In the words of one writer, “This month was originally named Sextilis in Latin, because it was the sixth month in the original ten-month Roman calendar under Romulus in 753 BC, when March was the first month of the year. About 700 BC it became the eighth month when January and February were added to the year before March by King Numa Pompilius, who also gave it 29 days. Julius Caesar added two days when he created the Julian calendar in 45 BC giving it its modern length of 31 days. In 8 BC it was renamed in honor of Augustus. According to a Senatus consultum quoted by Macrobius, he chose this month because it was the time of several of his great triumphs, including the conquest of Egypt.”
Below – Depiction of harvesting in the August calendar page of the “Queen Mary Psalter” (circa 1310).
Art for August – Pablo Picasso: “Summer Village Landscape”
By Mary Oliver
When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend
all day among the high
my ripped arms, thinking
of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body
accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among
the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.
Art for August – Vincent van Gogh: “The Siesta”
Musings in August: Sylvia Plath
“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”
A Second Poem for August
“Further in Summer Than the Birds”
By Emily Dickinson
Further in Summer than the Birds
Pathetic from the Grass
A minor Nation celebrates
Its unobtrusive Mass.
No Ordinance be seen
So gradual the Grace
A pensive Custom it becomes
Anti-quest felt at Noon
When August burning low
Arise this spectral Canticle
Repose to typify
Remit as yet no Grace
No Furrow on the Glow
Yet a Druidic Difference
Enhances Nature now.
Below – Francine Ethier: “Singing Crickets”
Art for August – John Singer Sargent: “The Black Brook”
“The month of August had turned into a griddle where the days just lay there and sizzled.”
Art for August – Alphonse Maria Mucha: “Summer”
A Third Poem for August
“Twilight After Haying”
By Jane Kenyon
Yes, long shadows go out
from the bales; and yes, the soul
must part from the body:
what else could it do?
The men sprawl near the baler,
too tired to leave the field.
They talk and smoke,
and the tips of their cigarettes
blaze like small roses
in the night air. (It arrived
and settled among them
before they were aware.)
The moon comes
to count the bales,
and the dispossessed–
–sings from the dusty stubble.
These things happen. . .the soul’s bliss
and suffering are bound together
The last, sweet exhalations
of timothy and vetch
go out with the song of the bird;
the ravaged field
grows wet with dew.
Art for August – Edward Hopper: “Summertime”
Musings in August: Rick Bragg
“The children start school now in August. They say it has to do with air-conditioning, but I know sadism when I see it.”
“California Hills in August”
By Diana Gioia
I can imagine someone who found
these fields unbearable, who climbed
the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,
cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,
wishing a few more trees for shade.
An Easterner especially, who would scorn
the meagerness of summer, the dry
twisted shapes of black elm,
scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape
August has already drained of green.
One who would hurry over the clinging
thistle, foxtail, golden poppy,
knowing everything was just a weed,
unable to conceive that these trees
and sparse brown bushes were alive.
And hate the bright stillness of the noon
without wind, without motion.
the only other living thing
a hawk, hungry for prey, suspended
in the blinding, sunlit blue.
And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain—
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.
“August is a gentle reminder for not doing a single thing from your new year resolution for seven months and not doing it for next five.”
By Ernest J. Berry
I unfold the dust
of other summers
“In August, the large masses of berries, which, when in flower, had attracted many wild bees, gradually assumed their bright velvety crimson hue, and by their weight again bent down and broke their tender limbs.”