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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau


water, burned longer, as in a lamp.

Gilpin, in his account of the forest borderers of England, says that
"the encroachments of trespassers, and the houses and fences thus
raised on the borders of the forest," were "considered as great
nuisances by the old forest law, and were severely punished under
the name of purprestures, as tending ad terrorem ferarum-ad
nocumentum forestae, etc.," to the frightening of the game and the
detriment of the forest. But I was interested in the preservation of the
venison and the vert more than the hunters or woodchoppers, and as
much as though I had been the Lord Warden himself; and if any part
was burned, though I burned it myself by accident, I grieved with a
grief that lasted longer and was more inconsolable than that of the
proprietors; nay, I grieved when it was cut down by the proprietors
themselves. I would that our farmers when they cut down a forest
felt some of that awe which the old Romans did when they came to
thin, or let in the light to, a consecrated grove (lucum conlucare),
that is, would believe that it is sacred to some god. The Roman made
an expiatory offering, and prayed, Whatever god or goddess thou art
to whom this grove is sacred, be propitious to me, my family, and
children, etc.

It is remarkable what a value is still put upon wood even in this age
and in this new country, a value more permanent and universal than
that of gold. After all our discoveries and inventions no man will go
by a pile of wood. It is as precious to us as it was to our Saxon and
Norman ancestors. If they made their bows of it, we make our gun-
stocks of it. Michaux, more than thirty years ago, says that the price
of wood for fuel in New York and Philadelphia "nearly equals, and
sometimes exceeds, that of the best wood in Paris, though this
immense capital annually requires more than three hundred thousand
cords, and is surrounded to the distance of three hundred miles by
cultivated plains." In this town the price of wood rises almost
steadily, and the only question is, how much higher it is to be this
year than it was the last. Mechanics and tradesmen who come in
person to the forest on no other errand, are sure to attend the wood
auction, and even pay a high price for the privilege of gleaning after
the woodchopper. It is now many years that men have resorted to the
forest for fuel and the materials of the arts:

the New Englander and the New Hollander, the Parisian and the
Celt, the farmer and Robin Hood, Goody Blake and Harry Gill; in
most parts of the world the prince and the peasant, the scholar and
the savage, equally require still a few sticks from the forest to warm
them and cook their food. Neither could I do without them.

Every man looks at his wood-pile with a kind of affection. I love to
have mine before my window, and the more chips the better to
remind me of my pleasing work. I had an old axe which nobody
claimed, with which by spells in winter days, on the sunny side of
the house, I played about the stumps which I had got out of my bean-
field. As my driver prophesied when I was plowing, they warmed
me twice-once while I was splitting them, and again when they were
on the fire, so that no fuel could give out more heat. As for the axe, I
was advised to get the village blacksmith to "jump" it; but I jumped
him, and, putting a hickory helve from the woods into it, made it do.
If it was dull, it was at least hung true.

A few pieces of fat pine were a great treasure. It is interesting to
remember how much of this food for fire is still concealed in the
bowels of the earth. In previous years I had often gone prospecting
over some bare hillside, where a pitch pine wood had formerly
stood, and got out the fat pine roots. They are almost indestructible.
Stumps thirty or forty years old, at least, will still be sound at the
core, though the sapwood has all become vegetable mould, as
appears by the scales of the thick bark forming a ring level with the
earth four or five inches distant from the heart. With axe and shovel
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