Vers de Société

By Philip Larkin 1922–1985 Philip Larkin
My wife and I have asked a crowd of craps
To come and waste their time and ours: perhaps   
You’d care to join us? In a pig’s arse, friend.   
Day comes to an end.
The gas fire breathes, the trees are darkly swayed.   
And so Dear Warlock-Williams: I’m afraid—

Funny how hard it is to be alone.
I could spend half my evenings, if I wanted,   
Holding a glass of washing sherry, canted   
Over to catch the drivel of some bitch   
Who’s read nothing but Which;
Just think of all the spare time that has flown

Straight into nothingness by being filled   
With forks and faces, rather than repaid   
Under a lamp, hearing the noise of wind,   
And looking out to see the moon thinned   
To an air-sharpened blade.
A life, and yet how sternly it’s instilled

All solitude is selfish. No one now
Believes the hermit with his gown and dish   
Talking to God (who’s gone too); the big wish   
Is to have people nice to you, which means   
Doing it back somehow.
Virtue is social. Are, then, these routines

Playing at goodness, like going to church?
Something that bores us, something we don’t do well   
(Asking that ass about his fool research)   
But try to feel, because, however crudely,   
It shows us what should be?
Too subtle, that. Too decent, too. Oh hell,

Only the young can be alone freely.
The time is shorter now for company,
And sitting by a lamp more often brings
Not peace, but other things.
Beyond the light stand failure and remorse   
Whispering Dear Warlock-Williams: Why, of course—

Philip Larkin, “Vers de Société” from Collected Poems. Used by permission of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representative of the Estate of Philip Larkin.

Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)

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Poet Philip Larkin 1922–1985

POET’S REGION England

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Humor & Satire

Poetic Terms Couplet

 Philip  Larkin

Biography

Philip Larkin, an eminent writer in postwar England, was a national favorite poet who was commonly referred to as "England's other Poet Laureate" until his death in 1985. Indeed, when the position of laureate became vacant in 1984, many poets and critics favored Larkin's appointment, but the shy, provincial author preferred to avoid the limelight. An "artist of the first rank" in the words of Southern Review contributor John . . .

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SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Humor & Satire

POET’S REGION England

Poetic Terms Couplet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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