Wednesday, 26 October 2011


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His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.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 
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 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 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.

Philip Larkin