In all our sanctuaries we sit at risk

The Death of an Old Man


Yesterday, a grand and often very beautiful funeral was held, following the death of a likeable, shrewd and vivid man.

It is of course hard to separate the image we are given of Prince Philip, or ourselves put onto him, from the man he actually was.

He surely had a similar problem, himself. Who was he, apart from his public role, and the image the public projected onto him ? Who was he allowed to be ?

But there is no confusion over the fact that a man once alive – and for a long time – is now dead. Those shrewd and clear-seeing eyes are seeing nothing now. They are relieved of seeing.

And he has been alive and featuring on the edges of my life, in public view, under public scrutiny, in some way as public property, ever since my early childhood. So his death feels significant. Something of me has gone too.

I am old enough to have lost people less on the edges of my life than he was. By pure coincidence, a few days ago, I came across some old poems written following the first such death. This was the early nineteen nineties, just before the computer became standard equipment and changed the way everything got written and then stored. So these poems were typewritten on paper and I had stuffed them away in a file somewhere.

In pulling them out, assessing and uploading (some of) them, I have done some revising. I like these two uploaded here. They are a bit bombastic perhaps, but I quite like that, as well. And today I would just like to dedicate them to the late Prince Philip, who became old unto death in my lifetime, keeping his back straight to the last.