If roses are red… and violets are blue…

sofles & debSo February 14 has come again – St. Valentine’s Day. A day when the price of roses skyrockets in florists around the world and chocolate and candy shops are stripped of their especially wrapped stock! Restaurants and cafes make the most of their evening meal specialties and instead of going to your local for an intimate meal with your chosen date, you find that the normal menu has been scrapped and that the only offer is the “way more expensive” three-course special. If you think I am a cynic, I am not. I just don’t like people being “ripped off” because it is considered such as “special occasion”.

In relation to Valentine’s Day, one of the more ‘famous’ poems or odes is the old “Roses are Red...” and according to Wikipedia, this verse can be traced back to the 1590 epic, “The Faerie Queene” by Edmund Spenser, and is told as thus:

“She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew, And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.

One of my favorite literature references to Valentine’s Day comes from Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. The main female character, Bathsheba Everdene tussles with a trio of lovers, from the patient Gabriel Oak who works at her farm; to the possessed older neighboring farmer Boldwood; and the dashing but shameless Sergeant Troy who all vie for Bathsheba’s love.

On the occasion leading up to Valentine’s Day, Bathsheba and her maid Liddy, in a pique of fit; dare to write a Valentine’s love note to old farmer Boldwood as a bit of fun. Liddy tells Bathsheba to write the following:

“The roses are red, the violet blue, carnation’s sweet, and so are you.”

Of course it all backfires on Bathsheba, and on receiving the note, Boldwood believes she is in love with him and naturally wants to pursue this ‘invitation’. Bathsheba’s horror on realizing Boldwood would like to make her his wife, realizes that Gabriel Oak is the most honest suitor of the three and therefore should be the one to make her his wife. Her realization of this major backfire is best covered in the movie version of Hardy’s novel where Bathsheba sits in her study and confesses:  “Oh that Valentine, that foolish wanton Valentine.

A more modern cliché version of this Valentine’s Day poem can be found in the collection of the 1784 English nursery rhymes Gammer Gurton’s Garland:

“The rose is red, the violet’s blue, The honey’s sweet, and so are you. Thou art my love and I am thine; I drew thee to my Valentine: The lot was cast and then I drew, And Fortune said it shou’d be you”.

Then of course are those pearly-gem verses that children recited at school or wrote in their colleagues Autograph Books (whatever happened to those?), such as:

  • “Roses are red and violets are blue, honey is sweet and so are you – I’ll bet”
  • “Roses are red and violets are blue, so goes the age old rhyme. But I  know Rose’s are blue and Violet’s are red, cos’ I’ve seen them hanging on the line”.
  • “Roses are red and violets are blue, boy do socks stink, and so do you”.

The above street art piece ‘Slappy Valentine’s Day’ was a dual composition by Deb and Sofles and remained in Hosier Lane for some period of time.

Slappy Valentine’s Day to you all!

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