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The Heart of the Valentine

Valentines and hearts are romantically linked. For long-ago Valentine heartcenturies the human heart was thought to be the place where emotion resided. After all, our heart will beat faster and harder when we feel a great emotions (think terror or erotic excitement) even though we may be bodily at rest. What more proof do you need that emotion dwells in the heart?

So when we send a valentine, a message declaring love, the little note often carries the image of a heart, a human heart. Well, not exactly an image, but a symbol, a red thing that stands for a heart. That design, nowadays called a  heart-shape, was around for a long time and was thought of as a leaf or a dart. It was taken over and used to represent a heart only later.

And in the photo below, there it is on the cheek of the young woman kissing the young man. Indeed, the young woman is wearing sunglasses, and the beach-like sprawl in the background suggest that this is not February 14th, that it’s not Valentine’s Day and that the heart is the sign of human affection any day of the year.Valentine's kiss

The first image we have of a man giving a woman his heart occurs in a Medieval manuscript and the heart is shaped like a pine cone, because classical authority, namely the  philosopher-doctor Galen, said it was shaped like a pine cone. Gallen was a brilliant man and his influence lasted from the 3rd century through the 16th, but he did his disections on monkeys, not humans. Furthermore, there are many shapes to pine cones, and we don’t know what Galen had in mind when he said the heart was shaped that way. But we’re getting lost in a digression here.

Let’s take a look at that Medieval depiction of a lover giving his “heart” to his beloved. The scene comes from  Li romanz de la poire — let’s call it The Romance of the Pear and please don’t  get fussy over the etymology and meaning of romanz in medieval French. Here’s the scene.
Medieval man giving his heart to his lady
You’re right, she doesn’t look happily impressed. In fact, she looks likes she’s going to swat the poor man. Yet she does have a certain passion. In fact, the story is called The Romance of the Pear because the Lady peels a pear with her teeth and shares it with her lover. There’s a certain intimacy in that. No? Well, the story was pretty hot in the 13th century.

All of this is quite far from our freezing Valentine’s Day of  2014. Today we have ice and snow from Georgia to Maine. So we’ll insert our favorite image from our previous Valentine’s Day posts.A couple of lovers in a snowstorm

As we said before on an earlier Valentine’s Day, we admire the young gentleman helping the young lady across the street in a snowstorm, and we admire the young lady who wears a short dress and those high-heel shoes in a blizzard.  If you’d like to see the posts on a couple of  earlier Valentine’s Days, just type Valentine’s Day into our little search box on the upper right, over the right-hand column.

 

 

More Notes


Tim Carmody, in his excellent piece, "How Haiti Became Poor", notes that President Trump's racist policies and vulgar language have sullied the word "shithole" which used to be one of the all-time great swear words. He's right. It's another terrible power this careless President wields.