Thoreau Photo Henry David Thoreau
Journals 1837-1861

Journals 1837-1861 Edited by Peter Y. Chou


Thoreau's Journals:

Truth, Goodness, Beauty— those celestial thrins,
Continually are born; e'en now the Universe,
With thousand throats, and eke with greener smiles,
Its joy confesses at their recent birth.

— Henry David Thoreau, Journal, June 14, 1838

Sphere Music— Some sounds seem to reverberate along the plain, and then settle to earth again like dust; such are Noise, Discord, Jargon. But such only as spring heavenward, and I may catch from steeples and hilltops in their upward course, which are the more refined parts of the former, are the true sphere music— pure, unmixed music— in which no wail mingles.

— Henry David Thoreau, Journal, August 5, 1838

Friends— They are like air bubbles on water, hastening to flow together. History tells of Orestes and Pylades, Damon and Pythias, but why should not we put to shame those old reserved worthies by a community of such?

Constantly, as it were through a remote skylight, I have glimpses of a serene friendship-land, and know the better why brooks murmur and violets grow. This conjunction of souls, like waves which met and break, subsides also backward over things, and gives all a fresh aspect.

I would live henceforth with some gentle soul such a life as may be conceived, double for variety, single for harmony— two, only that we might admire at our oneness— one, because indivisible. Such community to be a pledge of holy living. How could aught unworthy be admitted into our society? To listen with one ear to each summer sound, to behold with one eye each summer scene, our visual rays so to meet and mingle with the object as to be one bent and doubled; with two tongues to be wearied, and thought to spring ceaselessly from a double fountain.

— Henry David Thoreau, Journal, January 26, 1840

Poetry— No definition of poetry is adequate unless it be poetry itself. The most accurate analysis by the rarest wisdom is yet insufficient, and the poet will instantly prove it false by setting aside its requistions. It is indeed all that we do not know.

The poet does not need to see how meadows are something else than earth, grass, and water, but how they are thus much. He does not need discover that potato blows are as beautiful as violets, as the farmer thinks, but only how good potato blows are.

The poem is drawn out from under the feet of the poet, his whole weight has rested on this ground. It has a logic more severe than the logician's. You might as well think to go in pursuit of the rainbow, and embrace it on the next hill, as to embrace the whole of poetry even in thought.

— Henry David Thoreau, Journal, January 26, 1840

Aeschylus had a clear eye for the commonest things. His genius was only an enlarged common sense. He adverts with chaste severity to all natural facts. His sublimity is Greek sincerity and simpleness, naked wonder which mythology had not helped to explain... Whatever the common eye sees at all and expresses as best it may, he sees uncommonly and describes with rare completeness. The multitude that thronged the theatre could no doubt go along with him to the end... The social condition of genius is the same in all ages. Aeschylus was undoubtedly alone and without sympathy in his simple reverence for the mystery of the universe.

— Henry David Thoreau, Journal, January 29, 1840

Have no mean hours, but be grateful for every hour, and accept what it brings. The reality will make any sincere record respectable. No day will have been wholly misspent, if one sincere, thoughtful page has been written. Let the daily tide leave some deposit on these pages, as it leaves sand and shells on the shore. So much increase of terra firma. this may be a calendar of the ebbs and flows of the soul; and on these sheets as a beach, the waves may cast up pearls and seaweed.

— Henry David Thoreau, Journal, July 6, 1840

I would live henceforth with some gentle soul such a life as may be conceived, double for variety, single for harmony— two, only that we might admire at our oneness— one, becuse indivisible. Such community to be a pledge of holy living. How could aught unworthy be admitted into our society? to listen with one ear to each summer sound, to behold with one eye each summer scene, our visual rays so to meet and mingle with the object as to be one bent and doubled; with two tongues to be wearied, and thought to spring ceaselessly from a double fountain.

— Henry David Thoreau, Journal, January 26, 1840

Who looks in the sun will see no light else; but also he will see no shadow. Our life revolves unceasingly, but the centre is ever the same, and the wise will regard only the seasons of the soul.

The poet concludes with same trust he began with, and jeers at the blindness which could inquire. But our sphinx is so wise as to put no riddle that can be answered. It is a great presumption to answer conclusively a question which any sincerity has put. the wise answer no questions— nor do they ask them. She silences his jeers with the conviction that she is the eye-beam of his eye. Our proper eye never quails before an answer. To rest in a reply, as a response of the oracle, that is error; but to suspect time's reply, because we would not degrade one of God's meanings to be intelligible to us, that is wisdom. We shall never arrive at his meaning, but it will ceaselessly arrive to us. The truth we seek with ardor and devotion will not reward us with a cheap acqusition. We run unhesitatingly in our career, not fearing to pass any goal of truth in our haste. We career toward her eternally. A truth rested in stands for all the vice of an age, and revolution comes kindly to restore health.

The cunning Sphinx, who had been hushed into stony silence and repose in us, arouses herself and detects a mystery in all things— in infancy, the moon, fire, flowers, sea, mountain— and, in he spirit of the old fable, declares proudly—

“Who telleth one of my meanings
Is master of all I am.”

When some Oedipus has solved one of her enigmas, she will do dash her head against a rock. You may find this as enigmatical as the Sphinx's riddle. Indeed, I doubt if she could solve it herself.

— Henry David Thoreau, Journal, March 10, 1841

I would live henceforth with some gentle soul such a life as may be conceived, double for variety, single for harmony— two, only that we might admire at our oneness— one, becuse indivisible. Such community to be a pledge of holy living. How could aught unworthy be admitted into our society? to listen with one ear to each summer sound, to behold with one eye each summer scene, our visual rays so to meet and mingle with the object as to be one bent and doubled; with two tongues to be wearied, and thought to spring ceaselessly from a double fountain.

— Henry David Thoreau, Journal, January 26, 1840


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