We have tried all courages.

Philip Larkin’s poetry is often bleak in various ways, but his uniquely beautiful voice draws me.  So I borrowed a fat collection of his work from the library to peruse; it was fascinating. In a few poems, even though I don’t claim to see halfway to their depths, I catch glimmers of our common humanity and perspective, and am prompted to pray for him.

This one was unpublished in his lifetime.

Come then to prayers
And kneel upon the stone,
For we have tried
All courages on these despairs,
And are required lastly to give up pride,
And the last difficult pride in being humble.

Draw down the window-frame
That we may be unparted from the darkness,
Inviting to this house
Air from a field,
air from a salt grave,
That questions if we have
Concealed no flaw in this confessional,
And, being satisfied,
Lingers, and troubles, and is lightless,
And so grows darker, as if clapped on a flame,
Whose great extinguishing still makes it tremble.

Only our hearts go beating towards the east.
Out of this darkness, let the unmeasured sword
Rising from sleep to execute or crown
Rest on our shoulders, as we then can rest
On the outdistancing, all-capable flood
Whose brim touches the morning. Down
The long shadows where undriven the dawn
Hunts light into nobility, arouse us noble.

-Philip Larkin

5 thoughts on “We have tried all courages.

  1. When I first encountered Philip Larkin, I thought, “Oh, my. Oh, dear.” I wasn’t sure I wanted to read much more. But he does have some fine poems, and some knowledge of his life softened my evaluation of his work. This one’s new to me, and I’m glad you shared it. I was especially taken by his insight about the last, difficult pride of humility.

    Liked by 1 person

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