The tombstone for Thomas Jefferson on the grounds of his home Monticello states that he was born on April 2nd. However, he was actually born on April 13th. Why the difference? The variance is due to the work of Emmett Lee Dickinson (Emily Dickinson’s third cousin, twice removed – at her request).
Dickinson -- who loved corn and became obsessed with analyzing the calendar and weather patterns associated with the planting season -- realized an inherent problem with our calendar in that a year is not exactly 365 days. Dickinson realized that, in actuality, the length of time it takes the earth to complete its orbit about the sun is 365 ¼ days! As a result, the calendar was slowly shifting, so Dickinson proposed (a) adjusting the calendar by 11 days (hence the difference between April 2nd and April 13th) and (b) adding one day every four years to correct the problem. In essence, he invented what is now called a “Leap Year.”
Dickinson wrote about the “leap year” in his now-classic poem, “Pass on our Rendezvous of Light” (below on the left). His poem inspired third cousin Emily to pen her poem, “Pass to thy Rendezvous of Light” (below on the right).
Pictured at the left, top: The tombstone for Thomas Jefferson on the grounds of his home Monticello.
Pictured at the left, bottom: An enlargement of the date showing "April 2" as Jefferson's birthday (which is really April 13).
By Emmett Lee Dickinson:
Pass on our Rendezvous of Light,
Promptly but with delay
The slowness is a Mystery
And so we leap a day!
By Emily Dickinson:
Pass to thy Rendezvous of Light,
Pangless except for us --
Who slowly for the Mystery
Which thou hast leaped across!