September 08, 2014

Philip Larkin - 'On Being Twenty-six'

As I savour these last few minutes and moments of my 26 years in this society and make it 27, I want to share my cartoon of Philip Larkin and his poem, 'On Being Twenty-six.' In a period of change and challenge and in a time of self-doubt and crippling comparison, Larkin's word are hugely soothing and encouraging. I also want to share this as a shout out for Lyra McKee as she approaches the 26 mark and battles the precarious and uncertain forces of the freelance world. You too Lyra can take strength and guidance from a successful poet who often thought he was useless. Here it is,  Philip Larkin 'On Being Twenty-six':
I feared these present years, 
      The middle twenties, 
When deftness disappears, 
And each event is 
Freighted with a source-encrusting doubt, 
      And turned to drought. 

I thought: this pristine drive 
      Is sure to flag 
At twenty-four or -five; 
And now the slag 
Of burnt-out childhood proves that I was right. 
      What caught alight 

Quickly consumed in me, 
      As I foresaw. 
Talent, felicity— 
These things withdraw, 
And are succeeded by a dingier crop 
      That come to stop; 

Or else, certainty gone, 
      Perhaps the rest, 
Tarnishing, linger on 
As second-best. 
Fabric of fallen minarets is trash. 
      And in the ash 

Of what has pleased and passed 
      Is now no more 
Than struts of greed, a last 
Charred smile, a clawed 
Crustacean hatred, blackened pride—of such 
      I once made much. 

And so, if I were sure 
      I have no chance 
To catch again that pure 
Unnoticed stance, 
I would calcine the outworn properties, 
      Live on what is. 

But it dies hard, that world; 
      Or, being dead, 
Putrescently is pearled, 
For I, misled, 
Make on my mind the deepest wound of all: 
      Think to recall 

At any moment, states 
      Long since dispersed; 
That if chance dissipates 
The best, the worst 
May scatter equally upon a touch. 
      I kiss, I clutch, 

Like a daft mother, putrid 
That can and will forbid 
All grist to me 
Except devaluing dichotomies: 
      Nothing, and paradise.

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