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bamboo, are related to each other? If I were old, and wise enough, I think I should say that it is all
A. Perhaps you will not say that it is all nonsense when your ideas have expanded and your brain is ripe. There are things even more unlike than those you have mentioned which are classed together. What do you think of charcoal and the diamond ? As to these classifications, some of them are obvious and reasonable enough. Some are for the convenience of our inquiries amongst the world of things contained in the vast museum of nature, and some are ridiculous and absurd. The words genus and species have been adopted to denote the larger and smaller classifications. Thus Canis is a genus of animals of which the dog, the wolf, and the jackal are species. Again, Felis is a genus of which the lion, the tiger, and the cat are species ; and I think you will, on paying attention to the peculiarities of these kinds, see that there is some reason in alleging relationship.
To return to plants.
There are such facts as resemblances amongst things that differ, or differences amongst things that resemble one another. Thus every one can see that a carrot is more like a parsnip than it is like a currant-tree; that a pea is more like a bean than an apple ; and that a cherry blossom is more like an apple blossom than a horse-chesnut. Without some sort of classification, the student would be lost in a wilderness of things which he could never describe or understand. But by the knowledge that one species has a certain form of flower, he has a knowledge of very many. For instance, there is a tribe of plants, whose blossom-leaves are always in the form of a cross, and therefore called crucifera, such as the common radish, mustard, or cress; and of this family, consisting of 900 species, he has a sort of information regarding not merely the flower, but the constitution of the plants besides.
To go back to the family of grasses. It is evident that as grass itself is the main food of flocks and herds, and as corn is the seed of plants of this kind, we should be de
prived at once of our bread and meat if they were to cease amongst us, and must inevitably perish.
Q. Would not other vegetables remain, and also fish ?
A. It is true, there would ; several roots, and fruits, and fish, which we are very glad of now, and should be in desperate want of them. The cattle would first find out the want of grass ; for it would be of no use to offer a sheep a dish of sprats, or a cow a cup of tea ; pigs would grunt at coffee-berries, and calves would not suck cucumbers; vor would these animals be long maintained without the graminiferous blade which is their natural food.
We see, then, why it is that this precious plant is almost everywhere found, and is so determined to grow, that it becomes an inveterate weed where we do not want it. The principle of life and increase is so incessantly active in the roots of common grass, that after the turf has been pared away, the surface bound hard for months in iron frost, or even burnt up, it springs again in a very little time. Its carpet it will spread, in spite of all.
The grasses, however, numerous, varied, and invaluable as they are, do not constitute, by any means, our whole supply of vegetable food ; but if they do supply what is called the staff of life, still they could not alone fulfil the beneficent designs of the Creator, who has been pleased to appoint us additional provisions, and to bestow luxuries upon us--the luxury of variety in our common food. So we have roots and fruits. Amongst the former, the POTATO is a surprising instance of the ways of Him whose thoughts are not as our thoughts. This lowly plant was placed by Providence originally in the seclusion of the western world. There its vast powers of production and nutriment lay unsuspected for ages. Scarcely more than a hundred years have passed since this plant was regarded as a mere garden curiosity or table delicacy. Now it has become the food of nations; and the kindly root which the American savage abandoned to animals more sagacious than himself, has, under the care and culture of civilized man, yielded a supply of sustenance which has stayed the advance of famine over half of the globe.
The roots of importance, next to the potato, are turnips and beet-root, or the mangel-wurzel, which form an excellent food for cattle in the winter months. Then for man, chiefly as garden produce, there is also the small white turnip, the onion, the carrot, and the parsnip ; and to flavour his broth, when flesh is scanty, there are the potherbs, whose leaves impart so various and potent a relish, that the presence or absence of the lump of meat can scarcely be ascertained. These, accompanied by the onion, are a special gift to the poor man, who is happy indeed when his good wife is such an excellent homely cook, that she understands and can make full use of these luxuries of the cottage garden. When corn meal, as well as meat, runs short, then they have peas and beans to thicken up the mess.
As for fruits, the produce of trees and shrubs, it is quite impossible for us to find room, even for their names. Here we have the confectionary of nature. Flavour adapted to the caprice of appetite is, by the fruit-bearing tree, varied ! and enriched beyond all description. In fruits, the acids and the sweets, with the specific taste of each kind, are deliciously combined ; so that they cannot be separated or distinguished, or imitated at all. They are, according to the soil and the power of the sun, ripened to the last degree of luscious richness or fragrant delicacy, so as not to admit of any help from art; whilst some are left, as it were, half-finished by nature, that man may try his skill
The rhubarb-stalk is of this kind, and is ripened by cookery.
To all that we have said, fragrance must be added ; the richest fruits are, for the most part, rich in odours; and here we are reminded of the flowers. So wide is this world, however, that we can scarcely glance at it- we can only stay a moment to inhale the perfume, and survey
the splendours of nature's garden. And here let us not forget the Being who has been at work here-who gave to each flower its form, its colour, and its perfume. Oh ! let us call to mind what God has done for man-how he has provided for and indulged him! The general hue of the
vegetable crop is green, exactly the colour that relieves and soothes the eye. Other colours astonish by their almost fiery radiance, but for the sweet repose of the eye there is nothing so congenial as the verdure of our spreading meads and dancing foliage.
A word or two as to vegetable clothing.
In the earliest ages of the world, it is evident that animals must have supplied the covering of which man stood in need. But, as human wants and skill increased, the world of plants was examined, and made to yield its materials for clothing. Amongst other vegetable substances, British skill has fixed on the flimsy down of the cotton-plant, and has, by its millions of shining reels and wondrous looms, produced the calico and cotton goods for dresses, when required, of beautiful delicacy and whiteness; and, if otherwise designed, it receives the impress of the artist's fancy, and is printed to suit, if possible, all pockets and all eyes.
Plants also furnish timber. The lofty monarchs of the wood have fallen all around by the band of man, that they may rise again, at his command, as stately buildings. The tropics yield the deep umbrage of their mahogany forests, and the snowy wastes of the north give up the tall dark pine, and the woods of old England their ancient oaks and elms, that man may not remain unhoused or uncomfortable. Man observes that wood floats upon the flood, and he constructs edifices to glide on the green wave, from shore to shore. The seaman, blest with a faithful guide, treads with fearless foot the plank which, borne on the billow's crest, tosses him onward towards distant climes; and the British heart of oak, after having thus traversed the circling world of waters, returns to its native shores laden with the treasures of every sunny land.
Thus we have seen that the vegetable world ministers to the necessities, the luxuries, and the intellectual activities of man. The root, the leaf, the seed, the juicy fruit, the medicinal sap, the sturdy substance of the timbered forests,
-all have evidently been created with the qualities needful for him, and have been placed at his disposal; whilst myriads of inferior beings, from the tiny insect that pierces the leaf with its invisible teeth to the mighty elephant that uproots the oak-tree in his haste, find also their sustenance from the same perpetual source of enjoyment and supply.--From "A Glance at the Globe," by Jeffreys Taylor.
A LADY who found it difficult to awake as early as she wished in the morning, purchased an alarum-clock. These clocks are so contrived as to strike with a loud whirring noise at any hour the owner pleases to set them.
The lady placed her clock at the head of the bed, and at the appointed time she found herself effectually roused by the long rattling sound. She immediately obeyed the summons, and felt better all the day for her early rising. The alarum-clock faithfully performed its office, and was distinctly heard so long as it was promptly obeyed. But after a time the lady grew tired of early rising, and when she was awakened by the noisy monitor, she merely turned herself and slept again. In a few days, the clock ceased to arouse her from her slumber. It spoke just as loudly as ever, but she did not hear it, because she had acquired the habit of disobeying it. Finding that she might just as well be without an alarum-clock, she formed the wise resolution, that if she should ever hear the sound again, she never would allow herself to disobey the warning.
Just so it is with conscience. If we disobey its dictates, even in the most trifling particulars, or allow ourselves to do what we have some fears may not be quite right, we shall grow more and more sleepy until the voice of conscience has no longer any power to awaken us.