Look at two poems by Larkin that deal with our subjection to time and the painfulness of memory, and explore how he achieves his effects. (Love Songs in Age and Reference Back)

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'Love Songs in Age' and 'Reference Back' are both poems by Philip Larkin that deal with the painfulness of memories and our subjection to time. In each, Larkin talks of the ways music can provoke memories, be it the sheet music 'Love Songs in Age', or the records in 'Reference Back'. The tone of the poems is very similar, with a negative opinion expressed in the final stanza of each poem, with 'Reference Back' dealing with the distortion of memories over time, and the theme of 'Love Songs in Age' being the overrating of love. Despite this, there are a number of differences in the way Larkin achieves his effects, in both the structure and language.

In 'Reference Back' the narrator is talking of visiting home, and the lack of communication between himself and his mother, and how this is the way it has always been. Larkin uses the word 'unsatisfactory' four times in the poem, to describe the hall, room, the mother's 'age' and the son's 'prime'. This puts emphasis on the idea expressed in the final stanza; that we romanticise the past and therefore feel that the present pales in comparison and experience feelings of dissatisfaction as 'by acting differently we could have kept it so'. This idea of romanticising the past is also seem to an extent in 'Love Songs in Age'

Both poems consist of three stanzas; the first introducing the situation, the penultimate talking of the significance of the music and the concluding stanza summarising what Larkin wishes to demonstrate to the reader. In 'Reference Back' these stanzas are clearly separated by full stops at the end of each line, while in 'Love Songs in Age' Larkin uses enjambment. This can be seen between all three stanzas with 'stood/Relearning how' between the first and second and 'even more/The glare' between the second and third. One explanation for this may be that in 'Love Songs in Age' Larkin is explaining that love cannot stop anything, such as the death of the woman's husband, and that life and love will...
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