In the latest issue:

In Quarantine

Erin Maglaque

Après Brexit

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: Springtime for Donald

David Bromwich

Meetings with their Gods

Claire Hall

‘Generation Left’

William Davies

At the North Miami Museum: Alice Paalen Rahon

Mary Ann Caws

Buchan’s Banter

Christopher Tayler

‘American Dirt’

Christian Lorentzen

Fiction and the Age of Lies

Colin Burrow

In Lahore

Tariq Ali


James Lasdun

Rereading Bowen

Tessa Hadley

At the Corner House

Rosemary Hill

William Gibson

Thomas Jones

Poem: ‘Murph & Me’

August Kleinzahler

The Stud File

Kevin Brazil

John Boorman’s Quiet Ending

David Thomson

In Shanghai: The West Bund Museum

John-Paul Stonard

Diary: The Deborah Orr I Knew

Jenny Turner

A Memorial ServiceAlistair Elliot
Vol. 15 No. 6 · 25 March 1993

A Memorial Service

Alistair Elliot

201 words

The cathedral was not great.
You were a better poet
Than it was a building. I forgot
To look for the graffiti of imprisoned Scots,
My possible ancestors – and yours –
And stood there in my Sunday best
Wondering if it had been spoilt by the restorers
Or if it had always looked like red fudge
A little mouthed by the weather of the north-west.

Hundreds of us were in our best
To honour you – ties added in haste
In the graveyard where we stood
Chin up, in Peter Rabbit’s attitude,
While our companions’ fingers adjusted the knot.
It might have been some consolation for dying,
If you had needed any, and perhaps not
(Weren’t you a Christian?), to see how many, strange
Or famous, had given you their evening.

Limp ties, or stiff necks, something insincere
Can spoil these timed explosions of honour.
Not this time – it was the glory-encrusted bishop
Who made it natural: his hair stuck up
Behind, as disobedient as a boy’s.
The choristers came chanting up the aisle,
He followed: you’d have laughed to see the eyes
Of the mothers spot that tuft, and waver, and exchange
With other women a complicated smile.

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