death's terror and delirium
St George, South Acre, Norfolk
On pillow after pillow lies
The wild white hair and staring eyes;
Jaws stand open; necks are stretched
With every tendon sharply sketched;
A bearded mouth talks silently
To someone no one else can see.
Sixty years ago they smiled
At lover, husband, first-born child.
Smiles are for youth. For old age come
Death's terror and delirium.
Philip Larkin, Heads in the Women's Ward (1972)
Detail of the Barkham memorial, by John and Matthias Christmas, 1634.