Sunday, November 16, 2014

`Into Her Dream He Melted'

John Keats is not a poet one would expect Philip Larkin to much enjoy or respect – too mellifluous, too swooning, too damned Romantic. In his contribution to Let the Poet Choose (ed. James Gibson, 1973), Larkin selected two of his own poems, including "MCMXIV." In his brief commentary to it he writes: “I have always believed that beauty is beauty, truth truth, that is not all ye know on earth nor all ye need to know, and I think a poem usually starts off either from the feeling `How beautiful that is’ or from the feeling `How true that is.’” Almost two centuries of reverent fluff devoted to "Ode on a Grecian Urn" are erased in a sentence. 

A friend elucidates the Keats/Larkin nexus more deeply. He tells me that Kingsley Amis gave his friend a volume of Keats’ poems. Apparently Larkin was moved by the thirty-sixth stanza of “The Eve of St. Agnes”:nd a mortal man impassion'd far
       At these voluptuous accents, he arose
  “Beyond a mortal man impassion'd far
    At these voluptuous accents, he arose,
    Ethereal, flush'd, and like a throbbing star
    Seen mid the sapphire heaven's deep repose
    Into her dream he melted, as the rose
    Blendeth its odour with the violet,---
    Solution sweet: meantime the frost-wind blows
    Like Love's alarum pattering the sharp sleet
Against the window-panes; St Agnes' moon hath set.”

In the margin Larkin writes: “He fucked her.”

1 comment:

Subbuteo said...

Perhaps the "throbbing star" gave it away.