chapter seven
THE BEAN-FIELD

MEANWHILE. my beans, the length of whose rows, added together, was seven miles1 already planted, were impatient to be hoed, for the earliest had grown considerably before the latest were in the ground; indeed they were not easily to be put off. What was the meaning of this so steady and self-respecting, this small Herculean labor,2 I knew not. I came to love my rows, my beans, though so many more than I wanted. They attached me to the earth, and so I got strength like Antaeus.3 But why should I raise them? Only Heaven knows. This was my curious labor all summer, -- to make this portion of the earth's surface, which had yielded only cinquefoil, blackberries, johnswort, and the like, before, sweet wild fruits and pleasant flowers, produce instead this pulse. What shall I learn of beans or beans of me? I cherish them, I hoe them, early and late I have an eye to them; and this is my day's work. It is a fine broad leaf to look on. My auxiliaries are the dews and rains which water this dry soil, and what fertility is in the soil itself, which for the most part is lean and effete. My enemies are worms, cool days, and most of all woodchucks.4 The last have nibbled for me a quarter of an acre clean. But what right had I to oust johnswort and the rest, and break up their ancient herb garden? Soon, however, the remaining beans will be too tough for them, and go forward to meet new foes.

When I was four years old,5 as I well remember, I was brought from Boston6 to this my native town, through these very woods and this field, to the pond. It is one of the oldest scenes stamped on my memory. And now to-night my flute7 has waked the echoes over that very water. The pines still stand here older than I; or, if some have fallen, I have cooked my supper with their stumps, and a new growth is rising all around, preparing another aspect for new infant eyes. Almost the same johnswort springs from the same perennial root in this pasture, and even

-137-

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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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