Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Home is so Sad"

For the benefit of all to whom I have quoted it over the years, and because I always think of it when I'm about to set off on my travels, I thought I'd reproduce Philip Larkin's poem here as I finish my preparations for another jaunt. Actually, I was always more aware of the pathos of the abandoned house when I was a child - perhaps because we tended to go away in the summer for 8 weeks at a time. At that time in my life, eight weeks felt like forever, and I recall how our house seemed totally strange when we returned at the end of the summer. Even the end-of-term feeling from the end of June seemed preserved and ineffably sad as we prepared to start school again at the very end of August, in the days when the summer holidays were not rudely terminated in the middle of the month. I think Larkin captures all I have ever felt about this phenomenon.

Home is so Sad
by Philip Larkin

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,

Shaped to the comfort of the last to go

As if to win them back. Instead, bereft

Of anyone to please, it withers so,

Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,

A joyous shot at how things ought to be,

Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:

Look at the pictures and the cutlery.

The music in the piano stool. That vase.


  1. Do "as", "was" and "vase" rhyme in Larkin's idiolect? If not, why? Future generations of linguists will worry themselves silly trying to work out 20th century pronunciation. Compare the Augustan's fastidiousness, which enables us to deduce the Irishness of 18th century English:
    "Hail thou, great Anna, whom three realms obey!
    Dost sometimes counsel take, and some times tea."
    (Punctuation not guaranteed.)

    Why are you going to Las Vegas (Nevada, one presumes, and not New Mexico: don't make the mistake of a friend of mine who went to the latter in error, and found not much more than tumbleweed!)? It is indeed a place one ought to see at least once; and you can get to the Boulder/Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon fairly easily from it, not to mention London Bridge. Enjoy.

  2. Oh goodness! I just happen to be house-sitting for some friends. Their home is built with, LARGE windows. Getting a goodly amount of wind, the peaks of the roof "catch" it and produce the most hauntingly "sad" sound. I have told them (my friends) that their house is actually crying for their return! As I pass through the house, it is so true that I look at their treasures left behind and a pang of sadness hits me right in the heart. Of course, I am no more than an old sap!!!!

    Oh, and I do so hope your trip here to the US will be one to remember with fondness and not disdain!!!


  3. abf, any pronunciation that gets three to sound like tray is going to confuse future generations.

  4. abf, Larkin is extremely fastidious - it's just a matter of allowing the visual as well as the auditory input. One of my faves from him is the rhyme of "failures" with "lobelias" in "Toads Revisited" - which actually works beautifully in Larkin's accent!

  5. I just loved it anyway Chris!