English Poet and Novelist
Philip Larkin, fully Philip Arthur Larkin
English Poet and Novelist
Saki says that youth is like hors d'oeuvres: you are so busy thinking of the next courses you don't notice it. When you've had them, you wish you'd had more hors d'oeuvres.
Sex means nothing--just the moment of ecstasy that flares and dies in minutes.
Sexual intercourse began in 1963 (which was rather late for me) -- Between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles first LP.
Since the majority of me rejects the majority of you, debating ends forthwith, and we divide.
Mother's electric blanket broke, and I have 'mended' it, so she may be practising suttee involuntarily before long.
So many things I had thought forgotten return to my mind with stranger pain: like letters that arrive addressed to someone who left the house so many years ago.
Much better stay in company! To love you must have someone else, giving requires a legatee, good neighbors 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.
The first day after a death, the new absence is always the same; we should be careful of each other, we should be kind while there is still time.
Next, Please. Always too eager for the future, we pick up bad habits of expectancy. Something is always approaching; every day till then we say, watching from a bluff the tiny, clear sparkling armada of promises draw near. How slow they are! And how much time they waste, refusing to make haste! Yet still they leave us holding wretched stalks of disappointment, for, though nothing balks each big approach, leaning with brasswork prinked, each rope distinct, flagged, and the figurehead with golden tits arching our way, it never anchors; it's no sooner present than it turns to past. Right to the last wWe think each one will heave to and unload all good into our lives, all we are owed for waiting so devoutly and so long. But we are wrong: only one ship is seeking us, a black-sailed unfamiliar, towing at her back a huge and birdless silence. In her wake no waters breed or break.
The glare of that much-mentioned brilliance, love, broke out, to show its bright incipience sailing above, still promising to solve, and satisfy, and set unchangeably in order. So to pile them back, to cry, was hard, without lamely admitting how it had not done so then, and could not now.
Often one spends weeks trying to write a poem out of the conscious mind that never comes to anything - these are sort of 'ideal' poems that one feels ought to be written, but don't because (I fancy) they lack the vital spark of self-interest. A 'real' poem is a pleasure to write.
The poetic impulse is distinct from ideas about things or feelings about things, though it may use these. It's more like a desire to separate a piece of one's experience and set it up on its own, an isolated object never to trouble you again, at least not for a bit. In the absence of this impulse nothing stirs.
Once I am sure there's nothing going on I step inside, letting the door thud shut. Another church: matting, seats, and stone, and little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut for Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff up at the holy end; the small neat organ; and a tense, musty, unignorable silence, brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off my cycle-clips in awkward reverence. Move forward, run my hand around the font. From where I stand, the roof looks almost new - Cleaned, or restored? Someone would know: I don't. Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce 'Here endeth' much more loudly than I'd meant. The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence, reflect the place was not worth stopping for. Yet stop I did: in fact I often do, and always end much at a loss like this, wondering what to look for; wondering, too, when churches will fall completely out of use what we shall turn them into, if we shall keep a few cathedrals chronically on show, their parchment, plate and pyx in locked cases, and let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep. Shall we avoid them as unlucky places? Or, after dark, will dubious women come to make their children touch a particular stone; pick simples for a cancer; or on some advised night see walking a dead one? Power of some sort will go on in games, in riddles, seemingly at random; but superstition, like belief, must die, and what remains when disbelief has gone? Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky, a shape less recognizable each week, a purpose more obscure. I wonder who will be the last, the very last, to seek this place for what it was; one of the crew that tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were? Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique, or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh? Or will he be my representative, bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground through suburb scrub because it held unspilt so long and equably what since is found only in separation - marriage, and birth, and death, and thoughts of these - for which was built this special shell? For, though I've no idea what this accoutred frowsty barn is worth, it pleases me to stand in silence here; a serious house on serious earth it is, in whose blent air all our compulsions meet, are recognized, and robed as destinies. And that much never can be obsolete, since someone will forever be surprising a hunger in himself to be more serious, and gravitating with it to this ground, which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in, if only that so many dead lie round.
One of the quainter quirks of life is that we shall never know who dies on the damn day as we do ourselves.
Only one ship is seeking us, a black-sailed unfamiliar, towing at her back a huge and birdless silence. In her wake no waters breed or break.
Our almost-instinct almost true: what will survive of us is love.
Birthdays are a time when one stock takes, which means, I suppose, a good spineless mope: I scan my horizon and can discern no sail of hope along my own particular ambition. I tell you what it is: I'm quite in accord with the people who enquire 'What is the matter with the man?' because I don't seem to be producing anything as the years pass but rank self-indulgence. You know that my sole ambition, officially at any rate, was to write poems and novels, an activity I never found any difficulty fulfilling between the (dangerous) ages of 17-24: I can't very well ignore the fact that this seems to have died a natural death. On the other hand I feel regretful that what talents I have in this direction are not being used. Then again, if I am not going to produce anything in the literary line, the justification for my selfish life is removed - but since I go on living it, the suspicion arises that the writing existed to produce the life, and not vice versa. And as a life it has very little to recommend it: I spend my days footling in a job I care nothing about, a curate among lady-clerks; I evade all responsibility, familial, professional, emotional, social, not even saving much money or helping my mother. I look around me and I see people getting on, or doing things, or bringing up children - and here I am in a kind of vacuum. If I were writing, I would even risk the fearful old age of the Henry-James hero: not fearful in circumstance but in realisation: because to me to catch, render, preserve, pickle, distil or otherwise secure life-as-it-seemed for the future seems to me infinitely worth doing; but as I'm not the entire morality of it collapses. And when I ask why I'm not, well, I'm not because I don't want to: every novel I attempt stops at a point where I awake from the impulse as one might awake from a particularly-sickening nightmare - I don't want to 'create character', I don't want to be vivid or memorable or precise, I neither wish to bathe each scene in the lambency of the 'love that accepts' or be excoriatingly cruel, smart, vicious, 'penetrating' (ugh), or any of the other recoil qualities. In fact, like the man in St. Mawr, I want nothing. Nothing, I want. And so it becomes quite impossible for me to carry on. This failure of impulse seems to me suspiciously like a failure of sexual impulse: people conceive novels and dash away at them and finish them in the same way as they fall in love and will not be satisfied till they're married - another point on which I seem to be out of step. There's something cold and heavy sitting on me somewhere, and until something budges it I am no good.
Here silence stands like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken, hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken, luminously-peopled air ascends; and past the poppies bluish neutral distance ends the land suddenly beyond a beach of shapes and shingle. Here is unfenced existence: facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.
I suppose if one lives to be old, one's entire waking life will be spent turning on the spit of recollection over the fires of mingled shame, pain or remorse. Cheerful prospect!
Life is slow dying.
Books are a load of crap.
Home is so sad. It stays as it was left, shaped to the comfort of the last to go as if to win them back.
I think that at the bottom of all art lies the impulse to preserve.
Living toys are something novel, but it soon wears off somehow.
But superstition, like belief, must die.