Percival and Agnes stare from neighbouring frames.
She outlived him thirty years, as her lined face tells.
Stern in starchy Tudor collars, how remote they seem,
as though their eyes would barely recognise our world.
Yet underneath, their naked bodies tell another story
and inform the formal faces with more sympathy,
till hers seems sad, not stern, and his enduring:
seeing them lie dead has made them live.
Supine on a narrow couch, no throne
or wreathes for them, they leave no narrative,
unclothed, they’ve put aside all earthly glory
and rest unmoved by ritual, sermons, hymns.
Exposed through time, they illustrate surrender
of their bodies to the grave, their spirits to eternity.
Fragile, beautiful, such nakedness could be of any age,
including ours. Now we hear the man and woman speak:
Behowlde youre selves by us, sutche once were we as you
And you in tyme shal be even duste as we are now.
©Virginia Rounding, 1996
[First published in Awaiting an Epiphany]