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Phillip Larkin Essay

The statement “Larkin is a poet of grey moods, suburban melancholy and accepted regrets.” Is accurate and appropriate when looking at and reading his poetry. This is displayed through his various poems, including the ones I’m going to talk about; ‘Aubade’ and ‘The Whitsun Weddings.’ Both of which portray all three themes.

The poem Aubade as a whole represents these three themes through the constant use of truncation in poem at the end of every stanza. The poem itself also represents the themes as ‘Aubade’ is about mourning the life we have in preparation for death, which in its irony comes under the first theme of grey moods.

More specifically to the theme of grey moods within Aubade is through the quote, “I work all day, and get half drunk at night. /Waking at four to soundless dark. I stare” As this is in the opening stanza it sets the tone of the poem and portrays Larkin’s particular mindset. The monosyllabic language emphasises his reluctance in engaging in daily life as well as his depression. “Soundless dark,” being an allusion to death it portrays to the reader a certain outlook Larkin has on life due to these moods.

The next quote to represent grey moods shows a pragmatic outlook Larkin has on life and thoughts. “Making all thought impossible but how / and where and when I shall myself die.” This quote from the poem is truncated to emphasise the inevitability of death itself. This quote yet again shows the outlook he has on life and the particular mindset Larkin is in which is largely influences his moods.

Suburban melancholy is another theme represented throughout various poems written by Larkin, including ‘Aubade.’ Throughout this poem despondent outlooks on life is shown for example in this quote, ‘meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring / in locked up offices.” The personification effectively represents his distaste for life, working and daily duties again reiterating that the poem is about mourning life in preparation for death. The line in the quote saying, “getting ready to ring” can be interpreted as a symbol or a metaphorical representation of death calling.

Another example displaying the theme of suburban melancholy is the quote, “all the uncaring / intricate rented world begins to rouse.” By saying intricate world meaning complicated it shows his outlook again on the daily life of society and human beings, possibly because they don’t share the same concern for death as he does. The words ‘uncaring and unrented world’ link to extinction and further links back to the theme of grey moods as well as accepted regrets as his attitude towards life is we are all going to die anyway so in a way what is the point.

The theme of accepted regrets is evident throughout this poem and is shown in the quote, “Being brave / let’s no one off the grave” This rhyme and truncation emphasises Larkin’s outlook and acceptance within life and death. In this quote he accepts and understands that death is inevitable and Larkin acknowledges that it does not matter who he is or the decisions he has made in life it will not change anything. Death will still come.

The poem ‘The Whitsun Weddings’ by Larkin as a whole represents all three themes through the structural use of truncation within stanzas to represent lines that are in a candid tone and also enjambment in Larkin’s descriptions of buildings and such as he admires buildings because they can stand forever and he fears death.

The theme of grey moods is present within this poem in the following quote, “did my three-quarters-empty train pull out” The use of rhythm allows this line to flow in to the next line to further emphasise his tone and attitude. This quote also shows a metaphorical emptiness within Larkin as during this poem the time and place and setting have a relevance and meaning and he does not.

Suburban melancholy is portrayed throughout these quotes, “Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish dock.” The visual imagery at the beginning of this quote and then the olfactory imagery of the smell of the fish dock show sadness in his opinion and description of the landscape and his surroundings and how unappealing his society and life may be.

Then in the quote, “Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:” The simile emphasises the closeness and urban feel of the society again adding to the unappealing and dull nature and tone he sees in his surroundings.

The final theme of accepted regrets is present within ‘The Whitsun Weddings’ in these quotes, “ready to be loosed with all the power / that being change can give.” This objective language shows Larkin’s experience on this journey and that events like this can change someone’s outlook on life but it hasn’t changed him and he accepts his decision for partaking in the journey.

“And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled / a sense of falling.” This quote contains an aspect of visual imagery but shows a sense of falling to death. Death is inevitable and he believes that there is no hope, which he accepts and understands with the link to the sense of falling.

Phillip Larkin is a poet is a poet of grey moods, suburban melancholy and accepted regrets and this as I have stated is unmistakable throughout all aspects of his poetry.


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