February 8, 1857

in Thoreau’s Journal:

Debauched and worn-out senses require the violent vibrations of an instrument to excite them, but sound and still youthful senses, not enervated by luxury, hear music in the wind and rain and running water. One would think from reading the critics that music was intermittent as a spring in the desert, dependent on some Paganini or Mozart, or heard only when the Pierians or Euterpeans drive through the villages; but music is perpetual, and only hearing is intermittent. I hear it in the softened air of these warm February days which have broken the back of the winter…

In the society of many men, or in the midst of what is called success, I find my life of no account, and my spirits rapidly fall. I would rather be the barrenest pasture lying fallow than cursed with the compliments of kings, than be the sulphurous and accursed desert where Babylon once stood. But when I have only a rustling oak leaf, or the faint metallic cheep of a tree sparrow, for variety in my winter walk, my life becomes continent and sweet as the kernel of a nut. I would rather hear a single shrub oak leaf at the end of a wintry glade rustle of its own accord at my approach, than receive a shipload of stars and garters from the strange kings and peoples of the earth.