St. Valentine and Cupid warm a cold month

February 8, 2014 

Thank Chaucer for reminding us of the winter holiday that warms our coldest month. Church chronicles suggest it was a Roman emperor who subjected an early bishop named Valentine to imprisonment and death for allegedly writing letters to his girlfriend. However, acceptable substantiation being lacking, there is stronger evidence suggesting that Chaucer in his book, “Parliament of foules,” published around 1300, declared establishing the day of Saint Valentine’s martyrdom as: “For this was on seynt Volantynys day Whan euery bryd and foules comyth there to chese his make.” (“For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”)

It matters not if the church’s or Chaucer’s’ details are correct. There is no question, however, concerning the validity of the concept.

No bird watcher worth his binoculars would disagree that the birds are now assembling in preparation for mating and migrating, while even the hardest nosed merchant would add that there is nothing as beautiful as lad and lass suffering unabated love, especially with the economic returns that come with this day, devoted to romance. The sales of jewelry and restaurant meals, of flowers and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, along with greeting cards, jump-start this nation’s economy by about $18 billion.

The early ministers of love served long and well. Perhaps the initial figure associated with this special day in February, wholeheartedly dedicated to promoting love and romance in all its forms, was born to Venus of Grecian origin. Cupid, pictured as a chubby, near-naked, winged sprite, recklessly inserting barbed shafts of romance and desire into the bosoms and hearts of unwary lads, lassies and Gods alike, was another name for the earlier Eros, of Roman mythological fame, often confused with the fairest of all the deathless gods, Anteros, the spirit of requited love.

Any way it’s presented, Valentine’s Day still provides a great excuse for “euery bryd and foule cometh there to chese his make.”

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