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

Part 4 out of 7

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could see where some luxurious misty timber jutted into the
prairie, and trace the windings of a water-course, some
unimagined Amazon or Orinoko, by the misty trees on its brink.
As there was wanting the symbol, so there was not the substance
of impurity, no spot nor stain. It was a favor for which to be
forever silent to be shown this vision. The earth beneath had
become such a flitting thing of lights and shadows as the clouds
had been before. It was not merely veiled to me, but it had
passed away like the phantom of a shadow, , and
this new platform was gained. As I had climbed above storm and
cloud, so by successive days' journeys I might reach the region
of eternal day, beyond the tapering shadow of the earth; ay,

"Heaven itself shall slide,
And roll away, like melting stars that glide
Along their oily threads."

But when its own sun began to rise on this pure world, I found
myself a dweller in the dazzling halls of Aurora, into which
poets have had but a partial glance over the eastern hills,
drifting amid the saffron-colored clouds, and playing with the
rosy fingers of the Dawn, in the very path of the Sun's chariot,
and sprinkled with its dewy dust, enjoying the benignant smile,
and near at hand the far-darting glances of the god. The
inhabitants of earth behold commonly but the dark and shadowy
under-side of heaven's pavement; it is only when seen at a
favorable angle in the horizon, morning or evening, that some
faint streaks of the rich lining of the clouds are revealed. But
my muse would fail to convey an impression of the gorgeous
tapestry by which I was surrounded, such as men see faintly
reflected afar off in the chambers of the east. Here, as on
earth, I saw the gracious god

"Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
. . . . . .
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy."

But never here did "Heaven's sun" stain himself.

But, alas, owing, as I think, to some unworthiness in myself, my
private sun did stain himself, and

"Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly wrack on his celestial face,"--

for before the god had reached the zenith the heavenly pavement
rose and embraced my wavering virtue, or rather I sank down again
into that "forlorn world," from which the celestial sun had hid
his visage,--

"How may a worm that crawls along the dust,
Clamber the azure mountains, thrown so high,
And fetch from thence thy fair idea just,
That in those sunny courts doth hidden lie,
Clothed with such light as blinds the angel's eye?
How may weak mortal ever hope to file
His unsmooth tongue, and his deprostrate style?
O, raise thou from his corse thy now entombed exile!"

In the preceding evening I had seen the summits of new and yet
higher mountains, the Catskills, by which I might hope to climb
to heaven again, and had set my compass for a fair lake in the
southwest, which lay in my way, for which I now steered,
descending the mountain by my own route, on the side opposite to
that by which I had ascended, and soon found myself in the region
of cloud and drizzling rain, and the inhabitants affirmed that it
had been a cloudy and drizzling day wholly.

But now we must make haste back before the fog disperses to the
blithe Merrimack water.

Since that first "Away! away!"
Many a lengthy reach we've rowed,
Still the sparrow on the spray
Hastes to usher in the day
With her simple stanza'd ode.

We passed a canal-boat before sunrise, groping its way to the
seaboard, and, though we could not see it on account of the fog,
the few dull, thumping, stertorous sounds which we heard,
impressed us with a sense of weight and irresistible motion. One
little rill of commerce already awake on this distant New
Hampshire river. The fog, as it required more skill in the
steering, enhanced the interest of our early voyage, and made the
river seem indefinitely broad. A slight mist, through which
objects are faintly visible, has the effect of expanding even
ordinary streams, by a singular mirage, into arms of the sea or
inland lakes. In the present instance it was even fragrant and
invigorating, and we enjoyed it as a sort of earlier sunshine, or
dewy and embryo light.

Low-anchored cloud,
Newfoundland air,
Fountain-head and source of rivers,
Dew-cloth, dream drapery,
And napkin spread by fays;
Drifting meadow of the air,
Where bloom the daisied banks and violets,
And in whose fenny labyrinth
The bittern booms and heron wades;
Spirit of lakes and seas and rivers,
Bear only perfumes and the scent
Of healing herbs to just men's fields!

The same pleasant and observant historian whom we quoted above
says, that, "In the mountainous parts of the country, the ascent
of vapors, and their formation into clouds, is a curious and
entertaining object. The vapors are seen rising in small columns
like smoke from many chimneys. When risen to a certain height,
they spread, meet, condense, and are attracted to the mountains,
where they either distil in gentle dews, and replenish the
springs, or descend in showers, accompanied with thunder. After
short intermissions, the process is repeated many times in the
course of a summer day, affording to travellers a lively
illustration of what is observed in the Book of Job, `They are
wet with the showers of the mountains.'"

Fogs and clouds which conceal the overshadowing mountains lend
the breadth of the plains to mountain vales. Even a
small-featured country acquires some grandeur in stormy weather
when clouds are seen drifting between the beholder and the
neighboring hills. When, in travelling toward Haverhill through
Hampstead in this State, on the height of land between the
Merrimack and the Piscataqua or the sea, you commence the descent
eastward, the view toward the coast is so distant and unexpected,
though the sea is invisible, that you at first suppose the
unobstructed atmosphere to be a fog in the lowlands concealing
hills of corresponding elevation to that you are upon; but it is
the mist of prejudice alone, which the winds will not disperse.
The most stupendous scenery ceases to be sublime when it becomes
distinct, or in other words limited, and the imagination is no
longer encouraged to exaggerate it. The actual height and
breadth of a mountain or a waterfall are always ridiculously
small; they are the imagined only that content us. Nature is not
made after such a fashion as we would have her. We piously
exaggerate her wonders, as the scenery around our home.

Such was the heaviness of the dews along this river that we were
generally obliged to leave our tent spread over the bows of the
boat till the sun had dried it, to avoid mildew. We passed the
mouth of Penichook Brook, a wild salmon-stream, in the fog,
without seeing it. At length the sun's rays struggled through
the mist and showed us the pines on shore dripping with dew, and
springs trickling from the moist banks,--

"And now the taller sons, whom Titan warms,
Of unshorn mountains blown with easy winds,
Dandle the morning's childhood in their arms,
And, if they chanced to slip the prouder pines,
The under corylets did catch their shines,
To gild their leaves."

We rowed for some hours between glistening banks before the sun
had dried the grass and leaves, or the day had established its
character. Its serenity at last seemed the more profound and
secure for the denseness of the morning's fog. The river became
swifter, and the scenery more pleasing than before. The banks
were steep and clayey for the most part, and trickling with
water, and where a spring oozed out a few feet above the river
the boatmen had cut a trough out of a slab with their axes, and
placed it so as to receive the water and fill their jugs
conveniently. Sometimes this purer and cooler water, bursting
out from under a pine or a rock, was collected into a basin close
to the edge of and level with the river, a fountain-head of the
Merrimack. So near along life's stream are the fountains of
innocence and youth making fertile its sandy margin; and the
voyageur will do well to replenish his vessels often at these
uncontaminated sources. Some youthful spring, perchance, still
empties with tinkling music into the oldest river, even when it
is falling into the sea, and we imagine that its music is
distinguished by the river-gods from the general lapse of the
stream, and falls sweeter on their ears in proportion as it is
nearer to the ocean. As the evaporations of the river feed thus
these unsuspected springs which filter through its banks, so,
perchance, our aspirations fall back again in springs on the
margin of life's stream to refresh and purify it. The yellow and
tepid river may float his scow, and cheer his eye with its
reflections and its ripples, but the boatman quenches his thirst
at this small rill alone. It is this purer and cooler element
that chiefly sustains his life. The race will long survive that
is thus discreet.

Our course this morning lay between the territories of Merrimack,
on the west, and Litchfield, once called Brenton's Farm, on the
east, which townships were anciently the Indian Naticook.
Brenton was a fur-trader among the Indians, and these lands were
granted to him in 1656. The latter township contains about five
hundred inhabitants, of whom, however, we saw none, and but few
of their dwellings. Being on the river, whose banks are always
high and generally conceal the few houses, the country appeared
much more wild and primitive than to the traveller on the
neighboring roads. The river is by far the most attractive
highway, and those boatmen who have spent twenty or twenty-five
years on it must have had a much fairer, more wild, and memorable
experience than the dusty and jarring one of the teamster who has
driven, during the same time, on the roads which run parallel
with the stream. As one ascends the Merrimack he rarely sees a
village, but for the most part alternate wood and pasture lands,
and sometimes a field of corn or potatoes, of rye or oats or
English grass, with a few straggling apple-trees, and, at still
longer intervals, a farmer's house. The soil, excepting the best
of the interval, is commonly as light and sandy as a patriot
could desire. Sometimes this forenoon the country appeared in
its primitive state, and as if the Indian still inhabited it,
and, again, as if many free, new settlers occupied it, their
slight fences straggling down to the water's edge; and the
barking of dogs, and even the prattle of children, were heard,
and smoke was seen to go up from some hearthstone, and the banks
were divided into patches of pasture, mowing, tillage, and
woodland. But when the river spread out broader, with an
uninhabited islet, or a long, low sandy shore which ran on single
and devious, not answering to its opposite, but far off as if it
were sea-shore or single coast, and the land no longer nursed the
river in its bosom, but they conversed as equals, the rustling
leaves with rippling waves, and few fences were seen, but high
oak woods on one side, and large herds of cattle, and all tracks
seemed a point to one centre behind some statelier grove,--we
imagined that the river flowed through an extensive manor, and
that the few inhabitants were retainers to a lord, and a feudal
state of things prevailed.

When there was a suitable reach, we caught sight of the Goffstown
mountain, the Indian Uncannunuc, rising before us on the west
side. It was a calm and beautiful day, with only a slight zephyr
to ripple the surface of the water, and rustle the woods on
shore, and just warmth enough to prove the kindly disposition of
Nature to her children. With buoyant spirits and vigorous
impulses we tossed our boat rapidly along into the very middle of
this forenoon. The fish-hawk sailed and screamed overhead. The
chipping or striped squirrel, _Sciurus striatus_ (_Tamias
Lysteri_, Aud.), sat upon the end of some Virginia fence or rider
reaching over the stream, twirling a green nut with one paw, as
in a lathe, while the other held it fast against its incisors as
chisels. Like an independent russet leaf, with a will of its
own, rustling whither it could; now under the fence, now over it,
now peeping at the voyageurs through a crack with only its tail
visible, now at its lunch deep in the toothsome kernel, and now a
rod off playing at hide-and-seek, with the nut stowed away in its
chops, where were half a dozen more besides, extending its cheeks
to a ludicrous breadth,--as if it were devising through what safe
valve of frisk or somerset to let its superfluous life escape;
the stream passing harmlessly off, even while it sits, in
constant electric flashes through its tail. And now with a
chuckling squeak it dives into the root of a hazel, and we see no
more of it. Or the larger red squirrel or chickaree, sometimes
called the Hudson Bay squirrel (_Scriurus Hudsonius_), gave
warning of our approach by that peculiar alarum of his, like the
winding up of some strong clock, in the top of a pine-tree, and
dodged behind its stem, or leaped from tree to tree with such
caution and adroitness, as if much depended on the fidelity of
his scout, running along the white-pine boughs sometimes twenty
rods by our side, with such speed, and by such unerring routes,
as if it were some well-worn familiar path to him; and presently,
when we have passed, he returns to his work of cutting off the
pine-cones, and letting them fall to the ground.

We passed Cromwell's Falls, the first we met with on this river,
this forenoon, by means of locks, without using our wheels.
These falls are the Nesenkeag of the Indians. Great Nesenkeag
Stream comes in on the right just above, and Little Nesenkeag
some distance below, both in Litchfield. We read in the
Gazetteer, under the head of Merrimack, that "The first house in
this town was erected on the margin of the river [soon after
1665] for a house of traffic with the Indians. For some time one
Cromwell carried on a lucrative trade with them, weighing their
furs with his foot, till, enraged at his supposed or real
deception, they formed the resolution to murder him. This
intention being communicated to Cromwell, he buried his wealth
and made his escape. Within a few hours after his flight, a
party of the Penacook tribe arrived, and, not finding the object
of their resentment, burnt his habitation." Upon the top of the
high bank here, close to the river, was still to be seen his
cellar, now overgrown with trees. It was a convenient spot for
such a traffic, at the foot of the first falls above the
settlements, and commanding a pleasant view up the river, where
he could see the Indians coming down with their furs. The
lock-man told us that his shovel and tongs had been ploughed up
here, and also a stone with his name on it. But we will not
vouch for the truth of this story. In the New Hampshire
Historical Collections for 1815 it says, "Some time after pewter
was found in the well, and an iron pot and trammel in the sand;
the latter are preserved." These were the traces of the white
trader. On the opposite bank, where it jutted over the stream
cape-wise, we picked up four arrow-heads and a small Indian tool
made of stone, as soon as we had climbed it, where plainly there
had once stood a wigwam of the Indians with whom Cromwell traded,
and who fished and hunted here before he came.

As usual the gossips have not been silent respecting Cromwell's
buried wealth, and it is said that some years ago a farmer's
plough, not far from here, slid over a flat stone which emitted a
hollow sound, and, on its being raised, a small hole six inches
in diameter was discovered, stoned about, from which a sum of
money was taken. The lock-man told us another similar story about
a farmer in a neighboring town, who had been a poor man, but who
suddenly bought a good farm, and was well to do in the world,
and, when he was questioned, did not give a satisfactory account
of the matter; how few, alas, could! This caused his hired man to
remember that one day, as they were ploughing together, the
plough struck something, and his employer, going back to look,
concluded not to go round again, saying that the sky looked
rather lowering, and so put up his team. The like urgency has
caused many things to be remembered which never transpired. The
truth is, there is money buried everywhere, and you have only to
go to work to find it.

Not far from these falls stands an oak-tree, on the interval,
about a quarter of a mile from the river, on the farm of a
Mr. Lund, which was pointed out to us as the spot where French,
the leader of the party which went in pursuit of the Indians from
Dunstable, was killed. Farwell dodged them in the thick woods
near. It did not look as if men had ever had to run for their
lives on this now open and peaceful interval.

Here too was another extensive desert by the side of the road in
Litchfield, visible from the bank of the river. The sand was
blown off in some places to the depth of ten or twelve feet,
leaving small grotesque hillocks of that height, where there was
a clump of bushes firmly rooted. Thirty or forty years ago, as
we were told, it was a sheep-pasture, but the sheep, being
worried by the fleas, began to paw the ground, till they broke
the sod, and so the sand began to blow, till now it had extended
over forty or fifty acres. This evil might easily have been
remedied, at first, by spreading birches with their leaves on
over the sand, and fastening them down with stakes, to break the
wind. The fleas bit the sheep, and the sheep bit the ground, and
the sore had spread to this extent. It is astonishing what a
great sore a little scratch breedeth. Who knows but Sahara,
where caravans and cities are buried, began with the bite of an
African flea? This poor globe, how it must itch in many places!
Will no god be kind enough to spread a salve of birches over its
sores? Here too we noticed where the Indians had gathered a heap
of stones, perhaps for their council-fire, which, by their weight
having prevented the sand under them from blowing away, were left
on the summit of a mound. They told us that arrow-heads, and
also bullets of lead and iron, had been found here. We noticed
several other sandy tracts in our voyage; and the course of the
Merrimack can be traced from the nearest mountain by its yellow
sandbanks, though the river itself is for the most part invisible.
Lawsuits, as we hear, have in some cases grown out of these causes.
Railroads have been made through certain irritable districts,
breaking their sod, and so have set the sand to blowing, till it
has converted fertile farms into deserts, and the company has had
to pay the damages.

This sand seemed to us the connecting link between land and
water. It was a kind of water on which you could walk, and you
could see the ripple-marks on its surface, produced by the winds,
precisely like those at the bottom of a brook or lake. We had
read that Mussulmen are permitted by the Koran to perform their
ablutions in sand when they cannot get water, a necessary
indulgence in Arabia, and we now understood the propriety of this

Plum Island, at the mouth of this river, to whose formation,
perhaps, these very banks have sent their contribution, is a
similar desert of drifting sand, of various colors, blown into
graceful curves by the wind. It is a mere sand-bar exposed,
stretching nine miles parallel to the coast, and, exclusive of
the marsh on the inside, rarely more than half a mile wide.
There are but half a dozen houses on it, and it is almost without
a tree, or a sod, or any green thing with which a countryman is
familiar. The thin vegetation stands half buried in sand, as in
drifting snow. The only shrub, the beach-plum, which gives the
island its name, grows but a few feet high; but this is so
abundant that parties of a hundred at once come from the
main-land and down the Merrimack, in September, pitch their
tents, and gather the plums, which are good to eat raw and to
preserve. The graceful and delicate beach-pea, too, grows
abundantly amid the sand, and several strange, moss-like and
succulent plants. The island for its whole length is scalloped
into low hills, not more than twenty feet high, by the wind, and,
excepting a faint trail on the edge of the marsh, is as trackless
as Sahara. There are dreary bluffs of sand and valleys ploughed
by the wind, where you might expect to discover the bones of a
caravan. Schooners come from Boston to load with the sand for
masons' uses, and in a few hours the wind obliterates all traces
of their work. Yet you have only to dig a foot or two anywhere
to come to fresh water; and you are surprised to learn that
woodchucks abound here, and foxes are found, though you see not
where they can burrow or hide themselves. I have walked down the
whole length of its broad beach at low tide, at which time alone
you can find a firm ground to walk on, and probably Massachusetts
does not furnish a more grand and dreary walk. On the seaside
there are only a distant sail and a few coots to break the grand
monotony. A solitary stake stuck up, or a sharper sand-hill than
usual, is remarkable as a landmark for miles; while for music you
hear only the ceaseless sound of the surf, and the dreary peep of
the beach-birds.

There were several canal-boats at Cromwell's Falls passing
through the locks, for which we waited. In the forward part of
one stood a brawny New Hampshire man, leaning on his pole,
bareheaded and in shirt and trousers only, a rude Apollo of a
man, coming down from that "vast uplandish country" to the main;
of nameless age, with flaxen hair, and vigorous, weather-bleached
countenance, in whose wrinkles the sun still lodged, as little
touched by the heats and frosts and withering cares of life as a
maple of the mountain; an undressed, unkempt, uncivil man, with
whom we parleyed awhile, and parted not without a sincere
interest in one another. His humanity was genuine and
instinctive, and his rudeness only a manner. He inquired, just
as we were passing out of earshot, if we had killed anything, and
we shouted after him that we had shot a _buoy_, and could see him
for a long while scratching his head in vain to know if he had
heard aright.

There is reason in the distinction of civil and uncivil. The
manners are sometimes so rough a rind that we doubt whether they
cover any core or sap-wood at all. We sometimes meet uncivil
men, children of Amazons, who dwell by mountain paths, and are
said to be inhospitable to strangers; whose salutation is as rude
as the grasp of their brawny hands, and who deal with men as
unceremoniously as they are wont to deal with the elements. They
need only to extend their clearings, and let in more sunlight, to
seek out the southern slopes of the hills, from which they may
look down on the civil plain or ocean, and temper their diet duly
with the cereal fruits, consuming less wild meat and acorns, to
become like the inhabitants of cities. A true politeness does
not result from any hasty and artificial polishing, it is true,
but grows naturally in characters of the right grain and quality,
through a long fronting of men and events, and rubbing on good
and bad fortune. Perhaps I can tell a tale to the purpose while
the lock is filling,--for our voyage this forenoon furnishes but
few incidents of importance.

Early one summer morning I had left the shores of the
Connecticut, and for the livelong day travelled up the bank of a
river, which came in from the west; now looking down on the
stream, foaming and rippling through the forest a mile off, from
the hills over which the road led, and now sitting on its rocky
brink and dipping my feet in its rapids, or bathing adventurously
in mid-channel. The hills grew more and more frequent, and
gradually swelled into mountains as I advanced, hemming in the
course of the river, so that at last I could not see where it
came from, and was at liberty to imagine the most wonderful
meanderings and descents. At noon I slept on the grass in the
shade of a maple, where the river had found a broader channel
than usual, and was spread out shallow, with frequent sand-bars
exposed. In the names of the towns I recognized some which I had
long ago read on teamsters' wagons, that had come from far up
country; quiet, uplandish towns, of mountainous fame. I walked
along, musing and enchanted, by rows of sugar-maples, through the
small and uninquisitive villages, and sometimes was pleased with
the sight of a boat drawn up on a sand-bar, where there appeared
no inhabitants to use it. It seemed, however, as essential to
the river as a fish, and to lend a certain dignity to it. It was
like the trout of mountain streams to the fishes of the sea, or
like the young of the land-crab born far in the interior, who
have never yet heard the sound of the ocean's surf. The hills
approached nearer and nearer to the stream, until at last they
closed behind me, and I found myself just before nightfall in a
romantic and retired valley, about half a mile in length, and
barely wide enough for the stream at its bottom. I thought that
there could be no finer site for a cottage among mountains. You
could anywhere run across the stream on the rocks, and its
constant murmuring would quiet the passions of mankind forever.
Suddenly the road, which seemed aiming for the mountain-side,
turned short to the left, and another valley opened, concealing
the former, and of the same character with it. It was the most
remarkable and pleasing scenery I had ever seen. I found here a
few mild and hospitable inhabitants, who, as the day was not
quite spent, and I was anxious to improve the light, directed me
four or five miles farther on my way to the dwelling of a man
whose name was Rice, who occupied the last and highest of the
valleys that lay in my path, and who, they said, was a rather
rude and uncivil man. But "what is a foreign country to those
who have science? Who is a stranger to those who have the habit
of speaking kindly?"

At length, as the sun was setting behind the mountains in a still
darker and more solitary vale, I reached the dwelling of this
man. Except for the narrowness of the plain, and that the stones
were solid granite, it was the counterpart of that retreat to
which Belphoebe bore the wounded Timias,--

"In a pleasant glade,
With mountains round about environed,
And mighty woods, which did the valley shade,
And like a stately theatre it made,
Spreading itself into a spacious plain;
And in the midst a little river played
Amongst the pumy stones which seemed to plain,
With gentle murmur, that his course they did restrain."

I observed, as I drew near, that he was not so rude as I had
anticipated, for he kept many cattle, and dogs to watch them, and
I saw where he had made maple-sugar on the sides of the
mountains, and above all distinguished the voices of children
mingling with the murmur of the torrent before the door. As I
passed his stable I met one whom I supposed to be a hired man,
attending to his cattle, and I inquired if they entertained
travellers at that house. "Sometimes we do," he answered,
gruffly, and immediately went to the farthest stall from me, and
I perceived that it was Rice himself whom I had addressed. But
pardoning this incivility to the wildness of the scenery, I bent
my steps to the house. There was no sign-post before it, nor any
of the usual invitations to the traveller, though I saw by the
road that many went and came there, but the owner's name only was
fastened to the outside; a sort of implied and sullen invitation,
as I thought. I passed from room to room without meeting any
one, till I came to what seemed the guests' apartment, which was
neat, and even had an air of refinement about it, and I was glad
to find a map against the wall which would direct me on my
journey on the morrow. At length I heard a step in a distant
apartment, which was the first I had entered, and went to see if
the landlord had come in; but it proved to be only a child, one
of those whose voices I had heard, probably his son, and between
him and me stood in the doorway a large watch-dog, which growled
at me, and looked as if he would presently spring, but the boy
did not speak to him; and when I asked for a glass of water, he
briefly said, "It runs in the corner." So I took a mug from the
counter and went out of doors, and searched round the corner of
the house, but could find neither well nor spring, nor any water
but the stream which ran all along the front. I came back,
therefore, and, setting down the mug, asked the child if the
stream was good to drink; whereupon he seized the mug, and, going
to the corner of the room, where a cool spring which issued from
the mountain behind trickled through a pipe into the apartment,
filled it, and drank, and gave it to me empty again, and, calling
to the dog, rushed out of doors. Erelong some of the hired men
made their appearance, and drank at the spring, and lazily washed
themselves and combed their hair in silence, and some sat down as
if weary, and fell asleep in their seats. But all the while I
saw no women, though I sometimes heard a bustle in that part of
the house from which the spring came.

At length Rice himself came in, for it was now dark, with an
ox-whip in his hand, breathing hard, and he too soon settled down
into his seat not far from me, as if, now that his day's work was
done, he had no farther to travel, but only to digest his supper
at his leisure. When I asked him if he could give me a bed, he
said there was one ready, in such a tone as implied that I ought
to have known it, and the less said about that the better. So
far so good. And yet he continued to look at me as if he would
fain have me say something further like a traveller. I remarked,
that it was a wild and rugged country he inhabited, and worth
coming many miles to see. "Not so very rough neither," said he,
and appealed to his men to bear witness to the breadth and
smoothness of his fields, which consisted in all of one small
interval, and to the size of his crops; "and if we have some
hills," added he, "there's no better pasturage anywhere." I then
asked if this place was the one I had heard of, calling it by a
name I had seen on the map, or if it was a certain other; and he
answered, gruffly, that it was neither the one nor the other;
that he had settled it and cultivated it, and made it what it
was, and I could know nothing about it. Observing some guns and
other implements of hunting hanging on brackets around the room,
and his hounds now sleeping on the floor, I took occasion to
change the discourse, and inquired if there was much game in that
country, and he answered this question more graciously, having
some glimmering of my drift; but when I inquired if there were
any bears, he answered impatiently that he was no more in danger
of losing his sheep than his neighbors; he had tamed and
civilized that region. After a pause, thinking of my journey on
the morrow, and the few hours of daylight in that hollow and
mountainous country, which would require me to be on my way
betimes, I remarked that the day must be shorter by an hour there
than on the neighboring plains; at which he gruffly asked what I
knew about it, and affirmed that he had as much daylight as his
neighbors; he ventured to say, the days were longer there than
where I lived, as I should find if I stayed; that in some way, I
could not be expected to understand how, the sun came over the
mountains half an hour earlier, and stayed half an hour later
there than on the neighboring plains. And more of like sort he
said. He was, indeed, as rude as a fabled satyr. But I suffered
him to pass for what he was,--for why should I quarrel with
nature?--and was even pleased at the discovery of such a singular
natural phenomenon. I dealt with him as if to me all manners
were indifferent, and he had a sweet, wild way with him. I would
not question nature, and I would rather have him as he was than
as I would have him. For I had come up here not for sympathy, or
kindness, or society, but for novelty and adventure, and to see
what nature had produced here. I therefore did not repel his
rudeness, but quite innocently welcomed it all, and knew how to
appreciate it, as if I were reading in an old drama a part well
sustained. He was indeed a coarse and sensual man, and, as I
have said, uncivil, but he had his just quarrel with nature and
mankind, I have no doubt, only he had no artificial covering to
his ill-humors. He was earthy enough, but yet there was good
soil in him, and even a long-suffering Saxon probity at bottom.
If you could represent the case to him, he would not let the race
die out in him, like a red Indian.

At length I told him that he was a fortunate man, and I trusted
that he was grateful for so much light; and, rising, said I would
take a lamp, and that I would pay him then for my lodging, for I
expected to recommence my journey even as early as the sun rose
in his country; but he answered in haste, and this time civilly,
that I should not fail to find some of his household stirring,
however early, for they were no sluggards, and I could take my
breakfast with them before I started, if I chose; and as he
lighted the lamp I detected a gleam of true hospitality and
ancient civility, a beam of pure and even gentle humanity, from
his bleared and moist eyes. It was a look more intimate with me,
and more explanatory, than any words of his could have been if he
had tried to his dying day. It was more significant than any
Rice of those parts could even comprehend, and long anticipated
this man's culture,--a glance of his pure genius, which did not
much enlighten him, but did impress and rule him for the moment,
and faintly constrain his voice and manner. He cheerfully led
the way to my apartment, stepping over the limbs of his men, who
were asleep on the floor in an intervening chamber, and showed me
a clean and comfortable bed. For many pleasant hours after the
household was asleep I sat at the open window, for it was a
sultry night, and heard the little river

"Amongst the pumy stones, which seemed to plain,
With gentle murmur, that his course they did restrain."

But I arose as usual by starlight the next morning, before my
host, or his men, or even his dogs, were awake; and, having left
a ninepence on the counter, was already half-way over the
mountain with the sun before they had broken their fast.

Before I had left the country of my host, while the first rays of
the sun slanted over the mountains, as I stopped by the wayside
to gather some raspberries, a very old man, not far from a
hundred, came along with a milking-pail in his hand, and turning
aside began to pluck the berries near me:--

"His reverend locks
In comelye curles did wave;
And on his aged temples grew
The blossoms of the grave."

But when I inquired the way, he answered in a low, rough voice,
without looking up or seeming to regard my presence, which I
imputed to his years; and presently, muttering to himself, he
proceeded to collect his cows in a neighboring pasture; and when
he had again returned near to the wayside, he suddenly stopped,
while his cows went on before, and, uncovering his head, prayed
aloud in the cool morning air, as if he had forgotten this
exercise before, for his daily bread, and also that He who
letteth his rain fall on the just and on the unjust, and without
whom not a sparrow falleth to the ground, would not neglect the
stranger (meaning me), and with even more direct and personal
applications, though mainly according to the long-established
formula common to lowlanders and the inhabitants of mountains.
When he had done praying, I made bold to ask him if he had any
cheese in his hut which he would sell me, but he answered without
looking up, and in the same low and repulsive voice as before,
that they did not make any, and went to milking. It is written,
"The stranger who turneth away from a house with disappointed
hopes, leaveth there his own offences, and departeth, taking with
him all the good actions of the owner."

Being now fairly in the stream of this week's commerce, we began
to meet with boats more frequently, and hailed them from time to
time with the freedom of sailors. The boatmen appeared to lead
an easy and contented life, and we thought that we should prefer
their employment ourselves to many professions which are much
more sought after. They suggested how few circumstances are
necessary to the well-being and serenity of man, how indifferent
all employments are, and that any may seem noble and poetic to
the eyes of men, if pursued with sufficient buoyancy and freedom.
With liberty and pleasant weather, the simplest occupation, any
unquestioned country mode of life which detains us in the open
air, is alluring. The man who picks peas steadily for a living
is more than respectable, he is even envied by his shop-worn
neighbors. We are as happy as the birds when our Good Genius
permits us to pursue any out-door work, without a sense of
dissipation. Our penknife glitters in the sun; our voice is
echoed by yonder wood; if an oar drops, we are fain to let it
drop again.

The canal-boat is of very simple construction, requiring but
little ship-timber, and, as we were told, costs about two hundred
dollars. They are managed by two men. In ascending the stream
they use poles fourteen or fifteen feet long, pointed with iron,
walking about one third the length of the boat from the forward
end. Going down, they commonly keep in the middle of the stream,
using an oar at each end; or if the wind is favorable they raise
their broad sail, and have only to steer. They commonly carry
down wood or bricks,--fifteen or sixteen cords of wood, and as
many thousand bricks, at a time,--and bring back stores for the
country, consuming two or three days each way between Concord and
Charlestown. They sometimes pile the wood so as to leave a
shelter in one part where they may retire from the rain. One can
hardly imagine a more healthful employment, or one more favorable
to contemplation and the observation of nature. Unlike the
mariner, they have the constantly varying panorama of the shore
to relieve the monotony of their labor, and it seemed to us that
as they thus glided noiselessly from town to town, with all their
furniture about them, for their very homestead is a movable, they
could comment on the character of the inhabitants with greater
advantage and security to themselves than the traveller in a
coach, who would be unable to indulge in such broadsides of wit
and humor in so small a vessel for fear of the recoil. They are
not subject to great exposure, like the lumberers of Maine, in
any weather, but inhale the healthfullest breezes, being slightly
encumbered with clothing, frequently with the head and feet bare.
When we met them at noon as they were leisurely descending the
stream, their busy commerce did not look like toil, but rather
like some ancient Oriental game still played on a large scale, as
the game of chess, for instance, handed down to this generation.
From morning till night, unless the wind is so fair that his
single sail will suffice without other labor than steering, the
boatman walks backwards and forwards on the side of his boat, now
stooping with his shoulder to the pole, then drawing it back
slowly to set it again, meanwhile moving steadily forward through
an endless valley and an everchanging scenery, now distinguishing
his course for a mile or two, and now shut in by a sudden turn of
the river in a small woodland lake. All the phenomena which
surround him are simple and grand, and there is something
impressive, even majestic, in the very motion he causes, which
will naturally be communicated to his own character, and he feels
the slow, irresistible movement under him with pride, as if it
were his own energy.

The news spread like wildfire among us youths, when formerly,
once in a year or two, one of these boats came up the Concord
River, and was seen stealing mysteriously through the meadows and
past the village. It came and departed as silently as a cloud,
without noise or dust, and was witnessed by few. One summer day
this huge traveller might be seen moored at some meadow's wharf,
and another summer day it was not there. Where precisely it came
from, or who these men were who knew the rocks and soundings
better than we who bathed there, we could never tell. We knew
some river's bay only, but they took rivers from end to end.
They were a sort of fabulous river-men to us. It was
inconceivable by what sort of mediation any mere landsman could
hold communication with them. Would they heave to, to gratify
his wishes? No, it was favor enough to know faintly of their
destination, or the time of their possible return. I have seen
them in the summer when the stream ran low, mowing the weeds in
mid-channel, and with hayers' jests cutting broad swaths in three
feet of water, that they might make a passage for their scow,
while the grass in long windrows was carried down the stream,
undried by the rarest hay-weather. We admired unweariedly how
their vessel would float, like a huge chip, sustaining so many
casks of lime, and thousands of bricks, and such heaps of iron
ore, with wheelbarrows aboard, and that, when we stepped on it,
it did not yield to the pressure of our feet. It gave us
confidence in the prevalence of the law of buoyancy, and we
imagined to what infinite uses it might be put. The men appeared
to lead a kind of life on it, and it was whispered that they
slept aboard. Some affirmed that it carried sail, and that such
winds blew here as filled the sails of vessels on the ocean;
which again others much doubted. They had been seen to sail
across our Fair Haven bay by lucky fishers who were out, but
unfortunately others were not there to see. We might then say
that our river was navigable,--why not? In after-years I read in
print, with no little satisfaction, that it was thought by some
that, with a little expense in removing rocks and deepening the
channel, "there might be a profitable inland navigation." _I_
then lived some-where to tell of.

Such is Commerce, which shakes the cocoa-nut and bread-fruit tree
in the remotest isle, and sooner or later dawns on the duskiest
and most simple-minded savage. If we may be pardoned the
digression, who can help being affected at the thought of the
very fine and slight, but positive relation, in which the savage
inhabitants of some remote isle stand to the mysterious white
mariner, the child of the sun?--as if _we_ were to have dealings
with an animal higher in the scale of being than ourselves. It
is a barely recognized fact to the natives that he exists, and
has his home far away somewhere, and is glad to buy their fresh
fruits with his superfluous commodities. Under the same catholic
sun glances his white ship over Pacific waves into their smooth
bays, and the poor savage's paddle gleams in the air.

Man's little acts are grand,
Beheld from land to land,
There as they lie in time,
Within their native clime
Ships with the noontide weigh,
And glide before its ray
To some retired bay,
Their haunt,
Whence, under tropic sun,
Again they run,
Bearing gum Senegal and Tragicant.
For this was ocean meant,
For this the sun was sent,
And moon was lent,
And winds in distant caverns pent.

Since our voyage the railroad on the bank has been extended, and
there is now but little boating on the Merrimack. All kinds of
produce and stores were formerly conveyed by water, but now
nothing is carried up the stream, and almost wood and bricks
alone are carried down, and these are also carried on the
railroad. The locks are fast wearing out, and will soon be
impassable, since the tolls will not pay the expense of repairing
them, and so in a few years there will be an end of boating on
this river. The boating at present is principally between
Merrimack and Lowell, or Hooksett and Manchester. They make two
or three trips in a week, according to wind and weather, from
Merrimack to Lowell and back, about twenty-five miles each way.
The boatman comes singing in to shore late at night, and moors
his empty boat, and gets his supper and lodging in some house
near at hand, and again early in the morning, by starlight
perhaps, he pushes away up stream, and, by a shout, or the
fragment of a song, gives notice of his approach to the lock-man,
with whom he is to take his breakfast. If he gets up to his
wood-pile before noon he proceeds to load his boat, with the help
of his single "hand," and is on his way down again before night.
When he gets to Lowell he unloads his boat, and gets his receipt
for his cargo, and, having heard the news at the public house at
Middlesex or elsewhere, goes back with his empty boat and his
receipt in his pocket to the owner, and to get a new load. We
were frequently advertised of their approach by some faint sound
behind us, and looking round saw them a mile off, creeping
stealthily up the side of the stream like alligators. It was
pleasant to hail these sailors of the Merrimack from time to
time, and learn the news which circulated with them. We imagined
that the sun shining on their bare heads had stamped a liberal
and public character on their most private thoughts.

The open and sunny interval still stretched away from the river
sometimes by two or more terraces, to the distant hill-country,
and when we climbed the bank we commonly found an irregular
copse-wood skirting the river, the primitive having floated
down-stream long ago to----the "King's navy." Sometimes we saw
the river-road a quarter or half a mile distant, and the
particolored Concord stage, with its cloud of dust, its van of
earnest travelling faces, and its rear of dusty trunks, reminding
us that the country had its places of rendezvous for restless
Yankee men. There dwelt along at considerable distances on this
interval a quiet agricultural and pastoral people, with every
house its well, as we sometimes proved, and every household,
though never so still and remote it appeared in the noontide, its
dinner about these times. There they lived on, those New England
people, farmer lives, father and grandfather and great-grandfather,
on and on without noise, keeping up tradition, and expecting,
beside fair weather and abundant harvests, we did not learn what.
They were contented to live, since it was so contrived for them,
and where their lines had fallen.

Our uninquiring corpses lie more low
Than our life's curiosity doth go.

Yet these men had no need to travel to be as wise as Solomon in
all his glory, so similar are the lives of men in all countries,
and fraught with the same homely experiences. One half the world
_knows_ how the other half lives.

About noon we passed a small village in Merrimack at Thornton's
Ferry, and tasted of the waters of Naticook Brook on the same
side, where French and his companions, whose grave we saw in
Dunstable, were ambuscaded by the Indians. The humble village of
Litchfield, with its steepleless meeting-house, stood on the
opposite or east bank, near where a dense grove of willows
backed by maples skirted the shore. There also we noticed some
shagbark-trees, which, as they do not grow in Concord, were as
strange a sight to us as the palm would be, whose fruit only we
have seen. Our course now curved gracefully to the north,
leaving a low, flat shore on the Merrimack side, which forms a
sort of harbor for canal-boats. We observed some fair elms
and particularly large and handsome white-maples standing
conspicuously on this interval; and the opposite shore, a quarter
of a mile below, was covered with young elms and maples six
inches high, which had probably sprung from the seeds which had
been washed across.

Some carpenters were at work here mending a scow on the green and
sloping bank. The strokes of their mallets echoed from shore to
shore, and up and down the river, and their tools gleamed in the
sun a quarter of a mile from us, and we realized that boat-building
was as ancient and honorable an art as agriculture, and that
there might be a naval as well as a pastoral life. The whole
history of commerce was made manifest in that scow turned bottom
upward on the shore. Thus did men begin to go down upon the sea
in ships; _quaeque diu steterant in montibus altis, Fluctibus
ignotis insultavere carinae;_ "and keels which had long stood on
high mountains careered insultingly (_insultavere_) over unknown
waves." (Ovid, Met. I. 133.) We thought that it would be well
for the traveller to build his boat on the bank of a stream,
instead of finding a ferry or a bridge. In the Adventures of
Henry the fur-trader, it is pleasant to read that when with his
Indians he reached the shore of Ontario, they consumed two days
in making two canoes of the bark of the elm-tree, in which to
transport themselves to Fort Niagara. It is a worthy incident in
a journey, a delay as good as much rapid travelling. A good
share of our interest in Xenophon's story of his retreat is in
the manoeuvres to get the army safely over the rivers, whether on
rafts of logs or fagots, or sheep-skins blown up. And where
could they better afford to tarry meanwhile than on the banks of
a river?

As we glided past at a distance, these out-door workmen appeared
to have added some dignity to their labor by its very publicness.
It was a part of the industry of nature, like the work of hornets
and mud-wasps.

The waves slowly beat,
Just to keep the noon sweet,
And no sound is floated o'er,
Save the mallet on shore,
Which echoing on high
Seems a-calking the sky.

The haze, the sun's dust of travel, had a Lethean influence on
the land and its inhabitants, and all creatures resigned
themselves to float upon the inappreciable tides of nature.

Woof of the sun, ethereal gauze,
Woven of Nature's richest stuffs,
Visible heat, air-water, and dry sea,
Last conquest of the eye;
Toil of the day displayed sun-dust,
Aerial surf upon the shores of earth.
Ethereal estuary, frith of light,
Breakers of air, billows of heat
Fine summer spray on inland seas;
Bird of the sun, transparent-winged
Owlet of noon, soft-pinioned,
From heath or stubble rising without song;
Establish thy serenity o'er the fields

The routine which is in the sunshine and the finest days, as that
which has conquered and prevailed, commends itself to us by its
very antiquity and apparent solidity and necessity. Our weakness
needs it, and our strength uses it. We cannot draw on our boots
without bracing ourselves against it. If there were but one
erect and solid standing tree in the woods, all creatures would
go to rub against it and make sure of their footing. During the
many hours which we spend in this waking sleep, the hand stands
still on the face of the clock, and we grow like corn in the
night. Men are as busy as the brooks or bees, and postpone
everything to their business; as carpenters discuss politics
between the strokes of the hammer while they are shingling a

This noontide was a fit occasion to make some pleasant harbor,
and there read the journal of some voyageur like ourselves, not
too moral nor inquisitive, and which would not disturb the noon;
or else some old classic, the very flower of all reading, which
we had postponed to such a season

"Of Syrian peace, immortal leisure."

But, alas, our chest, like the cabin of a coaster, contained only
its well-thumbed "Navigator" for all literature, and we were
obliged to draw on our memory for these things.

We naturally remembered Alexander Henry's Adventures here, as a
sort of classic among books of American travel. It contains
scenery and rough sketching of men and incidents enough to
inspire poets for many years, and to my fancy is as full of
sounding names as any page of history,--Lake Winnipeg, Hudson
Bay, Ottaway, and portages innumerable; Chipeways, Gens de
Terres, Les Pilleurs, The Weepers; with reminiscences of Hearne's
journey, and the like; an immense and shaggy but sincere country,
summer and winter, adorned with chains of lakes and rivers,
covered with snows, with hemlocks, and fir-trees. There is a
naturalness, an unpretending and cold life in this traveller, as
in a Canadian winter, what life was preserved through low
temperatures and frontier dangers by furs within a stout heart.
He has truth and moderation worthy of the father of history,
which belong only to an intimate experience, and he does not
defer too much to literature. The unlearned traveller may quote
his single line from the poets with as good right as the scholar.
He too may speak of the stars, for he sees them shoot perhaps
when the astronomer does not. The good sense of this author is
very conspicuous. He is a traveller who does not exaggerate, but
writes for the information of his readers, for science, and for
history. His story is told with as much good faith and
directness as if it were a report to his brother traders, or the
Directors of the Hudson Bay Company, and is fitly dedicated to
Sir Joseph Banks. It reads like the argument to a great poem on
the primitive state of the country and its inhabitants, and the
reader imagines what in each case, with the invocation of the
Muse, might be sung, and leaves off with suspended interest, as
if the full account were to follow. In what school was this
fur-trader educated? He seems to travel the immense snowy
country with such purpose only as the reader who accompanies him,
and to the latter's imagination, it is, as it were, momentarily
created to be the scene of his adventures. What is most
interesting and valuable in it, however, is not the materials for
the history of Pontiac, or Braddock, or the Northwest, which it
furnishes; not the _annals_ of the country, but the natural
facts, or _perennials_, which are ever without date. When out of
history the truth shall be extracted, it will have shed its dates
like withered leaves.

The Souhegan, or _Crooked_ River, as some translate it, comes in
from the west about a mile and a half above Thornton's Ferry.
Babboosuck Brook empties into it near its mouth. There are said
to be some of the finest water privileges in the country still
unimproved on the former stream, at a short distance from the
Merrimack. One spring morning, March 22, in the year 1677, an
incident occurred on the banks of the river here, which is
interesting to us as a slight memorial of an interview between
two ancient tribes of men, one of which is now extinct, while the
other, though it is still represented by a miserable remnant, has
long since disappeared from its ancient hunting-grounds. A
Mr. James Parker, at "Mr. Hinchmanne's farme ner Meremack," wrote
thus "to the Honred Governer and Council at Bostown, _Hast, Post

"Sagamore Wanalancet come this morning to informe me, and then
went to Mr. Tyng's to informe him, that his son being on ye
other sid of Meremack river over against Souhegan upon the 22
day of this instant, about tene of the clock in the morning, he
discovered 15 Indians on this sid the river, which he soposed
to be Mohokes by ther spech. He called to them; they answered,
but he could not understand ther spech; and he having a conow
ther in the river, he went to breck his conow that they might
not have ani ues of it. In the mean time they shot about
thirty guns at him, and he being much frighted fled, and come
home forthwith to Nahamcock [Pawtucket Falls or Lowell], wher
ther wigowames now stand."

Penacooks and Mohawks! _ubique gentium sunt?_ In the year 1670, a
Mohawk warrior scalped a Naamkeak or else a Wamesit Indian maiden
near where Lowell now stands. She, however, recovered. Even as
late as 1685, John Hogkins, a Penacook Indian, who describes his
grandfather as having lived "at place called Malamake rever,
other name chef Natukkog and Panukkog, that one rever great many
names," wrote thus to the governor:--

"May 15th, 1685.

"Honor governor my friend,--

"You my friend I desire your worship and your power, because I
hope you can do som great matters this one. I am poor and
naked and I have no men at my place because I afraid allwayes
Mohogs he will kill me every day and night. If your worship
when please pray help me you no let Mohogs kill me at my place
at Malamake river called Pannukkog and Natukkog, I will submit
your worship and your power. And now I want pouder and such
alminishon shatt and guns, because I have forth at my hom and I
plant theare.

"This all Indian hand, but pray you do consider your humble

^John Hogkins^."

Signed also by Simon Detogkom, King Hary, Sam Linis, Mr. Jorge
Rodunnonukgus, John Owamosimmin, and nine other Indians, with
their marks against their names.

But now, one hundred and fifty-four years having elapsed since
the date of this letter, we went unalarmed on our way without
"brecking" our "conow," reading the New England Gazetteer, and
seeing no traces of "Mohogs" on the banks.

The Souhegan, though a rapid river, seemed to-day to have
borrowed its character from the noon.

Where gleaming fields of haze
Meet the voyageur's gaze,
And above, the heated air
Seems to make a river there,
The pines stand up with pride
By the Souhegan's side,
And the hemlock and the larch
With their triumphal arch
Are waving o'er its march
To the sea.
No wind stirs its waves,
But the spirits of the braves
Hov'ring o'er,
Whose antiquated graves
Its still water laves
On the shore.
With an Indian's stealthy tread
It goes sleeping in its bed,
Without joy or grief,
Or the rustle of a leaf,
Without a ripple or a billow,
Or the sigh of a willow,
From the Lyndeboro' hills
To the Merrimack mills.
With a louder din
Did its current begin,
When melted the snow
On the far mountain's brow,
And the drops came together
In that rainy weather.
Experienced river,
Hast thou flowed forever?
Souhegan soundeth old,
But the half is not told,
What names hast thou borne,
In the ages far gone,
When the Xanthus and Meander
Commenced to wander,
Ere the black bear haunted
Thy red forest-floor,
Or Nature had planted
The pines by thy shore?

During the heat of the day, we rested on a large island a mile
above the mouth of this river, pastured by a herd of cattle, with
steep banks and scattered elms and oaks, and a sufficient channel
for canal-boats on each side. When we made a fire to boil some
rice for our dinner, the flames spreading amid the dry grass, and
the smoke curling silently upward and casting grotesque shadows
on the ground, seemed phenomena of the noon, and we fancied that
we progressed up the stream without effort, and as naturally as
the wind and tide went down, not outraging the calm days by
unworthy bustle or impatience. The woods on the neighboring
shore were alive with pigeons, which were moving south, looking
for mast, but now, like ourselves, spending their noon in the
shade. We could hear the slight, wiry, winnowing sound of their
wings as they changed their roosts from time to time, and their
gentle and tremulous cooing. They sojourned with us during the
noontide, greater travellers far than we. You may frequently
discover a single pair sitting upon the lower branches of the
white-pine in the depths of the wood, at this hour of the day, so
silent and solitary, and with such a hermit-like appearance, as
if they had never strayed beyond its skirts, while the acorn
which was gathered in the forests of Maine is still undigested in
their crops. We obtained one of these handsome birds, which
lingered too long upon its perch, and plucked and broiled it here
with some other game, to be carried along for our supper; for,
beside the provisions which we carried with us, we depended
mainly on the river and forest for our supply. It is true, it
did not seem to be putting this bird to its right use to pluck
off its feathers, and extract its entrails, and broil its carcass
on the coals; but we heroically persevered, nevertheless, waiting
for further information. The same regard for Nature which
excited our sympathy for her creatures nerved our hands to carry
through what we had begun. For we would be honorable to the
party we deserted; we would fulfil fate, and so at length,
perhaps, detect the secret innocence of these incessant tragedies
which Heaven allows.

"Too quick resolves do resolution wrong,
What, part so soon to be divorced so long?
Things to be done are long to be debated;
Heaven is not day'd, Repentance is not dated."

We are double-edged blades, and every time we whet our virtue the
return stroke straps our vice. Where is the skilful swordsman who
can give clean wounds, and not rip up his work with the other

Nature herself has not provided the most graceful end for her
creatures. What becomes of all these birds that people the air
and forest for our solacement? The sparrows seem always
_chipper_, never infirm. We do not see their bodies lie about.
Yet there is a tragedy at the end of each one of their lives.
They must perish miserably; not one of them is translated. True,
"not a sparrow falleth to the ground without our Heavenly
Father's knowledge," but they do fall, nevertheless.

The carcasses of some poor squirrels, however, the same that
frisked so merrily in the morning, which we had skinned and
embowelled for our dinner, we abandoned in disgust, with tardy
humanity, as too wretched a resource for any but starving men.
It was to perpetuate the practice of a barbarous era. If they
had been larger, our crime had been less. Their small red
bodies, little bundles of red tissue, mere gobbets of venison,
would not have "fattened fire." With a sudden impulse we threw
them away, and washed our hands, and boiled some rice for our
dinner. "Behold the difference between the one who eateth flesh,
and him to whom it belonged! The first hath a momentary
enjoyment, whilst the latter is deprived of existence!" "Who
would commit so great a crime against a poor animal, who is fed
only by the herbs which grow wild in the woods, and whose belly
is burnt up with hunger?" We remembered a picture of mankind in
the hunter age, chasing hares down the mountains; O me miserable!
Yet sheep and oxen are but larger squirrels, whose hides are
saved and meat is salted, whose souls perchance are not so large
in proportion to their bodies.

There should always be some flowering and maturing of the fruits
of nature in the cooking process. Some simple dishes recommend
themselves to our imaginations as well as palates. In parched
corn, for instance, there is a manifest sympathy between the
bursting seed and the more perfect developments of vegetable
life. It is a perfect flower with its petals, like the houstonia
or anemone. On my warm hearth these cerealian blossoms expanded;
here is the bank whereon they grew. Perhaps some such visible
blessing would always attend the simple and wholesome repast.

Here was that "pleasant harbor" which we had sighed for, where
the weary voyageur could read the journal of some other sailor,
whose bark had ploughed, perchance, more famous and classic seas.
At the tables of the gods, after feasting follow music and song;
we will recline now under these island trees, and for our
minstrel call on


"Nor has he ceased his charming song, for still that lyre,
Though he is dead, sleeps not in Hades."
_Simonides' Epigram on Anacreon._

I lately met with an old volume from a London bookshop, containing
the Greek Minor Poets, and it was a pleasure to read once more
only the words, Orpheus, Linus, Musaeus,--those faint poetic
sounds and echoes of a name, dying away on the ears of us modern
men; and those hardly more substantial sounds, Mimnermus, Ibycus,
Alcaeus, Stesichorus, Menander. They lived not in vain. We can
converse with these bodiless fames without reserve or

I know of no studies so composing as those of the classical
scholar. When we have sat down to them, life seems as still
and serene as if it were very far off, and I believe it is
not habitually seen from any common platform so truly and
unexaggerated as in the light of literature. In serene hours we
contemplate the tour of the Greek and Latin authors with more
pleasure than the traveller does the fairest scenery of Greece or
Italy. Where shall we find a more refined society? That highway
down from Homer and Hesiod to Horace and Juvenal is more attractive
than the Appian. Reading the classics, or conversing with those
old Greeks and Latins in their surviving works, is like walking
amid the stars and constellations, a high and by way serene to
travel. Indeed, the true scholar will be not a little of an
astronomer in his habits. Distracting cares will not be allowed
to obstruct the field of his vision, for the higher regions of
literature, like astronomy, are above storm and darkness.

But passing by these rumors of bards, let us pause for a moment
at the Teian poet.

There is something strangely modern about him. He is very easily
turned into English. Is it that our lyric poets have resounded
but that lyre, which would sound only light subjects, and which
Simonides tells us does not sleep in Hades? His odes are like
gems of pure ivory. They possess an ethereal and evanescent
beauty like summer evenings, a'nthei,>--_which you must perceive with the flower of the
mind_,--and show how slight a beauty could be expressed. You
have to consider them, as the stars of lesser magnitude, with the
side of the eye, and look aside from them to behold them. They
charm us by their serenity and freedom from exaggeration and
passion, and by a certain flower-like beauty, which does not
propose itself, but must be approached and studied like a natural
object. But perhaps their chief merit consists in the lightness
and yet security of their tread;

"The young and tender stalk
Ne'er bends when _they_ do walk."

True, our nerves are never strung by them; it is too constantly
the sound of the lyre, and never the note of the trumpet; but
they are not gross, as has been presumed, but always elevated
above the sensual.

These are some of the best that have come down to us.


I wish to sing the Atridae,
And Cadmus I wish to sing;
But my lyre sounds
Only love with its chords.
Lately I changed the strings
And all the lyre;
And I began to sing the labors
Of Hercules; but my lyre
Resounded loves.
Farewell, henceforth, for me,
Heroes! for my lyre
Sings only loves.


Thou indeed, dear swallow,
Yearly going and coming,
In summer weavest thy nest,
And in winter go'st disappearing
Either to Nile or to Memphis.
But Love always weaveth
His nest in my heart....


Turning the silver,
Vulcan, make for me,
Not indeed a panoply,
For what are battles to me?
But a hollow cup,
As deep as thou canst
And make for me in it
Neither stars, nor wagons,
Nor sad Orion;
What are the Pleiades to me?
What the shining Bootes?
Make vines for me,
And clusters of grapes in it,
And of gold Love and Bathyllus
Treading the grapes
With the fair Lyaeus


Thou sing'st the affairs of Thebes,
And he the battles of Troy,
But I of my own defeats.
No horse have wasted me,
Nor foot, nor ships;
But a new and different host,
From eyes smiting me.


Lovely dove,
Whence, whence dost thou fly?
Whence, running on air,
Dost thou waft and diffuse
So many sweet ointments?
Who art? What thy errand?--
Anacreon sent me
To a boy, to Bathyllus,
Who lately is ruler and tyrant of all.
Cythere has sold me
For one little song,
And I'm doing this service
For Anacreon.
And now, as you see,
I bear letters from him.
And he says that directly
He'll make me free,
But though he release me,
His slave I will tarry with him.
For why should I fly
Over mountains and fields,
And perch upon trees,
Eating some wild thing?
Now indeed I eat bread,
Plucking it from the hands
Of Anacreon himself;
And he gives me to drink
The wine which he tastes,
And drinking, I dance,
And shadow my master's
Face with my wings;
And, going to rest,
On the lyre itself I sleep.
That is all; get thee gone.
Thou hast made me more talkative,
Man, than a crow.


Love walking swiftly,
With hyacinthine staff,
Bade me to take a run with him;
And hastening through swift torrents,
And woody places, and over precipices,
A water-snake stung me.
And my heart leaped up to
My mouth, and I should have fainted;
But Love fanning my brows
With his soft wings, said,
Surely, thou art not able to love.


Nature has given horns
To bulls, and hoofs to horses,
Swiftness to hares,
To lions yawning teeth,
To fishes swimming,
To birds flight,
To men wisdom.
For woman she had nothing beside;
What then does she give? Beauty,--
Instead of all sheilds,
Instead of all spears;
And she conquers even iron
And fire, who is beautiful.


Horses have the mark
Of fire on their sides,
And some have distinguished
The Parthian men by their crests;
So I, seeing lovers,
Know them at once,
For they have a certain slight
Brand on their hearts.


What dost thou wish me to do to thee,--
What, thou loquacious swallow?
Dost thou wish me taking thee
Thy light pinions to clip?
Or rather to pluck out
Thy tongue from within,
As that Tereus did?
Why with thy notes in the dawn
Hast thou plundered Bathyllus
From my beautiful dreams?


Thracian colt, why at me
Looking aslant with thy eyes,
Dost thou cruelly flee,
And think that I know nothing wise?
Know I could well
Put the bridle on thee,
And holding the reins, turn
Round the bounds of the course.
But now thou browsest the meads,
And gambolling lightly dost play,
For thou hast no skilful horseman
Mounted upon thy back.


Love once among roses
Saw not
A sleeping bee, but was stung;
And being wounded in the finger
Of his hand, cried for pain.
Running as well as flying
To the beautiful Venus,
I am killed, mother, said he,
I am killed, and I die.
A little serpent has stung me,
Winged, which they call
A bee,--the husbandmen.
And she said, If the sting
Of a bee afflicts you,
How, think you, are they afflicted,
Love, whom you smite?


Late in the afternoon, for we had lingered long on the island, we
raised our sail for the first time, and for a short hour the
southwest wind was our ally; but it did not please Heaven to abet
us along. With one sail raised we swept slowly up the eastern
side of the stream, steering clear of the rocks, while, from the
top of a hill which formed the opposite bank, some lumberers were
rolling down timber to be rafted down the stream. We could see
their axes and levers gleaming in the sun, and the logs came down
with a dust and a rumbling sound, which was reverberated through
the woods beyond us on our side, like the roar of artillery. But
Zephyr soon took us out of sight and hearing of this commerce.
Having passed Read's Ferry, and another island called McGaw's
Island, we reached some rapids called Moore's Falls, and entered
on "that section of the river, nine miles in extent, converted,
by law, into the Union Canal, comprehending in that space six
distinct falls; at each of which, and at several intermediate
places, work has been done." After passing Moore's Falls by
means of locks, we again had recourse to our oars, and went
merrily on our way, driving the small sandpiper from rock to rock
before us, and sometimes rowing near enough to a cottage on the
bank, though they were few and far between, to see the sunflowers,
and the seed vessels of the poppy, like small goblets filled with
the water of Lethe, before the door, but without disturbing the
sluggish household behind. Thus we held on, sailing or dipping
our way along with the paddle up this broad river, smooth and
placid, flowing over concealed rocks, where we could see the
pickerel lying low in the transparent water, eager to double some
distant cape, to make some great bend as in the life of man, and
see what new perspective would open; looking far into a new
country, broad and serene, the cottages of settlers seen afar for
the first time, yet with the moss of a century on their roofs,
and the third or fourth generation in their shadows. Strange was
it to consider how the sun and the summer, the buds of spring and
the seared leaves of autumn, were related to these cabins along
the shore; how all the rays which paint the landscape radiate
from them, and the flight of the crow and the gyrations of the
hawk have reference to their roofs. Still the ever rich and
fertile shores accompanied us, fringed with vines and alive with
small birds and frisking squirrels, the edge of some farmer's
field or widow's wood-lot, or wilder, perchance, where the
muskrat, the little medicine of the river, drags itself along
stealthily over the alder-leaves and muscle-shells, and man and
the memory of man are banished far.

At length the unwearied, never-sinking shore, still holding on
without break, with its cool copses and serene pasture-grounds,
tempted us to disembark; and we adventurously landed on this
remote coast, to survey it, without the knowledge of any human
inhabitant probably to this day. But we still remember the
gnarled and hospitable oaks which grew even there for our
entertainment, and were no strangers to us, the lonely horse in
his pasture, and the patient cows, whose path to the river, so
judiciously chosen to overcome the difficulties of the way, we
followed, and disturbed their ruminations in the shade; and,
above all, the cool, free aspect of the wild apple-trees,
generously proffering their fruit to us, though still green and
crude,--the hard, round, glossy fruit, which, if not ripe, still
was not poison, but New-English too, brought hither its ancestors
by ours once. These gentler trees imparted a half-civilized and
twilight aspect to the otherwise barbarian land. Still farther
on we scrambled up the rocky channel of a brook, which had long
served nature for a sluice there, leaping like it from rock to
rock through tangled woods, at the bottom of a ravine, which grew
darker and darker, and more and more hoarse the murmurs of the
stream, until we reached the ruins of a mill, where now the ivy
grew, and the trout glanced through the crumbling flume; and
there we imagined what had been the dreams and speculations of
some early settler. But the waning day compelled us to embark
once more, and redeem this wasted time with long and vigorous
sweeps over the rippling stream.

It was still wild and solitary, except that at intervals of a
mile or two the roof of a cottage might be seen over the bank.
This region, as we read, was once famous for the manufacture of
straw bonnets of the Leghorn kind, of which it claims the
invention in these parts; and occasionally some industrious
damsel tripped down to the water's edge, to put her straw a-soak,
as it appeared, and stood awhile to watch the retreating
voyageurs, and catch the fragment of a boat-song which we had
made, wafted over the water.

Thus, perchance, the Indian hunter,
Many a lagging year agone,
Gliding o'er thy rippling waters,
Lowly hummed a natural song.

Now the sun's behind the willows,
Now he gleams along the waves,
Faintly o'er the wearied billows
Come the spirits of the braves.

Just before sundown we reached some more falls in the town of
Bedford, where some stone-masons were employed repairing the
locks in a solitary part of the river. They were interested in
our adventure, especially one young man of our own age, who
inquired at first if we were bound up to "'Skeag"; and when he
had heard our story, and examined our outfit, asked us other
questions, but temperately still, and always turning to his work
again, though as if it were become his duty. It was plain that
he would like to go with us, and, as he looked up the river, many
a distant cape and wooded shore were reflected in his eye, as
well as in his thoughts. When we were ready he left his work,
and helped us through the locks with a sort of quiet enthusiasm,
telling us that we were at Coos Falls, and we could still
distinguish the strokes of his chisel for many sweeps after we
had left him.

We wished to camp this night on a large rock in the middle of the
stream, just above these falls, but the want of fuel, and the
difficulty of fixing our tent firmly, prevented us; so we made
our bed on the main-land opposite, on the west bank, in the town
of Bedford, in a retired place, as we supposed, there being no
house in sight.



_"Man is man's foe and destiny."_




Early this morning, as we were rolling up our buffaloes and
loading our boat amid the dew, while our embers were still
smoking, the masons who worked at the locks, and whom we had seen
crossing the river in their boat the evening before while we were
examining the rock, came upon us as they were going to their
work, and we found that we had pitched our tent directly in the
path to their boat. This was the only time that we were observed
on our camping-ground. Thus, far from the beaten highways and
the dust and din of travel, we beheld the country privately, yet
freely, and at our leisure. Other roads do some violence to
Nature, and bring the traveller to stare at her, but the river
steals into the scenery it traverses without intrusion, silently
creating and adorning it, and is as free to come and go as the

As we shoved away from this rocky coast, before sunrise, the
smaller bittern, the genius of the shore, was moping along its
edge, or stood probing the mud for its food, with ever an eye on
us, though so demurely at work, or else he ran along over the wet
stones like a wrecker in his storm-coat, looking out for wrecks
of snails and cockles. Now away he goes, with a limping flight,
uncertain where he will alight, until a rod of clear sand amid
the alders invites his feet; and now our steady approach compels
him to seek a new retreat. It is a bird of the oldest Thalesian
school, and no doubt believes in the priority of water to the
other elements; the relic of a twilight antediluvian age which
yet inhabits these bright American rivers with us Yankees. There
is something venerable in this melancholy and contemplative race
of birds, which may have trodden the earth while it was yet in a
slimy and imperfect state. Perchance their tracks too are still
visible on the stones. It still lingers into our glaring
summers, bravely supporting its fate without sympathy from man,
as if it looked forward to some second advent of which _he_ has
no assurance. One wonders if, by its patient study by rocks and
sandy capes, it has wrested the whole of her secret from Nature
yet. What a rich experience it must have gained, standing on one
leg and looking out from its dull eye so long on sunshine and
rain, moon and stars! What could it tell of stagnant pools and
reeds and dank night-fogs! It would be worth the while to look
closely into the eye which has been open and seeing at such
hours, and in such solitudes, its dull, yellowish, greenish eye.
Methinks my own soul must be a bright invisible green. I have
seen these birds stand by the half-dozen together in the
shallower water along the shore, with their bills thrust into the
mud at the bottom, probing for food, the whole head being
concealed, while the neck and body formed an arch above the

Cohass Brook, the outlet of Massabesic Pond,--which last is five
or six miles distant, and contains fifteen hundred acres, being
the largest body of fresh water in Rockingham County,--comes in
near here from the east. Rowing between Manchester and Bedford,
we passed, at an early hour, a ferry and some falls, called
Goff's Falls, the Indian Cohasset, where there is a small
village, and a handsome green islet in the middle of the stream.
From Bedford and Merrimack have been boated the bricks of which
Lowell is made. About twenty years before, as they told us, one
Moore, of Bedford, having clay on his farm, contracted to furnish
eight millions of bricks to the founders of that city within two
years. He fulfilled his contract in one year, and since then
bricks have been the principal export from these towns. The
farmers found thus a market for their wood, and when they had
brought a load to the kilns, they could cart a load of bricks to
the shore, and so make a profitable day's work of it. Thus all
parties were benefited. It was worth the while to see the place
where Lowell was "dug out." So likewise Manchester is being
built of bricks made still higher up the river at Hooksett.

There might be seen here on the bank of the Merrimack, near
Goff's Falls, in what is now the town of Bedford, famous "for
hops and for its fine domestic manufactures," some graves of the
aborigines. The land still bears this scar here, and time is
slowly crumbling the bones of a race. Yet, without fail, every
spring, since they first fished and hunted here, the brown
thrasher has heralded the morning from a birch or alder spray,
and the undying race of reed-birds still rustles through the
withering grass. But these bones rustle not. These mouldering
elements are slowly preparing for another metamorphosis, to serve
new masters, and what was the Indian's will erelong be the white
man's sinew.

We learned that Bedford was not so famous for hops as formerly,
since the price is fluctuating, and poles are now scarce. Yet if
the traveller goes back a few miles from the river, the hop-kilns
will still excite his curiosity.

There were few incidents in our voyage this forenoon, though the
river was now more rocky and the falls more frequent than before.
It was a pleasant change, after rowing incessantly for many
hours, to lock ourselves through in some retired place,--for
commonly there was no lock-man at hand,--one sitting in the boat,
while the other, sometimes with no little labor and heave-yo-ing,
opened and shut the gates, waiting patiently to see the locks
fill. We did not once use the wheels which we had provided.
Taking advantage of the eddy, we were sometimes floated up to the
locks almost in the face of the falls; and, by the same cause,
any floating timber was carried round in a circle and repeatedly
drawn into the rapids before it finally went down the stream.
These old gray structures, with their quiet arms stretched over
the river in the sun, appeared like natural objects in the
scenery, and the kingfisher and sandpiper alighted on them as
readily as on stakes or rocks.

We rowed leisurely up the stream for several hours, until the sun
had got high in the sky, our thoughts monotonously beating time
to our oars. For outward variety there was only the river and
the receding shores, a vista continually opening behind and
closing before us, as we sat with our backs up-stream; and, for
inward, such thoughts as the muses grudgingly lent us. We were
always passing some low, inviting shore, or some overhanging
bank, on which, however, we never landed.

Such near aspects had we
Of our life's scenery.

It might be seen by what tenure men held the earth. The smallest
stream is _mediterranean_ sea, a smaller ocean creek within the
land, where men may steer by their farm-bounds and cottage-lights.
For my own part, but for the geographers, I should hardly have
known how large a portion of our globe is water, my life has
chiefly passed within so deep a cove. Yet I have sometimes
ventured as far as to the mouth of my Snug Harbor. From an old
ruined fort on Staten Island, I have loved to watch all day some
vessel whose name I had read in the morning through the
telegraph-glass, when she first came upon the coast, and her hull
heaved up and glistened in the sun, from the moment when the
pilot and most adventurous news-boats met her, past the Hook, and
up the narrow channel of the wide outer bay, till she was boarded
by the health-officer, and took her station at Quarantine, or
held on her unquestioned course to the wharves of New York. It
was interesting, too, to watch the less adventurous newsman, who
made his assault as the vessel swept through the Narrows, defying
plague and quarantine law, and, fastening his little cockboat to
her huge side, clambered up and disappeared in the cabin. And
then I could imagine what momentous news was being imparted by
the captain, which no American ear had ever heard, that Asia,
Africa, Europe--were all sunk; for which at length he pays the
price, and is seen descending the ship's side with his bundle of
newspapers, but not where he first got up, for these arrivers do
not stand still to gossip; and he hastes away with steady sweeps
to dispose of his wares to the highest bidder, and we shall
erelong read something startling,--"By the latest arrival,"--"by
the good ship----." On Sunday I beheld, from some interior hill,
the long procession of vessels getting to sea, reaching from the
city wharves through the Narrows, and past the Hook, quite to the
ocean stream, far as the eye could reach, with stately march and
silken sails, all counting on lucky voyages, but each time some
of the number, no doubt, destined to go to Davy's locker, and
never come on this coast again. And, again, in the evening of a
pleasant day, it was my amusement to count the sails in sight.
But as the setting sun continually brought more and more to
light, still farther in the horizon, the last count always had
the advantage, till, by the time the last rays streamed over the
sea, I had doubled and trebled my first number; though I could no
longer class them all under the several heads of ships, barks,
brigs, schooners, and sloops, but most were faint generic
_vessels_ only. And then the temperate twilight light, perchance,
revealed the floating home of some sailor whose thoughts were
already alienated from this American coast, and directed towards
the Europe of our dreams. I have stood upon the same hill-top
when a thunder-shower, rolling down from the Catskills and
Highlands, passed over the island, deluging the land; and, when
it had suddenly left us in sunshine, have seen it overtake
successively, with its huge shadow and dark, descending wall of
rain, the vessels in the bay. Their bright sails were suddenly
drooping and dark, like the sides of barns, and they seemed to
shrink before the storm; while still far beyond them on the sea,
through this dark veil, gleamed the sunny sails of those vessels
which the storm had not yet reached. And at midnight, when all
around and overhead was darkness, I have seen a field of
trembling, silvery light far out on the sea, the reflection of
the moonlight from the ocean, as if beyond the precincts of our
night, where the moon traversed a cloudless heaven,--and
sometimes a dark speck in its midst, where some fortunate vessel
was pursuing its happy voyage by night.

But to us river sailors the sun never rose out of ocean waves,
but from some green coppice, and went down behind some dark
mountain line. We, too, were but dwellers on the shore, like the
bittern of the morning; and our pursuit, the wrecks of snails and
cockles. Nevertheless, we were contented to know the better one
fair particular shore.

My life is like a stroll upon the beach,
As near the ocean's edge as I can go,
My tardy steps its waves sometimes o'erreach,
Sometimes I stay to let them overflow.

My sole employment 't is, and scrupulous care,
To place my gains beyond the reach of tides,
Each smoother pebble, and each shell more rare,
Which ocean kindly to my hand confides.

I have but few companions on the shore,
They scorn the strand who sail upon the sea,
Yet oft I think the ocean they've sailed o'er
Is deeper known upon the strand to me.

The middle sea contains no crimson dulse,
Its deeper waves cast up no pearls to view,
Along the shore my hand is on its pulse,
And I converse with many a shipwrecked crew.

The small houses which were scattered along the river at
intervals of a mile or more were commonly out of sight to us, but
sometimes, when we rowed near the shore, we heard the peevish
note of a hen, or some slight domestic sound, which betrayed
them. The lock-men's houses were particularly well placed,
retired, and high, always at falls or rapids, and commanding the
pleasantest reaches of the river,--for it is generally wider and
more lake-like just above a fall,--and there they wait for boats.
These humble dwellings, homely and sincere, in which a hearth was
still the essential part, were more pleasing to our eyes than
palaces or castles would have been. In the noon of these days,
as we have said, we occasionally climbed the banks and approached
these houses, to get a glass of water and make acquaintance with
their inhabitants. High in the leafy bank, surrounded commonly
by a small patch of corn and beans, squashes and melons, with
sometimes a graceful hop-yard on one side, and some running vine
over the windows, they appeared like beehives set to gather honey
for a summer. I have not read of any Arcadian life which
surpasses the actual luxury and serenity of these New England
dwellings. For the outward gilding, at least, the age is golden
enough. As you approach the sunny doorway, awakening the echoes
by your steps, still no sound from these barracks of repose, and
you fear that the gentlest knock may seem rude to the Oriental
dreamers. The door is opened, perchance, by some Yankee-Hindoo
woman, whose small-voiced but sincere hospitality, out of the
bottomless depths of a quiet nature, has travelled quite round to
the opposite side, and fears only to obtrude its kindness. You
step over the white-scoured floor to the bright "dresser"
lightly, as if afraid to disturb the devotions of the
household,--for Oriental dynasties appear to have passed away
since the dinner-table was last spread here,--and thence to the
frequented curb, where you see your long-forgotten, unshaven face
at the bottom, in juxtaposition with new-made butter and the
trout in the well. "Perhaps you would like some molasses and
ginger," suggests the faint noon voice. Sometimes there sits the
brother who follows the sea, their representative man; who knows
only how far it is to the nearest port, no more distances, all
the rest is sea and distant capes,--patting the dog, or dandling
the kitten in arms that were stretched by the cable and the oar,
pulling against Boreas or the trade-winds. He looks up at the
stranger, half pleased, half astonished, with a mariner's eye, as
if he were a dolphin within cast. If men will believe it, _sua
si bona norint_, there are no more quiet Tempes, nor more poetic
and Arcadian lives, than may be lived in these New England
dwellings. We thought that the employment of their inhabitants
by day would be to tend the flowers and herds, and at night, like
the shepherds of old, to cluster and give names to the stars from
the river banks.

We passed a large and densely wooded island this forenoon,
between Short's and Griffith's Falls, the fairest which we had
met with, with a handsome grove of elms at its head. If it had
been evening we should have been glad to camp there. Not long
after, one or two more were passed. The boatmen told us that the
current had recently made important changes here. An island
always pleases my imagination, even the smallest, as a small
continent and integral portion of the globe. I have a fancy for
building my hut on one. Even a bare, grassy isle, which I can
see entirely over at a glance, has some undefined and mysterious
charm for me. There is commonly such a one at the junction of
two rivers, whose currents bring down and deposit their
respective sands in the eddy at their confluence, as it were the
womb of a continent. By what a delicate and far-stretched
contribution every island is made! What an enterprise of Nature
thus to lay the foundations of and to build up the future
continent, of golden and silver sands and the ruins of forests,
with ant-like industry! Pindar gives the following account of
the origin of Thera, whence, in after times, Libyan Cyrene was
settled by Battus. Triton, in the form of Eurypylus, presents a
clod to Euphemus, one of the Argonauts, as they are about to
return home.

"He knew of our haste,
And immediately seizing a clod
With his right hand, strove to give it
As a chance stranger's gift.
Nor did the hero disregard him, but leaping on the shore,
Stretching hand to hand,
Received the mystic clod.
But I hear it sinking from the deck,
Go with the sea brine
At evening, accompanying the watery sea.
Often indeed I urged the careless
Menials to guard it, but their minds forgot.
And now in this island the imperishable seed of spacious Libya
Is spilled before its hour."

It is a beautiful fable, also related by Pindar, how Helius, or
the Sun, looked down into the sea one day,--when perchance his
rays were first reflected from some increasing glittering
sandbar,--and saw the fair and fruitful island of Rhodes

"springing up from the bottom,
Capable of feeding many men, and suitable for flocks;

and at the nod of Zeus,

"The island sprang from the watery
Sea; and the genial Father of penetrating beams,
Ruler of fire-breathing horses, has it."

The shifting islands! who would not be willing that his house
should be undermined by such a foe! The inhabitant of an island
can tell what currents formed the land which he cultivates; and
his earth is still being created or destroyed. There before his
door, perchance, still empties the stream which brought down the
material of his farm ages before, and is still bringing it down
or washing it away,--the graceful, gentle robber!

Not long after this we saw the Piscataquoag, or Sparkling Water,
emptying in on our left, and heard the Falls of Amoskeag above.
Large quantities of lumber, as we read in the Gazetteer, were
still annually floated down the Piscataquoag to the Merrimack,
and there are many fine mill privileges on it. Just above the
mouth of this river we passed the artificial falls where the
canals of the Manchester Manufacturing Company discharge
themselves into the Merrimack. They are striking enough to have
a name, and, with the scenery of a Bashpish, would be visited
from far and near. The water falls thirty or forty feet over
seven or eight steep and narrow terraces of stone, probably to
break its force, and is converted into one mass of foam. This
canal-water did not seem to be the worse for the wear, but foamed
and fumed as purely, and boomed as savagely and impressively, as
a mountain torrent, and, though it came from under a factory, we
saw a rainbow here. These are now the Amoskeag Falls, removed a
mile down-stream. But we did not tarry to examine them minutely,
making haste to get past the village here collected, and out of
hearing of the hammer which was laying the foundation of another
Lowell on the banks. At the time of our voyage Manchester was a
village of about two thousand inhabitants, where we landed for a
moment to get some cool water, and where an inhabitant told us
that he was accustomed to go across the river into Goffstown for
his water. But now, as I have been told, and indeed have
witnessed, it contains fourteen thousand inhabitants. From a
hill on the road between Goffstown and Hooksett, four miles
distant, I have seen a thunder-shower pass over, and the sun
break out and shine on a city there, where I had landed nine
years before in the fields; and there was waving the flag of its
Museum, where "the only perfect skeleton of a Greenland or river
whale in the United States" was to be seen, and I also read in
its directory of a "Manchester Athenaeum and Gallery of the Fine

According to the Gazetteer, the descent of Amoskeag Falls, which
are the most considerable in the Merrimack, is fifty-four feet in
half a mile. We locked ourselves through here with much ado,
surmounting the successive watery steps of this river's staircase
in the midst of a crowd of villagers, jumping into the canal to
their amusement, to save our boat from upsetting, and consuming
much river-water in our service. Amoskeag, or Namaskeak, is said
to mean "great fishing-place." It was hereabouts that the Sachem
Wannalancet resided. Tradition says that his tribe, when at war
with the Mohawks, concealed their provisions in the cavities of
the rocks in the upper part of these falls. The Indians, who hid
their provisions in these holes, and affirmed "that God had cut
them out for that purpose," understood their origin and use
better than the Royal Society, who in their Transactions, in the
last century, speaking of these very holes, declare that "they
seem plainly to be artificial." Similar "pot-holes" may be seen
at the Stone Flume on this river, on the Ottaway, at Bellows'
Falls on the Connecticut, and in the limestone rock at Shelburne
Falls on Deerfield River in Massachusetts, and more or less
generally about all falls. Perhaps the most remarkable curiosity
of this kind in New England is the well-known Basin on the
Pemigewasset, one of the head-waters of this river, twenty by
thirty feet in extent and proportionably deep, with a smooth and
rounded brim, and filled with a cold, pellucid, and greenish
water. At Amoskeag the river is divided into many separate
torrents and trickling rills by the rocks, and its volume is so
much reduced by the drain of the canals that it does not fill its
bed. There are many pot-holes here on a rocky island which the
river washes over in high freshets. As at Shelburne Falls, where
I first observed them, they are from one foot to four or five in
diameter, and as many in depth, perfectly round and regular, with
smooth and gracefully curved brims, like goblets. Their origin
is apparent to the most careless observer. A stone which the
current has washed down, meeting with obstacles, revolves as on a
pivot where it lies, gradually sinking in the course of centuries
deeper and deeper into the rock, and in new freshets receiving
the aid of fresh stones, which are drawn into this trap and
doomed to revolve there for an indefinite period, doing
Sisyphus-like penance for stony sins, until they either wear out,
or wear through the bottom of their prison, or else are released
by some revolution of nature. There lie the stones of various
sizes, from a pebble to a foot or two in diameter, some of which
have rested from their labor only since the spring, and some
higher up which have lain still and dry for ages,--we noticed
some here at least sixteen feet above the present level of the
water,--while others are still revolving, and enjoy no respite at
any season. In one instance, at Shelburne Falls, they have worn
quite through the rock, so that a portion of the river leaks
through in anticipation of the fall. Some of these pot-holes at
Amoskeag, in a very hard brown-stone, had an oblong, cylindrical
stone of the same material loosely fitting them. One, as much as
fifteen feet deep and seven or eight in diameter, which was worn
quite through to the water, had a huge rock of the same material,
smooth but of irregular form, lodged in it. Everywhere there
were the rudiments or the wrecks of a dimple in the rock; the
rocky shells of whirlpools. As if by force of example and
sympathy after so many lessons, the rocks, the hardest material,
had been endeavoring to whirl or flow into the forms of the most
fluid. The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel
tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their
leisure with a liberal allowance of time.

Not only have some of these basins been forming for countless
ages, but others exist which must have been completed in a former
geological period. In deepening the Pawtucket Canal, in 1822,
the workmen came to ledges with pot-holes in them, where probably
was once the bed of the river, and there are some, we are told,
in the town of Canaan in this State, with the stones still in
them, on the height of land between the Merrimack and
Connecticut, and nearly a thousand feet above these rivers,
proving that the mountains and the rivers have changed places.
There lie the stones which completed their revolutions perhaps
before thoughts began to revolve in the brain of man. The
periods of Hindoo and Chinese history, though they reach back to
the time when the race of mortals is confounded with the race of
gods, are as nothing compared with the periods which these stones
have inscribed. That which commenced a rock when time was young,
shall conclude a pebble in the unequal contest. With such
expense of time and natural forces are our very paving-stones
produced. They teach us lessons, these dumb workers; verily
there are "sermons in stones, and books in the running streams."
In these very holes the Indians hid their provisions; but now
there is no bread, but only its old neighbor stones at the
bottom. Who knows how many races they have served thus? By as
simple a law, some accidental by-law, perchance, our system
itself was made ready for its inhabitants.

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