Philip Larkin's Images

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Philip Larkin's Images

By | May 2006
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Stanza forms and images in Philip Larkin

The various fields of art, just as all ways of life, in the twentieth century were deeply impacted by the horrifying experiences of the two world wars and especially the second one. English poetry was not an exception either. "Among the poets of this time there is often a sense of tiredness, of things being worn out, and of helplessness in the face of world events which they had no power to change or influence, so that the strongest poems are often those which describe personal experiences rather than world events." (Thornley & Roberts 191-192)

Poets who share the same social and political events may share a relatively similar outlook on them. They may share the same experiences, yet they always see things filtered through their individual lenses dealing with themes such as love, religion, birth, life and death. Philip Larkin is one of the best-known figures developing this poetical attitude towards the events of the past century. He was an outstanding poet in the "tradition of quietness", and represents a form of poetry in which "there is a sense that reality is dull and unattractive but that living through a dream is equally impossible. Real happiness seems only to have happened in the past…" (Thornley & Roberts 195) The main aim of this essay is to explore how two of Larkin's dominant images, (passing) time and religion are deployed in his poems to express the complexity of his sensing the modern world and how the stanza forms serve this intention.

Philip Larkin's poems usually start from a chance of observation, a conversation or a concrete experience. These events serve as an origin for the poet to form a general, universal statement. "At Grass" is an example of the expression of Larkin's deeply-rooted pessimism depicting the images of passing time and loneliness in old age. Also, according to Blake Morrison, the poem is "more than an emotion about racehorses in old age". He claims this is "one of the...

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