Quotes from Collected Poems

Philip Larkin ·  240 pages

Rating: (7.3K votes)

“Uncontradicting solitude
Supports me on its giant palm;
And like a sea-anemone
Or simple snail, there cautiously
Unfolds, emerges, what I am.”
― Philip Larkin, quote from Collected Poems

“When I was a child, I thought,
Casually, that solitude
Never needed to be sought.
Something everybody had,
Like nakedness, it lay at hand,
Not specially right or specially wrong,
A plentiful and obvious thing
Not at all hard to understand.

Then, after twenty, it became
At once more difficult to get
And more desired -- though all the same
More undesirable; for what
You are alone has, to achieve
The rank of fact, to be expressed
In terms of others, or it's just
A compensating make-believe.

Much better stay in company!
To love you must have someone else,
Giving requires a legatee,
Good neighbours need whole parishfuls
Of folk to do it on -- in short,
Our virtues are all social; if,
Deprived of solitude, you chafe,
It's clear you're not the virtuous sort.

Viciously, then, I lock my door.
The gas-fire breathes. The wind outside
Ushers in evening rain. Once more
Uncontradicting solitude
Supports me on its giant palm;
And like a sea-anemone
Or simple snail, there cautiously
Unfolds, emerges, what I am."

(Best Company)”
― Philip Larkin, quote from Collected Poems

“...the breath that sharpens life is life itself...”
― Philip Larkin, quote from Collected Poems

“Heads in the Women's Ward

On pillow after pillow lies
The wild white hair and staring eyes;
Jaws stand open; necks are stretched
With every tendon sharply sketched;
A bearded mouth talks silently
To someone no one else can see.

Sixty years ago they smiled
At lover, husband, first-born child.

Smiles are for youth. For old age come
Death's terror and delirium.”
― Philip Larkin, quote from Collected Poems

“When getting my nose in a book
Cured most things short of school,
It was worth ruining my eyes
To know I could still keep cool,
And deal out the old right hook
To dirty dogs twice my size.

Later, with inch-thick specs,
Evil was just my lark:
Me and my coat and fangs
Had ripping times in the dark.
The women I clubbed with sex!
I broke them up like meringues.

Don't read much now: the dude
Who lets the girl down before
The hero arrives, the chap
Who's yellow and keeps the store
Seem far too familiar. Get stewed:
Books are a load of crap.

(A Study Of Reading Habits) ”
― Philip Larkin, quote from Collected Poems


A stationary sense . . . as, I suppose,
I shall have, till my single body grows
        Inaccurate, tired;
Then I shall start to feel the backward pull
Take over, sickening and masterful —
        Some say, desired.

And this must be the prime of life . . . I blink,
As if at pain; for it is pain, to think
        This pantomime
Of compensating act and counter-act,
Defeat and counterfeit, makes up, in fact,
        My ablest time.”
― Philip Larkin, quote from Collected Poems

“We should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time”
― Philip Larkin, quote from Collected Poems

“Time is the echo of an axe
Within a wood.”
― Philip Larkin, quote from Collected Poems

“The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.”
― Philip Larkin, quote from Collected Poems

Long Sight In Age

They say eyes clear with age,
As dew clarifies air
To sharpen evenings,
As if time put an edge
Round the last shape of things
To show them there;
The many-levelled trees,
The long soft tides of grass
Wrinkling away the gold
Wind-ridden waves- all these,
They say, come back to focus
As we grow old.”
― Philip Larkin, quote from Collected Poems

“What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.”
― Philip Larkin, quote from Collected Poems

About the author

Philip Larkin
Born place: in Coventry, West Midlands, England, The United Kingdom
Born date August 9, 1922
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