Laid to Rest

We have uncovered, discovered, surmised
and can give a name to your condition;
reveal the brutality of your death,
the machinations of your politics
and whilst we can’t absolve you of all crimes
we do not live in more enlightened times.
The twenty first century has its own
corruptions, murder, cruelty and wars
and those who win still write our history.
Your bones have seen future light. Your cheated
image remodelled must be some redress.
It’s not for us to judge, absolve or praise
Richard. We lay you to rest who came to
this breathing world a second time as bone.

2015 Oonah V Joslin

When they first discovered the King in the car park I wrote The Tragedy of Richard III and were the Pygmy Giant still publishing poems I would have sent this one to join it.  As it is I must place it here where it will get fewer readers I fear. It seems to me that the truth of what happened over 500 years ago can never be fully known but as we lay his bones to rest this week in Leicester Cathedral, we acknowledge the bravery of the last English king to die in battle, strength in the face of disability, humanity common to us all, fallibility and, yes — tragedy. I am no royalist and no ricardian but I for one am glad they found the body of Richard III and were able to give us so much information about the man and his death — enough to satisfy me anyway that his history was heavily revised to advantage the Tudor dynasty and later advance the career of one William Shakespeare. The debates will no doubt go on.

For me, Richard was a man; a man of his time and maybe we should let it rest there but he is being revered this week and with some pomp and ceremony and I am so aware that this is not the norm for skeletal remains. I often wonder what in the end will happen to all those other boxes of unknown bones dug up over the centuries. They are people too. I feel somewhat sad for them — picked over and analysed. I know that archaeologists and scientists do their best to show respect and interment is in any case no garantee of permanent burial — nor has it ever been and I think of my favourite line from The Mask of Zorro — ‘How would you like your remains displayed?’

I wouldn’t! So I at any rate am taking great care to make sure nobody will ever find hide not hair of me!