Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Arrivals, Departures"

The cruise ship season has begun again.  Out on Puget Sound, the huge, brilliantly-lit ships leave for Canada and Alaska in the evening.  A week or so later, they return at dawn.  Their glow is reflected on the water.  If the wind is right, festive music comes ashore.  And what might Philip Larkin have to do with this light-hearted scene?

                         Arrivals, Departures

This town has docks where channel boats come sidling;
Tame water lanes, tall sheds, the traveller sees
(His bag of samples knocking at his knees),
And hears, still under slackened engines gliding,
His advent blurted to the morning shore.

And we, barely recalled from sleep there, sense
Arrivals lowing in a doleful distance --
Horny dilemmas at the gate once more.
Come and choose wrong, they cry, come and choose wrong;
And so we rise.  At night again they sound,

Calling the traveller now, the outward bound:
O not for long, they cry, O not for long --
And we are nudged from comfort, never knowing
How safely we may disregard their blowing,
Or if, this night, happiness too is going.

Philip Larkin, The Less Deceived (1955).

                                          Eric Ravilious, "Pilot Boat"

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