Archive for MCMXIV


Posted in Poetry with tags , , on August 29, 2011 by telescoper

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,
And 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 not caring
The place-names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheats’ 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 little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

by Philip Larkin (1922-1985).

I came across this while searching for a poem to post on an August Bank Holiday  (because today is one of those). I hadn’t expect to find something like this though! Larkin isn’t known as a war poet, but I find his detachment and use of irony in this poem- e.g. comparing the lines of men in the trenches to those queuing to watch cricket or football – as devastating as some of the more obviously visceral works of the genre.