chapter four
SOUNDS

BUT while we are confined to books,11 though the most select and classic, and read only particular written languages, which are themselves but dialects and provincial, we are in danger of forgetting the language which all things and events speak without metaphor, which alone is copious and standard. Much is published, but little printed. The rays which stream through the shutter will be no longer remembered when the shutter is wholly removed. No method nor discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert. What is a course of history, or philosophy, or poetry, no matter how well selected, or the best society, or the most admirable routine of life, compared with the discipline of looking always at what is to be seen? Will you be a reader, a student merely, or a seer? Read your fate, see what is before you, and walk on into futurity.

I did not read books the first summer; I hoed beans. Nay, I often did better than this. There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands. I love a broad margin to my life.2 Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath,3 I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveller's wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night,4 and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. I realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the forsaking of works. For the most part, I minded not how the hours went. The day advanced as if to light some work of mine; it was morning, and lo, now it is

-105-

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The Variorum Walden
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Acknowledgments 7
  • Contents 9
  • A Note on the Text 11
  • Introduction 13
  • Chapter One - Economy 25
  • Chapter Two - Where I Lived, And What I Lived For 82
  • Chapter Three - Reading 96
  • Chapter Four - Sounds 105
  • Chapter Five - Solitude 118
  • Chapter Six - Visitors 126
  • Chapter Seven - The Bean-Field 137
  • Chapter Eight - The Village 146
  • Chapter Nine - The Ponds 151
  • Chapter Ten - Baker Farm 171
  • Chapter Eleven - Higher Laws 177
  • Chapter Twelve - Brute Neighbors 187
  • Chapter Thirteen - House-Warming 198
  • Chapter Fourteen - Former Inhabitants; And Winter Visitors 211
  • Chapter Fifteen - Winter Animals 222
  • Chapter Sixteen - The Pond in Winter 230
  • Chapter Seventeen - Spring 242
  • Conclusion 257
  • Notes 267
  • Bibliography 320
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