Two swans necking

Posted 13 Feb 2014

in Featured

Valentine’s Day – Love or Loathing?

Valentine’s Day – it’s just as likely to turn your stomach as suffuse your heart with a fuzzy romantic glow. There’s the re-named double-priced menus – with a droopy forced rose and glass of cheap fizz thrown in to make you feel better about slow service and being squeezed in like amorous hoodwinked sardines. The barf-inducing cutesy teddies with their trite declarations. Crude, slogan-emblazoned lingerie and boastful underpants…

In protest at such rampant, exploitative commercialism, last year my beloved and I – after 19 years of marriage – settled on his ‘n’ her toenail clippers as our gifts. (Too extreme a reaction?) Though this year, we could always go on the most spectacularly, brilliantly weird Valentine’s date ever: romantic rat taxidermy. The famous Bart’s Pathology Museum in London, which ‘aims to bring pathology alive’, offers a Valentine’s Day-themed event – tagged ‘the couple that stuffs together stays together’ – for just £50 ($30). This includes sandwiches – should you feel able to eat anything among the extracted entrails – all materials, ‘including large rat’, refreshments and Valentines-themed trimmings to dress your deceased rat. There’s even a prize! Not that your rattie can object to a silly outfit. Though the poor rodents were destined for python food anyway, so I suppose romantic immortality is a better fate – even if dressed in a red velvet tabard…

That’s if your lover can’t stretch to the ultimate Valentine’s meal – a mere £61,000 ($99,466) to have British Michelin-starred chef Adam Simmonds prepare an ‘aphrodisiac-infused culinary experience’ in your own home, with gold and silver leaf-embellished courses such as oysters (those slippery blighters unaccountably associated with romance), Almus White Caviar, £3,000 (fertility symbol), with Saffron (to hopefully excite women), smoked chocolate (mmmm…) and South Sea Pearls (£6,000); along with wines whose prices will certainly set your pulse racing… But from the PoetryZoo perspective, the most interesting thing – OK, along with the chocolate – is that the price includes ‘petals, candles, doves, harpist and…’ – yes, you’ve guessed it – ‘a poet’. How brilliant! (Though, is that £60,990 for everything else and £10 for the poet, given the usual rates?)

But what you’ll still find most of on Valentine’s Day is poetry. The ultimate language of love. ‘At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet’, wrote Plato. And he was right: what could be more moving than the genuinely heartfelt lines penned in the context of a deeply romantic relationship. But Plato was lucky enough to live in an age before the Hallmark-Greetings-card, crimes-against-poetry type poetry. The truly hideous ‘commercial’ poetry; so sugary you need an emergency dental appointment after reading. Some of the world’s best poetry has been written for love: and some of its worst for Valentine’s Day. What a shame!

Around 350 million cards are sent around the world, and billions spent on gifts – but what could be more romantic and touching than writing your own love poem. It costs nothing but is worth the most to anyone. And c’mon guys, an estimated 85% of Valentines are sent by women. We have a thriving ‘Love’ anthology on PoetryZoo and ‘Love’ is and has been by far the most popular tag on the site since we opened. Maybe, to genuinely celebrate the power of love, you might like to add your own poem to celebrate the day. Let us know if you penned it especially for this Valentine’s Day, and make sure your introduction/ dedication includes why you have written it for this person/idea, and we will feature some of your best love stories in the ‘Muse’

If you’re in need of inspiration, there is endless poetry – but maybe try particularly the sublime John Donne, along with Robert Burns, Byron, WB Yeats (see below) – and there’s some wonderful stuff from first century Roman, Ovid, on ‘sex in the afternoon’ – saucy. Though in Finland, the day is about celebrating friendship as well as romance, so if you don’t have a romantic other – or even one in mind – there’s always a poem to be written for a special pal. No excuse then, for not getting pen to paper… And if you’re feeling old-fashioned – and pretty desperate – there’s also ‘The Young Man’s Valentine Writer’ of 1797, with sentimental advice for lovesick swains. Just don’t blame us for the results… Mind you, with the Valentine tradition of anonymity, you could always disown anything your lover doesn’t like – and pin it on someone else!

Romantic rat taxidermy:;

Ultimate romantic meal:

Dedicate a tree with the Woodland Trust:

Air and Angels, by John Donne

Twice or thrice had I lov’d thee,

Before I knew thy face or name;
So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame
Angels affect us oft, and worshipp’d be;
Still when, to where thou wert, I came,
Some lovely glorious nothing I did see.
But since my soul, whose child love is,
Takes limbs of flesh, and else could nothing do,
More subtle than the parent is
Love must not be, but take a body too;
And therefore what thou wert, and who,
I bid Love ask, and now
That it assume thy body, I allow,
And fix itself in thy lip, eye, and brow.

Whilst thus to ballast love I thought,
And so more steadily to have gone,
With wares which would sink admiration,
I saw I had love’s pinnace overfraught;
Ev’ry thy hair for love to work upon
Is much too much, some fitter must be sought;
For, nor in nothing, nor in things
Extreme, and scatt’ring bright, can love inhere;
Then, as an angel, face, and wings
Of air, not pure as it, yet pure, doth wear,
So thy love may be my love’s sphere;
Just such disparity
As is ‘twixt air and angels’ purity,
‘Twixt women’s love, and men’s, will ever be.

Perhaps the earliest surviving Valentine’s Day poem was sent in 1415 from Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife, while imprisoned in the Tower of London. It begins:

Je suis desja d’amour tanné
Ma tres doulce Valentinée…

Valentine’s Day is mentioned by Shakespeare in Hamlet:

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.

John Donne, Epithalamion – or marriage song – celebrating the marriage of Elizabeth and Frederick V, Elector Palatine, on Valentine’s Day:

Hayle Bishop Valentine whose day this is
All the Ayre is thy Diocese
And all the chirping Queristers
And other birds ar thy parishioners
Thou marryest every yeare
The Lyrick Lark, and the graue whispering Doue,
The Sparrow that neglects his life for loue,
The houshold bird with the redd stomacher
Thou makst the Blackbird speede as soone,
As doth the Goldfinch, or the Halcyon
The Husband Cock lookes out and soone is spedd
And meets his wife, which brings her feather-bed.
This day more cheerfully than ever shine
This day which might inflame thy selfe old Valentine.

And, of course,

Robert Burns – A Red, Red Rose

My love is like a red, red rose

That’s newly sprung in June :

My love is like the melody

That’s sweetly played in tune.


As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

So deep in love am I :

And I will love thee still, my dear,

Till a’ the seas gang dry.


Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

And the rocks melt wi’ the sun :

And I will love thee still, my dear,

While the sands o’ life shall run.


And fare thee weel, my only love,

And fare thee weel a while !

And I will come again, my love,

Thou’ it were ten thousand mile.



With thanks to  mozzercork for the pic of the swans











by The PoetryZoo Keeper