About three weeks ago my indignation was roused by hearing that one of my townsmen, notorious for meanness, was endeavoring to get and keep a premium of four dollars which a poor Irish laborer whom he hired had gained by fifteen minutes’ spading at our Agricultural Fair. To-night a free colored woman is lodging at our house, whose errand to the North is to get money to buy her husband, who is a slave to one Moore in Norfolk, Virginia. She persuaded Moore, though not a kind master, to buy him that he might not be sold further South. Moore paid six hundred dollars for him, but asks her eight hundred. My most natural reflection was that he was even meaner than my townsman. As mean as a slaveholder!
It is very pleasant to float along over the smooth meadow, where every weed and each stem of coarse grass that rises above the surface has another, answering to it and even more distinct, in the water beneath, making a rhyme to it, so that the most irregular form appears regular. A few scattered dry and clean (very light straw-colored) grasses are so cheap and simple a beauty thus reflected. I see this especially on Potter’s meadow. The bright hips of the meadow rose, which we brush against with our boat, - for with sallows and button-bushes it forms islands, - are handsomer thus seen than a closer inspection proves.
I used to strike with a paddle on the side of my boat on Walden Pond, filling the surrounding woods with circling and dilating sound, awaking the woods, “stirring them up,” as a keeper of a menagerie his lions and tigers, a growl from all. All melody is a sweet echo, as it were coincident with [the] movement of our organs. We wake the echo of the place we are in, its lumbering music.
How handsome the great red oak acorns now! I stand under the tree on Emerson’s lot. They are still falling. I heard one fall into the water as I approached, and thought that a musquash had plunged. They strew the ground and the bottom of the river thickly, and while I stand here I hear one strike the boughs with force as it comes down, and drop into the water. The part that was covered by the cup is whitish-woolly. How munificent merely to gratify our eyes! Though inedible they are more wholesome to my immortal part, and stand by me longer, than the fruits which I eat. If they had been plums or chestnuts I should have eaten them on the spot and probably forgotten them. They would have afforded only a momentary gratification, but being acorns, I remember, and as it were feed on, them still. They are untasted fruits forever in store for me. I know not of their flavor as yet. That is postponed to some still unimagined winter evening. These which we admire but do not eat are nuts of the gods. When time is no more we shall crack them. I cannot help liking them better than horse-chestnuts, which are of a similar color, not only because they are of a much handsomer form, but because they are indigenous. What hale, plump fellows they are! They can afford not to be useful to me, nor to know me or be known by me. They go their way, I go mine, and it turns out that sometimes I go after them.
The obstacles which the heart meets with are like granite blocks which one alone cannot move. She who was as the morning light to me is now neither the morning star nor the evening star. We meet but to find each other further asunder, and the oftener we meet the more rapid our divergence. So a star of the first magnitude pales in the heavens, not from any fault in the observer’s eye nor from any fault in itself, perchance, but because its progress in its own system has put a greater distance between.
The night is oracular. What have been the intimations of the night? I ask. How have you passed the night? Good-night!
What men call social virtues, good fellowship, is commonly but the virtue of pigs in a litter, which lie close together to keep each other warm. It brings men together in crowds and mobs in barrooms and elsewhere, but it does not deserve the name of virtue.
I cannot easily dismiss the subject of the fallen leaves. . .
Consider what a vast crop is thus annually shed upon the earth. This, more than any mere grain or seed, is the great harvest of the year. This annual decay and death, this dying by inches, before the whole tree at last lies down and turns to soil. As tees shed their leaves, so deer their horns, and men their hair or nails. The year’s great crop. I am more interested in it than in the English grass alone or in the corn. It prepares the virgin mould for future cornfields on which the earth fattens. They teach us how to die.
A very warm Indian-summer day, too warm for a thick coat. It is remarkably hazy, too, but when I open the door I smell smoke, which may in part account for it. After being out awhile I do not perceive the smoke, only on first opening the door. It is so thick a blue haze that, when, going along in Thrush Alley Path, I look through the trees into Abel Brooks’s deep hollow, I cannot see across it to the woods beyond, though it is only a stone’s throw. Like a deep blue lake at first glance.
Many a man, when I tell him that I have been on to a mountain, asks if I took a glass with me. No doubt, I could have seen further with a glass, and particular objects more distinctly, - could have counted more meeting-houses; but this has nothing to do with the peculiar beauty and grandeur of the view which an elevated position affords. It was not to see a few particular objects, as if they were near at hand, as I had been accustomed to see them, that I ascended the mountain, but to see an infinite variety far and near in their relation to each other, thus reduced to a single picture. The facts of science, in comparison with poetry, are wont to be as vulgar as looking from the mountain with a telescope. It is a counting of meeting-houses.