Episode 12


A poem from 1979 which, in its second half, seems even more to the point today. The poet spent much of his life in France and knew Paris well. He was one of the few English writers to be made a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

A soldier at Mountbatten’s funeral
To the interviewer from the BBC:
“I don’t care what the poets will say,
Our fine old motto’s good enough for me…….”
He’s right, of course, I know he is.
“We loved him,” said the Romsey paper’s editor,
“But what does a word like love mean nowadays?”
“Words, words, words”: Impatience or despair?
Mere wornout husks, devalued coinage, “Strain
Crack and Sometimes Break….”
“What can one say?” asks everyone.
Some withered wreaths: Imperishable memories?
Such is our ever-increasing impotence
In this our more and more blood-reeking world.
Is silence therefore really best?
Even a poet can no longer say.

David Gascoyne
Aug-Sept 1979

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