I'm off on my (English) travels again for a few days, but I'll leave you with a couple more poems from the TLS anthology - one very well known, the other far less so.
Philip Larkin's Aubade is perhaps the most famous poem to have made its debut in the TLS. The last long poem he published, it is quintessential late Larkin, uncompromisingly bleak, aghast at the prospect of oblivion. But, as ever with Larkin, the beauty of the poem's shaping creates subtle and nuanced counter-melodies...
Thirteen years after Aubade, in 1990, Larkin's friend Kingsley Amis published Matin, his own take on the early-morning experience of groping one's way back to the waking world. When Larkin and Amis were young, it seemed clear that the former was going to The Novelist and the latter The Poet. As we know, it turned out quite otherwise, but Amis continued to write poems, even after he apparently signed off on his poetic career with his Collected Poems in 1979. Matin is a slighter work than Aubade. Amis awakes more relieved to be free of his troubled dreamworld than terrified of what faces him; his timor mortis is no more than a 'small thought'. If nothing else, this poem makes a fascinating pendant to Aubade.
(Or: Homage to Mogadona)
Awake at last, groaning with relief,
In dull daylight, I struggle to remember,
Then promptly to forget, that clouded scene
(Urban always) full of unknown people
Busy at something, talking, hurrying,
Perhaps searching or playing. Not that they
Ignore me, no, they are most interested;
They move closer with rapid hands and eyes
And what must be machines, tall ones, small ones
That dart about like animals, and animals
Like no animals anywhere. And I
Have to get out, or get home, find my book,
Or find my wife. What is this place?
Three jockeys - are they jockeys? - strut forward,
Walls lurch and crinkle, a dark sky shows through;
A headless bulk bobs at me, stirring up
Only sluggish bewilderment, not fear,
Not so much fear.
Awake at last, I huddle,
Swill water, grope for glasses, slippers; now
Mocktown must fade, but not the small thought
Of being suddenly back
Among the frozen tramcars and thick poppies
With no daylight at the end.