For Richard

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:

  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.


3 thoughts on “For Richard

  1. And when you can stand in front of that class on such a day – and they somehow notice THIS is different, the air is electric. Almost like an invisible collision of past, present, and future.
    Poem has great impact. (Thanks for the video, too) With that in the back of their mind, maybe someday in an English lit class, one small moment of history of civilization will seem connected and real.
    Cheers! Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You had my attention at Benedict Cumberbatch, haha. What an interesting post, I ended up reading a couple additional articles about it. I think I wouldn’t have heard the news were it not for your blog. Interesting that his re-burial is a controversy after so long. Fascinating that Sherlock is a distant cousin.

    This comment was edited due to technical difficulties in displaying the correct author and image

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this look at an unbroken, though buried, cord of history. Wonderful to hear the reading of the poem at the service of re-committal for Richard III’s bones.
    I have recently steeped myself in English history reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. We live in such a young country it is hard to imagine such a service.

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