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Neither night, nor dawn of day,
Sing then-and extend thy span
Wretched man, whose years are spent
Lives not, aged though he be,
Half a span, compared with thee.
RICE is, to the inhabitants of the south, very much what wheat is to those who live in more northern countries.
The lower class of people in India and in China eat little else; and it is the main article of food among the negro inhabitants of the West India Islands. The Chinese eat it in a curious way. Instead of using knives, forks, or spoons, they pick up the grains with two sticks, called chop-sticks; and it is quite laughable to a stranger to see how quickly a practised hand can dispose of a dish in this manner.
The plant grows wild in some parts of Bengal, and is therefore known to be a native of India; but it is cultivated in large quantities in China, in North and South Carolina in the United States, and in some of the southern countries of Europe. Some persons have tried to grow it in England, but without success, because it is a plant that requires great warmth and moisture. It may seem strange that, in countries where it is most grown, there is, during
the time of its growth, little or no rain; but the moisture is supplied in other ways.
Some of the great rivers in China are, at certain times of the year, swollen by very heavy rains, which fall in the mountains near their source; and being so swollen, they overflow their banks in parts far from the place where the rain has fallen. In this way the grounds near the river-side are covered with a thick, slimy mud, and are then very fit for rice fields.
When the Chinese wish to plant a rice field, they prepare the soil with plough and harrow, and then enclose a small part of the field with low mud banks, within which they sow the rice thickly; but before they sow it, they soak the grain in water, so that it is sprouting when it is thrown into the ground. After they have sown it, they cover the ground, with water, to the depth of two or three inches, which is pumped up from the river, and kept from flowing away by the banks. The plants soon spring up above the water. But the Chinese is a most industrious labourer, and his work is now only begun. The plants are all pulled up, and are set over the field at exact distances from each other. The whole field is then laid under water, in the same manner as the smaller part had been, having been previously banked up for that purpose. The rice continues to grow; and though the labourer cannot go upon the land without being up to his knees in water and mud, the Chinese never fails to weed his field three times before the rice is cut.
When the plant is fully grown, it has a straight, round, jointed stalk, with long pointed leaves like
the reed. The flowers and grain grow somewhat like barley. As soon as the grain is ripe the water is drained off, and the crop cut down with a sickle; it is then either stacked or trodden out by cattle. The grain, when trodden out, is preserved in pits dug in high ground, and lined with rice straw. The straw is stacked by the careful farmer, for feeding his cattle, during the hot weather.
Paddy is the name given to rice in its natural state, before it is separated from the husk. The husk adheres very closely to the grain, and there are many clever contrivances for separating it without breaking the grain.
But rice grows in much drier places than on the banks of the Chinese rivers. In the south of India there are lands which lie high above the sea. The soil is dry and thirsty, and there is no river near; and yet they are turned into fruitful rice fields. These lands form a number of valleys, narrow and long, separated by ridges of higher ground. Across these valleys, in various places, are raised strong embankments, so that the water which falls in the rainy seasons is kept up, and forms a number of large ponds or lakes. One of these artificial lakes is said to be nearly thirty miles round. Captain Basil Hall, who visited this part of the country, standing on one raised spot, counted above a hundred such lakes. There were between thirty and forty in one valley, which was about a mile broad and forty miles long. The borders of these lakes were covered with crops of rice, and presented a most flourishing appearance, while the rest of the country round was perfectly dry and barren.
A rice field produces a much greater quantity of food than the most fertile corn field. From thirty to sixty bushels are said to be the ordinary produce of an acre. Of the kinds of rice imported into England, the Carolina is the best. The grains are broader, shorter, and softer than the Patna, which is the best India rice known in this country. It is said to have been first introduced into America, by a bag of East India rice having been sent as a present to a Carolina merchant.
A VILLAGE PASTOR.
NEAR yonder copse, where once the garden smil'd,
Wept o'er his wounds, or, tales of sorrow done,
Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
He watch'd and wept, he pray'd and felt, for all;
And pluck'd his gown, to share the good man's smile.
Their welfare pleas'd him and their cares distrest;
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,