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.