So it seems that the tide of the coronavirus epidemic may finally be ebbing from our British shores at least, leaving us with a lot of life to catch up on and a lot of death to remember. Some cause for cautious euphoria, but of course, I reflect, it’s not as if we are now going to stop dying of this and that: it just won’t be in such an obsessively media-monitored way. Which brings to mind this poem by Robert Frost. I like it, even if I feel the sentiment of the last stanza doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny: I don’t see any sense in which can stones be said to believe or not believe anything. And yet how seductive is the pathetic fallacy, especially in the hands of such a master of cadence.
In a Disused Graveyard
The living come with grassy tread
To read the gravestones on the hill;
The graveyard draws the living still,
But never any more the dead.
The verses in it say and say:
‘The ones who living come today
To read the stones and go away
Tomorrow dead will come to stay.’
So sure of death the marbles rhyme,
Yet can’t help marking all the time
How no one dead will seem to come.
What is it men are shrinking from?
It would be easy to be clever
And tell the stones: Men hate to die
And have stopped dying now forever.
I think they would believe the lie.