2 Jun 2009

Toads -- Philip Larkin

[1922–1985, English]

Why should I let the toad work
    Squat on my life?
Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork
six days of the week it soils
    And drive the brute off?

    With its sickening poison –
Just for paying a few bills!
    That’s out of proportion.

Lots of folk live on their wits:
    Lecturers, lispers,
Losels, loblolly-men, louts –
    They don’t end as paupers;
Lots of folk live up lanes
    With fires in a bucket,
Eat windfalls and tinned sardines –
    they seem to like it.
Their nippers have got bare feet,
    Their unspeakable wives
Are skinny as whippets – and yet
    No one actually starves.

Ah, were I courageous enough
    To shout Stuff your pension!
But I know, all too well, that’s the stuff
    That dreams are made on:

For something sufficiently toad-like
    Squats in me, too;
Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,
    And cold as snow,

And will never allow me to blarney
    My way of getting
The fame and the girl and the money
    All at one sitting.

I don’t say, one bodies the other
    One’s spiritual truth;
But I do say it’s hard to lose either,
    When you have both.

Source: Goodwin, D 2002, 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life: An Anthology of Emotional First Aid, Harper.

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