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The Journal, 1837-1861 The Journal, 1837-1861 by Henry David Thoreau
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“When I consider that the nobler animal have been exterminated here - the cougar, the panther, lynx, wolverine, wolf, bear, moose, dear, the beaver, the turkey and so forth and so forth, I cannot but feel as if I lived in a tamed and, as it were, emasculated country... Is it not a maimed and imperfect nature I am conversing with? As if I were to study a tribe of Indians that had lost all it's warriors...I take infinite pains to know all the phenomena of the spring, for instance, thinking that I have here the entire poem, and then, to my chagrin, I hear that it is but an imperfect copy that I possess and have read, that my ancestors have torn out many of the first leaves and grandest passages, and mutilated it in many places. I should not like to think that some demigod had come before me and picked out some of the best of the stars. I wish to know an entire heaven and an entire earth.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal, 1837-1861
“Man is the artificer of his own happiness.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal of Henry D. Thoreau
“This afternoon, being on Fair Haven Hill, I heard the sound of a saw, and soon after from the Cliff saw two men sawing down a noble pine beneath, about forty rods off. I resolved to watch it till it fell, the last of a dozen or more which were left when the forest was cut and for fifteen years have waved in solitary majesty over the sprout-land. I saw them like beavers or insects gnawing at the trunk of this noble tree, the diminutive manikins with their cross-cut saw which could scarcely span it. It towered up a hundred feet as I afterward found by measurement, one of the tallest probably in the township and straight as an arrow, but slanting a little toward the hillside, its top seen against the frozen river and the hills of Conantum. I watch closely to see when it begins to move. Now the sawers stop, and with an axe open it a little on the side toward which it leans, that it may break the faster. And now their saw goes again. Now surely it is going; it is inclined one quarter of the quadrant, and, breathless, I expect its crashing fall. But no, I was mistaken; it has not moved an inch; it stands at the same angle as at first. It is fifteen minutes yet to its fall. Still its branches wave in the wind, as it were destined to stand for a century, and the wind soughs through its needles as of yore; it is still a forest tree, the most majestic tree that waves over Musketaquid. The silvery sheen of the sunlight is reflected from its needles; it still affords an inaccessible crotch for the squirrel’s nest; not a lichen has forsaken its mast-like stem, its raking mast,—the hill is the hulk. Now, now’s the moment! The manikins at its base are fleeing from their crime. They have dropped the guilty saw and axe. How slowly and majestic it starts! as it were only swayed by a summer breeze, and would return without a sigh to its location in the air. And now it fans the hillside with its fall, and it lies down to its bed in the valley, from which it is never to rise, as softly as a feather, folding its green mantle about it like a warrior, as if, tired of standing, it embraced the earth with silent joy, returning its elements to the dust again. But hark! there you only saw, but did not hear. There now comes up a deafening crash to these rocks , advertising you that even trees do not die without a groan. It rushes to embrace the earth, and mingle its elements with the dust. And now all is still once more and forever, both to eye and ear.

I went down and measured it. It was about four feet in diameter where it was sawed, about one hundred feet long. Before I had reached it the axemen had already divested it of its branches. Its gracefully spreading top was a perfect wreck on the hillside as if it had been made of glass, and the tender cones of one year’s growth upon its summit appealed in vain and too late to the mercy of the chopper. Already he has measured it with his axe, and marked off the mill-logs it will make. And the space it occupied in upper air is vacant for the next two centuries. It is lumber. He has laid waste the air. When the fish hawk in the spring revisits the banks of the Musketaquid, he will circle in vain to find his accustomed perch, and the hen-hawk will mourn for the pines lofty enough to protect her brood. A plant which it has taken two centuries to perfect, rising by slow stages into the heavens, has this afternoon ceased to exist. Its sapling top had expanded to this January thaw as the forerunner of summers to come. Why does not the village bell sound a knell? I hear no knell tolled. I see no procession of mourners in the streets, or the woodland aisles. The squirrel has leaped to another tree; the hawk has circled further off, and has now settled upon a new eyrie, but the woodman is preparing [to] lay his axe at the root of that also.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal, 1837-1861
“The stars are God's dreams, thoughts remembered in the silence of his night.”
henry david thoreau, The Journal of Henry David Thoreau
“A traveller! I love his title. A traveler is to be reverenced as such. His profession is the best symbol of our life. Going from–toward; it is the history of every one of us.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal, 1837-1861
“What if we feel a yearning to which no breast answers?”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861
“Every part of nature teaches that the passing away of one life is the making room for another. The oak dies down to the ground, leaving within its rind a rich virgin mould, which will impart a vigorous life to an infant forest. The pine leaves a sandy and sterile soil, the harder woods a strong and fruitful mould. So this constant abrasion and decay makes the soil of my future growth. As I live now so shall I reap. If I grow pines and birches, my virgin mould will not sustain the oak; but pines and birches, or, perchance, weeds and brambles, will constitute my second growth.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861
“A driving snow-storm in the night and still raging; five or six inches deep on a level at 7 A.M. All birds are turned into snowbirds. Trees and houses have put on the aspect of winter. The traveller’s carriage wheels, the farmer’s wagon, are converted into white disks of snow through which the spokes hardly appear. But it is good now to stay in the house and read and write. We do not now go wandering all abroad and dissipated, but the imprisoning storm condenses our thoughts. I can hear the clock tick as not in pleasant weather. My life is enriched. I love to hear the wind howl. I have a fancy for sitting with my book or paper in some mean and apparently unfavorable place, in the kitchen, for instance, where the work is going on, rather a little cold than comfortable.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal, 1837-1861
“It is in vain to dream of a wildness distant from ourselves. There is none such. It is in the bog in our brains and bowels, the primitive vigour of Nature in us, that inspires that dream. I shall never find in the wilds of Labrador any greater wildness than in some recess of Concord, i.e. than I import into it.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal, 1837-1861
“July 6. I wish to meet the facts of life—the vital facts, which are the phenomena or actuality the gods meant to show us—face to face, and so I came down here. Life! who knows what it is, what it does? If I am not quite right here, I am less wrong than before; and now let us see what they will have.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal, 1837-1861
“Says I to myself” should be the motto of my journal. It is fatal to the writer to be too much possessed by his thought. Things must lie a little remote to be described.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal, 1837-1861
“I stopped short in the path today to admire how the trees grow up without forethought regardless of the time and circumstances. They do not wait as men do—now is the golden age of the sapling—Earth, air, sun, and rain, are occasion enough—.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861
“My prickles or smoothness are as much a quality of your hand as of myself. I cannot tell you what I am, more than a ray of the summer’s sun. What I am I am, and say not. Being is the great explainer.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861
“Must be out-of-doors enough to get experience of wholesome reality, as a ballast to thought and sentiment. Health requires this relaxation, this aimless life. This life in the present. Let a man have thought what he will of Nature in the house, she will still be novel outdoors. I keep out of doors for the sake of the mineral, vegetable, and animal in me.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861
“We cannot conceive of a greater difference than between the life of one man and that of another.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal, 1837-1861
“A sad sight to behold! Little boys of twelve years, prematurely old, sucking cigars! I felt that if I were their mothers I should whip them and send them to bed. Such children should be dealt with as”
John Stilgoe, The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861
“What can be handsomer for a picture than our river scenery now? Take this view from the first Conantum Cliff.”
John Stilgoe, The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861
“All perception of truth is the detection of analogy; we reason from our hands to our head.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal, 1837-1861
“Coming out of town—willingly as usual.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal, 1837-1861
“Today you may write a chapter on the advantages of travelling & tomorrow you may write another chapter on the advantages of not travelling.”
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal, 1837-1861