Another gloomy old sod

was of course P. Larkin. Almost the high point of my journalistic career came last year when Bob Conquest handed me his copy of High Windows, inscribed by Larkin with a joke about limericks.

Those bits of Larkin that eveyone quotes and knows really aren’t his best. Even the characteristically gloomy ones aren’t his best either. What is wonderful are the moments when a coarse joy mounts from the darkness: something not just vulgar, but full of jazzy relish. _Livings_, in High Windows is one of my favourites. Here’s another:

bq. Jan van Hogspeuw staggers to the door
And pisses at the dark. Outside, the rain
Courses in cart-ruts down the deep mud lane.
Inside, Dirk Dogstoerd pours himself some more,
And holds a cinder to his clay with tongs,
Belching out smoke. Old Prijck snores with the gale,
His skull face firelit; someone behind drinks ale,
And opens mussels, and croaks scraps of songs
Towards the ham-hung rafters about love.
Dirk deals the cards. Wet century-wide trees
Clash in surrounding starlessness above
This lamplit cave, where Jan turns back and farts,
Gobs at the grate, and hits the queen of hearts.
Rain, wind and fire! The secret, bestial peace!

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2 Responses to Another gloomy old sod

  1. Louise says:

    A bit reminiscent of Francois Villon, unfortunately I can’t find a good English translation of ‘The Ballad of Fat Margot’ on line, so here’s part of a Scots translation by Bill Tait

    bq. Then we mak peace; she slips a monstrous fart
    (schoe’s ay as blawn up as a bluid-swelled bug)
    Lauchin, schoe lays her hand on me, an: “Start!
    Vite! Vite!” she says, and gies my prick a nug…
    Syne baith dead drunk, we sleep as soon’s a clug
    Bot when schoe wakens and still feels da yuck
    schoe climms on tap, fur faer her seed wants muck;
    I groan below, as ony plank pressed flat.
    wi sic bedwark, schoe’s laid me fair in bruck,
    Here in dis whorehouse where we had wis at.

    You get the picture!


  2. le Patron says:

    Thanks for that. Louise. I put it in blockquoote, which I’ve been meaning to do all week. There is a certain amount of html available in comments: something like

    p,em,strong,blockquote (and its cite tag),cite,li,ul,ol,a (href) (title),br/, and the classes “loony” and “sane”.

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