P. M. - To old mill-site behind Ponkawtasset.
Poke berries in the sprout-land east of the red huckleberry still fresh and abundant, perhaps a little past prime. I never saw so many. The plants stand close together, and their drooping racemes three to five inches long, of black or purplish-black berries (ending in red and less [an indecipherable word]), almost crowd one another, hanging around the bright-purple, now for the most part bare, stems. I hear some birds about, but see none feeding on the berries. I could soon gather bushels there.
The arum berries are still fresh and abundant, perhaps in their prime. A large cluster is two and a half inches long by two wide and rather flattish. One, which has ripened prematurely, the stalk being withered and drooping, resembles a very short thick ear of scarlet corn. This might well enough be called snake-corn. These singular vermilion-colored berries, about a hundred of them, surmount a purple bag on a peduncle six or eight inches long. It is one of the most remarkable and dazzling, if not the handsomest, fruits we have. These were by violet wood-sorrel wall. How many fruits are scarlet now! - barberries, prinos, etc.
A flock of vireo-like, somewhat yellowish birds, very neat, white beneath and olive above, in garden.
It is a very fine afternoon to be on the water, somewhat Indian-summer-like. I do not know what constitutes the peculiarity and charm of this weather; the broad water so smooth, notwithstanding the slight wind, as if, owing to some oiliness, the wind slid over without ruffling it. There is a slight coolness in the air, yet the sun is occasionally very warm. I am tempted to say that the air is singularly clear, yet I see it is quite hazy. Perhaps it is that transparency it is said to possess when full of moisture and before or after rain. Through this I see the colors of trees and shrubs beginning to put on their October dress, and the creak of the mole cricket sounds late along the shore.
Since I perambulated the bounds of the town, I find that I have in some degree confined myself, - my vision and my walks. On watever side I look off I am reminded of the mean and narrow-minded men whom I have lately met there. What can be uglier than a country occupied by grovelling, coarse, and low-lived men? No scenery will redeem it. What can be more beautiful than any scenery inhabited by heroes? Any landscape would be glorious to me, if I were assured that its sky was arched over a single hero. Hornets, hyenas, and baboons are not so great a curse to a country as men of a similar character. It is a charmed circle which I have drawn around my abode, having walked not with God but with the devil. I am too well aware when I have crossed this line.
As when Antaeus touched the earth, so when the mountaineer scents the fern, he bounds up like a camois, or mountain goat, with renewed strength. There is no French perfumery about it. It has not been tampered with by any perfumer to their majesties. It is the fragrance of those plants whose impressions we see on our coal. Beware of the cultivation that eradicates it.
Passing a corn-field the other day, close by a hat and coat on a stake, I recognized the owner of the farm. Any of his acquaintances would. He was only a trifle more weather[-beaten] than when I saw him last. His back being toward me, I missed nothing, and I thought to myself if I were a crow I should not fear the balance of him, at any rate.
But the moon is not to be judged alone by the quantity of light she sends us, but also by her influence on the earth. No thinker can afford to overlook the influence of the moon any more than the astronomer can. “The moon gravitates towards the earth, and the earth reciprocally towards the moon.” This statement of the astronomer would be bald and meaningless, if it were not in fact a symbolical expression of the value of all lunar influence on man. Even the astronomer admits that “the notion of the moon’s influence on terrestrial things was confirmed by her manifest effect upon the ocean,” but is not the poet who walks by night conscious of a tide in his thought which is to be referred to lunar influence, in which the ocean within him overflows its shores and bathes the dry land? Has he not his spring-tides and his neap-tides, the former sometimes combining with the winds of heaven to produce those memorable high tides of the calendar which leave their marks for ages, when all Broad Street is submerged, and incalculable damage is done to the ordinary shipping of the mind?
3 P. M. - To Cliffs via Bear Hill.
As I go through the fields, endeavoring to recover my tone and sanity and to perceive things truly and simply again, after having been perambulating the bounds of the town all the week, and dealing with the most commonplace and worldly-minded men, and emphatically trivial things, I feel as if I had committed suicide in a sense. I am again forcibly struck with the truth of the fable of Apollo serving King Admetus, its universal applicability. A fatal coarseness is the result of mixing in the trivial affairs of men. Though I have been associating even with the select men of this and the surrounding towns, I feel inexpressibly begrimed. My Pegasus has lost his wings; he has turned a reptile and gone on his belly. Such things are compatible only with a cheap and superficial life.
Thinking this afternoon of the prospect of my writing lectures and going abroad to read them the next winter, I realized how incomparably great the advantages of obscurity and poverty which I have enjoyed so long (and may still perhaps enjoy). I thought with what more than princely, with what poetical, leisure I had spent my years hitherto, without care or engagement, fancy-free. I have given myself up to nature; I have lived so many springs and summers and autumns and winters as if I had nothing else to do but live them, and imbibe whatever nutriment they had for me; I have spent a couple of years, for instance, with the flowers chiefly, having none other so binding engagement as to observe when they opened; I could have afforded to spend a whole fall observing the changing tints of the foliage. Ah, how I have thriven on solitude and poverty! I cannot overstate this advantage. I do not see how I could have enjoyed it, if the public had been expecting as much of me as there is danger now that they will. If I go abroad lecturing, how shall I ever recover the lost winter?