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development of superior organs, the little spark of sensitivity within seems awakened to a new desire to rise upwards. Fed for a season upon air, the insect's desires seem to have grown aerian.
While a noon-day sun is warm upon the water, as yet his native element, he rises to the surface, and above it, elevating both head and shoulders, as if gasping for the new enjoyments which await him. His breast swells, as it were, with the sweet anticipation; his confining corslet bursts; and the head—not that which has played its part on the stage of being now about to close, but another—all plumed and decorated for a more brilliant theatre, emerges through the rent, followed by the shoulders and the filmy wings which are to play upon the air. But have a care, my little debutant! Thou art yet upon the water; an unlucky somerset would wet thy still soft and drooping pinions, and render them unfit for flight. Now is thy critical moment—hold thee steady—lose not thy perpendicular, or—but why fear we for the little mariner? He who clothes the lily and feeds the sparrow, has provided him support in this his hour of peril. The stiff covering of his recent form, from which he is struggling to escape, now serves him as a lifeboat, the second to which he will owe his safety. His upright body forms its mast as well as sail; and in the breeze now rippling the water, he is wafted rapidly along. He will assuredly be capsized from press of sail. But see, he has acquired by this time other helps to aid his selfpreserving efforts. His slender legs, hitherto hung pendant, now feel for and find the surface of the pool. His boat is left behind, and, still endowed with an aquatic power, he stands a moment on the water, then rises buoyant, a winged inhabitant of air!"
Such is the wonderful history of a common despised gnat, to our eyes one of the meanest of the myriad forms of creation; yet who can read it without feeling, in the somewhat altered words of Christ himself: "If God thus careth for, and hath thus endowed the gnat, how much more will He not care for you, oh ye of little faith!
As January is proverbially the coldest month of the year,
so is February the wettest; and, by way of change, after we have rejoiced over the first harbingers of spring, we shall most likely meet with one of the lingering features of winter in
A GREAT THAW.
"There is a lack of comfort felt everywhere. In real winter weather the clear frosty air sharply saluted the face by day, and revealed to the eye at night a scene of pure and sublime splendour in the lofty and intensely blue sky, glittering with congregated stars, or irradiated with the placid moon. There was a sense of vigour, of elasticity, of freshness about you, which made it welcome; but now, most commonly, by day or by night, the sky is hidden in impenetrable vapour; the earth is sodden, and splashy, and wet; even the fire-side does not escape the comfortless sense of humidity. Everything presents to the eye, accustomed so long to the brightness of clear frosts, and the pure whiteness of snow, a dingy and soiled aspect. All things are dripping with wet: it hangs upon the walls like a heavy dew; it penetrates into the drawers and wardrobes of your warmest chambers; and you are surprised at the unusual dampness of your clothes, linen, books, and papers; and, in short, almost everything you have occasion to examine. Brick and stone floors are now dangerous things for thinly clad people to stand upon. To this source, and, in fact, to the damps of this month, operating in various ways, may be attributed not a few of the colds, coughs, and consumptions, so prevalent in England. Pavements are frequently so much elevated by the expansion of the moisture beneath, as to obstruct the opening and shutting of doors and gates; and your gravelwalks resemble saturated sponges. Abroad, the streets are flooded with muddy water, and slippery with patches of halfthawed ice and snow, which strikes through your shoes in a moment.
The houses, and all objects whatever, have a dirty and disconsolate aspect; and clouds of dim smoky haze hover over the whole dispiriting scene. In the country, the prospect is not much better: the roads are full of mire. In the woods and copses you hear a continued dripping and pattering of wet j while the fieldfares, instead of flying across the country with a pleasant chattering, sit solitarily amongst the comfortless trees, uttering their plaintive cry of * cock-shute,' 'cock-shute,' and the very rooks peer about after worms in the fields with a drooping air. Instead of the enchantment of hoar-frost, you have naked hedges, sallow and decaying weeds beneath them, brown and wet pastures, and sheets of ice, but recently affording so much fine exercise to skaters and sliders, half submersed in water, full of great cracks, scattered with straws and dirty patches, and stones half liberated by the thaw. Such are the miserable features of the time."—Howitt's Book of the Seasons.
Verstegan tells us this month was called by our Saxon ancestors, sprout-kele, "by kele meaning the kele-wort, which we now call the colewort, the greatest potwort in time long past that our ancestors used, and the broth made therewith was thence also called kele; for before we borrowed from the French the name of potage and the name of herbs, the one in our own language was called kele, and the other wort; and as this kele-wort, or potage-hearbe, was the chief winterwort for the sustenance of the husbandman, so was it the first hearbe that in this moneth began to yield out wholesome young sprouts, and consequently gave thereunto the name of sprout-kele."
It had also the name of Solmonath, which Bede explains by Pan-cake-month, because in the course of it cakes were offered up by the Pagan Saxons to the sun, and sol, or soul, signified, "food, or cakes." It is scarcely necessary to add that the Latin Februarius, the origin of our February, was derived from februa, an expiatory, or purifying sacrifice
CANDLEMAS EVE. 69
offered to the Manes, because in that month the Luperci, or priests of Pan, perambulated the city, carrying thongs of goat-skin, with which they scourged the women, and this was received for an expiation. Hence we have the word, though it is now well-nigh obsolete, of februation, in the meaning of a purification.
On Candlemas Eve, the 1st of February, was kindled the yule-brand, and allowed to burn till sunset, when it was quenched and carefully laid by to teend the Christmas clog, or log, at the next return of the season,
And, where 'tis safely kept, the fiend
The rosemary, the bay, the ivy, the holly, and the misletoe, the Christmas decorations of hall and cottage, were now pulled down, when according to the popular superstition not a branch, nor even a leaf, should be allowed to remain:
For look, how many leaves there be,
So many goblins you shall see.—Herrick.
In their place, however, the " greener box was upraised," and Christmas now was positively at an end. Some, indeed, considered this to have been the case on Twelfth Night; and old Tusser, in his "Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry," strongly contends for it; but then his head was more full of the cart and plough than of regard for old customs: and, like any other master, he was naturally anxious that the holidays should be ended, and the labourers should get to work again as soon as possible; and certes, merry-making, however agreeable it may be, will not help to dig the land or sow the grain. But in spite of these wise saws, the truth of which nobody would contest, human feelings are stronger than human reason, and customs, when they tend to pleasure, will maintain their ground till they are superseded—not by privations, but by other forms of amusement. Having therefore tolerated the rites of Candlemas Eve, we may as well put up with those of Candlemas Day. And why was it called Candlemas? hear how Pope Innocent replies to the question, in a sermon upon this festival, quoted in Pagano Papismus—" Because the Gentiles dedicated the month of February to the infernal gods, and as at the beginning of it Pluto stole Proserpine; and her mother, Ceres, sought her in the night with lighted candles, so they, in the beginning of this month, walked about the city with lighted candles; because the holy fathers could not utterly extirpate this custom, they ordained that Christians should carry about candles in honour of the blessed Virgin Mary; and thus what was done before to the honour of Ceres is now done to the honour of the Virgin."
There can be little doubt that this is the real origin of the custom, though Butler, upon the authority of St. Bernard, states, that the candlebearing at this season had reference to Simeon's declaration in the Temple, when the parents brought in the child Jesus, that he was "a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of the people Israel." Pew, however, will be inclined to accept this far-fetched derivation when one so much more obvious is at hand.
From whatever cause the ceremony originated, it acquired many additional rites in the process of time, according to the manners and habits of those who adopted it. We are told in Dunstan's " Concord of Monastic Rules," that "the monks went in surplices to the church for candles, which were to be consecrated, sprinkled with holy water, and incensed by the abbot. Every monk took a candle from the sacrist and lighted it. A procession was made, thirds and mass were celebrated, and the candles, after the offering, were presented to the priest. The monks' candles signified the use of them in the parable of the wise virgins."
Other authorities tell us that there was on this day a general consecration of all the candles to be burnt in the Catholic churches throughout the whole year; and it is probable enough that all these customs may have prevailed at various times and in different places. It should also be mentioned that from Candlemas the use of tapers at vespers and litanies, which had continued through the whole winter, ceased until the ensuing All-Hallow Mass, which will serve to explain the old English proverb in Bay's Collection—
On Candlemas Day
Throw candle and candlestick away.