Epilogue: The War’s Legacy in Verse

Part of the Macmillan Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature book series (STCL)


It would be all too simple to make the 1940 encounter between Sidney Keyes and Philip Larkin in the Turl, Oxford, a symbolic confrontation between two antithetical types of poetry. Keyes, who would perish in North Africa in mysterious circumstances a mere three years later, slighted his Oxford contemporary when he launched Eight Oxford Poets (1941); Larkin, who remained in England for the duration of the war, would soon discard his Yeatsian trappings, renounce myth and dream, and move towards an anti-romantic platform of accurate statement. There in the snowy Oxford street stood the war’s victim-to-be and the war’s survivor-to-be, neo-romantic and anti-romantic, the poet of the 1940s and the poet of the 1950s. Were the two men even dimly aware of the symbolic opposition they were later made to enact? In 1964, looking back at their meeting in the Turl, Larkin, though remembering Keyes’ huge Russian fur hat, recalled no dialogue of momentous proportions. In fact, he insisted that they had little, if anything, to say to each other.1


Movement Style Early Fifty British Poetry Modern Verse Modern Poet 
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    Philip Larkin, The North Ship (London: Faber & Faber, 1966) p. 9.Google Scholar
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    John Wain, ‘Ambiguous Gifts’, Penguin New Writing (40), 1950, p. 127.Google Scholar
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© Linda M. Shires 1985

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