April 3

It has rained nearly all day; mud very deep in camp: more stormy weather the past two weeks than all winter before; most of the officers are building new cabins, the huts occupied by the previous regiment being uninhabitable. It's a dark and dismal camp, and very depressing.

April 3, 1863

Two funerals to-day. We have quite a graveyard started. From all I can hear, by talking with soldiers of other regiments, none of them have been hit as hard as the 128th New York. And it all comes from our being stuffed into the hold of the Arago a month before we sailed. A big responsibility rests somewhere.

April Third

THE SOUTHERN MAGNOLIA

French blood stained with glory the Lilies,
While centuries marched to their grave;
And over bold Scot and gay Irish
The Thistle and Shamrock yet wave:
Ours, ours be the noble Magnolia,
That only on Southern soil grows,
The Symbol of life everlasting:—
Dear to us as to England the Rose.
Albert Pike
(“Born in Boston; but an adopted and devoted son of Dixie ”)

 

 

April 3, 1864

Sunday. The leak was stopped and the water pumped out, and at 4 a. m. we took our place in the line and went on. An idea of the number of boats is had from the fact that they had been passing all the time this was going on, and the end was not in sight when we started again.

At noon we stopped for wood, and to relieve the neighbors of their surplus chickens. The western men are all right on a chicken raid, for I don't think one escaped them. At 6 p. m. we were under way again, but the Jennie ran onto a sand bar soon after and it took a lot of puffing and blowing to get loose from it, and to catch up and take our proper distance again. This makes thirty out of the last thirty-eight days I have been afloat. One in New Orleans, four at Port Hudson, and three at Alexandria, is all the time I have been ashore. At that rate I will soon be a sailor.

April 3

April 3, 1865.--What doctor possesses such curative resources as those latent in a spark of happiness or a single ray of hope? The mainspring of life is in the heart. Joy is the vital air of the soul, and grief is a kind of asthma complicated by atony. Our dependence upon surrounding circumstances increases with our own physical weakness, and on the other hand, in health there is liberty. Health is the first of all liberties, and happiness gives us the energy which is the basis of health. To make any one happy, then, is strictly to augment his store of being, to double the intensity of his life, to reveal him to himself, to ennoble him and transfigure him. Happiness does away with ugliness, and even makes the beauty of beauty. The man who doubts it, can never have watched the first gleams of tenderness dawning in the clear eyes of one who loves; sunrise itself is a lesser marvel. In paradise, then, everybody will be beautiful. For, as the righteous soul is naturally beautiful, as the spiritual body is but the visibility of the soul, its impalpable and angelic form, and as happiness beautifies all that it penetrates or even touches, ugliness will have no more place in the universe, and will disappear with grief, sin, and death.

To the materialist philosopher the beautiful is a mere accident, and therefore rare. To the spiritualist philosopher the beautiful is the rule, the law, the universal foundation of things, to which every form returns as soon as the force of accident is withdrawn. Why are we ugly? Because we are not in the angelic state, because we are evil, morose, and unhappy.

Heroism, ecstasy, prayer, love, enthusiasm, weave a halo round the brow, for they are a setting free of the soul, which through them gains force to make its envelope transparent and shine through upon all around it. Beauty is, then, a phenomenon belonging to the spiritualization of matter. It is a momentary transfiguration of the privileged object or being--a token fallen from heaven to earth in order to remind us of the ideal world. To study it, is to Platonize almost inevitably. As a powerful electric current can render metals luminous, and reveal their essence by the color of their flame, so intense life and supreme joy can make the most simple mortal dazzlingly beautiful. Man, therefore, is never more truly man than in these divine states.

The ideal, after all, is truer than the real: for the ideal is the eternal element in perishable things: it is their type, their sum, their raison d'être, their formula in the book of the Creator, and therefore at once the most exact and the most condensed expression of them.

April 3

April 3, 1873.--I have been to see my friends ----. Their niece has just arrived with two of her children, and the conversation turned on Father Hyacinthe's lecture.

Women of an enthusiastic temperament have a curious way of speaking of extempore preachers and orators. They imagine that inspiration radiates from a crowd as such, and that inspiration is all that is wanted. Could there be a more naïf and childish explanation of what is really a lecture in which nothing has been left to accident, neither the plan, nor the metaphors, nor even the length of the whole, and where everything has been prepared with the greatest care! But women, in their love of what is marvelous and miraculous, prefer to ignore all this. The meditation, the labor, the calculation of effects, the art, in a word, which have gone to the making of it, diminishes for them the value of the thing, and they prefer to believe it fallen from heaven, or sent down from on high. They ask for bread, but cannot bear the idea of a baker. The sex is superstitious, and hates to understand what it wishes to admire. It would vex it to be forced to give the smaller share to feeling, and the larger share to thought. It wishes to believe that imagination can do the work of reason, and feeling the work of science, and it never asks itself how it is that women, so rich in heart and imagination, have never distinguished themselves as orators--that is to say, have never known how to combine a multitude of facts, ideas, and impulses, into one complex unity. Enthusiastic women never even suspect the difference that there is between the excitement of a popular harangue, which is nothing but a mere passionate outburst, and the unfolding of a didactic process, the aim of which is to prove something and to convince its hearers. Therefore, for them, study, reflection, technique, count as nothing; the improvisatore mounts upon the tripod, Pallas all armed issues from his lips, and conquers the applause of the dazzled assembly.

Evidently women divide orators into two groups; the artisans of speech, who manufacture their laborious discourses by the aid of the midnight lamp, and the inspired souls, who simply give themselves the trouble to be born. They will never understand the saying of Quintilian, "Fit orator, nascitur poeta."

The enthusiasm which acts is perhaps an enlightening force, but the enthusiasm which accepts is very like blindness. For this latter enthusiasm confuses the value of things, ignores their shades of difference, and is an obstacle to all sensible criticism and all calm judgment. The "Ewig-Weibliche" favors exaggeration, mysticism, sentimentalism--all that excites and startles. It is the enemy of clearness, of a calm and rational view of things, the antipodes of criticism and of science. I have had only too much sympathy and weakness for the feminine nature. The very excess of my former indulgence toward it makes me now more conscious of its infirmity. Justice and science, law and reason, are virile things, and they come before imagination, feeling, reverie, and fancy. When one reflects that Catholic superstition is maintained by women, one feels how needful it is not to hand over the reins to the "Eternal Womanly."

My House

Saturday, 3.

My neighbors flatter me in telling me that I have one of the best placed and most picturesque houses in our town. I know very well the secret of what they praise. 'Tis simply adapting the color and repairs to the architecture, and holding these in keeping with the spot.

A house, like a person, invites by amiable reserves, as if it loved to be introduced in perspective and reached by courteous approaches. Let it show bashfully behind shrubberies, screen its proportions decorously in plain tints, not thrust itself rudely, like an inn, upon the street at cross-roads. A wide lawn in front, sloping to the road gracefully, gives it the stately air and courtly approach. I like the ancient mansions for this reason; these old Puritan residences for their unpretending air, their sober tints, in strict keeping with Wordsworth's rule of coloring, viz. that of the sod about the grounds. A slight exaltation of this defines best the architecture by distinguishing it from surrounding objects in the landscape. Modest tints are always becoming. White and red intolerable. And for some variety in dressing, the neighboring barks of shrubbery suggest and best characterize the coloring.

As for fences and gates, I was told that mine were unlike any other in the world, yet as good as anybody's, hereby meaning to praise them, I infer. If less durable than others, the cost is inconsiderable, and has the associated pleasure, besides, of having come out of such ideal capital as I had invested in my own head and hands. A common carpenter would have spent more time in planing and fixing his pickets and set something in straight lines with angular corners to deform the landscape; then the painter must have followed with some tint mixed neither by nature nor art. Now my work delights my eyes whenever I step out-of-doors, adding its ornament to the spot. Grotesque it may be with its knotted ornaments, Druid supports, yet in keeping with the woods behind it. Besides, what pleasure the construction has given! Form, color, ornamentation alike concern builder and occupant, as they were blossoms of his taste and of the landscape. A good architect is both builder and colorist, and should be a good man besides, according to the ancient authorities. Roman Vitruvius claims as much, if not more, of him:—

"It is necessary," he says, "that an architect should be instructed in the precepts of moral philosophy; for he ought to have a great soul, and be bold without arrogance, just, faithful, and totally exempt from avarice. He should have a great docility, which may hinder him from neglecting the advice that is given him, not only of the meanest artist, but also of those that understand nothing of architecture; for not only architects but all the world must judge his works."

Houses have their history, are venerable on account of their age and origin. Even our newly-settled country of but a century or two has already crowned homesteads still standing with royal honors. Mine, I conjecture, is not far from one hundred and fifty years' standing. It was a first-class country house in its day, with its window-seats in parlor and chambers, ornamental summers and casements, its ample fireplaces, and lean-to on the northern side. Like most of its period it was open to the road with overshadowing elms still embowering the mansion; had a lion-headed door-knocker, and huge chimney-tops surmounting the gables. Of learned ancestry, moreover; having been the homestead of a brother of President Hoar, of Harvard College, and remained in possession of members of that venerable family down to near the beginning of the present century. The site is hardly surpassed by any on the old Boston road; the woods behind crowning the range of hills running north almost to the village, and bordering east on Wayside, Hawthorne's last residence. It must have been chosen by an original settler, probably coming with the Rev. Peter Bulkeley from England, in 1635.1

The ancient elms before the house, of a hundred years' standing and more, are the pride of the yard. It were sacrilege to remove a limb or twig unless decayed, so luxuriant and far-spreading, overshadowing the roof and gables, yet admitting the light into hall and chambers. Sunny rooms, sunny household. "Build your house," says a mystic author, "upon a firm foundation, and let your aspect be towards the east, where the sun rises, that so you may enjoy its fruitfulness in your household and orchards."

Whether the first settler planted these elms, or whether they are survivors of the primitive forest which was felled to make way and room for the rude shelter of the hardy settlers, is not ascertained. Their roots penetrate primitive soil; the surrounding grounds have become productive by the industry and skill, mellowed and meliorated by the humanities of their descendants. They came honestly by their homesteads, paying their swarthy claimants fair prices for them; the landscape is still inviting by its prairie aspects, its brook-sides and meadows where the red men trod.

It was these broad meadows beside the "Grass ground River" that tempted alike the white and red man,—the one for pasturage, the other for fishing,—and brought the little colony through the wilderness to form the settlement named "Musketaquid," after the river of that name (signifying grass ground), and later taking that of Concord, not without note in history.

"Beneath low hills, in the broad interval

Through which at will our Indian rivulet

Winds mindful still of sannup and of squaw,

Whose pipe and arrow oft the plough unburies;

Here, in pine houses, built of new-fallen trees,

Supplanters of the tribe, the planters dwelt."

The view from the rustic seat overlooking my house commands the amphitheatre in which the house stands, and through which flows Mill brook, bordered on the south and east by the Lincoln woods. It is a quiet prospect and might be taken for an English landscape; needs but a tower or castle overtopping the trees surrounding it. The willows by the rock bridge over the brook, the winding lane once the main track of travel before the turnpike branching off from the old Boston road by Emerson's door was built, adds to the illusion, while on the east stands the pine-clad hill, Hawthorne's favorite haunt, and hiding his last residence from sight.

On the southwest is an ancient wood, Thoreau's pride, beyond which is Walden Pond, distant about a mile from my house, and best reached by the lane opening opposite Hawthorne's. Fringed on all sides by woods, the interval, once a mill pond, is now in meadow and garden land, the slopes planted in vineyards, market gardens and orchards lining the road along which stand the farmers' houses visible in the opening.

This road has more than a local interest. If any road may claim the originality of being entitled to the name of American, it is this,—since along its dust the British regulars retreated from their memorable repulse at the Old North Bridge, the Concord military following fast upon their heels, and from the hill-tops giving them salutes of musketry till they disappeared beyond Lexington, and gave a day to history.

An agricultural town from the first, it is yet such in large measure; though like others in its neighborhood becoming suburban and commercial. Fields once in corn and grass are now in vineyards and orchards, tillage winding up the slopes from the low lands to the hill-tops. The venerable woods once crowning these are fast falling victims to the axe. The farmsteads are no longer the rural homes they were when every member of the family took part in domestic affairs; foreign help serves where daughters once served; they with their brothers having left the housekeeping and farming for school, factories, trade, a profession, and things are drifting towards an urbane and municipal civilization, the metropolis extending its boundaries, and absorbing the townships for many miles round.

Moreover, the primitive features of the landscape are being obliterated by the modern facilities for business and travel, less perhaps than in most places lying so near the metropolis; the social still less than the natural; the descendants of the primitive fathers of the settlement cherishing a pride of ancestry not unbecoming in a republic, less favorable for the perpetuation of family distinctions and manners than in countries under monarchical rule.

1. Johnson, in his "Wonder Working Providence Concerning New England," describes the company of settlers on their way from Cambridge, under the lead of the Rev. Peter Bulkeley, the principal founder of Concord.