Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers

Help / FAQ

<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - by Henry David Thoreau

then a foot of ice, and open a window under my feet, where,
kneeling to drink, I look down into the quiet parlor of the fishes,
pervaded by a softened light as through a window of ground glass,
with its bright sanded floor the same as in summer; there a perennial
waveless serenity reigns as in the amber twilight sky, corresponding
to the cool and even temperament of the inhabitants. Heaven is under
our feet is well as over our heads.

Early in the morning, while all things are crisp with frost, men come
with fishing-reels and slender lunch, and let down their fine lines
through the snowy field to take pickerel and perch; wild men, who
instinctively follow other fashions and trust other authorities than
their townsmen, and by their goings and comings stitch towns
together in parts where else they would be ripped. They sit and eat
their luncheon in stout fear-naughts on the dry oak leaves on the
shore, as wise in natural lore as the citizen is in artificial. They never
consulted with books, and know and can tell much less than they
have done. The things which they practice are said not yet to be
known. Here is one fishing for pickerel with grown perch for bait.
You look into his pail with wonder as into a summer pond, as if he
kept summer locked up at home, or knew where she had retreated.
How, pray, did he get these in midwinter? Oh, he got worms out of
rotten logs since the ground froze, and so he caught them. His life
itself passes deeper in nature than the studies of the naturalist
penetrate; himself a subject for the naturalist. The latter raises the
moss and bark gently with his knife in search of insects; the former
lays open logs to their core with his axe, and moss and bark fly far
and wide. He gets his living by barking trees. Such a man has some
right to fish, and I love to see nature carried out in him. The perch
swallows the grub-worm, the pickerel swallows the perch, and the
fisher-man swallows the pickerel; and so all the chinks in the scale
of being are filled.

When I strolled around the pond in misty weather I was sometimes
amused by the primitive mode which some ruder fisher-man had
adopted. He would perhaps have placed alder branches over the
narrow holes in the ice, which were four or five rods apart and an
equal distance from the shore, and having fastened the end of the
line to a stick to prevent its being pulled through, have passed the
slack line over a twig of the alder, a foot or more above the ice, and
tied a dry oak leaf to it, which, being pulled down, would show when
he had a bite. These alders loomed through the mist at regular
intervals as you walked half way round the pond.

Ah, the pickerel of Walden! when I see them lying on the ice, or in
the well which the fisherman cuts in the ice, making a little hole to
admit the water, I am always surprised by their rare beauty, as if they
were fabulous fishes, they are so foreign to the streets, even to the
woods, foreign as Arabia to our Concord life. They possess a quite
dazzling and transcendent beauty which separates them by a wide
interval from the cadaverous cod and haddock whose fame is
trumpeted in our streets. They are not green like the pines, nor gray
like the stones, nor blue like the sky; but they have, to my eyes, if
possible, yet rarer colors, like flowers and precious stones, as if they
were the pearls, the animalized nuclei or crystals of the Walden
water. They, of course, are Walden all over and all through; are
themselves small Waldens in the animal kingdom, Waldenses. It is
surprising that they are caught here-that in this deep and capacious
spring, far beneath the rattling teams and chaises and tinkling sleighs
that travel the Walden road, this great gold and emerald fish swims. I
never chanced to see its kind in any market; it would be the cynosure
of all eyes there. Easily, with a few convulsive quirks, they give up
their watery ghosts, like a mortal translated before his time to the
thin air of heaven.

As I was desirous to recover the long lost bottom of Walden Pond, I
surveyed it carefully, before the ice broke up, early in 46, with
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - by Henry David Thoreau

All Contents Copyright All rights reserved.
Further Distribution Is Strictly Prohibited.

About Us | Advertising | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Home Page

In Association with