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THE DOO-DAYS. 379
now made to commence with the third of the month and end with the eleventh of August, a very proper change, though only dating from the correction of the British calendar, which brings it in harmony with the ancient idea of the Dog-Days,—that is to say, a certain number of days preceding and ensuing the heliacal rising of Canicula or Sirius, i.e. the Dog-star.* It must be obvious that the rising of the star must in the first place vary with the latitude; and secondly, that the precession of equinoxes would in the course of centuries make so great a change in the seasons that the Dog-Days, if restricted to their original place in the calendar, would by this time bring with them frost and snow instead of intense heat. It is to Egypt that the various notions, connected with these days, are most probably to be attributed. As the star had its heliacal rising much about the time of the summer solstice, when the Nile also began to rise, the ancient Egyptians imagined that it in some way influenced the overflow of the waters and the consequent fertility of the soil. With them therefore it was worshipped as something holy, and often under the names of Isis and Thoth, the usual appellations of their great goddess and of Mercury, while, among other strange dogmas, they believed there was a wild beast called Oryx, whose wont it was to stand full against the star, watching it, and seeming to worship it by sneezing. But with other nations it was held in very different estimation. The time of its heliacal rising to them brought no particular benefit, but on the contrary was a season of intense heat, and consequently of disease, and hence arose many popular superstitions, both ancient and modern. According to the Roman faith, at the rising of Sirius, the seas boil, the wines ferment in the cellars, and standing waters are set in motion; the dogs also beyond all question go very mad indeed, and the silurus, or sturgeon is blasted. In more
* In an old calendar given by Bede (De Temporum Ratione), the commencement of the Dog-days is placed on the 14th of July; and in one prefixed to the Common Prayer printed in the time of Elizabeth, they are made to begin on the 6th of July, and to end on the 5th of September; this last continued till the restoration, when the Dog-days were omitted. For a long period subsequent they were said to begin on the 19th of July, and end on the 28th of August.
modern times the belief that the intense heat proceeded from Sirius, must have been deeply rooted, when we find Gassendi gravely arguing that as the Dog-star, which was the symbol of heat to us, was the symbol of cold to our antipodes, so it must necessarily follow that heat came from the sun and not from the star.
St. Swithin's Day, July 15.—This day has retained its place in our calendar, or at least in the popular memory, from a notion that if it rains now, it will continue to rain for forty days afterwards. The vulgar notion, however, is not quite so absurd as it may at first sight appear to be, for as this happens to be in general a wet season of the year with us—the time indeed of the solstitial rains,—it may be pretty fairly inferred that, if rain once begins, it will continue, not exactly perhaps at the same place, but with some little latitude as to locality. This belief is said to have originated in one of the old Roman Catholic fables respecting Saint Swithin, Bishop of Winchester. Before his death, which took place in 868, he had desired "that he might be buried in the open churchyard, and not in the chancel of the minster, as was usual with other bishops, and his request was complied with; but the monks, on his being canonised, considering it disgraceful for the saint to lie in a public cemetery, resolved to remove his body into the choir, which was to have been done with solemn procession on the 15th of July; it rained, however, so violently for forty days together at this season, that the design was abandoned."
THE WET SUMMER.
FBOM THE GERMAN.
Roads are wet where'er one wendeth,
And the brook cries like a child!
And the heavens look dark and wild.
EEPOSE OE THE FOREST. 381
Mournfully the birds are singing,
Round the starvling plover's brood.
Chilled, enfeebled creeps his blood!
Sickly woman, feebly creeping,
Pale with hunger and despair,
Human love must help to bear!
Pray to God who freely giveth,
And on Him thy burden cast!
And a plenteous year at last!
REPOSE OF THE FOREST.
There is a quiet spirit in these woods,
Slips down through moss-grown stones with endless laughter.
Lammas Day. Bat.ofNUe,1798.'