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The first Valentine's poem

February 5, 2018

The Office will be closed from 2/15 through 2/22

Bizarrely, the first poem about St. Valentine's Day as a day for lovers, is actually about a bunch of birds at a sort of medieval dating agency. Chaucer’s poem, ‘The Parlement of Foules’ is a dream vision that begins with the dreamer passing through a Classical world of love, in the form the Goddess Venus’s Temple, before he comes face to face with eagles, ducks and cuckoos. Nature heads the ‘parlement’ of birds, match-making the winged beasts according to their ‘social status.’ (click news to read the poem)

Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1343-1400)

from The Parliament of Fowls

A garden saw I, full of blossomy boughs
Upon a river, in a green mead,
There as sweetness evermore enough is,
With flowers white, blue, yellow, and red,
And cold well-streams, nothing dead,
That swimming full of small fishes light,
With fins red and scales silver bright.

On every bough the birds heard I sing,
With voice of angels in their harmony;
Some busied themselves birds forth to bring;
The little coneys to here play did hie.
And further all about I could see
The dread filled roe, the buck, the hart and hind,
Squirrels, and beasts small of gentle kind.

Of instruments of strings in accord
Heard I so play a ravishing sweetness,
That God, that maker is of all and lord,
Had heard never better, as I guess.
Therewith a wind, scarcely it might be less,
Made in the leaves green a noise soft
Accordant to the fowls' song aloft.

Th'air of that place so a-temperate was
That never was grievance of hot nor cold.
There wax also every wholesome spice and grass;
No man may there wax sick nor old;
Yet was there joy more a thousandfold
Than man can tell; never would it be night,
But always clear day to any man's sight.

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