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Issue 06 – Corpus Christi 2021



On Philip Larkin, America's beauty, and modern people.


Among several strong offerings in the Septuagesima issue, Matthew Walther’s closing piece stands out. I especially liked that he avoided the facile and commonplace move of blaming our society’s increasing barrenness on the pusillanimity of the young people today and instead recognized the validity of their fears and suggested, probably correctly, that overcoming them will require the destruction of much of our current way of life.

Mr. Walther makes nice use of Philip Larkin’s “High Windows,” which he seems to take as expressive of this way of life. Perhaps it is naïve, but I have always read the end of that poem as being about God, a sudden apprehension of divine plenitude expressed negatively. This may seem odd given that these lines are preceded by what appears to be a sense of envy and regret that Larkin has missed out on the newly reigning sexual promiscuity. Yet Larkin’s cynical, deflating gaze can fall on the raptures of the sexual revolution just as easily as on high traditions and fine feelings, as we see in the sing-song and repetitive irony of “Annus Mirabilis.” Likewise, and rather slyly, in “High Windows” Larkin gives us not a celebration of pleasure but a strange, literal fixation on the mechanisms of contraception. This leads him on to remember the oldsters of his youth, and ask whether they thought the open and settled atheism of his generation was the sort of liberation which he now imagines the ’60s generation to be enjoying. The promise of hedonistic liberation, of “Bonds and gestures pushed to one side / Like an outdated combine harvester”—instruments of sterility replacing those of harvest—is somehow always deferred.

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