It’s not often that we history teachers can stand in front of our class, point to a current event, and declare with authority “This is Historically Significant.”
This week, though, was different. This week Richard III was finally laid to rest. A king many know only from Shakespeare, perhaps Richard wasn’t all that bad. After all, the Bard did manage to besmirch John as the Worst King in England, right? Or maybe that’s just my opinion of Will’s opinion.
Therefore, I read with great delight the poem written specifically for the occasion by England’s Poet Laureate:
Richard by 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 – the 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.
Now see and hear it read by Benedict Cumberbatch, famous actor and third cousin sixteen times removed from Richard III:
Powerful. The sense of loss and pain and regret juxtaposed with future hope and joy. So much history contained in fourteen lines.