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cal cord connecting them with divinity, is rather like that thread which the accomplices of Cylon held in their hands when they went abroad from the temple of Minerva; the other end being attached to the statue of the goddess. But frequently, as in their case, the thread breaks, being stretched, and they are left without an asylum."
The most deferential allusion to the stock subjects of enlightened theologians is not so refreshing as some of his startling sentences that hide moral earnestness and reverence in their whim. "Where is the man who is guilty of direct and personal insolence to Him that made him? Yet there are certain current expressions of blasphemous modes of viewing things, as, frequently, when we say, 'He is doing a good business,' more profane than cursing and swearing. There is sin and death in such words. Let not the children hear them." His most trying paradoxes are conceived in a spirit of veneration for everlasting laws. The meat is worth a little struggle with the husk; for, as he says of himself," they will complain, too, that you are hard. O ye that would have the cocoa-nut wrong side outwards! when next I weep I will let you know."
But he will be rightly understood only by reference to his books, and not to separate pages; for his whole mental disposition was religious. He is not content to make little portable statements, after the manner of sermonizers, who discharge themselves by clauses of their weekly accumulation of awe and hope, and then are laid up, like the gymnotus, for repairs. But every page is firmly built upon moral earnestness and regard for the unseen powers. He is a spiritual writer in the sense of worshipping the presence of infinite consistency and beauty; yet he always behaves as if his religion was "nothing to speak of." He often quarrels with the technicalities of church-goers, and is more petulant than he need be, lest you should suspect him of hypocrisy. After reading the earliest English translations of Eastern scriptures, as Colebrooke's, and perhaps some fragments in the French, he recommends them to the people, because his sense of justice is hurt at the exclusive and ignorant fetichism which is paid to the Old and New Testaments. He cannot have the
notion of supplanting them; but he longs to have all men recognize the continuous inspiration of the Spirit through all climes and ages. He does not undertake to patronize the Bible, and says few good words for it; but his books are fountains of sincerity and moral sweetness, such as the Bible emphasizes, and they always worship "in spirit and in truth." The truth is very prominent; truth of private demeanor, of public ethics, of sumptuary law, of moral anticipation; truth of sky, of cloud, of forest, the sharpest observation, the most uncompromising criticism, the very soul of honor, and of high regard for the purity that looks on God. Nothing in these books can destroy their healthy influence: the overdrawn passages of social corruption, the testy humor, the apparent irreverence, the vexatious paradoxes, the superfluous disdain, appear like tan-spots on a cheek that is all frankness and delicacy, whose bloom and smile extort forgiveness for them. We cannot, at present, recall a religious treatise that is better ventilated with the sun and air of heaven.
What an easy task it would be for a lively and not entirely scrupulous pen to ridicule his notions, and raise such a cloud of ink in the clear medium as entirely to obscure his true and noble traits. To hear, for instance, his requisition on mankind, "Give me a sentence which no intelligence can understand"! We suspect that his observations upon Conscience can be misunderstood sooner than appreciated. Find them upon pp. 78-79 of "Concord and Merrimack;" but notice that the key to tune those ragged, half-strung verses, is the quaint sentence, "Men have a singular desire to be good, without being good for any thing, because, perchance, they think vaguely that so it will be good for them in the end."
Toward the close of his life, he was visited by one of those dealers in ready-made clothing, who advertise to get any soul prepared at a moment's notice for a sudden trip. Complete outfits, including "a change," and patent fire-proof, are furnished at the very bedside, or place of embarkation, of the most shiftless spirits. "Henry, have you made your peace with God?" To which our slop-dealer received the somewhat noticeable reply, "I have never quarrelled with him." We
fancy the rapid and complete abdication of the cheap-clothing business in the presence of such forethought.
A friend of the family was very anxious to know how he stood affected towards Christ, and he told her that a snowstorm was more to him than Christ. So he got rid of these cankers that came round to infest his soul's blossoming time. Readers ought not to bring a lack of religion to the dealing with his answers.
His spiritual life was not deficient in soundness because it stood unrelated to conventional names and observances. Let it be known by the fruits of integrity, high-mindedness, and purity, which cluster on the pages of these volumes; by the cold and stern yet salutary ideals of behavior in all the human relations; by his sense of dependence upon the invisible life, and absolute surrender to its dictates.
"Walden," and "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack," are most full of direct discussions upon ethical and religious subjects; but they are in the protesting and unsympathetic vein. "Cape Cod" shows his sensibility for human moods and emotions, and sometimes surprises the reader with a wealth which he had not credited to this sturdy refuser of all ordinary taxes. The more minute and satisfactory his observation of Nature became, the more gently his spirit learned to share the yearnings in each of us "of some natural kind." How solemn and tender is the figure of the sunken anchors! -"Cape Cod" pp. 149, 150,- notwithstanding its slight rust of irony, and the homely close. And throughout this volume, wherever he comes into contact with fragments of shipwrecks, whether by the seas or fates; with peculiar isolations of life; with the odd, stunted, and grotesque specimens which the tide itself seems to deposit and nourish upon that long spit of sand, his humor is just touched with tenderness "beyond the reach of art," and he betrays that the great undertow sweeps outward from his spirit also to the deep. This is the most human of all his writings. And, at the same time, his own humanity becomes identified with the scene in a way that cannot be mistaken for conceit. The beach becomes the wave-rolled floor of his privacy to walk upon: the light-house
is enflamed at evening with his sympathetic thought. He pleases himself, as he lies awake underneath the lamp-chamber of the Highland light, with spinning the yarns of all seaward vessels towards a centre, which was his temporary couch; may we not say rather, his unperturbed and friendly heart?
With this gradual mellowing of his genius, there came also an increase of substance and richness to his style. Wherever "Walden" philosophizes, it is thin, and refuses to be consecutively read. The little short sentences soon fatigue, as when one tries a rail-track by stepping from sleeper to sleeper. The paragraphs have no flow: the thought is not yet informed with rhythm. The darling economy of which he writes has penetrated to the style. Proverbs enough there are: as, "None is so poor that he need sit on a pumpkin,” and, “He was a lucky fox that left his tail in the trap," - meaning that it is better for a man not to encumber himself with his baggage and fixtures, and will apply to thoughts as well; "Rescue the drowning, and tie your shoe-strings," that is, make little fuss with your philanthropies; "Only that day dawns to which we are awake." There are numbers of bright little clauses, happy touches of color or wit: as, "The haze, the sun's dust of travel;" he describes lecturing against the use of tobacco "as a penalty which reformed tobacco-chewers have to pay;"-"I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes; "—"It is desirable that a man be clad so simply that he can lay his hands on himself in the dark;" when he finds that he must depend upon mankind to the extent of borrowing an axe, he pays well for it in this, "It is difficult to begin without borrowing, but perhaps it is the most generous course thus to permit your fellow-men to have an interest in your enter-' prise;" he thus reduces irksome and expensive living to plain prose, "It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail;" the stream of time is shallow, "I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars;" if a man is really alive, he is not out of danger of dying, so that he need not try to shield
himself,- "A man sits as many risks as he runs." In the paper on "Autumnal Tints," if he would get a favorable position for viewing a maple-tree, he turns his head slightly, "emptying out some of its earthiness." But we become embarrassed by the plenteousness of these specimens, many of which are untransferable, as they lie in words and phrases, pollen in the bottom of his sentences.
When his pen begins to describe, the style grows genial and flowing, as if Nature's rhythm were at the desk. There is not room for specimens of his descriptions of scenery; of the morning and evening moods of Nature; of the sounds of the wind, the habits of squirrels, pigeons, foxes, muskrats, and fishes. See, for instance, Spaulding's Farm, in "Excursions," p. 207; the Red-Maple Swamp, p. 231; the nighthawk, in "Walden," p. 172; the partridge, p. 243; the ant-battle, p. 246; the loon, p. 251; the squirrels, p. 294; the wasp in October, when, says Thoreau, "I warmed myself by the still glowing embers which the summer, like a departed hunter, had left;" the subtile pages on Sounds, pp. 134, 135; the squir rels in "Concord and Merrimack," p. 206; the pigeons, p. 233; the bittern, p. 250; the wind, p. 349; the delightful humor in the picture of the soldier going to muster, p. 330. Such things cannot be surpassed. They are minute in observation, fresh in sentiment, and completely penetrated by the imagination. The reader will see in them how Thoreau's personal life held all Nature's symbolism in solution, and his thought drips with it. His mind is not merely pantheistic; say, rather, it is Nature herself, in a self-conscious mood, becoming aware of her effects.
Of all his books, "Cape Cod " has the most finished and sustained style. With the exception of some papers in " Excursions," the reader will find that here the pages bear him best, without consciousness of effort. The chapters were probably written in different years, some earlier, some later; but they make us regret that he did not visit sea-side localities more often, for the ocean lifts his pen better than the forest, though he doubtless felt more at home in the latter, and more in harmony with the broad complacent meadow and