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Friday Night in the Royal Station Hotel

January 28, 2020

By Philip Larkin

Hull’s Royal Station Hotel last weekend. In the bar, the light still spreads darkly down from the “high clusters of lights”, over “empty chairs that face each other”, “coloured differently”.

 

Nothing appeared to have changed since the salesmen returned to Leeds. Through “open doors” the dining-room still declared its loneliness, and in “shoeless corridors” the lights still burned, although maybe the “headed paper” is no longer made for writing home.

 

But the doorman enlightened me; the hotel was gutted by fire in 1990, so must have been refurnished by a fan. Thank you that person, for reminding me of Larkin’s descriptive powers. Here’s the poem.

Friday Night in the Royal Station Hotel

Light spreads darkly downwards from the high
Clusters of lights over empty chairs
That face each other, coloured differently.
Through open doors, the dining-room declares
A larger loneliness of knives and glass
And silence laid like carpet. A porter reads
An unsold evening paper. Hours pass,
And all the salesmen have gone back to Leeds,
Leaving full ashtrays in the Conference Room.

In shoeless corridors, the lights burn. How
Isolated, like a fort, it is –
The headed paper, made for writing home
(If home existed) letters of exile: Now
Night comes on. Waves fold behind villages.

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