This be the verse for the Queen’s jubilee: Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes and Elizabeth II | Letters

David Evans recalls Philip Larkin’s poem for the silver jubilee and his pastiche of what he imagined Ted Hughes might write

The Queen’s reign was already being marked as extraordinarily enduring 45 years ago (Report, 4 February). Around the time of the silver jubilee, Charles Monteith, the editor at Faber & Faber of many great authors between the 1950s and 1970s, asked Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes to produce short poems to commemorate the occasion. They were to be inscribed in stone and placed in Queen’s Square, London, near the Faber offices. Larkin submitted:

In times when nothing stood
But worsened, or grew strange,
There was one constant good:
She did not change.

Revealing, perhaps, as much his ambivalent feelings about Hughes as any he had about the monarchy, Larkin included a pastiche of what he imagined Hughes would write:

The sky split apart in malice
Stars rattled like pans on a shelf
Crow shat on Buckingham Palace
God pissed himself –

Hughes, a committed monarchist and soon to be poet laureate, actually produced something more reverential, if less striking, and both official contributions may be seen on a flower bowl and surrounds in Queen’s Square.
David Evans

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