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and grown man's garden and orchard, and tell their story faintly to the lone wanderer a
half-century after they had grown up and died--blossoming as fair, and smelling as sweet,
as in that first spring. I mark its still tender, civil, cheerful lilac colors.
But this small village, germ of something more, why did it fail while Concord keeps its
ground? Were there no natural advantages--no water privileges, forsooth? Ay, the deep
Walden Pond and cool Brister's Spring--privilege to drink long and healthy draughts at
these, all unimproved by these men but to dilute their glass. They were universally a
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thirsty race. Might not the basket, stable-broom, mat-making, corn-parching, linen-
spinning, and pottery business have thrived here, making the wilderness to blossom like
the rose, and a numerous posterity have inherited the land of their fathers? The sterile soil
would at least have been proof against a lowland degeneracy. Alas! how little does the
memory of these human inhabitants enhance the beauty of the landscape! Again, perhaps,
Nature will try, with me for a first settler, and my house raised last spring to be the oldest
in the hamlet.
I am not aware that any man has ever built on the spot which I occupy. Deliver me from a
city built on the site of a more ancient city, whose materials are ruins, whose gardens
cemeteries. The soil is blanched and accursed there, and before that becomes necessary
the earth itself will be destroyed. With such reminiscences I repeopled the woods and
lulled myself asleep.
At this season I seldom had a visitor. When the snow lay deepest no wanderer ventured
near my house for a week or fortnight at a time, but there I lived as snug as a meadow
mouse, or as cattle and poultry which are said to have survived for a long time buried in
drifts, even without food; or like that early settler's family in the town of Sutton, in this
State, whose cottage was completely covered by the great snow of 1717 when he was
absent, and an Indian found it only by the hole which the chimney's breath made in the
drift, and so relieved the family. But no friendly Indian concerned himself about me; nor
needed he, for the master of the house was at home. The Great Snow! How cheerful it is
to hear of! When the farmers could not get to the woods and swamps with their teams,
and were obliged to cut down the shade trees before their houses, and, when the crust was
harder, cut off the trees in the swamps, ten feet from the ground, as it appeared the next
spring.
In the deepest snows, the path which I used from the highway to my house, about half a
mile long, might have been represented by a meandering dotted line, with wide intervals
between the dots. For a week of even weather I took exactly the same number of steps,
and of the same length, coming and going, stepping deliberately and with the precision of
a pair of dividers in my own deep tracks--to such routine the winter reduces us--yet often
Walden& 194
they were filled with heaven's own blue. But no weather interfered fatally with my walks,
or rather my going abroad, for I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest
snow to keep an appointment with a beech tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance
among the pines; when the ice and snow causing their limbs to droop, and so sharpening
their tops, had changed the pines into fir trees; wading to the tops of the highest bills
when the show was nearly two feet deep on a level, and shaking down another snow-
storm on my head at every step; or sometimes creeping and floundering thither on my
hands and knees, when the hunters had gone into winter quarters. One afternoon I amused
myself by watching a barred owl (Strix nebulosa) sitting on one of the lower dead limbs
of a white pine, close to the trunk, in broad daylight, I standing within a rod of him. He
could hear me when I moved and cronched the snow with my feet, but could not plainly
see me. When I made most noise he would stretch out his neck, and erect his neck
feathers, and open his eyes wide; but their lids soon fell again, and he began to nod. I too
felt a slumberous influence after watching him half an hour, as he sat thus with his eyes
half open, like a cat, winged brother of the cat. There was only a narrow slit left between
their lids, by which be preserved a pennisular relation to me; thus, with half-shut eyes,
looking out from the land of dreams, and endeavoring to realize me, vague object or mote
that interrupted his visions. At length, on some louder noise or my nearer approach, he
would grow uneasy and sluggishly turn about on his perch, as if impatient at having his
dreams disturbed; and when he launched himself off and flapped through the pines,
spreading his wings to unexpected breadth, I could not hear the slightest sound from
them. Thus, guided amid the pine boughs rather by a delicate sense of their neighborhood
than by sight, feeling his twilight way, as it were, with his sensitive pinions, he found a
new perch, where he might in peace await the dawning of his day.
As I walked over the long causeway made for the railroad through the meadows, I
encountered many a blustering and nipping wind, for nowhere has it freer play; and when
the frost had smitten me on one cheek, heathen as I was, I turned to it the other also. Nor
was it much better by the carriage road from Brister's Hill. For I came to town still, like a
friendly Indian, when the contents of the broad open fields were all piled up between the
walls of the Walden road, and half an hour sufficed to obliterate the tracks of the last
Walden& 195
traveller. And when I returned new drifts would have formed, through which I
floundered, where the busy northwest wind had been depositing the powdery snow round
a sharp angle in the road, and not a rabbit's track, nor even the fine print, the small type,
of a meadow mouse was to be seen. Yet I rarely failed to find, even in midwinter, some
warm and springly swamp where the grass and the skunk-cabbage still put forth with
perennial verdure, and some hardier bird occasionally awaited the return of spring.
Sometimes, notwithstanding the snow, when I returned from my walk at evening I
crossed the deep tracks of a woodchopper leading from my door, and found his pile of
whittlings on the hearth, and my house filled with the odor of his pipe. Or on a Sunday
afternoon, if I chanced to be at home, I heard the cronching of the snow made by the step
of a long-headed farmer, who from far through the woods sought my house, to have a
social "crack"; one of the few of his vocation who are "men on their farms"; who donned
a frock instead of a professor's gown, and is as ready to extract the moral out of church or
state as to haul a load of manure from his barn-yard. We talked of rude and simple times,
when men sat about large fires in cold, bracing weather, with clear heads; and when other
dessert failed, we tried our teeth on many a nut which wise squirrels have long since
abandoned, for those which have the thickest shells are commonly empty.
The one who came from farthest to my lodge, through deepest snows and most dismal
tempests, was a poet. A farmer, a hunter, a soldier, a reporter, even a philosopher, may be
daunted; but nothing can deter a poet, for he is actuated by pure love. Who can predict his
comings and goings? His business calls him out at all hours, even when doctors sleep.
We made that small house ring with boisterous mirth and resound with the murmur of
much sober talk, making amends then to Walden vale for the long silences. Broadway
was still and deserted in comparison. At suitable intervals there were regular salutes of
laughter, which might have been referred indifferently to the last-uttered or the forth- [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]