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The Day

There came the Day and Night,
Riding together both with equal pace;
The one on palfrey black, the other white;
But Night had covered her uncomely face
With a black veil, and held in hand a mace,
On top whereof the moon and stars were pight,
And sleep and darkness round about did trace:
But Day did bear upon his sceptre's height
The goodly sun encompassed with beanies bright.

Spenser                      .

The day of nature, being strictly the time required for one rotation of the earth on its axis, 4 is 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4 seconds, and 1 tenth of a second. In that time, a star comes round to appear in the same place where we had formerly seen it. But the earth, having an additional motion on its orbit round the sun, requires about 3 minutes, 56 seconds more, or 24 hours in all, to have the sun brought round to appear at the same place ; in other words, for any place on the surface of the earth to come to the meridian. Thus arises the difference between a sidereal day and a solar day, between apparent and mean time, as will be more particularly explained elsewhere.

Fixing our attention for the present upon the solar day, or day of mean time, let us remark in the first place that, amongst the nations of antiquity, there were no divisions of the day beyond what were indicated by sun-rise and sun-set. Even among the Romans for many ages, the only point in the earth's daily revolution of which any public notice was taken was mid-day, which they used to announce by the sound of trumpet, whenever the sun was observed shining straight along between the Forum and a place called Graecostasis. To divide the day into a certain number of parts was, as has been remarked, an arbitrary arrangement, which only could be adopted when means had been invented of mechanically measuring time. 'We accordingly find no allusion to hours in the course of the Scriptural histories till we come to the Book of Daniel, who lived 552 years before Christ. 'hen Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonished for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him.' The Jews and the Romans alike, on introducing a division of the day into twenty-four hours, assigned equal numbers to day and night, without regard to the varying length of these portions of the solar day; consequently, an hour was with them a varying quantity of time, according to the seasons and the latitude. Afterwards, the plan of an equal division was adopted, as was also that of dividing an hour into 60 minutes, and a minute into 60 seconds.

Before the hour division was adopted, men could only speak of such vague natural divisions as morning and evening, forenoon and afternoon, or make a reference to their meal-times. And these indications of time have still a certain hold upon us, partly because they are so natural and obvious, and partly through the effect of tradition. All before dinner is, with us, still morning—notwithstanding that the meal has nominally been postponed to an evening hour. The Scotch, long ago, had some terms of an original and poetical nature for certain periods of the day. Besides the dawin' for the dawn, they spoke of the skreigh o' day, q. d., the cry of the coming day. Their term for the dusk, the gloaming, has been much admired, and is making its way into use in England.

Intimately connected with the day is the WEEK, a division of time which, whatever trace of a natural origin some may find in it, is certainly in a great measure arbitrary, since it does not consist in all countries of the same number of days. The week of Christian Europe, and of the Christian world generally, is, as is well known, a period of seven days, derived from the Jews, whose sacred scriptures represent it as a commemoration of the world having been created by God in six days, with one more on which he rested from his work, and which he therefore sanctified as a day of rest.

Of weeks there are 52, and one day over, in ordinary years, or two days over in leap-years; and hence the recurrence of a particular day of the month never falls in an immediately succeeding year on the same day of the week, but on one a day in advance in the one case, and two in the other. Every twenty-eight years, however, the days of the month and the days of the week once more coincide.

The week, with its terminal day among the Jews, and its initial day among the Christians, observed as a day of rest and of devotion, is to be regarded as in the main a religious institution. Considering, however, that the days have only various names within the range of one week, and that by this period many of the ordinary operations of life are determined and arranged, it must be deemed, independently of its connection with. religion, a time-division of the highest importance.

While the Romans have directly given us the names of the months, we have immediately derived those of the days of the week from the Saxons. Both among the Romans, however, and the Saxons, the several days were dedicated to the chief national deities, and in the characters of these several sets of national deities there is, in nearly every instance, an obvious analogy and correspondence; so that the Roman names of the days have undergone little more than a translation in the Saxon and consequently English names. Thus, the first day of the week is Saannandaeg with the Saxons; Dies Solis with the Romans. Monday is Monan-daeg with the Saxons; Dies Lunae with the Romans. Tuesday is, among the Saxons, Tues-daeg-that is, Tuesco's Day—from Tuesco, a mythic person, supposed to have been the first warlike leader of the Teutonic nations : among the Romans it was Dies Mortis, the day of Mars, their god of war. The fourth day of the week was, among the Saxons, Wart n'sdaeg, the day of Woden, or Oden, another mythical being of high warlike reputation among the northern nations, and the nearest in character to the Roman god of war. Amongst the Romans, however, this day was Dies Mereurii, Mercury's Day. The fifth day of the week, Thors-daeg of the Saxons, was dedicated to their god Thor, who, in his supremacy over other gods, and his attribute of the Thunderer, corresponds very exactly with Jupiter, whose day this was (Dies Jovis) among the Romans. Friday, dedicated to Venus among the Romans (Dies Veneris), was named by the Saxons, in our of their corresponding deity (Friga), Frigedaeg. The last day of the week took its Roman name of Dies Saturn, and its Saxon appellate of Seater-daeg, respectively from deities who approach each other in character.

It may be remarked, that the modern German names of the days of the week correspond tolerably well with the ancient Saxon : Sonntag, Sun-day; Montag, Monday; Dienstag, Tuesday; Mittwoche, mid-week day [this does not correspond, but Godenstag, which is less used, is Woden's day]; Donnerstag, Thursday [this term, meaning the Thunderer's day, obviously corresponds with Thors-daeg]; Freitag, Friday; Sam-stag or Sonnabend, Saturday [the latter term means eve of Sunday]. The French names of the days of the week, on the other hand, as befits a language so largely framed on a Latin basis, are like those of ancient Rome : Dimanche [the Lord's Day], Lundi, Mardi, Mercredi, Jeudi, Vendredi, Samedi.

With reference to the transference of honour from Roman to Saxon deities in our names of the days of the week, a quaint poet of the last century thus 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 day:
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—what'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, differing 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. Consequently, the denomination of a day—say the 1st 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 Magellan's voyage in September 1522, when the surviving 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) Thursday 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 cast, differs from the day of our own East Indies. Thus the discrepancy 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 realize the idea that at that hour there is a general Sabbath over the earth from the furthest cast to the furthest west. The Russians in America are finishing their latest vespers; the Christians in our own colony of British Columbia are commencing 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 energies 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, (by the curve, the writer means a formula for ex-pressing in one wavy line the rises and falls of the thermometer in the course of a certain space of time) 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 life.

'With the Nocturnal animals, on the other hand, the case is widely different. The daytime is the period of their repose ; their eyes are adapted for a scanty light, hearing and smelling co-operate, and the objects of their prey are most accessible. Even among diurnal animals, a cessation 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-selves.

Crowing of the Cock. The time-marking propensities 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 circumstances, begins to crow after midnight, and [he also crows] about daybreak, with usually one intermediate effort. It seems impossible to overlook 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 influence, 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.

Paroaujsnts 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 evaporation, 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 clue amount of counteracting arrangements.'

Dr. John Fleming on the Temperature of the Seasons.
Edinburgh, 1852.

Part II: The Month