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A Short Analysis of Philip Larkin’s ‘Sympathy in White Major’

A reading of a Larkin poem

‘Sympathy in White Major’ contains perhaps the most mouth-watering description of someone making a gin and tonic to be found in all English poetry. But it is also, like many Philip Larkin poems, about the relation between the self and society, between the individual and the world around him (and in Larkin it is a him). What follows are some notes towards an analysis of this intriguing poem.

A brief summary of the three stanzas that comprise the poem first. The first stanza essentially consists of a description of Larkin (or his poem’s speaker) making a gin and tonic – not the most typical opening for a Philip Larkin poem. But at the end of the stanza we get the beginnings of the poem’s core theme: selflessness. Once the drink is prepared, Larkin raises it in a toast to some unspecific person (perhaps himself), praising this person for devoting their life to others. Read the rest of this entry


A Short Analysis of Philip Larkin’s ‘Mr Bleaney’

A reading of a classic Larkin poem

Philip Larkin completed ‘Mr Bleaney’ in May 1955, and it appeared nine years later in his third major volume of poems, The Whitsun Weddings (1964). The poem is about a professional man renting a room in a woman’s house, and musing on the life of the previous tenant, ‘Mr Bleaney’. In this post we offer some notes towards an analysis of the poem, which can be read here.

In summary, we might divide ‘Mr Bleaney’, roughly, into three parts. The first two-and-a-bit stanzas constitute the setup for the poem, which sees the poem’s speaker being shown the room he is to lodge in. His landlady, the woman who owns the house and who is renting out one of her rooms to him, tells him about the previous man to occupy the room, the titular Mr Bleaney. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Philip Larkin’s ‘Send No Money’

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