Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Philip Larkin Poetry Analysis

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2663 words Published: 28th Sep 2017

Reference this


Meaning of the Term "Movement"

The Movement is related to the work and concept of a group of poets of the nineteen-fifties entirely. The poets were Donald Davie, Kingsley Amis, Thorn Gunn, and many more. Philip Larkin (1922-1985), who was also one of the poets greatly believed to be closely related to it. These poets believed to have casted a rebellion against the raised romanticism and sensuousness from the nineteen-thirties to nineteen-fifties. The work of these poets was regarded and regarded as victorious of common sense and clarity over obscurity and mystification. It was regarded as a verbal restraint over stylistic excessive. Philip Larkin subtly deflates the familiar romantic childhood idyllic associated with other writers such as D.H. Lawrence and Dylan Thomas. Such characteristics were a source of enduring popularity for readers of that time.

Stark and Naked Realities in Philip Larkin's Poetry

The nineteen-fifties was filled with a time when the universal attitude of the people and the writers was highly anti-romantic and largely anti-heroic. The World War II had come to a halt in 1945 and the euphoria caused over the defeat of the Nazi including fascist nations, and also of imperialist Japan too soon ended.This gave ways to a feeling of despondency and rejection over the impairment which even the victorious Allies had to suffer in great. Worldly, the Germans bombing raids over Britain had inflicted enormous damage on the country including the territories and thousand and millions of lives had been already lost. As a result, there was an air of disillusionment and disenchantment among the commoners as well as among the writers, poets, authors and artists of that time. A writer like Philip Larkin was more committed to a realistic and naturalistic display of life and the actual conditions of life over the country could not have contributed a romantic a real halo or a heroic quality to the life which he necessarily depicted in his poems. The city was clearly more than a place of comic disparagement for this writer. He could not have really portrayed heroes andtheir heroismon the face of the miseries, constraints and the financial problems which the country was experiencing at that time. The Welfare State was established but the results of that were not to satisfying and comforting.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

It had been accepted by many critics through their criticisms that the poets of that time during Movement did not at all existed as a literary group. But it has also been acknowledged that these poets basically operated in a significant cultural and social influence. The Movement was the product of the specific views about both 'literature and society' and it in its turn helped to establish and to circularize and comment on such views.

Philip Larkin wanted only to show the stark, crude, blunt realities of life in his poems and emerged as an extreme kind of all anti-heroes. He mocked at himself and also mocked at the people as well as the conditions that surrounded him. Wherever he found any chances of reinventing feature in social, economical and political life of the country he did not close his eyes to it but he instead was even keener and gloomily much aware of the sordidness of the commercialized, commodifiedand consumerised society. Many of his poems are based on self-awareness and most of them also contain also sharp criticisms on the society encompassing him. The unwillingness to tell lies, accuracy and fidelity to the actual state of affairs were the three most governing principles of Philip Larkin's poetry. His poetry is truthful, and he does not try to impart any glamour or glitter to life as he saw it. He does not try to romanticize human relationships, not even the love relationship between men and women. To conclude, he does not depict himself as main protagonist of any sort and he does not depict any heroic individuals with codes of honor as seen in Greek literatures. In his poetry,there are no 'warriors' and no knights-at-arms in his poetry. There are also no Romeos and Juliets of Shakespeare in his poetry. There are no war-like deed in his poetry, and there is no tendency at all forthe glorification of human beings or human relationships. We observe much of stark and naked realities in his poetry.


No Romance for Larkin in Love and Marriage

'An Arundel Tomb'(published in 1964) is a poem consisting of 7 verses with 6 lines each which is about an Earl of Arundel and his Countess or second wife. The poet here recognizes the feelings of mutual attachment between them in a way the sculptor has depicted them as holding hands of each other. But Larkin does not romanticize and bring out the feelings of joyfulness ofthis attachment and bonding between them. In the reversal, he expresses the view that this beautifully holding of hands was necessarily the sculptor’s discovery and not a representation of an actual or momentary moment. Henceforth, Philip Larkin witingly looks at the relationship between the Earl of Arundel and his second wife with the rationality and not emotions. In 'Dockery and Son .'Philip Larkin says that, while a person of his same age had married early in life and has a son. He himself had never married and had no son or daughter. But he does notregard Dockery as high ranking to himself because of this situations in life. In other words, he does not comment much on marriage and of children. In 'Poetry of Departures'Philip Larkin expresses a desire to leave and travel but then eventually drops upthis idea or view. He does not romanticize travelling in the name of adventures or the gathering of knowledge its own sake. In all these poems we find Philip Larkin adopting an attitude to the most crucial aspects of life. Love, Relationships, marriage and travel are not in his notions something worth experiencing, rejoicing, marvelous and wonderful. A heroic life is necessarily also a romantic life but Philip Larkin finds no heroism, greatness, magnificense and no romance in love affairs and marriage.

Individuals in Larkin's Poems in a Heroic Mold

The individuals portrayedby Philip Larkin in his poems are certainly in the heroic mold. The main character or the protagonist in his dramatic monologues is the poet Philip Larkin himself. In these poems he does not proclaim himself in any way. And in poems where he portrays some other persons, theyare not presented as a heroic figure. The poem 'Mr. Bleaney’ which he uses in his other novel as well ‘Jill’the speaker is he himself. Both of them have not been depicted as a figure of heroism in this following poem. Mr. Bleaney is and ordinary kind of manual worker who is modest, humble and unassuming leading a poverty stricken. Philip Larkin speaks about Mr. Bleaneyas an exposing his shallowness and his uninspiring life. But Larkin does not speak of himself in any of such manners. He certainly establishes his superior nature over Mr. Bleaney because of his higher spiritual and intellectual interests but instead he jokes at himself in the same manner while mocking at Mr. Bleaney. In fact Philip Larkin irony is often directed against himself only. The poem titled 'I Remember, I Remember' is the most appropriate example. Here he attacks the romantic notions of his childhood which in other poems he has described as 'a forgotten boredom'.

The Evangelist in Faith Healing Is Pulled Down from his pedestal

In the poem 'Faith Healing' , the Evangelist is not considered as an ideal or rather not been idealized. On the other side, Philip Larkin has given us a satirical picture of the Evangelist. The evangelist is the one who has great strength, courage and a God equal figure in the eyes of his women guests but Philip Larkin drags this false divine power down to the ground from the high pedestal which he occupies in the eyes of his women deities.

No heroic attitude towards work

In 'Toads and Toads Revisited', 1954 Philip Larkin does not necessarily permits a heroic attitude towards work and compares it to the Satan described as toad. He does not say Work is worship but rather he says that work is a toad(not wanted) squatting on his life and others. Work is the way which takes a human being to his grave and immortality. Thus Philip Larkin barely adjusts himself to a life of work instead of claiming that work uplifts a man. Nowhere in his work of poetry does Philip Larkin present to our eyes views of a struggle against or a resistance to the misfortunes of life. William Butler Yeats had certainly upholds and applauds the idea of a heroic struggle but Larkin does not do any such thing his poetry.

Larkin's Unheroic Attitude towards Death

Larkin is an anti-hero in its own writing. He does not even adopt a heroic attitude towards death which is the major theme in his poetry. Larkin was haunted, preoccupied with the thought of death itself and in his poems he recollects us of the high inevitability of death. The poems Coming, Going, and Days are about death and the climax and culminate of his treatment of death comes in the poem 'Aubade'. But nowhere does he defies death. He does not follow John Donne's lead where he had said: "Death, be not proud ". But Larkin does not make any such assumptions. He fears death as he flinches at the thought of death. He certainly does not show any fearlessness and audacity towards death. In one his poem, namely 'The Explosion' which is about British class working people where does he exalts death as a means of bringing honour to a greater extent to the people who were killed in the Explosion or the blast. In general, he harbours the fearfulness of death and immortality.


Elements of Modernism; and Larkin's Opposition to Them

In his introduction to his anthology "The New Poetry" (1962), Alfred Alvarez attached the Movement poets of the nineteen-fifties, accusing them of an exaggerated provincialism, insularity, dullness, and a blunt refusal to learn anything from the imaginative excitements and the artistic aims associated with T.S. Eliot and modernism. Philip Larkin was the most distinguished member of the Movement, other names connected with the Movement being Thorn Gunn, Donald Davie, John Wain, D. J. Enright, and Kingsley Amis. Larkin was therefore the chief target of Alvarez's condemnation. In his early poetic career, Larkin had been much influenced by the symbolist poetry of W.B. Yeats but afterwards he rejected Yeats in favour of Thomas Hardy.

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

In other words, from being something of a modernist, he subsequently became a traditionalist, and a critic of modernism. It was as an opponent of modernism that he declared his support to poets to whom technique seemed less important than content, and who accepted the styles and forms which they had inherited and through which they expressed their own content or ideas. It was not simply experimentation which Larkin deplored but the fact that some artists had begun to cultivate a relationship with their material rather than with their audience: and he deplored this fact because such artists in his opinion became easy prey to two principal trends, namely modernism and mystification. He said that his essential criticism of modernism, whether exemplified by Charlie Parker, Ezra Pound, or Picasso was due to the fact that modernism helped people neither to enjoy nor endure this kind of art. Modernist art, he further said, did not have any lasting power. Such art mystified or outraged the people.

Every modernist in his opinion felt compelled to sink deeper and deeper into violence and vulgarity so far as art was concerned. Furthermore, Larkin seemed to think that modernist art, whether music, painting, or poetry, was complex and difficult to explain. In this view he was right because such modernist works as The Waste Land and Ulysses contain quotations from other texts thereby making themselves into complex and many-layered literary palimpsests. In Larkin's opinion this sort of thing had encouraged a view of poetry which was almost mechanistic, namely that every poem must include all previous poems. Larkin held that every poem must be its own sole freshly-created universe and must, therefore, have no belief in a common myth-kitty. Larkin rejected the evolutionary view of poetry adopted and promoted by the modernists. His anti-modernism attracted him to the traditional poets such as Wordsworth and Tennyson. Larkin also admired John Betjeman even though this poet was not directly associated with the Movement. Philip Larkin has much in common with all these earlier English poets. They all used a moderate tone of voice and accessible language-a language "such as men do use." Besides, all these poets were centrally concerned with the relationship between themselves and to the landscapes and they habitually expressed a sense of communion with their surroundings in exalted terms. In other words, they were all intensely patriotic poets. And yet we must acknowledge at this point the fact that, although Philip Larkin has flatly rejected Modernism in theory, he is in practice a remarkably wide-ranging poet whose last volume of poems, entitled "High Windows" shows distinct modernist and symbolist leaning which he was supposed to have discarded quite early in his career. Nor can we claim that there is no obscurity at all in his poetry.

Illustrations of Larkin's Rejection of Modernism: His Raw Material

We have now to turn to Larkin's poetry in order to find out in what way or ways he has rejected modernism in his work. Rejecting the complexity and obscurity of Modernist poetry and rejecting the element of mystification in it. Larking chooses only familiar subjects and matters of daily interest for treatment in his poems. He does not deal with abstractions. He deals with the concrete realities of life. The subjects in his poems relate to common occurrences and daily happenings. In the poem "At Grass", he meditates upon a number of retired race-horses whom are a concrete reality which anybody could have witnesses. Besides, anyone looking at those horses would have speculated upon their present status and its contrast with their past glory. There is nothing transcendental about the subject of the poem or Philip Larkin's treatment of it even though some critics have said that the poem symbolically deals with human beings in their state of retirement from their life of activity and achievement.

Lilies on a young Lady's Photograph Album is again a poem in the anti-modernist mode. It has as its theme a contrast between the past glamour and charm of a lady and her present condition. The glamour and the charm have now considerably declined; but the poet still cherishes a memory of them, and treasures them in his heart. Nothing could be more realistic than this contrast and the wistful feelings of the poet.


Primary Sources

  • Larkin, Philip. Collected Poems: Philip Larkin

London: The Marvell Press, 1988

– The North Ship, London: Fortune Press, 1945

– The Less Deceived. York shire Marvell Press, 1955

– The Whitsun wedding. London Faber, 1964

– High Windows. London Faber and Faber, 1974

Secondary Resources

  • Rajamouly.K. The poetry of Philip Larkin. A critical study, Prestige Books



Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: