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St. Pateick's Day. Ill
in their hats for their military colours and distinction of themselves, by persuasion of St. David. "Other accounts add that they were fighting under their king Cadwallo, near a field in which that vegetable was growing, at Hethfield or Hatfield Chase, in Yorkshire, A.d. 633. King James informs us that the "Welshmen in commemoration of the great fight by the Black Prince of Wales do wear leeks as their chosen ensigns." Owen flatly disowns the saint, imagining that the custom arose from the Oymhortha, a neighbourly aid of various kinds afforded by the farmers to any one of their class who was not able to help himself. The manner of it in some districts was thus; at an appointed time they all met to assist him in ploughing, or in whatever other agricultural service their help was needed; on which occasion they each brought with them a portion of leeks to be used in making a general mess of pottage. But not one of these accounts appears more satisfactory than the other; and, though it might be difficult to disprove them, it is no less difficult to believe them. There seems, however, to be a glimpse of truth dawning upon us from another quarter. The onion was sacred amongst the Egyptians; and, however we may account for it, there is scarcely a rite or ceremony amongst any people without a precedent in one of earlier date. Keeping this fact steadily in view, it would seem probable that the leek, like the misletoe among the Druids, or the bean among the Pythagoreans, had at one time a mystic and religious meaning, and that the custom has survived although its origin has been forgotten. The next day of note is St. Patrick's Day, which falls upon the 17th. Though he is held by the Irish to be their patron saint, he was either a Scot or a Welshman, his original name being Maenwyn. Even the date of his birth is doubtful, nothing being known for certain in this respect except that he was born some time towards the end of the fourteenth century. The ecclesiastical name of Patricius was given to him by Pope Celestine, when he consecrated him a bishop, and sent him over to Ireland for the purpose of bringing the wild natives within the pale of the Church. Upon landing at Wicklow, in 433, he immediately commenced his task of preaching and converting; but his hearers took in very ill part this attack upon their old religion, and were nigh stoning him to death, when he plucked up a trefoil by the root and asked, "Is it not as feasible for the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as for these three leaves thus to grow upon a single stalk?" So convinced, they tell us, were the Irish by this happy illustration, that they at once renounced their paganism and allowed the good bishop to baptise them on the spot.
If such indeed were the case, it must be allowed they had a marvellous proneness to conviction. We fear, however, the legend may be disputed by the incredulous, who happen to recollect that the Druids used the trefoil for medical purposes, and that they held the mystic number, three, in high veneration, deeming the misletoe sacred because its leaves and berries grew in clusters of three united to one stem. Not being gifted with the proper degree of faith, such sceptics might be inclined to infer that the wearing of the shamrock on a particular day, like the Welshman's badge of the leek, was merely the Christian adoption of some forgotten pagan custom, or else that it proceeded from the regard in which the herb was held for its medicinal properties. The two suppositions are so far from being inconsistent with each other, that they might be considered as cause and effect, this triad of leaves being one reason for attributing to the herb its sanative virtues.
In Ireland this day is one of national rejoicing, the saint being in high odour for his numerous miracles, the most useful of which was unquestionably his driving all noxious reptiles out of the country, and forbidding them to return, under penalty it may be presumed, of spiritual censure. Even spiders were included in the general ban; nor is it any impeachment of the truth of the record that the prohibition has long since ceased to have effect except in the eyes of the faithful, who are gifted with a clearness of vision unfortunately denied to the Sassenach and the unbeliever.
Another feature of this day remains to be noticed. In February 1783, a brotherhood was created by letters patent, under the name of "Knights of the Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick;" and for the more grace of the new institution the sovereign of the day was to be its head, under whom were fifteen knights companions, while " the lieutenant
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general, and general governor of Ireland, or the lord deputy or deputies, or lords justices, or other chief governor or governors for the time being, were to officiate as deputy grand-masters." By the statutes of the order the badge is to be of gold, surmounted with a wreath of shamrock, in this instance understood to mean trefoil, surrounding a golden circlet, on which is the motto of the brotherhood in letters of the same—Quis separabit ?—with the date of their foundation, encircling Saint Patrick's cross gules, surmounted with a trefoil vert, each leaf charged with an imperial crown or, upon a field argent. This badge, encircled with rays in form of a silver star of eight points, four greater and four lesser, is directed to be worn on the left side of the outer garment.
Lady-Day, or the Day of Annunciation, is only an abridgment of Our Lady's-Day, and is peculiarly dedicated to the Virgin Mary, from its having been the season when the angel announced to her that she should bring forth a Son. Its near approach to the vernal equinox, one of the natural divisions of the year, was, it may be supposed, the reason of its being called Quarter-Day, since it marks, though not quite correctly, the first of the four quarters. Beyond this, the month has no day requiring a particular notice.
So familiar is Lady-Day that there is a story told in Hone's Every Day Book, of a gentleman in the country writing to a lady of rank in London, who directed his letter to " The Twenty-Fifth of March, 6, Foley Place, London," and that it was duly delivered to Lady Day at the above address.
0 Spring! of hope, and love, and youth, and gladness,
Whence comest thou, when, with dark winter's sadness,
Sister of joy, thou art the child who wearest
Thy mother autumn, for whose grave thou bearest