Philip Larkin

Essential Beauty

In frames as large as rooms that face all ways And block the ends of streets with giant loaves, Screen graves with custard, cover slums with praise Of motor-oil and cuts of salmon, shine Perpetually these sharply-pictured groves Of how life should be. High above the gutter A silver knife sinks into golden butter, A glass of milk stands in a meadow, and Well-balanced families, in fine Midsummer weather, owe their smiles, their cars, Even their youth, to that small cube each hand Stretches towards. These, and the deep armchairs Aligned to cups at bedtime, radiant bars (Gas or electric), quarter-profile cats By slippers on warm mats, Reflect none of the rained-on streets and squares They dominate outdoors. Rather, they rise Serenely to proclaim pure crust, pure foam, Pure coldness to our live imperfect eyes That stare beyond this world, where nothing's made As new or washed quite clean, seeking the home All such inhabit. There, dark raftered pubs Are filled with white-clothed ones from tennis-clubs, And the boy puking his heart out in the Gents Just missed them, as the pensioner paid A halfpenny more for Granny Graveclothes' Tea To taste old age, and dying smokers sense Walking towards them through some dappled park As if on water that unfocused she No match lit up, nor drag ever brought near, Who now stands newly clear, Smiling, and recognising, and going dark.

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