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was forgotten; and never before did these noble woods appear so fresh,
so joyous, so immortal.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 64: From "The Mountains of California," copyright 1894.
Printed here by permission of the Century Company.]




WALDEN POND[65]

HENRY DAVID THOREAU


Occasionally, after my hoeing was done for the day, I joined some
impatient companion who had been fishing on the pond since morning, as
silent and motionless as a duck or a floating leaf, and, after
practising various kinds of philosophy, had concluded commonly, by the
time I arrived, that he belonged to the ancient sect of Coenobites.
There was one older man, an excellent fisher and skilled in all kinds of
woodcraft, who was pleased to look upon my house as a building erected
for the convenience of fishermen; and I was equally pleased when he sat
in my doorway to arrange his lines. Once in a while we sat together on
the pond, he at one end of the boat, and I at the other; but not many
words passed between us, for he had grown deaf in his later years, but
he occasionally hummed a psalm, which harmonized well enough with my
philosophy. Our intercourse was thus altogether one of unbroken harmony,
far more pleasing to remember than if it had been carried on by speech.
When, as was commonly the case, I had none to commune with, I used to
raise the echoes by striking with a paddle on the side of my boat,
filling the surrounding woods with circling and dilating sound, stirring
them up as the keeper of a menagerie his wild beasts, until I elicited a
growl from every wooded vale and hillside.

In warm evenings I frequently sat in the boat playing the flute, and saw
the perch, which I seemed to have charmed, hovering around me, and the
moon travelling over the ribbed bottom, which was strewed with the
wrecks of the forest. Formerly I had come to this pond adventurously,
from time to time, in dark summer nights, with a companion, and making a
fire close to the water's edge, which we thought attracted the fishes,
we caught pouts with a bunch of worms strung on a thread; and when we
had done, far in the night, threw the burning brands high into the air
like sky-rockets, which, coming down into the pond, were quenched with a
loud hissing, and we were suddenly groping in total darkness. Through
this, whistling a tune, we took our way to the haunts of men again. But
now I had made my home by the shore.

Sometimes, after staying in a village parlor till the family had all
retired, I have returned to the woods, and, partly with a view to the
next day's dinner, spent the hours of midnight fishing from a boat by
moonlight, serenaded by owls and foxes, and hearing, from time to time,
the creaking note of some unknown bird close at hand. These experiences
were very memorable and valuable to me, - anchored in forty feet of
water, and twenty or thirty rods from the shore, surrounded sometimes by
thousands of small perch and shiners, dimpling the surface with their
tails in the moonlight, and communicating by a long flaxen line with
mysterious nocturnal fishes which had their dwelling forty feet below,
or sometimes dragging sixty feet of line about the pond as I drifted in
the gentle night breeze, now and then feeling a slight vibration along
it, indicative of some life prowling about its extremity, of dull
uncertain blundering purpose there, and slow to make up its mind. At
length you slowly raise, pulling hand over hand, some homed pout
squeaking and squirming to the upper air. It was very queer, especially
in dark nights, when your thoughts had wandered to vast and cosmogonal
themes in other spheres, to feel this faint jerk, which came to
interrupt your dreams and link you to Nature again. It seemed as if I
might next cast my line upward into the air, as well as downward into
this element which was scarcely more dense. Thus I caught two fishes as
it were with one hook.

The scenery of Walden is on a humble scale, and, though very beautiful,
does not approach to grandeur, nor can it much concern one who has not
long frequented it, or lived by its shore; yet this pond is so
remarkable for its depth and purity as to merit a particular
description. It is a clear and deep green well, half a mile long and a
mile and three quarters in circumference, and contains about sixty-one
and a half acres; a perennial spring in the midst of pine and oak woods,
without any visible inlet or outlet except by the clouds and
evaporation. The surrounding hills rise abruptly from the water to the
height of forty to eighty feet, though on the southeast and east they
attain to about one hundred and one hundred and fifty feet respectively,
within a quarter and a third of a mile. They are exclusively woodland.
All our Concord waters have two colors at least, one when viewed at a
distance, and another, more proper, close at hand. The first depends
more on the light, and follows the sky. In clear weather, in summer,
they appear blue at a little distance, especially if agitated, and at a
great distance all appear alike. In stormy weather they are sometimes of
a dark slate color. The sea, however, is said to be blue one day and
green another without any perceptible change in the atmosphere. I have
seen our river, when, the landscape being covered with snow, both water
and ice were almost as green as grass. Some consider blue "to be the
color of pure water, whether liquid or solid." But looking directly down
into our waters from a boat, they are seen to be of very different
colors. Walden is blue at one time and green at another, even from the
same point of view. Lying between the earth and the heavens, it partakes
of the color of both. Viewed from a hilltop it reflects the color of the
sky, but near at hand it is of a yellowish tint next the shore where you
can see the sand, then a light green, which gradually deepens to a
uniform dark green in the body of the pond. In some lights, viewed even
from a hilltop, it is of a vivid green next the shore. Some have
referred this to the reflection of the verdure; but it is equally green
there against the railroad sand-bank, and in the spring, before the
leaves are expanded, and it may be simply the result of the prevailing
blue mixed with the yellow of the sand. Such is the color of its iris.
This is that portion, also, where in the spring, the ice being warmed by
the heat of the sun reflected from the bottom, and also transmitted
through the earth, melts first and forms a narrow canal about the still
frozen middle. Like the rest of our waters, when much agitated, in clear
weather, so that the surface of the waves may reflect the sky at the
right angle, or because there is more light mixed with it, it appears at
a little distance of a darker blue than the sky itself; and at such a
time, being on its surface, and looking with divided vision, so as to
see the reflection, I have discerned a matchless and indescribable light
blue, such as watered or changeable silks and sword blades suggest, more
cerulean than the sky itself, alternating with the original dark green
on the opposite sides of the waves, which last appeared but muddy in
comparison. It is a vitreous greenish blue, as I remember it, like those
patches of the winter sky seen through cloud vistas in the west before
sundown. Yet a single glass of its water held up to the light is as
colorless as an equal quantity of air. It is well-known that a large
plate of glass will have a green tint, owing, as the makers say, to its
"body," but a small piece of the same will be colorless. How large a
body of Walden water would be required to reflect a green tint I have
never proved. The water of our river is black or a very dark brown to
one looking directly down on it, and like that of most ponds, imparts to
the body of one bathing in it a yellowish tinge; but this water is of
such crystalline purity that the body of the bather appears of an
alabaster whiteness, still more unnatural, which, as the limbs are
magnified and distorted withal, produces a monstrous effect, making fit
studies for a Michael Angelo.

The water is so transparent that the bottom can easily be discerned at
the depth of twenty-five or thirty feet. Paddling over it, you may see
many feet beneath the surface the schools of perch and shiners, perhaps
only an inch long, yet the former easily distinguished by their
transverse bars, and you think that they must be ascetic fish that find
a subsistence there. Once, in the winter, many years ago, when I had
been cutting holes through the ice in order to catch pickerel, as I
stepped ashore I tossed my axe back on to the ice, but, as if some evil
genius had directed it, it slid four or five rods directly into one of
the holes, where the water was twenty-five feet deep. Out of curiosity,
I lay down on the ice and looked through the hole, until I saw the axe a
little on one side, standing on its head, with its helve erect and
gently swaying to and fro with the pulse of the pond; and there it might
have stood erect and swaying till in the course of time the handle
rotted off, if I had not disturbed it. Making another hole directly over
it with an ice chisel which I had, and cutting down the longest birch
which I could find in the neighborhood with my knife, I made a
slip-noose, which I attached to its end, and, letting it down carefully,
passed it over the knob of the handle, and drew it by a line along the
birch, and so pulled the axe out again.

The shore is composed of a belt of smooth rounded white stones like
paving stones, excepting one or two short sand beaches, and is so steep
that in many places a single leap will carry you into water over your
head; and were it not for its remarkable transparency, that would be the
last to be seen of its bottom till it rose on the opposite side. Some
think it is bottomless. It is nowhere muddy, and a casual observer would
say that there were no weeds at all in it; and of noticeable plants,
except in the little meadows recently overflowed, which do not properly
belong to it, a closer scrutiny does not detect a flag nor a bulrush,
nor even a lily, yellow or white, but only a few small heart-leaves and
potamogetons, and perhaps a water-target or two; all which however a
bather might not perceive; and these plants are clean and bright like
the element they grow in. The stones extend a rod or two into the
water, and then the bottom is pure sand, except in the deepest parts,
where there is usually a little sediment, probably from the decay of the
leaves, which have been wafted on to it so many successive falls, and a
bright green weed is brought up on anchors even in midwinter.

We have one other pond just like this, White Pond in Nine Acre Corner,
about two and a half miles westerly; but, though I am acquainted with
most of the ponds within a dozen miles of this center, I do not know a
third of this pure and well-like character. Successive nations perchance
have drunk at, admired, and fathomed it, and passed away, and still its
water is green and pellucid as ever. Not an intermitting spring! Perhaps
on that spring morning when Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden, Walden
Pond was already in existence, and even then breaking up in a gentle
spring rain accompanied with mist and a southerly wind, and covered with
myriads of ducks and geese, which had not heard of the fall, when still
such pure lakes sufficed them. Even then it had commenced to rise and
fall, and had clarified its waters and colored them of the hue they now
wear, and obtained a patent of heaven to be the only Walden Pond in the
world and distiller of celestial dews. Who knows in how may unremembered
nations' literatures this has been the Castalian Fountain?[66] or what
nymphs presided over it in the Golden Age? It is a gem of the first
water which Concord wears in her coronet.

Yet perchance the first who came to this well have left some trace of
their footsteps. I have been surprised to detect encircling the pond,
even where a thickwood has just been cut down on the shore, a narrow
shelf-like path in the steep hillside, alternately rising and falling,
approaching and receding from the water's edge, as old probably as the
race of man here, worn by the feet of aboriginal hunters, and still from
time to time unwittingly trodden by the present occupants of the land.
This is particularly distinct to one standing on the middle of the pond
in winter, just after a light snow has fallen, appearing as a clear
undulating white line, unobscured by weeds and twigs, and very obvious a
quarter of a mile off in many places where in summer it is hardly
distinguishable close at hand. The snow reprints it, as it were, in
clear white type alto-relievo. The ornamented grounds of villas which
will one day be built here may still preserve some trace of this.

The pond rises and falls, but whether regularly or not, and within what
period, nobody knows, though, as usual, many pretend to know. It is
commonly higher in the winter and lower in the summer, though not
corresponding to the general wet and dryness. I can remember when it was
a foot or two lower, and also when it was at least five feet higher,
than when I lived by it. There is a narrow sand-bar running into it,
very deep water on one side, on which I helped boil a kettle of chowder,
some six rods from the main shore, about the year 1824, which it has not
been possible to do for twenty-five years; and on the other hand, my
friends used to listen with incredulity when I told them that a few
years later I was accustomed to fish from a boat in a secluded cove in
the woods, fifteen rods from the only shore they knew, which place was
long since converted into a meadow. But the pond has risen steadily for
two years, and now, in the summer of '52, is just five feet higher than
when I lived there, or as high as it was thirty years ago, and fishing
goes on again in the meadow. This makes a difference of level, at the
outside, of six or seven feet; and yet the water shed by the surrounding
hills is insignificant in amount, and this overflow must be referred to
causes which affect the deep springs. This same summer the pond has
begun to fall again. It is remarkable that this fluctuation, whether
periodical or not, appears thus to require many years for its
accomplishment. I have observed one rise and a part of two falls, and I
expect that a dozen or fifteen years hence the water will again be as
low as I have ever known it. Flint's Pond, a mile eastward, allowing
for the disturbance occasioned by its inlets and outlets, and the
smaller intermediate ponds also, sympathize with Walden, and recently
attained their greatest height at the same time with the latter. The
same is true, as far as my observation goes, of White Pond.

This rise and fall of Walden at long intervals serves this use at least:
the water standing at this great height for a year or more, though it
makes it difficult to walk round it, kills the shrubs and trees which
have sprung up about its edge since the last rise, pitch-pines, birches,
alders, aspens, and others, and, falling again, leaves an unobstructed
shore; for, unlike many ponds, and all waters which are subject to a
daily tide, its shore is cleanest when the water is lowest. On the side
of the pond next my house, a row of pitch-pines fifteen feet high has
been killed and tipped over as if by a lever, and thus a stop put to
their encroachments; and their size indicates how many years have
elapsed since the last rise to this height. By this fluctuation the pond
asserts its title to a shore, and thus the _shore_ is _shorn_, and the
trees cannot hold it by right of possession. These are the lips of the
lake on which no beard grows. It licks its chaps from time to time. When
the water is at its height, the alders, willows, and maples send forth a
mass of fibrous red roots several feet long from all sides of their
stems in the water, and to the height of three or four feet from the
ground, in the effort to maintain themselves; and I have known the high
blueberry bushes about the shore, which commonly produce no fruit, bear
an abundant crop under these circumstances.

Some have been puzzled to tell how the shore became so regularly paved.
My townsmen have all heard the tradition - the oldest people tell me that
they heard it in their youth - that anciently the Indians were holding a
pow-wow upon a hill here, which rose as high into the heavens as the
pond now sinks deep into the earth, and they used much profanity, as the
story goes, though this vice is one of which the Indians were never
guilty, and while they were thus engaged the hill shook and suddenly
sank, and only one old squaw, named Walden, escaped, and from her the
pond was named. It has been conjectured that when the hill shook, these
stones rolled down its side and became the present shore. It is very
certain, at any rate, that once there was no pond here, and now there is
one; and this Indian fable does not in any respect conflict with the
account of that ancient settler whom I have mentioned, who remembers so
well when he first came here with his divining-rod, saw a thin vapor
rising from the sward, and the hazel pointed steadily downward, and he
concluded to dig a well here. As for the stones, many still think that
they are hardly to be accounted for by the action of the waves on these
hills; but I observe that the surrounding hills are remarkably full of
the same kind of stones, so that they have been obliged to pile them up
in walls on both sides of the railroad cut nearest the pond; and,
moreover, there are most stones where the shore is most abrupt; so that,
unfortunately, it is no longer a mystery to me. I detect the paver. If
the name was not derived from that of some English locality - Saffron
Walden, for instance - one might suppose that is was called, originally,
_Walled-in_ Pond.

The pond was my well ready dug. For four months in the year its water is
as cold as it is pure at all times; and I think that it is then as good
as any, if not the best, in the town. In the winter, all water which is
exposed to the air is colder than springs and wells which are protected
from it. The temperature of the pond water which had stood in the room
where I sat from five o'clock in the afternoon till noon the next day,
the sixth of March, 1846, the thermometer having been up to 65° or 70°
some of the time, owing partly to the sun on the roof, was 42°, or one
degree colder than the water of one of the coldest wells in the village
just drawn. The temperature of the Boiling Spring the same day was 45°,
or the warmest of any water tried, though it is the coldest that I know
of in summer, when, besides, shallow and stagnant surface water is not
mingled with it. Moreover, in summer, Walden never becomes so warm as
most water which is exposed to the sun, on account of its depth. In the
warmest weather I usually placed a pailful in my cellar, where it became
cool in the night, and remained so during the day; though I also
resorted to a spring in the neighborhood. It was as good when a a week
old as the day it was dipped, and had no taste of the pump. Whoever
camps for a week in summer by the shore of a pond, needs only bury a
pail of water a few feet deep in the shade of his camp to be independent
of the luxury of ice.

There have been caught in Walden, pickerel, one weighing seven pounds,
to say nothing of another which carried off a reel with great velocity,
which the fisherman safely set down at eight pounds because he did not
see him, perch and pouts, some of each weighing over two pounds,
shiners, chivins or roach (_Leucisus pulchellus_), a very few breams,
and a couple of eels, one weighing four pounds - I am thus particular
because the weight of a fish is commonly its only title to fame, and
these are the only eels I have heard of here; also, I have a faint
recollection of a little fish some five inches long, with silvery sides
and a greenish back, somewhat dace-like in its character, which I
mention here chiefly to link my facts to fable. Nevertheless, this pond
is not very fertile in fish. Its pickerel, though not abundant, are its
chief boast. I have seen at one time lying on the ice pickerel of at
least three different kinds: a long and shallow one, steel-colored, most
like those caught in the river; a bright golden kind, with greenish
reflections and remarkably deep, which is the most common here; and
another, golden-colored, and shaped like the last, but peppered on the
sides with small dark brown or black spots, intermixed with a few faint
blood-red ones very much like a trout. The specific name
_reticulatus_[67] would not apply to this; it should be _guttatus_[68]
rather. These are all very firm fish, and weigh more than their size
promises. The shiners, pouts, and perch, also, and indeed all the fishes
which inhabit this pond, are much cleaner, handsomer, and firmer fleshed
than those in the river and most other ponds, as the water is purer, and
they can easily be distinguished from them. Probably many ichthyologists
would make new varieties of some of them. There are also a clean race of
frogs and tortoises, and a few mussels in it; muskrats and minks leave
their traces about it, and occasionally a travelling mud-turtle visits
it. Sometimes, when I pushed off my boat in the morning, I disturbed a
great mud-turtle which had secreted himself under the boat in the night.
Ducks and geese frequent it in the spring and fall, the white-bellied
swallows (_Hirundo bicolor_) skim over it, and the peetweets (_Totanus
macularius_) "teter" along its stony shores all summer. I have sometimes
disturbed a fishhawk sitting on a white-pine over the water; but I doubt
if it is ever profaned by the wing of a gull, like Fair-Haven. At most,
it tolerates one annual loon. These are all the animals of consequence
which frequent it now.

You may see from a boat, in calm weather, near the sandy eastern shore,
where the water is eight or ten feet deep, and also in some other parts
of the pond, some circular heaps half a dozen feet in diameter by a foot
in height, consisting of small stones less than a hen's egg in size,
where all around is bare sand. At first you wonder if the Indians could
have formed them on the ice for any purpose, and so, when the ice
melted, they sank to the bottom; but they are too regular and some of
them plainly too fresh for that. They are similar to those found in
rivers; but as there are no suckers or lampreys here, I know not by what
fish they could be made. Perhaps they are the nests of the chivin. These
lend a pleasing mystery to the bottom.

The shore is irregular enough not to be monotonous. I have in my mind's
eye the western indented with deep bays, the bolder northern, and the
beautifully scalloped southern shore, where successive capes overlap
each other and suggest unexplored coves between. The forest has never
so good a setting, nor is so distinctly beautiful, as when seen from the
middle of a small lake amid hills which rise from the water's edge; for
the water in which it is reflected not only makes the best foreground in
such a case, but, with its winding shore, the most natural and agreeable
boundary to it. There is no rawness nor imperfection in its edge there,
as where the axe has cleared a part, or a cultivated field abuts on it.
The trees have ample room to expand on the water side, and each sends
forth its most vigorous branch in that direction. There Nature has woven
a natural selvage, and the eye rises by just gradations from the low
shrubs of the shore to the highest trees. There are few traces of man's
hand to be seen. The water laves the shore as it did a thousand years
ago.

A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is
earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his
own nature. The fluviatile trees next the shore are the slender
eyelashes which fringe it, and the wooded hills and cliffs around are
its overhanging brows.

Standing on the smooth sandy beach at the east end of the pond, in a
calm September afternoon, when a slight haze makes the opposite shore
line indistinct, I have seen whence came the expression, "the glassy
surface of a lake." When you invert your head, it looks like a thread of
finest gossamer stretched across the valley, and gleaming against the
distant pine woods, separating one stratum of the atmosphere from
another. You would think that you could walk dry under it to the
opposite hills, and that the swallows which skim over might perch on it.
Indeed, they sometimes dive below the line, as it were by mistake, and
are undeceived. As you look over the pond westward you are obliged to



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