Richard – Carol Ann Duffy


My bones, scripted in light, upon cold soil,
a human braille. My skull, scarred by a crown,
emptied of history. Describe my soul
as incense, votive, vanishing; your own
the same. Grant me the carving of my name.

These relics, bless. Imagine you re-tie
a broken string and on it thread a cross,
the symbol severed from me when I died.
The end of time – an unknown, unfelt loss –
unless the Resurrection of the Dead …

or I once dreamed of this, your future breath
in prayer for me, lost long, forever found;
or sensed you from the backstage of my death,
as kings glimpse shadows on a battleground.

Carol Ann Duffy

When a poem has to be written for a special event it is not often that a brilliant piece of work materialises such as the above poem written by the poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy for the reburial ceremony of Richard the Third after the discovery of his bones underneath a carpark near Leicester cathedral in 2012.

The following is a YouTube link to the ceremony of the reburial in Leicester Cathedral. Included is the reading of the above poem by Benedict Cumberbatch – a blood descendant on the female line … – at 17m 10sec in the video.

Bones likened to human braille … braille = a writing system for the visually impaired … a very apt comparison for ‘Richard the Third’s bones lay hidden for more than 500 years and from and the ‘DNA language’ of his bones it was established that they indeed belonged to Richard the Third. And now he will be truly remembered with the carving of his name.

Votive = ritual. I particularly like the simple words ‘lost long forever found’ with the double meaning – his physical memorial in the cathedral and a biblical spiritual reference.

This link gives full details behind the text of the poem … including are references to a number of biblical texts and Christian philosophy.

Richard the Third died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, the last major battle in the war of the roses and he was the last English king to die in battle.

Here is the Wikipedia link to details of that battle …

And for those interested in the history of Richard the Third here is the Wikipedia link  to the king …

5 thoughts on “Richard – Carol Ann Duffy

  1. Having read Sharon Kay Penman’s “The Sunne in Splendour”, I became a staunch supporter of Richard III, and I just finished “The Search for Richard III”. Thank you for your eloquent tribute to a man of integrity and courage. Benedict Cumberbatch was the perfect choice to read the poem at the service. I’ll certainly look for more of your work.

Your word in my ear ...

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