Philip Larkin's poem, Maiden Name

Marrying left your maiden name disused.
Its five light sounds no longer mean your face,
Your voice, and all your variants of grace;
For since you were so thankfully confused
By law with someone else, you cannot be
Semantically the same as that young beauty:
It was of her that these two words were used.

Now it's a phrase applicable to no one,
Lying just where you left it, scattered through
Old lists, old programmes, a school prize or two,
Packets of letters tied with tartan ribbon -
Then is it scentless, weightless, strengthless wholly
Untruthful? Try whispering it slowly.
No, it means you. Or, since you're past and gone,

It means what we feel now about you then:
How beautiful you were, and near, and young,
So vivid, you might still be there among
Those first few days, unfingermarked again.
So your old name shelters our faithfulness,
Instead of losing shape and meaning less
With your depreciating luggage laiden.

This poem made me want to keep my maiden name. The idea of Larkin's that women lose shape and mean less upon marrying is so repugnant I had to defy it.


  1. This shot me right through the heart. Couldn't be more true. Thanks for passing it on. Wish I would have been more defiant when I got married, even after 10+ years I never stop marveling at the strangeness of having a name that is not mine.


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