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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 7

adapted for a scanty light, hearing and smelling
co-operate, and the objects of their prey are most
accessible. Even among diurnal animals, a cessa-
tion of labour frequently takes place during the
day. Some retire to the shade; others seek for
the coolness of a marsh or river, while many
birds indulge in the pleasure of dusting them-
' Crowing of the Cock. The time-marking pro-
pensities of the common cock during the night-
season have long been the subject of remark,
and conjectures as to the cause very freely
indulged in.   The bird, in ordinary circum-
stances, begins to crow after midnight, and [he
also crows] about daybreak, with usually one
intermediate effort. It seems impossible to over-
look the connection between the times of crowing
and the minimum temperature of the night; nor
can the latter be viewed apart from the state of
the dew-point, or maximum degree of dampness.
Other circumstances, however, exercise an influ-
ence, for it cannot be disputed that the times of
crowing of different individuals are by no means
similar, and that in certain states of the weather,
especially before rain, the crowing is continued
nearly all day.
'Paroxysms of Disease. The attendants on a
sick-bed are well aware, that the objects of their
anxiety experience, in ordinary circumstances,
the greatest amount of suffering between mid-
night and daybreak, or the usual period of the
crowing of the cock. If we contemplate a frame,
at this period of the curve, weakened by disease,
we shall see it exposed to a cold temperature
against which it is ill qualified to contend. Nor
is this all; for, while dry air accelerates evapora-
tion, and usually induces a degree of chilliness
on the skin, moist air never fails to produce the
effect by its increased conducting power. The
depressed temperature and the air approaching
to saturation, at the lowest point of the curve, in
their combined influences, act with painful energy,
and require from an intelligent sick-nurse a
due amount of counteracting arrangements.'
-Dr. John Fleming on the Temperature of the
Seasons. Edinburgh, 1852.
Our arbitrary division of the year into twelve
months, has manifestly taken its origin in the
natural division determined by the moon's revo-
The month of nature, or lunar revolution, is
strictly 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, 3 seconds;
and there are, of course, twelve such periods, and
rather less than 11 days over, in a year. From
an early period, there were efforts among some
of the civilised nations to arrange the year in a
division accordant with the revolutions of the
moon; but they were all strangely irregular till
Julius Casar reformed the Calendar, by estab-
lishing the system of three years of 365 followed
by one (bissextile) of 366 days, and decreed that
the latter should be divided as follows:
Januarius,  ...       ..    31 days.
Februarius,  ..   ...        30 ,
Martius,                      31
Aprilis,  ......             30
Maius,    .   .     ...     31,,
Junius,     .    ...       30
Quintilis (altered to Julius),  31
Sextilis,  .                  30
September,                    31
October, .        ...         30,,
November,   ..    ....       31
December, .  .    .       .   30
The general idea of CaTsar was, that the months
should consist of 31 and 30 days alternately; and
this was effected in the bissextile or leap-year,
consisting, as it did, of twelve times thirty with
six over. In ordinary years, consisting of one
day less, his arrangement gave 29 days to Febru-
arius. Afterwards, his successor Augustus had
the eighth of the series called after himself, and
from vanity broke up the regularity of Casar's
arrangement by taking another day from Feb-
ruary to add to his own month, that it might not
be shorter than July; a change which led to a
shift of October and December for September
and November as months of 31 days. In this
arrangement, the year has since stood in all
Christian countries.
The Roman names of the months, as settled by
Augustus, have also been used in all Christian
countries excepting Holland, where the following
set of names prevails:
March, .
May, .
July, .
August, .
Lauwmaand, .
Sprokelmaand, .
Lentmaand, .
Grasmiand, .
Oostmaand, .
Wynmaand, . .
chilly month.
vegetation month.
spring month.
grass month.
flower month.
summer month.
hay month.
harvest month.
autumn month.
wine month.
slaughter month.
winter month.
' These characteristic names of the months are
the remains of the ancient Gaulish titles, which
were also used by our Anglo-Saxon ancestors.'-
Amidst the heats of the Revolution, the French
Convention, in October 1793, adopted a set of
names for the months, somewhat like that kept
up in Holland, their year standing thus:
French Months.  Signification. English Months.
1. Vindemaire, Vintage, . . . Sept. 22
Autumn. 2. Brumaire, .
3. Frimaire,
4. Nivose,
Winter.     5. Pluviose, .
6. Ventose, .
7. Germinal,.
Spring.     8. Floreal,
9. Prairial,
10. Messidor,
Summer.    11. Thermidor,
12. Fructidor, .
Foggy, . . . . Oct. 22.
Frosty or Sleety,. Nov. 21.
Snowy, . . . . Dec. 21.
Rainy, . . .    . Jan. 20.
Windy, . . . . Feb. 19.
Springing orBudding,Mar. 21.
Flowery,. . . . Apr. 20.
Hay Harvest, . May 20.
Corn Harvest, . . June 19.
Hot,. ..  ..   July 19.
Fruit,. ....    Aug. 18.
* A nalysis of the Calendar.

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