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    Chapter 17

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    Chapter 17
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    The opening of large tracts by the ice-cutters commonly causes a
    pond to break up earlier; for the water, agitated by the wind, even
    in cold weather, wears away the surrounding ice. But such was not
    the effect on Walden that year, for she had soon got a thick new
    garment to take the place of the old. This pond never breaks up so
    soon as the others in this neighborhood, on account both of its
    greater depth and its having no stream passing through it to melt or
    wear away the ice. I never knew it to open in the course of a
    winter, not excepting that of '52-3, which gave the ponds so severe
    a trial. It commonly opens about the first of April, a week or ten
    days later than Flint's Pond and Fair Haven, beginning to melt on
    the north side and in the shallower parts where it began to freeze.
    It indicates better than any water hereabouts the absolute progress
    of the season, being least affected by transient changes of
    temperature. A severe cold of a few days duration in March may very
    much retard the opening of the former ponds, while the temperature
    of Walden increases almost uninterruptedly. A thermometer thrust
    into the middle of Walden on the 6th of March, 1847, stood at 32x,
    or freezing point; near the shore at 33x; in the middle of Flint's
    Pond, the same day, at 32+x; at a dozen rods from the shore, in
    shallow water, under ice a foot thick, at 36x. This difference of
    three and a half degrees between the temperature of the deep water
    and the shallow in the latter pond, and the fact that a great
    proportion of it is comparatively shallow, show why it should break
    up so much sooner than Walden. The ice in the shallowest part was
    at this time several inches thinner than in the middle. In
    midwinter the middle had been the warmest and the ice thinnest
    there. So, also, every one who has waded about the shores of the
    pond in summer must have perceived how much warmer the water is
    close to the shore, where only three or four inches deep, than a
    little distance out, and on the surface where it is deep, than near
    the bottom. In spring the sun not only exerts an influence through
    the increased temperature of the air and earth, but its heat passes
    through ice a foot or more thick, and is reflected from the bottom
    in shallow water, and so also warms the water and melts the under
    side of the ice, at the same time that it is melting it more
    directly above, making it uneven, and causing the air bubbles which
    it contains to extend themselves upward and downward until it is
    completely honeycombed, and at last disappears suddenly in a single
    spring rain. Ice has its grain as well as wood, and when a cake
    begins to rot or "comb," that is, assume the appearance of
    honeycomb, whatever may be its position, the air cells are at right
    angles with what was the water surface. Where there is a rock or a
    log rising near to the surface the ice over it is much thinner, and
    is frequently quite dissolved by this reflected heat; and I have
    been told that in the experiment at Cambridge to freeze water in a
    shallow wooden pond, though the cold air circulated underneath, and
    so had access to both sides, the reflection of the sun from the
    bottom more than counterbalanced this advantage. When a warm rain
    in the middle of the winter melts off the snow-ice from Walden, and
    leaves a hard dark or transparent ice on the middle, there will be a
    strip of rotten though thicker white ice, a rod or more wide, about
    the shores, created by this reflected heat. Also, as I have said,
    the bubbles themselves within the ice operate as burning-glasses to
    melt the ice beneath.
    The phenomena of the year take place every day in a pond on a
    small scale. Every morning, generally speaking, the shallow water
    is being warmed more rapidly than the deep, though it may not be
    made so warm after all, and every evening it is being cooled more
    rapidly until the morning. The day is an epitome of the year. The
    night is the winter, the morning and evening are the spring and
    fall, and the noon is the summer. The cracking and booming of the
    ice indicate a change of temperature. One pleasant morning after a
    cold night, February 24th, 1850, having gone to Flint's Pond to
    spend the day, I noticed with surprise, that when I struck the ice
    with the head of my axe, it resounded like a gong for many rods
    around, or as if I had struck on a tight drum-head. The pond began
    to boom about an hour after sunrise, when it felt the influence of
    the sun's rays slanted upon it from over the hills; it stretched
    itself and yawned like a waking man with a gradually increasing
    tumult, which was kept up three or four hours. It took a short
    siesta at noon, and boomed once more toward night, as the sun was
    withdrawing his influence. In the right stage of the weather a pond
    fires its evening gun with great regularity. But in the middle of
    the day, being full of cracks, and the air also being less elastic,
    it had completely lost its resonance, and probably fishes and
    muskrats could not then have been stunned by a blow on it. The
    fishermen say that the "thundering of the pond" scares the fishes
    and prevents their biting. The pond does not thunder every evening,
    and I cannot tell surely when to expect its thundering; but though I
    may perceive no difference in the weather, it does. Who would have
    suspected so large and cold and thick-skinned a thing to be so
    sensitive? Yet it has its law to which it thunders obedience when
    it should as surely as the buds expand in the spring. The earth is
    all alive and covered with papillae. The largest pond is as
    sensitive to atmospheric changes as the globule of mercury in its
    One attraction in coming to the woods to live was that I should
    have leisure and opportunity to see the Spring come in. The ice in
    the pond at length begins to be honeycombed, and I can set my heel
    in it as I walk. Fogs and rains and warmer suns are gradually
    melting the snow; the days have grown sensibly longer; and I see how
    I shall get through the winter without adding to my wood-pile, for
    large fires are no longer necessary. I am on the alert for the
    first signs of spring, to hear the chance note of some arriving
    bird, or the striped squirrel's chirp, for his stores must be now
    nearly exhausted, or see the woodchuck venture out of his winter
    quarters. On the 13th of March, after I had heard the bluebird,
    song sparrow, and red-wing, the ice was still nearly a foot thick.
    As the weather grew warmer it was not sensibly worn away by the
    water, nor broken up and floated off as in rivers, but, though it
    was completely melted for half a rod in width about the shore, the
    middle was merely honeycombed and saturated with water, so that you
    could put your foot through it when six inches thick; but by the
    next day evening, perhaps, after a warm rain followed by fog, it
    would have wholly disappeared, all gone off with the fog, spirited
    away. One year I went across the middle only five days before it
    disappeared entirely. In 1845 Walden was first completely open on
    the 1st of April; in '46, the 25th of March; in '47, the 8th of
    April; in '51, the 28th of March; in '52, the 18th of April; in '53,
    the 23d of March; in '54, about the 7th of April.
    Every incident connected with the breaking up of the rivers and
    ponds and the settling of the weather is particularly interesting to
    us who live in a climate of so great extremes. When the warmer days
    come, they who dwell near the river hear the ice crack at night with
    a startling whoop as loud as artillery, as if its icy fetters were
    rent from end to end, and within a few days see it rapidly going
    out. So the alligator comes out of the mud with quakings of the
    earth. One old man, who has been a close observer of Nature, and
    seems as thoroughly wise in regard to all her operations as if she
    had been put upon the stocks when he was a boy, and he had helped to
    lay her keel -- who has come to his growth, and can hardly acquire
    more of natural lore if he should live to the age of Methuselah --
    told me -- and I was surprised to hear him express wonder at any of
    Nature's operations, for I thought that there were no secrets
    between them -- that one spring day he took his gun and boat, and
    thought that he would have a little sport with the ducks. There was
    ice still on the meadows, but it was all gone out of the river, and
    he dropped down without obstruction from Sudbury, where he lived, to
    Fair Haven Pond, which he found, unexpectedly, covered for the most
    part with a firm field of ice. It was a warm day, and he was
    surprised to see so great a body of ice remaining. Not seeing any
    ducks, he hid his boat on the north or back side of an island in the
    pond, and then concealed himself in the bushes on the south side, to
    await them. The ice was melted for three or four rods from the
    shore, and there was a smooth and warm sheet of water, with a muddy
    bottom, such as the ducks love, within, and he thought it likely
    that some would be along pretty soon. After he had lain still there
    about an hour he heard a low and seemingly very distant sound, but
    singularly grand and impressive, unlike anything he had ever heard,
    gradually swelling and increasing as if it would have a universal
    and memorable ending, a sullen rush and roar, which seemed to him
    all at once like the sound of a vast body of fowl coming in to
    settle there, and, seizing his gun, he started up in haste and
    excited; but he found, to his surprise, that the whole body of the
    ice had started while he lay there, and drifted in to the shore, and
    the sound he had heard was made by its edge grating on the shore --
    at first gently nibbled and crumbled off, but at length heaving up
    and scattering its wrecks along the island to a considerable height
    before it came to a standstill.
    At length the sun's rays have attained the right angle, and warm
    winds blow up mist and rain and melt the snowbanks, and the sun,
    dispersing the mist, smiles on a checkered landscape of russet and
    white smoking with incense, through which the traveller picks his
    way from islet to islet, cheered by the music of a thousand tinkling
    rills and rivulets whose veins are filled with the blood of winter
    which they are bearing off.
    Few phenomena gave me more delight than to observe the forms
    which thawing sand and clay assume in flowing down the sides of a
    deep cut on the railroad through which I passed on my way to the
    village, a phenomenon not very common on so large a scale, though
    the number of freshly exposed banks of the right material must have
    been greatly multiplied since railroads were invented. The material
    was sand of every degree of fineness and of various rich colors,
    commonly mixed with a little clay. When the frost comes out in the
    spring, and even in a thawing day in the winter, the sand begins to
    flow down the slopes like lava, sometimes bursting out through the
    snow and overflowing it where no sand was to be seen before.
    Innumerable little streams overlap and interlace one with another,
    exhibiting a sort of hybrid product, which obeys half way the law of
    currents, and half way that of vegetation. As it flows it takes the
    forms of sappy leaves or vines, making heaps of pulpy sprays a foot
    or more in depth, and resembling, as you look down on them, the
    laciniated, lobed, and imbricated thalluses of some lichens; or you
    are reminded of coral, of leopard's paws or birds' feet, of brains
    or lungs or bowels, and excrements of all kinds. It is a truly
    grotesque vegetation, whose forms and color we see imitated in
    bronze, a sort of architectural foliage more ancient and typical
    than acanthus, chiccory, ivy, vine, or any vegetable leaves;
    destined perhaps, under some circumstances, to become a puzzle to
    future geologists. The whole cut impressed me as if it were a cave
    with its stalactites laid open to the light. The various shades of
    the sand are singularly rich and agreeable, embracing the different
    iron colors, brown, gray, yellowish, and reddish. When the flowing
    mass reaches the drain at the foot of the bank it spreads out
    flatter into strands, the separate streams losing their
    semi-cylindrical form and gradually becoming more flat and broad,
    running together as they are more moist, till they form an almost
    flat sand, still variously and beautifully shaded, but in which you
    can trace the original forms of vegetation; till at length, in the
    water itself, they are converted into banks, like those formed off
    the mouths of rivers, and the forms of vegetation are lost in the
    ripple marks on the bottom.
    The whole bank, which is from twenty to forty feet high, is
    sometimes overlaid with a mass of this kind of foliage, or sandy
    rupture, for a quarter of a mile on one or both sides, the produce
    of one spring day. What makes this sand foliage remarkable is its
    springing into existence thus suddenly. When I see on the one side
    the inert bank -- for the sun acts on one side first -- and on the
    other this luxuriant foliage, the creation of an hour, I am affected
    as if in a peculiar sense I stood in the laboratory of the Artist
    who made the world and me -- had come to where he was still at work,
    sporting on this bank, and with excess of energy strewing his fresh
    designs about. I feel as if I were nearer to the vitals of the
    globe, for this sandy overflow is something such a foliaceous mass
    as the vitals of the animal body. You find thus in the very sands
    an anticipation of the vegetable leaf. No wonder that the earth
    expresses itself outwardly in leaves, it so labors with the idea
    inwardly. The atoms have already learned this law, and are pregnant
    by it. The overhanging leaf sees here its prototype. Internally,
    whether in the globe or animal body, it is a moist thick lobe, a
    word especially applicable to the liver and lungs and the leaves of
    fat (jnai, labor, lapsus, to flow or slip downward, a lapsing;
    jiais, globus, lobe, globe; also lap, flap, and many other words);
    externally a dry thin leaf, even as the f and v are a pressed and
    dried b. The radicals of lobe are lb, the soft mass of the b
    (single lobed, or B, double lobed), with the liquid l behind it
    pressing it forward. In globe, glb, the guttural g adds to the
    meaning the capacity of the throat. The feathers and wings of birds
    are still drier and thinner leaves. Thus, also, you pass from the
    lumpish grub in the earth to the airy and fluttering butterfly. The
    very globe continually transcends and translates itself, and becomes
    winged in its orbit. Even ice begins with delicate crystal leaves,
    as if it had flowed into moulds which the fronds of waterplants have
    impressed on the watery mirror. The whole tree itself is but one
    leaf, and rivers are still vaster leaves whose pulp is intervening
    earth, and towns and cities are the ova of insects in their axils.
    When the sun withdraws the sand ceases to flow, but in the
    morning the streams will start once more and branch and branch again
    into a myriad of others. You here see perchance how blood-vessels
    are formed. If you look closely you observe that first there pushes
    forward from the thawing mass a stream of softened sand with a
    drop-like point, like the ball of the finger, feeling its way slowly
    and blindly downward, until at last with more heat and moisture, as
    the sun gets higher, the most fluid portion, in its effort to obey
    the law to which the most inert also yields, separates from the
    latter and forms for itself a meandering channel or artery within
    that, in which is seen a little silvery stream glancing like
    lightning from one stage of pulpy leaves or branches to another, and
    ever and anon swallowed up in the sand. It is wonderful how rapidly
    yet perfectly the sand organizes itself as it flows, using the best
    material its mass affords to form the sharp edges of its channel.
    Such are the sources of rivers. In the silicious matter which the
    water deposits is perhaps the bony system, and in the still finer
    soil and organic matter the fleshy fibre or cellular tissue. What
    is man but a mass of thawing clay? The ball of the human finger is
    but a drop congealed. The fingers and toes flow to their extent
    from the thawing mass of the body. Who knows what the human body
    would expand and flow out to under a more genial heaven? Is not the
    hand a spreading palm leaf with its lobes and veins? The ear may be
    regarded, fancifully, as a lichen, umbilicaria, on the side of the
    head, with its lobe or drop. The lip -- labium, from labor (?) --
    laps or lapses from the sides of the cavernous mouth. The nose is a
    manifest congealed drop or stalactite. The chin is a still larger
    drop, the confluent dripping of the face. The cheeks are a slide
    from the brows into the valley of the face, opposed and diffused by
    the cheek bones. Each rounded lobe of the vegetable leaf, too, is a
    thick and now loitering drop, larger or smaller; the lobes are the
    fingers of the leaf; and as many lobes as it has, in so many
    directions it tends to flow, and more heat or other genial
    influences would have caused it to flow yet farther.
    Thus it seemed that this one hillside illustrated the principle
    of all the operations of Nature. The Maker of this earth but
    patented a leaf. What Champollion will decipher this hieroglyphic
    for us, that we may turn over a new leaf at last? This phenomenon
    is more exhilarating to me than the luxuriance and fertility of
    vineyards. True, it is somewhat excrementitious in its character,
    and there is no end to the heaps of liver, lights, and bowels, as if
    the globe were turned wrong side outward; but this suggests at least
    that Nature has some bowels, and there again is mother of humanity.
    This is the frost coming out of the ground; this is Spring. It
    precedes the green and flowery spring, as mythology precedes regular
    poetry. I know of nothing more purgative of winter fumes and
    indigestions. It convinces me that Earth is still in her
    swaddling-clothes, and stretches forth baby fingers on every side.
    Fresh curls spring from the baldest brow. There is nothing
    inorganic. These foliaceous heaps lie along the bank like the slag
    of a furnace, showing that Nature is "in full blast" within. The
    earth is not a mere fragment of dead history, stratum upon stratum
    like the leaves of a book, to be studied by geologists and
    antiquaries chiefly, but living poetry like the leaves of a tree,
    which precede flowers and fruit -- not a fossil earth, but a living
    earth; compared with whose great central life all animal and
    vegetable life is merely parasitic. Its throes will heave our
    exuviae from their graves. You may melt your metals and cast them
    into the most beautiful moulds you can; they will never excite me
    like the forms which this molten earth flows out into. And not only
    it, but the institutions upon it are plastic like clay in the hands
    of the potter.
    Ere long, not only on these banks, but on every hill and plain
    and in every hollow, the frost comes out of the ground like a
    dormant quadruped from its burrow, and seeks the sea with music, or
    migrates to other climes in clouds. Thaw with his gentle persuasion
    is more powerful than Thor with his hammer. The one melts, the
    other but breaks in pieces.
    When the ground was partially bare of snow, and a few warm days
    had dried its surface somewhat, it was pleasant to compare the first
    tender signs of the infant year just peeping forth with the stately
    beauty of the withered vegetation which had withstood the
    winter -- life-everlasting, goldenrods, pinweeds, and graceful wild
    grasses, more obvious and interesting frequently than in summer
    even, as if their beauty was not ripe till then; even cotton-grass,
    cat-tails, mulleins, johnswort, hard-hack, meadow-sweet, and other
    strong-stemmed plants, those unexhausted granaries which entertain
    the earliest birds -- decent weeds, at least, which widowed Nature
    wears. I am particularly attracted by the arching and sheaf-like
    top of the wool-grass; it brings back the summer to our winter
    memories, and is among the forms which art loves to copy, and which,
    in the vegetable kingdom, have the same relation to types already in
    the mind of man that astronomy has. It is an antique style, older
    than Greek or Egyptian. Many of the phenomena of Winter are
    suggestive of an inexpressible tenderness and fragile delicacy. We
    are accustomed to hear this king described as a rude and boisterous
    tyrant; but with the gentleness of a lover he adorns the tresses of
    At the approach of spring the red squirrels got under my house,
    two at a time, directly under my feet as I sat reading or writing,
    and kept up the queerest chuckling and chirruping and vocal
    pirouetting and gurgling sounds that ever were heard; and when I
    stamped they only chirruped the louder, as if past all fear and
    respect in their mad pranks, defying humanity to stop them. No, you
    don't -- chickaree -- chickaree. They were wholly deaf to my
    arguments, or failed to perceive their force, and fell into a strain
    of invective that was irresistible.
    The first sparrow of spring! The year beginning with younger
    hope than ever! The faint silvery warblings heard over the
    partially bare and moist fields from the bluebird, the song sparrow,
    and the red-wing, as if the last flakes of winter tinkled as they
    fell! What at such a time are histories, chronologies, traditions,
    and all written revelations? The brooks sing carols and glees to
    the spring. The marsh hawk, sailing low over the meadow, is already
    seeking the first slimy life that awakes. The sinking sound of
    melting snow is heard in all dells, and the ice dissolves apace in
    the ponds. The grass flames up on the hillsides like a spring fire
    -- "et primitus oritur herba imbribus primoribus evocata" -- as if
    the earth sent forth an inward heat to greet the returning sun; not
    yellow but green is the color of its flame; -- the symbol of
    perpetual youth, the grass-blade, like a long green ribbon, streams
    from the sod into the summer, checked indeed by the frost, but anon
    pushing on again, lifting its spear of last year's hay with the
    fresh life below. It grows as steadily as the rill oozes out of the
    ground. It is almost identical with that, for in the growing days
    of June, when the rills are dry, the grass-blades are their
    channels, and from year to year the herds drink at this perennial
    green stream, and the mower draws from it betimes their winter
    supply. So our human life but dies down to its root, and still puts
    forth its green blade to eternity.
    Walden is melting apace. There is a canal two rods wide along
    the northerly and westerly sides, and wider still at the east end.
    A great field of ice has cracked off from the main body. I hear a
    song sparrow singing from the bushes on the shore -- olit, olit,
    olit -- chip, chip, chip, che char -- che wiss, wiss, wiss. He too
    is helping to crack it. How handsome the great sweeping curves in
    the edge of the ice, answering somewhat to those of the shore, but
    more regular! It is unusually hard, owing to the recent severe but
    transient cold, and all watered or waved like a palace floor. But
    the wind slides eastward over its opaque surface in vain, till it
    reaches the living surface beyond. It is glorious to behold this
    ribbon of water sparkling in the sun, the bare face of the pond full
    of glee and youth, as if it spoke the joy of the fishes within it,
    and of the sands on its shore -- a silvery sheen as from the scales
    of a leuciscus, as it were all one active fish. Such is the
    contrast between winter and spring. Walden was dead and is alive
    again. But this spring it broke up more steadily, as I have said.
    The change from storm and winter to serene and mild weather,
    from dark and sluggish hours to bright and elastic ones, is a
    memorable crisis which all things proclaim. It is seemingly
    instantaneous at last. Suddenly an influx of light filled my house,
    though the evening was at hand, and the clouds of winter still
    overhung it, and the eaves were dripping with sleety rain. I looked
    out the window, and lo! where yesterday was cold gray ice there lay
    the transparent pond already calm and full of hope as in a summer
    evening, reflecting a summer evening sky in its bosom, though none
    was visible overhead, as if it had intelligence with some remote
    horizon. I heard a robin in the distance, the first I had heard for
    many a thousand years, methought, whose note I shall not forget for
    many a thousand more -- the same sweet and powerful song as of yore.
    O the evening robin, at the end of a New England summer day! If I
    could ever find the twig he sits upon! I mean he; I mean the twig.
    This at least is not the Turdus migratorius. The pitch pines and
    shrub oaks about my house, which had so long drooped, suddenly
    resumed their several characters, looked brighter, greener, and more
    erect and alive, as if effectually cleansed and restored by the
    rain. I knew that it would not rain any more. You may tell by
    looking at any twig of the forest, ay, at your very wood-pile,
    whether its winter is past or not. As it grew darker, I was
    startled by the honking of geese flying low over the woods, like
    weary travellers getting in late from Southern lakes, and indulging
    at last in unrestrained complaint and mutual consolation. Standing
    at my door, I could bear the rush of their wings; when, driving
    toward my house, they suddenly spied my light, and with hushed
    clamor wheeled and settled in the pond. So I came in, and shut the
    door, and passed my first spring night in the woods.
    In the morning I watched the geese from the door through the
    mist, sailing in the middle of the pond, fifty rods off, so large
    and tumultuous that Walden appeared like an artificial pond for
    their amusement. But when I stood on the shore they at once rose up
    with a great flapping of wings at the signal of their commander, and
    when they had got into rank circled about over my head, twenty-nine
    of them, and then steered straight to Canada, with a regular honk
    from the leader at intervals, trusting to break their fast in
    muddier pools. A "plump" of ducks rose at the same time and took
    the route to the north in the wake of their noisier cousins.
    For a week I heard the circling, groping clangor of some
    solitary goose in the foggy mornings, seeking its companion, and
    still peopling the woods with the sound of a larger life than they
    could sustain. In April the pigeons were seen again flying express
    in small flocks, and in due time I heard the martins twittering over
    my clearing, though it had not seemed that the township contained so
    many that it could afford me any, and I fancied that they were
    peculiarly of the ancient race that dwelt in hollow trees ere white
    men came. In almost all climes the tortoise and the frog are among
    the precursors and heralds of this season, and birds fly with song
    and glancing plumage, and plants spring and bloom, and winds blow,
    to correct this slight oscillation of the poles and preserve the
    equilibrium of nature.
    As every season seems best to us in its turn, so the coming in
    of spring is like the creation of Cosmos out of Chaos and the
    realization of the Golden Age.--

    "Eurus ad Auroram Nabathaeaque regna recessit,
    Persidaque, et radiis juga subdita matutinis."

    "The East-Wind withdrew to Aurora and the Nabathean kingdom,
    And the Persian, and the ridges placed under the morning rays.
    . . . . . . .

    Man was born. Whether that Artificer of things,
    The origin of a better world, made him from the divine seed;
    Or the earth, being recent and lately sundered from the high
    Ether, retained some seeds of cognate heaven."

    A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. So
    our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should
    be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of
    every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the
    influence of the slightest dew that falls on it; and did not spend
    our time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we
    call doing our duty. We loiter in winter while it is already
    spring. In a pleasant spring morning all men's sins are forgiven.
    Such a day is a truce to vice. While such a sun holds out to burn,
    the vilest sinner may return. Through our own recovered innocence
    we discern the innocence of our neighbors. You may have known your
    neighbor yesterday for a thief, a drunkard, or a sensualist, and
    merely pitied or despised him, and despaired of the world; but the
    sun shines bright and warm this first spring morning, recreating the
    world, and you meet him at some serene work, and see how it is
    exhausted and debauched veins expand with still joy and bless the
    new day, feel the spring influence with the innocence of infancy,
    and all his faults are forgotten. There is not only an atmosphere
    of good will about him, but even a savor of holiness groping for
    expression, blindly and ineffectually perhaps, like a new-born
    instinct, and for a short hour the south hill-side echoes to no
    vulgar jest. You see some innocent fair shoots preparing to burst
    from his gnarled rind and try another year's life, tender and fresh
    as the youngest plant. Even he has entered into the joy of his
    Lord. Why the jailer does not leave open his prison doors -- why
    the judge does not dismis his case -- why the preacher does not
    dismiss his congregation! It is because they do not obey the hint
    which God gives them, nor accept the pardon which he freely offers
    to all.
    "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 man?"

    "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 wings 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,
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