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Philip Larkin: There Is Still Time


Image: Unsplash, downloaded (https://unsplash.com/photos/a1-7u30CJpw)



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.



Aubade


I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.

Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.

In time the curtain-edges will grow light.

Till then I see what’s really always there:

Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,

Making all thought impossible but how

And where and when I shall myself die.

Arid interrogation: yet the dread

Of dying, and being dead,

Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.


The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse

- The good not done, the love not given, time

Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because

An only life can take so long to climb

Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;

But at the total emptiness for ever,

The sure extinction that we travel to

And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,

Not to be anywhere,

And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.


This is a special way of being afraid

No trick dispels. Religion used to try,

That vast moth-eaten musical brocade

Created to pretend we never die,

And specious stuff that says No rational being

Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing

That this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,

No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,

Nothing to love or link with,

The anaesthetic from which none come round.


And so it stays just on the edge of vision,

A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill

That slows each impulse down to indecision.

Most things may never happen: this one will,

And realisation of it rages out

In furnace-fear when we are caught without

People or drink. Courage is no good:

It means not scaring others. Being brave

Lets no one off the grave.

Death is no different whined at than withstood.


Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.

It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,

Have always known, know that we can’t escape,

Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.

Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring

In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring

Intricate rented world begins to rouse.

The sky is white as clay, with no sun.

Work has to be done.

Postmen like doctors go from house to house.



The Mower


The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found

A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,

Killed. It had been in the long grass.


I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.

Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world

Unmendably. Burial was no help:


Next morning I got up and it did not.

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.



Source: Poezija napuštanja/Philip Larkin (Larkin, P. (2010) Poezija napuštanja, prev. D. Dragović, Varaždin: Modernist)


 

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