Saturday, August 09, 2008

Philip Larkin - Leo Poet


Whatever conceived
Now fully leaved,
Abounding, ablaze –
O long lion days.
(P.A.L 1982)

The above was one of the last poems written by Philip Larkin, born with the Sun in Leo. It was found written on the back of an illustrated postcard, one of a calendrical set (this for July), depicting illuminations from The Book of Hours, and a representation of the zodiac sign for each -in this case Leo
"A man reaps wheat in a field bordered by vivid green. Above him burns an intense vermillion sky, laced with leaping tongues of gold (real gold on the real thing). To the right, separated by the master’s ruled margin and Leicester city’s postmark, is a magnificent flourishing lion: the sign of Leo, Larkin’s sign. And on the back? Carefully written out is the poet’s lyric translation of the scene."

Philip Larkin is better known for his somewhat dour poetry, often harping on death and other depressing matters. He's not a favourite of mine, though I once had 15 seconds of fame speaking to him on the telephone. My very first job was as assistant to the County Archivist in East Yorkshire, England. The Archivist was a friend and colleague of Philip Larkin, with a common connection to the University of Hull Library. I spoke to Mr. Larkin, then Librarian at the University, on the phone one day in the absence of my boss. It was quite unremarkable, he didn't speak in iambic pentameter, sprinkle the conversation with metaphor, nor did he entrance me with his charisma! Ah well, poets are just like the rest of us mortals when caught without their poetry hats on. Disappointing.

Anyway, it would have been Philip Larkin's birthday today, 9 August, born in 1922 in Coventry, UK. He died at a relatively young age, 63, in 1985. Perhaps his depressing turn of mind was born of some subconsious knowledge of an early demise. I can find no note of his time of birth, the chart below is set for 12 noon on his birth date.

Wow! Look at that - Sun sandwiched tightly between Mercury and Neptune in Leo - what an astrological signature for a poet ! Mercury is the writing planet, Neptune planet of imagination and creativity. Jupiter the publishing planet is harmoniously linked by sextile (60*) to the Leo cluster. Mars (energy, aggression) trines the cluster from Sagittarius. Uranus (change, the avant garde) in Pisces is qunincunx (a scratchy, irritable aspect) to the Leo planets, which fits with this poet's reputation as being something of a reactionary, a curmudgeon, racist & misogynist . He totally lacked charm as far as I can tell!

The Moon would have been somewhere in the first half of Pisces whatever time Larkin was born. This must have brought in a strand of compassion and softness, which seems to have been most evident in his love for animals.

"The margins of his pencil-written manuscripts are frequently crowded with mice, rabbits, sheep, and owls. And, although he himself never kept an animal, the pets of his friends would concern him as much if not more than the friends themselves did."

He had love for the female sex too - several at a time if some reports are to be believed. It is from his letters to Monica Jones, the woman who was his longest lasting partner (he never married, seemed to be terrified of commitment) that a clearer idea of his personality might be gleaned - and it appears he did have a much softer side. (HERE)

Venus in Virgo, and Saturn in the last degree of Libra: these two are close enough to be considered conjoined, but in different signs. Saturn (restriction, limitation) so close to Venus could well represent this man's aversion to marriage. Saturn being very close to the North Node of the Moon too - an extra sensitive point - gives Saturn's hard edge extra potency. I wouldn't be surprised to find Capricorn (rulership of Saturn) rising in his natal chart, but we can't know without a time of birth.

It appears that Larkin had no time for astrology nor any esoteric subject. Apparently he was sent a copy of his natal chart by another famous poet, Ted Hughes, just to tease, Larkin being known to deride what he called the "myth-kitty".

I started with one of Larkin's poems, so will finish with one which appeals to me as (kind of) Venus conjunct Saturn.


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 fulfillment.
Willing it, my ailment.

A small collection of Philip Larkin's poems can be read at Squidoo


Wisewebwoman said...

I'm an enormous fan of his, T., mysogynistic chappie though he was.
His poems are extraordinary.
And those 3 women surely loved him. He had massive mother issues, of course. Though I am always p.o.'d at how the father gets off scot-free from any psychological assessment of Phil.

Twilight said...

I can't warm to him at all WWW, but I can see why others might appreciate his work. I find it drags me down into a glum mood rather than lifting me up or making me think, or presenting me with a new way of looking at something. Glad he was fond of animals though. ;-)

I'm more of a Billy Collins gal myself. :-)

anthonynorth said...

I think you highlight one of the realities of all celebrites, really. Beyond their talent (if they have any) we only know the image. The person tends to be as normal as the rest of us.
I once played a game, trying to find something interesting in a Beatle. Total geniuses, certainly, but I couldn't find anything :-)

Twilight said...

Hi AN ~~~

I agree - such a disappointment!
I shall shade my husband's eyes from your remark about the Beatles though - he and his family idolise them - best leave their dreams intact. ;-)