Nonfiction > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. VII. Society and Solitude: Twelve Chapters
VI. Farming
                  To these men
The landscape is an armory of powers,
Which, one by one, they know to draw and use.
They harness beast, bird, insect, to their work;
They prove the virtues of each bed of rock,
And, like the chemist mid his loaded jars,
Draw from each stratum its adapted use
To drug their crops or weapon their arts withal.
They turn the frost upon their chemic heap,
They set the wind to winnow pulse and grain,
They thank the spring-flood for its fertile slime,
And on cheap summit-levels of the snow
Slide with the sledge to inaccessible woods
O’er meadows bottomless. So, year by year,
They fight the elements with elements,
And by the order in the field disclose
The order regnant in the yeoman’s brain.
What these strong masters wrote at large in miles,
I followed in small copy in my acre;
For there’s no rood has not a star above it;
The cordial quality of pear or plum
Ascends as gladly in a single tree
As in broad orchards resonant with bees;
And every atom poises for itself,
And for the whole.

  HE planted where the deluge ploughed,
His hired hands were wind and cloud;
His eyes detect the Gods concealed
In the hummock of the field.

THE GLORY 1 of the farmer is that, in the division of labors, it is his part to create. All trade rests at last on his primitive activity. He stands close to Nature; he obtains from the earth the bread and the meat. The food which was not, he causes to be. The first farmer was the first man, and all historic nobility rests on possession and use of land. Men do not like hard work, but every man has an exceptional respect for tillage, and a feeling that this is the original calling of his race, that he himself is only excused from it by some circumstance which made him delegate it for a time to other hands. If he have not some skill which recommends him to the farmer, some product for which the farmer will give him corn, he must himself return into his due place among the planters. 2 And the profession has in all eyes its ancient charm, as standing nearest to God, the first cause.
  Then the beauty of Nature, the tranquillity and innocence of the countryman, his independence and his pleasing arts,—the care of bees, of poultry, of sheep, of cows, the dairy, the care of hay, of fruits, of orchards and forests, and the reaction of these on the workman, in giving him a strength and plain dignity like the face and manners of Nature,—all men acknowledge. All men keep the farm in reserve as an asylum where, in case of mischance, to hide their poverty,—or a solitude, if they do not succeed in society. And who knows how many glances of remorse are turned this way from the bankrupts of trade, from mortified pleaders in courts and senates, or from the victims of idleness and pleasure? Poisoned by town life and town vices, the sufferer resolves: ‘Well, my children, whom I have injured, shall go back to the land, to be recruited and cured by that which should have been my nursery, and now shall be their hospital.’  2
  The farmer’s office is precise and important, but you must not try to paint him in rose-color; you cannot make pretty compliments to fate and gravitation, whose minister he is. He represents the necessities. It is the beauty of the great economy of the world that makes his comeliness. He bends to the order of the seasons, the weather, the soils and crops, as the sails of a ship bend to the wind. He represents continuous hard labor, year in, year out, and small gains. He is a slow person, timed to Nature, and not to city watches. He takes the pace of seasons, plants and chemistry. Nature never hurries: atom by atom, little by little, she achieves her work. The lesson one learns in fishing, yachting, hunting or planting is the manners of Nature; patience with the delays of wind and sun, delays of the seasons, bad weather, excess or lack of water,—patience with the slowness of our feet, with the parsimony of our strength, with the largeness of sea and land we must traverse, etc. The farmer times himself to Nature, and acquires that livelong patience which belongs to her. Slow, narrow man, his rule is that the earth shall feed and clothe him; and he must wait for his crop to grow. 3 His entertainments, his liberties and his spending must be on a farmer’s scale, and not on a merchant’s. It were as false for farmers to use a wholesale and massy expense, as for states to use a minute economy. But if thus pinched on one side, he has compensatory advantages. He is permanent, clings to his land as the rocks do. In the town where I live, farms remain in the same families for seven and eight generations; and most of the first settlers (in 1635), should they reappear on the farms to-day, would find their own blood and names still in possession. And the like fact holds in the surrounding towns.  3
  This hard work will always be done by one kind of man; not by scheming speculators, nor by soldiers, nor professors, nor readers of Tennyson; but by men of endurance—deep-chested, long-winded, tough, slow and sure, and timely. 4 The farmer has a great health, and the appetite of health, and means to his end; he has broad lands for his home, wood to burn great fires, plenty of plain food; his milk at least is unwatered; and for sleep, he has cheaper and better and more of it than citizens.  4
  He has grave trusts confided to him. In the great household of Nature, the farmer stands at the door of the bread-room, and weighs to each his loaf. It is for him to say whether men shall marry or not. Early marriages and the number of births are indissolubly connected with abundance of food; or, as Burke said, “Man breeds at the mouth.” Then he is the Board of Quarantine. The farmer is a hoarded capital of health, as the farm is the capital of wealth; and it is from him that the health and power, moral and intellectual, of the cities came. The city is always recruited from the country. The men in cities who are the centres of energy, the driving-wheels of trade, politics or practical arts, and the women of beauty and genius, are the children or grandchildren of farmers, and are spending the energies which their fathers’ hardy, silent life accumulated in frosty furrows, in poverty, necessity and darkness. 5  5
  He is the continuous benefactor. He who digs a well, constructs a stone fountain, plants a grove of trees by the roadside, plants an orchard, builds a durable house, reclaims a swamp, or so much as puts a stone seat by the wayside, makes the land so far lovely and desirable, makes a fortune which he cannot carry away with him, but which is useful to his country long afterwards. The man that works at home helps society at large with somewhat more of certainty than he who devotes himself to charities. If it be true that, not by votes of political parties but by the eternal laws of political economy, slaves are driven out of a slave state as fast as it is surrounded by free states, then the true abolitionist is the farmer, who, heedless of laws and constitutions, stands all day in the field, investing his labor in the land, and making a product with which no forced labor can compete.  6
  We commonly say that the rich man can speak the truth, can afford honesty, can afford independence of opinion and action;—and that is the theory of nobility. But it is the rich man in a true sense, that is to say, not the man of large income and large expenditure, but solely the man whose outlay is less than his income and is steadily kept so. 6  7
  In English factories, the boy that watches the loom, to tie the thread when the wheel stops to indicate that a thread is broken, is called a minder. And in this great factory of our Copernican globe, shifting its slides, rotating its constellations, times and tides, bringing now the day of planting, then of watering, then of weeding, then of reaping, then of curing and storing,—the farmer is the minder. His machine is of colossal proportions; the diameter of the water-wheel, the arms of the levers, the power of the battery, are out of all mechanic measure; and it takes him long to understand its parts and its working. This pump never “sucks;” these screws are never loose; this machine is never out of gear; the vat and piston, wheels and tires, never wear out, but are self-repairing.  8
  Who are the farmer’s servants? Not the Irish, nor the coolies, but Geology and Chemistry, the quarry of the air, the water of the brook, the lightning of the cloud, the castings of the worm, the plough of the frost. 7 Long before he was born, the sun of ages decomposed the rocks, mellowed his land, soaked it with light and heat, covered it with vegetable film, then with forests, and accumulated the sphagnum whose decays made the peat of his meadow.  9
  Science has shown the great circles in which Nature works; the manner in which marine plants balance the marine animals, as the land plants supply the oxygen which the animals consume, and the animals the carbon which the plants absorb. These activities are incessant. Nature works on a method of all for each and each for all. The strain that is made on one point bears on every arch and foundation of the structure. There is a perfect solidarity. You cannot detach an atom from its holdings, or strip off from it the electricity, gravitation, chemic affinity or the relation to light and heat and leave the atom bare. No, it brings with it its universal ties.  10
  Nature, like a cautious testator, ties up her estate so as not to bestow it all on one generation, but has a forelooking tenderness and equal regard to the next and the next, and the fourth and the fortieth age. There lie the inexhaustible magazines. The eternal rocks, as we call them, have held their oxygen or lime undiminished, entire, as it was. No particle of oxygen can rust or wear, but has the same energy as on the first morning. 8 The good rocks, those patient waiters, say to him: ‘We have the sacred power as we received it. We have not failed of our trust, and now—when in our immense day the hour is at last struck—take the gas we have hoarded, mingle it with water, and let it be free to grow in plants and animals and obey the thought of man.’  11
  The earth works for him; the earth is a machine which yields almost gratuitous service to every application of intellect. Every plant is a manufacturer of soil. In the stomach of the plant development begins. The tree can draw on the whole air, the whole earth, on all the rolling main. The plant is all suction-pipe,—imbibing from the ground by its root, from the air by its leaves, with all its might.  12
  The air works for him. The atmosphere, a sharp solvent, drinks the essence and spirit of every solid on the globe,—a menstruum which melts the mountains into it. Air is matter subdued by heat. As the sea is the grand receptacle of all rivers, so the air is the receptacle from which all things spring, and into which they all return. The invisible and creeping air takes form and solid mass. Our senses are skeptics, and believe only the impression of the moment, and do not believe the chemical fact that these huge mountain chains are made up of gases and rolling wind. 9 But Nature is as subtle as she is strong. She turns her capital day by day; deals never with dead, but ever with quick subjects. All things are flowing, even those that seem immovable. The adamant is always passing into smoke. The plants imbibe the materials which they want from the air and the ground. They burn, that is, exhale and decompose their own bodies into the air and earth again. The animal burns, or undergoes the like perpetual consumption. The earth burns, the mountains burn and decompose, slower, but incessantly. It is almost inevitable to push the generalization up into higher parts of Nature, rank over rank into sentient beings. Nations burn with internal fire of thought and affection, which wastes while it works. We shall find finer combustion and finer fuel. Intellect is a fire: rash and pitiless it melts this wonderful bone-house which is called man. 10 Genius even, as it is the greatest good, is the greatest harm. Whilst all thus burns,—the universe in a blaze kindled from the torch of the sun,—it needs a perpetual tempering, a phlegm, a sleep, atmospheres of azote, deluges of water, to check the fury of the conflagration; a hoarding to check the spending, a centripetence equal to the centrifugence; and this is invariably supplied.  13
  The railroad dirt-cars are good excavators, but there is no porter like Gravitation, who will bring down any weights which man cannot carry, and if he wants aid, knows where to find his fellow laborers. Water works in masses, and sets its irresistible shoulder to your mills or your ships, or transports vast boulders of rock in its iceberg a thousand miles. But its far greater power depends on its talent of becoming little, and entering the smallest holes and pores. By this agency, carrying in solution elements needful to every plant, the vegetable world exists. 11  14
  But as I said, we must not paint the farmer in rose-color. Whilst these grand energies have wrought for him and made his task possible, he is habitually engaged in small economies, and is taught the power that lurks in petty things. Great is the force of a few simple arrangements; for instance, the powers of a fence. On the prairie you wander a hundred miles and hardly find a stick or a stone. At rare intervals a thin oak-opening has been spared, and every such section has been long occupied. But the farmer manages to procure wood from far, puts up a rail-fence, and at once the seeds sprout and the oaks rise. It was only browsing and fire which had kept them down. Plant fruit-trees by the roadside, and their fruit will never be allowed to ripen. Draw a pine fence about them, and for fifty years they mature for the owner their delicate fruit. There is a great deal of enchantment in a chestnut rail or picketed pine boards. 12  15
  Nature suggests every economical expedient somewhere on a great scale. Set out a pine-tree, and it dies in the first year, or lives a poor spindle. But Nature drops a pine-cone in Mariposa, and it lives fifteen centuries, grows three or four hundred feet high, and thirty in diameter,—grows in a grove of giants, like a colonnade of Thebes. Ask the tree how it was done. It did not grow on a ridge, but in a basin, where it found deep soil, cold enough and dry enough for the pine; defended itself from the sun by growing in groves, and from the wind by the walls of the mountain. The roots that shot deepest, and the stems of happiest exposure, drew the nourishment from the rest, until the less thrifty perished and manured the soil for the stronger, and the mammoth Sequoias rose to their enormous proportions. The traveller who saw them remembered his orchard at home, where every year, in the destroying wind, his forlorn trees pined like suffering virtue. In September, when the pears hang heaviest and are taking from the sun their gay colors, comes usually a gusty day which shakes the whole garden and throws down the heaviest fruit in bruised heaps. The planter took the hint of the Sequoias, built a high wall, or—better—surrounded the orchard with a nursery of birches and evergreens. Thus he had the mountain basin in miniature; and his pears grew to the size of melons, and the vines beneath them ran an eighth of a mile. But this shelter creates a new climate. The wall that keeps off the strong wind keeps off the cold wind. The high wall reflecting the heat back on the soil gives that acre a quadruple share of sunshine,—
  “Enclosing in the garden square
A dead and standing pool of air,” 13
and makes a little Cuba within it, whilst all without is Labrador.
  The chemist comes to his aid every year by following out some new hint drawn from Nature, and now affirms that this dreary space occupied by the farmer is needless; he will concentrate his kitchen-garden into a box of one or two rods square, will take the roots into his laboratory; the vines and stalks and stems may go sprawling about in the fields outside, he will attend to the roots in his tub, gorge them with food that is good for them. The smaller his garden, the better he can feed it, and the larger the crop. As he nursed his Thanksgiving turkeys on bread and milk, so he will pamper his peaches and grapes on the viands they like best. If they have an appetite for potash, or salt, or iron, or ground bones, or even now and then for a dead hog, he will indulge them. They keep the secret well, and never tell on your table whence they drew their sunset complexion or their delicate flavors.  17
  See what the farmer accomplishes by a cart-load of tiles: he alters the climate by letting off water which kept the land cold through constant evaporation, and allows the warm rain to bring down into the roots the temperature of the air and of the surface soil; and he deepens the soil, since the discharge of this standing water allows the roots of his plants to penetrate below the surface to the subsoil, and accelerates the ripening of the crop. The town of Concord is one of the oldest towns in this country, far on now in its third century. The selectmen have once in every five years perambulated the boundaries, and yet, in this very year, a large quantity of land has been discovered and added to the town without a murmur of complaint from any quarter. By drainage we went down to a subsoil we did not know, and have found there is a Concord under old Concord, which we are now getting the best crops from; a Middlesex under Middlesex; and, in fine, that Massachusetts has a basement story more valuable and that promises to pay a better rent than all the superstructure. But these tiles have acquired by association a new interest. These tiles are political economists, confuters of Malthus and Ricardo; they are so many Young Americans announcing a better era,—more bread. They drain the land, make it sweet and friable; have made English Chat Moss a garden, and will now do as much for the Dismal Swamp. But beyond this benefit they are the text of better opinions and better auguries for mankind.  18
  There has been a nightmare bred in England of indigestion and spleen among landlords and loom-lords, namely, the dogma that men breed too fast for the powers of the soil; that men multiply in a geometrical ratio, whilst corn multiplies only in an arithmetical; and hence that, the more prosperous we are, the faster we approach these frightful limits: nay, the plight of every new generation is worse than of the foregoing, because the first comers take up the best lands; the next, the second best; and each succeeding wave of population is driven to poorer, so that the land is ever yielding less returns to enlarging hosts of eaters. Henry Carey of Philadelphia 14 replied: “Not so, Mr. Malthus, but just the opposite of so is the fact.”  19
  The first planter, the savage, without helpers, without tools, looking chiefly to safety from his enemy,—man or beast,—takes poor land. The better lands are loaded with timber, which he cannot clear; they need drainage, which he cannot attempt. He cannot plough, or fell trees, or drain the rich swamp. He is a poor creature; he scratches with a sharp stick, lives in a cave or a hutch, has no road but the trail of the moose or bear; he lives on their flesh when he can kill one, on roots and fruits when he cannot. He falls, and is lame; he coughs, he has a stitch in his side, he has a fever and chills; when he is hungry, he cannot always kill and eat a bear,—chances of war,—sometimes the bear eats him. ’T is long before he digs or plants at all, and then only a patch. Later he learns that his planting is better than hunting; that the earth works faster for him than he can work for himself,—works for him when he is asleep, when it rains, when heat overcomes him. The sun-stroke which knocks him down brings his corn up. 15 As his family thrive, and other planters come up around him, he begins to fell trees and clear good land; and when, by and by, there is more skill, and tools and roads, the new generations are strong enough to open the lowlands, where the wash of mountains has accumulated the best soil, which yield a hundred-fold the former crops. The last lands are the best lands. It needs science and great numbers to cultivate the best lands, and in the best manner. Thus true political economy is not mean, but liberal, and on the pattern of the sun and sky. Population increases in the ratio of morality; credit exists in the ratio of morality.  20
  Meantime we cannot enumerate the incidents and agents of the farm without reverting to their influence on the farmer. He carries out this cumulative preparation of means to their last effect. This crust of soil which ages have refined he refines again for the feeding of a civil and instructed people. The great elements with which he deals cannot leave him unaffected, or unconscious of his ministry; but their influence somewhat resembles that which the same Nature has on the child,—of subduing and silencing him. 16 We see the farmer with pleasure and respect when we think what powers and utilities are so meekly worn. He knows every secret of labor; he changes the face of the landscape. Put him on a new planet and he would know where to begin; yet there is no arrogance in his bearing, but a perfect gentleness. The farmer stands well on the world. Plain in manners as in dress, he would not shine in palaces; he is absolutely unknown and inadmissible therein; living or dying, he never shall be heard of in them; yet the drawing-room heroes put down beside him would shrivel in his presence; he solid and unexpressive, they expressed to gold-leaf. But he stands well on the world,—as Adam did, as an Indian does, as Homer’s heroes, Agamemnon or Achilles, do. He is a person whom a poet of any clime—Milton, Firdusi, or Cervantes—would appreciate as being really a piece of the old Nature, comparable to sun and moon, rainbow and flood; because he is, as all natural persons are, representative of Nature as much as these. 17  21
  That uncorrupted behavior which we admire in animals and in young children belongs to him, to the hunter, the sailor,—the man who lives in the presence of Nature. Cities force growth and make men talkative and entertaining, but they make them artificial. What possesses interest for us is the naturel of each, his constitutional excellence. This is forever a surprise, engaging and lovely; we cannot be satiated with knowing it, and about it; and it is this which the conversation with Nature cherishes and guards.  22
Note 1. This essay, originally called “The Man with the Hoe,” was the oration delivered by Mr. Emerson at the annual exhibition of the Middlesex Agricultural Society—“Cattleshow” in the vernacular—September 29, 1858. His townsman, John S. Keyes, Esquire, the sheriff of Middlesex and the president of the Society, invited him to give the address, knowing well that Mr. Emerson would present the larger and nobler view of their occupation to the farmers and gardeners of the county. For Concord, then a shire-town, was mainly agricultural, its lands still in the hands of the descendants of the early settlers. The two ministers, three doctors, six lawyers, two manufacturers, and the shop-keepers were all gardeners also, as were even the few residents who did business in Boston. So was Mr. Emerson, though in his essay on Prudence he admitted that “whoever sees my garden discovers that I must have some other garden.” His poem “My Garden” tells of the latter, which yielded abundantly, but, that he had a right to talk to farmers as one of them, witness the printed Report of the Agricultural Society of 1858, which contains not only the Address in its first form, but the recommendation that R. W. Emerson and O. Farnsworth each receive $1.00 as a gratuity for single dishes of pears; better yet, R. W. Emerson is awarded third premium of $3.00 for Sage grapes. His neighbors, the Concord farmers, returned his salute with courtesy and respect when they met him on the roads or in their wood-lots, and most of them liked to hear him read one or more lectures in the Lyceum each winter, as did the people of the villages around. Mr. Emerson once said that his farming, “like the annual ploughing of the Emperor of China, had a certain emblematic air,” but he knew how to find emblems and parables in the field, and proved in his lecturing that common people loved symbols. His neighbors gathered in their crops, but he, unknown to them, had reaped a harvest in their fields of which he tells in his poem “The Apology.” This was his best crop, for he was unhandy with the spade. While his garden was small, he worked it with advice and help of his good friends George Bradford and Henry Thoreau, but as his farm increased, it was managed for a time by Mr. Edmund Hosmer. Of this neighbor Mr. Emerson gave a pleasant account in the Dial paper “Agriculture of Massachusetts,” included in the volume Natural History of Intellect. After 1850 the ten-acre farm was managed and worked for him in succession by two excellent and devoted Irishmen, who left him free from its care to mind his own affairs as the interpreter.
  In the journal of 1838 he wrote:—
  “If my garden had only made me acquainted with the muckworm, the bugs, the grasses and the swamp of plenty in August, I should willingly pay a free tuition. But every process is lucrative to me far beyond its economy.”
  In the essay on Wealth in Conduct of Life is the amusing account of how the weeds insidiously betrayed Mr. Emerson into the loss of his morning, and in Nature, Addresses and Lectures the advantages and to some extent the drawbacks of farming are set forth in the early pages of “The American Scholar,” and “Man the Reformer,” pp. 237–242.
  The exordium of the Cattle-show Address was as follows:—
  “Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:—I suppose there is no anniversary that meets from all parties a more entire good will than this rural festival. Town and country, trader and manufacturer, clerk and layman, sailor and soldier, men and women, all have an equal stake in the prosperity of the farmer. It is well with all when it is well with him. He has no enemy, and all are loud in his praise. Every wise State has favored him, and the best men have held him highest. Cato said, when it was said that such or such a man was a good husbandman, it was looked upon as the very highest compliment. Of all the rewards given by the Romans to great public benefactors, the most valued and the rarest bestowed was the crown of grass, given only by the acclamation of the army for the preservation of the army by the valor of one man. Since the dependence, not of the whole army, but of the whole state, rests on the tiller of the ground, the arval crown, the crown of grass, should be more rightfully awarded to the farmer. Let us then look at the condition of the farmer, or the Man with the Hoe, at his strength, and weakness, at his aids and servants, at his greater and lesser means, and his share in the great future which opens before the people of this country.” [back]
Note 2. In the autumn following his Address to the Divinity Students in 1838, Mr. Emerson had been so much denounced for his dangerous heresies that it almost seemed to him that his lecture courses, on which he largely depended for support, might not be attended. He evidently began to consider man’s primitive means of support, for he wrote in the journal of September 30, immediately in connection with some entries, suggested by the attacks made upon him:—
  “It seems as if a man should learn to fish, to plant or to hunt that he might be secure if he were cast out from society and not be painful to his friends and fellow men.”
  While planting his potatoes this comforting thought occurred: “A great fact of much import to the new philosophical opinions is the garden discovery that a potato put into a hole, in six weeks becomes ten. This is the miracle of the multiplication of loaves.”
  And again, May, 1839: “I think we ought to have manual labor, each man. Why else this rapid impoverishing which brings every man continually to the presence of the fact that bread is by the sweat of the face.” [back]
Note 3. It should be remembered that this address was written at the period when the old New England farming had not yet quite passed into the new. The farmer and his boys were still working together on many farms, and the mother and daughters doing dairy and household work. The farmer was less of a trader than he must be now to succeed, for he and his family mainly lived off the farm. The machine-farming was but beginning, and most farm-work, and even marketing, was done at the pace of the ox, and the horse was only beginning to supersede him. To offset this, the working-day was often sixteen hours long. The bread was still often made of rye and Indian meal, and vegetables, fruit, pork and beef raised on the farm, with cider for drink, made the principal diet. Grocery bills were partly paid in produce, and there was little cash for clothing, household adornment and amusement. The Irishman, whose industry and frugal living has since made him master of half of our farms, was a hired laborer newly come, and the Scandinavian had not arrived. [back]
Note 4. The unfitness of the amateur farmers of Brook Farm and Fruitlands was in Mr. Emerson’s mind. [back]
Note 5.
  What prizes the town and the tower?
Only what the pine-tree yields;
Sinew that subdued the fields;
The wild-eyed boy, who in the woods
Chants his hymn to hills and floods,
Whom the city’s poisoning spleen
Made not pale, or fat, or lean.
“Woodnotes,” II., Poems.    
Note 6. Thoreau’s plan, by which he became a truly rich man, was to diminish his wants instead of increasing his income. [back]
Note 7. In the Cattle-show Address, to these servants were added “the winds that have blown in the interminable succession of years before he was born.” The paragraph suggests several passages in the Poems, as that in the “Song of Nature” beginning
  Time and Thought were my surveyors,—
and in the “Fragments on Nature,” where she says:—
  He lives not who can refuse me;
All my force saith, Come and use me.
Note 8.
  No ray is dimmed, no atom worn,
My oldest force is good as new,
And the fresh rose on yonder thorn
Gives back the bending heavens in dew.
“Song of Nature.”    
Note 9. “They do not believe, what is true, that one half of the weight of the rocks which compose the crust of the globe,… of the houses, of the stones of the pavement, of the soils we cultivate, and much more than half by weight of all living animals and plants, consists of oxygen.”—Cattle-show Address.
  Ever the Rock of Ages melts
  Into the mineral air,
To be the quarry whence to build
  Thought and its mansions fair.
“Fragments on Life,” Poems.    
Note 10. This passage suggests the lines in the second “Woodnotes” beginning
  Onward and on, the eternal Pan.
The concluding portion of the paragraph is found in metrical form in the little poem “Pan” among the “Fragments on Nature.”
  This whole theme of the farmer’s servants is treated in a few lines in the poem “Guy.” [back]
Note 11.
  Put in, drive home the sightless wedges
And split to flakes the crystal ledges.
“Fragments on Nature,” Poems.    
  In the Address the paragraph is concluded as follows:—
  “Water, the daily miracle—a substance as explosive as gunpowder—the electric force contained in a drop of water being equal in amount to that which is discharged from a thunder-cloud. I quote from the exact Faraday.”
  Then follows a passage about the farmer’s doubtful competence to control these majestic forces:—
  “His servants are sometimes too strong for him. His tools are too sharp. But this inequality finds its remedy in practice. Experience gradually teaches him, and he is thoughtful. The farmer hates innovation; he hates the hoe till he tries it, preferring to scratch with a stick; he will walk till he has tried the railway car; but the oldest fogy among us, now that the Atlantic Cable is laid to London, will not send a man to swim across with his letter in his mouth.” [back]
Note 12. It may be interesting to see this passage in the garb in which it was presented to the Middlesex farmers.
  “Plant a fruit-tree by the roadside and it will not produce, although it receives many hints, from projected stones and sticks, that fruit is desired to come down, and though it has been swallowed crude into the robust bowels of small boys. But draw a low fence about it to keep out the cow and pig, and for thirty, forty, perhaps a hundred years, it ripens peacefully its delicate fruit,—every pear, every nectarine, every cluster of grapes inviting you to have its picture taken, before being sent to the Horticultural Fair.”
  Apropos of orchards, I will give here two allusions to apples from the journals:—
  1848.  “I have planted a Pumpkin-sweeting near my summer house,—I believe out of agreeable recollections of that fruit in my childhood at Newton. It grew in Mr. Greenough’s pasture, and I thought it solid sunshine.
  “Ere boyhood with quick glance had ceased to spy
The doubtful apple mid the yellow leaves.”
  1853.  “The Newtown Pippins, Gentlemen, are they not the Newton Pippins? or, is not this the very pippin that demonstrated to Sir Isaac Newton the fall of the world, not the fall of Adam, but of the moon to the earth, and universal gravity. Well, here they are, a barrel of them; every one of them good to show gravitation, and good to eat; every one as sound as the moon. What will you give me for a barrel of moons?” [back]
Note 13. From “The Mower against Gardens” by Andrew Marvell (1621–1678). [back]
Note 14. Henry Charles Carey, a remarkable student and writer on Political Economy. In 1836 he published The Harmony of the World, as exhibited in the Laws which regulate the Increase of Population and of the Means of Sustenance, and in the Identity of the Interests of the Sovereign and the Subject, the Landlord and the Tenant, the Capitalist and the Workman, the Master and the Slave.
  In support of Mr. Carey’s theory it may be said that the Great Meadows of Concord, Bedford, Sudbury and Wayland, bare of trees and waving with coarse grass, are said to have been the bait which lured the first settlers here. They hoped thus to have fertile fields without the long and arduous work of clearing primæval forest. But neither they nor their descendants have ever been able to get anything better than meadow-hay of poor quality from them. [back]
Note 15. Mr. Emerson, in the Historical Discourse which he gave in Concord in 1835, at the celebration of the two hundredth year of the settlement of the town, gave an amusing if piteous account of the sufferings of the first settlers. See Miscellanies. [back]
Note 16. This sentence recalls Mr. Emerson’s wise treatment of his children if they cried at table. He always quietly sent the unhappy one to see whether the front gate were latched, or whether there were perhaps a rain-cloud coming. He knew that the change of scene and the quiet face of Nature would calm the child, who returned and duly reported, wondering why the fear of cows getting in, or a storm coming, had so suddenly come over his father. [back]
Note 17. The following picture of the Nine-Acre Corner farms along the river, and of the old-time Concord farmers, is from the journal of 1848:—
  “The cranberry meadow yonder is that where Darius Hubbard picked one hundred bushels in one season worth 200 dollars, and no labor whatever is bestowed on the crop, not so much as to mow the grass or cut down the bushes. Much more interesting is the wood-lot, which yields its gentle rent of six per cent. without any care or thought when the owner sleeps or travels, and fears no enemy but fire. But E. declares that the railroad has proved too strong for all our farmers and has corrupted them like a war, or the incursion of another race;—has made them all amateurs, given the young men an air their fathers never had; they look as if they might be railroad agents any day. We shall never see Cyrus Hubbard or Ephraim Wheeler or Grass-and-oats or Oats-and-grass, old Barrett or Hosmer, in the next generation. These old Saxons have the look of pine-trees and apple-trees, and might be the sons got between the two; conscientious labourers with a science born with them from out the sap-vessels of these savage sires. This savagery is natural to man, and polished England cannot do without it.”
  The Cattle-show Address concluded thus:—
  “I congratulate the farmer of Massachusetts on his advantages. I congratulate him that he is set down in a good place, where the soil and climate yield a larger Flora than any other. A greater variety of important plants grow here than in any southern or northern latitude. We are on the northern boundary of many tropical trees, and on the southern boundary of the arctic plants. We can raise almost all crops, and if we lack the orange and palm, we have the apple and peach and pear. In Illinois, it is often said, although it is more the voice of their scorn than of their pity, that they reckon it a singular leading of Divine Providence that Massachusetts was settled before the prairie was known, else it would never have been settled. But the Massachusetts farmer may console himself that if he has not as rich a soil, he has the advantage of a market at his own door, the manufactory in the same town. I congratulate you, then, on the advantage of your position. Next, I congratulate you on the new territory which you have discovered, and not annexed but subnexed to Middlesex and to Massachusetts. I congratulate you at being born at a happy time, when the old slow ways of culture must go out with the sharp stick and the bow and arrow, when the steam-engine is in full use, and new plants and new culture are daily brought forward. I congratulate you on the fact that the year that has just witnessed the successful employment of new machines, of the mower and reaper, on the plains and prairies, has also witnessed the laying of the Atlantic Cable. The Cable is laid, and the courage of man is confirmed. All that used to look like vagary and castle-building is to be solid sense hence-forth. Who shall ever dare to say impossible again? Hence-forth, if a thing is really desirable, it is in that degree really practicable, and the farm you have dreamed of—go instantly and begin to make it. I congratulate you, lastly, on the new political economy which takes off the crape from farms and towns and nations, and lets in the light on all we do and all we gain, and teaches that whatever is really good and useful for one man to do, is good and useful for all.” [back]

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.