MCMXIV

By skepticlawyer

Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day–

And the countryside not caring:
The place names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat’s restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word–the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages,
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

—————————————–

Tomorrow is the August Bank Holiday over here, traditionally the last day of Summer and a time of high spirits. I knew about the institution ‘August Bank Holiday’ from my parents, of course, even though Australia did not have the concept of the Bank Holiday. At least not in my experience.

So Larkin’s line ‘an August Bank Holiday lark’ remained frozen for me when I came across his poem at some point in high school, along with photographs like the one above. This one was taken in Whitehall in August, 1914.

Enthusiasm for war. It’s not something we like to think about now, but in other times and other places, people have been very enthusiastic. It is something to bear in mind.

2 Comments

  1. Posted August 27, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Certainly have bank holidays in Australia. At least in Qld we do.
    Often they are mistaken for a public holiday, though they are not.
    There is no automatic right to a day off, and no penalty rates apply for work on a bank holiday.

  2. Posted August 27, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Please bear with us, we are having some blog issues at present. Things will improve in the next day or so.

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