in Thoreau’s Journal:
5 p. m. —To Conantum on foot.
My attic chamber has compelled me to sit below with the family at evening for a month. I feel the necessity of deepening the stream of my life; I must cultivate privacy. It is very dissipating to be with people too much. As C. says, it takes the edge off a man’s thoughts to have been much in society. I cannot spare my moonlight and my mountains for the best of man I am likely to get in exchange––
I am inclined now for a pensive evening walk
Methinks we think of spring mornings and autumn evenings. I go via Hubbard Path. Chelone say two days X at Conants meadow beyond Wheelers. July has been to me a trivial month. It began hot and continued drying, then rained some toward the middle, bringing anticipations of the fall, and then was hot again about the 20th. It has been a month of haying, heat, low water, and weeds. Birds have grown up and flown more or less in small flocks, though I notice a new sparrow’s nest and eggs and perhaps a catbird’s eggs lately. The woodland quire has steadily diminished in volume.
At the bass I now find that that memorable hum has ceased and the green berries are formed. Now blueberries, huckleberries, and low blackberries are in their prime. The fever-bush berries will not be ripe for two or three weeks.
At Bittern Cliff the Gerardia quercifolia (?), apparently four or five days at least. How interesting the small alternate cornel trees, with often a flat top, a peculiar ribbed and green leaf, and pretty red stems supporting its harmless blue berries inclined to drop off ! The sweet viburnum, not yet turning. I see apparently a thistle-down over the river at Bittern Cliff; it is borne toward me, but when it reaches the rock some influence raises it high above the rock out of my reach. What a fall-like look the decayed and yellow leaves of the large Solomon’s-seal have in the thickets now! These, with skunk-cabbage and hellebore, suggest that the early ripeness of leaves, etc., has somewhat normal in it,— there is a fall already begun. Eupatorium sessilifolium, one or two stamens apparently for two days; its smooth leaf distinguishes it by the touch from the sunflower.
I sat on the Bittern Cliff as the still eve drew on. There was a man on Fair Haven furling his sail and bathing from his boat. A boat on a river whose waters are smoothed, and a man disporting in it! How it harmonizes with the stillness and placidity of the evening! Who knows but he is a poet in his yet obscure but golden youth? Few else go alone into retired scenes without gun or fishing-rod. He bathes in the middle of the pond while his boat slowly drifts away. As I go up the hill, surrounded by its shadow, while the sun is setting, I am soothed by the delicious stillness of the evening, save that on the hills the wind blows. I was surprised by the sound of my own voice. It is an atmosphere burdensome with thought. For the first time for a month, at least, I am reminded that thought is possible. The din of trivialness is silenced. I float over or through the deeps of silence. It is the first silence I have heard for a month. My life had been a River Platte, tinkling over its sands but useless for all great navigation, but now it suddenly became a fathomless ocean. It shelved off to unimagined depths.
I sit on rock on the hill top––warm with the heat of the departed sun, in my thin summer clothes. Here are the seeds of some berries in the droppings of some bird on the rock. The sun has been set fifteen minutes, and a long cloudy finger, stretched along the northern horizon, is held over the point where it disappeared. I see dark shadows formed on the south side of the woods east of the river. The creaking of the crickets becomes clear and loud and shrill, —a sharp tinkling, like rills bubbling up from the ground. After a little while the western sky is suddenly suffused with a pure white light, against which the hickories further east on the hill show black with beautiful distinctness. Day does not furnish so interesting a ground. A few sparrows sing as in the morning and the spring; also a peawai and a chewink. Meanwhile the moon in her first quarter is burnishing her disk. Now suddenly the cloudy finger and the few scattered clouds glow with the parting salute of the sun; the rays of the sun, which has so long sunk below the convex earth, are reflected from each cloudy promontory with more incomparable brilliancy than ever.
The hardhack leaves stand up so around the stem that now, at first starlight, I see only their light undersides a rod off. Do they as much by day? The surface of the forest on the east of the river presents a singularly cool and wild appearance, —cool as a pot of green paint, ––stretches of green light and shade, reminding me of some lonely mt side. The nighthawk flies low-skimming over the ground now. How handsome lie the oats which have been cradled in long rows in the field, a quarter of a mile uninterruptedly!
The thick stub ends, so evenly laid, are almost as rich a sight to me as the graceful tops. A few fireflies in the meadows. I am uncertain whether that so large and bright and high was a fire-fly or a shooting star. Shooting stars are but fireflies of the firmament. The crickets on the causeway make a steady creak, on the dry pasture-tops an interrupted one. I was compelled to stand to write where a soft, faint light from the western sky came in between two willows.
Fields today sends me a specimen copy of my “Walden” It is to be published on the 12 inst.