Imatges de pÓgina

All the elements have a great love into a cypress, which is still a funereal of society; they cannot live alone; they tree. The modest virgin Daphne, who have their likes and their dislikes; they succeeded in escaping the violence of his contract alliances which endure for a passion, was transformed into a laurel, time, but are dissolved in favor of strong- which is ever green and pure. And the er attractions.

sweet youth Hyacinthus, beloved of ApolWe have mentioned the names of sev- lo, being accidentally killed by a quoit eral natural elements. Let us see what which the god of day was throwing, that they are, and what they have to do with divinity, in his grief, caused those sweet man and the kingdoms of Nature. Be flowers which bear his name to spring ginning with man, let us see what be- from his blood, where it fell upon the comes of him in course of time, what ground. It is only in the annihilation physical metamorphoses he undergoes, to of the intervals of time between different what vile but excellent uses he is put. forms of existence that these old meta

That which forms the bone and muscle morphoses, which Ovid relates, are fabuof a man this year may be upon his own lous. If our readers will bear us compatable in the shape of potatoes or peaches ny a few steps, through ways which shall one summer later. When Hamlet talked have diversions enough to forbid weariof turning the clay of Alexander into the ness, we will endeavor to satisfy them bung of a beer-barrel, he spoke the sim- that these apparent fables are very near ple truth. In that great play, Shakspeare to every-day truths. We must begin with appears to have had the transformations some plain statements. of material things much in his mind; for The air which we expel from the lungs we find him alluding, in several passages, at every breath has a large proportion to the reciprocity which subsists between of carbonic acid. Let a man be shut up the elements of animate and inanimate in an air-tight room for a day, and he will things, and between the different mem- have changed nearly all the oxygen in it bers of the same kingdom ;—as when, in into this carbonic acid, and rendered it conversation with the king about the dead unfit for animal life. Dogs, cats, and Polonius, he makes Hamlet say, “A man birds would die in it. But, poisonous may fish with the worm that hath eat of a as it is to man and other animals, it is king, and eat the fish that hath fed of the a feast to plants. They want it all day worm"; or where, over the grave of and every day; not in the night, - at Ophelia, he traces the two ancient he- that time they have a taste for oxygen. roes back to their mother earth, in words This effete air, which men and animals some of which we have quoted.

exhale, so charged with carbonic acid, The ancient mythology, which shadow- the plants drink in through every pore. ed forth some truth in all its fables, turn- They take it from the mouth of man, ap ed these facts of Nature to its purpose. propriate it to their daily uses, and in The gods of Greece, when they saw fit time render it back to him mingled with to remove a human being from life, some- other ingredients in wholesome fruit. times reproduced him in another form of Carbonic acid is death when it combines beauty, without any intermediate stages of with the blood, -as it does when we indecay. Apollo seemed to have a partic- hale it; but not so when it enters the ular fancy for planting the boys and girls stomach in small quantities. One inspiwhom he had loved where he might en- ration of it is enough to make us dizzy, joy their fragrant society. Thus, a boy as when we enter an old well or stoop named Cyparissus, who had the misfor- over a charcoal fire; but a draught of tune to kill a favorite deer, was so un- water fully charged with it is exhilarating willing to be consoled, that he besought and refreshing, as we know by repeatApollo to make his mourning perpet- ed experiences at marble fountains that ual; and the kind god changed him meet us on so many city-corners.

If plants had souls, they would be pure so that all their gases may be absorbed ones, since they can bear such contami- by them alone. Thus, " the little Sundew nation and not be harmed, - nay, since exudes a gluey secretion from the sureven from such foul food as we give face of its leaves, which serves to attract them they can evolve results so beau- and retain insects, the decay of whose tiful. We give them our cast-off and bodies seems to contribute to its existworn-out materials, and they return us ence.” And the Dionæa, or Venus's the most beautiful flowers and the most Fly-trap of the Southern States, has some luscious fruits.

leaves which fold together upon any inBeside carbonic acid, there are two oth- sect that alights upon their upper surer principal materials, which are every face; and by means of a row of long day passing off in an effete state, though spines that fringes the leaves, they precapable of being transferred to the uses vent his


The more active the of plants. But when an animal dies, struggles of the captive, the closer grows the whole substance is then at Nature's the hold of the leaf, and speedily destroys disposal. We must set aside a great deal him. The plant appears to derive nutriof it for the ants and flies, who will help ment from the decomposition of its victhemselves in spite of us. If any one has tims. “Plants of this kind, which have never seen a carcass rapidly disappearing been kept in hot-houses in England, from under the steady operations of the larvæ which insects were carefully excluded, of the flesh-fly, he has yet to learn why have been observed to languish, but were some flies were made. The ants, too, restored by placing little bits of meat carry it off in loads larger, if not heavier, upon their traps,— the decay of these than themselves. But carcasses of ani- seeming to answer the same purpose.” mals may go to decay, undisturbed by the The four elements already referred ravages of these useful insects. That is, to are by no means all the material inthe limited partnership of Oxygen, Hy gredients of animal bodies. There are, drogen, & Co., under which they agreed also, phosphorus, lime, magnesia, soda, to carry on the operations of sheep, fox, sulphur, chlorine, and iron; and if you or fish, having terminated by the death of believe some chemists, there is hardly a the animal, the partners make immediate mineral in common use that may not be use of their liberty and go off in inorganic found in the human body. We doubt, form in search of new engagements, leav- however, whether lead, arsenic, and siling sulphur, phosphorus, and the other ver are there, without the intervention subordinate elements of the animal, to of the doctor. shift for themselves. They were in the What becomes of the phosphorus and employ of a sheep; they will now carry the rest, when an animal dies? Oh, they on a man or an oak-tree, a colony of in- take up new business, too. They are as sects, or something else. Under the form indispensable to the animal frame as the of carbonate of ammonia, the four ele- four most prominent ingredients. We ments diffuse themselves through the air, eat a great deal of bread and meat, and or are absorbed by the earth, and offer a little salt,— but the little salt is as imthemselves at once to the roots and leaves portant to continued life as the large of the trees, as ready to go on with their bread. There is hardly a tissue in the vivifying operations as they were in be- body from which phosphorus, in combihalf of the animals. There are some plants nation with lime, is absent; so that the which seem not to be left to the chances composition of lucifer-matches is by no of securing their nourishment from the means the most important use of this elecarbonate of ammonia that the air and ment. The luminous appearance which the soil contain, but are contrived so as some putrefying substances, particularly to entrap living animals and hold them fish, present at night, is due to the slow fast while they undergo decomposition, combustion of phosphorus which takes VOL. IV.


place as this element escapes into the unpleasant suspicions of bogus coin? The air from the decomposing tissues. sulphur, being more than is wanted in

The necessity for the steady supply of the economy of the system, has made its phosphorus and lime to the body is the escape through every pore in his skin, cause of the popularity of Mapes's super- and, of course, fraternizes with the silver phosphate of lime as a manure. The on its way. But it was of the sulphur farmers who buy it, perhaps, do not know which is natural to the body and always that their bones and other parts are made found there that we were speaking of it, and that this is the reason they must When the animal dies, and the vital furnish it to their land; for between the forces give way to chemical affinities, land and the farmer's bones are two or when the phosphorus and the rest take three other factories that require the same their departure, the sulphur, too, finds material. All the farmer knows is, that itself occupation in new fields of duty. his grass and his corn grow better for Chlorine and sodium, two more of the the superphosphate. But what he has elements of animal structures, produce, not thought of we will tell you, — that in combination, common salt,— without man finds his phosphate of lime in the which our food would be so insipid, that milk and meat of the cow, and she finds we have the best evidence of its being a her supply in the grass and corn, which necessary article of diet. The body has look to the farmer to see that their stock many uses for salt. It found in the of this useful mineral compound does not tears, as we are informed by poets, who fall short. Thus in milk and meat and talk of “briny drops” and “ saut, saut corn, which constitute so large a part of tears"; though why there, unless to keep our diet, we have always our phosphate the lachrymal fluid from spoiling, in those of lime. There are many other sources persons who bottle up their tears for a whence we can derive it, but these will long time, we cannot divine. do for the present. And thus, when an Perhaps we had better take the rest animal dies and has no further use for into consideration together,—the magnehis phosphate of lime, it is washed into sia and iron, and whatever other elements the soil around, after decomposition of are found in the body. Though some of the body has set it free, and goes to make them are there in minute quantities, the new grass and corn. Bone-earth (pound- structure cannot exist without them, ed bones) is a common top-dressing for and for their constant and sufficient supgrass-lands.

ply our food must provide. A small proportion of sulphur is found To see what becomes of all these main flesh and blood. We prove its pres- terials after we have done with them, we ence in the egg by common experience. must extend our inquiries among the artiAn egg—from which it escapes more easi- cles of ordinary diet and ascertain from ly than from flesh—discovers its presence

what sources we derive the several eleby blackening silver, as every housekeep- ments. er knows, whose social position is too high It has been sometimes believed that for bone egg-spoons or too low for gold none but animal food contains all the elones. This passion which sulphur enter- ements required for the support of life. tains for silver is very strong, as every Thanks to Liebig, we have discovered one knows who has ever been under that that vegetable substances also, fruits, wholesome discipline which had its week- grains, and roots, contain them all, and, ly recurrence at the delightful institution in most cases, in very nearly the same of Dotheboy's Hall; and what Anglo-Sax- proportions as they are found in animals. on ever grew up, innocent of that delec- We are not lecturing on dietetics; theretable vernal medicine to which we refer? fore we will not pause to explain why, Has he not found all the silver change although either bread or meat alone conin his pocket grow black, suggesting very tains the various materials for flesh and bone, it is better to combine them than mouse dies and decays, and its elements to endeavor to subsist on one only. are appropriated by the roots around its

Whither, then, go these elements when grave; and we can easily imagine the man has done with them? The answer next generations of mice, the children is,- All Nature wants them. Every plant and grandchildren of the deceased rois ready to drink them up, as soon as dent, feasting off the tender bark which they have taken forms which bring them was made out of the remains of their parwithin its reach. As gases, they are in- ent. The soil of our gardens and the haled by the leaves, or, dissolved in water, atmosphere above it are full of potential they are drunk up by the roots. All tomatoes, beans, corn, potatoes, and cabplants have not the same appetites, and bages,-even of peaches of the finest flatherefore they can make an amicable di- vor, and grapes whose aroma is transvision of the supply. Grasses and grains porting. want a large proportion of phosphate of Plants, as well as animals, have their lime, which they convert into husks. Peas peculiar tastes. Cut off the supply of and beans have little use for nitrogen, and phosphate of lime from a field of corn, resign it to others. Cabbages, cauliflow- and it will not grow. You can easily do ers, turnips, and celery appropriate a this by planting the same land with corn large share of the sulphur.

for three or four successive years, and The food of plants and that of animals your crop will dwindle away to nothing, have this great difference : plants take unless you supply the ground every year their nourishment in inorganic form only; with as much of the mineral as the corn animals require to have their food in or- takes away from it. All plants have the ganic form. That is, all the various min- power of selecting from the soil the maerals, singly or combined, which compose terials necessary to their growth ; and if the tissues of plants and animals,-carbon, they do not find them in the soil, they hydrogen, phosphorus, and the rest, which will not grow. It is now a familiar fact, we have already named,—are taken up that, when an old forest of deciduous trees by plants in mineral form alone. The has been felled, evergreens will spring up food of animals, on the other hand, con- in their places. The old oaks, hickories, sists always of organized forms. There and beeches, as any observer would disis no artificial process by which oxygen, cover, pass their last years in repose, carbon, and hydrogen can be brought simply putting out their leaves and bearinto a form suitable for the nourishment ing a little fruit every year, but making of animals. As oxygen, carbon, and hy- hardly any new wood. An oak may atdrogen, they are not food, will not sus- tain to nearly its full size, in spread of tain our life, and human art cannot im- branches, in its first two hundred years, itate their nutritious combinations. Ar- and live for five or six hundred years tificial fibrine and gluten (organic prin- longer in a state of comparative rest. It ciples) transcend our power of contriv- seems to grow no more, simply because it ance as far as the philosopher's stone has exhausted too much of the material for eluded the grasp of the alchemists. We its nourishment from the ground around know exactly how many equivalents of its roots. At least, we know, that, when oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen we have cut it down, not oaks, but pines, enter into the composition of each of the will germinate in the same soil,-pines, animal elements ; but we can no more which, having other necessities and takimitate an organic element than we can ing somewhat different food, find a supform a leaf. What we cannot do the ply in the ground, untouched by their vegetable world does for us.

Thus we

predecessor. Hence the rotation of crops, see why it was necessary that the earth 80 much talked of by agriculturists. Beshould be clothed with vegetation before fore the subject was so well understood, animals could be introduced. A field- the ground was allowed to lie fallow for


a year or two, when the crops began to ers, from the exudation of this narcotic grow small, that it might recover from principle into the ground, and are stuntthe air the elements it had lost. We now ed, like the children of Gin Lane. adopt the principle of rotation, and plant The Aquarium furnishes a very interbeans this year where last year we put esting example of the mutual dependence

of the three natural kingdoms. Here, in It is not merely that plants deprive a box holding a few gallons of water and themselves of their future support by ex- a little atmospheric air, is a miniature hausting the neighboring earth of the world, secluded, and supplying its own elements they require. Some of them wants. Its success depends on the numput into the ground substances which are ber and character of the animals and poisonous to themselves or other plants. plants being so adapted as to secure just Thus, beans and peas pour out from their the requisite amount of active growth to roots a very notable amount of a certain each to sustain the life of the other: that gum which is not at all suited to their the plants should be sufficient to support, own nourishment,- so that, if we plant by the superfluities of their growth, the beans in the same spot several successive vegetarians among the animated tribes seasons, they thrive very poorly. But that surround them; and that all the this gum appears to be exactly the food animal tribes of the aquarium, whethfor corn ; if, therefore, we raise crops of er subsisting upon the vegetables or on beans and corn alternately, they assist their smaller and weaker fellow-creatures, each other. Liebig gives the results of a should restore to the water in excrements series of experiments illustrating the re- the mineral substances which will enable ciprocal actions of different species of the plants to make good the daily loss ocplants. Various seeds were sprouted in casioned by the depredations of the seawater, in order to observe the nature of rovers that live upon them.

Thus an the excretions from their roots. It was aquarium, its constituents once correctly found that the water in which plants adjusted, has all the requisites for perpeof the family of the Leguminosa (beans tuity; or rather, the only obstacle to its and peas) grew acquired a brown color, unlimited continuance is, that it is a morfrom the substance which exuded from tal, and not a Divine hand, that controls their roots. Plants of the same species, its light and heat. placed in water impregnated with these In the examination of the materials excrements, were impeded in their growth, appropriated by plants from the soil, we and faded prematurely; whilst, on the find that mineral substances are somecontrary, corn-plants grew vigorously in times taken up in solution in larger it, and the color of the water diminished amount than the growth of the plant and sensibly, so that it appeared as if a cer- the maturation of its fruit require, and tain quantity of the excrements of the the excess is deposited again in crystalLeguminosæ had really been absorbed by line form in the substance of the plant. the corn-plants.” The oak, which is the If we cut across a stalk of the garden great laboratory of tannin, not only lays rhubarb, we can see, with the aid of a up stores of it in its bark and leaves, but microscope, the fine needle-shaped crysits roots discharge into the ground enough tals of oxalate of potash lying among the of it to tan the rootlets of all plants that fibres of the plant,-a provision for an venture to put down their suction-hose extra supply of the oxalic acid which is into the same region, and their spongioles the source of the intense sourness of this are so effectually closed by this process, vegetable. When the sap

of the sugarthat they can no longer perform their maple is boiled down to the consistence office, and the plant that bears them dies. of syrup and allowed to stand, it somePlants whose roots ramify among the roots times deposits a considerable amount of of poppies become unwilling opium-eat- sand; indeed, this is probably always pres

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