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On Lady Katherine Paston's Tomb at Oxnead

by Michael Riviere


Sun set three hundred years,
These marble shadows on the wall still stand,
Fixed by her husband’s grief, and Stone’s hand,
Long vanished skill, and wealth, and tears. 

Outside her dilapidated
Church the usual June again transposes
The graveyard offals into grass and roses,
Beauty and corruption equated, 

Balanced principles,
Whereby this white memento-mori is
Now mere memoria pulchritudinis,
New summer dappling her walls. 

We’re not the tomorrow, alas,
Of this lady’s wish; her treasures scattered for ever,
Her mansion now green mounds beside the river,
Not a Paston left to wear her flesh… 

And since we put the resurrection
Even of annual crops to chance,
Eternity of blood’s no longer, as once,
Any man’s confident possession. 

We do with less than that:
The uncertain hope that someone not yet born
May saunter here on a remote June morning
To find the key under the mat.

Norfolk Poems




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