It has something in common with Dylan Thomas' well-known verse, 'Do not go gentle into that good night...' and W H Auden's 'Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone...' (made famous by the film Four Weddings and a Funeral) in that it is about the raging anger that is an intrinsic part of grief.
Dirge without Music
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
Dame Helen's reading was charged with high emotion and she was all but overcome by the final line of the second verse. This was hardly surprising since, without question, this is one of the most passionate and painful responses to the death of a loved one I have ever encountered...
On the subject of grief and anger...
Bela, a fellow admirer of Ian Richardson, attending the service, refers to this poem and its reading in a post headed Grotesque and Unseemly, a title that refers not to Dame Helen's touching performance but to the scrum of photographers and autograph-hunters that flocked like vultures around the steps of St Paul's Covent Garden, following the service, button-holing every famous name they could recognise.
I too was appalled, but decided not to mention it in my report because I didn't want to sound a sour note when writing about something that had been a loving, celebratory service, honouring a fine actor.
But Bela is absolutely right: the display of insensitivity was staggering and anger-inducing and - whilst everyone attending the service behaved impeccably and gave the photographers and autograph collectors the snaps and inscriptions they wanted - it was a reminder of the extraordinary level of intrusiveness that celebrities are expected to endure.
What staggered me, as I noted on Bela's blog, was that some of the autograph seekers didn't even wait until people got outside the church... I happened to be coming down the aisle behind Elizabeth Spriggs - who was walking on a stick and with some difficulty - when a fan pushed his way in front and thrust an open autograph book and a pen at her. Then, having got her signature, he snatched back the book and dashed off in pursuit of Prunella Scales.
[Image: Tomb on San Michele, Venice © Brian Sibley]