In all the dissertations on language, men forget the language that is, that is really universal, the inexpressible meaning that is in all things and everywhere, with which the morning and evening teem. As if language were especially of the tongue of course. With a more copious learning or understanding of what is published, the present languages, and all that they express, will be forgotten.
Most men have forgotten that it was ever morning; but a few serene memories, healthy and wakeful natures, there are who assure us that the sun rose clear, heralded by the singing of birds, - this very day’s sun, which rose before Memnon was ready to greet it.
All nature is classic and akin to art. The sumach and pine and hickory which surround my house remind me of the most graceful sculpture. Sometimes their tops, or a single limb or leaf, seems to have grown to a distinct expression as if it were a symbol for me to interpret. Poetry, painting, and sculpture claim at once and associate with themselves those perfect specimens of the art of nature, - leaves, vines, acorns, pine cones, etc. The critic must at last stand as mute though contented before a true poem as before an acorn or a vine leaf. The perfect work of art is received again into the bosom of nature whence its material proceeded, and that criticism which can only detect its unnaturalness has no longer any office to fulfill. The choicest maxims that have come down to us are more beautiful or integrally wise than they are wise to our understandings. This wisdom which we are inclined to pluck from their stalk is the point only of a single association. Every natural form - palm leaves and acorns, oak leaves and sumach and dodder - are untranslatable aphorisms.
(Undated entry, August 1845)
A man must find his own occasion in himself. The natural day is very calm, and will hardly reprove our indolence. If there is no elevation in our spirits, the pond will not seem elevated like a mountain tarn, but a low pool, a silent muddy water, a place for fishermen.
(Undated entry, August, 1845)
While there remains a fragment on which a man can stand - and dare not tell his name” - referring to the case of Frederick _________, to our disgrace we know not what to call him, unless Scotland will lend us one of her hero Douglasses out of history or fiction for a season - till we be trustworthy and hospitable enough to hear his proper name. A fugitive slave, in one more sense than we - who has proved himself the possessor of a White intellect, and has won a colorless reputation among us - who we trust will prove himself as superior to temptation from the sympathies of freedom, as he has done to the degradation of slavery. When he communicated his purpose said Mr. Philips the other day to a New Bedford audience of writing his life and telling his name and the name of his master and the place he ran from - This murmur ran round the room, and was timidly whispered by the sons of the Pilgrims “he had better not” - and it was echoed under the shadow of Concord monument - “he had better not.” But he is going to England where this revelation will be safe.
The sounds heard at this hour, 8:30, are the distant rumbling of wagons over bridges, - a sound farthest heard of any human at night, - the baying of dogs, the lowing of cattle in distant yards.
What if we were to obey these fine dictates, these divine suggestions, which are addressed to the mind and not to the body, which are certainly true, - not to eat meat, not to buy, or sell, or barter, etc., etc., etc.?
I will not plant beans another summer, but sincerity, truth, simplicity, faith, trust, innocence, and see if they will not grow in this soil with such manure as I have, and sustain me. When a man meets a man, it should not be some uncertain appearance and falseood, but the personification of great qualities. Here comes truth, perchance, personified, along the road. Let me see how Truth behaves. I have not seen enough of her. He shall utter no foreign word, no doubtful sentence, and I shall not make haste to part with him.
I would not forget that I deal with infinite and divine qualities in my fellow. All men, indeed, are divine in their core of light, but that is indistinct and distant to me, like the stars of the least magnitude, or the galaxy itself, but my kindred planets show their round disks and even their attendant moons to my eye.
Even the tired laborers I meet on the road, I really meet as travelling gods, but it is as yet, and must be for a long season, without speech.
My auxiliaries are the dews and rains, - to water this dry soil, - and genial fatness in the soil itself, which for the most art is lean and effete. My enemies are worms, cool days, and most of all woodchucks. They have nibbled for me an eighth of an acre clean. I plant in faith, and they reap. This is the tax I pay for ousting johnswort and the rest. But soon the surviving beans will be too tough for woodchucks, and then they will go forward to meet new foes.