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


were universally a thirsty race. Might not the basket, stable-broom,
mat-making, corn-parching, linen-spinning, and pottery business
have thrived here, making the wilderness to blossom like the rose,
and a numerous posterity have inherited the land of their fathers?
The sterile soil would at least have been proof against a lowland
degeneracy. Alas! how little does the memory of these human
inhabitants enhance the beauty of the landscape! Again, perhaps,
Nature will try, with me for a first settler, and my house raised last
spring to be the oldest in the hamlet.

I am not aware that any man has ever built on the spot which I
occupy. Deliver me from a city built on the site of a more ancient
city, whose materials are ruins, whose gardens cemeteries. The soil
is blanched and accursed there, and before that becomes necessary
the earth itself will be destroyed. With such reminiscences I
repeopled the woods and lulled myself asleep.

At this season I seldom had a visitor. When the snow lay deepest no
wanderer ventured near my house for a week or fortnight at a time,
but there I lived as snug as a meadow mouse, or as cattle and poultry
which are said to have survived for a long time buried in drifts, even
without food; or like that early settlerís family in the town of Sutton,
in this State, whose cottage was completely covered by the great
snow of 1717 when he was absent, and an Indian found it only by
the hole which the chimneyís breath made in the drift, and so
relieved the family. But no friendly Indian concerned himself about
me; nor needed he, for the master of the house was at home. The
Great Snow! How cheerful it is to hear of! When the farmers could
not get to the woods and swamps with their teams, and were obliged
to cut down the shade trees before their houses, and, when the crust
was harder, cut off the trees in the swamps, ten feet from the ground,
as it appeared the next spring.

In the deepest snows, the path which I used from the highway to my
house, about half a mile long, might have been represented by a
meandering dotted line, with wide intervals between the dots. For a
week of even weather I took exactly the same number of steps, and
of the same length, coming and going, stepping deliberately and with
the precision of a pair of dividers in my own deep tracks-to such
routine the winter reduces us-yet often they were filled with
heavenís own blue. But no weather interfered fatally with my walks,
or rather my going abroad, for I frequently tramped eight or ten
miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech
tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines;
when the ice and snow causing their limbs to droop, and so
sharpening their tops, had changed the pines into fir trees; wading to
the tops of the highest bills when the show was nearly two feet deep
on a level, and shaking down another snow-storm on my head at
every step; or sometimes creeping and floundering thither on my
hands and knees, when the hunters had gone into winter quarters.
One afternoon I amused myself by watching a barred owl (Strix
nebulosa) sitting on one of the lower dead limbs of a white pine,
close to the trunk, in broad daylight, I standing within a rod of him.
He could hear me when I moved and cronched the snow with my
feet, but could not plainly see me. When I made most noise he would
stretch out his neck, and erect his neck feathers, and open his eyes
wide; but their lids soon fell again, and he began to nod. I too felt a
slumberous influence after watching him half an hour, as he sat thus
with his eyes half open, like a cat, winged brother of the cat. There
was only a narrow slit left between their lids, by which be preserved
a pennisular relation to me; thus, with half-shut eyes, looking out
from the land of dreams, and endeavoring to realize me, vague
object or mote that interrupted his visions. At length, on some
loudernoise or my nearer approach, he would grow uneasy and
sluggishly turn about on his perch, as if impatient at having his
dreams disturbed; and when he launched himself off and flapped
through the pines, spreading his wings to unexpected breadth, I
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



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