Elements of Positive Meanings in Larkin’s Poetry
“There are several poems of Larkin which tentatively explore the possibility of a positive meaning in life”. Comment
Larkin’s poems are realistic interpretation of life and it is obvious that life is harsh and full of negativity so as the poems of Philip Larkin. He portrays realism in his poems. Most of the poems of Philip Larkin are autobiographical. He has experienced the bitter realities of life, due to which, negativity is at peak in almost every poem of Philip Larkin. He, like other post war poets, also defines the meaninglessness of life. Subject matter, in most of his poems, is death along with destruction. His poetry is the explanation of sad-eyed realism. He is among poets of movement, who are anti-romantic. It is impossible to find romance in the poetry of Philip Larkin. The movement poets preferred to write poems, based on logic rather than romanticism. Two major ingredients, which belong to poets of movement, are clarity and common sense. These poets were criticized because of their harsh attitude. A critic named “Alvarez” rejected the poetry of movement. His views give the exact definition of Philip Larkin’s poetry. He says:-
“This, in concentrated from, is the image of the post-war Welfare State Englishman: shabby, and not concerned with appearance: poor—he has a bike, not a car; gauche but full of agnostic piety; under-fed, under-paid, over-taxed, hopeless, bored, wry”.
Charles Tomlinson has also described the pessimism and narrowness in the poetry of Philip Larking in following words:-
“Larkin’s narrowness suits the English perfectly. They recognize their own abysmal urban landscapes, skillfully caught with just a whiff of English films(of the nineteen-fifties). The stepped-down version of human possibilities, and the joke that hesitates just on this side of nihilism are national vices.”
Indeed, post war poetry is the reflection of death, destruction and violence. The life became meaningless in those days. There was no purpose of life; if there was any; that was to destroy the other nation or dominate it. Larkin’s poetry belongs to meaningless era of war, therefore, it is hard to find positivity in his poetry; however, if digged deep, there is still hope and possibility of meaningful life in the poetry of Philip Larkin.
There are some critics, who have defended Philip Larkin and the poetry of movement with the assertions that it has realism though sad-eyed. In early poems of Philip Larkin, we find a little possibility of positive life. For instance, the poem titled “The Less Deceived” talks about avoidance; Larkin wants to convey a message to be “less deceived” rather than “more deceived” from life. There are always hurdles in life and it is difficult to go on while ignoring those hurdles therefore, the only solution is to face them. Negativity can be turned into positivity with a little effort. Although Philip Larkin has a negative mind and he sees negativity prior to positivity yet at the end of every poem he leaves hope for the readers. There may be less hope but it is certainly found, if perused minutely, in almost every poem of Philip Larkin.
A misinterpretation of the poetry of Philip Larkin is that it is being read with a pessimistic attitude. If one tries to search optimism, it can definitely be found in his poetry though it is very less. The “Going” and “Wedding-Wind” are worth mentioning. The poem “Going” majorly deals with death even then it describes the social problems along with sexual relationships. Larkin simply describes what is going on in front of us. It is not his duty to give solution to every problem. He puts questions and leaves everything on the minds of readers. It is on the rehears; how they perceive things whether positively or negatively. In poem, “Wedding-Wind” a unique happiness has been depicted by the poet on wedding night. Definitely, the happiness of the newly-married woman offers hope; its worth matters or not; the poet leaves this question unanswered and ends the poem with a question mark. Hence, it is certain that there is hope as well as positivity in the poetry of Philip Larkin if searched but at the same time it is clear that he has blended negativity with positivity and positivity is always dominated by negativity. It is, therefore, we find more negativity and less positivity in the poetry of Philip Larkin.
“Myxomatosis” is another poem of Philip Larkin, which has possibility of positive meaning. Like three other poems, it is also an animal fable. Themes are again repeated by the poet, which are helplessness and suffering. A rabbit is clearing his consciousness while asking “What trap is this?”. The poem is establishing a connection between fate of diseased animals and certain aspects of human life but it is notable that final statement of the poem records a profoundly skeptical outlook through its allegorical implication. The final statement is:
“You may have thought things would come right again <br />
If you could only keep quite still and wait.”
Thus, the final statement of the poem leaves a positive impact on the readers that still and wait can bring back the right things. This poem can also be added in the list to ensure that possibility of positive meaningful life is certain in the poetry of Philip Larkin.
Philip Larkin has also written so-called love poems. These poems are neither romantic nor sexually positive but they totally unwrap the failure of every individual in love-life. Approach of the poet even in love poems is pessimistic, whereas mood of the poet is rebellion.
In this way, we can defend Larkin to the extent that his poems are tentatively positive. There are certain poems, which can be searched for positive meanings but they are very less in number. If it is said that Philip Larkin’s attitude towards life is entirely positive then it is not true at all. His views towards life are pessimistic. There is very less optimism in the poetry of Philip Larkin. Hope apparently cannot be found in the poetry of Philip Larkin but it is searched and excavated by the reader and with a lot of effort, positive meanings can be found in it. We may defend Larkin in this regard but cannot justify that his approach, towards life, is positive.