Mar. 31, 2005

The Months

by Linda Pastan

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Poem: "The Months," by Linda Pastan, from The Last Uncle © W.W. Norton.

The Months

When the Earl King came
to steal away the child
in Goethe's poem, the father said
don't be afraid,
it's just the wind...
As if it weren't the wind
that blows away the tender
fragments of this world—
leftover leaves in the corners
of the garden, a Lenten Rose
that thought it safe
to bloom so early.

In the pastel blur
of the garden,
the cherry
and redbud
shake rain
from their delicate
shoulders, as petals
of pink
wash down the ditches
in dreamlike
rivers of color.

Mayapple, daffodil,
hyacinth, lily,
and by the front
porch steps
every billowing
shade of purple
and lavender lilac,
my mother's favorite flower,
sweet breath drifting through
the open windows:
perfume of memory-conduit
of spring.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of British novelist John Fowles, born in Leigh upon Sea, Essex, England (1926). His first novel was The Collector (1963), which was followed by The Magus (1966), chosen as one of the 100 best novels of the twentieth century by the Modern Library. He's perhaps best known, though, for his third novel, The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969).

It's the birthday of Mexican poet and essayist Octavio Paz, born in Mexico City (1914). His Selected Poems came out in English in 1979. He also wrote non-fiction, including the influential essay on Mexican culture, The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990.

It's the birthday of Scottish man of letters Andrew Lang, born in Selkirk, Scotland (1844). He was one of the greatest journalists of his time; a translator of Homer's Iliad (1883) and Odyssey (1879); a contributor of articles on everything from ballads to poltergeists for the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica; and the author of a series of popular books of fairy stories for children, beginning with the Blue Fairy Tale Book in 1889.

It's the birthday of diarist Mary Chesnut, born in Pleasant Hill, South Carolina (1823). Her husband was a staff officer in the Confederate Army, and she was able to accompany him on his missions and keep a detailed diary of her thoughts and experiences. The diary, which covers the period from February 15, 1861 to August 2, 1865, was published in 1905 as A Diary from Dixie. The diary provides valuable insight into Southern society and the workings of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

It's the birthday of English writer Edward Fitzgerald, born Edward Purcell in Bredfield, Suffolk, England (1809). He spent most of his life in his native Suffolk, living in seclusion except for occasional visits by literary friends like Thackeray, Carlyle, and Tennyson. His greatest work was published anonymously in 1859, and nearly forgotten until it attracted the attention of the poets Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Algernon Swinburne. The book was an adaptation, from the original Persian, of The Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám.

Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
The Winter garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly-and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

It's the birthday of the English poet Andrew Marvell, born at Winestead-in-Holderness, Yorkshire, England (1621). His fame as a poet was only earned three years after his death in 1678, when his former housekeeper published Miscellaneous Poems by Andrew Marvell, Esq. His best known poem is "To His Coy Mistress":

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime...
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near:
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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