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Friday, July 1, 2011

Mother, Summer, I

(Mama by William Kurelek, 1927-1977, Canadian artist
and writer)

After considering a few more poems about storge, the affection within a family, we will spend the rest of July examining philia, or friendship.

Today’s poem is by a poet who usually stands at a distance from his subject. In this case, however, Philip Larkin writes with some tenderness as he thinks of the differences between his mother and him.

“Maternity is a sublime calling, and even though man’s ungrateful heart often forgets his mother’s sufferings to bring him into the world and her endless devotion in order to bring him up, it is well-known that when a man faces death on the battlefield, his last words are often directed to his mother. Dying soldiers scream, ‘Mother.’”

~ Alice von Hildebrand, writer and philosopher, born 1923 in Belgium, from
The Privilege of Being a Woman


My mother, who hates thunderstorms,
Holds up each summer day and shakes
It out suspiciously, lest swarms
Of grape-dark clouds are lurking there;
But when the August weather breaks
And rains begin, and brittle frost
Sharpens the bird-abandoned air,
Her worried summer look is lost.

And I her son, though summer-born
And summer-loving, none the less
Am easier when the leaves are gone;
Too often summer days appear
Emblems of perfect happiness
I can’t confront: I must await
A time less bold, less rich, less clear.
An autumn more appropriate.

~ Philip Larkin (1922-1985), English poet, novelist, and jazz critic

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