You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Friday, February 13, 2015

Colonial Valentine Poems

        As part of a fad that was called “the lovers’ literary campaign of 1768,” the Virginia Gazette featured acrostic poems where the first letter, syllable, or word of each line, paragraph or other recurring featured in the text spelled out a word or a message.
        Several love struck swains of Williamsburg and its neighboring plantations honored their beloveds during the month on February, beginning three days before Valentine’s Day.
        One unknown admirer sang the praises of Miss Frances Lewis of a prominent Gloucester County family.
        Notice that the first letter of each line of his poem spells out Miss Lewis’ name: 

        Minerva's choice;—Apollo's fond delight,
        In whom fine sense and music's charms unite:
        Sweet lovely maid; dear fav'rite of the nine. 
        Say, will you be my constant VALENTINE?
        For you the Muse expands her lapsid wings,
        Rears her fall'n pow'rs, and strikes the trembling strings.
        At thy dear feet she pays the tribute due:
        Nor thinks she bends too low to wait on you:
        Charm'd with thy lovely form;—thy music fine:
        Extatic raptures all my heart entwine.
        So my once lov'd Celinda touch'd the keys:
        Lovely like you—like you was form'd to please!
        Early in life the fatal summons came,
        Wither'd my joys and snatched the beauteous dame!
        In you dear nymph, the reparation lies,
        Say you'll be kind, or youthful Strephon dies.

        For the young men and women of Williamsburg, this romantic wordplay was the equivalent of pop songs and Hallmark cards. Here’s another sample written by David Mead of Nansemond County singing the virtues of his fiancée, Sally Waters: MISS WATERS

        Most praise the gaudy tulips streak'd with red.
        I praise the virgin lilly's bending head:
        Some the jonquil in shining yellow drest;
        Some love the fring'd carnation's varied vest;
       Whilst others, pleas'd that fabled youth to trace,
       As o'er the stream he bends to view his face.
       The exulting florist views their varied dyes;
       E'n thus fares beauty in each lover's eyes.
       Read o'er these lines, you'll see the nymph with ease,
        She like the rose was made, all eyes to please.

        Mr. Mead’s valentine must have succeeded in winning Sally’s heart, for three months later, on May 19, the Virginia Gazette announced, “on Thursday last David Mead, Esq., of Nansemond, was married to Miss Sally Waters, of this city, an agreeable young Lady."
        As with all fads, the lovers' literary campaign of 1768 faded away as quickly as it started, but cropped up sporadically with one poem appearing in 1769, and other tributes between March 1773 and December 1776. The final acrostic published in the Gazette in 1776 honored Sally Cary.
        A subsequent notice in 1768 provided a happy ending to that poem with this marriage announcement, "Thomas Nelson, jun. Esq; captain in the first Virginia regiment, to Miss Sally Cary, eldest daughter of Wilson Miles Cary, Esq; of the county of Fluvanna."

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