AS THE OLD ROMANS USED TO call August, was not the birth month of Augustus
Caesar; he held it, however, to be his lucky month, and it was for this reason
that he selected it to perpetuate his name, and for his honour’s sake made up
the complement of its days to thirty-one.
emperor was correct in judging August to be a more fortunate month than his own
birth month of September. For centuries during its weeks more happy hours have
been snatched by Europeans out of the hands of the envious fates than during
the weeks of any of the other eleven months.
great Flemish artist, Breughel the elder, is believed to have painted a series
of pictures representing each month of the year. His picture of the month of
August, now in the New York Metropolitan Museum, treats of a harvest landscape
with the corn standing ready for the sickle, as it were a solid substance of
golden bread! It is the noon hour, and the sixteenth-century reapers lie
sprawling under the shadow of a tree. Evidently the genial opulence of the
month of August had deeply stirred the artist’s imagination. Everything
included in his picture seems to be praising the earth, whose procreant urge
has given birth to so much sweltering life. The relaxed labourers bless the
simple sensualities of existence; each leaf of the tree above them is suspended
in the sultry air; each several spearhead of bearded com stands grateful in the
has always been the principal month of the English harvest. Lammas-tide
(loaf-tide), as it came to be known in medieval times, was one of the four
pagan festivals, and was closely associated with the cutting of the com.
happy holiday month is truly an august month for us in England. It is during
its days of sunshine that people who have been labouring at uncongenial tasks
all the year long are able to enjoy a few days, or perhaps even a few weeks, of
devil soon finds work for idle hands to do.’ Few proverbs are more slyly
mendacious. Worldly minded people have always been adroit at coining such
ethical apophthegms. Anxiously we await the weather signs for August Bank
If the cock goes crowing
to his bed
He is sure to wake with a
the sun rises, behold, there is not a cloud to be seen. In London the indolent
hours slowly pass, and the ever- increasing murmur that can be heard rising
from each tap- room might deceive a planetary visitor into taking taverns to be
sorts of enormous beehives. Behind the counter stands the publican, constrained
on the occasion of so full a house to come to the help of his over-worked
barmaid. He is a sober, practical man, who pulls down the polished handles with
a competent fist, his eye vigilant for the last farthing. The door into the
street is propped open with a rusty kitchen weight, always used for this
purpose in hot weather. This soiled and shining swing door will remain open
until long after darkness has fallen.
it is that fresh puffs of wind from the Thames’s channel touch the foreheads of
the tipplers with the benediction of a summer’s night. These cool gusts mingled
with the smell of tobacco, with the smell of stout, with the smell of human
sweat, refresh the toss-pots, who, already well whittled, sit elbow to elbow in
holiday shirt-sleeves as jolly as pyes. In the far-distant early morning their
sons and daughters have left for the seaside in crowded excursion trains,
testing the patience of long-suffering ticket-collectors with their
irrepressible high spirits, and eventually streaming out of the railway
station, a throng of strayed sun worshippers.
makers! That is a title that we should all strive to merit on this day. From
the first crowing of the backyard rooster, with scarlet comb froHc and dry, our
mood should be that of good fellowship. Fastidious reactions should not be
indulged. We should cultivate an attitude that is broad enough to accept life’s
loosest humour. Our reciprocity with the light-hearted mood of the day should
be strong to transform discarded newspapers into a litter left behind by the dancing
feet of a riotous troop of dedicated Bacchantes. It is the aplomb of Walt
Whitman that should be our inspiration:
Afoot and light-hearted I take to
the open road.
Healthy, free, the world before me.
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . . .
Here the profound lesson of
reception nor preference nor denial.
The black with his woolly head, the
felon, the diseas'd, the illiterate person, are not denied.
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . . .
They pass, I also pass, anything
passes, none can be interdicted.
None but are accepted, none but
shall be dear to me.
the countryman the approach of the imperial month has been indicated by
unfailing signs. The yellow, oddly scented, button-like flower called flea-bane
begins to be seen.All butterflies are attracted to this late-blossoming herb,
and, as its name suggests, it offers a sovereign remedy against fleas. Nicholas
said leaves gathered, when the morning dew is on them, and brought into a
chamber troubled with fleas, will gather them thereunto, which being suddenly
cast out will rid the chamber of those troublesome bedfellows.’
every river bank the purple loosestrife shows at its finest now, waving its
phallic splendour over the shining river levels where trout, slow to rise and
as gross as chub, lag under the shadows of emerald water-weeds with backs and
spotted flanks plump from the plentiful dietary of an endless succession of
warm summer evenings.
Shakespeare makes mention of purple loosestrife in Hamlet,
alluding to the plant as a man who loved it and had observed its habit
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies,
and long purples.
That liberal shepherds give a
But our cold maids do dead mens
fingers call them.
it is a wise thing to spend a bank holiday in a boat on a river; especially is
this plan to be commended to a boy and girl happy in their first love. To moor
their skiff under the shade of some dark-leaf’d alder, and to watch the moon
come up as they lie among shocks of newly cut com—who could devise a better way
of spending their few hours of sweet freedom?
the twilight swallows are seeking their roosting places on the penthouse beams
of old outlying cattle-barns. From the distant hillside comes the sound of a
bugle. The boys have returned to camp after their day of explorations. They are
gathered about their fires, listening to the hearty talk of their sun-burned
monitors, all of them happy save one who sits shyly apart and wishes he were in
the garden of his home watching in undisciplined freedom for puss-moths at the
end of the lawn where the evening primroses flourish, calling like a true child
of Dorset after the dusty nocturnal millers:
Millery, millery, dousty pole!
How many zacks hast thee
Vour and twenty in a peck
Hang a miller up by's
unbewitched eyes he watches the moon behind a hedgerow elm. It is the same moon
that is transforming the harvest acres that hold the lovers.
is the hour when cold dew gathers on leaf and grass blade. All is stillness
except where the plover’s plaintive cry sounds from a distant meadow. This is
the hour when may be heard the sound of dutiful farm horses munching pro-
vender in the hollow vaults of uneven-floored stables whose racks and mangers have
been sweetened and polished by this same strong animal of health and labour for
generation after generation. Occasionally for the easement of a tired limb a
heavy hoof is rested, the caulkins of its lucky shoe suddenly glimmering as the
worn metal catches the shroud-white light that leaks in through a derelict
window dim with currycombs and cobweb dust. This is the hour when the otter may
be seen conducting her offspring across the river, her weasel’s head of
blackest velvet silently dividing the water’s smooth surface into rippling
lines edged with moonlight.
the poetry of the summer’s night takes possession of the boy and girl. Never
again will they be able to accept without suspicion the common view of die
Monday morning world. The love they have for each other has initiated them into
a new mystery. They have been permitted to look through the thin stage-scenery
of accepted reality. In foul and in fair weather, in sickness, in old age, and
in the hour of death they will have at their command a clue to the
justification of life in the shared memory of a perfect August holiday.