, and it was a
pleasant sight to watch from its deck the fishermen dragging
their seines on the distant shore, as in pictures of a foreign
strand. At intervals you may meet with a schooner laden with
lumber, standing up to Haverhill, or else lying at anchor or
aground, waiting for wind or tide; until, at last, you glide
under the famous Chain Bridge, and are landed at Newburyport.
Thus she who at first was "poore of waters, naked of renowne,"
having received so many fair tributaries, as was said of the

"Doth grow the greater still, the further downe;
Till that abounding both in power and fame,
She long doth strive to give the sea her name";

or if not her name, in this case, at least the impulse of her
stream. From the steeples of Newburyport you may review this
river stretching far up into the country, with many a white sail
glancing over it like an inland sea, and behold, as one wrote who
was born on its head-waters, "Down out at its mouth, the dark
inky main blending with the blue above. Plum Island, its sand
ridges scolloping along the horizon like the sea-serpent, and the
distant outline broken by many a tall ship, leaning, _still_,
against the sky."

Rising at an equal height with the Connecticut, the Merrimack
reaches the sea by a course only half as long, and hence has no
leisure to form broad and fertile meadows, like the former, but
is hurried along rapids, and down numerous falls, without long
delay. The banks are generally steep and high, with a narrow
interval reaching back to the hills, which is only rarely or
partially overflown at present, and is much valued by the
farmers. Between Chelmsford and Concord, in New Hampshire, it
varies from twenty to seventy-five rods in width. It is probably
wider than it was formerly, in many places, owing to the trees
having been cut down, and the consequent wasting away of its
banks. The influence of the Pawtucket Dam is felt as far up as
Cromwell's Falls, and many think that the banks are being abraded
and the river filled up again by this cause. Like all our
rivers, it is liable to freshets, and the Pemigewasset has been
known to rise twenty-five feet in a few hours. It is navigable
for vessels of burden about twenty miles; for canal-boats, by
means of locks, as far as Concord in New Hampshire, about
seventy-five miles from its mouth; and for smaller boats to
Plymouth, one hundred and thirteen miles. A small steamboat once
plied between Lowell and Nashua, before the railroad was built,
and one now runs from Newburyport to Haverhill.

Unfitted to some extent for the purposes of commerce by the
sand-bar at its mouth, see how this river was devoted from the
first to the service of manufactures. Issuing from the iron
region of Franconia, and flowing through still uncut forests, by
inexhaustible ledges of granite, with Squam, and Winnipiseogee,
and Newfound, and Massabesic Lakes for its mill-ponds, it falls
over a succession of natural dams, where it has been offering its
_privileges_ in vain for ages, until at last the Yankee race came
to _improve_ them. Standing at its mouth, look up its sparkling
stream to its source,--a silver cascade which falls all the way
from the White Mountains to the sea,--and behold a city on each
successive plateau, a busy colony of human beaver around every
fall. Not to mention Newburyport and Haverhill, see Lawrence,
and Lowell, and Nashua, and Manchester, and Concord, gleaming one
above the other. When at length it has escaped from under the
last of the factories, it has a level and unmolested passage to
the sea, a mere _waste water_, as it were, bearing little with it
but its fame; its pleasant course revealed by the morning fog
which hangs over it, and the sails of the few small vessels which
transact the commerce of Haverhill and Newburyport. But its real
vessels are railroad cars, and its true and main stream, flowing
by an iron channel farther south, may be traced by a long line of
vapor amid the hills, which no morning wind ever disperses, to
where it empties into the sea at Boston. This side is the louder
murmur now. Instead of the scream of a fish-hawk scaring the
fishes, is heard the whistle of the steam-engine, arousing a
country to its progress.

This river too was at length discovered by the white man,
"trending up into the land," he knew not how far, possibly an
inlet to the South Sea. Its valley, as far as the Winnipiseogee,
was first surveyed in 1652. The first settlers of Massachusetts
supposed that the Connecticut, in one part of its course, ran
northwest, "so near the great lake as the Indians do pass their
canoes into it over land." From which lake and the "hideous
swamps" about it, as they supposed, came all the beaver that was
traded between Virginia and Canada,--and the Potomac was thought
to come out of or from very near it. Afterward the Connecticut
came so near the course of the Merrimack that, with a little
pains, they expected to divert the current of the trade into the
latter river, and its profits from their Dutch neighbors into
their own pockets.

Unlike the Concord, the Merrimack is not a dead but a living
stream, though it has less life within its waters and on its
banks. It has a swift current, and, in this part of its course,
a clayey bottom, almost no weeds, and comparatively few fishes.
We looked down into its yellow water with the more curiosity, who
were accustomed to the Nile-like blackness of the former river.
Shad and alewives are taken here in their season, but salmon,
though at one time more numerous than shad, are now more rare.
Bass, also, are taken occasionally; but locks and dams have
proved more or less destructive to the fisheries. The shad make
their appearance early in May, at the same time with the blossoms
of the pyrus, one of the most conspicuous early flowers, which is
for this reason called the shad-blossom. An insect called the
shad-fly also appears at the same time, covering the houses and
fences. We are told that "their greatest run is when the
apple-trees are in full blossom. The old shad return in August;
the young, three or four inches long, in September. These are
very fond of flies." A rather picturesque and luxurious mode of
fishing was formerly practised on the Connecticut, at Bellows
Falls, where a large rock divides the stream. "On the steep
sides of the island rock," says Belknap, "hang several
arm-chairs, fastened to ladders, and secured by a counterpoise,
in which fishermen sit to catch salmon and shad with dipping
nets." The remains of Indian weirs, made of large stones, are
still to be seen in the Winnipiseogee, one of the head-waters of
this river.

It cannot but affect our philosophy favorably to be reminded of
these shoals of migratory fishes, of salmon, shad, alewives,
marsh-bankers, and others, which penetrate up the innumerable
rivers of our coast in the spring, even to the interior lakes,
their scales gleaming in the sun; and again, of the fry which in
still greater numbers wend their way downward to the sea. "And
is it not pretty sport," wrote Captain John Smith, who was on
this coast as early as 1614, "to pull up twopence, sixpence, and
twelvepence, as fast as you can haul and veer a line?"--"And what
sport doth yield a more pleasing content, and less hurt or
charge, than angling with a hook, and crossing the sweet air from
isle to isle, over the silent streams of a calm sea."

On the sandy shore, opposite the Glass-house village in
Chelmsford, at the Great Bend where we landed to rest us and
gather a few wild plums, we discovered the _Campanula
rotundifolia_, a new flower to us, the harebell of the poets,
which is common to both hemispheres, growing close to the water.
Here, in the shady branches of an apple-tree on the sand, we took
our nooning, where there was not a zephyr to disturb the repose
of this glorious Sabbath day, and we reflected serenely on the
long past and successful labors of Latona.

"So silent is the cessile air,
That every cry and call,
The hills, and dales, and forest fair
Again repeats them all.

"The herds beneath some leafy trees,
Amidst the flowers they lie,
The stable ships upon the seas
Tend up their sails to dry."

As we thus rested in the shade, or rowed leisurely along, we had
recourse, from time to time, to the Gazetteer, which was our
Navigator, and from its bald natural facts extracted the pleasure
of poetry. Beaver River comes in a little lower down, draining
the meadows of Pelham, Windham, and Londonderry. The Scotch-Irish
settlers of the latter town, according to this authority, were
the first to introduce the potato into New England, as well as
the manufacture of linen cloth.

Everything that is printed and bound in a book contains some echo
at least of the best that is in literature. Indeed, the best
books have a use, like sticks and stones, which is above or
beside their design, not anticipated in the preface, nor
concluded in the appendix. Even Virgil's poetry serves a very
different use to me to-day from what it did to his contemporaries.
It has often an acquired and accidental value merely, proving
that man is still man in the world. It is pleasant to meet with
such still lines as,

"Jam laeto turgent in palmite gemmae";
Now the buds swell on the joyful stem.

"Strata jacent passim sua quaeque sub arbore poma";
The apples lie scattered everywhere, each under its tree.

In an ancient and dead language, any recognition of living nature
attracts us. These are such sentences as were written while grass
grew and water ran. It is no small recommendation when a book
will stand the test of mere unobstructed sunshine and daylight.

What would we not give for some great poem to read now, which
would be in harmony with the scenery,--for if men read aright,
methinks they would never read anything but poems. No history nor
philosophy can supply their place.

The wisest definition of poetry the poet will instantly prove
false by setting aside its requisitions. We can, therefore,
publish only our advertisement of it.

There is no doubt that the loftiest written wisdom is either
rhymed, or in some way musically measured,--is, in form as well
as substance, poetry; and a volume which should contain the
condensed wisdom of mankind need not have one rhythmless line.

Yet poetry, though the last and finest result, is a natural
fruit. As naturally as the oak bears an acorn, and the vine a
gourd, man bears a poem, either spoken or done. It is the chief
and most memorable success, for history is but a prose narrative
of poetic deeds. What else have the Hindoos, the Persians, the
Babylonians, the Egyptians done, that can be told? It is the
simplest relation of phenomena, and describes the commonest
sensations with more truth than science does, and the latter at a
distance slowly mimics its style and methods. The poet sings how
the blood flows in his veins. He performs his functions, and is
so well that he needs such stimulus to sing only as plants to put
forth leaves and blossoms. He would strive in vain to modulate
the remote and transient music which he sometimes hears, since
his song is a vital function like breathing, and an integral
result like weight. It is not the overflowing of life but its
subsidence rather, and is drawn from under the feet of the poet.
It is enough if Homer but say the sun sets. He is as serene as
nature, and we can hardly detect the enthusiasm of the bard. It
is as if nature spoke. He presents to us the simplest pictures
of human life, so the child itself can understand them, and the
man must not think twice to appreciate his naturalness. Each
reader discovers for himself that, with respect to the simpler
features of nature, succeeding poets have done little else than
copy his similes. His more memorable passages are as naturally
bright as gleams of sunshine in misty weather. Nature furnishes
him not only with words, but with stereotyped lines and sentences
from her mint.

"As from the clouds appears the full moon,
All shining, and then again it goes behind the shadowy clouds,
So Hector, at one time appeared among the foremost,
And at another in the rear, commanding; and all with brass
He shone, like to the lightning of aegis-bearing Zeus."

He conveys the least information, even the hour of the day, with
such magnificence and vast expense of natural imagery, as if it
were a message from the gods.

"While it was dawn, and sacred day was advancing,
For that space the weapons of both flew fast, and the people fell;
But when now the woodcutter was preparing his morning meal,
In the recesses of the mountain, and had wearied his hands
With cutting lofty trees, and satiety came to his mind,
And the desire of sweet food took possession of his thoughts;
Then the Danaans, by their valor, broke the phalanxes,
Shouting to their companions from rank to rank."

When the army of the Trojans passed the night under arms, keeping
watch lest the enemy should re-embark under cover of the dark,

"They, thinking great things, upon the neutral ground of war
Sat all the night; and many fires burned for them.
As when in the heavens the stars round the bright moon
Appear beautiful, and the air is without wind;
And all the heights, and the extreme summits,
And the wooded sides of the mountains appear; and from the
heavens an Infinite ether is diffused,
And all the stars are seen, and the shepherd rejoices in his heart;
So between the ships and the streams of Xanthus
Appeared the fires of the Trojans before Ilium.
A thousand fires burned on the plain, and by each
Sat fifty, in the light of the blazing fire;
And horses eating white barley and corn,
Standing by the chariots, awaited fair-throned Aurora."

The "white-armed goddess Juno," sent by the Father of gods and
men for Iris and Apollo,

"Went down the Idaean mountains to far Olympus,
As when the mind of a man, who has come over much earth,
Sallies forth, and he reflects with rapid thoughts,
There was I, and there, and remembers many things;
So swiftly the august Juno hastening flew through the air,
And came to high Olympus."

His scenery is always true, and not invented. He does not leap in
imagination from Asia to Greece, through mid air,

Ourea' te skioe'nta, thala'ssa te _ech_e'essa.>

for there are very many
Shady mountains and resounding seas between.

If his messengers repair but to the tent of Achilles, we do not
wonder how they got there, but accompany them step by step along
the shore of the resounding sea. Nestor's account of the march
of the Pylians against the Epeians is extremely lifelike:--

"Then rose up to them sweet-worded Nestor, the shrill orator
of the Pylians,
And words sweeter than honey flowed from his tongue."

This time, however, he addresses Patroclus alone: "A certain
river, Minyas by name, leaps seaward near to Arene, where we
Pylians wait the dawn, both horse and foot. Thence with all
haste we sped us on the morrow ere 't was noonday, accoutred for
the fight, even to Alpheus's sacred source," &c. We fancy that
we hear the subdued murmuring of the Minyas discharging its
waters into the main the livelong night, and the hollow sound of
the waves breaking on the shore,--until at length we are cheered
at the close of a toilsome march by the gurgling fountains of

There are few books which are fit to be remembered in our wisest
hours, but the Iliad is brightest in the serenest days, and
embodies still all the sunlight that fell on Asia Minor. No
modern joy or ecstasy of ours can lower its height or dim its
lustre, but there it lies in the east of literature, as it were
the earliest and latest production of the mind. The ruins of
Egypt oppress and stifle us with their dust, foulness preserved
in cassia and pitch, and swathed in linen; the death of that
which never lived. But the rays of Greek poetry struggle down to
us, and mingle with the sunbeams of the recent day. The statue
of Memnon is cast down, but the shaft of the Iliad still meets
the sun in his rising.

"Homer is gone; and where is Jove? and where
The rival cities seven? His song outlives
Time, tower, and god,--all that then was, save Heaven."

So too, no doubt, Homer had his Homer, and Orpheus his Orpheus,
in the dim antiquity which preceded them. The mythological
system of the ancients, and it is still the mythology of the
moderns, the poem of mankind, interwoven so wonderfully with
their astronomy, and matching in grandeur and harmony the
architecture of the heavens themselves, seems to point to a time
when a mightier genius inhabited the earth. But, after all, man
is the great poet, and not Homer nor Shakespeare; and our
language itself, and the common arts of life, are his work.
Poetry is so universally true and independent of experience, that
it does not need any particular biography to illustrate it, but
we refer it sooner or later to some Orpheus or Linus, and after
ages to the genius of humanity and the gods themselves.

It would be worth the while to select our reading, for books are
the society we keep; to read only the serenely true; never
statistics, nor fiction, nor news, nor reports, nor periodicals,
but only great poems, and when they failed, read them again, or
perchance write more. Instead of other sacrifice, we might offer
up our perfect () thoughts to the gods daily, in hymns or
psalms. For we should be at the helm at least once a day. The
whole of the day should not be daytime; there should be one hour,
if no more, which the day did not bring forth. Scholars are wont
to sell their birthright for a mess of learning. But is it
necessary to know what the speculator prints, or the thoughtless
study, or the idle read, the literature of the Russians and the
Chinese, or even French philosophy and much of German criticism.
Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read
them at all. "There are the worshippers with offerings, and the
worshippers with mortifications; and again the worshippers with
enthusiastic devotion; so there are those the wisdom of whose
reading is their worship, men of subdued passions and severe
manners;--This world is not for him who doth not worship; and
where, O Arjoon, is there another?" Certainly, we do not need to
be soothed and entertained always like children. He who resorts
to the easy novel, because he is languid, does no better than if
he took a nap. The front aspect of great thoughts can only be
enjoyed by those who stand on the side whence they arrive.
Books, not which afford us a cowering enjoyment, but in which
each thought is of unusual daring; such as an idle man cannot
read, and a timid one would not be entertained by, which even
make us dangerous to existing institutions,--such call I good

All that are printed and bound are not books; they do not
necessarily belong to letters, but are oftener to be ranked with
the other luxuries and appendages of civilized life. Base wares
are palmed off under a thousand disguises. "The way to trade,"
as a pedler once told me, "is to _put it right through_," no
matter what it is, anything that is agreed on.

"You grov'ling worldlings, you whose wisdom trades
Where light ne'er shot his golden ray."

By dint of able writing and pen-craft, books are cunningly
compiled, and have their run and success even among the learned,
as if they were the result of a new man's thinking, and their
birth were attended with some natural throes. But in a little
while their covers fall off, for no binding will avail, and it
appears that they are not Books or Bibles at all. There are new
and patented inventions in this shape, purporting to be for the
elevation of the race, which many a pure scholar and genius who
has learned to read is for a moment deceived by, and finds
himself reading a horse-rake, or spinning-jenny, or wooden
nutmeg, or oak-leaf cigar, or steam-power press, or kitchen
range, perchance, when he was seeking serene and biblical truths.

"Merchants, arise,
And mingle conscience with your merchandise."

Paper is cheap, and authors need not now erase one book before
they write another. Instead of cultivating the earth for wheat
and potatoes, they cultivate literature, and fill a place in the
Republic of Letters. Or they would fain write for fame merely,
as others actually raise crops of grain to be distilled into
brandy. Books are for the most part wilfully and hastily
written, as parts of a system, to supply a want real or imagined.
Books of natural history aim commonly to be hasty schedules, or
inventories of God's property, by some clerk. They do not in the
least teach the divine view of nature, but the popular view, or
rather the popular method of studying nature, and make haste to
conduct the persevering pupil only into that dilemma where the
professors always dwell.

"To Athens gowned he goes, and from that school
Returns unsped, a more instructed fool."

They teach the elements really of ignorance, not of knowledge,
for, to speak deliberately and in view of the highest truths, it
is not easy to distinguish elementary knowledge. There is a
chasm between knowledge and ignorance which the arches of science
can never span. A book should contain pure discoveries, glimpses
of _terra firma_, though by shipwrecked mariners, and not the art
of navigation by those who have never been out of sight of land.
_They_ must not yield wheat and potatoes, but must themselves be
the unconstrained and natural harvest of their author's lives.

"What I have learned is mine; I've had my thought,
And me the Muses noble truths have taught."

We do not learn much from learned books, but from true, sincere,
human books, from frank and honest biographies. The life of a
good man will hardly improve us more than the life of a
freebooter, for the inevitable laws appear as plainly in the
infringement as in the observance, and our lives are sustained by
a nearly equal expense of virtue of some kind. The decaying
tree, while yet it lives, demands sun, wind, and rain no less
than the green one. It secretes sap and performs the functions
of health. If we choose, we may study the alburnum only. The
gnarled stump has as tender a bud as the sapling.

At least let us have healthy books, a stout horse-rake or a
kitchen range which is not cracked. Let not the poet shed tears
only for the public weal. He should be as vigorous as a
sugar-maple, with sap enough to maintain his own verdure, beside
what runs into the troughs, and not like a vine, which being cut
in the spring bears no fruit, but bleeds to death in the endeavor
to heal its wounds. The poet is he that hath fat enough, like
bears and marmots, to suck his claws all winter. He hibernates
in this world, and feeds on his own marrow. We love to think in
winter, as we walk over the snowy pastures, of those happy
dreamers that lie under the sod, of dormice and all that race of
dormant creatures, which have such a superfluity of life
enveloped in thick folds of fur, impervious to cold. Alas, the
poet too is, in one sense, a sort of dormouse gone into winter
quarters of deep and serene thoughts, insensible to surrounding
circumstances; his words are the relation of his oldest and
finest memory, a wisdom drawn from the remotest experience.
Other men lead a starved existence, meanwhile, like hawks, that
would fain keep on the wing, and trust to pick up a sparrow now
and then.

There are already essays and poems, the growth of this land,
which are not in vain, all which, however, we could conveniently
have stowed in the till of our chest. If the gods permitted
their own inspiration to be breathed in vain, these might be
overlooked in the crowd, but the accents of truth are as sure to
be heard at last on earth as in heaven. They already seem
ancient, and in some measure have lost the traces of their modern
birth. Here are they who

"ask for that which is our whole life's light,
For the perpetual, true and clear insight."

I remember a few sentences which spring like the sward in its
native pasture, where its roots were never disturbed, and not as
if spread over a sandy embankment; answering to the poet's

"Let us set so just
A rate on knowledge, that the world may trust
The poet's sentence, and not still aver
Each art is to itself a flatterer."

But, above all, in our native port, did we not frequent the
peaceful games of the Lyceum, from which a new era will be dated
to New England, as from the games of Greece. For if Herodotus
carried his history to Olympia to read, after the cestus and the
race, have we not heard such histories recited there, which since
our countrymen have read, as made Greece sometimes to be
forgotten?--Philosophy, too, has there her grove and portico, not
wholly unfrequented in these days.

Lately the victor, whom all Pindars praised, has won another
palm, contending with

"Olympian bards who sung
Divine ideas below,
Which always find us young,
And always keep us so."

What earth or sea, mountain or stream, or Muses' spring or grove,
is safe from his all-searching ardent eye, who drives off
Phoebus' beaten track, visits unwonted zones, makes the gelid
Hyperboreans glow, and the old polar serpent writhe, and many a
Nile flow back and hide his head!

That Phaeton of our day,
Who'd make another milky way,
And burn the world up with his ray;

By us an undisputed seer,--
Who'd drive his flaming car so near
Unto our shuddering mortal sphere,

Disgracing all our slender worth,
And scorching up the living earth,
To prove his heavenly birth.

The silver spokes, the golden tire,
Are glowing with unwonted fire,
And ever nigher roll and nigher;

The pins and axle melted are,
The silver radii fly afar,
Ah, he will spoil his Father's car!

Who let him have the steeds he cannot steer?
Henceforth the sun will not shine for a year;
And we shall Ethiops all appear.

From _his_

"lips of cunning fell
The thrilling Delphic oracle."

And yet, sometimes,

We should not mind if on our ear there fell
Some less of cunning, more of oracle.

It is Apollo shining in your face. O rare Contemporary, let us
have far-off heats. Give us the subtler, the heavenlier though
fleeting beauty, which passes through and through, and dwells not
in the verse; even pure water, which but reflects those tints
which wine wears in its grain. Let epic trade-winds blow, and
cease this waltz of inspirations. Let us oftener feel even the
gentle southwest wind upon our cheeks blowing from the Indian's
heaven. What though we lose a thousand meteors from the sky, if
skyey depths, if star-dust and undissolvable nebulae remain?
What though we lose a thousand wise responses of the oracle, if
we may have instead some natural acres of Ionian earth?

Though we know well,

"That't is not in the power of kings [or presidents] to raise
A spirit for verse that is not born thereto,
Nor are they born in every prince's days";

yet spite of all they sang in praise of their "Eliza's reign," we
have evidence that poets may be born and sing in _our_ day, in
the presidency of James K. Polk,

"And that the utmost powers of English rhyme,"
_Were not_ "within _her_ peaceful reign confined."

The prophecy of the poet Daniel is already how much more than

"And who in time knows whither we may vent
The treasure of our tongue? To what strange shores
This gain of our best glory shall be sent,
T' enrich unknowing nations with our stores?
What worlds in th' yet unformed occident,
May come refined with the accents that are ours."

Enough has been said in these days of the charm of fluent
writing. We hear it complained of some works of genius, that
they have fine thoughts, but are irregular and have no flow. But
even the mountain peaks in the horizon are, to the eye of
science, parts of one range. We should consider that the flow of
thought is more like a tidal wave than a prone river, and is the
result of a celestial influence, not of any declivity in its
channel. The river flows because it runs down hill, and flows
the faster the faster it descends. The reader who expects to
float down stream for the whole voyage, may well complain of
nauseating swells and choppings of the sea when his frail
shore-craft gets amidst the billows of the ocean stream, which
flows as much to sun and moon as lesser streams to it. But if we
would appreciate the flow that is in these books, we must expect
to feel it rise from the page like an exhalation, and wash away
our critical brains like burr millstones, flowing to higher
levels above and behind ourselves. There is many a book which
ripples on like a freshet, and flows as glibly as a mill-stream
sucking under a causeway; and when their authors are in the full
tide of their discourse, Pythagoras and Plato and Jamblichus halt
beside them. Their long, stringy, slimy sentences are of that
consistency that they naturally flow and run together. They read
as if written for military men, for men of business, there is
such a despatch in them. Compared with these, the grave thinkers
and philosophers seem not to have got their swaddling-clothes
off; they are slower than a Roman army in its march, the rear
camping to-night where the van camped last night. The wise
Jamblichus eddies and gleams like a watery slough.

"How many thousands never heard the name
Of Sidney, or of Spenser, or their books?
And yet brave fellows, and presume of fame,
And seem to bear down all the world with looks."

The ready writer seizes the pen, and shouts, Forward! Alamo and
Fanning! and after rolls the tide of war. The very walls and
fences seem to travel. But the most rapid trot is no flow after
all; and thither, reader, you and I, at least, will not follow.

A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For
the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if
we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening
without their colors, or the heavens without their azure. The
most attractive sentences are, perhaps, not the wisest, but the
surest and roundest. They are spoken firmly and conclusively, as
if the speaker had a right to know what he says, and if not wise,
they have at least been well learned. Sir Walter Raleigh might
well be studied if only for the excellence of his style, for he
is remarkable in the midst of so many masters. There is a
natural emphasis in his style, like a man's tread, and a
breathing space between the sentences, which the best of modern
writing does not furnish. His chapters are like English parks,
or say rather like a Western forest, where the larger growth
keeps down the underwood, and one may ride on horseback through
the openings. All the distinguished writers of that period
possess a greater vigor and naturalness than the more
modern,--for it is allowed to slander our own time,--and when we
read a quotation from one of them in the midst of a modern
author, we seem to have come suddenly upon a greener ground, a
greater depth and strength of soil. It is as if a green bough
were laid across the page, and we are refreshed as by the sight
of fresh grass in midwinter or early spring. You have constantly
the warrant of life and experience in what you read. The little
that is said is eked out by implication of the much that was
done. The sentences are verdurous and blooming as evergreen and
flowers, because they are rooted in fact and experience, but our
false and florid sentence have only the tints of flowers without
their sap or roots. All men are really most attracted by the
beauty of plain speech, and they even write in a florid style in
imitation of this. They prefer to be misunderstood rather than
to come short of its exuberance. Hussein Effendi praised the
epistolary style of Ibrahim Pasha to the French traveller Botta,
because of "the difficulty of understanding it; there was," he
said, "but one person at Jidda, who was capable of understanding
and explaining the Pasha's correspondence." A man's whole life is
taxed for the least thing well done. It is its net result.
Every sentence is the result of a long probation. Where shall we
look for standard English, but to the words of a standard man?
The word which is best said came nearest to not being spoken at
all, for it is cousin to a deed which the speaker could have
better done. Nay, almost it must have taken the place of a deed
by some urgent necessity, even by some misfortune, so that the
truest writer will be some captive knight, after all. And
perhaps the fates had such a design, when, having stored Raleigh
so richly with the substance of life and experience, they made
him a fast prisoner, and compelled him to make his words his
deeds, and transfer to his expression the emphasis and sincerity
of his action.

Men have a respect for scholarship and learning greatly out of
proportion to the use they commonly serve. We are amused to read
how Ben Jonson engaged, that the dull masks with which the royal
family and nobility were to be entertained should be "grounded
upon antiquity and solid learning." Can there be any greater
reproach than an idle learning? Learn to split wood, at least.
The necessity of labor and conversation with many men and things,
to the scholar is rarely well remembered; steady labor with the
hands, which engrosses the attention also, is unquestionably the
best method of removing palaver and sentimentality out of one's
style, both of speaking and writing. If he has worked hard from
morning till night, though he may have grieved that he could not
be watching the train of his thoughts during that time, yet the
few hasty lines which at evening record his day's experience will
be more musical and true than his freest but idle fancy could
have furnished. Surely the writer is to address a world of
laborers, and such therefore must be his own discipline. He will
not idly dance at his work who has wood to cut and cord before
nightfall in the short days of winter; but every stroke will be
husbanded, and ring soberly through the wood; and so will the
strokes of that scholar's pen, which at evening record the story
of the day, ring soberly, yet cheerily, on the ear of the reader,
long after the echoes of his axe have died away. The scholar may
be sure that he writes the tougher truth for the calluses on his
palms. They give firmness to the sentence. Indeed, the mind
never makes a great and successful effort, without a
corresponding energy of the body. We are often struck by the
force and precision of style to which hard-working men,
unpractised in writing, easily attain when required to make the
effort. As if plainness, and vigor, and sincerity, the ornaments
of style, were better learned on the farm and in the workshop,
than in the schools. The sentences written by such rude hands
are nervous and tough, like hardened thongs, the sinews of the
deer, or the roots of the pine. As for the graces of expression,
a great thought is never found in a mean dress; but though it
proceed from the lips of the Woloffs, the nine Muses and the
three Graces will have conspired to clothe it in fit phrase. Its
education has always been liberal, and its implied wit can endow
a college. The world, which the Greeks called Beauty, has been
made such by being gradually divested of every ornament which was
not fitted to endure. The Sibyl, "speaking with inspired mouth,
smileless, inornate, and unperfumed, pierces through centuries by
the power of the god." The scholar might frequently emulate the
propriety and emphasis of the farmer's call to his team, and
confess that if that were written it would surpass his labored
sentences. Whose are the truly _labored_ sentences? From the
weak and flimsy periods of the politician and literary man, we
are glad to turn even to the description of work, the simple
record of the month's labor in the farmer's almanac, to restore
our tone and spirits. A sentence should read as if its author,
had he held a plough instead of a pen, could have drawn a furrow
deep and straight to the end. The scholar requires hard and
serious labor to give an impetus to his thought. He will learn
to grasp the pen firmly so, and wield it gracefully and
effectively, as an axe or a sword. When we consider the weak and
nerveless periods of some literary men, who perchance in feet and
inches come up to the standard of their race, and are not
deficient in girth also, we are amazed at the immense sacrifice
of thews and sinews. What! these proportions,--these bones,--and
this their work! Hands which could have felled an ox have hewed
this fragile matter which would not have tasked a lady's fingers!
Can this be a stalwart man's work, who has a marrow in his back
and a tendon Achilles in his heel? They who set up the blocks of
Stonehenge did somewhat, if they only laid out their strength for
once, and stretched themselves.

Yet, after all, the truly efficient laborer will not crowd his
day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide
halo of ease and leisure, and then do but what he loves best. He
is anxious only about the fruitful kernels of time. Though the
hen should sit all day, she could lay only one egg, and, besides,
would not have picked up materials for another. Let a man take
time enough for the most trivial deed, though it be but the
paring of his nails. The buds swell imperceptibly, without hurry
or confusion, as if the short spring days were an eternity.

Then spend an age in whetting thy desire,
Thou needs't not _hasten_ if thou dost _stand fast_.

Some hours seem not to be occasion for any deed, but for resolves
to draw breath in. We do not directly go about the execution of
the purpose that thrills us, but shut our doors behind us and
ramble with prepared mind, as if the half were already done. Our
resolution is taking root or hold on the earth then, as seeds
first send a shoot downward which is fed by their own albumen,
ere they send one upward to the light.

There is a sort of homely truth and naturalness in some books
which is very rare to find, and yet looks cheap enough. There
may be nothing lofty in the sentiment, or fine in the expression,
but it is careless country talk. Homeliness is almost as great a
merit in a book as in a house, if the reader would abide there.
It is next to beauty, and a very high art. Some have this merit
only. The scholar is not apt to make his most familiar
experience come gracefully to the aid of his expression. Very
few men can speak of Nature, for instance, with any truth. They
overstep her modesty, somehow or other, and confer no favor.
They do not speak a good word for her. Most cry better than they
speak, and you can get more nature out of them by pinching than
by addressing them. The surliness with which the woodchopper
speaks of his woods, handling them as indifferently as his axe,
is better than the mealy-mouthed enthusiasm of the lover of
nature. Better that the primrose by the river's brim be a yellow
primrose, and nothing more, than that it be something less.
Aubrey relates of Thomas Fuller that his was "a very working
head, insomuch that, walking and meditating before dinner, he
would eat up a penny loaf, not knowing that he did it. His
natural memory was very great, to which he added the art of
memory. He would repeat to you forwards and backwards all the
signs from Ludgate to Charing Cross." He says of Mr. John Hales,
that, "He loved Canarie," and was buried "under an altar monument
of black marble--------with a too long epitaph"; of Edmund
Halley, that he "at sixteen could make a dial, and then, he said,
he thought himself a brave fellow"; of William Holder, who wrote
a book upon his curing one Popham who was deaf and dumb, "he was
beholding to no author; did only consult with nature." For the
most part, an author consults only with all who have written
before him upon a subject, and his book is but the advice of so
many. But a good book will never have been forestalled, but the
topic itself will in one sense be new, and its author, by
consulting with nature, will consult not only with those who have
gone before, but with those who may come after. There is always
room and occasion enough for a true book on any subject; as there
is room for more light the brightest day and more rays will not
interfere with the first.

We thus worked our way up this river, gradually adjusting our
thoughts to novelties, beholding from its placid bosom a new
nature and new works of men, and, as it were with increasing
confidence, finding nature still habitable, genial, and
propitious to us; not following any beaten path, but the windings
of the river, as ever the nearest way for us. Fortunately we had
no business in this country. The Concord had rarely been a
river, or _rivus_, but barely _fluvius_, or between _fluvius_ and
_lacus_. This Merrimack was neither _rivus_ nor _fluvius_ nor
_lacus_, but rather _amnis_ here, a gently swelling and stately
rolling flood approaching the sea. We could even sympathize with
its buoyant tide, going to seek its fortune in the ocean, and,
anticipating the time when "being received within the plain of
its freer water," it should "beat the shores for banks,"--

"campoque recepta
Liberioris aquae, pro ripis litora pulsant."

At length we doubled a low shrubby islet, called Rabbit Island,
subjected alternately to the sun and to the waves, as desolate as
if it lay some leagues within the icy sea, and found ourselves in
a narrower part of the river, near the sheds and yards for
picking the stone known as the Chelmsford granite, which is
quarried in Westford and the neighboring towns. We passed
Wicasuck Island, which contains seventy acres or more, on our
right, between Chelmsford and Tyngsborough. This was a favorite
residence of the Indians. According to the History of Dunstable,
"About 1663, the eldest son of Passaconaway [Chief of the
Penacooks] was thrown into jail for a debt of 45, due to John
Tinker, by one of his tribe, and which he had promised verbally
should be paid. To relieve him from his imprisonment, his
brother Wannalancet and others, who owned Wicasuck Island, sold
it and paid the debt." It was, however, restored to the Indians
by the General Court in 1665. After the departure of the Indians
in 1683, it was granted to Jonathan Tyng in payment for his
services to the colony, in maintaining a garrison at his house.
Tyng's house stood not far from Wicasuck Falls. Gookin, who, in
his Epistle Dedicatory to Robert Boyle, apologizes for presenting
his "matter clothed in a wilderness dress," says that on the
breaking out of Philip's war in 1675, there were taken up by the
Christian Indians and the English in Marlborough, and sent to
Cambridge, seven "Indians belonging to Narragansett, Long Island,
and Pequod, who had all been at work about seven weeks with one
Mr. Jonathan Tyng, of Dunstable, upon Merrimack River; and,
hearing of the war, they reckoned with their master, and getting
their wages, conveyed themselves away without his privity, and,
being afraid, marched secretly through the woods, designing to go
to their own country." However, they were released soon after.
Such were the hired men in those days. Tyng was the first
permanent settler of Dunstable, which then embraced what is now
Tyngsborough and many other towns. In the winter of 1675, in
Philip's war, every other settler left the town, but "he," says
the historian of Dunstable, "fortified his house; and, although
`obliged to send to Boston for his food,' sat himself down in the
midst of his savage enemies, alone, in the wilderness, to defend
his home. Deeming his position an important one for the defence
of the frontiers, in February, 1676, he petitioned the Colony for
aid, "humbly showing, as his petition runs, that, as he lived "in
the uppermost house on Merrimac river, lying open to ye enemy,
yet being so seated that it is, as it were, a watch-house to the
neighboring towns, "he could render important service to his
country if only he had some assistance," there being, "he said,"
never an inhabitant left in the town but myself." Wherefore he
requests that their "Honors would be pleased to order him _three
or four men_ to help garrison his said house," which they did.
But methinks that such a garrison would be weakened by the
addition of a man.

"Make bandog thy scout watch to bark at a thief,
Make courage for life, to be capitain chief;
Make trap-door thy bulwark, make bell to begin,
Make gunstone and arrow show who is within."

Thus he earned the title of first permanent settler. In 1694 a
law was passed "that every settler who deserted a town for fear
of the Indians should forfeit all his rights therein." But now,
at any rate, as I have frequently observed, a man may desert the
fertile frontier territories of truth and justice, which are the
State's best lands, for fear of far more insignificant foes,
without forfeiting any of his civil rights therein. Nay,
townships are granted to deserters, and the General Court, as I
am sometimes inclined to regard it, is but a deserters' camp

As we rowed along near the shore of Wicasuck Island, which was
then covered with wood, in order to avoid the current, two men,
who looked as if they had just run out of Lowell, where they had
been waylaid by the Sabbath, meaning to go to Nashua, and who now
found themselves in the strange, natural, uncultivated, and
unsettled part of the globe which intervenes, full of walls and
barriers, a rough and uncivil place to them, seeing our boat
moving so smoothly up the stream, called out from the high bank
above our heads to know if we would take them as passengers, as
if this were the street they had missed; that they might sit and
chat and drive away the time, and so at last find themselves in
Nashua. This smooth way they much preferred. But our boat was
crowded with necessary furniture, and sunk low in the water, and
moreover required to be worked, for even _it_ did not progress
against the stream without effort; so we were obliged to deny
them passage. As we glided away with even sweeps, while the
fates scattered oil in our course, the sun now sinking behind the
alders on the distant shore, we could still see them far off over
the water, running along the shore and climbing over the rocks
and fallen trees like insects,--for they did not know any better
than we that they were on an island,--the unsympathizing river
ever flowing in an opposite direction; until, having reached the
entrance of the island brook, which they had probably crossed
upon the locks below, they found a more effectual barrier to
their progress. They seemed to be learning much in a little
time. They ran about like ants on a burning brand, and once more
they tried the river here, and once more there, to see if water
still indeed was not to be walked on, as if a new thought
inspired them, and by some peculiar disposition of the limbs they
could accomplish it. At length sober common sense seemed to have
resumed its sway, and they concluded that what they had so long
heard must be true, and resolved to ford the shallower stream.
When nearly a mile distant we could see them stripping off their
clothes and preparing for this experiment; yet it seemed likely
that a new dilemma would arise, they were so thoughtlessly
throwing away their clothes on the wrong side of the stream, as
in the case of the countryman with his corn, his fox, and his
goose, which had to be transported one at a time. Whether they
got safely through, or went round by the locks, we never learned.
We could not help being struck by the seeming, though innocent
indifference of Nature to these men's necessities, while
elsewhere she was equally serving others. Like a true
benefactress, the secret of her service is unchangeableness.
Thus is the busiest merchant, though within sight of his Lowell,
put to pilgrim's shifts, and soon comes to staff and scrip and
scallop shell.

We, too, who held the middle of the stream, came near
experiencing a pilgrim's fate, being tempted to pursue what
seemed a sturgeon or larger fish, for we remembered that this was
the Sturgeon River, its dark and monstrous back alternately
rising and sinking in mid-stream. We kept falling behind, but
the fish kept his back well out, and did not dive, and seemed to
prefer to swim against the stream, so, at any rate, he would not
escape us by going out to sea. At length, having got as near as
was convenient, and looking out not to get a blow from his tail,
now the bow-gunner delivered his charge, while the stern-man held
his ground. But the halibut-skinned monster, in one of these
swift-gliding pregnant moments, without ever ceasing his bobbing
up and down, saw fit, without a chuckle or other prelude, to
proclaim himself a huge imprisoned spar, placed there as a buoy,
to warn sailors of sunken rocks. So, each casting some blame
upon the other, we withdrew quickly to safer waters.

The Scene-shifter saw fit here to close the drama, of this day,
without regard to any unities which we mortals prize. Whether it
might have proved tragedy, or comedy, or tragi-comedy, or
pastoral, we cannot tell. This Sunday ended by the going down of
the sun, leaving us still on the waves. But they who are on the
water enjoy a longer and brighter twilight than they who are on
the land, for here the water, as well as the atmosphere, absorbs
and reflects the light, and some of the day seems to have sunk
down into the waves. The light gradually forsook the deep water,
as well as the deeper air, and the gloaming came to the fishes as
well as to us, and more dim and gloomy to them, whose day is a
perpetual twilight, though sufficiently bright for their weak and
watery eyes. Vespers had already rung in many a dim and watery
chapel down below, where the shadows of the weeds were extended
in length over the sandy floor. The vespertinal pout had already
begun to flit on leathern fin, and the finny gossips withdrew
from the fluvial street to creeks and coves, and other private
haunts, excepting a few of stronger fin, which anchored in the
stream, stemming the tide even in their dreams. Meanwhile, like
a dark evening cloud, we were wafted over the cope of their sky,
deepening the shadows on their deluged fields.

Having reached a retired part of the river where it spread out to
sixty rods in width, we pitched our tent on the east side, in
Tyngsborough, just above some patches of the beach plum, which
was now nearly ripe, where the sloping bank was a sufficient
pillow, and with the bustle of sailors making the land, we
transferred such stores as were required from boat to tent, and
hung a lantern to the tent-pole, and so our house was ready.
With a buffalo spread on the grass, and a blanket for our
covering our bed was soon made. A fire crackled merrily before
the entrance, so near that we could tend it without stepping
abroad, and when we had supped, we put out the blaze, and closed
the door, and with the semblance of domestic comfort, sat up to
read the Gazetteer, to learn our latitude and longitude, and
write the journal of the voyage, or listened to the wind and the
rippling of the river till sleep overtook us. There we lay under
an oak on the bank of the stream, near to some farmer's
cornfield, getting sleep, and forgetting where we were; a great
blessing, that we are obliged to forget our enterprises every
twelve hours. Minks, muskrats, meadow-mice, woodchucks,
squirrels, skunks, rabbits, foxes, and weasels, all inhabit near,
but keep very close while you are there. The river sucking and
eddying away all night down toward the marts and the seaboard, a
great wash and freshet, and no small enterprise to reflect on.
Instead of the Scythian vastness of the Billerica night, and its
wild musical sounds, we were kept awake by the boisterous sport
of some Irish laborers on the railroad, wafted to us over the
water, still unwearied and unresting on this seventh day, who
would not have done with whirling up and down the track with ever
increasing velocity and still reviving shouts, till late in the

One sailor was visited in his dreams this night by the Evil
Destinies, and all those powers that are hostile to human life,
which constrain and oppress the minds of men, and make their path
seem difficult and narrow, and beset with dangers, so that the
most innocent and worthy enterprises appear insolent and a
tempting of fate, and the gods go not with us. But the other
happily passed a serene and even ambrosial or immortal night, and
his sleep was dreamless, or only the atmosphere of pleasant
dreams remained, a happy natural sleep until the morning; and his
cheerful spirit soothed and reassured his brother, for whenever
they meet, the Good Genius is sure to prevail.



"I thynke for to touche also
The worlde whiche neweth everie daie,
So as I can, so as I maie."


"The hye sheryfe of Notynghame,
Hym holde in your mynd."
_Robin Hood Ballads_.


"His shoote it was but loosely shott,
Yet flewe not the arrowe in vaine,
For it mett one of the sheriffe's men,
And William a Trent was slaine."
_Robin Hood Ballads_

"Gazed on the heavens for what he missed on Earth."
_Britania's Pastorale_




When the first light dawned on the earth and the birds, awoke,
and the brave river was heard rippling confidently seaward, and
the nimble early rising wind rustled the oak leaves about our
tent, all men having reinforced their bodies and their souls with
sleep, and cast aside doubt and fear, were invited to unattempted

"All courageous knichtis
Agains the day dichtis
The breest-plate that bricht is,
To feght with their foue.
The stoned steed stampis
Throw curage and crampis,
Syne on the land lampis;
The night is neir gone."

One of us took the boat over to the opposite shore, which was
flat and accessible, a quarter of a mile distant, to empty it of
water and wash out the clay, while the other kindled a fire and
got breakfast ready. At an early hour we were again on our way,
rowing through the fog as before, the river already awake, and a
million crisped waves come forth to meet the sun when he should
show himself. The countrymen, recruited by their day of rest,
were already stirring, and had begun to cross the ferry on the
business of the week. This ferry was as busy as a beaver dam,
and all the world seemed anxious to get across the Merrimack
River at this particular point, waiting to get set over,--children
with their two cents done up in paper, jail-birds broke loose
and constable with warrant, travellers from distant lands to
distant lands, men and women to whom the Merrimack River was a
bar. There stands a gig in the gray morning, in the mist, the
impatient traveller pacing the wet shore with whip in hand, and
shouting through the fog after the regardless Charon and his
retreating ark, as if he might throw that passenger overboard and
return forthwith for himself; he will compensate him. He is to
break his fast at some unseen place on the opposite side. It may
be Ledyard or the Wandering Jew. Whence, pray, did he come out
of the foggy night? and whither through the sunny day will he
go? We observe only his transit; important to us, forgotten by
him, transiting all day. There are two of them. May be, they
are Virgil and Dante. But when they crossed the Styx, none were
seen bound up or down the stream, that I remember. It is only a
_transjectus_, a transitory voyage, like life itself, none but
the long-lived gods bound up or down the stream. Many of these
Monday men are ministers, no doubt, reseeking their parishes with
hired horses, with sermons in their valises all read and gutted,
the day after never with them. They cross each other's routes
all the country over like woof and warp, making a garment of
loose texture; vacation now for six days. They stop to pick nuts
and berries, and gather apples by the wayside at their leisure.
Good religious men, with the love of men in their hearts, and the
means to pay their toll in their pockets. We got over this ferry
chain without scraping, rowing athwart the tide of travel,--no
toll for us that day.

The fog dispersed and we rowed leisurely along through
Tyngsborough, with a clear sky and a mild atmosphere, leaving
the habitations of men behind and penetrating yet farther into
the territory of ancient Dunstable. It was from Dunstable, then
a frontier town, that the famous Captain Lovewell, with his
company, marched in quest of the Indians on the 18th of April,
1725. He was the son of "an ensign in the army of Oliver
Cromwell, who came to this country, and settled at Dunstable,
where he died at the great age of one hundred and twenty years."
In the words of the old nursery tale, sung about a hundred years

"He and his valiant soldiers did range the woods full wide,
And hardships they endured to quell the Indian's pride."

In the shaggy pine forest of Pequawket they met the "rebel
Indians," and prevailed, after a bloody fight, and a remnant
returned home to enjoy the fame of their victory. A township
called Lovewell's Town, but now, for some reason, or perhaps
without reason, Pembroke, was granted them by the State.

"Of all our valiant English, there were but thirty-four,
And of the rebel Indians, there were about four-score;
And sixteen of our English did safely home return,
The rest were killed and wounded, for which we all must mourn.

"Our worthy Capt. Lovewell among them there did die,
They killed Lieut. Robbins, and wounded good young Frye,
Who was our English Chaplin; he many Indians slew,
And some of them he scalped while bullets round him flew."

Our brave forefathers have exterminated all the Indians, and
their degenerate children no longer dwell in garrisoned houses
nor hear any war-whoop in their path. It would be well,
perchance, if many an "English Chaplin" in these days could
exhibit as unquestionable trophies of his valor as did "good
young Frye." We have need to be as sturdy pioneers still as
Miles Standish, or Church, or Lovewell. We are to follow on
another trail, it is true, but one as convenient for ambushes.
What if the Indians are exterminated, are not savages as grim
prowling about the clearings to-day?--

"And braving many dangers and hardships in the way,
They safe arrived at Dunstable the thirteenth (?) day of May."

But they did not all "safe arrive in Dunstable the thirteenth,"
or the fifteenth, or the thirtieth "day of May." Eleazer Davis
and Josiah Jones, both of Concord, for our native town had seven
men in this fight, Lieutenant Farwell, of Dunstable, and Jonathan
Frye, of Andover, who were all wounded, were left behind,
creeping toward the settlements. "After travelling several
miles, Frye was left and lost," though a more recent poet has
assigned him company in his last hours.

"A man he was of comely form,
Polished and brave, well learned and kind;
Old Harvard's learned halls he left
Far in the wilds a grave to find.

"Ah! now his blood-red arm he lifts;
His closing lids he tries to raise;
And speak once more before he dies,
In supplication and in praise.

"He prays kind Heaven to grant success,
Brave Lovewell's men to guide and bless,
And when they've shed their heart-blood true,
To raise them all to happiness."
* * * * *
"Lieutenant Farwell took his hand,
His arm around his neck he threw,
And said, `Brave Chaplain, I could wish
That Heaven had made me die for you.'"
* * * * *

Farwell held out eleven days. "A tradition says," as we learn
from the History of Concord, "that arriving at a pond with
Lieut. Farwell, Davis pulled off one of his moccasins, cut it in
strings, on which he fastened a hook, caught some fish, fried and
ate them. They refreshed him, but were injurious to Farwell, who
died soon after." Davis had a ball lodged in his body, and his
right hand shot off; but on the whole, he seems to have been less
damaged than his companion. He came into Berwick after being out
fourteen days. Jones also had a ball lodged in his body, but he
likewise got into Saco after fourteen days, though not in the
best condition imaginable. "He had subsisted," says an old
journal, "on the spontaneous vegetables of the forest; and
cranberries which he had eaten came out of wounds he had received
in his body." This was also the case with Davis. The last two
reached home at length, safe if not sound, and lived many years
in a crippled state to enjoy their pension.

But alas! of the crippled Indians, and their adventures in the

"For as we are informed, so thick and fast they fell,
Scarce twenty of their number at night did get home well,"--

how many balls lodged with them, how fared their cranberries,
what Berwick or Saco they got into, and finally what pension or
township was granted them, there is no journal to tell.

It is stated in the History of Dunstable, that just before his
last march, Lovewell was warned to beware of the ambuscades of
the enemy, but "he replied, `that he did not care for them,' and
bending down a small elm beside which he was standing into a bow,
declared `that he would treat the Indians in the same way.' This
elm is still standing [in Nashua], a venerable and magnificent

Meanwhile, having passed the Horseshoe Interval in Tyngsborough,
where the river makes a sudden bend to the northwest,--for our
reflections have anticipated our progress somewhat,--we were
advancing farther into the country and into the day, which last
proved almost as golden as the preceding, though the slight
bustle and activity of the Monday seemed to penetrate even to
this scenery. Now and then we had to muster all our energy to get
round a point, where the river broke rippling over rocks, and the
maples trailed their branches in the stream, but there was
generally a backwater or eddy on the side, of which we took
advantage. The river was here about forty rods wide and fifteen
feet deep. Occasionally one ran along the shore, examining the
country, and visiting the nearest farm-houses, while the other
followed the windings of the stream alone, to meet his companion
at some distant point, and hear the report of his adventures; how
the farmer praised the coolness of his well, and his wife offered
the stranger a draught of milk, or the children quarrelled for
the only transparency in the window that they might get sight of
the man at the well. For though the country seemed so new, and no
house was observed by us, shut in between the banks that sunny
day, we did not have to travel far to find where men inhabited,
like wild bees, and had sunk wells in the loose sand and loam of
the Merrimack. There dwelt the subject of the Hebrew scriptures,
and the Esprit des Lois, where a thin vaporous smoke curled up
through the noon. All that is told of mankind, of the inhabitants
of the Upper Nile, and the Sunderbunds, and Timbuctoo, and the
Orinoko, was experience here. Every race and class of men was
represented. According to Belknap, the historian of New Hampshire,
who wrote sixty years ago, here too, perchance, dwelt "new lights,"
and free thinking men even then. "The people in general throughout
the State," it is written, "are professors of the Christian
religion in some form or other. There is, however, a sort of
_wise men_ who pretend to reject it; but they have not yet been
able to substitute a better in its place."

The other voyageur, perhaps, would in the mean while have seen
a brown hawk, or a woodchuck, or a musquash creeping under the

We occasionally rested in the shade of a maple or a willow, and
drew forth a melon for our refreshment, while we contemplated at
our leisure the lapse of the river and of human life; and as that
current, with its floating twigs and leaves, so did all things
pass in review before us, while far away in cities and marts on
this very stream, the old routine was proceeding still. There
is, indeed, a tide in the affairs of men, as the poet says, and
yet as things flow they circulate, and the ebb always balances
the flow. All streams are but tributary to the ocean, which
itself does not stream, and the shores are unchanged, but in
longer periods than man can measure. Go where we will, we
discover infinite change in particulars only, not in generals.
When I go into a museum and see the mummies wrapped in their
linen bandages, I see that the lives of men began to need reform
as long ago as when they walked the earth. I come out into the
streets, and meet men who declare that the time is near at hand
for the redemption of the race. But as men lived in Thebes, so
do they live in Dunstable to-day. "Time drinketh up the essence
of every great and noble action which ought to be performed, and
is delayed in the execution." So says Veeshnoo Sarma; and we
perceive that the schemers return again and again to common sense
and labor. Such is the evidence of history.

"Yet I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the Suns."

There are secret articles in our treaties with the gods, of more
importance than all the rest, which the historian can never know.

There are many skilful apprentices, but few master workmen. On
every hand we observe a truly wise practice, in education, in
morals, and in the arts of life, the embodied wisdom of many an
ancient philosopher. Who does not see that heresies have some
time prevailed, that reforms have already taken place? All this
worldly wisdom might be regarded as the once unamiable heresy of
some wise man. Some interests have got a footing on the earth
which we have not made sufficient allowance for. Even they who
first built these barns and cleared the land thus, had some
valor. The abrupt epochs and chasms are smoothed down in history
as the inequalities of the plain are concealed by distance. But
unless we do more than simply learn the trade of our time, we are
but apprentices, and not yet masters of the art of life.

Now that we are casting away these melon seeds, how can we help
feeling reproach? He who eats the fruit, should at least plant
the seed; aye, if possible, a better seed than that whose fruit
he has enjoyed. Seeds! there are seeds enough which need only
to be stirred in with the soil where they lie, by an inspired
voice or pen, to bear fruit of a divine flavor. O thou
spendthrift! Defray thy debt to the world; eat not the seed of
institutions, as the luxurious do, but plant it rather, while
thou devourest the pulp and tuber for thy subsistence; that so,
perchance, one variety may at last be found worthy of

There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed
in the infinite leisure and repose of nature. All laborers must
have their nooning, and at this season of the day, we are all,
more or less, Asiatics, and give over all work and reform. While
lying thus on our oars by the side of the stream, in the heat of
the day, our boat held by an osier put through the staple in its
prow, and slicing the melons, which are a fruit of the East, our
thoughts reverted to Arabia, Persia, and Hindostan, the lands of
contemplation and dwelling-places of the ruminant nations. In
the experience of this noontide we could find some apology even
for the instinct of the opium, betel, and tobacco chewers. Mount
Saber, according to the French traveller and naturalist, Botta,
is celebrated for producing the Kat-tree, of which "the soft tops
of the twigs and tender leaves are eaten," says his reviewer,
"and produce an agreeable soothing excitement, restoring from
fatigue, banishing sleep, and disposing to the enjoyment of
conversation." We thought that we might lead a dignified
Oriental life along this stream as well, and the maple and alders
would be our Kat-trees.

It is a great pleasure to escape sometimes from the restless
class of Reformers. What if these grievances exist? So do you
and I. Think you that sitting hens are troubled with ennui these
long summer days, sitting on and on in the crevice of a hay-loft,
without active employment? By the faint cackling in distant
barns, I judge that dame Nature is interested still to know how
many eggs her hens lay. The Universal Soul, as it is called, has
an interest in the stacking of hay, the foddering of cattle, and
the draining of peat-meadows. Away in Scythia, away in India, it
makes butter and cheese. Suppose that all farms _are_ run out,
and we youths must buy old land and bring it to, still everywhere
the relentless opponents of reform bear a strange resemblance to
ourselves; or, perchance, they are a few old maids and bachelors,
who sit round the kitchen hearth and listen to the singing of the
kettle. "The oracles often give victory to our choice, and not
to the order alone of the mundane periods. As, for instance,
when they say that our voluntary sorrows germinate in us as the
growth of the particular life we lead." The reform which you talk
about can be undertaken any morning before unbarring our doors.
We need not call any convention. When two neighbors begin to eat
corn bread, who before ate wheat, then the gods smile from ear to
ear, for it is very pleasant to them. Why do you not try it?
Don't let me hinder you.

There are theoretical reformers at all times, and all the world
over, living on anticipation. Wolff, travelling in the deserts
of Bokhara, says, "Another party of derveeshes came to me and
observed, `The time will come when there shall be no difference
between rich and poor, between high and low, when property will
be in common, even wives and children.'" But forever I ask of
such, What then? The derveeshes in the deserts of Bokhara and
the reformers in Marlboro' Chapel sing the same song. "There's a
good time coming, boys," but, asked one of the audience, in good
faith, "Can you fix the date?" Said I, "Will you help it along?"

The nonchalance and _dolce-far-niente_ air of nature and society
hint at infinite periods in the progress of mankind. The States
have leisure to laugh from Maine to Texas at some newspaper joke,
and New England shakes at the double-entendres of Australian
circles, while the poor reformer cannot get a hearing.

Men do not fail commonly for want of knowledge, but for want of
prudence to give wisdom the preference. What we need to know in
any case is very simple. It is but too easy to establish another
durable and harmonious routine. Immediately all parts of nature
consent to it. Only make something to take the place of something,
and men will behave as if it was the very thing they wanted.
They _must_ behave, at any rate, and will work up any material.

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