This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Every one knows that when a man's head is set, it is very difficult to turn it - that when an idea or opinion has once possessed a brain, it is not easy to dislodge it, even if it is a poor tenant who never pays.
"What has that to do with pear-trees?"
Everything, Rowley, everything - for that is the introduction. Now, see how ingeniously I shall spin from it.
Many people hold, that pear-trees are to be desired because they bear pears, and that pears are to be valued for the palate, because they are rich, juicy, and delicious - for so they certainly are. That is the notion which has possessed some brains, and I can not deny that it is plausible; yet it is mainly a mistaken one - a narrow and carnal view.
"But," said my familiar, "when the professor brings me down one 'Duchess,' and two 'Flemish Beauties' (I am speaking of pears), and my lips kiss their cheeks, and their juices flow along my tongue, to gladden the sense, then I hold to that view, and I bless God -"
"Now wait, Rowley, wait, I said; for I was afraid he would say something foolish. So he sat in my porch, and, with his cigar (which I condemn mildly), disputed the fragrance of the honeysuckles, and listened to the wisdom of age.
Whoever, I continued, whoever prizes simply his existence - who thinks highly-of his presence, values his deportment, and is content with "being" - in other words, whoever believes life is an end rather than a means, and, therefore, is content to be, rather than to do - he may think himself happy; but he is mistaken. You shake your head, Rowley; but it is so.
So it is with pears - they, too, are a means, not an end.
Whoever, having grown a fine pear, is elated, and lays much stress upon the tempting fruit, is in danger of sorrow and disappointment - he may be laying up for himself a future grief. Yet I must allow, that, if the fruit had been nipped by an untimely boy, or arrested by a summer blight, before its juicy flesh had been ripened to perfection, my own sense of propriety would have been shocked; for all things work toward completeness, and thus minister to our satisfaction. Satisfaction, my dear friend - not happiness - is the end and aim of a true existence. Consider what it is which satisfies, when we look upon a daisy or violet blooming in the shelter of a rugged rock; upon the cedar, the oak, or the beech, spreading its broad branches oyer the shadowy plain; upon the field of grain, waving in the light of the golden sun; upon the succulent asparagus, pushing through the dark, damp earth - these all come to the fullness of perfection, and we are satisfied with them, for they are complete. It is so with the wood-duck, diving and sporting in the still waters of an inland lake; with the robin, that sings out his soul to his mate brooding on the sky-blue eggs; with the slow and stalwart ox, who drags the plow along the fertile furrow; with the hound who courses the wily fox, and with the fox who outwits the chasing hound - these all satisfy us, for they are complete; they do well what they are made to do.
Is it not so with men, my friend? We find no fault with a man, or a woman, who does a thing well - but are satisfied; and he who makes a perfect pair of shoes, does as complete a thing as he who sits well on a king's throne, or decides justly on a judge's bench.
It is the same in art: for the completeness of Menet's Ragpicker (two inches high), or his Cat Suckling her Kittens (done in clay), is equal in perfection to the Dying Gladiator, or Angelo's Moses, done in marble. In literature, also, we find this is so, and we are satisfied with Burns's verses to a Mouse, with Leigh Hunt's Abou-ben-Adhem, with Lowell's "John P., Robinson, he" because they are, in themselves, as perfect and complete as is a Hamlet, or a House of Seven Gables. It is therefore desirable that men and women should do that well which they can do, and find out as soon as possible what they can do best, and not waste too much time in tears or complaints because they can not do something else. The man who raises good potatoes is eminently worthy, as is he who makes good verses, busts, or coaches, and either of them may be a complete man (and so great), and satisfactory to himself and to his fellow-men. It is not the thing done, but the spirit of the man who does it, that God loves.
Now it will be clear, therefore, that, to the pear-tree, it is necessary to bear pears, for that is its vocation, its purpose. It was for that, that the brown seed was dropped into the earth; that when the warm, bursting spring came, it sent down its delicate root, and pushed up its tender top, and unfolded its leaves, and stretched forth its branches, and, when the time came, elaborated its juices into buds enfolding blossoms - fragrant promises of future fruit.
It is right, therefore, for the pear-tree to bear pears.
But, for a man, his duty is to furnish the tree with every possible facility and convenience necessary for it to perfect its purpose; for the tree can not do this for itself. He is to see that there is good soil, and that it is in good heart (not made over rich), and well dug and broken, so that the rays of the fructifying, sun can enter it, and the gentle dews sink into it; then he is to plant the tree in it. And let him do that well - for trees are grateful; they like not to have their roots crowded into a small hole dug in a hard soil - no well-bred pear-tree will submit to such indignity, and many will die if so treated - but rather into the mellow earth; spread out the roots, and press among them the genial mold, so that they kiss one another; and plant not too deep, but so as to cover, with an inch of earth, the neck whence the roots branch; then sustain the stem with a slender stake, and the first work is done. Whoever has done this, will value the warm April sunshine and the soft April showers, and he will watch in the last of the month, till he shall see the unfolding buds; and then the expanding leaves, and the lusty shoots, wagging in the wind, will give him hope. In another year, he will wait for blossoms, and, when they come, he will be thankful.