Violets Aren't Blue

Many people will remember a childhood poem for Valentines. The following is the original 1784 translation from French, but you might remember it a bit differently; [i]

The rose is red, the violet’s blue
The honey’s sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine
This poem never made sense to me, since violets are not blue. In the original French it says cornflowers which makes more sense! What do we think when we hear this? Is it sappy or sentimental? Is it just for children?

On February 14th we celebrate Valentine’s Day. Last year, some 224 million roses were grown for Valentine’s Day and it is estimated that Americans will spend 19 billion dollars this year on that day [ii]

On the one hand, we seem to spend an enormous amount of money on our relationships, on the other hand, we don’t seem to be doing very well at relating as couples. Being grateful, thanking our spouse, celebrating our love for them, are all good things, but are we focusing too much on the externals?

This year, the celebration of World Marriage Day by the church actually coincides with Valentines, which happens on a Sunday. Perhaps we can call for both roses and something that won’t fade.

Psychologists have demonstrated that the pillars of a lasting marriage are commitment and trust. These are the very same values that are fostered in a marriage ceremony in the church. The bride and groom exchange promises to be faithful and to enter a permanent relationship which lasts “all the days of our life.”

These the two pillars of commitment and trust are fostered by a deepening friendship which actively seeks to know the other partner and to see the best in them. Love is more than a sentiment when we focus on the object of our love, seek to nurture fondness and admiration, and to make ourselves available to them in daily interactions. In the sacrament of marriage, all of these human acts of love become joined to Christ as he gives us graces to live our lives together in union with him.

On World Marriage Day we celebrate human love and the graces of the sacrament of Matrimony. St. Paul tells that marriage is “a great mystery” because it is an image of the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesian 5:32).


[i] Joseph Ritson, Gammer Gurton’s Garland: Or the Nursery Parnassus, 1784.

[ii] The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that Americans will jointly invest $19.6 billion for Valentine’s Day this year, or $144 per individual.


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