From Early Christian Saint to Chaucer: How Modern Valentines Day Came To Be

From Early Christian Saint to Chaucer: How Modern Valentines Day Came To Be

History lovers, or those encountering a certain Internet meme, may have wondered how a feast day commemorating a third-century Christian martyr came to be a celebration of romantic love.

The answer, as far as anyone can tell, is the medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer.

Written in the 1380s, Chaucer's 700-line poem "The Parliament of Fowls" is widely credited by scholars to be the first existing work connecting Valentine's Day with romantic love.

"The longer you are a scholar, the more hesitant you are to make sweeping claims about these things. But be that as it may, it's a Valentine poem in the 'fin amors' tradition," said Greg Roper, associate professor of English and a medievalist.

In the poem, a parliament is convened on St. Valentine's Day for birds to choose their mates. Several male eagles give courtly speeches, each arguing why he is most worthy to marry a female eagle. The female eagle, however, gets permission from Nature, who is moderating this session, to delay her decision for a year. The parliament is dissolved so that the other birds can pair up.

"In the first-ever check on over-romanticizing Valentine's Day, Chaucer leaves the major issue undecided, so that other aspects of human nature can be satisfied," said Roper.

Another unanswered question is why Chaucer chose February 14 for his parliament. While no one really knows, scholars have made the case that an early spring could have brought birds back to England at around this time.

News

Iraqi Couple Will Use UD Education to Enrich, Preserve Culture

They came here so that someday, they can go back with even more to offer. Sana Kandalan, MA '19, and Anmar Oghanna, MBA '19, a wife and husband, both received scholarships to pursue graduate education at UD; they hope to use their degrees and experiences here to better serve their community back home in Erbil.

+ Read More

Trailblazing Golden Crusaders Pave Path for Future Generations

During their freshman year, a mere nine miles from the UD campus, President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 1963. Kennedy's famous words, "Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man," were imprinted on the memories of these freshmen, influencing the development of their characters and philanthropic spirits and empowering them to serve with distinction in all types of vocations.

+ Read More

Professor Scott Churchill Explores the Souls of Animals

After happening across the early biophilosopher Jakob von Uexküll as a freshman biology major, Professor of Psychology Scott Churchill began peering into the worlds of animals through what Uexküll called the "spiritual eye" rather than our physical one; there, he discovered the animal spirit.

+ Read More