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Poetry in Translation (LXXVIII): Philip Larkin (1922-1985) – “Heads in the Women’s Ward” (Azil)

October 2nd, 2010 · 2 Comments · PEOPLE, Poetry, Translations

Philip LARKIN (1922-1985), widely regarded as one of the great English poets of the latter half of the twentieth century (Photo courtesy Simon K.)

Philip LARKIN (1922-1985)

Philip Arthur Larkin, CH, CBE, FRSL (9 August 1922 – 2 December 1985) is widely regarded as one of the great English poets of the latter half of the twentieth century. After graduating from Oxford in 1943 with a degree in English language and literature, Larkin became a librarian at the  University of Hull. During this seminal period of  over thirty years  he produced the greater part of his published work and edited the Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century English Verse (1973). He was offered, but declined, the position of Poet Laureate in 1984, following the death of John Betjeman. His poems are marked by what Andrew Motion calls:

a very English, glum accuracy about emotions, places, and relationships,

and what Donald Davie described as:

lowered sights and diminished expectations.

Eric Homberger called him:

the saddest heart in the post-war supermarket

Larkin himself said that for him:

deprivation was what daffodils were for Wordsworth.

Influenced by  W.H. Auden, W.B.Yeats and Thomas Hardy,  his poems are highly-structured but flexible verse forms. They were described by Jean Hartley, the ex-wife of Larkin’s publisher George Hartley (The Marvell Press), as a

piquant mixture of lyricism and discontent,

Larkin’s public persona was that of the no-nonsense, solitary Englishman who disliked fame and had no patience for the trappings of the public literary life. (Source: Wikipedia)



Philip Arthur LARKIN (1922-1985) este considerat drept unul dintre cei mai mari poeti Englezi din a doua jumatate a secolului XX.

Dupa terminarea studiilor facute la Oxford, el a ocupat, timp de peste treizeci de ani, functia de bibliotecar al Universitatii din Hull, perioada in care a publicat majoritatea volumelor sale de poezii.

Dupa moartea lui Betjeman, in 1983, desi i s-a oferit sa fie ales Poet Laureat, Larkin a refuzat aceasta prestigioasa functie.

Influentat de Auden, Yeats si Thomas Hardy, Larkin are reputatia unui poet pessimist, considerat un

“Englez solitar, cu o pronuntata aversiune  fata de onorurile desarte ale cabalei literare”.



Un cap cu ochii tintuiti

Pe-o perna sade devalmas,


Cu parul alb si ravasit

Si vene negre pe grumaz .


Un glas vorbeste-n barba alba

Cu oameni care nu mai sunt,


Aceiasi ce cu ani in urma

Radeau cu pruncul nou-nascut.


Rasul e tanar –  timpul  fugi

Delirul mortii e tot ce stii.

(Versiune in limba Romana de Constantin ROMAN, Londra, Octombire 2010, Copyright, all rights reserved)

Heads in the Women’s Ward (1972)

On pillow after pillow lies
The wild white hair and staring eyes;

Jaws stand open; necks are stretched
With every tendon sharply sketched;

A bearded mouth talks silently
To someone no one else can see.

Sixty years ago they smiled
At lover, husband, first-born child.

Smiles are for youth. For old age come
Death’s terror and delirium.

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