BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

The Customs, Ceremonies, Traditions, Superstitions, Fun, Feeling,
And Festivities Of The Christmas Season.

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4                                THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
the sources of the inspiration,—as they are still the lights by which that inspiration works. The hand that fashioned the " two great lights," and appointed to them their courses, and gave them, to be " for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years," pointed out to man how he might, by the observation of their revolutions, direct his course along the unbroken stream of time, or count its waves as they flowed silently and ceaselessly away. The sun and moon were the ancient (and, at first, the only) measures of time—as they are the essential foundations of all the modes by which man measures it, now; and in the order of the world's architecture, the " watches of the element" which guide us yet, were framed and " set in the firmament of heaven," at that dis­tant and uncertain period, whose " evening and morning were the fourth day."
Nor did the beneficent power which erected these great meters of time, in the constitution of the universe, leave the world with­out suggestions how their use might be improved, in the business of more minute subdivision. .The thousand natural inequalities of the earth's surface, and the vegetable columns which spring from its bosom, furnish—as do the spires and towers and columns which man rears thereon—so many gnomons of the vast dial, on which are unerringly written, with the finger of shadow, the shining records of the sky. There is something unutterably solemn in watching the shade creep, day by day, round a circle whose diameter man might measure with his grave, or even cover with his hand,—and contrasting the limits within which it acts with the spaces of time which its stealing tread measures out,— and feeling that it is the faithful index of a progress, before which the individual being and the universal frame of things are alike hastening to rapid and inevitable decay. There are few types more awfully representative of that which they typify than is the shadow. It is Time almost made visible. Through it, the mind reaches the most vivid impersonation of that mysterious idea which it is capable of containing. It seems as if flung directly from his present and passing wing.—The silent and ceaseless motion—gliding for ever on and on,—coming round again and again, but reverting never and tarrying never—blotting out the sun-shine as it passes, and leaving no trace where it has passed—
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