Coming

Coming

by Philip Larkin

On longer evenings,
Light, chill and yellow,
Bathes the serene
Foreheads of houses.
A thrush sings,
Laurel-surrounded
In the deep bare garden,
Its fresh-peeled voice
Astonishing the brickwork.
It will be spring soon,
It will be spring soon—
And I, whose childhood
Is a forgotten boredom,
Feel like a child
Who comes on a scene
Of adult reconciling,
And can understand nothing
But the unusual laughter,
And starts to be happy.

I love the idea of a thrush amid the laurels in the bare garden astonishing the brickwork on the foreheads of the houses in the yellow light of the evening. So spring is on the way for real now and there it is – the opportunity to begin anew. Even if you don’t understand you can still start to be happy!

Spring in St John’s Wood 1933 – Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970)

Larkin mentions the forgotten boredom of his childhood which was actually rather unusual. He was home-schooled until the age of eight by his mother and sister who was ten years older. His eyesight was poor and he developed a stammer. When he did start to attend school he appears to have done well socially and, after some early struggles, he succeeded academically.

He wrote Coming in 1950 when he was working as an assistant librarian at University College, Leicester. His friend Kingsley Amis came to visit and it was witnessing the university’s Senior Common Room that gave Amis the inspiration to write the hilarious Lucky Jim (1954) –  the classic novel of academic life that made Amis famous and is dedicated to Larkin.

Melissa Scott-Miller Behind the Bridge, Regent’s Canal, Islington.

Melissa Scott-Miller, Islington Back Gardens in Winter Sunlight

William Ratcliffe 1870-1955 Hampstead Garden Suburb from Willifield Way c.1914

Margaret Bruce Wells 1908-1998). The Thrush’s Song. 1938.

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