Titled Floral Tribute, the poem is a fitting tribute for Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away aged 96 last Thursday (8 September).
The Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, has published a new poem paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II following her death last Thursday (8 September).
The poem – titled Floral Tribute – employs the form of a double acrostic, meaning the first letter of each line spells out the name “Elizabeth” twice over. It is made up of two stanzas of nine lines each, and describes the arrival of a September evening.
It also contains a mention of one of the Queen’s favourite flowers, the lily of the valley, which appeared in her wedding and coronation bouquets and is expected to be used during her funeral service on Monday (19 September).
In particular, the flower is used as a metaphor to symbolise both Armitage’s poem and the tribute it represents, and the Queen herself.
Echoing the Queen’s speech on her 21st birthday – in which she famously said her whole life, “whether it be long or short”, would be devoted to serving her “great imperial family” – the first stanza references the Queen’s lifelong devotion to her role.
“A promise made and kept for life – that was your gift,” it reads. “Because of which, here is a gift in return, glovewort to some / Each shining bonnet guarded by stern lance-like leaves.”
Speaking about the process of writing the poem, which has been published by Faber, Armitage said he wanted to write something “personal […] without being intrusive”.
“There’s always that sense of potential pomposity, sycophancy and cliché, and you’re stood at the edge of that. So [I was] trying to write something small about a very big idea,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.
“I also think it’s an opportunity to just try and step away from some of the other commentaries that we’ve been hearing – many of them incredibly eloquent – and to try and do what poetry does best, which is to make the most of how unexpected combinations of language can bring about unexpected thoughts.”
This isn’t the first time Simon Armitage has written a poem dedicated to the Queen. To mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee earlier this year, he wrote a poem called Queenhood, a seven-part poem which paid tribute to her life of service.
Evening will come, however determined the late afternoon,
Limes and oaks in their last green flush, pearled in September mist.
I have conjured a lily to light these hours, a token of thanks,
Zones and auras of soft glare framing the brilliant globes.
A promise made and kept for life – that was your gift –
Because of which, here is a gift in return, glovewort to some,
Each shining bonnet guarded by stern lance-like leaves.
The country loaded its whole self into your slender hands,
Hands that can rest, now, relieved of a century’s weight.
Evening has come. Rain on the black lochs and dark Munros.
Lily of the Valley, a namesake almost, a favourite flower
Interlaced with your famous bouquets, the restrained
Zeal and forceful grace of its lanterns, each inflorescence
A silent bell disguising a singular voice. A blurred new day
Breaks uncrowned on remote peaks and public parks, and
Everything turns on these luminous petals and deep roots,
This lily that thrives between spire and tree, whose brightness
Holds and glows beyond the life and border of its bloom.
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