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PASSAGES FROM HAWTHORNE'S NOTE-BOOKS,
CONCORD, August 5, 1842.- A at home among spirits than among
rainy day, - a rainy day. I am fleshly bodies, came hither a few times, commanded to take pen in hand, and I merely to welcome us to the ethereal am therefore banished to the little ten world ; but latterly she has vanished foot-square apartment misnamed my into some other region of infinite space. study; but perhaps the dismalness of One rash mortal, on the second Sunday the day and the dulness of my solitude after our arrival, obtruded himself upon will be the prominent characteristics of us in a gig. There have since been what I write. And what is there to three or four callers, who preposterously write about? Happiness has no suc think that the courtesies of the lower cession of events, because it is a part world are to be responded to by people of eternity; and we have been living in whose home is in Paradise. I must eternity ever since we came to this old not forget to mention that the butcher manse. Like Enoch, we seem to comes twice or thrice a week; and we have been translated to the other state have so far improved upon the custom of being, without having passed through of Adam and Eve, that we generally death. Our spirits must have fitted furnish forth our feasts with portions away unconsciously, and we can only of some delicate calf or lamb, whose perceive that we have cast off our mor unspotted innocence entitles them to tal part by the more real and earnest the happiness of becoming our sustelife of our souls. Externally, our Para
Would that I were permitted dise has very much the aspect of a to record the celestial dainties that pleasant old domicile on earth. This kind Heaven provided for us on the antique house — for it looks antique, first day of our arrival! Never, surely, though it was created by Providence was such food heard of on earth, – at expressly for our use, and at the precise least, not by me. Well, the above-mentime when we wanted it - stands be tioned persons are nearly all that have hind a noble avenue of balm-of-Gilead entered into the hallowed shade of our trees; and when we chance to observe
avenue ; except, indeed, a certain sina passing traveller through the sunshine ner who came to bargain for the grass and the shadow of this long avenue, his in our orchard, and another who came figure appears too dim and remote to with a new cistern. For it is one of disturb the sense of blissful seclusion. the drawbacks upon our Eden that it Few, indeed, are the mortals who contains no water fit either to drink or venture within our sacred precincts. to bathe in; so that the showers have George Prescott, who has not yet grown become, in good truth, a godsend. I earthly enough, I suppose, to be de wonder why Providence does not cause barred from occasional visits to Para a clear, cold fountain to bubble up at dise, comes daily to bring three pints our doorstep; methinks it would not of milk from some ambrosial cow; oc be unreasonable to pray for such a casionally, also, he makes an offering favor. At present we are under the of mortal flowers. Mr. Emerson comes ridiculous necessity of sending to the sometimes, and has been feasted on our outer world for water. Only imagine nectar and ambrosia. Mr. Thoreau Adam trudging out of Paradise with a has twice listened to the music of the bucket in each hand, to get water to spheres, which, for our private conven drink, or for Eve to bathe in! Intolerience, we have packed into a musical able! (though our stout handmaiden box. E-H who is much more really fetches our water). In other re
spects Providence has treated us pretty so much as a narrow strip of glistolerably well ; but here I shall expect tening sand in any part of its course ; something further to be done. Also, but it slumbers along between broad in the way of future favors, a kitten meadows, or kisses the tangled grass would be very acceptable. Animals of mowing-fields and pastures, or bathes (except, perhaps, a pig) seem never out the overhanging boughs of elder-bushes of place, even in the most paradisiacal and other water-loving plants. Flags spheres. And, by the way, a young and rushes grow along its shallow marcolt comes up our avenue, now and gin. The yellow water-lily spreads its then, to crop the seldom-trodden herb- broad, flat leaves upon its surface; and age; and so does a company of cows, the fragrant white pond-lily occurs in whose sweet breath well repays us for many favored spots, – generally selectthe food which they obtain. There are ing a situation just so far from the likewise a few hens, whose quiet cluck river's brink, that it cannot be grasped is heard pleasantly about the house. except at the hazard of plunging in. A black dog sometimes stands at the But thanks be to the beautiful flower farther extremity of the ayenue, and for growing at any rate. It is a marlooks wistfully hitherward ; but when I vel whence it derives its loveliness and whistle to him, he puts his tail between perfume, sprouting as it does from the his legs, and trots away. Foolish dog! black mud over which the river sleeps, if he had more faith, he should have and from which the yellow lily likebones enough.
wise draws its unclean life and noisome
odor. So it is with many people in this Saturday, August 6. — Still a dull world : the same soil and circumstances day, threatening rain, yet without en- may produce the good and beautiful, ergy of character enough to rain out- and the wicked and ugly. Some have right. However, yesterday there were the faculty of assimilating to themselves showers enough to supply us well with only what is evil, and so they become their beneficent outpouring. As to the as noisome as the yellow water-lily. new cistern, it seems to be bewitched; Some assimilate none but good influfor, while the spout pours into it like a ences, and their emblem is the fracataract, it still remains almost empty. grant and spotless pond-lily, whose I wonder where Mr. Hosmer got it; very breath is a blessing to all the perhaps from Tantalus, under the eaves region round about. . . . . Among the of whose palace it must formerly have productions of the river's margin, I stood; for, like his drinking-cup in must not forget the pickerel-weed, which Hades, it has the property of filling it grows just on the edge of the water, self forever, and never being full. and shoots up a long stalk crowned
After breakfast, I took my fishing- with a blue spire, from among large rod, and went down through our or- green leaves. Both the flower and the chard to the river-side ; but as three leaves look well in a vase with pondor four boys were already in possession lilies, and relieve the unvaried whiteof the best spots along the shore, I didness of the latter; and, being all alike not fish. This river of ours is the most children of the waters, they are perfectly sluggish stream that I ever was ac- in keeping with one another. .... quainted with. I had spent three weeks I bathe once, and often twice, a day by its side, and swam across it every in our river ; but one dip into the salt day, before I could determine which sea would be worth more than a whole way its current ran; and then I was week's soaking in such a lifeless tide. compelled to decide the question by I have read of a river somewhere the testimony of others, and not by (whether it be in classic regions or my own observation. Owing to this among our Western Indians I know torpor of the stream, it has nowhere not) which seemed to dissolve and steal a bright, pebbly shore, nor is there away the vigor of those who bathed in
it. Perhaps our stream will be found best aspect of the Concord is when to have this property. Its water, how- there is a northwestern breeze curling ever, is pleasant in its immediate effect, its surface, in a bright, sunshiny day. being as soft as milk, and always It then assumes a vivacity not its own warmer than the air. Its hue has a Moonlight, also, gives it beauty, as it slight tinge of gold, and my limbs, does to all scenery of earth or water. when I behold them through its medium, look tawny. I am not aware that Sunday, August 7. — At sunset, last the inhabitants of Concord resemble evening, I ascended the hill-top oppotheir native river in any of their mor site our house; and, looking downal characteristics. Their forefathers, ward at the long extent of the river, it certainly, seem to have had the energy struck me that I had done it some inand impetus of a mountain torrent, justice in my remarks.
Perhaps, like rather than the torpor of this listless other gentle and quiet characters, it stream, as it was proved by the blood will be better appreciated the longer I with which they stained their river of am acquainted with it. Certainly, as I Peace. It is said there are plenty of beheld it then, it was one of the lovelifish in it; but my most important cap est features in a scene of great rural tures hitherto have been a mud-turtle beauty. It was visible through a and an enormous eel. The former made course of two or three miles, sweeping his escape to his native element, — the in a semicircle round the hill on which latter we ate; and truly he had the I stood, and being the central line of a taste of the whole river in his flesh, broad vale on either side. At a diswith a very prominent flavor of mud. tance, it looked like a strip of sky set On the whole, Concord River is no great into the earth, which it so etherealized favorite of mine ; but I am glad to have and idealized that it seemed akin to any river at all so near at hand, it be- the upper regions. Nearer the base of ing just at the bottom of our orchard. the hill, I could discern the shadows Neither is it without a degree and kind of every tree and rock, imaged with of picturesqueness, both in its near a distinctness that made them even ness and in the distance, when a blue more charming than the reality ; begleam from its surface, among the cause, knowing them to be unsubstangreen meadows and woods, seems like tial, they assumed the ideality which an open eye in Earth's countenance. the soul always craves in the contemPleasant it is, too, to behold a little plation of earthly beauty. All the sky, flat-bottomed skiff gliding over its bo- too, and the rich clouds of sunset, were som, which yields lazily to the stroke reflected in the peaceful bosom of the of the paddle, and allows the boat to river ; and surely, if its bosom can give go against its current almost as freely back such an adequate reflection of as with it. Pleasant, too, to watch an heaven, it cannot be so gross and imangler, as he strays along the brink, pure as I described it yesterday. Or sometimes sheltering himself behind a if so, it shall be a symbol to me that tuft of bushes, and trailing his line even a human breast, which may apalong the water, in hopes to catch a pear least spiritual in some aspects, pickerel. But, taking the river for all may still have the capability of reflectin all, I can find nothing more fit to ing an infinite heaven in its depths, compare it with, than one of the half- and therefore of enjoying it. It is a torpid earth-worms which I dig up for comfortable thought, that the smallest bait. The worm is sluggish, and so is and most turbid mud-puddle can conthe river, -- the river is muddy, and tain its own picture of heaven. Let so is the worm. You hardly know us remember this, when we feel inclined whether either of them be alive or to deny all spiritual life to some peodead; but still, in the course of time, ple, in whom, nevertheless, our Father they both manage to creep away. The may perhaps see the image of his face.
This dull river has a deep religion of quaint old house put on an aspect of its own: so, let us trust, has the dullest welcome. human soul, though, perhaps, unconsciously.
Monday, August 8. - I wish I could The scenery of Concord, as I beheld give a description of our house, for it it from the summit of the hill, has no really has a character of its own, which very marked characteristics, but has a is more than can be said of most edigreat deal of quiet beauty, in keeping fices in these days. It is two stories with the river. There are broad and high, with a third story of attic champeaceful meadows, which, I think, are bers in the gable roof. When I first among the most satisfying objects in visited it, early in June, it looked pretnatural scenery. The heart reposes on ty much as it did during the old clerthem with a feeling that few things else gyman's lifetime, showing all the dust can give, because almost all other ob- and disarray that might be supposed to jects are abrupt and clearly defined; have gathered about him in the course but a meadow stretches out like a small of sixty years of occupancy. The infinity, yet with a secure homeliness rooms seemed never to have been which we do not find either in an ex- painted ; at all events, the walls and panse of water or of air. The hills panels, as well as the huge crosswhich border these meadows are wide beams, had a venerable and most disswells of land, or long and gradual mal tinge of brown. The furniture ridges, some of them densely covered consisted of high-backed, short-legged, with wood. The white village, at a rheumatic chairs, small, old tables, distance on the left, appears to be em- bedsteads with lofty
bedsteads with lofty posts, stately bosomed among wooded hills. The chests of drawers, looking-glasses in verdure of the country is much more antique black frames, all of which were perfect than is usual at this season of probably fashionable in the days of Dr. the year, when the autumnal hue has Ripley's predecessor. It required some generally made considerable progress energy of imagination to conceive the over trees and grass. Last evening, idea of transforming this ancient edifice after the copious showers of the pre- into a comfortable modern residence. ceding two days, it was worthy of early However, it has been successfully acJune, or, indeed, of a world just cre- complished. The old Doctor's sleeping ated. Had I not then been alone, I apartment, which was the front room should have had a far deeper sense on the ground floor, we have converted of beauty, for I should have looked into a parlor ; and, by the aid of cheerthrough the medium of another spirit. ful paint and paper, a gladsome carpet, Along the horizon there were masses pictures and engravings, new furniture, of those deep clouds in which the fan- bijouterie, and a daily supply of Aowcy may see images of all things that ers, it has become one of the prettiest ever existed or were dreamed of. Over and pleasantest rooms in the whole our old manse, of which I could catch world. The shade of our departed host but a glimpse among its embowering will never haunt it; for its aspect has trees, appeared the immensely gigantic been changed as completely as the figure of a hound, crouching down, scenery of a theatre. Probably the with head erect, as if keeping watchful ghost gave one peep into it, uttered a guard while the master of the mansion groan, and vanished forever. The opwas away. .. .. How sweet it was to posite room has been metamorphosed draw near my own home, after having into a store-room. Through the house, Eved homeless in the world so long! both in the first and second story, runs .... With thoughts like these, I de- a spacious hall or entry, occupying scended the hill, and clambered over more space than is usually devoted to the stone wall, and crossed the road, such a purpose in modern times. This and passed up our avenue, while the feature contributes to give the whole
house an airy, roomy, and convenient modernize the old place, we appearance ; we can breathe the freer scarcely to have disturbed its air of by the aid of the broad passage-way. antiquity. It is evident that other The front door of the hall looks up the wedded pairs have spent their honeystately avenue, which I have already moons here, that children have been mentioned; and the opposite door opens born here, and people have grown old into the orchard, through which a path and died in these rooms, although for descends to the river. In the second our behoof the same apartments have story we have at present fitted up three consented to look cheerful once again. rooms, one being our own chamber, Then there are dark closets, and and the opposite one a guest-chamber, strange nooks and corners, where the which contains the most presentable ghosts of former occupants might hide of the old Doctor's ante-Revolutionary themselves in the daytime, and stalk furniture. After all, the moderns have forth when night conceals all our sacriinvented nothing better, as chamber legious improvements. We have seen furniture, than these chests of drawers, no apparitions as yet; but we hear which stand on four slender legs, and strange noises, especially in the kitchen, rear an absolute tower of mahogany to and last night, while sitting in the parlor, the ceiling, the whole terminating in a we heard a thumping and pounding as fantastically carved sumirit. Such a of somebody at work in my study. Nay, venerable structure adorns sur guest if I mistake not, (for I was half asleep.) chamber. In the rear of the house is there was a sound as of some person the little room which I call my study, crumpling paper in his hand in our very and which, in its day, has witnessed bedchamber. This must have been old the intellectual labors of better students Dr. Ripley with one of his sermons. than myself. It contains, with some There is a whole chest of them in the additions and alterations, the furniture garret; but he need have no apprehenof my bachelor - room in Boston ; but sions of our disturbing them. I never there is a happier disposal of things saw the old patriarch myself, which I
There is a little vase of flowers regret, as I should have been glad to on one of the book-cases, and a larger associate his venerable figure at ninety bronze vase of graceful ferns that sur- years of age with the house in which mounts the bureau. In size the room he dwelt. is just what it ought to be; for I never Externally the house presents the could compress my thoughts sufficient same appearance as in the Doctor's ly to write a very spacious room. day. It had once a coat of white paint; It has three windows, two of which are but the storms and sunshine of many shaded by a large and beautiful willow- years have almost obliterated it, and tree, which sweeps against the over- produced a sober, grayish hue, which hanging eaves. On this side we have entirely suits the antique form of the a view into the orchard, and beyond, a structure. To repaint its reverend face glimpse of the river. The other win- would be a real sacrilege. It would dow is the one from which Mr. Emer- look like old Dr. Ripley in a brown son, the predecessor of Dr. Ripley, be- wig. I hardly know why it is that our held the first fight of the Revolution, cheerful and lightsome repairs and imwhich he might well do, as the British provements in the interior of the house troops were drawn up within a hundred seem to be in perfectly good taste, yards of the house ; and on looking though the heavy old beams and high forth, just now, I could still perceive wainscoting of the walls speak of ages the western abutments of the old gone by. But so it is. The cheerful bridge, the passage of which was con- paper-hangings have the air of belongtested. The new monument is visible ing to the old walls; and such modernfrom base to summit.
isms as astral lamps, card-tables, gilded Notwithstanding all we have done to Cologne-bottles, silver taper-stands, and