Consideration: A Single Rose


For the promise of a single rose

On our Midsummer’s Day,

I would repay what no man owes

And promise what none can say.


For the price of but one red, red rose

I’d offer you my year:

That beck and call, wherever it goes,

It will bring me back to here.


Though all I ask is one red rose,

My life would pay the cost.

Worth for worth; but Heaven knows

That I’ll have nothing lost:


More than a world of wealth could hope to pay

For your red rose on our Midsummer’s Day.



In English contract law – a strong sentence opener for a poet, I know, I’m such a romantic, right? – no agreement can be enforced without consideration. This means a promise for a promise, whatever the value. You may have heard of peppercorn contracts, or peppercorn rents? A classic, poetic example of such a notional but enforceable consideration was the promise of a single rose on Midsummer’s Day. When I studied this at university it struck me as a remarkably beautiful device. So, like any red-blooded man would do, I wrote a sonnet about it. This is, as ever, for Blair. 



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