Among the innumerable poems on the theme of personal extinction that occupy the territory somewhere between the bravura rhetoric of Yeats’s men who come ‘Proud, open-eyed and laughing to the tomb’ and the flat nihilism of Larkin’s great ‘Aubade’, one of my personal favourites is this bleak but loving piece from the fine Australian poet Judith Wright.
The Company of Lovers
We meet and part now all over the world;
we, the lost company,
take hands together in the night, forget
the night in our brief happiness, silently.
We, who sought many things, throw all away
for this one thing, one only,
remembering that in the narrow grave
we shall be lonely.
Death marshals up his armies round us now.
Their footsteps crowd too near.
Lock your warm hand above the chilling heart
and for a time I live without my fear.
Grope in the night to find me and embrace,
for the dark prelude of the drums begin,
and round us, round the company of lovers,
death draws his cordons in.