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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Midsummer Night's Dream

(A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Arthur Rackham,
1867-1939, English illustrator)

Today, June 23, is Midsummer Night’s Eve, a puzzling name since we have just marked the summer solstice, the beginning of the season. It’s called midsummer because the occasion celebrates the midpoint of the growing season, which starts with the planting in the spring and ends with the harvest in the fall.

The merrymaking begins on the eve and goes right on through the next day. According to tradition, this night is a time of magic “when it is well known all kinds of ghosts, goblins, and fairies become visible and walk abroad,” as the American author Washington Irving (1783-1859) wrote.

This is also a time when thoughts of love fill the air, as in Shakespeare’s happiest play,
A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
Love can transpose to form and dignity.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath Love's mind of any judgment taste;
Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste:
And therefore is Love said to be a child,
Because in choice he is so oft beguil’d.
As waggish boys in game themselves forswear,
So the boy Love is perjur’d every where.

~ Helena, one of the young lovers in the play (Act I, scene i)

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