Thursday 19 October 2017

Poetry - Ulick O'Connor - Amorous adventures

Philip Larkin
Philip Larkin

This year is the 95th anniversary of the birth of the English poet Philip Larkin.

His reputation has grown since his death, so much so that he has been compared with Auden and Eliot, a view which I personally endorse with the proviso that he may even be a better poet than either of those two scamps.

Larkin never imposed religious strains on his conscience, calling it "that vast moth-eaten musical brocade created to pretend we never die". Stout fellow was Phil!

I knew his lover Maeve Brennan (she wasn't his only one) from the United Arts Club.

Maeve had a special laugh, which she used to trigger off whenever Larkin's name came up in conversation, when she would announce to startled listeners: "You know, of course, Philip's amorous adventures made Henry VIII look like a Cistercian monk."

Here is a Philip Larkin gem about shadows that slink "oblique and intense" gliding along a city street.

STREET LAMPS

When night slinks, like a puma, down the sky,

And the bare, windy streets echo with silence,

Street lamps come out, and lean at corners, awry,

Casting black shadows, oblique and intense;

So they burn on, impersonal, through the night,

Hearing the hours slowly topple past

Like cold drops from a glistening stalactite,

Until grey planes splinter the gloom at last;

Then they go out.

I think I noticed once

T'was morning - one sole street-lamp still bright-lit,

Which, with a senile grin, like an old dunce,

Challenged the blue sky, and tried to rival it;

And, leering pallid though its use was done,

Tried to cast shadows contrary to the sun.

Philip Larkin 1922-1985

 

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