stdClass Object
(
    [ID] => 16250
    [post_author] => 16
    [post_date] => 2015-10-10 17:08:22
    [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-10 17:08:22
    [post_content] => Larkin was thumbing through the papers, by the library
when he found it
buried half-way down a list of the deceased: S. Keyes.
The student-poet
that stuck-up bloke from Queens’
the one who hadn’t let him in to that anthology.
They used to watch each other cross the room at parties,
all while they both pretended they weren’t looking
and that they hadn’t read each other’s poems.

There was that time – a year ago, it would have been –
when Keyes, the brown-nose, reading history
still showed up to the Annual Lecture of the English Society.
Larkin got there late
squeezed in to the last space on the wooden benches, right beside Keyes
and watch him scribble in the margins of his notes – a poem, an elegy.
Keyes caught him looking, smirked.
Larkin, who had read it all, grunted as they stood to leave: ‘it’s good’.
Keyes was still smiling when they left the room.

Now Keyes is gone before he’s twenty-one.
Larkin had always pictured Keyes sat in a study
some Oxford courtyard in the quiet sun
as the sun-dial arrow pointed end of day.
Professor. Well-renowned, fat, middle-aged –
he never thought they’d get on, even then,
but always, he imagined Keyes as – there –
to be critiqued, and quarreled with, and scorned,
and everything he’d ever written, read.
And – secretly – kept up with,
but – not – dead, and gone before they graduate –
not far away in some bleak desert, dying.
Larkin shakes his head,
and clenches his jaw against crying,
and grasps at the desk for a pen.
‘Never such talent’ – he writes in the margins –
‘Never such innocence again.’
    [post_title] => MCMXLIII
    [post_excerpt] => 
    [post_status] => publish
    [comment_status] => closed
    [ping_status] => closed
    [post_password] => 
    [post_name] => mcmxliii
    [to_ping] => 
    [pinged] => 
    [post_modified] => 2016-11-18 15:32:57
    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-18 15:32:57
    [post_content_filtered] => 
    [post_parent] => 0
    [guid] => http://poetrysociety.org.uk/?post_type=poems&p=16250
    [menu_order] => 0
    [post_type] => poems
    [post_mime_type] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [filter] => raw
    [meta_data] => stdClass Object
        (
            [wpcf-published-in] => 
            [wpcf-date-published] => 2015
            [wpcf-summary-description] => This poem was commended in the Timothy Corsellis Prize on Young Poets Network (YPN) in 2015.

Charlotte says of her poem: ‘MCMXLIII’ (1943) was inspired by finding out that Sidney Keyes and Philip Larkin were born in the same year, and were contemporaries at Oxford.
For me, the parallels between their lives, and the difference in their fates, highlights how arbitrarily some lives were cut short by war. They were the same age, studying in the same place at the same time, and both of them were promising young poets. Larkin failed his military medical examination because of poor eyesight, so he didn’t go to war, and survived – whereas Keyes, and many other promising young poets of their generation, went off to war, and died.
Much has been made of the rivalry between Larkin and Keyes – Keyes didn’t include Larkin in the Eight Oxford Poets anthology he edited in 1941, sparking a feud – but in this poem, I imagine how Larkin might have responded to Keyes’ death.
The poem draws on the language of Keyes’ poetry. The ‘quiet sun’ references his hope, in ‘For M.C., Written in the Train’, that they might one day ‘live at last under a quiet sun’, in peacetime; the ‘arrow’ in the following line recalls the arrow Keyes ‘found/… in my hand’ when he ‘groped for words’, in his 1942 poem ‘War Poet’.
In comparing Larkin and Keyes, I found it striking that although Larkin was of age to fight in WW2, and many of his contemporaries must have done so, his most famous war poem, ‘MCMXIV’ (1914), is not about WW2, but WW1 – an act of displacement, perhaps, like that which characterizes the presentation of war in the works of other WW2 poets, such as Keith Douglas. The title, ‘MCMXLIII’, is a reference to Larkin’s poem, as is the final line.
            [wpcf-rights-information] => 
            [wpcf-poem-award] => Commended, Timothy Corsellis Prize 2015
            [wpcf_pr_belongs] => 
        )

    [poet_data] => stdClass Object
        (
            [ID] => 2818
            [forename] => 
            [surname] => 
            [title] => Charlotte Higgins
            [slug] => charlotte-higgins
            [content] => Charlotte Higgins is a former Foyle Young Poet and was a participant in the Hands across the border poetry project. She won the Poetry Society's SLAMbassadors performance poetry competition in 2012. She is also a winner of the Young Poets Network 'Poem on a postcard' poetry challenge.
        )

)
stdClass Object
(
    [ID] => 2818
    [forename] => 
    [surname] => 
    [title] => Charlotte Higgins
    [slug] => charlotte-higgins
    [content] => Charlotte Higgins is a former Foyle Young Poet and was a participant in the Hands across the border poetry project. She won the Poetry Society's SLAMbassadors performance poetry competition in 2012. She is also a winner of the Young Poets Network 'Poem on a postcard' poetry challenge.
)

MCMXLIII

Charlotte Higgins

Larkin was thumbing through the papers, by the library
when he found it
buried half-way down a list of the deceased: S. Keyes.
The student-poet
that stuck-up bloke from Queens’
the one who hadn’t let him in to that anthology.
They used to watch each other cross the room at parties,
all while they both pretended they weren’t looking
and that they hadn’t read each other’s poems.

There was that time – a year ago, it would have been –
when Keyes, the brown-nose, reading history
still showed up to the Annual Lecture of the English Society.
Larkin got there late
squeezed in to the last space on the wooden benches, right beside Keyes
and watch him scribble in the margins of his notes – a poem, an elegy.
Keyes caught him looking, smirked.
Larkin, who had read it all, grunted as they stood to leave: ‘it’s good’.
Keyes was still smiling when they left the room.

Now Keyes is gone before he’s twenty-one.
Larkin had always pictured Keyes sat in a study
some Oxford courtyard in the quiet sun
as the sun-dial arrow pointed end of day.
Professor. Well-renowned, fat, middle-aged –
he never thought they’d get on, even then,
but always, he imagined Keyes as – there –
to be critiqued, and quarreled with, and scorned,
and everything he’d ever written, read.
And – secretly – kept up with,
but – not – dead, and gone before they graduate –
not far away in some bleak desert, dying.
Larkin shakes his head,
and clenches his jaw against crying,
and grasps at the desk for a pen.
‘Never such talent’ – he writes in the margins –
‘Never such innocence again.’