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1852 __ Telegraph - Æolian Harp
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Original excerpt 1 : « Winter.Jan. 28, 1852.No music from the telegraph harp on the causeway, where the wind is trong, but in the Cut this cold day I hear memorable strains. What must the birds and beasts think where it passes through the woods, who heard only the squeaking of the trees before ? I should think that these strains would get into their music at last. Will not the mockingbird be heard one day inserting this strain in his medley ! It intoxicates me. Orpheus is still alive. All poetry and mythology revive. The spirits of all bards sweep the strings. I hear the clearest silver, lyre-like tones, Tyrtœan tones. I think of Menander and the rest. It is the most glorious music I ever heard. All those bards revive and flourish again in that five minutes in the Deep Cut. The breeeze came through an oak still wearing its dry leaves. The very fine clear tones seemed to come from the very core and pith of this telegraph-pole. I know not but it is my own chords that tremble so divinely. There are barytones and high sharp tones, etc. Some come sweepingly from further along the wire. The latent music of the earth had found here a vent. Music Æolian. There were two strings, in fact, on each side. I do not know but this will make me read the Greek poets. Thus, as ever, the finest uses of things are accidental. Mr. Morse did not invent this music. [...] There are some whose ears help so that my things have a rare significance when I read to them. It is almost too good a hearing, so that for the time I regard my own writing from too favorable a point of view. [...]Oct, 28, 1852.[...] 8pm to Cliffs - The moon beginning to wane. It is a quite warm but moist night. As I cross the railroad I hear the Telegraph harp again - the undecayed oracle. Its vibrations are communicated throught the tall pole to the surrounding earth for a considerable distance, so that I feel them when I stand near. And when I put my ear to a fence rail it is all alive with them though the post with which it is connected is planted 2 feet from the telegraph post -. Yet the rail resounded with the harp music so that a deaf man might have heard it. I hear no sound of a bird as I go up the Back road - only a few faint crickets to be heard - theses the birds we are reduced to. What a puny sound this for the great globe to make -. After whatever revolutions in my moods & experiences when I come forth at evening as if frim years of confinement to the house - . I see the few stars which make the constellation of the Lesser Bear in the same relative position - the everlasting geometry of the stars.Jan 9th 53 - 3pm to Walden & Cliffs.The Telegraph Harp again. Always the same unrememberable revelation it is to me. It is something as enduring as the worm that never dies - befor thee it was & will be after. How the Greeks “harped” upon the words immortal-ambrosial, They are what it says. It stings my ears with everlasting truth. It allies Concord to Athens & both to Elysium. It always intoxicates me - makes me sane - reverses my views of things - I am pledged to it. I get down the RR till I hear that which makes all the world a lie. When the zephyr or west wind sweeps this wire I rise to the height of my being - A period - a semicolon at least is put to my previous & habitual ways of voewing things. This wire is my redeemer - It always brings a special & a general message to me from the highest. [...]March 29 1853.Pm - to early willow behind Martial Miles’s.A bright, sunny, but yet rather breezy and cool afternoon. One the railroad I hear the telegraph. This is the lyre that is as old as the world. I put my ear to the post, and the sound seems to be in the core of the post, directly against my ear. This is all of music. The utmost refinements of art, methnks, can go no further. [...] » (Henry David Thoreau, “Journal”, Vol. V, p. 65, Courier Dover Publications, 1962)
French translated excerpt 2 : « Il règne dans l'air une musique subtile pareille au chant des harpes éoliennes. J'entends des cors mélodieux qui résonnent sous les voûtes lointaines des hautes régions de l'air, musique à donner aux hommes une folie divine, musique qui, du haut du ciel vient mourir à nos oreilles. Pour des oreilles attentives, quelle harpe splendide est le monde ! L'homme absorbé croit qu'au delà du chant du grillon rien ne peut être perçu, mais il existe une mélodie immortelle, que peut saisir, le matin, à midi, la nuit, les oreilles qui savent ouîr, et parfois tantôt un homme, tantôt un autre l'entend, parce qu'il a des oreilles faites pour la musique; Vers ce chant la spirée et la reine-des-près se tendent. Elles sont peintes si merveilleusement parce qu'elles plongent dans la couche la plus profonde de cette harmonie. » (Henry David Thoreau, “Journal 1837-1861”, p115)
Source : Thoreau, Henry David (1852[1981]). “Journal”. Vol. 5. Princeton University Press,
Urls : http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/quad_0987-1381_2001_num_44_1_1478?_Prescripts_Search_tabs1=standard& (last visited )

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