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The astronomical diagram above was designed by Andreas Cellarius, the Dutch-German cartographer best known for his elaborately decorated maps of the heavens, the Harmonia Macrocosmica, which display the divine harmony of the macrocosm. The engraving reproduced above shows the earth tilted in regard to the plane of the ecliptic — and that’s important, because if the earth were not tilted we wouldn’t have seasons.
The earth travels around the sun in a nice flat path, but the earth is tilted in regard to the plane of that path, so that at different times of the year the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun (summer), and at other times it’s tilted away (winter.) And twice a year the angle is such that the northern and southern parts get an equal amount of sunshine — the equinox, when night and day are essentially equal in length. We’ve now gone through the vernal (spring) equinox.
John Milton, the heavy-weight Puritan poet of the 17th century, says that when God created the Garden of Eden, the earth’s axis was not tilted, and the weather remained wonderfully temperate. But after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, everything got slanted awry and we wound up with our freezing winters and hot, hot summers. Milton’s Paradise Lost is too long to quote here, so instead we’ve chosen a very, very short lyric.
“Sumer Is Icumen In” is a poem in Middle English, actually the lyrics to a round, or rota, from about the middle of the 13th century. The little verses celebrate the arrival of spring. The first stanza, below here, mentions the loud song of the cukoo bird, the growing seeds, the blossoming meadows, the new growth of trees in the woods.
Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing, cuccu;
and bloweth med,
And springth the wode nu;
Awe bleteth after lomb,
Lhouth after calue cu;
When we originally posted this we also posted Ezra Pound’s parody, “Winter is icumen in,” but we found it too depressing.It must have been posted by our evil twin brother. We’ll stick with spring.