I’ve put this up because it is probably Larkin’s most
obviously conservationist poem. However,
I think his sentiments turned out wrong.
He wrote it aged 50, fairly late in his poetry-writing career. Although he lived till 1985, he wrote few poems after his last collection, High Windows in 1974. By then he was getting pretty grumpy. He had lived through 30 years of post war austerity, municipal socialism, high-rise blocks and regional development grants. How was he to know that the sunlit uplands of Margaret Thatcher’s revolution were less than a decade away?
GOING, GOING by Philip Larkin. (January 1972)
I thought it would last my time -
12 Oct 2004 Update. My comments above annoyed some people.
Robin Carmody writes:
I read with interest your comments about the Philip Larkin poem on your website.
When I read the reference to "the sunlit uplands of Margaret Thatcher's revolution" I initially thought your tongue must be in your cheek, before I realised with horror that you actually meant it. I very much take issue with the idea that Thatcherism has caused a reduction in the cultural tendencies that Larkin condemned; it has merely accelerated it, condemned us to ever greater rootlessness, isolation and loss. Its uncritical embrace of global capitalism has led to an ever greater disconnection from "guildhalls and carved choirs" - those who once aspired to such things are now winning Pop Idol or marrying Gwyneth Paltrow while informing us that "every white boy growing up in Devon dreams of being able to rap".
It may well be that the last 25 years have given us the phenomenon of "heritage" architecture as an extension of the wider Heritage Britain PLC, vide Dorchester/Poundbury (which is merely my nearest example), but this is hardly a restoration of the romantic view of England that Larkin expressed; I very strongly suspect that he would find it cold, soulless, meaningless, emotionless, "un-meant", "un-felt".
I realise that you are deliberately "iconoclastic" and "unorthodox" in your political position, but even you must realise that there is a point where you just start to look ridiculous to pretty much everyone.
Good to hear from you.
One of the pleasures of running iGreens is hearing from environmentalists
who object to my claim that the private sector and capitalism generally protect
the environment better than the public sector and socialism do.
It’s an extra pleasure when they also object to my reading of Larkin.
I think you make three main points.
Larkin was a wise man, but
he was hardly an economist or political philosopher. The analyses of
Hayek, Friedman, Coase, Buchanan, Becker and their colleagues were hardly
written down, let alone available to Larkin in 1972.
Even now their ideas are far from common currency, but I think Larkin
would have understood.
He was after all a strong supporter of Margaret Thatcher
herself. He knew
Thatcherism had not condemned us to “rootlessness, isolation and loss”.
The destruction of real community, of Burke’s little platoons, by the
welfare state did that.
You cite Dorchester/Poundbury as “not a restoration of
the romantic view of England that Larkin expressed”. Indeed it is not.
But neither is it remotely a product of the market. Unless I’m very much mistaken, Poundbury is a planned
village, moreover one planned by the heir to the throne. I rest my case.
Thanks again for writing. If I may I will add your letter and this reply, as a footnote to the poem. I’ve just discovered that if you type “Going Going Larkin” into Google, iGreens comes top, so it will annoy lots of people! J
 Not counting drinking and getting laid, two subjects most men share with Larkin. J
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