Midsummer Muddle

Before I get going, a question for the medieval Latinists out there.  I’m quoting “The Boar’s Head Carol” in a novella.  Here’s the first stanza, according to Wikipedia and a couple of other sources.  “The boar’s head in hand bear I, Bedecked with bays and rosemary.  I pray you, my masters, be merry.  Quot estis in convivio.  Refrain:  Caput apri defero Reddens laudes domino.”  My admittedly fading memory says that’s incorrect, that the Latin should read something like this:  “Quod estes in convivio.  Caput apri defero Redens laudet domino.”  Please, tell me I’m wrong!

Now to the July blog.  When I was a kid, I used to hate having a July birthday, because I couldn’t share cupcakes with the other kids and receive their plaudits at school.  I had birthday parties some years, but it wasn’t the same as being the focus of an entire frosting-smeared class.  Now I rather like July, whichwas named for our hero, Julius Caesar.  In July, there’s Dominon Day (now Canada Day).  There’s Independence Day.  My punnish son called it the Force of July when he was five.  There’s Bastille Day, which is closest to my birthday and temperament.  I suppose my son, who was born in November one week before the assassination of John Kennedy, thinks of himself as being located in time between election day and Thanksgiving, and his wife, a December baby, mourns the fact that people give her combination Christmas-birthday gifts.  Thus are people shaped by the month of their birth.  Both my father and my husband were June babies.  I wonder what that means.

I could consult an astrologer or look at a liturgical calendar.  During the Middle Ages, people were sometimes named for the saint on whose day they were born.  Hey there, Ethelburga.  Or they celebrated their name day (saint’s day) rather than their real birthday.  And then there are kings and queens, who have a real birthday and an official birthday that’s usually in a better season for parades.  I wonder if Queen Elizabeth had to postpone the cupcakes while she waited for her official birthday to come around.

When I was a child in eastern Oregon, my favorite July feature came when my dad would park his work trailer in the back yard, lay a mattress down on it, and let my brother John and me take our sleeping bags out there to look at the stars.  The town had no street lights, so the view was dazzling.  We could stay awake all night or until ten p.m., whichever came first.

The year is a natural thing, one migration of the earth around the sun.  There are natural holidays, turning points of the physical year, and when we throw in the revolution of the moon, there’s another set of natural high or low points.  Tides are ways of measuring the passage of time so complex they probably led the human race to mathematics.  I guess it’s up to us to attach meaning.

Since this is a writing blog, I wonder if other writers brood about the season of the year in which to set a story.  I do.  There are summer stories and bleak midwinter ones.  I’m currently writing a tale I’ll have to wind down by the time a yule log, lit on Christmas morning, burns out.  I hope the log lasts until Epiphany.  Fantasy and science fiction writers can be diverted by the possible complexities of a society that learned to measure time on a planet with five moons or two suns.  I suppose mystery writers just have to worry about the pathetic fallacy.  I must admit I’m fond of dark and stormy nights for dark and stormy deeds.

Such is my July meditation.  Happy summer.


2 Responses

  1. YOur latin looks correct to me, Sheila–I’ve never seen “quot estis,” for example.” I had five years in high school but am no expert. My grandson, a sophomore at Middlebury College, is a classics major: latin and ancient Greek–I can take it to him for verification. He loves his major, but what happens when he graduates and looks for a job? Teach or starve, I guess. What else do you do with ancient Greek?
    I love your son’s “force of July.” It’s ninety degrees outside and thundering. Too much “force” for me.

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