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Tony Grist

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Hail Bishop Valentine [Feb. 14th, 2006|03:34 pm]
Tony Grist
Hail Bishop Valentine, whose day this is,
All the air is thy diocese,
And all the chirping choristers
And other birds are thy parishioners,
Thou marriest each year
The lyric lark and the grave whispering dove,
The sparrow that neglects his life for love,
The household bird with the red stomacher,
Thou mak'st the black bird speed as soon
As doth the goldfinch or the halcyon;
The husband cock looks out and straight is sped
And meets his wife, which brings her feather bed.
This day more cheerfully than ever shine,
This day which might enflame thyself, old Valentine.

John Donne.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: strange_complex
2006-02-14 08:23 am (UTC)
Thanks - I've not seen that before, and am glad to have been introduced to it.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-02-14 08:35 am (UTC)
It's the first verse of a long "Epithalamium".
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[User Picture]From: strange_complex
2006-02-14 08:40 am (UTC)
Really? It stands very well on its own, though.
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From: minnesattva
2006-02-14 08:44 am (UTC)
Just the word "Epithalamium" makes me shiver. Can you tell I was an English student? (And not terribly fond of it!)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-02-14 08:52 am (UTC)
Oh dear....

I think it's rather a pretty word. Though all those "f"s make one feel as if one's mouth is full of feathers.
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[User Picture]From: happydog
2006-02-14 08:41 am (UTC)
That wacky John Donne. I like the things he wrote when he was young and dissolute.

I really don't spend enough time with the classics as I should. Usually I only go back as far as the 18th c. or so but there's plenty of good writing before that.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-02-14 08:55 am (UTC)
Donne is good. The most fiercely intelligent of English poets.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2006-02-14 09:15 am (UTC)
Very fine. I'd never heard it.

Let's see--did Saint Valentine take presents to good boys and girls? I forget.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-02-14 10:06 am (UTC)
St Valentine was an early Christian martyr- quite obscure really- and I think his association with
lurve is an accident of the calendar.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2006-02-14 10:13 am (UTC)
I have some recollection of St. Valentine marrying people in secret and getting hanged for it. I'll have to Google him and see if I'm right.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2006-02-14 10:16 am (UTC)
Kate says he probably had his heart cut out, hence the nifty icons in his honor!

Ick.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2006-02-14 10:15 am (UTC)
I found this on a Roman Catholic page:

St. Valentine was:

a) a priest in the Roman Empire who helped persecuted Christians during the reign of Claudius II, was thrown in jail and later beheaded on Feb. 14.

b) a Catholic bishop of Terni who was beheaded, also during the reign of Claudius II.

c) someone who secretly married couples when marriage was forbidden, or suffered in Africa, or wrote letters to his jailer's daughter, and was probably beheaded.

d) all, some, or possibly none of the above.

If you guessed d), give yourself a box of chocolates.

--

(Which means nobody knows anything.)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-02-14 10:30 am (UTC)
So we can imagine him as we like.

He's some bloke who got his head chopped off.

I wish Kate's suggestion were true.
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From: bodhibird
2006-02-14 10:11 am (UTC)
You can always count on Donne, whether it's sex or religion or both. :)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-02-14 10:28 am (UTC)
He's damn good, isn't he?

There's no English poet with such a gift for rocking you back on your heels with his startling conjunctions.

"All the air is your diocese"- I mean, that's just so bloody brilliant!
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From: bodhibird
2006-02-14 11:30 am (UTC)
I can tell you that the old tradition of birds choosing their mates on this day is pretty accurate. In my region, at least, birds *do* start to think about mating as early as February. I saw a couple of mockingbirds fighting for territory the other day.

"All the air is your diocese--" I think I read this poem in college but had forgotten about it, much as I love Donne.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-02-14 11:54 am (UTC)
It's a line that stuck in my head.

There's another further on in the poem where he talks about the attendants fussing around the bride "as though they were to take a clock in pieces".
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