St.Valentine’s Day |Young Hearts Leap … (1854)


How many young hearts leap with anticipation at the approach of Valentine’s day. And why should they not? Why should not love have an annual festival ? Mars is celebrated in a variety of ways, and on a variety of occasions, as the year rolls round, and certainly it is not too much for Cupid to claim one day in a year as especially his own.

We fancy we hear some old age-dried lady saying, ‘it is all nonsense, young people ought to know better than to throw away money and time on such foolish practices.’ Stop a bit, my dear old lady. Don’t you know that people must be young before they can get old ? and that there is a lightheartedness and buoyancy about youth as fresh as the dews of a May morning; and that the sentiment of love constitutes the chief element of the hopes and pleasures of the spring time of life? Say what you will, young people, and old people too, will love, and will in some way or other express their love.

And we look on Valentine’s day, not only as an annual occasion for harmless and innocent amusement, but as one of the most valuable and exhilarating days of the calendar. Other saints have been the means of setting apart certain days of the year for fast and feast purposes, for especial prayer and praise, humiliation or thanksgiving. And why should not one day out of the three hundred and sixty-five be crowned with a wreath of myrtle?

If ever saint deserved canonization for his good deeds, or for the associations clustering around his name, it is St. Valentine. And surely, as love is the primal element of life, St. Valentine’s day will be commemorated— and when other saints who were reverenced ages after they died for their abnegation of all orldly desires, and their rigid asceticism—when their names shall have been forgotten and their memory passed away—the name of St. Valentine will have a fresh ovation whenever the 14th of February dawns upon the world. Some one has said that Institutions are the shadows of great men.

If this be true, the shadow of St. Valentine will reach further into futurity, than the tail of Halley’s Comet sweeps into space. When we were younger by many years than we are at present, Valentine’s day was a favorite day of ours, because it brought with it realized wishes, and rosy joys—because it afforded us an opportunity for expressing sentiments which at that time were all the world to our hearts; and now we have got older with the traces of years on our brow, and the treasures of experience in our memory, we do not forget the bright hopes, the short lived joys, and it may be the innocent follies of our youth; and in return for the contributions of pleasure afforded us by our favorite day then, we gratefully acknowledge it in our Favorite Journal now.

Well might Elia exclaim, ‘Hail to thy returning festival, old Bishop Valentine ! great is thy name in the rubric, thou arch-flamen of Hymen. Immortal go-between ! who and what manner of person art thou? art thou but a name typifying the restless principle which compels poor mortals to seek perfection in union? Or wast thou indeed a mortal prelate, with thy tippet, thy rochet, and thy apron on, and decent lawn sleeves? Mysterious personage! Like unto thee assuredly there is no other mitred father in the calendar. Thou comest attended with thousands and tens of thousands of little loves, and the air is

“Brush’d with the hiss of rustling wings.”

Singing Cupids are thy choristers; and instead of the crozier, the mystical arrow is borne before thee.’

Of St. Valentine himself very little is known, except that he was a priest of Rome, and was put to death as a martyr there, about 270, or nearly seventeen hundred years since.

A learned antiquarian, in his ‘Illustrations of Shakespere,’ says, concerning Valentine’s day, that ‘it was the practice in ancient Rome, during a great part of the month of February, to celebrate feasts in honour of Pan and Juno. On this occasion, amidst a variety of ceremonies, the names of young women were put into a box, from which they were drawn by the young men as chance directed.

The pastors of the early Christian Church, who, by every possible means, tried to eradicate the vestiges of pagan superstition, substituted the names of particular saints instead of those of the young women, and as the festival commenced about the middle of February, they appear to have chosen St. Valentine’s day for celebratiug the new feast, because it occurred nearly about the same time.

It would appear, however, that it was impossible to extirpate the ceremony to which the common people had been accustomed, and, accordingly, the outline of the ancient custom was preserved, but modified by some adaptation to the Christian system.

Young people naturally thought more of each others’ hearts than they did of the dry bones of dead saints; and in the course of time, Juno and Pan were forgotten. In fact, Cupid defeated Juno, and from that age to the present, the little usurper has kept his throne. Though Christian nations since that period have passed through a variety of chequered scenes, through stupendous revolutions, and ‘dark ages,’ the fourteenth of February has never passed out of memory, and is, in this, the nineteenth century, commemorated with a greater zest than ever.

The little immortal Cupid himself had his birth in ancient mythology. But he is a myth, and nothing [more. He possesses only an ideal existence, and his name is perpetuated

in romance and
tration only. The
sonal existence pe-
decay of old super-
he was believed
he exercised a less
than even now.
when he is con-
sidered only
as the symbol
of a passion.
It may not be
to say a word
about this
nowned per-
sonage’s birth
and history.
Cupid was said
to be a
youth ,
the son

song as an illusbelief in his perrished with the stitions. But when in as an actuality, powerful sway Jupiter and Venus. He is represented as a winged infant, naked, and armed with a bow and a quiver full of arrows. On gems, and other valuable things of antiquity, he is pictured as amusing himself with childish diversions. Sometimes he appears driving a hoop, throwing a quoit, playing with a nymph, catching a butterfly, or trying to burn with a torch; at other times, he is playing upon a horn before his mother, or affectionately embracing a swan, or capering in the air. Sometimes, like a conqueror, he marches triumphantly with a helmet on his head, a spear on his shoulder, and a buckler on his arm, intimating that even Mars himself owns the superiority of love. His power was generally known by his riding on the back of a lion, or on a dolphin, or breaking to pieces the thunder-bolts of Jupiter. Among the ancients, he was worshipped with the same degree of solemnity as his mother Venus—the goddess of Beauty; and his influence was extended over the heavens, the sea, and the earth, and even the empire of the dead ; his divinity was universally acknowledged, and vows, and prayers, and sacrifices, were daily offered to him. Cupid, like the rest of the gods, assumed different shapes; and we find himputting on, at the request of his mother, the form of Ascanius, and going to Dido’s court, where he inspired the queen with love.

Source: The Favourite, 1854

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