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Cape Cod, by Henry David Thoreau

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American naturalist and writer Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), best known for Walden, an account of his life in harmony with nature, made four excursions to Cape Cod, the Massachussetts peninsula curling into the North Atlantic. These journeys formed the basis for several talks and essays published in book form three years after his death.

In chapter VII of Cape Cod, "Across the Cape," Thoreau uses an "antlion pit" metaphor to describe the experience of approaching a desolate Cape village:

[. . .] we rambled across the Cape to the Bay, over a singularly bleak and barren looking country, consisting of rounded hills and hollows, called by geologists diluvial elevations and depressions---a kind of scenery which has been compared to a chopped sea, though this suggests too sudden a transition. [. . .] The few scattered houses which we passed, being placed at the bottom of the hollows for shelter and fertility, were, for the most part, concealed entirely, as much as if they had been swallowed up in the earth. Even a village with its meeting-house, which we had left little more than a stone's throw behind, had sunk into the earth, spire and all, and we saw only the surface of the upland and the sea on either hand. [. . .] We began to think that we might tumble into a village before we were aware of it, as into an ant-lion's hole, and be drawn into the sand irrecoverably.


Thoreau, Henry David. 1988 [1865]. Cape Cod. Edited by Joseph J. Moldenhauer. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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