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September 28. St. Wencelas Duke of Bohemia. St.
Lioba Abbess. St. Eustochium Virgin. St. Exuperius Bishop.
CHRONOLOGY.–The truly excellent author Thomas Day died in 1789. His works are comparable to Miss Edgeworth's alone for real excellence. The author of Sandford and Merton is recorded to have been one of the best men who ever lived.
Byron the poet and shorthand writer died in 1763. He is said to have been the author of a humorous copy of verses recorded in the Spectator, Vol. viii. No. 603, for Wednesday, October 6, 1714, beginning
“ My time, O ye Muses, was happily spent." The battle of Marathon is by some thought to have been fought today, B. C. 400.
FAUNA.-As both Chimney Swallows and House Martins begin now to be very much diminished in numbers, particularly if the wind happen to blow from a northerly point, there seems no doubt but that the general migration of these birds in this part of Europe usually takes place about Michaelmas. As they do not arrive all at once, but come sparingly at first, their numbers daily increasing ; so they retire, not all together, but by several different fleets. The first usually commences its aërial voyage at this time; but it must be observed, that a continuance of strong South and West winds will detain the general mass of these birds till much later, and it is probable that they often encounter difficulties in their course from a change of wind.
In common years the bulk of both Swallows and Martins now take their flight, leaving a certain portion behind them, which become fewer and fewer, in consequence of successive emigrations, till about the middle of October, when they cease to be seen about, except perhaps a straggling Martin or two seen till November. "Sand Martins are likewise missed about their holes and haunts at this time, and probably go the same way. This is our opinion respecting the winter retreat of all Swallows, which, we imagine, fly to warmer regions for hibernal quarters like other birds of passage. As, however, there appears to be some discrepancy of opinion on this subject, we shall beg leave to refer the curious reader to the arguments we have used at p. 157 and sequel, in which we have confronted the opinions of authors on this subject. In further confirmation of our own we may observe, that few of the instances of Swallows being taken out of ponds in a torpid state are well authenticated, and that from the prodigious numbers of these birds in some years they must more frequently have been found, if the bulk of them really immerge themselves in the waters in Autumn.
On the other hand the migration of Swallows is estaba lished on a multitude of analogous facts. The innumerable swarms of both Swallows and Martins, which are seen on buildings in Autumn, leave no doubt of their being congregated for some particular purpose. The roofs of the palaces and noble stables at Chantilly, the roofs of all the cathedrals and larger buildings, and often the cliffs and rocks by the seashore are covered with them at this time of year, and the young ones seem to sport about and to try their power of wing. They disappear in numbers at a time, and often when the wind first blows from the northward. Many persons have actually seen them taking their flight, in which case they rise in millions to a great height in the air, and move off in a vast phalanx. Lastly, they have frequently alighted on ships, many hundred miles out at sea, in their vernal and autumnal passages. See our page 158. The exact place to which each species retire is less certainly known.
In order to increase our knowledge on this subject we have proposed to persons in different places, and to travellers both by sea and land, to make registers of their appearance in a Table of the following kind. The same Table will be useful for recording other migratory birds ;
• j TABLE.
The Swallow was a favourite bird among the Greeks : her first appearance made a holiday for the Greek boys, and a song has been preserved in Athenaeus, by which the young mendicants used to levy contributions on the good nature of their fellow citizens. It is the general opinion of naturalists that the same pair of Swallows annually return to the village where they built the preceding year, and attach themselves to the same nest, if it remains: should it be destroyed, they erect another in the same station, and this as long as they escape the various contingencies of their migratory life.
To the departing Swallows, by Mr. White.
The God of Nature is your secret guide!
Ore malo volitans muscas deprendit birundo,
Atque ita viventi pascitur illa cibo;
Quis velit ambages pernumerare suas?
Frigora Brumali tempore cauta fugit. Stoats and Weasels are now very active in the poultry yards. Sometimes they are useful auxiliaries in destroying rats; but unfortunately they frequently attack the poultry. The Weasel is much smaller than the Stoat, and may be known by a distinct black spot on each side of the mouth. The colour of both is a light brown.
Coelum. - Zodiacal Light. — A remarkable luminous appearance of a pyramidal form above the setting and rising Sun, called the Zodiacal Light, is seen about this time of year, as it is likewise at the vernal equinox. Of this phenomenon much is said by Mairan in his book Sur l'Aurore Boréale, 4to, Paris, 1754.
September 29. St. MichAEL AND ALL ANGELS.
St. Theodota Martyr.
O rises at vii. 5'. and sets at iv. 55'. CHRONOLOGY. - Gustavus Vasa king and deliverer of Sweden died at Stockholm in 1560.
Some chronicles record the plan of the New River today executed by Hugh Middleton in 1613.
This festival has been celebrated with great solemnity by the Christian church ever since the fifth age, and was certainly kept sacred in Apulia as early as 493. The dedication of the great Church of Mount Gargano in Italy to St. Michael gave rise to the celebration of this feast in the West. It obtained the common name of Michaelmas, and the dedication of numerous churches at Rome and other parts of Italy subsequently took place on this day, a practice followed in other countries.
The churches dedicated to St. Michael are usually to be found on elevated spots, in allusion to this saint's having
been the highest of the heavenly host. St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall, and that in Normandy, are confirmations of this remark.
Michaelmas Day is one of the regular quarter days for settling rents, but it is no longer remarkable for that hospitality which once attended this anniversary. At Martinmas, the old quarter day, the landlords used formerly to entertain their tenants with Geese, then only kept by opulent persons. But these birds being esteemed in perfection early in the Autumn, most families now have a Goose dressed on St. Michael's Day; for
At Michaelmas by custom, right divine,
Geese are ordained to bleed at Michael's shrine. Origin of the Michaelmas Goose. — Very many inquiries have been made by antiquaries into the origin of eating Goose on this festival, none of which, however, prove satisfactory, and, in our opinion, it had no particular meaning, except that stubble Geese are now in perfection. People like to do things that are pleasant on holidays; and feasts, both among Polytheists and Christians, make up a great part of the miscellaneous customs attached to their calling. Geese are eaten likewise at Martinmas; and in Denmark and other countries, where they are later in being ready for the table, this is usually the time when they are in vogue. As matter, however, of antiquarian information, we shall cite the various explanations of this custom from different authors. It has been ascribed to the accidental circumstance of Queen Elizabeth's being at dinner on a Goose at the time she heard of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and that in consequence she ate of Goose every year on that anniversary.
In Gascoigne's Flowers, 4to, 1575, we find :And when the teuauntes come to paie their quarter's rent, They bring some fowle at Midsummer, a dish of fish in Lent, At Christmasse a Capon, at Michaelmas a Goose; And somewhat else at Newyere's tide, for feare their lease flie loose.
A writer in “ The World,” No. 10, probably Lord Orford, remarking on the effects of the alteration of the style, says, “ When the reformation of the Calendar was in agitation, to the great disgust of many worthy persons who urged how great the harmony was in the old establishment between the holidays and their attributes; and what confusion would follow if Michaelmas Day, for instance, was not to be celebrated when Stubble Geese are in their highest perfection; it was replied, that such a propriety was merely imaginary, and would be lost of itself, even without any
alteration of the Calendar by authority; for if the errors in it were suffered to go on, they would in a certain number of years produce such a variation, that we should be mourning, for good King Charles on a false thirtieth of January, at a time of year when our ancestors used to be tumbling over head and heels in Greenwich Park in honour of Whitsuntide; and at length be choosing king and queen for Twelfth Night, when we ought to be admiring the London Prentice at Bartholomew
Fair." It is a popular saying, that “ if you eat Goose on Michaelmas Day, you will never want money all the year, round.” In the - British Apollo" the proverb is thus discussed :
Supposing now Apollo's sons
Know when and how t' improve their land. In Poor Robin's Almanack for 1695, under September, are the following quaint lines :
Geese now in their prime season are,
Your discourse do smell of Goose. Buttes, in his " Dyets dry Dinner,” says that “a Goose is the emblem of meere modestie.”
See Molesworth's Account of Denmark, p. 10. From Frolich's Viatorium, p. 254, we find that St. Martin's Day is celebrated in Germany with Geese, but it is not said in what manner. See Sylva Jucund. Serm. p. 18, and Martinmas infra.
The practice of eating Goose at Michaelmas does not appear to prevail in any part of France. Upon St. Martin's Day they eat Turkeys at Paris. They likewise eat Geese upon St. Martin's Day, Twelfth Day, and Shrove Tuesday, at Paris. See Mercer, Tableau de Paris, tom. 1. p. 131.