What will survive of us?
I ask a boon. Considering the age, I ask it for, I think you will be glad to grant it. I crave it so that I can take you back to the 14th century.
But first we must meet a very 20th century man. His name was Philip Larkin and he was a poet, a very fine poet. Despite his being an embittered and often cynical man, he wrote some wonderful and lasting verse.
Larkin loved to explore old English parish churches and cathedrals. On a visit to Chichester Cathedral, he went to see the tomb of Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl of Arundel, and his wife Eleanor. She died in 1372, he four years later in 1376.
As Larkin stood by the tomb he suddenly noticed something quite unprecedented in 14th century sculpture. At that time two figures side by side were invariably carved separately from one another. In this case, however Larkin saw that the Earl's marble hand - withdrawn from his gauntlet - is holding that of his wife. Larkin was so affected by an image that spoke so eloquently of a love across 700 years that he wrote what is today a classic poem. He called it "An Arundel Tomb”.
Side by side, their faces blurred
The earl and countess lie in stone…
Such plainness of the pre baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other, and
One sees with a sharp tender shock
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand…
…The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.
Perhaps all of us need a gentle reminding that “what shall survive of us is love”.