Philip Larkin – The Card-Players, 1970

Adrian Brouwer The Card Players

Jan van Hogspeuw staggers to the door
And pisses at the dark. Outside, the rain
Courses in cart-ruts down the deep mud lane.
Inside, Dirk Dogstoerd pours himself some more,
And holds a cinder to his clay with tongs,
Belching out smoke. Old Prijck snores with the gale,
His skull face firelit; someone behind drinks ale,
And opens mussels, and croaks scraps of songs
Towards the ham-hung rafters about love.
Dirk deals the cards. Wet century-wide trees
Clash in surrounding starlessness above
This lamplit cave, where Jan turns back and farts,
Gobs at the grate, and hits the queen of hearts.

Rain, wind and fire! The secret, bestial peace!

Philip Larkin, 1922-1985 The Card-Players

The Card-Players, 6 May 1970, from, High Windows, 1974. Published by Faber and Faber, London

Image: Adrian Brouwer, 1605/6-1638,  Kaartspelers en Brassers / The Card Players, c. 1630s, oil on panel, 25 x 39 cm, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp / Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium

Author: jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space

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