Nomination: An April Sunday brings the snow [4 April 1948]
This short elegy is one of Larkin’s most directly moving poems. It is also his first attempt to write in what was to become his characteristic voice: realistic, melancholic, demotic. Hardy had by now firmly replaced Yeats in Larkin’s affections, and there are strong echoes here of the Hardy of 1912-13. Yet the ‘you’ of the poem is no dead spouse – it’s Larkin’s father – and however much the piece may strike us now as a breakthrough, it signalled twelve months in which its author could write no more verse. Such is the pressure of feeling here, in fact, that Larkin commits an extremely rare metrical lapse, adding an extra foot to line three.
I think I’m most impressed by the simplicity of this poem, the way it achieves so much in so few lines. I’m also deeply in awe of anyone who could write something this good and then make no effort to get it into print. That, as much as anything, is the true measure of Larkin’s greatness.