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Best Society

 When I was a child, I thought,
Casually, that solitude
Never needed to be sought.
Something everybody had, Like nakedness, it lay at hand, Not specially right or specially wrong, A plentiful and obvious thing Not at all hard to understand.
Then, after twenty, it became At once more difficult to get And more desired - though all the same More undesirable; for what You are alone has, to achieve The rank of fact, to be expressed In terms of others, or it's just A compensating make-believe.
Much better stay in company! To love you must have someone else, Giving requires a legatee, Good neighbours need whole parishfuls Of folk to do it on - in short, Our virtues are all social; if, Deprived of solitude, you chafe, It's clear you're not the virtuous sort.
Viciously, then, I lock my door.
The gas-fire breathes.
The wind outside Ushers in evening rain.
Once more Uncontradicting solitude Supports me on its giant palm; And like a sea-anemone Or simple snail, there cautiously Unfolds, emerges, what I am.

by Philip Larkin
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