Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers
the nearest neighbor, and separated from the highway by a broad
field; its bounding on the river, which the owner said protected it by
its fogs from frosts in the spring, though that was nothing to me; the
gray color and ruinous state of the house and barn, and the
dilapidated fences, which put such an interval between me and the
last occupant; the hollow and lichen-covered apple trees, nawed by
rabbits, showing what kind of neighbors I should have; but above all,
the recollection I had of it from my earliest voyages up the river,
when the house was concealed behind a dense grove of red maples,
through which I heard the house-dog bark. I was in haste to buy it,
before the proprietor finished getting out some rocks, cutting down
the hollow apple trees, and grubbing up some young birches which
had sprung up in the pasture, or, in short, had made any more of his
improvements. To enjoy these advantages I was ready to carry it on;
like Atlas, to take the world on my shoulders-I never heard what
compensation he received for that-and do all those things which had
no other motive or excuse but that I might pay for it and be
unmolested in my possession of it; for I knew all the while that it
would yield the most abundant crop of the kind I wanted, if I could
only afford to let it alone. But it turned out as I have said.
All that I could say, then, with respect to farming on a large scale-I
have always cultivated a garden-was, that I had had my seeds ready.
Many think that seeds improve with age. I have no doubt that time
discriminates between the good and the bad; and when at last I shall
plant, I shall be less likely to be disappointed. But I would say to my
fellows, once for all, As long as possible live free and uncommitted.
It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or
the county jail.
Old Cato, whose "De Re Rustica" is my "Cultivator," says-and the
only translation I have seen makes sheer nonsense of the passage-
"When you think of getting a farm turn it thus in your mind, not to
buy greedily; nor spare your pains to look at it, and do not think it
enough to go round it once. The oftener you go there the more it will
please you, if it is good." I think I shall not buy greedily, but go
round and round it as long as I live, and be buried in it first, that it
may please me the more at last.
The present was my next experiment of this kind, which I purpose to
describe more at length, for convenience putting the experience of
two years into one. As I have said, I do not propose to write an ode
to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning,
standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up.
When first I took up my abode in the woods, that is, began to spend
my nights as well as days there, which, by accident, was on
Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, 1845, my house was not
finished for winter, but was merely a de-fence against the rain,
without plastering or chimney, the walls being of rough, weather-
stained boards, with wide chinks, which made it cool at night. The
upright white hewn studs and freshly planed door and window
casings gave it a clean and airy look, especially in the morning,
when its timbers were saturated with dew, so that I fancied that by
noon some sweet gum would exude from them. To my imagination it
retained throughout the day more or less of this auroral character,
reminding me of a certain house on a mountain which I had visited a
year before. This was an airy and unplastered cabin, fit to entertain a
travelling god, and where a goddess might trail her garments. The
winds which passed over my dwelling were such as sweep over the
ridges of mountains, bearing the broken strains, or celestial parts
only, of terrestrial music. The morning wind forever blows, the
poem of creation is uninterrupted; but few are the ears that hear it.
Olympus is but the outside of the earth everywhere.
The only house I had been the owner of before, if I except a boat,
was a tent, which I used occasionally when making excursions in the