By The Landlord
“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss
Much is written about months of the year – poetic, functional or perfunctory, variously as a temporal mark of weather, seasons, plans for work or play, but really they are artificial constructs, just like any other measurement of time, only approximately following the lunation or synodic month of our own Moon's eccentric orbit that averages about 29.5 days. But measure we must, for it is in our nature.
But how might months come up in song? Previous topics have variously focused on seasons, days of the week, and indeed particular dates, but not the months themselves. So in what way? History has produced many calendars other than original Roman version (earlier the Julian via Julius Caesar), which began on 1 January 45BC. But there were also Byzantine and Alexandrian calendars, and many more. Imagine being so powerful you decide to dictate how people measure time? Meanwhile the birds, animals, insects and trees just got on with it.
Of course this developed into the Gregorian calendar, promulgated in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, our modern international measurement. Of course alternatives from many cultures and religions may well come up in song nominations, but the most likely are those 12 months we know best. How? Perhaps many be mentioned in lyrics to express a mood, a setting, a backdrop, to highlight a particular date, or to frame an entire song.
For modern humans, many months are just the same – a beginning that’s quickly sucked up by bills, and we can’t wait until the end to get paid in the same old cycle, so perhaps we can reclaim something from months, through the prism of songs, also in ancient traditions, festivals and more, maybe in mood and musical context.
Do months have meanings? They have many particular associations. "Late afternoon in early February, was there a moment of the year better suited for despair?” wrote Alice McDermott. "It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade," wrote Charles Dickens."“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen," wrote George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty Four. By contrast, while TS Eliot saw it as cruel, “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything," scribbled Shakespeare in Sonnet XCVIII. And then there's fellow Elizabethan Thomas Dekker's 'Merry month of May," later parodied by Wendy Cope, and onwards …
It an earlier Roman form the year didn't really begin until March, because January and February were lumped together as winter. Seems reasonable, the way I generally find those two months. In the UK January is often known as Dry, but in the US it's also National Soup Month and many other marketing labels. Februarius was named after the Latin term februum, which means purification, Mars the god of war, April means "to open", and May is named after the Greek Goddess Maia, who was identified with the Roman era goddess of fertility, which explains those May pole rituals. Incidentally, having a birthday in February, think I was the product of some May Bank Holiday spontaneity. So it’s all your fault, Maia.
June has many origins, including being named after Roman goddess Juno – marriage and the wife of the supreme deity Jupiter. July is named after another huge ego - Julius Caesar of course, perhaps because he reckoned he was the hottest dude around. And then we have the Emperor Augustus, after which September was established as the harvest month, October originally being the eighth Roman month, but more importantly it is now National Popcorn Poppin’ Month in America. November was originally the ninth month when there was no January of February, and December has a similar numeric origin, but forget that, Black Friday Deals and Xmas are now where it’s at.
We all have things to say about every month, using it as a way to look forward, look back, be upbeat, be downbeat, to explain or blame, compare what’s happened or will happen, so instead of showering you endlessly with guest quotations by the wise or the wordy, here's my own brief attempt to sum up the year of months in verse, or worse:
Booze-free resolutionary, restrained in matters monetary?
This hibernatory, gym-health month could very well be January.
Don't worry, all that's temporary – with 'flu we fly to February,
A month of problems pulmonary, and trips to the dispensary.
If February's apothecary, very tightly budgetary, what can March bring?
Fresh hopes, scary Ides? Blossoms, lambs and spring?
Next could be the cruellest, sometimes it snows. That's hateful.
Inspiring to poets, meaning 'to open', of course this one is April.
The weather's looking up at last, as sun dissolves the grey.
The season of elections too – the crazy month of May.
Could next be the end of May – the light, bright month of June?
Summer's here at last, we hope, and doesn't come too soon.
"School's up at last!" kids cry – how fast the time does fly,
Stevie Wonder thinks there's hotter – singing of July …
Perhaps in Europe, US or more, but Britain cannot trust
Those pesky clouds not to burst in the busted flush of August.
Back at work and school? Late summer comes, we must remember
Fruits drop off with leafy twists, that's the humour of September.
October brings the real Fall, trees light up like lamps that burn,
Historic month of revolution – all things on the turn.
November welcomes winter in like a friend who needs embracing,
But the year hurries ever onwards, and we're rushing, working, racing.
Then suddenly it's Christmas, and New Year's Eve's dying ember,
Where did all that time go by? And then it's next December …
And now the time has come to hand over to our own, far superior timekeeper and judge of all monthly matters, Rachel Courtney, aka uneasy listening, who has her own thematic radio show. Place your song suggestions in comments below for deadline 11pm UK time on Monday, for playlists to be published on Wednesday, that being in the month of March on the 27th day. The clock is ticking …
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