All this then, those plants and trees of the far-off ages, which seemed to lead such useless lives, have done and are doing for us. There are many people in the world who complain that life is dull, that they do not see the use of it, and that there seems no work specially for them to do. I would advise such people, whether they are grown up or little children, to read the story of the plants which form the coal. These saw no results during their own short existences, they only lived and enjoyed the bright sunshine, and did their work, and were content. And now thousands, probably millions, of years after they lived and died, England owes her greatness, and we much of our happiness and comfort, to the sunbeams which those plants wove into their lives.
They burst forth again in our fires, in our brilliant lights, and in our engines, and do the greater part of our work; teaching us
“That nothing walks with aimless feet
That not one life shall be destroyed,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete.”
Lecture IX Bees in the Hive
I am going to ask you to visit with me to-day one of the most wonderful cities with no human beings in it, and yet it is densely populated, for such a city may contain from twenty thousand to sixty thousand inhabitants. In it you will find streets, but no pavements, for the inhabitants walk along the walls of the houses; while in the houses you will see no windows, for each house just fits its owner, and the door is the only opening in it. Though made without hands these houses are most evenly and regularly built in tiers one above the other; and here and there a few royal palaces, larger and more spacious than the rest, catch the eye conspicuously as they stand out at the corners of the streets.
Some of the ordinary houses are used to live in, while others serve as storehouses where food is laid up in the summer to feed the inhabitants during the winter, when they are not allowed to go outside the walls. Not that the gates are ever shut: that is not necessary, for in this wonderful city each citizen follows the laws; going out when it is time to go out, coming home at proper hours, and staying at home when it is his or her duty. And in the winter, when it is very cold outside, the inhabitants, having no fires, keep themselves warm within the city by clustering together, and never venturing out of doors.
One single queen reigns over the whole of this numerous population, and you might perhaps fancy that, having so many subjects to work for her and wait upon her, she would do nothing but amuse herself. On the contrary, she too obeys the laws laid down for her guidance, and never, except on one or two state occasions, goes out of the city, but works as hard as the rest in performing her own royal duties.