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Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 9, No. 56, June, 1862 by Various

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* * * * *

VOL. IX.--JUNE, 1862.--NO. LVI.

* * * * *


I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as
contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil,--to regard man as
an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member
of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an
emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the
minister, and the school-committee, and every one of you will take care
of that.

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who
understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks,--who had a
genius, so to speak, for _sauntering_: which word is beautifully derived
"from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and
asked charity, under pretence of going _a la Sainte Terre_," to the Holy
Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a _Sainte-Terrer_" a
Saunterer,--a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their
walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they
who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some,
however, would derive the word from _sans terre_, without land or
a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no
particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret
of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may
be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense,
is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while
sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the
first, which, indeed, is the most probable derivation. For every walk is
a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth
and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels.

It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers,
nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our
expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old
hearth-side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our
steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit
of undying adventure, never to return,--prepared to send back our
embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are
ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and
child and friends, and never see them again,--if you have paid your
debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free
man, then you are ready for a walk.

To come down to my own experience, my companion and I, for I sometimes
have a companion, take pleasure in fancying ourselves knights of a new,
or rather an old, order,--not Equestrians or Chevaliers, not Ritters or
Riders, but Walkers, a still more ancient and honorable class, I trust.
The chivalric and heroic spirit which once belonged to the Rider seems
now to reside in, or perchance to have subsided into, the Walker,--not
the Knight, but Walker Errant. He is a sort of fourth estate, outside of
Church and State and People.

We have felt that we almost alone hereabouts practised this noble art;
though, to tell the truth, at least, if their own assertions are to be
received, most of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as I do, but
they cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and
independence, which are the capital in this profession. It comes only
by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven
to become a walker. You must be born into the family of the Walkers.
_Ambulator nascitur, non fit_. Some of my townsmen, it is true, can
remember and have described to me some walks which they took ten years
ago, in which they were so blessed as to lose themselves for half
an hour in the woods; but I know very well that they have confined
themselves to the highway ever since, whatever pretensions they may make
to belong to this select class. No doubt they were elevated for a moment
as by the reminiscence of a previous state of existence, when even they
were foresters and outlaws.

"When he came to grene wode,
In a mery mornynge,
There he herde the notes small
Of byrdes mery syngynge.

"It is ferre gone, sayd Robyn,
That I was last here;
Me lyste a lytell for to shote
At the donne dere."

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend
four hours a day at least--and it is commonly more than that--sauntering
through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from
all worldly engagements. You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts,
or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics
and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all
the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them,--as if
the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon,--I think
that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long

I, who cannot stay in my chamber for a single day without acquiring some
rust, and when sometimes I have stolen forth for a walk at the eleventh
hour of four o'clock in the afternoon, too late to redeem the day,
when the shades of night were already beginning to be mingled with the
daylight, have felt as if I had committed some sin to be atoned for,--I
confess that I am astonished at the power of endurance, to say nothing
of the moral insensibility, of my neighbors who confine themselves to
shops and offices the whole day for weeks and months, ay, and years
almost together. I know not what manner of stuff they are of,--sitting
there now at three o'clock in the afternoon, as if it were three o'clock
in the morning. Bonaparte may talk of the three-o'clock-in-the-morning
courage, but it is nothing to the courage which can sit down cheerfully
at this hour in the afternoon over against one's self whom you have
known all the morning, to starve out a garrison to whom you are bound
by such strong ties of sympathy. I wonder that about this time, or say
between four and five o'clock in the afternoon, too late for the morning
papers and too early for the evening ones, there is not a general
explosion heard up and down the street, scattering a legion of
antiquated and house-bred notions and whims to the four winds for an
airing,--and so the evil cure itself.

How womankind, who are confined to the house still more than men, stand
it I do not know; but I have ground to suspect that most of them do
not _stand_ it at all. When, early in a summer afternoon, we have been
shaking the dust of the village from the skirts of our garments, making
haste past those houses with purely Doric or Gothic fronts, which have
such an air of repose about them, my companion whispers that probably
about these times their occupants are all gone to bed. Then it is that I
appreciate the beauty and the glory of architecture, which itself never
turns in, but forever stands out and erect, keeping watch over the

No doubt temperament, and, above all, age, have a good deal to do with
it. As a man grows older, his ability to sit still and follow in-door
occupations increases. He grows vespertinal in his habits as the evening
of life approaches, till at last he comes forth only just before
sundown, and gets all the walk that he requires in half an hour.

But the walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking
exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated
hours,--as the swinging of dumb-bells or chairs; but is itself the
enterprise and adventure of the day. If you would get exercise, go in
search of the springs of life. Think of a man's swinging dumb-bells
for his health, when those springs are bubbling up in far-off pastures
unsought by him!

Moreover, you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only
beast which ruminates when walking. When a traveller asked Wordsworth's
servant to show him her master's study, she answered, "Here is his
library, but his study is out of doors."

Living much out of doors, in the sun and wind, will no doubt produce a
certain roughness of character,--will cause a thicker cuticle to grow
over some of the finer qualities of our nature, as on the face and
hands, or as severe manual labor robs the hands of some of their
delicacy of touch. So staying in the house, on the other hand, may
produce a softness and smoothness, not to say thinness of skin,
accompanied by an increased sensibility to certain impressions. Perhaps
we should be more susceptible to some influences important to our
intellectual and moral growth, if the sun had shone and the wind blown
on us a little less; and no doubt it is a nice matter to proportion
rightly the thick and thin skin. But methinks that is a scurf that will
fall off fast enough,--that the natural remedy is to be found in the
proportion which the night bears to the day, the winter to the summer,
thought to experience. There will be so much the more air and sunshine
in our thoughts. The callous palms of the laborer are conversant with
finer tissues of self-respect and heroism, whose touch thrills the
heart, than the languid fingers of idleness. That is mere sentimentality
that lies abed by day and thinks itself white, far from the tan and
callus of experience.

When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become
of us, if we walked only in a garden or a mall? Even some sects
of philosophers have felt the necessity of importing the woods to
themselves, since they did not go to the woods. "They planted groves and
walks of Platanes," where they took _subdiales ambulationes_ in porticos
open to the air. Of course it is of no use to direct our steps to the
woods, if they do not carry us thither. I am alarmed when it happens
that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there
in spirit. In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning
occupations and my obligations to society. But it sometimes happens that
I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run
in my head, and I am not where my body is,--I am out of my senses. In
my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the
woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods? I suspect myself,
and cannot help a shudder, when I find myself so implicated even in what
are called good works,--for this may sometimes happen.

My vicinity affords many good walks; and though for so many years I have
walked almost every day, and sometimes for several days together, I have
not yet exhausted them. An absolutely new prospect is a great happiness,
and I can still get this any afternoon. Two or three hours' walking
will carry me to as strange a country as I expect ever to see. A single
farm-house which I had not seen before is sometimes as good as the
dominions of the King of Dahomey. There is in fact a sort of harmony
discoverable between the capabilities of the landscape within a circle
of ten miles' radius, or the limits of an afternoon walk, and the
threescore years and ten of human life. It will never become quite
familiar to you.

Nowadays almost all man's improvements, so called, as the building of
houses, and the cutting down of the forest and of all large trees,
simply deform the landscape, and make it more and more tame and cheap. A
people who would begin by burning the fences and let the forest stand!
I saw the fences half consumed, their ends lost in the middle of the
prairie, and some worldly miser with a surveyor looking after his
bounds, while heaven had taken place around him, and he did not see the
angels going to and fro, but was looking for an old post-hole in the
midst of paradise. I looked again, and saw him standing in the middle of
a boggy, stygian fen, surrounded by devils, and he had found his bounds
without a doubt, three little stones, where a stake had been driven, and
looking nearer, I saw that the Prince of Darkness was his surveyor.

I can easily walk ten, fifteen, twenty, any number of miles, commencing
at my own door, without going by any house, without crossing a road
except where the fox and the mink do: first along by the river, and then
the brook, and then the meadow and the wood-side. There are square miles
in my vicinity which have no inhabitant. From many a hill I can see
civilization and the abodes of man afar. The farmers and their works are
scarcely more obvious than woodchucks and their burrows. Man and
his affairs, church and state and school, trade and commerce, and
manufactures and agriculture, even politics, the most alarming of
them all,--I am pleased to see how little space they occupy in the
landscape. Politics is but a narrow field, and that still narrower
highway yonder leads to it. I sometimes direct the traveller thither. If
you would go to the political world, follow the great road,--follow that
market-man, keep his dust in your eyes, and it will lead you straight to
it; for it, too, has its place merely, and does not occupy all space. I
pass from it as from a beanfield into the forest, and it is forgotten.
In one half-hour I can walk off to some portion of the earth's surface
where a man does not stand from one year's end to another, and there,
consequently, politics are not, for they are but as the cigar-smoke of a

The village is the place to which the roads tend, a sort of expansion of
the highway, as a lake of a river. It is the body of which roads are
the arms and legs,--a trivial or quadrivial place, the thoroughfare
and ordinary of travellers. The word is from the Latin _villa_, which,
together with _via_, a way, or more anciently _ved_ and _vella_, Varro
derives from _veho_, to carry, because the villa is the place to and
from which things are carried. They who got their living by teaming were
said _vellaturam facere_. Hence, too, apparently, the Latin word _vilis_
and our vile; also _villain_. This suggests what kind of degeneracy
villagers are liable to. They are wayworn by the travel that goes by and
over them, without travelling themselves.

Some do not walk at all; others walk in the highways; a few walk across
lots. Roads are made for horses and men of business. I do not travel
in them much, comparatively, because I am not in a hurry to get to any
tavern or grocery or livery-stable or depot to which they lead. I am
a good horse to travel, but not from choice a roadster. The
landscape-painter uses the figures of men to mark a road. He would not
make that use of my figure. I walk out into a Nature such as the old
prophets and poets, Menu, Moses, Homer, Chaucer, walked in. You may
name it America, but it is not America: neither Americus Vespucius, nor
Columbus, nor the rest were the discoverers of it. There is a truer
account of it in mythology than in any history of America, so called,
that I have seen.

However, there are a few old roads that may be trodden with profit, as
if they led somewhere now that they are nearly discontinued. There
is the Old Marlborough Road, which does not go to Marlborough now,
methinks, unless that is Marlborough where it carries me. I am the
bolder to speak of it here, because I presume that there are one or two
such roads in every town.


Where they once dug for money,
But never found any;
Where sometimes Martial Miles
Singly files,
And Elijah Wood,
I fear for no good:
No other man,
Save Elisha Dugan,--
O man of wild habits,
Partridges and rabbits,
Who hast no cares
Only to set snares,
Who liv'st all alone,
Close to the bone,
And where life is sweetest
Constantly eatest.
When the spring stirs my blood
With the instinct to travel,
I can get enough gravel
On the Old Marlborough Road.
Nobody repairs it,
For nobody wears it;
It is a living way,
As the Christians say.
Not many there be
Who enter therein,
Only the guests of the
Irishman Quin.
What is it, what is it,
But a direction out there,
And the bare possibility
Of going somewhere?
Great guide-boards of stone,
But travellers none;
Cenotaphs of the towns
Named on their crowns.
It is worth going to see
Where you _might_ be.
What king
Did the thing,
Set up how or when,
By what selectmen,
Gourgas or Lee,
Clark or Darby?
They're a great endeavor
To be something forever;
Blank tablets of stone,
Where a traveller might groan,
And in one sentence
Grave all that is known;
Which another might read,
In his extreme need.
I know one or two
Lines that would do,
Literature that might stand
All over the land,
Which a man could remember
Till next December,
And road again in the spring,
After the thawing.
If with fancy unfurled
You leave your abode,
You may go round the world
By the Old Marlborough Road.

At present, in this vicinity, the best part of the land is not private
property; the landscape is not owned, and the walker enjoys comparative
freedom. But possibly the day will come when it will be partitioned off
into so-called pleasure-grounds, in which a few will take a narrow and
exclusive pleasure only,--when fences shall be multiplied, and man-traps
and other engines invented to confine men to the _public_ road, and
walking over the surface of God's earth shall be construed to mean
trespassing on some gentleman's grounds. To enjoy a thing exclusively
is commonly to exclude yourself from the true enjoyment of it. Let us
improve our opportunities, then, before the evil days come.

What is it that makes it so hard sometimes to determine whither we will

I believe that there is a subtile magnetism in Nature, which, if we
unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. It is not indifferent
to us which way we walk. There is a right way; but we are very liable
from heedlessness and stupidity to take the wrong one. We would fain
take that walk, never yet taken by us through this actual world, which
is perfectly symbolical of the path which we love to travel in the
interior and ideal world; and sometimes, no doubt, we find it difficult
to choose our direction, because it does not yet exist distinctly in our

When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I will
bend my steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide for me,
I find, strange and whimsical as it may seem, that I finally and
inevitably settle southwest, toward some particular wood or meadow
or deserted pasture or hill in that direction. My needle is slow to
settle,--varies a few degrees, and does not always point due southwest,
it is true, and it has good authority for this variation, but it always
settles between west and south-southwest. The future lies that way to
me, and the earth seems more unexhausted and richer on that side.
The outline which would bound my walks would be, not a circle, but a
parabola, or rather like one of those cometary orbits which have been
thought to be non-returning curves, in this case opening westward, in
which my house occupies the place of the sun. I turn round and round
irresolute sometimes for a quarter of an hour, until I decide, for the
thousandth time, that I will walk into the southwest or west. Eastward I
go only by force; but westward I go free. Thither no business leads
me. It is hard for me to believe that I shall find fair landscapes or
sufficient wildness and freedom behind the eastern horizon. I am not
excited by the prospect of a walk thither; but I believe that the forest
which I see in the western horizon stretches uninterruptedly towards
the setting sun, and that there are no towns nor cities in it of enough
consequence to disturb me. Let me live where I will, on this side is the
city, on that the wilderness, and ever I am leaving the city more and
more, and withdrawing into the wilderness. I should not lay so much
stress on this fact, if I did not believe that something like this is
the prevailing tendency of my countrymen. I must walk toward Oregon, and
not toward Europe. And that way the nation is moving, and I may say that
mankind progress from east to west. Within a few years we have witnessed
the phenomenon of a southeastward migration, in the settlement of
Australia; but this affects us as a retrograde movement, and, judging
from the moral and physical character of the first generation of
Australians, has not yet proved a successful experiment. The eastern
Tartars think that there is nothing west beyond Thibet. "The world ends
there," say they; "beyond there is nothing but a shoreless sea." It is
unmitigated East where they live.

We go eastward to realize history and study the works of art and
literature, retracing the steps of the race; we go westward as into the
future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure. The Atlantic is a
Lethean stream, in our passage over which we have had an opportunity to
forget the Old World and its institutions. If we do not succeed this
time, there is perhaps one more chance for the race left before it
arrives on the banks of the Styx; and that is in the Lethe of the
Pacific, which is three times as wide.

I know not how significant it is, or how far it is an evidence of
singularity, that an individual should thus consent in his pettiest walk
with the general movement of the race; but I know that something akin
to the migratory instinct in birds and quadrupeds,--which, in some
instances, is known to have affected the squirrel tribe, impelling them
to a general and mysterious movement, in which they were seen, say some,
crossing the broadest rivers, each on its particular chip, with its tail
raised for a sail, and bridging narrower streams with their dead,--that
something like the _furor_ which affects the domestic cattle in the
spring, and which is referred to a worm in their tails,--affects both
nations and individuals, either perennially or from time to time. Not
a flock of wild geese cackles over our town, but it to some extent
unsettles the value of real estate here, and, if I were a broker, I
should probably take that disturbance into account.

"Than longen folk to gon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken strange strondes."

Every sunset which I witness inspires me with the desire to go to a West
as distant and as fair as that into which the sun goes down. He appears
to migrate westward daily, and tempt us to follow him. He is the Great
Western Pioneer whom the nations follow. We dream all night of those
mountain-ridges in the horizon, though they may be of vapor only, which
were last gilded by his rays. The island of Atlantis, and the islands
and gardens of the Hesperides, a sort of terrestrial paradise, appear
to have been the Great West of the ancients, enveloped in mystery and
poetry. Who has not seen in imagination, when looking into the sunset
sky, the gardens of the Hesperides, and the foundation of all those

Columbus felt the westward tendency more strongly than any before. He
obeyed it, and found a New World for Castile and Leon. The herd of men
in those days scented fresh pastures from afar.

"And now the sun had stretched out all the
And now was dropped into the western bay;
At last _he_ rose, and twitched his mantle blue;
To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new."

Where on the globe can there be found an area of equal extent with that
occupied by the bulk of our States, so fertile and so rich and varied in
its productions, and at the same time so habitable by the European, as
this is? Michaux, who knew but part of them, says that "the species of
large trees are much more numerous in North America than in Europe; in
the United States there are more than one hundred and forty species that
exceed thirty feet in height; in France there are but thirty that attain
this size." Later botanists more than confirm his observations. Humboldt
came to America to realize his youthful dreams of a tropical vegetation,
and he beheld it in its greatest perfection in the primitive forests of
the Amazon, the most gigantic wilderness on the earth, which he has so
eloquently described. The geographer Guyot, himself a European, goes
farther,--farther than I am ready to follow him; yet not when he
says,--"As the plant is made for the animal, as the vegetable world is
made for the animal world, America is made for the man of the Old
World .... The man of the Old World sets out upon his way. Leaving the
highlands of Asia, he descends from station to station towards Europe.
Each of his steps is marked by a new civilization superior to the
preceding, by a greater power of development. Arrived at the Atlantic,
he pauses on the shore of this unknown ocean, the bounds of which he
knows not, and turns upon his footprints for an instant." When he has
exhausted the rich soil of Europe, and reinvigorated himself, "then
recommences his adventurous career westward as in the earliest ages." So
far Guyot.

From this western impulse coming in contact with the barrier of the
Atlantic sprang the commerce and enterprise of modern times. The younger
Michaux, in his "Travels West of the Alleghanies in 1802," says that the
common inquiry in the newly settled West was, "'From what part of
the world have you come?' As if these vast and fertile regions would
naturally be the place of meeting and common country of all the
inhabitants of the globe."

To use an obsolete Latin word, I might say, _Ex Oriente lux; ex
Occidente_ FRUX. From the East light; from the West fruit.

Sir Francis Head, an English traveller and a Governor-General of Canada,
tells us that "in both the northern and southern hemispheres of the New
World, Nature has not only outlined her works on a larger scale, but has
painted the whole picture with brighter and more costly colors than she
used in delineating and in beautifying the Old World.... The heavens of
America appear infinitely higher, the sky is bluer, the air is fresher,
the cold is intenser, the moon looks larger, the stars are brighter, the
thunder is louder, the lightning is vivider, the wind is stronger,
the rain is heavier, the mountains are higher, the rivers longer, the
forests bigger, the plains broader." This statement will do at least
to set against Buffon's account of this part of the world and its

Linnaeus said long ago, "Nescio quae facies _laeta, glabra_ plantis
Americanis: I know not what there is of joyous and smooth in the aspect
of American plants"; and I think that in this country there are no, or
at most very few, _Africanae bestice_, African beasts, as the Romans
called them, and that in this respect also it is peculiarly fitted for
the habitation of man. We are told that within three miles of the centre
of the East-Indian city of Singapore, some of the inhabitants are
annually carried off by tigers; but the traveller can lie down in the
woods at night almost anywhere in North America without fear of wild

These are encouraging testimonies. If the moon looks larger here than in
Europe, probably the sun looks larger also. If the heavens of America
appear infinitely higher, and the stars brighter, I trust that these
facts are symbolical of the height to which the philosophy and poetry
and religion of her inhabitants may one day soar. At length, perchance,
the immaterial heaven will appear as much higher to the American mind,
and the intimations that star it as much brighter. For I believe
that climate does thus react on man,--as there is something in the
mountain-air that feeds the spirit and inspires. Will not man grow to
greater perfection intellectually as well as physically under these
influences? Or is it unimportant how many foggy days there are in his
life? I trust that we shall be more imaginative, that our thoughts will
be clearer, fresher, and more ethereal, as our sky,--our understanding
more comprehensive and broader, like our plains,--our intellect
generally on a grander scale, like our thunder and lightning, our rivers
and mountains and forests,--and our hearts shall even correspond in
breadth and depth and grandeur to our inland seas. Perchance there will
appear to the traveller something, he knows not what, of _laeta_ and
_glabra_, of joyous and serene, in our very faces. Else to what end does
the world go on, and why was America discovered?

To Americans I hardly need to say,--

"Westward the star of empire takes its way."

As a true patriot, I should be ashamed to think that Adam in paradise
was more favorably situated on the whole than the backwoodsman in this

Our sympathies in Massachusetts are not confined to New England; though
we may be estranged from the South, we sympathize with the West. There
is the home of the younger sons, as among the Scandinavians they took to
the sea for their inheritance. It is too late to be studying Hebrew; it
is more important to understand even the slang of to-day.

Some months ago I went to see a panorama of the Rhine. It was like
a dream of the Middle Ages. I floated down its historic stream in
something more than imagination, under bridges built by the Romans, and
repaired by later heroes, past cities and castles whose very names were
music to my ears, and each of which was the subject of a legend. There
were Ehrenbreitstein and Rolandseck and Coblentz, which I knew only in
history. They were ruins that interested me chiefly. There seemed to
come up from its waters and its vine-clad hills and valleys a hushed
music as of Crusaders departing for the Holy Land. I floated along under
the spell of enchantment, as if I had been transported to an heroic age,
and breathed an atmosphere of chivalry.

Soon after, I went to see a panorama of the Mississippi, and as I worked
my way up the river in the light of to-day, and saw the steamboats
wooding up, counted the rising cities, gazed on the fresh ruins of
Nauvoo, beheld the Indians moving west across the stream, and, as before
I had looked up the Moselle, now looked up the Ohio and the Missouri,
and heard the legends of Dubuque and of Wenona's Cliff,--still thinking
more of the future than of the past or present,--I saw that this was a
Rhine stream of a different kind; that the foundations of castles were
yet to be laid, and the famous bridges were yet to be thrown over the
river; and I felt that _this was the heroic age itself_, though we know
it not, for the hero is commonly the simplest and obscurest of men.

The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I
have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of
the world. Every tree sends its fibres forth in search of the Wild. The
cities import it at any price. Men plough and sail for it. From the
forest and wilderness come the tonics and barks which brace mankind. Our
ancestors were savages. The story of Romulus and Remus being suckled by
a wolf is not a meaningless fable. The founders of every State which has
risen to eminence have drawn their nourishment and vigor from a similar
wild source. It was because the children of the Empire were not suckled
by the wolf that they were conquered and displaced by the children of
the Northern forests who were.

I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which
the corn grows. We require an infusion of hemlock-spruce or arbor-vitae
in our tea. There is a difference between eating and drinking for
strength and from mere gluttony. The Hottentots eagerly devour the
marrow of the koodoo and other antelopes raw, as a matter of course.
Some of our Northern Indians eat raw the marrow of the Arctic reindeer,
as well as various other parts, including the summits of the antlers, as
long as they are soft. And herein, perchance, they have stolen a march
on the cooks of Paris. They get what usually goes to feed the fire. This
is probably better than stall-fed beef and slaughter-house pork to
make a man of. Give me a wildness whose glance no civilization can
endure,--as if we lived on the marrow of koodoos devoured raw.

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

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

A tanned skin is something more than respectable, and perhaps olive is
a fitter color than white for a man,--a denizen of the woods. "The pale
white man!" I do not wonder that the African pitied him. Darwin the
naturalist says, "A white man bathing by the side of a Tahitian was like
a plant bleached by the gardener's art, compared with a fine, dark green
one, growing vigorously in the open fields."

Ben Jonson exclaims,--

"How near to good is what is fair!"

So I would say,--

How near to good is what is _wild!_

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is the literature which gives expression to Nature? He would be a
poet who could impress the winds and streams into his service, to speak
for him; who nailed words to their primitive senses, as farmers drive
down stakes in the spring, which the frost has heaved; who derived his
words as often as he used them,--transplanted them to his page with
earth adhering to their roots; whose words were so true and fresh and
natural that they would appear to expand like the buds at the approach
of spring, though they lay half-smothered between two musty leaves in a
library,--ay, to bloom and bear fruit there, after their kind, annually,
for the faithful reader, in sympathy with surrounding Nature.

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

The West is preparing to add its fables to those of the East. The
valleys of the Ganges, the Nile, and the Rhine, having yielded their
crop, it remains to be seen what the valleys of the Amazon, the Plate,
the Orinoco, the St. Lawrence, and the Mississippi will produce.
Perchance, when, in the course of ages, American liberty has become
a fiction of the past,--as it is to some extent a fiction of the
present,--the poets of the world will be inspired by American mythology.

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

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

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

Any sportiveness in cattle is unexpected. I saw one day a herd of a
dozen bullocks and cows running about and frisking in unwieldy sport,
like huge rats, even like kittens. They shook their heads, raised their
tails, and rushed up and down a hill, and I perceived by their horns, as
well as by their activity, their relation to the deer tribe. But, alas!
a sudden loud _Whoa!_ would have damped their ardor at once, reduced
them from venison to beef, and stiffened their sides and sinews like the
locomotive. Who but the Evil One has cried, "Whoa!" to mankind?
Indeed, the life of cattle, like that of many men, is but a sort of
locomotiveness; they move a side at a time, and man, by his machinery,
is meeting the horse and ox half-way. Whatever part the whip has touched
is thenceforth palsied. Who would ever think of a _side_ of any of the
supple cat tribe, as we speak of a _side_ of beef?

I rejoice that horses and steers have to be broken before they can be
made the slaves of men, and that men themselves have some wild oats
still left to sow before they become submissive members of society.
Undoubtedly, all men are not equally fit subjects for civilization;
and because the majority, like dogs and sheep, are tame by inherited
disposition, this is no reason why the others should have their natures
broken that they may be reduced to the same level. Men are in the main
alike, but they were made several in order that they might be various.
If a low use is to be served, one man will do nearly or quite as well as
another; if a high one, individual excellence is to be regarded. Any man
can stop a hole to keep the wind away, but no other man could serve so
rare a use as the author of this illustration did. Confucius says,--"The
skins of the tiger and the leopard, when they are tanned, are as the
skins of the dog and the sheep tanned." But it is not the part of a true
culture to tame tigers, any more than it is to make sheep ferocious; and
tanning their skins for shoes is not the best use to which they can be

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

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

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

Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours, Nature, lying all
around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as the
leopard; and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to society, to
that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man,--a sort
of breeding in and in, which produces at most a merely English nobility,
a civilization destined to have a speedy limit.

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

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

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

I would not have every man nor every part of a man cultivated, any more
than I would have every acre of earth cultivated: part will be tillage,
but the greater part will be meadow and forest, not only serving an
immediate use, but preparing a mould against a distant future, by the
annual decay of the vegetation which it supports.

There are other letters for the child to learn than those which Cadmus
invented. The Spaniards have a good term to express this wild and dusky
knowledge,--_Gramatica parda_, tawny grammar,--a kind of mother-wit
derived from that same leopard to which I have referred.

We have heard of a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. It is
said that knowledge is power; and the like. Methinks there is equal need
of a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Ignorance, what we will call
Beautiful Knowledge, a knowledge useful in a higher sense: for what
is most of our boasted so-called knowledge but a conceit that we know
something, which robs us of the advantage of our actual ignorance?
What we call knowledge is often our positive ignorance; ignorance our
negative knowledge. By long years of patient industry and reading of
the newspapers--for what are the libraries of science but files of
newspapers?--a man accumulates a myriad facts, lays them up in his
memory, and then when in some spring of his life he saunters abroad into
the Great Fields of thought, he, as it were, goes to grass like a horse,
and leaves all his harness behind in the stable. I would say to the
Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, sometimes,----Go to
grass. You have eaten hay long enough. The spring has come with its
green crop. The very cows are driven to their country pastures before
the end of May; though I have heard of one unnatural farmer who kept his
cow in the barn and fed her on hay all the year round. So, frequently,
the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge treats its cattle.

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

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

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

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

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

"Gentle breeze, that wanderest unseen,
And bendest the thistles round Loira of storms,
Traveller of the windy glens,
Why hast thou left my ear so soon?"

While almost all men feel an attraction drawing them to society, few are
attracted strongly to Nature. In their relation to Nature men appear
to me for the most part, notwithstanding their arts, lower than the
animals. It is not often a beautiful relation, as in the case of the
animals. How little appreciation of the beauty of the landscape there is
among us! We have to be told that the Greeks called the world [Greek:
Kosmos], Beauty, or Order, but we do not see clearly why they did so,
and we esteem it at best only a curious philological fact.

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

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

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

We are accustomed to say in New England that few and fewer pigeons visit
us every year. Our forests furnish no mast for them. So, it would seem,
few and fewer thoughts visit each growing man from year to year, for the
grove in our minds is laid waste,--sold to feed unnecessary fires of
ambition, or sent to mill, and there is scarcely a twig left for them to
perch on. They no longer build nor breed with us. In some more genial
season, perchance, a faint shadow flits across the landscape of the
mind, cast by the _wings_ of some thought in its vernal or autumnal
migration, but, looking up, we are unable to detect the substance of
the thought itself. Our winged thoughts are turned to poultry. They
no longer soar, and they attain only to a Shanghai and Cochin-China
grandeur. Those _gra-a-ate thoughts_, those _gra-a-ate men_ you hear of!

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

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

The merit of this bird's strain is in its freedom from all
plaintiveness. The singer can easily move us to tears or to laughter,
but where is he who can excite in us a pure morning joy? When, in
doleful dumps, breaking the awful stillness of our wooden sidewalk on
a Sunday, or, perchance, a watcher in the house of mourning, I hear a
cockerel crow far or near, I think to myself, "There is one of us well,
at any rate,"--and with a sudden gush return to my senses.

We had a remarkable sunset one day last November. I was walking in a
meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, just before
setting, after a cold gray day, reached a clear stratum in the horizon,
and the softest, brightest morning sunlight fell on the dry grass and on
the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon, and on the leaves of the
shrub-oaks on the hill-side, while our shadows stretched long over the
meadow eastward, as if we were the only motes in its beams. It was such
a light as we could not have imagined a moment before, and the air also
was so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradise of
that meadow. When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon,
never to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever an
infinite number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the latest child
that walked there, it was more glorious still.

The sun sets on some retired meadow, where no house is visible, with all
the glory and splendor that it lavishes on cities, and, perchance, as it
has never set before,--where there is but a solitary marsh-hawk to have
his wings gilded by it, or only a musquash looks out from his cabin, and
there is some little black-veined brook in the midst of the marsh, just
beginning to meander, winding slowly round a decaying stump. We walked
in so pure and bright a light, gilding the withered grass and leaves,
so softly and serenely bright, I thought I had never bathed in such a
golden flood, without a ripple or a murmur to it. The west side of every
wood and rising ground gleamed like the boundary of Elysium, and the sun
on our backs seemed like a gentle herdsman driving us home at evening.

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


It would be a task worthy of a volume, and requiring that space in order
to be creditably performed, to show how war affects literature, at what
points they meet, where they are at variance, if any wars stimulate, and
what kinds depress the intellectual life of nations. The subject is very
wide. It would embrace a discussion of the effects of war when it occurs
during a period of great literary and artistic splendor, as in Athens
and in the Italian Republics; whether intellectual decline is postponed
or accelerated by the interests and passions of the strife; whether the
preliminary concentration of the popular heart may claim the merit of
adding either power or beauty to the intellectual forms which bloom
together with the war.

These things are not entirely clear, and the experience of different
countries is conflicting. The Thirty Years' War, though it commenced
with the inspiration of great political and religious ideas, did not
lift the German mind to any new demonstrations of truth or impassioned
utterances of the imagination. The nation sank away from it into a
barren and trivial life, although the war itself occasioned a multitude
of poems, songs, hymns, and political disquisitions. The hymns of this
period, which are filled with a sense of dependence, of the greatness
and awfulness of an invisible eternity, and breathe a desire for the
peaceful traits of a remote religious life, are at once a confession of
the weariness of the best minds at the turmoil and uncertainty of the
contest and a permanent contribution of the finest kind to that form of
sacred literature. But princes and electors were fighting as much for
the designation and establishment of their petty nationalities, which
first checkered the map of Europe after the imperial Catholic power was
rolled southwardly, as they were for the pure interest of Protestantism.
The German intellect did eventually gain something from this political
result, because it interrupted the literary absolutism which reigned at
Vienna; no doubt literature grew more popular and German, but it did
not very strikingly improve the great advantage, for there was at last
exhaustion instead of a generously nourishing enthusiasm, and the great
ideas of the period became the pieces with which diplomatists carried on
their game. The _Volkslied_ (popular song) came into vogue again, but it
was not so fresh and natural as before; Opitz, one of the best poets of
this period, is worth reading chiefly when he depicts his sources of
consolation in the troubles of the time. Long poetical bulletins were
written, in the epical form, to describe the battles and transactions
of the war. They had an immense circulation, and served the place of
newspapers. They were bright and characteristic enough for that; and
indeed newspapers in Germany date from this time, and from the doggerel
broadsides of satire and description which then supplanted minstrels
of whatsoever name or guild, as they were carried by post, and read in
every hamlet.[A] But the best of these poems were pompous, dull, and
tediously elaborated. They have met the fate of newspapers, and are now
on file. The more considerable poets themselves appeared to be jealous
of the war; they complained bitterly that Mars had displaced Apollo; but
later readers regret the ferocious sack of Magdeburg, or the death of
Gustavus Adolphus, more than the silencing of all those pens.

[Footnote A: Newspapers proper appeared as early as 1615 in Germany. But
these rhymed gazettes were very numerous. They were more or less bulky
pamphlets, with pithy sarcastic programmes for titles, and sometimes a
wood or copper cut prefixed. A few of them were of Catholic origin, and
one, entitled _Post-Bole_, (_The Express_,) is quite as good as anything
issued by the opposite party.]

On the other hand, Spain, while fighting for religion and a secure
nationality, had her Cervantes, Lope de Vega, and Calderon, all of whom
saw service in the field, and other distinguished names, originators
of literary forms and successful cultivators of established ones. They
created brilliant epochs for a bigoted and cruel country. All that was
noble or graceful in the Spanish spirit survives in works which that
country once stimulated through all the various fortunes of popular
wars. But they were not wars for the sake of the people; the country has
therefore sunk away from the literature which foretold so well how great
she might have become, if she had been fortunate enough to represent, or
to sympathize with, a period of moral and spiritual ideas. Her literary
forms do not describe growth, but arrested development.

A different period culminated in the genius of Milton, whose roots were
in that golden age when England was flowering into popular freedom. He
finally spoke for the true England, and expressed the vigorous thoughts
which a bloody epoch cannot quench. Some of his noblest things were
inspired by the exigencies of the Commonwealth, which he saw "as an
eagle nursing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the
full mid-day beam."

The Dutch people, in their great struggle against Philip II., seemed to
find a stimulus in the very exhaustions of war. The protesting ideas for
which they fought drew fresh tenacity from the soil, wet with blood and
tears, into which generous passion and resolution sank with every death.
Here it is plain that a milder conflict, carried on by intrigue and
diplomatic forms alone, for peaceable separation from the Catholic
interest, would not have so quickened the intelligence which afterwards
nourished so many English exiles and helped to freight the Mayflower.
And we see the German mind first beginning to blossom with a language
and a manifold literature during and after the Seven Years' War, which
developed a powerful Protestant State and a native German feeling.
Frederic's Gallic predilections did not infect the country which his
arms had rendered forever anti-Gallic and anti-Austrian. The popular
enthusiasm for himself, which his splendid victories mainly created, was
the first instinctive form of the coming German sense of independence.
The nation's fairest period coincided with the French Revolution and
the aggressions of the Empire. "Hermann and Dorothea" felt the people's
pulse, which soon beat so high at Jena and Leipsic with rage and hope.
The hope departed with the Peace of 1815, and pamphleteering, pragmatic
writing, theological investigation, historical research, followed the
period of creative genius, whose flowers did not wither while the fields
ran red.

A war must be the last resort of truly noble and popular ideas, if it
would do more than stimulate the intelligence of a few men, who write
best with draughts of glory and success. It must be the long-repressed
understanding of a nation suffused with strong primitive emotions,
that flies to arms to secure the precious privilege of owning and
entertaining its knowledge and its national advantages. And in
proportion as any war has ever been leavened with the fine excitement of
religion or humanity, however imperfectly, and though tyrannized over
by political selfishness, we can see that the honest feeling has done
something to obliterate the traces of violence, to offer the comfort of
worth in the cause to wounded lips.

When the people themselves take to fighting, not for dynastic objects,
to secure the succession of an Infant to the throne, to fix a Pope in
his chair, or to horse a runaway monarch around their necks, not to
extort some commercial advantage, or to resist a tampering with the
traditional balance of power, but to drive back the billows of Huns or
Turks from fields where cities and a middle class must rise, to oppose
citizen-right to feudal-right, and inoculate with the lance-head Society
with the popular element, to assert the industrial against the baronial
interest, or to expel the invader who forages among their rights to
sweep them clean and to plant a system which the ground cannot receive,
then we find that the intense conviction, which has been long gathering
and brooding in the soul, thunders and lightens through the whole brain,
and quickens the germs of Art, Beauty and Knowledge. Then war is only a
process of development, which threatens terribly and shakes the locks
upon its aegis in the face of the brutes which infest its path. Minerva
is aware that wisdom and common sense will have to fight for recognition
and a world: she fends blows from her tranquil forehead with the
lowering crest; the shield is not always by her side, nor the
sword-point resting on the ground. What is so vital as this armed and
conscious intelligence? The pen, thus tempered to a sword, becomes a pen
again, but flows with more iron than before.

But the original intellectual life begins while the pen is becoming
tempered in the fires of a great national controversy, before it is hard
enough to draw blood. Magnetic streams attract each slender point to a
centre of prophesying thought long before the blood-red aurora stains
suddenly the midnight sky and betrays the influence which has been none
the less mighty because it has been colorless. Sometimes a people says
all that it has in its mind to say, during that comfortless period
while the storm is in the air and has not yet precipitated its cutting
crystals. The most sensitive minds are goaded to express emphatically
their moral feeling and expectation in such a rude climate, which
stimulates rather than depresses, but which is apt to fall away into
languor and content. This only shows that the people have no commanding
place in history, but are only bent upon relieving themselves from
sundry annoyances, or are talking about great principles which they are
not in a position, from ethnical or political disability, to develop.
Such is all the Panslavic literature which is not Russian.[B]
But sometimes a people whose intellect passes through a noble
pre-revolutionary period, illustrating it by impetuous eloquence,
indignant lyrics, and the stern lines which a protesting conscience
makes upon the faces of the men who are lifted above the crowd, finds
that its ideas reach beyond the crisis in its life into a century of
power and beauty, during which its emancipated tendency springs forward,
with graceful gestures, to seize every spiritual advantage. Its
movements were grand and impressive while it struggled for the
opportunity to make known the divine intent that inspired it; but when
the fetters burst, and every limb enjoys the victory and the release,
the movements become unbounded, yet rhythmical, like Nature's, and
smite, or flow, or penetrate, like hers. To such a people war comes
as the disturbance of the earth's crust which helps it to a habitable
surface and lifts fair slopes to ripen wine and grain.

[Footnote B: Some cultivated Bohemians who can recall the glories of
Ziska and his chiefs, and who comprehend the value of the tendency which
they strove to represent, think that there would have grown a Bohemian
people, a great centre of Protestant and Slavonic influence, if it
had not been for the Battle of Weissenberg in 1620, when the Catholic
Imperialists defeated their King Frederic. A verse of a popular song,
_The Patriot's Lament_, runs thus, in Wratislaw's translation:--

"Cursed mountain, mountain white!
Upon thee was crushed our might;
What in thee lies covered o'er
Ages cannot back restore."

If there had been a Bohemian people, preserving a real vital tendency,
the Battle of the White Mountain would have resulted differently, even
had it been a defeat.

Other patriots, cultivated enough to be Panslavists, indulge a more
cheerful vein. They see a good time coming, and raise the cry of _Hej

"Hey, Slavonians! our Slavonic language still is living,
Long as our true loyal heart is for our nation striving;
Lives, lives the Slavonic spirit, and 't will live forever:
Hell and thunder! vain against us all your rage shall shiver."

This is nothing but a frontier feeling. The true Slavonic centre is
at St. Petersburg; thence will roll a people and a language over all
kindred ground.]

After all, then, we must carefully discover what a war was about, before
we can trace it, either for good or for evil, into the subsequent life
of a nation. There can be no such thing as exhaustion or deterioration,
if the eternal laws have won the laurel of a fight; for they are
fountains of youth, from which new blood comes rushing through the
depleted veins. And it soon mantles on the surface, to mend the
financial and industrial distress. Its blush of pride and victory
announces no heady passion. It is the signal which Truth waves from the
hearts of her children.

If we wish directly to consider the effect of war upon our own
intellectual development, we must begin by asking what ideas of
consequence are suggested by our copious use of the word Country. What a
phrase is that--Our Country--which we have been accustomed for eighty
years to use upon all festivals that commemorate civic rights, with
flattering and pompous hopes! We never understood what it meant, till
this moment which threatens to deprive us of the ideas and privileges
which it really represents. We never appreciated till now its depth and
preciousness. Orators have built up, sentence by sentence, a magnificent
estimate of the elements which make our material success, and they
thought it was a patriotic chord which they touched with the climax of
their fine periods. It was such patriotism as thrives in the midst of
content and satisfactory circumstances, which loves to have an inventory
made of all the fixtures and conveniences and the crude splendor of a
country's housekeeping,--things which are not indeed to be despised, for
they show what a people can do when cast upon their own resources, at a
distance from Governmental interference, free to select their own way
of living, to be fervent in business, in charities, in the cause of
education, in the explorations which lay open new regions to the
emigration of a world, in the inventiveness which gives labor new
pursuits and increases the chances of poor men, in the enterprise which
has made foundries, mines, workshops, manufactories, and granaries of
independent States. We have loved to linger over the praises of our
common schools and our voluntary system of congregational worship, to
count the spires which mark every place that man clears to earn his
living in. It has been pleasant to trace upon the map the great arteries
of intercommunication, flowing east and west, churned by countless
paddle-wheels, as they force a vast freight of wealth, material, social,
intellectual, to and fro, a freshet of fertilizing life to swell every
stream. We love to repeat the names which self-taught men have hewn out
in rude places, with the only advantage of being members of Mankind,
holding their own share in the great heart and soul of it, and making
that itself more illustrious than lineage and fortune. Every element of
an unexhausted soil, and all the achievements of a people let loose upon
it to settle, build, sow, and reap, with no master but ambition and no
dread but of poverty, and a long list of rights thrust suddenly into
their hands, with liberty to exercise them,--the right to vote, to
speak, to print, to be tried by jury,--all this margin for unfettered
action, even the corresponding vastness of the country itself, whose
ruggedest features and greatest distances were playthings of the popular
energy,--to love and extol these things were held by us equivalent to
having a native land and feeding a patriotic flame. But now all at once
this catalogue of advantages, which we were accustomed to call "our
country," is stripped of all its value, because we begin to feel that it
depends upon something else, more interior and less easy to appraise,
which we had not noticed much before. Just as when suddenly, in a
favorite child, endowed with strength, beauty, and effective gifts of
every member, of whom we were proud and expected great things, and whom
we took unlimited comfort in calling our own, there appears the solemn
intention of a soul to use this fine body to express its invisible truth
and honor, a wonderful revelation of a high mind filled with aspirations
which we had not suspected,--a sudden lifting of the whole body like an
eyelid before an inner eye, and we are astonished at the look it gives
us: so this body of comfort and success, which we worshipped as our
country, is suddenly possessed by great passions and ideas, by a
consciousness that providential laws demand the use of it, and will not
be restrained from inspiring the whole frame, and directing every member
of it with a new plan of Unity, and a finer feeling for Liberty, and a
more generous sense of Fraternity than ever before. Lately we did as we
pleased, but now we are going to be real children of Liberty. Formerly
we had a Union which transacted business for us, secured the payment of
our debts, and made us appear formidable abroad while it corrupted and
betrayed us at home,--a Union of colporteurs, and caucuses, and drummers
of Southern houses; not a Union, but a long coffle of patriotic laymen,
southerly clergymen, and slaves. Now the soul of a Democracy, gazing
terribly through eyes that are weeping for the dead and for indignation
at the cause of their dying, holds the thing which we call Union, and
determines to keep its mighty hold till it can be informed with Unity,
of which justice is the prime condition. See a Country at last, that
is, a Republican Soul, making the limbs of free states shiver with the
excitement of its great ideas, turning all our comfortable and excellent
institutions into ministers to execute its will, resolved, to wring the
great sinews of the body with the stress of its awakening, and to tax,
for a spiritual purpose, all the material resources and those forms
of liberty which we had pompously called our native land. A people in
earnest, smarting with the wounds of war and the deeper inflictions of
treachery, is abroad seeking after a country. It has been repeating with
annual congratulations for eighty years the self-evident truths of the
document which declared its independence; now it discovers that more
evidence of it is needed than successful trading and building can
bring, and it sends it forth afresh, with half a million of glittering
specialities to enforce its doctrines, while trade, and speculation, and
all the ambitions of prosperous men, and delicately nurtured lives, and
other lives as dearly cherished and nursed to maturity, are sent out
with an imperative commission to buy, at all hazards, a real country, to
exchange what is precious for the sake of having finally what we dreamed
we had before,--the most precious of all earthly things,--a Commonwealth
of God. Yes, our best things go, like wads for guns, to bid our purpose
speak more emphatically, as it expresses the overruling inspiration of
the hour.

Is this really the character of our war, or is it only an ideal picture
of what the war might be? That depends solely upon ourselves.

Our soldiers kindle nightly their bivouac fires from East to West, and
set their watch. They are the advance posts of the great idea, which is
destined to make a country as it advances southwardly, and to settle
it with republicans. If we put it in a single sentence, "Freedom of
industry for hand and brain to all men," we must think awhile upon it
before we can see what truths and temporal advantages it involves. We
see them best, in this night of our distress and trial, by the soldiers'
watch-fires. They encroach upon the gloom, and open it for us with
hopes. They shine like the stare of a deeper sky than day affords, and
we can see a land stretching to the Gulf, and lying expectant between
either sea, whose surface is given to a Republic to people and civilize
for the sake of Man. Whoever is born here, or whoever comes here,
brought by poverty or violence, an exile from misery or from power,
and whatever be his ethnological distinction, is a republican of this
country because he is a man. Here he is to find safety, cooperation,
and welcome. His very ignorance and debasement are to be welcomed by
a country eager to exhibit the plastic power of its divine idea,--how
animal restrictions can be gradually obliterated, how superstition and
prejudice must die out of stolid countenances before the steady gaze of
republican good-will, how ethnic peculiarities shall subserve the
great plan and be absorbed by it. The country no longer will have a
conventional creed, that men are more important than circumstances and
governments; we always said so, but our opinion was at the mercy of a
Know-Nothing club, a slaveholding cabal, a selfish democracy: it will
have a living faith, born with the pangs of battle, that nothing on
earth is so precious as the different kinds of men. It will want them,
to illustrate its preeminent idea, and it will go looking for them
through all the neglected places of the world, to invite them in from
the by-lanes and foul quarters of every race, expressly to show that
man is superior to his accidents, by bringing their bodies into a place
where their souls can get the better of them. Where can that be except
where a democracy has been waging a religious war against its own great
evil, and has repented in blood for having used all kinds of men as the
white and black pawns in its games of selfish politics, with its own
country for the board, and her peace and happiness lying in the pool for
stakes? Where can man be respected best except here, where he has
been undervalued most, and bitterness and blood have sprung from that

This is the first truly religious war ever waged. Can there be such a
thing as a religious war? There can be wars in the interest of different
theologies, and mixed wars of diplomacy and confessions of belief, wars
to transfer the tradition of infallibility from a pope to a book, wars
of Puritans against the divine right of kings in the Old World and the
natural rights of Indians in the New, in all of which the name of God
has been invoked for sanction, and Scripture has been quoted, and Psalms
uplifted on the battle-field for encouragement. And it is true that
every conflict, in which there are ideas that claim their necessary
development against usage and authority, has a religious character so
far as the ideas vindicate God by being good for man. But a purely
religious war must be one to restore the attributes and prerogatives of
manhood, to confirm primitive rights that are given to finite souls as
fast as they are created, to proclaim the creed of humanity, which is so
far from containing a single article of theology, that it is solely and
distinctively religious without it, because it proclaims one Father in
heaven and one blood upon the earth. Manhood is always worth fighting
for, to resist and put down whatever evil tendency impairs the full
ability to be a man, with a healthy soul conscious of rights and duties,
owning its gifts, and valuing above everything else the liberty to place
its happiness in being noble and good. Every man wages a religious war,
when he attacks his own passions in the interest of his own humanity.
The most truly religious thing that a man can do is to fight his way
through habits and deficiencies back to the pure manlike elements of his
nature, which are the ineffaceable traces of the Divine workmanship, and
alone really worth fighting for. And when a nation imitates this private
warfare, and attacks its own gigantic evils, lighted through past
deficiencies and immediate temptations by its best ideas, as its human
part rallies against its inhuman, and all the kingly attributes of a
freeborn individual rise up in final indignation against its slavish
attributes, then commences the true and only war of a people, and the
only war of which we dare say, though it have the repulsive features
that belong to all wars, that it is religious. But that we do say; for
it is to win and keep the unity of a country for the great purposes of
mankind, a place where souls can have their chances to work, with the
largest freedom and under the fewest disabilities, at the divine image
stamped upon them,--to get here the tools, both temporal and spiritual,
with which to strike poverty and misery out of those glorious traces,
and to chisel deep and fresh the handwriting where God says, This is a

Here is a sufficient ground for expecting that intellectual as well as
political enlargement will succeed this trial of our country. It is well
to think of all the approaching advantages, even those remote ones which
will wear the forms of knowledge and art. For it is undeniable, that a
war cannot be so just as to bring no evils in its train,--not only the
disturbance of all kinds of industry, the suppression of some, the
difficulty of diverting, at a moment's notice, labor towards new
objects,--not only financial embarrassment and exhaustion, and the
shadow of a coming debt,--not the maiming of strong men and their
violent removal from the future labors of peace, nor the emotional
suffering of thousands of families whose hearts are in the field with
their dear ones, tossed to and fro in every skirmish, where the balls
slay more than the bodies which are pierced: not these evils alone,--nor
the feverish excitement of eighteen millions of people, whose gifts
and intelligence are all distraught, and at the mercy of every
bulletin,--nor yet the possible violations of private rights, and the
overriding of legal defences, which, when once attempted in a state of
war, is not always relinquished on the return of peace. These do not
strike us so much as the moral injury which many weak and passionate
minds sustain from the necessity of destroying life, of ravaging and
burning, of inflicting upon the enemy politic distresses. There will be
a taint in the army and the community which will endure in the relations
of pacific life. And more than half a million of men, who have tasted
the fierce joy of battle, have suffered the moral privations and dangers
of the camp, are to be returned suddenly to us, and cast adrift, with no
hope of finding immediate employment, and hankering for some excitements
to replace those of the distant field. If little truth and little
conscience have been at stake, these are the reasons which make wars so
demoralizing: they leave society restored to peace, but still at war
within itself, infested by those strange cravings, and tempted by a
new ambition, that of waging successful wars. This will be the most
dangerous country on the face of the earth, after the termination of
this war; for it will see its own ideas more clearly than ever before,
and long to propagate them with its battle-ardors and its scorn of
hypocritical foreign neutralities. We have the elements to make the most
martial nation in the world, with a peculiar combination of patience and
impulse, coldness and daring, the capacity to lie in watchful calm and
to move with the vibrations of the earthquake. And if ever the voice of
our brother, crying out to us from the ground of any country, shall sigh
among the drums which are then gathering dust in our arsenals, the long
roll would wake again, and the arms would rattle in that sound, which is
part of the speech of Liberty. But it is useless to affirm or to deny
such possibilities. It is plain, however, that we are organizing most
formidable elements, and learning how to forge them into bolts. The
spirit of the people, therefore, must be high and pure. The more
emphatically we declare, in accordance with the truth, that this war is
for a religious purpose, to prepare a country for the growing of souls,
a place where every element of material success and all the ambitions of
an enthusiastic people shall only provide fortunate circumstances, so
that men can be educated in the freedom which faith, knowledge, and awe
before the Invisible secure, the better will it be for us when peace
returns. A great believing people will more readily absorb the hurts of
war. Spiritual vitality will throw off vigorously the malaria which must
arise from deserted fields of battle. It must be our daily supplication
to feel the religious purport of the truths for which we fight. We must
disavow vindictiveness, and purge our hearts of it. There must be no
vulgar passion illustrated by our glorious arms. And when we say that we
are fighting for mankind, to release souls and bodies from bondage,
we must understand, without affectation, that we are fighting for the
slaveholder himself, who knows it not, as he hurls his iron disbelief
and hatred against us. For we are to have one country, all of whose
children, shall repeat in unison its noble creed, which the features of
the land itself proclaim, and whose railroads and telegraphs are its

How often we have enumerated and deprecated the evils of war! The
Mexican War, in which Slavery herself involved us, (using the power of
the Republic against which she conspired to further her conspiracy,)
gave us occasion to extol the benefits of peace, and to draw up a
formidable indictment against the spirit which lusted for the appeal to
arms. We have not lusted for it, and the benefits of peace seem greater
than ever; but the benefits of equity and truth seem greater than all.
Show me justice, or try to make me unjust,--force upon me at the point
of the sword the unspeakable degradation of abetting villany, and I will
seize the hilt, if I can, and write my protest clear with the blade, and
while I have it in my hand I will reap what advantages are possible in
the desolation which it makes.

Among these advantages of a war waged to secure the rights of
citizenship to all souls will be the excitement of a national
intellectual life, which will take on the various forms of a national
literature. This is to be expected for two reasons. First, because our
arms will achieve unity. By this is meant not only that there will be a
real union of all the States, consequent upon an eventual agreement in
great political and moral ideas, but also that this very consent will
bring the different characteristic groups of the country so near
together, in feeling and mutual appreciation, and with a free
interchange of traits, that we shall begin to have a nationality. And
there can be no literature until there is a nation; when the varieties
of the popular life begin to coalesce, as all sections are drawn
together towards the centre of great political ideas which the people
themselves establish, there will be such a rich development of
intellectual action as the Old World has not seen. Without this unity,
literature may be cultivated by cliques of men of talent, who are
chiefly stimulated to express themselves by observing the thought and
beauty which foreign intellects and past times produced; but their
productions will not spring from the country's manifold life, nor
express its mighty individuality. The sections of the country which are
nearest to the intelligence of the Old World will furnish the readiest
writers and the most polished thinkers, until the New World dwarfs the
Old World by its unity, and inspires the best brains with the collected
richness of the popular heart. Up to the period of this war the
country's most original men have been those who, by protesting against
its evils and displaying a genius emancipated from the prescriptions of
Church and State, have prophesied the revolution, and given to America
the first rich foretaste of her growing mind. The thunder rolled up the
sky in the orator's great periods, the lightning began to gleam in the
preacher's moral indignation, the glittering steel slumbered uneasily
and showed its half-drawn menace from the subtle lines of poets and
essayists who have been carrying weapons these twenty years; their souls
thirsted for an opportunity to rescue fair Liberty from the obscene rout
who had her in durance for their purposes, and to hail her accession to
a lawful throne with the rich gifts of knowledge, use, and beauty, a
homage that only free minds can pay, and only when freedom claims it.
We do not forget the literary activity with which a thousand ready
intellects have furnished convenient food for the people: there has been
no lack of books, nor of the ambition to attempt all the intellectual
forms. Some of this pabulum was not good for a growing frame; the excuse
for offering it may be found in the exigencies of squatter-life. We are
a notable people for our attachment to the frying-pan, and there is no
doubt that it is a shifty utensil: it can be slung at the saddle-bow or
carried in a valise, it will bear the jolting of a corduroy road, and
furnish a camp-mess in the minimum of time out of material that was
perhaps but a moment before sniffing or pecking at its rim. A very
little blaze sets the piece of cold fat swimming, and the black cavity
soon glows and splutters with extemporaneous content. But what dreams
howl about the camp-fires, what hideous scalping-humor creeps from the
leathery supper into the limbs and blood of the adventurous pioneer!

No better, and quite as scrofulous, has been the nourishment furnished
by the rhetorical time-servers and polished conventionalists, whose
gifts have been all directed against the highest good of the country's
mind, to offer sweets to its crying conscience, and draughts of fierce
or languid cordials to lull the uneasy moods of this fast-growing child
of Liberty. Such men are fabricators of smooth speech; they have brought
their gilding to put upon the rising pillars of the country, instead
of strength to plant them firmly in their places and to spread the
protecting roof. This period of storm will wash off their dainty
work. When the clean granite stands where it should to shelter the
four-and-thirty States as they walk the vast colonnades together, intent
upon the great interchanges of the country's thought and work, this
tinsel will not be missed; as men look upon the grave lines that
assure them of security, they will rejoice that the time for the truly
beautiful has arrived, and hasten to relieve the solid space with shapes
as durable as the imagination which conceives.

There must be a great people before there can be a great character in
its books, its instructions, or its works of art. This character is
prophesied only in part by what is said and thought while the people is
becoming great, and the molten constituents are sparkling as they run
into their future form. We have been so dependent upon traditional ideas
that we suppose an epic, for instance, to be the essential proof that
a people is alive and has something to express. Let us cease to wonder
whether there will ever be an American poem, an American symphony, or an
American Novum Organon. It is a sign of weakness and subservience: and
this is a period crowded with acts of emancipation. We cannot escape
from the past, if we would; we have a right to inherit all the previous
life of men that does not surfeit us and impede our proper work, but
let us stop our unavailing sighs for Iliads. The newspaper gathers and
circulates all true achievements faster than blind poets can plod round
with the story. The special form of the epic answered to a state of
society when the harper connected cities with his golden wire, slowly
unrolling its burden as he went. Vibrations travel faster now; men would
be foolish to expect that the new life will go journeying in classic
vehicles. When the imagination becomes free, it can invent forms equally
surprising and better adapted to the face of the country.

There is no part of this country which has not its broad characters and
tendencies, different from anything ever seen before, imperfect while
they are doomed to isolation, during which they show only a maimed and
grotesque vitality. The religious tendency is different, the humor is
different, the imagination differs from anything beyond the Atlantic.
And the East differs from the West, the North from the South; and
the Pacific States will have also to contribute gifts peculiar to
themselves, as the silt of the Sacramento glitters unlike that of the
Merrimac or the Potomac. We are not yet a People; but we have great,
vivid masses of popular life, which a century of literary expression
will not exhaust. All these passionate characters are running together
in this general danger, having seized a weapon: they have found an idea
in common, they are pervaded by their first really solemn feeling, they
issue the same word for the night from East to West. The nationality
thus commenced will introduce the tendency to blend in place of the
tendency to keep apart, and each other's gifts will pass sympathetically
from hand to hand.

The heightened life of this epoch is another cause which shall prepare
a great development of intellectual forms. Excitement and enthusiasm
pervade all classes of the people. All the primitive emotions of
the human heart--friendship, scorn, sympathy, human and religious
love--break into the liveliest expression, penetrate every quarter of
society; a great river is let loose from the rugged mountain-recesses of
the people; its waters, saturated with Nature's simple fertility, cover
the whole country, and will not retire without depositing their renewing
elements. A sincere and humble people Is feeling the exigency. A million
families have fitted out their volunteers with the most sumptuous of all
equipments, which no Government could furnish, love, tears of anxiety
and pride, last kisses and farewells, and prayers more heaven-cleaving
than a time of peace can breathe. What an invisible cloud of domestic
pathos overhung for a year the course of the Potomac, and settled upon
those huts and tents where the best part of home resided! what an ebb
and flow of letters, bearing solemnity and love upon their surface! what
anxiety among us, with all its brave housekeeping shifts, to keep want
from the door while labor is paralyzed, and the strong arms have beaten
their ploughshares into swords! What self-sacrifice of millions of
humble wives and daughters whose works and sorrows are now refining the
history of their country, and lifting the popular nobleness: they are
giving _all that they are_ to keep their volunteers in the field. The
flag waves over no such faithfulness; its stars sparkle not like this
sincerity. The feeling and heroism of women are enough to refresh and
to remould the generation. Like subtle lightning, the womanly nature
is penetrating the life of the age. From every railroad-station the
ponderous train bore off its freight of living valor, amid the cheers
of sympathizing thousands who clustered upon every shed and pillar, and
yearned forward as if to make their tumultuous feelings the motive
power to carry those dear friends away. What an ardent and unquenchable
emotion! Drums do not throb like these hearts, bullets do not patter
like these tears. There is not a power of the soul which is not
vitalized and expanded by these scenes. But long after the crowd
vanishes, there stands a woman at the corner, with a tired child asleep
upon her shoulder; the bosom does not heave so strongly as to break its
sleep. There are no regrets in the calm, proud face; no, indeed!--for it
is the face of our country, waiting to suffer and be strong for liberty,
and to put resolutely the dearest thing where it can serve mankind. In
her face read the history of the future as it shall be sung and written
by pens which shall not know whence their sharpened impulse springs; the
page shall reflect the working of that woman's face, daughter of the
people; and when exulting posterity shall draw new patriotism from it,
and declare that it is proud, pathetic, resolved, sublime, they shall
not yet call it by its Christian name, for that will be concealed with
moss upon her forgotten head-stone.

* * * * *


O good painter, tell me true,
Has your hand the cunning to draw
Shapes of things that you never saw?
Ay? Well, here is an order for you.

Woods and cornfields, a little brown,--
The picture must not be over-bright,--
Yet all in the golden and gracious light
Of a cloud, when the summer sun is down.

Alway and alway, night and morn,
Woods upon woods, with fields of corn
Lying between them, not quite sere,
And not in the full, thick, leafy bloom,
When the wind can hardly find breathing-room
Under their tassels,--cattle near,
Biting shorter the short green grass,
And a hedge of sumach and sassafras,
With bluebirds twittering all around,--
(Ah, good painter, you can't paint sound!)--
These, and the house where I was born,
Low and little, and black and old,
With children, many as it can hold,
All at the windows, open wide,--
Heads and shoulders clear outside,
And fair young faces all ablush:
Perhaps you may have seen, some day,
Roses crowding the self-same way,
Out of a wilding, way-side bush.

Listen closer. When you have done
With woods and cornfields and grazing herds,
A lady, the loveliest ever the sun
Looked down upon, you must paint for me:
Oh, if I only could make you see
The clear blue eyes, the tender smile,
The sovereign sweetness, the gentle grace,
The woman's soul, and the angel's face
That are beaming on me all the while!
I need not speak these foolish words:
Yet one word tells you all I would say,--
She is my mother: you will agree
That all the rest may be thrown away.

Two little urchins at her knee
You must paint, Sir: one like me,--
The other with a clearer brow,
And the light of his adventurous eyes
Flashing with boldest enterprise:
At ten years old he went to sea,--
God knoweth if he be living now,--
He sailed in the good ship "Commodore,"--
Nobody ever crossed her track
To bring us news, and she never came back.
Ah, 'tis twenty long years and more
Since that old ship went out of the bay
With my great-hearted brother on her deck:
I watched him till he shrank to a speck,
And his face was toward me all the way.

Bright his hair was, a golden brown,
The time we stood at our mother's knee:
That beauteous head, if it did go down,
Carried sunshine into the sea!

Out in the fields one summer night
We were together, half afraid
Of the corn-leaves' rustling, and of the shade
Of the high hills, stretching so still and far,--
Loitering till after the low little light
Of the candle shone through the open door,
And over the hay-stack's pointed top,
All of a tremble, and ready to drop,
The first half-hour, the great yellow star,
That we, with staring, ignorant eyes,
Had often and often watched to see
Propped and held in its place in the skies

By the fork of a tall red mulberry-tree,
Which close in the edge of our flax-field grew,--
Dead at the top,--just one branch full
Of leaves, notched round, and lined with wool,
From which it tenderly shook the dew
Over our heads, when we came to play
In its handbreadth of shadow, day after day.
Afraid to go home, Sir; for one of us bore
A nest full of speckled and thin-shelled eggs,--
The other, a bird, held fast by the legs,
Not so big as a straw of wheat:
The berries we gave her she wouldn't eat,
But cried and cried, till we held her bill,
So slim and shining, to keep her still.

At last we stood at our mother's knee.
Do you think, Sir, if you try,
You can paint the look of a lie?
If you can, pray have the grace
To put it solely in the face
Of the urchin that is likest me:
I think't was solely mine, indeed:
But that's no matter,--paint it so;
The eyes of our mother--(take good heed)--
Looking not on the nest-full of eggs,
Nor the fluttering bird, held so fast by the legs,
But straight through our faces down to our lies,
And, oh, with such injured, reproachful surprise!
I felt my heart bleed where that glance went, as though
A sharp blade struck through it.
You, Sir, know,
That you on the canvas are to repeat
Things that are fairest, things most sweet,--
Woods and cornfields and mulberry-tree,--
The mother,--the lads, with their bird, at her knee:
But, oh, that look of reproachful woe!
High as the heavens your name I'll shout,
If you paint me the picture, and leave that out.




Blue-fish were about done with, when one day Dan brought in some
mackerel from Boon Island: they hadn't been in the harbor for some time,
though now there was a probability of their return. So they were going
out when the tide served--the two boys--at midnight for mackerel, and
Dan had heard me wish for the experience so often, a long while ago,
that he said, Why shouldn't they take the girls? and Faith snatched at
the idea, and with that Mr. Gabriel agreed to fetch me at the hour, and
so we parted. I was kind of sorry, but there was no help for it.

When we started, it was in that clear crystal dark that looks as if you
could see through it forever till you reached infinite things, and we
seemed to be in a great hollow sphere, and the stars were like living
beings who had the night to themselves. Always, when I'm up late, I feel
as if it were something unlawful, as if affairs were in progress which
I had no right to witness, a kind of grand freemasonry. I've felt it
nights when I've been watching with mother, and there has come up across
the heavens the great caravan of constellations, and a star that I'd
pulled away the curtain on the east side to see came by-and-by and
looked in at the south window; but I never felt it as I did this night.
The tide was near the full, and so we went slipping down the dark water
by the starlight; and as we saw them shining above us, and then looked
down and saw them sparkling up from below,--the stars,--it really seemed
as if Dan's oars must be two long wings, as if we swam on them through a
motionless air. By-and-by we were in the island creek, and far ahead,
in a streak of wind that didn't reach us, we could see a pointed sail
skimming along between the banks, as if some ghost went before to show
us the way; and when the first hush and mystery wore off, Mr. Gabriel
was singing little French songs in tunes like the rise and fall of the
tide. While he sang, he rowed, and Dan was gangeing the hooks. At length
Dan took the oars again, and every now and then he paused to let us
float along with the tide as it slacked, and take the sense of the
night. And all the tall grass that edged the side began to wave in a
strange light, and there blew on a little breeze, and over the rim of
the world tipped up a waning moon. If there'd been anything needed to
make us feel as if we were going to find the Witch of Endor, it was
this. It was such a strange moon, pointing such a strange way, with such
a strange color, so remote, and so glassy,--it was like a dead moon, or
the spirit of one, and was perfectly awful.

"She has come to look at Faith," said Mr. Gabriel; for Faith, who once
would have been nodding here and there all about the boat, was sitting
up pale and sad, like another spirit, to confront it. But Dan and I both
felt a difference.

Mr. Gabriel, he stepped across and went and sat down behind Faith, and
laid his hand lightly on her arm. Perhaps he didn't mind that he touched
her,--he had a kind of absent air; but if any one had looked at the
nervous pressure of the slender fingers, they would have seen as much
meaning in that touch as in many an embrace; and Faith lifted her face
to his, and they forgot that I was looking at them, and into the eyes of
both there stole a strange deep smile,--and my soul groaned within me.
It made no odds to me then that the air blew warm off the land from
scented hay-ricks, that the moon hung like some exhumed jewel in the
sky, that all the perfect night was widening into dawn. I saw and felt
nothing but the wretchedness that must break one day on Dan's head.
Should I warn him? I couldn't do that. And what then?

The sail was up, we had left the headland and the hills, and when they
furled it and cast anchor we were swinging far out on the back of the
great monster that was frolicking to itself and thinking no more of us
than we do of a mote in the air. Elder Snow, he says that it's singular
we regard day as illumination and night as darkness,--day that really
hems us in with narrow light and shuts us upon ourselves, night that
sets us free and reveals to us all the secrets of the sky. I thought of
that when one by one the stars melted and the moon became a breath, and

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