Philip Larkin as Poet of Realism
Romantic poetry is the poetry of dreams, whereas poetry of realism is the expression of pragmatism. Romantic poetry is mostly related to escapism. Every romantic poet escapes from harsh realities of life and spends most of his time in fantasies. Romantic poets though illustrate pains and agonies yet they underestimate these pains. They do not give any solution but find a way to escape from them. They have only one option to deal with problems i.e. to escape from reality and live in dreams. In this way, poetry of realism is entirely different from the romantic poetry. Poets of realism do not escape from sufferings of life instead they portray life as it is. They show their readers the real concept of life. Dreams are temporary but reality is permanent. Philip Larkin is the finest realistic poet. He is famous for illustrating realistic images. He is also called the poet of movement. Poetry of movement is close to reality. Some common themes of his poetry are death, religion, fear, dread and isolation. There is no poem of this great writer in which he has created utopian world; rather he relies on the world of reality. Larkin’s poetic world is ordinary. He does not talk about a specific nation or person but speaks about every person living in the modern world. Moreover, he does not idealize the world; his poetic world is full of problems; every poem shares a common them viz. death. A lot of examples can be found from his work which proves that Philip Larkin is the most realistic poet of his era. Let’s elaborate them.
First and foremost poem of Philip Larkin, which paints realistic world, is “Ambulances”. With the theme of death, Philip Larkin shows fear on the faces of people. He has not romanticized death nor has he escaped from this universal truth; instead he creates true images. Most of the objects are related to death. Fear can be observed on the faces of women and children. Every object of the poem including ambulances, roads, women, children, stretchers in fact everything is realistic. There is social realism in the poem. There is no supernatural element and no imaginary world. The poet has not showed that the world should be better. He has just observed things minutely and put them in front of the readers. He has expressed fear, tension, and psychological condition of people after seeing ambulance. Realistic poetry can only be analyzed if it is compared to romantic poetry. Let’s compare it with the “Rime of Ancient Mariner”. S. T. Coleridge has used supernatural elements in it. It is not necessary that every reader believes in them. On the other hand, if “Ambulances” is read, everyone will share the same concept. We cannot say that there are some objects, which are imaginary and there is no reality in them. Truth is illustrated in the poem “Ambulances”, therefore, is believed by every reader.
“Mr. Bleaney” can also be quoted in this regard. It is insured that whether Mr. Bleaney is an imaginary character or not but his description is very much real. There is no denial the fact that that when we read the poem, it seems that we have personally met him. There is no artificiality in this poem. Philip Larkin is the best realistic poet of his era because he has demonstrated truth in his poem. Modern problems are not only about the problems of any specific person; there is universality in them. When reader reads the poem, it seems that his problems are being discussed by the poet. Undoubtedly, Philip Larkin’s poetry is truthful, therefore, it has universal appeal.
The poem “MCMXIV” can never be underestimated in this regard. The poet has refreshed the prewar memories. He has compared the prewar effects on rural and urban areas. Innocence of people is entirely realistic. Whole imagery of the poem is superfluous yet there is no artificiality in it. The poem is faithful representation of reality. Advertising signs, carved names of shops, women, servants, children and the description of fields prove that Philip Larkin is a true poet of realism. In fact, he is interested in real life objects. He does not want to falsify his objects nor does he take interest in supernatural elements. Of course, there is aesthetic taste in the poem even then nothing is exaggerated. Although setting of the poem is of the past yet the poet has created believable imagery.
Similarly, another poem “Church Going” is also a realistic poem. The poet has predicted the future of churches and religion but it is not just an imagination. There is possibility in it. In this poem, he remains close to reality. He prophesies that in future no one would visit the churches, therefore, they would become just relics. Decline of religion will give birth to superstition beliefs. Indeed, the poet has predicted a wrong future but it is not a fantasy. It is definitely real. Obviously, he is true to nature. He is not falsifying anything. Unlike romantic poets, Philip Larkin remains honest to his work. Due to too many realistic images, he is at the top in the list of realistic poets.
Philip Larkin remains faithful to his work. He is a true realistic poet. He knows how to present reality. He is well aware about the modern needs. There was a time when people find pleasure in artificiality. Fairy tales were believed true. Utopian worlds were created by the poets but in modern days people do not like imaginative worlds; they want truthful literature which is only possible through realism.
At last but not the least, there is artistic beauty in his poems. He has not presented any false idea in his poems nor has he mixed it with artificiality. His poetry is verisimilitude. Contribution of Philip Larkin, in this regard, can never be underestimated. He is an ideal for poets of realism. Like a loyal artist, he wants to tell people about realism. He does not want that his reader live in the world of imagination. He has created a realistic world and we are part of that world. He has presented problems of common men in his poetry. On the whole, the poem is almost transparent in its ideas and in its expression of them. Here is, then, a full specimen of the poetry of the movement.