The pincushion galls on young white oaks are now among the most beautiful objects in the woods, coarse woolly white to appearance, spotted with bright red or crimson on the exposed side. It is remarkable that a mere gall, which at first we are inclined to regard as something abnormal, should be made so beautiful, as if it were the flower of the tree; that a disease, an excrescence, should prove, perchance, the greatest beauty, - as the tear of the pearl. Beautiful scarlet sins they may be. Through our temptations, - aye, and our falls, - our virtues appear. As in many a character, - many a poet, - we see that beauty exhibited in a gall, which was meant to have bloomed in a flower, unchecked. Such, however, is the accomplishment of the world. The poet cherishes his chagrins and sets his sighs to music. This gall is the tree’s “Ode to Dejection.” How oft it chances that the apparent fruit of a shrub, its apple, is merely a gall or blight! How many men meet with some blast in the moist growing days of their youth, and what should have been a sweet and palatable fruit in them becomes a mere puff and excrescence, ripening no kernel, and they say that they have experienced religion! For the hardening of the seed is the crisis. Their fruit is a gall, a puff, an excrescence, for want of moderation and continence. So many plants never ripen their fruit.
Old Election. Cold weather. Many go a-fishing to-day in earnest, and one gets forty pouts in river. Locust.
P. M. - To Miles Meadow by boat.
A cold southeast wind. Blue-eyed grass, apparently in pretty good season. Saw a greater telltale, and this is the only one I have seen probably; distinguished by its size. It is very watchful, but not timid, allowing me to come quite near, while it stands on the lookout at the water’s edge. It keeps nodding its head with an awkward jerk, and wades in the water to the middle of its yellow legs; goes off with a loud and sharp phe phe phe phe, or something like that. It acts the part of the telltale, though there are no birds here, as if [it] were with a flock. Remarkable as a sentinel for other birds. I think I see a few clams come up. The mountain sumach at the Cliffs is much more forward than at Hubbard’s, and perhaps is earlier to leaf than the button-bush. Alternate cornel, apparently yesterday. Cockspur thorn is well out; how long?
Maidenhair fern, how handsome!
The morning wind forever blows; the poem of the world is uninterrupted, but few are the ears that hear it. Forever that strain of the harp which soothed the Cerberus and called me back to life is sounding. Olympus is the outside of the earth everywhere.
These last two days, with their sultry, hazy air, are the first that suggest the expression “the furnace-like heat.” Bathing has begun. In the evening and during the night the ring of the toads fills the air, so that some have to shut the windows toward the river, but when you awake in the morning not one is to be heard. As it grows warmer in the forenoon I hear a few again; but still I do not hear them numerously and loudly as earlier in the season at that hour, though far more numerously and loudly at night.
I get the nest of the turtle dove above named, it being deserted and no egg left. It appears to have been built on the foundation of an old robin’s nest and consists of a loose wisp of straw and pinweed, the seedy ends projecting, ten inches long, laid across the mud foundation of the robin’s nest, with a very slight depression. Very loose and coarse material is artificially disposed, without any lining or architecture. It was close to a frequented path of the cemetery and within reach of the hand.
I saw an organ-grinder this morning before a rich man’s house, thrilling the street with harmony, loosening the very paving-stones and tearing the routine of life to rags and tatters, when the lady of the house shoved up a window and in a semiphilanthropic tone inquired if he wanted anything to eat. But he, very properly it seemed to me, kept on grinding and paid no attention to her question, feeding her ears with melody unaskedfor. So the world shoves up its window and interrogates the poet, and sets him to gauging ale casks in return. It seemed to me that the music suggested that the recompense should be as fine as the gift. It would be much nobler to enjoy the music, though you paid no money for it, than to presume always a beggarly relation. It is after all, perhaps, the best instrumental music that we have.
Gathered some small pincushion galls on a white oak. They are smaller and handsome, more colored than those I first saw on shrub oaks about a week ago. They are shaped somewhat like little bass-drum sticks with large pads, - on the end of last year’s twigs. It is a globular mass composed of fine crystalline rays, somewhat like stigmas, the ground white ones, thickly sprinkled with bright-scarlet (rather than crimson) dimples. This is one of the most faery-like productions of the woods.
Visited the Egyptian Museum.
The chariot wheel might have been picked out of a ditch in Carlisle, and the infant’s shoe have been found with it.
P. M. - To Staten Island.
See an abundance of Ranunculus abortivus in the wood-path behind Mr. E.’s house, going to seed and in bloom. The branches are fine and spreading, about eight or ten inches high. (Vide pressed plants.) Also some R. recurvatus; and, well out, what appears to be Thaspium trifoliatum (?) in flower, in path to house. (Vide pressed.) Potatoes just hoed; ours not fairly up.
Monday. To New York by railroad.
All through Connecticut and New York the white involucres of the cornel (C. Florida), recently expanded, some of them reddish or rosaceous, are now conspicuous. It is not quite expanded in Concord. It is the most showy indigenous tree now open. (One plant at Staten Island on the 25th had but just begun to flower, i. e. the true flowers to open.) After entering the State of New York I observed, now fully in bloom, what I call the Viburnum punifolium, looking very like our V. Lentago in flower at a little distance. It is thorny, as they told me at Staten Island, and the same I dealt with at Perth Amboy, and is insufficiently described. It grows on higher and drier ground than our V. nudum, but its fruit, which is called “nanny berries,” resembles that rather than the V. Lentago. It shows now rich, dense, rounded masses of white flowers; i. e., the surface of the bushes makes the impression of regular curves or convex masses of bloom, bearing a large proportion to the green leaves. The pink azalea, too, not yet out at home, is generally out, with the cornel (I see it also next day at Staten Island.)