The Corner

Larkin and Love

Derb, it isn’t cricket to enlist Philip Larkin, whose view of love isn’t so easily apprehended. Larkin himself believed he was broken in some way that made it impossible for him to love. His most terrible poem, “Love Again”: 

Isolate rather this element

That spreads through other lives like a tree

And sways them on in a sort of sense

And say why it never worked for me.

Something to do with violence

A long way back, and wrong rewards…

His second most despairing poem, “Aubade,” in which he finds himself consumed with thoughts of death:

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 there’s the incredible power of a random thought upon seeing honeymooning couples getting on his train in his most hopeful poem, “The Whitsun Weddings”:

What it held

Stood ready to be loosed with all the power

That being changed can give.

Larkin, one of the three greatest poets of the 20th century in the English language, knew all about love, and he knew, most profoundly, that the absence of it from his own life had immiserated him. 

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