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upon the earth, and fills its veins with renovated life. The action of solar and electric heat animates the digestive process of evaporation and distillation, developing the chemical qualities of the soil, and thus generates a gastric germinating fluid, which penetrates everything susceptible of expansion.
It gently opens the serried pores of the acorn and the grain of wheat. It feeds their expanding veins with a lymphatic element, composed of all the elements of human blood, though combined in another form, which lacks but one more process to fit it for the veins of man. Like man, the sturdy oak is dust, and unto dust it returns. It is not a mere symmetrical inflation of the acorn; that vital fluid supplied it with a substance from the earth which coalesced with the properties of that acorn, and hardened it into wood instead of flesh.
Every limb and leaf, every wart and wen upon that gnarled trunk, every inch of its iron vertebræ, has been developed by a process of nutrition similar to that which feeds the bones, nerves, and muscles of the human body.
The forest, the field of grain, the prairie and luxuriant meadow, and all the animals they sustain, are merely a portion of the earth's surface propelled into perpetual circulation by this organic system of everlasting action. Go out into your meadow, into your garden, and, striking your spade into the rich mold, compute, if you can, how many forms of life a square foot of that soil has circulated since the evening and the morning were the first day.” Look at that gigantic oak, whose Briarean arms have defied the tempests of a hundred years. Conceive for a moment the remote and consecutive history of the elements in its sturdy trunk, its stubborn branches, and tenacious roots. The matter that lies in dormant induration in that tree, in another form may have been propelled through a hundred human hearts, and, warmed into human flesh, may have done service in the strong muscles of the ox, the sinews of the bear, the talons of the vulture, the feathers of the eagle. The reorganized substance of every species of plants and grain and grass; elements that spread the rose leaf, and mantled in the cheek of beauty; that bleached the snow-white lily, and polished the forehead of lofty genius; that overarched the dome of thought, and bent the rainbow; all these may lie mingled within that rough bark. Look at that oak again; it stands immovable in the breeze; but the great system of organic action is upon it, hastening the dissolution of its constituent elements, and propelling them through other combinations. Fifty years hence, and some of them will mingle in stalks of yellow wheat, in blades of grass and flowers of every hue; in the veins of man, beast, bird; and some will stretch the insect's wing, and lade the busy bee with wax and honey for its cell. And ages hence, in the ceaseless progress of its circulation, some of the substance of that oak may fall in noiseless dewdrops upon the place where it now towers up towards heaven. Yet through all the ages of its continuous circulation, not a grain of that matter will be wasted, annihilated, or lost. Had not this law of preservation remained as steadfast as any other law of God, through every process of composition and decomposition, the solid globe, ere this, would have been entirely exhausted.
Complete. From «Thoughts and Things
at Home and Abroad.»
THE FORCE OF GRAVITY IN THE MORAL WORLD
IN THE material universe there is one grand loyal law, upon I which hang all the laws that govern matter or motion. That
law, the union and source of all the laws known to the physical world, is the law of Gravitation. In its object, operation, and effect, it is to the material world just what the royal law of love is to the moral. To every atom of matter in the universe it is the command, and the command obeyed: «Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, mind, and strength, and thy neighbor as thyself”; thou shalt attach thyself to his eternal throne with all thy capacity of adhesion, and draw with thee thy fellow-atom toward the same centre. Since the world was made, not a grain of sand, nor a drop of rain or dew, nor a vesicle of air, has ever broken that law; and there has been peace, perfect peace, through all the peopled amplitudes of space. Pervading the whole universe with its socializing influence, it attracts particle to particle, planet to primary, sun to sun, system to system; mooring all the creations of God around his throne, the common centre of matter and of mind. And there, firm and peaceful, that royal law holds them, while they make music with the harmony of their motions, singing as they revolve in the orbits which it prescribed them when eternity was young, and which shall remain unaltered by a hair, when eternity shall be old. Upon the almighty and omnipresent force of that law depends the destiny of worlds which geometry never measured, the condition of beings outreaching the arithmetic of angels. Should it release its hold upon a single atom of matter floating along the sunless disk of nonexistence, trembling would run through all those innumerable creations, and “signs of woe unutterable that all was lost.” Suppose, now, that some human government should undertake to suspend the operation or existence of this royal law of the physical world; and suppose that its puny arm could palsy that all-pervading, concentrating force; what mind could not conceive the awful catastrophe that would ensue throughout the material universe ? Millions of millions of suns would be quenched simultaneously in everlasting night. All the worlds they lighted and led would crumble in their orbits into the minutest divisions of matter, filling the whole immensity of space with hostile atoms, each at war with its fellow, repelling its society, and dashing on in its centrifugal madness, to “make confusion worse confounded. All the beings that peopled those decomposed worlds would Aoat promiscuous and dismembered over the black surges of the boundless chaos; and not a throb of life nor a ray of light would beat or shine amid the ruins of the universe. Does any one doubt for a moment that all this, and more than we can conceive of ruin, would be the instantaneous consequence of destroying the great law of gravitation ? But what is all this? What to God and his moral universe is all this dire disaster, this wreck of matter and crush of worlds ? What this disruption of every vein of life and form of beauty ? What is all this to that other and more dreadful catastrophe which war would produce, when it reaches up and essays to paralyze, with its iron hand, the great law of Love, the law of Gravi. tation in the moral world, which attracts and centres around the heart of God, all the hearts that beat with spiritual existence ? Amid the decomposition of the material universe every undying spirit would be safe from the general ruin, nor verge a hair from its moral orbit, nor be jostled from its centripetal tendency towards its great Source and Centre. But in that other act of immeasurable iniquity, man would consign the moral world to a chaos infinitely more appalling than that which would involve the material universe should he strike from existence the law of Gravity. He would sever every ligament of attraction that attached heart to heart, spirit to spirit, angel to angel, and all created beings to God. He would set the universe on fire with malignant passions, on whose red billows contending spirits, once blessed, now damned, would thrust at each other's existence, and curse themselves and God. That act would put a sword into every angel's hand, and every harp in heaven, with horrid discord, would summon the frenzied and battling seraphs to mutual but deathless slaughter. It would blast the foliage of life's fair tree, turn the crystal river into burning pitch, and line its banks with fighting fiends. Hate, malignant and quenchless, would burn in every heart, and no two spirits in the universe would unite, even in a common malevolence.
H E traveler who stands on the western coast of Manhattan SE S Island can step to the right and reach the continent of GC America, or to the left and wake up not very much later in Europe. It is only a matter of taking the ferry boat or the ocean steamer as they lie side by side. Paris and New York are neighbors. All the great cities of the world are brought into close touch intellectually, morally, and immorally by steam and electricity. As a result the fin de siècle literature of the nineteenth century in America stood in sore need of John Burroughs and of men likeminded with him, bold enough to turn their backs on the inevitable artificiality of city-bred literature and learn from the infinite simplicities of nature that only the most natural can be the most beautiful. No one moralizes less than he, but no mere moralizer could have done what he has done and what he is still doing to restore moral health to American literature. But for him we might find so much to admire in the Villons and the Verlaines of the Parisian pavement that we might lose the higher music and nobler lesson of our own woods and fields. With the love of nature which inspired Audubon and the philosophical insight of Thoreau, he has created a class of American essays which are more genuine, more natural, and more attractive than anything in the related literature of England. He will not be forgotten while White of Selborne is remembered and to White's keenness of vision he adds the ease and grace of Washington Irving.
He was born on a farm near Roxbury, New York, April 3d, 1837. After experience as a journalist in New York and in the civil service at Washington, he retired to a farm in his native State, intending to devote himself “to literature and fruit culture. If he has thriven in fruit culture as in literature, he has done well indeed, for in «Pepacton,» « Birds and Poets,» «Wake Robin,” « Locusts and Wild Honey,” and in essays as yet uncollected, he has earned the gratitude of every lover of nature. He is still writing and still learning from the woods and fields that which the civilization of cities and libraries needs as the salt to save its best virtues from corruption.
W. V. B.