How can she stand it – how can anybody stand it – this prostitution of English literature in front of the whole country? If the case for abolishing the monarchy was not urgent enough, the chance to dispense with the Poet Laureate is surely the clincher. The side-order is here just as tempting and ample as the main. Abolishing the monarchy will mean freeing a family that lives largely under palatial house arrest without enjoying even the most basic of rights. Kicking the laureateship after it will mean ending this unbearable humiliation of a once competent writer, who is currently forced to produce poems that nobody wants and to have them then noncommittally admired by millions of Guardian readers.
“Long Walk” by Carol Ann Duffy is not bad exactly – it is more neutral or redundant. If you need to take a snapshot of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, you should hire the paparazzi, not a poet. Let us take this poem line by line, by way of a “close reading,” since it will be probably squashed down upon the nation’s schoolchildren as a set text in the near future.
It should be private, the long walk on bereavement’s hard stones…
It is private – you don’t know the first thing about it! The metaphor of “hard stones” makes bereavement sound like it is purchased in a garden centre and laid down by men in overalls.
and when people wave, their hands should not be mobile phones…
They aren’t! But note the sly legitimisation of the paymaster, monarchy, with this image of the appreciative or hungering masses all training their mobiles on the passing Prince. In reality, caring about the monarchy is hardly, at least in my experience, popular culture.
nor their faces lenses; so your heart dressed in its uniform.
Heart? She’s marrying a load of money and he’s marrying a pair of legs. Or rather, we don’t have access to his heart so this side of the poem is pointlessly speculative.
On. Then one blessed step and the long walk ended
The “On.” is good and the logic of the poem is here nicely Oedipal. One mother is switched for another, albeit with a long walk in between, over the crunchy gravel of bereavement.
where love had always been aimed, her arrows of sweet flowers gifting the air among bells-
The poem gets itself into a conspicuous knot here. The “arrows” is clearly a metaphor, as are the “sweet flowers,” but Duffy’s mistake lies in trying to mix them together. That the couple’s love “had always been aimed” means that Harry is a prince and so he couldn’t realistically stay unmarried. Beyond that, there is perhaps some overlap intended between Diana’s funeral flowers and Meghan’s bouquets, but this is ultimately aimless. We cannot trust that such a thought has ever occurred to the Prince or struck him as meaningful.
You might hope that there is another edge to the line about airy bells – something potentially sarcastic or snide – but it was actually playing on my mind when I earlier made reference to “the prostitution of literature.” Duffy is here wading into the gutter of greetings-card insincerities, bare-breasted in her shamelessness and dragging her reputation after her like a bedraggled brassiere.
yes, they all looked- and saying your name.
The conclusion sounds powerful and suitably poetic. As far as I can see, this is all that it is meant to mean.
It used to make me throw up,
These mawkish, nursery games:
O When will England grow up?
I’ve provided you with a mouthful of Philip Larkin’s poetry just to wash the taste out. By the by, he refused the laureateship.
Meghan is a gold-digger; Harry is not the brightest bulb in the Royal Family’s depleted candelabra. They are going to get married. In other words, there is nothing here that is worthwhile writing a poem about and the object that Duffy has created isn’t really in any sense a poem. Instead, it is a kind of posy, a limp decoration to be stuck on a banqueting table in order to waft a feeble fragrance of sentiment and closure. Enough is enough – set them all free! Let Harry go and live his life in the real world, without needing to further this tabloid-scripted romance with his every action. Leave Duffy to reconnect with her credibility and locate some genuine aesthetic inspiration.