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if you had a discriminating ear, there were in it the ele-
ments of a concord such as these plains never saw nor

I also heard the whooping of the ice in the pond, my
great bedfellow in that part of Concord, as if it were rest-
less in its bed and would fain turn over, were troubled with
flatulency and bad dreams ; or I was waked by the cracking
of the ground by the frost, as if some one had driven a
team against my door, and in the morning would find a
crack in the earth a quarter of a mile long and a third of
an inch wide.

Sometimes I heard the foxes as they ranged over the
snow-crust, in moonlight nights, in search of a partridge or
other game, barking raggedly and demoniacally, like forest
dogs, as if laboring with some anxiety, or seeking expres-
sion, struggling for light and to be dogs outright and run
freely in the streets ; for if we take the ages into our
account, may there not be a civilization going on among
brutes as well as men ? They seemed to me to be rudi-
mental, burrowing men, still standing on their defence,
awaiting their transformation. Sometimes one came near
to my window, attracted by my light, barked a vulpine
curse at me, and then retreated.

Usually the red squirrel (Sciurus Hudsonius) waked me
in the dawn, coursing over the roof and up and down the
sides of the house, as if sent out of the woods for this pur-
pose. In the course of the winter I threw out half a
bushel of ears of sweet-corn, which had not got ripe, on to
the snow-crust by my door, and was amused by watching
the motions of the various animals which were baited by it.
In the twilight and the night the rabbits came regularly and


made a hearty meal. All day long the red squirrels came
and went, and afforded me much entertainment by their
manoeuvres. One would approach at first warily through
the shrub-oaks, running over the snow-crust by fits and
starts, like a leaf blown by the wind, now a few paces this
way, with wonderful speed and waste of energy, making
inconceivable haste with his " trotters," as if it were for a
wager, and now as many paces that way, but never getting
on more than half a rod at a time ; and then suddenly
pausing with a ludicrous expression and a gratuitous somer-
set, as if all the eyes in the universe were fixed on him,
for all the motions of a squirrel, even in the most solitary
recesses of the forest, imply spectators as much as those of
a dancing-girl, wasting more time in delay and circum-
spection than would have sufficed to walk the whole dis-
tance, I never saw one walk, and then suddenly,
before you could say Jack Robinson, he would be in the top
of a young pitch-pine, winding up his clock and chiding all
imaginary spectators, soliloquizing and talking to all the
universe at the same time, for no reason that I could ever
detect, or he himself was aware of, I suspect. At length
he would reach the corn, and selecting a suitable ear, brisk
about in the same uncertain trigonometrical way to the top-
most stick of my wood-pile, before my window, where he
looked me in the face, and there sit for hours, supplying
himself with a new ear from time to time, nibbling at first
voraciously and throwing the half-naked cobs about ; till at
length he grew more dainty still, and played with his food,
tasting only the inside of the kernel, and the ear, which
was held balanced over the stick by one paw, slipped from
his careless grasp and fell to the ground, when he would look
over at it with a ludicrous expression of uncertainty, as if
suspecting that it had life, with a mind not made up whether
to get it again, or a new one, or be off; now thinking of
corn, then listening to hear what was in the wind. So the


little impudent fellow would waste many an ear in a fore-
noon ; till at last, seizing some longer and plumper one,
considerably bigger than himself, and skilfully balancing it,
he would set out with it to the woods, like a tiger with
a buffalo, by the samo zigzag course and frequent pauses,
scratching along with it as if it were too heavy for him and
falling all the while, making its fall a diagonal between a
perpendicular and horizontal, being determined to put it
through at any rate ; a singularly frivolous and whimsical
fellow ; and so he would get off with it to where he lived,
perhaps carry it to the top of a pine-tree forty or fifty rods
distant, and I would afterwards find the cobs strewn about
the woods in various directions.

At length the jays arrive, whose discordant screams were
heard long before, as they were warily making their
approach an eighth of a mile off, and in a stealthy and
sneaking manner they flit from tree to tree, nearer and
nearer, and pick up the kernels which the squirrels have
dropped. Then, sitting on a pitch-pine bough, they attempt
to swallow in their haste a kernel which is too big for their
throats and chokes them; and after great labor they dis-
gorge it, and spend an hour in the endeavor to crack it by
repeated blows with their bills. They were manifestly
thieves, and I had not much respect for them; but the
squirrels, though at first shy, went to work as if they were
taking what was their own.

Meanwhile, also, came the chickadees in flocks, which,
picking up the crumbs the squirrels had dropped, flew to the
nearest twig, and, placing them under their claws, hammered
away at them with their little bills, as if it were an insect
in the bark, till they were sufficiently reduced for their
slender throats. A little flock of these titmice came daily
to pick a dinner out of my wood-pile, or the crumbs at my
door, with faint, flitting, lisping notes, like the tinkling of
icicles in the grass, or else with sprightly day day day, or


more rarely, in spring-like days, a wiry summery phe-fo
from the wood-side. They were so familiar that at length
one alighted on an armful of wood which I was carrying in,
and pecked at the sticks without fear. I once had a spar-
row alight upon my shoulder for a moment while I was
hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more dis-
tinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by
any epaulet I could have worn. The squirrels also grew at
last to be quite familiar, and occasionally stepped upon niy
shoe, when that was the nearest way.

When the ground was not yet quite covered, and again
near the end of winter, when the snow was melted on my
south hillside and about my wood-pile, the partridges came
out of the woods morning and evening to feed there.
Whichever side you walk in the woods the partridge bursts
away on whirring wings, jarring the snow from the dry
leaves and twigs on high, which comes sifting down in the
sunbeams like golden dust ; for this brave bird is not to be
scared by winter. It is frequently covered up by drifts,
and, it is said, " sometimes plunges from on wing into the
soft snow, where it remains concealed for a day or two." I
used to start them in the open land also, where they had
come out of the woods at sunset to " bud " the wild apple-
trees. They will come regularly every evening to particu-
lar trees, where the cunning sportsman lies in wait for them,
and the distant orchards next the woods suffer thus not a
little. I am glad that the partridge gets fed, at any rate.
It is Nature's own bird which lives on buds and diet-drink.

In dark winter mornings, or in short winter afternoons,
I sometimes heard a pack of hounds threading all the woods
with hounding cry and yelp, unable to resist the instinct of
the chase, and the note of the hunting-horn at intervals,
proving that man was in the rear. The woods ring again,
and yet no fox bursts forth on to the open level of the pond,
nor following pack pursuing their Actaion. And perhaps at


evening I see the hunters returning with a single brush
trailing from their sleigh for a trophy, seeking their inn.
They tell me that if the fox would remain in the bosom of
the frozen earth he would be safe, or if he would run in a
straight line away no fox-hound could overtake him ; but,
having left his pursuers far behind, he stops to rest and
listen till they come up, and when he runs he circles round
to his old haunts, where the hunters await him. Sometimes,
however, he will run upon a wall many rods, and then leap
off far to one side, and he appears to know that water will
not retain his scent. A hunter told me that he once saw a
fox pursued by hounds burst out on to Walden when the
ice was covered with shallow puddles, run part way across,
and then return to the same shore. Erelong the hounds
arrived, but here they lost the scent. Sometimes a pack
hunting by themselves would pass my door, and circle round
my house, and yelp and hound without regarding me, as if
afflicted by a species of madness, so that nothing could
divert them from the pursuit. Thus they circle until they
fall upon the recent trail of a fox, for a wise hound will for-
sake everything else for this. One day a man came to my
hut from Lexington to inquire after his hound, that made a
large track, and had been hunting for a week by himself.
But I fear that he was not the wiser for all I told him, for
every time I attempted to answer his questions he inter-
rupted me by asking, " What do you do here ? " He had
lost a dog, but found a man.

One old hunter who has a dry tongue, who used to come
to bathe in Walden once every year when the water was
warmest, and at such times looked in upon me, told me,
that many years ago he took his gun one afternoon and
went out for a cruise in Walden Wood ; and as he walked
the Wayland road he heard the cry of hounds approaching,
and erelong a fox leaped the wall into the road, and as quick
as thought leaped the other wall out of the road, and his


swift bullet had not touched him. Some way behind came
an old hound and her three pups in full pursuit, hunting
on their own account, and disappeared again in the woods.
Late in the afternoon, as he was resting in the thick woods
south of Walden, he heard the voice of the hounds far over
toward Fair Haven still pursuing the fox; and on they
came, their hounding cry which made all the woods ring
sounding nearer and nearer, now from Well-Meadow, now
from the Baker Farm. For a long time he stood still and
listened to their music, so sweet to a hunter's ear, when
suddenly the fox appeared, threading the solemn aisles with
an easy coursing pace, whose sound was concealed by &
sympathetic rustle of the leaves, swift and still, keeping the
ground, leaving his pursuers far behind ; and, leaping upon
a rock amid the woods, he sat erect and listening, with his
back to the hunter. For a moment compassion restrained
the latter's arm; but that was a short-lived mood, and as
quick as thought can follow thought his piece was levelled,
and whang ! the fox, rolling over the rock, lay dead on
the ground. The hunter still kept his place and listened to
the hounds. Still on they came, and now the near woods
resounded through all their aisles with their demoniac cry.
At length the old hound burst into view, with muzzle to the
ground, and snapping the air as if possessed, and ran di-
rectly to the rock ; but spying the dead fox, she suddenly
ceased her hounding, as if struck dumb with amazement,
and walked round and round him in silence; and one by
one her pups arrived, and, like their mother, were sobered
into silence by the mystery. Then the hunter came for-
ward and stood in their midst, and the mystery was solved.
They waited in silence while he skinned the fox, then
followed the brush awhile, and at length turned off into the
woods again. That evening a Weston Squire came to the
Concord hunter's cottage to inquire for his hounds, and told
how for a week they had been hunting on their own account


from Western woods. The Concord hunter told him what
he knew, and offered him the skin ; but the other declined it,
and departed. He did not find his hounds that night, but
the next day learned that they had crossed the river and
put up at a farm-house for the night, whence, having been
well fed, they took their departure early in the morning.

The hunter who told me this could remember one Sam
Nutting, who used to hunt bears on Fair Haven Ledges,
and exchange their skins for rum in Concord village ; who
told him, even, that he had seen a moose there. Nutting
had a famous fox-hound named Burgoyne, he pronounced
it Engine, which my informant used to borrow. In the
" Wast Book " of an old trader of this town, who was also
a captain, town-clerk, and representative, I find the following
entry. Jan. 18th, 1742-3, "John Mclven Cr. by 1 Grey
Fox 2 3 " ; they are not now found here ; and in
his ledger, Feb. 7th, 1743, Hezekiah Stratton has credit
" by > 2 a Catt skin 1 4 " ; of course, a wild-cat, for
Stratton was a sergeant in the old French war, and would
not have got credit for hunting less noble game. Credit is
given for deer-skins also, and they were daily sold. One
man still preserves the horns of the last deer that was killed
in this vicinity, and another has told me the particular! of
the hunt, in which his uncle was engaged. The hunters
were formerly a numerous and merry crew here. I remem-
ber well one gaunt Nimrod who would catch up a loaf by
the roadside and play a strain on it wilder and more
melodious, if my memory serves me, than any hunting-

At midnight, when there was a moon, I sometimes met
with hounds in my path prowling about the woods, which
would skulk out of my way, as if afraid, and stand silent
amid the bushes till I had passed.

Squirrels and wild mice disputed for my store of nut?..
There were scores of pitch-pines around my house, froo>


one to four inches in diameter, which had been gnawed by
mice the previous winter, a Norwegian winter for them,
for the snow lay long and deep, and they were obliged to
mix a large proportion of pine bark with their other diet.
These trees were alive and apparently flourishing at mid
summer, and many of them had grown a foot, though com-
pletely girdled ; but after another winter such were without
exception dead. It is remarkable that a single mouse should
thus be allowed a whole pine-tree for its dinner, gnawing
round instead of up and down it ; but perhaps it is neces-
sary in order to thin these trees, which are wont to grow
up densely.

The hares (Lepus Americanus) were very familiar.
One had her form under my house all winter, separated
from me only by the flooring, and she startled me each
morning by her hasty departure when I began to stir,
thump, thump, thump, striking her head against the floor-
timbers in her hurry. They used to come round my door
at dusk to nibble the potato-parings which I had thrown out,
and were so nearly the color of the ground that they could
hardly be distinguished when still. Sometimes in the twi-
light I alternately lost and recovered sight of one sitting
motionless under my window. When I opened my door in
the evening, off they would go with a squeak and a bounce.
Near at hand they only excited my pity. One evening one
sat by my door, two paces from me, at first trembling with
fear, yet unwilling to move; a poor wee thing, lean and
bony, with ragged ears and sharp nose, scant tail and slen-
der paws. It looked as if Nature no longer contained the
breed of nobler bloods, but stood on her last toes. Its
large eyes appeared young and unhealthy, almost dropsical.
I took a step, and lo ! away it scud with an elastic spring
over the snow-crust, straightening its body and its limbs
into graceful length, and soon put the forest between me and
itself, the wild, free venison asserting its vigor and the


dignity of Nature. Not without reason was its slenderness.
Such, then, was its nature. (Lepus, levipes, light-foot, some

What is a country without rabbits and partridges ? They
are among the most simple and indigenous animal products ;
ancient and venerable families known to antiquity as to
modern times ; of the very hue and substance of Nature,
nearest allied to leaves and to the ground, and to one
another ; it is either winged or it is legged. It is hardly as
if you had seen a wild creature when a rabbit or a partridge
bursts away, only a natural one, as much to be expected as
rustling leaves. The partridge and the rabbit are still sure
to thrive, like true natives of the soil, whatever revolutions
occur. If the forest is cut off, the sprouts and bushes
which spring up afford them concealment, and they become
more numerous than ever. That must be a poor country
indeed that does not support a hare. Our woods teem with
them both, and around every swamp may be seen the
partridge or rabbit walk, beset with twiggy fences and
horse-hair snares, which some cow-boy tends.



WHEEL me into the sunshine,
Wheel me into the shadow,
There must be leaves on the woodbine,
Is the king-cup crowned in the meadow?

Wheel me down to the meadow,

Down to the little river,

In sun or in shadow

I shall not dazzle or shiver,

I shall be happy anywhere,

Every breath of the morning air

Makes me throb and quiver.

Stay wherever you will,

By the mount or under the hill,

Or down by the little river :

Stay as long as you please,

Give me only a bud from the trees,

Or a blade of grass in morning dew,

Or a cloudy violet clearing to blue,

I could look on it forever.

Wheel, wheel through the sunshine,
Wheel, wheel through the shadow ;


There must be odors round the pine,
There must be balm of breathing kine,
Somewhere down in the meadow.
Must I choose ? Then anchor me there
Beyond the beckoning poplars, where
The larch is snooding her flowery hair
With wreaths of morning shadow.

Among the thicket hazels of the brake

Perchance some nightingale doth shake

His feathers, and the air is full of song ;

In those old days when I was young and strong,

He used to sing on yonder garden tree,

Beside the nursery.

Ah, I remember how I loved to wake,

And find him singing on the self-same bough

(I know it even now)

Where, since the flit of bat,

In ceaseless voice he sat,

Trying the spring night over, like a tune.

Beneath the vernal moon ;

And while I listed long,

Day rose, and still he sang,

And ah 1 his stanchless song,

As something falling unaware,

Fell out of the tall trees he sang among,

Fell ringing down the ringing morn, and rang,

Rang like a golden jewel down a golden stair.

Is it too early ? I hope not
But wheel me to the ancient oak,
On this side of the meadow ;
Let me hear the raven's croak
Loosened to an amorous note
In the hollow shadow.


Let me see the winter 'snake
Thawing all his frozen rings
On the bank where the wren sings.
Let me hear the little bell,
Where the red-wing, topmast high,
Looks toward the northern sky,
And jangles his farewell.
Let us rest by the ancient oak,
And see his net of shadow,
His net of barren shadow,
Like those wrestlers* nets of old,
Hold the winter dead and cold,
Hoary winter, white and cold,
While all is green in the meadow.

And when you 've rested, brother mine,

Take me over the meadow ;

Take me along the level crown

Of the bare and silent down,

And stop by the ruined tower.

On its green scarp, by and by,

I shall smell the flowering thyme,

On its wall the wall-flower.

In the tower there used to be

A solitary tree.

Take me there, for the dear sake

Of those old days wherein I loved to lie

And pull the melilote,

And look across the valley to the sky,

And hear the joy that filled the warm wide hoar

Bubble from the thrush's throat,

As into a shining mere

Rills some rillet trebling clear,

And speaks the silent silver of the lake.

There 'mid cloistering tree-roots, year by year,


The hen-thrash sat, and he, her lief and dear,
Among the boughs did make
A ceaseless music of her married time,
And all the ancient stones grew sweet to hear,
And answered him in the unspoken rhyme
Of gracious forms most musical
That tremble on the wall
And trim its age with airy fantasies
That flicker in the sun, and hardly seem
As if to be beheld were all,
And only to our eyes
They rise and fall,
And fall and rise,

Sink down like silence, or a-sudden stream
As wind-blown on the wind as streams a wedding-chime.

But you are wheeling me while I dream,
And we 've almost reached the meadow I
You may wheel me fast through the sunshine,
You may wheel me fast through the shadow,
But wheel me slowly, brother mine,
Through the green of the sappy meadow ;
For the sun, these days have been so fine,
Must have touched it over with celandine,
And the southern hawthorn, I divine,
Sheds a muffled shadow.

There blows

The first primrose,

Under the bare bank roses :

There is but one,

And the bank is brown,

But soon the children will come down,

The ringing children come singing down,

To pick their Easter posies,


And they '11 spy it out, my beautiful,
Among the bare brier-roses ;
And when I sit here again alone,
The bare brown bank will be blind and dull,
Alas for Easter posies !
But when the din is over and gone,
Like an eye that opens after pain,
I shall see my pale flower shining again ;
Like a fair star after a gust of rain
I shall see my pale flower shining again ;
Like a glow-worm after the rolling wain
Hath shaken darkness down the lane
I shall see my pale flower shining again ;
And it will blow here for two months more,
And it will blow here again next year,
And the year past that, and the year beyond ;
And through all the years till my years are o'er
I shall always find it here.
Shining across from the bank above,
Shining up from the pond below,
Ere a water-fly wimple the silent pond,
Or the first green weed appear.
And I shall sit here under the tree,
And as each slow bud uncloses,
I shall see it brighten and brighten to me,
From among the leafing brier-roses,
The leaning leafing roses,
As at eve the leafing shadows grow,
And the star of light and love
Draweth near o'er her airy glades,
Draweth near through her heavenly shades,
As a maid through a myrtle grove.
And the flowers will multiply,
As the stars come blossoming over the sky,
The bank will blossom, the waters blow,


Till the singing children hitherward hie

To gather May-day posies ;

And the bank will be bare wherever they go,

As dawn, the primrose-girl, goes by,

And alas for heaven's primroses !

Blare the trumpet, and boom the gun,
But, oh ! to sit here thus in the sun,
To sit here feeling my work is done,
While the sands of life so golden run,
And I watch the children's posies,
And my idle heart is whispering,
" Bring whatever the years may bring,
The flowers will blossom, the birds will sing,
And there '11 always be primroses."

Looking before me here in the sun,
I see the Aprils one after one,
Primrosed Aprils one by one,
Primrosed Aprils on and on,
Till the floating prospect closes
In golden glimmers that rise and rise,
And perhaps are gleams of Paradise,
And perhaps too far for mortal eyes
New years of fresh primroses,
Years of earth's primroses,
Springs to be, and springs for me
Of distant, dim primroses.

My soul lies out like a basking hound,

A hound that dreams and dozes ;

Along my life my length I lay,

I fill to-morrow and yesterday,

I am warm with the suns that have long since set,

I am warm with the summers that are not yet,


And like one who dreams and dozes

Softly afloat on a sunny sea,

Two worlds are whispering over me,

And there blows a wind of roses

From the backward shore to the shore before,

From the shore before to the backward shore,

And like two clouds that meet and pour,

Each through each, till core in core

A single self reposes,

The nevermore with the evermore

Above me mingles and closes ;

As my soul lies out like the basking hound,

And wherever it lies seems happy ground,

And when, awakened by some sweet sound,

A dreamy eye uncloses,

I see a blooming world around

And I lie amid primroses,

Years of sweet primroses,

Springs of fresh primroses,

Springs to be, and springs for me

Of distant, dim primroses.

O to lie a-dream, a-dream,

To feel I may dream and to know you deem

My work is done forever,

And the palpitating fever

That gains and loses, loses and gains,
And beats the huriying blood on the brunt of a thousand pains

Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 38 of 66)