Book Review (of Malabar Farm by Louis Bromfield 1948)
by E. B. White
“Malabar Farm is the farm for me,
A place of unbridled activity.
A farm is always in some kind of tizzy,
But Bromfield’s place is really busy:
Strangers arriving by every train,
Bromfield terracing against the rain,
Catamounts crying, mowers mowing,
Guest rooms full to overflowering,
Boxers in every room of the house,
Cows being milked to Brahms and Strauss,
Kids arriving by van or pung,
Bromfield up to his eyes in dung,
Sailors, trumpeters, mystics, actors,
All of them wanting to drive the tractors,
All of them eager to husk the corn,
Some of them sipping their drinks till morn;
Bulls in the bull pen, bulls on the loose,
Everyone bottling vegetable juice,
Play producers jousting with bards,
Boxers fighting with St. Bernards,
Boxers fooling with auto breakes,
Runaway cars at the bottom of lakes,
Bromfield diving to save the Boxers,
Moving vans full of bobby soxers,
People coming and people going,
Everything fertile, everything growing,
Fish in the ponds other fish seducing,
Thrashing around and reproducing,
Whole place teeming with men and pets,
Field mice nesting in radio sets,
Cats in the manger, rats in the nooks,
Publishers scanning the sky for books,
Harvested royalties, harvested grain,
Bromfield scanning the sky for rain,
Bromfield’s system proving reliable,
Soil getting rich and deep and friable,
Bromfield phoning, Bromfiled haying,
Bromfield watching mulch decaying,
Womenfolks busy shelling peas,
Guinea fowl up in catalpa trees,.
Oh, Bromfield’s valley is plenty pleasant –
Quail and rabbit, Boxers, pheasant.
Almost every Malabar day
Sees birth and growth, sees death, decay;
Summer ending, leaves a-falling,
Lecture dates, long distance calling.
. . .
And though his husbandry’s far from quiet,
Bromfield had the guts to try it.
A book like his is a very great boon,
And what he’s done, I’d like to be doon.”
I’d like to be doon it too. E.B. White and Louis Bromfield were two of our inspirations when my husband and I started dreaming about living on a ‘farm’. What we have resembles nothing either of them would recognize as a farm, but we’ve enjoyed the dream all these years.
We all know E.B. White and his book Charlotte’s Web which is a hymn to farm life and the cycles of life and death. We are no longer so familiar with Louis Bromfield (1896 – 1956) and his experimental Malabar Farm near Lucas, Ohio. My Muse Day Post is a portion of White’s review which appeared in The New Yorker Magazine of Bromfield’s book explaining his organic methods and life on the farm.
Bromfield lived on Malabar Farm from 1938 until his death in 1956. The 32 room house sheltered the great and famous including Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall who were married there.
Bromfield studied agriculture before he studied journalism and took to writing best selling books including Early Autumn which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1926. Today the Malabar Farm State Park continues Bromfield’s work for sustainable agriculture including powering the place with geothermal, solar and wind power. Logon to their website for more information about tours, facilities and events.
Thank you Carolyn gail for hosting Muse Day. Visit her blog and see what other muses are abroad today.