According to WikiPedia, Valentine was an Gnostic teacher called Valentinius was a candidate for Bishop of Rome in 143. Then again, the BBC seems to think Cookstown (which has the greatest number of first marriages in the UK) is located somewhere in Greater Belfast, so you can’t believe everything you read on the net. Valentine’s relic, is reputedly held in the Carmelite Church in Whitefriars Street in Dublin (hat tip Richard’s intro to the Sunday Brunch). By some accounts the day falls when the birds begin to choose their mates. Last word then to that churchman, genius and metaphysical poet: So, rave on John Donne:
Hail Bishop Valentine! whose day this is;
All the air is thy diocese,
And all the chirping choristers
And other birds are thy parishioners:
Thou marryest ever year
The lyric lark and the grave whispering dove;
The sparrow that neglects his life for love,
The household bird with the red stomarcher;
Thous mak’st the blackbird speed as soon,
As doth the goldfinch or the halcyon . . .
This day more cheerfully than ever shine,
This day which might inflame thyself, old Valentine!