national poetry month, day 26

A homecoming poem by Philip Larkin, guest curated and with an introduction by scrufflibrarian. Beautiful.

I don’t think “Here” is as widely known or loved as “The Whitsun Weddings”, but it features the same journey, made in reverse.

My love for this poem is wrapped up in my love for my hometown, and I think of it every time I come back home by train. 

Some of the city has changed, of course, since 1961 when it was first published — you’d struggle to find workmen at dawn in fields outside the city, and (perhaps sadly) the water is no longer crowded with barges. But the approach alongside the river, the “rich industrial shadows”, the “shining gull-marked mud”… all there. And (with feigned indignity) “a cut-price crowd, urban but simple … dwelling where only salesmen and relations come” — all still true.

Thank you for publishing my two picks over the last few days. I’ve really enjoyed following National Poetry Month here. 


Swerving east, from rich industrial shadows
And traffic all night north; swerving through fields
Too thin and thistled to be called meadows,
And now and then a harsh-named halt, that shields
Workmen at dawn; swerving to solitude
Of skies and scarecrows, haystacks, hares and pheasants,
And the widening river’s slow presence,
The piled gold clouds, the shining gull-marked mud,

Gathers to the surprise of a large town:
Here domes and statues, spires and cranes cluster
Beside grain-scattered streets, barge-crowded water,
And residents from raw estates, brought down
The dead straight miles by stealing flat-faced trolleys,
Push through plate-glass swing doors to their desires – 
Cheap suits, red kitchen-ware, sharp shoes, iced lollies,
Electric mixers, toasters, washers, driers –

A cut-price crowd, urban yet simple, dwelling
Where only salesmen and relations come
Within a terminate and fishy-smelling
Pastoral of ships up streets, the slave museum,
Tattoo-shops, consulates, grim head-scarfed wives;
And out beyond its mortgaged half-built edges
Fast-shadowed wheat-fields, running high as hedges,
Isolate villages, where removed lives

Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands
Like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;
And past the poppies bluish neutral distance
Ends the land suddenly beyond a beach
Of shapes and shingle. Here is unfenced existence:
Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.

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