Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sometimes larking, usually darkening

I always like to credit Philip Larkin (possibly my favourite modern poet) with my narrow escape from a threatened career of lucrative pomposity as a lawyer.

In England the final stage of qualifying as a barrister (a 'trial lawyer' to my American friends) is a period of apprenticeship known as a 'pupillage'. Pupillage openings are very limited; and in my Bar School year they were especially hard to come by (for reasons which I won't go into here): I only got one interview, and failed it fairly spectacularly. (I did subsequently undertake pupillage a year or two later, but ran out of bank loan before I could make the transition to independent practice.)

In the waiting room before the interview I was leafing through a copy of The Spectator (a favourite English political/literary weekly magazine - sometimes obnoxiously right-wing, but compellingly well-written). In the regular literary competition on the back pages (I have entered myself a handful of times, but without garnering any laurels) in that issue contributors had been challenged to produce a clerihew celebrating a great writer. One of the winning efforts printed was this:

Philip Larkin
Would close the blinds to let the dark in.
He always had room
For gloom.

A brilliant example of the form. A brilliant summation of the man and his work. And a brilliant image (I love the idea of 'letting the dark in').

I laughed until I cried. I had a stupid grin on my face throughout the interview, and was constantly on the brink of corpsing. That, or so I like to believe, is the reason why I didn't get that pupillage, didn't become a barrister.

Maybe it ain't so, but...... print the legend.


Anonymous said...

so, no clerihew contributor, no world-wondering froog, no round-the-world barstool blues, no Tulsa cyber-fan. That particular contributor has no idea what s/he started, huh?

Froog said...

Ah, the path not taken.

Yes, in many parallel universes I am an affluent, self-satisfied c***. I'm so glad (really HOPE) I'm not in this one.

The British Cowboy said...

Well no one has ever called you affluent...

Froog said...

Thank you, Cowboy. You always pop up at the opportune moment!

No need to get defensive about being a lawyer (Tulsa is one too). I find North American representatives of the legal profession usually much less self-important than the Brits. Barristers back home, alas, almost invariably tend towards the smug....

Anonymous said...

Absolutely brilliant! I love Larkin and this clerihew, and your anecdote about it, made my night.

And sorry to be so blunt, but your blog is great...a real inspiration. Good to have found you and look forward to reading all your stuff once I've finished an important trip to Ningbo this Saturday.

Froog said...

Why, thank you, Kim, that's too kind of you.

How on earth did you happen on this old piece? You're not reading through the archives from Day 1, are you?