Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thoreau 2

From Walden, "The Bean Fields"
"This further experience I also gained.  I said to myself, I will not plant beans and corn with so much industry another summer, but such seeds, if the seed is not lost, as sincerity, truth, simplicity, faith, innocence, and the like, and see if they will not grow in this soil, even with less toil and manurance, and sustain me, for surely it has not been exhausted for these crops.  Alas! I said this to myself; but now another summer is gone, and another, and another, and I am obliged to say to you, Reader, that the seeds which I planted, if indeed they were the seeds of those virtues, were wormeaten or had lost their vitality, and so did not come up."

"Ancient poetry and mythology suggest, at least, that husbandry was once a sacred art; but it is pursued with irreverent haste and heedlessness by us, our object being to have large farms and large crops merely.  We have no festival, nor procession, nor ceremony, not excepting our Cattle-shows and so called Thanksgivings, by which the farmer expresses a sense of the sacredness of his calling, or is reminded of its sacred origin.   It is the premium and the feast which tempt him.  He sacrifices not to Ceres and the Terrestrial Jove, but to the infernal Plutus rather.  By avarice and selfishness, and a groveling habit, from which none of us is free, of regarding the soil as property, or the means of acquiring property chiefly, the landscape is deformed, husbandry is degraded with us, and the farmer leads the meanest of lives.  He knows Nature but as a robber.  Cato says that the profits of agriculture are particularly pious or just (maximeque pius questus), and according to Varro the old Romans “called the same earth Mother and Ceres, and thought that they who cultivated it led a pious and useful life, and that they alone were left of the race of King Saturn.”
 “We are wont to forget that the sun looks on our cultivated fields and on the praries and forests without distinction.  They all reflect and absorb his rays alike, and the former make but a small part of the glorious picture which he beholds in his daily course.  In his view the earth is all equally cultivated like a garden.  Therefore we should receive the benefit of his light and heat with a corresponding trust and magnanimity.  What though I value the seed of these beans, and harvest that in the fall of the year?   This broad field which I have looked at so long looks not to me as the principal cultivator, but away from me to influences more genial to it, which water and make it green.  These beans have results which are not harvested by me.  Do they not grow for woodchucks partly?  The ear of wheat, (in Latin spica, obsoletely speca, from spe, hope,) should not be the only hope of the husbandman; its kernel or grain (granum, from gerendo, bearing) is not all that it bears.   How then can our harvest fail?  Shall I not rejoice also at the abundance of the weeds whose seeds are the granary of the birds?  It matters little comparatively whether the fields fill the farmer’s barns.  The true husbandman will cease from anxiety, as the squirrels manifest no concern whether the woods will bear chestnuts this year or not, and finish his labor with every day, relinquishing all claim to the produce of his fields, and sacrificing in his mind not only his first but his last fruits also.”

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