'Come live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.
Men were charmers ever! Marlowe in the mid sixteenth century went on to list a whole lot of things he would provide for his love should she choose him. Gowns of finest wool, slippers with pure gold buckles...I could go on. Mind you all men were not so poetic about it in those days. The earliest lonely hearts ad has been found - dated 1695 - and here the young man stipulated that he wishes to meet a Gentlewoman with a fortune of £3000 of thereabouts. So he wasn't pulling any punches, was he?
The fact that there was probably no Saint Valentine doesn#t seem to matter much. I think the general opinion is that the festival goes back to Roman times and celebrated Lupercal, when the young men used to go around Rome beating young women with twigs - a practice said to eliminate sterility in women(I think in those days it was not even contemplated that the sterility problem could be with the man!)
When I was a child we always used to believe that on St Valentine's day the birds began to have thoughts of pairing up. Judging by the goings on at our bird table - where countless cock blackbirds are strutting their stuff and fighting each other, where collared doves are already flitting back and forth with tiny twigs (they are the worst possible nest builders - they build in our Scots pines and the eggs fall through on to the lawn) and the pheasants are positively luminescent - our surmise was not far wrong.
But thinking of today's young men and women - how do they meet these days? When I look back at my Family History, my mother's family lived within a twenty mile radius as far back as I have traced. Each generation married somebody from their own village - or in the case of the women, from the village where they happened to be in service. Of course, we have no way of knowing how happy the marriages were, because in those days you had no option but to stick together, come what may.
Certainly in my family, I was the first to marry somebody who had not been born in the area. How did I meet him - well we worked together. In the case of my second marriage we lived near to each other and fortuitously the village footpath went through the farmer's land. But I was an incomer (or an offcum'd'un as they are called round here). These days social mobility means that hardly ever do people stay in the same place as they were born.
So how do people meet each other? We had village dances, we all went to church or chapel, we took part in all the village activities (and a lot of these I suspect were popular because it was an opportunity to size up possible suitors) - there were countless ways. I am not so sure there are those opportunities these days.
On the subject of Valentine's Day - I must say that farmers and Valentine's Day are not used in the same sentence. As somebody wrote in our local paper yesterday - what do farmers give their lady loves on Valentine's Day? Answer - hogs and kisses.
Where did you meet your partner?