Well, it’s about that time of the year again – that time when men who can normally talk incessantly about just about anything – no matter how insignificant – without pausing to find the right words to say, suddenly find themselves speechless.

Valentine’s Day.

Nothing seems to leave men more unable to communicate their affection to their wives or girlfriends than this impending holiday named after a man who famously died single.

So to help those men like me begin to think of some inspiring words for your woman at Valentine’s Day, I want to share today my favorite Valentine’s Day poem.

It’s an old one – very old. It’s 187 years old, to be exact.

I first read it in an old book, about 20 years ago. Part of it had been reprinted on a Victorian Valentine’s Day card. After years of searching for this poem – which as far as I can tell, does not have a title – Google and I finally found it.

This poem appeared in a section of an almost-forgotten publication known as Bells Life in London and Sporting Chronicle.

In those days, along with the latest news, the publications often featured poetry or fiction features (many of Charles Dickens’ books first appeared as monthly installments in magazines; he even wrote for Bell’s Life at times).

The publishers of Bell’s Life added a section of poetry and humor, which was very popular.

That section was called “Gallery of Comicalities: Embracing Humorous Sketches.” The writers and illustrators included brothers Robert and George Cruikshank, Robert Seymour and others.

The poem that inspired me first appeared in Bell’s Life on Valentine’s Day in 1830.

Below is the poem in its entirety. (A couple of notes: The G-word appears as it often did before it came to mean something entirely else in 20th and 21st Century America; the word “budget” does not refer to money, but rather to its original old English meaning, “contents of the mail” – in other words: Words)

As we approach Valentine’s Day, I think it’s appropriate to share with you the intelligent humor of a poem old enough for our great-great-great-great-great grandparents to read. Hopefully, we can capture some of that wit and wisdom in the words we write – and we better hurry. Valentine’s Day, in case you missed the memo, is tomorrow!

 

Virgins of tender susceptible hearts

Let your spirits, lively and gay

Prepare for love stanzas and Cupids and darts

For this is St. Valentine’s Day.

Tis the season of Love, and all feel on this morn

Something delightful within stir—

The maid whom the blushes of beauty adorn

As well the toothless old spinster.

Thou slovenly damsel, black as a coal

And thou, who so fair and so neat art,

Now betray by thine eyes the fond wish of thy soul

That fortune would send thee a sweetheart

Dear, fond little creatures

The postage, I’m sure

You’ll cheerfully pay, and not grudge it

And how grateful the task,

The enjoyment how pure,

To read the contents of the budget

May your swains be all faithful, loving as true

Nor seek base arts to entrap ye

May the single get married with nothing further ado,

And long may the married be happy