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radiant sunshine is not unfrequently observable on his face, which assures us that he is triumphing over Winter; who, however, still contends for sovereign sway; and,
'Ling'ring on the verge of Spring,
Retires reluctant, and from time to time
Looks back, while at his keen and chilling breath
Fair Flora sickens.'
But he is assuredly retreating; and though his departure be slow, a few more weeks, and no trace of his tremendous career will remain. Besides," she added, "March is in this year faithful to the character given him of old: he is 'come in like a lion.'"
"Indeed he is," replied William; "and may he in the end complete his ancient character, and 'go out like a lamb.'"
"I hope," said Maria, wistfully, "that the violence of the wind will soon abate; and that He who directs its course, will also throw his protecting mantle over the poor mariner; who, in a night like this, must be tossed mountains high, and perhaps driven to strange and dangerous coasts, if not to eternity."
A roar, both " loud and deep," at that moment fairly shook the habitation, causing each individual of the party to unite in Maria's benign wishes, and excited a tender sympathy in their youthful bosoms, as they faintly ejaculated an involuntary Amen, to the hollow, solemn dying away of the turbulent hurricane.
The arrival of Mr. Constance, introducing an old friend, Mr. Stanley, from his travels on the Continent, now completed the party, and they all sat down to tea; during which repast, Mr. Constance took the opportunity of explaining to his friend the occasion of so numerous a meeting of young persons, and hoped to have his company for the rest of the evening. Mr. Stanley was toe fond of the society of youth to refuse such an invitation, and readily consented.
When tea was ended, William introduced the business of the evening, by stating that March, although now the third month of the year, was the first month of antiquity, and received its name from Mars, the god of war. The Saxons called it Lent-monat, or length monetk, "because the days did first begin, in length, to exceed the nights:" and the 1st of the month is held in great veneration by Welshmen. It is called St. David's Day, in honour of a celebrated man of that name, who was descended from the royal family of the Britons, being uncle to King Arthur, and son of Xantus, Prince of Ceretica, now called Cardiganshire. After having been ordained priest, he retired to the Isle of Wight, where he sedulously studied the Scriptures, to qualify himself for the functions of the holy ministry. It is said that he founded twelve monasteries for the promotion of devotional knowledge; and that the inmates were compelled to maintain themselves by agricultural labour, and to afford, from the profit of their exertions, assistance to the neighbouring poor. They were all built in the vicinity of St. David's, then called Menevia, a city of Pembrokeshire.
Maria. Why is he termed a saint?
Mr. Constance. Because tradition, and the follies of some monkish writers, have loaded his history with many miraculous circumstances; which, in the present day, are justly spurned for their absurdity. Amongst a number equally astonishing, it is said, that he removed complaints of all kinds, and even re-animated the dead; that, while expounding the Scriptures, a snow-white dove descended from heaven, and sat upon his shoulders, and that the earth upon which he stood was raised from its level, and became a hill, for the accommodation of his immense auditory; that the waters of Bath received their warmth and salubrious qualities solely from his benediction; and that his birth was predicted thirty years before it took place.
Angelina. How absurd! And I suppose something equally ridiculous gave rise to his countrymen wearing leeks in their hats in honour of the day.
William. No: the reason assigned I think a very good one, and may probably be a sufficient explanation why they have made choice of a plant, possessing neither appearance nor flavour to recommend it. In the year 640, the Britons, under king Cadwallader, gained a complete victory over the Saxons, by the judicious regulation which St. David adopted for rendering the Britons known to each other, causing them to pluck leeks from a garden near the scene of action, and to place them in their hats; while the Saxons, from the want of such distinguishing mark, frequently mistook each other, and dealt their fury among themselves, indiscriminately slaying friends and foes. The patriotic Welshman may therefore justly say r
"I like the leeke above all herbes and flowers;
Mr. Constance. Notwithstanding the absurd and superstitious account of St. David, it appears, from indisputable authority, that he was a most amiable and virtuous character; devout and humble to his God; steady in the pursuit of benevolence; and an unshaken supporter of the dignity of his country. His death, therefore, which happened in the year 642, at a very advanced age, was considered as a great national loss; and his memory is still revered in feastings and rejoicings; and his example followed, in the support of many excellent charitable institutions.
William. The next day is distinguished by the name of St. Chad; but as so small a portion of his history can be depended upon as authentic, a very short notice of him will suffice. Indeed, so little of the remarkable appears in the account of him, that I am surprised at the retention of his name in the calendar. The place of his nativity is stated to be Northumberland, and of Saxon parents. After a close attention to devotional duties, he succeeded in converting the Mercians, a people amongst whom he resided ; and was created Bishop of Litchfield, by Theodoras, Archbishop of Canterbury. He then secluded himself in a cell at Litchfield, on the spot where now stands the church of his name. He died on the 2d of March, 672; and the concourse of devotees who crowded to his shrine was the principal cause of the flourishing state of that city.
Mr. Constance. Two thousand pounds are said to have been expended in the decorations of that shrine; which, considering the times, was an immense sum. Henry VIII. afterwards seized it, with all the riches that had accumulated by offerings. St. Chad, or Cedde, as he is called by some authors, has left a character behind him for zealous devotion to his Maker, charitable attentions to the poor and needy, and a strict observance of scriptural duties, worthy the imitation of all ministers of the gospel.
Mrs. Constance. The 7th of this month is styled Perpetua, in honour of a lady of that name, who suffered martyrdom in the cause of Christianity. Can you state where she was born, William?
William. At Carthage, I believe, ma'am; and was one of those noble-minded martyrs, whose constancy, while it sheds a lustre over the doctrines of Christ, stamps with infamy the principles of those persons, who could condemn a young and beautiful wife to the most cruel and ignominious death, for the maintenance of her religious opinions. Perpetua was in her twenty-second year and the mother of an infant, which she nourished at her breast, -when she was ordered into confinement by Minijtius Firmianus, the proconsul of Africa, in the reign of that cruel and detested apostate, the Emperor Severus; who, in the early part of his sovereignty, had been favourable to Christianity, and subsequently became one of its most unrelenting and bitter enemies. On being carried before the proconsul, he commanded her to sacrifice to the idols; but refusing, she was ordered to a dark dungeon, and deprived of her child. While in prison, she was visited by her father, who sincerely loved her: he used every art to persuade her to abandon her faith; but neither her reverence for him, nor her love for her husband, nor even the safety of her infant, could induce her so to do. She was, therefore, led into the amphitheatre, and, amidst the scoffing and exultation of a barbarous populace, exposed to the fury of an enraged bull; but the animal failed to kill her, and she languished for some time under additional wounds from a young and inexperienced public executioner: and thus fell a victim to the barbarity and superstition of a people, who, with all their noble deeds, indulged the gratification of some of the baser passions of our nature.
Mr. Constance. But, as though ordained by the Almighty Power to baffle and oppose the enemies of Christianity, as one devoted adherent was cut off, another was raised up. The fortitude and tranquil resignation with which Perpetua received her cruel sentence, so inspired her judge, Hillarian, the procurator, with reverence for that faith which could support her under such accumulated sufferings, that he afterwards became a convert to those doctrines, which he found no reason could refute, nor earthly power overcome. Perpetua suffered in the year 203, and the 7th of March was made sacred to her memory in 205.
Charles. Midlent Sunday of course means the middle Sunday in Lent. I suppose there is nothing particular regarding it.