Page images
PDF
EPUB

NEW THEMES ENTERED UPON

1876, '77.— I find the woods in mid-May and early June my best places for composition.* Seated on logs or stumps there, or resting on rails, nearly all the following memoranda have been jotted down. Wherever I

go,

indeed, winter or summer, city or country, alone at home or traveling, I must take notes -(the ruling passion strong in age and disablement, and even the approach of — but I must not say it yet.) Then underneath the following excerpta — crossing the t's and dotting the i's of certain moderate movements of late years — I am fain to fancy the foundations of quite a lesson learn’d. After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains ? Nature remains; to bring out from their torpid recesses, the affinities of a man or woman with the open air, the trees, fields, the changes of seasons - the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night. We will begin from these convictions. Literature Aies so high and is so hotly spiced, that our notes may seem hardly more than breaths of common air, or draughts of water to drink.

But that is part of our lesson. Dear, soothing, healthy, restoration-hours — after three confining years of paralysis — after the long strain of the war, and its wounds and death. ENTERING A LONG FARM-LANE

As every man has his hobby-liking, mine is for a real farm-lane fenced by old chestnut-rails gray-green with

en

* Without apology for the abrupt change of field and atmosphere ... I restore my book to the bracing and buoyant equilibrium of concrete outdoor Nature, the only permanent reliance for sanity of book or human life. Who knows, (I have it in my fancy, my ambition,) but the pages now suing may carry ray of sun, or smell of grass or corn, or call of bird, or gleam of stars by night, or snow-flakes falling fresh and mystic, to denizen of heated city house, or tired workman or workwoman? - or may-be in sick-room or prison to serve as cooling breeze, or Nature's aroma, to some fever'd mouth or latent pulse.

dabs of moss and lichen, copious weeds and briers growing in spots athwart the heaps of stray-pick'd stones at the fence bases

irregular paths worn between, and horse and cow tracks — all characteristic accompaniments marking and scenting the neighborhood in their seasons — appletree blossoms in forward April — pigs, poultry, a field of August buckwheat, and in another the long flapping tassels of maize --- and so to the pond, the expansion of the creek, the secluded-beautiful, with young and old trees, and such recesses and vistas. TO THE SPRING AND BROOK

So, still sauntering on, to the spring under the willows musical as soft clinking glasses — pouring a sizable stream, thick as my neck, pure and clear, out from its vent where the bank arches over like a great brown shaggy eyebrow or mouth-roof — gurgling, gurgling ceaselessly — meaning, saying something, of course (if one could only translate it) - always gurgling there, the whole year through — never giving out oceans of mint, blackberries in summer choice of light and shade — just the place for my July sun-baths and water-baths too — but mainly the inimitable soft sound-gurgles of it, as I sit there hot afternoons. How they and all grow into me, day after day — everything in keeping — the wild, just-palpable perfume, and the dappled leaf-shadows, and all the natural-medicinal, elemental-moral influences of the spot. Babble on, O brook, with that utterance of thine ! I too will express what I have gather'd in my days and progress, native, subterranean, past — and now thee. Spin and wind thy way — I with thee, a little while, at any rate. As I haunt thee so often, season by season, thou knowest, reckest not me, (yet why be so certain ? who can tell ?) – but I will learn from thee, and dwell on thee — receive, copy, print from thee. SUNDOWN PERFUME- QUAIL-NOTES – THE HERMITTHRUSH

June 19th, 4 to 642 P.M.- Sitting alone by the creek — solitude here, but the scene bright and vivid enough — the

sun shining, and quite a fresh wind blowing (some heavy showers last night,) the grass and trees looking their best - the clare-obscure of different greens, shadows, halfshadows, and the dappling glimpses of the water, through recesses — the wild Aageolet-note of a quail near by — the just-heard fretting of some hylas down there in the pond - crows cawing in the distance — a drove of young hogs rooting in soft ground near the oak under which I sit some come sniffing near me, and then scamper away, with

And still the clear notes of the quail — the quiver of leaf-shadows over the paper as I write — the sky aloft, with white clouds, and the sun well declining to the west - the swift darting of many sand-swallows coming and going, their holes in a neighboring marl-bank — the odor of the cedar and oak, so palpable, as evening approaches

- perfume, color, the bronze-and-gold of nearly ripen’d wheat - clover-fields, with honey-scent — the well-up maize, with long and rustling leaves — the great patches of thriving potatoes, dusky green, Aeck'd all over with white blossoms the old, warty, venerable oak above me - and ever, mix'd with the dual notes of the quail, the soughing of the wind through some near-by pines. As I rise for return, I linger long to a delicious songepilogue (is it the hermit-thrush ?) from some bushy recess off there in the swamp, r peated leisurely and pensively over and over again. This, to the circle-gambols of the swallows Aying by dozens in concentric rings in the last rays of sunset, like flashes of some airy wheel. A JULY AFTERNOON BY THE POND

The fervent heat, but so much more endurable in this pure air -- the white and pink pond-blossoms, with great heart-shaped leaves; the glassy waters of the creek, the banks, with dense bushery, and the picturesque beeches and shade and turf; the tremulous, reedy call of some bird from recesses, breaking the warm, indolent, half-voluptuous silence; an occasional wasp, hornet, honey-bee or bumble (they hover near my hands or face, yet annoy me not, nor I them, as they appear to examine, find nothing, and away they go — the vast space of the sky overhead so clear, and the buzzard up there sailing his slow whirl in majestic spirals and discs; just over the surface of the pond, two large slate-color'd dragon-fies, with wings of lace, circling and darting and occasionally balancing themselves quite still, their wings quivering all the time, (are they not showing off for my amusement ?) –

the pond itself, with the sword-shaped calamus; the water snakes occasionally a Aitting blackbird, with red dabs on his shoulders, as he darts slantingly by — the sounds that bring out the solitude, warmth, light and shade — the quawk of some pond duck — (the crickets and grasshoppers are mute in the noon heat, but I hear the song of the first cicadas ;) then at some distance the rattle and whirr of a reaping machine as the horses draw it on a rapid walk through a rye field on the opposite side of the creek (what was the yellow or light-brown bird, large as a young hen, with short neck and long-stretch'd legs I just saw, in flapping and awkward Aight over there through the trees?) -the prevailing delicate, yet palpable, spicy, grassy, clovery perfume to my nostrils; and over all, encircling all, to my sight and soul, the free space of the sky, transparent and blue and hovering there in the west, a mass of whitegray fleecy clouds the sailors call “ shoals of mackerel ” the sky, with silver swirls like locks of toss'd hair, spreading, expanding - a vast voiceless, formless simulacrumyet may-be the most real reality and formulator of everything --who knows ? THE LESSON OF A TREE

One lesson from affiliating a tree — perhaps the greatest moral lesson anyhow from earth, rocks, animals, is that same lesson of inherency, of what is, without the least regard to what the looker-on (the critic) supposes or says, or whether he likes or dislikes. What worse - what more general malady pervades each and all of us, our literature, education, attitude toward each other, (even toward ourselves,) than a morbid trouble about seems, (generally temporarily seems too, and no trouble at all, or hardly any, about the sane, slow-growing, perennial, real parts of character, books, friendship, marriage — humanity's invisible foundations and hold-together? (As the all-basis, the nerve, the great-sympathetic, the plenum within humanity, giving stamp to everything, is necessarily invisible.) AUTUMN SIDE-BITS

Sept. 20.–Under an old black oak, glossy and green, exhaling aroma - amid

– amid a grove the Albic druids might have chosen - envelop'd in the warmth and light of the noonday sun, and swarms of Aitting insects — with the harsh cawing of many crows a hundred rods away

here I sit in solitude, absorbing, enjoying all. The corn, stack'd in its cone-shaped stacks, russet-color'd and sere — a large field spotted thick with scarlet-gold pumpkins — an adjoining one of cabbages, showing well in their green and pearl, mottled by much light and shade — melon patches, with their bulging ovals, and great silver-streak’d, ruffled, broadedged leaves — and many an autumn sight and sound beside — the distant scream of a Alock of guinea-hens and pour'd over all the September breeze, with pensive cadence through the tree tops. THE SKY

Oct. 20.-A clear, crispy day dry and breezy air, full of oxygen. Out of the sane, silent, beauteous miracles that envelope and fuse me — trees, water, grass, sunlight, and early frost — the one I am looking at most to-day is the sky. It has that delicate, transparent blue, peculiar to autumn, and the only clouds are little or larger white ones, giving their still and spiritual motion to the great concave.

All through the earlier day (save from 7 to 11) it keeps a pure, yet vivid blue. But as noon approaches the color gets lighter, white gray for two or three hours — then still paler for a spell, till sundown — which last I watch dazzling through the interstices of a knoll of big trees - darts of fire and gorgeous show of light-yellow, liver-color and red, with a vast silver-glaze askant on the water parent shadows, shafts, sparkle, and vivid colors beyond all the paintings ever made.

trans

« PreviousContinue »