Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Virtuous to a Fault: a verse

Photograph by Cameron Self

In Praise of Virtue

In this Vault beneath are deposited the Remains of VIRTUE, the Wife of EDWARD HASE, Esq. and youngest Daughter of JOHN REPPS, Esq….[there follows a list of the dead] …And EDWARD JOHN FOUNTAYNE who died an Infant.

After forty-seven years of uninterrupted conjugal Felicity Her affectionate Husband
- Memorial tablet Salle Church, Norfolk

Not now to be interrupted, the phrases
of Repps, Fountaynes and Hases,
whose elaborate syntax of conjugality
conjures affectionate formality;

whose tender felicitations provoke
delicacies that a hand might choke,
or conjure virtue in woman, and deposit
her body in a verbal closet;

whose breath is language, though language is lost,
interrupted by one killing riposte;
whose love, let us accept, is lexicographical,
philosophical and autobiographical;

whose story is assumed to be true
and persuasive so the reader assumes it too.
because no one can test truth in the vault
or tell virtue from vice, or love from a fault.


There is a certain temptation to make something of Felicity, 'uninterrupted' and 'conjugal', as a rival to Virtue, which is, in any case, a very hard name to live up to. I think a son called Larceny, (Elder brother Grand Larceny, younger brother Petty Larceny) Cupidity, Simony, Tort, or at least Animadversion might be called for to redress the balance. On the other hand , here come Modesty Blaise and Whoopee Goldberg.

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