James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

February 14

Grandmother’s Valentine

By Minnia Irving (1865–1940)

THE BRANCHES creaked on the garret roof,

And the snow blew in at the eaves,

When I found a hymn-book, tattered and torn,

And turned its moldering leaves.

And lo! in its yellowing pages lay

Grandmother’s valentine tucked away.

Hearts and roses together twined,

And sweet little Cupids quaint,

The gilt from the hearts was worn away,

And the pink of the roses faint,

And the Cupids’ faces were blurred and dim,

But it marked the place of her favorite hymn.

Before me rose on the dusty floor

The ghost of a slender maid,

Like the portrait hung on the parlor wall,

In a gown of flowered brocade,

And ivory laces, as fine as air,

And a diamond star in her powdered hair.

A handsome gallant beside her bent

In the country dress of old,

He wore a ring with a ruby set

And a waistcoat flowered with gold,

Ruffled wrists and a ribboned queue,

Silver buckles and coat of blue.

“What hast thou shut in thy lily hand

With a tassel of azure tied?”

“A valentine left on my window sill

In the gray of the dawn,” she cried,

“And I love the lover who rode so far

In the deep snows, under the morning star.”

Then he pressed his arm to her rounded waist

And his lips to her rosy ear:

“Oh, lean thy head to my breast, I pray,

And I’ll tell thee a secret dear!

It was I who rode with the valentine

So fast and so far—and thou art mine!”

A mouse ran over the broken boards,

Behold! when I looked again,

The squire in the gay blue coat

And the maid with the silken train.

There was nothing there but the shadows tall

And the cobwebs long on the windy wall.

But I dropped a tear on the musty book

And tenderly laid it down

With the treasure, deep in the cedar chest,

In the folds of a faded gown,

And left it there in the lavender leaves

And ashes of roses, under the eaves.

For I thought of a youth with soft brown eyes

And how I had vexed him sore.

The dim, dead lovers—they touched my heart,

And so I was cold no more;

For love is the same as long ago,

Grandmother’s valentine told me so.