In the latest issue:

Boris Johnson’s First Year

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: In the Bunker

Thomas Jones

Theban Power

James Romm

What can the WHO do?

James Meek

At the Type Archive

Alice Spawls

Where the Poor Lived

Alison Light

At the Movies: ‘Da 5 Bloods’

Michael Wood

Cultural Pillaging

Neal Ascherson

Jenny Offill

Adam Mars-Jones

Shakespeare v. the English

Michael Dobson

Poem: ‘Now Is the Cool of the Day’

Maureen N. McLane


David Trotter

Consider the Hare

Katherine Rundell

How Should I Refer to You?

Amia Srinivasan

Poem: ‘Field Crickets (Gryllus campestris)’

Fiona Benson

Diary: In Mali

Rahmane Idrissa

Elegy for George BarkerAnthony Thwaite
Vol. 13 No. 22 · 21 November 1991

Elegy for George Barker

Anthony Thwaite

218 words

And there, beneath a bull-nosed Buick
Inert in Kensington, the poet lay,
Grease smeared on cheek-bones, a fallen god
Who rose to greet me, seventeen, with Blake
And Langland in the triptych. Stay
Yet a little longer, genius of the place,
Fitting my footprints in the prints you trod,
Letting me see those lineaments, that face.

It was apotheosis. It was epiphany.
Already there were elegies at hand,
Mellifluous and celebrating
The mystery that was also poetry.
Whatever words flew up, whatever scanned,
Became that moment. St George had claimed his own.
Imago, image, creator and creating
Took root within the reliquary bone.

Years past, years gone. I have learnt since then
You were no god, for only God is that.
That was a truth I know you would endorse.
And yet some angels mingle among men,
And have some essence, pure, dark, uncreate,
Extending through subtention. This was yours.
You rose, and fell, and took your vagrant course
Among men, mandrake, and all mysteries.

The vocative takes off in memory,
almost becomes a perfect O to bless
Your wicked simulacrum resting there,
Elbow on bar, seducing those like me
From Id and Ego with your sophistries.
Forget it. What we never shall forget
is that brow-wrinkled, basiliskian stare
Stabbing at the cold heart. It stabs me yet.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences