Monday, February 11, 2013

♥❄♥ Geoffrey Chaucer - The True Inventor of Valentine's Day

Chaucer invented Valentine’s Day

This might come as a surprise to many, but there is not a drop evidence that Valentine’s Day rites of the ancient Roman festival celebrating the Catholic Saint Valentine are the reason we celebrate Valentines Day. In fact, nothing is reliably known of St. Valentine except his name and the fact that he died on February 14 on Via Flaminia in the north of Rome.

What we do know is that Geoffrey Chaucer is the first person to  associate February 14th with romantic love. This happened during a time when the tradition of courtly love flourished in Medieval England.

Chaucer (1343- 25 October 1400), is known as the Father of English literature and widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages. He was the first poet to have been buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. Smitten Courts eagerly implemented Chaucer’s romantic, literary suggestions. The poems almost never treated women as people with desires themselves; rather they treated them as divine, angelic objects to be acted upon. This was a time that male romantic love was glamorized in poetry, whilst the loved women, almost never experienced love themselves. Chaucer’s love poems were different in that they were more philosophical than humorous and witty. For example: If honorable love demands eternal dedication even in rejection, is the rejected suitor who truly loves eternally faithful despite the rejection?

Chaucer wrote a poem to honor King Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia, and in it mentions Valentines Day. The poem reads:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

Chaucer’s poem, ‘The Parlement of Foules’ is a dream vision that begins with the dreamer passing through a Classical world of love, in the form the Goddess Venus’s Temple, before he comes face to face with eagles, ducks and cuckoos. Nature heads the ‘parlement’ of birds, match-making the winged beasts according to their‘social status’.

A gardyn saw I, ful of blosmy bowes,
Upon a river, in a grene mede,
Ther as swetnesse evermore y-now is,
With floures whyte, blewe, yelowe, and rede;
And colde welle-stremes, no-thing dede,
That swommen ful of smale fisshes lighte,
With finnes rede and scales silver-brighte.
On every bough the briddes herde I singe,
With voys of aungel in hir armonye,
Som besyed hem hir briddes forth to bringe;
The litel conyes to hir pley gunne hye.
And further al aboute I gan espye
The dredful roo, the buk, the hert and hinde,
Squerels, and bestes smale of gentil kinde.

Chaucer makes clear that Nature summons them each year on that day for that purpose.  At the conclusion his birds also address the saint in heaven, "Saynt Valentyn, that art ful hy on-lofte," professing to sing for his sake.

Our world is light years from Chaucer. Our concept of romantic love would be unrecognizable to him. Speaking only for myself, ‘eternal dedication’ even in rejection, not only is unhealthy but a sign of mental illness. Queen Victoria whom had a great love affair with her husband, Prince Albert, mourned his death for nearly forty years. This is different from loving someone who rejected you. It reminds me of the jilted old lady in Great Expectation, her home decorated for the wedding decades after her groom to be never showed up for the wedding. This kind of love sounds more and more like a mixture of obsession, low self-esteem and mental illness.

Centuries later, Shakespeare gives us, in the 16th century, as Ophelia's song. Although he is not credited for inventing Valentine’s day, the song is beautiful and worth an honorable mention:

To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber- door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
By Gis and by Saint Charity,
Alack, and fie for shame!
Young men will do't, if they come to't;
By cock, they are to blame.
Quoth she, before you tumbled me,
You promised me to wed.
So would I ha' done, by yonder sun,
An thou hadst not come to my bed.

One of my favorite Shakespeare Love Quotes: 

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind

My belief is that love is smoke made with the fume of our hormones and grows from our incomplete sense of self. Needless to say, when it comes to romantic love, I wear my cynicism boldly. All the fizz and pop of romantic love fades in time. Unless one of you dies first – there is a 98% chance the relationship will end. Romantic love, with all the fireworks, is a little child, and expects the same instant gratifications of little children. 

So, why do we keep doing something that has proven to be bad for us 98% of the time? Because it feels good to be in love. It makes the mind blind, stupid, and weak. 

I hope I did not bum you out too much. 

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