A Curmudgeon’s Curmudgeon

I rather like being on the edge of things. – Philip Larkin

I’ve always liked Philip Larkin.  He’s probably best known for This be the Verse, a thoroughly pessimistic view of the business of passing on the Promethean fire.

I think his humanity shines through in the empathy he feels for his parents, and the thankless job bequeathed to each generation.  He’s very British – you wouldn’t get an American poet expressing those ideas in that tone of voice.  I like him for his emotional honesty and refusal to take the easy option of sentimentality, which never tells the truth, no matter how comforting it is.  Being on the edge of things is something that also appeals to me.

Here’s a BBC documentary from 1964, with Larkin being interviewed by John Betjeman, another quintessentially British poet.

It seems like a glimpse into the distant past.  I’ll end with a poem about beginnings, one I particularly like.

How to Sleep

Child in the womb,
Or saint on a tomb –
Which way shall I lie
To fall asleep?
The keen moon stares
From the back of the sky,
The clouds are all home
Like driven sheep.

Bright drops of time,
One and two chime,
I turn and lie straight
With folded hands;
Convent-child, Pope,
They choose this state,
And their minds are wiped calm
As sea-levelled sands.

So my thoughts are:
But sleep stays as far,
Till I crouch on one side
Like a foetus again –
For sleeping, like death,
Must be won without pride,
With a nod from nature,
With a lack of strain,
And a loss of stature.