Monday, February 4, 2013


On the Finding of Richard III's Bones: A Poem

The New York Times, 2/4/13:

Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist on a project to identify the bones, told reporters that tests and research since the remains were discovered last September proved “beyond reasonable doubt” that the “individual exhumed” from a makeshift grave under the parking lot was “indeed Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England.”

Enter BUCKLEY, solus

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this corpse of Richard;
And all the clouds that lay dully upon our land
In the deep bosom of the news cycle buried.
Now are our CVs bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised trowels and shovels hung up for monuments;
Our dull symposia changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful departmental meetings to delightful orgies.
Grim-visaged death hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He lies peacefully in the University of Leicester
To the lascivious gapings of a muted press corps.
And I, that am but a simple archaeolgist,
Not made to court the desperate inquiries of a fevered public;
I, that am but a man, and want credit's laurels
To strut before a mass of jealous associate professors;
He, that was curtail'd on the field of Bosworth,
Cheated of his young life by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this unbreathing dirt, spine so obviously twisted,
And I, so friendly and unassuming
That dogs rub against my pant leg as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of few discoveries,
Have no other delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy his wizened shadow in the ground
And descant on his own deformity:
And therefore, since I can finally prove an identity,
To entertain these fair well-spoken graduate students,
I am determined to prove a hero
And embrace the untrammeled triumph of these days.
Soil impactions have I studied, the Priory's footprints measured,
By historical prophecies, rumours and dreams,
To set my brother Oxford and his sister Cambridge
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if Queen Catherine be as true and just
As I am wise, diligent and unassuming,
This day should Richard carefully be dug up,
About the prophecy, which says that 'B'
Of Leakey's heirs the finder shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here
The BBC comes.

20 Comments / Post A Comment


I was SO excited to hear this news - I've been following it for ages. It's a fascinating story on so many levels: the fusion of archeology and history and science; a physical reminder that history is all around us, and the insight into a really important period of English history we can gain from his bones (even something like "was he actually crippled?" is something we haven't known for sure until now, because of the Tudor spin machines). So cool!


They paved Plantagenet and put up a parking lot.

Nicole Cliffe

@Emby Was he under a Tudor or a four-door?


@Nicole Cliffe There is no need to read any more Internets, forever.


@Emby Best RIII + car park joke I've seen all day. You win forever.


This was most excellent.


This embodies everything I love about the Hairpin.

ms. alex

Is it bad that I enjoyed reading this more than reading Richard III?
(I'm sorry, Shakespeare, but I just can't with your histories.)


@ms. alex I work at the Shakespeare Theatre so I go to all of their plays, and the thing that I have concluded about Shakespeare is that while he was a hell of a poet, some of his plays could stand to go unproduced for a while.


@ms. alex YOU ARE WRONG, THE HISTORIES ARE THE BEST! They have pirates and witches and people snuggling with their dead lovers' decapitated heads and burns like,

"Rome will remedy this." "Roam thither then!"

and Joan of Arc doing a precursor to "I fart in your general direction, silly English k-nights" and they are THE BEST. They are funnier than most of the comedies and more tragic than most of the tragedies and and and more romantic than the romances, and SO GOOD.

ms. alex

@kerrypolka I actually really like Julius Caesar, does that count?


@ms. alex Like whatever you want, I am not one to say the things you like are bad! I am just saying that the histories = AMAZING.


I like how the Guardian interviewed some poor Canadian guy who happens to share DNA with the House of York: "How do you feel about your ancestor being brutally bludgeoned?" "Well, a lot of other people died too..."


@Amphora Also the archaeologist in me is grumbling that this isn't absolutely conclusive proof and the findings still need to be peer-reviewed scientific journal because they've only analyzed the mitochondrial DNA and they haven't said how rare that type actually is (plenty of people could share pairs of mitochondrial DNA).

And also did anyone else think the head of the Richard III Society is a little wacky? "Richard was the true king, the last king of the north..." The true king as opposed to those dirty Welsh Tudors? What?


@Amphora Mm, the north-south thing in England is a big deal. As an illustration (this is NOT a 1-1 equivalence), imagine the difference between red states and blue states, but if the red states were also raging bolshy trade unionists as well as being largely working class, and the blue states were populated by eg Donald Trump and Camilla Parker Bowles and others who you can imagine regularly saying, "Look, darling, this one earns most of his money 'working' at a 'job'! How quaint!"

Henry Tudor-soon-to-be-Henry-VII's grandfather was Welsh, but the rest of his family (Beauforts, Stanleys) was super blue-blooded and super southern, so the "last king of the north" is as much about "last ruler from the working class part of the country, which has a lot of regional pride but is always always overshadowed by London" as it is "boo foreigners".

Mrs. Grundy

My kingdom for a horse that I would give you as a gift for writing this wonderful poem because based on some other things you have written I am pretty sure you like horses.


pto I looked at the bank draft for $5219, I have faith that my sister woz actualy bringing in money part time from their computer.. there great aunt haz done this for under fourteen months and by now cleared the loans on their villa and bought themselves a Jaguar E-type..........WWW.MAX38.COM


My kingdom for a horse that I would give you as a gift for writing this wonderful poem because based on some other things you have written I am pretty sure you like horses sbothai


My kingdom for a horse that I would give you as a gift for writing this wonderful poem because based on some other things you have written I am pretty sure you like horses sbothai

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