As we approach St. Valentine’s day I thought I might re-post a sonnet on renewing Marriage vows which I wrote for my wife Maggie. It so happened that I began my ministry as a vicar in All Saints Hartford on Valentines day. I was priest in a beautiful mediaeval church where we had many weddings. Maggie and I decided that we would invite all the couples whose weddings we took there, year by year, to come back to the church each year on Valentine’s day and renew their vows with us as we renewed ours, (I’m delighted to see that my sucesor there is still keeping up the tradition!) and it was out of those yearly renewals that this poem arose. I hope it might be helpful for any couples out there who might want to renew their own vows this coming valentines day, if so please feel free to use or reprint this poem in anyway you like. The words in italics come from the Anglican Marriage service. In some ways this sonnet also continues the reflection on the gift of language and its mysterious powers, which have been the subject of my last few posts. Maggie and I will be reciting this sonnet together at her church of St. Marks in Newnham this Valentine’s day as part of their ‘St. Valentine’s Cabaret’! so wish us luck. The poem has been published in my most recent Collection The Singing Bowl which you can order in the UK through the Sarum College Bookshop or in North America from Signpost Music
As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button or the title.
So, open up the treasure-casket, love,
the treasure is still there, the hidden things
that love contains. Old words, like wedding rings,
surround their mysteries, they live and move
as breath renews them, burnished as the gold
around our fingers, glowing as we make
the vows that make us new again: I take,
protect, and comfort, cherish, have and hold.
The same old words, that cannot stay the same,
for they have grown, as we have, more than old.
They change and deepen like all things that live,
they compass more and still have more to give:
All that I have is yours, all that I am
I give again, with all I will become.
10 responses to “Renewing Vows for Valentine’s Day”
Thank you Malcolm, for sharing this beautiful sonnet with us.
This is a beautiful sonnet and I am so glad you are able to celebrate the delight of your own marriage with others in the same situation. Perhaps next year’s Valentine’s day might inspire a thought for the darker side of the event for those of us whose memories of their wedding day are marred by subsequent betrayal and loss.
Thank you for your comment Brenda yes I am aware that this date and it’s celebration can stir painful memories for many
Thank you kindly for this, I think my wife will be delighted for it to be the focal point of valentine’s this fortieth year of our marriage. A renewal of vows seems perfectly timely, not rushing things at all. Over Christmas at our daughter and son-in-law’s home I enjoyed seeing her well-thumbed copy of “Sounding the Seasons” that you inscribed for her when we had the pleasure to meet you in Oxford in October of 2013 (CS Lewis Then and Now). They are members of Christ the King Anglican Church in Dayton Ohio. Just this week I referred to your sonnet “CS Lewis,” which has so much ‘going on’ in it, with a friend, though I always refer to it, unofficially, as ‘Beer and Beowulf.’ Which would make a great name for a band… as the saying sometimes goes.
May The Lord bless you for the inspiration you share and grounding you give in the Christian Year,
Peter M. Mahon, Jr.
3800 American Blvd West, Suite 990
Minneapolis, MN 55431
Thanks Chip, Its great to know my sonnet is known as ‘Beer and Beowulf’! and congratulations to you both on your 40th year of marriage!
Thank you Malcolm for this poem. I remember it well.
As one of the many couples whom you blessed in marriage, we also partook in the renewal of our vows with you at that dear church in Hartford. Twenty-two years on, we are still strong in our love for each other, though now far away in the wintry wilds of Canada. Your poetry is a vital part of my spiritual practice, and I thank God every day for your blessing in my life. I hope one day our paths will cross again. Linda & Tim Hanford
Thanks Linda, good to hear from you again and congratulations on your 22 years!
On the 14th of February the NZ Anglican calendar commemorates Sts Cyril and Methodius. So my husband and I celebrate by giving each other alphabets (St Cyril being of course credited with the creation of Cyrillic).
Malcolm, your name came up during a warm dinner among friends from Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas on Christmas Eve. And that planted your name in my head when searching for something to read in a few days as my brother and his wife renew their vows after 25 years. My brother likely erred in asking me to “officiate” their renewal, because I’ve never done this before. However, I’m confident a reading of your beautiful sonnet will be the high point that all will remember! Thank you . . . and blessings!