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gaskets, and blew directly out to leeward, flapping and shaking the
mast like a wand. Here was a job for somebody. The royal must come in
or be cut adrift, or the mast would be snapt short off. All the light
hands in the starboard watch were sent up one after another, but they
could do nothing with it. At length John, the tall Frenchman, the head
of the starboard watch (and a better sailor never stept upon a deck),
sprang aloft, and by the help of his long arms and legs succeeded
after a hard struggle - the sail blowing over the yard-arm to leeward,
and the skysail adrift directly over his head - in smothering it and
frapping it with long pieces of sinnet. He came very near being blown
or shaken from the yard several times, but he was a true sailor, every
finger a fish-hook. Having made the sail snug, he prepared to send the
yard down, which was a long and difficult job; for frequently he was
obliged to stop and hold on with all his might for several minutes,
the ship pitching so as to make it impossible to do anything else at
that height. The yard at length came down safe, and after it the fore
and mizzen royal yards were sent down. All hands were then sent aloft,
and for an hour or two we were hard at work, making the booms well
fast, unreefing the studding sail and royal and skysail gear, getting
rolling-ropes on the yard, setting up the weather breast-backstays,
and making other preparations for a storm. It was a fine night for a
gale, just cool and bracing enough for quick work, without being
cold, and as bright as day. It was sport to have a gale in such
weather as this. Yet it blew like a hurricane. The wind seemed to come
with a spite, an edge to it, which threatened to scrape us off the
yards. The force of the wind was greater than I had ever felt it
before; but darkness, cold, and wet are the worst parts of a storm to
a sailor.

Having got on deck again, we looked round to see what time of night it
was, and whose watch. In a few minutes the man at the wheel struck
four bells, and we found that the other watch was out and our own half
out. Accordingly, the starboard watch went below, and left the ship to
us for a couple of hours, yet with orders to stand by for a call.

Hardly had they got below before away went the foretopmast staysail,
blown to ribbons. This was a small sail, which we could manage in the
watch, so that we were not obliged to call up the other watch. We laid
upon the bowsprit, where we were under water half the time, and took
in the fragments of the sail; and as she must have some headsail on
her, prepared to bend another staysail. We got the new one out into
the nettings; seized on the tack, sheets, and halyards, and the hanks;
manned the halyards, cut adrift the frapping-lines, and hoisted away;
but before it was half-way up the stay it was blown all to pieces.
When we belayed the halyards, there was nothing left but the
bolt-rope. Now large eyes began to show themselves in the foresail;
and knowing that it must soon go, the mate ordered us upon the yard to
furl it. Being unwilling to call up the watch, who had been on deck
all night, he roused out the carpenter, sailmaker, cook, and steward,
and with their help we manned the foreyard, and after nearly half an
hour's struggle, mastered the sail and got it well furled round the

The force of the wind had never been greater than at this moment. In
going up the rigging it seemed absolutely to pin us down to the
shrouds; and on the yard there was no such thing as turning a face to
windward. Yet there was no driving sleet and darkness and wet and cold
as off Cape Horn; and instead of stiff oilcloth suits, southwester
caps, and thick boots, we had on hats, round jackets, duck trousers,
light shoes, and everything light and easy. These things make a great
difference to a sailor. When we got on deck the man at the wheel
struck eight bells (four o'clock in the morning), and "All
starbowlines, ahoy!" brought the other watch up, but there was no
going below for us. The gale was now at its height, "blowing like
scissors and thumb-screws"; the captain was on deck; the ship, which
was light, rolling and pitching as tho she would shake the long sticks
out of her, and the sails were gaping open and splitting in every
direction. The mizzen-topsail, which was a comparatively new sail and
close reefed, split from head to foot in the bunt; the foretopsail
went in one rent from clew to earing, and was blowing to tatters; one
of the chain bobstays parted; the spritsailyard sprung in the slings,
the martingale had slued away off to leeward; and owing to the long
dry weather the lee rigging hung in large bights at every lurch. One
of the main-topgallant shrouds had parted; and to crown all, the
galley had got adrift and gone over to leeward, and the anchor on the
lee bow had worked loose and was thumping the side. Here was work
enough for all hands for half a day. Our gang laid out on the
mizzen-top-sailyard, and after more than half an hour's hard work
furled the sail, tho it bellied out over our heads, and again, by a
slat of the wind, blew in under the yard with a fearful jerk and
almost threw us off from the foot-ropes....

It was now eleven o'clock, and the watch was sent below to get
breakfast, and at eight bells (noon), as everything was snug, altho
the gale had not in the least abated, the watch was set and the other
watch and idlers sent below. For three days and three nights the gale
continued with unabated fury, and with singular regularity. There were
no lulls, and very little variation in its fierceness. Our ship, being
light, rolled so as almost to send the fore yard-arm under water, and
drifted off bodily to leeward. All this time there was not a cloud to
be seen in the sky, day or night; no, not so large as a man's hand.
Every morning the sun rose cloudless from the sea, and set again at
night in the sea in a flood of light. The stars, too, came out of the
blue one after another, night after night, unobscured, and twinkled as
clear as on a still frosty night at home, until the day came upon
them. All this time the sea was rolling in immense surges, white with
foam, as far as the eye could reach, on every side; for we were now
leagues and leagues from shore.


Born in Concord, Mass., in 1817; died in 1862; graduated
from Harvard in 1837; taught school; practised surveying;
lived alone at Walden Pond in 1845-47; a friend of Emerson
and Alcott; imprisoned for refusal to pay a tax he believed
to be unjust; published "A Week on the Concord and Merrimac
Rivers" in 1849, and "Walden" in 1854; "Excursions"
published after his death, with a memoir, by Emerson, "The
Maine Woods" in 1864, "Cape Cod" in 1865; his "Journals" and
other works also published after his death.



When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived
alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had
built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts,
and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two
years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life

[Footnote 30: From Chapter I of "Walden, or Life in the Woods."]

Near the end of March, 1845, I borrowed an ax and went down to the
woods by Walden Pond, nearest to where I intended to build my house,
and began to cut down some tall arrowy white pines, still in their
youth, for timber. It is difficult to begin without borrowing, but
perhaps it is the most generous course thus to permit your fellow men
to have an interest in your enterprise. The owner of the ax, as he
released his hold on it, said that it was the apple of his eye; but I
returned it sharper than I received it. It was a pleasant hillside
where I worked, covered with pine woods, through which I looked out on
the pond, and a small open field in the woods where pines and
hickories were springing up. The ice in the pond was not yet
dissolved, tho there were some open spaces, and it was all dark
colored and saturated with water. There were some slight flurries of
snow during the days that I worked there; but for the most part when I
came out on to the railroad, on my way home, its yellow sand heap
stretched away gleaming in the hazy atmosphere, and the rails shone in
the spring sun, and I heard the lark and pewee and other birds already
come to commence another year with us....

I hewed the main timbers six inches square, most of the studs on two
sides only, and the rafters and floor timbers on one side, leaving the
rest of the bark on, so that they were just as straight and much
stronger than sawed ones. Each stick was carefully mortised or tenoned
by its stump, for I had borrowed other tools by this time. My days in
the woods were not very long ones; yet I usually carried my dinner of
bread and butter, and read the newspaper in which it was wrapt, at
noon, sitting amid the green pine boughs which I had cut off, and to
my bread was imparted some of their fragrance, for my hands were
covered with a thick coat of pitch. Before I had done I was more the
friend than the foe of the pine-tree, tho I had cut down some of them,
having become better acquainted with it. Sometimes a rambler in the
wood was attracted by the sound of my ax, and we chatted pleasantly
over the chips which I had made....

I dug my cellar in the side of a hill sloping to the south, where a
woodchuck had formerly dug his burrow, down through sumac and
blackberry roots, and the lowest stain of vegetation, six feet square
by seven deep, to a fine sand where potatoes would not freeze in any
winter. The sides were left shelving, and not stoned; but the sun
having never shone on them, the sand still keeps its place. It was but
two hours' work. I took particular pleasure in this breaking of
ground, for in almost all latitudes men dig into the earth for an
equable temperature. Under the most splendid house in the city is
still to be found the cellar where they store their roots as of old,
and long after the superstructure has disappeared posterity will
remark its dent in the earth. The house is still but a sort of porch
at the entrance of a burrow.

At length, in the beginning of May, with the help of some of my
acquaintances, rather to improve so good an occasion for
neighborliness than from any necessity, I set up the frame of my
house. No man was ever more honored in the character of his raisers
than I. They are destined, I trust, to assist at the raising of
loftier structures one day. I began to occupy my house on the 4th of
July, as soon as it was boarded and roofed, for the boards were
carefully feather-edged and lapped, so that it was perfectly
impervious to rain; but before boarding I laid the foundation of a
chimney at one end, bringing two cartloads of stones up the hill from
the pond in my arms. I built the chimney after my hoeing in the fall,
before a fire became necessary for warmth, doing my cooking in the
meanwhile out-of-doors, on the ground, early in the morning; which
mode I still think is in some respects more convenient and agreeable
than the usual one. When it stormed before my bread was baked, I fixt
a few boards over the fire, and sat under them to watch my loaf, and
passed some pleasant hours in that way. In those days, when my hands
were much employed, I read but little, but the least scraps of paper
which lay on the ground, my holder, or tablecloth, afforded me as much
entertainment, in fact, answered the same purpose as the Iliad.

Before winter I built a chimney, and shingled the sides of my house,
which were already impervious to rain, with imperfect and sappy
shingles made of the first slice of the log, which edges I was obliged
to straighten with a plane.

I have thus a tight shingled and plastered house, ten feet wide by
fifteen long, and eight-feet posts, with a garret and a closet, a
large window on each side, two trap doors, one door at the end, and a
brick fireplace opposite. The exact cost of my house, paying the usual
price for such materials as I used, but not counting the work, all of
which was done by myself, was as follows; and I give the details
because very few are able to tell exactly what their houses cost, and
fewer still, if any, the separate cost of the various materials which
compose them:

Boards $ 8.03-1/2
Refuse shingles for roof and sides 4.00
Laths 1.25
Two second-hand windows with glass 2.43
One thousand old brick 4.00
Two casks of lime (That was high) 2.40
Hair (More than I needed) 0.31
Mantle-tree iron 0.15
Nails 3.90
Hinges and screws 0.14
Latch 0.10
Chalk 0.01
Transportation (I carried a good part
on my back) 1.40
- - - - -
In all $28.12-1/2

These are all the materials excepting the timber, stones, and sand,
which I claimed by squatter's right. I have also a small woodshed
adjoining, made chiefly of the stuff which was left after building the



Before I finished my house, wishing to earn ten or twelve dollars by
some honest and agreeable method, in order to meet my unusual
expenses, I planted about two acres and a half of light and sandy soil
near it chiefly with beans, but also a small part with potatoes,
corn, peas, and turnips. The whole lot contains eleven acres, mostly
growing up to pines and hickories, and was sold the preceding season
for eight dollars and eight cents an acre. One farmer said that it was
"good for nothing but to raise cheeping squirrels on." I put no manure
whatever on this land, not being the owner, but merely a squatter, and
not expecting to cultivate so much again, and I did not quite hoe it
all once. I got out several cords of stumps in plowing, which supplied
me with fuel for a long time, and left small circles of virgin mold,
easily distinguishable through the summer by the greater luxuriance of
the beans there. The dead and for the most part unmerchantable wood
behind my house, and the driftwood from the pond, have supplied the
remainder of my fuel. I was obliged to hire a team and a man for the
plowing, tho I held the plow myself. My farm outgoes for the first
season were, for implements, seed, work, etc., $14.72-1/2. The seed
corn was given me. This never costs anything to speak of, unless you
plant more than enough. I got twelve bushels of beans, and eighteen
bushels of potatoes, besides some peas and sweet corn. The yellow corn
and turnips were too late to come to anything. My whole income from
the farm was

Deducting the outgoes 14.72-1/2
- - - - - - -
There are left $ 8.71-1/2

besides produce consumed and on hand at the time this estimate was
made of the value of $4.50 - the amount on hand much more than
balancing a little grass which I did not raise. All things considered,
that is considering the importance of a man's soul and of to-day,
notwithstanding the short time occupied by my experiment, nay, partly
even because of its transient character I believe that that was doing
better than any farmer in Concord did that year.

[Footnote 31: From Chapters I and II of "Walden."]

The next year I did better still, for I spaded up all the land which I
required, about a third of an acre, and I learned from the experience
of both years, not being in the least awed by many celebrated works on
husbandry, Arthur Young among the rest, that if one would live simply
and eat only the crop which he raised, and raise no more than he ate,
and not exchange it for an insufficient quantity of more luxurious and
expensive things, he would need to cultivate only a few rods of
ground, and that it would be cheaper to spade up that than to use oxen
to plow it, and to select a fresh spot from time to time than to
manure the old, and he could do all his necessary farm work as it were
with his left hand at odd hours in the summer; and thus he would not
be tied to an ox, or horse, or cow, or pig, as at present. I desire to
speak impartially on this point, and as one not interested in the
success or failure of the present economical and social arrangements.
I was more independent than any farmer in Concord, for I was not
anchored to a house or farm, but could follow the bent of my genius,
which is a very crooked one, every moment. Besides being better off
than they already, if my house had been burned or my crops had failed,
I should have been nearly as well off as before....

By surveying, carpentry, and day-labor of various other kinds in the
village in the meanwhile, for I have as many trades as fingers, I had
earned $13.34. The expense of food for eight months, namely, from July
4th to March 1st, the time when these estimates were made, tho I lived
there more than two years - not counting potatoes, a little green corn,
and some peas, which I had raised, nor considering the value of what
was on hand at the last date, was

Rice $1.73-1/2}
Molasses (Cheapest form }
of the saccharine) 1.73 }
Rye meal 1.04-3/4}
Indian meal (Cheaper }
than rye) 0.99-3/4}
Pork 0.22 }
Flour (Costs more than } All Experiments
Indian meal, both } which had failed
money and trouble) 0.88 }
Sugar 0.80 }
Lard 0.65 }
Apples 0.25 }
Dried apple 0.22 }
Sweet potatoes 0.10 }
One pumpkin 0.06 }
One watermelon 0.02 }
Salt 0.03 }

Yes, I did eat $8.74, all told; but I should not thus unblushingly
publish my guilt, if I did not know that most of my readers were
equally guilty with myself, and that their deeds would look no better
in print. The next year I sometimes caught a mess of fish for my
dinner, and once I went so far as to slaughter a woodchuck which
ravaged my beanfield - effect his transmigration, as a Tartar would
say - and devour him, partly for experiment's sake; but tho it
afforded me a momentary enjoyment, notwithstanding a musky flavor, I
saw that the longest use would not make that a good practise, however
it might seem to have your woodchucks ready drest by the village

Clothing and some incidental expenses within the same date, tho little
can be inferred from this item, amounted to

Oil and some household utensils 2.00

So that all the pecuniary outgoes, excepting for washing and mending,
which for the most part were done out of the house, and their bills
have not yet been received - and these are all and more than all the
ways by which money necessarily goes out in this part of the
world - were

House $28.12-1/2
Farm, one year 14.72-1/2
Food, eight months 8.74
Clothing, etc., eight months 8.40-3/4
Oil, etc., eight months 2.00
- - - -
In all $61.99-3/4

I address myself now to those of my readers who have a living to get.
And to meet this I have for farm produce sold

Earned by day-labor 13.34
- - -
In all $36.78

which subtracted from the sum of the outgoes leaves a balance of
$25.21-3/4 on the one side, this being very nearly the means with which I
started, and the measure of expenses to be incurred - and on the
other, besides the leisure and independence and health thus secured, a
comfortable house for me as long as I choose to occupy it.

These statistics, however accidental and therefore uninstructive they
may appear, as they have a certain completeness, have a certain value
also. Nothing was given me of which I have not rendered some account.
It appears from the above estimate that my food alone cost me in money
about twenty-seven cents a week. It was, for nearly two years after
this, rye and Indian meal without yeast, potatoes, rice, a very little
salt pork, molasses, and salt, and my drink water. It was fit that I
should live on rice, mainly, who loved so well the philosophy of
India. To meet the objections of some inveterate cavillers, I may as
well state that if I dined out occasionally, as I always had done, and
I trust shall have opportunities to do again, it was frequently to the
detriment of my domestic arrangements. But the dining out, being, as I
have stated, a constant element, does not in the least affect a
comparative statement like this.

I learned from my two years' experience that it would cost incredibly
little trouble to obtain one's necessary food, even in this latitude;
that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals, and yet retain
health and strength. I have made a satisfactory dinner, satisfactory
on several accounts, simply off a dish of purslane (_Portulaca
Oleracea_) which I gathered in my cornfield, boiled and salted. I give
the Latin on account of the savoriness of the trivial name. And pray
what more can a reasonable man desire, in peaceful times, in ordinary
noons, than sufficient number of ears of green sweet-corn boiled,
with the addition of salt? Even the little variety which I used was a
yielding to the demands of appetite, and not of health. Yet men have
come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not for want of
necessaries, but for want of luxuries; and I know a good woman who
thinks that her son lost his life because he took to drinking water

The reader will perceive that I am treating the subject rather from an
economic than a dietetic point of view, and he will not venture to put
my abstemiousness to the test unless he has a well-stocked larder.

Bread I at first made of pure Indian meal and salt, genuine hoe-cakes,
which I baked before my fire out of doors on a shingle or the end of a
stick of timber sawed off in building my house; but it was wont to get
smoked and to have a piny flavor. I tried flour also; but have at last
found a mixture of rye and Indian meal most convenient and agreeable.
In cold weather it was no little amusement to bake several small
loaves of this in succession, tending and turning them as carefully as
an Egyptian his hatching eggs. They were a real cereal fruit which I
ripened, and they had to my senses a fragrance like that of other
noble fruits, which I kept in as long as possible by wrapping them in
cloths. I made a study of the ancient and indispensable art of
bread-making, consulting such authorities as offered, going back to
the primitive days and first invention of the unleavened kind, when
from the wildness of nuts and meats men first reached the mildness and
refinement of this diet, and traveling gradually down in my studies
through that accidental souring of the dough, which, it is supposed,
taught the leavening process, and through the various fermentations
thereafter, till I came to "good, sweet, wholesome bread," the staff
of life.

For more than five years I maintained myself thus solely by the labor
of my hands, and I found that by working about six weeks in a year, I
could meet all the expenses of living. The whole of my winters, as
well as most of my summers, I had free and clear for study. I have
thoroughly tried school-keeping, and found that my expenses were in
proportion, or rather out of proportion, to my income, for I was
obliged to dress and train, not to say think and believe, accordingly,
and I lost my time into the bargain. As I did not teach for the good
of my fellow men, but simply for a livelihood, this was a failure. I
have tried trade; but I found that it would take ten years to get
under way in that, and that then I should probably be on my way to the
devil. I was actually afraid that I might by that time be doing what
is called a good business. When formerly I was looking about to see

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Online LibraryHenry Cabot LodgeThe Best of the World's Classics, Restricted to Prose, Vol. X (of X) - America - II, Index → online text (page 7 of 17)