I see a girl dragged by the wrists

I found this beautiful Philip Larkin poem – full of strange yearning and self-doubt and wanted to share it with you all. Larkin, was the single most influential post-war British poet, yet never the favourite of the critics. I don’t known why. But his first published collection, The North Ship is amazing and Poem XX, 'I see a girl dragged by the wrists' is extraordinary – a weird, voyeuristic piece of writing with its bizarre, exhilarating ending.


Poem XX

I see a girl dragged by the wrists
Across a dazzling field of snow,
And there is nothing in me that resists.
Once it would not be so;
Once I should choke with powerless jealousies,
But now I seem devoid of subtlety,
As simple as things I see,
Being no more, no less, than two weak eyes.

There is snow everywhere,
Snow in one blinding light.
Even snow smudged in her hair
As she laughs and struggles, and pretends to fight;
And still I have no regret;
Nothing so wild, nothing so glad as she
Rears up in me,
And would not, though I watched an hour yet.

So I walk on. Perhaps what I desired
- That long and sickly hope, someday to be
As she is - gave a flicker and expired;
For the first time I'm content to see
What poor mortar and bricks
I have to build with, knowing that I can 
Never in seventy years be more a man
Than now - a sack of meal upon two sticks.

So I walk on. And yet the first brick's laid.
Else how should two old ragged men
Clearing the drifts with shovels and a spade
Bring up my mind to fever-pitch again?
How should they sweep the girl clean from my heart,
With no more done
Than to stand coughing in the sun,
Then stoop and shovel snow onto a cart?

The beauty dries my throat.
Now they express
All that's content to wear a worn-out coat,
All actions done in patient hopelessness.
All that ignores the silences of death,
Thinking no further than the hand can hold,
All that grows old,
Yet works on uselessly with shortened breath.

Damn all explanatory rhymes!
To be that girl! - but that's impossible;
For me the task's to learn the many times
When I must stoop, and throw a shovelful:
I must repeat until I live the fat
That everything's remade
With shovel and spade;
That each dull day and each despairing act

Builds up the crag from which the spirit leaps
- The beast most innocent
That is so fabulous it never sleeps;
If I can keep against all argument
Such image of a snow-white unicorn,
That as I pray it may for sanctuary
Descent at last to me,
And put into my hand its golden horn.