Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

Roses are red, violets are blue, Sugar is sweet, and so are you.

Roses are red, violets are blue, Honey is sweet, but not as sweet as you.

Roses are red, violets are blue, God made us beautiful, as beautiful as you.

I could go on with this forever. Apparently, many people have.

One source traces the four-line rhyme (hard to call it a poem) back to 1590. A guy named Sir Edmund Spenser wrote "A Fairie Queene" back then, and was looking for a bit of filler. He came up with "The rose is red, the violet's blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you." or at least an Olde English version of that.

Early on, it was a nice, easy Valentine of a phrase. I seem to recall a kindergarten teacher using it about this time of year to explain the concept of rhyme. (And if you think I really recall kindergarten some 60 years later, I have a bridge…)

By the time I reached junior high, the ditty turned dark.

Roses are red, violets are blue, God made us beautiful, what happened to you?

Roses are red, violets are blue, I hate poems, do I hate you?

Roses are red, violets are blue, if I had a brick, I'd throw it at you.

There were, and are, many other mean and just plain nasty versions. Most are inappropriate to repeat here. I'm a nice guy, remember?

I personally like the more humorous approach. That legend of often silly country song writing, Roger Miller, added an earwig of a verse in his immortal song "Dang Me:"

Roses are red, violets are purple, sugar is sweet, and so's maple surple.

Here's another good one, from my college days.

Roses are red, violets are blue, when I listen to rock music, my neighbors do too.

And there are the sad, self-pitying ones (also from my college days).

Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm still single, so — there's that.

Here's an even more modern version in the same vein.

Roses are red, I have a phone, Nobody texts me, forever alone.

If you're saying to yourself about now, "Boy did he not have anything to write about this week," you're probably pretty close to the truth. But I have been pondering the ways we find to celebrate Valentine's Day.

The Roses are red poems were a fun, and cheap, way when I was growing up. Couple it with a homemade card and it looked oh-so sincere while not costing a dime.

Yes, I was cheap (or sort of poor) as a kid, too.

As I tip-toed into the romance realm, I had a bad habit of going overboard, often making women uncomfortable and me embarrassed. I was the guy they made that 10-pound heart-shaped candy box for.

I'd go into debt trying to impress a date with a dinner to die for. I remember a time when I proposed an out-of-country romantic trip. She broke up with me the next day.

You'd think that after six decades plus, I'd stop being afraid I'm going to turn into Charlie Brown staring into an empty mailbox. But I think I have figured out you can't buy that love we all crave.

Instead, I've been trying to share a little love without expecting anything back. So I say again, Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is indeed sweet, and you're even sweeter.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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