Cape Cod

Cape Cod

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Cape Cod
    Book Description:

    This new paperback edition of Henry D. Thoreau's compelling account of Cape Cod contains the complete, definitive text of the original. Introduced by American poet and literary critic Robert Pinsky--himself a resident of Cape Cod--this volume contains some of Thoreau's most beautiful writings.

    In the plants, animals, topography, weather, and people of Cape Cod, Thoreau finds "another world" Encounters with the ocean dominate this book, from the fatal shipwreck of the opening chapter to his later reflections on the Pilgrims' landing and reconnaissance. Along the way, Thoreau relates the experiences of fishermen and oystermen, farmers and salvagers, lighthouse-keepers and ship captains, as well as his own intense confrontations with the sea as he travels the land's outermost margins. Chronicles of exploration, settlement, and survival on the Cape lead Thoreau to reconceive the history of New England--and to recognize the parochialism of history itself.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3412-9
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-2)
    Robert Pinsky

    Launching into an opening spectacle of death, but full of startling jokes; ambling yet dramatic; shifting rapidly among whimsy, natural history, polemic, diary, research paper, parody, sermon, history and wisecrack—Thoreau'sCape Codcan amaze modern readers with its peculiar freshness. Contemporary books about places have their own excellences, but they don't attain this unpredictable movement or this immediacy. Thoreau's vividness of mind illuminates the Cape in what remains the place's best portrait.

    Cape Cod'sdiverting manner—quirky, anecdotal, scholarly, casual, barbed—comes partly from the circumstances of its composition: it was written for performance, and in chronological sequence. That...

  4. I. The Shipwreck.
    (pp. 3-14)

    Wishing to get a better view than I had yet had of the ocean, which, we are told, covers more than two-thirds of the globe, but of which a man who lives a few miles inland may never see any trace, more than of another world, I made a visit to Cape Cod in October, 1849, another the succeeding June, and another to Truro in July, 1855; the first and last time with a single companion, the second time alone. I have spent, in all, about three weeks on the Cape; walked from Eastham to Provincetown twice on the Atlantic...

  5. II. Stage-Coach Views.
    (pp. 15-23)

    After spending the night in Bridgewater, and picking up a few arrowheads there in the morning, we took the cars for Sandwich, where we arrived before noon. This was the terminus of the "Cape Cod Railroad," though it is but the beginning of the Cape. As it rained hard, with driving mists, and there was no sign of its holding up, we here took that almost obsolete conveyance, the stage, for "as far as it went that day," as we told the driver. We had forgotten how far a stage could go in a day, but we were told that...

  6. III. The Plains of Nauset.
    (pp. 24-43)

    The next morning, Thursday, October 11th, it rained as hard as ever; but we were determined to proceed on foot, nevertheless. We first made some inquiries with regard to the practicability of walking up the shore on the Atlantic side to Provincetown, whether we. should meet with any creeks or marshes to trouble us. Higgins said that there was no obstruction, and that it was not much further than by the road, but he thought that we should find it very “heavy” walking in the sand; it was bad enough in the road, a horse would sink in up to...

  7. IV. The Beach.
    (pp. 44-61)

    At length we reached the seemingly retreating boundary of the plain, and entered what had appeared at a distance an upland marsh, but proved to be dry sand covered with beach-grass, the bearberry, bayberry, shrub-oaks, and beach-plum, slightly ascending as we approached the shore; then, crossing over a belt of sand on which nothing grew, though the roar of the sea sounded scarcely louder than before, and we were prepared to go half a mile further, we suddenly stood on the edge of a bluff overlooking the Atlantic. Far below us was the beach, from half a dozen to a...

  8. V. The Wellfleet Oysterman.
    (pp. 62-79)

    Having walked about eight miles since we struck the beach, and passed the boundary between Wellfleet and Truro, a stone post in the sand,-for even this sand comes under the jurisdiction of one town or another,-we turned inland over barren hills and valleys, whither the sea, for some reason, did not follow us, and, tracing up a Hollow, discovered two or three sober-looking houses within half a mile, uncommonly near the eastern coast. Their garrets were apparently so full of chambers, that their roofs could hardly lie down straight, and we did not doubt that there was room for us...

  9. VI. The Beach Again.
    (pp. 80-100)

    Our way to the high sand-bank, which I have described as extending all along the coast, led, as usual, through patches of Bayberry bushes, which straggled into the sand. This, next to the Shrub-oak, was perhaps the most common shrub thereabouts. I was much attracted by its odoriferous leaves and small gray berries which are clustered about the short twigs, just below the last year's growth. I know of but two bushes in Concord, and they, being staminate plants, do not bear fruit. The berries gave it a venerable appearance, and they smelled quite spicy, like small confectionery. Robert Beverley,...

  10. VII. Across the Cape.
    (pp. 101-117)

    When we have returned from the sea-side, we sometimes ask ourselves why we did not spend more time in gazing at the sea; but very soon the traveller does not look at the sea more than at the heavens. As for the interior, if the elevated sand-bar in the midst of the ocean can be said to have any interior, it was an exceedingly desolate landscape, with rarely a cultivated or cultivable field in sight. We saw no villages, and seldom a house, for these are generally on the Bay side. It was a succession of shrubby hills and valleys,...

  11. VIII. The Highland Light.
    (pp. 118-138)

    This light-house, known to mariners as the Cape Cod or Highland Light, is one of our “primary sea-coast lights,” and is usually the first seen by those approaching the entrance of Massachusetts Bay from Europe. It is forty-three miles from Cape Ann Light, and forty-one from Boston Light. It stands about twenty rods from the edge of the bank, which is here formed of clay. I borrowed the plane and square, level and dividers, of a carpenter who was shingling a barn near by, and using one of those shingles made of a mast, contrived a rude sort of quadrant,...

  12. IX. The Sea and the Desert.
    (pp. 139-166)

    The light-house lamps were still burning, though now with a silvery lustre, when I rose to see the sun come out of the Ocean; for he still rose eastward of us; but I was convinced that he must have come out of a dry bed beyond that stream, though he seemed to come out of the water.

    “The sun once more touched the fields,

    Mounting to heaven from the fair flowing

    Deep-running Ocean.”

    Now we saw countless sails of mackerel fishers abroad on the deep, one fleet in the north just pouring round the Cape, another standing down toward Chatham,...

  13. X. Provincetown.
    (pp. 167-216)

    Early the next morning I walked into a fish-house near our hotel, where three or four men were engaged in trundling out the pickled fish on barrows, and spreading them to dry. They told me that a vessel had lately come in from the Banks with forty-four thousand codfish. Timothy Dwight says that, just before he arrived at Provincetown, “a schooner came in from the Great Bank with fifty-six thousand fish, about one thousand five hundred quintals, taken in a single voyage; the main deck being, on her return, eight inches under water in calm weather.” The cod in this...

  14. Index
    (pp. 217-235)