The Poet’s Calendar

The Poet’s Calendar

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Poet's Calendar

 

JANUARY

 

Janus am I; oldest of potentates;

Forward I look, and backward, and below

I count, as god of avenues and gates,

The years that through my portals come and go.

I block the roads, and drift the fields with snow;

I chase the wild-fowl from the frozen fen;

My frosts congeal the rivers in their flow,

My fires light up the hearths and hearts of men.

 

 

FEBRUARY

 

I am lustration, and the sea is mine.

I wash the sands and headlands with my tide;

My brow is crowned with branches of the pine;

Before my chariot-wheels the fishes glide.

By me all things unclean are purified,

By me the souls of men washed white again;

E’en the unlovely tombs of those who died

Without a dirge, I cleanse from every stain.

 

 

MARCH

 

I Martius am!    Once first, and now the third!

To lead the Year was my appointed place;

A mortal dispossessed me by a word,

And set there Janus with the double face.

Hence I make war on all the human race;

I shake the cities with my hurricanes;

I flood the rivers and their banks efface,

And drown the farms and hamlets with my rains.

 

 

APRIL

 

I open wide the portals of the Spring

To welcome the procession of the flowers,

With their gay banners, and the birds that sing

Their song of songs from their aerial towers.

I soften with my sunshine and my showers

The heart of earth; with thoughts of love I glide

Into the hearts of men; and with the Hours

Upon the Bull with wreathed horns I ride.

 

 

MAY

 

Hark!    The sea-faring wild-fowl loud proclaim

My coming, and the swarming of the bees.

These are my heralds, and behold! my name

Is written in blossoms on the hawthorn-trees.

I tell the mariner when to sail the seas;

I waft o’er all the land from far away

The breath and bloom of the Hesperides,

My birthplace.    I am Maia.    I am May.

 

 

JUNE

 

Mine is the Month of Roses; yes, and mine

The Month of Marriages!    All pleasant sights

And scents, the fragrance of the blossoming vine,

The foliage of the valleys and the heights.

Mine are the longest days, the loveliest nights;

The mower’s scythe makes music to my ear;

I am the mother of all dear delights;

I am the fairest daughter of the year.

 

 

JULY

 

My emblem is the Lion, and I breathe

The breath of Libyan deserts o’er the land;

My sickle as a sabre I unsheathe,

And bent before me the pale harvests stand.

The lakes and rivers shrink at my command,

And there is thirst and fever in the air;

The sky is changed to brass, the earth to sand;

I am the Emperor whose name I bear.

 

 

AUGUST

 

The Emperor Octavian, called the August,

I being his favorite, bestowed his name

Upon me, and I hold it still in trust,

In memory of him and of his fame.

I am the Virgin, and my vestal flame

Burns less intensely than the Lion’s rage;

Sheaves are my only garlands, and I claim

The golden Harvests as my heritage.

 

 

SEPTEMBER

 

I bear the Scales, where hang in equipoise

The night and day; and when unto my lips

I put my trumpet, with its stress and noise

Fly the white clouds like tattered sails of ships;

The tree-tops lash the air with sounding whips;

Southward the clamorous sea-fowl wing their flight;

The hedges are all red with haws and hips,

The Hunter’s Moon reigns empress of the night.

 

 

OCTOBER

 

My ornaments are fruits; my garments leaves,

Woven like cloth of gold, and crimson dyed;

I do not boast the harvesting of sheaves,

O’er orchards and o’er vineyards I preside.

Though on the frigid Scorpion I ride,

The dreamy air is full, and overflows

With tender memories of the summer-tide,

And mingled voices of the doves and crows.

 

NOVEMBER

 

The Centaur, Sagittarius, am I,

Born of Ixion’s and the cloud’s embrace;

With sounding hoofs across the earth I fly,

A steed Thessalian with a human face.

Sharp winds the arrows are with which I chase

The leaves, half dead already with affright;

I shroud myself in gloom; and to the race

Of mortals bring nor comfort nor delight.

 

 

DECEMBER

 

Riding upon the Goat, with snow-white hair,

I come, the last of all.    This crown of mine

Is of the holly; in my hand I bear

The thyrsus, tipped with fragrant cones of pine.

I celebrate the birth of the Divine,

And the return of the Saturnian reign;–

My songs are carols sung at every shrine,

Proclaiming “Peace on earth, good will to men.”

 

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