A Year in Thoreau's Journal: 1851 (Penguin Classics)
Henry David Thoreau
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Thoreau's journal of 1851 reveals profound ideas and observations in the making, including wonderful writing on the natural history of Concord.
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freight–train–as far off perchance as Waltham & one early bird. The round red moon disappearing in the west–I detect a whiteness in the east. Some dark massive clouds have come over from the west within the hour–as if attracted by the approaching sun –and have arranged themselves ray wise–about the eastern portal as if to bar his entrance. to obstruct his coming. They have moved suddenly & almost unobservedly quite across the sky (which before was clear–) from west to east. No trumpet was heard
long. Before I had reached it–the axemen had already half divested it of its branches. Its gracefully spreading top was a perfect wreck on the hill side as if it had been made of glass–& the tender cones of one years growth upon its summit appealed in vain & too late to the mercy of the chopper. Already he has measured it with his axe–and marked out the mill logs it will make. And the space it occupied in upper air is vacant for the next 2 centuries. It is lumber He has laid waste the air. When
observations on the poet’s “pleasure” in Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1798). 101.34 “W.E.C.” is William Ellery Channing the Younger (1817-1901), who accompanied Thoreau on many of the walks described in this volume. Channing is also referred to as “C.” 107.14 The phrase “Our Life is a forgetting” echoes Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” 119.28–29 The “eccentric & melancholy minister whom I have heard of” alludes to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story
Thoreau intellectual discoveries that, in turn, taught him the artistic and moral possibilities of the form. And, in a different sense than Perry Miller intended, these discoveries are not unrelated to Thoreau’s first book. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, for all its sunny and triumphant aspects (readers of this volume will note Thoreau’s characterization of it as an “unroofed book” ), is deeply elegiac. By voyaging on the river of time, A Week commemorates Thoreau’s brother
Walden is the emphasis both place upon natural process. In this period, Thoreau gives Walden a more overt seasonal structure than it had in earlier versions, a development that parallels his increasing use of his Journal to study seasonal change. He begins now to index his Journal volumes for recurring natural phenomena, thereby anticipating the Journal’s later use in developing a grand’ calendar of nature that remained incomplete at his death. Such a calendar is one of several long-term natural