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LARKIN, Philip


Swerving east, from rich industrial shadows
And traffic all night north; swerving through fields
Too thin and thistled to be called meadows,
And now and then a harsh-named halt, that shields
Workmen at dawn; swerving to solitude
Of skies and scarecrows, haystacks, hares and pheasants,
And the widening river s slow presence,
The piled gold clouds, the shining gull-marked mud,

Gathers to the surprise of a large town:
Here domes and statues, spires and cranes cluster
Beside grain-scattered streets, barge-crowded water,
And residents from raw estates, brought down
The dead straight miles by stealing flat-faced trolleys,
Push through plate-glass swing doors to their desires—
Cheap suits, red kitchen-ware, sharp shoes, iced lollies,
Electric mixers, toasters, washers, driers—

A cut-price crowd, urban yet simple, dwelling
Where only salesmen and relations come
Within a terminate and fishy-smelling
Pastoral of ships up streets, the slave museum,
Tattoo-shops, consulates, grim head-scarfed wives;
And out beyond its mortgaged half-built edges
Fast-shadowed wheat-fields, running high as hedges,
Isolate villages, where removed lives

Loneliness clarifies. 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.

An Arundel Tomb

Side by side, their faces blurred

The earl and countess lie in stone ,

Their proper habits vaguely shown

As jointed armour, stiffened pleat ,

And that faint hint of the absurd -

The little dogs under their feet .

Such plainness of the pre-baroque

Hardly involves the eye, until

It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still

Clasped empty in the other; and

One sees, with a sharp tender shock,

His hand withdrawn, holding her hand .

They would not think to lie so long.

Such faithfulness in effigy

Was just a detail friends would see:

A sculptor's sweet commissioned grace

Thrown off in helping to prolong

The Latin names around the base.

They would not guess how early in

Their supine stationary voyage

The air would change to soundless damage,

Turn the old tenantry away ;

How soon succeeding eyes begin

To look, not read . Rigidly they

Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths

Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light

Each summer thronged the glass. A bright

Litter of birdcalls strewed the same

Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths

The endless altered people came,

Washing at their identity .

Now, helpless in the hollow of

An unarmorial age, a trough

Of smoke in slow suspended skeins

Above their scrap of history,

Only an attitude remains:

Time has transfigured them into

Untruth. The stone fidelity

They hardly meant has come to be

Their final blazon , and to prove

Our almost-instinct almost true:

What will survive of us is love

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.

De bomen

De bomen krijgen al blaadjes, ziet,

Zoals iets dat niet helemaal wordt uitgesproken;

De jonge knoppen worden week en zijn gebroken,

Hun groenheid is een soort verdriet.

Zijn zij misschien herboren dingen

En worden wij oud? Nee, ook zij vergaan.

Hun jaarlijkse kunst in het nieuw te staan

Staat gekerfd in generfde ringen.

En toch walsen nog de rusteloze torens

In mei met een weelderig, volgroeid gebaar.

Ze zeggen schijnbaar “Dood is het oude jaar,

Begin opnieuw, begin weer van tevoren”.

Vertaling: Z. DE MEESTER

Come then to prayers

Come then to prayers

And kneel upon the stone,

For we have tried

All courages on these despairs,

And are required lastly to give up pride,

And the last difficult pride in being humble.

Draw down the window-frame

That we may be unparted from the darkness

Inviting to the house

Air from a field, air from a salt grave,

That questions if we have

Concealed no flaw in this confessional,

And, being satisfied,

Lingers, and troubles, and is lightless,

And so grows darker, as if clapped on a flame,

Whose great extinguishing still makes it tremble.

Only our hearts go beating towards the east.

Out of this darkness, let the unmeasured sword

Rising from sleep to execute our crown

Rest on our shoulders, as we then can rest

On the outdistancing, all-capable flood

Whose brim touches the morning. Down

The long shadows where undriven the dawn

Hunts light into nobility, arouse us noble.


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.