October 10, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

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These days you may say the year is ripened like a fruit by frost, and puts on brilliant tints of maturity but not yet of decay. It is not sere and withered as in November.

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See the heaps of apples in the fields and at the cider-mill, of pumpkins in the fields, and the stacks of cornstalks and the standing corn. Such is the season. 

October 9, 1851

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The witch hazel here is in full blossom on this magical hill-side—while its broad yellow leaves are falling—some bushes are completely bare of leaves, and leather-colored they strew the ground. It is an extremely interesting plant—October & November’s child—and yet reminds me of the very earliest spring—  Its blossoms smell like the spring—like the willow catkins—by their color as well as fragrance they belong to the saffron dawn of the year.— Suggesting amid all these signs of Autumn—falling leaves & frost—that the life of nature—by which she eternally flourishes, is untouched. It stands here in the shadow on the side of the hill while the sunlight from over the top of the hill lights up its topmost sprays & yellow blossoms. Its spray so jointed and angular is not to be mistaken for any other. I lie on my back with joy under its boughs. While its leaves fall—its blossoms spring. The autumn then is indeed a spring. All the year is a spring. I see two blackbirds high over head going south, but I am going north in my thoughts with these hazel blossoms. 

It is a faery place. This is a part of the immortality of the soul. When I was thinking that it bloomed too late for bees or other insects to extract honey from its flowers—that perchance they contained no honey—I saw a bee upon it.  How important then to the bees this late blossoming plant. 

 

October 8, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

The autumnal tints about the pond are now perfect—nothing can exceed the brilliancy of some of the maples which stand by the shore & extend their red banners over the water—why should so many be yellow? 

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I see the browner yellow of the chestnuts on Pine Hill—  The maples & hickories are a clearer yellow.  Some white oaks are red—  The shrub oaks are bloody enough for a ground—  The red & black oaks are yet green.

October 7, 1852

in Thoreau’s Journal:

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Perhaps the autumnal tints are as bright & interesting now as they will be—now is the time to behold the maple swamps—one mass of red & yellow—all on fire as it were.   These and the blood red huckleberries are the most conspicuous—and then in the village the warm brownish yellow elms—& there and elsewhere the dark red ashes.  The green pines springing out of huckleberries on the hillsides look as if surrounded by red or vermillion paint….

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I sit on Poplar Hill.  It is a warm Indian summerish afternoon. The sun comes out of clouds & lights up & warms the whole scene— It is perfect autumn….It is the mellowing year.  The sunshine harmonizes with the imbrowned & fiery foliage.

October 5, 1857

 in Thoreau’s Journal:

There is not now that profusion, and consequent confusion, of events which belongs to a summer walk.

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There are few flowers, birds, insects, or fruits now, and hence what does occur affects us as more simple and significant, as the cawing of a crow or the scream of a jay. The latter seems to scream more fitly and with more freedom through the vacancies occasioned by fallen maple leaves.

October 4, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Now the year itself begins to be ripe…

It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know. I do not get nearer by a hair’s breadth to any natural object so long as I presume that I have an introduction to it from some learned man. To conceive of it with a total apprehension I must for the thousandth time approach it as something totally strange. If you would make acquaintance with the ferns you must forget your botany. You must get rid of what is commonly called knowledge of them. Not a single scientific term or distinction is the least to the purpose, for you would fain perceive something, and you must approach the object totally unprejudiced. You must be aware that no thing is what you have taken it to be. In what book is this world and its beauty described?

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Who has plotted the steps toward the discovery of beauty? You have got to be in a different state from common. Your greatest success will be simply to perceive that such things are, and you will have no communication to make to the Royal Society. If it were required to know the position of the fruit-dots or the character of the indusium, nothing could be easier than to ascertain it; but if it is required that you be affected by ferns, that they amount to anything, signify anything, to you, that they be another sacred scripture and revelation to you, helping to redeem your life, this end is not so surely accomplished. In the one case, you take a sentence and analyze it, you decide if it is printed in large [sic] primer or small pica; if it is long or short, simple or compound, and how many clauses it is composed of; if the i’s are all dotted, or some for variety without dots; what color and composition of the ink and the paper; and it is considered a fair or mediocre sentence accordingly, and you assign its place among the sentences you have seen and kept specimens of. But as for the meaning of the sentence, that is as completely overlooked as if it had none. This the Chinese, the Aristotelean, method. But if you should ever perceive the meaning you would disregard all the rest. So far science goes, and it punctually leaves off there, – tells you finally where it is to be found and its synonyms, and rests from its labors.


Here are two citations from Thoreau’s Journal both of which concern “the perception of beauty”.  The second (also, cited above) from October 4, 1859 perhaps illuminates the first from June 21, 1852. 

June 21, 1852 in Thoreau’s Journal:  

Nature has looked uncommonly bare & dry to me for a day or two. With our senses applied to the surrounding world we are reading our own physical & corresponding moral revolutions. Nature was so shallow all at once I did not know what had attracted me all my life. I was therefore encouraged when going through a field this evening, I was unexpectedly struck with the beauty of an apple tree –– the perception of beauty is a moral test….

October 4, 1859 in Thoreau’s Journal:

It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know. I do not get nearer by a hair’s breadth to any natural object so long as I presume that I have an introduction to it from some learned man. To conceive of it with a total apprehension I must for the thousandth time approach it as something totally strange. If you would make acquaintance with the ferns you must forget your botany. You must get rid of what is commonly called knowledge of them. Not a single scientific term or distinction is the least to the purpose, for you would fain perceive something, and you must approach the object totally unprejudiced. You must be aware that no thing is what you have taken it to be. In what book is this world and its beauty described? Who has plotted the steps toward the discovery of beauty? You have got to be in a different state from common. Your greatest success will be simply to perceive that such things are, and you will have no communication to make to the Royal Society. If it were required to know the position of the fruit-dots or the character of the indusium, nothing could be easier than to ascertain it; but if it is required that you be affected by ferns, that they amount to anything, signify anything, to you, that they be another sacred scripture and revelation to you, helping to redeem your life, this end is not so surely accomplished. In the one case, you take a sentence and analyze it, you decide if it is printed in large [sic] primer or small pica; if it is long or short, simple or compound, and how many clauses it is composed of; if the i’s are all dotted, or some for variety without dots; what color and composition of the ink and the paper; and it is considered a fair or mediocre sentence accordingly, and you assign its place among the sentences you have seen and kept specimens of. But as for the meaning of the sentence, that is as completely overlooked as if it had none. This the Chinese, the Aristotelean, method. But if you should ever perceive the meaning you would disregard all the rest. So far science goes, and it punctually leaves off there, – tells you finally where it is to be found and its synonyms, and rests from its labors.

Photo:  October 4, 2018

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October 3, 1852

 in Thoreau’s Journal:

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From Heywood’s Peak at Walden the shore is now more beautifully painted.  The most prominent are the red maples & the del- yellowish aspens.  

October 2, 1852

 in Thoreau’s Journal:

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How much more beautiful the lakes now like Fair Haven surrounded by the autumn tinted woods & hills.— as in an ornamented frame. Some maples in sprout lands are of a delicate pure clear unspotted red inclining to crimson—surpassing most flowers— I would fain grasp at the whole tree & carry it home for a nose-gay.

October 1, 1852

 in Thoreau’s Journal:

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Surveying in Lincoln.  A severer frost last night.

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The young & tender trees begin to assume the autumnal tints more generally—plainly in consequence of the frost the last 2 mornings. The sides of the bushy hills present a rich variety of colors like rug work—but the forest generally is not yet changed.