Monday, 28 April 2014

Sonnet - Joyce Grenfell, 1940

"If ever I am rich enough to make
Generous gestures let me hide my hand.
Let me give freely lest my giving take
With it freedom. Not the frailest strand
Of obligation must go with my gift,
Nor must the comfort glow of being kind
Be used to lend a foolish head a lift.
To work in wisdom, giving with a touch
So light that never breath of power blow
Across the crystal of my sharing much
That is lovely. Pray I may mark and know:
Beauty dies like a linnet in a cage,
Beneath the bruising hand of patronage."

Quoted in "Joyce by herself and her friends" edited by Reggie Grenfell & Richard Garnett (1980).


  1. Joyce Grenfell was a multi-gifted woman, but though I have read a lot about her had never encountered this sonnet. Such a beautiful way to illustrate the huge value of giving by stealth and without a fanfare.
    It is so easy to be seen to be generous. Much more difficult and infinitely more valuable to perform one's good deeds quietly.
    It is strange to contrast this lovely sonnet with her St Trinnions games mistress image.

  2. I think she had a gift for adopting different personas, and this one seems to me to be the real Joyce.