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N is for Next, Please


British novelist Philip Larkin (1922-1985) left his mark on literature in multiple ways. His most famous books were A Girl in Winter and Jill. He also served as editor of The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse, a staple for college and university English classes, and received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1965.

Here’s a classic Larkin poem.

[Mature language warning]

Next, Please
By Philip Larkin

Always too eager for the future, we
Pick up bad habits of expectancy.
Something is always approaching; every day
Till then we say,

Watching from a bluff the tiny, clear
Sparkling armada of promises draw near.
How slow they are! And how much time they waste,
Refusing to make haste!

Yet still they leave us holding wretched stalks
Of disappointment, for, though nothing balks
Each big approach, leaning with brasswork prinked,
Each rope distinct,

Flagged, and the figurehead with golden tits
Arching our way, it never anchors; it's
No sooner present than it turns to past.
Right to the last.

We think each one will heave to and unload
All good into our lives, all we are owed
For waiting so devoutly and so long.
But we are wrong:

Only one ship is seeking us, a black-
Sailed unfamiliar, towing at her back
A huge and birdless silence. In her wake
No waters breed or break.

 
Last year’s A to Z post: Naming the Nemesis 

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Image/s:
The Jeanie Johnston
By William Murphy
Favorite Classic Poems
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