Death in Aldeburgh



The old friends are assembled in the Red House,

are asked to come and voice a brief farewell,

to pitch him their unbroken pure laudamus:

the one whom he blazed out, though she was ill

with nerve disease, the one he brusquely sacked

for questioning the joint imperious will,

the one who had not shown sufficient tact

in telling jokes, the one who stood and eavesdropped

on his practising.  All those friendships wrecked

the ebb reveals to him, like small roles grouped

for one of his finales, but not singing,

just smiling, thinking, ‘Ben, they never stopped

us loving you, those crushing waves and stinging

rebuffs, that icy undertow, each storm,

each murderous calm.  We kept on bringing

our scrofulas for your touch to transform –

and you would rise and glow and wave creation’s

spring tide across our skins, your light, your warmth

ripening above these manuscript horizons

to light the steep grey shingle of your moods

and stir our mid-life mill-pond with your passions.’