Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Philip Larkin on snapshots. Philip Larkin was born in Coventry, England. Chosen to succeed Sir John Betjeman as poet laureate, he turned down the job. Larkin was known for wit, melancholy, and flawless form. He wrote, ``I believe that every poem must be its own sole freshly-created universe,'' not referring to other poems or symbols. He was also librarian at the University of Hull and wrote jazz reviews for the London Daily Telegraph. This excerpt is from ``Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album.''

But O, photography! as no art is, Faithful and disappointing! that records Dull days as dull, and hold-it smiles as frauds, And will not censor blemishes Like washing-lines, and Hall's-Distemper boards. But shows the cat as disinclined, and shades A chin as doubled when it is, what grace Your candor thus confers upon her face! How overwhelmingly persuades That this is a real girl in a real place, In every sense empirically true! Or is it just the past? Those flowers, that gate, These misty parks and motors, lacerate Simply by being over; you Contract my heart by looking out of date. Yes, true; but in the end, surely, we cry Not only at exclusion, but because It leaves us free to cry. We know what was Won't call on us to justify Our grief, however hard we yowl across The gap from eye to page. So I am left To mourn (without a chance of consequence) You, balanced on a bike against a fence; To wonder if you'd spot the theft Of this one of you bathing; to condense, In short, a past that no one now can share, No matter whose your future; calm and dry, It holds you like a heaven, and you lie Unvariably lovely there, Smaller and clearer as the years go by. ``Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album'' is from ``The Less Deceived'' by Philip Larkin and is reprinted by permission of The Marvell Press, London.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.