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A SIMILAR arrangement was made in this, as in the preceding month, for the reception of the youthful party ; and never did bowery retreat appear more lovely. Animate and inanimate nature seemed to vie with each other for the pleasing precedence: the flowers and verdant decorations were just reviving from the effects of the “noontide ray” upon them, and diffusing their balmy fragrance through the mild serenity of evenings known only to this season, whilst a rosy blush of health and warmth suffused the cheeks of the fair visiters, and completed a picture of rural retirement and felicity. Several of them had been enjoying an evening ramble; and the weather, at all times a subject of interest to the inhabitants of England, but more especially in this month, when so much depends on its steady warmth, naturally became the topic of conversation: all seemed delighted that it was fine, all hoped that it would continue so, and no one appeared to feel the inconvenience of the heat, in the reflection that innumetable benefits would result from its maturing influence.
An allusion being made to the harvest, William took occasion to remark that this month, which we call August, (named by, and in honour of Augustus Cæsar,) was, by our Saxon ancestors, styled Barn Monath, expressive of their barns being filled with corn; and amongst whom it was customary to hold a festival on the gathering in of
the grain. “This practice,” said William,“ was continued for several centuries, when the latter part of the month of August and the beginning of September, were as celebrated for their joyous rural meetings in thankfulness for the abundance of the year, as the opening month of May had been for its pleasing promise of fruitfulness. Many curious harvest customs are related to have been common in former times, which, in the wisdom of the present age are ridiculed as foolish and unmeaning. They, however, in my opinion, (continued William,) meant more than met the eye, and were the rude expressions of gratitude and joy for nature's blessings. In the present day, though we still gather in the corn, reap the fruits of the earth, and participate in the bounty of Providence, we hear of no festivals—no rejoicings—no gifts—no rural holyday-no
harvest home,' but, like the May-day of former times, we read of them as things gone by.”
“ Your expression of regret, William,” replied Mr. Constance, “ for the absence of these festive seasons, does honour to your heart, and I am pleased to hear it; because I am sure that you feelingly deplore the abolishment of those entertainments and social meetings, wherein the master and servant, landlord and tenant, superior and menial, forgetting once in the year the strict line of their respective stations, mixed in unostentatious equality around the great table in the hall. But, much as I regret the change which has taken place of the customs of olden time, I cannot say that I am quite desirous to see the return of those noisy festivities in which our merrie ancestors' are said to have occasionally indulged. In my opinion we are neither so good nor so bad as our forefathers: we neither entertain that friendly and fatherly care for the interests of those around us, nor do we indulge in those anseemly propensities so common to the New Year's Eves,' and the · Harvest Homes,' and the · Rent Days
of earlier periods. I have lived long enough to have wit.. nessed the feeble remains of those customs, most of which received their origin in the feudal times of our country, when the lords of the soil entertained their vassals at the mansion board ; and although I saw much to admire, and much that I should now wish to see observed, I must acknowledge that there were many practices, now exploded, which were alike injurious to health and good morals, and subversive of all decorum. Of course, I mean not only among the peasantry and poorer classes, but also their superiors, and those to whom the great mass of the population look up for example.”
“I have no doubt,” replied William, “ that many indiscretions were practised in the festive seasons of former times ; mankind are too prone to run into extremes. But if the unbridled mirth of earlier periods was injurious to health and morals, the present cold, heartless indifference to all seasons of joy, is not, I am afraid, productive of much better results. Ingratitude and selfishness are engendered ; two deadly sins, from which, not unfrequently, arise the most appalling crimes."
“I wish to be understood, William,” replied Mr. Constance, “ as participating in your regret for the abolition of these various festive seasons; but am also desirous of removing an impression strong on the minds of some persons, that all customs which are old must necessarily be good, while those of a modern date are the reverse. That this is not the fact, has already been proved, by your exposition of many ancient festivals, and may be still further exemplified by a reference to one formerly practised in Scotland on the 1st of this month, which you perceive, by the almanack, is called Lammas Day.About half a century ago, the greater part of the county of Mid Lothian was pasturage land for horses, cattle, or sheep; which were guarded by young herdsmen, who, for a pastime, were in the habit of erecting what they termed a . Lammas Tower.' This tower, which was built of turf, was considered the boundary or mark of a particular band of herdsmen, who, from its foundation, watched it with great care, against the secret incursions of some other band of herdsmen, whose desire it was to destroy it. Frequent were the broils during its erection, but when on Lammas Day it was completed, and a flagstaff mounted on its summit, serious fights were the consequence, which frequently ended in the death of several of the herdsmen. On the morning of Lammas, which was kept as a holyday, each party used to sally forth, dressed in their best attire, and seating themselves on the grass around their towers, made merry with their humble fare of oat-cake and cheese, and water from an adjoining rivulet. During which time scouts were sent out to reconnoitre the enemy's stations; and if any band was seen advancing, the signal horn was blown, which was answered by the whole company, who hastened to fall in with the enemy. If neither party would lower their flag in submission, a battle ensued, which was generally fatal to some of the combatants. After having retained their station at the tower till the period of mid-day, it was customary to lower their colours and march in procession to the nearest village ; where they closed the festival with racing, dancing, and other amusements. This, now, is a custom which I think were far better abolished than practised.”
“ Most undoubtedly,” replied William; “but such an unmeaning holyday is not to be compared with the harvest-home festival of this month. What can be more natural than that those who have laboured in the field to collect the bounty of Providence, should anxiously look for a grateful return from their employers ? The most uncultivated mind is at this season impressed with a sense of the goodness of God, as manifested in the abundance of his gifts; and no eye can scan the rich scene of beauty and fertility displayed, and not experience an inward feeling of delight; the expression of which, however rude and homely, is doubtless accepted at the Throne of Grace, as the pleasing evidence of a heart overflowing with gratitude and joy. I must again repeat, that I regret the almost total extinction of the harvest-home festival.”
This conversation was interrupted by a request from Charles, to be informed of the meaning of the term Lammas-day.
WILLIAM. The word Lammas has given rise to many inquiries into its origin. Some authors contend that it refers to the bondage of St. Peter, who has been termed the patron of lambs; and, therefore, that it came from Lamb-mass, a festival or mass instituted for the purpose of procuring the apostle's benediction, that the lambs might escape the danger of cold after having been shorn. Others are of opinion that it received its name from a custom among the tenants who held lands of the cathedral church of York, and who were bound, by their tenure, to bring a live lanab into the church at high mass, on that day. .
ANGELINA. I should very much doubt, that a custom so confined in its exercise could have given rise to the term. It must, however, have been a very curious, if not a very pleasing sight, to see the little lambs at mass. Of course the officiating priest drove them into his own fold after the ceremony.
WILLIAM. History does not inform us of that, Angelina: probably he might. Of the other derivations of the term I need only say, that they are as little to be relied on as those I have already mentioned; and the most important information I have been able to glean, relative to the day is, that it was formerly one of our quarterly divi