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Mottoes on sundials are a minor art form in themselves. Many of them perhaps look on the more pessimistic side of life, but there are plenty of others to suit every temperament. This list - in no particular order - is given for your information and amusement; you are encouraged to send an E-mail to info [at] if you would like to add others. Please give some indication of the source if at all possible.

This page is concerned with mottoes in English. Our mottoesp.htm page has a much longer list of mottoes in Latin, with translations in Spanish. Among those sent in recently are


Light and shadow by turns, but love always 

            Rachel Sarda

Time and Tide Wait For No Man

            Kathleen M Broadhead

Aim Higher than the Mark

            on the new sundial at Ashby)Piers Nicholson

Slow comes the hour, Its passing speed how great

            Pete Bliss

The shadow of my finger cast
Divides the future from the past;
Before it stands the unborn hour
In darkness and beyond thy power;
Behind its unreturning line
The vanished hour no longer thine;
One hour alone is in thy hand,
The now on which the shadow stands.

            PSandy Brown - said to come from a sundial in Wellesley, Mass.t

Let others tell of storms and showers,
I tell of sunny morning hours.

The assortment following is from a collection of more than 2000 mottoes collected by sundial maker James Stewart,  a whitesmith who worked in Invercargill, New Zealand and made more than 200 sundials before  his death in 1933. (James Stewart was the great grandfather of Bruce Christie, Palmerston North, New Zealand. (bruce who kindly supplied this collection.

  1. A day may prime thee, improve this hour.
  2. Moved by the light.
  3. A stick in time saves mine.
  4. On this moment hangs eternity.
  5. To thee that mourn the hours are slow
    But with joyful swiftly go.
  6. The gliding hour flies on its fitful wings.
  7. Come boys now's the hour.
  8. Learn ze, years pass by like running water.
  9. Snatch the present hour, fear the last.
  10. As a shadow such is life.
  11. Look at me and pass on.
  12. By the shadow shall I mark time.
  13. Be thankful, watch, pray and work.
  14. The sun who guides the heavenly bodies produces the shade.
  15. Come light visit me.
  16. Count all the hours lost which are not accompanied by some worthy deed.
  17. With the shadow nothing, without the shadow nothing.
  18. To God alone be the glory.
  19. Learn to live and die well.
  20. The Lord is my light.
  21. Perhaps the last.
  22. Go your way into His courts with thanksgiving.
  23. Let the slight shadow teach thee wisdom
  24. Evil be to him who thinks evil thereof.
  25. I count bright hours only.
  26. I tell only sunny hours.
  27. I am a shadow, so art thou,
    I mark the time, dost thou?
  28. Amidst the flowers I tell the hours.
  29. The clock the time may wrongly tell,
    I never if the sun shines well.
  30. Time flies, eternity draws near.
  31. Lead kindly light.
  32. Let not the sun go down on your wrath.
  1. Let others tell of storms and showers                            I tell only sunny hours.
  2. Light is the shadow of God.
  3. Night comes when no man can work.
  4. Like a true fireman, I am always ready.
  5. He hath made his choice aright,
    who counted but the hours of light.
  6. Till the day dawn and the shadows flee away.
  7. My time is in thy hand.
  8. Man wants but little here below,
    nor wants that little wrong.
  9. Only as I abide in the light of heaven
    do I fulfil the will of my maker.
  10. They pass by and are scorned.
  11. So passes the glory of the world.
  12. The sun guides me the shadows gone.
  13. Tak tent o'time, ere time be tint.
  14. Time passes as a shadow.
  15. Time flies, death urges, knells call, heaven invites.
  16. With warning hand I mark times rapid flight,
    From life's glad morning to its solemn night.
    Yet through the dear God's love, I also show,
    There's light above me by the shade below.
  17. When thou dost look upon my face,
    To learn the time of day:
    Think how my shadow keeps its pace,
    As thy life flies away.
    Take, mortal this advice from me
    And so resolve to spend
    They life on earth, that heaven shall be
    Thy home when time shall end.
  18. I stand amid the summer flowers
    To tell the passage of the hours.
    When winter steals the flowers away
    I tell the passing of their day.
    Man whose flesh is but as grass
    Like summer flowers thy life shall pass
    While time is thine lay up in store
    And thou shalt live for evermore.

Further reading:

The List of sundial mottoes on Wikipedia has a small number of English mottoes and a much larger collection of Latin mottoes with English translations.   The Book of Sun-dials. By Mrs. Alfred Gatty originally published in 1872 with many subsequent editions and now available in facsimile has a list of 1682 sundial mottoes, and is available here.  Another list of mottoes in Spanish and Latin, many of them copied from the Gatty book, is still available on our heritage site.

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