26 August 2011

An Arundel Tomb (Philip Larkin)

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His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.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 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
Their 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 lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the grass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-littered 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.


Des Esseintes said...

They fuck you up, those Whitsun weddings..

I think this is probably a bit over the heads of your North American followers; perhaps better to stick to 'stuff'...

A.E.F. said...

Admiral, I was thinking what a lovely post for a Friday and then it was all shattered by DE's comment... But then I'm not North American.

Ian Dundrillon said...

I read Huysmans' "Á rebours," and found it to be fatuous, pompous crap, but then again, I am North American so it was probably over my head, anyway.

On the other hand, I have always enjoyed the late Philip Larkin. My feeble North American mind enjoys his "accessibility."

Indeed, please, more "stuff..."