The next poem is one of several inspired by the gravestones and other features in St Mary’s Churchyard.
AN ELEGY WRITTEN IN ST MARY’S CHURCHYARD, READING
Horatio – the name – is what survives
On his time-ravaged tombstone – and the names
Of both his parents and what year he died:
In 1828. His age has been
Obliterated, leading one to idly
Wonder whether diligent research
Of parish registers would show his birth
As coinciding with the news that our
Great Admiral had died in Hardy’s arms
Having routed the French fleet at Trafalgar,
Or put his telescope to his blind eye
At Copenhagen, or had lost an arm
At Santa Cruz, or else some other moment
Of stirring heroism in the cause
What of this Horatio?
Was he bold and brave, and crafty with it?
Was he seduced by other women’s charms
To rat upon his wife? – there he can claim
The advantage over Nelson of the Nile –
He’s but a name without a reputation,
And of his sins of omission or commission
Even the parish registers are silent.