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I.YHI [SUN GODDESS] BRINGS LIFE TO THE WORLD In the beginning the world lay quiet, in utter darkness. There was no vegetation, no living or moving thing on the bare bones of the mountains. No wind blew across the peaks. There was no sound to break the silence. The world was not dead. It was asleep, waiting for the soft touch of life and light. Undead things lay asleep in icy caverns in the mountains. Somewhere in the immensity of space Yhi [Sun goddess] stirred in her sleep, waiting for the whisper of Baiame [literally, Great One], the Great Spirit, to come to her. Then the whisper came, the whisper that woke the world. Sleep fell away from the goddess like a garment falling to her feet. Her eyes opened and the darkness was dispelled by their shining. There were coruscations of light in her body. The endless night fled. The Nullarbor Plain was bathed in a radiance that revealed its sterile wastes. Yhi [Sun goddess] floated down to earth and began a pilgrimage that took her far to the west, to the east, to north, and south. Where her feet rested on the ground, there the earth leaped in ecstasy. Grass, shrubs, trees, and flowers sprang from it, lifting themselves towards the radiant source of light. Yhi [Sun godess]'s tracks crossed and recrossed until the whole earth was clothed with vegetation. Her first joyous task completed, Yhi [Sun goddess], the sun goddess, rested on the Nullarbor Plain, looked around her, and knew that the Great Spirit was pleased with the result of her labour. "The work of creation is well begun," Baiame [literally, Great One] said, "but it has only begun. The world is full of beauty, but it needs dancing life to fulfil its destiny. Take your light into the caverns of earth and see what will happen." Yhi [Sun goddess] rose and made her way into the gloomy spaces beneath the surface. There were no seeds there to spring to life at her touch. Harsh shadows lurked behind the light. Evil spirits shouted, "No, no, no," until the caverns vibrated with voices that boomed and echoed in the darkness. The shadows softened. Twinkling points of light sparkled in an opal mist. Dim forms stirred restlessly. "Sleep, sleep, sleep," the evil spirits wailed, but the shapes had been waiting for the caressing warmth of the sun goddess. Filmy wings opened, bodies raised themselves on long legs, metallic colours began to glow. Soon Yhi [Sun goddess] was surrounded by myriads of insects, creeping, flying, swarming from every dark corner. She retreated slowly. They followed her out into the world, into the sunshine, into the embrace of the waiting grass and leaves and flowers. The evil chanting died away and was lost in a confusion of vain echoes. There was work for the insects to do in the world, and time for play, and time to adore the goddess. "Caves in the mountains, the eternal ice," whispered Baiame [literally, Great One]. Yhi [Sun goddess] sped up the hill slopes, gilding their tops, shining on the snow. She disappeared into the caverns, chilled by the black ice that hung from the roofs and walls, ice that lay hard and unyielding, frozen lakes in ice-bound darkness. Light is a hard thing, and a gentle thing. It can be fierce and relentless, it can be penetrating, it can be warm and soothing. Icicles dripped clear water. Death came to life in the water. There came a moving film over the ice. It grew deeper. Blocks of ice floated to the surface, diminished, lost their identity in the rejoicing of unimprisoned water. Vague shapes wavered and swam to the top - shapes which resolved themselves into fish, snakes, reptiles. The lake overflowed, leaped through the doorways of caves, rushed down the mountain sides, gave water to the thirsty plants, and sought the distant sea. From the river the reptiles scrambled ashore to find a new home in grass and rocks, while fish played in the leaping waters and were glad. "There are yet more caves in the mountains," whispered Baiame [literally, Great One]. There was a feeling of expectancy. Yhi [Sun goddess] entered the caves again, but found no stubborn blocks of ice to test her strength. She went into cave after cave and was met by a torrent of life, of feather and fur and naked skin. Birds and animals gathered round her, singing in their own voices, racing down the slopes, choosing homes for themselves, drinking in a new world of light, colour, sound, and movement. "It is good. My world is alive," Baiame [literally, Great One] said. Yhi [Sun goddess] took his hand and called in a golden voice to all the things she had brought to life. "This is the land of Baiame [literally, Great One]. It is yours forever, to enjoy. Baiame [literally, Great One] is the Great Spirit. He will guard you and listen to your requests. I have nearly finished my work, so you must listen to my words. "I shall send you the seasons of summer and winter - summer with warmth which ripens fruit ready for eating, winter for sleeping while the cold winds sweep through the world and blow away the refuse of summer. These are changes that I shall send you. There are other changes that will happen to you, the creatures of my love. "Soon I shall leave you and live far above in the sky. When you die your bodies will remain here, but your spirits will come to live with me." She rose from the earth and dwindled to a ball of light in the sky, and sank slowly behind the western hills. All living things sorrowed, and their hearts were filled with fear, for with the departure of Yhi [Sun goddess] darkness rushed back into the world. Long hours passed, and sorrow was soothed by sleep. Suddenly there was a twittering of birds, for the wakeful ones had seen a glimmer of light in the east. It grew stronger and more birds joined in until there came a full-throated chorus as Yhi [Sun goddess] appeared in splendour and flooded the plains with her morning light. One by one the birds and animals woke up, as they have done every morning since that first dawn. After the first shock of darkness they knew that day would succeed night, that there would always be a new sunrise and sunset, giving hours of daylight for work and play, and night for sleeping. The river spirit and the lake spirit grieve most of all when Yhi [Sun goddess] sinks to rest. They long for her warmth and light. They mount up into the sky, striving with all their might to reach the sun goddess. Yhi [Sun goddess] smiles on them and they dissolve into drops of water which fall back upon the earth as rain and dew, freshening the grass and the flowers and bringing new life. One last deed remained to be done, because the dark hours of night were frightening for some of the creatures. Yhi [Sun goddess] sent the Morning Star to herald her coming each day. Then, feeling sorry for the star in her loneliness, she gave her Bahloo [guardian of girls & women], the Moon, for her husband. A sigh of satisfaction arose from the earth when the white moon sailed majestically across the sky, giving birth to myriads of stars, making a new glory in the heavens. II. THE STRANGE SHAPE OF ANIMALS WHEN animals were brought to life from the frozen depths of earth by the sun goddess, who shall tell what they were like? There are some who say that they had the form of men and women, and others that they had many different shapes. We can be certain of only one thing . . . that after a time they grew tired of the forms that Baiame [literally, Great One] had given them, and were seized by vague longings. Those who lived in the water wanted to be on dry land. Those who walked on the earth wished to feel the freedom of the sky. There was not a single animal that was not possessed by this strange discontent. They grew sad and hid themselves away from Yhi [Sun godess]. The cheerful sound of their voices was no longer heart, and the green plants wilted in sympathy with their friends the creatures. Looking down in her slow crossing of the sky, Yhi [Sun goddess] realised that sorrow lay heavily on the earth. For the last time she descended from the sky and stood on the Nullarbor Plain. From every direction a tide of animal life flowed in towards her. "She has come back ! The goddess will listen to our requests," they shouted. "Come closer," she called to them. "Tell me what is troubling you." A babble of voices answered her. Waves of sound surged around her. She held up her hands. "Stop! Stop!" she called. "I cannot hear what you are saying when you all speak at once. One by one, please." She beckoned to Wombat, who craved a body that could wriggle into shady places where he could hide from others. He was followed by Kangaroo, who wanted strong legs for leaping and a tail with which to balance himself. Bat said he wanted wings so that he could fly through the air like a bird. Lizard was tired of wriggling on his belly and needed legs to support himself. Poor Platypus could not make up his mind what he wanted, and ended up with the parts of many animals. Yhi [Sun goddess] smiled as they came and made their wants known to her. She smiled because their forms were so bizarre; she smiled tenderly because she realised that with the transfiguratiors of their bodies, life would change for her little creatures. Mopoke, who had asked for large, shining eyes, would have to hide in dim places by day and hunt only at night. Stick Insect would need to remain unmoving for hours on the branches of trees till he almost turned into a twig. Pelican would have to learn to stand motionless with his long legs in the water before he could snap up an unwary fish. She smiled wistfully because she knew that the granting of their wishes would not bring contentment to her little ones. The restless surge of life that seeks and demands would take them away from her. Other changes would come, suddenly or slowly, in mysterious ways, and by strange adventures. The world was to be full of change. She dismissed them and watched them disperse to every quarter of the earth before she rose up for the last time into the sky. III.THE FIRST MAN Now the labours of Yhi [Sun godess], the sun goddess, were over. Her warmth and tenderness had brought living creatures to the earth and they basked in her love. Now that she had left them, they were under the care of the Great Spirit. In the spirit of Baiame [literally, Great One] was thought, intelligence, life; but it had no body. "I cannot appear to my children and yours," Baiame [literally, Great One] told Yhi [Sun godess]. "I will clothe the power of my thought in flesh. Then they will see me and know that I am indeed their Father." "The gods are one creation and the animals another," Yhi [Sun goddess] replied. "To put your spirit into the form of an animal would debase it; they would not respect you." "Then I will put a little part only into the animals," said Baiame [literally, Great One]. He gave a small portion of his power of thought to birds, and insects, and reptiles, and fish, and to animals. They were governed by that part of thought which is known to man as instinct. But Baiame [literally, Great One] was not yet satisfied. "My whole mind must be put into something that has life and is worthy of the gift," he said. "I will need to make a new creation." From the processes of thought, the joining together of atoms and rnicroscopic grains of dust, the forming of blood and sinews, cartilage and flesh, and the convolutions of the substance of the brain, he formed an animal that walked erect on two legs. It had hands that could fashion tools and weapons and the wit to we them; above all, it had a brain that could obey the impulses of the spirit; and so Man, who was greater than all other animals, was fashioned as a vessel for the mind-power of the Great Spirit. This was done in secret. No other eye saw the making of Man, and the minutes of eternity went by in the last great act of creation. The world became dark and sorrowful at the absence of the Great Spirit. Floods ravaged the land. The animals took refuge in a cave high up in the mountains. From time to time one of them went to the entrance to see if the floods had subsided; but there was nothing to be seen except the emptiness of the land and the endless swirling of the waters under a sunless sky. Goanna, wise among the reptiles, went to look for himself, and returned hurriedly. "I have seen a round, shining light like the moon. It is resting outside the cave," he announced. "Nonsense!" said Eagle. "Bahloo [guardian of girls & women] is in the sky." "I said it was like the moon. That is how it appears to me." Eagle went out. On his return everyone looked at him expectantly. "It is a kangaroo," Eagle said quickly. "It has two bright eyes, so it is silly to say that it is like the moon. The eyes shine so brightly that their light pierced my body." "This is a strange thing," said the animals. "Goanna says it is like the moon, and Eagle says it is like a kangaroo. Which are we to believe ? Crow, you are the cleverest of us all. You go out and look, and come back and tell us what this strange being is really like." Crow preened his feathers, but made no move until they pushed him forward. Then he squawked loudly and fluttered up into a crevice in the rock where none could touch him. "Leave me alone," he called fiercely. "I am not interested. This is a thing that birds and animals should have nothing to do with. If we keep quiet it will probably go away." "If Crow is afraid, I'll go," Mouse said bravely. He crept out on silent paws, but when he came back he could not speak. One after the other the birds and animals tiptoed to the entrance and looked at the strange being that stood there in the half light. There were many arguments, because the little part of Baiame [literally, Great One]'s mind that was in each of them recognised a little part of the whole mind that was clothed in flesh outside the cave. The unchanging night lasted for a period which could not be measured in sunrises and sunsets, which were but a paling and a brightening of the grey mist. The animals grew hungry. Eagle killed Rat and ate his body. It was the signal for widespread slaughter. Larger animals tore smaller ones to pieces and devoured their flesh. Baiame [literally, Great One] heard their tumult and left the mountain, saddened that the animals had discovered the pleasure that comes with the death of others. As he went Yhi [Sun goddess] flooded the world with light. The remaining animals came out of the cave and gathered together on the hilltop. There on the pinnacle of the roof of the world they saw thc Great Spirit revealed to them at last. Baiame [literally, Great One] stood before them in the form of Man, of Man who rules over all creation because he has the soul and intelligence of Baiame [literally, Great One] in a human body. As he walked through the earth, the Man that was the thought power of Baiame [literally, Great One] was lonely. Strange feelings surged through him, undiscovered desires. He needed a companion to share the wonder of the world, and he sought for one fruitlessly. He went to Kangaroo and Wombat, Snake and Lizard, Bird and Flying Fox, Fish and Eel, Insect and Earthworm, but in vain. He was kin to them because they loved the Great Spirit, but there was only a little part of Baiame [literally, Great One]'s mind in each of them, and it was not enough to satisfy the hunger of Man's spirit. He turned to trees, and to grasses, and to flowers. Their beauty intoxicated him, but they appealed only to his senses, for the eternal spirit of Baiame [literally, Great One] had not been conferred on them. The flaming flowers of the waratah, the golden glory of the wattle, the scented leaves and grey bark of the eucalypts were a delight to eyes and nose. He drew deep breaths of fresh perfume, but still his soul was not at rest. In the evening he went to sleep near a grass yacca tree. All night he was troubled with strange dreams, in which his desires seemed to be on the point of fruition. When he woke again he found that Yhi [Sun goddess] had thrown her rays across the plain. They seemed to be concentrated on the tall flower stalk of the yacca tree. He gazed at it for a long while, until he was roused by the sound of heavy breathing. He looked round and was astonished to see that the whole animal creation had gathered together on the plain. In the air was a feeling of expectancy. He looked back at the tree. It was changing. The flower stalk grew shorter and rounder. Limbs began to form, and with a shock Man realized that the tree was changing into a two-legged creature like himself. But there was a difference. The limbs were smooth and soft, rounded breasts swelled before his eyes, there was a proud tilt to the shapely head. Man held out his hands to Woman. She clasped them and stepped gracefully across the grassy base of the tree. Man held her in his arms and together they surveyed the waiting world. The animals danced with delight and then ran off into the distance, satisfied that the loneliness of Man was ended. The loneliness was ended; the duty and obligations of Man began. Woman came slowly to full life and communion with her husband. He hunted food for her. He sought shelter for her. He showed her love and tenderness, which are the fruits of the spirit. He taught her the names of birds and animals and their ways. She learned to love him, and to work for him, to be the other part of him that he needed for the satisfying of his longings and needs. Baiame [literally, Great One] smiled. "When I show myself to the little things I have created," he mused, "I shall be well content to show myself in the form of a Man!" IV. THE GIFT OF FLOWERS BAIAME remained for a long while on earth as a man. He loved Tya [Earth, flowering time], the world which, it is said, was once a piece of the sun itself. He made his home in a mountain, talking with the animals and the men and women whom he had created. There was communion of spirit between them, for the period of rest after the labours of creation were a refreshment to the Great Spirit. Day after day Yhi [Sun goddess] smiled at him as she moved across the vault of the sky, while round his earthly home the flowers bloomed in profusion. One day he spoke to the men and women, and to the animals which crowded round him. "The time has come for me to leave you, my children. While the earth was young you needed me, but now you are fully grown. It is better that you live by yourselves." A low moan went up, but he smiled and said, "Do not be sad. Little children have no real minds of their own. When I am gone, and only then, you will learn to take your proper places in the world. If I were to remain here for ever you would come to me with all your troubles, and you would never learn to stand up for yourselves. But do not fear. Even though I shall return to my true home in the sky, in the bright patch of the Milky Way, I shall still be your Father Spirit. When you really need me, I shall be with you. Sometimes I shall return to earth, and then I shall take the form of a man so that you will recognise me." The animals dispersed slowly, but the men and women lingered. They had delighted in the flowers which grew so profusely round the mountain of Baiame [literally, Great One] and were loathe to leave the many coloured carpet with the sweet perfume. They lay on the carpet during the long nights looking up at the Milky Way, imagining that they could still see the Great Spirit. A vague unease disturbed their minds. They could not tell what it was until a woman cried out, "The flowers are gone!" It was true. Men and women had understood Baiame [literally, Great One]'s last message, and even animals, in whom Baiame [literally, Great One] had planted a little of his mind, knew that the Great Spirit had not left them for ever; but the flowers had no minds. All they knew was that the Father-Spirit was no longer with them, and that Yhi [Sun godess], the sun goddess was far away. "He has left us," they murmured. Their drooping leaves and petals fell to the ground, and one by one they died. "Look!" the woman cried again. "There are no flowers left anywhere !" As far as the eye could reach the earth was bare and brown. The circle of dead and dying plants was spreading through the whole world. Death of flowers raced ahead of the searching women, and all the raindrops sent by the spirits of the sky, and all the smiles of Yhi [Sun goddess] could not arrest it. The air was filled with the black bodies of the bees as they flew frantically from one dead plant to another in search of honey. "Now we shall have no honey," the women cried. "There is only the sweet gum of the trees that Baiame [literally, Great One] left, but they are his and we may not touch them." Even while they were speaking, trees grew up round them, and down their trunks flowed a clear liquid that quickly hardened. One woman, more venturesome than the rest, scraped some off with her finger and put it in her mouth. "It is sweet," she cried. "Baiame [literally, Great One] has seen our plight and sent this food to us. These are not his sacred trees, which we would never touch. Come and eat." So their hunger was appeased, and they knew that Baiame [literally, Great One] still cared for them. Yet generation after generation was born and died, and still there were no flowers in the world. They were only a memory to the oldest people, a story that was told and scarcely believed by those who had been born long after the Death of Flowers. The stories grew with the telling, but no matter how fertile the imaginations of the tellers, the imagination could not equal the reality. High in his starry home Baiame [literally, Great One] felt sorry for the descendants of his creation. He put into their minds a longing they could not resist. Gradually some of the men left their own camp grounds and gathered together at the foot of the mountain where Baiame [literally, Great One] had once lived as a man. They felt as though they were being drawn by invisible cords, up the endless slopes of the mountain and into the vast depression which had been made when Baiame [literally, Great One] lay down on the carpet of flowers. And there was Baiame [literally, Great One] himself, holding out his hands, gathering them to himself as a hen gathers her chickens, and lifting them up to the starry sky. "Come and see my home, little children," he said in a deep voice that reverberated through the heavens and set the stars dancing in their courses. He set them down on a cloud, and a great sigh echoed through the Milky Way, because as far as they could see there was a glowing carpet of colour, brighter than any rainbow, and with all the colours of the great bow they had seen after rain. "The stories you have heard were true," Baiame [literally, Great One] said. "Once earth was covered with flowers like these, but never again. Yet my heart is sorrowful for you, and for your friends who will never see this sight. Gather armfuls of flowers now and take them back to earth with you. Take as many as you can. They will fruit and their seeds will take root, to gladden the hearts of you and your children and your children's children for ever." The gentle hand set them down again on the solid ground. Dropping flowers as they went, they ran to their own tribes, and scattered the largesse that the Father Spirit had given them. It could not be expected that the flowers would bloom as they did in the days of Baiame [literally, Great One], in the Dreamtime; but never again will Earth be without flowers while the Great Spirit continues to watch over his people. V.THE PLAGUE OF INSECTS WHILE he remained on Tya [Earth, flowering time], the earth, Baiame [literally, Great One] let his imagination run riot. He fashioned mountains, covering them with trees and spreading a blue mist over them; he delighted in sending water spinning and laughing down their sides; he lined the banks with fragile plants that drank from the streams and bent over them in gratitude; at other times he swept his hand across the land and smoothed it into mallee-covered plains and sandy desert wastes. Tya [Earth, flowering time] grew and took form in his skilful fingers. Above it the pellucid wonder of the sky changed in colour from earliest dawn, when the stars winked out, to the brazen blue of midday, and the soft veils of evening. As the sun rose in the mornings he looked at his handiwork, at the swaying trees and moving water, and he breathed soft winds across it, sending a million plants dancing with joy. But like a wind on the embers of a camp fire, the jealousy of Marmoo [demon spirit], the Spirit of Evil, was also fanned to flame. "Baiame [literally, Great One]'s heart is too full of pride," said Marmoo [demon spirit] to his wife. "Anyone could make a world out of Tya [Earth, flowering time]; but Baiame [literally, Great One]'s vanity will be his downfall." "What can you do ?" she asked. "You have not tried to rnake a world for yourself." "I can do something better than that. I will spoil his precious world for him." "How ?" "You will see," he said knowingly, and strode off into the dark forest where none could see him. In secrecy he made the insect tribe - beetles, flies, bugs, snails, worms, and a thousand other tiny creatures that crawled, and burrowed, and flew. There are tribes who say that the sun goddess Yhi [Sun goddess] brought to life all the animals, and birds, and insects that Baiame [literally, Great One] had created, but this is a story of Marmoo [demon spirit] and his wickedness that is told by other camp fires. For an endless time Marmoo [demon spirit] laboured, breathing life into them, and sending them out of the forest in swarms. The sky was dark with flying insects, the ground became a heaving, crawling mass, and still Marmoo [demon spirit] went on with his work. The insects became a devouring host spreading out from the dark forest. They ate the grass, they bit the leaves from the trees. No plant was safe from them. The earth grew bare and ugly, the 'scent of flowers was replaced by the noxious smell of the plagues that devoured the living things that Baiame [literally, Great One] had made. Even the music of streams and waterfalls was drowned by the whirr of wings and the clashing jaws of the insect tribe. Looking down with pride from his mountain home, Baiame [literally, Great One] saw the brown tide rolling over the plains and swarrning up the foothills. The fair land he had made was being eaten up by the ravening hosts of Marmoo [demon spirit]. The Great Spirit was furious that his fair land should be so wantonly destroyed, but he felt he could get rid of the plague. He knew that it had been sent by Marmoo [demon spirit]. Calling up one of the stronger winds, he sat down again to watch the dispersal of the insect swarms. The wind whistled shrilly over the plain, but the insects clung with clawed feet to the tree trunks, or burrowed into the soil. Before the day was done Baiame [literally, Great One] knew that he would need help from his fellow spirits. He travelled quickly to the home of Nungeena, who lived in a waterfall hidden in a fertile valley in the mountains. "Come with me and see what has happened to the beautiful land I made," he said. Nungeena was appalled at the sight. "Your valley, too, will soon be like this," Baiame [literally, Great One] warned her. "The plague is coming closer. Unless you help me, your stream will be choked with creeping, crawling, slimy things, and there will be no place for you to live." Nungeena acted swiftly. She called her attendant spirits to her and asked them, "What have you seen as you came to me?" The spirits sighed. "We have seen insects everywhere. The whole earth is being eaten up by them, Mother. What can we do to stop them?" The Mother Spirit smiled. "I have a plan," she said, "but you must help me." Her fingers flashed quickly in the sunshine, lifting colour from the flowers, weaving an intricate pattern in the air. When it was finished they saw the graceful form of a lyre bird standing in front of her. "What is this Mother ?" they asked. "It is a lyre bird. Look !" She waved her hand again and the lyre bird moved, spreading its tail for all the spirits to admire. It flapped its wings and circled Nungeena. "Wonderful!" cried the spirits. "But how can it help us to get rid of the plague ?" "See for yourselves," Nungeena replied. As they watched, the beautiful bird snapped at the advance guard of the insect tribe, which had already reached the Mother Spirit's resting place. "We must work fast," Nungeena said to her attendants. "Birds are beautiful creatures, but it is more important that they should eat the insects quickly. We must set to work to make as many birds as we can. To work !" Nungeena made other birds, and each one was different. The other spirits copied her as well as they could. The younger spirits were clumsy. They made ugly-looking birds like the magpie and the butcher-bird but even these, as soon as they were made, began to snap up the insects. The spirits who came from the watery regions of the world made birds that could swim and wade in the swamps and rivers. These began to eat the insects that were flying over the stream. The spirits of the coastal lands made gulls, and though these graceful birds are more fond of fish, they too joined in the great insect feast. The night spirits who put the flowers to sleep made the mopokes and the nightjars. The swiftest of the spirits made the fantails, the swallows, and the fly-catchers, and the air was filled with the snapping of their beaks. The little spirits that spent their lives among the flowers fashioned robins, wrens, and mistletoe birds. When they were all made the air was full of the sound and movement of wings. Baiame [literally, Great One] was delighted. "They are so beautiful that they must have voices to match," he said, and to each he gave the songs that have since rung through the bush and valleys, and across the plains of Tya [Earth, flowering time]. The harsh call of the crow and the raucous laughter of the kookaburra drowned the other sounds. "Do you call that beautiful ?" Nungeena asked incredulously. "It is a pleasant sound in my ears," Baiame [literally, Great One] retorted. He turned to the birds who by this time had eaten all the insects that had ventured into the valley of the Mother Spirit. "Go forth and destroy the hordes of Marmoo [demon spirit]," he ordered. Still singing, they circled round him and then fanned out like the spokes of a wheel, flying ever further away until they met fresh insect swarms that were denuding the earth of its vegetation. What a feast day for the birds! Never since have they been so fully fed; but they are always hoping that Marmoo [demon spirit] will send them another bounteous harvest.