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2. They say that in his prime', Ere the pruning-knife of Time Cut him down',
Not a better man was found
3. But now he walks the streets, And he looks at all he meets So forlorn';
And he shakes his feeble head,
4. The mossy marbles rest
And the names he loved to hear
5. My grandmamma has said-
That he had a Roman nose',
8. And now his nose is thin',
And a crook is in his back',
7. I know it is a sin
For me to sit and grin
But the old three-corner'd hat,
8. And if I should live to be
The last leaf upon the tree
Let them smile as I do now'
OLIVER W. HOLMES.
a More solemnity and deeper feeling are expressed by the inflections as here given— the rising on "so," and the falling on "queer," than would be if these inflections were transposed. Now the meaning is simply the exclamatory expression, with some depth of feeling, "How queer they are'!" The inflections transposed would express the more trivial meaning, "They are so queer' that I can not help laughing`."
THE FOOD OF PLANTS.
1. THE food of plants consists of air and water, and of the various substances dissolved in or mixed with them. By their leaves and roots* plants absorb water, which is composed of the two gases oxygen and hydrogen. By the little breathing holes in their leaves they take in carbonic acid, and perhaps some nitrogen also, although the chief source of the latter is the soil. By the varied union of the constituent1 gases of air and water nearly all the parts of the plant are formed, the solids as well as the liquids.
2. The elements, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, are used by the plant, in various proportions, to form woody tissue,2 sugar, starch, resin, oils, and acids. Nitrogen, another gas, is also required in small quantities for many vegetable products, especially those used in medicines, and it is found in the most nutritious3 articles of food. But, besides the above, which are called organic1 elements, some mineral, earthy, and other ingredients, called inorganic elements, are also used as food, or for some other purpose, by different plants, although in small quantities.†
3. In view of these mineral and earthy matters which most
*The new and very small fibrous roots called spongioles, and not the large and old roots, are what absorb moisture or food from the earth. Hence the importance, in transplanting shrubs and trees, of preserving with care these little rootlets.
Such as potassium, silicon, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, sulphur, iodine, and chlorine. Even copper is taken in by the roots of some plants. It is said to form eight parts in a million in coffee, and about four and a half parts in a million in wheat.
plants are found to contain, the eminent German chemist, Liebig, has classified cultivated vegetables, some as alkali plants, of which the potato is an example; some as lime plants, among which are peas; some as silex or flint plants, which include the grasses; and some as phosphorus plants, among which are our grains, wheat, rye, etc. The skin of the ratan palm abounds so much in silex, which the plant has absorbed dissolved in water, that it will strike fire with a piece of steel; the same substance exists in other kinds of wood, to which it gives a peculiarly gritty texture; and in a plant common in this country, the equisetum, or horse-tail, which is used for polishing wood, the whole surface seems to be composed of compact sandy particles.
4. Carbonic acid gas, which, as we have elsewhere seen, is very destructive of animal life, and is produced by the breathing of animals and the combustion or decay of vegetable matter, is the most essential1o of the substances upon which plants are fed. It is taken into the plant both by the leaves and by the roots. By some mysterious process, which we do not understand, it is there decomposed," and, while the carbon is retained to aid in forming the solid parts of the plant, the oxygen is returned to the atmosphere. Here, being breathed by animals, it again meets with its old friend carbon, unites with it, and carbonic acid is again sent forth from animal lungs to supply other vegetables with carbon.
5. Thus, day by day, the whole vegetable world is grow ing up before our eyes, forming one half of its solid bulk out of a portion of the same air that we breathe the carbon which it borrows from the atmosphere and from decaying vegetation—while nine tenths of the other half are common water.* Strange though it may seem to us, yet we know that the solid parts of our wooden dwellings, of our ships that sail on the ocean, of our sturdy forest oaks, are formed almost wholly of compressed12 and hardened air and water. And when the vegetation that robes the summer landscape with beauty falls asleep in the lap of autumn, and when these forests that surround us fall, and put on the change which
A plant is said to retain about one third part of all the water that enters its system, and to change it into a solid form.
we call decay, they merely return to earth and air again, that succeeding generations of vegetable life may feed upon and be clothed with the same materials.
6. Many are the mysteries in vegetable life that we do not understand. It is, indeed, all a mystery. We can not even tell why plants vary in form, and structure,13 and modes of growth; why some bask in the sunlight, and others court the shade; why those growing in the same soil, and feeding upon the same air and water, put on different colors; why one converts its juices into poison, and another furnishes a delicious and wholesome beverage. Nor has man been enabled to tell how, out of the very same materials, the plant can form different substances-how out of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, it can form woody fibre, and starch, and gum, and sugar, and also an acid that is in all respects like vinegar.
7. Yet all this the plant accomplishes in its chemical laboratory,14 with a refinement15 of skill far beyond what man posMan can not take the elements and combine them as the plant does; they will not unite at his bidding. Yet the chemical processes which the plant performs must not be regarded as the blind operations of Nature; they are strictly in accordance with definite laws which God has given it; and, while we view the results of these laws with admiration and wonder, we should not forget their origin.
8. But, although man can not do what the plant does, he may aid the plant in performing many of its secret operations; by knowing "how plants grow," he may furnish them food of the right kind, and he may thus cause the landscape to put on a robe of brighter green, the harvests to yield more abundantly, and even the desert and waste places to bud and blossom like the rose.
TEXT-TRE, character; formation.
1 CON-STIT'-U-ENT, forming, composing, or making, as an essential part.
9 COM-BUS-TION, burning.
2 Tis'-SE, the woody portions, which have
10 ES-SEN'-TIAL, important.
the appearance of threads woven together. 11 DE-COM-POS'ED, separated into its constit3 NU-TRI-TIOUS, nourishing.
4 OR-GAN'-IC, those used in forming the or-12 COM-PRESS'ED, pressed or brought close gans, vessels, etc., of plants.
5 IN-GRE'-DI-ENTS, the several parts which 13 make up a thing.
STRUCTURE, internal arrangement of parts.
6 IN-OR-GAN'-Ic, not forming part of the or-14 gans.
LAB'-O-RA-TO-RY, workshop; place for chemical operations.
7 XL-KA-LI, a substance capable of destroy-15 ing the effect of an acid.
RE-FINE-MENT, exceeding nicety; great exactness.
THE MYSTERIES OF VEGETATION.
1. We know not why the beech delights the glade1
2. Wanting the sun', why does the caltha fade'?
3. Why does one climate and one soil endue1
Yet leave the lily pale, and tinge the violet blue'?
4. The twining jasmine', and the blushing rose',
A various instinct, or a different power'? [breath',
GLADE, an opening in a wood. 13 CY-PRESS, an evergreen; the white cedar. CON-IC, tapering upward to a point in the EN-DUE', clothe; supply with. form of a cone. 6 FAN-TAS'-TIO, gay; gaudy.