St. Valentine’s Day

How did February 14th become associated with romance?

It started with a pretty little story that on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day the birds begin to sing. On Valentine’s Day itself, so the legend went, they mate. This idea of birdly courtship hopped over to humans and developed into the custom of celebrating love and finding a mate.

Tales of birds mating on St. Valentine’s Day go back to the time of Chaucer (1342 – 1400). It’s first seen in print in his “The Parliament of Foules (Fowls)”.

Here’s a sample.

In Middle English (spoken at the time of Chaucer)…

For this was on Seynt Valentynes day Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

In more Modern English…

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.

Chaucer goes on to mention the birds singing, the end of winter, and the coming of summer.

In Middle English…

Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres weders over-shake,
And driven awey the longe nightes blake!

Saynt Valentyn, that art ful hy on-lofte;
Thus singen smale foules for thy sake
Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres weders over-shake.

Loosely in Modern English…

Now welcome summer, with thy soft sun,
That has this winter’s storms shaken off,
And driven away the the long black nights!

Saint Valentine, who is high aloft;
Thus sings small birds for thy sake,
Now welcome summer, with thy soft sun,
That has this winter’s storms shaken off.

I hope you all find love on Valentine’s Day!

Lisa

This article was posted on Sunday, February 12th, 2006 at 6:35 pm and is filed under Authors, Chaucer, Holidays Around the World, Languages, Mama Lisa, Middle English, St. Valentine's Day, The Parliament of Foules, Valentine's Day. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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