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


gray oaks. Then-that I never had been bor-r-r-r-n! echoes another on
the farther side with tremulous sincerity, and-bor-r-r-r-n! comes
faintly from far in the Lincoln woods.

I was also serenaded by a hooting owl. Near at hand you could fancy
it the most melancholy sound in Nature, as if she meant by this to
stereotype and make permanent in her choir the dying moans of a
human being-some poor weak relic of mortality who has left hope
behind, and howls like an animal, yet with human sobs, on entering
the dark valley, made more awful by a certain gurgling
melodiousness-I find myself beginning with the letters gl when I try
to imitate it-expressive of a mind which has reached the gelatinous,
mildewy stage in the mortification of all healthy and courageous
thought. It reminded me of ghouls and idiots and insane howlings.
But now one answers from far woods in a strain made really
melodious by distance-Hoo hoo hoo, hoorer hoo: and indeed for the
most part it suggested only pleasing associations, whether heard by
day or night, summer or winter.

I rejoice that there are owls. Let them do the idiotic and maniacal
hooting for men. It is a sound admirably suited to swamps and
twilight woods which no day illustrates, suggesting a vast and
undeveloped nature which men have not recognized. They represent
the stark twilight and unsatisfied thoughts which all have. All day
the sun has shone on the surface of some savage swamp, where the
single spruce stands hung with usnea lichens, and small hawks
circulate above, and the chickadee lisps amid the evergreens, and the
partridge and rabbit skulk beneath; but now a more dismal and
fitting day dawns, and a different race of creatures awakes to express
the meaning of Nature there.

Late in the evening I heard the distant rumbling of wagons over
bridges-a sound heard farther than almost any other at night-the
baying of dogs, and sometimes again the lowing of some
disconsolate cow in a distant barn-yard. In the meanwhile all the
shore rang with the trump of bullfrogs, the sturdy spirits of ancient
wine-bibbers and wassailers, still unrepentant, trying to sing a catch
in their Stygian lake-if the Walden nymphs will pardon the
comparison, for though there are almost no weeds, there are frogs
there-who would fain keep up the hilarious rules of their old festal
tables, though their voices have waxed hoarse and solemnly grave,
mocking at mirth, and the mine has lost its flavor, and become only
liquor to distend their paunches, and sweet intoxication never comes
to drown the memory of the past, but mere saturation and
waterloggedness and distention. The most aldermanic, with his chin
upon a heart-leaf, which serves for a napkin to his drooling chaps,
under this northern shore quaffs a deep draught of the once scorned
water, and passes round the cup with the ejaculation tr-r-r-oonk, tr-
rr--oonk, tr-r-r-oonk! and straightway comes over the water from
some distant cove the same password repeated, where the next in
seniority and girth has gulped down to his mark; and when this
observance has made the circuit of the shores, then ejaculates the
master of ceremonies, with satisfaction, tr-r-r-oonk! and each in his
turn repeats the same down to the least distended, leakiest, and
flabbiest paunched, that there be no mistake; and then the howl goes
round again and again, until the sun disperses the morning mist, and
only the patriarch is not under the pond, but vainly bellowing troonk
from time to time, and pausing for a reply.

I am not sure that I ever heard the sound of cock-crowing from my
clearing, and I thought that it might be worth the while to keep a
cockerel for his music merely, as a singing bird. The note of this
once wild Indian pheasant is certainly the most remarkable of any
birdís, and if they could be naturalized without being domesticated,
it would soon become the most famous sound in our woods,
surpassing the clangor of the goose and the hooting of the owl; and
then imagine the cackling of the hens to fill the pauses when their
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



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