Tuesday, November 11, 2008

MCMXIV

Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day--

And the countryside not caring:
The place names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat's restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word--the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages,
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

--Philip Larkin

3 comments:

bitternsweet said...

Such a beautiful rendering of such a terrible time.

Dr. Virago said...

Thankyouthankyouthankyou for posting this. I was driving myself mad to remember which Larkin poem it was that was about WWI and that was partially quoted in The History Boys. Why on earth I couldn't recall that the title was 1914 (stupid Roman numerals), I don't know.

Flavia said...

Thanks, guys. I love it too. I teach from The Oxford Book of War Poetry when I teach my war lit class, and though it has serious drawbacks as a teaching volume, it's nice to have so many great poems together in one volume.

(This one seemed perhaps more appropriate, for the day, than "Eighth Air Force" or "Dulce et Decorum Est".)