Body Language

Oddly these two standing figures,

male and female, man and woman

Remind me of Philip Larkins poem

An Arundel Tomb

‘Side by side their faces blurred

The earl and countess lie in stone’

in ‘jointed armour, stiffened pleat’

A medieval effigy in a church.


Unjointed by armour, naked

Fruit shaped, pear rounded, stumpy

Clay caste in warm sand colour,

they stand.


Larkin: ‘One sees, with a sharp and tender shock

His hand withdrawn, holding her hand’


The joining places speak the language.

These two are one.


Side by side,

His inside arm, curved against her breast

Clasps behind that giving place

under her gluteus maximus.

Her inside arm confidently

encircles his back.


When inspecting her guard of male honour

the Queen, walking towards them, brings her handbag to her front

protectively, unconsciously.


His weight, on his outside foot, as if walking out

his inside foot, playfully rests on hers.


Both look out, into the world

Stronger for their fusion

Against prevailing winds of fortune.

‘What will survive of us is love’

As Larkin said.




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His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.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.

– Philip Larkin. This is the last poem in his 1964 book The Whitsun Weddings,

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