Saturday, November 29, 2014

`But He Continued to Make Phrases'

On this evening, Nov. 29, --a Friday—in 1985, Philip Larkin fell twice in his home, the second time in the downstairs bathroom. James Booth in Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love (Bloomsbury Press, 2014) describes the grim scene (one Larkin, in another context, with another protagonist, might have found grimly amusing in its grotesquerie) like this: 

“His legs were wedged against the door and his face was pressing against one of the central heating pipes. Monica [Jones] could hear him whispering `Hot! Hot!’ But he was unable to hear her because he had not put in his hearing aid." 

Larkin may never have regained consciousness. He died early on Monday, Dec. 2, four months past his sixty-third birthday. Booth concludes the scene with this sentence: “It may be, as the nurse in attendance reported, that his last whispered words were: `I am going to the inevitable.’” The phrase, if accurately reported, is worthy of Henry James – or Philip Larkin. Eight years earlier he had already described the event: “…the total emptiness for ever, / The sure extinction that we travel to / And shall be lost in always.” Booth writes earlier in the paragraph quoted above: 

“Poetry may have deserted him, but he continued to make phrases as dissolution approached.”

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