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Geoffrey Hill
 
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FOR ISAAC ROSENBERG

PRINCES dying with damp curls
In the accomplishment of fame
Keep, within the minds of girls,
A bright imperishable name -
And no one breaks upon their game.

Yet men who mourn their hero's fall,
Laying him in tradition's bed -
With high-voiced chantings and the tall
Complacent candles at his head -
Still leave much carefully unsaid.

When probing Hamlet was aware
That Death in a worn body lay
Cramped beneath the lobby-stair -
(Whose mystery was burnt away
Through the intensity of decay) -

It followed, with ironic sense,
That he himself, who ever saw
Beneath the skin of all pretence,
Should have been carried from the floor
With shocked, tip-toeing drums before.

With ceremony thin as this
We tidy death; make life as neat
As an unquiet Chrysalis
That is a symbol of defeat:
A worm in its own winding-sheet...

Geoffrey Hill

Fantasy Poets, n11, 1952.


Isaac Rosenberg, Self Portrait, 1910
Tate Gallery, London.

In The Collected Works of Isaac Rosenberg (1979).

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