July 28: An early proposal for A&Ms


When you are tired, and weary, and sleepy, and tired, you don't want to open your Abraham Cowley and see this sentence:

THE FIRST wish of Virgil (as you will find anon by his verses) was to be a good philosopher, the second, a good husbandman...
It's the "anon"s that get you, every damn time. This is one of these 17th century essays ("Of Agriculture," to be specific) where the most devastating clincher to your argument possible is finding evidence that some Roman had already made it.
It [farmin'] does certainly comprehend more parts of philosophy, than any one profession, art, or science, in the world besides: and therefore Cicero says, the pleasures of a husbandman, “mihi ad sapientis vitam proxime videntur accedere,”
Cicero FTW!

The main argument is the old chestnut which I always find tedious -- the essential virtue of the country vs. the fleshpots of the city:
...we walk here in the light and open ways of the divine bounty; we grope there in the dark and confused labyrinths of humane malice...Here, pleasure looks (methinks) like a beautiful, constant, and modest wife; it is there an impudent, fickle, and painted harlot.
Well, I guess we explained why people leave the country for the city, right there. I might note that Cowley hung out in London and Paris before heading for the country, so it's just like the guy who chases harlots in his youth and then, when they will no longer have him, he points out that they're just a bunch of harlots anyway.

As for me, I hold more or less the opinion of a boxing manager quoted by A.J. Liebling: "I like the country. It is a nice spot."

I did like, here, that Cowley makes a pitch for the establishment of the land-grant college:
...it would suffice, if, after the manner of halls in Oxford, there were only four professors constituted ...to teach these four parts of it: First, Aration, and all things relating to it. Secondly, Pasturage. Thirdly, Gardens, Orchards, Vineyards, and Woods. Fourthly, all parts of Rural Economy, which would contain the government of Bees, Swine, Poultry, Decoys, Ponds, &c...
Nowadays, of course, Bees would be its own department, and they would try hard to have their conferences in someplace fun, like a city.

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