For those cynics who purport that Valentine’s Day is nothing more than commercial hype, they could be right, but it is no modern invention. You could blame Chaucer back in 1382, who connected Valentine (several martyrs of this name around AD 197-269), to the notion of romance. He wrote a poem that talked of ‘Volantynys’ being the day when every bird chooses his mate (even though 14 February is mid-winter in England and an unlikely time for birds to be courting). However, the tradition courtly love flourished in the Middle Ages and over the next few hundred years, an expression of love on St Valentine’s Day became custom.
The ritual has changed little, as a simple Valentine poem like that written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife in the early 15th century, while he was held in the Tower of London after capture at the Battle of Agincourt (1415), is still the norm. And the little ditty; ‘Roses are red, Violets are blue, Honey is sweet and so are you’, dates back to an English nursery rhyme of 1784.
So, those of you who, like Scrooge at Christmas, say “Bah, humbug!” to Valentine’s Day, you are scorning centuries of tradition. It’s just a moment in time to show a loved one how much you care. See if you can do better than Shakespeare who wrote the greatest love poem in history…
Sonnet 18 (1609)
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.