The Measured Funeral March: Poignant Power

Michael Roberts

At 9.00 pm this day of 18th September 2022 I ventured back from my study to our living room to have dinner.  The TV was on and my Scottish wife was watching the serried ranks of the British military and royalty accompanying the hearse bearing the body Queen Elizabeth on its last earthly journey towards Windsor Castle.

I stood and watched. The seepage of “Empire loyalism” in my upbringing [1] must have kicked in: I was saddened and a tear or two emeged. I remained standing.

The power of the “Beethovan Funeral March,” the weight of the moment and the penetrating force of measured steps overwhelmed me. Trod. Trod. Trod. Trod. Trod. Trod. Trod. Trod. Trod. ………… ……………………

WHAT an impact …. that sound. Here, then, was an occasion when meaningful event and action in unison was more animating than colourful scenario (though the latter feature also carried weight).







That sound in measured music: step; step; step; step; step; ….. Trod. Trod. Trod. Trod. Trod. Trod. Trod. Trod. Trod.

That sound and the scenario unfolding in measured manner before my eyes carried poignant meaning.

But …. that does not render me a Brit.

I say that because the ceremonial marking of DEATH in evocative manner is that which is so awesome and enveloping. It is the evocation of our momentary presence on earth through such combinations of action and sound that had such an impact on my being …. my bodily engagement in the scenario unfolding on the TV channel in front of me.

I was also awestruck and You Tube bound when  — one day not long ago — I happened to watch a Video of the ceremonial arrival of an Australian Air Force plane bearing bodies of servicemen who had died in Afghanistan. Two rows of servicemen marched out of the bowels of that huge plane in measured manner with ceremonial music that marked the sombre moment. I was gob-smacked and totally overwhelmed with sadness [even though I knew not one of the dead].

Occasion. Music. Measured Pattern. These, then, are the combinations that evoke MEANING …… underlining the limitations of one’s life on this earth ….. or the limits on the life of friends and relatives ….. and those who are part of one’s patriotic realm.

The poignancy does not have to be secured by measured feet in sound or be culturally informed. When a New Zealand regiment exploded into a funeral haka as the bodies of their dead were brought back to their New Zealand base, I was gobsmacked and overwhelmed.

So: take in the tale that  is presented in this piece within Thuppahi:

The military, I note, are not an essential element for such poignant power.  After that Australian of Nazi orientation, Brenton Tarrant, effected a massacre in two mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand in May 2019 that left 51 dead [2], the collective funeral ceremony for some of the schoolgoing dead evoked a Maori Haka mourning song n’ dance from their fellow-students that cut to my heart …. in much the same power as the Haka of the Maori regiment.

In short, it is the meaningful moment that is the foundation for evocative absorption and impact. Such messages can cross cultural boundaries.




remembering the Christchurch mosque dead: New Zealanders of all the faiths and all colours — brown, black and white in all their shades


[1] The concept of “Empire-loyalism” has been deployed by me in a book crafted in 1989: namely, People Inbetween. The Burghers and the Middle Class in the Transformations within Sri Lanka, 1790s-1960s, Ratmalana, Sarvodaya Publishers, 1989, pp 47, 114, 118, 126. It is understood to be one aspect of the process of “Westernization” under colonial rule without being synonymous with the latter concept.

[2] See BBC News: “Christchurch Shooting: Gunman Tarrant wanted to kill as much as possible,” 24 August 2020,


Filed under accountability, art & allure bewitching, cultural transmission, education, Empire loyalism, ethnicity, heritage, historical interpretation, landscape wondrous, life stories, martyrdom, patriotism, performance, politIcal discourse, self-reflexivity, unusual people, world events & processes

2 responses to “The Measured Funeral March: Poignant Power

  1. Chris Duff-Tytler

    Watched the Funeral procession yesterday – Britain must be the only Nation that can carry out such precision planning Funeral march; and it was a success in my View – Queen Elizabeth 2 had an appealing style and resonated well over the years of her reign Chris Duff-Tytler

  2. An EMAIL COMMENT from Somasiri Devendra (Retd-Commodore Sri Lanka Navy), 20 Septmber 202:
    “Well spoken. I, too, was riveted to the March. The heartbeat. You have used the same parallels that occurred to me. Gut reactions are truer than mind-constructs?”

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