I find it beyond fascinating that one thing can so easily lead to another even if those things have precious little in common. I have chosen to share the journey which reminded me of this with you in hopes that you too may find it equally interesting.
This entry (Mercedonius) was listed on the main page of Dictionary.com; from there I followed the highlighted links to the dear Mr. John Keats.
Top of Form
Meet “Mercedonius,” the annoying month that used to exist (sometimes)
January 26, 2011
There are many reasons to be thankful for the benefits of modern living ― antibiotics, airplanes, velcro . . . Another subtle but essential item is our calendar. It may have some frustrating moments, but consider how months used to work. Take heed of Mercedonius.
(The insertion of a leap day, week, or month into some years is called “intercalation.” Intercalation is done to align the calendar with the seasons or moon phases.)
The addition of Mercedonius didn’t happen automatically. The decision was made by the high priest of the College of Pontiffs, who was also known as the Pontifex Maximus. The Pontifex Maximus, Latin for “greatest bridge-maker,” was the head honcho of the ancient Roman religion.
The Pontifex Maximus was supposed to base the decision whether to include Mercedonius in any given year so that the calendar would correspond with the seasons. Politics, however, are said to have motivated his decision making. For example, Mercedonius was sometimes inserted to allow a government official to stay in office longer.
You can imagine the confusion that this caused. If you were living outside of Rome, you might have no idea what the current date was.
From the last entry to:
Which two-headed god is January named after, and what does the month symbolize?
January 2, 2011
January is often considered the month for deep reflection. We look back at the year behind us, bemoaning our regrets and celebrating our successes. And then, we look forward to the future year. We make well-meaning resolutions and hope for the best.
So, in this way, we’re all a little bit like Janus, the Roman god for which January is named. Janus is usually depicted with having two heads. that face in opposite directions. One looks back to the year departed, and one looks forward to the new and uncertain year ahead.
(The poetic term John Keats coined that describes living your life while accepting that it is filled with uncertainty seems appropos to this transitional time. Learn the term and its exact meaning, here.)
The god Saturn bestowed upon Janus this ability to see into the future and past.
From the last entry to:
What poetic term describes living your life while accepting that it is filled with uncertainty?
On December 21, 1817, the poet John Keats wrote a letter to his brother in which he expressed and named a quality of human existence that is tricky to articulate. Keat’s formulation has been adopted by philosophers, poets, and others ever since.
Roughly, the idea is our ability to simultaneously acknowledge the unpredictable nature of events and conduct ourselves with confidence and happiness. He called this familiar yet complex concept negative capability.
Here’s a passage from Keat’s letter elucidating the theory: “…what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.”
Keats felt that it was great thinkers in particular (like poets, for example) who had the negative capability to see that all life’s big questions can’t be resolved. It should be noted that while other writers continued to explore negative capability, Keats only explicitly mentioned it once — in the aforementioned letter to his brother. This isn’t the only idea Keats casually mentioned that turned out to be hugely influential. You can read more about his life, poetry, and philosophy, here. It was an infamously tragic life. He died at 25, and his significance as a poet of the Romantic movement became clear only after his death.
- Addressed to Haydon (1816) Addressed to Haydon
- Addressed to the Same (1816) Addressed to the Same
- After dark vapours have oppressed our plains (1817)
- As from the darkening gloom a silver dove (1814)
- Asleep! O sleep a little while, white pearl! Asleep! O Sleep a Little While, White Pearl!
- A Song About Myself
- Bards of Passion and of Mirth Bards of Passion and of Mirth
- Before he went to live with owls and bats (1817?)
- Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art (1819)
- Calidore: A Fragment (1816)
- The Day Is Gone, And All Its Sweets Are Gone
- Dedication. To Leigh Hunt, Esq.
- A Dream, After Reading Dante’s Episode Of Paolo And Francesca A Dream After Reading Dante’s Episode Of Paolo And Francesca
- A Draught of Sunshine
- Endymion: A Poetic Romance (1817)
- Epistle to John Hamilton Reynolds
- Epistle to My Brother George
- The Eve of Saint Mark
- The Eve of St. Agnes (1819) The Eve of St. Agnes
- The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream (1817)
- Fancy (poem)
- Fill for me a brimming bowl (1814) Fill for me a brimming bowl
- Fragment of an Ode to Maia
- Had I a man’s fair form, then might my sighs (1815 or 1816)
- Hadst thou liv’d in days of old (1816)
- Give me women, wine, and snuff (1815 or 1816)
- God of the golden bow (1816 or 1817)
- The Gothic looks solemn (1817)
- Happy is England! I could be content (1816)
- Hither, hither, love (1817 or 1818)
- How many bards gild the lapses of time (1816)
- The Human Seasons
- Hymn To Apollo
- Hyperion (1818)
- I am as brisk (1816)
- I had a dove
- I stood tip-toe upon a little hill (1816)
- If By Dull Rhymes Our English Must Be Chain’d
- Imitation of Spenser (1814) Imitation of Spenser
- In Drear-Nighted December
- Isabella or The Pot of Basil (1818) Isabella
- Keen, fitful gusts are whisp’ring here and there (1816)
- La Belle Dame sans Merci (1819) La Belle Dame sans Merci
- Lamia (1819)
- Lines Written on 29 May, the Anniversary of Charles’s Restoration, on Hearing the Bells Ringing (1814 or 1815)
- Lines on Seeing a Lock of Milton’s Hair
- Lines on The Mermaid Tavern
- Meg Merrilies
- Modern Love (Keats)
- O Blush Not So!
- O come, dearest Emma! the rose is full blown (1815)
- O grant that like to Peter I (1817?)
- O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell (1815 or 1816)
- Ode (Keats)
- Ode on a Grecian Urn (1819) Ode on a Grecian Urn
- Ode on Indolence (1819)
- Ode on Melancholy (1819) Ode on Melancholy
- Ode to a Nightingale (1819) Ode to a Nightingale
- Ode to Apollo (1815)
- Ode to Fanny
- Ode to Psyche (1819)
- Oh Chatterton! how very sad thy fate (1815)
- Oh! how I love, on a fair summer’s eve (1816)
- Old Meg (1818)
- On a Leander Which Miss Reynolds, My Kind Friend, Gave Me (1817)
- On Death
- On Fame On Fame
- On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer (1816) On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
- On Leaving Some Friends at an Early Hour (1816)
- On Peace (1814) On Peace
- On Receiving a Curious Shell, and a Copy of Verses, from the Same Ladies (1815)
- On Receiving a Laurel Crown from Leigh Hunt (1816 or 1817)
- On Seeing the Elgin Marbles (1817)
- On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again
- On the Grasshopper and Cricket (1816)
- On the Sea (1817) On the Sea
- On The Story of Rimini (1817)
- On The Sonnet
- The Poet (a fragment)
- A Prophecy – To George Keats in America
- Robin Hood. To A Friend
- Sharing Eve’s Apple
- Sleep and Poetry (1816)
- A Song of Opposites
- Specimen of an Induction to a Poem (1816)
- Stay, ruby breasted warbler, stay (1814)
- Think not of it, sweet one, so (1817)
- This Living Hand
- This pleasant tale is like a little copse (1817)
- To —
- To a Cat
- To a Friend Who Sent Me Some Roses (1816)
- To a Lady seen for a few Moments at Vauxhall
- To A Young Lady Who Sent Me A Laurel Crown (1816 or 1817)
- To Ailsa Rock
- To Autumn (1819) To Autumn
- To Lord Byron (1814) To Lord Byron
- To Charles Cowden Clarke (1816)
- To Fanny
- To G.A.W. (Georgiana Augusta Wylie) (1816)
- To George Felton Mathew (1815)
- To Georgiana Augusta Wylie
- To Haydon
- To Haydon with a Sonnet Written on Seeing the Elgin Marbles (1817)
- To Homer
- To Hope (1815)
- To John Hamilton Reynolds
- To Kosciusko (1816)
- To Leigh Hunt, Esq. (1817)
- To My Brother George (epistle) (1816)
- To My Brother George (sonnet) (1816)
- To My Brothers (1816)
- To one who has been long in city pent (1816)
- To Sleep
- To Solitude
- To Some Ladies (1815)
- To the Ladies Who Saw Me Crown’d (1816 or 1817)
- To the Nile
- Two Sonnets on Fame
- Unfelt, unheard, unseen (1817)
- When I have fears that I may cease to be (1818) When I have fears that I may cease to be
- Where Be Ye Going, You Devon Maid?
- Where’s the Poet?
- Why did I laugh tonight?
- Woman! when I behold thee flippant, vain (1815 or 1816)
- Written in Disgust of Vulgar Superstition (1816)
- Written on a Blank Space
- Written on a Summer Evening
- Written on the Day that Mr Leigh Hunt Left Prison (1815)
- Written Upon the Top of Ben Nevis
- You say you love; but with a voice (1817 or 1818)
There are 133 listed poems written between 1814 and 1819? That’s certainly one heck of an accomplishment for a man with a five year career in poetry who never hit his 26th birthday! And so I clicked on the connection of a poem by Keats to/about my second choice of the period’s poets (Lord Byron) and it brought up a dead link…which, in turn, irritated me beyond all reason and so I “googled” the title and clicked the first link listed.
This led me to this (http://englishhistory.net/keats/) website and then to the link for poetry and then letters. “Letters” led me to yet another connection to a poet of the period. It seems that Keats had written (http://englishhistory.net/keats/letters/shelley16August1820.html) to Mr. Shelley and that the two had a rather lovely bond.
There I discovered this:
“I think Shelley’s opinion can best be described in his own words, from a letter he wrote to Marianne Hunt on 29 October 1820 regarding Keats’s latest work, Hyperion:
‘Keats’ new volume has arrived to us, & the fragment called Hyperion promises for him that he is destined to become one of the first writers of the age. – His other things are imperfect enough…. Where is Keats now? I am anxiously expecting him in Italy where I shall take care to bestow every possible attention on him. I consider his a most valuable life, & I am deeply interested in his safety. I intend to be the physician both of his body & his soul, to keep the one warm & to teach the other Greek & Spanish. I am aware indeed that I am nourishing a rival who will far surpass me and this is an additional motive & will be an added pleasure.’”
And then, this:
“Upon learning of Keats’s illness, Shelley graciously asked him to stay with his family in Italy. The poet politely refused. Shelley wrote the beautiful elegy Adonais upon Keats’s death. The next year, Shelley himself drowned; a volume of Keats’s poetry was found in his pocket.”
So, I ended my evenings journey on line 495 (http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/1879.html) of Adonais, which I never would have read had my “go to” dictionary not chosen to offer me “’Mercedonius’ the annoying month that used to exist (sometimes).”