||November Contents Page
By The Revd David Burgess
One of my favourite poems is Philip Larkin’s ‘An Arundel Tomb’. Normally I’m not the world’s greatest Larkin fan, but this poem is exceptional. You may well know it; if you don’t, it’s easily found. It describes a tomb in Chichester Cathedral of a medieval lord and lady; the turning point of the poem is when the narrator looks more closely at the two figures and realises that they have been sculpted with one holding the other’s hand. The rest of the poem is a reflection on this, and the last verse reads:
“Time has transfigured them intoWhat will survive of us? For example Steve Jobs, the computer pioneer whose recent death in fact formed the initial impetus for this article, has left a very tangible legacy; his inventions have changed the way in which we live and work. Even he, though, realised that his legacy needed to be more about quality than quantity:
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” “What will survive of us is love…”
Larkin’s position as the author of ‘An Arundel Tomb’ is in fact ambivalent, but the Bible would endorse the last line of the poem entirely. And when it comes to a legacy of love one name in history stands out; and the point here is that love was his only resource. The words of Martin Luther King – another who made his mark – bear testimony to this.
“A voice out of Bethlehem two thousand years ago said that all men are equal… Jesus of Nazareth wrote no books; he owned no property to endow him with influence. He had no friends in the courts of the powerful. But he changed the course of mankind with only the poor and the despised.”History will judge all of us; we frequently won’t know about our legacy for a good many years and sometimes never at all. But, as in every aspect of our lives, Jesus has gone before us. Making your mark in an appropriate way in God’s service and for the love and benefit of others can only be a good thing; and whatever time, place or society you live in, this truth is eternal and something that anyone can aspire to.
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