Posy Ring “Tis you alone must ease my moane”
Richly engraved posy ring, flaunting an intricate lover’s knot and crowned heart clasped by two hands
Gold hoop, plain on the interior, with engraved English inscription in italic script: “Tis you alone must ease my moane.” The slightly convex exterior is richly engraved with two hands clasping a crowned heart on one side, and on the opposite an intricately shaped double lover’s knot. In between are two flowers, a pansy and an iris, both surrounded by myrtle twigs. The ring is in good wearable condition. Formerly it may have been enameled; however there are no traces of enamel.
Messages of romantic love on jewelry, and mottoes or inscriptions on plain gold bands go back to the Middle Ages. Beginning in the thirteenth century ring brooches and rings were given as love tokens. The language of love was expressed in words and amatory motifs, such as here the hands clasping a crowned heart, the endless double knot, and flowers associated with love. The pansy symbolizes loyalty, the iris faith, purity, pain, or conquest, and myrtle marriage, love, and passion (see: Marina Heilmeyer, The Language of Flowers. Symbols and Myths, Prestel, Munich, London, New York 2001, pp. 34, 80, 94).
The name “posy” is derived from “poésie,” meaning poetry. Inscriptions along the hoop are poetic expressions of love and affection, as on this ring “Tis you alone must ease my moane.” This motto appears to be a rare one, probably a personalized message or declaration not based on any of the contemporary poetic compendia or commonplace books, as is the unique choice of imagery and symbols on this ring.
The tradition of giving posy rings was truly British and they were exchanged either between friends, relatives, or lovers preceding matrimony or as a sign of betrothal. The message is discreetly concealed inside the hoop and its content known only to the wearer and giver. Posy rings even feature in the plays of William Shakespeare, such as in Hamlet (III, 2, 162) “Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring.”
For a history of posy rings with extensive examples ranging from the medieval period to eighteenth century, see: Scarisbrick 2021 and further information on posies: Evans, 1931; Anon., A Garland of Love: A Collection of Posy-Ring Mottoes, London 1907; Dalton 1912, pp. 174 ff.; Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 74 ff., Taylor and Scarisbrick 1978; Oman 1974, pp. 39 ff.