Poems for Valentine’s Day with some link (however tenuous) to the City of London
by a few of the City's Literati
The Rising Sun, John Donne:
Busy old fool unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school boys and sour prentices.
Go tell court huntsmen that the King will ride.
Call country ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no seasons knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months which are the rags of time.
Thy beams so reverend, and strong
Why shoulds’t thou think
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink
Btu that I would not lose her sight so long.
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look and tomorrow late tell me,
Whether both the Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou left’st them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’s t yesterday
And thou shalt hear, “All here in one bed lay”
She is all states and all princes I;
Nothing else is;
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honours mimic; all wealth alchemy.
Thou, Sun are half as happy as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is; these walls thy sphere
.John Donne, 1572 – 1631
Born in Bread Street, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral
Parliament of Foules, Geoffrey Chaucer:
For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,
When every fowl comes there his mate to take,
Geoffrey Chaucer, 1343-1400
Born and lived for some of his life in London
Sonnet 29, William Shakespeare:
When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope
Featured like him, lie him with friends possessed
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts, myself almost despising
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such weal brings
Tat then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Ophelia in Hamlet, William Shakespeare:
To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more
William Shakespeare 1564-1616
Lived and worked in London
Diary of Samuel Pepys:
14 th February 1662
This morning in comes W. Bowyer, who was my wife's Valentine, she having, at which I made good sport to myself, held her hands all the morning, that she might not see the paynters that were at work in gilding my chimney-piece and pictures in my diningroom.
14th Feb 1667
This morning come up to my wife's bedside, I being up dressing myself, little Will Mercer to be her Valentine; and brought her name writ upon blue paper in gold letters, done by himself, very pretty; and we were both well pleased with it. But I am also this year my wife's Valentine, and it will cost me £5; but that I must have laid out if we had not been Valentines. So to bed.
14th (Valentine's day). Up, being called up by Mercer, who come to be my Valentine, and so I rose and my wife, and were merry a little, I staying to talk, and did give her a guinny in gold for her Valentine's gift. There comes also my cozen Roger Pepys betimes, and comes to my wife, for her to be his Valentine, whose Valentine I was also, by agreement to be so to her every year; and this year I find it is likely to cost £4 or £5 in a ring for her, which she desires
Samuel Pepys 1633 1703
Diarist, born and lived and worked in London