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make it the true and solemn symbol of him—the old unresting and unreturning one-who receded not, even when that same shadow went back on the dial of the king of Judah, nor paused when the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and the moon lingered over the valley of Ajalon! Of that mysterious type and its awful morals, a lost friend of ours* has already spoken better than we can hope to speak and as he is (“ alas! that he is so
so !'') already one whose “sun shall no more go down, neither shall his moon withdraw itself,”—we will avail ourselves of a language which deserves to be better known, and sounds all the more solemnly, that he who uttered it hath since furnished in his own person, a fresh verification of the solemn truths which he sung so well.
“Upon a dial-stone,
“It meets us hour by hour,
“Woven by a hand unseen,
“ Day is the time for toil,
Night balms the weary breast,-
• The late John Malcolm, of Edinburgh.
“ Effacing all that's fair,-
“In beauty fading fast
Its silent trace appears ;
« Before the ceaseless shade
“ Coeval with the sun,
Its silent course began,
To the great natural divisions of time (with their aid-and guided by these hints), the ingenuity of man, under the direction of his wants, has been busy, since the world began, in adding artificial ones; while his heart has been active in supplying impulses, and furnishing devices, to that end. Years, and months, and days,—the periods marked out by the revolutions of our celestial guides,—have been aggregated and divided, after methods almost as various as the nations of the earth. Years have been composed into cycles, and olympiads, and generations, and reigns, and months resolved into decades and weeks,—days into hours,—and hours into subdivisions, which have been again subdivided, almost to the confines of thought. Yet, it is only in these latter ages of the world, that a measurement has been attained, at once so minute, and so closely harmonizing with the motions, and regulated by the revolutions, of the dials of the sky, that—had the same machinery, existed from the commencement of time (with the art of printing to preserve its results),-the history of the past might be perused with its discrepancies reconciled, and many of its blanks supplied : and, could the world agree upon its uniform adoption now (together with that of a common epoch, to reckon from), comparative chronology would be no longer a science applicable to the future; and history, for the time to come (in so far as it is a mere record of facts), would present few problems but such as “ he who runs may read.”
But out of these conventional and multiplied divisions of time, —these wheels within the great wheel,-arise results far more important than the verification of a chronological series, or the establishment of the harmonies of history. Through them, not only may the ages of the world be said to intercommunicate, and the ends of the earth, in a sense, to meet, but, by their aid, the whole business of the life of nations and of individuals is
regu. lated, and a set of mnemonics established upon which hinges the history of the human heart. By the multiplied but regular system of recurrences thus obtained, order is made to arise out of the web of duties and the chaos of events ;-and at each of the thousand points marked out on these concentric circles, are written their appropriate duties, and recorded their special memories. The calendar of every country is thus covered over with a series of events, whose recollection is recalled, and influence kept alive, by the return of the cycles, in their ceaseless revolution, to those spots at which the record of each has been written ;-and acts of fasting or of festival, of social obligation or of moral observ. ance, - many of which would be surely lost or overlooked, amidst the inextricable confusion in which, without this systematic arrangement, they must be mingled,-are severally pointed out by the moving finger of Time, as he periodically reaches the place of each, on his concentric dials.
But, besides the calendar of general direction and national observance, where is the heart that has not a private calendar of its own! Long ere the meridian of life has been attained, the individual man has made many a memorandum, of joy or pain, for his periodical perusal,—and established many a private celebra
tion, pleasant or mournful, of his own. How
many a lost hope and blighted feeling, which the heart is the better for recalling, and would not willingly forget, would pass from the mind, amid the crowd, and noise, and bustle of the world, but for these tablets, on which it is ineffaceably written, and yearly read! How many an act of memory, with its store of consolations and its treasure of warnings, would remain postponed, amid the interests of the present, till it came to be forgotten altogether, but for that system which has marked its positive place upon the wheels of time, and brings the record certainly before the mental eye, in their unvarying revolution! Many are the uses of these diaries of the heart. By their aid, something is saved from the wrecks of the past for the service of the present ;—the lights of former days are made to throw pleasant reflections upon many an after period of life ;—the weeds which the world and its cares had fostered, are, again and again, cleared away from the sweet and wholesome fountain of tears ;-the fading inscriptions of other years are renewed, to yield their morals to the future ;-and the dead are restored, for a fleeting hour of sweet communion, or hold high and solemn converse with us, from the graves in which we laid them years ago.
And this result of the minute and accurate partitions of time, which consists in the establishment of a series of points for periodic celebration, is, as regards its public and social operation, more important than may at first sight appear. The calendar of almost every country is, as we have observed, filled with a series of anniversaries,—religious or secular,—of festival or abstinence -or instituted for the regulation of business or the operations of the law. In England, independently of those periods of observ. ance which are common to the realm, and written in her calendar, there are few districts which are without some festival peculiar to themselves; originating in the grant of some local charter or privilege, the establishment of some local fair, the influence of some ancient local superstition—or some other cause, of which, in many cases, the sole remaining trace is the observance to which it has given rise; and which observance does not always speak in language sufficiently clear to give any account of its parent. Around each of these celebrations has grown up a set
of customs, and traditions, and habits, the examination into which has led to many an useful result; and which are, for the most part, worth preserving, as well for their picturesque aspect and social character, as for the sake of the historic chambers which they may yet help us to explore. Their close resemblance, as existing amongst different nations, has formed an element in the solution of more than one problem, which had for its object a chapter of the history of the world; and they may be said, in many cases, to furnish an apparent link of connection between generations of men, long divided and dwelling far apart. They form, too, amid the changes which time is perpetually effecting in the structure of society, a chain of connexion between the present and former times of the same land: and prevent the national individuality from being wholly destroyed. They tend to preserve some similarity in the moral aspect of a country from epoch to epoch,--and, without having force enough to act as drags on the progress of society towards improvement, they serve for a feature of identification, amid all its forms. Curious illustrations they are, too, of national history; and we learn to have confidence in its records, when we find, in some obscure nook, the peasant of to-day, who troubles himself little with the lore of events and their succession, doing that which some ancient chronicler tells us his ancestors did, a thousand years ago,—and keeping, in all simplicity, some festival, the story of whose origin we find upon its
To the philosophic inquirer, few things are more important, in the annals of nations, than their festivals, their anniversaries, and their public celebrations of all kinds. In nothing is their peculiar character more strikingly exhibited. They show a people in its undress, acting upon its impulses, and separated from the conventions and formalities of its every-day existence. We may venture to say that, could we, in the absence of every other record, be furnished with a complete account of the festivals, traditions, and anniversaries of any given nation, now extinct, not only might a correct estimate be, therefrom, made of their progress in morals and civilisation, but a conjectural history of their doings be hazarded, which should bear a closer resemblance to the facts