bitterness at being odd man out is atntimes laced with humor, which hasnendeared him to readers as well:nSexual intercourse begannIn nineteen sixty-threen(Which was rather latenfor me) —nBetween the end of thenChatterley bannAnd the Beatles’ first LP.n(“Annus Mirabilus”)nFinally, of course, Larkin’s communicativensuccess with his readers comesndown to his self-effacing and yet dazzlingnskill with words. He is one of thenmost (some would say one of the few)nquotable 20th-century poets. In his maturenstyle one feels that all his wit,nintelligence, and feeling are concentratednin lines of aphoristic energy. This isnnowhere more true than in the harrowingnlate pieces that testify to his fears ofnaging, illness, and death:n. . . this is what we fear—nonsight, no sound,nNo touch or taste or smell,nnothing to think with,nNothing to love or link with.nThe anaesthetic from whichnnone come round.n(“Aubade”)nLarkin’s Collected Poems confirmsnour sense of his stature and offersnsome surprises as well. It virtually doublesnthe quantity of Larkin’s publishednpoetry, adding 83 poems to those henincluded in his four volumes. Some ofnthese are juvenilia, and a few arenunfinished. But many of them are fromnLarkin’s mature period and are veryngood indeed. It was always evident thatnLarkin was an exacting craftsman; it isnnow apparent that he was a stringentneditor, too hard on himself in withholdingnseveral of these lyrics fromnpublication. “An April Sunday,” annelegiac piece written after his fatherndied, and several characteristic bits ofnself-portraiture such as “Mother, Summer,nI,” “The March Past,” “ThenView,” and “The Winter Palace” arenespecially welcome additions to thencanon. Even when we can see whynLarkin might have rejected certainnpieces as too derivative, or as repetitiousnof things he had done before,nthey retain great interest for thosenstudying his development as an artist.nAnthony Thwaite’s editorial laborsnhave made that study easier. He hasnarranged the poems chronologicallynand attached dates of composition tonthem. This dating, and the appearancenor reappearance of many early poems,nmakes it possible to analyze the fashioningnof Larkin’s distinctive voicenmore precisely than ever before. Henhimself rightly characterized thenpoems in The North Ship as beingnunder the spell of Yeats, and he oftenncredited his discovery of Hardy’snpoems with leading him to his ownnmanner of speaking. Now, in this edition,nwe can see the grand, Yeatsianngestures giving way to a knotty, Hardyesquenplainness. But we can see theninterplay of other influences as well.nThere is a lot of Auden echoingnthrough the early work—not surprisingnfor an English poet of Larkin’sngeneration—but just a little later onnwe come upon the booming note ofnDylan Thomas. This is surprising,nsince Larkin had suppressed all obviousnsigns of it after failing in the laten40’s to find a publisher for a manu­nLIBERAL ARTSnscript collection with a fervid titlenThomas would have loved: In the Gripnof Light.nBefore setding down beneath “thentoad work,” we can now see that Larkinnwent through some colorfully romanticnphases that he was ultimately tonreject as inauthentic. The wry, disenchantednvoice he found for himself wasnno sudden discovery, and readers willnvalue this collection for the dynamicnportrait it offers of a poet’s consciousnessnin formation, of the lonely, difficultnemergence of a true self. The lastnstanza of one of the previously unpublishednpoems, “Best Society,” providesna striking image of the process:nViciously, then, I lock my door.nThe gas-fire breathes. The windnoutsidenUshers in evening rain. OncenmorenUncontradicting solitudenSupports me on its giant palm;nAnd like a sea-anemonenOr simple snail, there cautiouslynUnfolds, emerges, what I am.nON THE VIRTUES OF FARMINGnThose who labor in the earth are thenchosen people of God, if ever He had anchosen people, whose breasts He hasnmade His peculiar deposit for substantialnand genuine virtue. It is the focus innwhich he keeps alive that sacred fire,nwhich otherwise might escape from thenface of the earth. Corruption of moralsnin the mass of cultivators is a phenomenonnof which no age nor nation hasnfurnished an example. It is the mark setnon those, who, not looking up to heaven,nto their own soil and industry, as doesnthe husbandman, for their subsistence,ndepend for it on casualties and caprice ofncustomers. Dependence begets subser­nnnnvience and venality, suffocates the germnof virtue, and prepares fit tools for thendesigns of ambition. This, the naturalnprogress and consequence of the arts,nhas sometimes perhaps been retarded bynaccidental circumstances; but, generallynspeaking, the proportion which the aggregatenof the other classes of citizensnbears in any State to that of itsnhusbandsmen, is the proportion of itsnunsound to its healthy parts, and is angood enough barometer whereby tonmeasure its degree of corruption.n—from Notes on Virginianby Thomas JeffersonnNOVEMBER 1989/31n