Posted by Helen on September 12, 1997 at 06:48:32:
Just thought I would post a few of my favourites, while the poetry jam still is in place. These are the few I actually know by heart, so I hope they're accurate!
First, Philip Larkin - English mid-century writer who spent most of his time being very depressed about life, so this poem is all the more surprising because it's reluctantly positive.
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His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.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 friends would see,
A sculpturer'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 began
To look, not read. Rigidly they
Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the glass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls 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 secret almost true:
What will survive of us is love.
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