The forenoon that I moved to my house, a poor old lame fellow who had formerly frozen his feet hobbled off the road, came and stood before my door with one hand on each door-post, looking into the house, and asked for a drink of water. I knew that rum or something like it was the only drink he loved, but I gave him a dish of warm pond water, which was all I had, nevertheless, which to my astonishment he drank, being used to drinking.
Nations! What are nations? Tartars! and Huns! and Chinamen! Like insects they swarm. The historian strives in vain to make them memorable. It is for want of a man that there are so many men. It is individuals that populate the world.
Concord. - Cultivated cherry in bloom.
Moses Emerson, the kind and gentlemanly man who assisted and looked after me in Haverhill, said that a good horse was worth $75, and all above was fancy, and that when he saw a man driving a fast horse he expected he would fail soon.
I listen to a concert of red-wings, - their rich sprayey notes, amid which a few more liquid and deep in a lower tone or undertone, as if it bubbled up from the very water beneath the button-bushes; as if those singers sat lower. Some old and skillful performer touches these deep and liquid notes, and the rest seem to get up a concert just to encourage him. Yet it is ever a prelude or essay with him, as are all good things, and the melody he is capable of and which we did not hear this time is what we remember. The future will draw him out. The different individuals sit singing and pluming themselves and not appearing to have any conversation with one another. They are only tuning all at once; they never seriously perform; the hour has not arrived. Then all go off with a hurried and perhaps alarmed tchuck tchuck.
Again I am advertised of the approach of a new season, as yesterday. The air is not only warmer and stiller, but has more of meaning or smothered voice to it, now that the hum of insects begins to be heard. You seem to have a great companion with you, are reassured by the scarcely audible hum, as if it were the noise of your own thinking. It is a voiceful and significant stillness, such as precedes a thunder-storm or a hurricane. The boisterous spring winds cease to blow, the waves to dash, the migrating ducks to vex the air so much. You are sensible of a certain repose in nature.
It is only by a sort of voluntary blindness, and omitting to see, that we know ourselves, as when we see stars with the side of the eye. The nearest approach to discovering what we are is in dreams. It is as hard to see one’s self as to look backwards without turning round. And foolish are they that look in glasses with that intent.
Mr. Stewart tells me that he has found a gray squirrel’s nest up the Assabet, in a maple tree. I resolve that I too will find it. I do not know within less than a quarter of a mile where to look, nor whether it is in a hollow tree, or in a nest of leaves. I examine the shore first and find where he landed. I then examine the maples in that neighborhood to see what one has been climbed. I soon find one that bark of which has been lately rubbed by the boots of a climber, and, looking up, see a nest. It was a large nest made of maple twigs, with a centre of leaves, lined with finer, about twenty feet from the ground, against the leading stem of a large red maple. I noticed no particular entrance. When I put in my hand from above and felt the young, they uttered a dull croak-like squeak, and one clung fast to my hand when I took it out through the leaves and twigs with which it was covered. It was yet blind, and could not have been many days old, yet it instinctively clung to my hand with its little claws, as if it knew that there was danger of its falling from a height to the ground which it never saw. The idea of clinging was strongly planted in it. There was quite a depth of loose sticks, maple twigs, piled on the top of the nest. No wonder that they become skillful climbers who are born high above the ground and begin their lives in a tree, having first of all to descend to reach the earth. They are cradled in a tree-top, in but a loose basket, in helpless infancy, and there slumber when their mother is away. No wonder that they are never made dizzy by high climbing, that were born in the top of a tree, and learn to cling fast to the tree before their eyes are open.
The elms are now fairly in blossom. It is one of those, clear, washing days, - though the air is cold, - such as succeed a storm, when the air is clear and flowing, and the cultivated ground and the roads shine. Passed Flint’s road on the wall. Sorrel is well under weigh, and cinquefoil. White oaks still hold their leaves. The pitch pine is a cheerful tree at this season, with its lively yellow-green in the sunshine, while the landscape is still russet and dead-grass colored.
Vegetation starts when the earth’s axis is sufficiently inclined; i. e. it follows the sun. Insects and all the smaller animals (as well as many larger) follow vegetation. The fishes, the small fry, start probably for this reason; worms come out of the trees; buffaloes finally seek new pastures; water-bugs appear on the water, etc., etc. Next, the large fish and fish hawks, etc., follow the small fry; flycatchers follow the insects and worms. (The granivorous birds, who can depend on the supplies of dry seeds of last year, are to some extent independent of the seasons, and can remain through the winter or come early in the spring, and they furnish food for a few birds of prey at that season.) Indians follow the buffaloes; trout, suckers, etc., follow the water-bugs, etc.; reptiles follow vegetation, insects, and worms; birds of prey, the fly-catchers, etc. Man follows all, and all follow the sun. The greater or less abundance of food determines migration. If the buds are deceived and suffer from frost, then are the birds. The great necessary of life for the brute creation is food; next, perhaps, shelter, i. e. a suitable climate; thirdly, perhaps, security from foes.