Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

tors. It is perhaps from this cause that they are probably the most industrious peasantry in the world. They labor busily, early and late, because they feel that they are laboring for themselves. .. The German peasants work hard, but they have no actual want. Every man has his house, his orchard, his roadside trees, commonly so heavy with truit, that he is obliged to prop and secure them all ways, or they would be torn to pieces. He has his corn plot, his plot for mangel-wurzel, for hemp, and so on. He is his own master; and he, and every member of his family, have the strongest motives to labor. You see the effect of this in that unremitting diligence which is beyond that of the whole world beside, and his economy which is still greater. The Germans, indeed, are not so active and lively as the English. You never see them in a bustle, or as though they meant to knock off a vast deal in a little time. .... They are on the contrary, slow, but forever doing. They plod on from day to day, and year to year—the most patient, untirable, and persevering of animals. The English peasant is so cut off from the idea of property, that he comes habitually to look upon it as a thing from which he is warned by the laws of the large proprietors, and becomes, in consequence, spiritless, purposeless. .... The German bauer, on the contrary, looks on the country as made for him and his fellow-mea. He feels himself a man; he has a stake in the country, as good as that of the bulk of his neighbors; no man can threaten him with ejection, or the workhouse, so long as he is active and economical. He walks therefore with a bold step; he looks you in the face with the air of a free man, but of a respectful one.''*

Of their industry, the same writer thus further speaks: - There is not an hour of the year in which they do not

• Kural and Domestic Life of Germany, p. 44.

find unceasing occupation. In the depth of winter, when the weather permits them by any means to get out of doors, they are always finding something to do. They carry out their manure to their lands while the frost is in them. If there is not frost, they are busy cleaning ditches and felling old fruit trees, or such as do not bear well. Such of them as are too poor to lay in sufficient stock of wood, find plenty of work in ascending into the mountainous woods, and bringing thence fuel. It would astonish the English common people to see the intense labor with which the Germans earn their firewood. In the depth of frost and snow, go into any of their hills and woods, and there you find them hacking up stumps, cutting off branches, and gathering, by all means which the official wood police will allow, boughs, stakes and pieces of wood, which they convey home with the most incredible toil and patience.” After a description of their careful and laborious vineyard culture, he continues, * “ In England, with its great quantity of grass lands and its large farms, so soon as the grain is in, and the fields are shut up for hay grass, the country seems in a comparative state of rest and quiet. But here they are everywhere, and forever, hoeing and mowing, planting and cutting, weeding and gathering. They have a succession of crops like a market gardener. They have their carrots, poppies, hemp, flax, saintfoin, lucerne, rape, coleworth, cabbage, rutabaga, black turnips, Swedish and white turnips, teazles, Jerusalem artichokes, mangel-wurzel, parsnips, kidney-beans, field-beans and peas, vetches, Indian corn, buckwheat, madder for the manufacturer, potatoes, their great crop of tobacco, millet-all, or the greater part, under the family management, in their own family allotments. They have had these things first to sow, many of them to transplant, to hoe, to weed, to clear off insects, to top; many of them to mow and gather in successive crops. They have their water-meadows, of which kind almost all their meadows are, to flood, to mow, and reflood; water-courses to re-open and to make anew; their early fruits to gather, to bring to market with their green crops of vegetables ; their cattle, sheep, calves, foals, most of them prisoners, and poultry to look after; their vines, as they shoot rampantly in the summer heat, to prune, and thin out the leaves when they are too thick; and any one may imagine what a scene of incessant labor it is.”

* Rural and Domestic Life in Germany, p. 50. VOL. I.

27*

This interesting sketch, to the general truth of which any observant traveller in that highly cultivated and populous region can bear witness, accords with the more elaborate delineation by a distinguished inhabitant, Professor Rau, in his little treatise “ On the Agriculture of the Palatinate."* M. Rau bears testimony not only to the industry, but to the skill and intelligence of the peasantry; their judicious employment of manures, and excellent rotation of crops ; the progressive improvement of their agriculture for generations past, and the spirit of further improvement which is still active. “ The indefatigableness of the country people, who may be seen in activity all the day and all the year, and are never idle, because they make a good distribution of their labors, and find for every interval of time a suitable occupation, is as well known as their zeal is praiseworthy in turning to use every circumstance which presents itself, in seizing upon every useful novelty which offers, and even in searching out new and advantageous methods. One easily perceives that the peasant of this district has reflected much on his occupation : he can give reasons for his modes of proceeding, even if those reasons are not always tenable ; he is as exact an observer of pro

Ueber die Landwirthschaft der Rheinpfalz, und insbesondere in der Heidel berger Gegend. Von D. Karl Heinrich Rau. Heidelberg, 1830.

portions as it is possible to be from memory, without the aid of figures; he attends to such general signs of the times as appear to augur to him either benefit or harm."*

$ 5. But the most decisive example in opposition to the English prejudice against cultivation by peasant proprietors, is the case of Belgium. The soil is originally one of the worst in Europe. “The provinces,” says Mr. McCulloch,t" of West and East Flanders, and Hainault, form a far-stretching plain, of which the luxuriant vegetation indicates the indefatigable care and labor bestowed upon its cultivation ; for the natural soil consists almost wholly of barren sand, and its great fertility is entirely the result of very skilful management and judicious application of various manures.” There exists a carefully prepared systematic treatise on Flemish Husbandry, in the Farmer's Series of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. The writer observes, that the Flemish agriculturists “ seem to want nothing but a space to work upon : whatever be the quality or texture of the soil, in time they will make it produce something. The sand in the Campine can be compared to nothing but the sands on the sea-shore, which they probably were originally. It is highly interesting to follow step by step the progress of improvement. Here you see a cottage and rude cow-shed erected on a spot of the most unpromising aspect. The loose white sand blown into irregular mounds is only kept together by the roots of the heath; a small spot only is leveled and surrounded by a ditch ; part of this is covered with young broom, part is planted with potatoes, and perhaps a small patch of diminutive clover may show itself ;” but manures, both solid and liquid, are collecting, “and this is the nucleus from which, in a few years, a little farm will spread around. . . . If there is no manure at hand, the only thing that can be sown on pure sand, at first, is broom : this grows in the most barren soils; in three years is fit to cut, and produces some return in faggots for the bakers and brickmakers. The leaves which have fallen have somewhet enriched the soil, and the fibres of the roots have given a certain degree of compactness. It may now be ploughed and sown with buckwheat, or even with rye without manure. By the time this is reaped, some manure may have been collected, and a regular course of cropping may begin. As soon as clover and potatoes enable the farmer to keep cows and make manure, the improvement goes on rapidly ; in a few years the soil undergoes a complete change: it becomes mellow and retentive of moisture, and enriched by the vegetable matter afforded by the decomposition of the roots of clover and other plants. . . . After the land has been gradually brought into a good state, and is cultivated in a regular manner, there appears much less difference between the soils which have been originally good, and those which have been made so by labor and industry. At least, the crops in both appear more nearly alike at harvest, than is the case in soils of different qualities in other countries. This is a great proof of the excellency of the Flemish system ; for it shows that the land is in a constant state of improvement, and that the deficiency of the soil is compensated by greater attention to tillage and manuring, especially the latter."

+ Geographical Dictionary, art. “Belgium."

* Rau, pp. 15, 16. | Pp. 11-4.

The people who labor thus intensely, because laboring for themselves, have practiced for centuries those principles of rotation of crops and economy of manures, which in England are counted among modern discoveries; and even now the superiority of their agriculture, as a whole, to that of England, is admitted by competent judges. “The cultivation of a poor light soil, or a moderate soil,” says the

« НазадПродовжити »