"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The bounty of April


A woodcut showing April's bounty from William Caxton's second edition of the Canterbury Tales in 1483.
"WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,..."

The opening lines of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, surely written in a spring about 800 years ago in the late 1300s, could well describe Oklahoma as another month ends. The skies outside are humid, filled with shifting clouds dripping moisture. The drought of the previous year is over in all but the southeast of the state, and rains of the last two days and nights have only added to the greenery of spring with h most rainfall in four years.

April has been the fourth month on the Roman calendar at least since 700 years before Christ, getting its name from the Latin aperie for "opening," referring to the opening of leaves and blossoms. Our ancestors the Anglo-Saxons called it "oster-monath" or "eostur-monath" after the pagan goddess Eostre whose feast was in that month. Ironically, that's where Christians got the name of Easter for their feast and celebration.

April is ripe with more than crops, with many life-changing events. Just 620 years ago today, Columbus received his commission for his voyage of discovery. And on this day 209 years ago, what is now Oklahoma became part of the united States when Jefferson completed the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
The month has been home to tragedy and triumph too. On April 19, 1775, a bunch of fed-up farmers started the Revolution by firing the "shot heard round the world," at the world's most powerful military at Concord and Lexington. From Emerson's 1837 "Concord Hymn":
    "By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
     Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
     Here once the embattled farmers stood,
     And fired the shot heard round the world."

Ninety years later, the American Civil War began and ended four bloody years apart in Aprils, 1861-1865. On April 21, 1836, Sam Houston and his Texican army defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto, winning independence. We've just noted the 100th year of The Titanic sinking, April 15, 1912. On this day in 1945, Hitler and his one day bride committed suicide in Berlin. And in Oklahoma, we're all aware of April 19 for a different reason, the 1995 bombing.

Other April events underscore greatness. The Russians put the first man in space in April, 1961. The supersonic Concorde first flew in April 1969. Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth II's birthdays are in this month.  And finally, April oddities-- April starts on the same day of the week as July in all years, and January in leap years. April ends on the same day of the week as December every year.


April has also been a month of romance, especially in music. "April Love," and "April in Paris."




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