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Life is at all times precarious ;—there are but a few feet of earth between the stoutest of us and the grave, and at my age we should not be too sanguine in our calculations; yet, if I were to judge from my own unbroken health and inward feelings, as well as from the opinions of others more competent to pronounce, I have yet ten years at least, perhaps many more, of happiness in store for me. Should the former period be consummated, I pledge myself again to commune with the public. Should it be otherwise, I may, perhaps, be enabled to realize the wish of the celebrated Dr. Hunter, who half an hour before his death exclaimed, “ Had I a pen, and were able to write, I would describe how easy and pleasant a thing it is to die.” In either alternative, gentle reader, if my example shall have assisted in teaching thee how to live grateful and happy, and to look upon death with resignation, the object of this memoir will be attained, and thou wilt have no cause to regret perusing this sketch of

A SEPTUAGENARY.

MAY

It Ver et Venus et Veneris prænuntius ante
Pinnatus graditur Zephyrus vestigia propter :
Flora quibus Mater præspergens, ante viaï

Cuncta coloribus egregiis et odoribus opplet.-LUCRET. How delightful is the opening of May, bringing with it the most delicious sensations, overflowing with sweets, and infusing through all nature a freshness and vitality perceived at no other period of the year. Summer may possess attractions of a more flaunting character, and autumn may proffer its matured fruits and wealthy harvests; but to those who have a keen perception of natural beauty, and a sympathy with the vivid impressions spring produces on the mind, what can be more grateful than the renovated appearance of nature, and the elasticity and exhilaration of feeling experienced at the beginning of this month of fruition, pregnant as it is with light, pleasure, and loveliness? The clouds, no longer black, and hurried across the face of beaven by storms, are like fleeces of snowy whiteness enamelled upon the eternal azure, setting off, and not sullying the purity of its serene hue. The soft breezes,

Zephyr with Aurora playing," bear " buxom health” and joyousness on their wings. The birds sing their sweetest notes.

The insect youth are on the wing,
Eager to taste the honied spring,

And Aoat amid the liquid noon. The early flowers, “ the yellow cowslip and the pale primrose," decorate the surface of the earth. The verdure, rich in colour, refreshed with frequent showers, and not yet imbrowned by the summer sun, may be contemplated in all its variety of tinge. Creation seems to have arisen from the dead, all is being-instinct with life and motion. Love also awakes at this genial season, as Cunningham pleasingly sings: From the west as it wantonly blows,

Fond Zephyr caresses the vine;
The bee steals a kiss from the rose,

And willows and woodbines entwine :
The pinks by the rivulet side,

That border the vernal alcove,
Bend downward to kiss the soft tide :

For May is the mother of Love.
MAY tinges the butterfly's wing,

He futters in bridal array;
And if the wing'd foresters sing

The music is taught them by May.
The stock-dove, recluse with her mate,

Couceals her fond bliss in the grove,
And, murmuring, seems to repeat,-

“ That May is the mother of Love." Solomon also says,

“ The winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land." To all conversant with the writings of the poets, striking descriptions of the season must be familiar. Milton makes the most heavenly clime to consist of an eternal spring"

The birds their quire apply; airs, vernal airs,
Breathing the smell of field and grove, attune
The trembling leaves, while universal Pan,
Knit with the graces and the hours in dance,

Led on the eternal spring.
Virgil, in his second Georgic, places the cosmogony in the spring.--

Such were the days, the season was the same,
When first arose this world's all-beauteous frame;
The sky was cloudless, balmy was the air,
And spring's mild influence made all nature fair.

WARTON, Geo. L. ii. I. 407. Honest Chaucer, between four and five hundred years ago, speaks of the spring as we speak of it now, for the revolutions of time effect no change in natural sensations. Hear his beautiful lines in the “ Romaunt of the Rose." That it was Mey thus dreamnid me, In whiche that winter had it sette, In time of love and jolite,

And then becometh the grounde so That al thing ginneth waxen gay,

proude For there is neither buske nor hay That it wol have a newè shroude, In Mey that it n’ill shroudid bene, And make so queint his robe and fayre, And that it with newè levis wrene;

That it had news an hundred payre These woddis eke recoveren grene

Of
grape

and flouris Inde and Pers,
That drie in winter ben to sene, And many newis full divers,
And the erth waxith proude withal That is the robe I mene iwis
For sote dewis that on it fall, Through whiche the ground to praisin
And the povir estate forgette

is. But it would be an interminable task to quote the beautiful apostrophes which have been addressed to this regal division of the year; we will only give another extract from a Turkish address to the season.

“ Thou hearest the tale of the nightingale,' that the vernal season approaches.'. The spring has spread a bower of joy in every grove, where the almond-tree sheds its silver blossoms. Be cheerful; be full of mirth; for the spring passes soon away, it will not last.

" The

groves and hills are adorned with all sorts of Aowers : a pavilion or roses, as the seat of pleasure, is raised in the garden. Who knows which of us will be alive when the fair season ends? Be cheerful, &c.

“ The edge of the bower is filled with the light of Ahmed; among, the plants the fortunate tulips represent his companions. Come, O people of Mohammed! this is the season of merriment. Be cheerful, &c."

Such is the description of May by the poets, and such its character really is, in a greater or less degree, to all who enjoy youth and health, The torpitude of age often imbibes warmth from its influence, which, however, is chilled by the reflection that life, unlike nature, has no second spring; it “blossoms but to die.” In some temperaments, however, the impression produced by the season is overpowering from excess of excitation, and a feeling of sadness is generated amidst gaiety and hope. Burke observes, that the passion of love has in it more of melancholy than of jollity or mirth ; and it is the same with impressions made by natural objects, where these impressions are more than commonly deep. They always tend, during the highest enjoyment of them, to a pleasing melancholy. The scent of a flower, where the perception of its odour is more exquisite than usual, will do this, and the view of an unclouded evening sky, or a rich setting sun, is uniformly productive of sadness to persons of great sensibility, and even in a limited degree to others. We are seldom aware of the cause of this ; but it will often take its departure from the mind, leaving a feeling of mingled admiration and devotion behind.* This perhaps arises from an unconscious regret, that all we are looking at is but for a short time, that the majesty of this “ breathing world” will not be much longer for us, and we feel forcibly, though hardly conscious of it, the instability of our being. Who that is arrived at manhood can forget his youthful feelings in May ?- who can forget

The spot where spring its earliest visit paid" ? Such reminiscences are the food of after-life, and enlighten with a solitary ray of sunshine even the gloom of the grave into which age

is tottering. But the majority of mankind have fibres too coarse to vibrate with such impressions, and May is their month of boisterous rapture and unreflecting joy. Even care corrodes the heart less during the reign of this queen of months, for it is then that the tide of being flows to its full height. And why should it not be so ?

Hard his herte that loveth nought

In Mey, when al this mirth is wrought. Our forefathers paid great honour to the month of May, and the custom of commemorating it is of the most remote antiquity. We must look to the festivals of the Romans, and to their invasion and

This particular kind of feeling may be understood by the following passage « Combien de fois, de ma fenêtre exposée au Nord, j'ai contemplé avec émotion les vastes déserts du ciel, sa voûte superbe, azurée, magnifiquement dessinée, depuis le lerant bleuâtre, loin derrière le Pont-au-Change, jusqu'au couchant, dorée d'une brillante couleur aurore derrière les arbres du cours et les maisons de Chaillot ! Je ne manquois pas d'employer ainsi quelques momens à la fin d'un beau jour, et souvent des larmes douces couloient silencieusement de mes yeux ravis, tandis que mon cæur, gouflé d'un sentiment inexprimable, houreux d'etre et reconnoissant d'exister, offroit à l'Etre supreme un hommage pur et digne de lui."

Vie privée de Mad. Roland.

conquest of Britain, for the ceremonies afterwards adopted by its inhabitants, relics of which have come down to our day. The Floralia, or games in honour of Flora, were celebrated on the 4th of the Ka.. lends of May, according to Pliny, and continued during the remainder of the month. They were instituted about the year of Rome 613, in honour of Flora, a Sabine Goddess. The notion that Flora was a courtesan appears to rest upon no competent authority. Her image was annually exhibited at Rome, in the temple of Castor and Pollux, dressed in a close dress, and holding bean flowers in her hand. These games might in time have been corrupted, and many of the ceremonies have been exceptionable ; but that they were originally instituted to call down a blessing from heaven on the various productions of the land cannot be reasonably doubted. The May-games, including dancing, and the display of elegant garlands of flowers, are clearly remnants of Pagan festive worship. Some have contended that the Maypole is of Druid origin, but there is no ground for the supposition; it was at first, most probably, only a substitute for a living tree, on which flowers and offerings were suspended; the cross pieces nailed to it being clearly for the better suspension of them. The May-games too were often held in situations where trees would not be found growing, as in towns or cities.

The sports of May were not always celebrated on the first day of the month, though people generally went to gather May-trees on the 30th of April. The May-tree, or May as it is still called in the West of England, always means there the white thorn, which is commonly in blossom by that day, and which the young people, rising up early in the morning, bring into the towns and villages. It is remarkable, that at Helston, an obscure town in Cornwall, May-day is still kept on the 8th day of the month, and is called the Furry-day, the etymology of which is unknown. There is no stationary May-pole, but green branches of a large size are displayed, decorated with garlands. The doors of all the dwelling-houses are thrown open, and the youth of both sexes, and of all ranks, dance up and down the streets, having wreaths of flowers in their hands. They enter in and come out of the houses dancing, till night closes the scene of festivity. This furry-day is perhaps the most perfect of the remains of the Festival of Flora, in the island. In other parts of Cornwall, May-day is only distinguished by the early rising of the young people of both sexes to gather May, and ramble into the country to breakfast at farm-houses or cottages on milk and clotted cream, a delicacy peculiar to the West of England.

In London, the most noted May-pole was formerly affixed in front of St. Andrew's Church, Cornhill.* In Fenchurch street, there was also anciently a noted May-game on the 30th of the month, when a lord and lady of the May were chosen. At later periods, Robin Hood was introduced into these sports, and styled lord of the May, together with Maid Marian, his faithful mistress.f That the London chimney-sweepers hold the 1st of May as their holiday is well known. The communion of this nauseous sooty tribe, indigenous only in the corrupted atmospheres of cities, with the natural May, its flowers, and fragrance, is about as inconsistent as a lord and lady mayoress dressed

• See Strutt, page 312.

+ See also note, p. 432.

like a shepherd and shepherdess, with pipe and crook, acting in an Arcadian pastoral,—a sight once not unfrequent on a London holiday.

That the Festival of May might often have led to excesses is very probable, and thus the anger of some puritanical writers has condemned it altogether.* If it were viewed as a religious rite, and made use of for cherishing a blind superstition, such a censure might be just. Laying this aside, the merriment of villages and country people on May-day, as it was formerly kept, was far better than pot-house feasts and drunken revelling, which are the marks of the festivals observed in the present day. The fair sex also then participated and heightened the simple pleasures of the time. What can be a more harmless amusement than greeting the most delicious of seasons with dance and music?

The virtuous and learned author of “ The Minstrel" expresses a wish that the sports common in the month of May should be celebrated around his grave.

thither let the village swain repair ;
And, light of heart, the village maiden gay,
To deck with flowers her half-dishevell d'hair,

And celebrate the merry moru of May. When nature smiles to greet her worshippers, how graceless to withhold our hearts from sharing the common happiness! He who formed us with the capacity for relishing natural beauty, is not illpleased that we should express our joy and gratitude by innocent mirthfulness-that " we should “ frolic while 'tis May." One instance of this feeling, in a revival of the festival of May-day, shall conclude this article.

The writer was travelling, on foot, in Warwickshire, on a delicious old May-day, two or three years ago, and being about four miles from the county town, took a path on the right-hand side of the road, invited by a better prospect of the country beyond. At a short dis. tance he entered a church-yard, where reposed the remains of many of the humble in life, but apparently few of those who even in death display, by the “ frail memorials” erected over their ashes, the vanity

In the Anatomie of Abuses, printed in 1595, is the following account of Maykeeping :-“ Every parish, town, or village, assemble themselves, both mea, women, and children ; and either altogether, or dividing themselves into companies, they go some to the woods and groves, some to the hills and mountains, some to one place and some to another, where they spend all the night in pleasant pastimes, and in the morning they return, bringing with them birch boughs and branches of trees to deck their assemblies withal. But their chiefest jewel they bring from thence is the Maie-pole, which they bring with great veneration, as thus--they have twentie or fourtie yoake of oxen, every ox having a sweet nosegaie of flowers tied to the tip of his hornes, and those oxen drewe home the May-poale, their stinking idol rather, which they covered all over with flowers and herbs, bound round with strings from the top to the bottome, and sometimes it was painted with variable colours, having two or three hundred men, women, and children, following it with great devotion. And thus equipped, it was reared, with handkerchiefs and flaggs streaming on the top: they strawe the ground round about it, they biod green boughs about it, they set up summer halles, bowers, and arbours, hard by it, and then they fall to banquetting and feasting, to leaping and dancing about it, as the heathen people did at the dedication of their idols. I have heard it credibly reported, that of fourscore or an hundred maidens that have gone forth to the woods in the evening, not above one-third have returned home again as they went."

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