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The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 11, No. 66, April, 1863 online

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so much attention in the late World's Exhibition. Some years ago, when
visiting Rome, I related Sojourner's history to Mr. Story at a breakfast
at his house. Already had his mind begun to turn to Egypt in search of
a type of art which should represent a larger and more vigorous
development of nature than the cold elegance of Greek lines. His
glorious Cleopatra was then in process of evolution, and his mind was
working out the problem of her broadly developed nature, of all that
slumbering weight and fulness of passion with which this statue seems
charged, as a heavy thunder-cloud is charged with electricity.

The history of Sojourner Truth worked in his mind and led him into the
deeper recesses of the African nature, - those unexplored depths of being
and feeling, mighty and dark as the gigantic depths of tropical forests,
mysterious as the hidden rivers and mines of that burning continent
whose life-history is yet to be. A few days after, he told me that he
had conceived the idea of a statue which he should call the Libyan
Sibyl. Two years subsequently, I revisited Rome, and found the gorgeous
Cleopatra finished, a thing to marvel at, as the creation of a new style
of beauty, a new manner of art. Mr. Story requested me to come and
repeat to him the history of Sojourner Truth, saying that the conception
had never left him. I did so; and a day or two after, he showed me the
clay model of the Libyan Sibyl. I have never seen the marble statue; but
am told by those who have, that it was by far the most impressive work
of art at the Exhibition.

A notice of the two statues from the London "Athenaeum" must supply a
description which I cannot give.

"The Cleopatra and the Sibyl are seated, partly draped, with the
characteristic Egyptian gown, that gathers about the _torso_ and falls
freely around the limbs; the first is covered to the bosom, the second
bare to the hips. Queenly Cleopatra rests back against her chair in
meditative ease, leaning her cheek against one hand, whose elbow the
rail of the seat sustains; the other is outstretched upon her knee,
nipping its forefinger upon the thumb thoughtfully, as though some firm,
wilful purpose filled her brain, as it seems to set those luxurious
features to a smile as if the whole woman 'would.' Upon her head is
the coif, bearing in front the mystic _uraeus_, or twining basilisk of
sovereignty, while from its sides depend the wide Egyptian lappels, or
wings, that fall upon her shoulders. The _Sibilla Libica_ has crossed
her knees, - an action universally held amongst the ancients as
indicative of reticence or secrecy, and of power to bind. A
secret-keeping looking dame she is, in the full-bloom proportions of
ripe womanhood, wherein choosing to place his figure the sculptor has
deftly gone between the disputed point whether these women were blooming
and wise in youth, or deeply furrowed with age and burdened with the
knowledge of centuries, as Virgil, Livy, and Gellius say. Good artistic
example might be quoted on both sides. Her forward elbow is propped upon
one knee; and to keep her secrets closer, for this Libyan woman is the
closest of all the Sibyls, she rests her shut mouth upon one closed
palm, as if holding the African mystery deep in the brooding brain that
looks out through mournful, warning eyes, seen under the wide shade
of the strange horned (ammonite) crest, that bears the mystery of the
Tetragrammaton upon its upturned front. Over her full bosom, mother of
myriads as she was, hangs the same symbol. Her face has a Nubian cast,
her hair wavy and plaited, as is meet."

We hope to see the day when copies both of the Cleopatra and the Libyan
Sibyl shall adorn the Capitol at Washington.




AMERICAN HORTICULTURE.


Horticulture in the United States has, except in a commercial sense,
been subordinate to the pursuit of wealth. Before man can indulge in
objects of elegance and refinement, he must have secured the comforts of
life: the _utile_ must lead the _dulce_, a well-stocked kitchen-garden
precede the parterre. We have now, however, in the older sections of the
Union, at least, passed through the ordeal of a young nation: elegance
is following the plain and practical; the spacious mansion, with its
luxurious appurtenances, is succeeding the cottage, as this in turn
was the successor of the cabin. The perception of the picturesque is a
natural result of earlier steps in the path of refinement: man may build
from a vulgar ambition for distinction, but he seldom plants unless
prompted by love of Nature and elevated impulses. Lord Bacon, in his
essay "Of Gardens," says, "When ages grow to civility and elegancy, men
come to build stately sooner than to garden finely; as if gardening were
the greater perfection." A case which seems to confirm this position
occurs to us. The site of a noble building, erected for our Government,
was adorned by wide-spreading trees, the growth of generations, which,
after the building was completed, the architect cut down before his axe
could be arrested. On being reproached for his Vandalism, he retorted, -
"Trees may be seen everywhere, but such a Grecian portico as
that - where?"

Among a young people like ourselves, the nursery and the market-garden
hold prominent places in horticultural pursuits; the latter yields a
prompt return for the investment of capital and labor, and just in
proportion as demand increases, so will be the exertion to meet it. Thus
we find the markets of the cities amply supplied with every luxury of
fruit and vegetable: the seasons are anticipated by artificial means,
glass is brought into requisition, and the tables of the wealthy are
furnished with a profusion unknown to royalty in an earlier age.

The capacity of Americans to mould circumstances to themselves rather
than adapt themselves to circumstances, to remove obstacles, to
accomplish by the aid of machinery much that other peoples reach through
toil alone, has passed into a proverb: hence it need hardly cause
surprise, if unexampled success attend efforts at market-gardening,
bringing to the very doors of the comparatively poor vegetables and
fruits which in Europe are enjoyed only by the higher classes. As an
illustration, - where but in America are peaches planted by a single
individual by tens of thousands, and carried to market on steamboats
chartered for the special purpose, in quantities of one or two thousand
bushels at a trip?

The earlier American nurseries were few in number, and, compared with
some now existing, of quite limited extent, - though equal, perhaps, in
proportion to population. The first of which there is any record, and
probably the earliest established, was that of John Bartram, near
Philadelphia, about the year 1730. Here were congregated many of the
prominent native plants and trees, preparatory to exportation to
Europe, - also the fruits and plants of the other hemisphere, obtained
in exchange for American productions. The specimen trees planted by the
elder Bartram and his descendants still adorn the grounds, classic
to the botanist and the lover of Nature: long may they stand, living
memorials of generations passed away, our earliest evidence of a taste
for horticulture!

The next nursery in the order of date is that of Prince, in Flushing,
New York, established, we believe, prior to the Revolution, and
continued by the family to the present day. Flushing has become a centre
in the nursery-trade, and many acres thereabout are covered with young
trees intended for transplantation. A stroll round the village would
lead one to suppose the chief interest of the inhabitants was bound up
in the nursery-business, as is that of Lynn in shoes, and of Lowell
in cotton goods. Prominent among the Flushing nurseries are those of
Parsons, which, though of comparatively recent origin, abound in rich
treasures.

The nurseries of the brothers David and Cuthbert Landreth appear to have
been the third in the order of succession. They were established at
Philadelphia shortly after the Revolution, and within the limits of the
city. The increase of population and their expanding trade caused a
removal to another and more ample field of culture, which, for nearly
half a century, was the resort of most people of taste who visited
Philadelphia.

Nurseries are now found everywhere. The Far West has some which count
the young trees by millions, and fruit-trees of single kinds by the
hundred thousand. The Hoveys, of Boston, have long been prominent, not
only as nurserymen, but as writers on horticulture. Elwanger and Barry,
of Rochester, New York, have a large breadth of land, we forbear to
state our impression of the number of acres, covered by nursery-stock.
Professional florists also have multiplied to an unlimited
extent, exhibiting the growth of refining taste. Plants suited
to window-culture, and bouquets of choice flowers, are sold on
street-corners, and carried from door to door. Cameilias, of which
we recollect single flowers having been sold at a dollar, can now be
purchased at fifty cents the plant.

It might be curious, in reference to this subject of horticulture, to
institute an inquiry as to cause and effect. Have the increased means of
gratifying taste expanded it, or has taste rapidly developed created the
means of supply? Doubtless there has been reaction from both directions,
each operating on the other. One striking exhibition of pure taste
among us is the formation of picturesque arboretums, especially of
terebinthinate trees, and others allied to the Coniferae. This taste, so
diligently cultivated in England, has found zealous worshippers among
us, and some admirable collections have been formed. The cemetery of
Laurel Hill, at Philadelphia, under the critical eye and taste of the
proprietor, Mr. John Jay Smith, that of Mount Auburn, in Cambridge, of
Greenwood, New York, and the cemetery in Cincinnati, have afforded fine
specimens of rare trees, though, from the nature of their purposes,
picturesque effect could not be reached, except so far as aided by
irregularity of surface. And here we would remark, in connection with
this subject, that one regulation of the Cincinnati cemetery is worthy
of imitation. No arbitrary railings or ill-kept hedges bound the
individual lots; all is open, and the visitor, as he drives through the
grounds, is charmed by the effect, - a park studded with monuments: the
social distinctions, which, perhaps, necessarily separated in life, have
disappeared in death.

In connection with landscape-gardening, one American name stands
conspicuous, - the name of one who, if not, in point of time, the first
teacher of the art in this country, has at least done more than
any other to direct attention to it, - to exhibit defects, suggest
improvements, create beauties, and invest his subject with such a charm
and interest as to captivate many minds which might otherwise have been
long insensible to the dormant beauty within their reach, or that which
they themselves had the power to produce: we refer, of course, to the
late Andrew J. Downing. With naturally fine artistic perceptions, his
original occupation of a nurseryman gave direction to his subsequent
pursuits. Under different circumstances, his taste might, perhaps, have
been turned to painting, sculpture, or architecture: indeed, to the last
he paid no inconsiderable attention; and as the result, many a rural
homestead, which might otherwise have been a bleak house, is conspicuous
as the abode of taste and elegance.

Among the prominent private arboretums in our country may be mentioned
that of Mr. Sargent at Wodeneshe. Mr. Sargent, as may be seen by his
supplement to Downing's "Landscape-Gardening," is an enthusiast in the
culture of conifers; he is reputed to have made liberal importations,
and the results of his attempts at acclimation, given to the public,
have aided others in like endeavors. Judge Field, of Princeton, New
Jersey, has a pinetum of much value; some of his specimens are of rare
excellence. He, also, has been a diligent importer.

* * * * *

Though our sketch of the present state of horticulture among us is quite
imperfect, affording but an indistinct glimpse of the ample field which
invites our view, it would scarcely be pardonable, were we to overlook a
branch of rural industry in which horticultural success is interested,
and without which the practical pleasures and family-comfort of rural
homes would be greatly abridged. We refer to garden-seed culture. It may
be that the purchaser of a paper of seed for the kitchen-garden seldom
stops to consider the minute care which has been required to secure its
purity; most probably, in many cases, he makes the purchase as though it
were the mere product of mechanical skill, which, after the machinery is
perfected, and the steam-engine has been set in motion, turns out the
finished article, of use or ornament, with scarcely an effort of mind to
direct its movements. Not so in the production of seeds: many are the
hours of watchful care to be bestowed upon it, and stern and unyielding
are its demands on the skilled eye and the untiring hand. It is because
in some cases the eye is not skilled, and the hand often tires, that
so many seeds of more than doubtful worth are imposed upon the
market, filling the village and cross-road shops with the germs of
disappointment. The history of the seed-culture in the United States is
not without interest to those who, like many readers of the "Atlantic,"
reside in the quiet country; to every family thus situated the certainty
of obtaining seeds of trustworthy quality - certain to vegetate, and sure
to prove true to name - is of more importance than can be appreciated by
those who rely upon the city-market, and have at all times and seasons
ample supplies of vegetables within easy reach. On looking round for
some individual establishment which we may use as the representative of
this branch of industry, we naturally turn to Bloomsdale, as the most
prominent and widest-known of seed-farms; and if the reader will join us
in a trip thither, we shall be pleased with his company, and perchance
he may not wholly regret the time occupied in the excursion. The period
we shall choose for the visit is the close of the month of June.

On a bright day we take our seats in the cars at Jersey City, provided
with the talisman to insure an attentive reception. Onward we whirl
through fertile fields and smiling villages; Newark, Brunswick,
Princeton, are successively passed; shortly we reach the Delaware at
Trenton; a run of a few miles through Penn's Manor, the garden-spot of
the Proprietary Governor, brings us to Bristol, the station from which
we most readily reach our destination. As we approach the grounds from
the front, a prominent object meets the eye, a noble white pine of
gigantic proportions, somewhat the worse for many a winter's storm, but
which still stands in all its majestic grandeur, as it has stood whilst
generations have come and passed away. On entering the premises, we find
ourselves in the midst of a lawn of ten acres in the English style. To
enumerate the various trees, in groups or single specimens, which most
invite our notice, would interfere with the main object of our visit. We
have come for a special purpose, and we can only allude to a very few
of the species to which our attention may be supposed to be directed. A
white spruce, in rich luxuriance, measuring, as the branches trail upon
the sward, upwards of sixty feet in circumference; the Himalayan white
pine, with its deep fringe-like foliage, twenty-five feet in height; the
Cephalonian fir, with leaves as pungent as an Auricaria, twenty feet
high, and many specimens of the same kind of nearly equal magnitude;
yews, of more than half a century's growth; a purple beech, of thirty
feet in height, its branches as many in circumference, contrasting with
the green around; numerous specimens of balm of Gilead, silver firs, and
Norway spruces, unsurpassed in beauty of form, the last presenting every
variety of habit in which it delights to sport: these are some of the
gems of the lawn. But we must hurry onward to the practical business in
view.

The harvest, which, in seed-culture, lasts for many consecutive weeks,
has just commenced. The first important crop that ripens is the
turnip, - which is now being cut. The work is performed by the use of
grass-hooks or toothless sickles; stem after stem is cut, until the hand
is full, when they are deposited in canvas sheets; as these are filled,
boys stand ready to spread others; men follow to tie up those which have
been filled; others succeed, driving teams, and loading wagons, with
ample shelvings, with sheet-full piled on sheet-full, until the sturdy
oxen are required to test their strength in drawing them to the
drying-houses; arrived there, each sheet-full is separately removed by
rope and tackle, and the contents deposited on the skeleton scaffolding
within the building, there to remain until the seed is sufficiently
cured and dry enough to thresh. These drying-houses are buildings
of uniform character, two stories in height and fifty feet square,
constructed so as to expose their contents to sun and air, and each
provided with a carefully laid threshing-floor, extending through the
building, with pent-house for movable engine. When the houses are full
and the hulm in a fit state for threshing, the engine is started and
the work begun. One man, relieved by others from time to time, (for the
labor requires activity, and consequently is exhausting,) feeds the
thresher, which, with its armed teeth, moves with such velocity as to
appear like a solid cylinder. Here there is no stopping for horses
to take breath and rest their weary limbs, - puff, puff, onward the
work, - steam as great a triumph in threshing as in printing or spinning.
Men and boys are stationed at the rear of the thresher to remove the
straw, and roughly separate the seed from the shattered hulm, - others
again being engaged in thrusting the dried crop from the scaffolds, and
placing it in suitable position for the feeders. When one drying-house
has thus been emptied, the engine is removed to another; the same
process is pursued until the circuit of the buildings has been made, and
thus the ceaseless round (ceaseless at least for a season) is continued.
As soon as the crop in the first house has been threshed, the work of
winnowing is commenced, and skilled hands thus engaged follow on in the
track of the engine. As each crop is cleaned and put in merchantable
order, it is placed in bags of two bushels each and carried to the
storehouses and granaries, there to await a requisition from the
city-warehouse.

We have just witnessed the process of saving the crop of turnip-seed.
And how much may that reach? is a natural inquiry. Of all the varieties,
including the ruta-baga, about one thousand bushels, is the response. We
should have thought a thousand pounds would supply the entire Union; but
we are reminded it is in part exported to far distant lands. And what is
the crop so much like turnip, but still green, and apparently of more
vigorous growth? That is one of the varieties of cabbage, of which
several standard kinds are under cultivation. Another adjoining is
radish; still another, beet; and thus we pass from kind to kind, until
we have exhausted a long catalogue of sorts.

Let us stop our walk over the grounds for a few moments, taking seats
under the shadow of a tree, and make some inquiries as to the place
itself, its extent, the course of culture, the description of manures
used, etc. Our cicerone assents to the proposal, and proceeds to answer
our general inquiries. Bloomsdale contains in round numbers four hundred
acres; it has a frontage on the Delaware of upwards of a mile, is
bounded on the west by the Delaware Canal, and is divided into two
nearly equal parts by the Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad. The soil is
a light loam, easily worked, suited to rapid percolation, admitting of
labor immediately after heavy rain, and not liable to suffer by drought.
The manures used are principally crude, obtained from the city, and
landed on the premises from shallops continually plying, laden with the
"sinews of farming." Street-scrapings are more used than stable-manure;
bone-dust and guano enter largely into the account; and the aggregate
annual expenditure foots up a sum almost equivalent to the fee-simple of
an ordinary farm. The culture is that denominated drill; but of course
much of it is simply straight lines drawn by the plough, in which the
roots for seeding are planted by hand. The ground, with the exception of
the lawn and a portion occupied from time to time by grass for home use,
is divided by wagon-roads into squares and parallelograms; cross fences
are not used; and each crop forms a distinct feature, accessible at any
stage of growth. The several varieties of each kind, as, for instance,
those of turnip, cabbage, beet, lettuce, are planted widely apart, to
guard against possible admixture; but the chances of that result must
be much less than is popularly supposed, efforts having been used
experimentally to test its practicability, and that between kindred
closely allied, without success. Although the extent of the grounds
would appear to be formidable, even for a farm conducted in the usual
mode, it is insufficient for the demands on the proprietors, without
diligent exertion and prompt recropping, - two crops in each year being
exacted, only a small part of the land escaping double duty, the extent
annually ploughed thus amounting to nearly twice the area of the farm.
The heavy hauling is performed by oxen, the culture principally by
mules, which are preferred to horses, as being less liable to injury,
and better adapted to the narrow drill culture practised.

The seeds of Bloomsdale have attained a world-wide reputation, and, to
quote an expression used in reference to them, "are almost as well
known on the Ganges as on the Mississippi or Ohio." They are regularly
exported to the British possessions in India, to the shores of the
Pacific, throughout the West Indies, and occasionally to Australia.
The drier atmosphere of this country ripens them better than the humid
climate of England, adapting them to exportation; and it is no slight
triumph to see them preferred by Englishmen on English soil. At home,
thousands of hamlets, south and west of Philadelphia, until interrupted
by the war, were supplied with Landreth's seeds. The business, founded
nearly three-quarters of a century ago, is now conducted by the second
and third generations of the family with which it originated. Thus
has success been achieved through long and patient industry steadily
directed to the same pursuit, and a reputation built up for American
seeds, despite the want of national protection.




THE EAST AND THE WEST.

[This poem was written by THEODORE WINTHROP seven years ago, and after
his death was found among his unpublished papers.]


We of the East spread our sails to the sea,
You of the West stride over the land;
Both are to scatter the hopes of the Free,
As the sower sheds golden grain from his hand.

'Tis ours to circle the stormy bends
Of a continent, yours its ridge to cross;
We must double the capes where a long world ends,
Lone cliffs where two limitless oceans toss.

They meet and are baffled 'mid tempest and wrath,
Breezes are skirmishing, angry winds roar,
While poised on some desperate plunge of our path
We count up the blackening wrecks on the shore.

And you through dreary and thirsty ways,
Where rivers are sand and winds are dust,
Through sultry nights and feverish days,
Move westward still as the sunsets must:

Where the scorched air quivers along the slopes,
Where the slow-footed cattle lie down and die,
Where horizons draw backward till baffled hopes
Are weary of measureless waste and sky.

Yes, ours to battle relentless gales,
And yours the brave and the patient way;
But we hold the storms in our trusty sails,
And for you the life-giving fountains play.

There are stars above us, and stars for you, -
Rest on the path, and calm on the main:
Storms are but zephyrs, when hearts are true;
We are no weaklings, quick to complain,

When lightnings flash bivouac-fires into gloom,
And with crashing of forests the rains sheet down, -
Or when ships plunge onward where night-clouds loom,
Defiant of darkness and meeting its frown.

These are the days of motion and march;
Now we are ardent, and young, and brave:


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Online LibraryVariousThe Atlantic Monthly, Volume 11, No. 66, April, 1863 → online text (page 13 of 20)