The town and country are now so still, there being no rattle of wagons nor even jingle of sleigh-bells, every tread being as with woolen feet, I hear very distinctly from the railroad causeway the whistle of the locomotive on the Lowell road. For the same reason, in such a day as this the crowing of a cock is heard very far and distinctly. I frequently mistake at first a very distant whistle for the higher tones of the telegraph harp by my side. The telegraph and railroad are closely allied, and it is fit and to be expected that at a little distance their music should be the same. There are a few sounds still which never fail to affect me. The notes of the wood thrush and the sound of a vibrating chord, these affect me as many sounds once did often, and as almost all should. The strains of the æolian harp and of the wood thrush are the truest and loftiest preachers that I know now left on this earth. I know of no missionaries to us heathen comparable to them. They, as it were, lift us up in spite of ourselves. They intoxicate, they charm us. Where was that strain mixed into which this world was dropped but as a lump of sugar to sweeten the draught? I would be drunk, drunk, drunk, dead drunk to this world with it forever. He that hath ears, let him hear. The contact of sound with a human ear whose hearing is pure and unimpaired is coincident with an ecstasy. Sugar is not so sweet to the palate, as sound to the healthy ear; the hearing of it makes men brave.
The fishermen sit by their damp fire of rotten pine wood, so wet and chilly that even smoke in their eyes is a kind of comfort. There they sit, ever and anon scanning their reels to see if any have fallen, and, if not catching many fish, still getting what they went for, though they may not be aware of it, i. e. a wilder experience than the town affords.
Talk of fate! How little one can know what is fated to another! - what he can do and what he can not do! I doubt whether one can give or receive any very pertinent advice. In all important crises one can only consult his genius. Though he were the most shiftless and craziest of mortals, if he still recognizes that he has any genius to consult, none may presume to go between him and her [sic]. They, methinks, are poor stuff and creatures of a miserable fate who can be advised and persuaded in very important steps. Show me a man who consults his genius, and you have shown me a man who cannot be advised. You may know what a thing costs or is worth to you; you can never know what it costs or is worth to me. All the community may scream because one man is born who will not do as it does, who will not conform because conformity to him is death, - he is so constituted. They know nothing about his case; they are fools when they presume to advise him. The man of genius knows what he is aiming at; nobody else knows. And he alone knows when something comes between him and his object. In the course of generations, however, men will excuse you for not doing as they do, if you will bring enough to pass in your own way.
Thursday. The pine woods seen from the hilltops, now that the ground is covered with snow, are not green but a dark brown, greenish-brown perhaps. You see dark patches of wood. There are still half a dozen fresh ripe red and glossy oak leaves left on the bush under the Cliffs.
Walden not yet more than half frozen over.
Now that the sun is setting, all its light seems to glance over the snow-clad pond and strike the rocky shore under the pitch pines at the northeast end. Though the bare rocky shore there is only a foot or a foot and a half high as I look, it reflects so much light that the rocks are singularly distinct, as if the pond showed its teeth.
I stayed later to hear the pond crack, but it did not much. How full of soft, pure light the western sky now, after sunset! I love to see the outlines of the pines against it. Unless you watch it, you do not know when the sun goes down. It is like a candle extinguished without smoke. A moment ago you saw that glittering orb amid the dry oak leaves in the horizon, and now you can detect no trace of it. In a pensive mood I enjoy the complexion of the winter sky at this hour.
Those small sphagnous mountains in the Andromeda Ponds are grotesque things. Being frozen, they bear me up like moss-clad rocks and make it easy getting through the water-brush.
But for all voice in that serene hour I hear an owl hoot. How glad I am to hear him rather than the most eloquent man of the age!
I do not take snuff. In my winter walks, I stoop and bruise between my thumb and finger the dry whorls of the lycopus, or water horehound, just rising above the snow, stripping them off, and smell that. That is as near as I come to the Spice Islands. That is my smelling-bottle, my ointment.
If the writer would interest readers, he must report so much life, using a certain satisfaction always as a point d’appui. However mean and limited, it must be a genuine and contented life that he speaks out of. They must have the essence or oil of himself, tried out of the fat of his experience and joy.
How nicely is Nature adjusted! The least disturbance of her equilibrium is betrayed and corrects itself. As I looked down on the surface of the brook, I was surprised to see a leaf floating, as I thought, up the stream, but I was mistaken. The motion of a particle of dust on the surface of any brook far inland shows which way the earth declines toward the sea, which way lies the constantly descending route, and the only one.