Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

do the same thing. We observe all these ceremonies; but I fear we rather please the gods of the heathen, than Jesus Christ; they desired magnificent processions; but Christ tells us, ' "w hen thou prayeit, enter into thy closet' &c. What will then become of us, if we act contrary to His commandment?"

Great virtue was supposed to lie in the candles offered at this mass; and in former times every individual

went to church bearing a lighted candle, and the churches themselves blazed with illuminations at midday. Candlemas candle-bearing was abolished in England, by an order in council, in the 2nd year of that pious young king, Edward VI. After Candlemas, tapers were no longer in use at regular vespers, because the days had so much lengthened; hence the distich :—

"On Candlemas-day
Throw candle and candlestick away."

Christmas, leaving not a branch behind; for says Herriek:—

Also, on this day, the superstitious zealously removed the holly and other green boughs hung up at

"For look how many leaves there be
Neglected there, maids, trust to me,
So many goblins you shall see."

It is also believed among the old country-people in Scotland that if—

"Candlemas-day is fair and clear,
There'll be twa winters in the year."

If Candlemas-day be foul and tempestuous, they rub their hands with glee, anticipating a genial spring, a fine summer, and a fruitful autumn. If, on the contrary, it neither rains nor snows, their spirits droop, and they prognosticate severe weather during the spring, and heavy snow-storms before the fol

lowing Christmas. Even Bishop Hall refers to this belief in England, in one of his sermons on Candlemasday :—" that if the day be clear and sunshiny, it portends hard weather to come; if cloudy and louring, a mild and gentle season ensuing.' This agrees with Ray's proverb,—

"The hind had as lief fee
His wife on the bier,
As that Candlemas-day

Should be pleasant and clear."

And an old Almanac furnishes a like prophecy—

"If Candlemas-day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
But if Candlemas-day be clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again."

February 14th is, I need scarcely remind you, " St. Valentine's Day." This saint seems to have been a highly respectable person, and in nowise responsible for the follies committed in his name. He was a presbyter of the early Roman Church, and was martyred in the 3rd century, under Claudius II.; but why the day dedicated to his memory should be devoted to the affairs of Cupid and Hymen remains a mystery. Some antiquaries assert that in the Lupercalia there was a ceremony

in which young persons of the opposite sex chose each other by lot, and they imagine that this heathen custom, grafted upon some Christian observance, originated this most uneanonical style of keeping St. Valentine's Day. Formerly this festival was of more importance than it is at present; it is chiefly honoured now by children and maid-servants, and by the uneducated and lower classes of society; though it still increases the revenue of the Post Office to a marvellous extent. But in old time

it was rather an expensive affair to be chosen Valentine; and the garrulous Mr. Pepys, in his very confidential " Diary," grumbles sorely at what it cost him to make valentine's presents. In the year lti(!7, this good gentleman informs us, that the Duke of York being once the valentine of a certain Mrs. Stuart, "did give her a jewel of about A'800, and my Lord Mandeville, her valentine this year, a ring of about £300."

The earliest;poetical Valentines are by Charles,' Duke of Orleans, who was taken prisoner at the battle of Agiucourt, 1415. They were chiefly written in England, during his confinement in the Tower of London; and are preserved in a splendid folio MS. among the Royal MSS. in the British Museum. Many of our poets,—Chaucer, Shakspeare, and others of less note, make mention of Valentine's Day in their verses.

This year, Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday are identical. The preceding day is, you know, called Shrove Tuesday, deriving its name from the old Saxon term to thrive, or confess; for in those days, when England was under papal dominion, the people in every parish were compelled to confess their sins to their own parish priest, and in their own parish church. And that no one might plead forgetfulness, a great bell was rung in every parish at 10 A.m., or perhaps earlier, in order that every one might prepare himself for the obligatory shrift, which being made, the penitent was shriven or throven; and hence Shrove Tuesday. Now, though this practice has happily fallen into disuse, the church-bell is still rung at a certain hour in many districts, and is called the "Pancake-Bell.'' In the town of Birmingham two of the bells of the great church near the Blue-coat School, strike up about noon, and continue their monotonous dingdong for about half-an-hour. This unmusical chime is called the " Pancake-Bell," and the urchins of the town maintain that it distinctly articulates, " pan-cakes! pancakes !" thus admonisliing all good housewives to pour the batter into the

pan and commence frying and tossing, with all dexterity and speed.

From Twelfth-day to Shrove Tuesday is held in all Roman Catholic countries, but especially in Italy, to be a time of mirth and rejoicing. It is called the Carnival, from carnevale, '' farewell to flesh." The Romans and Venetians keep it most zealously; the whole season is devoted to feasting, visiting, masquerading, racing, and every kind of amusement; and people of all ranks are involved in a whirl of excitement and dissipation. The last day of the Carnival, however, is the great day. The whole population seems to be in the streets or in public: the wealthier classes ride about in their carriages, pelting each other and the crowd with sweetmeats, which are showered from windows, scattered from baskets like tundishes, and shot from pellets till the pavements are whitened as with snow, and the carriages are obliged to stop to expel their superfluous load.

Let not, however, any juvenile reader, or any adult lover of " candy," "rock," or "drops," envy the Italians their Shrove Tuesday shower of "goodies." Truth compels me to declare that the mass of these bonbons are nothing more than compounds of plaster-of-Paris, with perhaps a dash of saccharine infusion. The real sweetmeats are few and far between, and are dispensed with more discrimination. But the crowning hilarity of the Carnival is its death! On Shrove Tuesday night all the male population of Rome turn out with lighted tapers, flambeaux, &c. Every one carries his light aloft, and the grand fun is to dash out your neighbour's flame, right and left, and preserve your own from extinction. If your torch be unhappily puffed out, as it is sure to be, you must instantly rekindle it, for to display yourself without your light is to "show the white feather," and you are forthwith greeted with roars of laughter and unscrupulous satire. At midnight, a car covered with tapers, moves through the city; they are presently extinguished, and the Carnival is iUad! Next morning all is gloom: the church-bells are tolling, amusements are prohibited, the people come forth with breviary in hand, wearing lugubrious faces and sable garments, for it is Ash Wednesday, and Lent has now commenced. The Fast of Lent, which commemorates our Saviour's Temptation in the Wilderness, lasts for forty days, in fact, till Easter Sunday. This Spring fast, our Saxon ancestors called the fast of "lenct," which word merely refers to the lengthening of the days at this season of the year; and was in course of time corrupted into Lent, and applied only to religious observances. So that this term so familiar to our ears, and conveying, at least, the idea of a religious ceremony, is really quite devoid of ecclesiastical meaning or derivation, and may, perhaps, be older than the Christian era itself.

I have not space, in this month's "Memoranda" to say much about the institution of the Lenten fast, or to speak of its antiquity; I leave that to the ensuing month, which this year, is Lent, from the first day to the last—the first of April being Easter Day.

I will only refer to Ash Wednesday, the opening-day of Lent. This day generally falls in February. On consulting a table, which comprehends a period of fifty-four years, I find it so occurring thirty-nine times. For' the remaining' fifteen years, it happens of course, in March, but never two years consecutively. February 4th is the earliest day on which it can occur, and March 10th the latest; it is governed, like other movable feasts and fasts, by Easter.

It is called Ash Wednesday; in France, "Le Jour ties Centres;" because in the Roman Catholic Church the priest blessed, and I suppose still blesses, ashes on this day, and puts them on the people's heads. These ashes are made of the branches of brushwood or palms consecrated the year before, on the Sunday preceding Easter. After absolution, the priest prays :— "Vouchsafe + to bless and sanctify

+ these ashes; that whosoever shall sprinkle these ashes upon them for the redemption of their sins, they may obtain health of body and protection of sold. " After prayers the priest sprinkles l ie ashes with holy water, perfumes them thrice with incense, and the people kneeling, he puts ashes on their head in the form of a cross, with other ceremonies. Ash Wednesday is observed in the Church of England by the Commination Service,—a service not too popular except with a certain party.

The Romans in the times of their Emperors reckoned February an unlucky month, simply because they could only find for it twenty-eight days. Now, this month already abbreviated, is said to have been further defrauded by a whim of Augustus Caesar. August, till his time, had been called "Sextil," or Sixth. It was now, by a decree of the senate, dedicated to the honour of the Emperor, and it unfortunately happened that it was one of those months to which only thirty days had been allotted. It could not be endured that his own special month should be in the minority, so he rather unfairly filched a day from February, and gave it to August, to make up its complement of thirtyone days.

But every fourth year, as all the world knows, this poor plundered month is favoured with an extra day! Now, though the generality of readers know full well, the why and wherefore of this periodical addendum, there may yet be some persons, who dealing only in general ideas, cannot clearly account for the regular return of what is commonly Leap Year, or Bissextile. For their sakes the following explanation is subjoined:—

The ancient year consisted first of 354, then of 365 days exactly; and no account whatever was taken of the extra six hours, which the earth requires to perform her annual revolution round the sun; and of course it takes very little arithmetic to calculate how, in four years, the neglected hours amount to an entire day. As years passed on, the sun and the calendar contradicted each other more and more flagrantly, and, at length Julius Caesar and his friend Sosigenes undertook to remedy the defect.

Caesar ordered that every fourth year, there should be an intercalary, or additional day: and in order to prevent the confusion which a thorough alteration in the position of the days would have entailed, he caused the sixth calcnd of March, (which would occur in February, for the Romans had a curious way of counting time backwards,) to be reckoned twice; and thus when the sixth calend was over, the morrow, instead of being the fifth, (bear in mind the backward reckoning,) was over again the sixth! And the real meaning of the word Bissextile, is literally twice the sixth, a term commonly applied to Leap Year; hut far from generally understood.

In this month, about the lxth. the sun enters the zodiacal sign of Pisces, —the fishes. This sign is said to typify the fishery of th* Nile, which usually commenced at this season of the year. It certainly typifies the chilly damps of the ungenial season.

Leigh Hunt remarks that, "if February were not the precursor of Spring, it would be the least pleasant month of the year, November not excepted." The Convention of France, when it decreed the adoption of its novel and ephemeral calendar, specified this month as "Pluvoise," —(rainy month,) or to speak more accurately, they thus designated the interval between the 19th of January and the 18th of February. Our ancestors called this month, " February fill-dyke," or ditch; a cognomen which its ordinary pluvial propensities fully justifies.

As this month advances, we find a very visible increase in the length of the days; but at the same time we too often verify the old adage that, "as the day lengthens, the cold strengthens," and frost, and snow, and sleet hold their own, as triumphantly as in the preceding month. But for all this, vegetation is beginning its work in darkness and obscurity, under the snow-covered soil; there are buds, too, on the elder-trees, if the month be not un

usually severe; in sheltered situations the currant and goose'»errybushes are beginning to deviiope their tiny leaves; and mosses, whose beauties are sadly overlooked, are in full bloom, and like some evergreens, display their flowers and their fruit at once. The farmer resumes his plough, and is sowing his spring-grain; the hedger is busy at his work, and the drainage of marshy lands is vigorously prosecuted.

And the fair maid of February, the pure and gentle snowdrop, hits her welcome head above the dark and heavy earth—first herald of the group that Flora gathers round her. as the time goes on! sweet harbinger of Spring! Emblem, too, of the Resurrection, of the new and better life beyond the grave! All things seemed frozen into the last chill sleep of death; darkness was upon the earth, the wintry mists secmetl weeping for the buried flowers and sere leaves of the parting year; then the earth was wrapped in her snowy shroud; and beautiful nature herself, lay silent and sad in her quiet grave. But, lo! the bonds of death are broken; the snowdrop smiles again, a pledge of all the blossoms that shall grace the spring, and make fairer still the leafy summer bowers. And even so shall arise from the dust, that which was consigned to it in such bitter grief and with so many tears; that which was sown in corruption shall be raised in incorruption; that which was sown in dishonour shall be raised in honour, and this mortal shall put on immortality !" Wherefore, comfort one another with these words."

N. B — St. Valentine's Day. I find, on consulting "Douce's Illustrations of Shakspeare," the following statement :" It was the practice in ancient Rome, during a great part of the month of February, to celebrate the Lupercalia, in honour of Pan and Juno, whence the latter deity was named Fcbrnata and Februalis. On this occasion, amidst a variety of ceremonies, the names of young women were put into a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. The pastors of the early Christian Church, who, by every possible means endeavoured to eradicate the vestiges of pagan superstition, and chiefly by some commutation of their forms; substituted the names of particular saints instead of women: and as the fes

tival of Lupercalia had commenced about the middle of February, they appear to have chosen St. Valentine's Day for celebrating the new feast, because it occurred nearly at the same time."

THE PRIDE OF THE LATYMERS.

BY THE AUTHOR " OF CEDAR CREEK," " FROM DAWN TO DARK IN ITALY," ETC.

III.

A I.0W MARRIAfiE.

Osk beat head in a corner of that wide, dingy dining-room, listened to the verses from Proverbs read in her father's grandiloquent manner, and wondered whether they could be exactly true. The expressions were so strong, and the offence seemed so venial! Why, the Latymers had always been proud of their pride.

"An abomination to the Lord!" Stronger could scarce be said about murder: and this of no overt act of haughtiness, no peculiar concentration of pride, but of " every one that proud in heart." The secret offence of the thoughts was thus hateful to God. But could it be exactly the case? Not that Beresford had the slightest idea of the modern doctrine of partial and unequal inspiration: as matter of fact, do we not find ourselves believing some statements of the Bible to be truer than others?

Beresford was just suffering under the smart of injured feeling. Her ulterior object in winning over Lancelot had failed. She had exerted herself to be more than usually agreeable to him, and not only played his favourite music, but several games of draughts, wherein she was ignominiously beaten. Yet as the preliminary symptoms of family prayer became apparent, she was mortified to see him slipping away. Quietly as he got out of the door and had his hand on the halltable for his scarlet cap, she intercepted him, knowing that he was on his way to "the Latymer Arms."

•• Lancelot, I want you not to go out to-night."

•• Not to go out! and the fellows

waiting for me to settle all about the steeple-chase! Nonsense, Berry. Here, let me go. I'm late as it is: they'll be wondering what has become of me."

He removed her beseeching hands from his great arm, but not roughly. "Men can't be like women, Berry: they must have something to occupy them—they can't live your pussy-cat lives by the hearth. Now I've nothing to do but hunt and shoot, and that sort of thing. Good night."

"Iwas in such hope you .-ould stay at home and finish readia^ 'the Ancient Mariner' for me. Ah, Lancelot, I wonder how you can have pleasure in the society of those horrid racing-men!"

He paused as he was opening the hall-door, and said, stiffly—" I don't interfere with your acquaintances, Beresford: and I'll thank you noc to interfere with mine." And closed the door with that emphatic slam which poor Thomas Hood declared to be " a wooden oath." It tingled in his sister's ears still, until she was aroused by those remarkably strong Biblical expressions about Pride.

It need scarcely be said that family worship at Kyle was the merest form. But the master would no more have it omitted than the "y" from his name: it was a badge of Protestant respectability in a Roman Catholic country. So he every evening required a great bell to be sounded in the hall, though there was nobody to obey any such summons, as the servants were all of the popular religion : and thereafter the old butler placed faded velvet, hassocks for the knees of master and mistress, and another for a ponderous Bible on the table: and the

« ElőzőTovább »