Friday, July 25, 2008

Today's themed poetry courtesy of Philip Larkin:
A workshy slacker if ever there was one.

Why should I let the toad work

Squat on my life?

Can't I use my wit as a pitchfork

And drive the brute off?

Six days of the week it soils

With its sickening poison

-Just for paying a few bills!

That's out of proportion.

Lots of folk live on their wits:

Lecturers, lispers,

Losers, loblolly-men, louts

-They don't end as paupers;

Lots of folk live up lanes

With fires in a bucket,

Eat windfalls and tinned sardines

-They seem to like it.

Their nippers have got bare feet,

Their unspeakable wives

Are skinny as whippets - and yet
No one actually starves.

Ah, were I courageous enough

To shout, Stuff your pension!

But I know, all too well, that's the stuff

That dreams are made on:

For something sufficiently toad-like

Squats in me, too;

Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,

And cold as snow,

And will never allow me to blarney

My way of getting

The fame and the girl and the money

All at one sitting.

I don't say, one bodies the other

One's spiritual truth;

But I do say it's hard to lose either,

When you have both.

Toads Revisited

Walking around in the park

Should feel better than work:

The lake, the sunshine,

The grass to lie on,

Blurred playground noises

Beyond black-stockinged nurses -

Not a bad place to be.

Yet it doesn't suit me.

Being one of the men

You meet of an afternoon:

Palsied old step-takers,

Hare-eyed clerks with the jitters,

Waxed-fleshed out-patients

Still vague from accidents,

And characters in long coats

Deep in the litter-baskets -All dodging the toad work

By being stupid or weak.

Think of being them!

Hearing the hours chime,

Watching the bread delivered,

The sun by clouds covered,

The children going home;

Think of being them,

Turning over their failures

By some bed of lobelias,

Nowhere to go but indoors,

Nor friends but empty chairs

-No, give me my in-tray,

My loaf-haired secretary,

My shall-I-keep-the-call-in-Sir:

What else can I answer,

When the lights come on at four

At the end of another year?

Give me your arm, old toad;

Help me down Cemetery Road.

Philip Larkin


TracyK said...

Love love LOVE Larkin, such a miserable old git and apparently very fond of porn, which makes a refreshing change from the stereotypical view of poets, all suicide and joylessness.

treefrogdemon said...

A toad-lover writes: Boo! Unfair to toads!

FP said...

Double boo to Larkin for dissing the toad and frog population. But that's just lip service. I LOVED LOVED LOVED those two poems. Very powerful and weighty. Thanks for posting them.

Shoegazer said...

Ashamed to say that about all I know about Larkin is the line in "There She Goes My Beautiful World". Loved your selections & am now inspired to go get a poetry book for more.

TracyK said...

There's so much lyrical beauty in Larkin, if you're unaware of him, it's very much worth having a peruse. This is one his most famous, and mosr beautiful:

An Arundel Tomb

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 no 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 grass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-littered 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 transfigures 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.

That last line is a real killer, the wait you have for love, and then the syllabic lightness and simulataneous weight of it, like a pebble dropped into water...sigh..
Even better (note: other opinions are available) is The Whitsun Weddings, which I read back in 6th form and it just stayed with me. When I lived in London, I could never approach it after a time away without remembering the last two stanzas. Read it here.

alimunday said...

Still on topic, here is TS Eliot from 'The Waste Land'

Unreal city,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

I think of this most mornings as I fight my way across the Aire on the way to work.

FP said...

Right that's it. I need the complete works of Larkin. Am off to Ebay him. Wonder what he would make of that, eh? Not poetry but while I was poorly in bed this week I re-read the complete works of my favourite writer - Saki. Anyone know him/like him?

Blimpy said...

Here's my fave Larkin, i find the phrase "summer's pace" just an amazing combination of two words:

Cut Grass

Cut grass lies frail:
Brief is the breath
Mown stalks exhale.
Long, long the death

It dies in the white hours
Of young-leafed June
With chestnut flowers,
With hedges snowlike strewn,

White lilac bowed,
Lost lanes of Queen Anne's lace,
And that high-builded cloud
Moving at summer's pace.