Week 3: No Road, by Philip Larkin

No Road

Since we agreed to let the road between us
Fall to disuse,
And bricked our gates up, planted trees to screen us,
And turned all time’s eroding agents loose,
Silence, and space, and strangers – our neglect
Has not had much effect.

Leaves drift unswept, perhaps; grass creeps unmown;
No other change.
So clear it stands, so little overgrown,
Walking that way tonight would not seem strange,
And still would be allowed. A little longer,
And time would be the stronger,

Drafting a world where no such road will run
From you to me;
To watch that world come up like a cold sun,
Rewarding others, is my liberty,
Not to prevent it is my will’s fulfilment,
Willing it, my ailment.

Philip Larkin

This was the first Philip Larkin poem I ever read, and I was immediately taken by its elegiac, autumnal quality and the beautiful balance of the closing lines. More than that, the poem was like a kind of homecoming: the modernists much in vogue in my youth had done some interesting things but I felt something had got lost along the way, some connection with the ordinary intelligent free-spirited reader, and it seemed to me that here was someone capable of restoring that connection.

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2 thoughts on “Week 3: No Road, by Philip Larkin

  1. I also think that he developed his bluff, grumpy, grammar-school-John-Betjeman manner to protect his more ‘poetic’ poems from critical abuse – ‘Cut Grass’ for example, in contrast to ‘The Building’ or ‘The Old Fools’.

    • Yes, I must admit I find some aspects of Larkin’s persona less than appealing, but at the same time he could be very funny, and if his spirit sometimes seems more exacting than generous, perhaps that’s what the craft needs. And I certainly can’t let any disapproval of his attitudes stand in the way of my admiration for his accomplishment. As Seb Coe used to say, at the end of the day it’s all about the guy who gets to the tape first, and many of Larkin’s poems do have for me the quality of athletic feats, like beautifully executed mile races: lope along for a couple of laps, start winding up the pace in the third, and then the big kick for home….

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