The Harvest


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From the Fife Herald – Thursday 22 August 1850.

HARVEST. Summer now passing into autumn, and the luxuriance of the year will soon have disappeared. The hand and the sickle are beginning to strip gardens and fields; but these had already ceased to be fresh and verdant. Nature had previously been exhausted and had fallen into decay; and before man had begun to crop, a higher power had begun to spoil, the landscape; vegetation was ended in plain and forest, and the hill, for Nature’s autumn precedes man’s harvest; and whilst the latter very partial —only including the fruits of the ground—the former is universal—comprehending every green thing. When growth is over, life expends itself fast; and, in a little earth will be a sterile scene—the nakedness of death waiting for the winding-sheet of snow, and for the dirge of wintry tempests. It makes us pensive to behold the silent wasting away vitality in the material world, the extinction of freshness from wooded hill to grassy dale, and of beauty from the flower to the blossom and bud of every plant that decked the sweetest retreat—and the gradual reduction that goodly and resplendent vision which, with conceivable charm, was lately before us, to a gaunt anatomy which long and cold nights will soon envelope. The change is if we had been driven out of Paradise into the wilderness.

Yet how unchangeable is man! or rather, how different is man’s mind from his eye! His imagination can still revel in the pomp of summer, though the summer is now strange to his senses. The root of universal vegetation is in the ground, but the flower perennially in his soul, and his spiritual being retains fast all the seasons which successively flit over the earth, and which refuse tarry with it. The mental economy admits and keeps what the material either will not or cannot—the four periods of the year together. It defies any single or regular procession, is adequate to embrace once all the parts of time, and to associate autumn with spring, winter with summer. Thomson probably composed his grand poem “The Seasons,” not from the images in his eye, but from those in his mind and perhaps the ink with which he wrote Summer, was frozen. We can conceive of “fat Jemmy” sweating alarmingly in July, while he sang of winter and its snows. Truly, “the mind is its own place,” and has Seasons, scenes, and localities around it, uncommunicated and unrecognised by the senses. It can conjure up the entire imagery of summer on the bleak and barren landscape of December. Nay, the mind, the typeseason summer—summer our primitive idea of the vear—and all the other seasons are regarded either modifications or negations it; so that at any period we most naturally and easily revert it. During months the most ungenial and unlovely, we can at once escape to the prime the year, and live the midst of sunshine, verdure, and melody.

Yet autumn, especially in its present stage, lias its peculiar charms. The freshness of the year then not so much faded as its passion is exhausted. We enjoy a calm atmosphere which is like heat attempered pleasantly by breezes that are unfelt and unheard. The clouds become more numerous, and night gathers its longer curtains, gratefully to soothe us after the sultry summer. How placid are the mornings—the dew being made more plentiful the melted rind, and the golden mists remaining longer frpm the diminished power of the sun to break and scatter them. We awake rather to a luminous world than to a splendid sky. Light sails around us in exhalations, instead of darting upon us in intense beams. In striking athwart through the moist air, it becomes like golden foam and spray. The evenings are inexpressibly beautiful, often gorgeous, the sky being dappled with hues which might have been extracted as the richest life-blood, from the flowers beginning to fade. The brightness the days is intermittent, and, therefore, all the more vivid; the sun shining obliquely upon this range of mountains and that district of corn fields, upon tbis expanse of ocean and that skirt of forest, instead of diffusing its radiance universally. This grand orb, as if conscious that the earth’s vegetation had ceased, and that his rays needed no longer to be genial and life-supporting, merely concentrates his rays here and there, effectively to show the earth as a picture.

Nor must we forget the.joyful character of the season

“When earth repays with golden sheaves
The labours of the plough;
And ripening fruits and forest leaves
All brighten on the bough”—

the reason, in which man reaps the abundant fruits of the ground and carries home his sheaves—the triumphant but bloodless warrior! Happy, even merry, are all who take part in harvest-work. Whatever of cordial disposition, of musical talent, or of comical turn there may be about man or woman, is pressed out thoroughly in the harvest field. Diogenes would have been a right good fellow, had he been presented wjth a reaping hook. No field of toil has such joyous groups as the corn-field invariably shows. This the only scene physical labour which has not something of repulsive aspect. How different does the same field look, when the labourers in it are prosecuting the work of spring! The ploughman and the sower have not such exhilaration and positive glee of spirits as the reaper.

Fields, in every district of the country, are now resonant with the reapers’ mirth, for within the last five or six days, harvest work has been vigorously prosecuted. Though the Edinburgh. Perth, and Dundee Railway is not, in many sections, through the most fertile lands of Fife, the line is all skirted with stooks; and, on passing along the line of the North British on Saturday last, we noticed very few fields remaining uncut. The satisfaction of farmers is as great as the joy of reapers, for so far as we can ascertain from the various reports which reach us from all quarters, the crop is in general singularly abundant.

The sudden and unfavourable change of whether from heat to cold on Friday, and from drought to rain and heavy winds on Sabbath and Monday, must have inflicted considerable damage. In our own county this has, certainly been the case, for the grain both of uncut and stooked oats have been very much shaken. A great breadth of barley and wheat in Fife has already been reaped, and in bulk and quality, is superior, to what it was last year. Turnips and grass have been much improved by the rain; and the potatoes, in spite of prophecies and blackened leaves, have still healthy tubers. The weather has now a more settled aspect, and if we have few weeks of sunshine, the hopes of the agriculturists will be amply realised.

The ‘harvest girls’ image is available to buy as a poster, a framed print and a number of other products including cushions and stationery.


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Karon McBride

Writer, consultant, founder Astrantium Hosting.
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