Philip Larkin

Dockery And Son

'Dockery was junior to you, Wasn't he?' said the Dean. 'His son's here now.' Death-suited, visitant, I nod. 'And do You keep in touch with-' Or remember how Black-gowned, unbreakfasted, and still half-tight We used to stand before that desk, to give 'Our version' of 'these incidents last night'? I try the door of where I used to live: Locked. The lawn spreads dazzlingly wide. A known bell chimes. I catch my train, ignored. Canal and clouds and colleges subside Slowly from view. But Dockery, good Lord, Anyone up today must have been born In '43, when I was twenty-one. If he was younger, did he get this son At nineteen, twenty? Was he that withdrawn High-collared public-schoolboy, sharing rooms With Cartwright who was killed? Well, it just shows How much . . . How little . . . Yawning, I suppose I fell asleep, waking at the fumes And furnace-glares of Sheffield, where I changed, And ate an awful pie, and walked along The platform to its end to see the ranged Joining and parting lines reflect a strong Unhindered moon. To have no son, no wife, No house or land still seemed quite natural. Only a numbness registered the shock Of finding out how much had gone of life, How widely from the others. Dockery, now: Only nineteen, he must have taken stock Of what he wanted, and been capable Of . . . No, that's not the difference: rather, how Convinced he was he should be added to! Why did he think adding meant increase? To me it was dilution. Where do these Innate assumptions come from? Not from what We think truest, or most want to do: Those warp tight-shut, like doors. They're more a style Our lives bring with them: habit for a while, Suddenly they harden into all we've got And how we got it; looked back on, they rear Like sand-clouds, thick and close, embodying For Dockery a son, for me nothing, Nothing with all a son's harsh patronage. Life is first boredom, then fear. Whether or not we use it, it goes, And leaves what something hidden from us chose, And age, and then the only end of age.

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