Philip Larkin

To The Sea

To step over the low wall that divides Road from concrete walk above the shore Brings sharply back something known long before— The miniature gaiety of seasides. Everything crowds under the low horizon: Steep beach, blue water, towels, red bathing caps, The small hushed waves’ repeated fresh collapse Up the warm yellow sand, and further off A white steamer stuck in the afternoon— Still going on, all of it, still going on! To lie, eat, sleep in hearing of the surf (Ears to transistors, that sound tame enough Under the sky), or gently up and down Lead the uncertain children, frilled in white And grasping at enormous air, or wheel The rigid old along for them to feel A final summer, plainly still occurs As half an annual pleasure, half a rite, As when, happy at being on my own, I searched the sand for Famous Cricketers, Or, farther back, my parents, listeners To the same seaside quack, first became known. Strange to it now, I watch the cloudless scene: The same clear water over smoothed pebbles, The distant bathers’ weak protesting trebles Down at its edge, and then the cheap cigars, The chocolate-papers, tea-leaves, and, between The rocks, the rusting soup-tins, till the first Few families start the trek back to the cars. The white steamer has gone. Like breathed-on glass The sunlight has turned milky. If the worst Of flawless weather is our falling short, It may be that through habit these do best, Coming to the water clumsily undressed Yearly; teaching their children by a sort Of clowning; helping the old, too, as they ought.

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