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&uarter-bap. For the Every-Day Book.
This is quarter-day !—what a variety of thought and feeling it calls up in the minds of thousands in this great metropolis. How many changes of abode, voluntary and involuntary, for the better and for the worse, are now destined to take place There is the charm of novelty at least; and when the mind is disposed to be pleased, as it is when the will leads, it inclines to extract gratification from the anticipation of advantages, rather than to be disturbed by any latent doubts which time may or may not realize.
Perhaps the removal is to a house of decidedly superior class to the present; and if this step is the consequence of augmented resources, it is the first indication to the world of the happy circumstance. Here, then, is an additional ground of pleasure, not very heroic indeed, but perfectly natural. Experience may have shown us that mere progression in life is not always connected with progression in happiness; and therefore, though we may smile at the simplicity which connects them in idea, yet our recollection of times past, when we ourselves indulged the delusion, precludes us from expressing feelings that we have acquired by experience. The pleasure, if from a shallow source, is at least a present benefit, and a sort of counterpoise to vexations from imaginary causes. It does not seem agreeable to contemplate retrogression; to behold a familydescendingfrom their wonted sphere, and becoming the inmates of a humbler dwelling; yet, they who have had the resolution, I may almost say the magnanimity, voluntarily to descend, may reasonably be expected again to rise. They have given proof of the possession of one quality indispensable in such an attempt — that mental decision, by which they have achieved a task, difficult, painful, and to many, impracticable. They have shown, too, their ability to form a correct estimate of the value of the world's opinion, so far as it is influenced by external appearances, and boldly disregarding its terrors, have wisely resolved to let go that which could not be much longer held. By this determination, besides rescuing themselves from a variety of perpetually recurring embarrassments and annoyances, they have suppressed half the sneers which the malicious had in
store for them, had their decline reached its expected crisis, while they have secured the approbation and kind wishes of all the good and considerate. The consciousness of this consoles them for what is past, contents them with the present, and animates their hopes for the future. Now, let us shift the scene a little, and look at quarter-day under another aspect. On this day some may quit, some may remain; all must pay—that can Alas, that there should be some unable! I pass over the rich, whether landlord or tenant; the effects of quarter-day to them are sufficiently obvious : they feel little or no sensation on its approach or arrival, and when it is over, they feel no alteration in their accustomed necessaries and luxuries. Not so with the poor man; I mean the man who, in whatever station, feels his growing inability to meet the demands eriodically and continually making on im. What a day quarter-day is to him t He sees its approach from a distance, tries to be prepared, counts his expected means of being so, finds them short of even his not very sanguine expectations, counts again, but can make no more of them; and while day after day elapses, sees his little stock diminishing. hat shall he do 2 He perhaps knows his landlord to be inexorable ; how then shall he satisfy him 2 Shall he borrow ! Alas, of whom 2 Where dwell the practicers of this precept —“From him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away?” Most of the professors of the religion which enjoins this precept, construe it differently. What shall he do something must be soon decided on. He sits down to consider. He looks about his neatly-furnished house or apartments, to see what out of his humble possessions, he can convert into money. The faithful wife of his bosom becomes of his council. There is nothing they have, which they did not purchase for some particular, and as they then thought, necessary purpose; how, then, can they spare any thing ! they ruminate; they repeat the names of the various articles, they fix on nothing—there is nothing they can part with. They are about so to decide; but their recollection that external resources are now all dried up, obliges them to resume their task, and resolutely determine to do without something, however painful may be the sacrifice. Could we hear the reasons which persons thus situated assign, why this or that article should by no means be parted with, we should be enabled, in some degree, to appreciate their conflicts, and the heart-aches which precede and accompany them. In such inventories much jewellery, diamond rings, or valuable trinkets, are not to be expected. The few that there may be, are probably tokens of affection, either from some deceased relative or dear friend; or not less likely from the husband to the wife, given at their union— “when life and hope were new”—when their minds were so full of felicity, that no room was left for doubts as to its permanence; when every future scene appeared to their glowing imaginations dressed in beauty; when every scheme projected, appeared already crowned with success; when the possibility of contingencies frustating judicious endeavours, either did not present itself to the mind, or presenting itself, was dismissed as an unwelcome guest, “not having on the wedding garment.” At such a time were those tokens
resented, and they are now produced. They serve to recal moments of bliss unalloyed by cares, since become familiar. They were once valued as pledges of affection, and now, when that affection endures in full force and tenderness, they wish that those pledges had no other value than affection confers on them, that so there might be no temptation to sacrifice them to a cruel necessity. Let us, however, suppose some of them selected for disposal, and the money raised to meet the portentous day. Our troubled fellowcreatures breathe again, all dread is for the present banished; joy, temporary, but oh! how sweet after such bitterness, is diffused through their hearts, and gratitude to Providence for tranquillity, even by such means restored, is a pervading feeling. It is, perhaps, prudent at this juncture to leave them, rather than follow on to the end of the next quarter. It may be that, by superior prudence or some unexpected supply, a repetition of the same evil, or the occurrence of a greater is avoided; yet, we all know that evils of the kind in question, are too frequently followed by worse. If a family, owing to the operation of some common cause, such as a rise in the price of provisions, or a partial diminution of income from the depression of business, become embarrassed and with difficulty enabled to pay their rent; the addition of a fit of sickness, the unexpected failure of a debtor, or any other contingency of the
sort, (assistance from without not being afforded,) prevents them altogether. The case is then desperate. The power which the law thus permits a landlord to exercise, is one of fearful magnitude, and is certainly admirably calculated to discover the stuff he is made of. Yet, strange as it seems, this power is often enforced in all its rigour, and the merciless enforcers lose not, apparently, a jot of reputation, nor forfeit the esteem of their intimates: so much does familiarity with an oppressive action deaden the perception of its real nature, and so apt are we to forget that owing to the imperfection of human institutions, an action may be legal and cruel at the same time! The common phrase, “So and so have had their goods seized for rent,” often uttered with indifference and heard without emotion, is a phrase pregnant with meaning of the direst import. It means that they—wife, children, and all—who last night sat in a decent room, surrounded by their own furniture, have now not a chair of their own to sit on ; that they, who last night could retire to a comfortable bed, after the fatigues and anxieties of the day, have tonight not a bed to lie on—or none but what the doubtful ability or humanity of strangers or relations may supply: it means that sighs and tears are produced, where once smiles and tranquillity existed; or, perhaps, that long cherished hopes of surmounting difficulties, have by one blow been utterly destroyed,—that the stock of expedients long becoming threadbare, is at last quite worn out, and all past efforts rendered of no avail, though some for a time seemed likely to be available. It means that the hollowness of professed friends has been made manifest; that the busy tongue of detraction has found employment; that malice is rejoicing; envy is at a feast; and that the viands are the afflictions of the desolate. Landlord' ponder on these consequences ere you distrain for rent, and let your heart, rather than the law, be the guide of your conduct. The additional money you may receive by distraining may, indeed, add something to the luxuries of your table, but it can hardly fail to diminish yout relish. You may, perhaps, by adopting the harsh proceeding, add down to your
illow, but trust not that your sleep will |. tranquil or your dreams pleasant. Above all remember the benediction“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy;” and inspired with the sentiment, and reflecting on the fluctuations which are every day occurring, the poor and humble raised, and the wealthy and apparently secure brought down, you will need no other incitement to fulfil the golden rule of your religion—“Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you.” SIGMA.
Concerning the Feast of St. John the Baptist, an author, to whom we are obliged for recollections of preceding customs, gives us information that should be carefully perused in the old versified version :
Then doth the joyfull feast of John the Baptist take his turne, When bonfiers great, with loftie flame, in every towne doe burne; And yong men round about with maides. doe daunce in every streete, With garlands wrought of Motherwort, or else with Vervain sweete, And many other flowres faire, with Violets in their handes, Whereas they all do fondly thinke, that whosoever standes, And thorow the flowres beholds the flame, his eyes shall feel no paine. When thus till night they daunced have, they through the fire amaine, With striving mindes doe runne, and all their hearbes they cast therein, And then with wordes devout and prayers they solemnely begin, Desiring God that all their ills may there consumed bee ; Whereby they thinke through all that yeare from agues to be free. Some others get a rotten Wheele, all worne and cast aside, Which covered round about with strawe and tow, they closely hide : 4nd caryed to some mountaines top, being all with fire light, They hurle it downe with violence, when darke appears the night : Resembling much the sunne, that from the Heavens down should fal, A strange and monstrous sight it seemes, and fearefull to them all : But they suppose their mischiefes all are likewise throwne to hell, And that from harmes and daungers now, in safetie here they dwell."
A very ancient “Homily” relates other
* Naogeorgus by Googe.
particulars and superstitions relating to the bonfires on this day:— “In worshyp of Saint Johan the people waked at home, and made three maner of fyres: one was clene bones, and noo woode, and that is called a bone fyre; another is clene woode, and no bones, and that is called a wood fyre, for people to sit and wake thereby; the thirde is made of wode and bones, and it is callyd Saynt Johanny's fyre. The first fyre, as a great clerke, Johan Belleth, telleth, he was in a certayne countrey, so in the countrey there was so soo greate hete, the which causid that dragons to go togyther in tokenynge, that Johan dyed in brennynge love and charyte to God and man, and they that dye in charyte shall have part of all good prayers, and they that do not, shall never be saved. Then as these dragons flewe in th’ ayre they shed down to that water froth of ther kynde, and so envenymed the waters, and caused moche people for to take theyr deth thereby, and many dyverse sykenesse. Wyse clerkes knoweth well that dragons hate nothyng more than the stenche of brennynge bones, and therefore they gaderyd as many as they mighte fynde, and brent them; and so with the stenche thereof they drove away the dragons, and so they were brought out of greete dysease. The seconde fyre was made of woode, for that wyll brenne lyght, and wyll be seen farre. For it is the chefe of fyre to be seen farre, and betokennynge that Saynt Johan was a lanterne of lyght to the people. Also the people made blases of fyre for that they shulde be seene farre, and specyally in the nyght, in token of St. ohan's having been seen from far in the spirit by Jeremiah. The third fyre of bones betokenneth Johan's martyrdome, for hys bones were brente.”—Brand calls this “a pleasant absurdity;” the justice of the denomination can hardly be disputed. Gebelin observes of these fires, that “ they were kindled about midnight on the very moment of the summer solstice, by the greatest part as well of the ancient as of modern nations; and that this firelighting was a religious ceremony of the most remote antiquity, which was observed for the o of states and }. and to dispel every kind of evil.” He then proceeds to remark, that “the origin of this fire, which is still retained by so many nations, though enveloped in the mist of antiquity, is very simple: it was a feu de joie, kindled the very moment the year began; for the first of all years, and the most ancient that we know of, began at this month of June. Thence the very name of this month, junior, the woungest, which is renewed; while that of the preceding one is May, major, the ancient. Thus the one was the month of young people, while the other belonged to old men. These feur de joie were accompanied at the same time with vows and sacrifices for the prosperity of the people and the fruits of the earth. They danced also round this fire; for what feast is there without a dance 2 and the most active leaped over it. Each on departing took away a fire-brand, great or small, and the remains were scattered to the wind, which, at the same time that it dispersed the ashes, was thought to expel every evil. When, after a long train of years, the year ceased to commence at this solstice, still the custom of making these fires at this time was continued by force of habit, and of those superstitious ideas that are annexed to it.” So far remarks Gebelin concerning the universality of the practice. Bourne, a chronicler of old customs, says, “that men and women were accustomed to gather together in the evening by the sea side, or in some certain houses, and there adorn a girl, who was her parent's first begotten child, after the manner of a bride. Then they feasted, and leaped after the manner of bacchanals, and danced and shouted as they were wont to do on their holidays; after this they poured into a narrow-necked vessel some of the sea water, and put also into it certain things belonging to each of them ; then, as if the devil gifted the girl with the faculty of telling future things, they would inquire with a loud voice about the good or evil fortune that should attend them : upon this the girl would take out of the vessel the first thing that came to hand, and show it, and give it to the owner, who, upon receiving it, was so foolish as to imagine himself wiser as to the good or evil fortune that should attend him.” “ In Cornwall, particularly,” says Borlase, “the people went with lighted torches, tarred and pitched at the end, and made their perambulations round their fires.” They went “from village to village, carrying their torches before them, and this is certainly the re:mains of the Druid superstition.” And so in Ireland, according to sir Henry Piers, in Vallancey, “on the cves
of St. John the baptist and St. Peter, they always have in every town a bonfire late in the evenings, and carry about bundles of reeds fast tied and fired; these being dry, will last long, and flame better than a torch, and be a pleasing divertive prospect to the distant beholder; a stranger would go near to imagine the whole country was on fire.” Brand cites further, from “The Survey of the South of Ireland,” that—“It is not strange that many Druid remains should still exist; but it is a little extraordinary that some of their customs should still be practised. They annually renew the sacrifices that used to be offered to Apollo, without knowing it. On Midsummer's eve, every eminence, near which is a habitation, blazes with bonfires; and round these they carry numerous torches, shouting and dancing, which affords a beautiful
sight. Though historians had not given
us the mythology of the pagan Irish, and
though they had not told us expressly
that they worshipped Beal, or Bealin, and
that this Beal was the sun, and their chief god, it might, nevertheless, be investigated from this custom, which the lapse of so many centuries has not been able to wear away.” Brand goes on to quote from the “Gentleman's Magazine,” fo
February 1795, “The Irish have ever
becn worshippers of fire and of Baal, and
are so to this day. This is owing to the
Roman Catholics, who have artfully yielded to the superstitions of the natives, in
order to gain and keep up an establishment, grafting christianity upon pagan rites. The chief festival in honour of the sun and fire is upon the 21st of June, when the sun arrives at the summer solstice, or rather begins its retrograde motion. I was so fortunate in the summer of 1782, as to have my curiosity gratified by a sight of this ceremony to a very great extent of country. At the house where I was entertained, it was told me that we should see at midnight the most singular sight in Ireland, which was the lighting of Jires in honour of the sun. Accordingly, exactly at midnight, the fires began to appear: and taking the advantage of going up to the leads of the house, which had a widely extended view, I saw on a radius of thirty miles, all around, the fires burning on every eminence which the country affor led. I had a farther satisfaction in le orning, from undoubted authority, that the people danced round the fires, and at the close went through these fires, and made their sons and daughters, together with their cattle, pass the fire; and the whole was conducted with religious solemnity.”
Mr. Brand notices, that Mr. Douce has a curious French print, entitled “L'este le Feu de la St. Jean;” Mariette ear. In the centre is the fire made of wood piled up very regularly, and having a tree stuck in the midst of it. Young men and women are represented dancing round it hand in hand. Herbs are stuck in their hats and caps, and garlands of the same surround their waists, or are slung across their shoulders. A boy is represented carrying a large bough of a tree. Several spectators are looking on. The following lines are at the bottom – “Que de Feux brulans dans les airs' Qu'ils font une douce harmonie' Redoublonscette mélodie Par nos dances, par nos concerts!" This “curious French print,” furnished the engraving at page 825, or to speak more correctly, it was executed from one in the possession of the editor of the Every-Day Book. To enliven the subject a little, we may recur to recent or existing usages at this period of the year. It may be stated then on the authority of Mr. Brand's collections, that the Eton scholars formerly had bonfires on St. John's day; that bonfires are still made on Midsummer eve in several villages of Gloucester, and also in the northern parts of England and in Wales; to which Mr. Brand adds, that there was one formerly at Whiteborough, a tumulus on St. Stephen's down near Launceston, in Č. A large summer pole was fixed in the centre, round which the fuel was heaped up. It had a large bush on the top of it. Round this were parties of wrestlers contending for small prizes. An honest countryman, who had often been present at these merriments, informed Mr. Brand, that at one of them an evil spirit had appeared in the shape of a black dog, since which none could wrestle, even in jest, without receiving hurt: in consequence of which the wrestling was, in a great measure, laid aside. The rustics there believe that giants are buried in these tumuli, and nothing would tempt them to be so sacrilegious as to disturb their bones. In Northumberland, it is customary on this day to dress out stools with a cushion
of flowers. A layer of clay is placed on the stool, and therein is stuck, with great regularity, an arrangement of all kinds of flowers, so close as to form a beautiful cushion. These are exhibited at the doors of houses in the villages, and at the ends of streets and cross-lanes of larger towns, where the attendants beg money from passengers, to enable them to have an evening feast and dancing.” One of the “Cheap Repository Tracts," entitled, “Tawney Rachel, or the Fortune-Teller,” said to have been written by Miss Hannah More, relates, among other superstitious practices of Saily Evans, that “she would never go to bed on Midsummer eve, without sticking u in her room the well-known plant called Midsummer Men, as the bending of the leaves to the right, or to the left, would never fail to tell her whether her lover was true or false.” The Midsummer Men were the orpyne plants, which Mr. Brand says is thus elegantly alluded to in the “Cottage Girl,” a poem “written on Midsummer eve, 1786:"—
In the “Connoisseur,” there is mention of divinations on Midsummer eve. “I and my two sisters tried the dumbcake together: you must know, two must make it, two bake it, two break it, and the third put it under each of their pillows, (but you must not speak a word all the time), and then you will dream of the man you are to have. This we did : and to be sure I did nothing all night but dream of Mr. Blossom. The same night, exactly at twelve o'clock, I sowed hempseed in our back-yard, and said to myself---‘Hemp-seed I sow, hemp-seed I hoe, and he that is my true-love come after me and mow.' ill you believe me? I looked back, and saw him behind me, as plain as eyes could see him. After that, I took a clean shift and wetted it, and turned it wrong-side out, and hung it to the fire upon the back of a chair; and very likely my sweetheart would have come and turned it right again, (for I
* Hutchinson's Northumberland.