Tag Archives: defiance

The Real St. Valentine: Marriage as defiance

If Valentine had been photographed

This poem reflects the theme of our benefit last Friday night that promised to uncover the “real” St. Valentine. I’m not sure the event did that, and I am not sure this poem does much better, since it references later exaggerations as 3rd-century fact. But my valentine said it needed to see the light of blogosphere day. So I offer it to you.

The first almond blossoms had begun to green
when the Goths began to mass in the north.
Emperor Claudius, the Butcher, turned his eye
to the budding men of Rome’s underground.

Where love flowered, he put down his boot
and forbade the young men to seal their vows,
“Rome is doomed if her imperial needs
Are thwarted by the demands of squawking babes.”

The church in Rome had grown like a wild vine,
and tending it was a priest named Valentine,
who was blind to the edict and married the church
and included the faithless in proclaiming their faith.

The powers quickly found his garden of grace,
burst in and beat him beyond recognition,
then buried his love even deeper in their prison,
where forty-six captives soon sang praise by his side.

The jailer’s blind daughter in the first dew of spring
had never seen a flower or the first light of day.
The saint prayed again and light spread further;
his last words to Julia: “From your Valentine.”

On the day lovebirds mate in 269, they say,
the guards dragged him to the place of execution.
For marrying against the emperor’s order
he lost his head in a final spray of blood and love.

The powers rage against the blossom of covenant:
each spring a new war, each day a deeper blindness,
every season of time a new martyr to take a stand
in the ever-foolish cause of revealing God’s image.