Culture Beat Mr Vain Acapella |WORK| [BEST]
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'Observe the continual succession of hours, days, and months, and years, how one still follows upon another, and think of eternity, wherein there is a continual succession without end.- When you see a water running think how vain a thing it would be, to sit down by it, and wait till it should run out, that you may pass over-look how new water still succeeds to that which passeth by you, and therin you will have an image of eternity, which is a river that never dries up. They who wears [sic] rings, have an image of eternity on their fingers; and they who handle the wheel have an emblem of eternity before them; for to which part soever of the ring or wheel one looks, one will still see another beyond it.- When you look to a mountain, imagine in your hearts, how long would it be ere that mountain should be removed, by a little bird coming but once every thousand years and carrying away but one grain of dust thereof at once; the mountain would at length be removed that way, and brought to end, but eternity will never end. Suppose this with respect to all the mountains of the earth; nay with respect to the whole globe of the earth; the grains of dust whereof the whole earth is made up, are not infinite, and therefore the last grain would at long-run, come to be carried away, in the way supposed, but when the slowest work would be brought to an end, eternity would be in effect but beginning.
These facts are well known; but usually they are met with the remark that the character of agriculture had been altered: that instead of growing wheat, meat and milk were produced in this country. However, the figures for 1887, compared with the figures for 1860, show that the same downward movement took place under the heads of green crops and the like. The area under potatoes was reduced by 280,000 acres; under turnips by 180,000 acres; and although there was an increase under the heads of mangold, carrots, etc., still the aggregate area under all these crops was reduced by a further 330,000 acres. An increase of area was found only for permanent pasture (2,800,000 acres) and grass under rotation (1,600,000 acres); but we should look in vain for a corresponding increase of live stock. The increase of live stock which took place during those twenty-seven years was not sufficient to cover even the area reclaimed from waste land.4
I once took a knapsack and went on foot out of London, through Sussex. I had read Leonce de Lavergne's work and expected to find a soil busily cultivated; but neither round London nor still less further south did I see men in the fields. In the Weald I could walk for twenty miles without crossing anything but heath or woodlands, rented as pheasant-shooting grounds to "London gentlemen," as the labourers said. "Ungrateful soil" was my first thought; but then I would occasionally come to a farm at the crossing of two roads and see the same soil bearing a rich crop; and my next thought was tel seigneur, telle terre, as the French peasants say. Later on I saw the rich fields of the midland counties; but even there I was struck by not perceiving the same busy human labour which I was accustomed to admire on the Belgian and French fields. But I ceased to wonder when I learnt that only 1,383,000 men and women in England and Wales work in the fields, while more than 16,000,000 belong to the "professional, domestic, indefinite, and unproductive class," as these pitiless statisticians say. One million human beings cannot productively cultivate an area of 33,000,000 acres, unless they can resort to the Bonanza farm's methods of culture.
Many causes have combined to produce that undesirable result. The concentration of landownership in the hands of big landowners; the high profits obtained previously; the development of a class of both landlords and farmers who rely chiefly upon other incomes than those they draw from the land, and for whom farming has thus become a sort of pleasant by-occupation or sport; the rapid development of game reserves for sportsmen, both British and foreign; the absence of men of initiative who would have shown to the nation the necessity of a new departure; the absence of a desire to win the necessary knowledge, and the absence of institutions which could widely spread practical agricultural knowledge and introduce improved seeds and seedlings, as the Experimental Farms of the United States and Canada are doing; the dislike of that spirit of agricultural cooperation to which the Danish farmers owe their successes, and so on--all these stand in the way of the unavoidable change in the methods of farming, and produce the results of which the British writers on agriculture are complaining.11 But it is self-evident that in order to compete with countries where machinery is largely used and new methods of farming are resorted to (including the industrial treatment of farm produce in sugar works, starch works, and the drying of vegetables, etc., connected with farming), the old methods cannot do; especially when the farmer has to pay a rent of twenty, forty, and occasional]y fifty shillings per acre for wheat-lands.
19 Annuaire Statistique de la Belgique pour 1910, Bruxelles, 1911. In Mr. Seebohm Rowntree's admirable work, Land and Labour: Lessons from Belgium, published 1910 (London, Macmillan), the reader will find all concerning Belgian agriculture dealt with in detail on the basis of the author's personal scrupulous inquiries on the spot, and all available statistical information 2b1af7f3a8