Monday, November 01, 2004



You might think that November is the eleventh month, but from an etymological point of view, it's the ninth month, from Latin novem, as September is the seventh (septem), October the eighth (octo), and December the tenth (decem). These are probably remnants of an old, ten-month calendar in use among the early Romans. Before the advent of the Caesars (Julius and Augustus), July in Latin was Quintilis (fifth month) and August was Sextilis (sixth month). For details on the Roman calendar, with references to ancient sources, the article by Thomas Hewitt Key in Smith's Classical Dictionary, though old, is still useful.

Here are a couple of poems to celebrate the month. The first is by Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864):
November! thou art come again
With all thy gloom of fogs and rain,
Yet woe betide the wretch who sings
Of sadness borne upon thy wings.
The gloom that overcast my brow,
The whole year's gloom, depart, but now;
And all of joy I hear or see,
November! I ascribe to thee.
The second, by Robert Frost (1874-1963), is entitled My November Guest:
My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
  Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
  She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
  She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted gray
  Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
  The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
  And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
  The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
  And they are better for her praise.

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