Sunday, 22 May 2016

Lacey Amy at Doull's bookstore


Two new sources that cite W. Lacey Amy are shown in the images. They resulted from a meeting, May 2016 with John Doull, bookseller in Dartmouth—perhaps the best used bookstore in the Maritimes.

“A Checklist of Canadian Literature and Background Materials 1628-1960” is by Reginald Eyre Watters (UofT). The second is “Canadian Literature in English” by Vernon Blair Rhodenizer.

I thanks John Doull for his valuable time and information...highly recommended!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

The End-of-Steel Village

The End-of-Steel Village
Lawless Settlements of Rude Shacks That Spring Up Along the Trail of Railroad Construction Camps, Spreading Vice and Crime and Mulcting the Lowly Labourer of His Wages.
By W. Lacey Amy, in “The Railroad and Current Mechanics.”
As Reported in the Fort George Herald, Saturday, September 20, 1913.

Yellowhead Pass was put on the map of Canada only a few moons ago. Yet all through these mountain fastnesses lie the wrecks of villages that would in civilization have had their may­ors and their social distinctions. But they never had mayors; they never had even the law that makes mayors, and their inhabi­tants knew no distinctions for the simple reason that most of them were equally undesirable.
The little groups of shacks that stand with empty doorways and the mere skeletons of roofs beside the new railway could not boast even of names in their palmiest days. The necessities of location were amply filled by the mileage along the railway grade, just as everything else is designated where steel precedes civilization.
“Mile 29” would convey no­thing to the uninitiated, but to the bohunk of construction it pictured a six months’ career of revelry and dissipation. “Mile 50, B.C.” while specifically locat­ing a spot 50 miles west of the summit of the pass, the bound­ary between Alberta and British Columbia, really meant a collec­tion of log shacks that housed a number of “bad citizens.”
It wasn’t worth while to think of a name. They weren’t there long enough to pay for the trou­ble. The “end-of-steel” villages they were called, and the term explained their existence. Wherever the “Pioneer,” the mechanical track-layer that pushed the steel ahead of it, lay up after overtaking the grade gang there, sprang up one of these villages. The Pioneer—an ungainly, dirty, overgrown box car, with the weird, semihuman arms—never made a friend that clung so closely to it as did the end-of-steel village.
For where the Pioneer lies resting hundreds of men are anchored within a mile or two, at work on ballast until the grade ahead is ready for another spurt of the track-layer. And only a few miles farther on a portion of the grade-gang offers a week-end patronage that is not to be ig­nored by the village—the para­site of construction.
When the Pioneer decides to work for another few weeks every eye in the village watches for its next resting-place, and when the first information comes a flitting takes place—an im­promptu affair that is distingu­ished only by its simplicity and speed. There is no regret for a deserted home, only a careless ripping off of canvas roofs, a piling on flatcars or tote-wagons of the necessaries of trade, and a scurry for the choice locations of the new site. A day’s work com­pletes the place and the para­phernalia of the end-of-steel village is ready for operation without inconvenience to its pa­trons.
There is no indecision as to the location of the village once the end of steel is known. Just three miles away it settles down, that three miles is positively the only restraint it knows; for within that distance of the end of steel the contractor has com­plete legal control in unsettled districts. And, knowing the hell that lives in those shacks, he pushes them to the extreme of his authority.
Within easy reach after his day’s work, the ennuied, hungry bohunk, with money but no lux­uries, no entertainment, no other means of expenditure, finds at the village every excitement and dissipation even he can desire.
An end-of-steel village is made up of booze, billiards, and belles. It is the home of the illicit liquor traffic of construction, the loca­tion of enough pool-tables to stock a large city, and the resi­dence of women who never else­where enjoyed so much free­dom.
Three-quarters of the shacks are restaurants in front—for about six feet. On a short coun­ter appear—uncovered except by flies—sandwiches, pies, and cold meats. A patron of the restau­rant alone is no more popular with the proprietors than is the restaurant with the average fre­quenter. The restaurant is mere­ly an outward, plausible excuse for the existence of the shack.
Back of the little counter is the pool-room—perhaps a score of tables that are only a shade less respectable and infinitely more a surprise than a restau­rant. And then, through a small doorway, up a short flight of steps that breathe exclusiveness and privacy, is the real object of existence—the card room, where cards are but the means to an end.
Liquor knows no limits of loca­tion in the shack. You can buy it in the restaurant if you can’t wait to go farther. It is at your elbow between cue-strokes. The card-room reeks with it. That room puts the finishing touches on the bohunk who has passed from the front door through the several stages of poison. The bohunk who escapes the card-room with any satisfaction to himself has a petrified interior, is a better manipulator of cards than the experts, or was able to draw first.
Pay bunk-houses exist precar­iously against the competition of their free brethren. The free bunk-house is a provision of the contractors for the disabled, helpless bohunk who has spent the evening and everything else in the other shacks. A glance in one of them would car­ry conviction that the bohunk who patronizes them must be very, very helpless.
At Mile 50, B.C., there was even a bath-house, but it failed ignominiously, but not unexpec­tedly. And at Mile 79 there was a constable’s quarters—meaning a place where he could find pro­tection from the weather and lend to things an appearance of law and order.
In the daytime an end-of-steel village is respectable. There may be a little repairing to do after last night’s carousal, but beyond that the only evidence of life is in the store signs. The tradesman—and every one is that—concocts the wording of the sign and figures out the spell­ing. Most of his figures are more expressive than correct And the only quality of art re­quired is that the sign must be big and striking.
One big “general store,” with a main sign that had evidently seen the hand of a professional, had accessory notices that with­in were cider, shooting “gallary”, a “restaurant,” some one had afterward superimposed a small “a”, and the “reparing” of shoes. That was a respecta­ble sample. Education in an end-of-steel village does not run to letters.
At night the place comes to life, for then its victims are free to offer themselves. The poor bohunk is just aching to clear the dust from his throat and to lim­ber his body. In the village he finds everything from faro to frocks, pie to poison, dancing to death. In the lure of the first of the couplets he is thrust into the last.
If the open swindles of the camp fail to clean him out the men who make a living there have few compunctions against “rolling,” or even murder. The life of the bohunk is in the hands of his hosts, and they yield it to him only when his pockets are empty. An end-of-steel business has but one end in view, with few distinctions between fair and foul means.
In the Yellowhead Pass there were a half-dozen of these vil­lages, with a dozen suburbs that sprang up where some exigency of conditions, such as a ford, congregated men or demanded a resting-place. At Fitzhugh, which is within the Province of Alberta, the lid was kept closed a little by the mounted police, but their jurisdiction ended at the border of British Columbia, and there, at the summit, right on the boundary, the doors were opened wide, and down through Mile 17 and 29 and 50 they re­mained that way.
Mile 29 had a reputation of which even its inhabitants re­fused to be proud. Situated in the heart of a difficult part of construction, it had an extended life that grew wilder with age.
A special collection of shacks grew up at the western edge of the pass, on the site of the Tete Jaune Indian village, where the Grand Trunk Pacific emerged in­to the valley between the Rock­ies and the Selkirks, and where the Canadian Northern, hasten­ing after its rival railway, would branch southward for the Thomp­son River.
An old negress ran the town, and she possessed all the quali­ties of a publicity commissioner. One of her week-end dances was warranted to drive ennui from the bohunk for a week—and oft­en did more. An end-of-steel village is a disgrace, but Tete Jaune was indescribable.

The only thing endurable about the settlements is their imper­manence, but all the value of per­manence is given by their won­derful resurrective powers.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

A Source Page for W. Lacey Amy (Luke Allan)

A Source Page for W. Lacey Amy (Luke Allan)

Blue Pete Book Series (about)
Lacey Amy early biography and bibliography
Degrading a Generation (essay)
Blue Pete and Canadian Nationalism (about)
Five For One (novel)
Railway Building in the Wilderness -Part 3 (travel)
The Town That Was Born Lucky (Medicine Hat) (travel)
More about Lacey Amy (some new sources)
Lacey Amy researches (by his Family) (about)
Luke Allan not wiki (about)
Who's Who In Literature 1933 (about)
The Picture Puzzle (short story)
From the Arctic to Death (essay)
Blue Pete: a Short Story
The Floating Menace (travel)
St Johns: The Impossible Possible (travel)
The Liveyeres Labrador (travel)
Confidences of a War Correspondent (WWI)
The Life of the Bohunk (travel)
The Life and Opinions of William Lacey Amy (Claudio Murri)(about)
Grenfell from a Deck Chair (travel)
Tramping in Unfrequented Nova Scotia (travel)
Where Nature’s Gas is King (travel)
Swift: A Precocious Pioneer (travel)
With The Cod Fishermen (travel)
Canso and Hazel Hill (travel)
Edmonton Casually (travel)
Impressions of Mount Robson (travel)
Quidi Vidi (travel)
The Magdalen Islands, Part 1 (travel)
The Magdalen Islands, Part 2 (travel)
Liquor and the War (WWI)
The Stalking Death - Part 1 of 9 (serialized (linked) novel)

Luke Allan at Bookstore:
The Black Opal
Five For One
Murder at Midnight
Remote Canada 100 Years Ago
The Traitor
The Stalking Death
The Case of the Open Drawer
The End of the Trail
The Man on the Twenty-Fourth Floor
The Jungle Crime
The Westerner


Saturday, 26 March 2016

Trip to Pauline's May 2001


••••••••••••••••••••••••Trip to Pauline’s
Composed about 15 April 2001

I hope that this is a good paper to take to the bathroom for a sit.  I want to take a little time to explain that I did get the chance to understand Pauline, Agnes, her caregiver and NYC in our little May 2001 five day trip.
We were fairly careful in selecting some of the things to take with us.  We had all reviewed Norman’s dark video of the apartment. I had created a spreadsheet itemizing some of the furnishings that we were interested in so that we could relocate them and review the items.  Masking tape, cameras, garbage bags, light bulbs and a flashlight were all among the things we took down.
Arriving at 333 East 53rd was uneventful and on schedule.  Tony Rudovic (212-xxx-xxxx) was paged.  After the introductions and a timely call from Jim, were given the keys for apartment 9E.  The day had been long, we were all a little tired (Thursday at 7:00).  We had two keys, one for the latch deadbolt, the other for the door deadbolt. The latch deadbolt did not appear to do anything, just did not fit.  We tried and prodded but no change.  Finally we asked Tony.  Tony rapidly surmised that something was wrong with the lock and key.  He suggested that Norman was the last user.  I suggested that the appraisers had to be in since then.  Anyhow to gain entrance Tony suggested he would break the lock and repaint the door the next day.  Armed a next time with two very substantial pry bars, the steel door buckled and the lock quickly fell apart.  We were in at last.
After we were in and alone, I quickly tried to ensure that we had good lighting for the night and yes NYC was hot so we checked out the air conditioning.  It was amazing that I could not find any wall plugs.  There were lots of extension cords; most dating back a couple of decades.  Many of the light fixtures were the old trilights with the large screw in bulbs - bulbs missing!
Now after a half hour of use, while we roamed about surveying our abode, the power went out in the living room and bedroom - both air conditioners and some lights, oh yes, and the fridge, come to think of it.  Now it was just getting into twilight, where was the fusebox, and I did not bring fuses!  Soon Gail found the box in the entrance way; it had circuit breakers which she reset and it all worked again.  They never did go out again.
You do not survive much time in an apartment without water.  This place had faucets that were from the sixties.  The first time the taps were used, a strong arm was required.  The first time each faucet was used the water was incredibly brown and chunky!  This improved with use.  But the stains were in most sinks.  Every tap valve leaked.  Before going out I was required to go around the apartment with a face cloth to protect my hands and with both hands twist each valve, a little closer to off!  The bathtub had two sets of faucets, one for the bath, one for the shower.  My fear was that I would break one totally off and water would gush everywhere - never happened though.
The sleeping was supposed to be Gail and I in the bedroom, the kids in the living room.  One design flaw was that the poster bed was a single.  I slept on the floor!

Friday morning Gail and Denyse were up and out early. They did not like the shower much.  It worked on the gravity principle and the shower head was 6 inches in diameter, an antique! 

I knew I was free to roam about for hours.  With coffee which Norman had probably bought, I was all set.  I decided to start in the bedroom away from Luke.  I like antiques and treasure hunts so I appeared to be in my elements!  Pauline enjoyed sewing in her better days and was a fashionable woman.  A lot of the drawers of the dresser contained only fabric, patterns and sewing paraphernalia. There was a lot of stuff that should have been thrown away years ago.  Old pots, empty containers and boxes - I filled garbage bags at quite a rate.  The hallway filled with bags of garbage.  She enjoyed plants but all were terminally ill at this time - and they were always the same type of plant!  Pots and all went.  I found bottles of whiskey in the laundry and bedroom.  These I put in the liquor cabinet which is still reasonably well stocked!
I went though every drawer and every box of clothing and accessories.  Eventually we used ten garbage bags.  In the most revealing places we would find whiskey or magazines like ‘True Confessions’.
A lot of the furniture had nicks and breaks.  But Pauline or Agnes kept the chips, or the parts and I located every key.  I taped these parts, inside the furniture, where possible.
In her clothes closet were perhaps three bags which appeared to be patient possession bags from hospitals.  In one of them I found an uncashed cheque from Philip Morris.  It appeared that several times no-one had unpacked after she got back!
It was curious the broken, chipped, damaged stuff that was kept and the frugality of the place.  We really only located four every day cups and mugs for coffee.  We did locate three wine glasses that were broken.  The first had the stem broken completely off.  The other two had broken at the lips, so a section was missing.  Someone had put tape where the section was missing so the user would not cut themselves.  There were few wine glasses, come to think of it.  All of the dish sets seemed to be missing a lot of pieces.
We really wanted to talk to Jim; I had also located two very thick keys which might be sage deposit box keys!  This hunt was getting exciting!  Jim was visiting friends in Montreal from Friday to late Sunday - all our calls were in vane.
I should mention that there were three phones in the apartment; the service was disconnected, we believe.  All the phones were rotary dial type.
I have mentioned that I did not go though the desk.  I did not go through the bottom of the china cabinet in the hallway not the congha(?) chest in the hallway; they were filled with financial records dating back at least to 1950s.  I was surprised that the executor did not arrange to have them picked up for review and finally for disposal.  Similarly I found keys for the front door and the mailbox.  The mailbox contained mail including one item addressed to the ‘Estate of Pauline Graesser’.  The Super advised that someone picks up the mail every now and then.  I put the mail back in the box.  The keys were all eventually transferred back to Tony. 

Inventory, things we brought back:
·          Keys - maybe safe deposit keys, but very thick.  There are two identical keys.
·          Cheque 3002280, dividend for $9216.00, not cashed.
·          Two plastic boxed magnifying glasses.
·          Two paper mache boxes
·          pendant with monogram contains a photo of 3 children
·          scissors 4" fancy type
·          scissors 2 nail scissors
·          wind up travel clock 2" tall
·          framed photo inside is labeled “Emma Pauline Frizzle Aged 6 Months”, size 12x10 inches.


·          Cig converter for 9 volts for the TV

·          3 keys to clock works.  The porcelain clock has been gutted and now operates with an electric version.

·          wooden rolling pin

·          misc clothes that only Denyse could wear! And that she wanted.

·          three small plant books



I do have a fondness for antiques.  None of the items there were antiques per se.  I like old stuff.  From the brief discussion I did have with Jim, late on Mothers Day eve, he indicated that the inventory was completed and a list prepared.  I was shocked that it was not sent out to each of the seven benefactors.  Jim indicated that the totals were not given either. 

We know that a moving company will have to clear out the apartment and we will pay for this.  We know that one table has to be delivered to Marie McGinnis, and the estate will pay for transportation. 

I think at this point, I am willing to buy all of the remainder - without seeing the totals yet!  We can transfer everything to a storage facility here.  If anyone wants stuff, we can discuss that in the summer when you visit.  Nothing was to exciting but there was a lot of quality items, chipped maybe.  We do not know yet if GST is payable on the shipment from US.












San Antonio of the Gardens


San Antonio of the Gardens

By Thomas Allibone Janvier (1849–1913)



[Born in Philadelphia, Penn., 1849. Died in New York, N. Y., 1913. The Century Magazine. 1889.]



HE who goes westward from the City of Mexico goes out by the gate of the Tlaxpana, and so along the causeway to Tacuba, the very path over which the Spaniards passed, leaving many killed and of the living nearly all being sore wounded, when they fled from the city that dismal night more than three hundred and fifty years ago.

  But this now is a very pleasant path; for on the right and on the left of it are fertile fields and trimly kept gardens, and shading it are many great green trees. And only a little way out upon it is the village of San Antonio, built of gray-brown adobe on the level land beside the causeway, and peopled by certain ragged, uncared-for, easy-going descendants of the race that now serves where once it ruled.

  The wayfaring stranger who loves a dish of friendly talk with chance acquaintances—and the wayfaring stranger not thus socially disposed will find all lands barren, and will come again to his own land not one whit the wiser of the world than when he left his home—will rest awhile in this village to chat with whomsoever it may please Heaven to send him to hold converse with. Nor need he fear that Heaven will not provide him with a talking-mate. Let him but seat himself beneath one of the great trees beside the roadway, and presently a stray old man will pause to pass a greeting with him; then a vender of earthen pots, coming in from some outlying village to the city to sell his wares, will halt his donkey—on whose patient back the great red pots are high heaped up—and will ask in a gentle voice for a light for his corn-husk cigarito; an old woman will hobble up and say a friendly word or two; a young woman with a baby in her arms will edge out shyly from a nearby doorway, find so stand modestly aside, but ready to add her contribution to the conversation when it shall become a little more general and when amicable relations with the stranger shall become a little more assured; then another old man or two will join the group, accepting with a grave courtesy the offered cigarito; a lazy young fellow with baskets to sell, but with no apparent desire to sell them, will seat himself near; and outside of all will be a light fringe of pernicious ragged little boys. And all of these simple-hearted folk presently will be as frank and as friendly as though they had known their chance acquaintance all their lives.   

  It will be in such wayside talk as this that the stranger alone will learn—for in books he will look for it in vain—the story of the little church that once stood hereabouts; of the very little convent there was adjoining it; of the two Franciscan friars who ministered in the church, dwelling in the convent, and whose earthly possessions (and these but held in trust from Heaven) were a little garden, and the doves which had built nests in a corner of the convent, and a certain grave, black cat, and a lame and very lazy ass.

  It was all in the far-back time when the Spanish viceroys were the rulers of Mexico; when the fleet sailed once a year from Cadiz westward, and once a year sailed eastward again from Vera Cruz laden deep with silver from the mines; when hushed voices still told in horror of great cruelties done by the fierce Chichemecas to frontier adventurers into the region north of Querétaro; and when the good fathers, setting death and torture at defiance that God’s work might be done by them, still were busy sending out their holy missions for the saving of heathen souls. The viceroy in those days was the illustrious Don Antonio Sebastian de Toledo, Marques de Mancera: who came into the capital of his vice-kingdom and there assumed the duties of his high office in the month of October in the year 1664.

  About this time it was that in the convent of San Antonio de Padua—that in a little time came to be known only as San Antonio of the Gardens, because hereabouts, then as now, the fertile land was laid out in many little gardens which the Indians tilled—there dwelt the two brothers Antonio and Inocencio. Fray Inocencio was a short and round and plump-cheeked, ruddy little man; and Fray Antonio was very tall and thin and pale. These brothers were vowed to the rule of St. Francis, and until ordered hither for the cure of Indians’ souls the great convent of San Francisco in the City of Mexico had been their home. A wonderful change it was for them when they came out from that “vast bee-hive of holiness”—as the convent of San Francisco is called by a chronicler of the time—to dwell in a convent whereof they were the only inhabitants, and the extent of which, not counting the tiny sacristy of their tiny church, was just a little refectory, that also was a kitchen, and two cells. Yet had it been the size of a city they scarcely could have been more elated by their translation; for whereas in the great convent they were but two brothers among hundreds, with many above them in degree, here they were everything themselves—free to divide between them the whole range of the conventual offices, from that of Portero up to that of Guardian.

  As they stood for the first time alone together in the little garden, the door behind them that opened upon the causeway being closed and barred, and as the knowledge of the absolute power that was theirs in this their kingdom came into their hearts, Fray Inocencio, who was of a lively disposition and very quick to give animated expression to his thoughts, skipped in a most carnal fashion; and still more carnally stood for an appreciable length of time upon one leg while he held the other leg in the air.

  Fray Antonio, whose mind was of a graver and more temperate cast, looked upon this exhibition of worldly pride sorrowfully, but not reproachfully. Weakness of the flesh was Fray Inocencio’s besetting sin; but he knew his weakness, and when he failed to overcome it he expiated it by penance and sought remission of it in prayer. This was known to Fray Antonio, and so was his loving, gentle soul the less disposed to manifest by outward sign his inward sorrow when, as now, his brother lapsed from grace.

  In the darkness that night Fray Antonio heard the sound of scourging in Fray Inocencio’s cell, and in the morning the usually ruddy cheeks of the little round brother were pale and his eyes were dull; but peace rested on him, for he felt that through the sacrifice of the flesh the sin of the flesh had been expiated, and so his spirit was at rest.

  When the mass which they celebrated together was ended, and they had come into the refectory to make and to drink their chocolate, he said simply, as he stood beside the fireplace, stirring the chocolate in its earthen pot: “God brings the least deserving of us, brother, into the high places of the earth; but he loves best those who, though thus exalted, still serve him humbly. We have only to seek his aid, and of his strength he will so arm our weakness that we may prevail over the sin that shows itself in carnal pride.”

  The gentle eyes of Fray Antonio rested lovingly upon Fray Inocencio, and in them shone the light of a comforting and sustaining trust as he answered: “Brother, the grace of God ever is greater than our sins.” Nor did the thought at all enter his simple soul—as assuredly it would have entered a soul in which there had been even the very least of worldly guile—that other than a serious meaning could attach to Fray Inocencio’s reference to the exaltation of their estate. Thus ever did Fray Antonio help and strengthen Fray Inocencio with a sweet and holy love: and many needs had Fray Inocencio of such comforting, for, the flesh proverbially being weak in little round and ruddy men, the seasons were sadly short in which he had not some misdeed of his unruly nature to bemoan.

  In all seasons a heavy burden rested upon Fray Inocencio’s soul because he was so ruddy and so fat. This corporal affliction, sadly unseemly in one vowed to the austerities of the religious life, was of such a nature that abstinence had no effect upon it, and for the removal of it even prayer was without avail; so that what little solace his case allowed him was to be got by regarding his fatness as a cross put upon him for his soul’s sake, warning him to eat little and so to mortify the flesh that good might come to him in the end. Yet was this a hard cross for Fray Inocencio to bear; for he had a very eager natural love, as strong as it was sinful, for all manner of toothsome things. Especially had he a most passionate fondness for beans which after being well boiled were fried delicately in lard—which dish was not less delicious than it was damnably fattening. Most pathetic was his look of resignation when beans thus cooked were served in the refectory of the great convent of San Francisco, as he resisted their succulent temptation and ate instead the little dry cakes of corn-meal.

  In the convent of San Antonio of the Gardens Fray Inocencio was spared the temptation of fried beans, for Fray Antonio, that his brother might not be led into sin, declared that he preferred his beans boiled. And more than this did Fray Antonio do for his brother’s comforting. Being himself a most abstemious man naturally, with no liking for food save as a means of sustaining his life and strength in God’s service, he deliberately set himself to eating in private great quantities of all manner of fattening things; and this he did to the end that by rounding out his own leanness he might make the plumpness of Fray Inocencio easier for him to bear. But beyond throwing into disorder by such unwonted quantities of rich food the functions of his liver, the stuffing that Fray Antonio gave himself produced no results. Therefore, being as yellow as an orange, he gladly gave over his strange discipline. And this was wise of him: for the simple truth of the matter was that it had pleased God that one of these brothers should be fat and that the other should be thin; and neither of them, howsoever he might strive, the one by eating too little and the other by eating too much, could change that which God had decreed.

  Though thus tried in flesh and in spirit, these brothers were very happy in their life in the little convent and in their ministrations of the sacred offices in the little church. In their garden they tilled the earth lovingly, taking great pleasure in its sweet, fresh smell, and in the bounteous return that it yielded them. Fray Inocencio had a rare knowledge of the gardener’s craft, and especially had he a relish for growing such vegetables as were good to eat. In this previcarious form of gluttony, as it might be called, he did not deny himself; for, setting a stout guard upon the cravings of his own stomach, he carried on his back the best of all the good things which he grew to the great convent, where the brothers, less scrupulous than himself, ate them all with a prompt avidity. Fray Antonio, though he did his share of work in the kitchen-garden, found his pleasure in the growing of beautiful and sweet-smelling flowers, which each day he set before the sacred image of the great San Antonio that the little church enshrined. Sometimes Fray Antonio fancied that as he placed upon the altar dedicated to his holy namesake these sweet offerings there shone upon the gentle face of the saint a loving smile. Nor would such miracle have been surprising, for this very image—as the chronicler Vetancurt tells—had raised a dead child to life! In that good time faith was a living principle in the hearts of men, and the blessed saints graciously requited the trust that was placed in them by working many miracles. It is not so in these evil later days.

  In the holy work that was set them of saving heathen souls the brothers ever were instant and zealous. Fray Inocencio assailed the devil at all times and in all places with a stout energy that was in keeping with the sturdiness of his body and mind. Indeed, such pictures as this plump little friar drew of the entire devilishness of a very personal devil, and of the blazing horrors of a most real hell, sufficed to scare many an Indian, though through all his life set firmly in the wicked courses of idolatry, into the saving ways of Christian righteousness. Fray Antonio was less successful as an exorciser, but his gentle words and great tenderness of heart and spirit enabled him to make, perhaps, more lasting converts. Through the ministrations of this good brother many a troubled heathen soul was set at rest in Christian holiness, being brought happily to grace through love.

*        *        *        *        *

  So far as this was possible in one whose heart was full of love and charity, Fray Inocencio at times envied Fray Antonio because he was superior to the many temptations which made his own life burdensome; but he knew nothing of the temptations of the spirit which beset his finer-natured companion, which sometimes, as in the present yielding to a too whimsical humor,—that yet was as much a part of his natural being as of Fray Inocencio’s natural being were his stoutness and his ruddy checks,—begot evil results which caused him heart-bitterness and much distress of soul.

  Doubtless, being more sublimate, the pains of conscience which attend upon waywardness of the spirit are more searching than those which attend upon waywardness of the flesh; yet because of their gross and tangible nature the fleshly sins are more instantly appalling. Thus Fray Inocencio probably would have reasoned, had he possessed a mind disposed towards such abstract considerations, together with a knowledge of the spiritual suffering which Fray Antonio at times endured; but as neither of these possessions was his, he simply bemoaned very heartily his own frequent lapses from grace. And greatly did he lament one especially great sin, the doing of which came about in this wise:   

  One day, while Fray Inocencio was gathering lettuces, and while Fray Antonio was tending lovingly his flowers, there came over the top of the garden wall the sound of angry words, and then of heavy blows, and then of a cry that was something like the bray of an ass, and—being a very great cry and terrible—something like the shriek of a giant in pain. With the promptness that was customary with him, Fray Inocencio unbarred the door and ran out upon the causeway to see what was the meaning of this commotion; and as beside the door stood a stout staff, that he carried with him for support when he walked to the great convent with a back-load of vegetables, he seized it that he might not affront the danger, if danger there were, unarmed. More deliberately came out also through the doorway Fray Antonio. And very pitiable was the sight that met their eyes.

  Upon the ground lay a poor ass, laden with great earthen pots, and the two Indians with him were beating him with their sticks to make him rise, the while shouting at him all manner of coarse abuse. The ass, with so agonized a look that a heart of stone would have been melted by it with pity, was crying aloud in pain; for one of his legs—as the brothers saw, though the Indians seemed to perceive it not—had broken under him as he fell beneath his too-heavy load. He was but a small ass, and his lading of pots would have been overheavy for a strong mule.

  Then was the wrath of Fray Inocencio so kindled within him that every fibre of his little round person tingled with rage. Forgetting all the teachings of gentleness of the blessed saints, and the example of long-suffering set him by the good father St. Francis, and his own vow to a life of peace and holiness—forgetting all this, Fray Inocencio in an instant had gathered up and tucked into his girdle the skirts of his blue gown, that he might have the free use of his short stout legs, and most carnally had fallen afoul of the backs and shoulders of those cruel Indians with his staff.

  As for the Indians, this visible outbreak of the wrath of God took them so sharply by surprise, while such pain penetrated their brown hides with the blows which Fray Inocencio rained down upon them, that without pausing for thought or consideration they incontinently took to their heels. In an instant they had plunged through the slimy water of the acéquia beside the causeway, and were fleeing away across the meadow-land beyond as though their assailant had been not a little stout friar, but the devil himself.

  Then Fray Inocencio, puffing greatly—for at the best of times he was but a short-winded man—knelt down beside the ass with Fray Antonio and aided him to loose the cords which bound the pots upon its back, and so set it free of its grievous load. Together, very tenderly, they lifted the maimed creature and carried it into the convent garden; and while Fray Inocencio gave it water to drink—and this before he had quenched his own thirst—Fray Antonio, who had a good knowledge of the surgeon’s craft, set himself to binding up the broken leg in a splint. And the poor ass, seeming to understand that it was being dealt with by friends who meant well by it, suffered them to do with it what they would.

  It was not until their labors were ended—the broken leg well set, and the ass straitly fastened in a little stall that they made for him that he might not stir the leg in its setting—that Fray Inocencio had time to think of the sin which he had fallen into in giving his righteous anger such unrighteous vent. He was the more distressed in spirit because, for the very life of him, he could not create in his heart a sincere repentance of having given to those Indians so sound a beating. Strive however much he might to crush it, the thought would assert itself that they richly deserved not only every blow that they received, but also the great many more blows which they escaped by running away. And with this thought most persistently came a carnal longing to get at them again and finish the work that he had so vigorously begun. To Fray Inocencio’s dying day this sin remained with him; and while the prickings of it were hard to bear, he had of it, at least, the compensating advantage that it always was with him as a wholesome reminder to keep his too-ready anger within due bounds.

  Fortunately—for it is to be feared that he could not have resisted it—the temptation to finish the beating was not put in his way. That the Indians returned and carried off their earthen pots was inferred by the brothers when, having ended their surgical and other ministrations to the ass’s comfort, they looked out upon the causeway and found that the pots were gone. And they believed that from the Indians came the rather mysterious old man who presented himself the next day at the convent with a confused request for medicine for a sick child; and who contrived, while the apothecary-work was in progress, to get into the garden where the hurt ass was and make an examination of its state. But from this old man they could learn nothing of the owners of the ass; nor were their many inquiries among the Indians round about better rewarded. That the owners thus modestly veiled their identity, and that they made no effort to reclaim their property, on the whole was not surprising. No doubt they held, and wisely, that a broken-legged ass was not worth adventuring for within the dangerous range of the little friar’s staff.

  Chiefly, as Fray Inocencio very firmly believed, because of the many prayers to this end that he addressed to the miracle-working image of San Antonio that was in the little church, the ass in due season got well. But as, through some mischance, the broken bone had gone awry in the splint, it healed crookedly; so that that leg was shorter than the other legs. From this fresh misfortune the ass suffered no pain, but thenceforward he was very lame.

  Being thus healed, and, after a fashion, a serviceable ass once more, the question what they should do with him perplexed the brothers sadly. Of other valuable property, being strictly vowed to poverty, they had none. The cat Timoteo, called Susurro, and the doves, were wild things of nature; of no use to man save in so far as they were a source of happiness through the love in them and for them that God inspired. But the case of the ass, an animal both useful and valuable, was different. Fray Inocencio, into whose heart the devil put the thought that the ass very well might bear to the great convent the loads which he himself was wont to carry thither on his back, reasoned that, inasmuch as the ass in truth was not their own, but only in their ward until his rightful owners should be found, they might use him in all conscionable work without falling into sin. But Fray Antonio, seeing more clearly, pointed out that they had striven earnestly but vainly to find the ass’s owner, and that now there was small chance that the owner ever would be found at all; and he showed, further, that no matter in whom might vest his actual ownership, to them would belong, should they elect to avail themselves of it, his usufruct; which possession was a thing of value inconsistent with the poverty to which they were vowed. Yet, since the ass was not truly their own, he admitted, they had no right to sell him and to give the money to the poor—supposing the somewhat improbable case of any one being found willing to buy an ass that in addition to great natural laziness was hopelessly lame; nor were they free to give him away. Giving him in trust, to be surrendered should his owner ever be found, was the only solution of the matter that they could arrive at; and this failed because they could find no one who would accept the ass on these—or, indeed, on any other—terms. Yet to support an ass in absolute idleness, as Fray Antonio was forced to own, would be to violate the law of his being under which a beneficent Creator had placed him in the world for the good of man.

  Altogether this case of conscience was so nice a one, and so beset by difficulties, that after the brothers had debated it for a long while together fruitlessly, and had prayed for guidance without receiving light upon their path in answer to their prayer, they determined to relegate its decision, through Fray Agustin de Vetancurt,—to whom, their little church being adjunct to the parish church of San José in San Francisco, they were directly responsible,—to the Very Reverend Father Friar Juan Gutierrez, who then governed the province of the Santo Evangelio, to which their convent pertained, and who was the Senior Provincial of the Franciscan order in New Spain.

  This high resolve they executed. Driving before them the cause of their spiritual tribulation, and accommodating their steps to the halting slowness of his gait, and even stopping when he turned aside to crop in a meditative fashion at some especially tempting bunch of grass, they went together along the causeway, past the church of San Cosme, the convent of San Diego, the burning-place of the Inquisition, and the Alameda, and so through the outskirts of the city to the great convent. They entered by the gate from the Zuleta, and fastened the ass in the courtyard beneath the windows of the building set apart for the use of the commissioners-general of the order—the same building that now profanely has been changed into a hotel.

  There was not a little merriment among the brothers when the purpose for which Fray Antonio and Fray Inocencio had come thither with the ass was known; for already the brothers within this convent, being grown rich and lustful of earthly pleasures, had so fallen from grace that conscientious scruples in regard to the ownership of a lame, wretched ass seemed to them laughable. But the Father Vetancurt, who was a holy man, and who had chosen Fray Antonio and Fray Inocencio for the missionary work that they had in charge because in the midst of much that was evil and corrupt they had remained pure, treated with a due seriousness the case of conscience that they had come to have resolved. That he smiled a little as he exhibited the matter to the Father Provincial is true; and this great dignitary smiled also on hearing what a quaint cause of perplexity beset the souls of the two brothers, and had been brought by them, in their rare simplicity, to him for resolution and adjustment. But the smiles of these two good men had in them nothing of derision, and, in truth, were not far removed from tears.

  “It is the spirit of our father St. Francis alive again,” said the Provincial, reverently; and in all humility they thanked God that innocency so excellent should be found remaining pure amid so much of earthly corruption and spiritual guile.

  Then came the brothers before the Father Provincial, and by his grace told him the whole of the matter that filled with anxious doubts their souls. Fray Antonio, who feared nothing but evil and the doing thereof, said what he had to say reverently, as became him in such a case, yet plainly and at his ease: telling how the ass came into their possession, yet touching but lightly upon the fiery part that Fray Inocencio had played; how they had sought earnestly but had failed to find his lawful owner, and therefore had no right either to sell him or to give him away; how no one could be found willing to accept him as a trust; and how, being thus forced to keep him themselves, they feared that the use of him was a valuable possession that their vow of poverty forbade. Fray Inocencio, who was terribly frightened at speaking to so great a personage, grew pale and stumbled in his speech; but by God’s help he told truly how he had beaten those cruel Indians; how his repentance of this act was not complete, since he could not banish from his heart the wish to finish the punishment that he had begun; and how the devil had put into his heart the desire to keep the ass, that in bringing vegetables to the great convent his own back might be spared. Having thus said to the end what he felt it to be his duty to say, he drew a long breath, wiped with the sleeve of his gown the beads of sweat from his forehead, and was still. That the case might be complete, the Father Provincial looked from the window and saw the ass fastened in the court below, and the brothers pointed to his crooked leg and told how in its healing the bone had gone awry; and the ass, hearing the voices of his friends, looked up towards them with affection and brayed a mighty bray.

  With a full heart answered to them the Father Provincial:

  “It is God himself, my brothers, who hath given this ass to you in reward for your tenderness and goodness of heart, and to accept a gift from him surely is no infraction of your vow. Go in peace to your convent again, and keep for your service this poor beast that you have saved from a life of misery, and in whose brute heart I perceive that there is for you such well-deserved love. Take you also my blessing—though, in truth, rather should I ask your blessing than thus give you mine.”

  And the brothers, very grateful for the dispensation in their favor, but not at all understanding the full meaning of the Father Provincial’s words, made proper reverence to him and went their way homeward; being full of happiness because of the glad consciousness, untroubled by doubt or misgiving, that the ass now really was their very own.

  Thereafter so often as it was necessary that vegetables should be brought from the little convent to the great one the bearer of the load was the lame ass, and behind him or beside him Fray Inocencio walked. As they slowly journeyed, these two held pleasant converse together; for Fray Inocencio maintained that the ass understood the meaning of human speech as well as he himself understood the meaning of the glances which the ass gave him, and the various twitchings of his scraggy tail, and the shakings of his head, and, above all, the whole vocabulary that was in the waggings of his ample ears.

  It was, indeed, a cheery sight to see these friends upon the road together. At his best the ass hobbled along at a pace that a tortoise would have scorned for its slowness; and at times he would stop wholly and would gaze around him with a look of thoughtful inquiry; or he would step aside to crop a bit of grass that pleased his fancy; and ever and anon he would edge up to his friend and rub his long nose gently against the friar’s side, and then would look into his face with a glance so movingly tender that nothing more could have been added to it for the expression of his love. For his part, Fray Inocencio patiently accommodated the naturally brisk movements of his own stout little legs to the ass’s infinite slowness: when the ass would stop, he would stop also; when by any chance the ass missed sight of a choice bunch of grass, he would lead him to it and would wait by him until he had cropped it to the very last blade; and when the ass by his nose-rubbings would manifest his love, he would gather the ass’s long, shaggy head in his arms against his breast and would lavish upon him all manner of terms of endearment as he gently stroked his fuzzy ears.

  So the fame of these two went through all the city; and upon the ass, who truly was as lazy as he was lame, the common people bestowed the name of Flojo, which word, in the Spanish tongue, signifies “the lazy one.” In this wise came the proverb that is spoken of any one who greatly loves a useless beast or person: he loves him as Fray Inocencio loved Flojo, the lame ass.

  Over the brothers, dwelling peacefully in their little convent, and serving God by loving his creatures and by ministering faithfully to the welfare of the souls of their fellow-men, the years drifted happily. Unharmed by Timoteo, called Susurro, who waxed fat and sluggish as age stole upon him, yet lost nothing of the sweetness of his nature nor of the thunderousness of his purr, the doves increased and multiplied; the little garden yielded ever freshly its substance of fresh food and sweet-smelling flowers; the ass, Flojo, tenderly cherished by his masters, developed yet greater prodigies of laziness as his years advanced; and the brothers themselves, happy in leading a life in all ways innocent and very excellent in the sight of Heaven, knew not what it was to grow old, because their hearts ever remained young.  

  And in the fulness of their years, their good lives ended, Fray Antonio and Fray Inocencio passed out gently from time into eternity, and were gathered home to God.

The Roman Farmer and the Moon


THE ROMAN FARMER AND THE MOON 
By Professor Eugene Tavenner 
MIDDLE TENNESSEE NORMAL SCHOOL





To a city dweller both the glory and the practical value of a full moon are unknown; but for him who dwells in the country, where the darkness of a moonless night is relieved by no brighter light than that of a lantern swinging by his side, the case is entirely different. For the latter the moon, as she journeys from her thinnest crescent to her fullest orb, is an object of wonder, of pleasant anticipation, of aesthetic pleasure, and of practical value.

It was thus also with the Roman farmer. Long before the days when Latin literature began to furnish some reflection of early Italian life, the Roman farmer had made the rotation of the moon the basis of his calendar,1 and had perfected a rough and ready almanac which gave all sorts of information about planting, harvesting, and other farm activities to be performed during certain phases of the moon. Most of this moon lore never found expression in books, but enough of it has been preserved in Latin literature2 to prove that the Roman farmer was very much like his modern descendant. He planted and reaped, he dug his ditches, he cut his stove wood, he set his hens, he sheared his sheep, and had his hair cut according to the moon.3 It is, therefore, to this interesting side of Roman life that I wish to direct your attention.

Foremost among agricultural interests is, of course, the success of crops. We shall therefore consider first the influence of the moon upon planting and harvesting. Both Greek and Roman farmers believed that the moon was the cause of the heavy dews so beneficial to their crops.4 As a result of this belief the idea became current that the new moon was accompanied by only a slight deposit of dew, which gradually increased in amount, until the maximum was reached at the time of the full moon. It was only a short step to the general idea that not only crops, the growth of which was really influenced by the amount of dew, but many other sublunary objects were influenced in their growth and decay by the moon.

The general rule is laid down by Palladius5 that "all planting should be done when the moon is increasing." To be more specific, we are told by Columella6 that beans should be planted carefully on the fifteenth day after the new moon, in case the moon was not on the wane at that time; otherwise, on the fourteenth day with the moon still increasing. In another passage7 the same agricultural authority directs that beans be sowed the day before the full moon, or on the very day of the full moon. Lentils, too,8 "should be planted before the twelfth day of the moon," that is, during the increasing moon, "to insure quick germination and growth." "It is popularly believed," writes Pliny,9"that forage crops should be sowed during the dark of the moon," and "that hot beds should be prepared during the light of the moon"; or, as the Latin has it,10 cum luna supra terram sit.

Trees also were planted according to the moon. Cato advises11 that "fig, apple, olive, and pear trees, as well as vines, should be planted in the dark of the moon (luna silente) in the afternoon, when there is no south wind blowing." This passage appears to be cited by Pliny,12 though some editors have changed Cato's luna silente to luna sitiente in the Pliny passage. Reeds, according to popular custom, were planted with both hands while the moon was increasing.13Columella lays down the general rule14 that "all trees should be planted when the moon is increasing and when the buds have begun to swell"; and he especially advises15 that the willow and the broom corn be planted at this time.

It will be observed that in all the passages above cited our authorities are agreed that all plants, trees, and vines should be planted either during the dark of the moon or during the increase of the moon. It seems quite apparent, therefore, that, according to the popular belief of the Roman farmers, all planting was to be done either just before the moon began to increase, or during the waxing moon. The reason is quite clear; for as the moon increases, so shall the planted crop or orchard increase. Against this uniform and easily explained practice I can cite only one conflicting passage. In the first book of the Georgics16 Vergil tells us that the seventeenth day after the new moon is propitious for planting vines. This, of course, is during the waning moon, and is contrary to all the passages cited above. As the reading seems sound I am at a loss to explain the apparent departure from an otherwise uniformly attested custom of planting exclusively during the waxing moon or just before.º

Now if the Roman farmer believed that all things planted during the increase of the moon made rapid growth, we should expect to find him harvesting his crop by the waning moon, in order that, as the moon decreased in size, so his harvested crops might go through a uniform drying or curing process without rotting. The following passages support this assumption. At a banquet given by a certain parvenu one of the guests remarked, as Horace informs us,17 that "honey apples picked during the waning moon preserved a finer blush." Furthermore, writes Columella,18"if you wish to protect beans from the weevil, pick them in the dark of the moon before daylight. Then, when they have dried on the threshing floor, immediately, before the moon begins to increase, shell them, cool them, and take them to the granary." Here it is quite apparent that the dark of the moon is thought of as the remnant of the waning moon; and that, if the moon should begin to increase before the harvest was garnered, the beans would not dry successfully.a

There are some vegetables, moreover, that even during their growing period may be profitably put under the restraining influence of a decreasing moon. Both Columella19 and Pliny20 inform us that garlic and leeks, if planted and harvested in the dark of the moon, lose much of their pungent odor, and do not scent the breath of those who eat them.

It happens, however, that in the case of some crops we do not wish them to dry or decrease after harvesting. This is especially true of grapes. It makes a difference whether you wish to preserve dried grapes or make them into wine.Concerning the former we may cite Columella21 to the effect that grapes for drying are to be picked decrescente luna.But for the wine grape Pliny is equally certain22 that "it helps greatly if one picks the grapes crescente luna." Thus, we see, grapes for drying were to be picked when the moon was waning in order to insure proper curing, while grapes intended for wine, in order to retain their juice fully, were to be picked during the waxing moon. A similar rule was followed in picking quinces for preserving,23 or garlic, or leeks.24 Finally, we have a statement of Pliny which gives explicitly the Roman view of the whole matter. He writes:25 "All kinds of cutting, picking, or shearing are accomplished with less damage during the waning moon than when the moon is on the increase."

Concerning wine-making we may note the following directions. Wine jars are to be opened only during the full moon,26 apparently on the ground that from that time on the moon would not increase further and so induce renewed fermentation. "Must should be trodden," we are told,27 "when the moon is set (sub terra)" but "boiled at night during the dark of the moon, or in the daytime at full moon, or on other days before the rising of the moon or after its setting."28 We are told also29 that in order to keep grape juice from fermenting one should pick the grapes while the moon is waning and sub terra. Likewise the lees are to be drawn from olive oil, if we are to believe Varro,30when the moon is waning (cum senescit luna). In all these cases the governing thought seems to have been to avoid an increasing moon on the ground that active fermentation would be set up if these various operations were conducted during that quarter.

Lastly, so far as regards crops, we may add Pliny's advice31 that grain and legumes be winnowed and stored when the moon is in her last quarter.

Not only were crops sowed and harvested by the moon's phases, but their growth was influenced and they themselves were protected by the same luminary. Gellius32 quotes Plutarch's commentary on Hesiod to the effect that "the onion plant grows green and throws forth shoots during the waning moon and on the contrary dries up when the moon is increasing. And the Egyptian priests say," he continues, "that this is the reason why the Pelusians do not eat the onion; because it is the only plant that goes contrary to the phases of the moon in its growth and decay." This, it is to be noted, is one of the few passages involving the growth of root crops. These, growing as they do under the ground and downward, might well be thought to find the period of the waning or sinking moon propitious to their growth. Weeds, however, were more obedient to the usual law of the moon; for if manure was spread on fields when the moon was waning,33 that very fact kept the weed seeds contained therein from springing up into vigorous life, and condemned them to gradual decay and death.

The light and the dark of the moon had also their respective beneficial effects upon agricultural activities. Vines, for instance, were thought to be protected from mice and shrew-mice if only one remembered to prune them by moonlight when the moon was full and in the sign of Leo, Scorpio, Sagittarius, or Taurus.34 Many seeds too could be protected from injurious grub worms by the simple method of planting them in the dark of the moon.35

Closely connected with the planting and harvesting of crops is the matter of manuring. Here too the Roman farmer showed a careful regard for the moon, as we may judge from the enlightening passages in Cato, Pliny, and Columella. According to the first of these authorities36 manure should be hauled to the meadows and spread when the moon is dark (luna silente). Pliny gives the busy farmer a little greater choice of time, stating37 that manure should not be handled except when the moon is waning. But even he prefers the dark of the moon (intermenstruum) or the period of the half-moon (dimidia) for such operations. Columella38 agrees with Pliny that manure should be spread in the winter when the moon is decreasing, giving as his reason39 that by spreading at such a time we may kill the weed seeds contained in the manure.

These passages would seem to make a very clear case of superstitious belief based on sympathetic magic. As the moon decreases even to the point of vanishing, so the weed seeds in the manure will decay and disappear. Or the Roman farmer may have thought of it in another way, namely, that as the moon diminishes, so shall the manure gradually disintegrate and distribute its valuable constituents in the soil. Some such view would account for manure-spreading during the full moon (which is immediately to decrease), during the waning moon, and at the end of her period of waning when she has become dark.

There are two passages, however, in Columella40 which direct that manure should be spread in February when the moon is increasing. The first passage runs: "Manure-spreading ought to be done in February during a waxing moon, for this increases the produce of the hay somewhat." Here it is apparent that the author is thinking of the manure not as a disintegrating, gradually beneficial agent, but as a substance immediately beneficial to the crop. He is not here spreading manure to kill weed seeds (and therefore applying in the decrease of the moon), but to promote immediate growth. Hence it is to be applied in the early spring during the waxing moon.

Nor were the activities of the woodland to be neglected; for here, we may note, it made a considerable difference whether grubbing, pruning, or timber-cutting was done according to the proper phase of the moon. Even so unimportant an act as reed-cutting could be done to better advantage if one took due note of the moon.

For grubbing I am able to quote a passage from Columella,41 in which we are told that "a field containing stumps is best cleared when the moon is decreasing," I suppose in order to keep the remains of the stumps from throwing up shoots.

Pruning is more frequently noticed by our literary authorities. Remembering Pliny's general direction42 that "all kinds of cutting . . . are accomplished with less damage during the waning moon," we should expect to find pruning done at that time. In this we are not disappointed, for the same author writes43 that "grape vines, to be fruitful, should be pruned decrescente luna; but if one's object is to protect them from injurious animals, one should prune them during the dark of the moon (interlunium)."44 "But," he admits, "according to another theory, grape vines should be pruned at night, during the full moon, when the moon is in the sign of the Lion, the Scorpion, the Archer, or the Bull."45 Here the general intent of the popular belief is plain. Ordinary pruning, following the general rule, is done during the waning moon, in order that the sap may tend to run down into the ground, and the vine may not bleed; whereas vines pruned during the dark of the moon are protected from noxious animals because the latter cannot see well at that time. However, we are most interested in that part of the passage which tells us that there was another and opposite theory. Not all Roman farmers had the same rules regarding the moon, and we may amuse ourselves by imagining a group of them vigorously discussing the various theories which explained just how it happened that the moon could do all these wonderful things.

We have next to consider the moon lore concerning timber-cutting. Cato, who is our earliest authority, advises46 "that all timber be cut and all stumps grubbed when the moon is waning"; which agrees with the general rule laid down by Pliny, as quoted above.47 The latter is even more explicit. "It makes the greatest difference," he writes,48 "whether (sc. timber is cut) according to the moon, and we are enjoined that it should not be cut except from the twentieth to the thirtieth day. It is universally agreed," he continues, "that timber is felled most advantageously when the moon is in conjunction with the sun, at the time which some call the interlunium, others luna silens. Certainly," he adds, "when a bridge used in a sham naval battle had been burned, Tiberius Caesar ordered larches to be felled in Raetia at this season for restoring it." Finally, says Pliny, "Some say that the moon should be in conjunction with the sun and set, which cannot happen except at night; and if this period chances to coincide with the winter solstice, timber cut at that time will last forever." With the first part of this passage we may compare a statement of Columella49 to the effect that "timber should be cut between the twentieth and the thirtieth day of the lunar moon, when the moon is waning; because all timber cut at this time is judged to be free from decay."50 Even reeds were thought to be better when cut by a waning moon.51

But not all the activities of the farm have to do with crops and woodland.b The careful Roman farmer consulted the moon when he dug his ditches, when he set his hens, when he sheared his sheep, and when he had his hair cut. The following passages present the evidence. Pliny52 advises farmers to "dig ditches at night when the moon is full." In the same passage he writes "ova luna nova supponito." Columella, his contemporary, is even more explicit. "One ought," he writes,53 "always to take care to set eggs under a hen when the moon is waxing, from the tenth to the fifteenth day after the new moon; for not only is the sitting itself more likely to turn out well under these conditions, but one ought to manage thus in order that the hatch may take place when the moon is again on the increase." This is perhaps the most perfect bit of sympathetic folk-magic to be found in the moon lore of the Roman farmer. What could be simpler? As the moon increases, so the embryo increases in the egg; and as the second moon increases, so the newly hatched chick grows prodigiously. In like manner the Roman farmer began to stuff chickens for the market at the new moon and finished the process twenty days thereafter.54

Sheep-shearing and the cutting of the farmer's own hair were under a like dispensation of the moon. Varro, in his Res Rusticae,55 has Agrasius say: "I think that not only should those precepts (about things to be done in the waxing moon) be observed as regards shearing sheep, but I was taught by my father carefully to observe the same rule in having my own hair cut; lest by having my hair cut while the moon was waning, I should become bald." Pliny quotes this passage inaccurately, for he writes:56 "Marcus Varro advises that the hair be cut after the full moon to avoid loss of hair." This agrees well with Pliny's general rule57 that shearing and cutting ought to be done during a waning moon; but it is not what Varro said. Nor does it seem likely that a man who wished to preserve or even to increase his head of hair would have had it cut under the shrivelling influence of a waning moon. Even in the same passage Pliny remarks that the Emperor Tiberius always had his hair trimmed in the dark of the moon, i.e. at the very beginning of its waxing period. It seems likely that a young man, who disliked loquacious barbers, and who did not fear baldness, might have had his hair cut during the waning moon in order to insure a slower growth of the new hair; whereas one who was threatened with baldness would take an opposite course.c

We come finally to the management of Roman farm animals. Though many forms of animal life were thought by the Romans to increase and decrease with the moon,58 none of these is characteristic of the farm. We are able, however, to cite at least one cure for swollen glands in draft animals, in which the moon is prominent. It occurs in the de Cura Boum of Gargilius Martialis, a veterinary authority of the third Christian century:59 "For swollen glands of draft animals. Fourteen days after the new moon, early in the morning, before you bathe your hands, remove all harness from the beast, take hold of the swollen gland with the medicine finger (digitus medicinalis) of your left hand, and say the following words in a prayerful spirit: 'Neither doth a stone bear wool, nor hath an earthworm eyes, nor a mule a matrix.' " It is almost certain that in the mind of the writer of this passage the 'fourteenth day after the new moon' meant the beginning of the waning moon, and that the charm repeated during that period was thought much more certainly to cause the swollen gland to decrease.

A similar idea was prevalent in regard to the castration of farm animals. "Boars, bullocks, rams, and kids should be castrated during the waning moon," writes Pliny;60 and Columella cites61 the great Carthaginian agricultural writer, Mago, to the same effect.

Of our own tradition that meat should be slaughtered and salted down during certain phases of the moon, I have found only one instance. Pliny informs us62 that goat's meat, salt-cured when the moon was waning, was not attacked by worms.

This concludes our literary evidence for the moon lore of the Roman farmer. I have cited in all more than fifty passages ranging in time from Cato to Gargilius Martialis, together with a few passages from later writers, i.e. from the second century B.C. to 300 A.D., showing a persistent belief among Roman farmers in the influence of the moon upon various agricultural activities. That the chronological range of my sources embraces four hundred and fifty years is not because Roman farmers of an earlier or later period were superior to such beliefs, but rather because Roman agricultural literature begins with Cato and my examination of the subject has not gone beyond 300 A.D.

As regards the terms for the phases of the moon, we may note that the Romans used the words nova luna not in our more strictly correct sense of the moon in conjunction with the sun and hence invisible, but to mean, as in our popular usage, 'a crescent moon.' Other Latin terms for the moon's phases are like ours. The half moon was luna dimidiata, the full moon luna plena, the waxing moon luna crescens, the waning moon luna decrescens, while the interlunary period which we call popularly the dark of the moon was known to the Romans as the interlunium or the intermenstruum. At that time the moon was said to be silens.

If we seek for the underlying thought in the Roman farmer's moon lore, we shall find it exceedingly simple. It is merely this: Whatsoever you would have grow or increase, attend to during the waxing moon; whatsoever you wish to dry, or cure, or decrease without decay, attend to during the waning moon; whatsoever you would have remain unchanged, attend to during the dark of the moon.

In accordance with this system we find that one should sow seeds (supra), plant reeds (69) and trees (69), pick grapes intended for wine (71), scatter manure for immediate plant growth (74), set hens (77), shear sheep, and have one's hair cut in order to avoid baldness (78), while the moon is increasing.

The waning moon was no less potent. At that time honey-apples, grapes, quinces and pears were picked and preserved (70 f.), crops were winnowed and stored (72), lees were drawn from olive oil (72), and winter manuring was attended to (73 ff.). This was also the favorable time for grubbing, pruning, reed-cutting, and timber-cutting (75 ff.). If you had your hair cut at this time, it remained well-trimmed longer (78). Swollen glands were reduced, castration performed, and meat salted down to better advantage during a waning moon (79 f.).

The perfection of the waning moon was reached when the orb became entirely dark. Then indeed was the best time to perform those farm operations where natural growth was to be inhibited, or a static condition brought about. Timber cut during this period was almost indestructible (77), manure so spread could harbor no weed seed (74), beans remained free from weevils (70), and seeds free from worms (73).

So too the light of the moon's full splendor guarded many earthly interests. For was not wine opened during the full moon protected against souring (72), and did not mice fear to gnaw at vines set out by the light of a full moon (73)? Ditches dug at night under a full moon remained undarkened and unclogged (77).

As to the origin of this moon lore of the Romans I wish to add a few words. First we may note that in the fifty or more passages cited as evidence there is not a word that even remotely suggests the worship of the moon. This is consistent with the view that the earliest Romans knew nothing whatever of moon worship.63 Nor is it probable that the Roman farmer, notwithstanding the influence of Greek agricultural literature upon that of Rome, derived any great part of his moon beliefs from an external source. He would, in fact, be the last person to hear of strange beliefs introduced from foreign countries. And yet it is precisely in the rural districts of Italy, and in the writings of such anti-Greek agriculturists as Cato, that we find our evidence for belief in the power of the moon most abundant. All this evidence seems to point to the conclusion64 that in ancient Italy, as in every part of the world, and at all times, the regular, mysterious changes of the moon made a very deep impression upon the untutored mind, as a result of which the waxing and the waning of the moon were connected with the growth and decay of sublunary objects. It is the mistaken conclusion that things which occur at the same time must sustain the relation of cause and effect, that like effects like, similia similibus. Underneath it all is the idea of sympathia which is the basis of a large part of magic; and from this mysterious sympathetic connection between the moon and the daily activities of the farm the Roman farmer could no more divorce his ideas of crop management and growth than can the farmer of today.


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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.