The antiquity of his art is certainly not to be contested by any other. The three first men in the world were a gardener, a ploughman, and a grazier; and if any man object that the second of these was a murderer, I desire he would consider, that as soon as he was so, he quitted our profession and turned builder. It is for this reason, I suppose, that Ecclesiasticus forbids us to hate husbandry; because, says he, the Most High has created it. We were all born to this art, and taught by nature to nourish our bodies by the same earth out of which they were made, and to which they must return and pay at last for their sustenance.
Behold the original and primitive nobility of all those great persons who are too proud now not only to till the ground, but almost to tread upon it. We may talk what we please of lilies and lions rampant, and spread eagles in fields d'or or d'argent; but if heraldry were guided by reason, a plough in a field arable would be the most noble and ancient arms.
All these considerations make me fall into the wonder and complaint of Columella, how it should come to pass that all arts or Sciences (for the dispute, which is an art and which is a science, does not belong to the curiosity of us husbandmen), metaphysic, physic, morality, mathematics, logic, rhetoric, etc., which are all, I grant, good and useful faculties, except only metaphysic, which I do not know whether it be anything or no, but even vaulting, fencing, dancing, attiring, cookery, carving, and such like vanities, should all have public schools and masters; and yet that we should never see or hear of any man who took upon him the profession of teaching this so pleasant, so virtuous, so profitable, so honourable, so necessary art.
A man would think, when he's in serious humour, that it were but a vain, irrational, and ridiculous thing for a great company of men and women to run up and down in a room together, in a hundred several postures and figures, to no purpose, and with no design; and therefore dancing was invented first, and only practised anciently, in the ceremonies of the heathen religion, which consisted all in mummery and madness; the latter being the chief glory of the worship, and accounted divine inspiration. This, I say, a severe man would think, though I dare not determine so far against so customary a part now of good breeding. And yet, who is there among our gentry that does not entertain a dancing master for his children as soon as they are able to walk? But did ever any father provide a tutor for his son to instruct him betimes in the nature and improvements of that land which he intended to leave him? That is at least a superfluity, and this a defect in our manner of education; and therefore I could wish, but cannot in these times much hope to see it, that one college in each university were erected, and appropriated to this study, as well as there are to medicine and the civil law. There would be no need of making a body of scholars and fellows, with certain endowments, as in other colleges; it would suffice if, after the manner of Halls in Oxford, there were only four professors constituted (for it would be too much work for only one master, or Principal, as they call him there) to teach these four parts of it. First, aration, and all things relating to it. Secondly, pasturage; thirdly, gardens, orchards, vineyards, and woods; fourthly, all parts of rural economy, which would contain the government of bees, swine, poultry, decoys, ponds, etc., and all that which Varro calls Villaticas Pastiones, together with the sports of the field, which ought not to be looked upon only as pleasures, but as parts of housekeeping, and the domestical conservation and uses of all that is brought in by industry abroad. The business of these professors should not be, as is commonly practised in other arts, only to read pompous and superficial lectures out of Virgil's Georgics, Pliny, Varro, or Columella, but to instruct their pupils in the whole method and course of this study, which might be run through perhaps with diligence in a year or two; and the continual succession of scholars upon a moderate taxation for their diet, lodging, and learning, would be a sufficient constant revenue for maintenance of the house and the professors, who should be men not chosen for the ostentation of critical literature, but for solid and experimental knowledge of the things they teach such men; so industrious and public spirited as I conceive Mr. Hartlib to be, if the gentleman be yet alive. But it is needless to speak further of my thoughts of this design, unless the present disposition of the age allowed more probability of bringing it into execution. What I have further to say of the country life shall be borrowed from the poets, who were always the most faithful and affectionate friends to it. Poetry was born among the shepherds.
Nescio qua natale solum dulcedine musas Ducit, et immemores non sinit esse sui.
The Muses still love their own native place, 'T has secret charms which nothing can deface.
The truth is, no other place is proper for their work. One might as well undertake to dance in a crowd, as to make good verses in the midst of noise and tumult.
As well might corn as verse in cities grow; In vain the thankless glebe we plough and sow, Against th' unnatural soil in vain we strive, 'Tis not a ground in which these plants will thrive.