|http://www.sina.com.cn 2004/02/19 14:14 北京青年报|
Valentine's Day was Feb. 14, and Chinese call it "lovers' day". I don 't think the translation is an accurate one, since it doesn't belong exclusively to lovers. Valentine's Day is for expressing affection of all sorts. But it is unequivocally the romantically involved who shine the brightest, who spend the most money, whose hearts are the most engaged.
When I was a boy my mother would buy enough cheap cards with clumsy drawings of butterflies and bunnies and honeybees for me to give one to every kid in my class, about 20 or so. The cards came in bags, and each card had a few fatuous words -- "Be Mine" or "I Like You" or "You've Got My Heart" or the utterly vapid, "Hi, Valentine!" I would scrawl my name on the cards and the name of one of my classmates on each flimsy envelope. I would insert the cards into the envelopes, and then I would lick each one shut, but they were so cheap that the envelopes rarely had enough glue. On Valentine's Day, I would take the cards to school -- everyone did. We would have a party in our classroom, with cupcakes and juice and tiny candy hearts, which also had Valentine messages printed on them -- "You're Sweet" or "Cupid" or "Love".
Ah, love! That's the Valentine's Day message: love. No one knows for certain the origin of the holiday. Several Catholic martyrs were named Valentine, but it's difficult to separate legend from fact. One story tells of a priest named Valentine who was imprisoned and may have been stoned to death around 270 for performing marriages in defiance of the orders of the Roman Emperor Claudius II. But it's hard today to find any religious connection.
As I got a little older, I came to hate the school ritual around Valentine's Day. I didn't like the feel of the dry, brittle paper of the cards and licking the envelope flaps disgusted me. Plus the first blush of liking everyone had worn off -- some kids just weren't nice, and I didn't want them as my "special" Valentine, which was always the message on the cards.
Perhaps more significantly, my own heart was beginning to flutter in the presence of certain specific girls -- I had a crush on Janice Lamb beginning at about age eleven. In fact, I remember writing her name on six or seven cards. The hard part was that Janice Lamb had a crush on Larry Jones, so she sent him extra cards, and he sent Dawn Rockwell extras, and so on around the room. Valentine's Day became something of a torment -- an introduction to the heartbreak of unrequited love ("heartbreak" = 607,000 hits on Google; "unrequited love" = 118,000 hits).
Mercifully, the silliness of these juvenile cards stopped by about age 12, but the agony and the ecstasy of course continued. In 12th grade Mrs. Skala, my literature teacher, whose family roots were in Scotland, constantly sang the praises of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. At that age, I was not fond of school or Mrs. Skala and certainly not of poetry. But I was by that time quite enamored of Linda Fowler, whom I would have done anything to impress. On Valentine's Day that year, Mrs. Skala read aloud Burns's poem "A Red, Red Rose." Perhaps my infatuation with Linda Fowler made me vulnerable, and the mix of sweetness and joy and despair and hope in the poem took me by surprise.
It's appropriate to take a look at this famous poem today, in conjunction with Valentine's Day. Incidentally, enter the first line of the poem into Google and 21,900 hits pop up.
A Red, Red Rose
O my luve is like a red, red rose,That's newly sprung in June;O my luve is like the melody,That's sweetly played in tune.As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,So deep in luve am I;And I will luve thee still, my dear,Till a' the seas gang dry.Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,And the rocks melt wi' the sun!O I will luve thee still, my dear,While the sands o' life shall run.And fare thee weel, my only luve,And fare thee weel a while;And I will come again, my luve,Tho' it were ten thousand mile!
A few years ago, I read a survey of one hundred men, celebrities from various walks of life, all of whom were over 60. They were asked what they would do differently if they could live their lives again. Almost to a man they answered, "love more."
Here's something: type "Valentine's Day" into the Google search engine on the internet and 1.5 million hits are found. The word "love" generates a list of 120 million sites; "what is love" returns 108,000 hits.
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