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Best Famous Philip Larkin Poems

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by Philip Larkin | |

MCMXIV

Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park 
The crowns of hats the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops the bleached 
Established names on the sunblinds 
The farthings and sovereigns 
Adn dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens 
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist and the pubs
Wide open all day;

And the countryside ont caring:
The place-names all hazed over
With flowering grasses and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat's restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses 
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence 
Never before or since 
As changed itself to past
Without a word--the men
Leaving the gardens tidy 
The thousands of marriages
Lasting a littlewhile longer:
Never such innocence again.
1964


by Philip Larkin | |

Ambulances

Closed like confessionals, they thread
Loud noons of cities, giving back
None of the glances they absorb.
Light glossy grey, arms on a plaque, They come to rest at any kerb: All streets in time are visited.
Then children strewn on steps or road, Or women coming from the shops Past smells of different dinners, see A wild white face that overtops Red stretcher-blankets momently As it is carried in and stowed, And sense the solving emptiness That lies just under all we do, And for a second get it whole, So permanent and blank and true.
The fastened doors recede.
Poor soul, They whisper at their own distress; For borne away in deadened air May go the sudden shut of loss Round something nearly at an end, And what cohered in it across The years, the unique random blend Of families and fashions, there At last begin to loosen.
Far From the exchange of love to lie Unreachable insided a room The trafic parts to let go by Brings closer what is left to come, And dulls to distance all we are.
1964


by Philip Larkin | |

Talking in Bed

Talking in bed ought ot be easiest 
Lying together there goes back so far 
An emblem of two people being honest.
Yet more and more time passes silently.
Outside the wind's incomplete unrest builds and disperses clouds about the sky.
And dark towns heap up on the horizon.
None of this cares for us.
Nothing shows why At this unique distance from isolation It becomes still more difficult to find Words at once true and kind Or ont untrue and not unkind.
1964


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by Philip Larkin | |

The Explosion

On the day of the explosion
Shadows pointed towards the pithead:
In thesun the slagheap slept.
Down the lane came men in pitboots Coughing oath-edged talk and pipe-smoke Shouldering off the freshened silence.
One chased after rabbits; lost them; Came back with a nest of lark's eggs; Showed them; lodged them in the grasses.
SO they passed in beards and moleskins Fathers brothers nicknames laughter Through the tall gates standing open.
At noon there came a tremor; cows Stopped chewing for a second; sun Scarfed as in a heat-haze dimmed.
The dead go on before us they Are sitting in God's house in comfort We shall see them face to face-- plian as lettering in the chapels It was said and for a second Wives saw men of the explosion Larger than in life they managed-- Gold as on a coin or walking Somehow from the sun towards them One showing the eggs unbroken.


by Philip Larkin | |

Friday Night At The Royal Station Hotel

 Light spreads darkly downwards from the high
Clusters of lights over empty chairs
That face each other, coloured differently.
Through open doors, the dining-room declares A larger loneliness of knives and glass And silence laid like carpet.
A porter reads An unsold evening paper.
Hours pass, And all the salesmen have gone back to Leeds, Leaving full ashtrays in the Conference Room.
In shoeless corridors, the lights burn.
How Isolated, like a fort, it is - The headed paper, made for writing home (If home existed) letters of exile: Now Night comes on.
Waves fold behind villages.


by Philip Larkin | |

The Importance Of Elsewhere

 Lonely in Ireland, since it was not home, 
Strangeness made sense.
The salt rebuff of speech, Insisting so on difference, made me welcome: Once that was recognised, we were in touch Their draughty streets, end-on to hills, the faint Archaic smell of dockland, like a stable, The herring-hawker's cry, dwindling, went To prove me separate, not unworkable.
Living in England has no such excuse: These are my customs and establishments It would be much more serious to refuse.
Here no elsewhere underwrites my existence.


by Philip Larkin | |

First Sight

 Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro All they find, outside the fold, Is a wretched width of cold.
As they wait beside the ewe, Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies Hidden round them, waiting too, Earth's immeasureable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew, What so soon will wake and grow Utterly unlike the snow.


by Philip Larkin | |

Wants

 Beyond all this, the wish to be alone:
However the sky grows dark with invitation-cards
However we follow the printed directions of sex
However the family is photographed under the flag-staff -
Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.
Beneath it all, the desire for oblivion runs: Despite the artful tensions of the calendar, The life insurance, the tabled fertility rites, The costly aversion of the eyes away from death - Beneath it all, the desire for oblivion runs.


by Philip Larkin | |

Autobiography At An Air-Station

 Delay, well, travellers must expect 
Delay.
For how long? No one seems to know.
With all the luggage weighed, the tickets checked, It can't be long.
.
.
We amble too and fro, Sit in steel chairs, buy cigarettes and sweets And tea, unfold the papers.
Ought we to smile, Perhaps make friends? No: in the race for seats You're best alone.
Friendship is not worth while.
Six hours pass: if I'd gone by boat last night I'd be there now.
Well, it's too late for that.
The kiosk girl is yawning.
I fell stale, Stupified, by inaction - and, as light Begins to ebb outside, by fear, I set So much on this Assumption.
Now it's failed.


by Philip Larkin | |

Arrival

 Morning, a glass door, flashes
Gold names off the new city,
Whose white shelves and domes travel
The slow sky all day.
I land to stay here; And the windows flock open And the curtains fly out like doves And a past dries in a wind.
Now let me lie down, under A wide-branched indifference, Shovel-faces like pennies Down the back of the mind, Find voices coined to An argot of motor-horns, And let the cluttered-up houses Keep their thick lives to themselves.
For this ignorance of me Seems a kind of innocence.
Fast enough I shall wound it: Let me breathe till then Its milk-aired Eden, Till my own life impound it- Slow-falling; grey-veil-hung; a theft, A style of dying only.


by Philip Larkin | |

The Spirit Wooed

 Once I believed in you,
 And then you came,
 Unquestionably new, as fame
Had said you were.
But that was long ago.
You launched no argument, Yet I obeyed, Straightaway, the instrument you played Distant Down sidestreets, keeping different time, And never questioned what You fascinate In me; if good or not, the state You pressed towards.
There was no need to know.
Grave pristine absolutes Walked in my mind: So that I was not mute, or blind, As years before or since.
My only crime Was holding you too dear.
Was that the cause You daily came less near—a pause Longer than life, if you decide it so?


by Philip Larkin | |

Night-Music

 At one the wind rose,
And with it the noise
Of the black poplars.
Long since had the living By a thin twine Been led into their dreams Where lanterns shine Under a still veil Of falling streams; Long since had the dead Become untroubled In the light soil.
There were no mouths To drink of the wind, Nor any eyes To sharpen on the stars' Wide heaven-holding, Only the sound Long sibilant-muscled trees Were lifting up, the black poplars.
And in their blazing solitude The stars sang in their sockets through the night: `Blow bright, blow bright The coal of this unquickened world.
'


by Philip Larkin | |

Deceptions

 "Of course I was drugged, and so heavily I did not regain
consciousness until the next morning.
I was horrified to discover that I had been ruined, and for some days I was inconsolable, and cried like a child to be killed or sent back to my aunt.
" --Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor Even so distant, I can taste the grief, Bitter and sharp with stalks, he made you gulp.
The sun's occasional print, the brisk brief Worry of wheels along the street outside Where bridal London bows the other way, And light, unanswerable and tall and wide, Forbids the scar to heal, and drives Shame out of hiding.
All the unhurried day, Your mind lay open like a drawer of knives.
Slums, years, have buried you.
I would not dare Console you if I could.
What can be said, Except that suffering is exact, but where Desire takes charge, readings will grow erratic? For you would hardly care That you were less deceived, out on that bed, Than he was, stumbling up the breathless stair To burst into fulfillment's desolate attic.


by Philip Larkin | |

Long Sight In Age

 They say eyes clear with age, 
As dew clarifies air 
To sharpen evenings, 
As if time put an edge 
Round the last shape of things 
To show them there; 
The many-levelled trees, 
The long soft tides of grass 
Wrinkling away the gold 
Wind-ridden waves- all these, 
They say, come back to focus 
As we grow old.


by Philip Larkin | |

Love Again

 Love again: wanking at ten past three
(Surely he's taken her home by now?),
The bedroom hot as a bakery,
The drink gone dead, without showing how
To meet tomorrow, and afterwards,
And the usual pain, like dysentery.
Someone else feeling her breasts and cunt, Someone else drowned in that lash-wide stare, And me supposed to be ignorant, Or find it funny, or not to care, Even .
.
.
but why put it into words? Isolate rather this element That spreads through other lives like a tree And sways them on in a sort of sense And say why it never worked for me.
Something to do with violence A long way back, and wrong rewards, And arrogant eternity.


by Philip Larkin | |

Counting

 Thinking in terms of one
Is easily done—
One room, one bed, one chair,
One person there,
Makes perfect sense; one set
Of wishes can be met,
One coffin filled.
But counting up to two Is harder to do; For one must be denied Before it's tried.


by Philip Larkin | |

Story

 Tired of a landscape known too well when young:
The deliberate shallow hills, the boring birds
Flying past rocks; tired of remembering
The village children and their naughty words,
He abandoned his small holding and went South,
Recognised at once his wished-for lie
In the inhabitants' attractive mouth,
The church beside the marsh, the hot blue sky.
Settled.
And in this mirage lived his dreams, The friendly bully, saint, or lovely chum According to his moods.
Yet he at times Would think about his village, and would wonder If the children and the rocks were still the same.
But he forgot all this as he grew older.


by Philip Larkin | |

Night-Music

 At one the wind rose,
And with it the noise
Of the black poplars.
Long since had the living By a thin twine Been led into their dreams Where lanterns shine Under a still veil Of falling streams; Long since had the dead Become untroubled In the light soil.
There were no mouths To drink of the wind, Nor any eyes To sharpen on the stars' Wide heaven-holding, Only the sound Long sibilant-muscled trees Were lifting up, the black poplars.
And in their blazing solitude The stars sang in their sockets through the night: `Blow bright, blow bright The coal of this unquickened world.
'


by Philip Larkin | |

High Windows

 When I see a couple of kids
And guess he's fucking her and she's
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is paradise

Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives--
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide

To happiness, endlessly.
I wonder if Anyone looked at me, forty years back, And thought, That'll be the life; No God any more, or sweating in the dark About hell and that, or having to hide What you think of the priest.
He And his lot will all go down the long slide Like free bloody birds.
And immediately Rather than words comes the thought of high windows: The sun-comprehending glass, And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.


by Philip Larkin | |

This Be The Verse

 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.


by Philip Larkin | |

Annus Mirabilis

 Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
Up to then there'd only been A sort of bargaining, A wrangle for the ring, A shame that started at sixteen And spread to everything.
Then all at once the quarrel sank: Everyone felt the same, And every life became A brilliant breaking of the bank, A quite unlosable game.
So life was never better than In nineteen sixty-three (Though just too late for me) - Between the end of the Chatterley ban And the Beatles' first LP.


by Philip Larkin | |

Toads

 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, Losels, 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.


by Philip Larkin | |

Mr Bleaney

 'This was Mr Bleaney's room.
He stayed The whole time he was at the Bodies, till They moved him.
' Flowered curtains, thin and frayed, Fall to within five inches of the sill, Whose window shows a strip of building land, Tussocky, littered.
'Mr Bleaney took My bit of garden properly in hand.
' Bed, upright chair, sixty-watt bulb, no hook Behind the door, no room for books or bags - 'I'll take it.
' So it happens that I lie Where Mr Bleaney lay, and stub my fags On the same saucer-souvenir, and try Stuffing my ears with cotton-wool, to drown The jabbering set he egged her on to buy.
I know his habits - what time he came down, His preference for sauce to gravy, why He kept on plugging at the four aways - Likewise their yearly frame: the Frinton folk Who put him up for summer holidays, And Christmas at his sister's house in Stoke.
But if he stood and watched the frigid wind Tousling the clouds, lay on the fusty bed Telling himself that this was home, and grinned, And shivered, without shaking off the dread That how we live measures our own nature, And at his age having no more to show Than one hired box should make him pretty sure He warranted no better, I don't know.


by Philip Larkin | |

The Trees

 The trees are coming into leaf 
Like something almost being said; 
The recent buds relax and spread, 
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again And we grow old? No, they die too, Their yearly trick of looking new Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say, Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.


by Philip Larkin | |

Sad Steps

 Groping back to bed after a piss
I part the thick curtains, and am startled by
The rapid clouds, the moon's cleanliness.
Four o'clock: wedge-shaped gardens lie Under a cavernous, a wind-pierced sky.
There's something laughable about this, The way the moon dashes through the clouds that blow Loosely as cannon-smoke to stand apart (Stone-coloured light sharpening the roofs below) High and preposterous and separate-- Lozenge of love! Medallion of art! O wolves of memory! Immensements! No, One shivers slightly, looking up there.
The hardness and the brightness and the plain far-reaching singleness of that wide stare Is a reminder of the strength and pain Of being young; that it can't come again, But is for others undiminished somewhere.