Ye marshes, how candid and simple, and nothing withholding and free,
Ye publish yourselves to the sky, and offer yourselves to the sea.
THE ornamental part of the place once under way, we had leisure to give a little attention to the practical, and accordingly we began to wish to utilize some of the waste land lying on the east side of the farm, where the salt water made free inroads during high tides into a half acre of otherwise good mowing, and here we learned the meaning of an interesting parable in Roman history.
The fable of Metius Curtius plunging on horseback into the morass which had opened in the Roman Forum, because the oracle had declared that only the best thing in Rome would be of avail to close it up, must have been invented simply to show that the Romans, great engineers as they were, fully recognized that filling up a marsh was a well-nigh endless job, which would require the sacrifice of the best blood and treasure of the state before it was accomplished.
In spite of the illustrious warning given by M. Curtius, there lives not a man with soul so dead as not to be fired with ambition to make dry ground out of his meadow, if he is so unlucky as to own one; and he always starts in with figures on paper to show what a fine income of hay is to result from a comparatively small investment of labor and gravel. But the work goes on, then more work and more gravel, till finally the account of this part of the business gets mislaid, so that by the time the far distant hay crop begins to materialize, a haze has settled over the amount of capital (literally) sunk, and only the hay returns are brought prominently to the front.
When we first surveyed the half acre or so of salt-grass which had been left over on our side of the fence when the road was built across the meadow, it did not seem of much importance, one way or the other. The English grass grew luxuriantly down to the edge of it, and the soft, fine salt-hay was excellent for bedding, the only objection being that it was so palatable that the horses ate up their mattress before breakfast every morning.
After the causeway was constructed across the wet ground behind the stable to Winter Street, there did not seem very much reason for meddling further with the marsh, but given a gravel-bank at one end of a farm, and a swamp at the other, and you may depend upon it there will be a marriage between them at no very distant date.
The intercourse between the two of our acquaintance, once begun, was seldom interrupted; the more the meadow saw of the hill the more it wanted to see, and, with a perversity only to be found in meadows, the more it was given the more it wanted of the same kind.
At first it seemed as if a few cartloads of stones dumped in the lowest parts, where the water stood longest, would be all-sufficient, but the amount of material that this anaconda of a marsh can stow away is, to use the slang of the day, phenomenal.