Feast of Saint Valentine

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
    If this be error and upon me proved,
    I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Shakespeare, Sonnet 116


Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, soon enough that one should begin planning now to make a success of it.  Since the high Middle Ages when Chaucer began to associate Valentine’s day with courtly love, I think the original Saint Valentine has gotten a bit lost in the shuffle.  In fact, one popular depiction describes Saint Valentine as a man who was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry.  Remaining accounts may actually merge a couple of different martyrs into a portrait of Valentinus.  No matter what the origins, if you are in a romantic couple it is a day that cannot be safely overlooked.  Dinner reservations should be made now.  If you do not have them, stop reading,  call the restaurant, make your reservations and then come back to this blog.

Romantic love is such a powerful emotion that it is no wonder that all sorts of depictions of love can be found in every genre and mode of artistic expression that human beings create.  Old Billy Shakespeare, of the above Sonnet, went a long way to promoting the romantic ideal of marrying for love, an ideal that is still a part of at least Western culture today.  I had a conversation with a young person recently, whereby I was trying to determine the Shakespeare play that my young friend had been exposed to in her short years.  My first question was “ Did everyone die in the end of the play, or did they all get married?”  If everyone dies at the end, it was a tragedy.  If they all get married, it was one of the comedies.  Fortunately, I did this out of earshot of any of our divorced colleagues, who would have confused the matter by describing marriage as a sort of tragedy in itself.  

Nowadays, as deep as I find Shakespeare’s musings about love, I find the direct language of old blues music to be more physically moving.  Perhaps it is a holdover from my urban upbringing, but I am not convinced that is entirely true.  These songs weren’t on the radio when I was in high school.  I met the music of Etta James, for example, much later on in my life.

Etta James, “ I Just Want to Make Love to You”

Another great genius of music that just makes your body move is Ray Charles, The Genius, The High Priest of Soul.  Ray Charles was a pioneer, and his music was influenced by blues, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, country, early pop music.  Ray was a sponge, that soaked up everything around him, and in turn has influenced every recording artist that has come after him.  You are doing yourself a great disservice if all you have heard is the opening of “Georgia on my Mind”

Ray Charles, “A Fool For You”

Looking through my collection of jazz albums, I have another endless supply of ballads that would make a great playlist for a romantic Valentine’s day dinner.  I am going to resist the urge to repost the Miles Davis version of “My Funny Valentine” and instead give you two other slow songs by two masters of ballad playing.  

Donald Byrd, “I Got It Bad, and That Ain’t Good”

John Coltrane, “My One and Only Love”

Now in the event that your attempts at romance have been well planned and are a great success, you may need a few tunes that are longer than three minutes.  Something where you don’t have to stop what you are doing to put on a new song.  I will humbly offer up the slow movement to Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, if you are not already familiar with it.  Best wishes.   
Rachmaninoff, Symphony No. 2, Adagio


11 thoughts on “Feast of Saint Valentine

Add yours

  1. etched in my brain, since I first memorized the sonnet: love is not love which alters…. so glad to see it here. excellent post! plan to reblog!

  2. Eric Carmen adapted the Rachmaninoff themes into that soulful ’70s tearjerker “All by Myself”. Thanks buddy, I’m all verklemmt now!

  3. As I listened to the opening notes of your last offering to romantic love, the Rachmaninoff Symphony no. 2, I could hear in my memory the voice of Eric Carmen singing “Never gonna fall in love again.” The songs, the poems, the plays and novels about unrequited love seem to have more staying power in my memory. It is not the falling in love, but the continuing to love that is the challenge.

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