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
A reading of Larkin’s classic poem
‘High Windows’, the title poem of Philip Larkin’s fourth and final major poetry collection, is one of his most famous. The poem examines the new permissive society that flowered during the 1960s. Before proceeding to our analysis of ‘High Windows’, you can remind yourself of this poem (or discover it for the first time – a real treat) here.
Completed in February 1967, ‘High Windows’ was one of several poems which Larkin wrote around this time – during the so-called Summer of Love – which analyse the poet’s own middle-aged attitudes to the younger generation and the changing attitudes to sex. ‘Annus Mirabilis’ was written just a few months later, and ‘Sad Steps’, completed the following April, might also be partnered with ‘High Windows’ in this regard. Read the rest of this entry