Friday, June 5, 2009

Some poems by Philip Larkin

Been reading a lot of Philip Larkin lately. Reading that article on Carol Ann Duffy made me think of him and desperately want to read "Morning at last: there in the snow" last week. It was the first poem by him that I remember really striking me back in high school, and it's stayed with me ever since. It's not available online, so I had to go to the library and take out his Collected Poems since my copy is in Toronto. I'm posting it here, just in case I ever need to find it again and don't have easy access to a library/my book collection.

Morning at last: there in the snow
Your small blunt footprints come and go.
Night has left no more to show,

Not the candle, half-drunk wine,
Or touching joy; only this sign
Of your life walking into mine.

But when they vanish with the rain
What morning woke to will remain,
Whether as happiness or pain.

I always thought that was a really beautiful, simple, touching love poem, describing in nine lines the tenderness, transience, and frailty of that kind of night with a lover. Also the nostalgist and romantic in me loves that vulnerable image of the footprints in the snow, it's something that can evoke such happiness and poignance simultaneously. The images of the candle and wine are powerful insofar as they have cliched significance, and Larkin acknowledges that by saying that they're no sign of the night shared by the two lovers. He'll clean them up and they'll be gone, and they'll return some other night with new meaning. They're transportabl and thus not really significant in the grand scheme of things. The footprints, though, will disappear with the rain, and be gone forever. They're inextricably tied to that night, that experience, and his memory of the time shared with someone else. It's beautiful and microcosmic.

Also, just because I'm here and writing this and Larkin is a great poet, I'm including his great "This Be The Verse", because it's awesome. Try and dislike this poem, I dare you.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

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