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[Ed. Note: "Janus" was the two-faced Roman god of gates and doors who looked both ways and, accordingly, became the god of beginnings and endings; marriages, births, deaths, and other significant occasions were particularly sacred to him. --Nelson]
- 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.
[Ed. Note: In ancient Rome, February was the month of "Februa" or "Lupercalia," the festival of atonement and purification; the cleaning of ancestors' tombs was a part of this ritual process. "Lustration" means "sacrifice."--Nelson]
- 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.
[Ed. Note: In ancient Rome, March was the first month of the year until Numa, second king of Rome, changed the beginning of the year to January around 700 B. C. --Nelson]
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
[Ed. Note: Julius Caesar, who named the month after himself when he reformed the Roman calendar in 46 B. C., was never in fact emperor; his assassination on the Ides of March, 44 B. C., was intended to prevent his self-proclamation of emperorship. --Nelson]
- 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.
[Ed. Note: Octavian (also "Octavius") was awarded the honorary title of "Augustus" by the Roman Senate in 27 B. C. for his defeat of Mark Antony which ended a 102-year civil war; he was afterward called "Caesar Augustus" and was effectively the first emperor of Rome. --Nelson]
- 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.
- I BEAR the Scales, where hang in equipoise
- The night and day; and whenunto 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.
- MY ornaments are fruits; my garments leaves,
- Woven like cloth of gold, and crimson dyed;
- I do no 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.
[Ed. Note: The mortal Ixion attempted to seduce Hera, who informed Zeus; Zeus, in turn, transformed a cloud into the likness of Hera which he used to trap Ixion, who was cast into the Underworld. The cloud, however, became pregnant and gave birth to Centaurus, who became the progenitor of the centaurs. --Nelson]
- 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.
[Ed. Note: A "thyrsus" was a wand bound with ivy and tipped with a pine cone, carried originally by the god Dionysus, and later by his followers during their celebratory revels. Saturn, the father of Jupiter, was the god of agriculture and learning and reigned over the "Golden Age" when men lived in peace and harmony; the religious festival of the "Saturnalia," which began December 17 and lasted for 7 days, commemorated that "Saturnian reign." --Nelson]
- 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."
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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