Compare the Ways in Which Larkin and Abse Discuss the Subject of Death in Their Poems

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Compare the ways in which Larkin and Abse discuss the subject of death in their poems

When the subject of death is addressed by poets Larkin and Abse they imply that death is a certain and predetermined demise to our lives. However through analysing there style of poetic writing, readers can appreciate their different attitudes towards death. Larkin appears accepting of death, acknowledging fate in a realistic way. Abse however is emotionally impacted and overall unaccepting of the part it plays in our lives.

Larkin’s poem ‘Ambulances’ describes the fate of a person falling victim to death. The onlookers watch as an individual is put inside an ambulance which transforms a scene of a placid mood to a construct of an elegy. Throughout his poem Larkin uses ambulances consistently as a metaphorical substitute to death. He does this because they act in a similar fashion, taking ‘poor souls’ from their average everyday life, in the ambulances case, taking them to hospital. In the case of death they are often taken from life altogether. Larkin’s metaphor of ambulances lingers throughout the entire poem, much like the message of death. Alternatively however when looking at the metaphor as something symbolic we can see how more precise links to death. For example the ambulance is a form of both literal and metaphoric meaning. In a literal way is precedes a journey throughout the poem where they ‘come to rest at any kerb’, however metaphorically it shows the journey of life and how it can come to an end at any point. In addition to this metaphorical construction, ‘ambulances’ are further more personified. The personification can be seen through phrases such as ‘they come to rest’ this gives an eerie tone and reinforces the idea that life can be taken from people Furthermore when the ambulances stop and take a victim, it loses its humanity becoming ‘it’. The way the ambulances interact with the human seems as though it swaps identities, the ambulance taking human form whilst the human is ‘carried in and stowed’. Even onlookers do not respond as if it were a human but instead as if they are now a ‘soul’. They are on some level aware that the human is making a transgression to death so no longer is full of life. The personification of ambulances and death give meaning to enjambment used. This can be seen as the swift pace of death, creeping about the poem much like the poem ‘thread’s through the ‘cities’. The presence of death lingers amongst the stanzas. Focusing specifically on stanza 3 where the ambulance conceals the body, a lot of sibilance is used. Phrases such as ‘fastened doors recede’ could mimic the eerie appearance of death and the hush that falls over the onlookers when in the presence of death or more literally an ambulance. Death is presented in the poem as an [inescapable fate]. The rhyme structure for each stanza ‘ABCBCA’ may indicate this as the framing words of each stanza rhyme. For example in stanza 1 the framing words featured are ‘thread’ and ‘visited’. This determined rhyme may represent the cyclical structure of life and death. Life begins much like the stanza does, and then mimicking the stanza again is draws to an end with death. In other ways this can show that death and life are the only conclusive things in our lives. The rhyme structure between the framing words is alternate rhyme. This could represent the unaffected ordinary life that is altering indecisively; changing depending on whose life is being examined. Furthermore because the same rhyme scheme is present throughout the quintet we can view the aspect of death as being consistent. By using this consistent reference to death it is clear that Larkin finds no trauma in analysing the subject. The consistency of death is also reiterated through the personas belief that is ‘lies just under all we do’. This shows us that death is always present, but lingers unseen and forgotten by people, who continue their ordinary lives until it rears again. More...
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