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PHILIP LARKIN AS A POET

A sign of revolution, symbol of dawn amalgam of antiquity and modernity an allurement


for the reader of all the ages Philip Larkin is that bud of modern poetry. He has spread
fragrance of delight in the garden of English literature. He seems to be highly influenced
by Robert Browning, Thomas Hardy, Robert Frost and Richard Wilbur. He has brought
zest and zeal in his poetry. He experimented in meter and made his own nouns, phases
and adjectives. He inserts colloquial language and suggestive imagery. The chief
weapon in Larkins hand is irony and satire. Larkin is nostalgic therefore we find
allusions from English literature, history, myths etc. we find epigrammatic sentences
where his tone is cynical. He deals with variety of themes as death of values, futile
struggle of life, loneliness of modern man. In his love poems the success of love can
rarely be seen. An agnostic poet inserts the theme of nihilism and anti-religion. He also
gives psychological penetration of modern man.

Philip Arthur Larkin was born on August 9, 1922 in Coventry. He was the second child
and only son of his parents. After leaving King Henry VIII, he went to St. Johns College
Oxford and despite the war was able to complete his degree Larkin failed his army
medical because of poor eye sight. He graduated in 1943 with first class honours in
English.

The first of his poems to be published in a national weekly was Ultimatum which
appear in the listener November 28 1940.His other poems were published in Oxford
poetry (1942-1943).In 1945 ten of his poems, which later that year were to be included
in the North ship appeared in poetry from Oxford in war time two novels Jill and a girl in
winter were published in 1946 and 47 respectively.

A collection of his essays and reviews were published in November 1983 a required
writings, miscellaneous pieces 1955-1982 and won the W.H Smith literary award for
1984.Larkin received many award in reorganization of his writings, especially in his later
years. In 1975 he was awarded the CBE 1976.

He was made the companion of literature. In 1978 served on the literature panel of Arts
between 1980 - 1982.He was made on honorary fellow of library Associate in 1980.In
1982 university of hull made him a professor. There is a list of award in Larkins life.

After the First World War, people had no aim. They had seen the destruction on one
side and on the other side were helpless men. Keeping this in mind, the poems were
written on the lost generation who had no aim left in life except wandering and whoring.
W.B Yeats rose up and began to write new sort of poetry. He brought optimism,
symbolism and heroic poetry. The objectivity was brought in poetry. This poetry actually
began to guide people. It proved to be a stimulus and the ray of hope for the modern
man, Yeatarian Era from 1930-1950 brought zest and zeal and tried to wake the people.

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This was the position of poetry before Larkin with the advent of Larkins poetry.
Yeatarian poetry started losing its value. It is because Larkin did not follow any single
poet but in a blend of numerous poets.

He took the best trait from various poets. Larkin took symbolism from Yeats. He seems
to be highly influenced by Thomas Hardys tragic vision. Due to his melodist touch, he
has been called a grave yard poet who focuses the uselessness of life. So, he has
grasped the philosophy of (Hardy) life from Hardy. He like Robert Browning uses
dramatic monologue.

As far as his style is concerned he experimented in meter. Larkin influence of Robert


Frost Richard Wilbur can clearly be observed like Wilbur; he makes his own nouns,
phrases and adjectives. He is not likely to imitate Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Alan Brown
and many others. As a critic says:

Philip Larkin ashy poetic voice; whose imaginings often wild but whose words
took a long time in ripening and acquiring poise.

The symbol Larkin inserts in his poetry is un-parallel and un challengeable. The
apparent simple poems of Church going Mr. Bleaney and Ambulance are embedded
with the pearls of symbolism. In church going the poet symbolizes himself with the
modern man and his attitude towards religion and on the other side religion losing place
in modern time.

Yet stop I did; Infect I often do, And always end much at a loss like this.

Mr. Bleaney is another magnificent symbolic poem where the main character Mr
Bleaney symbolizes the modern man his casualness and aimless life, his criticizing past
and inability to create a new world. Thus speakers using Bleaneys room depicts
modern mans standard. The speaker comes to live in a boarding room but scorns at
Bleaneys low standard aimless and lonely life.

That how we live measures our own nature.

In another symbolically striking poem Ambulances; he symbolically paints death and


psychoanalysis of modern man regarding death Ambulances signify death it rooms
about in the city modern man is so much busy in his life that death shakes him but for a
little time. He takes death positively where man will enjoy eternal peace.

They years, the unique random blend of families and fashions, there.

The use of diction in Larkins poems is splendid. He uses symbolic words. The words
perfectly suit the main theme. For instance he uses the word step instead of enter in
the poem church going which shows his unwillingness and lack of interest towards

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religion which is a theme of the poem. In another poem he uses the word jabbering,
Mr. Bleaney, referring to the unstable culture which modern man has made by blending
various cultures. In the same poem the word garden signifies the beauty of world life
which man can never see because they never try for it. As in the poem there is a curtain
between Bleaney room and the Garden which Bleaney has never seen. In the poem
Ambulance he inserts the dreadful words giving an impact of Ambulance and death like
bloodless, white red Blanket rightly said;

Time and death dominate Larkins poetry in a complex way

Like modern poets his poetry is enriched with bundle of themes. Death theme is one of
the recurrent themes of his poems. Larkin writes about the death of values futility of life
and futile struggle.

Larkin writes many love poems as well. However the success of love can be seen very
rare in his poetry. He does not get reciprocity in love. His anti-religious theme is
prominent in his poems. Nihilism, triviality, lack of identification is favourite themes of
Larkin. Psychological penetration is also dealt in his poems. Death theme lurks
throughout the poem Ambulances where ambulance stands for death.

All streets in time are visited

Death of man is not a loss of a single life but a whole pattern of life style. In Mr. Bleaney
gain departure of Bleaney shows death.

In Church Going the decay of churches is the death of religious values. Thus Larkin in
each of his poems, maintains the tradition of theme of death. Aimlessness and futility of
mans life in Larkins poetry, he portrays aimlessness of modern man. In the poem the
poet is seen wandering and suddenly he sees church and steps in to it.

Yet stop I did, in fact I often do

Mr. Bleaney has no aim and he spends most of his time with in four wall of his room.

Agnostic touch can clearly be evident in his entire poems e.g. Church Going thoroughly
is agnostic poem where he mocks at the losing condition of churches and fall of
religious values.

Larkins wit and intelligence is lurid enough. He makes use of various techniques to
enhance the charm of his poems. The most frequent o his techniques is irony and
satire. There is an irony and satire upon modern man in the poem Church Going.

The poet shoots with irony on the emptiness of modern mans spirit including him. He
also waves the religious values losing their significance and inability to produce the
earlier satisfaction. His satire becomes prominent as he says;

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Reflect the place was not worth stopping for

His irony its climax when he wonders who will be the last person on earth to visit the
church. He ironically states;

And death, and thoughts of these for which was built

He means to state that both people and church have lost the way.

Larkin uses irony in Mr. Bleaney where he frowns and disgusts at his living standard,
symbolically referring to modern mans scorning over past but uses his sauce for
throwing ash of his cigarette.

On the same sauce souvenir and try

In Ambulances he satirizes mans business for worldly pursuits with this world for
entering in to the eternal world. The use of the word pour sour is also ironical in the
poem where modern man needs to pity on himself rather sympathizing with others.

Poor soul; they whisper at their own distress

In all the poems of Larkin we find suggestive imagery insert in. In Mr Bleaney he uses
the image of an upright chair referring to introvertedness of modern man cotton wool
stands for protection. In church going the image of museum is suggestive which hints at
the mere visiting place. The Ambulances refer to protection.

Colloquial and lucid language is the land mark of Larkins poetry. It serves as a merit to
his poetry where his tone is melancholic. In a lucid language Larkin cunningly inserts
and decorates his poems with wisdom capsules in the form of epigrammatic sentences.
As in Church Going he write;

A hunger in himself to be more serious

The hunger refers to the hunger of knowledge. In a single sentence he tells modern
man that even the ruined and damaged building of churches will continue to attract the
people for its knowledge and wisdom.

Larkins main interest is Modern man. He sticks to modern man as a leach. He has
peeped deep down inside human brain. His analysis proves his keen research on
modern man. This is the reason he moves his poem on the wheels of subject matter of
modern man. It is evident in Mr. Bleaney where the whole poem moves through this
modern man;

This was Mr Bleaneys room, He stayed

In church going it is I where the modern man hides;

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Once I can sure theres nothing going on;

He experimented with the meter too. In most of his poems he uses amid pentameter. He
has used (ABAB) rhyming scheme in church going and Mr Bleaney he writes another
trait of Larkins poetry is the mingling of objectivity and subjectivity. This is clearly
evident in his poems C.G appears to be subjectively objective the first person singular.
I and first person plural WE and OUR, is the characteristic device which shows the
subjectivity of the poem. The agnostic touch inserted in the poem is evident when the
poet towards church and religion.

The objectivity in Mr Bleaney comes forth as poets main concern is modern mans
alienation, isolation, aimlessness and dissatisfaction. On the other hand Andrew
motion points out the subjectivity of the poem by narrating the incident that Larkin once
lived in a house and the jabbering set was condemned by him as it prevented him to
write and think same is the case with the speaker of the poem who denunciated the
radio set. Ambulances appears to be objectively subjective where poet discusses the
natural phenomenon of death with regards to his own views and thoughts.

Larkins inserts the technique of dramatic monologue where he addresses himself as in


Church Going and its the quality of his poems that they have a dramatic opening. He
abruptly begins the poem without any introductory invocation. The poem Ambulances
initiates;

Closed like confessionals, they thread loud rooms of cities, giving lack.

There are few critics who criticize Larkin on various grounds. He is known as a grave
yard poet because of ever use of the image of death.

Critics criticize him for being a pessimist and term him a melodist who sees one side of
the picture. He has no faith and does not believe in religion as far as his philosophy is
concerned. But one must keep in mind instead of being agnostic he breaks the shell of
agnosticism when he says; in Church Going,

Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in

It is his Hardian trait that runs through his philosophy. As far as his pessimism is
concerned, he is clearly seen to be optimistic at the end of church going and Ambulance
where on one hand he says that the importance of church will remain forever and in the
other poem he takes death positively and as eternal peace for man.

Let us gather the grain of heap by praising this embodiment of intellect Hardian spirit
possesses the outstanding ability to move the readers with his themes though filled with
pathos but silhouette us against a back drop of fate , and render us final for imagination
and to achieve it .

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Larkin as he now saw had only to feel simply without exaggeration. His style and
technique, symbols and imagery have irresistible temptation. The universality of themes
will continue till end of the world. He is that bud of English Literature who has spread the
fragrance of truth and reality style and uniqueness in the garden of English poetry.