From crowds, whom at your feet you see,
Oh, pity and distinguish me!
As I from thousand beauties more
Distinguish you, and only you adore.
(John Dryden [1631–1700], Love's Petition)
Founded “principally upon the two virtues of humility
and loyalty, to honor, praise and commend all ladies and damsels,”
the Court of Love is the first known official celebration in honour
of Saint Valentine's Day. Its charter highlights many observances,
echoes of which can be seen in modern celebrations: “on
the day of My Lord St. Valentine…there will be sung at the
church…a mass of this blessed martyr….On this feastday,
each of his subjects is to compose an amorous balade on a theme
of his own choosing….” (Henry Ansgar Kelly, Chaucer
and the Cult of Saint Valentine, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1986,
Knight and Lady with Birds
1305–1340. Illumination. Grosse Heidelberger
Liederhandschrift (Codex Manesse), Cod. Pal. germ. 848, 82v. In
Fridrich Pfaff, Der Minnesang des 12. bis 14. Jahrhunderts
(Stuttgart: Union Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1891–1895).