Love Songs In Age

She kept her songs, they kept so little space,
The covers pleased her:
One bleached from lying in a sunny place,
One marked in circles by a vase of water,
One mended, when a tidy fit had seized her,
And coloured, by her daughter -
So they had waited, till, in widowhood
She found them, looking for something else, and stood

Relearning how each frank submissive chord
Had ushered in
Word after sprawling hyphenated word,
And the unfailing sense of being young
Spread out like a spring-woken tree, wherein
That hidden freshness sung,
That certainty of time laid up in store
As when she played them first. But, even more,

The glare of that much-mentionned brilliance, love,
Broke out, to show
Its bright incipience sailing above,
Still promising to solve, and satisfy,
And set unchangeably in order. So
To pile them back, to cry,
Was hard, without lamely admitting how
It had not done so then, and could not now.

by Philip Larkin

Other poems of LARKIN (93)

Comments (3)

totally depressing even for a happy person
Whilst the poem is nostalgic, it is not about nostalgia and the association of memory with inanimate objects. As she 'relearn(s) how each frank submissive chord had ushered in' she has forgotten how to love. Each 'sprawling hyphenated word' and 'being young' highlghts the loss of time and her recollection of the old days. The use of caesura in: 'But even more the glare of that much-mentioned brilliance, love, ' shows how she is trying to repress her emotions, but as a result is causing them to flow out. This changes towards the end as they have to be put away ('It had not done so then', but she cannot put them away because of her emotions ('and could not now') . What is most important to note at the end, however, is how Larkin's technical form creates meaning. The final line is monosyllabic. It makes each word a painful blow: rammed home. As the words also end with consonants, mainly, it is the slowests possible transiton through the line. This conveys how she does not want to be thinking what she was just thinking, which was that not only is she not going to fall in love again, as her best days are behind her, she says she does not think she may have experienced love; 'it had not done so then'. Her love never felt like the love in the love songs, because love does not exist. Love is a sham invented by the love songs, and so this 'love' 'could not now'.
This poem is about nostalgia and how we associate time and memory with inanimate objects. She is listening to an old record and it reminds her of love well past, and again we see Larkin's tree metaphor springing up again. A very soft, gentle poem.