'Funny how hard it is to be alone.'

Photo Credit: Rory Campbell

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Vers de Société
by Philip Larkin


Vers de Société

My wife and I have asked a crowd of craps
To come and waste their time and ours: perhaps 
You’d care to join us? In a pig’s arse, friend. 
Day comes to an end.
The gas fire breathes, the trees are darkly swayed. 
And so Dear Warlock-Williams: I’m afraid—

Funny how hard it is to be alone.
I could spend half my evenings, if I wanted, 
Holding a glass of washing sherry, canted 
Over to catch the drivel of some bitch 
Who’s read nothing but Which;
Just think of all the spare time that has flown

Straight into nothingness by being filled 
With forks and faces, rather than repaid 
Under a lamp, hearing the noise of wind, 
And looking out to see the moon thinned 
To an air-sharpened blade.
A life, and yet how sternly it’s instilled

All solitude is selfish. No one now
Believes the hermit with his gown and dish 
Talking to God (who’s gone too); the big wish 
Is to have people nice to you, which means 
Doing it back somehow.
Virtue is social. Are, then, these routines

Playing at goodness, like going to church?
Something that bores us, something we don’t do well 
(Asking that ass about his fool research) 
But try to feel, because, however crudely, 
It shows us what should be?

Too subtle, that. Too decent, too. Oh hell,

Only the young can be alone freely.
The time is shorter now for company,
And sitting by a lamp more often brings
Not peace, but other things.
Beyond the light stand failure and remorse 
Whispering Dear Warlock-Williams: Why, of course—

by Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin, "Vers de Société" from Collected Poems. Copyright © Estate of Philip Larkin. Reprinted by permission of Faber and Faber, Ltd.


Poem as Friend to Stephen

Vers de Sociétéby Philip Larkin

In this episode, Stephen Beresford talks about the poem that has been a friend to him – 'Vers De Société' by Philip Larkin. 

Stephen visited The Poetry Exchange in London. He is in conversation with The Poetry Exchange team members, Michael Shaeffer and Fiona Bennett.

Stephen is a highly acclaimed Film, TV and Theatre Writer. Find out more about Stephen and his work here:…n-beresford/

Michael reads the gift reading of 'Vers De Société'.


We talk to people about the poem that has been a friend to them.

In exchange we create a gift for them, a bespoke reading of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation. Our award-winning podcast shares these unique and powerful stories of connection with people across the world. 


We set up an intimate environment for these conversations at festivals, in arts, cultural and public spaces across the country. We also hold exchanges ‘long distance’. Our visitors come from all walks of life and we also feature well-known personalities such as Andrew Scott, Maxine Peake, Roy McFarlane and Paterson Joseph.