Sunday, February 11, 2018

February Fourteenth

Love Day. What a concept! To set aside a time to declare our love out loud. Yes, I know it is a promotion from Hallmark, chocolatiers and the flower industry but still... Love is the opposite of death. With all the noxious air expelled from Washington and Fox News, all the insults, abuse, saber-rattling, nonsensical parade, indifference to asylum-seekers and general cynicism…….love, in all its permutations, is the answer no matter the question.

Call me a romantic. The word is well-traveled, even a bit exhausted after such a long and labyrinthine journey. Before it meant junk novels and date flicks it referenced, not quite the Latin language as one would have expected, but the vernacular tongue of those countries adjacent to Rome. The suffix, tic, made it Vulgate (colloquial), a step down from the Latin. Over time it was absorbed into its motherland and languages such as Italian, Spanish, Romanian and French were designated as Romantic.
In the 17th century the word became a literary term describing tales of chivalry. Unlike liturgical writing or other matters of gravitas which remained stuck in Latin, the stories of knights and damsels in distress were relegated to the more common speech or romantic language.

 A frog he would a-wooing go, mm mm, mm mm
             A frog he would a wooing go,
Whether his mother would let him or no, mm mm, mm mm.

The frog and the mouse they went to France mm mm, mm  mm
             A frog and a mouse they went to France
And this is the end of my romance, mm, mm, mm, mm

By 1800 the Romantic Movement was regarded as an assertion of Individualism as a reaction to the growing Industrialization which had little patience for eccentricities or dissent. Wordsworth described Romantic poetry as a spontaneous expression of emotions recollected in tranquility. He became rich and irrelevant while others died too young, Keats (25), Shelley (30) and Byron (36). The latter two lived defiant, Libertine lives thumbing their several nostrils at the conventions of British society. What may sound like flights of fancy to our ears was revolutionary in its day.

Romantics today are folks you might expect to find smelling the flowers, preparing a Valentine dinner with candlelight and violins…. or writing poetry and blogs.

My funny valentine
Sweet comic valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable
Yet you're my favorite work of art

But don't change a hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine stay
Each day is Valentines Day.   *

I’m happy to keep the romantic legacy alive with its roots in the low-born, common tongue, idiosyncratic and openhearted with the imagination given full sway. That allows me to be mad about Peggy, crazy in love.

And I ain’t no fool for love songs
That whisper in my ears.
Still crazy after all these years.
Oh still crazy after all these years  **

·           *     My Funny Valentine, Rogers and Hart, from Babes In Arms,     1937

** Still Crazy After All These Years, Paul Simon, 1975

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