Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has composed a moving elegy to the Duke of Edinburgh as a symbol of the wartime generation whose survival was ‘the stuff of small miracle’
The poem, entitled The Patriarchs, also describes the duke and his generation as ‘partners to task’ and ‘great-grandfathers from birth’ who ended up being the ‘inner core and external case’ for their households.
It is the first time Armitage has actually penned a poem as laureate for a royal event considering that he was selected in May 2019. It was launched for publication today on the day of the funeral service.
Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has composed a moving elegy to the Duke of Edinburgh (pictured) as a symbol of the wartime generation whose survival was ‘the stuff of minor wonder’.
Armitage, 57, stated: ‘It’s a celebratory piece that tries to say something about the generation he came from.
‘ We perhaps consider Prince Philip as someone who embodied that generation and through his passing it felt like that generation was concerning an end.
‘ I didn’t understand the duke but there is the idea that he didn’t like a hassle and hated sycophancy and I didn’t want the poem to be part of a chorus of sycophancy.’
The poem starts with the ‘unseasonal’ snow which fell in parts of the country on the day of the duke’s death, consisting of around Armitage’s home in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. Armitage, imagined below, stated he had actually spent months contemplating how he might tackle this poem however the weather condition– and the ‘very British tendency to discuss it and find symbolism in it’– offered him an ‘entry point’.
The very first verse goes on to call the duke’s wartime generation ‘that crew whose survival was always the stuff of minor wonder’ and he mentions Philip’s early life. The ‘orange-crate coracles’ describe how he was reached safety in a cot made from an orange box after his uncle, King Constantine I, was required to renounce, and an 18-month-old Philip was left from Greece on the British Navy ship, HMS Calypso.
There are referrals to Philip’s prominent career and bravery in the Royal Navy during the Second World War with reference of ‘flaming decoy boats’ and ‘side-stepped torpedoes’.
This describes the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily when German bombers harmed Philip’s ship, HMS Wallace, in a night-time attack. Philip proposed launching a makeshift raft, geared up with smoke drifts, which in the darkness deceived the German bombers into thinking they had damaged the destroyer. Comrades stated his actions conserved their lives.
The 2nd stanza talks of the generation which Philip embodied as ‘partners to task’– a referral both to the assistance he offered the Queen throughout their 73-year marital relationship and likewise a wider description of his age’s worths. He likewise explains the group as ‘great-grandfathers from birth’.
Armitage stated: ‘It can appear from our perspective, from more youthful generations, that they were always natural-born great-grandfathers and were predestined to be that.’
The poem likewise broaches the duke’s generation as the ‘last of the fantastic avuncular magicians’ and how they ‘kept their best techniques for the grand ending: Disproving Immortality and Disappearing Completely’.
The honorary royal title of poet laureate, which goes back to 1668, is granted to a poet whose work is of nationwide significance. It depends on the private poet to choose whether to produce poetry for nationwide occasions or royal events.
While there is no formal responsibility, Armitage stated there are ‘historic expectations’.
He added: ‘I had over the last 4 or five months some concepts about how I might approach it however when his passing happened I tossed them all out. I’m really pleased with how this poem ended up.’
Armitage said he had just met Philip ‘very fleetingly’ once at an occasion at Buckingham Palace.