The Poem “at Grass” by Philip Larkin

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In the poem “At grass” by Philip Larkin the poet writes about his encounter with two retired horses. A passage of time is significant in this poem as it is only after the poet thinks back to what the horse’s life was like before it they retired that he has a change of mind and realises that they are probably better off now than they were in the past. The first hint that the poet gives us, is in his title of the poem “At Grass” as this gives the impression that the horses are at rest and away from all the races and secondly lets the reader know that the horses are retired.

The structure of the poem is very important as it is broken down in to three main parts which are the poet’s observation, his reflection and finally his conclusion. Each of these parts of the poem is set in a different tense. The first section of the poem is the first stanza which is set in the present tense and is the poet observation of these two horses. The poet shows what tense this sections is set in by his word choice of words like “distresses” and “stands”. In this section the poet is observing the horses and thinking through the situation they find themselves in and wondering how they came to be like this. Larkin’s use of word choice is very important when creating this passage of time in the first stanza:

“…the cold shade they shelter in,
Till wind distresses tail and mane…”

These two lines make the mood of the first section sad; making the horses seem miserable this also makes you think about the horses possibly not being looked after properly and just living a horrible Inexistence. The word choice of “cold shade” again adds to this feeling of being miserable and also the horses being neglected by humans. The alliteration “shade they shelter…” makes an “s” sound, which suggests the word shivering. The word choice of “moves about” suggests the horses aren’t doing very much and they are just mopping about and are just really unhappy with the way they live....
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