Sunday, November 30, 2008

Passing the graveyard

Well, it's St Andrew's Day, so here's a typical Scottish memento mori. This is part of another poem by Andrew Young (see post below), and although the sentiments are fairly well-worn, it seems to work here. You get a sense of mixed regret, love and trepidation. Typically Scots...

Passing the graveyard

These living bodies that we wear
So change by every seventh year
That in a new dress we appear;

Limbs, spongy brain and slogging heart,
No part remains the selfsame part;
Like streams they stay and still depart.

You slipped slow bodies in the past;
Then why should we be so aghast
You flung off the whole flesh at last?

Let him who loves you think instead
That like a woman who has wed
You undressed first and went to bed.


There's a wonderful economy to that phrase 'Like streams they stay and still depart'. I've used that image often myself, and have never managed to get such precision. Seven words that say so much. The last line, and the idea of the last stanza, is lovely. I think it's the old-fashionedness of it, and the quaintness that results, which makes it such a resonant image.

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