John Bayley

In 1974, with High Windows about to appear, Larkin lamented in a letter that critics would have passed the word around – Donnez la côtelette à Larquin – give Larkin the chop. Of course he was wrong. The chorus of praise swelled higher than ever: with each slim volume the certainty and authority of the poems and their unique feel of personality left readers dazzled. Larkin first; the rest nowhere. And though no one said so – perhaps fellow-poets were too envious – they showed how indispensable rhyme-schemes as subtle yet as traditional as his could still be.

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