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"What cannot be said will be wept." Sappho
Thursday, March 31, 2016
“An Arundel Tomb” by 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 plainess 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It meets his left hand gauntlet, still Clasped empty in the other; and One sees, with sharp tender shock, His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.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 could see: A sculptor’s sweet comissioned 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-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 finality 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.