About twenty years ago
Two girls came in where I worked -
A bosomy English rose
And her friend in specs I could talk to.
Faces in those days sparked
The whole shooting-match off, and I doubt
If ever one had like hers:
But it was the friend I took out,
And in seven years after that
Wrote over four hundred letters,
Gave a ten-guinea ring
I got back in the end, and met
At numerous cathedral cities
Unknown to the clergy. I believe
I met beautiful twice. She was trying
Both times (so I thought) not to laugh.
Parting, after about five
Rehearsals, was an agreement
That I was too selfish, withdrawn,
And easily bored to love.
Well, useful to get that learnt.
In my wallet are still two snaps
Of bosomy rose with fur gloves on.
Unlucky charms, perhaps.
Love doesn't always work out, and when it doesn't work out, often one is left wondering how to respond. Larkin responds with a somewhat bitter, at times rose-tinted, and always self-deprecating poem. It's clear that he has fond memories of these girls, and his time with them, but that he also feels somewhat spurned, unhappy with how things turned out in the end. The language of the poem is simple and humorous, and focuses its barbs at Larkin, rather than at the loves which got away.
That part that best exemplifies this nature is the last stanza, in which Larkin recounts the parting between him and that woman. He calls their dates, or meetings, rehearsals, as if they were not real things, not real lived experiences. He says they "agreed" that "I was too selfish, withdrawn, and easily bored to love." It doesn't sound like much of an agreement to me, but that Larkin capitulated and gave in to those emotional accusations because that would be easier. He humorously quips afterward, "Well, useful to get that learnt." It's funny, but you can hear the bitter edge to it.