Philip Larkin Philip Larkin, is a famous writer in postwar Great Britain, was commonly referred to as “England’s other Poet Laureate” until his death in 1985. Indeed, when the position of laureate became vacant in 1984, many poets and critics favored Larkin’s appointment, but the shy, provincial author preferred to avoid the limelight. Larkin achieved acclaim on the strength of an extremely small body of work, just over one hundred pages of poetry in four slender volumes that appeared at almost decade-long intervals. Although Larkin can be cynical and disappointed in tone these qualities are not characteristic of all his poetry.
It is more accurate to say he takes a realistic and unromantic approach to life which is evident in his poems. In contrast, all his poetry shows a genuine sensitivity to others, and an awareness and sympathy of their life experiences. Church going is one of his most cynical poems. Even the title is cynical. ” Church going” can mean going to church, or the fact that in his opinion the church is disappearing. 1st line is cynical. Larkin only goes in when nothing is going on, but in his opinion nothing important is ever going on in a church.
Shows his disdainful attitude to church with phrases such as ” another church” “little books” ” some brass and stuff up the holy end” He is disrespectful, uncaring to church. He pronounces ” Here endeth” and “echoes snigger loudly” Larkin is making fun of church and mocking it. But later in poem shows his sensitivity and understanding that men have an innate need to believe in something greater than themselves, and churches fulfill this need ” A serious house on serious earth it is “and ” Since someone to this ground”
Although he atheist is sensitive to needs of others, and even empathies with others’ feelings to some extent. In “Whitsun Weddings”. Larkin begins with very an everyday disappointment, as he is “I was late getting away” for the weekend on the train. This shows Larkin’s very realistic perspective, down to earth problem. He then comments on his disappointment at man’s ruination of the landscape, with observations such as ” canals with floating of industrial froth” and “A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped and rose” the landscape is squalid and decaying because of man.
When train reaches town it is nondescript” with acres of dismantled cars” Larkin than to his disappointment becomes cynicism when he starts to take notice of the people he can see rather than landscape. Brides are “parodies of fashion” who “survived ” their wedding ceremonies. The whole concept of these country weddings is “wholly farcical” with “nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes”, and “bunting-dressed coach-party annexes”. But he loses this cynicism to recognize momentous power of love, marriage and commitment ” Stood ready to be loosed with all the power.
That being changed can give. This illustrates his sensitivity to the huge emotional significance of this day to the newly weds. He continues to display his sensitivity to power of love in final image of ” like an arrow-shower”. Here his sensitivity can be seen as slightly tinged with cynicism in final words ” somewhere becoming rain” love can decay and deteriorate until it becomes rain, not joy. “At Grass” can be read as Larkin being cynical about how horses are just forgotten when they are retired and no longer racing, but in final analysis Larkin seems think they happier now than before.
Certainly right through poem Larkin shows remarkable sensitivity to horses plight ” till wind distresses tail and mane”. With one “the other seeming to look on ” the other. Really identifies with them ” Do memories plague their ears like flies? ” But he concludes “They shake their heads” – in contrast to being disappointed that they are forgotten and left alone now, rather than “fabled” as they were 15 years ago, when they were feted with “long cry” and reporters rushed to write headlines about them, they now ” stand at ease, or gallop for what must be joy”.
Larkin’s sensitivity and empathy for horses mean he drops his cynicism and disappointment at their fate, and realizes they are happy. The poem “ambulances” takes a realistic view of the inevitability of death, and the pain it causes for the victim and family/friends. “All streets in time are visited” by ambulances, and death. The victim has “A wild white face that overtops” This is the effect of the fear that comes to us all in face of death. There is a sense of disappointment and pessimism in this poem, and cynicism that what we think is so important is useless when faced with death.
As Larkin says all the activities we are so busy with in life, and think are so important are really meaningless “sense the solving emptiness that lies just under all we do” Only when faced with death do we appreciate the emptiness/meaninglessness of our lives, and the futility of all we do when it is inevitably going to end in our death ” And for a second get it whole ,So permanent and blank and true” In stanza 4. Larkin shows sensitivity to feelings of those involved ” the sudden shot of loss”.
And ” From the exchange of love to lie Unreachable insided a room”. Tone changes again to futility of life as it is just a rush bringing us ” Brings closer what is left to come” and “dulls to distance all we are”. “Cut grass” is similar in theme to “Ambulances” Death is inevitable and unavoidable. But his use of onomatopoeia connects reader to the grass, and evokes our sympathy, and in this way Larkin again shows sensitivity, even to inanimate things. And although theme is pessimistic, poem ends positively.
Recognition that despite individual death time continues to pass and life goes on. While in many poems Larkin is cynical and disappointed about life, he is always sensitive to sufferings and feelings of others. He is characteristically coldly realistic about life and death, and while this sometimes develops into feelings of disappointment, cynicism and pessimism, he is open to seeing joy, meaning and hope in life too. This is what makes you as the reader so vunriable to his poetry because it is so realistic and touching your everyday emotions.