English Literature
Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin

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Discovering Philip Larkin: A Closer Look at the Life and Poetry of the Notable English Writer

Philip Larkin (1922-1985) was a prominent English poet, novelist, and librarian. His writing style is distinct, known for its melancholic and pessimistic tone. Larkin's poems often delve into everyday themes such as love, marriage, death, and the fleeting nature of time. This article delves into Larkin's life, his passing, and his renowned works.

Early Years and Education

Philip Larkin was born on August 9, 1922, in Coventry, England to Sydney and Eva. He attended King Henry VIII Junior School and later studied at St John's College, Oxford University. Throughout his career, Larkin worked at various libraries, ultimately becoming the head librarian at the University of Hull in 1955. It was during his time at the university that Larkin gained recognition for his poetry, which often explored ordinary themes with a despondent and melancholic tone.

The Final Days

In the last years of his life, Larkin suffered from cancer, which eventually led to his passing on December 2, 1985. He was laid to rest at the Cottingham Municipal Cemetery in Cottingham, England.

Notable Poems

'An Arundel Tomb'

One of Larkin's most iconic poems is 'An Arundel Tomb', written in 1956. The inspiration behind this piece came from Larkin's visit to Chichester Cathedral, Sussex, where he saw a 14th-century effigy of a medieval countess and earl holding hands. The notion of love enduring beyond death had a profound impact on Larkin, which is reflected in the poem. But alongside this awe, the speaker also questions the motivation behind the earl and countess being immortalized in stone. Was it for fame or tradition? In the end, the speaker concludes that the effigy is a true representation of their eternal love, as stated in the poem's final lines: "What will survive of us is love."

'At Grass'

In this 1950 poem, 'At Grass', Larkin observes two horses in a field, struggling to recognize them as former racehorses. These horses, now past their prime and forgotten, represent a simpler way of life. The phrase "at grass" signifies being set aside, and the speaker reflects on the peaceful and contented nature of the horses living in the moment. Larkin suggests that humans could learn from this, to let go and live simpler, happier lives.

'The Whitsun Weddings'

Another well-known piece by Larkin is 'The Whitsun Weddings', published in 1964. The poem describes the speaker's journey from Kingston-upon-Hull to London, observing fellow passengers on the train, particularly a newlywed couple. The speaker ponders on the concepts of love and marriage, and as they reach their destination, the journey ends with a final farewell. Larkin captures the shift from rural to urban, symbolizing the changing times.

Philip Larkin's poems continue to inspire readers and evoke contemplation on ordinary themes in life. His unique writing style and perspectives have solidified his place as one of the most renowned English poets of the 20th century.

Exploring Themes of Intimacy and Honesty in Larkin's Works

The works of Philip Larkin often delve into the mundane aspects of life, touching upon topics such as love, relationships, and the passage of time. Through novels such as "Jill" and "A Girl in Winter", Larkin follows the journeys of young characters as they navigate through education, personal growth, and the wider world. "Jill", published in 1946, tells the story of John Kemp struggling with his working-class background at Oxford University. "A Girl in Winter", published in 1947, follows Katherine Lind and her displacement due to war.

Insights from the Life and Works of Philip Larkin

  • Born in Coventry, England in 1922, Larkin passed away from cancer in 1985.
  • He was a poet, novelist, and librarian, known for writing over 200 thought-provoking poems.
  • Larkin's works often have a melancholic and pessimistic tone, reflecting on ordinary subjects.
  • His writing explores themes of love, relationships, and the fleeting nature of time.
  • Larkin's final resting place is at Cottingham, England.

Notable Poems by Philip Larkin

Some of Larkin's most famous works include "An Arundel Tomb", "At Grass", "The Whitsun Weddings", "Wild Oats", and "Talking in Bed". These poems continue to resonate with readers for their relevance and introspective nature, solidifying Larkin's place as one of the most renowned poets of his time.

Final Thoughts

The literary legacy of Philip Larkin remains a significant contribution to the world of poetry. Through his unique writing style and exploration of ordinary themes, he continues to be admired and studied by literature enthusiasts. His words and ideas remain timeless, making him a revered figure in the realm of poetry and prose.

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