THE ROMAN EMPEROR AUGUSTUS stole a day from defenseless February and added it to the month of August - so that his month would be as long as the July that gave tribute to his Uncle Julius. Created by a show of strength, August masses the powers of summer into singular dimensions of energy that might not be noticed as we hurry along, through the hazes, to the heat-relief of autumn.

Think of the questions August raises. How does grass sprout up, in a twiny vibrance, amid slabs of roadside concrete? All other life but these lone blades of green strength has been smothered beneath the cement. But every August tufts of grass can be found growing in triumph where all else has been defeated. How does it happen?

Why do the zinnias of August offer colors of strength that cannot be found even in the celebrated flowers of May? The earth's blood itself appears to pump through the bold reds and oranges of the zinnia garden. Their scent is strong, their stalks can be cut only to grow back again and they don't call for daily watering - and sometimes no watering at all. Wouldn't it be logical for zinnias to come on with the forsythia of April or the dogwood of May, instead of saving their kick for the last lap of summer?

The final questions of August's strength are in the depthless numbers of its fertility. How many millions of pounds of apples are ripening now? How many miles of vine have dripped how many tons of tomatoes? How many shelves of country kitchens are lined with the jellies from August crab apples or blackberries?

August has a few days remaining before it takes leave and takse summer with it. Its seasonal changes are perceived only by the alert. But this is another trait of August. Nature is now so strong that it appears as if its powers will never fade. But they will, with a certainty that is the surest of all of nature's strengths.