Monday, 27 June 2005

The Bad Ol' Summertime

With the possible exception of the Yuletide, I think summertime is extolled in more poems, songs, movies, and TV shows than any other season. Chaucer welcomed summer with its "sun soft." Shakespeare compared a woman to a summer's day. In the song "Summertime" Gershwin says that "the livin' is easy." And there are a host of other songs that praise summer: "In the Good Ol' Summertime," "Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer," and so on. I don't know that movies praising summer are nearly as common as the poems and songs, but there are a few. Those AIP beach movies with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello were a virtual paen to the season. Grease, with the song "Summer Nights," portrays the season as being filled with fun and romance. Indeed, there have been many, many movies set in the summer: In the Good Old Summertime, Summer Rental, Summer School, Summer Stock, Summer Catch, ad infinitum. In only a few of those movies is summer portrayed as anything less than fun, romantic, and downright pleasant.

Going by the poems, the songs, and the movies, one would think that summer is best season of them all. One would think that it was a time when the sun is shining and yet the weather is mild and the temperatures not too cool or not too hot. At least here in Missouri (and I would assume much of the Midwest, South, and Southwest as well), nothing could be further from the truth. Summer is hot, muggy, sweaty, and generally uncomfortable. If anything, it is the most unpleasant season of them all. I would rather deal with ten feet of snow and freezing temperatures in the winter than the heat and humidity of summer any day.

Of course, all of this begs to reason why summer is praised so often in poems, songs, and other media. It is hard to say, but I have to wonder if on the part of Americans it isn't something that was carried over from Great Britain and Europe. In Great Britain and Europe, for the most part summer is pleasant. Given that it almost never reaches 90 degrees in London, I can see how Chaucer and Shakespeare would have praised the season. Indeed, I rather suspect that memories of Yuletide in Britain and Europe could explain the snow and ice imagery used to celebrate the Yuletide here in the United States, used even in places like Missouri where snow in December is very, very rare. Quite simply, summer is nice in Britain and Europe, so that imagery was carried over to North America where summer isn't always so nice.

My other theory is that perhaps the poetry, songs, and so on that praise summer written here in America are simply being written by Yankees living where the season isn't quite so severe. The other day I saw where much of New England was experiencing temperatures in the fifties. Here it never drops into the fifties in late June. Indeed, in Missouri there are times (like now) that we are lucky if the low temperature is in the sixties! I dare say no Missourian has ever described summer livin' as easy or compared a beautiful woman to a summer's day... Not any sane Missourian anyhow...

At any rate, I am ready for September, that glorious month when the temperatures drop and the humidity is not so fierce, that beautiful month of soft sun and light breezes. It is that month when one can finally go outside without worrying about heat stroke, but at the same time one doesn't have to wear a coat or a jacket. Honestly, that is the time of year people should write songs about....

3 comments:

The Talking Mute said...

I guess I shouldn't be complaining when it hits 32 to 33 degrees Celsius here in Canada. Speaking from the snowy region of North America, I agree that I'd rather have 10 feet of snow than a hot muggy summer we are experiencing right now. We had a message posted at work today to conserve energy to avoid power-outage. We Canadians have been used to the cold weather that we immediately turn on our AC the moment we see a drop of perspiration. Air conditioners use a lot of energy enough to shut down a power station. Luckily, we had a little thunderstorm tonight, which washed off the humidity at least for tonight.

Mercurie said...

32 C? Is that around 89 F? That is the average temperature it gets here in late June. Unfortunatley, lately it has been hitting 95 F. And in Missouri we can't have temps above 80 without 60 to 75 percent humidity... Ah well, I suppose that is life in North America for you....

The Talking Mute said...

Yes that's around 89 F.