17. “‘You see, then, Socrates, that we agree about the fallow.’“‘It does seem so, to be sure.’“‘And now as to the time for sowing, Socrates. Is it not your opinion that the time to sow is that which has been invariably found to be the best by past experience, and is universally approved by present practice?  For as soon as autumn ends, all men, I suppose, look anxiously to God, to see when he will send rain on the earth and make them free to sow.’“‘Yes, Ischomachus, all men have made up their minds, of course, not to sow in dry ground if they can help it, those who sowed without waiting to be bidden by God having had to wrestle with many losses.’  “‘So far, then,’ said Ischomachus, ‘all the world is of one mind.’“‘Yes,’ said I, ‘where God is our teacher we all come to think alike. For example, all agree that it is better to wear warm clothes in winter, if they can, and all agree on the desirability of having a fire, if they have wood.’  “‘But,’ said Ischomachus, ‘when we come to the question whether sowing is best done early or very late or at the mid-season, we find much difference of opinion, Socrates.’ by fixed laws; but in one year it may be advantageous to sow early, in another very late, in another at mid-season.’  “‘Then do you think, Socrates, that it is better to select one of these times for sowing, whether you sow much or little, or to begin at the earliest moment and continue sowing to the latest?’  “‘For my part, Ischomachus, I think it is best to sow for succession throughout the season. For in my opinion it is much better to get enough food at all times than too much at one time and not enough at another.’“‘Here again, then, Socrates, pupil and teacher are of one opinion; and, moreover, you, the pupil, are first in stating this opinion.’  “‘Well now, is casting the seed a complicated problem?’“‘By all means let us take that also into consideration, Socrates. I presume that you know as well as I that the seed must be cast by the hand?’“‘Yes, I have seen it.’“‘Ah,’ he said, ‘but some men can cast evenly, and some cannot.’“‘Then sowers no less than lyre-players need practice, that the hand may be the servant of the will.’“‘Certainly.  But suppose that some of the land is rather light and some rather heavy?’“‘What do you mean by that?’ I interrupted. ‘By “light” do you mean “weak,” and by “heavy,” “strong”?’“‘Yes, I do; and I ask you whether you would give the same quantity of seed to both kinds, or to which you would give more?’  “‘Well, my principle is this: the stronger the wine, the more water I add; the stronger the bearer, the heavier the burden I put on his back; and if it is necessary to feed others, I should require the richest men to feed the greatest number. But tell me whether weak land, like draught animals, becomes stronger when you put more corn into it.’  “‘Ah, you're joking, Socrates,’ he said, laughing, ‘but allow me to tell you that, if after putting in the seed you plough it in again as soon as the blade appears when the land is obtaining plenty of nourishment from the sky, it makes food for the soil, and strengthens it like manure. If, on the other hand, you let the seed go on growing on the land until it is bolled, it's hard for weak land to yield much grain in the end. It's hard, you know, for a weak sow to rear a big litter of fine pigs.’  “‘Do you mean, Ischomachus, that the weaker the soil the less seed should be put into it?’“‘Yes, of course, Socrates; and you agree when you say that your invariable custom is to make the burden light that is to be borne by the weak.’  “‘But the hoers, now, Ischomachus, why do you put them on the corn?’“‘I presume you know that in winter there is a heavy rainfall?’“‘Of course.’“‘Let us assume, then, that part of the corn is waterlogged and covered with mud, and some of the roots are exposed by flooding. And it often happens, you know, that in consequence of rain weeds spring up among the corn and choke it.’  “‘All these things are likely to happen.’“‘Then don't you think that in such circumstances the corn needs prompt succour?’“‘Certainly.’“‘What should be done, do you think, to succour the part that is under the mud?’“‘The soil should be lifted.’“‘And the part that has its roots exposed?’“‘It should be earthed up.’  “‘What if weeds are springing up, choking the corn and robbing it of its food, much as useless drones rob bees of the food they have laid in store by their industry?’“‘The weeds must be cut, of course, just as the drones must be removed from the hive.’  “‘Don't you think, then, that we have good reason for putting on men to hoe?’“‘No doubt; but I am reflecting, Ischomachus, on the advantage of bringing in an apt simile. For you roused my wrath against the weeds by mentioning the drones, much more than when you spoke of mere weeds.’”
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.