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month advances and roses are beginning to fade, we have the Convolvulus Purpureus (the Larger Garden Bindweed) with its funnel shaped flowers either white, or of deep azure and gold; and the Convolvulus Tricolor (Lesser Garden Bindweed) mingles with it its three-coloured flowers of light blue, white, and yellow, in company with the Nasturtium, the Sweet William, and the Scarlet Lychnis; while next in our calendar come many of the poisonous plants, the Deadly Night Shade, Hemlock, and Henbane.
In regard to the FAUNA, this month, like August, has been called the Mute Month, because in both of them the birds are silent. The cuckoo has gone, the song of the nightingale has ceased, and swallows, from the succession of the young broods, are seen upon the wing in numbers. River-fishing is now in perfection. Towards the middle of the month, the willow wrens, of which we have three sorts, begin to be numerous. The Wood-wren, with his yellow and olive green plumage is the largest, and is seen much amongst oaks and other great trees; the Willowwren, properly so called, is the next in size, and generally resorts to willow and osier grounds; the third sort, called Pettychaps, inhabits large trees, particularly the pine and fir, but the best time to watch their habits is in the rainy weather that oftens follows St. Swithin's day, when
Longbearded Prickly Poppy.
Yellow Horned Poppy.
Yellow Fleur de Lis; and others of this kind in
they may be seen flitting and running about the boughs of trees and shrubs in pursuit of insects. About this time too (July 19) the young frogs leave their ponds for the tall grass; Swallows and Martins congregate for a long time previous to their departure, resting in flocks on the roofs of buildings, and the former sometimes alighting on trees; Partridges are found among the corn; Poultry moult; the Hoary Beetle appears; Bees begin to expel and kill their drones; and the flying Ants quit their nests. Towards the end of the month Salmon fishing is in season; Mackarel still continue to be taken off our coast, and in the West of England the Pilchard fishery commences, and continues through August. Turning from this subject to POMONA, we find Strawberries of all sorts plentiful, Gooseberries, Cherries, Currants, Early Apricots, and Peaches, though the last as yet are not very plentiful.
There are few days of importance in this month either in regard to astronomy or to ancient observances. The first, however, to be noticed are the DoG-DAYS. These are now made to commence with the 3rd of the month and end with the 11th of August, a very proper change, though only dating from the correction of the British calendar, which brings it in harmony with the ancient idea of the Dog-Days, that is to say, a certain number of days preceding and ensuing the heliacal rising of Canicula or Sirius, i.e. the Dog-star.* It must be obvious that the rising of the star must in the first place vary with the latitude; and secondly, that the precession of equinoxes
* In an old calendar given by Bede, (De Temporum Ratione) the commencement of the Dog-days is placed on the 14th of July; and in one prefixed to the common prayer printed in the time of Elizabeth, they are made to begin on the 6th of July, and to end on the 5th of September; this last continued till the restoration, when the Dog-days were omitted. For a long period subsequent they were said to begin on the 19th of July, and end on the 28th of August.
would in the course of centuries make so great a change in the seasons that the Dog-Days, if restricted to their original place in the calendar, would by this time bring with them frost and snow instead of intense heat.
It is to Egypt that the various notions, connected with these days, are most probably to be attributed. As the star had its heliacal rising much about the time of the summer solstice, when the Nile also began to rise, the ancient Egyptians imagined that it in someway influenced the overflow of the waters and the consequent fertility of the soil. With them therefore it was worshipped as something holy, and often under the names of Isis and Thoth, the usual appellations of their great goddess and of Mercury, while, among other strange dogmas, they believed there was a wild beast called Oryx,* whose wont it was to stand full against the star, watching it, and seeming to worship it by sneezing. But with other nations it was held
very different estimation. The time of its heliacal rising to them brought no particular benefit, but on the contrary was a season of intense heat, and consequently of disease, and hence arose many popular superstitions, both ancient and modern. According to the Roman faith, at the rising of Sirius, the seas boil, the wines ferment in the cellars, and standing waters are set in motion; the dogs also beyond all question go very mad indeed,† and the silurus, or sturgeon is blasted. In more modern times the belief that the intense heat proceeded from Sirius, must have been deeply rooted, when we find Gassendi gravely arguing that as the Dog
#66 'Orygem appellat Ægyptus feram, quam in exortu ejus contra stare et contueri tradit, ac velut adorare cum sternuerit." C. Plinii, Nat. Hist. Lib. ii., cap. 41.
"Fervent maria, exoriente eo, fluctuant in cellis vina, moventur stagna.... Canes quidem toto eo spatio maxime in rabiem agi non est dubium," Id.
"Silurus caniculæ exortu sideratur, et alioqui totum mare senti exortum ejus sideris." Id. Lib. ix., cap. 25.
Star, which was the symbol of heat to us, was the symbol of cold to our antipodes, so it must necessarily follow that heat came from the sun and not from the star.*
ST. SWITHIN'S DAY, JULY 15.-This day has retained its place in our calendar, or at least in the popular memory, from a notion that if it rains now, it will continue to rain for forty days afterwards. The vulgar notion, however, is not quite so absurd as it may at first sight appear to be, for as this happens to be in general a wet season of the year with us the time indeed of the solstitial rains,-it may be pretty fairly inferred that, if rain once begins, it will continue, not exactly perhaps at the same place, but with some little latitude as to locality. This belief is said to have originated in one of the old Roman Catholic fables respecting Saint Swithin, Bishop of Winchester. Before his death, which took place in 868, he had desired "that he might be buried in the open churchyard, and not in the chancel of the minster, as was usual with other bishops, and his request was complied with; but the monks, on his being canonized, considering it disgraceful for the saint to lie in a public cemetery, resolved to remove his body into the choir, which was to have been done with solemn procession on the 15th of July; it rained, however, so violently for forty days together at this season, that the design was abandoned."+
* "Alterum est, hujusmodi signa non esse omnibus regionibus eadem ; sed Canem, qui caloris signum nobis est, esse antipodibus signum frigoris; argumento sanè, quòd æstus, aut frigus, a Cane non sit, sed ab uno sole, nobis per præsentiam, illis per absentiam ; alioquin enim Canis cum situm non mutet, quemadmodum sol, deberet uniformem effectum sortiri." GASSENDI IN LAERTIUM ANIMADVERSIONES, p. 918, tom. ii. De Præsignificationibus Siderum—folio, Lugduni, 1649.
+ Forster's Perennial Calendar, p. 344--July.
St. Swithin-in the Saxon, Swithum-was of noble birth, and received his tonsure on assuming the clerical habit in the old monastery of Winchester. He was a great favourite with the priesthood; and no wonder, since, "by his counsel and advice King Ethelwolf in a Mycel synod, or great council of the nation in 854, enacted a new law, by which he gave the tythes, or tenth part of his land throughout the kingdom, to the Church, exempt and free from all taxations and burthens with an obligation of prayers in all churches for ever, for his own soul on every Wednesday. This charter, to give it a more sacred sanction, he offered on the altar at St. Peter at Rome in the pilgrimage which he made to that city in 855. He likewise procured it to be confirmed by the Pope."*
It was the singular good fortune of Saint Swithin to be equally a favourite with two monarchs, father and son; for Egbert, as the Golden Legend tells us, "made him his chaunceler, and chyef of hys couseyll, and sette Ethulf, his sone and heier under his rule and guiding."t He was also a great miracle-worker, as appears from the same unimpeachable authority, and one instance of the Saint's handywork is too amusing to be passed over unnoticed. It seems that "he dyd do make wythout the weste gate of the town a fayr brydge of stone at hys proper cost. And on a tyme there came a woman over the brydge wyth her lappe full of eggs; and a rechelles felow stroglyd and werstelyd wyth her, and brake all her egges. And it happed that this holy bysshop came that waye the same time and bad the woman lete him see her egges. And anone he lyfte his honde and blessyd the egges, and they were made hool and sounde everychon by the merytes
* Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints, vol. vii. p. 204, 8vo. Dublin, 1780.
+ Golden Legend, fol. 173. Folio, 1512-Caxton.