In a Larkin Mood

I've been a bit glum lately, what with the coming of Autumn and an elderly dog who is suddenly very ill. Which means I've been in the mood for the poems of Philip Larkin, a pessimist of a poet if ever there was one.  His poem "The Trees" purports to be about May, but at its heart it's about the inevitability of November.

The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread.
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old?  No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

I love how relentless that last line is.  Spring is temporary and yet we can't help falling for its promises.  All those tender new leaves and blossoms assert themselves and we believe in fresh beginnings.  We can't seem to help ourselves.  Even if the whole process is exhausting which, for a curmudgeon like Larkin, it is.  


  1. the close bracket to this poem, so to speak, is Hopkins's "Ah Margaret, are you grieving?" Life encompassed in two poems.


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