vol II date / index
Lady Day. Holiday at the Public Offices, except the Excise, Stamp, and Custom.
The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Cammin, Abbot, A.D. 653.
The Roman Catholic festival of the Annunciation is commonly called in England LADY DAY, an abridgement of the old term Our Lady's Day, or the Day of our blessed Lady.
This is a "gaudy day" in the Romish church. Deeming the mother of Christ an intercessor and mediatrix, it offers innumerable honours and devotions to her. Hail Mary! resounds in the masses to her praise; and the worshippers of her shrines and resemblances, are excited to a fervour of devotion which would astonish, if it were not known that sculpture, painting, poetry, vocal and instrumental music, have been added to revive the recollection of monkish fables, and early impressions in her behalf.
In the Golden Legend, a book formerly read instead of the New Testament, but now, in degree, supplanted by Butler's more voluminous and almost equally miraculous "Lives of the Saints," there is a story in honour of the virgin, concerning a noble and ignorant knight, who, to amend his life, entered an abbey, but was so incapable of learning, that he could say nothing but Ave Maria, which words he continually repeated wherever he was. When this knight died he was buried in the church-yard of the abbey, and there afterwards grew out of his grave a fair fleur de lis, and in every flower grew, in letters of gold, the words Ave Maria; and at the miracle, the brethren marvelled, and opened the sepulchre, and found the root of the fleur de lis came out of the mouth of the said knight; and then they understood that he was to be honoured for his great devotion to the virgin, by using the words Ave Maria.
There is another story in the "Golden Legend" of "another knyght." "He had a fayre place bisyde the hye waye where moche people passed, whome he robbed," and so he did all his life; yet he had "a good custom" of saluting the virgin every day, by saying Ave Maria, and so he went on committing highway robberies, and saluting the virgin day by day, till his people having put "a holy man" in bodily fear and robbed him, the said "holy man" desired to be brought before their master, the knight, and seeing him required him to summon all his attendants, which the knight did; but the "holy man" objected that one of them was not present. Then the knight perceived that his chamberlain was not there, and called for him; and when the holy man saw the chamberlain, he conjured him to declare who he was, and the chamberlain being so enforced answered, "I am no man, but am a devil in the form of a man;" and he acknowledged that he had abided with the knight fourteen years, and watched him night and day, hoping the knight might leave off saying the salutation Ave Maria, that so he might strangle him, "and brynge him to hell," because of his evil life; but, because there passed no day without the knight saying Ave Maria, the devil could not have him for all his long waiting. Then the knight fell down at the feet of the holy man, and demanded pardon of his sins, and the "holy man" commanded the devil to depart; wherefore says the "Golden Legend," "let us pray to the gloryous virgyn Mary, that she kepe us from the devyll."
The festival of the annunciation is kept at Rome by sumptuous shows. The author of "Rome in the ninteenth Century" relates the pope's proceedings on the occasion: "We drove through streets lined with expecting crowds, and windows hung with crimson and yellow silk draperies, and occupied by females in their most gorgeous attire, till we made a stop near the church before which the pope's horse-gurads, in their splendid full-dress uniforms, were stationed to keep the ground; all of whom, both officers and men, wore in their caps a sprig of myrtle, as a sign of rejoicing. After waiting a short time, the procession appeared, headed by another detachment of the guards, mounted on prancing black chargers, who rode forward to clear the way, accompanied by such a flourish of trumpets and kettle-drums, that it looked at first like any thing but a peaceable or religious proceeding. This martial array was followed by a bareheaded priest, on a white mule, bearing the host in agold cup, at the sight of which every body fell upon their knees. The pope used formerly to ride upon the white mule himself, and all the cardinals used to follow him in their magnificent robes of state, mounted either on mules or horses; and as the Eminentissimi are, for the most part, not very eminent horsemen, they were generally fastened on, lest they should tumble off. This cavalcade must have been a very entertaining sight. Pius VI., who was a very handsome man, kept up this custom, but the (then) present pope (Pius VII.) is far too infirm for such an enterprise; so he followed the man on the white mule, in a state coach; at the very sight of which, we seemed to have made a jump back of two hundred years at least. It was a huge machine, composed almost entirely of plate-glass, fixed in a ponderous carved and gilt frame, through which was distinctly visible the person of the venerable old pope, dressed in robes of white and silver, and incessantly giving his benediction to the people, by a twirl of three fingers; which are typical of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; the last being represented by the little finger. On the gilded back of this vehicle, the only part that was not made of glass, was a picture of the pope in his chair of state, and the virgin Mary at his feet. This extraordinary machine was drawn by six black horses, with superb harness of crimson velvet and gold; the coachmen, or rather postillions, were dressed in coats of silver stuff, with crimson velvet breeches, and full bottomed wigs well powdered, without hats. Three coaches, scarcely less antiquely superb, followed with the assistant cardinals, and the rest of the train. In the inside of the church, the usual tiresome ceremonies went on that take place when the pope is present. He is seated on a throne, or chair of state; the cardinals, in succession, approach and kiss his hand, retire one step, and make three bows or nods, one to him in front, and one on the right hand, and another on the left; which are intended for him (as the personification of the Father,) and for the Son, and for the Holy Ghost, on either side of him; and all the cardinals having gone through these motions, and the inferior priests having kissed his toe— that is, the cross, embroidered on his shoe— high mass begins. The pope kneels during the elevation of the host, prays in silence before the high altar, gets up and sits down, reads something out of a great book which they bring to him, with a lighted taper held beside it; and, having gone through many more such ceremonies, finally ends as he began, with giving his benediction with three fingers, all the way he goes out. During all the time of this high mass, the pope's military band, stationed on the platform in front of the church, played so many clamorous martial airs, that it effectually put to flight any ideas of religious solemnity."
In England, Lady Day is only remembered as the first quarter-day in the year, and is therefore only kept by tenants who truly pay rent to their landlords. A few years ago a country gentleman wrote a letter to a lady of rank in town, and sent it through the general post with the following address:
"The 25th of March,
The postman duly delibered the letter at the house of Lady Day for whom it was intended.
1688. Parochial charity schools, for the education of the children of poor persons, were instituted in London and its vicinity.
1748. A fire broke out at one o'clock in the morning in 'Change-alley, Cornhill, London, which raged for ten hours, consuming all the buildings in 'Change-alley and Birchin-lane; and in Cornhill, from 'Change-alley to St. Michael's-alley, including several celebrated taverns and coffee-houses, and many valuable shops, including five booksellers. There were eighty houses destroyed by this conflagration.
1809. Anna Seward, the friend of Dr. Darwin, and recollected for her life of him, and for her poetry and correspondence, died in the bishop's palace at Lichfield, aged 66. She was born at Eyan, in Derbyshire. Her poetry is easy, rather than vigorous.
Marigold. Calendula Officinalis.
Annunciation of V. Mary.