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Larkin’s animal poems – 7

December 1, 2013

Late Larkin

Larkin had told many friends about feeding the hedgehog in his garden and was devastated when he accidently killed it. But note the “twice” in line 1, an unsentimental Larkin detail. Without realising what was happening, he had restarted the motor and finished it off.

Aside from scraps composed for retirements and anniversaries, this is the last poem he wrote. I’m glad that his final poetic comment on death was not the terrifying Aubade but these tender thoughts on a hedgehog.

The Mower

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

Philip Larkin

See also Take One Home for the Kiddies hereAt Grass hereMyxomatosis hereFirst Sight here, Pigeons here, and Laboratory Monkeys here.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. sue permalink
    December 6, 2013 10:57 am

    lovely. i like the ‘and even fed it, once’, letting us know that he doesn’t overdose on sentimentality.

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