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WALDEN Or Life In The Woods

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Author Topic: WALDEN Or Life In The Woods  (Read 990 times)
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Posts: 1663

« Reply #75 on: March 23, 2009, 02:09:33 am »

"A return to goodness produced each day in the tranquil and
beneficent breath of the morning, causes that in respect to the love
of virtue and the hatred of vice, one approaches a little the
primitive nature of man, as the sprouts of the forest which has been
felled. In like manner the evil which one does in the interval of a
day prevents the germs of virtues which began to spring up again
from developing themselves and destroys them.

  "After the germs of virtue have thus been prevented many times
from developing themselves, then the beneficent breath of evening does
not suffice to preserve them. As soon as the breath of evening does
not suffice longer to preserve them, then the nature of man does not
differ much from that of the brute. Men seeing the nature of this
man like that of the brute, think that he has never possessed the
innate faculty of reason. Are those the true and natural sentiments of

        "The Golden Age was first created, which without any avenger

         Spontaneously without law cherished fidelity and rectitude.

         Punishment and fear were not; nor were threatening words read

         On suspended brass; nor did the suppliant crowd fear

         The words of their judge; but were safe without an avenger.

         Not yet the pine felled on its mountains had descended

         To the liquid waves that it might see a foreign world,

         And mortals knew no shores but their own.

         There was eternal spring, and placid zephyrs with warm

         Blasts soothed the flowers born without seed."

  On the 29th of April, as I was fishing from the bank of the river
near the Nine-Acre-Corner bridge, standing on the quaking grass and
willow roots, where the muskrats lurk, I heard a singular rattling
sound, somewhat like that of the sticks which boys play with their
fingers, when, looking up, I observed a very slight and graceful hawk,
like a nighthawk, alternately soaring like a ripple and tumbling a rod
or two over and over, showing the under side of its wings, which
gleamed like a satin ribbon in the sun, or like the pearly inside of a
shell. This sight reminded me of falconry and what nobleness and
poetry are associated with that sport. The merlin it seemed to me it
might be called: but I care not for its name. It was the most ethereal
flight I had ever witnessed. It did not simply flutter like a
butterfly, nor soar like the larger hawks, but it sported with proud
reliance in the fields of air; mounting again and again with its
strange chuckle, it repeated its free and beautiful fall, turning over
and over like a kite, and then recovering from its lofty tumbling,
as if it had never set its foot on terra firma. It appeared to have no
companion in the universe-sporting there alone- and to need none but
the morning and the ether with which it played. It was not lonely, but
made all the earth lonely beneath it. Where was the parent which
hatched it, its kindred, and its father in the heavens? The tenant
of the air, it seemed related to the earth but by an egg hatched
some time in the crevice of a crag;- or was its native nest made in
the angle of a cloud, woven of the rainbow's trimmings and the
sunset sky, and lined with some soft midsummer haze caught up from
earth? Its eyry now some cliffy cloud.

  Beside this I got a rare mess of golden and silver and bright
cupreous fishes, which looked like a string of jewels. Ah! I have
penetrated to those meadows on the morning of many a first spring day,
jumping from hummock to hummock, from willow root to willow root, when
the wild river valley and the woods were bathed in so pure and
bright a light as would have waked the dead, if they had been
slumbering in their graves, as some suppose. There needs no stronger
proof of immortality. All things must live in such a light. O Death,
where was thy sting? O Grave, where was thy victory, then?

  Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored
forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of
wildness- to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the
meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the
whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl
builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the
ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn
all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable,
that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by
us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. We must
be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic
features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its
living and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain which
lasts three weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own
limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never
wander. We are cheered when we observe the vulture feeding on the
carrion which disgusts and disheartens us, and deriving health and
strength from the repast. There was a dead horse in the hollow by
the path to my house, which compelled me sometimes to go out of my
way, especially in the night when the air was heavy, but the assurance
it gave me of the strong appetite and inviolable health of Nature
was my compensation for this. I love to see that Nature is so rife
with life that myriads can be afforded to be sacrificed and suffered
to prey on one another; that tender organizations can be so serenely
squashed out of existence like pulp-tadpoles which herons gobble up,
and tortoises and toads run over in the road; and that sometimes it
has rained flesh and blood! With the liability to accident, we must
see how little account is to be made of it. The impression made on a
wise man is that of universal innocence. Poison is not poisonous after
all, nor are any wounds fatal. Compassion is a very untenable
ground. It must be expeditious. Its pleadings will not bear to be

  Early in May, the oaks, hickories, maples, and other trees, just
putting out amidst the pine woods around the pond, imparted a
brightness like sunshine to the landscape, especially in cloudy
days, as if the sun were breaking through mists and shining faintly on
the hillsides here and there. On the third or fourth of May I saw a
loon in the pond, and during the first week of the month I heard the
whip-poor-will, the brown thrasher, the veery, the wood pewee, the
chewink, and other birds. I had heard the wood thrush long before. The
phoebe had already come once more and looked in at my door and window,
to see if my house was cavern-like enough for her, sustaining
herself on humming winds with clinched talons, as if she held by the
air, while she surveyed the premises. The sulphur-like pollen of the
pitch pine soon covered the pond and the stones and rotten wood
along the shore, so that you could have collected a barrelful. This is
the "sulphur showers" we bear of. Even in Calidas' drama of Sacontala,
we read of "rills dyed yellow with the golden dust of the lotus."
And so the seasons went rolling on into summer, as one rambles into
higher and higher grass.

  Thus was my first year's life in the woods completed; and the second
year was similar to it. I finally left Walden September 6th, 1847.
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