Saturday, 30 January 2010

Romance alive and kicking in 12th Century Bavaria!

Christmas doesn't seem all that long ago and yet the shops have already well and truly moved on to the next excuse to separate us from our cash. It's not just cards - there's everything you need to properly celebrate St Valentine's Day, from overpriced, over-packaged confectionery to naughty knickers!

Whatever would St Valentine make of it all? Though, to be more accurate, I should have said, what would the many Christian martyrs who shared that name, think of the way we celebrate their feast day in the twenty first century? In fact the link between the various St Valentines and the February 14th 'holiday' is lost in the mists of time, if it ever existed at all, so they probably wouldn't have a view on it at all.

It's more likely that the idea of a special day for celebrating romantic love stemmed from the Middle Ages, and that Chaucer happened to mention someone called 'Valentine' in that context. Chaucer was writing towards the end of the Middle Ages, a time when the tradition of 'courtly love' and chivalry was at its height, especially among the poets of that time.

The picture above belongs to a collection of poems about courtly love, by mediaeval Bavarian, Austrian and Swiss poets, known as the 'Minnesang, which simply means 'love song'. Wouldn't it make a classy Valentine's card! Or how about this one? or this one?

I still think the one above is the best of all - a treasured postcard I bought when I was au-pairing in Germany in between leaving school and going to universtity (where I promptly gave up French to go into more depth with German, mostly mediaeval - probably for no better reason than that I was so entranced by the colourful paintings of the period!)

Little has survived of the music to which these poems were set but here is one of the poems -

Dû bist mîn, ich bin dîn:
des solt dû gewis sîn.
dû bist beslozzen
in mînem herzen:
verlorn ist das slüzzelin:

dû muost immer drinne sîn.

and its English translation -

You are mine, I am thine;
Of that you can be sure.
You are locked up
In my heart;
Lost is the little key:
You must be in there forever.

Wouldn't that be a touching 'verse' for a Valentine's card - not at all sure who has the copyright though! I rather doubt whether our modern-day equivalents will still be around 1,000 years later but in the meantime, we do our best!

A selection of handpainted Valentine's cards is available from my Greeting Card Universe Store and you can use the on-site search box to see the collection of Valentine's gifts I have created for my Zazzle store, many of which can be seen in the flash panel at the bottom of this page.

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