May is the third month of Romulus's year; but the fifth month us reformed by Numa and Julius Caesar. Romulus assigned thirty-one days to this month; Numa reduced the number to thirty; and Julius Caesar restored it to the original length, which it now retains. There is some doubt about the origin of the name of this month ; because, although the Romans offered sacrifices to Maia, the mother of Mercury, upon the first day of this month, yet it appears
Pretty evident that the name was fixed long before the time of Romulus. Among our British and Saxon ancestors this month was hailed as the genial harbinger of approaching summer, and celebrated sometimes with religious observances, and at others amid general festivity. On May-eve the Druids made large fires on eminences, in honour of Beal, or Bealan, the Celtic or Irish word for the sun. Two of these fires were kindled in every village, between which the men and beasts devoted to sacrifice were compelled to pass, one of them being killed on the kairn, and the other on the ground ; hence the Irish proverb applied to a person in a dilemma, "Itter dha teine Bheil" (between Bel's two fires).
Synonymes. - In Latin, Mains; French, Mai ; Italian, Maggio ; Portuguese, Main ; Saxon, Tri'milchi; and ancient Cornish, Me. Verstegan says, that " the pleasant month of May they (the Anglo-Saxons) termed by the name of Tri-milchi, or Tri-milki, because in that month they began to milk their kine three times in the day.
Symbol or Allegory of the Month. - A young man, with a beautiful face, clad in green, embroidered with various bright flowers, and a garland of white and damask roses upon his head. In one hand he held a lute, and on the forefinger of the other a nightingale, allegorical of the "eve song" of this bird, which is first warbled during the month. The sign of Gemini, the Twins. also accompanied him, alluding to the sun entering that sign on the 20th of the month. (See our engraving).
There is not a day in the year that is devoid of historic interest, and May has her fair share of the number.
The 1st, commonly called May-day, is a very remarkable one in our calendar. It is dedicated to St. Philip ami St. James the Less. St. Philip was born at Bethsaida, near Tiberias, and is supposed to have been the first of our Saviour's disciples and an apostle ; he died at Hierapolis, in Phrygia. St. James the Less underwent martyrdom in a tumult in the temple, about the year a.d. 62.
May-day festivities are said to have originated with the Romans, who worshipped Flora, and celebrated her festivals by rejoicings and offerings of spring flowers, and the branches of trees in bloom. In our own country, in former times, the village lads and lasses left their homes at break of day "On a May-day morning, to fetch in May."
These good old times have long since passed away, and are now little more honoured than in mere remembrance. Then we had the May-pole, painted with various colours, dressed with garlands and streamers, and surmounted by a large crown; and there was the village fiddler, seated upon a cask, and vigorously scraping away for the lads and lasses to skip round the May-pole.
In May. 1773, the ports of New York and Philadelphia were closed against vessels with cargoes of tea, and they were compelled to return to England. At Boston, a party of men disguised as Indians boarded several vessels, and broke open 342 chests of tea, which they emptied into the harbor, in the presence of thousands of spectators.
May 10, 1775. The Continental Congress assembled at Philadelphia, and, after electing John Hancock president of the body, among other important measures, voted to raise an army of 20,000 men.
May 11, 1779. General Provost, with a large British force, having invested Charleston, summoned the city to surrender; but the approach of General Lincoln, who. had been appointed to the command of the southern army, compelled him to retreat.
May 16, 1811. The British ship-of-war, Little Belt, Captain Bingham, was hailed in the evening on the coast of Virginia by the United States frigate President, Captain Bodgers, but instead of receiving a satisfac-tory answer, a shot was fired in return, when a brief engagement followed, in which eleven of the enemy were killed and twenty-one wounded. The President had only one man | wounded.
In May, 1782, the independence of America was acknowledged by Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Spain and Russia. Early in May Sir Guy Carleton, successor of Sir Henry Clinton, as commander of all the forces in America, arrived in New York, with instructions to promote an accommodation with the United States, and of course there were no subsequent military operations of importance.
The treaty of Ghent, which terminated the war of 1812, had scarcely been ratified, when it became necessary to commence another war for the protection of our commerce and seamen against Algerine piracies, and in May, 1815, a squadron under Commodore Decatur sailed for the Mediterranean, where the naval force of Algiers was cruising for American vessels. After capturing two of the enemy's best frigates in that sea, Decatur proceeded to the Bay of Algiers, and there dictated a treaty of peace which secured the United States from any farther molestation from that quarter. Similar treaties were also concluded with the other Barbary powers securiug to the United States her just demand tor the protection of American commerce.
The 26th day is dedicated to St. Angus-tin, a monk sent to England by Pope Gregory the Great, to convert the Saxons. He accomplished his mission satisfactorily, for he converted King Ethelbert, who appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury, which he held until his death, in 610.
The 29th day is commonly called the Restoration-day, because in 1660 Charles II. was brought back to England, and restored to the throne of his ancestors. In some parts of England people wear oak-leaves and oak-apples (gilt) in their hats, in commemoration of the concealment of Charles in an oak tree at Boscobel, after his defeat by Cromwell, at the battle of Worcester, September 3, 1651.
The 6th day of May, 1859, will ever be memorable as the date of the death of Alexander Von Humboldt, whose profound genius, rare scientific acquirements, and kindly virtues have made his name a household word. • Voltaire and Columbus were horn in this month. The former is the voluminous French writer, who was born at Chatenay, near Sceaux, in 1694, and died Aug. 30, 1778. His most celebrated works are the " Henriade" and the " Life of Charles XII." His collected works form seventy volumes.
Christopher Columbus, the illustrious navigator, who first discovered the American continent, was born at Genoa, in 1437. After vainly seeking aid from Genoa, Portugal, and England, he at length induced
Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to equip and man three vessels, with which he made the important transatlantic discoveries for which his name is so distinguished. After enduring many insults and disappointments, he died at Valladolid in 1506.