Guest poem submitted by Ann Ang:
(Poem #756) 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It meets his left hand gauntlet, still Clasped empty in the other; and One sees, with sharp tender shock, His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.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.
This is the last poem in Larkin's collection 'The Whitsun Weddings'. If one must sum up Larkin's poetry in general, it would be in the famous line: 'To all that shot and missed'. Larkin deals with the reality and imperfection of human existence. He spares no one; he tells all the ugly truths. His poems constantly drive home how human intentions fall short of the final goal. This is what gives rise to the sweet irony in the last stanza of this poem. The seeming goal of eternal love has come about despite the fact that there was no original intention. Why does it come about? Because human beings still want to believe that there can be such a thing as perfect everlasting love even though we know intellectually that it cannot exist, hence 'Our almost-instinct almost true'. It's so human, this contradiction and precisely why this poem is strangely moving in its apparently jaded tone. Ann. [Minstrels Links] Other Larkin poems to have featured on the list: Poem #73, "I Remember, I Remember" Poem #100, "Days" Poem #178, "Water" Poem #254, "The North Ship" Poem #502, "MCMXIV" Poem #544, "Toads" All of which can be found at [broken link] http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/index_poet.html