St. Agnes. St Fructuosus, &c. St. Vimin, or Vivian. St. Publius. St. Epiphanius.
"She has always been looked upon," says Butler, "as a special patroness of purity, with the immaculate mother of God." According to him, she suffered martyrdom, about 304, and performed wonderful miracles before her death, which was by beheading, when she was thirteen years old; whereupon he enjoins females to a single life, as better than a married one, and says, that her anniversary "was formerly a holiday for the women in England." Ribadeneira relates, that she was to have been burned, and was put into the fire for that purpose, but the flames, refusing to touch her, divided on each side, burnt some of the bystanders, and then quenched, as if there had been none made: a compassionate quality in fire, of which iron was not sensible, for her head was cut off at a single blow[.] Her legend further relates, that eight days after her death she came to her parents arrayed in white, attended by virgins with garlands of pearls, and a lamb whiter than snow; she is therefore usually represented by artists with a lamb by her side; though not, as Mr. Brand incautiously says, "in every graphic representation." It is further related that a priest who officiated in a church dedicated to St. Agnes, was very desirous of being married. He prayed the pope's license, who gave it him, together with an emerald ring, and commanded him to pay his addresses to the image of St. Agnes in his own church. The the priest did so, and the image put forth her finger, and he put the ring thereon; whereupon the image drew her finger again, and kept the ring fast, and the priest was contented to remain a ba chelor; "and yet, as it is sayd, the rynge is on the fynger of the ymage."
In a Romish Missal printed at Paris, in 1520, there is a prayer to St. Agnes, remarkably presumptive of her powers; it is thus englished by Bp. Patrick:
Agnes, who art the Lamb's chaste spouse,
Enlighten thou our minds within;
Not only lop the spreading boughs,
But root out of us every sin.
O, Lady, singularly great,
After this state, with grief opprest
Translate us to that quiet seat
Above, to triumph with the blest.
From Naogeorgus, we gather that in St. Agnes' church at Rome, it was customary on St. Agnes' Day to bring two snow-white lambs to the altar, upon which they were laid while the Agnes was singing by way of offering. These con secrated animals were afterwards shorn, and palls made from their fleeces; for each of which, it is said, the pope exacted of the bishops from eight to ten, or thirty thousand crowns, and that the custom originated with Limes, who succeeded the apostle Peter: whereupon Naogeorgus inquires,
But where was Agnes at that time? who offred [sic] up, and how,
The two white lambes? where then was Masse, as it is used now?
Yea, where was then the Popish state, and dreadful monarchee?
Sure in Saint Austen's time, there were no palles at Rome to see, &c.
In Jephson's "Manners, &c. of France and Italy," there is one dated from Rome, February, 14, 1793. That this ceremony was then in use, is evident from the following lines:—
St. Agnes' Shrine.
Where each pretty Ba-lamb most gaily appears,
With ribands stuck round on its tail and its ears;
On gold fringed cushions they're stretch'd out to eat,
And piously ba, and to church-musick bleat;
Yet to me they seem'd crying, alack, and alas!
What's all this white damask to daisies and grass?
Then they're brought to the Pope, and with transport they're kiss'd,
And receive consecration from Sanctity's fist.
Blessing of Sheep.
Stopford, in "pagano-Papismus," recites this ceremony of the Romish church. The sheep were brought into the church, and the priest, having blessed some salt and water, read in one corner this gospel, "To us a child is born," &c. with the whole office, a farthing being laid upon the book, and taken up again; in the second corner he read this gospel, "Ye men of Galilee," &c. with the whole office, a farthing being laid upon the book, and taken up again; in the third corner he read this gospel, "I am the good shepherd," &c. with the whole office, a farthing being laid upon the book, and taken up again; and in the fourth corner he read this gospel, "In these days," &c. with the whole office, a farthing being laid upon the book, and taken up again. After that, he sprinkled all the sheep with holy water, saying, "Let the blessing of God, the Father Almighty, descend and remain upon you; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." Then he signed all the sheep with the sign of the cross, repeated thrice some Latin verses, with the Paternoster and Ave-Marias, sung the mass of the Holy Ghost, and at the conclusion, an offering of fourpence was for himself, and another of threepence was for the poor. This ceremony was adopted by the Romish church from certain customs of the ancient Romans, in their worship of Pales, the goddess of sheepfolds and pastures. They prayed her to bless the sheep, and sprinkled them with water. The chief difference between the forms seems to have consisted in this, that the ancient Romans let the sheep remain in their folds, while the moderns drove them into the church.
Christmas Rose. Helleborus niger flore albo.
Dainty young thing
Of life!—Thou vent'rous flower,
Who growest through the hard, cold bower
Of wintry Spring:—
Soft, voiceless bell, whose spire
Rocks in the grassy leaves like wire
Like Patience, thou
Art quiet in thy earth,
Instructing Hope that Virtue's birth
Is Feeling's vow.
Thy fancied bride!
The delicate Snowdrop, keeps
Her home with thee; she wakes and sleeps
Near thy true side.
Will Man but hear!
A simple flower can tell
What beauties in his mind should dwell
Through Passion's sphere.
J. R. Prior.
1793. On the 21st of January, Louis XVI. was beheaded at Paris, in the thirty-ninth year of his age, and nineteenth of his reign, under circumstances which are in the recollection of many, and known to most persons. A similar instrument to the guillotine, the machine by which Louis XVI. was put to death, was formerly used in England. It was first introduced into France, during the revolution, by Dr. Guillotine, a physician, and hence its name.
THE HALIFAX GIBBET AND GIBBET-LAW.
The History of Halifax in Yorkshire, 12mo. 1712, sets forth "a true account of their ancient, odd, customary gibbet-law; and their particular form of trying and executing of criminals, the like not us'd in any other place in Great Britain." The Halifax gibbet was in the form of the guillotine, and its gibbet-law quite as remarkable. The work referred to, which is more curious than rare, painfully endeavours to prove this law wise and salutary. It prevailed only within the forest of Hardwick, which was subject to the lord of the manor of Wakefield, a part of the duchy of Lancaster. If a felon were taken within the liberty of the forest with cloth, or other commodity, of the value of thirteen-pence halfpenny, he was, after three market-days from his apprehension and condemnation, to be carried to the gibbet, and there have his head cut off from his body. When first taken, he was brought to the lord's bailiff in Halifax, who kept the town, had also the keeping of the axe, and was the executioner at the gibbet. This officer summoned a jury of frith-burghers to try him on the evidence of witnesses not upon oath: if acquitted, he was set at liberty, upon pay ment of his fees; if convicted, he was set in the stocks on each of the three subsequent market-days in Halifax, with the stolen goods on his back, if they were portable; if not, they were placed before his face. This was for a terror to others, and to engage any who had aught against him, to bring accusations, although after the three market-days he was sure to be executed for the offence already proved upon him. But the convict had the satisfaction of knowing, that after he was put to death, it was the duty of the coroner to summon a jury, "and sometimes the same jury that condemned him," to inquire into the cause of his death, and that a return thereof would be made into the Crown-office; "which gracious and sage proceedings of the coroner in that matter ought, one would think, to abate, in all considering minds, that edge of acrimony which hath provoked malicious and prejudiced persons to debase this laudable and necessary custom." So says the book.
The execution was in this manner:—The prisoner being brought to the scaffold by the bailiff, the axe was drawn up by a pulley, and fastened with a pin ot the side of the scaffold. "The bailiff, the jurors, and the minister chosen by the prisoner, being always upon the scaffold with the prisoner, in most solemn manner, after the minister had finished his ministerial office and christian duty, if it was a horse, and ox, or cow, &c. that was taken with the prisoner, it was thither brought along with him to the place of execution and fastened by a cord to the pin that stay'd the block, so that when the time of the execution came, (which was known by the jurors holding up one of their hands,) the bailiff, or his servant, whipping the beast, the pin was pluck'd out, and execution done; but if there were no beast in the case, then the bailiff, or his servant, cut the rope."
The Halifax Gibbet.
But if the felon, after his apprehension, or in his going to execution, happened to make his escape out of the forest of Hardwick, which liberty, on the east end of the town, doth not extend above the breadth of a small river; on the north about six hundred paces; on the south about a mile; but on the west about ten miles;—if such an escape were made, then the bailiff of Halifax had no power to apprehend him out of his liberty; but if ever the felon came again into the liberty of Hardwick, and were taken, he was certainly executed. One Lacy, who made his escape, and lived seven years out of the liberty, after that time coming boldly within the liberty of Hardwick, was retaken, and executed upon his former verdict of condemnation.
The records of executions by the Halifax gibbet, before the time of Elizabeth, are lost; but during her reign twenty-five persons suffered under it, and from 1623 to 1650 there were twelve executions. The machine is destroyed. The engraving placed above, represents the instrument, from a figure of it in an old map of Yorkshire, which is altogether better than the print of it in the work before cited.
The worthy author of the Halifax gibbet-book seems by his title to be well assured, that the machine was limited to, and to the sole use and behoof of, his district; but in this, as in some other particulars, he is mistaken.
A small print by Aldegraver, one of the little German masters, in 1553, now lying before the writer, represents the execution of Manlius, the Roman, by the same instrument; and he has a similar print by Pens, an early engraver of that school. There are engravings of it in books printed so early as 1510. In Hollinshed's Chronicle there is a cut of a man who had attempted the life of Henry III. suffering by this instrument. In Fox's "Acts and Monuments," there is another execution in the same manner.
The "maiden" by which James, earl of Morton, the regent of Scotland, was put to death for high treason in 1581, was of this form, and is said to have been constructed by his order from a model of one that he had seen in England: he was the first and last person who suffered by it in Scotland; and it still exists in the parliament-house at Edinburgh. In "The Cloud of Witnesses; of the last Speeches of Scottish Martyrs since 1680," there is a print of an execution in Scotland by a similar instrument. The construction of such a machine was in contemplation for the beheading of lord Lovat in 1747: he approved the notion—"My neck is very short," he said, "and the executioner will be puzzled to find it out with his axe: if they make the machine, I suppose they will call it lord Lovat's maiden."
Randle Holme in his "Armory" describes an heraldic quartering thus:—"He beareth gules, a heading-block fixed between two supporters, with an axe placed therein; on the sinister side a maule, all proper." This agreeable bearing he figures as the reader sees it.
Holme observes, that "this was the Jews' and Romans' way of beheading offenders, as some write, though others say they used to cut off the heads of such, with a sharp, two-handled sword: however, this way of decollation was by laying the neck of the malefactor on the block, and then setting the axe upon it, which lay in a rigget in the two side-posts; the executioner with the violence of a blow on the head of the axe, with his heavy maul, forced it through the man's neck into the block. I have seen the draught of the like heading-instrument, where the weighty axe (made heavy for that purpose) was raised up and fell down in such a riggetted frame, which being suddenly let to fall, the weight of it was sufficient to cut off a man's head at one blow."
Remarkable instances of the mildness of January, 1825, are recorded in the provincial and London journals. In the first week a man planting a hedge near Mansfield, in Yorkshire, found a blackbird's nest with four young ones in it. The Westmoreland Gazette states, that on the 13th a fine ripe strawberry was gathered in the garden of Mr. W. Whitehead, Storth End, near End-Moor, and about the same time a present of the same fruit ws made by Thomas Wilson, Esq. Thorns, Underbarrow, to Mr. Alderman Smith Wilson, some of them larger in bulk than the common hazel-nut. Indeed the forwardness of the season in the north appears wonderful. It is stated in the Glasgow Chronicle of the 11th, that on the 7th, bees were flying about in the garden of Rose-mount; on the 9th, the sky was without a cloud; there was scarcely a breath of wind, the blackbirds were singing as if welcoming the spring; pastures wore a fine, fresh, and healthy appearance; the wheat-braird was strong, thick in the ground, and nearly covering the soil; vegetation going on in the gardens; the usual spring flowers making their appearance; the Christmas rose, the snow-drop, the polyanthea, the single or border anemone, the hepatica in its varieties, and the mazerion were in full bloom; the Narcissus making its appearance, and the crocusses showing colour. On the 11th, at six o'clock, the thermometer in Nelson-street, Glasgow, indicated 44 degrees; on the 9th, the barometer gained the extraordinary height of 31.01; on the 11th, it was at 30.8. The Sheffield Mercury represents, that within six or seven weeks preceding the middle of the month, the barometer had been lower and higher than had been remarked by any living individual in that town. On the 23rd of November it was so low as 27.5; and on the 9th of January at 11 P. M. it stood at 30.65. In the same place the following meteorological observations were made:
TEN O'CLOCK A.M. DO. P.M.
11th . . . . . 42 . . . . . 38
12th . . . . . 43 . . . . . 37
13th . . . . . 44 . . . . . 40
14th . . . . . 44 . . . . . 43
TEN O'CLOCK A.M. DO. P.M.
11th . . . . . 30.4 . . . . 30.3
12th . . . . . 30.3 . . . . 30.2
13th . . . . . 30.5 . . . . 29.9
14th . . . . . 29.5 . . . . 29.7
At Paris, in the latter end of 1824, the barometer was exceedingly high, considering the bad weather that had prevailed, and the moisture of the atmosphere. There had been almost constant and incessant rain. The few intervals of fair weather, were when the wind got round a few points to the west, or the northward of west: but invariably, a few hours after, the wind again got to the southwest, and the rain commenced falling. It appeared as if a revolution had taken place in the laws of the barometer. The barometer in London was at 30.48 in May, 1824, and never rose higher during the whole year.