« 前へ次へ »
This chapter might easily be extended into a volume, so long was the list of his companions, and so intimate and perfect his relation with them, at least on his own side.
“A truth-speaker he," said Emerson at his funeral, “capable of the most deep and strict conversation; a physician to the wounds of any soul ; a friend, knowing not only the secret of friendship, but almost worshipped by those few persons who resorted to him as their confessor and prophet, and knew the deep value of his mind and great heart. His soul was made for the noblest society ; he had in a short life exhausted the capabilities of this world; whereever there is knowledge, wherever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty, he will find a home.”
It is by his two years' encampment on the shore of a small lake in the Walden woods, a mile south of Concord village, that Thoreau is best known to the world ; and the book which relates how he lived and what he saw there is still, as it always was, the most popular of his writings. Like all his books, it contains much that might as well have been written on any other subject; but it also describes charmingly the scenes and events of his sylvan life, — his days and nights with Nature. He spent two years and a half in this retreat, though often coming forth from it.
The localities of Concord which Thoreau immortalized were chiefly those in the neighborhood of some lake or stream, — though it would be hard to find in that well-watered town, especially in springtime, any place which is not neighbor either to the nine-times circling river Musketaquid, to the swifter Assabet, “That like an arrowe clear
Through Troy rennest aie downward to the sea,” – to Walden or White Pond, to Bateman's Pond, to the Mill Brook, the Sanguinetto, the Nut-Meadow, or the Second Division Brook. All these waters and more are renowned again and again in Thoreau's books. Like Icarus, the ancient high-flyer, he tried his fortune upon many a river, fiord, streamlet, and broad sea, —
“Where still the shore his brave attempt resounds."
He gave beauty and dignity to obscure places by his mention of them; and it is curious that the neighborhood of Walden, now the most romantic and poetical region of Concord, associated in every mind with this tender lover of Nature, and his worship of her, — was anciently a place of dark repute, the home of pariahs and lawless characters, such as fringed the sober garment of many a New England village in Puritanic times.
Close by Walden is Brister's Hill, where, in the early days of emancipation in Massachusetts, the newly freed slaves of Concord magnates took up their abode,
“The wrathful kings on cairns apart," as Ossian says. Here dwelt Cato Ingraham, freedman of 'Squire Duncan Ingraham, who, when yet a slave in his master's backyard, on the day of Concord fight, was brought to a halt by the fierce Major Pitcairn, then something the worse for 'Squire Ingraham's wine, and ordered to “ lay down his arms and disperse,” as the rebels at Lexington had been six hours earlier. Here also abode Zilpha, a black Circe, who spun linen, and made the Walden Woods resound with her shrill singing:
“Dives inaccessos ubi Solis filia lucos
Assiduo resonat cantu, tectisque superbis
Arguto tenues percurrens pectine telas." But some paroled English prisoners in the War of 1812, burnt down her proud abode, with its imprisoned cat and dog and hens, while Zilpha was absent. Down the road towards the village from Cato's farm and Zilpha's musical loom and wheel, lived Brister Freeman, who gave his name to the hill, — Scipio Brister, “a handy negro," once the slave of 'Squire Cummings, but long since emancipated, and in Thoreau's boyhood set free again by death, and buried in an old Lincoln graveyard, near the ancestor of President Garfield, but still nearer the unmarked graves of British grenadiers, who fell in the retreat from Concord. With this Scipio Africanus Brister Libertinus, in the edge of the Walden Woods, “ dwelt Fenda, his hospitable wife, who told fortunes, yet pleasantly - large, round, and black, - such a dusky orb has never rose on Concord, before or since,” says Thoreau. Such was the African colony on the south side of Concord village among the woods, while on the northern edge of the village, along the Great Meadows, there dwelt another colony, headed by Cæsar Robbins, whose descendants still flit about the town. Older than all was the illustrious Guinea negro, John Jack, once a slave on the farm which is now the glebe of the Old Manse, but who purchased his freedom about the time the Old Manse was built in 1765–66. He survives in his quaint epitaph, written by Daniel Bliss, the young Tory brother of the first mistress of the