'High Windows' by Philip Larkin
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When I see a couple of kids
And guess he's fucking her and she's
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is paradise
Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives--
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide
To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
Editor 1 Interpretation
Delving into the Depths of Philip Larkin's High Windows
Philip Larkin is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his collection High Windows is a masterpiece. Published in 1974, the collection is a reflection of the poet's disillusionment with society and his attempts to grapple with the realities of human existence. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deep into the themes of the collection, the use of language, imagery and symbolism, and the overall meaning of the poems.
The collection explores a range of themes, from love and relationships to the passage of time and death. But perhaps the most pervasive theme is the sense of disillusionment and alienation that runs through the poems. The poet's disillusionment is evident in the very first lines of the title poem, where he speaks of the "swarms of affectionate / Beings" that he sees in the street, but which he is unable to join.
In many of the poems, Larkin seems to be grappling with the idea of mortality and the inevitability of death. In "This Be The Verse," he famously writes "They fuck you up, your mum and dad / They may not mean to, but they do." This line has become one of Larkin's most famous, and speaks to the idea that our parents, in passing on their own psychological baggage, inevitably shape our lives and ultimately lead us to our own deaths.
Another theme that runs through the collection is the idea of memory and nostalgia. In "Aubade," Larkin writes about the fear of death and the inevitable loss of memory that comes with it. He speaks of the "slow extinction of each happiness" and the way that memories fade and become distorted over time.
Language, Imagery and Symbolism
Larkin is a master of the English language and his use of language in High Windows is both beautiful and precise. He uses simple, everyday language to great effect, creating poems that are both accessible and deeply moving.
One of the most striking features of Larkin's poetry is his use of imagery and symbolism. In "The Trees," for example, he speaks of the way that trees "rise like fronds," creating an image of the trees as fern-like and delicate. In "This Be The Verse," he uses the image of parents "filling you with the faults they had" to create a sense of the way that our parents shape our lives.
Larkin is also adept at using symbolism to convey his themes. In "High Windows," for example, he uses the image of a "neutered lawn" to represent the way that society has become sterile and devoid of passion. In "Aubade," he uses the image of a "morning winter sky" to convey the sense of coldness and isolation that comes with the fear of death.
So what does it all mean? What is Larkin trying to say with this collection of poems? At its heart, High Windows is a meditation on the human condition. It is an exploration of the way that our lives are shaped by society and by our own mortality. It is a reflection on the way that memories fade and become distorted over time, and it is a testament to the power of language and poetry to help us grapple with the realities of existence.
Perhaps the most profound message of the collection is the idea that we must confront our own mortality and try to find meaning in our lives. In "Aubade," Larkin writes "And that will be England gone, / The shadows, the meadows, the lanes, / The guildhalls, the carved choirs." This line speaks to the transience of life and the inevitability of change, but it also suggests that there is something enduring and timeless about the human spirit.
In the end, High Windows is a collection of poems that speaks to the heart of what it means to be human. It is a profound meditation on life, love, and death, and it is a testament to the power of language and poetry to help us make sense of our place in the world. For anyone who has ever felt disillusioned or alienated, or who has grappled with the existential questions that plague us all, this collection is a must-read.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry is a form of art that has the power to evoke emotions, stir up memories, and transport us to different worlds. One such poem that has stood the test of time and continues to resonate with readers is Philip Larkin's "High Windows." Published in 1974, the poem is a reflection on the changing social norms and values of the time and the speaker's own mortality. In this analysis, we will delve deeper into the themes, imagery, and language used in the poem to understand its significance and impact.
The poem opens with a provocative line, "When I see a couple of kids / And guess he's fucking her and she's / Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker is observing the younger generation and their sexual freedom, which is a departure from the conservative values of the past. The use of the word "guess" suggests that the speaker is not entirely sure of the couple's actions, but it is a reflection of his own assumptions and prejudices.
The second stanza continues with the theme of sexual liberation, as the speaker imagines the couple's future and the possibility of unwanted pregnancies and abortions. He says, "Their beauty has thickened like a stench, / Their bright-eyed coupling darkened to petulance / And squalor." The use of the word "stench" is particularly powerful, as it suggests that the beauty of youth and innocence has been tainted by the realities of life. The imagery of "darkened to petulance / And squalor" further emphasizes the decay and degradation of the couple's relationship.
The third stanza takes a turn, as the speaker reflects on his own mortality and the inevitability of death. He says, "Up at the top of the stairs I find the / Telephone / And still can hear the buzzing in my head / From the club I left, about an hour ago." The use of the word "still" suggests that the speaker is still feeling the effects of the night's revelry, but it also hints at the idea that time is passing quickly and that he is running out of time.
The fourth stanza is perhaps the most famous of the poem, as the speaker reflects on the idea of heaven and the afterlife. He says, "Rather than words comes the thought of high windows: / The sun-comprehending glass, / And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows / Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless." The use of the word "rather" suggests that the speaker is rejecting the idea of heaven and instead finding solace in the beauty of the natural world. The imagery of "sun-comprehending glass" and "deep blue air" is particularly striking, as it suggests a sense of clarity and openness that is not found in the confines of religion.
The final stanza brings the poem full circle, as the speaker reflects on the younger generation once again. He says, "They fuck you up, your mum and dad. / They may not mean to, but they do. / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you." The use of the word "fuck" is jarring, but it is a reflection of the speaker's frustration with the cycle of life and the inevitability of passing on one's faults and shortcomings to the next generation.
In terms of language, Larkin's use of colloquial language and profanity is a departure from the more formal language of traditional poetry. This use of language is a reflection of the changing social norms and values of the time, as well as Larkin's own personal style. The use of enjambment and caesura also adds to the poem's sense of urgency and immediacy, as the lines flow seamlessly into one another.
In conclusion, "High Windows" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that continues to resonate with readers today. Through its themes of sexual liberation, mortality, and the cycle of life, Larkin captures the essence of the changing social norms and values of the time. The poem's use of imagery and language is particularly striking, as it adds to the poem's sense of urgency and immediacy. Overall, "High Windows" is a testament to the power of poetry to evoke emotions and challenge our perceptions of the world around us.
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