Imágenes de páginas

that only once a year did he come in contact with it in the person of the tax-collector, and refusal to pay his tax seemed his obvious way of protest against the evil measures of the day. He thus washed his hands of any share, possibly not knowing that his town and county tax went entirely for innocent and useful purposes. Samuel Staples, at once the tax-gatherer, constable and jailer, a downright friendly man, offered to pay the small tax for him, but Thoreau would not allow this, so Staples said, “Henry, if you don't pay, I shall

, have to lock you up pretty soon.”

• As well now as any time, Sam," was the answer. “ Well, come along then,” said Staples, and put him in jail. The tax was left at the jailer's house next day when he was away from home. He told me that he never knew who paid it, but, if I recollect rightly, said that he supposed that it was Miss Elizabeth Hoar, or her father, through his hands. Of course then he released his prisoner, and, as he said earlier concerning Mr. Alcott's refusal to pay taxes, “I vum, I believe it was nothing but principle,” held the same opinion of Thoreau's action. They were always good friends. Mr. Staples, coming out from visiting Thoreau during his sickness, met Mr. Emerson coming in, and said to him, “I never saw a man dying with so much pleasure and peace.”

Page 461, note 1. The vestry of the Unitarian church was filled. There stood this man, ordinarily keeping quite clear of political matters, except in occasional protest against slavery and its aggressions, now stirred to the core, and in praise of a hero after his own heart speaking to his rather cool audience, made up in great part of timid people, with the eloquence of passion. The effect, as I recall it, was wonderful. Many of " those who came to scoff remained to pray.

Page 462, note 1. His manly sincerity in speaking the


[ocr errors]

true and elevating word, as shown in his letters, is unsurpassed. His counsel had weight because in requiring life on a high plane he was even more severe with himself than with others.

Page 466, note 1. An over-familiar, officious clergyman, or a gentleman with the conceit of society, or a patronizing editor, found Thoreau, as his friend said of him, “a gendarme good to knock down Cockneys with.” Not so the simple, direct people who minded their business, whether scholars, mechanics or laborers. With them he had good relations. He took an active and humane interest in his poor Irish neighbors, lately arrived, and took their part when cheated by mean employers.

Page 467, note 1. “ Even the facts of science,” he said, may

dust the mind by their dryness, unless they are in a sense effaced by the dews of fresh and living truth.” Page 468, note 1. In a letter to Mr. Emerson from Staten

а Island, Thoreau, probably thinking that the weeds would cheer in his friend's garden now that he was gone, wrote, “ I like to think of your living on the banks of the Mill-brook, in the midst of the garden with all its weeds; for what are botanical distinctions at this distance ?”

Page 469, note 1. How Thoreau rejoiced in his lot, as he found it, appears in his journal for 1856: " God could not be unkind to me if he should try. I have never got over my surprise that I should have been born into the most estimable place in all the world, and in the very nick of time too."

Page 470, note 1. This passage brings up the lines in “ May-Day” beginning


Ah! well I mind the calendar,
Faithful through a thousand years,
Of the painted race of Aowers.

The quotation in the following sentence is from a verse in George Herbert's poem “ Vertue,” beginning

“Sweet rose, whose hue, angrie and brave,

Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye.”


Mr. Emerson had such delight in his occasional walks with Thoreau as guide to the penetralia of Concord woods, and had such respect for his mind, that he wished that he and his literary and cosmopolitan friends in Boston should know one another, but Thoreau could not be lured to the city. In a lecture on Clubs this wish found voice:

“ Here is a man who has seen Balaclava, the clubs of Paris, was presented at St. James's, has seen the wreckers at Florida, knows the wrath of Kansas and Montana. And here, on the other side, is my friend who knows nothing and nobody out of his parish. He is the pride of his maiden aunt, and knows muskrats and willows; never went to New York but once in his life. But if the other was a cosmorama, and had seen more than his share, my friend's eyes are microscopes, have seen down into that infinite world which stretches away into the invisible; and he had the advantage that the spot of ground on which he stood was sweeter to him than the whole world beside. Now we cannot spare either, but must have both.'

Page 473, note 1. A field will yield several crops at once and divide them among owners and trespassers. Emerson, in his “ Apology,” tells of the crop which he took off his neighbor's field without his missing it, and Thoreau strolling over a Staten Islander's field said, “I took my toll out of the soil in the way of arrow-heads, which may, after all, be the surest



Page 474, note I. The charity with which Thoreau regarded

the railroad and the telegraph when they invaded his shrines in the woods is remarkable. More than that, one of his most remarkable poems, though in prose, is the passage about the telegraph and its wild harping, given by Mr. Channing in his Thoreau the Poet-Naturalist.'

Page 475, note 1. This reference to Thoreau is from Mr. Emerson's journal, about 1850: —

“ Nothing so marks a man as bold imaginative expressions. A complete statement in the imaginative form of an important truth arrests attention, and is repeated and remembered. A phrase or two of that kind will make the reputation of a man. Pythagoras's golden sayings were such, and Socrates's and Mirabeau's and Bonaparte's; and I shall not make a sudden descent if I say that Henry Thoreau promised to make as good sentences in that kind as any American.”

Mr. Charles J. Woodbury tells, in his Talks with Emerson, of this word which he had from him upon style. After speaking of some of the American historians, he said, “ Their style slays. Neither of them lifts himself off his feet. They have no lilt in them. You noticed the marble we have just seen? You remember that marble is nothing but crystallized limestone? Well, some writers never get out of the limestone condition. Be airy. .. Walk upon the ground, but not to sink. It is a fine power, this. Some men have it, prominently the French. How it manifests itself in Montaigne

and in Urquhart's Rabelais! Grimm almost alone of the Germans has it; Borrow had it; Thoreau had it.”

Page 477, note 1. The lines quoted here are all from the poem “ Inspiration.'

" Pages 188, 189. Published by Roberts Brothers, Boston, 1893.

In the extracts from Thoreau's diary, in the volume Winter, are many passages on the “ Telegraph Harp,” but none so fine as the one referred to.

[ocr errors]


Journal, 1839. August 1. Last night came to me a beautiful poem from Henry Thoreau, Sympathy,' — the purest strain and the loftiest, I think, that has yet pealed from this unpoetic American forest. I hear his verses with as much triumph as I point to my Guido when they praise half poets and half painters."

Page 479, note 1. In his journal Thoreau wrote:

« It steads us to be as true to children and boors as God himself. It is the only attitude which will suit all occasions; it only will make the earth yield her increase, and by it do we effectually expostulate with the wind.” He speaks of « the charm of Nature's demeanor toward us,

. strict conscientiousness and disregard of us when we have ceased to regard ourselves. So she can never offend us. How true she is, and never swerves.” The " terrible Thoreau


called - Life without Principle,” in the collection entitled Miscellanies.

Page 480, note 1. It seems to the editor that this was but the expression of a mood. Thoreau's skill, exactness and remarkable powers, all backed by character, made his friend long to watch him with pride achieve something in those fields for which he recognized his own unfitness. This passage was written before Thoreau's death. His life had not yet the benefit of perspective, nor had his influence on thought and life and taste of multitudes here and abroad appeared. As has been already said, and this sketch shows, the friends could not always thrive in conversation, and Mr. Emerson had not then had opportunity to read much in the journals. Later he read in them with increasing delight and surprise, and approached his friend through them as never before. He would not then have written, as he did in his journal of 1848:

Henry Thoreau is like the wood-god who solicits the

appears in his

« AnteriorContinuar »