Larkin


Up

Philip Larkin -
An Arundel Tomb

Chosen by a friend of mine.  The Arundel tomb is in Chichester Cathedral, some of my pictures of which appear here.

An Arundel Tomb

 
Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat
And that faint hint of the absurd -
The little dogs under their feet.

Such plainness of the pre-Baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with a sharp tender shock
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.

They would not think to lie so long.
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail frends would see:
A sculptor's sweet commissioned grace
Thrown off in helping to prolong
The Latin names around the base.

They would not guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
The air would change to soundless damage
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they

Persisted, linked through the lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the glass. A bright
Litter of bird-calls strewed the same
Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came

Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains.

Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost instinct almost true,
What will survive of us is love.

Last updated: 31/10/2005 This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence. 2004 R GillinCreative Commons Licence