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tion and inertia, acting on a body under the conditions of this satellite. But these conditions are not necessary, but arbitrary; and the period of the year in which the phenomenon occurs is not necessary, but arbitrary; that is to say, the size of the moon, the relative place which it occupies in the heavens, the velocity and direction of its projectile force, might each have been different from what they are, and any one of these circumstances being changed, would have materially changed the whole lunar system; or, supposing these conditions to have remained unaltered, the phenomenon, as respects the mechanical forces employed, might equally have taken place in any other season of the year, as in autumn. When we find it, therefore, actually to occur at the only period in which it could be of essential benefit, we assuredly have a sufficient reason for ranking it among those beneficent contrivances, in which the system of Nature, when viewed both on the largest and the most minute scale, is discovered to abound.
The unusual brightness of the moon in the autumnal season, to which I have alluded, is doubtless owing to the state of the atmosphere, which is now remarkably free from those exhalations that serve to render it less pellucid at most other periods of the year. The long droughts of summer have exhaled much of the moisture of the earth, while the decreasing heat serves to check the evaporation, so that the air is at this time in general very dry, which circumstance not only increases the distinctness of vision during the day, but gives peculiar beauty and power to the moon's soft radiance by night. No person can, without emotion, observe this beautiful satellite, in her autumnal glory, rising slowly above the horizon, while the whole eastern sky glows with her beams, and, as her broad disc emerges from behind the trees of the forest, seems 66 a phoenix's nest on fire." The sun has already set in his grandeur behind the western hills, and the last traces of his rays have gradually vanished from the golden clouds which adorned his going down; the stars have begun to hang out their silver lamps, and a pleasing shade is spread over the face of
the earth, when the moon, majestically appearing in the opposite quarter, sheds her silver light, to be softly reflected from mountain, tower, and tree, to sleep in the silent valley, and to enlighten the labors of the harvest field.*
There cannot be a more picturesque or animating sight, than that of a busy group of reapers, plying their cheerful task under the pale rays of the conscious moon, unless it be that of the kindred employments of the barnyard, where the loaded wains, breaking the wonted silence of night with their rumbling sound, arrive one after another to swell the ample stack, and to crown the labors and realize the hopes of the husbandman. Every thing contributes to give a kind of enchantment to the view. The sheaves, thrown gracefully from the pitchfork, in the softened light; the busy hands of the builder, skilfully disposing them as they fall by his side; the patient horse, standing in the cart motionless, and, with drooping head,
* [The spirit of this picture seems to have been caught from the following beautiful description of the same object, which the Editor copies from Howitt's Book of the Seasons.'
"Whilst speaking of harvest, I must not omit to notice the splendid appearance of the HARVEST MOON. The circumstance of this moon rising several nights successively almost at the same time, immediately after sunset, has given it an importance in the eyes of farmers; but it is not the less remarkable for its singular and splendid beauty. No moon during the year can bear any comparison with it. At its rising it has a character so peculiarly its own, that the more a person is accustomed to expect and to observe it, the more it strikes him with astonishment. I would advise every one who can go out in the country, to make a practice of watching for its rising. The warmth and the dryness of the earth, the clearness and balmy serenity of the atmosphere at that season, the sounds of voices borne from distant fields, the freshness which comes with the evening, combine to make the twilight walk delicious; and scarcely has the sun departed in the west, when the moon in the east rises from beyond some solitary hill, or from behind the dark rich foliage of trees, and sails up into the still and transparent air in the full magnificence of a world. It comes not, as in common, a fair but flat disc on the face of the sky,-we behold it suspended in the air in its greatness and rotundity; we perceive the distance beyond it as sensibly as that before it; and its apparent size is magnificent. In a short time, however, it has acquired a considerable altitude; its apparent bulk has diminished, its majestic grandeur has waned; and it sails on its way calmly beautiful, but in nothing differing from its usual character.”—Aм. ED.] ̧
waiting his driver's signal to renew his toil, while the broad deep shadows which fall from every object, are beautifully contrasted with the brightness of the reflection on the opposite side; these, joined with the sounds of bustle and enjoyment which, at that unusual time of the night, are ever and anon-heard from every quarter; all unite to give a peculiar and very delightful character to the scene.
Rural employments are, in general, pleasing in themselves, and the associations with which they are connected lend them an additional charm; but I scarcely know of any agricultural operation which combines so many sources of agreeable sensations as the moonlight labors of the farmer, in the calmness and sweetness of an autumnal night. It wants but one accompaniment to render it complete and inexpressibly sublime; and that is the voice of prayer and praise ascending from the roof of the pious laborer, when, after the useful toils of the day, he "returns to bless his household." Why, in these days of greater prosperity and peace, do we so seldom hear those sounds, which, in the days of our persecuted forefathers, spoke from every cottage, of humble thankfulness, of domestic harmony, and of hope which stretches its view beyond the fleeting things of earth?
THERE is no season which, in every age, has been attended with more rejoicing than that in which the labors of harvest are completed, and all the produce of the fields is safely stored in the barn-yard. The farmer and his dependants are then in a peculiarly joyous mood. They sympathize with each other on the accomplishment of an important work, which to him has been the subject of much anxiety, from the time the grain was first deposited
in the earth;-and to them has afforded a period of toil at once exhilarating, healthful, and profitable. ...This happy event has, therefore, from the earliest times, been almost universally celebrated by some kind of festivity, often attended with religious ceremonies. The Israelites, all whose institutions were of a religious nature, both began and ended their harvest with public acts of devotion. On the second day of the Passover, occurred what was called the day of First Fruits, this being the period when the barley was nearly ready for the sickle. On that day, a sheaf of barley, publicly reaped, was given to the priest; which, being threshed, winnowed, dried, and ground, was partly heaved and waved, with oil and frankincense, partly burnt on the altar along with a lamb, offered in sacrifice. After this religious ceremony, the Israelites were permitted to commence their harvest. Five weeks subsequent to the day of First Fruits, came the feast of Pentecost, one object of which was to celebrate the blessing of the finished harvest. On this occasion, three burnt-offerings and a peace-offering were successively presented on the altar, and, along with the latter, were offered two loaves made of fine flour leavened. When the vintage was finished, this propitious event was celebrated by the feasts of Trumpets and Ingathering, which latter corresponded with the feast of Tabernacles. During these solemnities, much hilarity was mingled with the devotional exercises of the Hebrews, and their public thanksgivings were accompanied with domestic demonstrations of joy, and acts of kindness and festivity.
While, in almost all other countries where the inhabitants have advanced to the agricultural state, the bounties of harvest have called forth public expressions of enjoyment and gratitude, our own forefathers were not wanting in such expressions. Although, in the habitual temperament of the British population, there is perhaps less liability to excitement, and a more sober cast of thought, than exists among some of their continental neighbors, there are also circumstances in their climate and insular situation, which render the produce of the soil a matter of peculiar attention and anxiety. The weather is more
precarious than in most of the adjoining countries; and consequently, the prosperous consummation of the harvest more uncertain. When the labor is happily accomplished, therefore, there is the greater cause of joy. Although, in common years, they rarely depend on foreign importation for the first necessaries of life, yet, when the harvest is scanty, this dependence is great and distressing. Both in a national and private point of view, therefore, an abundant and well-secured harvest is a cause of peculiar thankfulness. To the farmer, it affords prosperity, to the proprietor, assurance that his rents will be paid, to the poor and laboring classes, a promise of cheap provisions, to the whole community, freedom from the disadvantages of having recourse for a supply of food to a foreign, it may be, a hostile market.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the time of harvesthome has always been considered, in that country, as a season of rejoicing. It is curious to observe a similarity of customs in different nations, while it is frequently difficult to assign any probable origin to the ceremonies handed down from the obscurity of remote antiquity. Some of these are such as may have naturally suggested themselves by the circumstances of the case, independently and without intercommunity; but there are others of so peculiar a nature, as to indicate transmission from country to country, and to point to a period, however remote, when those nations, among whom the practice exists, were united by some common tie. In this view they acquire an importance which would not otherwise belong to them, and become objects of interesting investigation to the historian and the antiquary. Of this latter kind, may, perhaps, be considered the ceremony of decking with ribands a sheaf or handful of corn, made generally to resemble as much as possible a female figure,* and suspending it in some conspicuous place during the harvest-home festival.
This custom is very general among European nations, as regards its essential feature, though, in different coun
*Is it from heathen times that this custom is derived, and is this the image of Ceres, the goddess of corn?