December 31, 1841

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Books of natural history make the most cheerful winter reading.  I read in Audubon with a thrill of delight when the snow covers the ground of the magnolia and the Florida keys and their warm seas breezes—of the fence rail and the cotton tree and the migrations of the rice bird—or of the breaking up of winter in Labrador.  I seem to hear the melting of the snow on the forks of the Missouri as I read. I imbibe some portion of health from these reminiscences of luxuriant nature.

The is a singular health for me in those words of Labrador and East Main—which no desponding creed recognizes.

How much more than federal are these States—!  If there no other vicissitude but the seasons—with their attendant and consequent changes our interest would never flag. Much more is adoing than Congress wots of in the winter season. What journal do the Persimon and Buckeye keep—or the sharp shinned hawk?  What is transpiring from summer to winter in the Carolinas—the great Pine forest, and the valley of the Mohawk? The merely political aspect of the land is never very cheering— Men are degraded when considered as the members of a political organization.

As a nation the people never utter one great and healthy word— From side all nations present only the symptoms of disease…In society you will not find health but in nature— You must converse much with the field and woods if you would imbibe such health into your mind and spirit as you covet for your body….


I should like to keep some books of natural history always by me as a sort of elixir—the reading of which would restore the tone of my system—and secure me true and cheerful views of life….To the soul that contemplates some trait of natural beauty no harm nor disappointment can come. The doctrines of despair—of spiritual or political servitude—no priestcraft nor tyranny—was ever taught by such as drank in the harmony of nature.