Sylvan Scenes of Summer ~ August 7th-13th, 2017

“See what delights in sylvan scenes appear!

Descending Gods have found Elysium here.

In woods bright Venus with Adonis stray’d,

And chaste Diana haunts the forest shade.

Come lovely nymph, and bless the silent hours . . .”

-excerpt from Summer by Alexander Pope

The middle of Leo season is a time to reflect upon the fixity and stasis that occurs between spring’s growth and autumn’s decline.  This week begins with a lunar eclipse in Aquarius and ends with Mercury’s retrograde turn in Virgo. Thus, all your best laid plans are going to require some extra adjustments to these rippling shifts in the energetic weather. These minor shifts will seem happenstance and incidental, mere background noise. When the Sun is giving its annual performance of rulership in Leo, all eyes should remain fixed upon it. 

Where-e’er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade,

Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade,

The zodiac is the symbolic language that humanity uses to tell the great myth of the Sun’s journey, detailing its dramatic rise and fall, death and rebirth. Thus, you can imagine that when the Sun arrives to express all of its glory in Leo, the story of the Sun has reached its crescendo.

So the whole season of Leo is a celebration of the Sun’s glory. Thus this time of year has a lot of extra shimmer and sparkle to offer. The drama of your life is made more acute so that you will sculpt yourself into a finer character. Though there is some levity in the process of creation, the middle of Leo season becomes quite heavy with  the burden of articulating great meaning from every tiny gesture.

If you’ve often found yourself oppressed by summertime sadness, this is why. But remember that it is from the heaviness of this stasis that the fixed nature of Leo draws its power. Thus, the summertime sadness is not anathema to the Sun’s cheerful light, but is an intelligent response to the intensity of focus upon human nature that this season requires.

To understand the power and the majesty of a season of fixed fire, it would be fruitful to examine the Augustan Age of English literature, which was the Neoclassical movement that preceded Romanticism. Historically speaking, it tends to be much more delectable for modern readers to taste of the fruits of Romantic poetry! To the descendents of cinema and rock n’ roll, Augustan poetry pales in comparison to daimonic pulse of Coleridge, Shelley, and Byron! The ghosts of romanticism, which still possess the cultural temperament, craves the highest highs and the lowest lows, abhorring the stasis in between.

Oh! How I long with you to pass my days,

Invoke the muses, and resound your praise;

But here we are in a season of stasis: the Sun sits upon its throne and beams. While sitting upon the throne, the Sun hardly notices the tiny changes and disturbances in the weather. The Sun in Leo is not concerned with little revolutions or retrogrades. The Sun here offers an unflinching gaze, bringing many things into hyperdimensional focus. An appreciation for the Augustan Age of literature requires exactly this kind of gaze, one that delights in retracing the static forms of classical history until they begin to animate once again. To understand why the Augustan period was just as fascinating and significant as the Romantic era, you would have to focus upon it long enough to begin seeing the light and the shadow, the vanity and the dark humor.

But wou’d you sing, and rival Orpheus’ strain,

The wond’ring forests soon shou’d dance again,

The Augustan Age was once referred to as the Age of Pope, meaning that there was no literary figure that exemplified the age more than Alexander Pope.  

Alexander Pope is a figure that can hardly be categorized by today’s notions. He was born with certain deformities, meaning he grew no taller than four feet when he was full grown and he remained too physically weak even to dress himself. But he was aware of how to create a literary image nevertheless!

Alexander Pope’s egotism as a writer can so easily be mocked from afar. He created an emblematic image and fought to maintain its pretensions. He claimed a nobler ancestry than he had. He dated his poems to make them seem as though they were all the works of early genius. To maintain this false record of himself as a great prodigy, he gathered letters he had written to others, rewrote them and changed the dates, times, and places.

All of this seems to paint a portrait of a seething egomaniac. But Alexander Pope, always conscientious about his literary image, was highly regarded for his wit from the time he was a teenager. And he was dear friends with Jonathan Swift, the greatest satirist of the age who was quoted as saying:

“In Pope, I cannot read a line,

But with a Sigh, I wish it mine:

When he can in one Couplet fix

More sense than I can do in Six:

It gives me such a jealous Fit,

I cry, Pox take him and his wit.”  

Therefore, the whole character of Alexander Pope including his ego-maniacal pretensions seem to be one of the most elegant statements about the Augustan Age. Upon first glance, it seems lavish, vain, and predictable. But for those wise enough to keep staring, much of the works was a masquerade, hiding scathing satire beneath obvious forms.

Following the Protestant revolution, there was an understandable suspicion of fostering any more new ideas or mystical revelations. Instinctually, literary culture had gone back to relying on classical forms to find some stability of thought once again.

But underneath this stiff-necked return to classical form, writers like Alexander Pope managed to use the dessicated amphitheatres as a stage for great satire. Understand that this fixed gaze of Leo requires you to be patient. The obvious forms must be meditated upon for quite some time before their dual nature of light and shadow can be revealed.

The pastoral poem, Summer, by Alexander Pope was said to have been written by him when he was only 16 years old. (such early signs of genius!) In rapturous and graceful words, he recalls the whole pastoral tradition, harkening back to Spenser and Virgil.

Ye Gods! And is there no relief for Love?

But soon the sun with milder rays descends

The poem is perfect in is form and is thus remarkably beautiful. Though Pope’s pastoral poems were not ever officially recognized as satire, it should be noted that a man as well-known for his wits as he was would have had his tongue in his cheek more often than not. But what might Pope have been smirking at in the Elysium scene that he sets in a beautiful poem like Summer?

But see, the shepherds shun the noon-day heat,

The lowing herds to murm’ring brooks retreat,

Pope lived during one of the pinnacles of the Age of Reason, where
Man had become the measure of all things. As such, nature was suddenly conceived of as being something outside of and separated from humanity. This drastic shift in attitude, from the ancient pagan understanding of nature to the Enlightenment’s would have certainly been addressed. The austere artificiality that underlies the pastoral poems is the whole point.

Pope’s presentation of nature itself is sharply and distinctly 17th Century. And the vanity and narcissism of the Enlightenment sentiments were the inspiration for all of Pope’s satire. Thus, even in his splendid pastoral psalms we must gaze for subtler shadows.

On me Love’s fiercer flames for every prey,

By night he scorches, as he burns by day.

So during this week, where the Sun in Leo remains so fixed in its gaze, let things play out without reacting. The details are of no consequence. You can examine your life and its dimensions with a steady focus this week, letting the nuances of light and shadow bring the full picture of text and subtext into view. Amidst the glamour, the drama and the lust for life that Leo season shines with, take the time to appreciate the subtle humor through every innuendo, entendre and double-edged sword.

Monday/Tuesday: Descending Gods

The beginning of the week is much more like an ending, for the eclipse in Aquarius will mark a significant moment of culmination and then release. In pastoral terms, you might imagine that this week begins just as Diana shoots one graceful arrow into the neck of a stag. As the animal dies in her loving arms, the scene grows peacefully dim.

This lunar eclipse in Aquarius should signify a time where you can unburden yourself. But in order to do so, you may have to examine your ego and its ideals. The whole point of Leo season is to sculpt and shape the human ego with intelligence and purpose. Thus, if there was ever a time to force an encounter with your own self-deceit, this would be it! The purgation of the eclipses energies should allow you to confront your own pretension and live to tell the tale.

This miraculous outcome of facing the inner critic and handling what it has to say without breaking is what we call humor. So at this eclipse, look at yourself and laugh. It is the only way to survive a truly cruel world.

Wednesday/Thursday: Harmless Grove

In the middle of the week, Mercury in Virgo will sextile Venus in Cancer offering you easy access to your most graceful wits. Also as the Sun sextiles Jupiter in Libra, you will find that it is easier to push your vision of things forward. There is a lot of potential for good luck and opportunity for those who choose to acknowledge their relationships to others as far more dynamic than master/servant, husband/wife, friend/enemy. Acknowledging the potential for Saturnalia at every given moment is the key to maintaining good humor.

If, even after your show of good humor, your ego is sore and in need of soothing, you can summon the strength that you need at this time. In response to life’s challenges, know that whatever you show in the face of pomp and circumstance will become a permanent part to you character. Leo season is the time for fashioning an identity that resonates with having good character, one that stands up and meets challenges with great courage.

Friday/Saturday/Sunday: Sylvan Scenes

On Friday, Venus in Cancer will trine Neptune in Pisces, setting an idyllic scene for the weekend. There can be no better time for daydreaming and enchantment with Venus and Neptune sharing their mists and vapors. Spend the day and night lost in some idolatry.

But soon the sun with milder rays descends

To the cool ocean, where his journey ends;

On Saturday, Mercury turns retrograde in Virgo, his sign of rulership and exaltation. Despite common fears that Mercury retrogrades portend negative consequences, this does not mark the beginning of a time where you must hold your breath and worry. In fact, Mercury loves being in Virgo so much that this shift in direction is going to open up another dimension of thinking for you that you did not even realize was there. If you want to experience the deep thoughts that this Mercury retrograde period has to offer, you must enjoy the experience of letting your thoughts be moved by hand that is not your own.

In quiet repose, witness how your thoughts (facts, fantasy, and emotion) all weave themselves together into theories of being. The animistic force that weaves these tapestries of perception within you is also the force that empowers the death and regeneration of your billions of cells. In light of this, it must be admitted that your conscious attention and intellectual talent is only a fraction of what is going on in thought processes.

The flashes of insight and the spontaneous moments of synthesis are a part of a process much bigger than what you can possibly take credit for. The humility this realization brings is the crux upon which the great glory of Mercury in Virgo can be appreciated. So spend this Mercury retrograde, not in fear, but in humility. To learn about who you are, stop believing in the supremacy of your autonomy. In order to be open to inspiration, you must be humble.