Philip Larkin

On Being Twenty-six

I feared these present years, The middle twenties, When deftness disappears, And each event is Freighted with a source—encrusting doubt, And turned to drought. I thought: this pristine drive Is sure to flag At twenty—four or —five; And now the slag Of burnt—out childhood proves that I was right. What caught alight Quickly consumed in me, As I foresaw. Talent, felicity— These things withdraw, And are succeeded by a dingier crop That come to stop; Or else, certainty gone, Perhaps the rest, Tarnishing, linger on As second—best. Fabric of fallen minarets is trash. And in the ash Of what has pleased and passed Is now no more Than struts of greed, a last Charred smile, a clawed Crustacean hatred, blackened pride—of such I once made much. And so, if I were sure I have no chance To catch again that pure Unnoticed stance, I would calcine the outworn properties, Live on what is. But it dies hard, that world; Or, being dead, Putrescently is pearled, For I, misled, Make on my mind the deepest wound of all: Think to recall At any moment, states Long since dispersed; That if chance dissipates The best, the worst May scatter equally upon a touch. I kiss, I clutch, Like a daft mother, putrid Infancy, That can and will forbid All grist to me Except devaluing dichotomies: Nothing, and paradise.

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