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


compass and chain and sounding line. There have been many stories
told about the bottom, or rather no bottom, of this pond, which
certainly had no foundation for themselves. It is remarkable how
long men will believe in the bottomlessness of a pond without taking
the trouble to sound it. I have visited two such Bottomless Ponds in
one walk in this neighborhood. Many have believed that Walden
reached quite through to the other side of the globe. Some who have
lain flat on the ice for a long time, looking down through the illusive
medium, perchance with watery eyes into the bargain, and driven to
hasty conclusions by the fear of catching cold in their breasts, have
seen vast holes "into which a load of hay might be drived," if there
were anybody to drive it, the undoubted source of the Styx and
entrance to the Infernal Regions from these parts. Others have gone
down from the village with a "fifty-six" and a wagon load of inch
rope, but yet have failed to find any bottom; for while the "fifty-six"
was resting by the way, they were paying out the rope in the vain
attempt to fathom their truly immeasurable capacity for
marvellousness. But I can assure my readers that Walden has a
reasonably tight bottom at a not unreasonable, though at an unusual,
depth. I fathomed it easily with a cod-line and a stone weighing
about a pound and a half, and could tell accurately when the stone
left the bottom, by having to pull so much harder before the water
got underneath to help me. The greatest depth was exactly one
hundred and two feet; to which may be added the five feet which it
has risen since, making one hundred and seven. This is a remarkable
depth for so small an area; yet not an inch of it can be spared by the
imagination. What if all ponds were shallow? Would it not react on
the minds of men? I am thankful that this pond was made deep and
pure for a symbol. While men believe in the infinite some ponds will
be thought to be bottomless.

A factory-owner, bearing what depth I had found, thought that it
could not be true, for, judging from his acquaintance with dams,
sand would not lie at so steep an angle. But the deepest ponds are not
so deep in proportion to their area as most suppose, and, if drained,
would not leave very remarkable valleys. They are not like cups
between the hills; for this one, which is so unusually deep for its
area, appears in a vertical section through its centre not deeper than a
shallow plate. Most ponds, emptied, would leave a meadow no more
hollow than we frequently see. William Gilpin, who is so admirable
in all that relates to landscapes,

and usually so correct, standing at the head of Loch Fyne, in
Scotland, which he describes as "a bay of salt water, sixty or seventy
fathoms deep, four miles in breadth, and about fifty miles long,
surrounded by mountains, observes, "If we could have seen it
immediately after the diluvian crash, or whatever convulsion of
nature occasioned it, before the waters gushed in, what a horrid
chasm must it have appeared!

"So high as heaved the tumid hills, so low Down sunk a hollow
bottom broad and deep, Capacious bed of waters."

But if, using the shortest diameter of Loch Fyne, we apply these
proportions to Walden, which, as we have seen, appears already in a
vertical section only like a shallow plate, it will appear four times as
shallow. So much for the increased horrors of the chasm of Loch
Fyne when emptied. No doubt many a smiling valley with its
stretching cornfields occupies exactly such a "horrid chasm," from
which the waters have receded, though it requires the insight and the
far sight of the geologist to convince the unsuspecting inhabitants of
this fact. Often an inquisitive eye may detect the shores of a
primitive lake in the low horizon hills, and no subsequent elevation
of the plain have been necessary to conceal their history. But it is
easiest, as they who work on the highways know, to find the hollows
by the puddles after a shower. The amount of it is, the imagination,
give it the least license, dives deeper and soars higher than Nature
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