Larkin vs Abse on Relationships

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  • Topic: Philip Larkin, Poetry, Stanza
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  • Published : October 29, 2011
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Larkin and abse discussing relationships

Philip Larkin and Dannie Abse have very different and contrating attitudes to relationships. On the whole, Larkin presents the concepts of love and marriage as very superficial and meaningless, whereas Abse appears to be less such nihilistic and more open and positive about such topics. The essay will discuss this contrast by examing Larkin’s “Whitsun Weddings”, “Wild Oats” and “Arundel Tomb”, and Dannie Abse’s “Imitations” and “Sons”. The poem entitled `The Whitsun Weddings` is an observational piece by Larkin when he was travelling from Hull to London by train. The poem has seven stanzas and is is typical of Larkin. The words are simple, the emotions are blunted and the verse is packed with cynicism, as on the whole, he was a grumpy individual. Whit Sunday falls on the 7th Sunday after Easter and years ago it was a public holiday. Whit Sunday and Whit Monday are important days in the religious calendar otherwise known as the Pentecost. At a time when most of the families in Great Britain were in a celebratory Bank holiday mood Larkin was feeling discontent as he embarked on his train journey from Hull to London. Larkin has used the first line of each stanza to tell us what that particular verse is going to be all about, in the subsequent lines Larkin then tells us his tale. In stanza one the scene is set, Larkin had a late start and the lunchtime train from Hull to London felt clammy because of the heat even though there was plenty of fresh air coming in through the windows, this is classic contradictory Larkin. As Larkin sat down on the hot train seat he began to feel a sense of relaxation. At last he could sit quietly and make his observations. The brilliant sunlight was almost blinding and the heat had further heightened the smell emanating from the already very smelly fish dock. So we can sense that the start of the journey is not scenic and the air is not aromatic but Larkin appears reasonably content about his forthcoming journey. In stanza two he emphasises how hot it is, `All afternoon through the tall heat that sleep for miles inland`. At this point in his journey southwards he is noticing the hedgerows, the fields, the farmland filled with cattle but the beauty is somewhat spoiled because the cloth train seat is permeated with all kinds of unpleasant smells that override the sweeter smells of the passing countryside. At the end of the second stanza Larkin talks of passing a new town, a place that has nothing to offer but a large area of scrap cars. Between 1946 and 1955 a number of new towns were erected as overspill towns and it seems that Larkin is referring to one of these. Larkin may have had some long lasting relationships but he never married, in fact Larkin may have been averse to the institution and all of its encumbrances. In stanza three they are approaching the next station and it’s obvious that Larkin is taken aback by the hullabaloo that is coming from the station platform. At that point Larkin sticks his nose back into his book and carries on reading. As the train pulls away from the platform he is able to see that the platform is filled with laughing young women. Larkin lets cynicism creep into play and he sees fit to describe the young females in an almost unkind way. Larkin states that their mode of dress is a joke, at that point you could begin to wonder if Larkin is mildly slightly jealous. From this we can infer that Larkin is unsatisfied by such relationships and how they haven’t developed as he’s have liked in his own life. The happy group that have gathered on the platform are there to wave someone off and Larkin describes that someone as `something that survived it`. Was Larkin feeling left out? If everyone around you is happy there can be no lonelier place on earth to be. This is therefore what I believe to be the main theme of the poem, loneliness and the need for a long term...
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