The chill month of January has at last taken its leave, and we find ourselves in yet another February, weary of coats and gloves and cold floors in the mornings. February is a tease, the next month of a long season drawing out the torment of grey days like a frosted veil while its sharp winds moan — a tease that this winter may never end. Our collective mood reflects the biting wind, our spirits as charged and restless. But then come brief thaws and nervous sunshine – a practiced treachery, as February has a knack of returning us to winter, and drowning us in darkness.
Our calendar is a Roman one, and like Roman history, February offers its deceits. A spectacular example is what occurred in February 44 BCE. In that year, Julius Caesar refused the crown that Marcus Antonius pressed upon his head. Standing before crowds gathered for the annual Roman fertility festival of Februa, during the days of Lupercalia, the offer was recorded by Plutarch and later famously dramatized by Shakespeare. Many historians agree that the incident was probably staged by Caesar himself to gauge the wishes of the Roman people. Given his undeniable imperial ambitions, Caesar’s refusal strains credulity even now. But again, it was February, that teaser, that time of practiced treachery.
Whatever he truly intended, we know that Caesar never was king or emperor. His deceit was a litmus test that served as an augur, predicting the fateful March that followed his final February. On the floor of the hallowed Senate itself, Rome’s mighty saw Caesar, the dictator, fall to the ground, betrayed by a friend. This time it was not the gold of Lupercalia that watered the earth, but blood.
History bludgeons and blooms like the seasons, dragged forward by the momentum of change. So too, February blows hard, softens, then comes down again like a Roman sword.
So, while February may plunge us into painful darkness once again, we can be like the ancient Romans and take charge of our lives – in our case by plunging ourselves into poetry.
"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him; The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones, So let it be with Caesar ..." from Shakespeare's, Julius Caesar
“A Roman February” is by BPS Member and accomplished poet, Fj Doucet. Check out her work on Instagram: @fj_doucet