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Compare and contrast Larkin's poems

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 766 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Compare and contrast Larkin's poems Vers de Societe and The Old Fools in any ways that seem interesting to you?

Larkin published his High Windows collection at the age of fifty-two in 1974. This was in an era where Larkin was heavily part of a group of British poets, known as 'The Movement' and it was understood that although Larkin was similar to the likes of Ted Hughes in that 'they share an interest in describing the real material world'[1], Larkin concluded his poems differently, i.e. 'Larkin is more interested in nature as a symbol, and as an aspect of Englishness.'[2] High Windows was inspired by the austerity and conservatism of the post war years. The 1960's was a decade where much change came about in Britain and young people in the 1960's were becoming more affluent and liberal. It was a period of time commonly known as the 'sexual revolution'. A new generation was emerging and this new youth was beginning to flourish. 'Vers de Societe' which translates 'social verse'

The High Windows collection deals with many interlocking themes, such as youth, death, age and religion all influenced by this new 'world'. These themes are presented in both 'The Old Fools' and 'Vers de Societe', using a variety of techniques.

'Vers de Societe' and the 'The Old Fools' are similar in that they are both fixated around some sort of memory and loneliness and these feelings I believe are portrayed in the poems by Larkin venting his anger on the elderly. In the first stanza of 'Vers de Societe' Larkin satirizes general society and social discourse by saying 'My wife and I have asked a crowd of craps'. This colloquial diction only further emphasises the banality of social life Larkin so strongly voices, but contrasting with this is the idea that perhaps the voice is one of Warlock-Williams and the use of italics would suggest this. Following on from this the tone changes and becomes even more coarse 'In a pig's arse, friend.' The use of bathos here adds to the sense of social life being imprisoning and dull. In the third stanza Larkin again comments on the banality of the 'crowd of craps'. He talks on how the conversation on offer is drivel 'straight into nothingness' and uses a synecdoche, 'filled/With forks and faces' which provides negative connotations. In the same stanza Larkin's solitude is represented where he talks of time spent 'Under a lamp'. The lamp symbolises the conscious mind where failure and remorse do not exist.

'The Old Fools' presents a theme of the ageing process, 'your mouth hangs open and drools,/And you keep on pissing yourself, and can't remember'. This instils a sense of fear and loathing of age and reflects the 'worst of old age without flinching. It involves the physical ignominy of drooling and incontinence'[3].

Vers de Societe includes such lines as 'All solitude is selfish' and 'Virtue is social', which seem to be an outside voice reproaching the speaker for his behaviour. Explosion includes italicised lines being spoken by a priest - 'The dead go on before us...'

The Old Fools also includes mention of 'lighted windows' that represent the memories of somone's life

Vers de Societe uses the line 'playing at goodness, like going to church...', clearly suggesting that Larkin believes religion to be a shallow waste of time.

In 'The Old Fools" the theme of celebrating youth is shown with the nature metaphor "To bring to bloom the million-petalled flower of being here." It shows Larkin's appreciation of the beauty which youth embodies and a stark contrast of an ageist view where youth causes him distress.

The aspirations of youth are destroyed when compared to the disintegration of life in 'The Old Fools' where all success and glory has been reduced to "not knowing how, not hearing who, the power of choosing gone".

Romantic or false idealism is shattered in Larkin's poetry; the quintessential views about the life are rejected through the utter realism of the provocative language and prosaic colloquial diction. In 'The Old Fools' midway through the depressing judgement of old age the "million petalled flower" is mentioned and is exposed for the falsehood it is - a stereotypical idea - ultimately revealing the inescapable death to come.

'The Old Fools' Larkin is dismissive and viciously denounces elderly people but the judgmental tone changes as the poetic voice simplistically realises "we shall find out" the juxtaposition of the tones emphasises how the poetic voice is relentlessly bleak.


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