Rosy Valentine’s poetry books included some barbs
Ah, February, that season of smiles and that time for those sweet nothings of love. Expectations have always run high on Valentine’s Day. The trouble is, how are we to prepare for these expectations?
In the early 19th century, when giving valentines was a relatively novel practice, small booklets called ‘Valentine Writers’ were available. They were filled with flowery lines ready to be transcribed and posted to one’s intended love. Then, one would just wait, hoping that it would be favorably received and that a reply would be forthcoming in kind. But the publishers of the booklets provided the sender a hint of what might be in store if the valentine wasn’t kindly received.
Some of the booklets could be quite gentle and sympathetic toward the feelings of those involved, such as this example that was first published in London:
From a Gentleman.
As I lay musing on my bed,
A heavy thought came in my head,
Up I got and thought it time
To send my love a Valentine.
This Valentine to you I send,
And hope that to my suit you’ll bend;
So favourably receive this line,
And be my constant Valentine.
As I lay musing on my bed,
A sudden thought came in my head;
This thought perhaps you may divine,
That you are not my Valentine.
Love only comes forth from the heart,
With those we love we cannot part;
I cannot to your suit incline,
For I’ve another Valentine.
Other poems in the books were a bit more forceful in their attempt to prepare the smitten suitor with that ever-present possibility of meeting with rejection.
To a Gentleman.
O say, dear youth, when next we meet,
Will you render joy complete?
Will you make me yours for life?
Make me, what I wish – your wife;
Envied lot, O be it mine!
And bless me with my Valentine.
Make you my wife? Not I, indeed,
Such folly is not mine;
How could you ever have a thought,
That I should thus incline?
You are in all things quite reverse,
To her I would make mine;
Heaven ne’er meant me such a curse,
As you my Valentine.
Some threw any subtlety to the wind.
My very ardent love for you,
Disturbs at night my pillow;
And many are the day I sit
And sigh beneath the willow.
Refuse me not, dear Valentine,
Nor drive me to despair,
My heart it rests most truly thine
You form my every care.
I once more tell you, foolish swain,
I don’t your suit approve,
With me you only lose your time,
And ne’er will win my love;
When you’re beneath the willow tree,
This plan I recommend,
Pray jump into the stream beneath,
And give your sorrows end.
Ouch! Pity the chap who might receive that. However, some poems offered suitors hope, such as this last one.
A rural retreat so calm and so sweet,
I’ve purchased dear maiden for thee,
The cottage is neat, and the garden complete
I hope in my plan you’ll agree:
Then answer this if you incline
To take me for a Valentine.
Dear swain I love a rural life,
With competence and free from strife;
As all things provided are
I kindly thank you for your care;
Without delay I do incline,
To take thee for a Valentine.