Nomination: And now the leaves suddenly lose strength [3 November 1961. From Collected Poems (1988)]
This is an uncollected poem written in 1961. It is a changing of the seasons poems but it shows, perhaps too clearly for Larkin to want to publish it in his lifetime, the influences of Hardy and Auden. The word “rubricate” in line four makes me feel slightly hysterical but I love all the “l” alliteration in the first four lines that somehow seem to imitate in sound the leaching out of the season’s energy. Then a great burst of movement comes with the “rain-bearing night winds” and we’ve moved from the country into the town. The “vague broomed men” prefigure the characters in ‘Toads Revisited’ written a year later. What really excites me though is the handling of the long sentence that is the second stanza and which shows in one great rhetorical sweep men through the ages watching the approach of winter.
Jean Hartley