I haven’t posted an article since Epiphany, Ukraine’s Christmas. I was very busy during the last month. John has been evicted, but there is nothing I can do to help him. He requires more than I can offer. A home for seniors could be his best option. John suffers from Ménière’s disease. He is nearly deaf and he hugs the walls.
But today February is foremost in my mind. It has been extremely cold. We missed groundhog day but we did not Candlemas, la chandeleur. La Chandeleur invites longer days. In the Northern hemisphere, each new day is slightly longer than the previous day. Candlemas, is also the day Simeon recognized the child Jesus as the Savior and the day His mother was purified.
Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634) is a painter of the Dutch Golden Age of painting. He was born in Amsterdam, where he was trained by Danish-born portrait painter Pieter Isaacsz. He moved to Kampen in 1608. Avercamp’s favorite subject matter was winter inhabited by people and their pets going about their everyday activity: working, fishing, or skating and otherwise amusing themselves on the ice. In other words, he was genre artist when genre painting was a new frontier. Moreover, Avercamp lived during a period known as the “little ice age.”
Interestingly, Avercamp painted as though he stood slightly above his subject matter. He used an aerial perspective. He made sketches of his winter scenes which he transformed into paintings in warmer seasons. Hendrick Avercamp was mute and probably deaf, and he is therefore known as “de Stomme van Kampen.”
February was a busy month, but we have almost caught up. The Pagan precursor of St Valentine’s Day was Lupercalia.
This has been a difficult year. I celebrated Valentine’s Day discretly and failed to write a post on the subject of love. However, if one clicks on Posts on Love Celebrated, a page, not a post, one will find discussion on this subject.
At any rate, I am wishing you, belatedly, a Happy Valentine’s Day.
In Gilles Durant’s poem, the first song, a lover invites his Lady to enjoy the pleasures of love, as life is much too brief. Carpe diem.
Février, Les Très Riches Heures de Jean de France, duc de Berry(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Happy Valentine’s Day to you!
Today is Valentine’s Day: la Saint-Valentin. My best wishes to all of you.♥
I have written several posts on Valentine’s Day and did some research again yesterday. This time, I read Wikipedia’s entry on Valentine’s day in which it is stated that there is no link between Lupercalia and Valentine’s Day. Lupercalia was replaced by Candlemas. As for Valentine’s Day, a celebration of Romantic love, it was all but invented by Chaucer who called the day “seynt” Valentine’s Day.
Chaucer was a prisoner during the Hundred Years’ War. When he was released, he took to England the French Roman de la Rose, a work of literature that epitomizes courtly love. However, it was an exchange. Charles d’Orléans, who was detained in England for 25 years during the Hundred Years’ War, took to France not only poems he had written referring to Valentine, but also the lore of Valentine’s Day as it existed in England. Legend has it, wrote Chaucer, that birds mate on 14 February.
For this was on seynt Volantynys day Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
[“For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”]
So let us make matters as clear as possible. It is reported that Pope Saint Gelasius I (494–96 CE) wanted to replace a “pagan” feast, called Lupercalia (from lupus, wolf), with a Christian feast. Candlemas was the new feast and it did not replace Lupercalia. It would be celebrated 40 days after Christmas, on 2nd February, and honour three closely-related events:
Presentation of Jesus at the Temple and the Meeting of the Lord, when Simeon’s wish came true. Simeon was an old man who wanted to see Jesus before he died and, having seen Jesus, said now you dismiss. His words are the words of a canticle(un cantique), a song of praise and joy, entitled “Nunc dimittis.”
Let us note, however, that the above-mentioned feast is called Candlemas, laChandeleur, which suggests a possible festival of lights. From the most remote and pagan antiquity, humans have always celebrated the degree of lightness and darkness from season to season. Carnival season ended on Ash Wednesday, or the day after Mardi Gras, a day of revelry and merriment.
Easter: the moveable feast
near the vernal equinox
Our next feast is Easter, which is celebrated near the vernal equinox a day when night and day are approximately of the same duration or nearly equal. Christmas is the day of the longest night. So, on 14 February, Valentine’s Day, the days are getting longer, but we have not reached the vernal equinoctial day of the year.
St Valentine’s Day
Lupercalia and the Ides of February
Valentine’s Day and Lupercalia
Candlemas did not replace Lupercalia, a fertility ritual and a day of purification. If St Valentine’s Day (la Saint-Valentin) is the day on which birds mate, there would be a commonality between Lupercalia and Valentine’s day. But the Ides of February, which fell on 13 February, were Lupercalia. (See Lupercalia, Wikipedia.) As shown The better-known Ides are the Ides of March, “the 15th day of the Roman month of Martius[,]” a day associated with the assassination of Julius Caesar who developed the Julian Calendar. (See The Ides of March, Wikipedia.)
The Gregorian Calendar: the Ides of February
The Julian Calendar was replaced by the Gregorian calendar, because feasts, Easter in particular, no longer matched the seasons. Gregorian refers to Pope Gregory XIII and the Gregorian Calendar was introduced in 1582. Candlemas celebrated on 2 February, but the Ides of February remained the middle of February which is when Valentine’s Day is celebrated.
Saint Valentine’s Day is listed on a page entitled: Posts on Love Celebrated. La Chandeleur, Candlemas would not be linked to Valentine’s Day. Its proper source is the commemoration of a martyr. associated with Februus, a god and Februarius a month perhaps, the Ides of February.
Presentation of Christ in the Temple, from the Sherbrooke Missal c. 1310 – c. 1320 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today is Candlemas, now better known as “grounhog day” or “pancake day.” When I was a child, Candlemas, laChandeleur, was a religious holiday that was also a festival of lights: la fête des lumières. We didn’t know it was groundhog day, nor did we know it was pancake day. We lived in the very Catholic province of Quebec, which was then a priest-ridden province and is now, otherwise ridden.
However, times have changed. In Quebec, today is le jour de la marmotte and la fête des crêpes. Quebec has therefore caught up to the rest of the world. Apparently, Groundhog Day is a German tradition. (See Groundhog Day, Wikipedia.) Ironically , it could be that many Quebecers do not remember la Chandeleur, or Candlemas.
We owe Candlemas to Pope Gelasius I who died in Rome on the 19 November c. 496 CE and is now a saint. Saint Gelasius wanted to replace Lupercalia, a disorderly pagan feast with a Christian feast, celebrated about 12 days later than 2 February. It was Candlemas, which eventually would take place on 2 February, according to the Gregorian calendar. Most Christian feasts are celebrated on the same day as a pagan feast and they inaugurate or close a season, the four seasons and liturgical seasons.
Humans have also celebrated the day of the longest night, the winter Solstice, and the day of the longest day, the summer Solstice. They have also celebrated the days when day and night are the same length: equinoctial points, or an Equinox. This is the logic according to which Christian feasts are celebrated. It is a matter of season and one of continuity.
According to the book of Luke (Luke 2:29-32), Simeon, a devout Jew, had been promised by the Holy Ghost that he would see the Saviour before his death. He recognized Jesus when he was brought to the Temple for the ceremony of the Presentation of the first-born son. Having seen Jesus, a Jew, with his own eyes, he sang a canticle in which he says that now (nunc) he could leave: “Now let me leave…”
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel. Book of Common Prayer, 1662
There are equinoctial tides that occur near the time of an equinox. In France, they are called marées d’équinoxe. They were spectacular where I lived in Normandy. One could not see the water from the shore. When the water returned, it did rapidly. Sheep grazed on the prés salés (salted meadows), called présalés, at Mont-Saint-Michel. It could be that the tides brought the salt. Before or after walking to the Abbey, we would eat crêpes. There was a lovely restaurant at the foot of the hill. Sometimes we drove to Saint-Malô to eat crêpes. Tides occurring on solstices are less dramatic than equinoctial tides.
The Christian seasons are also called “tides:” Christmastide, Epiphanytide, Eastertide, etc. Christianity has more seasons than nature’s four seasons. We are not entering a tide, but an Ordinary Time that will end on Ash Wednesday (10 February, this year) or Pentecost. (See Eastertide, Wikipedia.)
The RELATED ARTICLES, listed below, will lead you to all relevant posts and songs.
Romulus and Remus suckling Lupa (Photo credit: Google Images)
The above image shows Romulus and Remus, born to Vestal VirginRhea Silvia and the god Mars or the demi-God Hercules. Amulius had seized power from his brother Numitor and had forced Rhea Silvia, Numitor’s daughter, to become a Vestal Virgin so she would not bear children.
After the birth of Romulus and Remus, Amulius threw the babies into the river Tiber and sent their mother to jail. However, Romulus and Remus were saved by shepherds and fed by a she-wolf, Lupa, in a cave called Lupercal, perhaps located at the foot of Palatine Hill. They were then discovered by Faustulus, a shepherd.
The feral twins killed Amulius when they learned about their mother, but Romulus killed Remus who wanted Rome founded on Aventile Hill rather than Palatine Hill. Whence, the existence of Lupercus (from lupus: wolf), the Roman god of shepherds, and that of the Lupercalia, a yearly Roman festival honoring Lupa.
Romulus and Remus being given shelter by Faustulus, oil by Pietro da Cortona(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Lupercalia & Candlemas
In ancient Rome, the Lupercalia (Lupercus) took place between 13th and 15th of February. This “pagan” feast is sometimes associated with Candlemas, celebrated on the 2nd of February. The Julian Calendar ceased to reflect the seasons, the degree of lightness or darkness, and was therefore replaced with the Gregorian calendar. The Eastern Church reflects this discrepancy.
As we will see, there was a motivation to transform the Lupercalia into a Christian feast. However, the Lupercalia endured until the 5th century CE and was celebrated beginning on the Ides of February, i.e. the 13th, ending two days later, on the 15th.
At the start of the Lupercalia, two goats and a dog were sacrificed. Next, two young Luperci, members of a corporation of priests, were led to the altar and anointed with the blood of the sacrificed animals. Luperci then dressed themselves in thongs, called februa, taken from skin of the of the sacrificed goats and dog and ran around the walls of the old Palatine city carrying thongs and striking the crowd.
Pancake Day or La fête des crêpes
Later, salt meal cakes prepared by the Vestal Virgins were burnt, which is interesting because in France, Candlemas, celebrated on 2nd February, is “la fête des crêpes” or Pancake Day and today, 12th February is International Pancake Day. It would be my opinion that the pan of pancakes is the pan of pots and pans, but would that it were Pan the “Greek god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs” (Pan, Wikipedia).
Pan’s Roman counterpart was Faunus. But Pan protected the flocks from wolves, which would suggest that he was also the counterpart of Lupercus, the above-mentioned Roman god of shepherds who replaced an earlier god named Februus (see Lupercalia, Wikipedia).
However, for our purposes, the ancient and “pagan” Lupercalia was an event which Pope Saint Gelasius I (494–96) wanted to abolish. Senators opposed him, so he invited them to run nude themselves. Gelasius I did not replace the Lupercalia, but a Christian feast would be celebrated on 2nd February, 40 days after Christmas. It would commemorate the “Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” to be observed on Candlemas. It was a noble thought, but Lupercalia was not replaced. However, a St Valentine would be commemorated, but other Valentines would be celebrated on Saint Valentine’s Day, the 14th of February which were the Ides of February. [i] According to Britannica, “[i]t came to be celebrated as a day of romance from about the 14th century.”[ii] That would be in Chaucer’s (born c. 1342/43 died 25 October 1400) lifetime.
The many Saints called Valentine
There was a St Valentine a convert and a physician, who may have restored the sight of his gaoler’s blind daughter. According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, this Valentine was clubbed to death c. 270. His feast day is the 14th of February. However, there could be other beatified Valentines. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there are three saints named Valentine, one of whom would the bishop of Terni, formerly Interamna. The fact remains that Roman Martyrology recognizes only one St Valentine, a martyr who died on the Via Flaminia and whose feast day is the 14th of February. (See Saint Valentine, Wikipedia.)
I will break here. We have gone from the Lupercalia to Valentine’s Day and stumbled upon la fête des crêpes (2nd February) or Pancake Day, which is quite a journey. Let us return to the Lupercalia. Pope Saint Gelasius I may have abolished Lupercalia, but Lupercalia remained. However, although there is at least one saint named Valentine, Valentine’s Day is very much as described in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. It is a “relic” of a pagan feast celebrated in February that remains a celebration of love and friendship and a bit of a carnival. It should be noted that Epiphanytide, which beings on the 6th of January, ends on the 2nd of February, on Candlemas. As for Carnival season, it also begins on Epiphany, but it ends on Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday), a few days before Easter.
Capitoline Wolf, bronze, 13th and late 15th century CE or c. 500 – 480 BCE.
Chaucer’s name is derived from the French le chausseur (the shoemaker), which suggests French ancestry. Moreover, Chaucer knew French. This would explain his ability to translate literary works written in French as well as his being assigned diplomatic missions that required a knowledge of French. For instance, as a courtier, he was asked to make an attempt to end the Hundred Years’ War. Chaucer was a man of many talents.
The Hundred Years’ War
In 1359, during the Hundred Years’ War, Chaucer travelled to France with Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence[.] In 1360, he was captured during the siege of Reims. Edward III paid £16 to ransom him, a large sum of money that did not cover in full the amount demanded by France. Ransoms helped finance wars, hence the idiomatic ‘king’s ransom.’
The Romaunt of the Rose & Courtly Love
In all likelihood, it would at that time that Chaucer took to England the above-mentioned Roman de la Rose, which epitomizes courtly love. The number of the 22,000-line Roman de la Rose Chaucer translated seems of lesser importance than the role he played in introducing the conventions of courtly love to an English public. Chaucer’s the Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde reflect his familiarity with courtly love.
In 1340, when Charles, Duke of Orleans was released, after 25 years of captivity in England, he took to the court of France much of the legend of Valentine’s Day, which may or may not have included the myth about birds mating on 14 February, Valentine’s Day. In 1340, Chaucer had yet to write his 700-line Parlement of Foules(1343 – 1400) in which he speaks of birds mating of 14 February. Nor had Chaucer come into contact with Petrarch (20 July 1304 – 19 July 1374), and Boccaccio (1313 – 21 December 1375) authors whose works can be associated with Chaucer’s.
In all likelihood, the most important work our ransomed Chaucer took to England is the above-mentioned allegorical Roman de la Rose, which epitomizes courtly love. As noted, Chaucer translated at least part of the Roman de la Rose into The Romaunt of the Rose. However, the number of verses he translated seems less important than his introducing the conventions of courtly love to an English and probably courtly public. Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde reflect his familiarity with courtly love.
Chanticleer and the Fox, in a medieval manuscript miniature (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The “Father” of English Literature
Yet, Chaucer was very much an English writer. He is considered the “Father” of English literature and is credited with validating the use of the English language, as a literary language, in a country where French and Latin were “the dominant literary languages.” (See Geoffrey Chaucer, Wikipedia.)
Shakespeare and other Authors
The Hundred Years’ War also exerted an influence on Shakespeare, the co-author of Edward III. Moreover, Thomas Hardy (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) evokes the presence of the French in England in his Tess of the d’Huberville(1891). However, characters inhabiting Hardy’s ‘fictional’ Wessex would be the descendants of Normans who settled in England when it was conquered by William, Duke of Normandy.
The Hundred Years’ War was not a continuous struggle, but it was a very long and complex conflict that ended the most vigorous attempt on the part of England to claim the French throne. Marriages had made French the language of the English court and the English had relatives in France as did the French in England.
This post was published in 2012 and has been revised. When I first published it, I had very few readers.
Charles, Duke of Orléans (24 November 1394, Paris – 5 January 1465), was among the victims of the Hundred Years’ War (1337 to 1453). Had Charles reigned, he would have been a Valois king, a cadet branch of the Bourbon kings. The Salic Law ended the Valois line as women could not accede to the throne of France. Charles’ son,Louis XII, orphaned at the age of three, would be King of France.
Charles d’Orléans is associated with the lore about St Valentine’s Day or Valentine’s Day. He circulated in French courtly circles the Valentine stories told by Chaucer and Othon de Grandson‘s (FR, Wikipedia): birds, martyrs and a note signed “From your Valentine.” Coincidentally, his mother was named Valentina, Valentina Visconti. Her picture is featured below, mourning Louis.
Charles d’Orléans is a fascinating and intriguing figure. He became Duke of Orléans at the early age of 13, when his father, Louis d’Orléans, was assassinated by men acting on behalf of the Duke of Burgundy, the opposing faction. Charles was an Armagnac and, therefore, a supporter of the House of Valois. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake on 30 May 1431, during Charles’ imprisonment in England. Because of her, a legitimate French king, Charles VII (22 February 1403 – 22 July 1461) ascended to the throne. He was crowned at Reims Cathedral.
Valentine of Milan, Charles’ mother, mourning her husband’s death, François-Fleury Richard(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jeanne d’Arc, painting, c. 1485. (Centre Historique des Archives Nationales, Paris, AE II 2490) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Charles was wounded at the Battle of Agincourt (25 October 1415) and was taken prisoner by Sir Richard Waller. Because he was a “prince du sang,” literally a “prince of the blood,” i.e. a possible heir to the throne of France, Henry V, did not want him to return to France. In fact, Henry V of England also claimed he was heir to the throne of France. So Charles spent nearly 25 years detained in England. It is said that, upon his return to France, in 1440, he spoke English better than French. (See Charles d’Orléans, Wikipedia.)
the Beginning of a Lasting Friendship
During his imprisonment, Charles was seldom behind bars, but housed quite comfortably in various castles. One of these was Wallingford Castle, a castle that belonged to Sir Richard Waller, who had captured him at the Battle of Agincourt (now Azincourt), an English victory and a key moment in the Hundred Years’ War (1337 to 1453).
A very sincere and long-lasting friendship grew between Sir Waller and the Duke, who, upon his release, was very generous to his friend and jailor. In fact, Sir Richard Waller added the fleur-de-lis to the Waller Coat of Arms. Moreover, Charles was a relatively free prisoner, who frequently travelled to London, but never on his own. Yet, he was separated from his family and away from his native country for a very long time. Besides, he must have worried about the future. How could he tell whether or not he would one day return to France?
So Charles whiled away the years of his lengthy captivity writing poems and songs, which, I would suspect, helped him cope in his « Forêt delongue attente », to use his own words (The Forest of Long Awaiting, my very mediocre translation). It could be said, therefore, that he created for himself a “literary homeland,” and never left it. When he returned to France, he stayed at his castle in Blois and entertained poets.
I would also suspect our prisoner was not only rescued by art but that art, poetry in particular, was his true calling. Charles d’Orléans is an important figure in the history of French literature. Britannica describes him as:
“one of the greatest, of the courtly poets of France, who during exile in England also earned a reputation for his poems in English.”
Charles d’Orléans & Marie de Clèves (a tapestry) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Charles’ Son: a Future King
After he was freed, in 1440, Charles lived at Château de Blois and befriended poets. But his poems are not his only legacy. At the age of 46, he married 14-year-old Marie de Clèves:
« Car pour moi fustes trop tart née, Et moy pour vous fus trop tost né. »
“You for me were born too late.
And I for you was born too soon.”
Marie de Clèves, whom he loved dearly, bore him three children, one of whom would be Louis XII, King of France. Charles was 68 when his son was born. He had turned to poetry, but he was a “prince du sang” (a Prince of the Blood, i.e. a possible heir to the throne of France). So was his son.
Charles reçoit l’hommage d’un vassal(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In England, Charles wrote ballades(ballads). In France, he wrote rondeaux and rondels.Therondeau however is also a musical form. At the end of En la forêt de longue attente, we find un envoi, a few lines of praise or homage, or a short conclusion. Charles d’Orléans’ Le Printemps, the most famous rondel in the French language, uses a refrain, repeated lines.
Charles d’Orléans’ En la forêt de longue attente is a ballade, written in England and containing an envoi. It was translated in 1949, as Het Woud der verwachting, by Hella Haasse (2 February 1918 – 29 septembre 2011). Hella Haasse’s translations of Charles d’Orléans poetry created a revival of Charles’ poetry in France. But Debussy had already set some of Charles’s poems to music he composed. Edward Elgar set to music “Is she not passing fair.”
“Le Printemps,” the Best-Known Rondel
Charles d’Orléans’ “Le Printemps” (spring time) is the best-known rondel in the French language. A rondelconsists of 13 octosyllabic verses (8 syllables). The translation, not mine, is literal. There are more lyrical translations.
Le-temps-a-lais-sé-son-man-teau (8 syllables)
Et s’est vêtu de broderie,
De soleil luisant, clair et beau.
Il n’y a bête ni oiseau,
Qu’en son jargon ne chante ou crie:
“Le temps a laissé son manteau!
De vent, de froidure et de pluie.”
There is neither animal nor bird
That doesn’t tell in it’s own tongue:
“The season removed his coat. Of wind, cold and rain.”
Rivière, fontaine et ruisseau
Portent en livrée jolie,
Gouttes d’argent, d’orfèvrerie,
Chacun s’habille de nouveau
Le temps a laissé son manteau.
Rivers, fountains and brooks
Wear, as handsome garments,
Silver drops of goldsmith’s work;
Everyone puts on new clothing:
The season removed his coat.
So the story of Charles d’Orléans is a story of survival. During his years of exile, he found a refuge in poetry. He wrote Ballades, rondeaux mainly, but also composed songs and wrote lays (lais) and complaints (complaintes). His poetry is characterized by melancholy, yet it reveals a sense of humour.
Consider Charles’ legacy. Yes, his son would be King of France, Louis XII. But I am thinking of Charles d’Orléans’ poems and songs. Charles d’Orléans lived five hundred years ago, but we still read his poems. He is therefore alive and linked to the lore of St Valentine’s Day.
 Together with the ballade and the virelai, it [the rondeau] was considered one of the three formes fixes, and one of the verse forms in France most commonly set to music between the late 13th and the 15th centuries. It is structured around a fixed pattern of repetition of material involving a refrain.
En la forêt de longue attente is a Wikisource publication. It is Ballade V.
(please click on the titles to hear the music)Charles d’Orléans: “Le temps a laissé son manteau,” Michel Polnareff
poet: Charles d’Orléans
piece: “Le temps a laissé son manteau” (Le Printemps)
performer: Ernst van Altena
Love has long been celebrated. In ancient Greece, the marriage of Jupiter to Hera was commemorated between mid-January and mid-February. As for the Romans, in mid-February, they held the festival of the Lupercalia. According to Britannica, the Lupercalia was
[t]he festival, which celebrated the coming of spring, included fertility rites and the pairing off of women with men by lottery.[i]
At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I replaced the Lupercalia with a Christian feast, the “Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” to be celebrated on the 2nd of February. It is said that, in 496, the Pope issued a decree that made the 14th of February the feast of at least one saint named Valentine. However, according to Britannica, “Valentine’s Day did not come to be celebrated as a day of romance from about the 14th century.”[ii]
At any rate, the Lupercalia was eventually replaced by Saint Valentine’s Day, celebrated on the 14th of February. The 14th of February is no longer a feast day in the Catholic Church. But it is a feast day in the Anglican Church. Moreover, Ireland and France have relics of St Valentine, Valentine of Terni in Dublin and an anonymous St Valentine in France.
Saints and Martyrs
There is conflicting information concerning saints named Valentine. It would be my opinion that the only st Valentine we can associate with Valentine’s Day is the saint who slipped his jailor’s daughter a note worded “from your Valentine.”
In French, Valentine’s Day is still called la Saint-Valentin, which suggests that there is a saint and martyr named Valentin. In fact, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there may be three saints named Valentine:
Valentine of Terni, the bishop of Interrama, now Terni, also a 3rd-century martyr buried on the Via Flaminia,
a Valentine who suffered in Africa with several companions, and
the Valentine who restored his jail keeper’s daughter’s sight and slipped her a note that read “From your Valentine,” the night before his martyrdom. If this Valentine is associated with Valentine’s Day, it is because of the note he slipped to his jail keeper’s daughter which read: “From your Valentine.” He would be our Valentine or St Valentine.
Valentine’s Day Cards: The Origin
St Valentine, the third Valentine is mentioned, albeit inconspicuously, in Jacobus de Voragine’s The Golden Legend. Moreover, the Roman Martyrology, “the Catholic Church‘s official list of recognized saints,” gives only one Saint Valentine, the martyr who was executed and buried on the Via Flaminia and whose feast day is 14th February. (Saint Valentine, Wikipedia.) This saint’s only link with St Valentine’s day is the note he slipped to his jailer’s daughter: “From your Valentine.” This note would be the origin of Valentine’s Day cards.
St Valentine was martyred about c. 270 CE, probably 269, by Roman emperor Claudius II Gothicus.[iii]According to the emperor, married men were lesser soldiers. This St Valentine could be Valentine of Rome. But it could also be that this Valentine, Valentine of Rome, is the same person as Valentine of Terni, a priest and bishop also martyred in the 3rd century CE and buried on the Via Flaminia. This view is not supported by the Encyclopædia Britannica.[iv]
If this saint is associated with Valentine’s Day, the note signed “From your Valentine” is the only link between a saint named Valentine and Valentine’s Day. The note constitutes the required romantic element.
The Romantic Element
Chaucer: the day birds mate
Le Roman de la Rose
tHE lADY AND THE uNICORN
As mentioned above, Saint Valentine’s Day was not the feast of lovers (i.e. people in love) until a myth was born according to which birds mated on February the 14th. This myth is probably quite ancient but it finds its relatively recent roots is Geoffrey Chaucer‘s (14th century) Parliament of Foules. Othon III de Grandson (1340 and 1350 – 7 August 1397) (Fr Wikipedia), a poet and captain at the court of England spread the legend to the Latin world in the 14th century. This legend is associated with the famous mille-fleurs, (thousand flowers) tapestry called La Dame à la Licorne(The Lady and the Unicorn), housed in the Cluny Museum in Paris. Finally, Chaucer translated part of Le Roman de la Rose.
Knowledge of these texts was disseminated in courtly circles, the French court in particular, at the beginning of the 15th century, by Charles d’Orléans. At some point, Othon’s Laments were forgotten, but St Valentine’s Day was revived in the 19th century.
In short, St Valentine’s Day is about
a martyr who, the night before his martyrdom, slipped a note to the lady he had befriended, his jailor’s blind daughter, signing it “From your Valentine.”
It is about a legend, found in Chaucer‘s Parliament of Foules, according to which birds mate on the 14th of February.
It is associated with an allegorical tapestry: La Dame à la licorne.
It is about Othon III de Grandson (FR, Wikipedia), a poet and a captain who devoted thirty percent of his poetry to the traditions surrounding St Valentine’s Day.
It is also about courtly love and, specifically, Le Roman de la Rose, part of which was translated into English by Geoffrey Chaucer.
Finally, it is about Charles d’Orléans who circulated the lore about St Valentine in courtly circles in France.
There is considerable information in Wikipedia’s entry of St Valentine’s Day. It was or has become a trans-cultural tradition.
I was hoping to discuss Richard de Fournival’s Bestiaire d’amourFR (1201- ?1260) a medieval philosopher and trouvère (Northern French: langue d’oïl). Trouvères (from trouveur: finder) were Northern France‘s counterparts for troubadours, who spoke in langue d’oc, from old Occitane French. The trouvères and troubadours composed and sang songs associated with chivalry and the code of conduct of Knights, surprisingly consistent with the rules of courtly love. They traveled from court to court but disappeared at the time the Black Death, but not necessarily because of the plague.
Although I will attempt to show a few illuminations from the Bestiaire d’amour, images are difficult to find. Moreover, having reread the text, I believe we need a broader starting-point. Richard de Fournival wrote a Bestiary, but it is a bestiary of love, courtly love. Moreover, Master Richard’s Bestiary is allegorical as is the Roman de la Rose.Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – 25 October 1400) who transformed Saint Valentine’s Day into the romantic feast it has become, translated part the Roman de la Rose as the Romaunt of the Rose and included his translation in his Legend of Good Women, a poem.
It would be difficult to trace the origins of courtly love. I should think it constitutes a permanent feature of love, but a feature that finds pinnacles at certain points in history. For instance, Roman poet Ovid, Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BCE – 18 CE), known mainly for his Metamorphoses, wrote:
The very title of Remedia Amoris suggests that once the lover is wounded by Cupid‘s arrow, he is possessed by love. Love is viewed as a disease. Such is the case with Tristan and Yseult (or Yseut, Iseult, Isolde…). Tristan has to take Iseult to Cornwall where she will marry his uncle Mark. As they are sailing from Ireland to Cornwall, she and Tristan mistakenly drink the love potion Yseult was to drink with Mark on their wedding night. Tristan and Yseult are now inescapably “in love” (l’amour fatal). Yseult marries Mark, but on their wedding night, her maid, a virgin, sleeps with Mark. As for Yseult, she spends the night with Tristan and sneaks back to her husband’s room in the morning.
The Celtic legend of Tristan and Yseult (EN) Tristan et Iseut (FR), was written in France, in a Norman language, by 12th-century Norman poet Béroul, and in Old French, by 12th-century British poet Thomas of Britain. The story of Tristan and Yseult has exerted considerable influence on Western art. Among other works, it inspired:
However, the quest of chivalric epic poems is a quest for the Holy Grail. As for courtly love, its Holy Grail is the heart of a woman who has not swallowed a magical love potion and whose love her suitor must earn by following rules of conduct, as in chivalry.
Vases with Red Poppies, by Van Gogh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have been doing maintenance work on my posts and ended up reinserting images that had disappeared and revising certain blogs. I also discovered a missing blog on Chaucer & Valentine’s Day and rediscovered Charles d’Orléans.
Charles d’Orléans (24 November 1394, Paris – 5 January 1465, Amboise) was a French Duke who was taken prisoner at the Battle of Agincourt, on the 25th of October 1415, and spent nearly 25 years in England, as a “prisoner.” Because he was a possible heir to the throne of France, the English king, Henry V, would not allow him to leave England.
Charles’ first wife died in childbirth, but their daughter Joan survived. His second wife died while he was a prisoner in England. But when he returned to France, he married 14-year-old Marie de Clèves (19 September 1426 – 23 August 1487). He was then 46. She gave birth to the first of their three children, Marie d’Orléans, in 1457. Their second child, born in 1462, would be Louis XII, king of France. Their third child, Anne of Orleans, was born in 1464.
When Charles was released, in 1440, “speaking better English than French,” according to the English chronicler Raphael Holinshed (Charles d’Orléans, Wikipedia), he had become not only a poet, but an excellent poet. One of his poems is exquisite. It’s about winter: Le temps a laissé son manteau… (The weather left its coat…). It is included in my now relatively old, but updated post. However, for this post, I have chosen a frivolous song.
Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) wrote music based on this poem, but we also have a Dutch song, mixing French and Dutch. Moreover, there is a site that features Charles singing a St Valentine’s song. When he returned to France, Charles d’Orléans made Valentine’s Day known in courtly circles.
It seems Geoffrey Chaucer is the father of Valentine’s day. He wrote that Valentine’s Day was the day on which birds mated. This myth probably existed long before Chaucer, but he made it official, so to speak. It is included in his Parlement of Fowles, 1382.