No Epitaph

By Donald Davie 1922–1995 Donald Davie
No moss nor mottle stains
My parents’ unmarked grave;
My word on them remains
Stouter than stone, you told me.
“Martyred to words”, you have thought,
Should be your epitaph;
At other times you fought
My self-reproaches down.
Though bitterly once or twice
You have reproached me with how
Everything ended in words,
We both know better now:
You understand, I shall not
If I survive you care
To raise a headstone for
You I have carved on air.

Donald Davie, "No Epitaph" from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1985 by Donald Davie.  Reprinted by permission of Carcanet Press, Ltd.

Source: Selected Poems (Carcanet Press Ltd, 1985)

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Poet Donald Davie 1922–1995

Subjects Living, Death, Marriage & Companionship, Sorrow & Grieving, Love, Realistic & Complicated, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

Poetic Terms Quatrain, Rhymed Stanza


Donald Davie was born in Barnsley, Yorkshire, to George Clarke and Alice Sugden Davie, received his early education at Barnsley Holgate Grammar School, and spent his boyhood in “the industrially ravaged landscape,” as he called it, of the West Riding. As a Northerner, he has said that in literature he grew to like “the spare and lean.” From his mother, who had a liking for poetry and knew, according to Davie, “the greater part, . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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