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Monday, 18 February 2013

Otherwise there's nothing to fear


For God’s sake don’t leave it
up to the monumental mason

I'm apprehensive, knowing that my end
Will lack the clarity I would prefer.
For that’s the way with words, they bend
Then break; the focused phrase becomes a blur
My epitaph will be approximate,
A wall of jumbled stones too rough to fit,
I know the snags when trying to create
A dash of truth, or digging deep for wit.
I’ll be deceased, a flaccid word for "dead",
Belov’d instead of criticised or snide
A well-worn template that my life has fled -
I’ll pay in honesty for having died.

Unless, of course, some calm, distrusting soul
Strikes up a tune and brings about control.


  1. Do you know of any celebrated orations, other than perhaps Mark Antony on Julius, that were honestly critical of the subject? I'm thinking more up to date than ancient history?

    I have always admired drystone walling and fancied a go at my self, but I fear the result would be well summed up with your splendid: *A wall of jumbled stones too rough to fit".

  2. Do you also fast for lent or only self-examine, she asks with a friendly grin.

  3. Well done, Robbie, despite its somber theme. Or, perhaps, especially because of its theme.

    Regardless, well done.

  4. Or else a friend on wind and Guiness fed
    Puffs a sonnet on the outgoing tide.

  5. Sir Hugh: Does this count?

    Boak Jobbins became Rector of St Mark's in 2002; the picture post-card church in the ritzy Sydney suburb of Darling Point. He was 65 when he died of a heart attack

    His son Lachlan delivered the eulogy. Starting: "What a shit week, huh?" That got my (ie the newspaper reporter's) attention.

    "Well, I'm not going to insult Boak's memory by pretending he was a perfect man. He wasn't. Far from it…

    "He wasn't shy about expressing his opinion. But he knew when to give you enough rope. To let you work out why you were wrong. Because you probably were. Even if you didn't know it yet...

    "People have written of a young firebrand minister, certain of the right way, and with little time for those who disagreed with him. He COULD be a bastard sometimes. Having my character flaws served up as a sample material for a St Swithun's sermon was a pretty low point…"

    Probably not. Significant it was in Oz.

    Ellena: Does the friendly grin mean you'd like to help me do my self-examining? Answering half your question I don't fast for Lent. Last week we had pancakes: very thin, squeezed lemon, a scattering of sugar. The trick is not to blah them up with too much sweet stuff; you need to be able to taste the pancakes too, assuming they were well-made.

    Crow: Gives me the heebie-jeebies to see sombre spelt like that. Read more carefully and you'll see I used my own death as a shill, to grab the reader's lapels. The theme is a hobby-horse I've ridden often in the past: music's superiority when it comes to certain emotional situations. Not that I don't appreciate your response; I do, very much. Another aim was to keep things as conversational as possible. The first draft took about an hour, and I spent another hour revising. Then I posted. Then I spent, off and on, another hour on further revising the post, re-posting the corrections and wondering if anyone was reading it closely eneough and long enough (not likely, I think) to notice these changes happening.

  6. Sorry about the heebie-jeebies.

  7. I favor bagpipes myself, and blame them on my Scottish grandfather.

    Fiddle for you?

  8. Joe: I don't want to be picky but the scansion worries me.

    Crow: Awww (ah-ha! a crow-like noise). The heebie-jeebies can be pleasurable sometimes.

    Julia: I was about to embark on a burst of Sassenach prejudice when I thought again. The best bagpipe music is at a distance and when it's one of those pretty simple, somewhat repetitive chants (called pibrochs) written specially for the instrument (as opposed to a song familiar to a wider, non-Scottish audience). In that sense we're close to talking about pure music and thus an inspired choice on your part. But you knew all that, didn't you, cleverclogs? And here I am teaching you to suck eggs.

    Me? It's got to be a cello in a slow reflective mood and I might even tolerate something slavic. Normally funerals are times for musical reassurance and for years now I, like ten million others, have had Soave Sia Il Vento pencilled in. But if it turned out that Janacek had written a cello sonata I might demand that, sight unseen. J has been a great and very recent discovery and in eight days' time we're off to London to hear the Emerson do the second quartet. After all funerals are held to mark the departure of the body; playing something new would be a celebration of the spirit. But I'm getting pretentious...

  9. Propels a sonnet on the out-going tide, but I like puffs.