language and verse

‘The dead straight miles by stealing flat-faced trolleys’ is an extremely insulting line that insinuates that all people from council estates will steal and end up in prison. The personification of the shopping trolleys by saying that they are “flat-faced” could also be indicating Larkin’s view that these people could commit worse crimes than stealing shopping trolleys and would perhaps steal from each other. This view of them being criminals is then recapitulated in the following line when Larkin says ” Push through plate-glass swing doors to their desires”.

This suggests that Larkin thinks that the people he is describing believe that they are above the law and can therefore do anything ‘to their desires’ without having to face the consequences. “Cheap suits, red kitchen-ware, sharp shoes, iced lollies … ” lists what they want. Larkin is hinting that these people think that if they have all the things listed then all their problems will be solved. This creates the impression for the reader that theses people are quite pathetic because their desires are so materialistic and false.

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The third stanza of Here begins with the line “A cut-price crowd, urban yet simple”. This is also a very abusive line, which suggests that people who have no money are cheap and simple. “Where only salesmen and relations come” hints at the residents of the town actually being very lonely and scarcely having visitors. This could be reinforcing to the message Larkin portrays in other poems such as Mr Bleaney and Nothing to be said that everyone is alone and lonely and everyone will die lonely regardless of their social class or religion or race.

The fact that there is a “slave museum” in the town is quite ironic because all the people working there are enslaved in some way. There is also a consulate and not an embassy, which likewise demonstrates the fact that this town is quite insignificant in comparison to other places such as London (where the protagonist’s journey began). The extensive use of hyphens in the third stanza in used to show that everyone and everything in the town has been hurriedly and uncaringly thrown together and not properly connected.

After “Loneliness clarifies” there is the first full stop of the poem and the pace is changed again and brought to a smooth stop. The last stanza consists of four sentences whereas the other three stanzas were all one long sentence. This produces an amazing contrast between the last stanza and the rest of the poem and the reader is suddenly stopped and lulled into a tranquil halt. Because of this stanza the rest of the poem seems to be forgotten and it becomes clear that Larkin was rushing through the first few stanzas purely to reach this peaceful end.

This seems to show Larkin’s feelings through the rest of the poem, his impatience to reach his destination and his feeling of eventual peace at the end of his journey. The rhythm of the poem may also be a mirror of the train or car journey because the majority of it is one long flowing rhythm but then as the protagonist approaches his final destination the rhythm is interrupted and begins to slow. The word “Here” is used three times in the last stanza and has many connotations such as time, place and movement.

“Silence stands” shows that the silence and peace is so thick in the air that it is almost visible. The fact that when the protagonist reaches his destination he calls it “here” shows his love for it because he does not describe it in such a detached way as he does the other places he passes on his journey. Larkin describes the intense beauty of the landscape by saying, “hidden weeds flower”. This shows that even the weeds are beautiful in the countryside. This is such a huge contrast to the towns he passes because they are all described as being bleak and ugly.

“Here is unfenced existence” shows the freedom of the country in comparison to the restrained existence of urban living and the smooth rhythm at the end of the poem creates a contrast to the jerky rhythm of the rest of the poem. The poem ends on quite a positive note by saying, “Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach”. The sanctity of the protagonist’s destination (Northumberland) is emphasised by the fact that Here actually ends on quite a positive note which is rare for Larkin’s poetry.

“Here” appears to be a place for Larkin where he can escape from the talking and the restraints of living in a town. The last line also gives the image that now that the protagonist is “here” he is untouchable and perfectly at peace. Enjambament is used throughout the poem to illustrate the movement of travel. Here follows the quite common pattern in Larkin’s poetry of starting with a fairly simple message but ending with a more complicated and philosophical insight into Larkin’s views of life, love, religion etc.

Larkin’s use of verse form is particularly interesting in Here because stanzas one and five have the same rhyme scheme, as do stanzas two and four. This could have been done to create the greatest possible contrast between the urban living in stanza two and the peacefulness and tranquillity in stanza five. The chaos of the towns and cities the protagonist passes echoes the chaos in his mind and is shown through the verse structure and the lack of full stops through the majority of the poem.

The second poem I have chosen to study is Nothing to be said which despite its extreme pessimism is actually my favourite poem of the collection that I have read so far. It is another poem that looks at people’s lives and it raises the issues of fear of death and isolation. The general message of the poem it that it doesn’t matter where you are from or what race you are or what your profession is, for everyone life is just a long, slow road to death!