Unresting castles

My ignorance in areas I thought I had covered is always wandering up from behind to whack me on the side of the head. It’s been doing this since childhood, and it’s often a joy, actually. Why it still surprises me is the mystery.

A few months ago I read an entertaining mystery by Charles Finch called A Beautiful Blue Death. The author is a young man whose blurb on the flyleaf says he is a graduate of Yale and Oxford. Interested, I googled him, and eventually got to his blog, where, as a sort of token of Spring, he had posted a poem by Philip Larkin.

I wrestle a bit with poetry. (As a reader, not a writer. With Whitman and Dickinson as the foundation stones of American poetry, I find real, sweaty, grappling necessary. I sometimes actually come to grips with W, but D always defeats me.) Although I admit to only trying Larkin after the awful posthumous to-do, I thought I’d achieved my usual nearly worthless superficial familiarity with his better-known work. But I’d never seen, read, or heard of The Trees, which I gather (Google again) is not exactly obscure. I read it roughly as the myth of Sisyphus made cyclical. What do you think?

At least even those of you who know it already can begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.



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