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

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There is always a present and extant life, be it better or worse,
which all combine to uphold. We should be slow to mend, my
friends, as slow to require mending, "Not hurling, according to
the oracle, a transcendent foot towards piety." The language of
excitement is at best picturesque merely. You must be calm
before you can utter oracles. What was the excitement of the
Delphic priestess compared with the calm wisdom of Socrates?--or
whoever it was that was wise.--Enthusiasm is a supernatural

"Men find that action is another thing
Than what they in discoursing papers read;
The world's affairs require in managing
More arts than those wherein you clerks proceed."

As in geology, so in social institutions, we may discover the
causes of all past change in the present invariable order of
society. The greatest appreciable physical revolutions are the
work of the light-footed air, the stealthy-paced water, and the
subterranean fire. Aristotle said, "As time never fails, and the
universe is eternal, neither the Tanais nor the Nile can have
flowed forever." We are independent of the change we detect.
The longer the lever the less perceptible its motion. It is the
slowest pulsation which is the most vital. The hero then will
know how to wait, as well as to make haste. All good abides with
him who waiteth _wisely_; we shall sooner overtake the dawn by
remaining here than by hurrying over the hills of the west. Be
assured that every man's success is in proportion to his
_average_ ability. The meadow flowers spring and bloom where the
waters annually deposit their slime, not where they reach in some
freshet only. A man is not his hope, nor his despair, nor yet
his past deed. We know not yet what we have done, still less
what we are doing. Wait till evening, and other parts of our
day's work will shine than we had thought at noon, and we shall
discover the real purport of our toil. As when the farmer has
reached the end of the furrow and looks back, he can tell best
where the pressed earth shines most.

To one who habitually endeavors to contemplate the true state
of things, the political state can hardly be said to have any
existence whatever. It is unreal, incredible, and insignificant
to him, and for him to endeavor to extract the truth from such
lean material is like making sugar from linen rags, when
sugar-cane may be had. Generally speaking, the political news,
whether domestic or foreign, might be written to-day for the next
ten years, with sufficient accuracy. Most revolutions in society
have not power to interest, still less alarm us; but tell me that
our rivers are drying up, or the genus pine dying out in the
country, and I might attend. Most events recorded in history are
more remarkable than important, like eclipses of the sun and
moon, by which all are attracted, but whose effects no one takes
the trouble to calculate.

But will the government never be so well administered, inquired
one, that we private men shall hear nothing about it? "The king
answered: At all events, I require a prudent and able man, who
is capable of managing the state affairs of my kingdom. The
ex-minister said: The criterion, O Sire! of a wise and competent
man is, that he will not meddle with such like matters." Alas
that the ex-minister should have been so nearly right!

In my short experience of human life, the _outward_ obstacles,
if there were any such, have not been living men, but the
institutions of the dead. It is grateful to make one's way
through this latest generation as through dewy grass. Men are
as innocent as the morning to the unsuspicious.

"And round about good morrows fly,
As if day taught humanity."

Not being Reve of this Shire,

"The early pilgrim blithe he hailed,
That o'er the hills did stray,
And many an early husbandman,
That he met on the way";--

thieves and robbers all, nevertheless. I have not so surely
foreseen that any Cossack or Chippeway would come to disturb the
honest and simple commonwealth, as that some monster institution
would at length embrace and crush its free members in its scaly
folds; for it is not to be forgotten, that while the law holds
fast the thief and murderer, it lets itself go loose. When I
have not paid the tax which the State demanded for that
protection which I did not want, itself has robbed me; when I
have asserted the liberty it presumed to declare, itself has
imprisoned me. Poor creature! if it knows no better I will not
blame it. If it cannot live but by these means, I can. I do not
wish, it happens, to be associated with Massachusetts, either in
holding slaves or in conquering Mexico. I am a little better
than herself in these respects.--As for Massachusetts, that huge
she Briareus, Argus and Colchian Dragon conjoined, set to watch
the Heifer of the Constitution and the Golden Fleece, we would
not warrant our respect for her, like some compositions, to
preserve its qualities through all weathers.--Thus it has
happened, that not the Arch Fiend himself has been in my way, but
these toils which tradition says were originally spun to obstruct
him. They are cobwebs and trifling obstacles in an earnest man's
path, it is true, and at length one even becomes attached to his
unswept and undusted garret. I love man--kind, but I hate the
institutions of the dead un-kind. Men execute nothing so
faithfully as the wills of the dead, to the last codicil and
letter. _They_ rule this world, and the living are but their
executors. Such foundation too have our lectures and our
sermons, commonly. They are all _Dudleian;_ and piety derives
its origin still from that exploit of _pius Aeneas_, who bore his
father, Anchises, on his shoulders from the ruins of Troy. Or
rather, like some Indian tribes, we bear about with us the
mouldering relics of our ancestors on our shoulders. If, for
instance, a man asserts the value of individual liberty over the
merely political commonweal, his neighbor still tolerates him,
that he who is _living near_ him, sometimes even sustains him,
but never the State. Its officer, as a living man, may have
human virtues and a thought in his brain, but as the tool of an
institution, a jailer or constable it may be, he is not a whit
superior to his prison key or his staff. Herein is the tragedy;
that men doing outrage to their proper natures, even those called
wise and good, lend themselves to perform the office of inferior
and brutal ones. Hence come war and slavery in; and what else
may not come in by this opening? But certainly there are modes
by which a man may put bread into his mouth which will not
prejudice him as a companion and neighbor.

"Now turn again, turn again, said the pinder,
For a wrong way you have gone,
For you have forsaken the king's highway,
And made a path over the corn."

Undoubtedly, countless reforms are called for, because society is
not animated, or instinct enough with life, but in the condition
of some snakes which I have seen in early spring, with alternate
portions of their bodies torpid and flexible, so that they could
wriggle neither way. All men are partially buried in the grave
of custom, and of some we see only the crown of the head above
ground. Better are the physically dead, for they more lively
rot. Even virtue is no longer such if it be stagnant. A man's
life should be constantly as fresh as this river. It should be
the same channel, but a new water every instant.

"Virtues as rivers pass,
But still remains that virtuous man there was."

Most men have no inclination, no rapids, no cascades, but
marshes, and alligators, and miasma instead. We read that when
in the expedition of Alexander, Onesicritus was sent forward to
meet certain of the Indian sect of Gymnosophists, and he had told
them of those new philosophers of the West, Pythagoras, Socrates,
and Diogenes, and their doctrines, one of them named Dandamis
answered, that "They appeared to him to have been men of genius,
but to have lived with too passive a regard for the laws." The
philosophers of the West are liable to this rebuke still. "They
say that Lieou-hia-hoei, and Chao-lien did not sustain to the end
their resolutions, and that they dishonored their character.
Their language was in harmony with reason and justice; while
their acts were in harmony with the sentiments of men."

Chateaubriand said: "There are two things which grow stronger in
the breast of man, in proportion as he advances in years: the
love of country and religion. Let them be never so much
forgotten in youth, they sooner or later present themselves to us
arrayed in all their charms, and excite in the recesses of our
hearts an attachment justly due to their beauty." It may be so.
But even this infirmity of noble minds marks the gradual decay of
youthful hope and faith. It is the allowed infidelity of age.
There is a saying of the Yoloffs, "He who was born first has the
greatest number of old clothes," consequently M. Chateaubriand
has more old clothes than I have. It is comparatively a faint
and reflected beauty that is admired, not an essential and
intrinsic one. It is because the old are weak, feel their
mortality, and think that they have measured the strength of man.
They will not boast; they will be frank and humble. Well, let
them have the few poor comforts they can keep. Humility is still
a very human virtue. They look back on life, and so see not into
the future. The prospect of the young is forward and unbounded,
mingling the future with the present. In the declining day the
thoughts make haste to rest in darkness, and hardly look forward
to the ensuing morning. The thoughts of the old prepare for
night and slumber. The same hopes and prospects are not for him
who stands upon the rosy mountain-tops of life, and him who
expects the setting of his earthly day.

I must conclude that Conscience, if that be the name of it, was
not given us for no purpose, or for a hinderance. However
flattering order and expediency may look, it is but the repose of
a lethargy, and we will choose rather to be awake, though it be
stormy, and maintain ourselves on this earth and in this life, as
we may, without signing our death-warrant. Let us see if we
cannot stay here, where He has put us, on his own
conditions. Does not his law reach as far as his light? The
expedients of the nations clash with one another, only the
absolutely right is expedient for all.

There are some passages in the Antigone of Sophocles, well known
to scholars, of which I am reminded in this connection. Antigone
has resolved to sprinkle sand on the dead body of her brother
Polynices, notwithstanding the edict of King Creon condemning to
death that one who should perform this service, which the Greeks
deemed so important, for the enemy of his country; but Ismene,
who is of a less resolute and noble spirit, declines taking part
with her sister in this work, and says,--

"I, therefore, asking those under the earth to consider me, that
I am compelled to do thus, will obey those who are placed in
office; for to do extreme things is not wise."


"I would not ask you, nor would you, if you still wished, do it
joyfully with me. Be such as seems good to you. But I will bury
him. It is glorious for me doing this to die. I beloved will
lie with him beloved, having, like a criminal, done what is holy;
since the time is longer which it is necessary for me to please
those below, than those here, for there I shall always lie. But
if it seems good to you, hold in dishonor things which are
honored by the gods."


"I indeed do not hold them in dishonor; but to act in opposition
to the citizens I am by nature unable."

Antigone being at length brought before King Creon, he asks,--

"Did you then dare to transgress these laws?"


"For it was not Zeus who proclaimed these to me, nor Justice who
dwells with the gods below; it was not they who established these
laws among men. Nor did I think that your proclamations were so
strong, as, being a mortal, to be able to transcend the unwritten
and immovable laws of the gods. For not something now and
yesterday, but forever these live, and no one knows from what
time they appeared. I was not about to pay the penalty of
violating these to the gods, fearing the presumption of any man.
For I well knew that I should die, and why not? even if you had
not proclaimed it."

This was concerning the burial of a dead body.

The wisest conservatism is that of the Hindoos. "Immemorial
custom is transcendent law," says Menu. That is, it was the
custom of the gods before men used it. The fault of our New
England custom is that it is memorial. What is morality but
immemorial custom? Conscience is the chief of conservatives.
"Perform the settled functions," says Kreeshna in the
Bhagvat-Geeta; "action is preferable to inaction. The journey of
thy mortal frame may not succeed from inaction."--"A man's own
calling with all its faults, ought not to be forsaken. Every
undertaking is involved in its faults as the fire in its
smoke."--"The man who is acquainted with the whole, should not
drive those from their works who are slow of comprehension, and
less experienced than himself."--"Wherefore, O Arjoon, resolve to
fight," is the advice of the God to the irresolute soldier who
fears to slay his best friends. It is a sublime conservatism; as
wide as the world, and as unwearied as time; preserving the
universe with Asiatic anxiety, in that state in which it appeared
to their minds. These philosophers dwell on the inevitability
and unchangeableness of laws, on the power of temperament and
constitution, the three goon or qualities, and the circumstances
of birth and affinity. The end is an immense consolation;
eternal absorption in Brahma. Their speculations never venture
beyond their own table-lands, though they are high and vast as
they. Buoyancy, freedom, flexibility, variety, possibility,
which also are qualities of the Unnamed, they deal not with. The
undeserved reward is to be earned by an everlasting moral
drudgery; the incalculable promise of the morrow is, as it were,
weighed. And who will say that their conservatism has not been
effectual? "Assuredly," says a French translator, speaking of
the antiquity and durability of the Chinese and Indian nations,
and of the wisdom of their legislators, "there are there some
vestiges of the eternal laws which govern the world."

Christianity, on the other hand, is humane, practical, and, in a
large sense, radical. So many years and ages of the gods those
Eastern sages sat contemplating Brahm, uttering in silence the
mystic "Om," being absorbed into the essence of the Supreme
Being, never going out of themselves, but subsiding farther and
deeper within; so infinitely wise, yet infinitely stagnant;
until, at last, in that same Asia, but in the western part of it,
appeared a youth, wholly unforetold by them,--not being absorbed
into Brahm, but bringing Brahm down to earth and to mankind; in
whom Brahm had awaked from his long sleep, and exerted himself,
and the day began,--a new avatar. The Brahman had never thought
to be a brother of mankind as well as a child of God. Christ is
the prince of Reformers and Radicals. Many expressions in the
New Testament come naturally to the lips of all Protestants, and
it furnishes the most pregnant and practical texts. There is no
harmless dreaming, no wise speculation in it, but everywhere a
substratum of good sense. It never _reflects_, but it _repents_.
There is no poetry in it, we may say nothing regarded in the
light of beauty merely, but moral truth is its object. All
mortals are convicted by its conscience.

The New Testament is remarkable for its pure morality; the best
of the Hindo Scripture, for its pure intellectuality. The reader
is nowhere raised into and sustained in a higher, purer, or _rarer_
region of thought than in the Bhagvat-Geeta. Warren Hastings, in
his sensible letter recommending the translation of this book to
the Chairman of the East India Company, declares the original to
be "of a sublimity of conception, reasoning, and diction almost
unequalled," and that the writings of the Indian philosophers
"will survive when the British dominion in India shall have long
ceased to exist, and when the sources which it once yielded of
wealth and power are lost to remembrance." It is unquestionably
one of the noblest and most sacred scriptures which have come
down to us. Books are to be distinguished by the grandeur of
their topics, even more than by the manner in which they are
treated. The Oriental philosophy approaches, easily, loftier
themes than the modern aspires to; and no wonder if it sometimes
prattle about them. _It_ only assigns their due rank respectively
to Action and Contemplation, or rather does full justice to the
latter. Western philosophers have not conceived of the
significance of Contemplation in their sense. Speaking of the
spiritual discipline to which the Brahmans subjected themselves,
and the wonderful power of abstraction to which they attained,
instances of which had come under his notice, Hastings says:--

"To those who have never been accustomed to the separation of
the mind from the notices of the senses, it may not be easy to
conceive by what means such a power is to be attained; since
even the most studious men of our hemisphere will find it
difficult so to restrain their attention, but that it will
wander to some object of present sense or recollection; and
even the buzzing of a fly will sometimes have the power to
disturb it. But if we are told that there have been men who
were successively, for ages past, in the daily habit of
abstracted contemplation, begun in the earliest period of
youth, and continued in many to the maturity of age, each
adding some portion of knowledge to the store accumulated by
his predecessors; it is not assuming too much to conclude, that
as the mind ever gathers strength, like the body, by exercise,
so in such an exercise it may in each have acquired the faculty
to which they aspired, and that their collective studies may
have led them to the discovery of new tracts and combinations
of sentiment, totally different from the doctrines with which
the learned of other nations are acquainted; doctrines which,
however speculative and subtle, still as they possess the
advantage of being derived from a source so free from every
adventitious mixture, may be equally founded in truth with the
most simple of our own."

"The forsaking of works" was taught by Kreeshna to the most
ancient of men, and handed down from age to age,

"until at length, in the course of time, the mighty art was lost.

"In wisdom is to be found every work without exception," says

"Although thou wert the greatest of all offenders, thou shalt
be able to cross the gulf of sin with the bark of wisdom."

"There is not anything in this world to be compared with wisdom
for purity."

"The action stands at a distance inferior to the application of

The wisdom of a Moonee "is confirmed, when, like the tortoise,
he can draw in all his members, and restrain them from their
wonted purposes."

"Children only, and not the learned, speak of the speculative
and the practical doctrines as two. They are but one. For
both obtain the selfsame end, and the place which is gained by
the followers of the one is gained by the followers of the

"The man enjoyeth not freedom from action, from the
non-commencement of that which he hath to do; nor doth he
obtain happiness from a total inactivity. No one ever resteth
a moment inactive. Every man is involuntarily urged to act by
those principles which are inherent in his nature. The man who
restraineth his active faculties, and sitteth down with his
mind attentive to the objects of his senses, is called one of
an astrayed soul, and the practiser of deceit. So the man is
praised, who, having subdued all his passions, performeth with
his active faculties all the functions of life, unconcerned
about the event."

"Let the motive be in the deed and not in the event. Be not
one whose motive for action is the hope of reward. Let not thy
life be spent in inaction."

"For the man who doeth that which he hath to do, without
affection, obtaineth the Supreme."

"He who may behold, as it were inaction in action, and action
in inaction, is wise amongst mankind. He is a perfect
performer of all duty."

"Wise men call him a _Pandeet_, whose every undertaking is free
from the idea of desire, and whose actions are consumed by the
fire of wisdom. He abandoneth the desire of a reward of his
actions; he is always contented and independent; and although
he may be engaged in a work, he, as it were, doeth nothing."

"He is both a Yogee and a Sannyasee who performeth that which
he hath to do independent of the fruit thereof; not he who
liveth without the sacrificial fire and without action."

"He who enjoyeth but the Amreeta which is left of his
offerings, obtaineth the eternal spirit of Brahm, the Supreme."

What, after all, does the practicalness of life amount to? The
things immediate to be done are very trivial. I could postpone
them all to hear this locust sing. The most glorious fact in my
experience is not anything that I have done or may hope to do,
but a transient thought, or vision, or dream, which I have had.
I would give all the wealth of the world, and all the deeds of
all the heroes, for one true vision. But how can I communicate
with the gods who am a pencil-maker on the earth, and not be

"I am the same to all mankind," says Kreeshna; "there is not
one who is worthy of my love or hatred."

This teaching is not practical in the sense in which the New
Testament is. It is not always sound sense inpractice. The
Brahman never proposes courageously to assault evil, but
patiently to starve it out. His active faculties are paralyzed
by the idea of cast, of impassable limits, of destiny and the
tyranny of time. Kreeshna's argument, it must be allowed, is
defective. No sufficient reason is given why Arjoon should
fight. Arjoon may be convinced, but the reader is not, for his
judgment is _not_ "formed upon the speculative doctrines of the
_Sankhya Sastra_." "Seek an asylum in wisdom alone"; but what is
wisdom to a Western mind? The duty of which he speaks is an
arbitrary one. When was it established? The Brahman's virtue
consists in doing, not right, but arbitrary things. What is that
which a man "hath to do"? What is "action"? What are the
"settled functions"? What is "a man's own religion," which is so
much better than another's? What is "a man's own particular
calling"? What are the duties which are appointed by one's
birth? It is a defence of the institution of casts, of what is
called the "natural duty" of the Kshetree, or soldier, "to attach
himself to the discipline," "not to flee from the field," and the
like. But they who are unconcerned about the consequences of
their actions are not therefore unconcerned about their actions.

Behold the difference between the Oriental and the Occidental.
The former has nothing to do in this world; the latter is full of
activity. The one looks in the sun till his eyes are put out;
the other follows him prone in his westward course. There is
such a thing as caste, even in the West; but it is comparatively
faint; it is conservatism here. It says, forsake not your
calling, outrage no institution, use no violence, rend no bonds;
the State is thy parent. Its virtue or manhood is wholly filial.
There is a struggle between the Oriental and Occidental in every
nation; some who would be forever contemplating the sun, and some
who are hastening toward the sunset. The former class says to
the latter, When you have reached the sunset, you will be no
nearer to the sun. To which the latter replies, But we so
prolong the day. The former "walketh but in that night, when all
things go to rest the night of _time_. The contemplative Moonee
sleepeth but in the day of _time_, when all things wake."

To conclude these extracts, I can say, in the words of Sanjay,
"As, O mighty Prince! I recollect again and again this holy and
wonderful dialogue of Kreeshna and Arjoon, I continue more and
more to rejoice; and as I recall to my memory the more than
miraculous form of Haree, my astonishment is great, and I marvel
and rejoice again and again! Wherever Kreeshna the God of
devotion may be, wherever Arjoon the mighty bowman may be, there
too, without doubt, are fortune, riches, victory, and good
conduct. This is my firm belief."

I would say to the readers of Scriptures, if they wish for a good
book, read the Bhagvat-Geeta, an episode to the Mahabharat, said
to have been written by Kreeshna Dwypayen Veias,--known to have
been written by----, more than four thousand years ago,--it
matters not whether three or four, or when,--translated by
Charles Wilkins. It deserves to be read with reverence even by
Yankees, as a part of the sacred writings of a devout people; and
the intelligent Hebrew will rejoice to find in it a moral
grandeur and sublimity akin to those of his own Scriptures.

To an American reader, who, by the advantage of his position, can
see over that strip of Atlantic coast to Asia and the Pacific,
who, as it were, sees the shore slope upward over the Alps to the
Himmaleh Mountains, the comparatively recent literature of Europe
often appears partial and clannish, and, notwithstanding the
limited range of his own sympathies and studies, the European
writer who presumes that he is speaking for the world, is
perceived by him to speak only for that corner of it which he
inhabits. One of the rarest of England's scholars and critics,
in his classification of the worthies of the world, betrays the
narrowness of his European culture and the exclusiveness of his
reading. None of her children has done justice to the poets and
philosophers of Persia or of India. They have even been better
known to her merchant scholars than to her poets and thinkers by
profession. You may look in vain through English poetry for a
single memorable verse inspired by these themes. Nor is Germany
to be excepted, though her philological industry is indirectly
serving the cause of philosophy and poetry. Even Goethe wanted
that universality of genius which could have appreciated the
philosophy of India, if he had more nearly approached it. His
genius was more practical, dwelling much more in the regions of
the understanding, and was less native to contemplation than the
genius of those sages. It is remarkable that Homer and a few
Hebrews are the most Oriental names which modern Europe, whose
literature has taken its rise since the decline of the Persian,
has admitted into her list of Worthies, and perhaps the _worthiest_
of mankind, and the fathers of modern thinking,--for the
contemplations of those Indian sages have influenced, and still
influence, the intellectual development of mankind,--whose works
even yet survive in wonderful completeness, are, for the most
part, not recognized as ever having existed. If the lions had
been the painters it would have been otherwise. In every one's
youthful dreams philosophy is still vaguely but inseparably, and
with singular truth, associated with the East, nor do after years
discover its local habitation in the Western world. In comparison
with the philosophers of the East, we may say that modern Europe
has yet given birth to none. Beside the vast and cosmogonal
philosophy of the Bhagvat-Geeta, even our Shakespeare seems
sometimes youthfully green and practical merely. Some of these
sublime sentences, as the Chaldaean oracles of Zoroaster, still
surviving after a thousand revolutions and translations, alone
make us doubt if the poetic form and dress are not transitory,
and not essential to the most effective and enduring expression
of thought. _Ex oriente lux_ may still be the motto of scholars,
for the Western world has not yet derived from the East all the
light which it is destined to receive thence.

It would be worthy of the age to print together the collected
Scriptures or Sacred Writings of the several nations, the
Chinese, the Hindoos, the Persians, the Hebrews, and others, as
the Scripture of mankind. The New Testament is still, perhaps,
too much on the lips and in the hearts of men to be called a
Scripture in this sense. Such a juxtaposition and comparison
might help to liberalize the faith of men. This is a work which
Time will surely edit, reserved to crown the labors of the
printing-press. This would be the Bible, or Book of Books, which
let the missionaries carry to the uttermost parts of the earth.

While engaged in these reflections, thinking ourselves the only
navigators of these waters, suddenly a canal-boat, with its sail
set, glided round a point before us, like some huge river beast,
and changed the scene in an instant; and then another and another
glided into sight, and we found ourselves in the current of
commerce once more. So we threw our rinds in the water for the
fishes to nibble, and added our breath to the life of living men.
Little did we think, in the distant garden in which we had
planted the seed and reared this fruit, where it would be eaten.
Our melons lay at home on the sandy bottom of the Merrimack, and
our potatoes in the sun and water at the bottom of the boat
looked like a fruit of the country. Soon, however, we were
delivered from this fleet of junks, and possessed the river in
solitude, once more rowing steadily upward through the noon,
between the territories of Nashua on the one hand, and Hudson,
once Nottingham, on the other. From time to time we scared up a
kingfisher or a summer duck, the former flying rather by vigorous
impulses than by steady and patient steering with that short
rudder of his, sounding his rattle along the fluvial street.

Erelong another scow hove in sight, creeping down the river; and
hailing it, we attached ourselves to its side, and floated back
in company, chatting with the boatmen, and obtaining a draught of
cooler water from their jug. They appeared to be green hands
from far among the hills, who had taken this means to get to the
seaboard, and see the world; and would possibly visit the
Falkland Isles, and the China seas, before they again saw the
waters of the Merrimack, or, perchance, they would not return
this way forever. They had already embarked the private
interests of the landsman in the larger venture of the race, and
were ready to mess with mankind, reserving only the till of a
chest to themselves. But they too were soon lost behind a point,
and we went croaking on our way alone. What grievance has its
root among the New Hampshire hills? we asked; what is wanting to
human life here, that these men should make such haste to the
antipodes? We prayed that their bright anticipations might not
be rudely disappointed.

Though all the fates should prove unkind,
Leave not your native land behind.
The ship, becalmed, at length stands still;
The steed must rest beneath the hill;
But swiftly still our fortunes pace
To find us out in every place.

The vessel, though her masts be firm,
Beneath her copper bears a worm;
Around the cape, across the line,
Till fields of ice her course confine;
It matters not how smooth the breeze,
How shallow or how deep the seas,
Whether she bears Manilla twine,
Or in her hold Madeira wine,
Or China teas, or Spanish hides,
In port or quarantine she rides;
Far from New England's blustering shore,
New England's worm her hulk shall bore,
And sink her in the Indian seas,
Twine, wine, and hides, and China teas.

We passed a small desert here on the east bank, between
Tyngsborough and Hudson, which was interesting and even
refreshing to our eyes in the midst of the almost universal
greenness. This sand was indeed somewhat impressive and
beautiful to us. A very old inhabitant, who was at work in a
field on the Nashua side, told us that he remembered when corn
and grain grew there, and it was a cultivated field. But at
length the fishermen, for this was a fishing place, pulled up the
bushes on the shore, for greater convenience in hauling their
seines, and when the bank was thus broken, the wind began to blow
up the sand from the shore, until at length it had covered about
fifteen acres several feet deep. We saw near the river, where
the sand was blown off down to some ancient surface, the
foundation of an Indian wigwam exposed, a perfect circle of burnt
stones, four or five feet in diameter, mingled with fine
charcoal, and the bones of small animals which had been preserved
in the sand. The surrounding sand was sprinkled with other burnt
stones on which their fires had been built, as well as with
flakes of arrow-head stone, and we found one perfect arrow-head.
In one place we noticed where an Indian had sat to manufacture
arrow-heads out of quartz, and the sand was sprinkled with a
quart of small glass-like chips about as big as a fourpence,
which he had broken off in his work. Here, then, the Indians
must have fished before the whites arrived. There was another
similar sandy tract about half a mile above this.

Still the noon prevailed, and we turned the prow aside to bathe,
and recline ourselves under some buttonwoods, by a ledge of
rocks, in a retired pasture sloping to the water's edge, and
skirted with pines and hazels, in the town of Hudson. Still had
India, and that old noontide philosophy, the better part of our

It is always singular, but encouraging, to meet with common sense
in very old books, as the Heetopades of Veeshnoo Sarma; a playful
wisdom which has eyes behind as well as before, and oversees
itself. It asserts their health and independence of the
experience of later times. This pledge of sanity cannot be
spared in a book, that it sometimes pleasantly reflect upon
itself. The story and fabulous portion of this book winds
loosely from sentence to sentence as so many oases in a desert,
and is as indistinct as a camel's track between Mourzouk and
Darfour. It is a comment on the flow and freshet of modern
books. The reader leaps from sentence to sentence, as from one
stepping-stone to another, while the stream of the story rushes
past unregarded. The Bhagvat-Geeta is less sententious and
poetic, perhaps, but still more wonderfully sustained and
developed. Its sanity and sublimity have impressed the minds
even of soldiers and merchants. It is the characteristic of
great poems that they will yield of their sense in due proportion
to the hasty and the deliberate reader. To the practical they
will be common sense, and to the wise wisdom; as either the
traveller may wet his lips, or an army may fill its water-casks
at a full stream.

One of the most attractive of those ancient books that I have met
with is the Laws of Menu. According to Sir William Jones,
"Vyasa, the son of Parasara, has decided that the Veda, with its
Angas, or the six compositions deduced from it, the revealed
system of medicine, the Puranas or sacred histories, and the code
of Menu, were four works of supreme authority, which ought never
to be shaken by arguments merely human." The last is believed by
the Hindoos "to have been promulged in the beginning of time, by
Menu, son or grandson of Brahma," and "first of created beings";
and Brahma is said to have "taught his laws to Menu in a hundred
thousand verses, which Menu explained to the primitive world in
the very words of the book now translated." Others affirm that
they have undergone successive abridgments for the convenience of
mortals, "while the gods of the lower heaven and the band of
celestial musicians are engaged in studying the primary
code."--"A number of glosses or comments on Menu were composed by
the Munis, or old philosophers, whose treatises, together with
that before us, constitute the Dherma Sastra, in a collective
sense, or Body of Law." Culluca Bhatta was one of the more modern
of these.

Every sacred book, successively, has been accepted in the faith
that it was to be the final resting-place of the sojourning soul;
but after all, it was but a caravansary which supplied refreshment
to the traveller, and directed him farther on his way to Isphahan
or Bagdat. Thank God, no Hindoo tyranny prevailed at the framing
of the world, but we are freemen of the universe, and not
sentenced to any caste.

I know of no book which has come down to us with grander
pretensions than this, and it is so impersonal and sincere that
it is never offensive nor ridiculous. Compare the modes in which
modern literature is advertised with the prospectus of this book,
and think what a reading public it addresses, what criticism it
expects. It seems to have been uttered from some eastern summit,
with a sober morning prescience in the dawn of time, and you
cannot read a sentence without being elevated as upon the
table-land of the Ghauts. It has such a rhythm as the winds of
the desert, such a tide as the Ganges, and is as superior to
criticism as the Himmaleh Mountains. Its tone is of such
unrelaxed fibre, that even at this late day, unworn by time, it
wears the English and the Sanscrit dress indifferently; and its
fixed sentences keep up their distant fires still, like the
stars, by whose dissipated rays this lower world is illumined.
The whole book by noble gestures and inclinations renders many
words unnecessary. English sense has toiled, but Hindoo wisdom
never perspired. Though the sentences open as we read them,
unexpensively, and at first almost unmeaningly, as the petals of
a flower, they sometimes startle us with that rare kind of wisdom
which could only have been learned from the most trivial
experience; but it comes to us as refined as the porcelain earth
which subsides to the bottom of the ocean. They are clean and
dry as fossil truths, which have been exposed to the elements for
thousands of years, so impersonally and scientifically true that
they are the ornament of the parlor and the cabinet. Any _moral_
philosophy is exceedingly rare. This of Menu addresses our
privacy more than most. It is a more private and familiar, and,
at the same time, a more public and universal word, than is
spoken in parlor or pulpit now-a-days. As our domestic fowls are
said to have their original in the wild pheasant of India, so our
domestic thoughts have their prototypes in the thoughts of her
philosophers. We are dabbling in the very elements of our
present conventional and actual life; as if it were the primeval
conventicle where how to eat, and to drink, and to sleep, and
maintain life with adequate dignity and sincerity, were the
questions to be decided. It is later and more intimate with us
even than the advice of our nearest friends. And yet it is true
for the widest horizon, and read out of doors has relation to the
dim mountain line, and is native and aboriginal there. Most
books belong to the house and street only, and in the fields
their leaves feel very thin. They are bare and obvious, and have
no halo nor haze about them. Nature lies far and fair behind
them all. But this, as it proceeds from, so it addresses, what
is deepest and most abiding in man. It belongs to the noontide
of the day, the midsummer of the year, and after the snows have
melted, and the waters evaporated in the spring, still its truth
speaks freshly to our experience. It helps the sun to shine, and
his rays fall on its page to illustrate it. It spends the
mornings and the evenings, and makes such an impression on us
overnight as to awaken us before dawn, and its influence lingers
around us like a fragrance late into the day. It conveys a new
gloss to the meadows and the depths of the wood, and its spirit,
like a more subtile ether, sweeps along with the prevailing winds
of a country. The very locusts and crickets of a summer day are
but later or earlier glosses on the Dherma Sastra of the Hindoos,
a continuation of the sacred code. As we have said, there is an
orientalism in the most restless pioneer, and the farthest west
is but the farthest east. While we are reading these sentences,
this fair modern world seems only a reprint of the Laws of Menu
with the gloss of Culluca. Tried by a New England eye, or the
mere practical wisdom of modern times, they are the oracles of a
race already in its dotage, but held up to the sky, which is the
only impartial and incorruptible ordeal, they are of a piece with
its depth and serenity, and I am assured that they will have a
place and significance as long as there is a sky to test them by.

Give me a sentence which no intelligence can understand. There
must be a kind of life and palpitation to it, and under its words
a kind of blood must circulate forever. It is wonderful that
this sound should have come down to us from so far, when the
voice of man can be heard so little way, and we are not now
within ear-shot of any contemporary. The woodcutters have here
felled an ancient pine forest, and brought to light to these
distant hills a fair lake in the southwest; and now in an instant
it is distinctly shown to these woods as if its image had
travelled hither from eternity. Perhaps these old stumps upon
the knoll remember when anciently this lake gleamed in the
horizon. One wonders if the bare earth itself did not experience
emotion at beholding again so fair a prospect. That fair water
lies there in the sun thus revealed, so much the prouder and
fairer because its beauty needed not to be seen. It seems yet
lonely, sufficient to itself, and superior to observation.--So
are these old sentences like serene lakes in the southwest, at
length revealed to us, which have so long been reflecting our own
sky in their bosom.

The great plain of India lies as in a cup between the Himmaleh and
the ocean on the north and south, and the Brahmapootra and Indus,
on the east and west, wherein the primeval race was received.
We will not dispute the story. We are pleased to read in the
natural history of the country, of the "pine, larch, spruce, and
silver fir," which cover the southern face of the Himmaleh range;
of the "gooseberry, raspberry, strawberry," which from an
imminent temperate zone overlook the torrid plains. So did this
active modern life have even then a foothold and lurking-place in
the midst of the stateliness and contemplativeness of those
Eastern plains. In another era the "lily of the valley, cowslip,
dandelion," were to work their way down into the plain, and bloom
in a level zone of their own reaching round the earth. Already
has the era of the temperate zone arrived, the era of the pine
and the oak, for the palm and the banian do not supply the wants
of this age. The lichens on the summits of the rocks will
perchance find their level erelong.

As for the tenets of the Brahmans, we are not so much concerned
to know what doctrines they held, as that they were held by any.
We can tolerate all philosophies, Atomists, Pneumatologists,
Atheists, Theists,--Plato, Aristotle, Leucippus, Democritus,
Pythagoras, Zoroaster, and Confucius. It is the attitude of
these men, more than any communication which they make, that
attracts us. Between them and their commentators, it is true,
there is an endless dispute. But if it comes to this, that you
compare notes, then you are all wrong. As it is, each takes us
up into the serene heavens, whither the smallest bubble rises as
surely as the largest, and paints earth and sky for us. Any
sincere thought is irresistible. The very austerity of the
Brahmans is tempting to the devotional soul, as a more refined
and nobler luxury. Wants so easily and gracefully satisfied seem
like a more refined pleasure. Their conception of creation is
peaceful as a dream. "When that power awakes, then has this
world its full expansion; but when he slumbers with a tranquil
spirit, then the whole system fades away." In the very
indistinctness of their theogony a sublime truth is implied. It
hardly allows the reader to rest in any supreme first cause, but
directly it hints at a supremer still which created the last, and
the Creator is still behind increate.

Nor will we disturb the antiquity of this Scripture; "From fire,
from air, and from the sun," it was "milked out." One might as
well investigate the chronology of light and heat. Let the sun
shine. Menu understood this matter best, when he said, "Those
best know the divisions of days and nights who understand that
the day of Brahma, which endures to the end of a thousand such
ages, [infinite ages, nevertheless, according to mortal
reckoning,] gives rise to virtuous exertions; and that his night
endures as long as his day." Indeed, the Mussulman and Tartar
dynasties are beyond all dating. Methinks I have lived under
them myself. In every man's brain is the Sanscrit. The Vedas
and their Angas are not so ancient as serene contemplation. Why
will we be imposed on by antiquity? Is the babe young? When I
behold it, it seems more venerable than the oldest man; it is
more ancient than Nestor or the Sibyls, and bears the wrinkles of
father Saturn himself. And do we live but in the present? How
broad a line is that? I sit now on a stump whose rings number
centuries of growth. If I look around I see that the soil is
composed of the remains of just such stumps, ancestors to this.
The earth is covered with mould. I thrust this stick many aeons
deep into its surface, and with my heel make a deeper furrow than
the elements have ploughed here for a thousand years. If I
listen, I hear the peep of frogs which is older than the slime of
Egypt, and the distant drumming of a partridge on a log, as if it
were the pulse-beat of the summer air. I raise my fairest and
freshest flowers in the old mould. Why, what we would fain call
new is not skin deep; the earth is not yet stained by it. It is
not the fertile ground which we walk on, but the leaves which
flutter over our heads. The newest is but the oldest made
visible to our senses. When we dig up the soil from a thousand
feet below the surface, we call it new, and the plants which
spring from it; and when our vision pierces deeper into space,
and detects a remoter star, we call that new also. The place
where we sit is called Hudson,--once it was Nottingham,--once --

We should read history as little critically as we consider the
landscape, and be more interested by the atmospheric tints and
various lights and shades which the intervening spaces create,
than by its groundwork and composition. It is the morning now
turned evening and seen in the west,--the same sun, but a new
light and atmosphere. Its beauty is like the sunset; not a
fresco painting on a wall, flat and bounded, but atmospheric and
roving or free. In reality, history fluctuates as the face of
the landscape from morning to evening. What is of moment is its
hue and color. Time hides no treasures; we want not its _then_,
but its _now_. We do not complain that the mountains in the
horizon are blue and indistinct; they are the more like the

Of what moment are facts that can be lost,--which need to be
commemorated? The monument of death will outlast the memory of
the dead. The pyramids do not tell the tale which was confided
to them; the living fact commemorates itself. Why look in the
dark for light? Strictly speaking, the historical societies have
not recovered one fact from oblivion, but are themselves, instead
of the fact, that is lost. The researcher is more memorable than
the researched. The crowd stood admiring the mist and the dim
outlines of the trees seen through it, when one of their number
advanced to explore the phenomenon, and with fresh admiration all
eyes were turned on his dimly retreating figure. It is astonishing
with how little co-operation of the societies the past is remembered.
Its story has indeed had another muse than has been assigned it.
There is a good instance of the manner in which all history
began, in Alwakidis' Arabian Chronicle: "I was informed by _Ahmed
Almatin Aljorhami_, who had it from _Rephaa Ebn Kais Alamiri_,
who had it from _Saiph Ebn Fabalah Alchatquarmi_, who had it from
_Thabet Ebn Alkamah_, who said he was present at the action."
These fathers of history were not anxious to preserve, but to
learn the fact; and hence it was not forgotten. Critical acumen
is exerted in vain to uncover the past; the _past_ cannot be
_presented_; we cannot know what we are not. But one veil hangs
over past, present, and future, and it is the province of the
historian to find out, not what was, but what is. Where a battle
has been fought, you will find nothing but the bones of men and
beasts; where a battle is being fought, there are hearts beating.
We will sit on a mound and muse, and not try to make these
skeletons stand on their legs again. Does Nature remember, think
you, that they _were_ men, or not rather that they _are_ bones?

Ancient history has an air of antiquity. It should be more
modern. It is written as if the spectator should be thinking of
the backside of the picture on the wall, or as if the author
expected that the dead would be his readers, and wished to detail
to them their own experience. Men seem anxious to accomplish an
orderly retreat through the centuries, earnestly rebuilding the
works behind, as they are battered down by the encroachments of
time; but while they loiter, they and their works both fall a
prey to the arch enemy. History has neither the venerableness of
antiquity, nor the freshness of the modern. It does as if it
would go to the beginning of things, which natural history might
with reason assume to do; but consider the Universal History, and
then tell us,--when did burdock and plantain sprout first? It
has been so written for the most part, that the times it
describes are with remarkable propriety called _dark ages_. They
are dark, as one has observed, because we are so in the dark
about them. The sun rarely shines in history, what with the dust
and confusion; and when we meet with any cheering fact which
implies the presence of this luminary, we excerpt and modernize
it. As when we read in the history of the Saxons that Edwin of
Northumbria "caused stakes to be fixed in the highways where he
had seen a clear spring," and "brazen dishes were chained to them
to refresh the weary sojourner, whose fatigues Edwin had himself
experienced." This is worth all Arthur's twelve battles.

"Through the shadow of the world we sweep into the younger day:
Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay."
Than fifty years of Europe better one New England ray!

Biography, too, is liable to the same objection; it should be
autobiography. Let us not, as the Germans advise, endeavor to go
abroad and vex our bowels that we may be somebody else to explain
him. If I am not I, who will be?

But it is fit that the Past should be dark; though the darkness
is not so much a quality of the past as of tradition. It is not
a distance of time, but a distance of relation, which makes thus
dusky its memorials. What is near to the heart of this
generation is fair and bright still. Greece lies outspread fair
and sunshiny in floods of light, for there is the sun and
daylight in her literature and art. Homer does not allow us to
forget that the sun shone,--nor Phidias, nor the Parthenon. Yet
no era has been wholly dark, nor will we too hastily submit to
the historian, and congratulate ourselves on a blaze of light.
If we could pierce the obscurity of those remote years, we should
find it light enough; only _there_ is not our day. Some
creatures are made to see in the dark. There has always been the
same amount of light in the world. The new and missing stars,
the comets and eclipses, do not affect the general illumination,
for only our glasses appreciate them. The eyes of the oldest
fossil remains, they tell us, indicate that the same laws of
light prevailed then as now. Always the laws of light are the
same, but the modes and degrees of seeing vary. The gods are
partial to no era, but steadily shines their light in the
heavens, while the eye of the beholder is turned to stone. There
was but the sun and the eye from the first. The ages have not
added a new ray to the one, nor altered a fibre of the other.

If we will admit time into our thoughts at all, the mythologies,
those vestiges of ancient poems, wrecks of poems, so to speak,
the world's inheritance, still reflecting some of their original
splendor, like the fragments of clouds tinted by the rays of the
departed sun; reaching into the latest summer day, and allying
this hour to the morning of creation; as the poet sings:--

"Fragments of the lofty strain
Float down the tide of years,
As buoyant on the stormy main
A parted wreck appears."

These are the materials and hints for a history of the rise and
progress of the race; how, from the condition of ants, it arrived
at the condition of men, and arts were gradually invented. Let a
thousand surmises shed some light on this story. We will not be
confined by historical, even geological periods which would allow
us to doubt of a progress in human affairs. If we rise above
this wisdom for the day, we shall expect that this morning of the
race, in which it has been supplied with the simplest necessaries,
with corn, and wine, and honey, and oil, and fire, and articulate
speech, and agricultural and other arts, reared up by degrees
from the condition of ants to men, will be succeeded by a day of
equally progressive splendor; that, in the lapse of the divine
periods, other divine agents and godlike men will assist to
elevate the race as much above its present condition.

But we do not know much about it.

Thus did one voyageur waking dream, while his companion slumbered
on the bank. Suddenly a boatman's horn was heard echoing from
shore to shore, to give notice of his approach to the farmer's
wife with whom he was to take his dinner, though in that place
only muskrats and kingfishers seemed to hear. The current of our
reflections and our slumbers being thus disturbed, we weighed
anchor once more.

As we proceeded on our way in the afternoon, the western bank
became lower, or receded farther from the channel in some places,
leaving a few trees only to fringe the water's edge; while the
eastern rose abruptly here and there into wooded hills fifty or
sixty feet high. The bass, _Tilia Americana_, also called the
lime or linden, which was a new tree to us, overhung the water
with its broad and rounded leaf, interspersed with clusters of
small hard berries now nearly ripe, and made an agreeable shade
for us sailors. The inner bark of this genus is the bast, the
material of the fisherman's matting, and the ropes and peasant's
shoes of which the Russians make so much use, and also of nets
and a coarse cloth in some places. According to poets, this was
once Philyra, one of the Oceanides. The ancients are said to
have used its bark for the roofs of cottages, for baskets, and
for a kind of paper called Philyra. They also made bucklers of
its wood, "on account of its flexibility, lightness, and
resiliency." It was once much used for carving, and is still in
demand for sounding-boards of piano-fortes and panels of
carriages, and for various uses for which toughness and
flexibility are required. Baskets and cradles are made of the
twigs. Its sap affords sugar, and the honey made from its
flowers is said to be preferred to any other. Its leaves are in
some countries given to cattle, a kind of chocolate has been made
of its fruit, a medicine has been prepared from an infusion of
its flowers, and finally, the charcoal made of its wood is
greatly valued for gunpowder.

The sight of this tree reminded us that we had reached a strange
land to us. As we sailed under this canopy of leaves we saw the
sky through its chinks, and, as it were, the meaning and idea of
the tree stamped in a thousand hieroglyphics on the heavens. The
universe is so aptly fitted to our organization that the eye
wanders and reposes at the same time. On every side there is
something to soothe and refresh this sense. Look up at the
tree-tops and see how finely Nature finishes off her work there.
See how the pines spire without end higher and higher, and make a
graceful fringe to the earth. And who shall count the finer
cobwebs that soar and float away from their utmost tops, and the
myriad insects that dodge between them. Leaves are of more
various forms than the alphabets of all languages put together;
of the oaks alone there are hardly two alike, and each expresses
its own character.

In all her products Nature only develops her simplest germs. One
would say that it was no great stretch of invention to create
birds. The hawk, which now takes his flight over the top of the
wood, was at first, perchance, only a leaf which fluttered in its
aisles. From rustling leaves she came in the course of ages to
the loftier flight and clear carol of the bird.

Salmon Brook comes in from the west under the railroad, a mile
and a half below the village of Nashua. We rowed up far enough
into the meadows which border it to learn its piscatorial history
from a haymaker on its banks. He told us that the silver eel was
formerly abundant here, and pointed to some sunken creels at its
mouth. This man's memory and imagination were fertile in
fishermen's tales of floating isles in bottomless ponds, and of
lakes mysteriously stocked with fishes, and would have kept us
till nightfall to listen, but we could not afford to loiter in
this roadstead, and so stood out to our sea again. Though we
never trod in those meadows, but only touched their margin with
our hands, we still retain a pleasant memory of them.

Salmon Brook, whose name is said to be a translation from the
Indian, was a favorite haunt of the aborigines. Here, too, the
first white settlers of Nashua planted, and some dents in the
earth where their houses stood and the wrecks of ancient
apple-trees are still visible. About one mile up this stream
stood the house of old John Lovewell, who was an ensign in the
army of Oliver Cromwell, and the father of "famous Captain
Lovewell." He settled here before 1690, and died about 1754, at
the age of one hundred and twenty years. He is thought to have
been engaged in the famous Narragansett swamp fight, which took
place in 1675, before he came here. The Indians are said to have
spared him in succeeding wars on account of his kindness to them.
Even in 1700 he was so old and gray-headed that his scalp was
worth nothing, since the French Governor offered no bounty for
such. I have stood in the dent of his cellar on the bank of the
brook, and talked there with one whose grandfather had, whose
father might have, talked with Lovewell. Here also he had a mill
in his old age, and kept a small store. He was remembered by
some who were recently living, as a hale old man who drove the
boys out of his orchard with his cane. Consider the triumphs of
the mortal man, and what poor trophies it would have to show, to
wit:--He cobbled shoes without glasses at a hundred, and cut a
handsome swath at a hundred and five! Lovewell's house is said
to have been the first which Mrs. Dustan reached on her escape
from the Indians. Here probably the hero of Pequawket was born
and bred. Close by may be seen the cellar and the gravestone of
Joseph Hassell, who, as is elsewhere recorded, with his wife
Anna, and son Benjamin, and Mary Marks, "were slain by our Indian
enemies on September 2d, [1691,] in the evening." As Gookin
observed on a previous occasion, "The Indian rod upon the English
backs had not yet done God's errand." Salmon Brook near its mouth
is still a solitary stream, meandering through woods and meadows,
while the then uninhabited mouth of the Nashua now resounds with
the din of a manufacturing town.

A stream from Otternic Pond in Hudson comes in just above Salmon
Brook, on the opposite side. There was a good view of Uncannunuc,
the most conspicuous mountain in these parts, from the bank here,
seen rising over the west end of the bridge above. We soon after
passed the village of Nashua, on the river of the same name,
where there is a covered bridge over the Merrimack. The Nashua,
which is one of the largest tributaries, flows from Wachusett
Mountain, through Lancaster, Groton, and other towns, where it
has formed well-known elm-shaded meadows, but near its mouth it
is obstructed by falls and factories, and did not tempt us to
explore it.

Far away from here, in Lancaster, with another companion, I have
crossed the broad valley of the Nashua, over which we had so long
looked westward from the Concord hills without seeing it to the
blue mountains in the horizon. So many streams, so many meadows
and woods and quiet dwellings of men had lain concealed between
us and those Delectable Mountains;--from yonder hill on the road
to Tyngsborough you may get a good view of them. There where it
seemed uninterrupted forest to our youthful eyes, between two
neighboring pines in the horizon, lay the valley of the Nashua,
and this very stream was even then winding at its bottom, and
then, as now, it was here silently mingling its waters with the
Merrimack. The clouds which floated over its meadows and were
born there, seen far in the west, gilded by the rays of the
setting sun, had adorned a thousand evening skies for us. But as
it were, by a turf wall this valley was concealed, and in our
journey to those hills it was first gradually revealed to us.
Summer and winter our eyes had rested on the dim outline of the
mountains, to which distance and indistinctness lent a grandeur
not their own, so that they served to interpret all the allusions
of poets and travellers. Standing on the Concord Cliffs we thus
spoke our mind to them:--

With frontier strength ye stand your ground,
With grand content ye circle round,
Tumultuous silence for all sound,
Ye distant nursery of rills,
Monadnock and the Peterborough Hills;--
Firm argument that never stirs,
Outcircling the philosophers,--
Like some vast fleet,
Sailing through rain and sleet,
Through winter's cold and summer's heat;
Still holding on upon your high emprise,
Until ye find a shore amid the skies;
Not skulking close to land,
With cargo contraband,
For they who sent a venture out by ye
Have set the Sun to see
Their honesty.
Ships of the line, each one,
Ye westward run,
Convoying clouds,
Which cluster in your shrouds,
Always before the gale,
Under a press of sail,
With weight of metal all untold,--
I seem to feel ye in my firm seat here,
Immeasurable depth of hold,
And breadth of beam, and length of running gear

Methinks ye take luxurious pleasure
In your novel western leisure;
So cool your brows and freshly blue,
As Time had naught for ye to do;
For ye lie at your length,
An unappropriated strength,
Unhewn primeval timber,
For knees so stiff, for masts so limber;
The stock of which new earths are made,
One day to be our _western_ trade,
Fit for the stanchions of a world
Which through the seas of space is hurled.

While we enjoy a lingering ray,
Ye still o'ertop the western day,
Reposing yonder on God's croft
Like solid stacks of hay;
So bold a line as ne'er was writ
On any page by human wit;
The forest glows as if
An enemy's camp-fires shone
Along the horizon,
Or the day's funeral pyre
Were lighted there;
Edged with silver and with gold,
The clouds hang o'er in damask fold,
And with such depth of amber light
The west is dight,
Where still a few rays slant,
That even Heaven seems extravagant.
Watatic Hill
Lies on the horizon's sill
Like a child's toy left overnight,
And other duds to left and right,
On the earth's edge, mountains and trees
Stand as they were on air graven,
Or as the vessels in a haven
Await the morning breeze.
I fancy even
Through your defiles windeth the way to heaven;
And yonder still, in spite of history's page,
Linger the golden and the silver age;
Upon the laboring gale
The news of future centuries is brought,
And of new dynasties of thought,
From your remotest vale.

But special I remember thee,
Wachusett, who like me
Standest alone without society.
Thy far blue eye,
A remnant of the sky,
Seen through the clearing or the gorge,
Or from the windows of the forge,
Doth leaven all it passes by.
Nothing is true
But stands 'tween me and you,
Thou western pioneer,
Who know'st not shame nor fear,
By venturous spirit driven
Under the eaves of heaven;
And canst expand thee there,
And breathe enough of air?
Even beyond the West
Thou migratest,
Into unclouded tracts,
Without a pilgrim's axe,
Cleaving thy road on high
With thy well-tempered brow,
And mak'st thyself a clearing in the sky.
Upholding heaven, holding down earth,
Thy pastime from thy birth;
Not steadied by the one, nor leaning on the other,
May I approve myself thy worthy brother!

At length, like Rasselas and other inhabitants of happy valleys,
we had resolved to scale the blue wall which bounded the western
horizon, though not without misgivings that thereafter no visible
fairy-land would exist for us. But it would be long to tell of
our adventures, and we have no time this afternoon, transporting
ourselves in imagination up this hazy Nashua valley, to go over
again that pilgrimage. We have since made many similar
excursions to the principal mountains of New England and New
York, and even far in the wilderness, and have passed a night on
the summit of many of them. And now, when we look again westward
from our native hills, Wachusett and Monadnock have retreated
once more among the blue and fabulous mountains in the horizon,
though our eyes rest on the very rocks on both of them, where we
have pitched our tent for a night, and boiled our hasty-pudding
amid the clouds.

As late as 1724 there was no house on the north side of the
Nashua, but only scattered wigwams and grisly forests between
this frontier and Canada. In September of that year, two men who
were engaged in making turpentine on that side, for such were the
first enterprises in the wilderness, were taken captive and
carried to Canada by a party of thirty Indians. Ten of the
inhabitants of Dunstable, going to look for them, found the hoops
of their barrel cut, and the turpentine spread on the ground. I
have been told by an inhabitant of Tyngsborough, who had the
story from his ancestors, that one of these captives, when the
Indians were about to upset his barrel of turpentine, seized a
pine knot and flourishing it, swore so resolutely that he would
kill the first who touched it, that they refrained, and when at
length he returned from Canada he found it still standing.
Perhaps there was more than one barrel. However this may have
been, the scouts knew by marks on the trees, made with coal mixed
with grease, that the men were not killed, but taken prisoners.
One of the company, named Farwell, perceiving that the turpentine
had not done spreading, concluded that the Indians had been gone
but a short time, and they accordingly went in instant pursuit.
Contrary to the advice of Farwell, following directly on their
trail up the Merrimack, they fell into an ambuscade near
Thornton's Ferry, in the present town of Merrimack, and nine were
killed, only one, Farwell, escaping after a vigorous pursuit.
The men of Dunstable went out and picked up their bodies, and
carried them all down to Dunstable and buried them. It is almost
word for word as in the Robin Hood ballad:--

"They carried these foresters into fair Nottingham,
As many there did know,
They digged them graves in their churchyard,
And they buried them all a-row."

Nottingham is only the other side of the river, and they were not
exactly all a-row. You may read in the churchyard at Dunstable,
under the "Memento Mori," and the name of one of them, how they
"departed this life," and

"This man with seven more that lies in
this grave was slew all in a day by
the Indians."

The stones of some others of the company stand around the common
grave with their separate inscriptions. Eight were buried here,
but nine were killed, according to the best authorities.

"Gentle river, gentle river,
Lo, thy streams are stained with gore,
Many a brave and noble captain
Floats along thy willowed shore.

"All beside thy limpid waters,
All beside thy sands so bright,
_Indian_ Chiefs and Christian warriors
Joined in fierce and mortal fight."

It is related in the History of Dunstable, that on the return of
Farwell the Indians were engaged by a fresh party which they
compelled to retreat, and pursued as far as the Nashua, where
they fought across the stream at its mouth. After the departure
of the Indians, the figure of an Indian's head was found carved
by them on a large tree by the shore, which circumstance has
given its name to this part of the village of Nashville,--the
"Indian Head." "It was observed by some judicious," says Gookin,
referring to Philip's war, "that at the beginning of the war the
English soldiers made a nothing of the Indians, and many spake
words to this effect: that one Englishman was sufficient to chase
ten Indians; many reckoned it was no other but _Veni, vidi,
vici._" But we may conclude that the judicious would by this time
have made a different observation.

Farwell appears to have been the only one who had studied his
profession, and understood the business of hunting Indians. He
lived to fight another day, for the next year he was Lovewell's
lieutenant at Pequawket, but that time, as we have related, he
left his bones in the wilderness. His name still reminds us of
twilight days and forest scouts on Indian trails, with an uneasy
scalp;--an indispensable hero to New England. As the more recent
poet of Lovewell's fight has sung, halting a little but bravely

"Then did the crimson streams that flowed
Seem like the waters of the brook,
That brightly shine, that loudly dash,
Far down the cliffs of Agiochook."

These battles sound incredible to us. I think that posterity
will doubt if such things ever were; if our bold ancestors who
settled this land were not struggling rather with the forest
shadows, and not with a copper-colored race of men. They were
vapors, fever and ague of the unsettled woods. Now, only a few
arrow-heads are turned up by the plough. In the Pelasgic, the
Etruscan, or the British story, there is nothing so shadowy and

It is a wild and antiquated looking graveyard, overgrown with
bushes, on the high-road, about a quarter of a mile from and
overlooking the Merrimack, with a deserted mill-stream bounding
it on one side, where lie the earthly remains of the ancient
inhabitants of Dunstable. We passed it three or four miles below
here. You may read there the names of Lovewell, Farwell, and
many others whose families were distinguished in Indian warfare.
We noticed there two large masses of granite more than a foot
thick and rudely squared, lying flat on the ground over the
remains of the first pastor and his wife.

It is remarkable that the dead lie everywhere under stones,--

"Strata jacent passim _suo_ quseque sub" _lapide_--

_corpora_, we might say, if the measure allowed. When the stone
is a slight one, it does not oppress the spirits of the traveller
to meditate by it; but these did seem a little heathenish to us;
and so are all large monuments over men's bodies, from the
pyramids down. A monument should at least be "star-y-pointing,"
to indicate whither the spirit is gone, and not prostrate, like
the body it has deserted. There have been some nations who could
do nothing but construct tombs, and these are the only traces
which they have left. They are the heathen. But why these
stones, so upright and emphatic, like exclamation-points? What
was there so remarkable that lived? Why should the monument be
so much more enduring than the fame which it is designed to
perpetuate,--a stone to a bone? "Here lies,"--"Here lies";--why
do they not sometimes write, There rises? Is it a monument to
the body only that is intended? "Having reached the term of his
_natural_ life";--would it not be truer to say, Having reached
the term of his _unnatural_ life? The rarest quality in an
epitaph is truth. If any character is given, it should be as
severely true as the decision of the three judges below, and not
the partial testimony of friends. Friends and contemporaries
should supply only the name and date, and leave it to posterity
to write the epitaph.

Here lies an honest man,
Rear-Admiral Van.


Faith, then ye have
Two in one grave,
For in his favor,
Here too lies the Engraver.

Fame itself is but an epitaph; as late, as false, as true. But
they only are the true epitaphs which Old Mortality retouches.

A man might well pray that he may not taboo or curse any portion
of nature by being buried in it. For the most part, the best
man's spirit makes a fearful sprite to haunt his grave, and it is
therefore much to the credit of Little John, the famous follower
of Robin Hood, and reflecting favorably on his character, that
his grave was "long celebrous for the yielding of excellent
whetstones." I confess that I have but little love for such
collections as they have at the Catacombs, Pere la Chaise, Mount
Auburn, and even this Dunstable graveyard. At any rate, nothing
but great antiquity can make graveyards interesting to me. I
have no friends there. It may be that I am not competent to
write the poetry of the grave. The farmer who has skimmed his
farm might perchance leave his body to Nature to be ploughed in,
and in some measure restore its fertility. We should not retard
but forward her economies.

Soon the village of Nashua was out of sight, and the woods were
gained again, and we rowed slowly on before sunset, looking for a
solitary place in which to spend the night. A few evening clouds
began to be reflected in the water and the surface was dimpled
only here and there by a muskrat crossing the stream. We camped
at length near Penichook Brook, on the confines of what is now
Nashville, by a deep ravine, under the skirts of a pine wood,
where the dead pine-leaves were our carpet, and their tawny
boughs stretched overhead. But fire and smoke soon tamed the
scene; the rocks consented to be our walls, and the pines our
roof. A woodside was already the fittest locality for us.

The wilderness is near as well as dear to every man. Even the
oldest villages are indebted to the border of wild wood which
surrounds them, more than to the gardens of men. There is
something indescribably inspiriting and beautiful in the aspect
of the forest skirting and occasionally jutting into the midst of
new towns, which, like the sand-heaps of fresh fox-burrows, have
sprung up in their midst. The very uprightness of the pines and
maples asserts the ancient rectitude and vigor of nature. Our
lives need the relief of such a background, where the pine
flourishes and the jay still screams.

We had found a safe harbor for our boat, and as the sun was
setting carried up our furniture, and soon arranged our house
upon the bank, and while the kettle steamed at the tent door, we
chatted of distant friends and of the sights which we were to
behold, and wondered which way the towns lay from us. Our cocoa
was soon boiled, and supper set upon our chest, and we lengthened
out this meal, like old voyageurs, with our talk. Meanwhile we
spread the map on the ground, and read in the Gazetteer when the
first settlers came here and got a township granted. Then, when
supper was done and we had written the journal of our voyage, we
wrapped our buffaloes about us and lay down with our heads
pillowed on our arms listening awhile to the distant baying of a
dog, or the murmurs of the river, or to the wind, which had not
gone to rest:--

The western wind came lumbering in,
Bearing a faint Pacific din,
Our evening mail, swift at the call
Of its Postmaster General;
Laden with news from Californ',
Whate'er transpired hath since morn,
How wags the world by brier and brake
From hence to Athabasca Lake;--

or half awake and half asleep, dreaming of a star which glimmered
through our cotton roof. Perhaps at midnight one was awakened by
a cricket shrilly singing on his shoulder, or by a hunting spider
in his eye, and was lulled asleep again by some streamlet purling
its way along at the bottom of a wooded and rocky ravine in our
neighborhood. It was pleasant to lie with our heads so low in
the grass, and hear what a tinkling ever-busy laboratory it was.
A thousand little artisans beat on their anvils all night long.

Far in the night as we were falling asleep on the bank of the
Merrimack, we heard some tyro beating a drum incessantly, in
preparation for a country muster, as we learned, and we thought
of the line,--

"When the drum beat at dead of night."

We could have assured him that his beat would be answered, and
the forces be mustered. Fear not, thou drummer of the night, we
too will be there. And still he drummed on in the silence and
the dark. This stray sound from a far-off sphere came to our
ears from time to time, far, sweet, and significant, and we
listened with such an unprejudiced sense as if for the first time
we heard at all. No doubt he was an insignificant drummer
enough, but his music afforded us a prime and leisure hour, and
we felt that we were in season wholly. These simple sounds
related us to the stars. Ay, there was a logic in them so
convincing that the combined sense of mankind could never make me
doubt their conclusions. I stop my habitual thinking, as if the
plough had suddenly run deeper in its furrow through the crust of
the world. How can I go on, who have just stepped over such a
bottomless skylight in the bog of my life. Suddenly old Time
winked at me,--Ah, you know me, you rogue,--and news had come
that IT was well. That ancient universe is in such capital
health, I think undoubtedly it will never die. Heal yourselves,
doctors; by God, I live.

Then idle Time ran gadding by
And left me with Eternity alone;
I hear beyond the range of sound,
I see beyond the verge of sight,--

I see, smell, taste, hear, feel, that everlasting Something to
which we are allied, at once our maker, our abode, our destiny,
our very Selves; the one historic truth, the most remarkable fact
which can become the distinct and uninvited subject of our
thought, the actual glory of the universe; the only fact which a
human being cannot avoid recognizing, or in some way forget or
dispense with.

It doth expand my privacies
To all, and leave me single in the crowd.

I have seen how the foundations of the world are laid, and I have
not the least doubt that it will stand a good while.

Now chiefly is my natal hour,
And only now my prime of life.
I will not doubt the love untold,
Which not my worth nor want hath bought,
Which wooed me young and wooes me old,
And to this evening hath me brought.

What are ears? what is Time? that this particular series of
sounds called a strain of music, an invisible and fairy troop
which never brushed the dew from any mead, can be wafted down
through the centuries from Homer to me, and he have been
conversant with that same aerial and mysterious charm which now
so tingles my ears? What a fine communication from age to age,
of the fairest and noblest thoughts, the aspirations of ancient
men, even such as were never communicated by speech, is music!
It is the flower of language, thought colored and curved, fluent
and flexible, its crystal fountain tinged with the sun's rays,
and its purling ripples reflecting the grass and the clouds. A
strain of music reminds me of a passage of the Vedas, and I
associate with it the idea of infinite remoteness, as well as of
beauty and serenity, for to the senses that is farthest from us
which addresses the greatest depth within us. It teaches us
again and again to trust the remotest and finest as the divinest
instinct, and makes a dream our only real experience. We feel a
sad cheer when we hear it, perchance because we that hear are not
one with that which is heard.

Therefore a torrent of sadness deep,
Through the strains of thy triumph is heard to sweep.

The sadness is ours. The Indian poet Calidas says in the
Sacontala: "Perhaps the sadness of men on seeing beautiful forms
and hearing sweet music arises from some faint remembrance of
past joys, and the traces of connections in a former state of
existence." As polishing expresses the vein in marble, and grain
in wood, so music brings out what of heroic lurks anywhere. The
hero is the sole patron of music. That harmony which exists
naturally between the hero's moods and the universe the soldier
would fain imitate with drum and trumpet. When we are in health
all sounds fife and drum for us; we hear the notes of music in
the air, or catch its echoes dying away when we awake in the
dawn. Marching is when the pulse of the hero beats in unison
with the pulse of Nature, and he steps to the measure of the
universe; then there is true courage and invincible strength.

Plutarch says that "Plato thinks the gods never gave men music,
the science of melody and harmony, for mere delectation or to
tickle the ear; but that the discordant parts of the circulations
and beauteous fabric of the soul, and that of it that roves about
the body, and many times, for want of tune and air, breaks forth
into many extravagances and excesses, might be sweetly recalled
and artfully wound up to their former consent and agreement."

Music is the sound of the universal laws promulgated. It is the
only assured tone. There are in it such strains as far surpass
any man's faith in the loftiness of his destiny. Things are to
be learned which it will be worth the while to learn. Formerly I
heard these

^Rumors from an Aeolian Harp^.

There is a vale which none hath seen,
Where foot of man has never been,
Such as here lives with toil and strife,
An anxious and a sinful life.

There every virtue has its birth,
Ere it descends upon the earth,
And thither every deed returns,
Which in the generous bosom burns.

There love is warm, and youth is young,
And poetry is yet unsung,
For Virtue still adventures there,
And freely breathes her native air.

And ever, if you hearken well,
You still may hear its vesper bell,
And tread of high-souled men go by,
Their thoughts conversing with the sky.

According to Jamblichus, "Pythagoras did not procure for himself
a thing of this kind through instruments or the voice, but
employing a certain ineffable divinity, and which it is difficult
to apprehend, he extended his ears and fixed his intellect in the
sublime symphonies of the world, he alone hearing and
understanding, as it appears, the universal harmony and
consonance of the spheres, and the stars that are moved through
them, and which produce a fuller and more intense melody than
anything effected by mortal sounds."

Travelling on foot very early one morning due east from here
about twenty miles, from Caleb Harriman's tavern in Hampstead
toward Haverhill, when I reached the railroad in Plaistow, I
heard at some distance a faint music in the air like an Aeolian
harp, which I immediately suspected to proceed from the cord of
the telegraph vibrating in the just awakening morning wind, and
applying my ear to one of the posts I was convinced that it was
so. It was the telegraph harp singing its message through the
country, its message sent not by men, but by gods. Perchance,
like the statue of Memnon, it resounds only in the morning, when
the first rays of the sun fall on it. It was like the first lyre
or shell heard on the sea-shore,--that vibrating cord high in the
air over the shores of earth. So have all things their higher
and their lower uses. I heard a fairer news than the journals
ever print. It told of things worthy to hear, and worthy of the
electric fluid to carry the news of, not of the price of cotton
and flour, but it hinted at the price of the world itself and of
things which are priceless, of absolute truth and beauty.

Still the drum rolled on, and stirred our blood to fresh
extravagance that night. The clarion sound and clang of corselet
and buckler were heard from many a hamlet of the soul, and many a
knight was arming for the fight behind the encamped stars.

"Before each van
Prick forth the aery knights, and couch their spears
Till thickest legions close; with feats of arms
From either end of Heaven the welkin burns."


Away! away! away! away!
Ye have not kept your secret well,
I will abide that other day,
Those other lands ye tell.

Has time no leisure left for these,
The acts that ye rehearse?
Is not eternity a lease
For better deeds than verse?

'T is sweet to hear of heroes dead,
To know them still alive,
But sweeter if we earn their bread,
And in us they survive.

Our life should feed the springs of fame
With a perennial wave.
As ocean feeds the babbling founts
Which find in it their grave.

Ye skies drop gently round my breast,
And be my corselet blue,
Ye earth receive my lance in rest,
My faithful charger you;

Ye stars my spear-heads in the sky,
My arrow-tips ye are;
I see the routed foemen fly,
My bright spears fixed are.

Give me an angel for a foe,
Fix now the place and time,
And straight to meet him I will go
Above the starry chime.

And with our clashing bucklers' clang
The heavenly spheres shall ring,
While bright the northern lights shall hang
Beside our tourneying.

And if she lose her champion true,
Tell Heaven not despair,
For I will be her champion new,
Her fame I will repair.

There was a high wind this night, which we afterwards learned had
been still more violent elsewhere, and had done much injury to
the cornfields far and near; but we only heard it sigh from time
to time, as if it had no license to shake the foundations of our
tent; the pines murmured, the water rippled, and the tent rocked
a little, but we only laid our ears closer to the ground, while
the blast swept on to alarm other men, and long before sunrise we
were ready to pursue our voyage as usual.



"On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And through the fields the road runs by
To many-towered Camelot."




Long before daylight we ranged abroad, hatchet in hand, in search
of fuel, and made the yet slumbering and dreaming wood resound
with our blows. Then with our fire we burned up a portion of the
loitering night, while the kettle sang its homely strain to the
morning star. We tramped about the shore, waked all the
muskrats, and scared up the bittern and birds that were asleep
upon their roosts; we hauled up and upset our boat and washed it
and rinsed out the clay, talking aloud as if it were broad day,
until at length, by three o'clock, we had completed our
preparations and were ready to pursue our voyage as usual; so,
shaking the clay from our feet, we pushed into the fog.

Though we were enveloped in mist as usual, we trusted that there
was a bright day behind it.

Ply the oars! away! away!
In each dew-drop of the morning
Lies the promise of a day.

Rivers from the sunrise flow,
Springing with the dewy morn;
Voyageurs 'gainst time do row,
Idle noon nor sunset know,
Ever even with the dawn.

Belknap, the historian of this State, says that, "In the
neighborhood of fresh rivers and ponds, a whitish fog in the
morning lying over the water is a sure indication of fair weather
for that day; and when no fog is seen, rain is expected before
night." That which seemed to us to invest the world was only a
narrow and shallow wreath of vapor stretched over the channel of
the Merrimack from the seaboard to the mountains. More extensive
fogs, however, have their own limits. I once saw the day break
from the top of Saddle-back Mountain in Massachusetts, above the
clouds. As we cannot distinguish objects through this dense fog,
let me tell this story more at length.

I had come over the hills on foot and alone in serene summer
days, plucking the raspberries by the wayside, and occasionally
buying a loaf of bread at a farmer's house, with a knapsack on my
back which held a few traveller's books and a change of clothing,
and a staff in my hand. I had that morning looked down from the
Hoosack Mountain, where the road crosses it, on the village of
North Adams in the valley three miles away under my feet, showing
how uneven the earth may sometimes be, and making it seem an
accident that it should ever be level and convenient for the feet
of man. Putting a little rice and sugar and a tin cup into my
knapsack at this village, I began in the afternoon to ascend the
mountain, whose summit is three thousand six hundred feet above
the level of the sea, and was seven or eight miles distant by the
path. My route lay up a long and spacious valley called the
Bellows, because the winds rush up or down it with violence in
storms, sloping up to the very clouds between the principal range
and a lower mountain. There were a few farms scattered along at
different elevations, each commanding a fine prospect of the
mountains to the north, and a stream ran down the middle of the
valley on which near the head there was a mill. It seemed a road
for the pilgrim to enter upon who would climb to the gates of
heaven. Now I crossed a hay-field, and now over the brook on a
slight bridge, still gradually ascending all the while with a
sort of awe, and filled with indefinite expectations as to what
kind of inhabitants and what kind of nature I should come to at
last. It now seemed some advantage that the earth was uneven,
for one could not imagine a more noble position for a farm-house
than this vale afforded, farther from or nearer to its head, from
a glen-like seclusion overlooking the country at a great
elevation between these two mountain walls.

It reminded me of the homesteads of the Huguenots, on Staten
Island, off the coast of New Jersey. The hills in the interior
of this island, though comparatively low, are penetrated in
various directions by similar sloping valleys on a humble scale,
gradually narrowing and rising to the centre, and at the head of
these the Huguenots, who were the first settlers, placed their
houses quite within the land, in rural and sheltered places, in
leafy recesses where the breeze played with the poplar and the
gum-tree, from which, with equal security in calm and storm, they
looked out through a widening vista, over miles of forest and
stretching salt marsh, to the Huguenot's Tree, an old elm on the
shore at whose root they had landed, and across the spacious
outer bay of New York to Sandy Hook and the Highlands of
Neversink, and thence over leagues of the Atlantic, perchance to
some faint vessel in the horizon, almost a day's sail on her
voyage to that Europe whence they had come. When walking in the
interior there, in the midst of rural scenery, where there was as
little to remind me of the ocean as amid the New Hampshire hills,
I have suddenly, through a gap, a cleft or "clove road," as the
Dutch settlers called it, caught sight of a ship under full sail,
over a field of corn, twenty or thirty miles at sea. The effect
was similar, since I had no means of measuring distances, to
seeing a painted ship passed backwards and forwards through a

But to return to the mountain. It seemed as if he must be the
most singular and heavenly minded man whose dwelling stood
highest up the valley. The thunder had rumbled at my heels all
the way, but the shower passed off in another direction, though
if it had not, I half believed that I should get above it. I at
length reached the last house but one, where the path to the
summit diverged to the right, while the summit itself rose
directly in front. But I determined to follow up the valley to
its head, and then find my own route up the steep as the shorter
and more adventurous way. I had thoughts of returning to this
house, which was well kept and so nobly placed, the next day, and
perhaps remaining a week there, if I could have entertainment.
Its mistress was a frank and hospitable young woman, who stood
before me in a dishabille, busily and unconcernedly combing her
long black hair while she talked, giving her head the necessary
toss with each sweep of the comb, with lively, sparkling eyes,
and full of interest in that lower world from which I had come,
talking all the while as familiarly as if she had known me for
years, and reminding me of a cousin of mine. She at first had
taken me for a student from Williamstown, for they went by in
parties, she said, either riding or walking, almost every
pleasant day, and were a pretty wild set of fellows; but they
never went by the way I was going. As I passed the last house, a
man called out to know what I had to sell, for seeing my
knapsack, he thought that I might be a pedler who was taking this
unusual route over the ridge of the valley into South Adams. He
told me that it was still four or five miles to the summit by the
path which I had left, though not more than two in a straight
line from where I was, but that nobody ever went this way; there
was no path, and I should find it as steep as the roof of a
house. But I knew that I was more used to woods and mountains
than he, and went along through his cow-yard, while he, looking
at the sun, shouted after me that I should not get to the top
that night. I soon reached the head of the valley, but as I
could not see the summit from this point, I ascended a low
mountain on the opposite side, and took its bearing with my
compass. I at once entered the woods, and began to climb the
steep side of the mountain in a diagonal direction, taking the
bearing of a tree every dozen rods. The ascent was by no means
difficult or unpleasant, and occupied much less time than it
would have taken to follow the path. Even country people, I have
observed, magnify the difficulty of travelling in the forest, and
especially among mountains. They seem to lack their usual common
sense in this. I have climbed several higher mountains without
guide or path, and have found, as might be expected, that it
takes only more time and patience commonly than to travel the
smoothest highway. It is very rare that you meet with obstacles
in this world which the humblest man has not faculties to
surmount. It is true we may come to a perpendicular precipice,
but we need not jump off nor run our heads against it. A man may
jump down his own cellar stairs or dash his brains out against
his chimney, if he is mad. So far as my experience goes,
travellers generally exaggerate the difficulties of the way.
Like most evil, the difficulty is imaginary; for what's the
hurry? If a person lost would conclude that after all he is not
lost, he is not beside himself, but standing in his own old shoes
on the very spot where he is, and that for the time being he will
live there; but the places that have known him, _they_ are
lost,--how much anxiety and danger would vanish. I am not alone
if I stand by myself. Who knows where in space this globe is
rolling? Yet we will not give ourselves up for lost, let it go
where it will.

I made my way steadily upward in a straight line through a dense
undergrowth of mountain laurel, until the trees began to have a
scraggy and infernal look, as if contending with frost goblins,
and at length I reached the summit, just as the sun was setting.
Several acres here had been cleared, and were covered with rocks
and stumps, and there was a rude observatory in the middle which
overlooked the woods. I had one fair view of the country before
the sun went down, but I was too thirsty to waste any light in
viewing the prospect, and set out directly to find water. First,
going down a well-beaten path for half a mile through the low
scrubby wood, till I came to where the water stood in the tracks
of the horses which had carried travellers up, I lay down flat,
and drank these dry, one after another, a pure, cold, spring-like
water, but yet I could not fill my dipper, though I contrived
little siphons of grass-stems, and ingenious aqueducts on a small
scale; it was too slow a process. Then remembering that I had
passed a moist place near the top, on my way up, I returned to
find it again, and here, with sharp stones and my hands, in the
twilight, I made a well about two feet deep, which was soon
filled with pure cold water, and the birds too came and drank at
it. So I filled my dipper, and, making my way back to the
observatory, collected some dry sticks, and made a fire on some
flat stones which had been placed on the floor for that purpose,
and so I soon cooked my supper of rice, having already whittled a
wooden spoon to eat it with.

I sat up during the evening, reading by the light of the fire the
scraps of newspapers in which some party had wrapped their
luncheon; the prices current in New York and Boston, the
advertisements, and the singular editorials which some had seen
fit to publish, not foreseeing under what critical circumstances
they would be read. I read these things at a vast advantage
there, and it seemed to me that the advertisements, or what is
called the business part of a paper, were greatly the best, the
most useful, natural, and respectable. Almost all the opinions
and sentiments expressed were so little considered, so shallow
and flimsy, that I thought the very texture of the paper must be
weaker in that part and tear the more easily. The advertisements
and the prices current were more closely allied to nature, and
were respectable in some measure as tide and meteorological
tables are; but the reading-matter, which I remembered was most
prized down below, unless it was some humble record of science,
or an extract from some old classic, struck me as strangely
whimsical, and crude, and one-idea'd, like a school-boy's theme,
such as youths write and after burn. The opinions were of that
kind that are doomed to wear a different aspect to-morrow, like
last year's fashions; as if mankind were very green indeed, and
would be ashamed of themselves in a few years, when they had
outgrown this verdant period. There was, moreover, a singular
disposition to wit and humor, but rarely the slightest real
success; and the apparent success was a terrible satire on the
attempt; the Evil Genius of man laughed the loudest at his best
jokes. The advertisements, as I have said, such as were serious,
and not of the modern quack kind, suggested pleasing and poetic
thoughts; for commerce is really as interesting as nature. The
very names of the commodities were poetic, and as suggestive as
if they had been inserted in a pleasing poem,--Lumber, Cotton,
Sugar, Hides, Guano, Logwood. Some sober, private, and original
thought would have been grateful to read there, and as much in
harmony with the circumstances as if it had been written on a
mountain-top; for it is of a fashion which never changes, and as
respectable as hides and logwood, or any natural product. What
an inestimable companion such a scrap of paper would have been,
containing some fruit of a mature life. What a relic! What a
recipe! It seemed a divine invention, by which not mere shining
coin, but shining and current thoughts, could be brought up and
left there.

As it was cold, I collected quite a pile of wood and lay down on
a board against the side of the building, not having any blanket
to cover me, with my head to the fire, that I might look after
it, which is not the Indian rule. But as it grew colder towards
midnight, I at length encased myself completely in boards,
managing even to put a board on top of me, with a large stone on
it, to keep it down, and so slept comfortably. I was reminded,
it is true, of the Irish children, who inquired what their
neighbors did who had no door to put over them in winter nights
as they had; but I am convinced that there was nothing very
strange in the inquiry. Those who have never tried it can have
no idea how far a door, which keeps the single blanket down, may
go toward making one comfortable. We are constituted a good deal
like chickens, which taken from the hen, and put in a basket of
cotton in the chimney-corner, will often peep till they die,
nevertheless, but if you put in a book, or anything heavy, which
will press down the cotton, and feel like the hen, they go to
sleep directly. My only companions were the mice, which came to
pick up the crumbs that had been left in those scraps of paper;
still, as everywhere, pensioners on man, and not unwisely
improving this elevated tract for their habitation. They nibbled
what was for them; I nibbled what was for me. Once or twice in
the night, when I looked up, I saw a white cloud drifting through
the windows, and filling the whole upper story.

This observatory was a building of considerable size, erected by
the students of Williamstown College, whose buildings might be
seen by daylight gleaming far down in the valley. It would be no
small advantage if every college were thus located at the base of
a mountain, as good at least as one well-endowed professorship.
It were as well to be educated in the shadow of a mountain as in
more classical shades. Some will remember, no doubt, not only
that they went to the college, but that they went to the
mountain. Every visit to its summit would, as it were,
generalize the particular information gained below, and subject
it to more catholic tests.

I was up early and perched upon the top of this tower to see the
daybreak, for some time reading the names that had been engraved
there, before I could distinguish more distant objects. An
"untamable fly" buzzed at my elbow with the same nonchalance as
on a molasses hogshead at the end of Long Wharf. Even there I
must attend to his stale humdrum. But now I come to the pith of
this long digression.--As the light increased I discovered around
me an ocean of mist, which by chance reached up exactly to the
base of the tower, and shut out every vestige of the earth, while
I was left floating on this fragment of the wreck of a world, on
my carved plank, in cloudland; a situation which required no aid
from the imagination to render it impressive. As the light in
the east steadily increased, it revealed to me more clearly the
new world into which I had risen in the night, the new _terra
firma_ perchance of my future life. There was not a crevice left
through which the trivial places we name Massachusetts or Vermont
or New York could be seen, while I still inhaled the clear
atmosphere of a July morning,--if it were July there. All around
beneath me was spread for a hundred miles on every side, as far
as the eye could reach, an undulating country of clouds,
answering in the varied swell of its surface to the terrestrial
world it veiled. It was such a country as we might see in
dreams, with all the delights of paradise. There were immense
snowy pastures, apparently smooth-shaven and firm, and shady
vales between the vaporous mountains; and far in the horizon I

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