Some true romance for Valentine’s Day

Le  baiser de l’Hôtel
de Ville  by Robert Doisneau (1950)

Well, don’t blame me for being soppy, it’s St Valentine’s Day and I’d much rather celebrate it with some great art than all those lurid reds and pinks, heart-shaped balloons and saccharine valentine’s cards that are defacing our shops and restaurants. So here you are, for one day only, some genuinely romantic inspiration. Take it nice and easy though and don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? 

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate. 
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, 
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, 
And often is his gold complexion dimmed; 
And every fair from fair sometime declines, 
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed; 
But thy eternal summer shall not fade, 
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st, 
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade, 
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st. 
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, 
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

The Good-Morrow


I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

John Donne (1572-1631)
…and when it comes to romantic music, I think Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), a great lover of Shakespeare, got the mood absolutely right, heart-stoppingly-so, in fact, in the love scene from his Romeo and Juliet Symphony. Here it is played at the 2007 BBC Prom, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Listen to this and take the rest of the day off!

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