01 April 2008

Be Careful Out There

The old year used to end with March and the new began with April. Its Latin name is Aprilis, from aperio, to open or set forth. The Saxons called it, Oster or Eastermonth, in which month, the feast of the Saxon goddess, Eastre, Easter, or Eoster is said to have been celebrated. Sometimes April is represented as a girl clothed in green, with a garland of myrtle and hawthorn buds to reflect the bursting forth of growing things. The Romans consecrated the first of April to Venus, the goddess of beauty, the mother of love, the queen of laughter, the mistress of the graces. This is the time of courting that reaches its fullfillment in the lusty month of May.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar to replace the old Julian Calendar. The new calendar called for New Year's Day to be celebrated Jan. 1. That year, France adopted the reformed calendar and shifted New Year's day to Jan. 1. According to a popular explanation, many people either refused to accept the new date, or did not learn about it, and continued to celebrate New Year's Day on the first of April. Other people began to make fun of these traditionalists, sending them on "fool's errands" or trying to trick them into believing something false. To this day we try to trick people in some way that eventually elicits a jeering, "April Fool".
With all of this hilarity comes the beginnings and endings of love. April has some of the best poetry, but it is often slightly melancholy as if the new blooms don't quite come to full flower as love makes fools of us all. In one of my favorite books, "84 Charing Cross Road", Helene Hanff writes to her bookseller:

"I require a book of love poems with spring coming on. No Keats or Shelly, send me poets who can make love without slobbering ... just a nice book preferably small enough to stick in a slacks pocket and take to Central Park. Well don't just sit there! I swear I don't know how that shop keeps going."

Sonnets from the Portuguese, XIV
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
'I love her for her smile--her look--her way
Of speaking gently,--for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,--and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love, thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.

Sonnet CXVI
by William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love,
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
Oh, no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests.. and is never shaken.
It is the star to every wandering bark
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love is not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come.
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out.. even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

I Loved You
by Alexander Pushkin

I loved you-
even now I may confess
Some embers of my love their fire retain
But do not let it cause you more distress-
I do not want to sadden you again.

Hopeless and tongue-tied, yet, I loved you dearly
With pangs the jealous the timid know
So tenderly I loved you, so sincerely,
I pray God grant another love you so.
And of course if one must fall in love, it might as well be in Paris


maryt/theteach said...

Oh Jamie, these poems are some of my favorites! But remember T.S. Eliot said "April is the cruellest month." Big smile to you on April 1st. Come by my blog I have an award for you. :)

Schmoop said...

Very interesting Jamie, I did not know this. But hey, I like Keats. Cheers, and Happy April Fool's Day!!

Travis Cody said...

I knew a few of those facts about the calendar, but not the origins of April Fool's.

I really do love the sonnets of Shakespeare.