Appleseed’s Progress: Preamble, Part II

Book III of “Eden to Ohio”

Colonization, Eden, Apples, Apple Cider

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Aristotle composed many books, many lectures, most now lost.  Among those lost, the dialogue “Alexander, ‘On Colonization'”.  You might remember that an eager occupation of Aristotle’s Lyceum and of Plato’s Academy was the production of constitutions for those Greek colonies which spread beauty, goodness and truth around the classive world, and later, by Alexander through Hellenization into India, and beyond.  True, Plato’s deep and abiding errors in the Politeia, “The Political Regime” (erroneously known as, “The Republic”) continues to corrupt thought and to hurt people, especially when put into practice by German Nazis (national socialism), communists (Russian, Chinese, and the rest), and here by social Progressives; yet, America’s Constitution is Enlightenment-made, God-admitted and is by goodness able to withstand the inanities of Plato’s errors, more so than intellectually defenseless Syracuse, which Plato’s political influence did much to destroy. 

British colonies of North America, 1776

Colonies are only as-good-as the virtue of the constituting political document, the character of the colonizer, and the souls of the colonized, as we have seen in colonies by virtue established (the original 13 of these united states, et alibi) and constituted into independence, into liberty, that flourishing of kindness, forgivness, understanding. Or, as we have seen, in colonies which insinuate vice—ethically, morally, sexually, matrimonially, practically and politically—a failure, a reversion into barbarism and murder.  Truly, the quality of the ground, the character of the seed, and the care of the cultivator tells over time.  Thank goodness, or thank God, that Alexander followed his own counsel and united peoples who had much to contribute toward the common benefit.  Then, never forget: we were colonials of colonies religiously founded in virtue and English liberty; that we were alike other colonies the world-over, excepting that we were more at liberty in virtue; that our virtue, our character, the soul in each and all (more than particular material condition) created the goodness, the greatness that we have become.  

Several of the essential, founding documents of these united states.

The land of Nod was not so much a colony as it was a settlement.  We can assume that the territory of Nod was mostly uninhabited, that it was East of Eden, and was, in the way of nature, something alike Eden, westerly breezes being as they are, seeds being as they are, and these becoming as they become, tough nuts, hard apples, tart berries, et cetera.  And yet, a place, over time, takes upon itself the personality of the man who has planted himself in its soil.  Look to those great and beautiful cities grown from the health of American republicanism, and look beyond into what urbanites became in cold steel, bent glass, and brutal concrete when progressive politics, progressive envy, flattery, and beauty’s neglect sickened the native demos, the American democracy. 

Fernand-Anne Piestre Cormon, Cain Fleeing before Jehovah’s Curse, circa 1880

We know little of Cain’s city, yet it has been written that at Nod, Cain (son to Adam & Eve) transfigured innocence into deceit, picketed his city, taxed and divided, and we know that alike Cain, Nod resorted to violence and to robbery.  Truly, there is little that is without question known, yet we can be certain that vice corrupts all things which it touches, corporeal and incorporeal, that is, unless it touches virtue, which, alike exercise, is strengthened in resistance to vice’s weight, to vice’s mutating sensualities—look to the blackberry, deeply strengthened by adversity, look to the apple whose pesticide strengthens the fruit, weakens the people.      

William Blake, Temptation and Fall, 1808

We know little more of Johnny’s apples than we know of Eden’s apple, knowledge of both has disappeared in time.  There is a rumor, perhaps true, of an Appleseed apple tree surviving in  Nova, Ohio, from which the current owners have made a neat profit and a little reputation; we can assume that this Appleseed tree is a direct descendant of the Eden tree, of more we cannot be certain, try as we may, human stories, even disguised as a burnished science, are more expectation, are more imagination than the hopelessly fallible scientist is willing to admit. 

Callimachus, Venus Genetrix, circa 475 BC (this English copy given by Prince Albert to Queen Victoria for her birthday, 24th May 1847)

Now, we have identified, without doubt, by actual, physical example an apple of antiquity; that apple, a paradigm, almost perfect in shape, is deftly held by the Venus Genetrix (Venus, the Universal Mother); we know this because Caesar, in honor of a vow, had numerous copies of this Genetrix made in both marble and in bronze, a few of which examples are living with us yet.  And here, we have guessed that Caesar’s “Venus” was fashioned after a perfect “Aphrodite” created by Callimachus, a sculptor of seldom matched skill; here too, we cannot be certain—only by ancient rumor do we learn of this Aphrodite, as neither she nor any other genesis of Callimachus is known to have survived; even so, we have heard that this earlier Aphrodite was formed with the Golden Apple of Discord in hand, you know “Discord”, that legendary apple tossed to the proud goddesses Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, an apple tossing which caused the war, Achilles anger, the Wooden Horse, the conflagration of Troy, et cetera. 

When considering famous apples, we have in memory only a few:

Albemarle Pippin (the Johnny Appleseed apple), United States Stamp, 2016

Eden’s tempting apple,

the discord apple of the Hesperides,

William Tell’s head-top target apple,

Newton’s gravity apple,

the Evil Queen’s poisoned apple,

the computer and record apples,

and Appleseed’s knotty crabapple. 

Of these many apples, without doubt, the most useful to humankind is Appleseed’s knotty little crabapple, an apple suitable to cider, to sauce, to pies (when sugared), to the pleasure of livestock, and for the necessity of property ownership—as you might know, in Ohio, some properties were mortgaged only after an apple grove was in production.  Once, these tart “little spitters” grew most everywhere upon the savanna, being as they were seed grown natural, bird carried, water washed and wind swept.  These days, we seldom find Johnny’s tart, knotty apples wild growing anywhere, roadside or wind kissed field: roads have been flat-widened and stamped-out houses have crowded over fields as-far-as the eye can see.  Then too, alike art, tart or sweet, taste has been bred-out of the apple, especially out of the oxymoronic “red delicious”.   Many are the causes of aesthetic decline: mass production, mechanization, regulation, neglect, loss of tradition

Of tradition, we can guess that an envious few would blame George Washington for the disappearance of the apple, after-all, he owned slaves and there is an account of the young George eagerly axing a tree to death, which sin, when Washington presided, was tightly, inextricably woven into the fabric of the nation, but this is not so: the important lesson is that Washington, even as a boy would in honesty admit a mistake and set to rights.  “I cannot tell a lie” might, in fact, be an illustrative prevarication of an inventive author.  Yes, we cannot be certain of the veracity of Weem’s account, neither can we trust the self-congratulatory industries that profit by eroding America’s foundation. 

Grant Wood, Parson Weems’ Fable, Amon Carter Museum, 1939

So, it might be true that young Washington did not chop a cherry tree with his new-shinny ax, it might be that the small-chopped tree was an apple.  Here, at Mount Vernon, progressively told, we have evidence of an inherited proclivity: Washington would bind his apples in espalier, training them to be beautiful and to behave, that he would squash them, pulverize them, ferment them and serve them to pliable citizens to win votes, as successfully he did in the 1748 Virginia House race when he brazenly served 144 gallons of hard apple-cider, a serving which launched George’s suspicious political career.  Yes, “I cannot tell a lie” might be a metaphor, although, in truth, it is our stories, our myths and legends, more than our government or the actuary, which creates us, which sustains us. 

The two great stories of the apple in America are Johnny’s seeds and George’s servings: both are instructive, both flow through the apple-cider stream of our republic.

Johnny Appleseed Hard Apple Cider

Of the stream: overbearing government it was that imposed prohibition, that cracked and drained the rich, old cider jugs, that banished George’s and Johnny’s beloved hard-cider from our pleasure.  You remember: more axes, and Amendment, and intolerant, intemperate feminists who forced hearty labor into clean-scrubbed, hands-folded pews, imposed that tyranny of the hen-house, that demand upon strong men to serve in their need the weak, to hoe the fields, to build the roads, to hammer the houses and to tinker the chairs upon which wide, soft, feminist bottoms in comfort spread. 

Some Sundays, some little bit of polite reserve and hand-wringing, sure, yet, “nothing to excess”, we are reminded, and a little Sunday goes a long way.  Here, I am put in mind of Saint Paul who at Ephesus burned the poetry, the histories, the classical philosophy before being smartly ass-ejected from the city by the artists who created the golden icons of the beautiful goddess, Aphrodite.  We men, in time, will have our delusions of feminine beauty and allure—until the sagging—and then, following labor’s long sweat, we shall have our joy in drink, our fellowship in Dionysus, that pleasure in flesh until Sunday-morning’s-boring-hour when by rote we must proclaim the good, the great, and the forever tedious, ever-after.  Until then, leave us to our cider and our foibles; surely, all have their faults, which, in good nature, strong men allow.        

Johnny Appleseed, United States Stamp, 1966

When not in the spirit of God—Dionysus or Jesus—Johnny Chapman was engaged in planting and speculation, amassing healthy capital which would allow the tilling of fields in preparation for expansive, westward colonization.  Dozens of producing nurseries were founded by Chapman, providing for the ten-thousands of fruitful trees which were in lease-contract required to establish frontier homesteads … and Johnny could be a shrewd businessman, most always choosing those pleasant, river-side sites which would by rich cultivation become energetic towns and cities, Marietta, Steubenville, et alibi.  And here, upon the Ohio frontier, is found Johnny first in rank, eager, always a bit ahead of the game, boldly trekking westward, confidently buying leases, faithfully clearing and planting then moving along to the next boundary settlement before dutifully returning East to acquire fresh seed from the saw-busy mills.  To know Johnny, see him again along Ohio’s rivers in westward trek, colonizing, carrying with him enthusiasm, a full bag of seed, tart-little apples, a free, expansive frontier spirit, economic liberty and God’s good blessing.

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Appleseed's Progress Cover

In the screen-novella, Appleseed’s Progress, a telling of seven excellent adventures not commonly known, yet known to be true in the nature of such things. You understand, true of stories, of myths and of legends, true in the words that live in our bones, in our imagination transcendent and everlasting.

Here, beneath a guileless cover live apple-seed rich ideas, Johnny tellings by which we Americans realize ourselves within our self.  And there it is … I hope you will enjoy the story; I hope that you will take these adventures, this book as your own.

Appleseed’s Progress , Volume III of “Eden to Ohio”, to be released 30 June 2020

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Mosaic of Dominus Julius, Carthage, late IV to early V A.D.

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