“There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance.” – William Sharp
In the words of one writer, “The Roman month Februarius was named after the Latin term ‘februum’, which means ‘purification’, via the purification ritual ‘Februa’ held on February 15 (full moon) in the old lunar Roman calendar. January and February were the last two months to be added to the Roman calendar, since the Romans originally considered winter a monthless period.” ‘Februa’ involved rituals designed to avert evil spirits and purify the city.
Below – “February,” from “Tres riches hears du Due de Berry” (1412-1416).
A Poem for February
A Poem for February
“A Calendar of Sonnets: February”
by Helen Hunt Jackson
Still lie the sheltering snows, undimmed and white;
And reigns the winter’s pregnant silence still;
No sign of spring, save that the catkins fill,
And willow stems grow daily red and bright.
These are days when ancients held a rite
Of expiation for the old year’s ill,
And prayer to purify the new year’s will:
Fit days, ere yet the spring rains blur the sight,
Ere yet the bounding blood grows hot with haste,
And dreaming thoughts grow heavy with a greed
The ardent summer’s joy to have and taste;
Fit days, to give to last year’s losses heed,
To recon clear the new life’s sterner need;
Fit days, for Feast of Expiation placed!
This Date in Art History: Born 1 February 1868 – Stefan Luchian, a Romanian painter.
Below – “Safta the Flower Girl”; “The River Meadow at Poduri”; “The Laundress”; “Chrysanthemums”; “A Housepainter” (Self-Portrait).
“Go to the winter woods: listen there, look, watch, and ‘the dead months’ will give you a subtler secret than any you have yet found in the forest.”
Art for February: Olga Vorobiova: “February”
Musings in February: Anna Quindlen
“February is a suitable month for dying. Everything around is dead, the trees black and frozen so that the appearance of green shoots two months hence seems preposterous, the ground hard and cold, the snow dirty, the winter hateful, hanging on too long.”
Art for February: Nikolai Anonkhin: “February Stillness”
by Margaret Atwood
Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
again, ‘He shoots, he scores!’ and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.
Below – Margaret Atwood.
Art for February: Benjamin Williams Leader: “February, Fill Dyke”
by Langston Hughes
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
“Every mile is two in winter.”
Art for February: Alfred Sisley: “A February Morning”
A Third Poem for February
by Madoka Mayuzumi
Wishing and wanting
to see you,
I step on thin ice.
Art for February: Vladimir Tokarev: “Winter Window”
“February, when the days of winter seem endless and no amount of wistful recollecting can bring back any air of summer.”
A Fourth Poem for February
“Afternoon in February”
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The day is ending,
The night is descending;
The marsh is frozen,
The river dead.
Through clouds like ashes
The red sun flashes
On village windows
That glimmer red.
The snow recommences;
The buried fences
Mark no longer
The road o’er the plain;
While through the meadows,
Like fearful shadows,
A funeral train.
The bell is pealing,
And every feeling
Within me responds
To the dismal knell;
Shadows are trailing,
My heart is bewailing
And tolling within
Like a funeral bell.
Art for February: Vyacheslav Korolenko: “Cold February”
This Date in Art History: Died 1 February 1944 – Piet Mondrian, a Dutch painter.
Below – “Evening, Red Tree”; “Spring Sun”; “View from the Dunes with Beach and Piers, Domburg”; “Tableau I”; “Composition I in Red, Blue, and Yellow”; “Victory Boogie Woogie.”
Musings in February: William Shakespeare
“Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?”
Below – Drawing by Nicolai Fechin.
Art for February: John Olin Gardner: “Sunshine with open water: February”
“Sheep in Fog”
by Sylvia Plath
The hills step off into whiteness.
People or stars
Regard me sadly, I disappoint them.
The train leaves a line of breath.
Horse the colour of rust,
Hooves, dolorous bells –
All morning the
Morning has been blackening,
A flower left out.
My bones hold a stillness, the far
Fields melt my heart.
To let me through to a heaven
Starless and fatherless, a dark water.
Art for February: Claude Monet: “Le Givre A Givrerny”
Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Birth: Born 1 February 1927 – Galway Kinnell, an American poet.
By Galway Kinnell
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.
Musings in February: Joseph Wood Krutch
“The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February.”
Below – Childe Hassam: “Shoveling Snow, New England”
Art for February: Olga Trushnikova: “Cat in the Window”
A Sixth Poem for February
By John Goss
There is nothing here
except the constant, looping clicks and caws
of birds, lost in trees erased by white.
My sight condensed
by each fresh, foggy breath,
a hanging depth
my head sinks through.
but mulching steps,
the soft snap of twigs long soaking,
the sticky sound
of car tire on wet road.
I am drenched
by a sudden gang-up of water,
a brief yawn of thunder far away.
There is nothing here
and I am all wet.
Remembering a Creative Genius on the Date of His Death: Died 1 February 1966 – Buster Keaton, an American actor, comedian, film director, producer, screenwriter, and stuntman. Critic Roger Ebert wrote of Keaton’s “extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, [when] he worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor–director in the history of the movies,” and Orson Wells stated that “‘The General’ was cinema’s highest achievement in comedy, and perhaps the greatest film ever made.”
Art for February: Edward Hopper: “Winter Twilight”
Musings in February: Ruth Stout
“There is a privacy about winter which no other season gives you … Only in winter…can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.”
Art for February: John Singer Sargent: “Mannikin in the Snow”
A Seventh Poem for February
by Sara Teasdale
I stood beside a hill
Smooth with new-laid snow,
A single star looked out
From the cold evening glow.
There was no other creature
That saw what I could see–
I stood and watched the evening star
As long as it watched me.
Below – Trichardsen: “Evening Star”
Art for February: Andrew Wyeth: “Fence Line”
Welcome, February: Please Test Us.