Dirge for a Lady
by Theodora Goss
Lay her in lavender, all that is left of her;
lavender preserves the lovely and the white.
Sweet clove and cinnamon, like a fine pomander,
lay her in these, the delicate, the slight.
Look how her hands are turned to alabaster,
translucent and tender, and breakable as pain.
Fine every filament, as though a thin spider
had woven her. She’s shattered, and will not arise again.
Rain, do not mourn her, nor rose adorn her.
How frail, this arrangement of elegant dry dust;
one breath would scatter her, one teardrop tatter her.
Think of her softly, and only if you must.
Lay her in lavender, all that is left of her.
Let nothing ravel the final webs of form,
where nor the rain nor roses come, a scented sepulcher,
airless and close, and infinitely calm.
(The illustration is by Arthur Rackham for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This poem was originally published in my collection Songs for Ophelia. It was also put to music by the British composer Brian Blyth Daubney and recorded on the CD October Roses.)