"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Angsts and Poets of April

"April," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
How do you paint April?
Clouds or sunshine? Birth or death? Hope or despair? Beauty or beast?
There's the beauty of flowers and rain, and the terror of tornadoes. There was the birth of our Revolution, and the brutality of the OKC bombing. April is no fool
If you look for poets for advice, you find all those opposites, but more negative than positive.
This year, we're relieved to get through March, but face a longer April as the pandemic wreaks and wrecks havoc with every aspect of our lives all over the world.
Somebody suggested we keep journals of this disaster, for both our own mental health but also for future generations. I guess this blog and paintings approach that, though I'm more interested in bringing some color into these dark months, and recording facts. 
But such diaries are important, especially as we have no idea how long or really catastrophic this plague is going to be. 
Consider Samuel Pepys' 1665-1666 diary of the black death pandemic in London--it provides both the human and historical record that killed about 100,000 people in 18 months, a quarter of London's people. 
In our April, where there will be more deaths, more tragedies, back to the poets, who show us not much has changed over the years.
The first who came to my mind was T.S. Eliot, and particularly bleak, in The Waste Land:
   "April is the cruelest month, breeding
    Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
    Memory and desire, stirring
    Dull roots with spring rain."
Offset that with Shakespeare please:
   "April, dressed in all its trim, hath put a spirit of youth in everything."
But then there's Charles Lamb:"Here cometh April again, and as far as I can see the world hath more fools in it than ever—"
Go way back to 1367 to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, first in Middle English:
"Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;"
Translation:
 "When in April the sweet showers fall
that pierce March's drought to the root and all,
And bathed very vein in liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower."
Edna St. Vincent Millay was somewhat more cynical, in two poems:
"April this year, not otherwise
Than April of a year ago
Is full of whispers, full of sighs,..."
"Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.”
Though not a poet, George Orwell wrote a line in 1984 that really seems to fit the insanity of our current crisis:
"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
The Angst of April indeed. I'll take clouds and colors thank you.


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