The cat sleeps on her head! What does this portend? It is more alarming than a dozen comets. How long prejudice survives! The big-bodied fisherman asks me doubtingly about the comet seen these nights in the northwest, - if there is any danger to be apprehended from that side! I would fain suggest that only he is dangerous to himself.
Walden plainly can never be spoiled by the woodchopper, for, do what you will to the shore, there will still remain this crystal well. The intense brilliancy of the red-ripe maples scattered here and there in the midst of the green oaks and hickories on its hilly shore is quite charming. They are unexpectedly and incredibly brilliant, especially on the western shore and close to the water’s edge, where, alternating with yellow birches and poplars and green oaks, they remind me of a line of soldiers redcoats and riflemen in green mixed together.
Hugh Miller, in his “Old Red Sandstone,” speaking of “the consistency of style which obtains among the ichthyolites of this formation” and the “microscopic beauty of these ancient fishes,” says: “The artist who sculptured the cherry stone consigned it to a cabinet, and placed a microscope beside it; the microscopic beauty of these ancient fish was consigned to the twilight depths of a primeval ocean. There is a feeling which at times grows upon the painter and the statuary, as if the perception and love of the beautiful had been sublimed into a kind of moral sense. Art comes to be pursued for its own sake; the exquisite conception in the mind, or the elegant and elaborate model, becomes all in all to the worker, and the dread of criticism or the appetite of praise almost nothing. And thus, through the influence of a power somewhat akin to conscience, but whose province is not the just and the good, but the fair, the refined, the exquisite, have works prosecuted in solitude, and never intended for the world, been found fraught with loveliness.” The hesitation with which this is said - to say nothing of its simplicity - betrays a latent infidelity more fatal far than that of the “Vestiges of Creation,” which in another work this author endeavors to correct. He describes that as an exception which is in fact the rule. The supposed want of harmony between “the perception and love of the beautiful” and a delicate moral sense betrays what kind of beauty the writer has been conversant with. He speaks of his work becoming all in all to the worker, his rising above the dread of criticism and the appetite of praise, as if these were the very rare exceptions in a great artist’s life, and not the very definition of it.
I never found a pitcher-plant without an insect in it. The bristles about the nose of the pitcher all point inward, and insects which enter or fall in appear for this reason unable to get out again. It is some obstacle which our senses cannot appreciate. Pitcher-plants more obvious now.
P. M. - Round Walden and Pleasant Meadow.
Small Oaks in hollows (as under Emerson Cliff) have fairly begun to change.
The taller grass and sedge is now generally withered and brown, and reveals the little pines in it.
I see that acorns - white oak, etc. - have fallen after the rain and wind, just as leaves and fruit have.
I see, just up, the large light-orange toad-stools with white spots, at first: (illustration by Thoreau) then: (illustration by Thoreau)
Sunday. Dined with Lowell. Said the largest pine Goddard’s men cut last winter scaled in the woods forty-five hundred feet board measure, and was worth ninety dollars at the Bangor boom, Oldtown. They cut a road three miles and a half for this alone. They do not make much of a path, however. From L. I learned that the untouched white pine timber which comes down the Penobscot waters is to be found at the head of the East Branch and the head waters of the Allegash, about Eagle Lake and Chamberlain, etc., and Webster Stream. But Goddard had bought the stumpage in eight townships in New Brunswick. They are also buying up townships across the Canada line.
Thursday. A. M. - Up the Assabet.
The river is considerably raised and also muddied by the recent rains.
I saw a red squirrel run along the bank under the hemlocks with a nut in its mouth. He stopped near the foot of a hemlock, and, hastily pawing a hole with his fore feet, dropped the nut, covered it up, and retreated part way up the trunk of the tree, all in a few moments. I approached the shore to examine the deposit, and he, descending betrayed no little anxiety for his treasure and made two or three motions to recover the nut before he retreated. Digging there, I found two pignuts joined together, with their green shells on, buried about an inch and a half in the soil, under the red hemlock leaves. This, then, is the way forests are planted. This nut must have been brought twenty rods at least and was buried at just the right depth. If the squirrel is killed, or neglects its deposit, a hickory springs up.
Friday. Walked down the riverside this forenoon to the hill where they were using a steam-shovel at the new railroad cut, and thence to a hill three quarters of a mile further. Saw Aster undulatus, Solidago nemoralis, fragrant everlasting, silvery cinque-foil, small white birch, Lobelia inflata, both kinds of primrose, low cudweed, lactuca, Polygonum cilinode (apparently out of bloom), yellow oxalis. I returned across the fields behind the town, and over the highest hill behind Bangor, and up the Kenduskieg, from which I saw the Ebeeme Mountains in the northwest and hills we had come by. The arbor-vitae is the prevailing shrub.
P. M. - To Clamshell by boat.
Find more pieces of that Indian pot. Have now thirty-eight in all.
Evidently the recent rise of the river has caused the lower leaves of the button-bush to fall. A perfectly level line on these bushes marks the height to which the water rose, many or most of the leaves so high having fallen.
The clematis yesterday was but just beginning to be feathered, but its feathers make no show. Feathers out next day in house.
See a large flock of crows.
The sweet-gale fruit is yet quite green, but perhaps it is ripe. The button-bush balls are hardly reddened.
Moreover the beach plum appears to prefer a sandy place, however far inland, and one of our patches grows on the only desert which we have.
Some of the botanists, like Gerard, were prompted and compelled to describe their plants, but most nowadays only measure them, as it were. The former is affected by what he sees and so inspired to portray it; the latter merely fills out a schedule prepared for him, - makes a description pour servir. I am constantly assisted by the books in identifying a particular plant and learning some of its humbler uses, but I rarely read a sentence in a botany which reminds me of flowers or living plants. Very few indeed write as if they had seen the thing which they pretend to describe.