Sunday, September 16, 2007

Right Now-1

At thirty-one when some are rich ...               by Philip Larkin

At thirty-one when some are rich
And others dead,
I, being neither, have a job instead,
But come each evening back to a high room
Above deep gardenfuls of air, on which
Already has been laid an autumn bloom.

And here, instead of planning how
I can best thrive,
How best win fame and money while alive,
I sit down, supper over, and begin
One of the letters of a kind I now
Feel most of my spare time is going in:

I mean, letters to women—no,
Not of the sort
The papers tell us get read out in court,
Leading directly to or from the bed.
Love-letters only in a sense: they owe
Too much elsewhere to come under that head.

Too much kindness, for a start;
I know, none better,
The eyelessness of days without a letter;
Too much to habit ('Stop? But why on earth...?'):
Too much to an unwillingness to part
With people wise enough to see my worth.

I'm kind, but not kinetic—don't
Enlist a word
Simply because its deed has been deferred;
Ends in themselves, my letters plot no change;
They carry nothing dutiable; they won't
Aspire, astound, establish or estrange.

Why write them, then? Are they in fact
Just compromise,
Amiable residue when each denies
The other's want? Or are they not so nice,
Stand-ins in each case simply for an act?
Mushrooms or virtue? or, toadstools or vice?

They taste the same. So summer ends,
And nights draw in.
Another evening wasted! I begin
Writing the envelope, and a bitter smoke
Of self-contempt, of boredom, too, ascends.
What use is an endearment and a joke?

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