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My Favorite Year

1582 was moving along

like any other year – 


Russia cedes Livonia and Southern-Estonia

to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, 


Francois, Duke of Anjou, arrives in the Netherlands,

where he is personally welcomed by William the Silent,


Takeda Katsuyori and his household commit suicide –

the usual parade of royalty recorded in bibles,


recorded on statues, recorded on parchment documents

while everyone else starves and marries in folk ceremonies


bribing some local cleric and fucks and dies of infected cuts

or agues or plagues or simple exhaustion or watches their wives die


in childbirth, tanner and wigmaker, blacksmith and weaver

and seamstress, the odd consort, composer, friar,


and there was that giant party at the Hippodrome in Istanbul,

thrown by Ottoman Sultan Murat III in honor


of the circumcision of his son, Crown Prince Mehmed III,

16 years old at the time. The festival endured


52 days and 52 nights, though the son

does not remember much, even ensconced


in his own splendid apartment attended

by experienced nurses and an equal number


of experienced virgins.


1582 was just fine

until Pope Gregory III decided


to implement the Gregorian Calendar,

(because, said one savvy eunuch,


everything really is about him),

to rectify the problems with


the Julian calendar – namely,

the system exceeded the solar year


by 11 minutes, or 24 hours

every 131 years, or three days


every 400 years, adding up

to 10 days between 325 AD


(when adopted) by 1582.


And so, the Catholic countries jumped ahead 10 days

in the 10th month, restoring the vernal equinox to March 21,


and complicated leap year calculations were performed

but England did not follow suit until the mid-18th century


and so were faced with 11 days but some in the colonies

and England adopted the new way, so you might find


a date like 13 March 1661/1662, but some confusion

remained – St. Teresa of Avila died on 4 October, 1582


and was buried the next day: 15 October, and if you

felt out of sorts with your astrological sign, you could


say, if within a week of the cut-off, well, I’m really

a Scorpio, I never felt like a true Sagittarius (by


12th century BC, the Babylonians already read

the stars – “omen-based astrology”) – and people


were already disoriented then – some still felt

they belonged in the Late Middle Ages while 


others were firmly planted in the Renaissance,

feeling man the “measure of all things,” reason


and dignity leading the charge. Yes, 1582 


was a strange time – who knows

what we could have done with


those 10 missing days? What pox

cured? What noble nose roughed


from marble? John Dee

was trying to commute with angels.


Working with scryer Edward Kelley

on the Angelic Alphabet, a language


used, supposedly, by Adam in Eden

to name all things, and then the birth


of Elizabeth Jane Weston, a poet,

born on November 2, part English 


and part Czech and one

might be prone to admiring her


knowledge of five languages,

having given birth to seven children


(and dying for the last) but for

her subject-matter: idyllic reveries,


odes to Emperor Rudolf II, odes

to herself and anti-semitic diatribes – 


ah, Liz, I tire of letting history make excuses, amends –

“I am of my time, no one’s seen a Jew since 1290” – 


I say, bah, humbug (to be continued)

of course, you join the best of company, the Bard


and his amor get married at the end of November, 

they had planned a summer wedding but with 


the pending Gregorian shift and autumn promised 

mild, Merchant not writ until the century’s last gasps


while on the Hebrew calendar, 5342 – 5343

is a year like many other, fleeing and setting up


shop – have you seen my printing press? 

My neighbor, Giovanni, owns it (law dictates)


but I’m the one who carves the letters on the plates.

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