Philip Larkin Answer

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“Larkin is a pessimistic rather than optimistic poet” – Discuss

Larkin has been regarded as a pessimistic poet. Larkin surely takes a very dark view of human life. The main emphasis in his poem is on failure and frustration in human life. However Larkin is not a uniformly pessimistic poet. Some of his poems have a profoundly moral character, which expresses itself in the need to control and organize life, rather than submit to a pre-determined pattern of failure. There is generally a debate going on in many of his poems between the positive and the negative aspects of human life. I feel that Larkin can be both a positive and negative poet.

I find the poem "The Trees" to be one of Larkin’s optimistic poems. "The Trees" deals with the reflective descriptions of Larkin’s observation of trees. Despite its misleading superficial simplicity, the poem bears a deeper meaning underneath: the trees that are reborn every year ‘the trees are coming into leaf like something almost being said’ symbolize renewal and hope in the face of the humans who have to face death eventually. Yet, throughout the poem, Larkin ambivalently ponders about this symbolism, as he delightedly views the picture of the growing trees but denies the immortality of their youth as a superficial veneer marked by the inward aging and an eventual death ‘Is it that they are born again And we grow old? No, they die too.’ The poem is in a strictly regular metrical and rhyming structure, arranged into 3 different stanzas, each one four lines long. Such regularity of structure is reflective of the nature's cycling of birth, growth and renewal. "The Trees" demonstrates the transience of youth as a result of the destructive passage of time, one of the recurring themes of Larkin’s works. In the introductory stanza, through the portrayal of the burgeoning trees as both cheerful and melancholy, Larkin purposefully reveals the meaninglessness of life. Larkin illustrates the trees as "coming into leaf". The...
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