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.
Simon Armitage was born in West Yorkshire and is Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds. A recipient of numerous prizes and awards, he has published a number of collections of poetry and also writes for the theatre. From 2015 to 2019, he served as Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford, and, in 2018, he was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. Simon Armitage became the Poet Laureate in 2019.
‘I wanted to stitch her name in the memory of the nation’, he said of this poem, produced days after the late Queen’s death and with a double acrostic, the first letter of each line spelling out her name. It holds many references: to a long life lived in service, to favourite flowers, to time and place (Scotland, but also the formal announcement), and to almost 100 years lived dutifully. Poetically, the first verse sets up what the second answers. Similes abound: evening, a flower’s ‘shining bonnet’ to recall a crown, ‘lance-like leaves’ which guard as if around a coffin, ‘silent bell’ for tolling and ‘a singular voice’ now silent, and the lily for her childhood name. Gift and promise are also there, with an elegiac quality reminiscent of Wilfred Owen’s Anthem, and a rush of internal rhymes at the end, pointing at the last to something ‘beyond’.