This uncollected poem appeared in 1973 in a Keepsake for the London School of Oriental and African Studies, whose librarian, B. C. Bloomfield, was Larkin’s bibliographer.


Continuing to live—that is, repeat
A habit formed to get necessaries—
Is nearly always losing, or going without.
   It varies.

This loss of interest, hair, and enterprise—
Ah, if the game were poker, yes,
You might discard them, draw a full house!
   But it’s chess.

And once you have walked the length of your mind, what
You command is clear as a lading-list.
Anything else must not, for you, be thought
   To exist.

And what’s the profit? Only that, in time,
We half-identify the blind impress
All our behavings bear, may trace it home.
   But to confess,

On that green evening when our death begins,
Just what it was, is hardly satisfying,
Since it applied only to one man once,
   And that one dying.
—Philip Larkin

PHILIP LARKIN (1922 – 1985)

He’s gone somewhere
But left his writing,
Plain and inviting
As a Windsor chair.

The sitters? Every sort.
Each struck that artless pose
We face our maker in. God knows
The likeness hurt.

His signature’s
Worm-drill and gleam of cherry
—Vacant now? Unwary
Reader, all yours.

Copyright © 1985 the Philip Larkin Estate

This Issue

January 16, 1986