Saint Valentine’s Day, February 14
David Farmer, in the Oxford Dictionary of Saints, suggests there were actually two Valentines martyred in the 3rd century AD at Rome, so it is possible they were one and the same. He writes: “Neither of them seems to have any clear connection with lovers or courting couples. The reason for this famous patronage is that birds are supposed to pair on 14 February, a belief at least as old as Chaucer...”
One Valentine rests in a Rome reliquary, where they thoughtfully labelled his scone:
Santa Maria in Cosmedin is also famous for Bocca della Verità (the “Mouth of Truth”), a marble mask, into the mouth of which lovers put their hands to prove their devotion. Gregory Peck encountered it, to Audrey Hepburn’s horror, in Roman Holiday (1953):
After our exegesis as to literary influences on Joan Lindsay in the weaving of her wonderful fable Picnic at Hanging Rock, we have long awaited the forthcoming book by Janelle McCulloch on these things; we can now announce that publication is imminent (circa May 2017) and The Varnished Culture expects to attend the launch. Whether this is achieved by invitation or duplicity, we will report in due course.
Now for some love songs!
“The happy lovers, locked in an embrace,
A thousand times each to the other pressed.
Their joy, depicted in their eyes and face,
Could scarcely be contained within their breast.
It grieves them much that for so long a space
They lingered, their proximity unguessed,
Beneath the self-same roof and, to their cost,
So many days of happiness were lost.”[Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso (translated by Barbara Reynolds)]
“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”[T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock]