Poet Laureate Simon Armitage marks death of Queen with poem

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Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has written a poem to mark the death of the Queen.

Floral Tribute is composed of two stanzas of nine lines each, describing the coming of a September evening and the appearance of a lily as “a token of thanks”.

The lily of the valley was one of the Queen’s favourite flowers and appeared in her coronation bouquet.

Since then it has held special associations and grows in the garden of Buckingham Palace.

Chelsea Flower Show
The lily of the valley, one of the Queen’s favourite flowers (Buckingham Palace/PA)

The poem employs the form of a double acrostic, meaning the first letter of each line spells out Elizabeth when taken together.

In the first stanza, Armitage writes of “A promise made and kept for life – that was your gift”.

Later he adds: “The country loaded its whole self into your slender hands / Hands that can rest, now, relieved of a century’s weight.”

Armitage has served as Poet Laureate since May 2019 when he met with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

He succeeded Dame Carol Ann Duffy, who was also at the palace for an audience with the Queen to relinquish the role.

For the Platinum Jubilee, Armitage wrote a poem, Queenhood, to mark her 70 years of service.

The poet, who was brought up in Marsden, West Yorkshire, has published some 30 collections of poetry and his work is studied by children as part of the national curriculum.

He worked as a probation officer in Greater Manchester until 1994 before focusing on poetry.

– Floral Tribute by Simon Armitage

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.