In it, the narrator speaks of a dream in which he visits Venus' temple. Birds are singing and on that one special day, the birds choose their mates. It ends with a song welcoming the new summer.
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While he was most notable for "The Canterbury Tales," in "Parlement of Foules," English poet Geoffrey Chaucer writes:
"For this was on seynt Valentynes day,
Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make ..."
Many literary experts point to the poem, those lines, as the first evidence of any association of St. Valentine with romantic love -- because before that poem, evidence of a Valentine's Day has not been found.
Historians and theorists say today's holiday probably has nothing to do with St. Valentine at all, since there's no real evidence of just who he was, just that he may have died on Feb. 14.
According to the Catholic Church, the origin of St. Valentine, and how many St. Valentines there were, remains a mystery. One opinion is that he was a Roman martyred for refusing to give up his Christian faith. Other historians hold that St. Valentine was a temple priest jailed for defiance during the reign of Claudius II before he was beaten with clubs and beheaded.
Doesn't really scream "Happy Valentine's Day," does it?
Of course, Chaucer can't be given sole credit for creating Valentine's Day, since soon after, other poets also began writing about love and finding love on this particular day.
There's been debate over just what the exact date of Valentine's Day should be -- some say it should be more toward the end of February or as late as May -- since the birds Chaucer wrote about probably wouldn't have been mating in mid-February. Regardless, I'm sure Chaucer and his fellow poets never imagined their stories of love on Valentine's Day would grow into a $17 billion industry of red and pink overpriced gifts.
So if you're feeling alone and sad this Valentine's Day, just blame Geoffrey Chaucer. Or if you're looking for a last minute gift that will really wow that special someone, look no further than a certain 700-year-old love poem.
From Geoffrey Chaucer's, "Parlement of Foules," lines 302-322. This is possibly the first association of St. Valentine with one particular day devoted to finding love.
And in a launde, upon an hille of floures,
Was set this noble goddesse Nature;
Of braunches were hir halles and hir boures,
Y-wrought after hir craft and hir mesure;
Ne ther nas foul that cometh of engendrure,