Sunday, August 1, 2010

No Road - Philip Larkin

Another by Philip Larkin.  (Bio info, etc. with earlier ones.  Click on "Talking in Bed": it will speak to you.)   Larkin is known for his control of form and language: consider how the extended metaphor in this one is so concisely written.   And how much is dealt with in so few lines.  The first verse illustrates that quote from the French philosopher Blase Pascal: "The heart has its reasons, of which Reason knows nothing about", that the best rational decisions about a relationship don't stand a chance against what the heart feels.  The second verse is a warning that, when the traffic is one way, even that heart can only take so much neglect before the artifices of Reason will win.  The closing verse is a peek into a future that can yet be prevented....but only if the warning is heeded and the effort to keep the road open is equal and mutual.  The last four lines have always made me shudder: so powerful in conveying the real pain but false power in the outcome..
No Road

Since we agreed to let the road between us
Fall to disuse,
And bricked our gates up, planted trees to screen us,
And turned all time’s eroding agents loose,
Silence, and space, and strangers – our neglect
Has not had much effect.

Leaves drift unswept, perhaps; grass creeps unmown;
No other change.
So clear it stands, so little overgrown,
Walking that way tonight would not seem strange,
And still would be allowed. A little longer,
And time will be the stronger,

Drafting a world where no such road will run
From you to me;
To watch that world come up like a cold sun,
Rewarding others, is my liberty.
Not to prevent it is my will’s fulfillment.
Willing it, my ailment.

                                                                                              Philip Larkin

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