At Grass

By Philip Larkin


The eye can hardly pick them out

From the cold shade they shelter in,

Till wind distresses tail and mane;

Then one crops grass, and moves about

– The other seeming to look on –

And stands anonymous again.


Yet fifteen years ago, perhaps

Two dozen distances sufficed

To fable them: faint afternoons

Of Cups and Stakes and Handicaps,

Whereby their names were artificed

To inlay faded, classic Junes –


Silks at the start: against the sky

Numbers and parasols: outside,

Squadrons of empty cars, and heat,

And littered grass: then the long cry

Hanging unhushed till it subside

To stop-press columns on the street.


Do memories plague their ears like flies?

They shake their heads. Dusk brims the shadows.

Summer by summer all stole away,

The starting-gates, the crowds and cries –

All but the unmolesting meadows.

Almanacked, their names live; they


Have slipped their names, and stand at ease,

Or gallop for what must be joy,

And not a fieldglass sees them home,

Or curious stop-watch prophesies:

Only the groom, and the groom’s boy,

With bridles in the evening come.



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