Philip Larkin, who lived a life of quiet desperation, working as a librarian nearly all his adult life, managed to achieve the status of best-loved poet in England over the last half of the 20th Century. Larkin was not an attractive man. His poems are modest, his assertions cautious, his manner self-effacing (even self-deprecating). Nevertheless, Larkin can be moving. One of my favorites, which I first read as an undergraduate at Berkeley in the Sixties, is
Britain was once a seafaring nation, an island nation. And it still is. How many generations of young men, hemmed in by the narrowest of expectation and custom, longed to escape to another reality? This is the symbolic tendency in the poem, its seaside vantage the launching point for a thousand--a hundred thousand--dreams of adventure.