Tag Archives: Philip Larkin

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This one was unpublished in his lifetime.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

They come, they wake us.

pineapple guava buds

This afternoon was a healing balm, flowing from the mild-weather waking to breezes coming in at open windows, and Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women. I was celebrating and extra-blessed along with all of the Marys and Susannas and Salomes, plus Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Our Sisterhood at church also counts this as our Name Day.

So after all the spiritual food and agape meal, when we finally arrived home, all three of us (my two housemates and I) spent some time out in the corner of the back garden enjoying the sun while working or reading.

The photo below was taken two weeks ago after a rain, but it gives the rare wide view. The table where we like to sit is off the picture to the right.

Kit talked to us as she added some emitters to the irrigation lines that serve the pineapple guava. Last summer many of its leaves got sunburned, probably because it wasn’t getting enough to drink.

At dusk I went around taking pictures as I seem to do most days. The abutilon is a somewhat gangly adolescent right now, and it was near impossible to take its picture with a nice scene in the background, but each bloom is exquisite, hanging down bell-like so that one has to point a face or camera skyward to see inside. This view is also toward the street, and the lightpole near the corner of my property.

If I stand near that light pole and point my camera back toward the house,
this is what I see:

Do you see the abutilon at the far left? I have yet to finish filling in the asparagus beds on either side of the walk, though I spent a few hours on the job last week. When that job is finally completed I plan to dedicate a blog post to the topic, but by then I might be too done with it all.

Here is one of the showy milkweeds I planted a week ago – I still have narrow-leaf milkweed to put in the ground, plus tomatoes, basil, succulents, pipevine…  Tomorrow is May 1st. When I took a look at the weather forecast for the next ten days, to see how hot it might get, I was quite surprised to read that we are expected to get more rain showers. This spring I have several times been mistakenly comforted in “knowing” that we have seen the end of rain. I guess it’s too soon to start leaving my tools and toys out of doors at night.

And now, a poem, which I posted at least once before — but it does seem like one that bears repeating, with its simple and obvious truth about days such as the splendid one that for me is coming to a close. For many of you, it is already the merry month of May.

Days

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

– Philip Larkin

Days Empty and Full

Me in a past epoch

It’s the season for extolling the benefits of homeschooling. January in this Northern Hemisphere brings cold gales and pouring rain, and who wants to go out? Who wouldn’t want to build a wood fire, curl up with a book and some kiddos on your lap, and glory in having a cozy nest?

Children need time and space and quiet, people say, so that they can concentrate, and not be constantly interrupted to run errands or take part in some group activity out of the home. I agree heartily. I’m not going to post links to these blogs because there are too many good ones. You’ve probably read or written one yourself.

And I realized, as I was pondering the excellent explanations, that I am one of those children still. I had the kind of upbringing that some people might look at and say, “How boring!” But I never felt that. I thrived in the timelessness of those long country days with not much to do. There was always a book or magazine to read, or a letter to write to Grandma, or a new pattern to try sewing. This poem that Marigold posted hints at the blessedness:

Days

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

– Philip Larkin

For over 30 years I had my own children filling my days–at first, it was easy to stay home a lot, and everyone could pay attention to whatever it was they were focused on. As the children got older we were running around more.

Now, I don’t often get a whole day to be home. Going out in the morning, to the gym or shopping, makes it a challenge to gather my wits when I get back home. It seems that I am scattered for hours. I am particularly aware and thankful when I get one of those homey days that I took for granted back then, and this poem that Maria passed on tells how I feel.

PRICELESS GIFTS

An empty day without events.
And that is why
it grew immense
as space. And suddenly
happiness of being
entered me.

I heard
in my heartbeat
the birth of time
and each instant of life
one after the other
came rushing in
like priceless gifts.

~ Anna Swir (1909-1984), Polish poet