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humidity: but then, with what feelings of grateful pleasure and satisfaction do we enter the warm apartments of our dwellings, rendered doubly cheerful to us by the contrast without! How happily do we encircle the blazing fire; and with what pleasing sensations are we inspired, when we join friendship's circle, and attentively listen to the wise and virtuous precepts of some admired author, or follow, in Fancy's train, the fictions of some glowing genius!
* Safe from the storm, the meteor, and the show'r,
Thus sings the poet; and thus let all those who are wont to look upon Winter with low-spiritedness and discontent, endeavour to derive amusement from themselves when they imagine it is denied to them by external nature. That there are enjoyments to be found at this season of the year, no one, I think, will deny; enjoyments which have warmed the soul of poetry into an exulting song of praise and thankfulness, teaching us how to turn into sunshine and delight, what is too frequently considered gloomy and cheerless. To the naturalist and scientific inquirer also, a rich store of wonders is displayed; while to those who are too sickly, or too fearful to view these phenomena in the open air, is reserved the fireside enjoyment of perusing the learned and interesting investigations of others more courageous."
"Muchas I admire," replied Maria Constance, "the social feeling which my sister entertains for all around her, I cannot omit the present opportunity of remarking, that, in my opinion, she has drawn too favourable a picture of this changeable and severe season. You have forgotten, my dear," she continued, " that there are situations and occupations in life, which create a preference for any other season than this. Those who can afford warm rooms and good clothing, confine themselves to the house when Winter is in his roughest mood, see company, and exercise their own inclinations, may certainly find something in winter really delightful; hut far different is the case with those who know not where to lay their heads, who 'bide the pelting of the pitiless storm,' and whose 'unfed sides' cannot resist the cutting sharpness of the cold air. To them, winter is a season of distress and hardship; and the constant exertions they are forced to make for the procuring of their scanty food and raiment, prevent their enjoyment of it. The poor mariner, also, who struggles with the tempestuous ocean, is an object of our commiseration, when
'Anchor'd navies from their stations drive,
Wild as the winds, across the howling waste
Of mighty waters.' Oh! I never hear the wind roar but I think of "those who are toiling upon that hazardous element, and bringing home luxuries for our use; nor ever look upon a sailor but as one of the most useful members of society; and am often reminded of that highly poetical passage in Southey's 'Madock,' where he says:
* Tis pleasant, by the cheerful hearth, to hear
Of tempests, and the dangers of the deep,
And pause at times, and feel that we are safe i
Then listen to the perilous tale again,
And, with an eager and suspended soul,
Woo terror to delight us: but, to hear
The roaring of the raging elements;
To know all human skill, all human strength,
Avail not; to look round and only see
The mountain wave recumbent with its weight
Of bursting waters, o'er the reeling bark;—
O God! this is indeed a dreadful thing!
And he who hath endur'd the horror once
Of such an hour, doth never hear the storm
Howl round his home, but he remembers it,
And thinks upon the suffering mariner,'
The season of Winter is also anticipated with dread by aged persons; for neither firing nor food are sufficient to prevent their feeling the searching intenseness of the cold, and they now anxiously look forward to the period of Spring, and the return of milder and more cheering days."
Mrs. Constance. I feel extremely happy in hearing this expression of my daughter's thoughtful regard for her poorer and less fortunate fellow-creatures; and am pleased to find, that while she is in the possession of this world's comforts, she is not thereby rendered careless nor insensible to the want and distress attendant upon a rigorous winter. It is, indeed, a season of sorrow to many: and it behoves all who have the means, to lessen as much as possible, by a charitable sympathy with their sufferings, the wants of the hungry and the destitute. Nor would I wish to damp that lively view, taken by my dear Angelina, of this season and its amusements; for, while it bespeaks a heart happy in the enjoyment of home, it also proves how much good may be obtained by a judicious disposal of our leisure hours, and how little those persons are affected by the varying weather, who have learned, by selfcultivation, to elicit good out of every thing. Much indeed depends in these long nights, upon the rational employment of them; and I therefore rejoice, in common with every one in this friendly circle, at the pleasing prospect we have now before us, of profitably engaging our time for many evenings to come. I now beg of Mr. Constance to open the business of the night.
Mr. Constance. Agreeably to our determination-made on Christmas day, we have now assembled fijr the purpose of discussing the origin and use of the Calendar. I can assure you, my dear young friends, it is with feelings of pride and satisfaction that I see you met together for such a purpose; being fully persuaded, that if we give the subject the attention which it merits, we shall each of us derive pleasure and edification. The Almanack is generally considered, by young persons, to be a very uninteresting document; full of figures and obscure names, and capable of affording no further information than that of the mere division of the year into months, weeks, and days. Nor do they for a moment reflect, that it owes its origin to some of the greatest men who have existed, and is the record of names which deserve to be handed down to posterity, as examples of devotion, talent, and perseverance ;—of those who considered it their duty to undergo the severest privations, and bear the infliction of tortures the most cruel and abhorrent, from a desire of aiding the dissemination of the Christian creed; and many of whom finally sealed with their blood the doctrines which they had previously promulgated. In addition to this interesting feature, the Calendar contains a register of ancient Festivals, established in commemoration of the great events connected with the introduction of Christianity; many of which are still kept with reverence, while others remain as honourable records of antiquity. To be made acquainted, therefore, with the intent of these festivals, and the biography of the many eminent persons named in the Calendar, will be the object of this and future meetings; and I not only anticipate for you a considerable degree of entertainment upon each evening that we assemble, but I feel assured, that a perfect knowledge of the Almanack will prove a constant and almost daily source of interest. I have now merely to request your attention to our friend William, who, I understand, has chosen to take what may be termed the chronological and historical department.
William. I obey your call with pleasure, Sir; but as I am fearful that I shall not do justice to the subject, I must beg your kind indulgence.
Mrs. Constance. O, I have no doubt that you will give every satisfaction, William; and should you stand in need of assistance, you have only to apply to your uncle, who has declared his willingness to aid you in your explanations.
William. January, then, stands the first month of the year, and
Mr. Constance. But I hope, my dear boy, you are prepared to give us a slight notice of the first division of time into weeks, days, &c.; for, although it is our intention only to consider the Months of the year, I think, for the sake of regularity, and to prevent misconception hereafter, some explanation should be given of the ancient computation of time, and the manner in which it has gradually attained its present minute exactness.
William. I am sorry, Sir, that it is not in my power to afford such an explanation; and must, therefore, beg of you to introduce the subject.
Mr. Constance. As it is not probable that I should be able to give you a clear definition of what is understood by the word Time, the consideration of which has occupied the attention of metaphysicians, astronomers, and other men of science, I shall content myself with explaining to you the various instruments which have been invented for its measurement; and at some future period, when your judgments are more matured, will refer you to the works of those persons who have considered the subject at large. Motion, however, is necessary to measure and compare the portions of duration; for to say accurately how long or how short the continuance of a thing may be, without a reference to motion, were impossible. Thus the motion of sand in a glass has served to mark the hour; of the shadow on a dial to mark the return of noon, or the measure of a day; that of the moon to define a lunation, or month; and that of the sun through the ecliptic, to fix the terms of the year.