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[51] 15. I come now to the pleasures of agriculture in which I find incredible delight; they are not one whit checked by old age, and are, it seems to me, in the highest degree suited to the life of the wise man. For these pleasures have an account in the bank of Mother Earth who never protests a draft, but always returns the principal with interest added, at a rate sometimes low, but usually at a high per cent. And vet what I enjoy is not the fruit alone, but I also enjoy the soil itself, its nature and its power. It takes the scattered grain of wheat within its soft, upturned breast, hides it from sight at first—(it is hidden by harrowing,1 derived from a word meaning “to hide”)—then, having warmed it with the heat of its embrace, expands it and from it brings forth a verdant blade, which, supported by fibrous roots, and maturing by degrees, stands erect upon its jointed stalk, enfolded in a sheath, when now, so to speak, it has arrived at man's estate; and, when it has emerged from the sheath, the ear comes to view with its grain in ordered rows and protected by a palisade of spikes against the attacks of the smaller birds.

1 The real derivation is from occa = rastrum, “a hoe.”

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