Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

confumed by degrees. The mountains, by being constantly undermined, and wafted by the procefs of fo many deep roots, would be infenfibly diminished. Their evacuations would fink them from age to age, and the fmaller eminences would have been laid level with the plains long ago.

"The earth, which nourishes our forefts, fuftains no diffipation of its fubftance, but continues undiminished, like the earth in the box of an orange-tree."

" And yet the orange-tree has acquired confiderable acceffions

of growth; and has likewise produced leaves and fruit repeatedly. These have weight proportionable to their fubstance; from whence then do they receive it, fince the earth continues as heavy as it was at firft? The materials of thefe growths must be imparted from other fources."

This fact has, in other inftances, been accurately inveftigated; the earth previously weighed to a grain, and every precaution taken the iffue has uniformly been the fame. We conclude, therefore, that earth only furnishes a convenient and neceffary channel, or means of conveyance, to those principles which promote vegetation.-We fee, every day, many kinds of flowers, especially bulbous-rooted flowers, without the affiftance of earth, but merely as nourished by water, in thofe glaffes which decorate our mantle-pieces; we fee them daily flourish in every variety of tint and colour; nor perhaps has it escaped the notice of my auditory, that many family efculents (onions, for inftance, especially) will sprout and grow while hung up, free from every fuppofable communication or contact with earth. We have here appealed to XI. 3 E

fubjects

fubjects with which we are familiar, and which having origi nally grown in earth, may feem to require a connexion with that element, as moft natural, and moft neceffary: but it is with great probability fuppofed, that many vegetables growing in the fea, whofe leaves appear and swim on its furface, have never been attached to earth, but may be confidered as germinating and increafing in water only. If it is faid, that the feed of such plants may fall to the bottom, and there firft unfolding, may originate from the earth, and afterwards be torn from it by currents of water, we grant it may; yet if thefe plants, from this fuppofed state of immaturity and weaknefs, arrive at their perfection while floating on the waves, they may, with at least equal justice, be deemed the offspring of water as of earth: we know, indeed, that a sprig of mint (and other plants), after being taken from the earth, will fhoot out roots and grow in water; but it is with great diffi culty fuch a sprig can be returned from water to its native bed, with any advantage; it is feldom fuch plants furvive the change. Upon the whole we may, without injuftice, confider earth as furnishing, (1.) a proper bed wherein plants, &c. are depofited; (2.) heat and warmth in due proportion for maintaining the life committed to its care; (3.) a regular draught of those nutritive juices which it receives from other quarters.

(1.) The texture of earth wherein vegetation flourishes, is neither so strong and hard, as to forbid the penetration of the roots, and their fmaller fibres; nor fo loofe and dufty, as to part with fuch roots by the agitation of gentle breezes; not ftiff like clay, nor crumbling like fand; but of a due confift

ence,

[ocr errors]

ence, and, as one may call it, temper. (2.) There are foils fo cold in themselves, that labour is loft in attempting to ameliorate them;—these are confequently difpofed to barrenness : others are naturally warm. But in another fenfe the earth is warm, as it receives and holds, for fome time, the ardent beams of the fun, and these it diftributes as occafion requires; regularly, conftantly, probably frugally, but certainly effectually, and without reluctance. Were all the heat of the fun at once imbibed by a plant, it would parch and confume it; or if it furvived, when the ftock was exhaufted, what penury would follow! But the earth, gradually warmed by the folar beams, 'imbibes them; and when the fun is withdrawn during night, yet maintains warmth around its plants till the fun returns: and this kind office it continues, till the plants, having reached maturity, fulfil the reaper's hope. (3.) On much the fame principle, the diftribution of rain, &c. by the earth is beneficial: a flood of rain does much less fervice than if it were gentle, because it runs off the earth foon, rolling fuperficially over it whereas gentle rain gradually finks to a proper depth in the ground, rendering it a kind of refervoir, from whence the plants, by their roots, may draw fufficient moisture for a confiderable time.

That the intervention of the earth is neceffary, appears from what has been juft obferved; chiefly as it affords a kindlyadapted medium and paffage to thofe principles of vegetation, of which itself furnishes but a diminutive fhare;-every element, perhaps, partakes in the formation of a vegetable; air is notorious, water is very abundant, earth has fome share; and

without

without fire, no plant would arrive at maturity, would ever ripen or be compacted.

We admire the productions of the earth; and we dwell on their characters, and qualities: the lofty tree and the beauteous flower, the sturdy oak and the fragrant rofe; but we feldom reflect on the near alliance between them and ourfelves. I was perhaps wrong in faying, 66 our greatest obligations are to that earth which fupports vegetables;" ought I not rather to have faid, that earth which compofes ourfelves? which in mankind exhibits every varied excellence, every striking beauty, which sparkles in the eye, or glows on the cheek, exalted beyond the capability of flowers, were loveliness only regarded: but if social manners, and affections mild, adorn this exaltation, what has not earth to boast of? Or, when conftancy and courage, genius and skill, depth of thought, of research, of understanding, connect with a little earth, in what is the lofty tree, the sturdy oak, comparable to this? We have feen that earth of itself can produce no plant, can form not a blade of grafs; barren and vacant alone, but the means of production and support to all things; and, when commiffioned, it becomes the refidence even of thought and intelligence. See what fupreme Power and Skill can do! But though we do right to admire these effects, we may reasonably hope to behold infinitely greater wonders, when this clothing of earth fhall quit us; when we shall return to earth what for a little while we had borrowed; and when the clay, whofe medium is now neceffary to communicate our ideas, our fentiments, our conceptions, 6 fhall

fhall be deemed no longer worthy our refidence; for, though wonderfully wrought and formed, replete with contrivance and ingenuity, acuated by, and actuating a thousand springs, all aftonishing in their conftruction, in their effects, in their compofition, in their sympathy, and in their union, yet this fabric fhall be diffolved, and earth return to earth, and duft to duft.- What! shall this compofition, this terrestrial master-piece of the Divine Workman, omnifcient in wisdom, fhall it be loft, be deemed unworthy admiffion among his fuperior exertions of fkill? No! it fhall be purified by diffolution, then be adorned with fplendor, be furrounded with glory, be ennobled with dignity, and then, earth-earth shall be honoured among the most honourable works of Deity, and perhaps be remarked by admiring angels, as a transformation once unthought of, unlooked for, and now beheld with furpaffing aftonishment, and joyful gratulation !

LECTURE

« AnkstesnisTęsti »