A reading of Larkin’s poem
How we should analyse Philip Larkin’s poetry depends on what phase of his career we’re dealing with. In ‘Send No Money’, Larkin examines the gulf between our expectations of the world and the somewhat less satisfying realities the world provides us with. It is also significant that ‘Send No Money’ was completed, according to Larkin’s notebook, in August 1962, two months after his poem ‘Essential Beauty’ and two months before he wrote ‘Sunny Prestatyn’. All three of these poems deal with this theme: the difference between what Larkin elsewhere calls ‘your wants, the world’s for you, and … what you’ll get’. You can read ‘Send No Money’ here.
‘Send No Money’, in summary, dramatises a meeting between the poem’s speaker (who may or may not correspond to the young Larkin) and Time, personified as a man with a booming voice and a large ‘fobbed’ belly, like an old (fob) watch. The young speaker asks Time to tell him the truth about life and ‘the way things go’. Read the rest of this entry
A summary of Larkin’s last great poem
An aubade – the term is from the French – is a song or poem in praise of the dawn, but Philip Larkin’s ‘Aubade’ is somewhat different. Although the meditation in the poem takes place during the early hours of the morning, there is none of the celebratory zest found so often in poetic aubades. Instead, Philip Larkin’s ‘Aubade’ is a poem about death, and specifically the poet’s own growing sense of his mortality. You can read ‘Aubade’ here; in this post we offer some notes towards an analysis of this, the last great poem Larkin ever wrote.
Philip Larkin completed ‘Aubade’ in November 1977, and the poem was published in the Times Literary Supplement on 23 December – ruining quite a few Christmas dinners, as Larkin himself predicted. He had begun the poem in 1974, the year that his final collection High Windows appeared, but he laid it aside and returned to it three years later, in the summer of 1977. Read the rest of this entry
A reading of a classic Larkin poem
‘Church Going’ is one of Philip Larkin’s best-loved poems. It appeared in his second full collection of poetry, The Less Deceived (1955). In this post, we’d like to offer some notes towards an analysis of ‘Church Going’, which can be read here.
The title, ‘Church Going’, is not hyphenated, to allow for a secondary meaning to be glimpsed – or, in fact, a tertiary meaning, since ‘Church Going’ is itself already carrying a double meaning. It immediately suggests going to church as an act of worship, but Larkin is not a ‘church-goer’ in that sense: he visits the churches (something, he tells us, he ‘often’ does) for other reasons, and is not himself a believer or worshipper. But ‘Church Going’ also glimmers with another meaning: the idea that the church, as institution, is ‘going’ or fading from view. (Larkin’s titles often centre on such goings: see ‘Going’ and, indeed, ‘Going, Going’, as well as his ‘Poetry of Departures’.) Read the rest of this entry