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April 02, 2013 | 02:05 PMWhat's wrong with writing about April on this bright, spring morning? I had even done some small research. But as you can see, I am not doing very well. Don't ask me why. It might have something to do with April itself. Or it may be my way of sneaking up on the subject.
April does deal in the extremes of things. It can be wintry, tropical, tornadic, or clear, fresh and mild, the way we wish all April days would be. April Fool!
April usually includes celebrating one of man's best redemptive hopes. But this year Easter was the last day of March. No April Fool!
More tangibly, the month's mid-point is annually marked by the federal tax due date.
Then, this capricious, equivocal, moot month can end with something more than empty promises of spring. We have learned to hold our tempers about April's unpredictable ways because real spring is not too far off.
Even the name April has suspect aspects. There are three etymological views of the word's origin, but the most common one, naturally, produces its own contradictions. The word comes from the Greek Aphro, short for Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love. But it is more than a possibility that Aphrodite was originally a goddess of the underworld.
The etymology of the word has more "probablys" and "perhapses" than validity will allow. What this might say about anyone born in April, I don't know.
Consider some of the things that have happened in this fourth month, spring's first full fling. Behold a poet's April:
In April Rome was founded; Shakespeare died;
The shot whose sound rang out from Concord town
And brought an avalanche of echoes down,
Shaking all thrones of tyranny and pride
Was fired in April; Sumter far and wide
Lifted a voice the years will never drown;
'Twas April when they laid the martyr's crown
On Lincoln's brow.
—Samuel Valentine Cole
Mostly April is a mood. It is the month that causes poets
to utter such as these:
April prepares her green light and the world thinks Go.
O! how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day!
Or pattering of an April shower
]That makes the daisies grow
—Agnes E. Mitchell
What is this passing scene?
A peevish April day!
—Henry Kirke White
April may be peevish, but it is the poet's month. Its refreshing rebirth and the power of words give bards full sway.
Laugh thy girlish
Then, the moment after,
Weep thy girlish tears.
—Sir William Watson
From you I have been
absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April,
dress'd in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of
youth on everything.
Poetry may not be dead, but its life in America is a private, personal one. A society that fancies itself sophisticated and beyond such things, will never make poetry its public face. It would be a fair wager that the vast majority of Americans cannot name the U.S. poet laureate.
Maybe it takes the likes of American-born poet T.S. Eliot who set us upon our cynical ways:
April is the cruelest
Lilacs out of dead land,
Memory and desire,
Dull roots with spring
I prefer to think of April as a test, an annual test, in which things are never quite as they seem. Concluding my April sketch on a gray, cold day, who could better dispatch this meandering than Robert Frost.
The sun was warm but
the wind was chill.
You know how it is with
an April day;
When the sun is out and
the wind is still,
You're one month on in
the middle of May.
But it you so much as
dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the
A wing come off a frozen
And you're two months
back in the middle of
Johnson is a retired Badger High School teacher.