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Next after the influences of the heavens, we have to treat of those of the earth, a task that is in no way more easy than the previous one. It is but rarely that the same soil is found suited to trees as well as corn: indeed, the black1 earth which prevails in Campania is not everywhere found suited to the vine, nor yet that which emits light exhalations, or the red2 soil that has been so highly praised by many. The cretaceous earth that is found in the territory of Alba Pompeia, and an argillaceous soil, are preferred to all others for the vine, although, too, they are remarkably rich, a quality that is generally looked upon as not suited to that plant. On the other hand, again, the white sand of the district of Ticinum, the black sand of many other places, and the red sand as well, even though mixed with a rich earth, will prove unproductive.

The very signs, also, from which we form our judgment are often very deceptive; a soil that is adorned with tall and graceful trees is not always a favourable one, except, of course, for those trees. What tree, in fact, is there that is taller than the fir? and yet what other plant could possibly exist in the same spot? Nor ought we always to look upon verdant pastures as so many proofs of richness of soil; for what is there that enjoys a greater renown than the pastures of Germany? and yet they consist of nothing but a very thin layer of turf, with sand immediately beneath. Nor yet is the soil which produces herbage3 of large growth always to be looked upon as humid; no, by Hercules! no more than a soil is to be looked upon as unctuous and rich, which adheres to the fingers—a thing that is proved in the case of the argillaceous earths.4 The earth when thrown back into the hole from which it has just been dug will never5 fill it, so that it is quite impossible by that method to form any opinion as to its density or thinness. It is the fact, too, that every6 soil, without exception, will cover iron with rust. Nor yet can we determine7 the heaviness or lightness of soils in relation to any fixed and ascertained weight: for what are we to understand as the standard weight of earth? A soil, too, that is formed from the alluvion8 of rivers is not always to be recommended, for there are some crops that decay all the sooner in a watery soil; indeed, those soils even of this description which are highly esteemed, are never found to be long good for any kind of vegetation but the willow.

Among other proofs of the goodness of soil, is the comparative thickness of the stem in corn. In Laborium, a famous champaign country of Campania, the stalk is of such remarkable thickness, that it may be used even to supply the place of wood:9 and yet this very soil, from the difficulty that is everywhere experienced in cultivating it, and the labour required in working it, may be almost said to give the husbandman more trouble by its good qualities than it could possibly have done by reason of any defects. The soil, too, that is generally known as charcoal earth, appears susceptible of being improved by being planted with a poor meagre vine: and tufa,10 which is naturally rough and friable, we find recommended by some authors. Virgil,11 too, does not condemn for the vine a soil which produces fern:12 while a salted earth13 is thought to be much better entrusted with the growth of vegetation than any other, from the fact of its being comparatively safe from noxious insects breeding there. Declivities, too, are far from unproductive, if a person only knows how to dig them properly; and it is not all14 champaign spots that are less accessible to the sun and wind than is necessary for their benefit. We have already15 alluded to the fact, that there are certain vines which find nutriment in hoar frosts and fogs.

In every subject there are certain deep and recondite secrets, which it is left to the intelligence of each to penetrate. Do awe not, for instance, find it the fact, that soils which have long offered opportunities for a sound judgment being formed on their qualities have become totally altered? In the vicinity of Larissa, in Thessaly, a lake was drained;16 and the consequence was, that the district became much colder, and the olive-trees which had formerly borne fruit now ceased to bear. When a channel was cut for the Hebrus, near the town of Ænos, the place was sensible of its nearer approach, in finding its vines frost-bitten, a thing that had never happened before; in the vicinity, too, of Philippi, the country having been drained for cultivation, the nature of the climate became entirely altered. In the territory of Syracuse, a husbandman, who was a stranger to the place, cleared the soil of all the stones, and the consequence was, that he lost his crops front the accumulation of mud; so that at last he was obliged to carry the stones back again. In Syria again, the plough- share which they use is narrow, and the furrows are but very superficial, there being a rock beneath the soil that in summer scorches up the seeds.

Then, too, the effects of excessive cold and heat in various places are similar; thus, for instance, Thrace is fruitful in corn, by reason of the cold, while Africa and Egypt are so in consequence of the heat that prevails there. At Chalcia,17 an island belonging to the Rhodians, there is a certain place which is so remarkably fertile, that after reaping the barley that has been sown at the ordinary time, and gathering it in, they immediately sow a fresh crop, and reap it at the same time as the other corn. A gravelly soil is found best suited for the olive in the district of Venafrum,18 while one of extreme richness is required for it in Bætica. The wines of Pucinum19 are ripened upon a rock, and the vines of Cæcubum20 are moistened by the waters of the Pomptine21 marshes; so great are the differences that have been detected by human experience in the various soils. Cæsar Vopiscus, when pleading a cause before the Censors, said that the fields of Rosia22 are the very marrow23 of Italy, and that a stake, left in the ground there one day, would be found covered by the grass the next:24 the soil, however, is only esteemed there for the purposes of pasturage. Still, however, Nature has willed that we should not remain uninstructed, and has made full admission as to existing defects in soil, even in cases where she has failed to give us equal information as to its good qualities: we shall begin, therefore, by speaking of the defects that are found in various soils.

(5.) If it is the wish of a person to test whether a soil is bitter, or whether it is thin and meagre, the fact may be easily ascertained from the presence of black and undergrown herbs. If, again, the herbage shoots up dry and stunted, it shows that the soil is cold, and if sad and languid, that it is moist and slimy. The eye, too, is able to judge whether it is a red earth or whether it is argillaceous, both of them extremely difficult to work, and apt to load the harrow or ploughshare with enormous clods; though at the same time it should be borne in mind that the soil which entails the greatest amount of labour is not always productive of the smallest amount of profit. So, too, on the other hand, the eye can distinguish a soil that is mixed with ashes or with white sand, while earth that is sterile and dense may be easily detected by its peculiar hardness, at even a single stroke of the mattock.

Cato,25 briefly and in his peculiar manner, characterizes the defects that exist in the various soils. "Take care," he says, "where the earth is rotten not to shake it either with carts or by driving cattle over it." Now what are we to suppose that this term "rotten" means, as applied to a soil, about which he is so vastly apprehensive as to almost forbid our setting foot upon it? Let us only form a comparison 'by thinking what it is that constitutes rottenness in wood, and we shall find that the faults which are held by him in such aversion are the being arid, full of holes, rough, white, mouldy, worm eaten, in fact, just like pumice-stone; and thus has Cato said more in a single word than we could have possibly found means to express in a description, however long. Indeed, if we could find means of expressing the various defects that exist in soils, we should find that there are some of them that are old, not with age (for age cannot26 be concerned in relation to the earth), but of their own nature, and are hence unfruitful and powerless for every purpose from the first. The same writer,27 too, considers that as the very best of soils, which, situate at the foot of a declivity, runs out into a champaign country, taking a southward direction; such, in fact, being the aspect of the whole of Italy:28 he says29 also, that the earth generally known as black30 earth is of a tender nature, and is consequently the most easily worked and the best for cereals. If we only appreciate with due care the signification of this word "tender,"31 we shall find that it expresses its intended meaning remarkably well, and that in this word is comprised every quality that is desirable for the purposes of cultivation. In a tender soil we shall find fertility combined with moderation, a softness and a pliancy easily adapted to cultivation, and an equal absence of humidity and of dryness. Earth of this nature will shine again after the plough-share has passed through it, just as Homer,32 that great fountain-head of all genius, has described it sculptured by the Divinity33 upon the arms [of Achilles], adding, too, a thing that is truly marvellous, that it was of a blackish hue, though gold was the material in which it was wrought. This, too, is that kind of earth, which, when newly turned up, attracts the ravenous birds that follow the plough-share, the ravens even going so far as to peck at the heels of the ploughman.

We may in this place appropriately make mention of an opinion that has been pronounced by an Italian writer also with reference to a matter of luxury. Cicero,34 that other luminary of literature, has made the following remark: "Those unguents which have a taste of earth35 are better," says he, "than those which smack of saffron;" it seeming to him more to the purpose to express himself by the word " taste"36 than "smell." And such is the fact, no doubt; that soil is the best which has the flavour of a perfume.37 If the question should be put to us, what is this odour of the earth that is held in such estimation, our answer is, that it is the same that is often to be recognized at the moment of sunset, without the necessity even of turning up the ground, at the spots where the extremities of the rainbow38 have been observed to meet the earth; as also when, after long-continued drought, the rain has soaked the ground. Then it is that the earth exhales this divine odour, that is so peculiarly its own, and to which, imparted to it by the sun, there is no perfume, however sweet, that can possibly be compared. It is this odour that the earth, when turned up, ought to emit, and which, when once found, can never deceive a person; and this will be found the best criterion for judging of the quality of the soil. Such, too, is the odour that is usually perceived on land newly cleared,39 when an ancient forest has been just cut down; its excellence is a thing that is universally admitted.

For the culture of the cereals, too, the same land is generally looked upon as the more improved the oftener it has been allowed to rest40 from cultivation, a thing that is not the case with vineyards; for which reason all the greater care is required in the selection of their site, if we would not have the opinions of those to appear well founded who entertain the notion that the soil of Italy is already worn out.41 In other kinds of soil the work of cultivation depends entirely upon the weather; as, for instance, in those which cannot be ploughed just after rain, because the natural exuberance of the earth renders it viscous and cloggy. On the other hand, in Byza- cium, a district of Africa, and a champaign country of such singular fertility as to render grain one hundred and fifty fold,42 the soil is such, that in time of drought, not even bulls are able to plough it; while, on another occasion, just after a shower of rain, one poor ass, with an old woman to guide it, is quite sufficient,43 as ourselves we have witnessed, to do the plough- ing. But as to amending one soil by the agency of another, as some persons recommend, by throwing rich earth over one that is poor and thin, or by laying a soaking light soil over one that is humid and unctuous, it is a labour of perfect madness.44 What can a man possibly hope for who cultivates such a soil as this?

1 A rich black mould, probably.

2 A ferruginous argilla.

3 It must of necessity denote a soil rich in humus, though not, of course, adapted for all kinds of cultivation.

4 He alludes to the difficulty with which argilla, from its tenacity, is employed in cultivation.

5 Columella says the contrary, and so does Virgil, Georg. ii. 226, speaking of this fact as a method of ascertaining the respective qualities of the earth.

6 Virgil, Georg. ii. 220, says the contrary.

7 In allusion to what Virgil says, Georg. ii. 254:— "Quæ gravis est, ipso tacitam se pondere prodit,
Quæque levis——"
Fée remarks, however, that it is easy enough to analyse the earth, and ascertain the proportions of humus, and of the siliceous, cretaceous, or argillaceous earths; the relative proportions of which render it strong or light, as the case may be.

8 As Fée says, these earths vary according to the nature of the soils that are brought down by the streams; in general, however, they are extremely prolific.

9 Fée says that Pliny is here guilty of some degree of exaggeration. See B. iii. c. 9, p. 195 of Vol. 1: also B. xviii. c. 29.

10 "Tophus;" formed of volcanic scoriæ. Fée remarks, that it is some- what similar in nature to marl, and that though unproductive by itself, it is beneficial when mixed with vegetable earth. Tufa and marl appear to have been often confounded by the ancient writers.

11 Georg. ii. 189.

12 The Pteris aquilina of the modern botanists.

13 Marine salt, or sub-hydrochlorate of soda, Fée thinks, is here alluded to. It is still used with varied success in some parts of the west of France.

14 Hardouin says, that he here alludes to the proverbial saying among the ancients, "Perflare altissima ventos"—" The winds blow only on the most elevated ground."

15 In B. xiv. cc. 4 and 12.

16 "Emisso." Fée would appear to think that the lake suddenly made it appearance, after an earthquake, and from the context he would appear to be right. These accounts are all of them borrowed from Theophrastus.

17 See B. v. c. 36.

18 See B. xv. c. 2.

19 See B. xiv. c. 8.

20 See B. xiv. c. 8.

21 See B. iii. c. 9.

22 See B. iii. c. 17.

23 Sumen. Properly, "udder." A cow's udder was considered one or the choicest of delicacies by the Romans.

24 This is, of course, an exaggeration. The stake must have been driven in very deep to disappear so speedily.

25 De Re Rust. 5.

26 This he says in reference to his belief, with Epicurus, in the eternity of matter.

27 De Re Rust. 1.

28 See B. iii. c. 6.

29 De Re Rust. 151.

30 "Pulla." The "vegetable" earth of modern botanists.

31 "Teneram."

32 Iliad, xviii. 541 and 548.

33 Vulcan.

34 De Oratore, sec. 39.

35 See B. xiii. c. 4.

36 "Sapiunt," rather than "redolent."

37 This supposed flavour of the earth is, in reality, attributable to the extraneous vegetable matter which it contains.

38 See B. xii. c. 52, as to this notion.

39 The reason being, that in such cases the soil is saturated with thyme, orianum, mint, and other odoriferous herbs.

40 This opinion is contrary to that expressed by Columella, B. ii. c. 1 but the justice of it is universally recognized. Upon this theory, too, is based the modern practice of alternating the crops in successive years, the necessity of providing for heavy rents, not allowing the land to enjoy absolute rest.

41 This has not come to pass even yet, nearly two thousand years since the days of Pliny.

42 See B. v. c. 3, and B. xviii. c. 21.

43 Fée taxes our author here with exaggeration. For Byzacium, see B. v. c. 3, and B. xviii. c. 21.

44 Nevertheless, as Fée remarks, the method is often practised with great success. Pliny is at issue here with Theophrastus, De Causis, B. iii. c. 25.

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