Virginia Georgics, by Charles Carter Lee, Part III

Virginia Georgics,






The angels visit now no more this world,
No heavenly pinions on its hills are furled—
Yet we may fancy how ’twould strike their view,
Compared with times when erst its face they knew.
    A little planet with a moon to play
Around her as she walks the solar way,
And on her regions shaded by the night
To peep, and from her crescent sprinkle light,
Now they would see exactly as of yore,
From the high empyrean’s star-veiled door.
When this magnificent veil aside was thrust,
And passed the Milky Highway’s stellar dust,
And to Orion’s belted glories come,
Where his dog, Syrius, has his glorious home.
There where the Earth and Moon in May charms melt,
As they wheel by the sign of the Sword and Belt,
Though so much nearer, yet the angel eyes
Would see them as when first they graced the skies;
Still nearer borne, the oceans would appear,
Their silver azured by the atmosphere—
And next the mountain-girdled land they’d see,
Majestic with its ocean drapery,
And turbaned snows, incrusted gem on gem
Of ice, for its eternal diadem.
Still nearer wafted on their wings, the earth
Would to their heavenly ken reveal the birth
Of all things in the sea and on the land,
And those which in the air their wings expand;
Then they’d behold the dolphins in their glee,
And whales to spouting fountains turn the sea;
Then would they see majestic in their tread,
The earth with noble creatures overspread
Much as of yore; and the gay-flitting things,
That charm the world with song and painted wings,
And spend their lives in love and in the chase,
The sport and envy of the human race—
These, save in lessened numbers, they would find,
As in their earliest visits to mankind.
    But these, the objects of the heavenly care,
Which sent the angels from the starry sphere,
How would they find them now with those compared
Who first the earth among their races shared
What progress have they made their lives to bless
In virtue, arts, and chiefly happiness?
Are heroes now more than Achilles brave,
Or more than Paulus would their country save?
Do modern conquerors more with love enchain us,
For their high souls, than Scipio Africanus?
Doth earth a nobler, tenderer couple see
Now, than were Hector and Andromache?
And friendships—do our modern histories name one
Firmer than that of Pythias and Damon?
Of happy lives—are any happier read
Than that Alcinous and Areta led?
And of what family now can we say this is
In well tried worth beyond that of Ulysses?
    Save through what Christianity imparts
To soften the hard grain of human hearts,
Man is but little happier or better
Than when Bellerophon bore the treacherous letter;
This I maintain, not fearing who may maul me,
With extracts from the volumes of Macaulay.
Though most to praise, yet to dispraise him some tug,
And say his sparkling page is touched with humbug.
Me to say aught ’gainst what’s so grand it bothers,
But, may-be, he may make mistakes like others.
To a friend* in our own land he hath lately written
How much his heart with joy is daily smitten:
That to his Library his footsteps pass
Across a little plot of his own grass.
O, how I wish that a grand Western prairie
Were spread before his door to charm him daily.
But why? That library with knowledge rife
Stands by his grass-plot like “the tree of life,”
High, eminent, blooming ambrosial fruit
“Of vegetable gold.” It best doth suit
Him to be near its branches, to be able
To feed the world with fruits imperishable.
He may be sure, however nobly looks
This out-door world, he’s better at his books.
    The arts, ’tis true, have wondrous progress made;
But why? To fill the void of what’s decayed.
And what doth science but supply the wants
Made by itself for which the spirit pants?
When she informs us how the heavens are high,
She but removes us further from the sky.
In the old time of man and angels’ love,
The bright-winged beings seemed not far above,
They came down in the morn, and towards eve,
After repast and converse, took their leave;
Now it must take their wings, though swift as light,
Two thousand years to fly from Sirius’ height.
    The system of the Maker of realms and nations,
Is one of justice, that is, compensations;
A loser here, you are a gainer there,
And when the balances are struck all’s square.
Of course I speak not of particular cases,
But the great averages of the great races.
    So of the arts, their progress but supplies,
As they increase on us, necessities.
When men were few, and all things else abundant,
The service of the horse had been redundant—
He was not worth the trouble, first of taking,
And next, of the far greater trouble, breaking;
So late to avarice did he wake enchantment
That he’s not mentioned in the tenth commandment,
Which, while it tells us not to covet asses
Nor oxen, o’er the horse neglectful passes.
    But when the families had spread afar,
And children wished to visit their papa—
And pride began to play her pompous card,
They thought the ass went slow, the camel hard,
So for these first necessities they fain
Would mount the new one with the flowing mane.
And honor crowned the first horse-tamer’s brow,
As engineers and electricians now.
Indeed the horse is said, down to this hour,
To furnish man with his best animal power,
For in the plough, the chariot, or the course,
In peace or war, there’s nothing like the horse.
Whence he first sprung no histories contain—
We meet him first on Egypt’s wondrous plain;
In the great famine, to supply their losses
Of grain, the people sold to Joseph horses—
And when his father would be buried far
From Egypt, in the cave of Machpelah,
Where Abraham, Isaac and Rebekah slept,
And where at Leah’s burial he had wept,
The pious son there bore the patriarch’s corse
In solemn pomp of chariot and of horse.
    And Thebes, the empress of a hundred States,
Which poured her soldiers through a hundred gates,
Sent through each portal to her glorious wars,
Two hundred heroes with their steeds and cars.
Now through the world, his merit fully known,
He serves alike the cottage and the throne.
    How beauteous horses in their natural state!
Fiery and wild, but yet affectionate:
Howe’er their numbers dwindle or increase,
They live together in perpetual peace—
In social love they share the food they have,
Their only strife who first shall danger brave,
Who foremost down the precipice shall leap,
Or stem the foaming torrent wild and deep.
    But full of courage and of strength they stoop,
Obedient to the leader of the troop.
They know, as would all know within these lands,
Their safety only with their union stands:
A secret instinct teaches them to know
His orders, and by these they ever go—
By these, when danger comes, the strongest form
Around the mares and foals, to brave its storm,
And the assailing foe directly reels
Beneath the fatal battery of their heels.
And sometimes when the lions come they close
In solid column to destroy these foes,
Upon them rush and tramp them to the ground,
And drown their roarings with the thunder’s sound.
How glorious is the flickering of their manes
While sweeping thus o’er their old Scythian plains,
Or, on their foes in larger masses hurled
O’er their fresh pastures in the Western world!
No tossing surges such a sight could be
As this bright whirlwind of wild cavalry.
    But to the powers which God in man implants,
What’s that of tigers, lions, elephants?
He came to the wild horse, his whirlwinds broke,
His thunders tamed, and bowed him to his yoke;
The docile, generous creature, altered then
His habits, to subserve the wants of men,
His nature bowed from his primeval end,
To his great master to be slave and friend.
    Behold him now upon our wasted lands,
How high in bone, how low in flesh he stands!
Sore-backed perhaps, his lofty pride appalled,
His breast with collar, rump with breech-bands galled,
With scarce of his original self one trace,
The measure of gratitude in the human race!
    O, God! can we, thy children, be forgiven,
While we beseech thee, as our Father in Heaven,
To give us daily bread, and to forgive
The trespasses in which we daily live,
For thus abusing what thy bounty grants
In such a noble creature to our wants?
    Yet such a horse appropriately stands
A wasted monument of wasted lands;
Galled like the hills, poor as the valleys by him,
And joy to naught but buzzards as they eye him.
    A Yankee among us, where a crowd was gathered
And grouped around their wretched ponies tethered,
Remarked: “I guess there’s a horse factory about here.”
“I reckon in your guess you are rather out there,”
Some one replied; “what put that in your brains?”
Wull, I thought so from all these here horse frames.”
A pretty good reproof this Yankee gave us,
From long deserving which humanity save us!
    O, with what gladness would I write this verse
Could it engender kindness for the horse!
Our friend, our servant, our clear children’s joy,
Who helps us to produce, preserve, destroy,
Who to our wishes yields unbounded sway,
And often rather dies than disobey!
    Brave, faithful creature! ’tis not strange the whims
Of Swift placed man beneath his hu-hu-hyms!
Mankind are heathens, hating one another,
While horses, like true Christians, love each other.
    But our poor lands impoverish men, and they
Can’t help themselves, and the poor horses pay:
Thus I return to my song’s burden, which
Is, till no land unless to have it rich,
But in this tillage you must choose if you’ll
Chiefly adopt the ox, or horse, or mule,
    I’m pleased to recollect that General Mason
Was kind enough his friendship me to place on;
He was a son of our great George the Second,
For none with the “Old Horse”* can e’er be reckon’d,
And these great Georges neighbours were, and friends,
And strove in concert for mankind’s true ends.
The second equalled not the first in fights,
But was chief author of the Bill of Rights—
A farmer he was, too, but I must avow
More eminent with the pen than with the plough;
Through him this son was early introduced
To our realm’s men most praised and most abused,
Had shaken hands with all our Chiefs of State,
And dined at President Jefferson’s “dinners of eight”
Habitually, and after dinner would go back
To his own beauteous isle in the Potomac.
In its sweet walks, far from their foreign home,
Illustrious guests did often love to roam;
And the last King of France returned his thanks
For pleasures gathered on its flowery banks—
On his high throne he thought of his exile,
And how ’twas softened in that fairy isle.
    The General ’mid his city life, so charming,
And cares more lucrative, was fond of farming.
And ’mid the sparkling of the glasses, poured
Full of glad wine around his generous board,
The conversation he would often turn
On how the farm could best its profits earn.
He told me it was oft asserted then,
By the most eminent New England men,
That their sea-coast, when settled, was too poor
The expensive labour of the horse to endure,
And that without the ox’s cheaper toil,
The white man ne’er had flourished on its soil.
In short, without the labours of the ox,
We ne’er had Yankee notions known, nor clocks;
This animal so slow bath from that clime
To all the nations measured precious time.
If so, the glory of Bunker’s Hill, so dear,
We owe to the cheap labour of the steer,
And all the blessings on New England’s rocks,
So firmly based, come from the labouring ox.
    These inferences, more curious than wise.
May be; but great from little things arise,
As we learned from our school hooks long ago,
When taught what oaks from little acorns grow,
And what great rivers from small fountains flow.
    The horse likewise, except to serve the king
In Palestine, was a forbidden thing;
His labour was too costly for the soil,
The Kaisi cattle furnished cheaper toil.
    These are illustrious teachings, strongly in favour
Of having on the farm the cheapest labour,
And when the toiling ox and horse comparing
In price, in food, in housing, and in gearing,
And the unloading of the cart and wagon,
I say, stick to the steers, though slow they drag on,
For where the distances are not too long,
The ox is best; for if not swift he’s strong.
    The best plantation on the yellow, curly
James River, ’tis confessed, is sweet old Shirley;
’Tis just below Curl’s Neck, and when you wheel,
An almost full ellipse about Presqu’isle,
There old Charles Carter lived as good a man
As the sun saw in his diurnal span;
Many remote estates supplied his purses,
And Shirley food for his and his guests’ horses.
His grandson from it by his tillage gets
Almost as much as from his vast estates
His grandsire earned; but then in those old times
There was more worth in dollars and in dimes,
And shall I say in men? I dare not say so—
In the Republic better men must grow
Than those in the Colonial vassalage born,
Save he and his compeers, George Washington,
Who, when oppression came, its sceptre broke,
And never bowed to any human yoke.
    Well, at this long-loved place, where my grand-mother
Me with her hallowed kisses used to smother,
I was one summer, while they were threshing wheat,
And teams of beeves continually I’d meet
Hauling their precious loads to the machine,
Which threshed and fanned four hundred bushels clean,
And often more each day; and I remarked
Upon the quantity of oxen worked,—
When ’twas replied—this labour costs us naught
Except to break the steers; for they are brought
As well to beeves, when they are gently broke,
As if their necks had never known the yoke;
And thus we raise at once for market meat,
And teams, in rainy times to save our wheat.
Here is a lesson additional, wherein
It seems well worth the while to stick a pin.
    But there is animal labour on the farm
Which oxen cannot half so well perform
As mules or horses, and ’twill often bother.
When we should choose the one and when the other.
    The mule is toughest and can better stand
The rougher usage of the negro’s hand.
His food costs less, for he requires less corn,
And thrives on herbage which the horses scorn.
He better too can bear our summer’s sun,
And his to twice a horse’s age is spun—
A truth that’s obvious to all his seers,
His head being crowned with twice a horse’s ears.
But his first cost is greater, and the trouble
Of raising him upon our farms is double.
He’s full of whims, too, as an egg of meat,
Which out of him you cannot wax or beat.
And a sad consequence of his obstinacy
Is, that it tempts to useless cruelty;
For vain is human rage a mule to daunt,
For just the more you will the more he won’t;
This temper creates waste, besides the broil
Which breaks the harmony that eases toil;
And from the labouring team the care removes
The teamster gives to animals he loves.
Nor as he grows in age grows he in grace,
But sinks in sullenness to a snail’s pace.
    And yet his independence has its charm,
And obstinacy is his shield from harm.
For all the impulses of nature tend,
Though sometimes hard to see, to some good end;
And how the mule exactly for his duties
Was formed, is one of Nature’s endless beauties.
Considering his longevity, toughness, rations,
He’s better for the work of large plantations;
But on small farms I deem the better course
Is for us both to use and raise the horse.
    Where beneath burning suns his days are sped,
’Tis best to have him nearly thorough-bred;
His nostril must be ample to inhale
All that is freshening in the gentlest gale;
For through his mouth, unlike the ox, or man,
Or almost all earth’s lofty creatures, can
The horse inhale naught that the ether grants
To cool his heated body as it pants.
Besides longevity, endurance, spirit,
Give to the thorough-breds superior merit;
And for the saddle, battle, or the chase,
And above all for the time-honoured race,
’Twere folly to expend our grain or purses
On any but the highest breed of horses,
Unless a pacing pony for the case
Of the old man, or little boy to please.
    The objection to this stock is want of size
For draught, especially where hills are highest.
And this to overcome the better way is,
Perhaps, to cross them with the Cleveland Bays.
If lighter weight will do, the better cross is
Of thorough-bred with stout Canadian horses,
These are long-lived and active, strong and hearty,
And “go it on the plank road in two-forty.”
    But ’tis in vain of horses, cattle, sheep,
Or hogs, to choose what stock ’tis best to keep,
Unless you hack your cost and care in buying,
With equal care in keeping and supplying.
I’ve heard old farmers said in “auld fang syne,”
There was more in the breed of corn than swine,
By which they meant, a greater point in breeding,
Than choosing first-rate stocks, was first-rate feeding,
And this is true, and ’tis as great a truth,
This feeding’s most important in their youth.
    This is not doubted by the largely wise,
For ’tis a teaching from the illumined skies;
’Tis Nature’s law, the tenderer the age
The more the young the mother’s care engage.
The buffalo cow to save her newly horn,
Will in her generous rage the lion horn;
And Livingstone tells, superior than to fear,
He hath known her toss the savage in the air.
The gentlest animals around our path
We see maternal care arouse to wrath.
The careful parent never should allow
His child to touch the new-born of the cow.
While wandering near her nest with careless course,
I’ve seen a bird attack a grazing horse,
And even heavenly love its care expressed,
By a hen’s hovering chickens at her breast;
And why was this anxiety bestowed?
Why bears the mother’s breast the tender load?
Because without it ’twas foreseen on high
The tender young must languish and might die.
Man intervenes and brings them from the haunts
Prepared by Providence to supply their wants;
And would he have them multiply and grow
As in their natural state, he must bestow
Such care as was supplied to them or given
In their own wilds beneath the smile of heaven;
E’en with a mother’s care, to have them strong,
Healthy and large, must cherish them while young.
    A saying, compressed into a proverb’s span,
Is, that “the child is father to the man.”
To reach this truth, the steps if nicely piled
Would be, the infant’s father to the child,
The child to the boy, the boy to youth’s bright span,
Whose beauteous bloom is ripened into man;
And as the fruit’s affected by the flower,
So is the man by childhood’s dawning hour.
’Tis even so with the immortal part,
The soul and the affections of the heart,
These with the body, where their glories dwell,
Feel of a law analogous the spell.
The spirit bruised in youth, matured is sad,
A happy childhood makes a manhood glad;
A body, starved and languishing when young,
Matured is dwarfish and its nerves unstrung.
’Tis more so with the lower beings of earth,
Which have no souls to triumph o’er the dearth
Of what their nature needs, but live and die
In strict accordance with that needs supply.
The steps are obvious in their short career—
The calf to the yearling’s father, he to the steer;
The scanty food, the freezing blast which shocks
The weanling’s constitution blights the ox—
A high-boned, big-horned, meagre, wretched thing,
And the doomed victim of the first hard spring;
Thus cold neglect by painful loss is paid,
Nay, at the door of cruelty is laid.
And he whose soul to generous feeling nice is,
Should shun all taint of this, the worst of vices;
For cruelty to man, or beast, or bird,
By act, neglect, and, to man, e’en by word,
Is most abhorred in every Christian region,
As most abhorrent to the true religion.
Then have a father’s care for all you own,
And to the youngest be it tenderest shone,
’Tis thus the ways of God on earth we see,
Who said, “let little children come to me.”
    In great Creation’s plan a striking feature
Is found in the analogies of Nature;
Its fair, its infinite variety springs
From endless combinations of few things.*
The changes in the length of nights and days,
And of the seasons, which the year displays,
Come from the plane of the Equator’s wrangles
With the Ecliptic, which it cuts at angles.
From a few minerals and still fewer gasses
Come all the treasures which the earth amasses
Under the genial influence of the sun
And moon, that circles round her as they run.
To rule his wonders the Creator draws,
’Twould seem, around them few and simple laws;
But two maintain the balance of the skies,
One that attracts and one away that flies.
To govern all the conduct of all men,
In every phase of life, there were but ten,
Until the new commandment from above
Blended the whole in the sweet law of love.
And so all things that have the varied life,
With which the air, the earth, the ocean’s rife,
Have laws analogous, and each supplies
Similitudes for each that fall and rise,
The Psalmist likens man in bliss’s dreams
To some fair tree whose life is fed by streams:
’Twas said by Horsier, rhapsodist of Greece,
Whose honors as the ages roll increase,
And who, as civilization’s Hag’s unfurled,
Will triumph more and more to the end of the world:
“Like leaves on trees the race of man is found,
Now green in youth, now withering in the ground,
Another spring another race supplies,
They fall successive and successive rise.”
And Milton said the emblem of the curls
In Eve’s bright hair, as ’tis in our sweet girls,
Was found in the vine’s tendrils, which foreshow
They must rest on supports that stronger grow,
But rule in truth, while seeming to obey,
*“With sweet, reluctant, amorous delay.”
And Shakespeare, when a mother’s tears were dropped,
Lest her boy’s life should in its bud be nipped,
Let from her lips in aching rapture burst—
“In Nature’s gifts thou may’st with lilies boast,
And with the half-blown rose;” for nothing meeter
Than these could paint youth’s charms, nor nothing sweeter.
    And tears are likened unto dews and pearls,
And unto hyacinths fresh clustering curls;
And grace in springing girls to waving bowers,
And beauty in its sweetest bloom to flowers.
And as attained their charms resembling glow,
So are the laws alike by which they grow.
From the twig’s growth the tree must take its span,
Just as the child is father to the man.
From the young sprouts the cereals have their size,
Just as the full-grown sheep from lambs arise;
And the good farmer care and culture grants,
Almost alike to animals and plants;
His skill to both alike applies the truth,
The tenderest care must be bestowed in youth.
    As for the yeanling ewes must be prepared
Succulent food and a well sheltered yard,
That the young lambs abundant food may draw,
And sleep in comfort on their beds of straw;
So must the tender plants have beds deep-tilled,
With food prepared for their young rootlets filled,
Cleansed of each parasital grass and weed,
Which rob those rootlets of the food they need.
And when thus well prepared for seed thick-strewn,
As wheat and barley, rye and oats are sown,
The cereals on the weeds such start will gain,
That they will be the sovereigns of the plain.
But give the land not half the work it needs,
Nor half the food required for their seeds,
And the cereals will be routed by the weeds.
    But when you sow, as you should, roots in drills,
And plant your corn in furrows or in hills,
The space between will give the weeds a way
To invade your plants; and hence without delay
You must attack them. In destroying pests,
Weeds, briars, or whate’er your fields infests,
Of the truth of the old adage you may be sure,
“An ounce of prevention’s worth a pound of cure.”
    In this connection, science is at fault
How far a fertilizer’s found in salt,
And how it may be used to kill the weeds
That rob the crop which this manure precedes.
My own conjecture is, though rather loose,
This mineral may have a double use;
Judiciously applied ’twill be a prize for
Killing out weeds, and as a fertilizer,
But nice experiment must furnish this test,
For so far as is known, sub judice lis est.
We know, for plants whose origin is marine,
Salt is manure, and keeps the culture clean;
We know, that as to cereals, it creates
Food for them by dissolving silicates,
We know, if quantities too large we apply
To vegetation, root and branch will die,
And from these facts ’twould seem that we might gain
In salt, a cleanser and manure for grain.
I urge the experiment on every man
Of the Hole and Corner Club of Powhatan.
Let no one be before us in the knowledge
Of such a lesson for the farmer’s College.
But while this learning ’s being obtained let’s practice
Upon what in good farming a great fact is,
That crops should all be safe by deep, clean tillage,
From having their earliest sprouts exposed to pillage;
Accomplish this, each plant then onward speeds,
And laughs, helped by light working, at the weeds.
The corn will shoot its tassels to the sky,
And abject at its feet its enemies lie.
    And of the cereals which our farms adorn,
Naught is magnificent as a field of corn:
In April planted, scarce a fortnight shines
Ere the ploughed land it streaks with verdant lines,
Before the moon of May hath filled her horns,
Not waving wheat the landscape more adorns—
June on the season as she warmer breathes
O’er all the field, its glittering blades unsheathes—
When the midsummer’s sun is flaming high,
Its tasseled head it tosses to the sky,
And at its ample bosom, filled with milk,
Its babies grow beneath their crowns of silk.
    But if the beauty of this noble field
Enchant the fancy much more doth its yield
The understanding captivate; for born
Of earth is nothing valuable as corn
For food for man, and beast, and bird—of course
I mean those for the farm and poultry house.
    Not only of grains is it the most nutritious,
And of all vegetables the most delicious,
But ’tis so quickly and in such variety
Of methods cooked, it ne’er creates satiety.
    The roasting-ear may on the cob be toasted,
Or in its green shuck in the ashes roasted,
Boiled on the cob it may from that be eaten,
Or, grated from it, into batter beaten,
And into pudding baked; or if you wish,
Shave the boiled grains into a covered dish,
With salt and butter; but the way that’s sweeten
Is eaten from the cob, though not the neatest.
    Then as a winter vegetable, beaten
To hominy, and thoroughly boiled, it’s eaten
The day ’tis cooked—the next day ’tis supplied
Conveniently, and for variety fried.
Or you may grind it—as is clone most commonly
In South Carolina—when ’tis called small hominy;
Being reduced to grains the size of rice,
And dressed like that is, it is quite as nice.
    *Parched, even on the ear, this prince of grains
For weeks, for months, the life of man sustains:
In its next rudest state, (when not a mill near ’s,)
Pounded ’tis prized in Mexican tertillas;
Its simplest and perhaps best form we bake
Covered with ashes—that’s the famed ash cake:
Next hoc-cakes, not upon cast-iron moulds,
But on old thin-worn hoes, placed on bright coals;
Then comes the tribe of pones; and I most prize
Those made up over night and set to rise;
Then dumplings, and mush, which’s such a good thing
The Yankees think, they call it hasty pudding.
But to mush-cakes my praises most I make fast,
For ’twas great Washington’s favourite bread for breakfast.
The Johnny-cake must not be overlooked—
Spread on a board and toasted there ’tis cooked.
Last come the crowning batter-breads, but made
Elaborately—milk and eggs must aid,
And butter and flour, and a deal of beating,
To make them for our breakfasts the best eating.
    I’ve often wished, when seeing them in glory here,
I could send some to the sweet Queen Victoria
As rapidly as messages are able
To travel now, to her fine breakfast table.
I think her Majesty would hail the measure,
And say her morning meal had a new pleasure.
    And to afford her pleasure much ’twould please
All virtuous people this side of the seas
Where she hath lieges, not as England’s Queen,
But on that higher throne where she is seen
Surrounded by that homage which she nurtures
In the best hearts, as the crowned Queen of the virtues.
    And should her royal table boast corn-bread,
A taste for it might through all Europe spread:
And it sets a kind heart almost to bleeding
To hear of labouring people mainly feeding
On oats, potatoes, chesnuts, when they might
On pones and hoe-cakes take their daily bite,
Like our labourers; even though no meat
And greens, nor fish, nor eggs, like them they eat,
Nor on a Sunday, fowl, which our blacks raise,
Cooked to a turn an epicure might praise.
This is not strange, though so at first it looks,
Considering Who sends meat and who sends cooks.
    Since science now her greatest work hath done,
And shows us something new beneath the sun—
The lightning’s wondrous swiftness trained to motion,
Which carries whispers through the Atlantic ocean.
And thus triumphant o’er time, space and mischance,
Bath brought the two world’s within speaking distance
Let’s hope their social intercourse will spread
So as to teach the merits of corn-bread;
’Twould be a work (tho’ some at the idea may laugh,)
Worthy the glory of the Telegraph;
For wiser advice its wires cannot give
Than how the poor may best and cheapest live:
Here ’tis well known that corn such food supplies,
And so it might beneath all temperate skies.
    I’ve heard, less fame to Dr. Franklin’s given
In France for drawing lightning down from heaven.
(Though Mirabeau’s eulogium so grand is,
Eripuit fulmen cœlo, sceptrumque tyrannis,)
Than he receives from having carried there
The culture of potatoes, pommes de terre.
    Now Cobbett says potatoes are a curse,
For as a nation’s food none can be worse,
And when that fails there’s nothing to fall back on,
And pale-faced Famine brings her dread attack oil.
But where you’ve corn you may have corn-field peas,
And ’twixt the rows potatoes if you please;
The last is common in that cutest clime,
Whence Yankee clocks to nations measure time.
Make the land rich, nor insect pests, nor hail,
Nor scarcely drought can make the three crops fail;
And thus though there be “cleanness of the teeth,”*
Famine will come not with her brother death.
Now if the lightning, first from heaven drawn
By Franklin, first should make the use of corn
Common in the old world, why, would’nt it be
A charming touch of heavenly harmony,
For flame from heaven first to the new world drawn,
Would spread to the old its greatest treasure, corn?
    Cherish this best of plants to feed and enrich us,
Whose very shucks and stalks and cobs are precious;
Whose grain enables labour best to toil,
And offal ’s best for stock and for the soil.
    The “Rand des Vaches,” the gentle tune that tells
Of the cows corning home with tinkling bells,
They say make Switzers, by the fairest fountains,
Of foreign lands, die for their native mountains.
And I, if in a distant realm forlorn,
Should suddenly come upon a field of corn,
Each waving top, each flickering blade within there,
Would sigh, “O carry him back to old Virginia;”
And if impossible, or too long to start
For my first love of realms, ’twould break my heart.
    Long be her hills crowned with this finest of grains,
And its true treasures vivify her plains!—
Shooting so high on every stream’s low-ground
That their majestic elms appear half-drowned
In the green depths of the corn!—for then expand
The blessings of abundance o’er the land,
And pallid Want from the benignant clime
Flies with its train of miseries and crime.
    In my first chant I hinted, with your pardon,
I might bestow some rhymes on grounds and garden,—
The dwelling’s comforts and its fair surroundings—
But this cannot be now; for within soundings
Of the desired shore for which I pant,
(And you likewise) I’ve come,—that of this chant.
    The Proverb says*—”Prepare thy work without,
And afterwards build thine house.” I now have tried
To teach what to the field should be supplied,—
How the chief work therein should be prepared,—
What stock thereon be worked, and what be reared:
I next may properly, with your leave, be telling
Something about the garden, grounds and dwelling:
If I should tell it right, the tale will pay,
If wrong, pray set it right—and so good-day.


* The Hon. Edward Everett.

NOTE 1.—The well known soubriquet for the great Washington in his army.

NOTE 2.—The phenomena in Nature, said La Place, are merely the mathematical results of a few immutable laws.

NOTE 3.—Pope adopted this line in the Odyssey, unable to resist its beauty. How could I resist it?

NOTE 4.—See Kendall’s Narrative of his march as a prisoner from Santa Fee to the city of Mexico.

NOTE 5.—The Scripture phrase for scarcity.

NOTE 6.—Prov. Solomon, xxiv—27.

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