In the chancel at St. Mary's Warwick are the effigies of Thomas and Katherine de Beauchamp (Eleventh Earl of Warwick). When I was photographing it, I was taken aback by their clasped hands.
I was reminded of the remarkable poem by Larkin called An Arundel Tomb. In it he talks of the clasped hands at Chichester, but it might as well apply to the effigies at Warwick.
He notes that through all the visual coding, the certainty and bigotry of their times and the harsh understanding of their days - what shines through, in spite of the neatly constructed feudal algorithm, is that which is timeless.
That which is instinctively understood: the clasping of their hands.
Larkin is telling us to trust our instincts - to see through the rhetoric of the day - a rhetoric that sometimes constructs a reality that is so absurd and yet so real and pervasive at times.
An Arundel Tomb, Philip Larkin
Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
And that faint hint of the absurd—
The little dogs under their feet.
Such plainness of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with a sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.
They would not think to lie so long.
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail friends would see:
A sculptor’s sweet commissioned grace
Thrown off in helping to prolong
The Latin names around the base.
They would not guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
The air would change to soundless damage,
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they
Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the glass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,
Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:
Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.