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frequently seen than during the two preceding months ;* the Cuckoo changes his tune, but often sings early and late, as in May, though usually with a hoarse note, and is heard, more or less, till July; the Fern Owl may be seen in the evening, among the branches of oaks, in pursuit of its favourite repast, and the Fern-chaffer (Scarabæus Solstitialis) is also abroad; the May-fly of the angler appears about the fourth, and continues nearly a fortnight, emerging from the water, where it passes its aurelia state about six in the evening, and dies about eleven at night;t in warm,
dry weather the Snake, the Viper, and the Slow worm begin to be seen on dry banks and beside ponds ; and frogs are numerous among the mowed grass and in the swamps and stagnant pools.
But it is more in the general, than in the individual appearance of things that this month is striking. The eglantine and woodbine have superseded the blossom of the hawthorn; the full concert of the birds is on the decline, and in two or three weeks will almost entirely cease till the autumn, though the nightingale, the woodlark, the skylark, the black-cap, and the goldfinch may still be heard ; the clear shrill voice of the field cricket resounds on the wayside banks, where the sun falls bot, all day long and even at midnight, as he sits at the mouth of his cell chirping forth his cheerful though monotonous song. The woods and groves are in full foliage, even the old oak looking young in virtue of his new green,
* Bats indeed are more commonly seen Aitting about in spring and autumn than during midsummer.
+ It should, however, be recollected that there are many sorts of May-flies, and that the hour of rising from the water is not the same for all the species; some rise two hours before sun-set; others at different periods of the day: and others again, according to Cuvier, never see the sun, being born after he has set, and dying before he again appears on the horizon.
far lighter than the green of any other tree, while the wheat, the oats, the barley, and even the early rye, are all in
ver, and all have the same hue, shifting into innumerable shades as the mass is thrown into different lights under the influence of the passing breeze. But the two most particular features of the month are the sheep-shearing, which commences when the warm weather appears to be settled, and the mowing of the grass, which of course begins at different times according to the place and weather ; but we may assume about the twentieth as being the average period in the southern and midland counties.
We have next to consider the days principally distin. guished by popular or religious observances.
Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) is a festival held on the Thursday next after Trinity Sunday, and was insti. tuted in the year 1264 by Pope Urban IV. Various accounts of the origin of this feast have been given. According to one story, a certain female recluse of the name of Eve, a native of Liege, who had known Urban before his elevation to the Papal See, had a revelation on the subject; hereupon she wrote to the Pope requesting that this festival might be established under his especial sanction, to which he gave his ready assent in a letter, imparting his apostolical benediction to the devout supplicant.*
Another tale has it that a priest of Orvieto,
* This story was originally told by Arnoldus Bostius, and is quoted by Baleus, who does not scruple to say that he looks upon it as the true version—“At Arnoldus Bostius, in epistola 6 ad Joannem Palæo. nydorum, cui magis assentior, hoc hujus negotii initium sic ponit-in patria Leodiensi (inquit) reclusa erat nomine Eva, quæ festum sacramenti, cujus ante illos dies nulla fuerat memoria, ab Urbano quarto per totum orbem solennissimè celebrari procurabat ; nam et exemplar literarū ejusdē Urbani ad dictam sorore vidi. Hæc ille. Gallus erat Urbanus, et ante papatum, ut apparet, ei sorori quandoque familiaris,
while celebrating mass, doubted the conversion of bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ, whereupon blood immediately began to flow from the wafer in his hand. * The tidings of so great a miracle baving reached Pope Urban, he in consequence established the festival of Corpus Christi. This legend however has been denied by others, who have imagined that the feast was instituted upon the petition of Thomas Aquinas, although no grounds have been assigned for such a supposition. But, whenever or however this day came to be honoured as a festival, one thing at least is certain,-in the time of Roman Catholic predominance it used to be celebrated with flowers, and lights, and music, and with the theatrical performances of those days, which have come down to us under the name of mysteries. Of this last fact we have a sufficient proof in the pages of Sir William Dugdale, who says that “before the suppression of the monasteries this city (Coventry) was very famous for the pageants that were played therein upon Corpus Christi day; which occa.
Ex hujus ergo superstiosulæ mulieris diabolica illusione originem habuisse videtur hoc sacramenti solenne festum. Scriptorum Illustr. majoris Britannia Catalogus - Autore Joanne Baleo. Centuria Quarta. cap. xxxviii. p. 324. folio. Basileæ.- No date.
* Hospinian, quoting Panvinius, says “propter miraculum quoddam quod Vulsiniis, quam alii Bulsenam vocant, in diæcesi et ditione Urbevetand in Ecclesiâ S. Christianæ acciderit, ab Urbano IV. insti. tutum fuisse. Nam dum sacrificulus quispiam sacra missarum solennia celebraret, sacramento jam confecto, de panis et vini transubstatione et Christi corpore dubitavit. Unde statim ex hostia, quam in manibus tenebat, vivus sanguis manare cæpit et totam mappam, quam corporale vocant, tinxit. Quo miraculo attonitus Pontifex Urbanus IV. corporale primum ad se ab episcopo loci cū processione in Urbēveterē transferri voluit, et illud solennitate institutâ in Ecclesia Urbevetana recodidit ut in ea corp. Christi majori coleretur honore qua in quotidianis missarū solenniis. Hospin. De Festis Christ. p. 88.
sioning very great confluence of people thither from far and near, was of no small benefit thereto ; which pageants being acted with mighty state and reverence by the Friars of this house (The Gray Friars) had theaters for the severall scenes, very large and high, placed upon wheels, and drawn to all the eminent parts of the city for the better advantage of spectators; and contained the story of the (Old and) New Testament, composed into English rithme, as appeareth by an antient MS. entitled Ludus Corporis Christi, or Ludus Coventriæ.*"
The twenty-first of this month is the æstival or summer solstice, so called because the sun, which has now entered
first degree of Cancer, and is at its greatest distance from the equator, appears to stand still.
It is of course the longest day in the year, and makes the beginning of the real or astronomical summer.
MIDSUMMER Eve, the Vigil of Saint John the Baptist's Day.--—June 23. Properly speaking, Midsummer Day denotes the time of the summer solstice, and is not, as many from its name have supposed, connected at all with the idea of middle, though it seems hardly possible to assign any thing like a rational derivation to the word mid. In old English, as in the German mit, from which it may have been derived, mid signified with, and adopting Horne Tooke's mode of viewing the prepositions, it had possibly some relation to commencement. Be this as it may, Midsummer Day is now generally understood to imply the twenty-fourth, this change having arisen from the errors and improvements in the calendar, though, as we shall presently see, all the ceremonies, appropriated to it by the Catholics, are in reality nothing more than the old Pagan mode of celebrating the return of summer.
On the eve of Saint John it was customary, among
* Sir W. Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire -- Knightlow Hundred, p. 183, fol. London, 1730.
other observances, to light large bonfires, which at one time were chiefly made of bones and other impurities, if we may believe the Catholic writers on the subject. With them indeed these bonfires had an especial meaning, or perhaps I should rather say they endeavoured to make of the custom a Christian type and symbol, in order to conceal its Pagan origin. For the existence of it we have authorities innumerable. To quote from one only; Durandus has recorded,* that men and boys collect bones and other impurities, which they burn, and also carry about burning torches. But it is in the reasons assigned for these observances that we are most called upon to admire the inexhaustible fertility of the author's inventive powers, and his determination at any price to
* In quibusdam partib. ex antiquâ observatione colligunt hoies et pueri ossa et quædam alia immunda et insimul cremant ut exinde fumum in aerē producāt. Ferunt etiam brandas, sive faces, et cum illis circuunt arva. Tertium est, quia rotam volvunt. Qui immunda cremant et fumum in altum produci faciunt, habēt hoc a Gentibus. Antiquitus ñ dracones, hoc tempore ad libidinem propter calorem excitati, volando per aerem frequêter in puteos et fontes spermizabāt, ex quo inficiebātur aquæ, et tuc erat annus lætalis ex aeris et aquarum corruptione, quia quicunque inde bibebant, moriebantur aut gravem morbum patiebātur, qd attendentes philosophi, ignem jusserñt frequê. ter et passim circa puteas et fontes fieri, et immüda, et quæcunque immūdum redderēt fumū ibi cremari. Nanque per talem fumum sciebant posse fugari dracones, et qă tali hoc tēpore maxime fiebant, ideo hoc adhuc ab aliquibus observatur... Est etiam alia ratio quare ossa animalium comburuntur, videlicet in memoriam s ossa Joannis Baptistæ a Gentibus in civitate Sebastæ combusta fuerüt. Vel potest hoc referri ad Novum Testamentum ; abjiciunt ñ pueri vetera et cöburunt ad significandum q adveniente nova lege vetus testamentum debet cessare. Dictū est ñ vetustissima veterum non comederis et novis superveniētibus vetera projicietis. Feruntur quoq. brandæ, seu faces ardentes, et fiunt ignes, qui significāt sanctum Joannem, qui fuit lumen et lucerna ardens, et præcedens et præcursor veræ lucis, quæ illuminat omnem hominē venientem in hunc mundum. Durand. lib. vii. cap. 14. p. 292.