Poetry

Philip Larkin – High Windows

“I wonder if
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
And thought, That’ll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark

About hell and that, or having to hide
What you think of the priest.

– Philip Larkin


Composed in 1967, at the height of the sexual revolution and the Summer of Love, Philip Larkin’s High Windows starts with the theme of freedom and generational shifts and ends with a mysterious and oblique sense of transcendence. Written in Larkin’s simple and direct style that characterized the poet as one of the most significant in British literary history, the poem calls out the tendency to view happiness elsewhere and in hindsight, as a kind of relief and an absence of whatever constraints we feel ourselves under at a particular moment in time.


 
 
High Windows
 
When I see a couple of kids
And guess he’s fucking her and she’s
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is paradise
 
Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives—
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide
 
To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
And thought, That’ll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark
 
About hell and that, or having to hide
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long slide
Like free bloody birds. And immediately
 
Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

 

Philip Larkin (1922-1985)
From: The Complete Poems

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