Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues


         In like a lion, out like a lamb; make way for April showers and the promise of spring. Such is the month of March, named after the Roman god Mars, successor to Ares of the Greeks who began as an agricultural deity but became quarrelsome, leading to fights, which led to wars. Good choice for a lion. So why is April called the “cruelest month”?  

After all, March has its Ides, which was a hell of day for Julius Caesar, stabbed as he was in the rotunda, which had to hurt.  Brutus was among the stabbers, which added insult to injury–the great general-cum-dictator had been his proud and doting mentor. Score one for the lions. Caesar was a brilliant warrior and a gifted writer—read his account of the Gallic War–he just wanted more than others wanted him to have, which was absolute power over their beloved Republic.

          Then there’s St. Pat’s Day; like next month’s Cinco de Mayo, it’s an excuse to party but no one outdoes the Irish in that regard, who are fabled as brawlers as well, true or not. I know something about that, married to an Irish lass half my size, and of whom I’m scared to death. She wins all our fights.

          March’s fabled winds add to its reputation but aids pollination, so there’s that. Still, down through history there’s as much boil and bubble in April as in other months. As the Good Book says, “We are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward,” to which may be added another piece of its wisdom, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” So Lions 2, Lambs 0. But April has just begun to fight.

          Every year I remind readers that April is the month the world’s greatest metaphor hit an iceberg–the 14th day of 1912, to be exact, upon which passenger John Jacob Astor famously objected, “I rang for ice, but this is ridiculous.” And there was more to come, namely, World War I, inspiring T.S. Eliot to call it “the cruelest month of all” in his poem, “The Wasteland”—oddly, that conflict neither began nor ended in April but he had lost a dear friend who may or may not have died in one of the two conflicts that month in 1915–the second Battle of Ypres, or the landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Or he was thinking of the U.S. declaring war on Germany, April 6, 1917.

          So this contest is tied at 2-2, though April has a much greater case to plead, like the first battle for our Independence at Lexington in 1775, Revere’s ride the day before, and Pickett’s Civil War defeat in 1865—much more than “tea parties” in any case.

Keep also in mind that the Beatles grabbed the first five slots on our singles chart in ’64 but, sadly for others, the guy I don’t think was Shakespeare fell from this mortal coil on an April day. And it promises showers to help the seeds that March has scattered with its breezes, however mild or tempestuous. Ancient Greeks must have welcomed that: the age-old prayer to Zeus was a plea to “Rain, rain, upon the fields of Athens,” signaling a seasonal problem in those parts.

          I would go on but I hear the snoring, so I close with delicate thoughts by Robert Browning who, when away at such time, longed to be back “in England, now that April’s here.” He was not alone: it was the best of all months for many a poet who welcomed a break in the weather.

          But take heed: there’s no clear dividing line twixt March and the month to follow. I took sabbatical here from Florida many a year ago, regrettably brought only spring clothes, and on a day in May saw huge flakes of snow cover lovely tulips already in bloom.

          Happily, the tulips survived. They wouldn’t have in my native Missouri. They’re not as hardy as your Yankee blooms. But if in truth April is cruel after all, good luck with your lambs this year.


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