death's terror and delirium

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    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.

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