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Nemerov

 

Howard Nemerov
1920-1991

"Larkin"
[Check out Philip Larkin's poetry]

 

Imagine Larkin going among the dead,
Not yet at home there, as he wasn't here,
And doing them the way he did The Old Fools,
With edged contempt becoming sympathy
Of a sort, and sympathy contempt for death.

It's a quirky spirit he carried through the arch
To aftertime, making a salted fun
Of the holy show and grudging his respect
For all but truth, the master of a style
Able to see things as he saw through things.

He was our modern; in his attitude,
And not in all that crap about free verse.
He understood us, not as we would be
Understood in smartass critical remarks,
But as we are when we stand in our shoes and say.

Our Roman, too; he might not have cared to be,
But what I mean is this: you wander through
The galleries entranced with shepherdess and nymph,
The marble or alabaster faery and fay,
Then suddenly you come on him, the stone

Of his face scored up and scarred with the defeat
An honorable life has brought him to,
And know that backing up the tales we tell
Is mortal this, the what-it's-all-about,
So that you turn away, the lesson told,

That's it. Dear Warlock-Williams, might you weep?
The penetrative emptiness of that gaze
Kindly accusing none, forgiving none,
Is just the look upon the face of truth,
Mortality knowing itself as told to do,

And death the familiar comes as no surprise
"Ah, Warlock-Williams, are you here as well?"
With Auden, with Hardy, with the other great and dead,
Dear Larkin of the anastrophic mind,
Forever now among the undeceived.

© Howard Nemerov
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