Once more, and it is the last of the "Oeconomica," we give this charming bit of New-Englandism:—"I remember my father had an excellent rule," (Ischomachus loquitur,) "which he advised me to follow: that, if ever I bought any land, I should by no means purchase that which had been already well-improved, but should choose such as had never been tilled, either through neglect of the owner, or for want of capacity to do it; for he observed, that, if I were to purchase improved grounds, I must pay a high price for them, and then I could not propose to advance their value, and must also lose the pleasure of improving them myself, or of seeing them thrive better by my endeavors."
When Xenophon wrote his rural treatises, (including the [Greek: Kunaegetikos],) he was living in that delightful region of country which lies westward of the mountains of Arcadia, looking toward the Ionian Sea. Here, too, he wrote the story of his retreat, and his wanderings among the mountains of Armenia; here he talked with his friends, and made other such symposia as he has given us a taste of at the house of Callias the Athenian; here he ranged over the whole country-side with his horses and dogs: a stalwart and lithe old gentleman, without a doubt; able to mount a horse or to manage one, with the supplest of the grooms; and with a keen eye, as his book shows, for the good points in horse-flesh. A man might make a worse mistake than to buy a horse after Xenophon's instructions, to-day. A spavin or a wind-gall did not escape the old gentleman's eye, and he never bought a horse without proving his wind and handling him well about the mouth and ears. His grooms were taught their duties with nice speciality: the mane and tail to be thoroughly washed; the food and bed to be properly and regularly prepared; and treatment to be always gentle and kind.
Exception may perhaps be taken to his doctrine in regard to stall-floors. Moist ones, he says, injure the hoof: "Better to have stones inserted in the ground close to one another, equal in size to their hoofs; for such stalls consolidate the hoofs of those standing on them, beside strengthening the hollow of the foot."
After certain directions for rough riding and leaping, he advises hunting through thickets, if wild animals are to be found. Otherwise, the following pleasant diversion is named, which I beg to suggest to sub-lieutenants in training for dragoon-service:—"It is a useful exercise for two horsemen to agree between themselves, that one shall retire through all sorts of rough places, and as he flees, is to turn about from time to time and present his spear; and the other shall pursue, having javelins blunted with balls, and a spear of the same description, and whenever he comes within javelin-throw, he is to hurl the blunted weapon at the party retreating, and whenever he comes within spear-reach, he is to strike him with it."
Putting aside his horsemanship, in which he must have been nearly perfect, there was very much that was grand about the old Greek,—very much that makes us strangely love the man, who, when his soldiers lay benumbed under the snows on the heights of Armenia, threw off his general's coat, or blanket, or what not, and set himself resolutely to wood-chopping and to cheering them. The farmer knew how.
Such men win battles. He has his joke, too, with Cheirisophus, the Lacedaemonian, about the thieving propensity of his townspeople, and invites him, in virtue of it, to steal a difficult march upon the enemy. And Cheirisophus grimly retorts upon Xenophon, that Athenians are said to be great experts in stealing the public money, especially the high officers. This sounds home-like! When I come upon such things, I forget the parasangs and the Taochians and the dead Cyrus, and seem to be reading out of American newspapers.
It is quite out of the question to claim Theocritus as a farm-writer; and yet in all old literature there is not to be found such a lively bevy of heifers, and wanton kids, and "butting rams," and stalwart herdsmen, who milk the cows "upon the sly," as in the "Idyls" of the musical Sicilian.
There is no doubt but Theocritus knew the country to a charm: he knew all its roughnesses, and the thorns that scratched the bare legs of the goatherds; he knew the lank heifers, that fed, "like grasshoppers," only on dew; he knew what clatter the brooks made, tumbling headlong adown the rocks,—
[Greek: apo tus petras kataleibetai ypsothen ydor]
he knew, moreover, all the charms and coyness of the country-nymphs, giving even a rural twist to his praises of the courtly Helen:—
"In shape, in height, in stately presence fair, Straight as a furrow gliding from the share."[B]
[Footnote B: Elton's translation, I think. I do not vouch for its correctness.]
A man must have had an eye for good ploughing and a lithe figure, as well as a keen scent for the odor of fresh-turned earth, to make such a comparison as that!
Theocritus was no French sentimentalist; he would have protested against the tame elegancies of the Roman Bucolics; and the sospiri ardenti and miserelli aman of Guarini would have driven him mad. He is as brisk as the wind upon a breezy down. His cow-tenders are swart and bare-legged, and love with a vengeance. There is no miserable tooting upon flutes, but an uproarious song that shakes the woods; and if it comes to a matter of kissing, there are no "reluctant lips," but a smack that makes the vales resound.
It is no Boucher we have here, nor Watteau: cosmetics and rosettes are far away; tunics are short, and cheeks are nut-brown. It is Teniers, rather:—boors, indeed; but they are live boors, and not manikin shepherds.
I shall call out another Sicilian here, named Moschus, were it only for his picture of a fine, sturdy bullock: it occurs in his "Rape of Europa":—
"With yellow hue his sleekened body beams; His forehead with a snowy circle gleams; Horns, equal-bending, from his brow emerge, And to a moonlight crescent orbing verge."
Nothing can be finer than the way in which this "milky steer," with Europa on his back, goes sailing over the brine, his "feet all oars." Meantime, she, the pretty truant,
"Grasps with one hand his curved projecting horn, And with the other closely drawn compressed The fluttering foldings of her purple vest, Whene'er its fringed hem was dashed with dew Of the salt sea-foam that in circles flew: Wide o'er Europa's shoulders to the gale The ruffled robe heaved swelling, like a sail."
Moschus is as rich as the Veronese at Venice; and his picture is truer to the premium standard. The painting shows a pampered animal, with over-red blotches on his white hide, and is by half too fat to breast such "salt sea-foam" as flashes on the Idyl of Moschus.
Another poet, Aratus of Cilicia, whose very name has a smack of tillage, has left us a book about the weather [Greek: Dosaemeia] which is quite as good to mark down a hay-day by as the later meteorologies of Professor Espy or Judge Butler.
Besides which, our friend Aratus holds the abiding honor of having been quoted by St. Paul, in his speech to the Athenians on Mars Hill:—
"For in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said: 'For we are also His offspring.'"
And Aratus, (after Elton,)—
"On thee our being hangs; in thee we move; All are thy offspring, and the seed of Jove."
Scattered through the lesser Greek poets, and up and down the Anthology, are charming bits of rurality, redolent of the fields and of field-life, with which it would be easy to fill up the measure of this rainy day, and beat off the Grecian couplets to the tinkle of the eave-drops. Up and down, the cicada chirps; the locust, "encourager of sleep," sings his drowsy song; boozy Anacreon flings grapes; the purple violets and the daffodils crown the perfumed head of Heliodora; and the reverent Simonides likens our life to the grass.
Nor will I part company with these, or close up the Greek ranks of farmers, (in which I must not forget the great schoolmaster, Theophrastus,) until I cull a sample of the Anthology, and plant it for a guidon at the head of the column,—a little bannerol of music, touching upon our topic, as daintily as the bees touch the flowering tips of the wild thyme.
It is by Zonas the Sardian:—
[Greek: Ai o agete nxouthai oimblaeides akra melissai, _K.T.L.,]
and the rendering by Mr. Hay:—
"Ye nimble honey-making bees, the flowers are in their prime; Come now and taste the little buds of sweetly breathing thyme, Of tender poppies all so fair, or bits of raisin sweet, Or down that decks the apple tribe, or fragrant violet; Come, nibble on,—your vessels store with honey while you can, In order that the hive-protecting, bee-preserving Pan May have a tasting for himself, and that the hand so rude, That cuts away the comb, may leave yourselves some little food."
Leaving now this murmur of the bees upon the banks of the Pactolus, will slip over-seas to Tusculum, where Cato was born, who was the oldest of the Roman writers upon agriculture; and thence into the Sabine territory, where, upon an estate of his father's, in the midst of the beautiful country lying northward of the Monte Gennaro, (the Lucretilis of Horace,) he learned the art of good farming.
In what this art consisted in his day, he tells us in short, crackling speech;—"Primum, bene arare; secundum, arare; tertium, stercorare." For the rest, he says, choose good seed, sow thickly, and pull all the weeds. Nothing more would be needed to grow as good a crop upon the checkered plateau under my window as ever fattened among the Sabine Hills.
Has the art come to a stand-still, then; and shall we take to reading Cato on fair days, as well as rainy?
There has been advance, without doubt; but all the advance in the world would not take away the edge from truths, stated as Cato knew how to state them. There is very much of what is called Agricultural Science, nowadays, which is—rubbish. Science is sound, and agriculture always an honest art; but the mixture, not uncommonly, is bad,—no fair marriage, but a monstrous concubinage, with a monstrous progeny of muddy treatises and disquisitions which confuse more than they instruct. In contrast with such, it is no wonder that the observations of such a man as Cato, whose energies had been kept alive by service in the field, and whose tongue had been educated in the Roman Senate, should carry weight with them. The grand truths on which successful agriculture rests, and which simple experience long ago demonstrated, cannot be kept out of view, nor can they be dwarfed by any imposition of learning. Science may explain them, or illustrate or extend; but it cannot shake their preponderating influence upon the crop of the year. As respects many other arts, the initial truths may be lost sight of, and overlaid by the mass of succeeding developments,—not falsified, but so belittled as practically to be counted for nothing. In this respect, agriculture is exceptional. The old story is always the safe story: you must plough and plough again; and manure; and sow good seed, and enough; and pull the weeds; and as sure as the rain falls, the crop will come.
Many nice additions to this method of treatment, which my fine-farming friends will suggest, are anticipated by the old Roman, if we look far enough into his book. Thus, he knew the uses of a harrow; he knew the wisdom of ploughing in a green crop; he had steeps for his seed; he knew how to drain off the surface-water,—nay, there is very much in his account of the proper preparation of ground for olive-trees, or vine-setting, which looks like a mastery of the principles that govern the modern system of drainage.[C]
[Footnote C: XLIII. "Sulcos, si locus aquosus erit, alveatos esse oportet," etc.]
Of what particular service recent investigations in science have been to the practical farmer, and what positive and available aid, beyond what could be derived from a careful study of the Roman masters, they put into the hands of an intelligent worker, who is tilling ground simply for pecuniary advantage, I shall hope to inquire and discourse upon, some other day: when that day comes, we will fling out the banner of the nineteenth century, and give a gun to Liebig, and Johnson, and the rest.
Meantime, as a farmer who endeavors to keep posted in all the devices for pushing lands which have an awkward habit of yielding poor crops into the better habit of yielding large ones, I will not attempt to conceal the chagrin with which I find this curmudgeon of a Roman Senator, living two centuries before Christ, and northward of Monte Gennaro, who never heard of "Hovey's Root-Cutter," or of the law of primaries, laying down rules[D] of culture so clear, so apt, so full, that I, who have the advantages of two thousand years, find nothing in them to laugh at, unless it be a few oblations to the gods;[E] and this, considering that I am just now burning a little incense (Havana) to the nymph Volutia, is uncalled for.
[Footnote D: This mention, of course, excludes the Senator's formulae for unguents, aperients, cattle-nostrums, and pickled pork.]
[Footnote E: CXXXIV. Cato, De Re Rustica.]
And if Senator Cato were to wake up to-morrow, in the white house that stares through the rain yonder, and were to open his little musty vellum of slipshod maxims, and, in faith of it, start a rival farm in the bean line, or in vine-growing,—keeping clear of the newspapers,—I make no doubt but he would prove as thrifty a neighbor as my good friend the Deacon.
We nineteenth-century men, at work among our cabbages, clipping off the purslane and the twitch-grass, are disposed to assume a very complacent attitude, as we lean upon our hoe-handles,—as if we were doing tall things in the way of illustrating physiology and the cognate sciences. But the truth is, old Laertes, near three thousand years ago, in his slouch cap and greasy beard, was hoeing up in the same way his purslane and twitch-grass, in his bean-patch on the hills of Ithaca. The difference between us, so far as the crop and the tools go, is, after all, ignominiously small. He dreaded the weevil in his beans, and we the club-foot in our cabbages; we have the "Herald," and he had none; we have "Plantation-Bitters," and he had his jug of the Biblian wine.
M. Varro, another Roman farmer, lies between the same covers "De Re Rustica" with Cato, and seems to have had more literary tact, though less of blunt sagacity. Yet he challenges at once our confidence by telling us so frankly the occasion of his writing upon such a subject. Life, he says, is a bubble,—and the life of an old man a bubble about to break. He is eighty, and must pack his luggage to go out of this world. ("Annus octogesimus admonet me, ut sarcinas colligam antequam proficiscar e vita.") Therefore he, writes down for his wife, Fundania, the rules by which she may manage the farm.
And a very respectably old lady she must have been, to deal with the villici and the coloni, if her age bore suitable relation to that of her husband. The ripe maturity of many of the rural writers I have introduced cannot fail to strike one. Thus, Xenophon gained a strength in his Elian fields that carried him into the nineties; Cato lived to be over eighty; and now we have Varro, writing his book out by Tusculum at eighty, and surviving to counsel with Fundania ten years more. Pliny, too, (the elder,) who, if not a farmer, had his country-seats, and left very much to establish our acquaintance with the Roman rural life, was a hale, much-enduring man, of such soldierly habits and large abstemiousness as to warrant a good fourscore,—if he had not fallen under that murderous cloud of ashes from Mount Vesuvius, in the year 79.
The poets, doubtless, burnt out earlier, as they usually do. Virgil, whom I shall come to speak of presently, certainly did: he died at fifty-one. Tibullus, whose opening Idyl is as pretty a bit of gasconade about living in a cottage in the country, upon love and a few vegetables, as a maiden could wish for, did not reach the fifties; and Martial, whose "Faustine Villa," if nothing else, entitles him to rural oblation, fell short of the sixties.
Varro indulges in some sharp sneers at those who had written on the same subject before him. This was natural enough in a man of his pursuits: he had written four hundred books!
Of Columella we know scarcely more than that he lived somewhere about the time of Tiberius, that he was a man of wealth, that he travelled extensively through Gaul, Italy, and Greece, observing intelligently different methods of culture, and that he has given the fullest existing compend of ancient agriculture. In his chapter upon Gardening he warms into hexameters; but the rest is stately and euphonious prose. In his opening chapter, he does not forego such praises of the farmer's life as sound like a lawyer's address before a county-society on a fair-day. Cincinnatus and his plough come in for it; and Fabricius and Curius Dentatus; with which names, luckily, our orators cannot whet their periods, since Columella's mention of them is about all we know of their farming.
He falls into the way, moreover, of lamenting, as people obstinately continue to do, the "good old times," when men were better than "now," and when the reasonable delights of the garden and the fields engrossed them to the neglect of the circus and the theatres. But when he opens upon his subject proper, it is in grandiose, Spanish style, (he was a native of Cadiz,) with a maxim broad enough to cover all possible conditions:—"Qui studium agricolationi dederit, sciat haec sibi advocanda: prudentiam rei, facultatem impendendi voluntatem agendi." Or, as Tremellius says,—"That man will master the business, qui et colere sciet, et poterit, et volet."
This is comprehensive, if not encouraging. That "facultatem impendendi" is a tremendous bolster to farming as to anything else; it is only another shape of the "poterit," and the "poterit" only a scholarly rendering of pounds and pence. As if Tremellius had said,—That man will make his way at farming who understands the business, who has the money to apply to it, and who is willing to bleed freely.
With a kindred sagacity this shrewd Roman advises a man to slip upon his farm often, in order that his steward may keep sharply at his work; he even suggests that the landlord make a feint of coming, when he has no intention thereto, that he may gain a day's alertness from the bailiff. The book is of course a measure of the advances made in farming during the two hundred years elapsed since Cato's time; but those advances were not great. There was advance in power to systematize facts, advance in literary aptitude, but no very noticeable gain in methods of culture. Columella gives the results of wider observation, and of more persistent study; but, for aught I can see, a man could get a crop of lentils as well with Cato as with Columbia; a man would house his flocks and servants as well out of the one as the other; in short, a man would grow into the "facultatem impendendi" as swiftly under the teachings of the Senator as of the later writer of the reign of Tiberius.
It is but dull work to follow those teachings; here and there I warm into a little sympathy, as I catch sight, in his Latin dress, of our old friend Curculio; here and there I sniff a fruit that seems familiar,—as the fraga, or a morum; and here and there comes blushing into the crabbed text the sweet name of some home-flower,—a lily, a narcissus, or a rose. The chief value of the work of Columella, however, lies in its clear showing-forth of the relative importance given to different crops, under Roman culture, and to the raising of cattle, poultry, fish, etc.; as compared with crops. Knowing this, we know very much that will help us toward an estimate of the domestic life of the Romans. We learn, with surprise, how little they regarded their oxen, save as working-animals,—whether the milk-white steers of Clitumnus, or the dun Campanian cattle, whose descendants show their long-horned stateliness to this day in the Roman forum. The sheep, too, whether of Tarentum or of Canusium, were regarded as of value chiefly for their wool and milk; and it is surely amazing, that men who could appreciate the iambics of Horace and the eloquence of Cicero should have shown so little fancy for a fat saddle of mutton or for a mottled sirloin of beef.
I change from Columella to Virgil, and from Virgil back to some pleasant Idyl of Tibullus, and from Tibullus to the pretty prate of Horace about the Sabine Hills; I stroll through Pliny's villa, eying the clipped box-trees; I hear the rattle in the tennis-court; I watch the tall Roman girls—
"Grandes virgines proborum colonorum"—
marching along with their wicker-baskets filled with curds and fresh-plucked thrushes, until there comes over me a confusion of times and places.
—The sound of the battle of to-day dies; the fresh blood-stains fade; and I seem to wake upon the heights of Tusculum, in the days of Tiberius. The farm-flat below is a miniature Campagna, along which I see stretching straight to the city the shining pavement of the Via Tusculana. The spires yonder melt into mist, and in place of them I see the marble house-walls of which Augustus boasted. As yet the grander monuments of the Empire are not built; but there is a blotch of cliff which may be the Tarpeian Rock, and beside it a huge hulk of building on the Capitoline Hill, where sat the Roman Senate. A little hitherward are the gay turrets of the villa of Maecenas, and of the princely houses on the Palatine Hill, and in the foreground the stately tomb of Cecilia Metella. I see the barriers of a hippodrome, (where now howling jockeys make the twilight hideous); a gestatio, with its lines of cherry-trees, is before me, and the velvety lavender-green of olive-orchards covers the hills behind. Vines grow upon the slope eastward,—
"Neve tibi ad solem vergant vineta cadentem,"—
twining around, and flinging off a great wealth of tendrils from their supporting-poles (pedamenta). The figs begin to show the purple bloom of fruitage, and the villicus, who has just now come in from the atriolum, reports a good crop, and asks if it would not be well to apply a few loads of marl (tofacea) to the summer fallow, which Cato is just now breaking up with the Campanian steers, for barley.
Scipio, a stanch Numidian, has gone to market with three asses loaded with cabbages and asparagus. Villicus tells me that the poultry in the fattening-coops (as close-shut as the Strasburg geese)[F] are doing well, and he has added a soupcon of sweetening to their barley-gruel. The young doves have their legs faithfully broken, ("obteras crura") and are placidly fattening on their stumps. The thrush-house is properly darkened, only enough light entering to show the food to some three or four thousand birds, which are in course of cramming for the market. The cochlearium has a good stock of snails and mussels; and the little dormice are growing into fine condition for an approaching Imperial banquet.
[Footnote F: "Locus ad hanc rem desideratur maxime calidus, et minimi luminis, in quo singulae caveis angustioribus vel sportis inclusae pendeant aves, sed ita coarctatae, ne versari posslnt."—Columella, Lib. VIII. cap. vii.]
Villicus reports the clip of the Tarentine sheep unusually fine, and free from burrs. The new must is all a-foam in the vinaria; and around the inner cellar (gaudendem est!) there is a tier of urns, as large as school-boys, brimming with ripe Falernian.
If it were not stormy, I might order out the farm-chariot, or curriculum, which is, after all, but a low, dumpy kind of horse-cart, and take a drive over the lava pavement of the Via Tusculana, to learn what news is astir, and what the citizens talk of in the forum. Is all quiet upon the Rhine? How is it possibly with Germanicus? And what of that story of the arrest of Seneca? It could hardly have happened, they say, in the good old days of the Republic.
And with this mention, as with the sound of a gun, the Roman pastoral dream is broken. The Campagna, the olive-orchards, the columbarium, fall back to their old places in the blurred type of Columella. The Campanian steers are unyoked, and stabled in the text of Varro. The turrets of the villa of Maecenas, and of the palaces of Sylla and the Caesars, give place to the spires of a New-England town,—southward of which I see through the mist a solitary flag flying over a soldiers' hospital. It reminds of nearer and deadlier perils than ever environed the Roman Republic,—perils out of which if the wisdom and courage of the people do not find a way, some new Caesar will point it with the sword.
Looking northward, I see there is a bight of blue in the sky; and a lee set of dark-gray and purple clouds is folding down over the eastern horizon,—against which the spires and the flag show clearer than ever. It means that the rain has stopped; and the rain having stopped, my in-door work is done.
* * * * *
The reader whose eye is arrested by my title will doubtless anticipate a romance on that ever-old, ever-new theme of a certain god with a torch leading two souls bound together by iron concealed in flower-wreaths, until, alas! life seems ordinary enough to be symbolized by tin,—of the tin-wedding entering into the refiner's fire, and, by sure transmutation, rising from the baser metal to the paler, but purer silver,—of the subtile alchemy of years, which, in human life's great crucible,
"Transmute, so potent are the spells they know Into pure gold the silver of to-day."
Perhaps, reader, you are not altogether to be disappointed; and yet, for the present, it is only a glass of sparkling wine I wish you to take with me. You will please read on that delicate strip of paper around the bottle's neck the name in gilt,—"Golden Wedding." At once you grow transcendental, and suppose that some German vine-dresser in Catawba-land—by the way, Gerritt Smith's gardener is a nephew of Schiller!—was dreaming of the marriage of the Sun with the Vine, his darling plant, in whose juice linger and sparkle the light and joy of many faded days. But no, it was named from a real Golden Wedding.
Let me take you—as the clairvoyants say—to a large, sooty, toiling city in the West. From street to street you shall go, and see but little to excite your admiration, unless you are a constant believer that work is worship. But here, in the centre of the city, is a noble old mansion with its beautiful park around it, which a traveller who saw it once compared to a pearl on the breast of a blacksmith. Here it was that the Golden Wedding took place.
Who that was there can ever forget it? In my own memory that throng of the worthy, the beautiful, the gay of a great city will stand as the one fulfilment which Fate has given me of many Oriental promissory dreams, most of which she has failed to honor. In that great company you might have traced all the circles of that city's growth, as you may trace a tree's history in its rings. That lady there was the first white baby born here, where now over two hundred thousand human beings reside. Here are the pioneers who filled the first log-huts on the city's site, until they overflowed through the roofs. And here is an inner circle of children, and an outer one of grandchildren, about the two who are the heart of this beautiful celebration. Can that lovely, erect, blooming lady be a bride of fifty years? Looking at her, one would say it is a great and unnecessary mistake of ours to grow old. But more closely must we look at that quaint old man by her side. Lately he has passed away; but every day of his long life left a trace worthy to be noted well. His eighty years and twenty-five days of life comprise an epitome of the history and growth of a great community. Not so would you at first interpret that plain old man; though, to a knowing eye, that eye, clear with looking at the duty that lies nearest, that mouth, telling of patient, unimpulsive energy, that broadness about the brow, would be guaranties of a marked life.
And now for my story, which you must let me tell in a rambling way; for any systematic biography of that man would be like putting one of his own Catawba-vines into your herbarium.
I introduce you to a fair-haired, handsome youth, on the deck of a small steamboat, which is bearing him to his fortune in the great West. He is penniless. His father was wealthy; but in the war he was a Tory, and, in the confiscation of his property, his sin was visited upon his son. But he was not the boy to repine, with youth and the great West before him. And now as from the steamer's deck he sees a fine landscape with a few log-houses on it, he believes that it is one day to be a great city, and concludes to stop there. So he is put ashore with his trunk.
He has already determined to study law. He goes to the one judge who resides there, and is taken as a student into his office. More log-houses are built; a court-house is erected; and presently that institution at sight of which the shipwrecked Englishman fell on his knees and thanked God he was in a Christian land—the gallows—made its appearance. So the young man had a fair practice.
The records of the West, if they are ever written, will testify how often whimsical Fortune thrusts her favors on men against their will. This very judge with whom our youth studied law became environed with pecuniary difficulties, and wished once to satisfy a claim of a few hundred dollars by deeding away a sheep-pasture of a few acres, which was of no sort of use to him. But when he went to get his wife's signature to the conveyance, she burst into tears; she knew, she said, that the pasture was worthless; but she had in her childhood heard there the tinkling of the bells of her father's sheep; it was very foolish, she knew, but now that they had all passed away, the bells over in the pasture tinkled on in her memory, and she hated to give it up. The kind husband would not insist, but went sadly to his work. It was not long before the sheep-pasture was worth a million dollars! Sentiment, you see, is not always an unproductive article.
But this case was scarcely so curious as that which presently thrust a goodly capital on the hands of our young law-student. His first case in the court was that of a horse-thief, whom he induced a jury to acquit. When he came to his client for a fee, the scapegrace whispered that he had nothing on earth wherewith to pay the fee except two old whiskey-stills and—a horse. When he heard this last word, the lawyer's conscience gave him a twinge. After a moment's reflection, he said,—"You will need the horse; and you had best make him take you as far as possible from this region of country. I must be satisfied with the whiskey-stills." It was not for a long time that he thought even to inquire about the stills. When he did so, he found them in possession of a man who implored him not to take them away, and promised to pay something for them. Finding that he could not do this, he begged our hero to accept as payment for them a few acres of barren land, which, with great reluctance, he agreed to do. Erelong the tide of emigration set westward, and this land is to-day worth two million dollars!
But his subsequent life showed that the man's fortune was not luck; for by economy, not by hoarding,—by foresight, and a generous trust to all laborers who wished to lease lands, his wealth grew to nearly fifteen million dollars.
When he found that he had enough to live comfortably upon, he retired from the bar, and devoted himself to horticulture. He found that the region in which he lived was adapted to the growth of the vine, and began his experiments, which, during his life, extended to the culture of more than forty varieties. He laid before the community, from time to time, a report of his successes, he called on all to come and taste the wines he made, until the tidings went over the earth, and from Germany, France, Italy, came vine-dressers and wine-makers, who covered every hill-side for miles around him with vintages.
Those who came from afar to inquire into this new branch of industry, for which he had opened the way, were surprised to meet the millionnaire, the Catawba-Prince, in his plain garb and with his humble habits.
How many stories I could tell you of this unintentional, odd homeliness of manner and life, from which he never departed, and which those around him found it impossible to depart from, even in respect to the style of the coffin in which he was laid, and the procession which followed him to the beautiful cemetery! His dress was always that of a man of the humblest fortunes; and Dame Gossip says that he was so fond of his old coat, that, when a change became absolutely necessary, his daughters were obliged to prepare the new one, and substitute it for the old whilst he was asleep, so that in the morning he should put it on unconsciously, or, if he discovered the change; must wear the new or none. The same dame has it that a youth, who afterward became his son-in-law, having caught sight somewhere of one of the old man's daughters, desired to know her, and that, in the park, which was open to all, he met the old gentleman, whom he supposed to be the gardener, and offered him a bribe, if he would bring the lady out among the roses. The old man accepted the bribe, and returned with the lady, whom, with a sly twinkle of the eye, he introduced as "my daughter" to the blushing youth. And again it is told, that once, on a very warm day, the old man, having to wait for a friend, sat down on a stone just outside of his own gate, took off his hat, and, closing his eyes, dozed a little. When he got up, he found a silver quarter in his hat. Whether it was put there by some one who really thought he was an object of charity, or by a wag, the old man appreciated the joke, and, with a smile, put it into the pocket out of which had to come forty thousand dollars for annual taxes. These stories may or may not be true; but in some sense such stories have a certain truth, whether invented or not. They can live and circulate only in a community where they are characteristic of the person of whom they are told. Generous men are not pursued by stories of parsimony; mean men never hear even untrue stories of their generosity.
And this last remark leads me to speak of the relation in which the wealthiest man of the West stood to the throngs of the poor and the suffering who surrounded him.
If, in the city, you had gone to the President of the Boorioboola-Gha Sewing-Circle, or to the Tract-Society Rooms, or to the clergy, and inquired whether the city's richest man was charitable, you would have received an ominous shrug in reply. Vainly have they gone to him for any such charities. Vainly did they go to him for some "poor, but worthy and Christian woman."
"I will give nothing," he replied; "there are enough who will give to her; what I have to give shall go to the unworthy poor, whom none will help,—the Devil's poor, Sir,—those whom Christians leave to the Devil."
Many a minister has been sorely puzzled by the receipt of a fifty-dollar bill "for the relief of the depraved." His office was constantly thronged with outcasts, who were generally relieved by small sums. In his relations with these people, his simplicity and eccentricity were noted by all who knew him. Among many stories which I know to be true, I select the following.
Some six or eight years ago the winter was very cold; the river was frozen, and all the "wharf-rats" were thrown out of work. A near relative of the old gentleman came to the city, and passed the night at his house. After tea he sauntered to the office to take a quiet cigar. To his surprise, he found it filled with a crowd—more than fifty—of brawny, beastly-looking men. The presence of the childlike old man, his face beaming with shrewdness and kindly humor, seemed alone to keep them from being a mob. His manner to them said,—"You poor wretches, I know how reckless you are; yet I am not sure but I should be as bad, had I been exposed to the same bad influences." These houseless vagrants had been coming every night, while the river was frozen, to get a dime for a night's lodging.
The young man had been forced by the unpleasantness of the crowd to go and enjoy his cigar outside. As he sat there, the ugly crowd filed out quietly, each with his dime, (the clerk distributing,) till the last man. He seemed to feel very ill-used, and was scarcely clear of the door-way before he gave vent to his indignation:—"I'll be d——d, if I don't let Old —— know that I won't be put off with a five-cent piece and a three-cent piece! Let me ketch him out, and I'll mash his," etc., etc.
Glowing with righteous indignation, and glad of the opportunity, the young relative rushed in and exclaimed,—
"Mr. ——! I have had many occasions to remonstrate with you on your indiscriminate charities, your encouragement of beggary and vice. The wretch who went out last is breathing threats of personal violence against you, because he has been put off with a five-cent piece and a three-cent piece!"
How was the indignant remonstrant mortified, when the old man simply turned his head to the clerk and said,—
"Mark, why did you not give that man his dime?"
"I had given out all the dimes, Sir, and I gave him all I had left."
"See that he gets his extra two cents the next time he comes. I have no doubt I should have been mad, if I had been in his place."
A forlorn-looking man once came and asked for help.
"I am afraid to give you money. I think I know how you will spend it."
Of course the man protested that strong drink was an abomination unto him,—that what his nature most craved was "pure, fresh milk."
The old man, with a look in which it would be hard to say whether shrewdness or credulity predominated, at once hastened to the milk-cellar and returned with a glass of milk; the fellow swallowed the dose with an eager reluctance quite comical to behold, but which excited no movement in the muscles of the old gentleman's face.
On a raw, wet winter's day, a loafer applied for a pair of shoes. He had on an old, shambling pair, out at both toes. The old Wine-Prince was sitting with a pair of slippers on, and had his own shoes warming at the fire.
"Well," said he to the applicant, "you do look rather badly off, for such a cold, wet day; here, see if these shoes will fit you," handing his own.
The fellow tried them on and pronounced them a complete fit, and went on his way rejoicing. The clerk was amused, half an hour after, to see the old gentleman searching for his shoes and wondering what had become of them. He was reminded that he had given them to the beggar. On further inquiry, he found that he had no other pair in the house.
The following significant story was told me by the son of the old man. I present it in nearly his own words.
"Adjoining me in the country lives an old German who nearly seventy years ago was sold in New York for his passage. A confectioner of Baltimore bought him for seven years' service, and he went with his master to fulfil his obligation. When his time was out, he turned his face towards the setting sun, and started to seek his fortune. On arriving in Pittsburg, having no money, he engaged to 'work his way' down the river on a flat-boat. He stopped at the little village, as our city then was, and opened a shop. He was skilful, and succeeded. He came to my father, and bought, on ten years' credit, a place in the country, where, in course of time, he built a house, and, with my father's assistance, planted a vineyard. He then gave up all other business but that of the vine-dresser.
"One day, in the autumn, a few years ago, I overtook the old man on horseback, on his way to town. After wishing me a cheery good-morning, he said,—
"'I am on my way to town, to sell your father my wine.'
"'He will be glad to get it; he is buying wine, and yours is made so carefully that he will be glad to have it.'
"'I mean to sell it to him for fifty cents a gallon.'
"'Oh,' said I, 'don't offer it at that. I know he is paying double that sum.'
"'Nevertheless, I mean to sell it to him for half a dollar.'
"I looked inquiringly.
"'Well, Sir, I was but a boy when I left Germany; but I was old enough to remember that a man, after a hard day's work, could go to a wine-house, and for two cents could get a tumblerful. It did him good, and he went home to his family fresher and brighter for his wine. He was never drunk, and never wasted his earnings to appease a diseased appetite. I want to see that state of things brought about here. Our poor people drink whiskey. I want them to have cheap wine in its place. Fifty cents a gallon will pay me well this year for my capital and labor, and next year I think I can sell it for forty cents.'
"'But, my friend, see how this will work. You will sell your wine to Mr. —— for fifty cents; and he will send it to his wine-cellar, and they will bottle it and sell it for all they can get.'
"'That's their lookout,' said the Teuton; 'I shall have done my duty.'
"It was rather hard to get an advantage of my father, but I thought now I had him. On reaching the city, I sought him out, and told the story with all its circumstances.
"'Now, Sir, in presence of the example of this old German,—sold in New York for his passage, faithfully fulfilling the years of his servitude, working his way to a small competency by savings and industry,—will you dare to let the world hear of you, a rich man, making a profit on wine?'
"The old man's eye dropped an instant, then he said,—
"'My son, Heaven knows I do not wish to make money out of wine. I have given much time and much money for the last fifty years to make this doubtful experiment successful. I have paid high prices for wine, and used all other means in my power to make it remunerative,—to induce others to plant vineyards. If I should now take your suggestion and bring wine down to a low price, I should ruin the enterprise. But let the extended cultivation of the grape be once firmly established, and then competition will bring it low enough.'
"'Well,' said I, 'that may be good worldly wisdom; but I like the spirit of the old Dutchman better, after all.'
"'There I agree with you; for once, you are right.'"
A most careful accountant has shown that his contributions to grape-culture amounted to one-fourth of his whole fortune: a clear loss to him, but not to the public.
Though the lips of Christendom repeat, Sunday after Sunday, the warning that the left hand should not know what the right hand doeth, yet it is very apt to judge of a man's liberality by the paragraphs concerning him in the newspapers. The old gentleman once gave his city several acres of land for an observatory which was to be erected; and there is no doubt that he had reason to conclude, as have others, that it was the worst, as it was the most public, charity of his life. That his private charities were numerous and without self-crediting, the present writer happens to know. Once, after going through the great wine-cellar where millions were coined, I went through the barracks in the upper portion of the same building, where a wretched tenantry of the Devil's poor lived in squalor. Each of these families was required to pay room-rent to the millionnaire. As I passed along, I found one man and woman in wrathful distress. They must pay their rent, or be turned out of their rooms. The rent was two or three dollars. I said,—
"The old gentleman will not turn you out."
"You do not know him; he will be sure to, if we do not pay him every cent."
I determined to search him out and represent the case. I could not find him; but before I concluded my search, I found that the poor people had been compelled to sell a table and some chairs to pay the rent. The next day I saw them again, and found them heartily abusing the old man as "a stingy brute," who would "sell the chairs from under them." Yet I observed that they had a new table and three new chairs. When I asked them how they came by them, they said they had been sent by an unknown hand, which they supposed to be mine. A thought struck me, and after some trouble I ferreted out the fact, that, although the rich old man had, for reasons connected with the good order of the barracks, always exacted every cent of the rent from each tenant, whatever the consequences, he had many times, as in this case, secretly returned more than it had cost them to pay it. They were left to believe him a hard man, and often attributed his benefits to societies and persons whose charity would have been stifled by the whiskey-stench of their rooms.
Thus, then, went on his life, until the day when the Golden Wedding was to be celebrated. That year, the sons, with the vine-dressers, the bottlers, corkers, and all, gathered together and said,—
"Come, now! let us this year make a wine that shall be like the nectar for a true man's soul!"
So, with one accord, they gathered the richest grapes, and selected from them; then they made the wine-press clean and sweet, and cast the grapes therein. One great hiss,—a spurt of gold flushed with rubies,—and all that is acrid is left, all that is rich and sweet is borne away, to be labelled "GOLDEN WEDDING."
And now, as I taste it, it seems to me flavored beyond all earthly wine, as if it were the expression of an humble and faithful man, who had a legitimate object, which he obtained by steadfastness. The wine-makers maintain, that wine, though long confined in bottles, sympathizes still with the vines from which it was pressed; and when the season of the flowering of vines comes, it is always agitated anew. Surely the Catawba must ever sparkle afresh, when in it, as now, we pledge the memory of the brave and wise pioneer whose life climbed to its maturity along with the purple clusters which so had garnered the frost and sunshine of a life as well as of the seasons.
THE SILURIAN BEACH.
With what interest do we look upon any relic of early human history! The monument that tells of a civilization whose hieroglyphic records we cannot even decipher, the slightest trace of a nation that vanished and left no sign of its life except the rough tools and utensils buried in the old site of its towns or villages, arouses our imagination and excites our curiosity. Men gaze with awe at the inscription on an ancient Egyptian or Assyrian stone; they hold with reverential touch the yellow parchment-roll whose dim, defaced characters record the meagre learning of a buried nationality; and the announcement, that for centuries the tropical forests of Central America have hidden within their tangled growth the ruined homes and temples of a past race, stirs the civilized world with a strange, deep wonder.
To me it seems that to look on the first land that was ever lifted above the waste of waters, to follow the shore where the earliest animals and plants were created when the thought of God first expressed itself in organic forms, to hold in one's hand a bit of stone from an old sea-beach, hardened into rock thousands of centuries ago, and studded with the beings that once crept upon its surface or were stranded there by some retreating wave, is even of deeper interest to men than the relics of their own race, for these things tell more directly of the thoughts and creative acts of God.
Standing in the neighborhood of Whitehall, near Lake George, one may look along such a sea-shore, and see it stretching westward and sloping gently southward as far as the eye can reach. It must have had a very gradual slope, and the waters must have been very shallow; for at that time no great mountains had been uplifted, and deep oceans are always the concomitants of lofty heights. We do not, however, judge of this by inference merely; we have an evidence of the shallowness of the sea in those days in the character of the shells found in the Silurian deposits, which shows that they belonged in shoal waters.
Indeed, the fossil remains of all times tell us almost as much of the physical condition of the world at different epochs as they do of its animal and vegetable population. When Robinson Crusoe first caught sight of the footprint on the sand, he saw in it more than the mere footprint, for it spoke to him of the presence of men on his desert island. We walk on the old geological shores, like Crusoe along his beach, and the footprints we find there tell us, too, more than we actually see in them. The crust of our earth is a great cemetery where the rocks are tombstones on which the buried dead have written their own epitaphs. They tell us not only who they were and when and where they lived, but much also of the circumstances under which they lived. We ascertain the prevalence of certain physical conditions at special epochs by the presence of animals and plants whose existence and maintenance required such a state of things, more than by any positive knowledge respecting it. Where we find the remains of quadrupeds corresponding to our ruminating animals, we infer not only land, but grassy meadows also, and an extensive vegetation; where we find none but marine animals, we know the ocean must have covered the earth; the remains of large reptiles, representing, though in gigantic size, the half aquatic, half terrestrial reptiles of our own period, indicate to us the existence of spreading marshes still soaked by the retreating waters; while the traces of such animals as live now in sand and shoal waters, or in mud, speak to us of shelving sandy beaches and of mud-flats. The eye of the Trilobite tells us that the sun shone on the old beach where he lived; for there is nothing in Nature without a purpose, and when so complicated an organ was made to receive the light, there must have been light to enter it. The immense vegetable deposits in the Carboniferous period announce the introduction of an extensive terrestrial vegetation; and the impressions left by the wood and leaves of the trees show that these first forests must have grown in a damp soil and a moist atmosphere. In short, all the remains of animals and plants hidden in the rocks have something to tell of the climatic conditions and the general circumstances under which they lived, and the study of fossils is to the naturalist a thermometer by which he reads the variations of temperature in past times, a plummet by which he sounds the depths of the ancient oceans,—a register, in fact, of all the important physical changes the earth has undergone.
But although the animals of the early geological deposits indicate shallow seas by their similarity to our shoal-water animals, it must not be supposed that they are by any means the same. On the contrary, the old shells, crustacea, corals, etc., represent types which have existed in all times with the same essential structural elements, but under different specific forms in the several geological periods. And here it may not be amiss to say something of what are called by naturalists representative types.
The statement that different sets of animals and plants have characterized the successive epochs is often understood as indicating a difference of another kind than that which distinguishes animals now living in different parts of the world. This is a mistake. There are so-called representative types all over the globe, united to each other by structural relations and separated by specific differences of the same kind as those that unite and separate animals of different geological periods. Take, for instance, mud-flats or sandy shores in the same latitudes of Europe and America; we find living on each animals of the same structural character and of the same general appearance, but with certain specific differences, as of color, size, external appendages, etc. They represent each other on the two continents. The American wolves, foxes, bears, rabbits, are not the same as the European, but those of one continent are as true to their respective types as those of the other; under a somewhat different aspect they represent the same groups of animals. In certain latitudes, or under conditions of nearer proximity, these differences may be less marked. It is well known that there is a great monotony of type, not only among animals and plants, but in the human races also, throughout the Arctic regions; and the animals characteristic of the high North reappear under such identical forms in the neighborhood of the snow-fields in lofty mountains, that to trace the difference between the ptarmigans, rabbits, and other gnawing animals of the Alps, for instance, and those of the Arctics, is among the most difficult problems of modern science.
And so is it also with the animated world of past ages; in similar deposits of sand, mud, or lime, in adjoining regions of the same geological age, identical remains of animals and plants may be found, while at greater distances, but under similar circumstances, representative species may occur. In very remote regions, however, whether the circumstances be similar or dissimilar, the general aspect of the organic world differs greatly, remoteness in space being thus in some measure an indication of the degree of affinity between different faunae. In deposits of different geological periods immediately following each other we sometimes find remains of animals and plants so closely allied to those of earlier or later periods that at first sight the specific differences are hardly discernible. The difficulty of solving these questions, and of appreciating correctly the differences and similarities between such closely allied organisms, explains the antagonistic views of many naturalists respecting the range of existence of animals, during longer or shorter geological periods; and the superficial way in which discussions concerning the transition of species are carried on is mainly owing to an ignorance of the conditions above alluded to. My own personal observation and experience in these matters have led me to the conviction that every geological period has had its own representatives, and that no single species has been repeated in successive ages.
The laws regulating the geographical distribution of animals and their combination into distinct or zoological provinces called faunae with definite limits are very imperfectly understood as yet; but so closely are all things linked together from the beginning till to-day that I am convinced we shall never find the clue to their meaning till we carry on our investigations in the past and the present simultaneously. The same principle according to which animal and vegetable life is distributed over the surface of the earth now prevailed in the earliest geological periods. The geological deposits of all times have had their characteristic faunae under various zones, their zoological provinces presenting special combinations of animal and vegetable life over certain regions, and their representative types reproducing in different countries, but under similar latitudes, the same groups with specific differences.
Of course, the nearer we approach the beginning of organic life, the less marked do we find the differences to be, and for a very obvious reason. The inequalities of the earth's surface, her mountain-barriers protecting whole continents from the Arctic winds, her open plains exposing others to the full force of the polar blasts, her snug valleys and her lofty heights, her table-lands and rolling prairies, her river-systems and her dry deserts, her cold ocean-currents pouring down from the high North on some of her shores, while warm ones from tropical seas carry their softer influence to others,—in short, all the contrasts in the external configuration of the globe, with the physical conditions attendant upon them, are naturally accompanied by a corresponding variety in animal and vegetable life.
But in the Silurian age, when there were no elevations higher than the Canadian hills, when water covered the face of the earth with the exception of a few isolated portions lifted above the almost universal ocean, how monotonous must have been the conditions of life! And what should we expect to find on those first shores? If we are walking on a sea-beach to-day, we do not look for animals that haunt the forests or roam over the open plains, or for those that live in sheltered valleys or in inland regions or on mountain-heights. We look for Shells, for Mussels and Barnacles, for Crabs, for Shrimps, for Marine Worms, for Star-Fishes and Sea-Urchins, and we may find here and there a fish stranded on the sand or tangled in the sea-weed. Let us remember, then, that, in the Silurian period, the world, so far as it was raised above the ocean, was a beach, and let us seek there for such creatures as God has made to live on sea-shores, and not belittle the Creative work, or say that He first scattered the seeds of life in meagre or stinted measure, because we do not find air-breathing animals when there was no fitting atmosphere to feed their lungs, insects with no terrestrial plants to live upon, reptiles without marshes, birds without trees, cattle without grass, all things, in short, without the essential conditions for their existence.
What we do find—and these, as I shall endeavor to show my readers, in such profusion that it would seem as if God, in the joy of creation, had compensated Himself for a less variety of forms in the greater richness of the early types—is an immense number of beings belonging to the four primary divisions of the Animal Kingdom, but only to those classes whose representatives are marine, whose home then, as now, was either in the sea or along its shores. In other words, the first organic creation expressed in its totality the structural conception since carried out in such wonderful variety of details, and purposely limited then, because the world, which was to be the home of the higher animals, was not yet made ready to receive them.
I am fully aware that the intimate relations between the organic and physical world are interpreted by many as indicating the absence, rather than the presence, of an intelligent Creator. They argue, that the dependence of animals on material laws gives us the clue to their origin as well as to their maintenance. Were this influence as absolute and unvarying as the purely mechanical action of physical circumstances must necessarily be, this inference might have some pretence to logical probability,—though it seems to me unnecessary, under any circumstances, to resort to climatic influences or the action of any physical laws to explain the thoughtful distribution of the organic and inorganic world, so evidently intended to secure for all beings what best suits their nature and their needs. But the truth is, that, while these harmonious relations underlie the whole creation in such a manner as to indicate a great central plan, of which all things are a part, there is at the same time a freedom, an arbitrary element in the mode of carrying it out, which seems to point to the exercise of an individual will; for, side by side with facts, apparently the direct result of physical laws, are other facts, the nature of which shows a complete independence of external influences.
Take, for instance, the similarity above alluded to between the fauna of the Arctics and that of the Alps, certainly showing a direct relation between climatic conditions and animal and vegetable life. Yet even there, where the shades of specific difference between many animals and plants of the same class are so slight as to battle the keenest investigators, we have representative types both in the Animal and Vegetable Kingdoms as distinct and peculiar as those of widely removed and strongly contrasted climatic conditions. Shall we attribute the similarities and the differences alike to physical causes? Compare, for example, the Reindeer of the Arctics with the Ibex and the Chamois, representing the same group in the Alps. Even on mountain-heights of similar altitudes, where not only climate, but other physical conditions would suggest a recurrence of identical animals, we do not find the same, but representative types. The Ibex of the Alps differs, for instance, from that of the Pyrenees, that of the Pyrenees from those of the Caucasus and Himalayas, these again from each other and from that of the Altai.
But perhaps the most conclusive proof that we must seek for the origin of organic life outside of physical causes consists in the permanence of the fundamental types, while the species representing these types have differed in every geological period. Now what we call typical features of structure are in themselves no more stable or permanent than specific features. If physical causes, such as light, heat, moisture, food, habits of life, etc., acting upon individuals, have gradually in successive generations changed the character of the species to which they belong, why not that of the class and the branch also? If we judge this question from the material side at all, we must, in order to judge it fairly, look at it wholly from that point of view. If these specific changes are brought about in this way, it is because external causes have positive permanent effects upon the substances of which animals are built: they have power to change their hair, to change their skin, to change certain external appendages or ornamentations, and any other of those ultimate features which naturalists call specific characters. Now I would ask what there is in the substances out of which class characters are built that would make them less susceptible to such external influences than these specific characters. In many instances the former are more delicate, more sensitive, far more fragile and transient in their material nature than the latter. And yet never, in all the chances and changes of time, have we seen any alteration in the mode of respiration, of reproduction, of circulation, or in any of the systems of organs which characterize the more comprehensive groups of the Animal Kingdom, although they are quite as much under the immediate influence of physical causes as those structural features which have been constantly changing.
The woody fibre of the Pine-trees has had the same structure from the Carboniferous age to this day, while their mode of branching and the forms of their cones and leaves have been different in each period according to their respective species. The combination of rings, the structure of the wings, and the articulations of the legs are the same in the Cockroaches of the Carboniferous age as in those which infest our ships and our dwellings to-day, while the proportion of their parts is on quite another scale. The tissue of the Corals in the Silurian age is identical in chemical combination and organic structure with that of the Corals of our modern reefs, and yet the extensive researches upon this class for which we are indebted to Milne Edwards and Haime have not revealed a single species extending through successive geological ages, but show us, on the contrary, that every age has had its own kinds, differing among themselves in the same way as those of the Gulf of Mexico differ now from those of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. The scales of the oldest known fishes in the Silurian beds have the same microscopic structure as those of their representative types today, and yet I have never seen a single fossil fish presenting the same specific characters in the successive geological epochs. The teeth of the oldest Sharks show the same microscopic structure as those of the present time, and we do not lack opportunities for comparison, since the former are as common in the mountain-limestone of Ireland as are those of the living Sharks on any beach where our fishermen boil them for the sake of their oil, and yet the Sharks appear under different generic and specific forms in each geological age.
But without multiplying examples, which might be adduced ad infinitum, to show permanence of type combined with repeated changes of species, suffice it to say, that, while the general features in the framework of the organic world and the materials of which that framework is built, though quite as subject to the influence of physical external circumstances as any so-called specific-features, have remained perfectly intact from the beginning of Creation till now, so that not the smallest difference is to be discerned in these respects between the oldest representatives of the oldest types in the oldest Silurian rocks and their successors through all the geological ages up to the present day, the species have been different in each epoch. It is surely a fair question to ask the advocates of the transmutation theory, whether they attribute to physical laws the discernment that would lead them to change the specific features, but to respect all those characters by which the higher structural combinations of the Animal Kingdom are preserved without alteration,—in other words, to maintain the organic plan, while constantly diversifying the mode of expressing it. If so, it would perhaps be as well to call them by another name, since they show all the comprehensive wisdom of an intelligent Creator. Until they can tell us why certain features of animals and plants are permanent under conditions which, according to their view, have power to change certain other features no more perishable or transient in themselves, the supporters of the development theory will have failed to substantiate their peculiar scientific doctrine.
But this discussion has led us far away from our starting point, and interrupted our walk along the Silurian beach; let us return to gather a few specimens there, and compare them with the more familiar ones of our own shores. I have said that the beach was a shelving one, and covered of course with shoal waters; but as I have no desire to mislead my readers, or to present truths as generally accepted which are still subject to dispute, I would state here that the parallel ridges across the State of New York, considered by some geologists as the successive shores of a receding ocean, are believed by others to be the inequalities on the bottom of a shallow sea. Not only, however, does the general character of these successive terraces suggest the idea that they must have been shores, but the ripple-marks upon them are as distinct as upon any modern beach. The regular rise and fall of the water is registered there in waving, undulating lines as clearly as on the sand-beaches of Newport or Nahant; and we can see on any one of those ancient shores the track left by the waves as they rippled back at ebb of the tide thousands of centuries ago. One can often see where some obstacle interrupted the course of the water, causing it to break around it; and such an indentation even retains the soft, muddy, plastic look that we observe on the present beaches, where the resistance made by any pebble or shell to the retreating wave has given it greater force at that point, so that the sand around the spot is soaked and loosened. There is still another sign, equally familiar to those who have watched the action of water on a beach. Where a shore is very shelving and flat, so that the waves do not recede in ripples from it, but in one unbroken sheet, the sand and small pebbles are dragged and form lines which diverge whenever the water meets an obstacle, thus forming sharp angles on the sand. Such marks are as distinct on the oldest Silurian rocks as if they had been made yesterday. Nor are these the only indications of the same fact. There are certain animals living always upon sandy or muddy shores, which require for their well-being that the beach should be left dry a part of the day. These animals, moving about in the sand or mud from which the water has retreated, leave their tracks there; and if, at such a time, the wind is blowing dust over the beach, and the sun is hot enough to bake it upon the impressions so formed, they are left in a kind of mould. Such trails and furrows, made by small Shells or Crustacea, are also found in plenty on the oldest deposits.
Admitting it, then, to be a beach, let us begin with the lowest type of the Animal Kingdom, and see what Radiates are to be found there. There are plenty of Corals, but they are not the same kinds of Corals as those that build up our reefs and islands now. The modern Coral animals are chiefly Polyps, but the prevailing Corals of the Silurian age were Acalephian Hydroids, animals which indeed resemble Polyps in certain external features, and have been mistaken for them, but which are nevertheless Acalephs by their internal structure; for, instead of having the vertical partitions dividing the body into chambers, so characteristic of the Polyps, they are divided by tubes corresponding to the radiating tubes of the Acalephs proper, these tubes being themselves divided at regular distances by horizontal floors, so that they never run uninterruptedly from top to bottom of the body. I subjoin a woodcut of a Silurian Coral, which does not, however, show the peculiar internal structure, but gives some idea of the general appearance of the old Hydroid Corals. We have but one Acalephian Coral now living, the Millepore; and it was by comparing that with these ancient ones that I first detected their relation to the Acalephs. For the true Acalephs or Jelly-Fishes we shall look in vain; but the presence of the Acalephian Corals establishes the existence of the type, and we cannot expect to find those kinds preserved which are wholly destitute of hard parts. I do not attempt any description of the Polyps proper, because the early Corals of that class are comparatively few, and do not present features sufficiently characteristic to attract the notice of the casual observer.
Of the Echinoderms, the class of Radiates represented now by our Star-Fishes and Sea-Urchins, we may gather any quantity, though the old fashioned forms are very different from the living ones. I have dwelt at such length in a former article[A] on the wonderful beauty and variety of the Crinoids, or "Stone Lilies," as they have been called, from their resemblance to flowers, that I will only briefly allude to them here. The subjoined wood-cut represents one with a closed cup; but the number of their different patterns is hardly to be counted, and I would invite any one who questions the abundant expression of life in those days to look at some slabs of ancient limestone in the Zooelogical Museum at Cambridge, where the stems of the Crinoids are tangled together as thickly as sea-weed on the shore. Indeed, some of our rock-deposits consist chiefly of the fragments of their remains.
[Footnote A: See Methods of Study in Natural History, Atlantic Monthly, No. LVII., July, 1862.]
The Mollusks were also represented then, as now, by their three classes,—Acephala, Gasteropoda, and Cephalopoda. The Acephala or Bivalves we shall find in great numbers, but of a very different pattern from the Oysters, Clams, and Mussels of recent times. The annexed wood-cut represents one of these Brachiopods, which form a very characteristic type of the Silurian deposits. The square cut of the upper edge, where the two valves meet along the back and are united by a hinge, is altogether old-fashioned, and unknown among our modern Bivalves. The wood-cut does not show the inequality of the two valves, also a very characteristic feature of this group,—one valve being flat and fitting closely into the other, which is more spreading and much fuller. These, also, were represented by a great variety of species, and we find them crowded together as closely in the ancient rocks as Oysters or Clams or Mussels on any of our modern shores. Besides these, there were the Bryozoa, a small kind of Mollusk allied to the Clams, and very busy then in the ancient Coral work. They grew in communities, and the separate individuals are so minute that a Bryozoan stock looks like some delicate moss. They still have their place among the Reef-Building Corals, but play an insignificant part in comparison with that of their predecessors.
Of the Silurian Univalves or Gasteropods there is not much to tell, for their spiral shells were so brittle that scarcely any perfect specimens are known, though their broken remains are found in such quantities as to show that this class also was very fully represented in the earliest creation. But the highest class of Mollusks, the Cephalopods or Chambered Shells, or Cuttle-Fishes, as they are called when the animal is unprotected by a shell, are, on the contrary, very well preserved, and they are very numerous. Of these I will speak somewhat more in detail, because their geological history is a very curious one.
The Chambered Nautilus is familiar to all, since, from the exquisite beauty of its shell, it is especially sought for by conchologists; but it is nevertheless not so common in our days as the Squids and Cuttle-Fishes, which are the most numerous modern representatives of the class. In the earliest geological days, on the contrary, those with a shell predominated, differing from the later ones, however, in having the shell perfectly straight instead of curved, though its internal structure was the same as it is now and has ever been. Then, as now, the animal shut himself out from his last year's home, building his annual wall behind him, till his whole shell was divided into successive chambers, all of which were connected by a siphon. Some of the shells of this kind belonging to the Silurian deposits are enormous: giants of the sea they must have been in those days. They have been found fifteen feet long, and as large round as a man's body. One can imagine that the Cuttle-Fish inhabiting such a shell must have been a formidable animal. These straight-chambered shells of the Silurian and Devonian seas are called Orthoceratites (see wood-cut below). We shall meet them again hereafter, under another name and with a different form; for, as they advance in the geological ages, they not only assume the curved outline with ever closer whorls till it culminates in the compact coil of the Ammonites of the middle periods, but the partitions, which are perfectly plain walls in these earlier forms, become scalloped and involuted along the edges in the later ones, making the most delicate and exquisite tracery on the surface of the shell.
Of Articulates we find only two classes, Worms and Crustacea. Insects there were none,—for, as we have seen, this early world was wholly marine. There is little to be said of the Worms, for their soft bodies, unprotected by any hard covering, could hardly be preserved; but, like the marine Worms of our own times, they were in the habit of constructing envelopes for themselves, built of sand, or sometimes from a secretion of their own bodies, and these cases we find in the earliest deposits, giving us assurance that the Worms were represented there. I should add, however, that many impressions described as produced by Worms are more likely to have been the tracks of Crustacea.
But by far the most characteristic class of Articulates in ancient times were the Crustaceans. The Trilobites stand in the same relation to the modern Crustacea as the Crinoids do to the modern Echinoderms. They were then the sole representatives of the class, and the variety and richness of the type are most extraordinary. They were of nearly equal breadth for the whole length of the body, and rounded at the two ends, so as to form an oval outline. To give any adequate idea of the number and variety of species would fill a volume, but I may enumerate some of the more striking differences: as, for instance, the greater or less prominence of the anterior shield,—the preponderance of the posterior end in some, while in others the two ends are nearly equal,—the presence or absence of prongs on the shield and of spines along the sides of the body,—appendages on the head in some species, of which others are entirely destitute,—and the smooth outline of some, while in others the surface is broken by a variety of external ornamentation. Such are a few of the more prominent differences among them. But the general structural features are the same in all. The middle region of the body is always divided in uniform rings, lobed in the middle so as to make a ridge along the back with a slight depression on either side of it. It is from this three-lobed division that they receive their name. The subjoined wood-cut represents a characteristic Silurian Trilobite.
There is no group more prominent in the earliest creations than this one of the Trilobites, and so exclusively do they belong to them, that, as we shall see, in proportion as the later representatives of the class come in, these old-world Crustaceans drop out of the ranks, fall behind, as it were, in the long procession of animals, and are left in the ancient deposits. Even in the Carboniferous period but few are to be found: they had their day in the Silurian and Devonian ages. In consequence of their solid exterior, the preservation of these animals is very complete; and their attitudes are often so natural, and the condition of all their parts so perfect, that one would say they had died yesterday rather than countless centuries ago.
Their geological history has been very thoroughly studied; not only are we familiar with all their adult characters, but even their embryology is well known to naturalists. It is, indeed, wonderful that the mode of growth of animals which died out in the Carboniferous period should be better known to us than that of many living types. But it is nevertheless true that their embryonic forms have been found perfectly preserved in the rocks, and Barrande, in his "Systeme Silurien de la Boheme," gives us all the stages of their development, from the time when the animal is merely sketched out as a simple furrow in the embryo to its mature condition. So complete is the sequence, that the plate on which their embryonic changes are illustrated contains more than thirty figures, all representing different phases of their growth. There is not a living Crab represented so fully in any of our scientific works as is that one species of Trilobite whose whole story Barrande has traced from the egg to its adult size. Such facts should make those who rest their fanciful theories of the origin and development of life on the imperfection of the geological record, filling up the supposed lapses to suit themselves, more cautious as to their results.
We have found, then, Radiates, Mollusks, and Articulates in plenty; and now what is to be said of Vertebrates in these old times,—of the highest and most important division of the Animal Kingdom, that to which we ourselves belong? They were represented by Fishes alone; and the Fish chapter in the history of the early organic world is a curious, and, as it seems to me, a very significant one. We shall find no perfect specimens; and he would be a daring, not to say a presumptuous thinker, who would venture to reconstruct a fish of the Silurian age from any remains that are left to us. But still we find enough to indicate clearly the style of those old fishes, and to show, by comparison with the living types, to what group of modern times they belong. We should naturally expect to find the Vertebrates introduced in their simplest form; but this is by no means the case: the common fishes, as Cod, Herring, Mackerel, and the like, were unknown in those days.
But there are two groups of so-called fishes, differing from these by some marked features, among which we may find the modern representatives of these earliest Vertebrates. Of these two groups one consists chiefly now of the Gar-Pikes of our Western waters, though the Sturgeons share also in some of their features. In these fishes there is a singular union of reptilian with fish-like characters. The systems of circulation and of respiration in them are more complicated than in the common fishes; the structure of the skull resembles that of the skull in reptiles, and they have other reptilian characters, such as their ability to move the head upon the neck independently of the body, and the connection of the vertebrae by ball-and-socket joint, instead of by inverted cones, as in the ordinary fishes. Their scales are also peculiar, being covered by enamel so hard, that, if struck with steel, they will emit sparks like flint. It is on account of this peculiarity that the whole group has been called Ganoid. Now, though we have not found as yet any complete specimens of Silurian fishes, their disconnected remains are scattered profusely in the early deposits. The scales, parts of the backbone, parts of the skull, the teeth, are found in a tolerable state of preservation; and these indications, fragmentary as they are, give us the clue to the character of the most ancient fishes. A large proportion of them were no doubt Ganoids; for they had the same peculiar articulation of the vertebrae, the flexibility of the neck, and the hard scales so characteristic of our Gar-Pikes.
There is another type of these ancient Vertebrates, which has also its representatives among our modern fishes. These are the Sharks and Skates, or, as the Greeks used to call them, the Selachians,—making a very appropriate distinction between them and common fishes, on account of the difference in the structure of the skeleton. In Selachians the quality of the bones is granular, instead of fibrous, as in fishes; the arches above and below the backbone are formed by flat plates, instead of the spines so characteristic of all the fish proper; and the skull consists of a solid box, instead of being built of overlapping pieces like the true fish-skull. They differ also in their teeth, which, instead of being implanted in the bone by a root, as in fishes, are loosely set in the gum without any connection with the bone, and are movable, being arranged in several rows one behind another, the back rows moving forward to take the place of the front ones when the latter are worn off. They are unlike the common fishes also in having the backbone continued to the very end of the tail, which is cut in uneven lobes, the upper lobe being the longer of the two, while the terminal fin, so constant a feature in fishes, is wanting. The Selachians resemble higher Vertebrate types not only in the small number of their eggs, and in the closer connection of the young with the mother, but also in their embryological development, which has many features in common with that of birds and turtles. Of this group, also, we find numerous remains in the ancient geological deposits; and though we have not the means of distinguishing the species, we have ample evidence for determining the type.
This combination of higher with lower features in the earlier organic forms is very striking, and becomes still more significant when we find that many of the later types recall the more ancient ones. I have called these more comprehensive groups of former times, combining characters of different classes, synthetic or prophetic types; and we might as fitly give the name of retrospective types to many of the later groups, for they recall the past, as the former anticipate the future. And it is not only among the Fishes and the Reptiles that we find these combinations. The most numerous of the ancient Radiates are the Acalephlan Corals, combining, in the Hydroid form, the Polyp-like mode of life, habits, and general appearance with the structure of Acalephs. The Crinoids, with the closed cups in some, and the open, star-like crowns in others, unite features of the present Star-Fishes and Sea-Urchins, and, by their stem attaching them to the ground, include also a Polyp-like character; while the Trilobites, with their uniform rings and their prominent anterior shield, unite characters of Worms and Crustacea.
These early types seem to sketch in broad, general characters the Creative purpose, and to include in the first average expression of the plan all its structural possibilities. The Crinoid forms include the thought of the modern Star-Fishes and Sea-Urchins; the simple chambered shells of the Silurian anticipate the more complicated structure of the later ones; the Trilobites give the most comprehensive expression of the Articulate type; while the early Fishes not only prophesy the Reptiles which are to come, but also hint at Birds and even at Mammalia by their embryonic development and their mode of reproduction.
Looked at from this point of view, the animal world is an intellectual Creation, complete in all its parts, and coherent throughout; and when we find, that, although these ancient types have become obsolete and been replaced by modern ones, yet there are always a few old-fashioned individuals, left behind, as it were, to give the key to the history of their race, as the Gar-Pike, for instance, to explain the ancient Fishes, the Millepore to explain the old Acalephian Corals, the Nautilus to be the modern exponent of the Ammonites and Orthoceratites of past times, we cannot avoid the impression that this Creative work has been intended also to be educational for Man, and to teach him his own relation to the organic world. The embryology of the modern types confirms this idea, for here we find an epitome of their geological history. The embryo of the present Star-Fishes recalls the Crinoids; the embryo of the Crab recalls the Trilobites; the embryo of the Vertebrates, including even that of the higher Mammalia, recalls the ancient Fishes. Does not this fact, that the individual animal in its growth recalls the history of its type, prove that the Creative Thought in its immediate present action embraces all that has gone before, as its first organic expression included all that was to come? The study of Nature in its highest meaning shows us the present doubly rich with all the past, and the past linked and interwoven with the present, not lying divorced and dead behind it.
I have spoken of the Silurian beach as if there were but one, not only because I wished to limit my sketch, and to attempt at least to give it the vividness of a special locality, but also because a single such shore will give us as good an idea of the characteristic fauna of the time as if we drew our material from a wider range. There are, however, a great number of parallel ridges belonging to the Silurian and Devonian periods, running from east to west, not only through the State of New York, but far beyond, through the States of Michigan and Wisconsin into Minnesota; one may follow nine or ten such successive shores in unbroken lines, from the neighborhood of Lake Champlain to the Far West. They have all the irregularities of modern sea-shores, running up to form little bays here, and jutting out in promontories there; and upon each one are found animals of the same kind, but differing in species from those of the preceding.
Although the early geological periods are more legible in North America, because they are exposed over such extensive tracts of land, yet they have been studied in many other parts of the globe. In Norway, in Germany, in France, in Russia, in Siberia, in Kamtchatka, in parts of South America, in short, wherever the civilization of the white race has extended, Silurian deposits have been observed, and everywhere they bear the same testimony to a profuse and varied creation. The earth was teeming then with life as now, and in whatever corner of its surface the geologist finds the old strata, they hold a dead fauna as numerous as that which lives and moves above it. Nor do we find that there was any gradual increase or decrease of any organic forms at the beginning and close of the successive periods. On the contrary, the opening scenes of every chapter in the world's history have been crowded with life, and its last leaves as full and varied as its first.
I think the impression that the faunae of the early geological periods were more scanty than those of later times arises partly from the fact that the present creation is made a standard of comparison for all preceding creations. Of course, the collections of living types in any museum must be more numerous than those of fossil forms, for the simple reason that almost the whole of the present surface of the earth, with the animals and plants inhabiting it, is known to us, whereas the deposits of the Silurian and Devonian periods are exposed to view only over comparatively limited tracts and in disconnected regions. But let us compare a given extent of Silurian or Devonian sea-shore with an equal extent of sea-shore belonging to our own time, and we shall soon be convinced that the one is as populous as the other. On the New-England coast there are about one hundred and fifty different kinds of fishes, in the Gulf of Mexico two hundred and fifty, in the Red Sea about the same. We may allow in present times an average of two hundred or two hundred and fifty different kinds of fishes to an extent of ocean covering about four hundred miles. Now I have made a special study of the Devonian rocks of Northern Europe, in the Baltic and along the shore of the German Ocean. I have found in those deposits alone one hundred and ten kinds of fossil fishes. To judge of the total number of species belonging to those early ages by the number known to exist now is about as reasonable as to infer that because Aristotle, familiar only with the waters of Greece, recorded less than three hundred kinds of fishes in his limited fishing-ground, therefore these were all the fishes then living. The fishing-ground of the geologist in the Silurian and Devonian periods is even more circumscribed than his, and belongs, besides, not to a living, but to a dead world, far more difficult to decipher.
But the sciences of Geology and Palaeontology are making such rapid progress, now that they go hand in hand, that our familiarity with past creations is daily increasing. We know already that extinct animals exist all over the world: heaped together under the snows of Siberia,—lying thick beneath the Indian soil,—found wherever English settlers till the ground or work the mines of Australia,—figured in the old Encyclopaedias of China, where the Chinese philosophers have drawn them with the accuracy of their nation,—built into the most beautiful temples of classic lands, for even the stones of the Parthenon are full of the fragments of these old fossils, and if any chance had directed the attention of Aristotle towards them, the science of Palaeontology would not have waited for its founder till Cuvier was born,—in short, in every corner of the earth where the investigations of civilized men have penetrated, from the Arctic to Patagonia and the Cape of Good Hope, these relics tell us of successive populations lying far behind our own, and belonging to distinct periods of the world's history.
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In my next article I shall give some account of the marshes and forests of the Carboniferous age, with their characteristic vegetation and inhabitants.
Pale water-flowers, That quiver in the quick turn of the brook, And thou, dim nook,— Dimmer in twilight,—call again to me Visions of life and glory that were ours, When first she led me here, young Coralie!
No longer blest, Yet standing here in silence, may not we Fancy or feign That little flowers do fall about thy rest In silver mist and tender-dropping rain, And that thy world is peace, loved Coralie?
Our friendships flee, And, darkening all things with her mighty shade, Comes Misery. No longer look the faces that we see, With the old eyes; and Woe itself shall fade, Nor even this be left us, Coralie!
Feelings and fears That once were ours have perished in the mould, And grief is cold: Hearts may be dead to grief; and if our tears Are failing or forgetful, there will be Mourners about thy bed, lost Coralie!
The brook-flowers shine, And a faint song the falling water has,— But not for thee! The dull night weepeth, and the sorrowing pine Drops his dead hair upon thy young grave-grass, My Coralie! my Coralie!
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I took from its glass a flower, To lay on her grave with dull accusing tears; But the heart of the flower fell out as I handled the rose, And my heart is shattered, and soon will wither away.
I watch the changing shadows, And the patch of windy sunshine upon the hill, And the long blue woods; and a grief no tongue can tell Breaks at my eyes in drops of bitter rain.
I hear her baby-wagon, And the little wheels go over my heart; Oh, when will the light of the darkened house return? Oh, when will she come who made the hills so fair?
I sit by the parlor-window, When twilight deepens, and winds get cold without; But the blessed feet no more come up the walk, And my little girl and I cry softly together.
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SOJOURNER TRUTH, THE LIBYAN SIBYL.
Many years ago, the few readers of radical Abolitionist papers must often have seen the singular name of Sojourner Truth, announced as a frequent speaker at Anti-Slavery meetings, and as travelling on a sort of self-appointed agency through the country. I had myself often remarked the name, but never met the individual. On one occasion, when our house was filled with company, several eminent clergymen being our guests, notice was brought up to me that Sojourner Truth was below, and requested an interview. Knowing nothing of her but her singular name, I went down, prepared to make the interview short, as the pressure of many other engagements demanded.