SONNETS TO MY LADY

On her twentieth birthday, a few weeks before our wedding, I gave the lady who was about to become my wife a sonnet, inscribed in calligraphic script on imitation parchment (the kind they once used for making lamp-shades). After all, at the time I was an impecunious teacher, and in any case I doubt if I could have inscribed the words on the real thing even if I could have afforded it.

For some reason which I now can't recall I wrote another sonnet to her ten years later, and the practice became one of those family customs.

I hope you'll like the sonnets, but whether you do or not is quite beside the point. The person for whom they were written likes them, and treasures them, and that's all the acclaim I need.

A SONNET TO MY LADY
ON HER TWENTIETH BIRTHDAY


If I could give you gifts of royal worth,
Silver and gold and cloths of wondrous hue,
And pearls from distant seas, and gems from earth,
And winking stars from heaven's midnight blue;
If I could make you queen of every land
As you are truly queen in this one heart.
Then kneel, a subject dear, to kiss your hand;
This would I do, and serve you from the start.

And then, upon a wiser second thought:
Riches and fame might turn from me your eye;
I would not have you prize the gifts above
The humble giver. Rather give you naught.
Here, then, I offer that which cannot die
With all my heart, dear, my eternal love.

W.G.S.
2 April 1943

RETURN TO LIST

A SONNET TO MY LADY
ON HER THIRTIETH BIRTHDAY


Ten years ago - and yet it seems a day -
I told you of my love in halting rhyme.
If words were feeble then, what shall I say
Now that my love but strengthened is by time ?
What can I give who have received so much,
Riches indeed, pressed down and running o'er,
And, over and above this treasure, such
As no king ever owned, four jewels more ?

Rich in such bounty, but a pauper yet
Who can no way, except in this, repay
This glimpse of Heaven granted in this life.
The love I tendered then to meet my debt
Is all I have to offer you today,
Mother of four, sweetheart, and perfect wife.


W. G. S.
2 April 1953

RETURN TO LIST

A SONNET TO MY LADY
AS LIFE BEGINS


And so the years are twenty. Twenty years !
Can such an age have passed in so short space ?
One quarter of a life of joy and tears
And only laughter-lines to mark their trace ?
I ought to find the tallest spire in town,
Climb to the top and shout my gratitude
For these your gifts which my contentment crown,
Your smile, your love, our handsome six-fold brood.

And though we know what then we hardly guessed
That life is all too short for those who love,
That time's best flowers will wither at a touch;
At least we know that what we have's the best;
Our love can span the depths and heights above.
How lucky then are we, who have so much !


W. G. S.
2 April 1963

RETURN TO LIST

A SONNET TO A LADY
GROWING YOUNGER


We walk where once we ran, and jealous Time
Hurries where once he sauntered by the way;
The insolent clock, the sun's relentless climb
Marks with increasing pace our shortening day.
But all is outward; in the secret heart
We two are young, and love is younger still,
And that same bond no blow could ever part
Ignores the steepening gradient of the hill.

Though Time may have his way with years and days,
And, brush in hand, may line what once was plain,
Against we two he must admit defeat;
For love which thirty years could not erase
Laughs in his face, and ever will remain
Stronger with years, and every day more sweet.

W. G. S.
2 April 1973

RETURN TO LIST

A SONNET TO MY LADY
IN OUR FORTIETH YEAR TOGETHER


What can I say, more than I said to you
That distant day just forty years ago ?
Distant ? Not so; it is a nearer view;
How very near, only we two can know.
Other men's eyes may note the hand of Time,
Taking the toll that Everyman must pay;
To me, who sees the lady of that rhyme
Nothing is changed, though years slip away.

I turn again, and see you in the gown
That you made lovelier that golden day;
The veil you wore quite powerless to hide
That smile for which a king would give his crown;
The smile which since has lighted all my way;
For every day, as then, you are my bride.


W. G. S.
2 April 1983

RETURN TO LIST

A SONNET TO A GIRL EVER YOUNG
FROM A MAN NEVER WEALTHY
IN OUR SILVER WEDDING YEAR


In all these years I know I could not count
How many times I've pondered with regret
Shortcomings, both in kind and in amount,
That leave me yet more deeply in your debt;
For you have given me the priceless things
I hold most dear, our children and your love,
Which, when I call to mind, then my heart sings
And would not change its place for Heaven above.

But He who gave me life and gave me you
Bestowed in bounty even more beside;
Gives me to hear life's song at truest pitch,
Makes me, with every day that dawns anew,
More than I merit, humbling all my pride,
Beyond all man's deserving, truly rich.

W. G. S.
2 April 1993

RETURN TO LIST