Rukhaya M.K

A Literary Companion

Month: November 2014 (page 1 of 3)

Poetry Analysis: Philip Larkin’s “Toads Revisited”


Philip Larkin’s “Toads Revisited”  is the companion piece to “Toads,” and  appears in the  collection Whitsun Weddings .The poem is in off-rhymed couplets, full rhymes appearing  at the end. In Philip Larkin’s “Toads”, the Toad stood as a symbol of  the stagnation of life, and stagnation of one’s rational and intellectual capabilities as it is sacrificed for the ‘labour’ of work. In Larkin’s “Toads Revisited,” he analyses people out of his work-premises in relation with himself. He visualizes the atmosphere of the park that should act as a welcome change:

Walking around in the park

Should feel better than work:

The lake, the sunshine,

The grass to lie on

The ‘blurred playground noises’ and ‘black-stockinged nurses’ convey the idea that it is not a bad place to be. Yet, it does not suit him. He finds himself better off than the people he encounters with in the park: shaking old men having nothing significant to do. There are also the ‘hare-eyed’ clerks in constant uncertainty regarding their financial stability and regarding everything with an air of insecurity. There are patients yet to recover from their misfortunes and therefore ’vague.’ There are shabby or shoddy tramps in long coats searching in deep-litter baskets for something worthwhile to consume.…

Poetry Analysis: Philip Larkin ‘s “Toads”


The toad in Philip Larkin’s “Toads” is a central metaphor by itself for a vocation that is forced. Especially, one that you have no attitude and aptitude for. The toad has been utilized as the apt metaphor as it is sluggish and ugly. It squats incorrigibly on areas that it is not supposed to, and is a pertinent emblem for stagnation. Here it stands for the stagnation of life, and stagnation of one’s rational and intellectual capabilities as it is sacrificed for the ‘labour’ of work..

The poet had an aptitude for writing that forms his area of expertise. The ‘wit’ here is a larger metaphor for people preferring money over their aptitude/area of interest. People do not resort to the vocation that they love for the want of more money, and therefore give in to the rat race…something that is represented by the great American Dream. The position of ‘squatting” is also an incorrigible/difficult one. The speaker strives to use his wit as a pitchfork and drive it away.

A week has only seven days, six of which the Toad soils. No adequate time is left for recreation. Just for the reason that that one has to toil to pay his bills, and that is totally out of proportion.…

Poetry Analysis: Philip Larkin’s “Whitsun Weddings”


“It would be not too much to claim that it is one of the best poems written so far in this century,” says Galvin Ewart of Philip Larkin’s “Whitsun Weddings.”

The poem reminds us of W.H.Auden’s “The Night Mail” passing through many locations. Whitsun is the seventh day after marriage. In the 1950s, British tax law made the Whitsun weekend a financially advantageous time to be married. Larkin, therefore, commercializes marriage as an institution here, by adopting the specific title. Philip Larkin describes his stopping-train journey through East Yorkshire from Paragon Station, Kingston upon Hull to Kings Cross, London on a hot and humid Whitsun Saturday afternoon in the late 1950s. Larkin through his simple, yet elegant style divulges the details of a commonplace journey into a beautiful poem. The poem describes a train journey, and the poet occasionally stops at certain lines as though he is pausing at railway stations. Larkin’s intricate detailing of the scenes he sees, hold our attention right at the beginning: the backsides of houses with windows, fish-dock not seen, but felt through the senses, the confluence of two rivers that form the estuary of River Humber. The afternoon was a stiflingly humid one as the train shot past fields with grazing cattle, canal contaminated with industrial wastes, a glass house growing plants, the smell of the grass contrasted with the stale smell of the upholstery, dumped dismantled cars.…

Poetry Analysis: Philip Larkin’s “Ambulances”


Philip Larkin’s “Ambulances” exemplifies the hollowness of life in the face of death.The poet’s ease and conversational tone is juxtaposed with the eeriness of reality. Calvin Bedient asserts:”Larkin is unillusioned with a metaphysical zero in his bones. “Ambulances” highlights the pragmatics of life and contrasts it with the inevitability of death.

The symbol of the ambulance at once emblematizes death. They are like ‘closed confessionals’. Sitting in the ambulance, one is like an open book outpouring all the woes of life mentally and is ultimately resigned to fate. In both the ambulance and the confessional, the last resort is submitting oneself to God. When apprehended as a symbol of death, it is indeed ‘closed’ as Death possesses no openings. The ‘silence’ of death is juxtaposed against the ‘loud noons of the cities.’ The noon is glaring and so are the glances that the ambulance receives. However, it does not return any of these stares as it is totally apathetic to the practicalities of life. The phrase “Light glossy grey” though it refers to the colours of the ambulance, they may also allude to the various stages in life. The Light, the infant stage; the Glossy, the prime of youth; and the grey, the aged individual.…

Poetry Analysis: Philip Larkin’s “Aubade”


The poet describes in the poem his apprehension of the hollowness of life, and inexorableness of death. The implications of a barren existence is hinted at, where everything is eventually reduced to naught. The poet asserts that he works all day caught in a mechanical routine; at night he is half-drunk and therefore is in a state of semi-consciousness. Therefore his existence has no real meaning. Waking at four in the night, he apprehends how the curtain-edges will turn on their lights as though Death has foreboded his entry. The ‘soundless dark’ is as hollow as the prospect of death itself. The advancement of each day brings home the realization that the speaker is one step closer to Death. He talks of ‘unresting death’ as the fear of death, the unfathomable always remains. The time and location are uncertain, only death is certain. The interrogation that follows life after death scares him. The notion of death scares him more than death itself.

The concept of death seems to glare into his face. It is not in remorse alone, but grieves over his inability at things unachieved:

 

The good not used, the love not given, time
Torn off unused – nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never:
But at the total emptiness forever,

The poet points at an annulled existentialism and the pointlessness of all human endeavour.…

Poetry Analysis: Philip Larkin’s “At Grass”


The idiomatic phrase “to put at grass” indicates retirement. Therefore the title signifies the concept of retirement and old age. The first stanza:” The eye can hardly pick them out” signals the deterioration of vision in old age. It may also imply the attitude of onlookers to ignore the aged. The title ‘At Grass” again denotes how at old age, Man is relegated to grass root levels, or his behaviour resembles the beginning from grass-root levels as he transforms to a child, yet again.

Though the old horses are provided with shade, the shade is ‘cold’ suggesting the lack of warmth. It takes the ‘wind’ to stimulate them and arouse them Note that it is an agent of nature, and not humans that is instrumental in evoking their senses. One of the horses crops grass fulfilling his basic need; the other looks on as an ‘anonymous’ being. The word ‘anonymous’ may verge on the old-age disease Alzheimer’s; however, it may also mean that being of no (practical ) use now, he functioned as an anonymous being. He was completely ignored.

Just fifteen years ago, these horses were capable of traversing large distances. Their exploits were enough to ‘fable’ them or render them legends.…

Poetry Analysis: Philip Larkin’s “The Arundel Tomb”


The possessions of the Arundel family came into the hands of the Duke of Norfolk by marriage in 1580. Chichester Cathedral holds the tomb of a member of the Arundel family. In the poem “The Arundel Tomb,” the last poem in Larkin’s collection The Whitsun Weddings, Larkin visualizes the monument (in stone) of an earl and a countess in a tomb. Through the description of the same, he elaborates on how hollow human existence is with all its inherent imperfections.

The faces side to side, their faces are blurred to as they are in oblivion to each other. They are also blurred owing to the passage of time due to decay. The term ‘proper habit’ is a technical term in heraldry ascertaining that their dress was in natural hues and not conventional ones.  Their jointed armour and stiffened pleat seem to define them at the moment, when at one point in their lives they defined the same.

Baroque is an artistic style prevalent from the late 16th century to the early 18th century. It is most often defined as “the dominant style of art in Europe between the Mannerist and Rococo eras, a style characterized by dynamic movement, overt emotion and self-confident rhetoric.” Though the form of art is eloquent in itself, it fails, according to the poet in engaging the eye.…

Poetry Analysis: Derek Walcott’s “A Far Cry from Africa”


The West Indies is endowed with a composite culture encompassing mixed population thanks to its geographical position and the indelible impact of colonialisation. Therefore,  the aborigines of these islands were caught between two worlds-the cultures of Europe and Africa. The slave system also played a significant part in this division of the identity of the native. They are divided in their loyalty to their African ancestry and wider horizons of Western outlook. Walcott represents a fusion of both the cultures. Though he adores the African heritage, he also welcomes the Western stance. He asserts: “You can’t be a poet and believe in the division of man.”

The rough winds ruffle the yellowish-brown crusty surface of Africa. The population of Kikuyu tribesmen steadily increases, on the soil drenched in the blood of the victims of colonialization. That is, birth takes place on a stage were Death was enacted and re-enacted. There is the juxtaposition of the bizarre against something divine, as image emerges of corpses scattered through a paradise. The worm, the ultimate emblem of stagnation and decay cries not to waste invaluable time on the dead. The past has to be forgone, for the healthy growth of the present. One must concentrate more on the living than the dead

“Waste no compassion on these separate dead!”

Statistics justify and scholars seize
The salients of colonial policy.…

Poetry Analysis: William Shakespeare’s “The Seven Ages of Man”


The poem is a part of the monologue of Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It (2. 7. 139-167) .The first two lines are oft-quoted, and the poem has been frequently anthologized.The very first two lines of the poem exemplify Shakespeare’s notions regarding Life, Destiny and Providence. He strongly believes in preconceived notions regarding life. The poet comprehends that the stage is set by the Ultimate Creator, and we are mere puppets out to act our roles out as directed by Him. Their exits and entrances are ‘stage-managed’ or predetermined. A man generally plays seven typical parts. Like Ben Jonson’s flat character types based on the theory of humours, these are typified mainly according to age of the person .

In the first stage, he is the infant, in the second, he is the schoolboy .Though he is endowed with a shining face and the vigour of youth, he moves likes a snail unawares of the blessings he is attributed with. He is afraid of what the world holds in store for him, and apprehensive of moving out of his protective shell. Then comes the lover who visualizes the world as a bed of roses. He is so obsessed with his love that he fails to see anything beyond that.…

Poetry Analysis: Margaret Atwood’s “Bored”


The poem “Bored” illustrates the poetess’ childhood when she would be bored with nothing significant to do, and linger in the shadow of her father. The verse “bored out of my mind” may imply that she is bored beyond words. It may also signify that the feeling that she is bored shows that she is simply out of her mind. The second interpretation is more in keeping with the theme of the poem. She was bored holding the log while her father sawed it. Her job was confined to the weeding of the lettuces and beets for which her father “ pounded/stakes into the ground for rows and rows.” She would have to be content staying at he backseat of the car. The poetess here laments from the point of view of the child, as the lament arose from not giving her any ‘real’ work or entrusting her with responsibility. The poetess now, loaded with responsibilities and obligations, feels how foolish she was at that time to feel that way. She longs to transcend to that care-free world yet again.

The act of sawing was much tougher, the pounding of stakes more tedious. Sitting at the back of the car looked like ‘taking a backseat.’ Nevertheless, it also meant sitting without tension or  merely being a witness to the destination.…

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