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Poet laureate writes elegy for the Duke of Edinburgh

The poem pays tribute to Philip’s distinguished career in the Royal Navy

The Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, has written a poem to mark the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Entitled The Patriarchs – An Elegy, the poem was published on the day of Philip’s funeral on Saturday.

It pays tribute to Philip’s distinguished career in the Royal Navy, and refers to his generation as “husbands to duty” and “great-grandfathers from birth”.

It reads: “On such an occasion / to presume to eulogise one man is to pipe up / for a whole generation – that crew whose survival / was always the stuff of minor miracle, / who came ashore in orange-crate coracles, / fought ingenious wars, finagled triumphs at sea / with flaming decoy boats, and side-stepped torpedoes.”

The poem describes the duke’s generation as the “last of the great avuncular magicians” who “kept their best tricks for the grand finale”.

In its final verse, it reads: “But for now, a cold April’s closing moments/parachute slowly home, so by mid-afternoon / snow is recast as seed heads and thistledown.”

Philip joined the navy after leaving school and in May 1939 enrolled at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, where he rose rapidly through the ranks, earning promotion after promotion.

At the age of 21, Philip had become one of the youngest officers in the Royal Navy to be made First Lieutenant and second-in-command of a ship.

He was appointed to the destroyer HMS Wallace, which in July 1943 was dispatched to the Mediterranean and provided cover for the Canadian beachhead of the Allied landings in Sicily.

Armitage, who was appointed laureate in 2019, has recently penned poems on lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic and the 100th anniversary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior.

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