Love we must part now
Love, we must part now: do not let it be
Calamitious and bitter. In the past
There has been too much moonlight and self-pity:
Let us have done with it: for now at last
Never has sun more boldly paced the sky,
Never were hearts more eager to be free,
To kick down worlds, lash forests; you and I
No longer hold them; we are husks, that see
The grain going forward to a different use.
There is regret. Always, there is regret.
But it is better that our lives unloose,
As two tall ships, wind-mastered, wet with light,
Break from an estuary with their courses set,
And waving part, and waving drop from sight.
Classic Larkin. Tired of “too much moonlight and self-pity”, the poet gives us instead the glorious line “we are husk, that see/ The grain going forward to a different use” as well as the vivid image of two ships parting. I particularly love “wind-mastered, wet with light”.
And then, of course, there is the grudging acknowledgement that “there is regret”, breaking the sonnet in an unusual way, the line itself providing the perfect stopping point between the tumbling phrases of the first part, and the gathering departure of the second. It’s the kind of music that Larkin does so well.
P.S. Over at Guardian Unlimited, Nick Tanner pens a pleasant, though surely unnecessary tribute to Larkin.