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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© 2019 Patty Seyburn | Poetry

pseyburn@aol.com