Philip Arthur Larkin was born August 9, 1922 in Coventry England. He attended Saint John’s College, Oxford and graduated with honors in 1943. His first published book of poetry was entitled “The North Ship,” and released in 1945.
Although this book is not considered to be some of his best works in some passages we see glimpses foreshadowing his later more mature style, which showed up in full force with his next volume of poetry called “The Less Deceived,” published in 1946.
This change was accounted to the introduction of Larkin to the poetry of Thomas Hardy who there after became a strong influence in his works from that point on. With this second publishing Larkin became a mar key poet of his generation spearheading a splinter group of poets in what he called “The Movement.” This was a group of English writers who were disenchanted with the current scene of neo-Romantic writings like that of Yeats and Dylan Thomas. Along with being a respected poet Larkin was also a great fan and critic of American Jazz. His poetry is said to be searing, often mocking, with flagrant wit showing his dark vision of the three universal themes of mortality, love, and human solitude. I feel the two poems I have chosen exemplify some of these traits quit nicely.
“Next, Please” This poem has a steady rhythm which is enhanced by the twelve rhyming couplets in its six quatrains. Upon reading the first stanza and even beyond that this rhyme and rhythm adds to the dark tone. The syntax and use of language also help convey the message of unconquerable doom that I feel is clearly apparent in this poem. Its use of imagery in relationship to the metaphors using commonplace things to describing peoples hopes and aspirations and eventual death I find very interesting and obviously the driving force of the poem.
The Rhyme pattern of aa, bb, cc, dd, ee, ff, gg, hh, ii, jj, kk, ll along with the trochaic rhythm seems to move this poem solemnly from couplet to couplet. When one reads it to themselves or aloud theses characteristics seem to develop the poems dramatic theme. The syntax looks to help in the rhyming of the couplets. As shown in lines nine through ten “Yet still they leave us holding wretched stalk Of disappointment, for, though nothing balks.” The use of enjaments and endstoped lines throughout this poem although tricky for me to perform out loud I find still are an important and crucial in setting the tone and moving this piece along.
The tone of this poem is introduced with the first two sentences “Always too eager for the future, we Pick up bad habits of expectancy. Something is always approaching; every day Till then we say.” Starting out with this bleak statement and then continuing on that path. The tone progresses from there by using the imagery to express the metaphors. The important images are the sparkling armada, which is a metaphor for the good fortune mankind awaits. The wretched stalks we hold being our contempt for those ships that hold our prize the one that we will never get. The ship of hope itself described in lines eleven through fourteen. Finally the last image in the last stanza is where the tone shifts a tad from being dark to now even a bit darker. The one ship that is seeking us, the black sailed ship towing nothing but silence and not even making a break. This image is most noticeably a reference to death.
The poem in all is a metaphor sustained from begging to end (characteristics of an allegory) about the hopes people have and how we always wait though they never come to fruition. We wait for all the good we think is owed to us but the only thing that awaits us for sure is quite death.
The next poem is “This Be The Verse,” which is comparatively different from the first poem. For starters there is no ongoing metaphor. The tone of this poem and the meaning are very forefront and out right. It has three stanzas all quatrains, its iambic; the rhyme scheme is ab, ab, cd, cd, ef,ef. I consider the tone of this poem to be a cynical warning about becoming a parent. It essentially says that know matter who you are or how you try you are going to “embarrass,” your kids up. He talks about how our parents were messed up by their parents by saying of “fools in old style hats and coats, who half the time were soppy stern and half at one another’s throat.” He uses the simile in line ten comparing the issues that are past down from parent to child “It deepens like a costal shelf.” With the final line saying what the whole poem insinuates and that is for no one to have any kids themselves. This poem uses strong language, rhythm and rhyme superbly to get its message across.