English Lit

Dannie Abse and Phillip Larkin

  • Created by: Sian
  • Created on: 02-06-10 11:14


Themes: Isolation, Sence of place, Movement.
Isolation plays a role in 'Here' far from seperating the persona from existence, it brings him into a new and depper contact with himself. Hull, though apart from the frentic activity of the motorway, is still a place of busyness and activity, isolated but not a place for freedom. it is when the narrator goes onto the Holderness peninsula, with its 'Isolate villages' and the the 'removed lives' of their inhabitants, that he finds himself in true and meaningful isolation. The experience does not leave him lonley, but almost spiritually elevated and engaged. His final observation that 'Loneliness clarifies' expresses the liberation he sences.

Interpretation: Here' is the opening poem of the Whitsun Weddings: it locates the reader in Larkin's England. Like a helicopter cameraman, he shows us the scenery, moving toward a large town (Hull in Yorkshire where he lived). Larkin catalogues its consumers - 'grim head-scarfed wives' - and commerce - 'electric mixers, toasters, washers, driers' - in one long, critical sentence of 25 lines. Notice how the short sentence 'Here silence stands / Like heat' pulls us up short, slowing the pace as we move beyond the suburbs to countryside and 'isolate villages'. The final view is of life 'out of reach' of society - a landscape solitary but beautiful.

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Faith Healing

This poem describes watching the women who queue to be blessed by an American faith healer. The encounter each woman has with the healer is very brief - twenty seconds, in which he asks her to tell him 'what's wrong' and then asks God to cure the troubled part: 'this eye, that knee'. The women are deeply affected by this experience. Larkin wonders what motivates people to need faith healing. He concludes that within everyone is a sense of the life they could have lived if they had loved more, or, particularly, if they had been loved more. Nothing cures this ache, but the healing experience relieves by loosening suppressed emotions. Time and voice: The poem is written in the present tense - giving it immediacy. Larkin is a detached, third person observer of the experience. We share his analytical view of the emotional event he witnesses. This gives authority to his general conclusions in the final stanza 'in everyone there sleeps / A sense of life lived according to love'.StructureThe poem is divide into three stanzas of ten lines, with five stresses each, and a regular but complex rhyming pattern: ABCABDABCABD. This pattern mirrors the regular succession of women who file up to meet the faith healer. The three stanzas divide the poem's action: in the first the women file forward; in the second they disperse; in the third Larkin takes over with his exclamation 'What's wrong!' and analysis. Notice how the phrase 'then, exiled' causes an abrupt break at the end of the first stanza. This makes us feel the women's loneliness as they move away from the comfort of the faith healer's grasp. The lines are not end-stopped, but run on into each other - this helps to create a sense of movement and progression.Language and Imagery: One important image is of rain/tears. Do you see the 'warm spring rain of loving care' in line 5? This is a metaphor: rain releases the fruitfulness of the soil that has been hardened by winter's frost; similarly, the healer's loving care releases the women's pent-up feelings. This links to the 'tears' and 'eyes squeezing grief' in stanza 2, and 'thawing, the rigid landscape weeps' in stanza 3. Another image is of being a child. The faith healer's repeated words 'now, dear child' are emphasised by italics, in stanzas 1 and 3. His silver hair and blessing make the healer himself seem like God, and emphasise his fatherly role. In stanza 2 Larkin imagines that 'a kind of dumb, idiot child' is reawakened in the women by their experience - they cry and lose control of speech like young children. Look at the phrase 'tongues blort' in line 19. A made-up word, near to 'blurt', its sound suggests their lack of rationality, an excited confusion echoed by 'jam', 'crowd' and 'rejoice'. Larkin uses the vocabulary of Christianity (which refers to worshippers as 'children' and 'sheep') to suggest that the women's need for religious blessing arises from a common craving for human, especially parental, love. The poem's title could therefore be a play on words - perhaps it is simply the act of trust in others, rather than religion, which heals us.

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A Study Of Reading Habbits

The speaker indirectly recounts the kind of books he has read during three different phases of his life, and how they relate to his imaginative existence.Time and Voice: The poem is written in the first person. It has a friendly, conversational feel, and a humorous tone - less formal than 'The Whitsun Weddings'. It can be read simply as an autobiographical description of Larkin's early experience of books. You might, however, choose to see the speaker as a persona (an adopted voice, which is near to Larkin's own, but not identical).Structure: There are 3 stanzas of six lines each (sestets), with three uneven stresses per line. The rhyme scheme is ABCBAC. Each stanza marks a different period in the speaker's life up to the present.Language and Imagery: Notice the colloquial language, which Larkin employs ('getting my nose in a book') right from the start of this poem. This casts a comic light on the poem's serious-sounding title. The first 3 lines of the sestet show us the physical reality of the speaker as a child, which is that he is weak-sighted, and 'ruining his eyes' by reading. The second 3 lines tell us about the fantasy life he is living through books. He is a hero, perhaps a gangster or cowboy, who can 'keep cool' while throwing punches at villains who are bigger than him. The slang expressions 'the old right hook' and 'dirty dogs', tell us about the adventure fiction he is reading - with exotic, macho vocabulary. In stanza 2, the speaker's tastes have moved on to vampire novels. He wants to be an anti-hero. The teenager's fantasies now involve women - whom he 'clubs with sex'. The comic simile, 'I broke them up like meringues' suggests the fundamental harmlessness of his imaginings. The women are just like a sweet dish that you would demolish with a spoon. 'Ripping times' is a play on words: 'ripping' is old-fashioned slang for 'good fun', but here it has the double meaning of 'slashing'. This is typical of Larkin's familiar humour.Stanza 3 brings us into the present. The speaker now sees himself as the shopkeeper in a romantic novel, who is cowardly and unsuccessful rather than heroic. Fantasy life is no longer effective in shutting out reality - so he discards books. The contraction The contraction '(I) don't read much now' and the direct retort to the reader 'Get stewed: / Books are a load of ****' are deliberately shocking. Coming from a writer, it is ironic and funny to hear books dismissed. It is part of the self-deprecating role that Larkin plays that he appears to deny the value of his own work. He is also forming a bond with the general reader who finds poetry difficult - his choice of non-literary language to express an anti-literary feeling are typical of Larkin's desire to write accessibly.

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The final line of this poem; 'never such innocence again' refects the pre-war victorian society's romantic views towards death. Before the war young men were encouraged to think of fighting as heroic, reminiscent of greek myths and fairytales. They had no idea about the suffering and trauma that would actually occur. In public schools at the time boys were taught about being 'a good sport' and doing glorious things for your country. I think this is what Larkin is referring to when he says the men were waiting as if outside 'the Oval or Villa Park'. No past experience can actually prepare then for the war but to them it must have seemed like a team effort, trying to win a victory for England as one might in cricket or football. This idea also highlights their innocence and makes this poem very poignant. the 'moment in time' style of this poem captures how never after such terrible suffering will men be so keen or so unaware as they were in 1914. Larkin leaves this as open-ended. Is this innocence good or bad? it is up to the reader to decide.

Theme: Marriage and Women: Marriages in this poem are doomed to come to an end, but because of the First World War, not for personal reasons. However, the lines 'thousand of marriages/lasting a little while longer' imply that is because the men are going off to war, 'leaving gardens tidy', that the marriages will last for a while more - absence makes the heart grow fonder.

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Mr Bleaney

Philip Larkin portrays a theme of loneliness in the poem 'Mr. Bleaney'. Not only does the story within the poem suggest a feeling of solitude and emptiness, Larkin also deliberately uses language and techniques to emphasise the theme he's going for.First of all, the title itself is of a person who's first name we do not know. It creates a sense that it is irrelevant and that 'Mr. Bleaney' isn't of much importance. The lack of strong syllables in the title makes it sound monotonous giving the impression of boredom, of a life lacking excitement.The poem, throughout, is a big metaphor of Mr. Bleaney's life. The way the room is described doesn't really make an impression and shows how rough and lonely it must have been to live there. For example, Larkin uses the words 'littered' and 'upright'. Also he talks about a 'sixty-watt bulb', which states how his surroundings weren't very bright, like how his life must have had little inspiration.Larkin reinforces this by describing a repetitive habit of Mr. Bleaney visiting the same family members every year. 'The Frinton folk put him up for summer holidays' - the poet gives the feeling that Mr. Bleaney wasn't really wanted there and that they're just putting up with him. It suggests that they are most probably forced to look after him, out of pity maybe.Along with the lack of excitement in his life, Larkin also portrays Mr. Bleaney as very reliant on the people around him. The quote 'they moved him' not only symbolises death and hints that Mr. Bleaney has passed away but also that he was unable to make decisions for himself.'One hired box' evokes the images of a coffin, again leading the reader to think that Mr. Bleaney has indeed passed away. Prior to this, Larkin describes the room's curtains as 'thin and frayed', which could be a metaphor of Mr. Bleaney's past condition and it could be argued that he died of some sort of illness.The use of two characters, being the landlord and the buyer of the old room, ensures that the poem is based on reality. The pessimistic view of the assumed buyer shows lack of pride. The quote 'I lie where Mr. Bleaney lay' suggests that even though his presumptions of what the man's life must have been like aren't very assuring, his is no different either. He is in the same position. He also has to rent that shabby room like Mr. Bleaney did, showing that he isn't rich enough to own a place of his own too. He is also presumably alone in renting that room, suggesting that he doesn't have many friends either.The enjambaments used to carry sentences on symbolises the pointless existence of Mr. Bleaney, having to continue living a dull and tedious life. The lack of obvious similes and metaphors again suggests boredom and lack of inspiration.In the last phrase, the buyer says 'I don't know', which states how even though he can deduce this man's life by how he used to live and what he's got to show of his previous existence ('that how we live measures our own nature'), he still cannot be sure exactly who he was and what he was like when he was alive. I personally think that Larkin had a hidden message between the lines of this poem, which is not to judge anyone when you know very little about them.

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Love Songs In Age

This pictures a woman who has kept the musical scores of songs she used to play, perhaps on the piano, and rediscovers them after many years, when she is a widow. As physical objects they have been marked by the passage of time: one is faded by sunlight, the woman's daughter has coloured another in. The words of the songs, though, are fresh 'like a spring-woken tree' and convey a sharp memory of being young and having life and love ahead. The woman cries because love's promise 'to solve, and satisfy' has not been fulfilled in her life.
Theme: Women and Marriage: The tenderness of this portrait of a disapointed and now lonley widow is at odss with the representation of women elsewhere in the collection. Love and marriage are initally help up as an ideal - the woman kee[s her songs as sentimental mementos. Remembering, however, paints a diffrent and painful picture. she realises that love does not and never did 'solve, and satisfy'/ And set unchangeably in order'. Very poinent that finding one thing allows her to refelct upon her life (how language creates meaning)
3rd person - loses intamisy, sympathetic
Embjambment throughoutTime/life does not live up to our expectationsl/love is a disappointment
3 stanzas – octaves
Sheet music – objective correlative for abstract emotive nature of loss and disillusion
Fine detailed observation – movement from keepsakes of love/youth to motherhood to widowhood to memory of youth in old age - awakening painful recognition of failure of love’s promise to solve the loneliness of our lives – in both youth and age. Everyday domestic objects and places captured in everyday expressions – “a tidy fit” - moves into highly wrought figurative language to express distance between our actions and thoughts/hopes of transcendence through love – “its bright incipience sailing above” – finally moves into realisation of “It had not done so then, and could not now”.
Conclusion – then and now merge – life experience/age does not lessen our longing/disappointments

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Toads Revisited

'Toad' is Larkin's pet word for 'work'. This poem is a sequel to 'Toads' in his earlier collection, The Less Deceived. Larkin describes taking a daytime walk in the park during the week. He meets those who do not have jobs: frail old men ('palsied old step-takers'), hospital outpatients, and vagrants 'deep in the litter baskets'. He concludes that the routine of work actually feels better than belonging to this social group who have 'nowhere to go but indoors'. In an ironical parting couplet, Larkin personifies work as an 'old toad' which will take his arm, making life's journey toward death ('Cemetery Road') easier.

ABCC - emphasis not right for him. Sees people not working in a park they are weak, old and outcasts.
Contant repetition 'think of being them'

Lonliness, Death, Isolation.

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Larkin imagines inventing a religion with rites involving water. Crossing water will be part of the ritual of attending church. Larkin will raise a glass of water, which reflects light, in the east (where the star announcing Christ's birth rises in the Bible). This fantasy raises the possibility that conventional religions may also just be designed to meet an audience's need for ceremony. 'Water', unlike all the poems discussed above, is unrhymed. But notice its strong, chanting metre: three stanzas with 2, 2 and 3 stresses per line; one stanza with a 3, 2, 2, 3 stress pattern.

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Selfs The Man

Coming after 'The Whitsun Weddings', this poem also considers the topic of marriage. Larkin contrasts his life with that of Arnold who 'married a woman to stop her getting away / Now she's there all day.' Arnold is no longer free: his wife nags him and his salary goes to his children. The view of Arnold's wife is very negative: you may feel that the poem's attitude to women reflects a fear present throughout this collection. Larkin wonders whether bachelor life or marriage is the more selfish social choice.

this poem conveys a cynical and sexist veiw of women as possestions (He married a women to stop her getting away); as burdens and drains (the money he gets for wasting his life on work/ she takes as her perk); and as demanding nags (when he finishes supper/ planning to have a read at the evening paper/ Its put a screw in this wall'). It isnt any less bleak then its presentation of marriage; getting married is initally presented as more generous that remaining single (Arnold less selfish then I), but eventually marriage is judged to come from selfish desires too; Arnorld is 'our for his own ends', as is his wife, looking for 'her perk'. In the regard neither sex emerges positivly.

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A Stufy Of Reading Habbits

Larkin remembers his reading habits as a schoolboy. In the first stanza he is leading, through books, the fantasy life of a tough-guy hero, throwing punches at villains. In the second stanza, as he grows older, he is imagining himself as a vampire, acting out ****** violence. In the third stanza, an older Larkin claims that he doesn't read much any more because he identifies himself with 'the dude who lets the girl down' in love stories. 'Books are a load of ****', he suggests - a humorous and ironical retort from a writer.

While not exclusivly about women, this poem nevertheless presents some distribing views. It describes the brutal sexual fantasies of the narrartor as a young man (the women i clubbed with sex/ i broke them up like meringues) and the sterotypical unreliablity of male charcters in books: 'the dude/ who lets the girl down before/ the hero arrives'.

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'Ignorance' cuts to the heart of the collection?s doubtfulness about the future. Larkin comments on how strange it is 'never to be sure / Of what is true or right or real'. This, and the question about death in the last stanza, point to religious doubt - Larkin was an agnostic - but also social uncertainty. The second stanza, which describes ignorance of 'the way things work' (a vague subject) 'their sense of shape, and punctual spread of seed' suggests again Larkin as an observer, noting others' instinctive identity and reproduction, but unable to participate without questioning these. The body ('flesh') is predetermined, but the reason for life remains a mystery.

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Wild Oats

Wild Oats' contrasts the life one has lived, with the life not chosen. Larkin, in the same self-deprecating voice of 'A Study in Reading Habits', admits his romantic failure: 'I was too selfish...And easily bored to love'. He had a relationship with a girl 'in specs I could talk to', but always hankered after the girl's prettier friend, whom he 'only met twice'. We see the objects associated with the relationship he had which ended - four hundred letters, a ten-guinea ring - and the two photographs of the girl he never dated. Surprisingly it is these snaps which he still carries around: unrealised fantasy outlasts the real affair.

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Arundel Tomb

You may feel that this ends the collection on a more hopeful note about love and the passing of time. Larkin describes a mediaeval tomb, of an earl and a countess who are modelled in stone, lying side by side. The pose is formal: the earl is wearing armour - but Larkin is struck by the fact that his left glove is off and he is holding his wife's hand. The poet imagines the 'stationary voyage' of the tomb through the centuries. The mediaeval couple would have been amazed by changes in the hierarchical world they knew - people don't wear armour, or read the Latin inscription. Modern viewers just notice the apparent gesture of intimacy, which the couple may not have intended. But Larkin derives from this a general truth: 'what will survive of us is love'.

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Whitsun Weddings

This poem describes a train journey on a hot Saturday afternoon. Newly wed couples board at each station. Larkin watches them, and their families left behind on the platform. He thinks about the transition that marriage represents, and the 'frail travelling coincidence' which the passengers share as they journey onward.Time and voice: The poem is written in the past tense and the first person. It is based on an autobiographical experience, which Larkin had in 1955. Whitsun was originally a church festival where newly baptised people wore white. This makes it an appropriate holiday to associate with weddings, which are also festivals of change, where the bride wears white.Structure: The poem has eight rhymed stanzas, of ten lines each. The rhyme scheme is ABABCDECDE.The lines in each stanza have five stresses except the second line, which has only two. The shorter line introduces a visual contrast and may suggest to you the alternating but regular rhythm of a train. This rhythm is also created by run-on lines which pause briefly in the middle of sentences: 'all sense / Of being in a hurry gone'; 'we ran / Behind the backs of houses'. Language and imagery: The language of the first part of the poem appeals to our senses - the feel of the 'hot cushions', the sight of cars' 'blinding windscreens' reflecting the sun, the smell of the fish-dock, of grass and of the train's upholstery. A warm, sleepy atmosphere is created which draws the reader in. Larkin gives us quick snapshots of the passing landscape. As in the poem 'Here', we see industry as well as countryside. The canal's 'industrial froth' and the 'new and nondescript' towns with 'acres of dismantled cars' suggest that Larkin doesn't find modern scenery entirely sympathetic. When he finally notices the wedding parties he is ruthless in his description of their style - the women?s dresses are 'parodies of fashion', they are 'grinning' (a word often associated with stupidity) and 'pomaded' (covered in hair gel). The mothers are 'loud and fat', the uncles 'shout ****' the fathers are sweaty ('seamy foreheads'). You might consider whether Larkin's presentation of the wedding parties also reflects his view of their social class. Gradually, Larkin and the reader become involved in the moment of transition when the newly married couples leave their families and join the train. This 'moving on' is both actual and symbolic. Women 'share the secret like a happy funeral': a conjunction of words, which at first seems contradictory. How can a funeral be happy, or a wedding resemble a funeral? Larkin uses the odd juxtaposition to suggest the conflicting emotions, which marriage inspires - it is both joyful, and represents a loss. Part of this loss can be a loss of sexual virginity, implied by the 'religious wounding', which awes the girls. The vocabulary of Larkin's poems is typically familiar (look for everyday words like 'perm', 'nylon', 'Odeon') but in the last two stanzas the imagery becomes more metaphorical. London in the sun seems like a golden field, its postal districts 'packed like squares of wheat', the train with all its passengers is compared to 'an arrow-shower' shooting forward - a positive image of shared experience. Change brings energy and 'power'. Larkin stands halfway between involvement and detachment - observing marriage's rite of passage without directly participating in it.

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Dannie Abse: Red Ballon

Red Balloon is a poem about Abse life as a Jewish boy growing up in Wales, the red balloon symbolises Judaism. On the surface this poem describes when Abse found a red balloon and how the ‘rude boys’ of Wales burst it when they found out it was a Jews balloon. However the poem is more deeply about the conflict between religion and society, the red balloon is a representative of his religion and it shows us how he attempts to hide it from his welsh society. Abse seems to be exploring whether it is right or wrong to be Jewish ‘it was my shame, it was my joy’ he is confused of what society expects of him. Abse also shows the attitudes portrayed toward Jews and how they was such a negative persona surrounding those who were. 'However long they swear their love.' This shows people are false regarding their attitudes towards Jews. This may be representative of Abse's beloved Wales. It portrays itself as a diverse country however many of its inhabitants are racist. The Imagery throughout this poem is shown alone through the title red balloon’ this is a juxtaposition of youth and death. A balloon is symbolic of youth and happiness whereas we are told later the red balloon shone "like living blood".The structure of this poem is that there are 10 stanzas where the end of the first and last lines rhymes. The rhyme is only strong in certain places, the end of the first and last lines of each stanza rhyme. There is no strong rhythm throughout.The mood and tone of the poem varies. At the start Abse seems happy to have acquired his red balloon. This is exaggeration and is building up however we are told to ‘no one dare I show it’ and from then on things only get worse.The poem ends very downbeat and shows what many Jews were possibly feeling throughout history as a inferior race. ‘Father, bolt the door, turn the key, least those sad, brash boys return to insult my faith and steal my read balloon from me.’ This shows the audience how Abse feels he need to be protected from the racism as he ‘suffers’ from being Jewish.

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It is a poem about progress, and bemoaning the very nature of progress i.e. slow replaced with fast etc.

The wire replacement symbolises a refinement/advancement of technology, but the narrator wonders whether this also sounds the death knell for a simpler, pre-lapsarian world: "Goodbye...sweet jamboree"; hello "monotone"!

technological progression: things have moved foward but not always brought positivity

Comparrison: Love songs in age

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Down The M4

Man travelling to see his 90 year old mum, with her friends who are dying.
Relisation he is dying himself
Passage of time
'it wont keep' - everything is lost over time eventually
change is inebatable
Good realtionship with parents

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Last Visit To 198 Cathedral Road

working class snobbery
almost like he is talking to his dead mother
images- alone, house has lost meaning with her gone
stealing memories
Nothing left

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Awsome. Thanks a lot! :)

Natasha Hay


Brilliant! Thanks a lot



Thank you very much! Really helpful ^^

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