Larkin's first mature collection was originally published by the eccentric George Hartley's Marvell Press. The "Ponce of Hessle" as Larkin named him, soon failed to impress. The book was poorly distributed and often out of print, and royalties were paid irregularly, so Larkin arranged for his subsequent two volumes to be published by Faber. But Hartley hung on to his rights, and for many years the only source for these poems was via Thwaite's collected poems. At last Faber have somehow wrestled the rights away from Hartley's estate, and the rest of us can hold this classic volume in our hands. It's worth the wait.
There are the great and justly famous poems, Wedding Wind, Coming, Going, Maiden Name, Church Going, Toads, Poetry of Departures, I Remember, I Remember, and At Grass. There are lesser poems, Absences, some say Larkin's favourite poem, with its typical final line, "Such attics cleared of me! Such absences!", Born Yesterday, on the birth of Kingsley Amis's tragic daughter, Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album, about the early girlfriend with whom he really did "wrangle over a ring". Deceptions about a Victorian rape, which not only gave the volume its title, but extraordinarily was misquoted by Mrs Thatcher when she met Larkin.
I'll end with No Road in which Larkin reminisces over a past love affair.
Since we agreed to let the road between us
Fall to disuse,
And bricked our gates up, planted trees to screen us,
And turned all time's eroding agents loose,
Silence, and space, and strangers - our neglect
Has not had much effect.
Leaves drift unswept, perhaps; grass creeps unmown;
No other change.
So clear it stands, so little overgrown,
Walking that way tonight would not seem strange,
And still would be followed. A little longer,
And time would be the stronger,
Drafting a world where no such road will run
From you to me;
To watch that world come up like a cold sun,
Rewarding others, is my liberty.
Not to prevent it is my will's fulfilment.
Willing it, my ailment.
Wow! For anyone else this would be one of their finest poems. For Larkin it has lain obscure in an out of print volume till now. If you own The Whitsun Weddings (Faber Poetry)
and High Windows
you must buy The Less Deceived.