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Vers de Société

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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. Copyright © Estate of Philip Larkin.  Reprinted by permission of Faber and Faber, Ltd.
Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)
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Vers de Société

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