Friday, February 2, 2007

Philip Larkin, "First Sight"

Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.

As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth's immeasurable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow.


From The Whitsun Weddings (1964)

Shifting from thoughts of suffering and death, we end the week on birth and hope. Such sentiments are uncharacteristic for Larkin, who tends to keep a steady and ironic eye on the petty miseries and shortcomings of life. Here, however, he portrays such a state as being not necessarily permanent - that the world itself may hold a revelation in store. Despite the literal appropriateness of 'revelation' and the reverence in which this transformation is held, the paradise Larkin heralds is not heavenly, but here on Earth. Furthermore, it is not something awaited, but something that exists currently and is merely under cover. What is hoped for is a new means of perception, the melting away of one's cloak of sorrows, so that one is reaquainted with the sustaining beauty that waited all along.

(Read more about Philip Larkin:

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