218 THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
for their dismissal, by the young hearts who have formed a merry alliance with the imps, which they are by no means willing to terminate thus suddenly. And, sooth to say, those youngsters are often able to engage heads who are older—and, we suppose, should know better—in the conspiracies which are, day by day, formed, for the detention of some one or more of these members of the train of Momus.
Even in rural districts—where the necessary preparations in aid of the returning season are, by this time, expected to call men abroad to the labors of the field—our benevolent ancestors admitted the claim for a gradual subsiding of the Christmas mirth, in favor of the children of toil. Their devices for letting themselves gently down were recognized ;—and a sort of compromise was sanctioned between the spirit of the past holyday, and the sense of an important coming duty to be performed. The genius of mirth met the genius of toil, on neutral ground, for a single day ; and the two touched hands, in recognition of the rightful dominion of each other—ere they, severally, set forth, in their own separate directions.
Thus, on the day which followed Twelfth-night, the implements of labor were prepared, and the team was even yoked, for a space ;—but the business of turning the soil was not required to be laboriously engaged in, until the Monday which followed— and which, therefore, bore (and bears) the title of Plough Monday. After a few hours of morning labor, a sort of half-holiday was the concluding privilege of this privileged season ;—and the husbandman laid aside his plough, and the maiden her distaff, to engage in certain revels which were peculiar to the day, and to the country districts. From the partial resumption of the spinning labors of the women, on this morning, the festival in question takes its name ;—and it is (or was) sometimes called, also, " Rockday," in honor of the rock,—which is another name for the distaff. It is described as being * a distaff held in the hand, from whence wool is spun, by twirling a ball below."
Of the sports by which this day was enlivened, we doubt if there are any remains. These seem to have consisted in the burning—by the men who had returned from the field—of the flax and tow belonging to the women—as a sort of assertion of