Tuesday, 12 February 2019

This Be the Verse by Philip Larkin (read by Larkin)

This is probably one of Philip Larkin's best-known poems. Short and to the point.  He was, in my opinion, one of a kind in the truest sense.  I cannot write poetry but in so many other ways I feel that this man was my inner-self. I am now reading as much as I can about him.  I absolutely love to hear the readings of his poetry and listening to interviews and articles on YouTube about this man.

He declined the invitation to be Poet Laureate. It was too late in his life, he thought he had nothing left in the writing of poetry.  He was up there with the creme-de-la-creme in poetry and will be sadly missed.


Snowbrush said...

I'm impressed. I hadn't realized that you posted in January, so I just listened to Audade for the first time ever. After I listened to your recent selection, "This Be the Verse," (which I listened to on Youtube by following the link on your blog), another poem by Larkin ("Church Going") automatically came up, and I listened to it too. Then came a reading of Aubade, which was done by another man (Tom O'Bedlam--what a name), and I found that I enjoyed his version better than Larkin's although Larkin's version was very good. Larkin died at 63. All that fear of death--a fear that surely got in the way of him enjoying life--and now he's dead, and has been dead since 1985. 34 years, and he'll never be any deader than he was then the day he died. I'm always struck my the thought that every day we're dead is another day on which it's as though we never lived.

My father died in this house. I kept him from falling as he tried to brush his teeth (in the bathroom that we built for him a year earlier), but he couldn't hit his mouth with his toothbrush, and I'm sure that neither of us wanted me to intevene. I helped him to bed, and he left this life a day and a half later with Peggy and me at his side. He died in the afternoon of a sunny day, and I was glad for both because I hate it when people die before dawn or in winter. I try to remember him--and my mother (I attended her death also)--but I'm struck by the thought that what I'm remembering isn't the person but memories of memories of my loved one. Everyday is a new day on which my father is dead, and I too have largely died to the person I was then (August, 1994), and, since I'll be seventy next month, it can't be too many years before I'm altogether dead.

It's most unlikely that you and I will ever meet, yet you mean more to me than does anyone (but Peggy) who lives nearby and who I could see often if I chose to do so. You're a bit older than I, so I suppose it's a more likely that you will die first. If you do, I wish I could believe that your life continued elsewhere, or that you might visit me in person to inform me of your death and to say goodbye, but of course neither of us believe that such things are likely.

You probably know that Larkin also wrote fiction under the name Brunette Coleman. I didn't know this. I didn't know anything about him other than that he was a poet.

"I cannot write poetry"

I suspect that, if you could set aside your belief that you can't write poetry, you might be able to write poetry. I know that I must seem insufferable for saying this, but I base it upon my knowledge of you and of the fact that Peggy is so lacking in confidence in her ability to write that she used to have me write get well cards, sympathy cards, and the occasional short letter for her. I told her that if she could simply write what was in her heart without any conscious desire to present herself in a certain way, she could write admirably, and it turned out that I was right. It's as if she had a wall of insecurity between her and her ability to express herself, and, although I can't swear to it, I think it possible that the same is true for you. In any event, I would dearly love to read anything that you wrote. Something I noticed about Larkin's poems is that, if they were written in prose form, most people would regard them as prose. Unless a poem rhymes, all that poetry is, in my mind, is distilled prose, a stripping of one's thoughts to the bare bones.


PhilipH said...

Hi Snowy, Thanks for your generous comment. It's hard for me to explain WHY I am so keen to delve into Larkin's life. Something of an infatuation, perhaps, with his mindset. I have four books on the go, including the biography by James Booth: Philip Larkin - Life, Art and Love, (pagination about 520), some essays and prose books, and poems, plus I'm awaiting delivery of Andrew Motion's biography of Larkin, (I think he was one of Larkin's closest friends), plus the novel "A Girl in Winter", Larkin's second novel (after "Jill") - but doubt if I'll be satisfied with this lot. YouTube is such a great source of information and background on this chap, including some old TV documentaries and interviews, one might consider reading is superfluous. Perhaps so, but whilst I can read I shall press on regardless.

I must again thank you for "Walker, R.N." which you sent me some weeks ago. A most remarkable account of this man "Johnnie Walker" as he was affectionately known. This was a true hero, a naval legend, whose battle in the Atlantic against German U-boats is unsurpassed. Not enough is known about the part that the Navy played in WW11. It was not all about Spitfires and Hurricanes, great though they were of course. We had to keep the food and other supplies coming through on the seas, constantly threatened by submarines seeking to destroy anything afloat. A great commander and captain, whose statue now stands in Liverpool, and rightly, if a tad late. Sad that he died so early in life, at 48, Thanks again.

I think of you as a true friend. One does not have to actually see or meet a person to get to know and appreciate him or her. I do believe you are hitting the big Seven-oh in a couple of weeks. Just a kid still, in comparison to this old Humbugger! Love and best wishes, Philip

Starshine Twinkletoes said...

I enjoyed this post for the post and the comments too, lovely to see the connection you both have with each other and know that I have such a strong one with both of you as well. Philip, we've been discussing the other Philip by email so you know how much I like him and how interesting it is that you've clicked with him. Poetry is such a wonderful way to express yourself and not just by writing it, also by reading the right pieces too. They tap into something primal I always think. Sending love Xx

PhilipH said...

Dear M. Very lovely to read your comment - you're my favourite poetess of course. You really are superb with words and artistry in other mediums. Hope you continue to get over your recent disabling misfortune and resume your rejuvenating affair with Claude.

Snowbrush said...

I watched "The Battle of Britain" recently along all the extras, and naturally thought of you. The filmmakers efforts to recreate major air battles with a very few planes were amazing. I was especially surprised to learn that the Messerschmidts were the one plane that they had in abundance since--as recently as the late 1960s--it was still the backbone of the Spanish Air Force. I also found it interesting that of the dozen flying Spitfires that could be located for the film, some were not in manufacture until later in the war, and since the props looked different, the newer planes were placed in the rear during the battle scenes.

PhilipH said...

Great film. I watched quite a few real "dog-fights" between the Spits vs ME109s in the 1940s. The swirling white vapour trails in the bright blue summer skies were, to all the kids shrieking encouragement, as these battles progressed, was exhilarating. We lived close to Croydon Airport and only a few short miles from Biggin Hill, the most over-worked fighter station during the war. Marvellous skill and bravery by the young fighter pilots, some still in their teens I believe.

I loved going to the air displays at Biggin Hill in the 1960s. And when the roar of the Rolls Royce engines swept overhead I couldn't help welling up, tears unstoppable.

Today, the UK is battling against France, Germany, Italy et al again, to regain our Sovereignty - but without the death and destruction of those olden days. How this latest confrontation concludes nobody yet knows.

Snowbrush said...

"I watched quite a few real "dog-fights" between the Spits vs ME109s in the 1940s."

Every time I see those air battles or watch those long barreled anti-aircraft cannon firing, I wonder how many people on the ground were hit by falling bullets, shrapnel, and pieces of airplanes. Did people express worry about such things back then? Certainly the kids in the movie didn't, and I trust that the filmmakers were doing their best to be realistic, the one way they knowingly failed was that they chose well-known actors, although those actors were much older than the original pilots.

"And when the roar of the Rolls Royce engines swept overhead I couldn't help welling up, tears unstoppable."

I suppose the horsepower varied with different issues, but the number 1,200 come to mind. It is my understanding that the Spit pilots had to be careful not to raise their tail-wheels too soon to avoid plowing nose-first into the runway, and to think that those men were only in their early twenties, and some were sent up with no more than seven hours flight time in the planes they were assigned to. While I've never heard those old engines in person (I can hardly count hearing them in films), I know I would become wrecked alongside you if I were ever so privileged as to stand alongside you because I know what they represented, which was the hope of a people united against a common enemy, and not a politically-manufactured enemy like the ones Trump creates, but the real thing. Nothing touches me more than a really good war movie or, better yet, a documentary. There's a good aviation museum not far from here, and I've cried just from looking at a parked B-17 "Flying Fortress," which was the bomber that the American crews flew out of England. I was very impressed with the heroism of those fellows trying to live through their required 25 or 30 missions, and then I learned that the Lancaster crews flew twice the number of missions, and that they flew them in planes that were defenseless. I really don't know how I would have fared had I been tested like those men.

"Today, the UK is battling against France, Germany, Italy et al again, to regain our Sovereignty"

Does this mean that you're in favor of Brexit? I heard a couple of days ago that the Labor Party has suffered seven resignations due to the perception of anti-Semitism on the part of the leadership. I was shocked by this, but I know that it wouldn't be something that I could ignore either.

PhilipH said...

"I wonder how many people on the ground were hit by falling bullets, shrapnel, and pieces of airplanes." I honestly don't know; must have been quite a few I guess. I do know that all the kids I knew and went to school with seemed to be excited with it all during the daytime. We used to "trade" shrapnel, bullet cases and shell caps for marbles, or cigarette cards or even conkers! It was the night raids that scared most of us. The sound of the German heavy bombers and the sound of bombs whistling down, followed by the crashing and shattering explosions. Croydon took plenty of punishment at night during the continuing blitz. My younger brother Geoff and I were evacuated to Leicestershire for a couple of months at one point but Geoff kept running away from the family who billeted him; we could not be kept together at the time. He had to be sent back home to Mum and I insisted we went back together.

I think it was during the latter part of the war, late '44 and early '45, that fear began to increase markedly, due to "the Buzz-Bomb" raids. These pilot-less jet bombs were VERY scary. You could hear their unique engine, sometimes spluttering, as they flew overhead. I often used to pray that it would carry on past us; if the engine stopped we just had to wait for the BANG! Geoff and I shared a bed and one night the bedroom windows were blown to smithereens by the explosion of the Doodle-bug as it plowed into a nearby house. Glass inflicted a vast amount of injury and death at times of blast from the explosions. Most of our windows had a criss-cross sticky brown paper in place to prevent flying glass. Often more in hope than prevention.

You rightly mention the Lancaster crews. The chaps, in my opinion, were the remarkable men. Far more fatalities suffered by these lads than fighter pilots. How they faced their constant missions so relentlessy is astonishing. RAF Wickenby is just 25 miles from where I now live and I am in love with this place. It had two squadrons of Lancasters during the last three years of the war and around 1,200 aircrew perished on raids over enemy territory. Seven men in each plane. I always meander around the small museum that exists in what was the control tower. Such a moving experience to see all the photographs, artefacts and other memorabilia in this dedicated room. I've attended remembrance parades at Wickenby and it was such a privilege to chat with one or two ex-aircrew at these events, one a "tail-end Charlie (gunner)" and another a navigator. Doubt they are now still with us, sadly.

Lincolnshire, where I now live, is known as Bomber County still. There are dozens of old RAF airfields within about a 40-mile radius of Grimsby. These airfields were all farmland one day and a bomber airfield the next. It was an astonishing feat of logistics and building, in double-quick time. Most remain unused, although Wickenby and a couple others have private flying businesses. I took my daughter Clare and my two grandkids, Jake and Ellie, to Wickenby one Sunday and we all had a private 'flip' around the district for half an hour each. I enjoyed it and so did they.

Better shut up now.
Cheers, Philip

Marion said...

I love Larkin! This poem always makes me laugh...such a curmudgeon! Back in the day when someone was depressed, there was no Prozac or other pills to pop to dull the senses. We get Larkin, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, etc. who fought that black dog valiantly and put it into their art.

Thank you for asking about my pain battle. My knee is finally easing up after 6 grueling months of physio! I don’t have my full flexibility yet, but it’s about 118 degrees. I’ll be done in two weeks then I’ll be mentally preparing for a hip replacement. By God, I’ll be a new woman! I may take up jogging! Not! I did join the gym in December and walk, swim and bicycle which has helped me greatly. Gotta keep moving or freeze up like an icicle. LOL!

I hope you are well and happy! I always appreciate your kind, thoughtful words, Philip. xo

PhilipH said...

Marion, good to hear that the knee op is healing and less painful. My wife has had both hips replace, with approximately a six-month gap, and she was in the hospital for only five days. Complete success; healing quickly afterwards. Wish you well.

Snowbrush said...

I hope Marion will tell us how long she expects to be in the hospital because I would expect it to be no more than a night. Putting people out sooner here is a way to save money and to keep people from catching nosocomial infections.

Snowbrush said...

Gosh, Philip, do you not realize that your fans are clamoring for more frequent posts? Marion even suggested that she might even try to get a non-restraining order to force you to post more.

Snowbrush said...

Hey, buddy, I hope you're doing okay.

PhilipH said...

Still plodding along. Thanks for your visit.

Snowbrush said...

What I want for Christmas is for Philip to post weekly for the coming year!

Snowbrush said...

Philip, I miss you horribly.

PhilipH said...

Snowy, I'm in some distress and have been unwell for some weeks. Waiting for yet more medication in a day or two. Bad circulation causing severe foot, ankle and lower leg pain. No interest in anything - other than a very long sleep. Sorry to be such a misery. Best love, Philip

Snowbrush said...

Philip, I'm honored that you would write at all when you feel so bad. When last you emailed--in March, I think--you were sick and awaiting test results. I won't ask questions that would burden you to answer, so I can but hope that you haven't been ill for these many months.

Best love to you as well,