Poor Jeremy Irons had the unenviable task of reading the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy at yesterday’s Armistice Day memorial. The poem, entitled “Last Post”, was written after the death of two Great War veterans, Henry Allingham and Harry Patch, back in the summer. Unfortunately, the poem does not do justice either to the dead men or to the tradition of war poetry Duffy so crassly picks up upon that was established during the war in which they fought. As for its euphony, alas! I do not think even Laurence Olivier could have made this piece of drivel from the pen of the Poet Laureate “work”. A sample of the text (and one of the most banal “borrowings” from really great poetry I have ever heard or read) goes “Dulce – No – Decorum – No – Pro patria mori”.
Unbelievably this delightful line comes from a piece of work commissioned by the BBC. And now it has been read at a public liturgy of the National Church: a Is this really the best that the rich culture of our language can produce in honour of the dead? Does everything have to “make a point”, particularly in such an obvious way, and without any beauty? Or is there something to Duffy’s poetry that is passing me by?