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.
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.