An Arundel Tomb
The poem describes a pair of memorial effigies that can be found in Chichester Cathedral: they are 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.
Its final line is among the most quoted of all of Larkin's work; when cited out of context, it may be taken as "sentimental" endorsement of "love enduring beyond the grave", while the poem as a whole is much more sceptical, and dedicated to challenging the simple romantic notion, even if in the end it is conceded to have "an inevitable ring of truth—if only because we want so much to hear it."
- Jeremy Axelrod (2012), Philip Larkin: “An Arundel Tomb” — Does a notoriously grumpy poet believe in everlasting love? (poetryfoundation.org)
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