The poet laureate Simon Armitage has written a moving tribute to the Queen as a ‘token of thanks’ for her decades of service.
The poem, entitled Floral Tribute, refers to the monarch carrying the country in ‘slender hands… hands that can rest, now, relieved of a century’s weight’.
The 18-line poem takes the form of a double acrostic, meaning the first letter of each line in both stanzas spells the name Elizabeth.
It starts by describing the coming of a September evening – a reference to the month of the Queen’s death – and says the ‘determined’ late afternoon cannot delay nightfall.
The poet then describes a lily illuminating the darkness and says it is a ‘token of thanks’.
Lily of the valley was the Queen’s favourite flower and was included in her coronation bouquet in 1953. Her childhood nickname was Lilibet and the poem also refers to lily of the valley as ‘a namesake almost’.
The Queen chose it when the Royal Family shared their favourite blooms in 2020 after the pandemic forced the Chelsea Flower Show online.
Buckingham Palace said it had ‘special associations’ for the monarch since her coronation, and the sweet-scented flower also featured in Kate Middleton’s wedding bouquet.
Often used to symbolise trustworthiness, the woodland plant is grown in the grounds at Buckingham Palace.
Mr Armitage refers to the Queen’s coronation and her decades of service in the poem, writing: ‘A promise made and kept for life – that was your gift.’
The Queen chose the Lily of the valley as her favourite flower in 2020 after the Covid pandemic forced the Chelsea Flower Show online
He continues: ‘The country loaded its whole self into your slender hands,/ Hands that can rest, now, relieved of a century’s weight.’
The second stanza begins with a reference to the Queen’s death in Scotland: ‘Evening has come. Rain on the black lochs and dark Munros.’
It pays tribute to her ‘restrained zeal and forceful grace’ and compares her to the lily of the valley, saying: ‘Everything turns on these luminous petals and deep roots.’
It ends by suggesting the Queen’s influence will last beyond her lifetime, as the lily’s brightness ‘holds and glows beyond the life and border of its bloom’. Mr Armitage, 59, has served as poet laureate since May 2019 and met the Queen once a year when she held audiences for the winner of her annual gold medal for poetry.
Earlier this year he wrote a 70-line poem, Queenhood, to mark her 70 years of service at the Platinum Jubilee. The poet, a former probation officer, also wrote an elegy for the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, The Patriarchs.
In an interview with The Times earlier this year, he said he had been ‘won over by the Queen’ and believed the nation needed the monarchy.