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[Footnote 1: "The manner in which the ancients managed their fallow is certainly most worthy of our attention: their care in ploughing, according to the situation of the land, and nature of the climate, and their manner of adapting the kind of ploughing to answer the purposes intended by the operation, are also most worthy of our imitation. Their exactness in these things exceeds any thing of the kind found amongst the moderns, and is even beyond what any practical writer on agriculture has proposed. This is an evidence that tillage is not even in this age brought to that perfection of which it is capable: and that, notwithstanding all the improvements lately introduced, we may yet receive some instruction from a proper attention to the precepts and practices of the ancients. I am desirous to add that this attention may be useful by preventing improvers from running into every specious scheme of agriculture produced by a lively imagination and engaging them to study the great variety of soils and even climates in this island, and to be careful in adapting to these their several operations." Dickson Husbandry of the Ancients, XXIII.

The Rev. Andrew Dickson, who died in 1776, was minister of Aberlady in the county of East Lothian, the son of a progressive and successful Scots farmer, and had experience in practical agriculture, as well as in scholarship, as his book shows.]

[Footnote 2: The compilation of rural lore, known as the Geoponica, which exists in Greek, was made at Byzantium for the Emperor Constantine VII about the middle of the tenth century A.D. It is very largely a paraphrase of the Roman authors, and is useful principally in elucidating their textual difficulties.]

[Footnote 3: Donald G. Mitchell made an interesting collation, in his Wet Days at Edgewood, of the large number of books on agriculture which have been written in old age and by men of affairs, in many lands and many languages.]

[Footnote 4: It is interesting to record, however, that Varro received the Navalis Corona for personal gallantry in the war against the pirates. This distinction was even more rare than our modern Medal of Honor or Victoria Cross, and was awarded only to a commander who leapt under arms on the deck of an enemies' ship and then succeeded in capturing her.]

[Footnote 5: Caesar did not live to accomplish this, but some years after his death a public library was established at Rome by Asinius Pollio, which Pliny says (H.N. VII, 31) was the first ever built, those at Alexandria and Pergamus having been private institutions of the kings.

In a land where public libraries have been every where founded out of the accumulations of Big Business, it is interesting to note that Pollio derived the funds with which this the first of their kind was endowed, from the plunder of the Illyrians!]

[Footnote 6: Cf. Sellar, Roman Poets of the Augustan Age. Virgil Ch.

  1. Boissier, Etudes sur M.T. Varron, Ch. IX. Servius _Comm. in Verg. Georg_. I, 43.

It does not appear that many of the commentators on Virgil have taken the trouble to study Varro thoroughly. They are usually better scholars than farmers.]

[Footnote 7: It is not remarkable that Virgil failed to make acknowledgment to Varro in the Georgics when he failed to make acknowledgment to Homer in the Aeneid. See Petrarch's Epistle to Homer for a loyal but vain attempt to justify this neglect.]

[Footnote 8: Cf. W.H. Myers' Classical Essays, p. 110: "For in the face of some German criticism it is necessary to repeat that in order to judge poetry it is, before all things, necessary to enjoy it. We may all desire that historical and philological science should push her dominion into every recess of human action and human speech, but we must utter some protest when the very heights of Parnassus are invaded by a spirit which surely is not science, but her unmeaning shadow; a spirit which would degrade every masterpiece of human genius into the mere pabulum of hungry professors, and which values a poet's text only as a field for the rivalries of sterile pedantry and arbitrary conjecture."]

[Footnote 9: It was perhaps this encomium upon the farmer at the expense of the banker which inspired Horace's friend Alfius to withdraw his capital from his banking business and dream a delicious idyl of a simple carefree country life: but, it will be recalled (Epode II, the famous "Beatus ille qui procul negotiis") that Alfius, like many a modern amateur farmer, recruited from town, soon repented that he had ever listened to the alluring call of "back to the land" and after a few weeks of disillusion in the country, returned to town and sought to get his money out again at usury.

Columella (I, praef.) is not content with Cato's contrast of the virtue of the farmer with the iniquity of the banker, but he brings in the lawyer's profession for animadversion also. This, he says, the ancient Romans used to term a canine profession, because it consisted in barking at the rich.]

[Footnote 10: The Roman numerals at the beginning of the paragraphs indicate the chapters of Cato from which they are translated. If Cato had not pretended to despise every thing which smacked of Greek literary art he might have edited and arranged his material, in which event his book would have been easier to read than it is, and no less valuable. Modern scholarship would not now venture to perform such an office for such a result, because it involves tampering with a text (as who should say, shooting a fox!) and yet modern scholarship wonders at the decay of classical studies in an impatient age. At the risk of anathema the present version has attempted to group Cato's material, and in so doing has omitted most of those portions which are now of merely curious interest.]

[Footnote 11: This, of course, means buying at a high price, except in extraordinary cases. There is another system of agriculture which admits of the pride of making two blades of grass grow where none was before, and the profit which comes of buying cheap and selling dear. This is farming for improvement, an art which was well described two hundred years before Cato. Xenophon (Economicus XX, 22) says:

"For those who are able to attend to their affairs, however, and who will apply themselves to agriculture earnestly, my lather both practised himself and taught me a most successful method of making profit; for he would never allow me to buy ground already cultivated, but exhorted me to purchase such as from want of care or want of means in those who had possessed it, was left untilled and unplanted. He used to say that well cultivated land cost a great sum of money and admitted of no improvement, and he considered that land which is unsusceptible of improvement did not give the same pleasure to the owner as other land, but he thought that whatever a person had or bought up that was continually growing better afforded him the highest gratification."]

[Footnote 12: Every rural community in the Eastern part of the United States has grown familiar with the contrast between the intelligent amateur, who, while endeavoring earnestly to set an example of good agriculture, fails to make expenses out of his land, and the born farmer who is self-supporting in the practice of methods contemned by the agricultural colleges. Too often the conclusion is drawn that scientific agriculture will not pay; but Cato puts his finger on the true reason. The man who does not depend on his land for his living too often permits his farm to get what Cato calls the "spending habit." Pliny (H.N. XVIII, 7) makes some pertinent observations on the subject:

"I may possibly appear guilty of some degree of rashness in making mention of a maxim of the ancients which will very probably be looked upon as quite incredible, 'that nothing is so disadvantageous as to cultivate land in the highest style of perfection.'"

And he illustrates by the example of a Roman gentleman, who, like Arthur Young in eighteenth century England, wasted a large fortune in an attempt to bring his lands to perfect cultivation. "To cultivate land well is absolutely necessary," Pliny continues, "but to cultivate it in the very highest style is mere extravagance, unless, indeed, the work is done by the hands of a man's own family, his tenants, or those whom he is obliged to keep at any rate."]

[Footnote 13: In this practice has been the delight of men of affairs of all ages who turn to agriculture for relaxation. Horace cites it with telling effect in the ode (III, 5) in which he describes the noble serenity of mind with which Regulus returned to the torture and certain death which awaited him at Carthage: and Homer makes an enduring picture of it in the person of the King supervising his fall ploughing, which Hephsestus wrought upon the shield of Achilles (Iliad, XVIII, 540). "Furthermore, he set in the shield a soft fresh ploughed field, rich tilth and wide, the third time ploughed, and many ploughers therein drove their yokes to and fro as they wheeled about. Whensoever they came to the boundary of the field and turned, then would a man come to each and give into his hands a goblet of sweet wine: while others would be turning back along the furrows, fain to reach the boundary of the deep tilth, ... and among them the King was standing in silence, with his staff, rejoicing in his heart."]

[Footnote 14: This advice to sell the worn out oxen and the sick slaves justly excited Plutarch's generous scorn, and has been made the text of a sweeping denunciation by Mommsen of the practice of husbandry by men of affairs in Cato's time. "The whole system," says Mommsen, "was pervaded by the utterly unscrupulous spirit characteristic of the power of capital." And he adds, "If we have risen to that little-to-be-envied elevation of thought which values no feature of an economy save the capital invested in it, we cannot deny to the management of the Roman estates the praise of consistency, energy, punctuality, frugality and solidity." Without any desire to defend Cato, one may suggest, out of an experience in a kind of farm management not very different from that Cato pictures, that it is doubtful whether even Cato himself was quite as economical and efficient, and so as capitalistic in his farming, as he advises others to be: certainly a whole race of contemporary country gentlemen was not equal to it. It is much easier to write about business-like farming than to practise it.]

[Footnote 15: Hesiod (W. & D. 338) had already given this same advice to the Greek farmer:

"Invite the man that loves thee to a feast, but let alone thine enemy, and especially invite him that dwelleth near thee, for if, mark you, any thing untoward shall have happened at home neighbours are wont to come ungirt, but kinsfolk gird themselves first." This agreement of the Socialist Hesiod with the Capitalist Cato is remarkable only as it illustrates that both systems when wisely expounded rest on human nature. That upon which they here agree is the foundation of the modern European societies for rural co-operative credit which President Taft recommended to the American people. These societies, says the bulletin of the International Institute of Agriculture published at Rome in 1912, rest on three chief safeguards:

  1. That membership is confined to persons residing within a small district, and, therefore, the members are personally known to one another;

  2. That the members, being mutually responsible, it will be to the interest of all members to keep an eye upon a borrower and to see that he makes proper use of the money lent to him;

  3. That in like manner, it is to the interest of all members to help a member when he is in difficulties.]

[Footnote 16: This was an estate of average size, probably within Virgil's precept, (Georgic II, 412). "Laudato ingentia rura, exiguum colito." Some scholars have deemed this phrase a quotation from Cato, but it is more likely derived from Mago the Carthaginian who is reported to have said: "Imbecilliorem agrum quam agricolam, esse debere,"--the farmer should be bigger than his farm.]

[Footnote 17: The philosophy of Cato's plan, of laying out a farm is found in the agricultural history of the Romans down to the time of the Punic wars. Mommsen (II, 370) gives the facts, and Ferrero in his first volume makes brilliant use of them. There is sketched the old peasant aristocrat living on his few acres, his decay and the creation of comparatively large estates worked by slaves in charge of overseers, which followed the conquest of the Italian states about B.C. 300. This was the civilization in which Cato had been reared, but in his time another important change was taking place. The Roman frontier was again widened by the conquest of the Mediterranean basin: the acquisition of Sicily and Sardinia ended breadstuff farming as the staple on the Italian peninsular. The competition of the broad and fertile acres of those great Islands had the effect in Italy which the cultivation of the Dakota wheat lands had upon the grain farming of New York and Virginia. About 150 B.C. the vine and the olive became the staples of Italy and corn was superseded. Although this was not accomplished until after Cato's death, he foresaw it, and recommended that a farm be laid out accordingly, and his scheme of putting one's reliance upon the vine and the olive was doubtless very advanced doctrine, when it first found expression.]

[Footnote 18: Pliny quotes Cato as advising to buy what others have built rather than build oneself, and thus, as he says, enjoy the fruits of another's folly. The cacoethes aedificandi is a familiar disease among country gentlemen.]

[Footnote 19: Columella (I,4) makes the acute observation that the country house should also be agreeable to the owner's wife if he wishes to get the full measure of enjoyment out of it. Mago, the Carthaginian, advised to, "if you buy a farm, sell your house in town, lest you be tempted to prefer the cultivation of the urban gods to those of the country."]

[Footnote 20: According to German scholarship the accepted text of Cato's version of this immemorial epigram is a model of the brevity which is the test of wit, "Frons occipitio prior est." Pliny probably quoting from memory, expands it to "Frons domini plus prodest quam occípitíum." Palladius (I, 6) gives another version: "Praesentia domini provectus est agri." It is found in some form in almost every book on agriculture since Cato, until we reach the literature in which science has taken the place of wisdom--in the Byzantine Geoponica, the Italian Crescenzi, the Dutch Heresbach, the French Maison Rustique, and the English Gervase Markkam. Poor Richard's Almanack gives it twice, as "the foot of a master is the best manure" and "the eye of a master will do more work than both his hands." It is perennial in its appeal. The present editor saw it recently in the German comic paper Fliegende Blätter. But the jest is much older than Cato. It appears in Aeschylus, Persae, 171 and Xenophon employs it in Oeconomicus (XII, 20):

"The reply attributed to the barbarian," added Ischomachus, "appears to me to be exceedingly to the purpose, for when the King of Persia having met with a fine horse and wishing to have it fattened as soon as possible, asked one of those who were considered knowing about horses what would fatten a horse soonest, it is said that he answered 'the master's eye.'"]

[Footnote 21: The English word "orchard" scarcely translates arbustum, but every one who has been in Italy will recall the endless procession of small fields of maize and rye and alfalfa through which serried ranks of mulberry or feathery elm trees, linked with the charming drop and garland of the vines, seem to dance toward one in the brilliant sunlight, like so many Greek maidens on a frieze. These are arbusta.]

[Footnote 22: Cato was a strong advocate of the cabbage; he called it the best of the vegetables and urged that it be planted in every garden for health and happiness. Horace records (Odes. III, 21, 11) that old Cato's virtue was frequently warmed with wine, and Cato himself explains (CLVI) how this could be accomplished without loss of dignity, for, he says, if, after you have dined well, you will eat five cabbage leaves they will make you feel as if you had had nothing to drink, so that you can drink as much more as you wish--"bibesque quantum voles!"

This was an ancient Egyptian precaution which the Greeks had learned. Cf. Athenaeus, I, 62.]

[Footnote 23: Henry Home, Lord Kames, a Scots judge of the eighteenth century, whom Dr. Johnson considered a better farmer than judge and a better judge than scholar, but who had many of the characteristics of our priscus Cato, argues (following an English tradition which had previously been voiced by Walter of Henley and Sir Anthony Fitzherbert) in his ingenious Gentleman Farmer against the expense of ploughing with horses and urges a return to oxen. He points out that horses involve a large original investment, are worn out in farm work, and after their prime steadily depreciate in value; while, on the other hand, the ox can be fattened for market when his usefulness as a draught animal is over, and then sell for more than his original cost; that he is less subject to infirmities than the horse; can be fed per tractive unit more economically and gives more valuable manure. These are strong arguments where the cost of human labour is small and economical farm management does not require that the time of the ploughman shall be limited if the unit cost of ploughing is to be reasonable. The ox is slow, but in slave times he might reasonably have been preferred to the horse. Today Lord Kames, (or even old Hesiod, who urged that a ploughman of forty year and a yoke of eight year steers be employed because they turned a more deliberate and so a better furrow) would be considering the economical practicability of the gasolene motor as tractive power for a gang of "crooked" ploughs.]

[Footnote 24: Cato adds a long list of implements and other necessary equipment.]

[Footnote 25: The Roman overseer was usually a superior, and often a much indulged, slave. Cf. Horace's letter (Epist. I, 14) to his overseer.]

[Footnote 26: This was the traditional wisdom which was preached also in Virginia in slave times. In his Arator (1817) Col. John Taylor of Caroline says of agricultural slaves:

"The best source for securing their happiness, their honesty and their usefulness is their food.... One great value of establishing a comfortable diet for slaves is its convenience as an instrument of reward and punishment, so powerful as almost to abolish the thefts which often diminish considerably the owner's ability to provide for them."]

[Footnote 27: Reading "compitalibus in compito," literally "the cross roads altar on festival days."]

[Footnote 28: It is evident that Cato's housekeeper would have welcomed a visit from Mr. Roosevelt's Rural Uplift Commission. We may add to this Sir Anthony Fitzherbert's description of the duties of a farmer's wife in sixteenth century England:

"It is a wyues occupation to wynowe all maner of cornes, to make malte, to wasshe and wrynge, to make heye, shere corne, and in tyme of nede to helpe her husbande to fyll the mucke-wayne or dounge-carte, dryue the ploughe, to loode hey, corne and suche other. And to go or ride to the market, to sel butter, chese, mylke, egges, chekyns, capons, hennes, pygges, gese, and all maner of cornes. And also to bye all maner of necessarye thynges belongynge to houssholde, and to make a trewe rekenynge and acompte to her husbande what she hath payed."

Sir Anthony Fitzherbert (1470-1538) was the English judge whose law books are, or should be, known to all lawyers. His Boke of Husbandry, published in 1534, is one of the classics of English agriculture, and justly, for it is full of shrewd observation and deliberate wisdom expressed in a virile style, with agreeable leaven of piety and humour. Fitzherbert anticipated a modern poet, Henley, in one of his most happy phrases: "Ryght so euery man is capitayne of his owne soule". The Husbandry is best available to the modern reader in the edition by Skeat published for the English Dialect Society in 1882.]

[Footnote 29: Cato is careful not to undertake to say how this may be assured; another evidence of his wisdom.]

[Footnote 30: In his instructive discourse on ploughing, Columella (II,

  1. gives the key to Cato's warning against ploughing land when it is in the condition he calls rotten (cariosa):

"Rich land, which holds moisture a long time, should be broken up (proscindere) at the season when the weather is beginning to be warm and the weeds are developing, so that none of their seed may mature: but it should be ploughed with such close furrows that one can with difficulty distinguish where the plough share has been, for in that way all the weeds are uprooted and destroyed.

"The spring ploughing should be followed up with frequent stirring of the soil until it is reduced to dust, so that there may be no necessity, or very little, of harrowing after the land is seeded: for the ancient Romans said that a field was badly ploughed which had to be harrowed after the seed had been sown.

"A farmer should himself make sure that his ploughing has been well done, not alone by inspection, for the eye is often amused by a smooth surface which in fact conceals clods, but also by experiment, which is less likely to be deceived, as by driving a stout stick through the furrows: if it penetrates the soil readily and without obstruction, it will be evident that all the land there about is in good order: but if some part harder than the rest resists the pressure, it will be clear that the ploughing has been badly done. When the ploughmen see this done from time to time they are not guilty of clod hopping.

"Hence wet land should be broken up after the Ides of April, and, when it has been ploughed at that season, it should be worked again, after an interval of twenty days, about the time of the solstice, which is the eighth or ninth day before the Kalends of July, and again the third time about the Kalends of September, for it is not the practice of experienced farmers to till the land in the interval after the summer solstice, unless the ground shall have been soaked with a heavy down-pour of sudden rain, like those of winter, as does some times happen at this season. In that event there is no reason why the fallow should not be cultivated during the month of July. But when you do till at this season beware lest the land be worked while it is muddy: or when, having been sprinkled by a shower, it is in the condition which the country people call varia and cariosa, that is to say, when, after a long drought, a light rain has moistened the surface of the upturned sod but has not soaked to the bottom of the furrow.

"Those plough lands which are cultivated when they are miry are rendered useless for an entire year--they can be neither seeded nor harrowed nor hoed--but those which are worked when they are in the state which has been described as varia, remain sterile for three years on end. We should, therefore, follow a medium course and plough when the land neither lacks moisture nor yet is deep in marsh."]

[Footnote 31: Columella (II, 13) justly says about manure, "Wherefore if it is, as it would seem to be, the thing of the greatest value to the farmer, I consider that it should be studied with the greatest care, especially since the ancient authors, while they have not altogether neglected it, have nevertheless discussed it with too little elaboration." He goes on (II, 14) to lay down rules about the compost heap which should be written in letters of gold in every farm house.

"I appreciate that there are certain kinds of farms on which it is impossible to keep either live stock or birds, yet even in such places it is a lazy farmer who lacks manure: for he can collect leaves, rubbish from the hedge rows, and droppings from the high ways: without giving offence, and indeed earning gratitude, he can cut ferns from his neighbour's land: and all these things he can mingle with the sweepings of the courtyard: he can dig a pit, like that we have counselled for the protection of stable manure, and there mix together ashes, sewage, and straw, and indeed every waste thing which is swept up on the place. But it is wise to bury a piece of oak wood in the midst of this compost, for that will prevent venomous snakes from lurking in it. This will suffice for a farm without live stock."

One can see in Flanders today the happy land smiling its appreciation of farm management such as this, but what American farmer has yet learned this kind of conservation of his natural resources.]

[Footnote 32: The occupants of the motor cars which now roll so swiftly and so comfortably along the French national highway from Paris to Tours, through the pleasant pays de Beauce, can see this admirable and economical method of manuring still in practice. The sheep are folded and fed at night, under the watchful eye of the shepherd stretched at ease in his wheeled cabin, on the land which was ploughed the day before.]

[Footnote 33: These of course are all legumes. The intelligent farmer today sits under his shade tree and meditates comfortably upon the least expensive and most profitable labour on his farm, the countless millions of beneficent bacteria who, his willing slaves, are ceaselessly at work during hot weather forming root tubercles on his legumes, be it clover or cow peas, and so fixing for their lord the free atmospheric nitrogen contained in the soil. As Macaulay would say, "every school boy knows" now that leguminous root nodules are endotrophic mycorrhiza,--but the Romans did not! Nevertheless their empirical practice of soil improvement with legumes was quite as good as ours. Varro (I, 23) explains the Roman method of green manuring more fully than Cato. Columella (II, 13) insists further that if the hay is saved the stubble of legumes should be promptly ploughed for he says the roots will evaporate their own moisture and continue to pump the land of its fertility unless they are at once turned over.

If the Romans followed this wise advice they were better farmers than most of us today, for we are usually content to let the stubble dry out before ploughing.]

[Footnote 34: Was this ensilage? The ancients had their silo pits, but they used them chiefly as granaries, and as such they are described, by Varro (I, 57, 63), by Columella (I, 6), and by Pliny (XVIII, 30,

  1. .]

[Footnote 35: The extravagant American farmer has not yet learned to feed the leaves of trees, but in older and more economical civilizations the practice is still observed.]

[Footnote 36: Amurca was the dregs of olive oil. Cato recommends its use for many purposes in the economy of the farm, for a moth proof (XCVIII), as a relish for cattle (CIII), as a fertilizer (CXXX), and as an anointment for the threshing floor to kill weevil (XCI).]

[Footnote 37: There is a similar remedy for scratches in horses, which is traditional in the cavalry service today, and is extraordinarily efficacious.]

[Footnote 38: Cf. Pliny H.N. XVII, 267 and Fraser, The Golden Bough, XI, 177. The principle is one of magical homeopathy: as the split reed, when bound together, may cohere and heal by the medicine of the incantation, so may the broken bone.]

[Footnote 39: These examples will serve to illustrate how far Cato's veterinary science was behind his agriculture, and what a curious confusion of native good sense and traditional superstition there was in his method of caring for his live stock. On questions of preventing malady he had the wisdom of experience, but malady once arrived he was a simple pagan. There was a notable advance in the Roman knowledge of how to treat sick cattle in the century after Cato. Cf. Varro, II, 5.

The words of the incantations themselves are mere sound and fury signifying nothing, like the "counting out" rhythms used by children at their games.]

[Footnote 40: Cato gives many recipes of household as well as agricultural economy. Out of respect for the pure food law most of them have been here suppressed, but these samples are ventured because Varro mentions them and the editor is advised that some enterprising young ladies in Wisconsin have recently had the courage to put them to the test, and vow that they ate their handiwork! As they live to tell the tale, it is assumed that the recipes are harmless.]

[Footnote 41: Cf. the following traditional formula as practised in Virginia:

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