To His Lost Lover
Now they are no longer
any trouble to each other
he can turn things over, get down to that list
of things that never happened, all of the lost
For instance… for instance,
how he never clipped and kept her hair, or drew a hairbrush
through that style of hers, and never knew how not to blush
at the fall of her name in close company.
How they never slept like buried cutlery –
two spoons or forks cupped perfectly together,
or made the most of some heavy weather –
walked out into hard rain under sheet lightning,
or did the gears while the other was driving.
How he never raised his fingertips
to stop the segments of her lips
from breaking the news,
or tasted the fruit
or picked for himself the pear of her heart,
or lifted her hand to where his own heart
was a small, dark, terrified bird
in her grip. Where it hurt.
Or said the right thing,
or put it in writing.
And never fled the black mile back to his house
before midnight, or coaxed another button of her blouse,
or knew her
her taste, her flavour,
and never ran a bath or held a towel for her,
or soft-soaped her, or whipped her hair
into an ice-cream cornet or a beehive
of lather, or acted out of turn, or misbehaved
when he might have, or worked a comb
where no comb had been, or walked back home
through a black mile hugging a punctured heart,
where it hurt, where it hurt, or helped her hand
to his butterfly heart
in its two blue halves.
And never almost cried,
and never once described
an attack of the heart,
or under a silk shirt
nursed in his hand her breast,
her left, like a tear of flesh
wept by the heart,
where it hurts,
or brushed with his thumb the nut of her nipple,
or drank intoxicating liquors from her navel.
Or christened the Pole Star in her name,
or shielded the mask of her face like a flame,
a pilot light,
or stayed the night,
or steered her back to that house of his,
or said “Don’t ask me how it is
I like you.
I just might do.”
How he never figured out a fireproof plan,
or unravelled her hand, as if her hand
were a solid ball
of silver foil
and discovered a lifeline hiding inside it,
and measured the trace of his own alongside it.
But said some things and never meant them –
sweet nothings anybody could have mentioned.
And left unsaid some things he should have spoken,
about the heart, where it hurt exactly, and how often.
Als dieses Gedicht von Simon Armitage in der Sammlung The Book of Matches (Faber & Faber 1993) erschien, sagten die Kritiker dem Dichter eine große Zukunft voraus. Vergleiche mit Philip Larkin wurden bemüht, und das Gedicht To His Lost Lover wanderte in die englischen Schulbücher. Viele Kritiker halten es für das beste Gedicht von Armitage. Liebesgedichte zu schreiben, oder über den Alltag zu schreiben, ist die eine Sache, aber als Hofdichter über den Tod im Königshaus zu schreiben, das ist etwas anderes. Als man ihm vor zwei Jahren den Posten des Poet Laureate antrug, hatte man angedeutet, dass es auf ihn zukommen könnte, ein Gedicht auf den Tod von Elizabeth oder Philip zu schreiben. Simon Armitage hat mit seinem Gedicht auf den Tod von Philip bis zu der Beerdigung von Prince Philip gewartet. Das hat Stil. Die Erstveröffentlichung war nicht auf der Homepage des Dichters oder in irgendeinem Tweet, sie kam aus dem Königshaus, das dafür sogar ein ✺Video mit Bildern aus Philips Leben zusammenstellte.
Der Bischoff David John Conner hatte bei der Trauerfeier in seiner Predigt aus dem Buch Sirach zitiert, und im 43. Kapitel ist viel von dem Wettter die Rede: Look at the rainbow and praise its Maker; it shines with a supreme beauty, rounding the sky with its gleaming arc, a bow bent by the hands of the Most High. His command speeds the snow storm and sends the swift lightning to execute his sentence. To that end the storehouses are opened, and the clouds fly out like birds. By his mighty power the clouds are piled up and the hailstones broken small. The crash of his thunder makes the earth writhe, and, when he appears, an earthquake shakes the hills. At his will the south wind blows, the squall from the north and the hurricane. He scatters the snow-flakes like birds alighting; they settle like a swarm of locusts. The eye is dazzled by their beautiful whiteness, and as they fall the mind is entranced. He spreads frost on the earth like salt, and icicles form like pointed stakes. A cold blast from the north, and ice grows hard on the water, settling on every pool, as though the water were putting on a breastplate. He consumes the hills, scorches the wilderness, and withers the grass like fire. Cloudy weather quickly puts all to rights, and dew brings welcome relief after heat. By the power of his thought he tamed the deep and planted it with islands. Those who sail the sea tell stories of its dangers, which astonish all who hear them; in it are strange and wonderful creatures, all kinds of living things and huge sea-monsters. By his own action he achieves his end, and by his word all things are held together.
Armitage nimmt das Wetter in seinem Klagelied auf, das ist sehr englisch. Er wusste, dass er jetzt als Poet Laureate für ein anderes Publikum schrieb: I think they have a slightly different tone, in as much as I understand that the audience is going to be different. When you publish books of poems you are, to some extent, writing for a specialised audience, whereas laureate poems come before readers who are not used to poetry. Mainly, I’ve tried to avoid pomposity. Es wusste, dass Philip das gehasst hätte, und so kommt The Patriarchs: An Elegy ganz einfach daher, in schlichter Sprache, alltäglich. Wie das englische Wetter. Mit dem beginnt das Gedicht, und mit dem Wetter und dem ewigen Kreislauf der Natur endet es:
The weather in the window this morning
is snow, unseasonal singular flakes,
a slow winter’s final shiver. On such an occasion
to presume to eulogise one man is to pipe up
for a whole generation – that crew whose survival
was always the stuff of minor miracle,
who came ashore in orange-crate coracles,
fought ingenious wars, finagled triumphs at sea
with flaming decoy boats, and side-stepped torpedoes.
Husbands to duty, they unrolled their plans
across billiard tables and vehicle bonnets,
regrouped at breakfast. What their secrets were
was everyone’s guess and nobody’s business.
Great-grandfathers from birth, in time they became
both inner core and outer case
in a family heirloom of nesting dolls.
Like evidence of early man their boot-prints stand
in the hardened earth of rose-beds and borders.
They were sons of a zodiac out of sync
with the solar year, but turned their minds
to the day’s big science and heavy questions.
To study their hands at rest was to picture maps
showing hachured valleys and indigo streams, schemes
of old campaigns and reconnaissance missions.
Last of the great avuncular magicians
they kept their best tricks for the grand finale:
Disproving Immortality and Disappearing Entirely.
The major oaks in the wood start tuning up
and skies to come will deliver their tributes.
But for now, a cold April’s closing moments
parachute slowly home, so by mid-afternoon
snow is recast as seed heads and thistledown.