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Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871 / Chambers's book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character
Vol. I (1879)

Time and its natural measurers,   pp. 1-14 ff. PDF (9.3 MB)

Page 6

from Riman to Saxon deities in our names of the
days of the week, a quaint poet of the last cen-
tury tius expresses himself:
'The Sun still rules the week's initial day,
The Moon o'er Monday yet retains the sway;
But Tuesday, which to Mars was whilom given,
Is Tuesco's subject in the northern heaven;
And Woden hath the charge of Wednesday,
Which did belong of old to Mercury;
And Jove himself surrenders his own day
To Thor, a barbarous god of Saxon clay:
Friday, who under Venus once did wield
Love's balmy spells, must now to Frea yield;
While Saturn still holds fast his day, but loses
The Sabbath, which the central Sun abuses.
Just like the days do persons change their masters,
Those gods who them protect against disasters;
And souls which were to natal genii given,
Belong to guardian angels up in heaven:
And now each popish patron saint disgraces
The ancient local Genius's strong places.
Mutamus et mutamur-n hat's the odds
If men do sometimes change their plaything gods!
The final Jupiter will e'er remain
Unchanged, and always send us wind and rain,
And warmth and cold, and day and shady night,
Whose starry pole will shine with Cynthia's light:
Nor does it matter much, where Prudence reign,
What other gods their empire shall retain.'
While the day absolute is readily seen to be
measured by a single rotation of our globe on its
axis, the day practical is a very different affair.
Every meridian has its own practical day, differ-
ing from the practical day of every other meridian.
That is to say, take any line of places extending
between the poles; at the absolute moment of
noon to them, it is midnight to the line of places
on the antipodes, and some other hour of the day
to each similar line of places between. Conse-
quently, the denomination of a day-say the lst
of January-reigns over the earth during two of
its rotations, or forty-eight hours. Another result
is, that in a circumnavigation of the globe, you
gain a day in reckoning by going eastward, and
lose one by going westward-a fact that first was
revealed to mankind at the conclusion of Magel-
lan's voyage in September 1522, when the sur-
viving mariners, finding themselves a day behind
their countrymen, accused each other of sleeping
or negligence, and thought such must have been
the cause until the true one was explained.
The mariners of enlightened European nations,
in pursuing their explorations some centuries
ago, everywhere carried with them their own
nominal day, without regard to the slide which
it performed in absolute time by their easterly
and westerly movements. As they went east-
ward, they found the expressed time always
moving onward; as they moved westwards, they
found it falling backwards. Where the two lines
of exploration met, there, of course, it was certain
that the nominal days of the two parties would
come to a decided discrepancy. The meeting
was between Asia and America, and accordingly
in that part of the world, the day is (say) Thurs.
day in one place, and Wednesday in another not
very far distant. Very oddly, the extreme west
of the North American continent having been
settled by Russians who have come from the
west, while the rest was colonized by Europeans
from the opposite direction, a different expression
of the day prevails there; while, again, Manilla,
in Asia, having been taken possession of by
Spaniards coming from the east, differs from the
day of our own East Indies. Thus the discre-
pancy overlaps a not inconsiderable space of the
earth's surface.
It arises as a natural consequence of these
facts, that throughout the earth there is not a
simultaneous but a consecutive keeping of the
Sabbath. 'The inhabitants of Great Britain at
eight o'clock on Sabbath morning, may realise
the idea that at that hour there is a general
Sabbath over the earth from the furthest east to
the furthest west. The Russians in America are
finishing their latest vespers: the Christians in
our own colony of British Columbia are com-
mencing their earliest matins. Among Christians
throughout the world, the Sabbath is more or
less advanced, except at Manilla, where it is
commenced at about four o'clock P.m. on our
Sabbath. At the first institution of the Sabbath
in the Garden of Eden, it was finished in the
space of twenty-four hours; but now, since
Christians are found in every meridian under the
sun, the Sabbath, from its very commencement
to its final close, extends to forty-eight, or rather
to fifty-six hours, by taking the abnormal state
of Manilla into account."
'Every animal, after a period of activity,
becomes exhausted or fatigued, and a period of
repose is necessary to recruit the weakened ener-
gies and qualify the system for renewed exertion.
. . . . In the animals which are denominated
Diurnal, including man, daylight is requisite for
enabling them to provide their food, protection,
and comfort, and to maintain that correspondence
with one another which, in general, is requisite
for the preservation of the social compact. Such
animals rest during the night; and in order to
guard the system from the influence of a cold
connected with the descending branch of the
curve,t and peculiarly injurious to an exhausted
frame, they retire to places of shelter, or
assume particular positions, until the rising sun
restores the requisite warmth, and enables the
renovated body to renew the ordinary labours of
'With the Nocturnal animals, on the other
hand, the case is widely different. The daytime
is the period of their repose; their eyes are
* John Husband, in Notes and Queries, 2nd Series,
vii. 51.
t By the curve, the writer means a formula for ex-
pressing in one wavy line the rises and falls of the ther-
mometer in the course of a certain space of time.

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