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Today In History: St. Valentine’s Day – The Washington Herald, February 14th, 1910
|| 2/14/2010 || 10:28 am || + Render A Comment || ||

Scan of the newspaper article Today In History from the Washington Herald, 100 years ago

St. Valentine’s Day has degenerated somewhat in recent years, and is now generally observed by the sending of jocular pictures with suitable verses attached, or an equally ridiculous sentimental picture card. Formerly the proper ceremony of the day was the drawing of a kind of lottery, followed by ceremonies not much unlike what is generally called the game of forfeits.

In Pepy’s Diary we find some notable illustrations of this old custom. It appears that married and single were then alike liable to be chosen as a valentine, and that a present was invariably necessarily given to the choosing party. “Noticing the jewels of the celebrated Miss Stuart, who became Duchess of Richmond,” he records, “the Duke of York, being once her valentine, did give her a jewel of about £800; and my Lord Mandeville, her valentine this year, a ring of about £300. These presents were undoubtedly given in roder to relieve the obligations under which the being drawn as valentines places the donors.”

Notwithstanding the practice of “relieving,” there seems to have been a disposition to believe that the person drawn as a valentine had some considerable likelihood of becoming the associate of the party in wedlock.

It was supposed, for instance, that the first unmarried person of the other sex whom you met on St. Valentine’s morning in walking abroad was a destined wife or a destined husband. Thus Gay makes a rural dame remark:

“Last Valentine, the when birds of kind,
Their paramours with mutual chirpings find,
I early rose just at the break of day,
Before the sun had chased the stars away;
A-field I went, amid the morning dew,
To milk my kine (for so should housewives do).
Thet first I spied- and the first swain we see.
In spite of fortune shall our true love be.”

St. Valentine’s Day is alluded to by Shakespeare and by Chaucer, and also by the poet Lydgate, who died in 1440. One of the earliest known writers of valentines, or poetical amative address for this day, was Charles, Duke of Orleans, who was taken at the battle of Agencourt.

The origin of these peculiar observances of St. Valentine’s Day is a subject of some obscurity. The saint himself, who was a priest of Rome, martyred in the third century, seems to have had nothing to do with the matter beyond the accident of this day being used for the purpose.

Just why St. Valentine was chosen the patron of love seems a little obscure. Wheatly says: “He was a man of admirable parts and so famous for his love and charity that the custom of choosing valentines upon his festival, which is still practiced, too rise from thence.” While Dr. Butler, in his “Lives of the Saints,” says: “To abolish the heathens’ lewd custom of boys drawing the names of girls in honor of their goddess, Februata Juno, on the fourteenth of this month, several zealous pastors substituted the names of saints on the billets that were drawn.” and thus in the mutation of time the custom has grown which now takes the form of “valentines.”


February 14 is the date which Gray and Bell each received a patent for the first telephone in 1876; it is the birthday of Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock (1824); Charles L. Sholes, father of the typewriter (1819); Samuel Osgood, the first Postmaster General (1748); the day on which the United States flag was first seen in foreign lands and saluted in 1778, and upon which the battle of St. Vincent, in 1797.


This newspaper article was transcribed from the scan of the February 14th, 1910 edition of the Washington Herald from the Chronicling America newspaper collection and is in the public domain.



In Praise of a Contented Mind / My Mind to me a Kingdom is
|| 6/12/2008 || 12:19 am || Comments Off on In Praise of a Contented Mind / My Mind to me a Kingdom is || ||

Edward de Vere – 17th Earl of Oxford
from an engraving by J. Brown after G.P. Harding 1575
via Wikipedia


In Praise of a Contented Mind
My mind to me a kingdom is;
Such perfect joy therein I find
That it excels all other bliss
That world affords or grows by kind.
Though much I want which most men have,
Yet still my mind forbids to crave.

No princely pomp, no wealthy store,
No force to win the victory,
No wily wit to salve a sore,
No shape to feed each gazing eye;
To none of these I yield as thrall.
For why my mind doth serve for all.

I see how plenty suffers oft,
How hasty climbers soon do fall;
I see that those that are aloft
Mishap doth threaten most of all;
They get with toil, they keep with fear.
Such cares my mind could never bear.

Content I live, this is my stay;
I seek no more than may suffice;
I press to bear no haughty sway;
Look what I lack my mind supplies;
Lo, thus I triumph like a king,
Content with that my mind doth bring.

Some have too much, yet still do crave;
I little have, and seek no more.
They are but poor, though much they have,
And I am rich with little store.
They poor, I rich; they beg, I give;
They lack, I leave; they pine, I live.

I laugh not at another’s loss;
I grudge not at another’s gain;
No worldly waves my mind can toss;
My state at one doth still remain.
I fear no foe, nor fawning friend;
I loathe not life, nor dread my end.

Some weigh their pleasure by their lust,
Their wisdom by their rage of will,
Their treasure is their only trust;
And cloaked craft their store of skill.
But all the pleasure that I find
Is to maintain a quiet mind.

My wealth is health and perfect ease;
My conscience clear my chief defense;
I neither seek by bribes to please,
Nor by deceit to breed offense.
Thus do I live, thus will I die.
Would all did so as well as I!



Last night I was adding some new books to my shelves and decided to look at my old copy of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. I opened it up, turned a few pages and stumbled on to In Praise of a Contented Mind. It’s anonymous poem most commonly attributed to Edward Dyer but according to Norton, it was possibly written by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (painting above). According to the Oxfordian Theory, some believe that Edward de Vere was the poet who’s pseudonym was Shakespeare. I hold the opinion that Shakespeare was most likely a group of nobles who collaborated together to write under the pseudonym of Shakespeare because their status as nobles prevented their official authorship.

In 1588 William Byrd set the poem to music in Psalms, Sonnets, and Songs of Sadness and Piety, as “My Mind to me a Kingdom is.” This version (below) is attributed to Sir Edward Dyer and includes some modification to the original prose.



My Mind to me a Kingdom is
My minde to me a kingdome is,
such perfect joy therin I find,
That it excells all other blisse,
which God or Nature hath assign’d.
Though much I want, that most would have,
yet still my mind forbids to crave.

No princely port nor welthie store,
no force to winne a victorie,
no wyly wit to salve a sore,
no shape to winne a loving eye:
to none of these I yeld as thrall,
for why my minde despise them all.

I see that plentie surfeits oft,
and hastie clymbers soonest fall:
I see that such as are a loft,
mishap doth threaten most of all:
these get with toyle and keepe with feare,
such cares my minde can never beare.

I presse to beare no haughtie sway,
I wish no more then may suffice:
I doe no more than well I may,
look what I want my minde supplies,
loe thus I triumph like a King,
my minde content with any thing.

I laugh not at anothers losse,
nor grudge not at anothers gaine:
no worldly waves my minde can tosse,
I brooke that is anothers bane:
I feare no foe nor fawne on friend,
I loth not lyfe nor dread mine end.

My wealth is health and perfect ease,
and conscience cleere my chiefe defence,
I never seeke by brybes to please,
nor by desert to give offence:
thus doe I live, thus will I dye,
would all did so as well as I.



The score was mass produced as a broadside where it remained popular for over 100 more years. According to google, this posting is between the 15th and 30th mention of this poem on the internets.


click below to download a PDF of the score:


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