Always too eager for the future, we
Pick up bad habits of expectancy.
Something is always approaching; every day
Till then we say,
Watching from a bluff the tiny, clear
Sparkling armada of promises draw near.
How slow they are! And how much time they waste,
Refusing to make haste!
Yet still they leave us holding wretched stalks
Of disappointment, for, though nothing balks
Each big approach, leaning with brasswork prinked,
Each rope distinct,
Flagged, and the figurehead with golden tits
Arching our way, it never anchors; it’s
No sooner present than it turns to past.
Right to the last
We think each one will heave to and unload
All good into our lives, all we are owed
For waiting so devoutly and so long.
But we are wrong:
Only one ship is seeking us, a black-
Sailed unfamiliar, towing at her back
A huge and birdless silence. In her wake
No waters breed or break.
- BBC Uncovers Philip Larkin Poem About Affair With Secretary (observer.com)
- David Walliams on Philip Larkin (bbc.co.uk)
- Unpublished Larkin poetry found (bbc.co.uk)
- Larkin poem about affair with secretary found: report (reuters.com)
- Larkin and me (bbc.co.uk)
2 thoughts on “Eating Poetry (XXIX) – “Next, Please””
I wish I could say it like this. Beautiful, important, rich and so crisp. Thank you for posting it.
I attended a Larkin poetry reading in the early ’70s and immediately went out and purchased some of his work. He died at much too young at age.
This is a wonderful poem, full of terrific images: “Sparkling armada of promises”, “wretched stalks of disappointment”, “brasswork prinked”. How it sounds is marvelous, as is the way it moves us (literally and emotionally) from “Always too eager for the future. . . ” to “A huge and birdless silence”.
The image you selected is a perfect complement.