Though Valentine’s Day has been celebrated for many centuries, its connection with love and love poetry was forged slightly more recently- if you consider the 15th century recent, that is! Written Valentine’s poems first appeared in the early 1400s and it is from this period that we have the oldest known Valentine’s poem in existence. Read on to find more about this truly unique symbol of enduring love!
In 1415, a major military event of the Hundred Years War took place: the Battle of Agincourt. Fought between the English and French armies, the battle led to an important French figure, Charles, Duke of Orleans, to be captured and held in England for the next twenty-five years. During the period of his captivity, the Duke of Orleans composed love poetry for his wife, Bonne d’Armagnac, still living in France. While he wrote over 60 pieces for his beloved wife, the very first is considered to be the world’s oldest Valentine’s poem.
The Form of the Oldest Valentine’s Poem
The Duke of Orleans wrote this first Valentine’s poem in a very specific stylistic form: the rondel. The rondel, coming from an Old French word for “small circle,” is a verse form that was very popular in 14th century French poetry and continued its popularity into the early 15th century as well. A rondel has a refrain that recurs throughout the piece, giving it that “round,” circular quality for which it is named, and it also includes a limited rhyme scheme, using only two rhymes throughout the poem. Rondels are particularly well-suited to the French language, based on the availability of rhyming words and the language’s overall rhythm.
The Duke of Orleans’ Rondel Valentine
Tragically, the Duke of Orleans was released from imprisonment after his wife had died, and his Valentine’s poems were never able to be delivered to her. Nevertheless, his love for her has lived on through the years as his original Valentine was preserved as a part of a manuscript of his poetry.
Are you inspired by the story of the world’s oldest Valentine’s poem? Do you want to attempt to write a piece in the rondel form yourself? Write a romantic verse this Valentine’s Day and see what you come up with- if you like what you write, consider submitting it to our poetry contest and show your work to the world!