An Arundel Tomb
The poem describes a memorial effigy that can be found in Chichester Cathedral; the effigy is ascribed to Richard FitzAlan, 10th Earl of Arundel (d. 1376), who is buried in Lewes Priory, and his second wife, Eleanor of Lancaster (d. 1372). In a decorative mode common in English tombs at the time, he has a lion at his feet while she has a dog. The lion usually indicates valour and nobility (for men), and a dog indicates loyalty (for women). He has his right hand ungloved, and her right hand rests lightly upon his.
In an audio recording of the poem, Larkin states that the effigies were unlike any he had ever seen before and that he found them "extremely affecting."
Larkin draws inspiration from this scene to muse on time, mortality and the nature of earthly love.
It begins thus:-
- Side by side, their faces blurred,
- The earl and countess lie in stone,
- Our almost-instinct almost true:
- What will survive of us is love.
The poem was one of the three read at Larkin's memorial service.
The poem is briefly but significantly mentioned in the fourth series of DCI Banks, the British (Yorkshire) TV detective series based on the novels by Peter Robinson, in episode 1, “What Will Survive”. The final lines of the poem are quoted on a card of condolence, at the funeral of DCI Banks’ mother who has suddenly died from a stroke. It was, Banks explains to a colleague and close friend, one of his mother’s favourite poems.
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