Keeler Notes: Roses are Red...Valentine’s Day poetry

“The rose is red, the violet’s blue

The honey’s sweet and so are you.”

The first recorded association of St. Valentine’s Day with romantic love is by Chaucer in 1380, but it wasn’t until the end of the 18th Century that Valentine’s Day poetry and cards became popular. The lines above from the cliché Valentine’s Day poem were first published in a collection of English nursery rhymes in the 1780s, though similar verses can be traced back as far as the 16th Century.

Valentine poetry grew quickly in popularity, and by the turn of the 19th Century, sending valentines had become common practice in Britain and the United States. Publishers issued books with suggested verses for the young lover and printers produced pre-made cards. Lower postage made sending valentines easier, but also made them less personal; where before you would carefully choose whom to send cards to, now cards could be sent to every close friend.

Since then, sending valentines has only increased in popularity. According to the National Greeting Card Association, some 190 million cards are sent every year, and millions more are exchanged by schoolchildren.