This is Simon Armitage reading his moving poem, THE BED, to commemorate the Unknown Warrior, at today’s Service in Westminster Abbey. Click Here.
This is Sir Andrew Motion reading his wonderful poem, ARMISTICE, Click Here.
The Bed by Simon Armitage:
Sharp winds scissor and scythe those plains.
And because you are broken and sleeping rough
in a dirt grave, we exchange the crude wooden cross
for the hilt and blade of a proven sword;
to hack through the knotted dark of the next world,
yes, but to lean on as well at a stile or gate
looking out over fens or wealds or fells or wolds.
That sword, drawn from a king’s sheath,
fits a commoner’s hand, and is yours to keep.
And because frost plucks at the threads
of your nerves, and your bones stew in the rain,
bedclothes of zinc and oak are trimmed
and tailored to fit. Sandbags are drafted in,
for bolstering limbs and pillowing dreams,
and we throw in a fistful of battlefield soil:
an inch of the earth, your share of the spoils.
The heavy sheet of stone is Belgian marble
buffed to a high black gloss, the blanket
a flag that served as an altar cloth. Darkness
files past, through until morning, its head bowed.
Molten bullets embroider incised words.
Among drowsing poets and dozing saints
the tall white candles are vigilant sentries
presenting arms with stiff yellow flames;
so nobody treads on the counterpane,
but tiptoeing royal brides in satin slippers
will dress and crown you with luminous flowers.
All this for a soul
without name or rank or age or home, because you
are the son we lost, and your rest is ours.
Armistice by Andrew Motion
Now one thousand five hundred and sixty-four days end
every hour hand of every watch on the face of the earth
snaps to attention a fraction shy of the number eleven.
Their minute hands are still quivering with the effort
to complete the circle and therefore give the signal.
Whenever has machinery fine-tuned or otherwise
been able to refute with such a passionate precision
the idea that the body of time might flow like a river
and reveal it instead as a wide continuous landscape
a block universe where the sudden spotlight moon
introducing her face between cloud-curtains alights
now on one man dead already and now on one dying
while the scattered hinterland suffers its consequences
or delivers its warnings all connected but unavailable.
Then the minute hand in a spasm seals its promise
while penny whistles shriek and church bells clamour
while whizzbangs and 59s complete their trajectories
while long-faced telegram boys prop their bicycles
on lampposts and front gates and for the last time
press forward to deliver their dreadful condolences
and lark music like a distillation of daylight itself
which a moment before was neither here nor thereAdvertisement
sweetens as it escapes the pulsing throat of the bird
and rain also accustomed to no discernable voice
patters and pounds and performs on barren ground
and a very simple breath of wind entirely fills the air
and everyday clouds performing manifold contortions
saunter off and dissolve in the horizon of their origin.
Soon rolling out plans from their corridors and offices
highly efficient angels of the resurrection will descend
to align with names they went by in their earthly lives
nine million or thereabouts bodies and body-fragments.
What is the duration of individual grieving they allow
beyond an agreed upper limit of sixty-six characters.
Think of Private Roy Douglas Harvey who was killed
a reserved and thoughtful schoolboy from Hillhead
leaving behind among other valuable relics a diary
completed up to the evening before his dawn attack
along with a much-thumbed Collins Gem dictionary
from the pages of which rose and will continue rising
these words as time and space maintain their relation
my task accomplished and the long day done.
One thought on “Two wonderful Poet Laureate Poems”
perfectly written the truth about man’s inhumanity to man. There will never be a war like WW1. All wars are terrible, but terrible does not even come close to describe it.