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. It may also allude to the fact that these people stagnate in waste. Though the ‘toad work’ exists, it is an inevitable part of life. The poet would adhere to it rather than dodge it being dim-witted or weak. Rather than wait for time, they just witness the chiming of hours passing way. They just watch the bread being delivered to them; they never comprehend the sweetness of the fruits of labour. The sun is covered by the clouds, the rays of hope to relive their lives with renewed vigor is lost. The sunshine in their life is dimmed. Larkin does not want to thrive in this senile existence-less existence.
Children go back home simply because they have nothing else to do. They turn over by some bed of lobelias, implying that they have a vegetative existence. Their world is confined to ‘indoors’ and their companions are limited to empty chairs. The poet dreads the claustrophobia of solitude. The poet prefers to adhere to his mechanical routine, or rather have no routine at all. He cannot imagine himself to live a dormant and moribund existence. He declares:
No, give me my in-tray,
My loaf-haired secretary,
What else can I answer,
These activities seem at least to define him, reassert the fact that he exists, and reassure him that he has some import in some circle. He wants to have someone to answer to, even if it is a mere business call, even if it is just his secretary.
When the lights come on at four
At the end of another year?
Give me your arm, old toad;
Help me down Cemetery Road.
The poet here refers to his retirement from work. He tells the Toad that in such a situation he wants the Toad to endow him with a kind of routine, so that though he does not live life evocatively, he can impart some significance to it. He cannot lead the road to Death sluggishly. He wants to ‘drink life to the lees’ in a way that is no way langorous.
©Rukhaya MK 2010
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