Romeo would have made awesome valentines for Hallmark

Posted in Duff 'n Stuff

Duff ’n Stuff, Feb. 12, 2013

Valentine’s Day is Thursday; a day to celebrate love, romance and the pounding heart. But what to say, what to write in a Valentine to one’s lover?

Esther A. Howland got her title as the “Mother of the Valentine” when she began selling the first commercially produced valentines in America in the 1840s. Esther was the one who first created fancy smancy valentine cards with lace, ribbons and colorful pictures on them.

Little did Esther know that one day Hallmark, and other commercial card makers, would wrangle the whole enterprise into a card sending frenzy and Valentine’s Day would take its place behind Christmas as the second biggest card-sending day of the year.

"Romeo and Juliet" is an 1870 oil painting by Ford Madox Brown. (Public domain artwork)

“Romeo and Juliet” is an 1870 oil painting by Ford Madox Brown. (Public domain artwork)

From the tiny, cartoon character cards that school children trade with classmates, to the estimated 140 million greeting cards sent between friends and lovers on Valentine’s Day each year, the February 14 custom is well-ensconced around the world and 85 percent of those buying and sending the cards are women. What a surprise!

But what to write to one’s love?  I think stealing is the finest form of flattery, so I always refer to the greatest romancers for my valentines.

Consider William Shakespeare’s most lamentable tale of love and tragedy, that ‘ol tear-jerker, “Romeo and Juliet.”

Romeo says things like:

One fairer than my love? The all-seeing sun
Ne’er saw her match since first the world begun.

He also uses this line:

O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!

Wow. Any woman would be his for the taking.  If some gorgeous hunk came along and said those things to me, I might be over the balcony and off to the Friar’s for a quickie wedding, too. I bet Esther would have hired the excellent woo-master Romeo to write for her valentine card company in a second.

Juliet is no slouch herself in the romance department and could have easily given Ms. Howland some excellent valentine card copy. Consider this sexy description of her boy-toy Romeo:

Come, night, come, Romeo, come, thou day in night;
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
Whiter than new snow on a raven’s back.
Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-brow’d night,
Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night

Juliet! Say no more, say no more.

Who else would Esther have done well to hire for her card company? How about these:

Pablo Neruda:

Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because —
because — I don’t know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

William Butler Yeats:

I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

We cannot live, except thus mutually

Denise Levertov:

I can barely see you
but your hands are two animals
that push the mist aside
and touch me

Well, you get the idea. These poets spin language into gold. Why not gather a little gold for yourself and impress your lover? There’s so much out there to steal for your valentine and let’s face it, the greatest lovers and poets do it better than Hallmark.

Here is a poem that I wish I wrote. It was written by e.e. cummings and is probably one of the most popular and widely quoted of romantic poems. It has a lot of good lines to steal for a most excellent and impressive Valentine for your sweetheart. 

e.e. cummings:

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
                                                        i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)


Whatever you write inside the card for your Valentine, the sentiment will be appreciated as long as it comes from your heart.

Happy Valentine’s Day.


From the heart,

Patricia Duff


Valentine’s Day food, wine and music events around the island:

  •  Singer, songwriter Eric Christensen plays the Front Street Grill in Coupeville from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13.
  • Ott & Murphy Tasting Room in Langley presents Nancy Nolan singing love songs from 7 – 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, with David Ossman of Firesign Theater fame adding spice to the evening with some love poems.  No cover; reservations suggested. The love fest continues at Ott & Murphy from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15 with “Cabaret Erotique,  L’amour surrealiste” with David Ossman, Joni Takanikos and Judith Walcutt reading a variety of erotic literature and Siri Bardarson and Robert Marsanyi as musical accompaniment.
  • The Inn At Langley offers a Valentine’s Day Package that includes a romantic dinner prepared by Chef Matt Costello. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m. Thursday Feb. 14 and will feature reworked classics, as well as modern menu items. $500 includes dinner and a waterfront guestroom for two. There are only 12 seats left, so call 360.221.3033 to reserve today. Sorry, no dinner only reservations available. Get more details at the Inn at Langley website.
  • Whidbey Island Vintners Assocation presents its annual “Red Wine and Chocolate Tour” from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 16, 17 and 18 at various wine tasting rooms on Whidbey Island. Sample wonderful hand crafted wines paired with delicious locally made chocolate treats at each stop. Along the way you will see farms, vineyards, visit art galleries, hear live music and enjoy the lovely scenic Whidbey Island. Visit for complete information.
  • Prima Bistro, Ott & Murphy Wine Bar and Useless Bay Wines team up for “Langley Love Bites” from Thursday, Feb. 14 to Monday, Feb. 18 in downtown Langley.  Join these food and wine specialists for pairings of red wine and small bites at each venue from noon to 6 p.m. each day. $20 ticket includes 4 ounce pour and a small bite and can be purchased at any of the three eateries throughout the weekend.
  • Timbuktu Java Bar & Gallery in Freeland will offer FREE Valnetine’s Day FUN photos between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., or between 3:30 and 5 p.m. on Valentine’s Day.  Sue Averett will be on hand with her camera to take pics of you and your Valentine, which will be e-mailed to you within 48 hours.  Lauryn and Chris, owners of Timbuktu, will be featuring a complimentary sweet treat for you on this day of LOVE. Timbuktu is located at the 1504 Highway 525 near Texaco.
  • Trio Nouveau warms the house with swingin’ jazz every Friday night including from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15 at Ciao Italian Restaurant in Coupeville. This is a music loving house and the atmosphere is effervescent. Enjoy life in the slow food lane. Fresh, savory, fun. Fantastico!  Ciao is at 701 Main St. in Coupeville Visit for more info.
  • Sweet Mona’s, Chocolate Boutique celebrates its seven year anniversary from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17 at 138 2nd Street in Langley. There will be drawings for prizes for chocolates, gifts, and free chocolate tasting throughout the day. Visit for more info.


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