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.