News and Tribune


February 11, 2013

BEAM: A Valentine’s Day Carol

I have a new nemesis, and his name is Geoffrey Chaucer.  So what if he died 600 years ago and may have been one of the greatest poets ever to have walked the earth? We all have some redeeming qualities. Even Mao Zedong gave to a good farming charity or two now and again. 

But the secret I uncovered about Mr. Oh-I’m-the-most-accomplished-English-writer-ever has become so entrenched in our culture that almost every American has been affected by its sinister centuries-old reach. And this Thursday, Chaucer’s revenge will again rear its ugly head in schools, offices and even bedrooms all across the world.

Those caloric chocolate hearts that may have contributed to America’s obesity epidemic? Blame Chaucer. Lovey-dovey valentines from stalkers, or worse yet, family members that send your stomach a churn? Chaucer again. And the sacrifice of millions of healthy red roses all in the name of love? The popular poet strikes once more.  

Despite all the talk of cupid, romantic gestures and true love, Geoffrey Chaucer is the real reason behind Valentine’s Day. Before he released his 1382 work titled “Parlement of Foules,” history had never associated the holiday with romantic affection. Sure, Pope Gelasius I in 496 established the feast of St. Valentine on Feb. 14. But no furry stuffed animals or sexy lingerie were exchanged to honor the old Saint. Well, at least I hope not. 

The church just admired Valentine for going against Rome and marrying Christian soldiers, thus helping to ensure the spread of the religion, and also maybe some diseases as well. 

Then along came Chaucer and his idea of courtly love. “For this was on seynt Volantynys day, Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.” 

Those two lines started the chaos. All of the sudden, a couple of fowls doing what birds and bees are known to do spark a worldwide love fest. Voila, Chaucer’s little snowball of feathered lust started down its steep descent through the hilly centuries. Now the big whopping boulder of commercialism will come crashing through our lives once again this Thursday. 

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