Thursday, February 11, 2010

BitchBuzz: Hate Valentine's Day? Blame Chaucer!

My latest column for BitchBuzz dips into the medieval history of Valentine's Day celebrations. I know some people think they're a bit excessive, but even in the Middle Ages there were a lot of fairly ridiculous beliefs about the nature of love:

Hallmark and Cadbury might seem to have a lock on the holiday now, but Valentine's Day celebrations can be traced directly to Geoffrey Chaucer. While the feast day of the martyred Roman saint gives the occasion its name, Geoff was the guy with the bright idea to tie it to romance.

Saint Valentine himself was priest who may have married Christian couples at a time when Christianity was persecuted (or not – he shows up on a fifth century list of martyrs whose acts were known "only to God") but he got a slot on the liturgical calendar.

In "The Parliament of Fowls" Chaucer sets Valentine's Day as the day when the birds gather together to find their mates. He opens with a sigh, "The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne" – that craft of course being the practice of Love. In his usual manner, Chaucer portrays himself as someone who knows of Love only from books, but in his dream he meets Venus and observes as Nature oversees the pairing off of the birds into nice heterosexual couples...

As always, you can read the rest over at BBHQ. I've been a bit quiet; trying to catch up form being sick. It's always a tad overwhelming to suddenly find your email inbox chock full of folks waiting for a response. One or two other dispiriting things this week reminding me just how petty people can be. That's life, right? Instead remember the good things: Peter Cook, loud punk music, pie, friends, John Donne's poetry.

Pity about Alexander McQueen -- how sad.

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