The ÃÂmarginal or neglectedÃÂ can be seen to refer to individuals, a class or nation, to ideas that have been marginalised, to neglected forms such as poetry, and to the marginalised self. Philip Larkin is renowned for his use of the colloquial in his poetry, and he renews the importance of everyday language and words, that have been ÃÂneglectedÃÂ and ÃÂmarginalisedÃÂ in forms of expression. His poems have the ÃÂtone of the ordinary dayÃÂ. Through this use of language, he reflects on the loss of identity and to the neglected state of England due to modernisation and industrialisation. Poetry itself is a specialist form; however LarkinÃÂs poetry can be seen as homely and less dramatic. He brought back poetry as a relevant and accessible medium, as it is easily marginalised. Larkin is a poet who concentrates on ÃÂabsenceÃÂ and ÃÂrealityÃÂ, the mundane, small and intricate aspects of everyday life that are important, but often ignored.
He depicts an English post-war setting, struggling with destitution and despair, affectively describing dislocated humanity within the disruption of modernism. His poetry produces a sense of agency, and his own marginalisation and loneliness is also reflected.
LarkinÃÂs poem, ÃÂMaiden NameÃÂ is a meditation on identity, memory, language and tradition. He represents the ÃÂnameÃÂ as a disposable object, commenting on the preserving of values and the loss of them. The new consumerist age of ÃÂdisposalÃÂ can be seen to be referred to here. He creates a sense of an unused, neglected old self and a past identity that has been lost through marriage. The womanÃÂs maiden name has been used and neglected, being ÃÂa phrase applicable to no oneÃÂ (l.8).
The use of iambic metre gives weight to LarkinÃÂs everyday language, emphasising how easy it is to ÃÂloseÃÂ your identity. The meter makes a seemingly congested line easy to read, as the stresses make it flow naturally; for example, ÃÂIt means what we feel now about you thenÃÂ (l.15). The rhythm reflects the want to ÃÂtake time leisurelyÃÂ, rather than being hasty, as perhaps the marriage in the poem was rushed, leading the woman to forget the past as she was ÃÂthankfully confusedÃÂ (l.4). Larkin does not say that the name ÃÂmeansÃÂ the person, he says it meant her ÃÂfaceÃÂ and ÃÂvoiceÃÂ (ll.2-3), and that ÃÂit was of her that these two words were usedÃÂ (l.7), being ÃÂapplicableÃÂ (l.8) like an adjective. The word and the person are never completely melded, reflecting the disunion between a name and the self. This ÃÂdisunionÃÂ is reflected in the last line of the second stanza; ÃÂNo, it means you. Or, since youÃÂre past and goneÃÂ (l.14), suggesting that the womanÃÂs self is past, whilst her previous name still exists. Larkin uses relatively commonplace words, but their simplicity emphasises his argument about how easy it is to discard and neglect a word, a name, and so serious weight is given to everyday, often ÃÂneglectedÃÂ language in poetry.
LarkinÃÂs ÃÂGoing, GoingÃÂ is a didactic poem, commenting on the rapid process of pollution and the changing environment. It is an implicit critique of the contemporary English environment, which has become alienating. The poem has a despairing edge, his view of England being fatalistic and apocalyptic, as he prefigures a complete destruction of the countryside and national wholesomeness and identity of England. He produces a sense of agency, and this poem reflects MorrisonÃÂs thought that LarkinÃÂs poems were ÃÂserving the needs of postwar Britain.ÃÂThe title refers to the language of the auctioneer who, when selling something to the highest bidder, will say ÃÂGoing - going - goneÃÂ before slamming down the hammer. This suggests the idea of parts of the country being sold off to those who can afford them, in quick succession, with no regard for the social cost. At the start of the poem, he uses the first person, ÃÂIÃÂ, to express what his past anxieties and thoughts of England were. He saw the countryside as having a balance between the rural and the urban that would last his time. He has assumed he would still be able to escape the modernisation to the countryside, by driving to it. The images of ÃÂbleak high-risersÃÂ (l.11) and ÃÂloutsÃÂ (l.4) are suggestive to a industrial change at the start, yet it can be read that the people who live the high-risers have a bleak outlook, and emphasis can be put on the louts coming from a ÃÂvillageÃÂ (l.4). In the fourth stanza, he describes what he feels ÃÂnowÃÂ (l.18), and the use of mass images suggests a loss of identity. For example the plural images of ÃÂthe crowdÃÂ, ÃÂkidsÃÂ (ll.19-21), ÃÂMore houses, more parking allowed, / More caravan sites, more payÃÂ (ll.22-3). England is becoming meaningless, having no individual identity, where ÃÂgreeds / And garbage are too thick-strewnÃÂ (ll.51-2). The ÃÂspectacled grinsÃÂ (l.25) represent the blandness of businessmen as they contemplate a commercial manoeuvre without taking account of the possible human consequences. Yet they are still mere ÃÂgrinsÃÂ, and not ÃÂpeopleÃÂ.
Modern industrial images are contrasted with the images of nature, such as the ÃÂM1 cafÃÂ©ÃÂ (l.20) and ÃÂconcrete and tyresÃÂ (l.49). Industry is marginalising the countryside, neglecting it. In the third stanza he expresses the fairly naÃÂ¯ve belief that ÃÂnatureÃÂ is stronger and more resilient than man and it will be able to recover. Later in the poem however, the strength of nature, how the ÃÂearth will always respondÃÂ (l.14), is trapped. The only parts that will be ÃÂbricked inÃÂ are the ÃÂtourist partsÃÂ (ll.39-40), yet the reason for the tourism is suggested to be because we will become the ÃÂfirst slum of EuropeÃÂ (l.41). The marginalisation of the importance of the countryside is unnecessary, as the dales are not ÃÂdepressed areasÃÂ; ÃÂmove / Your works to the unspoilt dales (Grey area grants)!ÃÂ (ll.29-30). Larkin can also be seen to refer here to how governments have failed to maintain ÃÂgreen areasÃÂ, as now the ÃÂgreenÃÂ is ÃÂgreyÃÂ due to industry and commerce.
LarkinÃÂs use of semi colons increases the fluidity of the verse, and the fast rhythm, appearing casual, reflects the speed of change and the carelessness which the poet sees all around him. Some stanzas flow into each other, reflecting his sense of an inevitable drift from a more orderly, responsible society towards the unplanned. In the fifth stanza, a sentence is finished with an ellipsis, reflecting a sense of loss and the disappearance of nature; ÃÂAnd when / You try to get near the sea / In summerÃÂ ÃÂ (ll.31-2). Because he does not bother to complete the sentence, it reflects how common this image is, consisting of the traffic jams and pollution ÃÂ the results of commercialisation and consumerism.
Larkin presents the view that the rising generation is marked by an increasing greed and by an increasing emphasis on profit at the expense of care for the environment. The poem ends with the apocalyptic statement, ÃÂI just think it will happen, soonÃÂ (l.51).
He suggests that traditional and neglected England will only survive through memory. Even the old characteristics of poetry will be lost and neglected; ÃÂthat England will be gone, / The shadows, the meadows, the lanes / The guidhalls, the carved choirsÃÂ (ll.44-47). In literature and art, old England will only ÃÂlinger onÃÂ (l.47). Larkin uses language, structure and the view point of the ordinary observer, to comment on the marginalisation and neglect of England and its countryside.
LarkinÃÂs poem ÃÂAubadeÃÂ is also apocalyptic, reflecting on personal extinction through death, with the self inevitably being beyond the margin of life. An ÃÂAubadeÃÂ is traditionally a musical announcement of dawn or a sunrise song. However, in contrast LarkinÃÂs poem is a depressing meditation on his approaching extinction. He begins with successive statements in the first person that establish an image of loneliness. A monotonous routine is described; ÃÂI work all day, and get half-drunk at night. / Waking at four to soundless dark, I stareÃÂ (l.1-2). He presents a marginalised self, lost from the outside world. He is alone with his thoughts: ÃÂwhen we are caught without / People or drinkÃÂ (ll.36-7). In LarkinÃÂs poetry, he often distances emotion, partly by using a rigid structure. In ÃÂAubadeÃÂ, he uses iambic pentameter as a means of imposing a structure and control to the lines and his ideas so they are not sentimental. A rhythm is forced on the poem despite the overall mood being solemn. This regularity is due to the ten lines in each verse and the ten syllables per line reflecting composure, and keeping his ideas controlled and coherent. Unlike ÃÂGoing, GoingÃÂ, the stanzas do not flow into one another. This makes the iambic pentameter more obvious and gives the poem a factual structure.
Larkin speaks of ÃÂdeathÃÂ as an everyday reality, continuously living in his thoughts, ÃÂmaking all thought impossible but how / And where and when I shall myself dieÃÂ (ll.6-7). His repetition of negatives emphasises the lost state and ÃÂnothingnessÃÂ of death. For example, ÃÂno sight, no sound, / No touch or taste to smell, nothing to think with, / Nothing to love or link with, / The anaesthetic from which none come roundÃÂ (ll.27-30). This stanza is made up of only two sentences, emphasising the eternity of death. He speaks of death as ÃÂtotal emptiness for everÃÂ (l.16) and as ÃÂthe sure extinction that we travel to / And shall be lost in alwaysÃÂ (ll.17-8). This concentration of thought had developed because of the speakerÃÂs marginalisation from society and the outside world. He is removed, but ironically, he is meditating on a subject that is universal. He refers to the world as ÃÂuncaringÃÂ and ÃÂintricateÃÂ as it ÃÂbegins to rouseÃÂ (ll.46-7) in the dawn of a new day, suggesting it is heartless and neglecting of thought. ÃÂDeathÃÂ is presented as a disregarded subject in everyday life, not thought about enough. An ÃÂaubadeÃÂ is a poem about lovers separating at dawn. However here, the persona is being separated and marginalised from living.
Throughout all of these three poems, Larkin effectively uses colloquial language to communicate. He reflects on the neglected, past identity. By the use of structure and rhythm, he makes the reader aware of time and the use of it in everyday life. The slower pace gives time for neglected thought. The seeming simplicity of his imagery reflects how easy it is to lose history and its meaning. He comments on the universal themes of loss, identity, consumerist culture, the environment and fatalism, through commonplace, ÃÂneglectedÃÂ vocabulary. He effectively describes dislocated humanity within the disruption of modernism. Through his ÃÂaverage voiceÃÂ , he brings importance back to the mundane everyday aspects of life that are ignored and neglected. Ironically, the poet himself is not separated or marginalised from his reader, because of his effective use of informal and colloquial expression, and itÃÂs content.
Bibliography:ÃÂLarkin, Philip, Collected Poems, (London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 2003).
ÃÂMorrison, Blake, The Movement: English Poetry and Fiction of the 1950s, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980).
ÃÂWalcott, Derek, ÃÂThe Master of the Ordinary: Philip LarkinÃÂ, What The Twilight Says, (London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 1998).
ÃÂThe Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press, [accessed February 2009].