Tuesday 20 September 2022

RIP Queen Elizabeth II

Mourners enter the Abbey, in pearls and boaters,
Black in hats and dresses, in simple outlines,
Suits and ties and orders, and fascinators,
Sitting where told to.

Soon we hear from Purcell, and Bach on organ.
Lady Scotland reads now, likewise the Prime Minister,
Here comes the Archbishop, who gives the sermon,
Still in our places.

Walkers follow coffin, with drummers drumming,
Playing stately marches, so all can keep time.
Whitehall, through the Horseguards, and down the Mall with
Cheering and clapping.

Left wheel round the statues, and up the Long Walk.
Bearers waiting blank-faced, beneath triumphal
Arch at route’s end looming, a hearse stands empty.
When will they get here?

No more tragic dirges – no time for Handel.
Cars set off for Windsor, a sound of birdsong,
Rumbling wheels on tarmac, and far-off cheering,
Throwing carnations.

On by warehouse, terrace, past shop, past garage,
Poplars, rivers, bus stops. On bridges, pavements,
Central reservations, and lonely driveways, 
Saying their goodbyes.

Halt in rural roadway, with fields on both sides,
Met by men in helmets and red and gold lace,
Cars drive slowly uphill towards a castle.
Carpets of flowers.

Now give rest, O Lord, to thy servant Elizabeth.

(With apologies to Sappho and John Betjeman.)

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