Rebecks. Musical instruments like fiddles.
Junkets. Pieces of cheese or something of the kind.
By friar’s lantern = Jack o’ Lantern or Will o’ the Wisp.
In weeds of peace = the dress worn in time of peace.
Hymen. God of wedlock.
Jonson. (See previous note to Ben Jonson.)
Sock. The shoe worn on the ancient stage by comedians as the buskin was by tragedians.
Lydian airs. Soft and soothing, as opposed to the Dorian airs, which expressed the rough and harsh element in ancient music.]
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I wish to show you how possible it is to enjoy much happiness in very mean employments. Cowper tells us that labour, though the primal curse, “has been softened into mercy;” and I think that, even had he not done so, I would have found out the fact for myself. It was twenty years last February since I set out a little before sunrise to make my first acquaintance with a life of labour and restraint, and I have rarely had a heavier heart than on that morning. I was but a thin, loose-jointed boy at the time—fond of the pretty intangibilities of romance, and of dreaming when broad awake; and, woful change! I was now going to work at what Burns has instanced in his “Twa Dogs” as one of the most disagreeable of all employments—to work in a quarry. Bating the passing uneasiness occasioned by a few gloomy anticipations, the portion of my life which had already gone by had been happy beyond the common lot. I had been a wanderer among rocks and wood—a reader of curious books when I could get them—a gleaner of old traditionary stories; and now I was going to exchange all my day-dreams, and all my amusements, for the kind of life in which men toil every day that they may be enabled to eat, and eat every day that they may be enabled to toil!
The quarry in which I wrought lay on the southern side of a noble inland bay, or frith rather, with a little clear stream on the one side, and a thick fir wood on the other. It had been opened in the old red sandstone of the district, and was overtopped by a huge bank of diluvial clay, which rose over it in some places to the height of nearly thirty feet, and which at this time was rent and shivered, wherever it presented an open front to the weather, by a recent frost. A heap of loose fragments, which had fallen from above blocked up the face of the quarry, and my first employment was to clear them away. The friction of the shovel soon blistered my hands, but the pain was by no means very severe, and I wrought hard and willingly, that I might see how the huge strata below, which presented so firm and unbroken a frontage, were to be torn up and removed. Picks, and wedges, and levers, were applied by my brother workmen; and