Friday 1 January 2021

New Year's Day

 On this day in 1957, Philip Larkin greeted the new year with this touching and beautifully made poem – 

Love Songs in Age

She kept her songs, they took so little space,
  The covers pleased her:
One bleached from lying in a sunny place,
One marked in circles by a vase of water,
One mended, when a tidy fit had seized her,
  And coloured, by her daughter –
So they had waited, till, in widowhood
She found them, looking for something else, and stood

Relearning how each frank submissive chord
  Had ushered in
Word after sprawling hyphenated word,
And the unfailing sense of being young
Spread out like a spring-woken tree, wherein
  That hidden freshness sung,
That certainty of time laid up in store
As when she played them first. But, even more,

The glare of that much-mentioned brilliance, love,
  Broke out, to show
Its bright incipience sailing above,
Still promising to solve, and satisfy,
And set unchangeably in order. So
  To pile them back, to cry,
Was hard, without lamely admitting how
It had not done so then, and could not now.

'Love Songs in Age' was one of three Larkin poems read at his memorial service in Westminster Abbey. The others were 'Church Going' and 'An Arundel Tomb'. Between them, I think, these three show what is best, and most humane, in Larkin's verse. 

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