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Nature had already formed the Vergiliæ, a noble group of stars, in the heavens; but not content with these, she has made others as well for the face of the earth, crying aloud, as it were1 "Why contemplate the heavens, husbandman? Why, rustic, look up at the stars? Do not the nights already afford you a sleep too brief for your fatigues? Behold now! I scatter stars amid the grass for your service, and I reveal them to you in the evening, as you return from your work; and that you may not disregard them, I call your attention to this marvel. Do you not see how the wings of this insect cover a body bright and shining like fire, and how that body gives out light in the hours of the night even? I have given you plants to point out to you the hours, and, that you may not have to turn your eyes from the earth, even to view the sun, the heliotropium and the lupine have been made by me to move with his movements. Why then still look upwards, and scan the face of heaven? Behold, here before your very feet are your Vergiliæ; upon a certain day do they make their appearance, and for a certain time do they stay. Equally certain, too, it is that of that constellation they are the offspring. Whoever, then, shall put in his summer seeds before they have made their appearance, will infallibly find himself in the wrong."

It is in this interval, too, that the little bee comes forth, and announces that the bean is about to blossom; for it is the bean in flower that summons it forth. We will here give another sign, which tells us when the cold is gone; as soon as ever you see the mulberry2 in bud, you have no occasion to fear any injury from the rigour of the weather.

It is the time, now, to put in cuttings of the olive, to clear away between the olive-trees, and, in the earlier days of the equinox, to irrigate the meadows. As soon, however, as the grass puts forth a stem, you must shut off the water from the fields.3 You must now lop the leafy branches of the vine, it being the rule that this should be done as soon as the branches have attained four fingers in length; one labourer will be sufficient for a jugerun. The crops of corn, too, should be hoed over again, an operation which lasts twenty days. It is generally thought, however, that it is injurious to both vine and corn to begin hoeing directly after the equinox. This is the proper time, too, for washing sheep.

After the rising of the Vergiliæ the more remarkable signs are, according to Cæsar, the morning rising of Arcturus, which takes place on the following day;4 and the rising of the Lyre on the third5 before the ides of May. The She-goat sets in the evening of the twelfth before6 the calends of June, and in Attica the Dog. On the eleventh7 before the calends of June, according to Cæsar, Orion's Sword begins to appear; and, according to the same writer, on the fourth8 before the nones of June the Eagle rises in the evening, and in Assyria as well. On the seventh9 before the ides of June Arcturus sets in the morning to the people of Italy, and on the fourth10 before the ides the Dolphin rises in the evening. On the seventeenth11 before the calends of July Orion's Sword rises in Italy, and, four days later, in Egypt. On the eleventh12 before the calends of July, according to Cæsar's reckoning, Orion's Sword begins to set; and the eighth13 before the calends of July, the longest day in the year, with the shortest night, brings us to the summer solstice.

In this interval of time the vine should be cleared of its superfluous branches, and care taken to give an old vine one turning up at the roots, a young tree two. Sheep, too, are sheared at this period, lupines turned up for manuring the land, the ground dug, vetches cut for fodder, and beans gathered in and threshed.

(28.) About the calends of June14 the meadows are mown; the cultivation of which, the one which is the easiest of all, and requires the smallest outlay, leads me to enter into some further details relative to it. Meadow lands should be selected in a rich, or else a moist or well-watered, soil, and care should be taken to drain the rain-water upon them from the high- road. The best method of ensurïng a good crop of grass, is first to plough the land, and then to harrow it: but, before passing the harrow over it, the ground should be sprinkled with such seed as may have fallen from the hay in the haylofts and mangers. The land should not be watered, however, the first year,15 nor should cattle be put to graze upon it before the second hay-harvest, for fear lest the blade should be torn up by the roots, or be trodden down and stunted in its growth. Meadow land will grow old in time, and it requires to be renovated every now and then, by sowing upon it a crop of beans, or else rape or millet, after which it should be sown the next year with corn, and then left for hay the third. Care, too, should be taken, every time the grass is cut, to pass the sickle over the ground, and so cut the aftermath which the mowers have left behind; for it is a very bad plan to leave any of the grass and let it shed its seed there. The best crop for meadow land is trefoil,16 and the next best is grass;17 nummulus18 is the very worst of all, as it bears a pod which is particularly injurious; equisætis,19 too, which derives its name from its resemblance to horse-hair, is of a noxions character. The proper time for mowing grass is when the ear begins to shed its blossom and to grow strong: care must be taken to cut it before it becomes dry and parched. "Don't mow your hay too late," says Cato;20 "but cut it before the seed is ripe." Some persons turn the water upon it the day before mowing, where it is practicable to do so. It is the best plan to cut hay in the night while the dews are falling.21 In some parts of Italy the mowing is not done till after harvest.

This operation, too, was a very expensive one in ancient times. In those days the only whetstones22 known were those of Crete and other places beyond sea, and they only used oil to sharpen the scythe with. For this purpose the mower moved along, with a horn, to hold the oil, fastened to his thigh. Italy has since furnished us with whetstones which are used with water, and give an edge to the iron quite equal to that imparted by the file; these water-whetstones, however, turn green very quickly. Of the scythe23 there are two va- rieties; the Italian,24 which is considerably shorter than the other, and can be handled among underwood even; and the Gallic, which makes quicker work25 of it, when employed on extensive domains, for there they cut the grass in the middle only, and pass over the shorter blades. The Italian mowers cut with one hand only. It is a fair day's work for one man to cut a jugerum of grass, and for another to bind twelve hundred sheaves of four pounds each. When the grass is cut it should be turned towards the sun, and must never be stacked until it is quite dry. If this last precaution is not carefully taken, a kind of vapour will be seen arising from the rick in the morning, and as soon as the sun is up it will ignite to a certainty, and so be consumed. When the grass has been cut, the meadow must be irrigated again, for the purpose of ensuring a crop in the autumn, known to us as the "cordum," or aftermath. At Interamna in Umbria the grass is cut four times26 a-year, and this although the meadows there are not irrigated,—in most places, three. After all this has been done, too, the pasturage of the land is found no less lucrative than the hay it has produced. This, however, is a matter of consideration for those more particularly who rear large herds of cattle, and every one whose occupation it is to breed beasts of burden, will have his own opinions upon the subject: it is found, however, the most lucrative of all by those whose business it is to train chariot-horses.

1 A quotation from some unknown poet, Sillig thinks.

2 See B. xvi. c. 41.

3 See Virgil, Ecl. iii. 1. 111.

4 Eleventh of May.

5 Thirteenth of May.

6 Twenty-first of May.

7 Twenty-second of May.

8 Second of June.

9 Seventh of June.

10 Tenth of June.

11 Fifteenth of June.

12 Twenty-first of June.

13 Twenty-fourth of June.

14 First of June.

15 Columella, B. ii. c. 18.

16 The varieties now known as Trifolium pratense, Trifolium rubens and Trifolium repens.

17 "Gramen." Under this head, as Fée says, he probably includes the gramineous plants, known as Alopecurus, Phleum, Poa, Festuca, &c.

18 Probably the Lysimachia nummularia of Linnæus, which has a tendency to corrode the lips of the sheep that pasture on it.

19 Known to us as "horse-tail;" varieties of which are the Fquiselum fluviatile and the Equisetum palustre of Linnæus.

20 De Re Rust. c. 53.

21 See Virgil's Georg. i. 289.

22 As to whetstones, for further information, see B. xxvi. c. 47.

23 The word "falx," "sickle" or "seythe," is used here as denoting an implement for mowing, and not reaping.

24 Similar in shape to our sickle, or reaping hook, no doubt.

25 "Major is compendii." Similar to our reaping-hook, also. Fée thinks that the former was similar to the "faux faucille," or false sickle, the latter to the common sickle of the French.

26 Fée says that this is the case in some parts of France.

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