Page images
PDF
EPUB

corn during a breeze, with its forest of spikes bending to and and fro, and rolling, "like the waves of an immense ocean."

An equally wise precaution has been employed in the formation of the spike itself, in which the grains are ranged one above another, at equal distances, that the nourishment may be duly distributed; while the tunics of these grains are so formed, in correspondence with their position, as to ward off the injurious effects of the rain, and to mitigate the intense heat of the sunbeams, as well as the cold of the night breeze; thus preserving a grateful and genial temperature.

During the whole period of growth, the nourishing juices have been amply supplied from the root, and, being duly secreted, have been distributed to the various parts of the plant, as they were required, and especially to the spike, which has now acquired its useful farina. It is at length, however, necessary that the grain should ripen; and, for this purpose, the same wonder-working Hand, which so formed the plant as to cause it to imbibe its nourishment from the soil, now arrests the flow of that nourishment. The vegetative power has accomplished its task, by forming and perfecting the seed. The ducts which furnished channels to the juices through the stalk, no longer perform their office; the fibres of the plant become rigid; the grain hardens; the stem and the spike at once assume a golden hue,-thus indicating that the vital principle which sustained them has departed. The grain is ripe, and nothing now remains but that man should secure the prize which a bountiful Providence has awarded him.*

FIRST WEEK-SATURDAY.

HARVEST.

ALL who have been educated in the country, cherish very pleasing recollections of the operations of harvest.

* Spectacle de la Nature.-Dialogue xii.

It may not, however, be very easy to define this pleas

ure.

It is one of those emotions that are too subtile and too complicated to be readily analyzed. Every one feels and acknowledges it, yet, if we be asked whence it proceeds, we shall not, without a considerable effort of mind, find ourselves able to return an intelligent reply. It is easy to understand, indeed, why the serenity and brightness of the buoyant atmosphere, the beauty of the fields and woods, the richness of the golden crops, the bustle of business, should all serve to awaken in the mind an agreeable interest. There is something animating, too, in the reflection, that the employments of the harvest-field have been handed down from generation to generation, from time immemorial,—that they have, in fact, distinguished civilized man in temperate regions, during every age of the world; the same kinds of corn which now wave on our cultivated fields, having covered the valleys of Rome, of Greece, of Palestine, and of Egypt, in distant ages, and having been, in like manner, as in the present day, cut with the sickle, bound into sheaves, collected in shocks, and secured in barns. The many allusions, in Scripture, to these operations, give a kind of sacredness to the feelings connected with the season.

6

But the pleasure which fills every heart in the period of harvest, has a deeper and more recondite origin, and seems to be chiefly that of sympathy. In this respect it corresponds with the enjoyments of the hay-making season, alluded to in the Summer' volume. The labors of the agriculturist have been crowned with success. His fields teem with plenty. The golden crop yields its stores to replenish his granaries, and to be diffused over the land in food for man and beast. It is not the direct application of this consciousness to our own individual case, it is not the selfish feeling that we are to be benefited by this profusion, which gives rise to the purest ingredient in this enjoyment. The sentiment is of a more exalted, because of a benevolent nature. We regard the blessing as a common gift of a bountiful Providence ; and it is in sympathy with our fellows, more than in an exclusive sense of our own advantage, that the pleasura

[ocr errors]

ble emotion consists. The heart thus opened, is prepared for that social enjoyment, which we observed so remarkably diffused over whole bands of reapers, engaged in the same toilsome but healthful employment. The emotion spreads from heart to heart, and the animation which prevails, while the work proceeds, is not less an indication of gladness than the joke and song with which the welkin resounds, during the intervals of rest. Who can view the joy which sparkles in the eye, and bursts from the lips of the reaper, while he plies his daily task, and not acknowledge a beneficent Creator?

There is another kind of harvest, confined, however, in its locality, but still more picturesque than that of corn, and not less exhilarating to those who are engaged in it; I mean the hop-gathering. It is thus described by one who seems to be familiar with its details. "We cannot boast of our vineyards; but we question whether Italy itself can show a more beautiful or picturesque scene than an English hop-garden in picking-time. The hops, which have luxuriantly climbed to the very tops of their poles, hang on all sides their heavy heads of scaly flowers, in festoons and garlands, and the groups of pickers, seated in the open air beneath the clear lustre of an autumnal sky; age in its contentment, and youth in its joy; and the boys and girls who carry to them the poles, covered with all their nodding honors, may match, for objects of interest, the light forms and dark eyes of Italy. Kent, Sussex, and Worcestershire, are the counties most famous for the growth of hops. Considerable quantities, however, are cultivated in Nottinghamshire, and are known in commerce by the name of North Clay Hops."*

Were we to turn our eyes to other climates, it would be proper to notice the season of grape-gathering in the vine countries of Italy, France, and Spain, of which travellers and poets have spoken with so much interest; and in tropical regions, the period of cutting the sugarcane, and plucking the coffee; while various other opera

*Howitt's Book of the Seasons'-August.

tions would also fall to be described, such as the collecting of cotton from the plant on which it grows, and the securing of the rice and the millet; but this extension of the subject would lead us into details which must be omitted.

In the season of harvest, especially, we witness the triumphs of cultivation. Let us ascend the rising ground, and while we contemplate the animating scene, reflect on the human skill and labor which it displays. What a rich prospect is spread around us! how varied! how full of joy and hope! On one hand, the ripe grain falls under the hand of the reaper; on another, various shades of lighter and darker green mark the fields teeming with esculent roots. Yonder, again, the leguminous plants, which lately filled the air with their delicious odor, and delighted the eye with the gay profusion of their flowers, bend under the load of the stores wrapped up in their swollen capsules; and, in the sloping lawn where we stand, a verdant carpet is spread, still sprinkled here and there with a few lingering wild flowers, where the animals, destined for the use of man, find at once abundant food and soft repose. What a variety of overpowering, but most pleasing views, crowd upon the mind in the contemplation; views which all centre in a deep conviction that a Father's hand is here!

SECOND WEEK-SUNDAY.

THE STABILITY OF NATURE.

"WHILE the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease." Such was the promise made by the Creator to the awe-struck remnant who escaped from the destruction of the Deluge. It was a promise at once beneficent and seasonable. They had just witnessed a terrible and destructive deviation from that uni

formity of Nature to which they had been previously accustomed. It was natural in them to inquire, if, in future, that uniformity was to cease; if, for the sins of the guilty race of Adam, the renovated world in which they were to begin their new career on the tomb of the old, was to be less stable, less governed by known rules than heretofore; if, in short, the awful catastrophe, from which they had miraculously escaped, was to be the commencement of a new order of things, in which the immediate interference of the Almighty, to disturb the usual order of events, was henceforth to be frequent. The assurance they received, that no such change was intended, but that the world should continue as formerly, stable and uniform, and that the regular revolution of the seasons would be even more certain than ever, being secured by direct revelation, was of most material importance for the regulation of their future conduct as rational and moral agents.

In the Winter' volume, and towards the close of this, the reader will find some remarks on the doctrine of Providence, a subject which I do not mean at present to discuss. My object in this paper will be to show, that the government of rational beings requires the establishment of rigid and undeviating laws, and that, therefore, the existence of such laws, so far from disproving the superintending care of a paternal God, is just what might have been expected under His wise and beneficent administration.

Instead of entering into an abstract metaphysical argument on this subject, let us come at once to a practical view of it, and consider what would be the effect, were the seasons to be governed by laws not definite and precise. How would rational beings act under such circumstances? Would a man toil if he could not calculate, with some degree of certainty, on obtaining the reward of his industry? Would the farmer, for example, scatter the seed in the ground, if he did not expect that the rains of Spring would moisten it, that the sun of Summer would warm it, and that, by these genial influences, acting on a prolific soil, the grain would spring up and

IV.

4

X.

« PreviousContinue »