mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Because one has need of cheer

Epitaph from the Greek Treasury

I'm Callicratia
who bore
29 children,
saw none die,
lived 105
years & never once
used walking sticks

I'm not exactly a fan of Philip Larkin. He reads like not a nice person, and certainly a very unhappy one: malicious because miserable, in his small-souled fashion; or maybe just congenitally incapable of the small happinesses of life. The body of his poems often strike me as forgettable, undistinguished, and then he one-two sucker punches me with the ending.

This one is reminiscent of Unseen Academicals: though the influence, if any, must go from Larkin to Pratchett, and anyway I'm pretty sure Pratchett is drawing on that much-loved English archetype, the Oxbridge Thing, exactly as Larkin is.

Tonight we dine without the Master
(Nocturnal vapours do not please);
The port goes round so much the faster,
Topics are raised with no less ease –
Which advowson looks the fairest,
What the wood from Snape will fetch,
Names for pudendum mulieris,
Why is Judas like Jack Ketch?

The candleflames grow thin, then broaden:
Our butler Starveling piles the logs
And sets behind the screen a jordan
(Quicker than going to the bogs).
The wine heats temper and complexion:
Oath-enforced assertions fly
On rheumy fevers, resurrection,
Regicide and rabbit pie.

The fields around are cold and muddy,
The cobbled streets close by are still,
A sizar shivers at his study,
The kitchen cat has made a kill;
The bells discuss the hour's gradations,
Dusty shelves hold prayers and proofs:
Above, Chaldean constellations
Sparkle over crowded roofs.
Tags: pratchett, verse

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