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Philip Larkin

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Added by: Richard
Probably this is the most moving poem in English to feature a dying rabbit. It's all the more extraordinary that it comes from Larkin, that famous misanthrope. Old Philip didn't like people much; but he sure was kind to dying bunnies.

It's impossible to read Myxomatosis--the title refers to a slow-death disease of rabbits, of which there have been horrible epidemics in England--without feeling that Larkin has made a spare, elegant, modern testimonial to empathy and compassion. We're also invited to contemplate the bad surprise of disease, its terrifying suddenness. And you will read something here about mercy killing, although not necessarily the Kevorkian kind.

The poem still gives me the shivers after twenty years. What icy brilliance and incredible humanity: the heart, sometimes, is a sharp stick.

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