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Here Swerving east, from rich industrial shadows And traffic all night north; swerving through fields

Too thin and thistled to be called meadows, And now and then a harsh-named halt, that shields Workmen at dawn; swerving to solitude Of skies and scarecrows, haystacks, hares and pheasants, And the widening river's slow presence, The piled gold clouds, the shining gull-marked mud, Gathers to the surprise of a large town: Here domes and statues, spires and cranes cluster Beside grain-scattered streets, barge-crowded water, And residents from raw estates, brought down The dead straight miles by stealing flat-faced trolleys, Push through plate-glass swing doors to their desires Cheap suits, red kitchen-ware, sharp shoes, iced lollies, Electric mixers, toasters, washers, driers A cut-price crowd, urban yet simple, dwelling Where only salesmen and relations come Within a terminate and fishy-smelling Pastoral of ships up streets, the slave museum, Tattoo-shops, consulates, grim head-scarfed wives; And out beyond its mortgaged half-built edges Fast-shadowed wheat-fields, running high as hedges, Isolate villages, where removed lives Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands Like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken, Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken, Luminously-peopled air ascends; And past the poppies bluish neutral distance Ends the land suddenly beyond a beach Of shapes and shingle. Here is unfenced existence: Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach. --Philip Larkin

Philip Larkins 1964 volume, The Whitsun Weddings, contains two poems describing train-journeys. One of them is the volumes title-poem and is one of the most famous (and best-loved) poems in English since the Second World War; it has been said that with this work he brought a whole new English landscape into poetry. The other poem, entitled Here, is not quite so well-known but gives an equally powerful description of the English landscapeand perhaps a rather more unsettling one. It describes the reverse-journey to the one depicted in The Whitsun Weddings, from London to Larkins home-town, Hulland beyond. It is, indeed, the beyond that is so peculiarly powerful and unsettling a factor in this poem. Although it opens the volume, we know from Anthony Thwaites chronological reordering of the poems in his edition of The Collected Poems that it was actually written three years after The Whitsun Weddings, and it can in some ways be seen as a reappraisal of the experience recounted in the earlier poem. Or rather, while The Whitsun Weddings recounts in close detail a particular journey on a specific day, the poet seems determined in the later poem to reconsider the experience of travel, removing all personal traces from the description. Indeed, it seems in the end to become a poem about the abolition of personality, which is subsumed into the landscape. *private+There is always something mysterious in the power that Larkins poetry exerts on the reader. Originally seen as a down-to-earth debunker of romantic pretentiousness (the title of his second volume, The Less Deceived, is significant), he is now often compared to the great Romantics. He himself has implicitly invited the comparison, declaring that deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth, which can only serve to remind us that much of Wordsworths own poetry was founded on deprivation; even as he celebrates daffodils or the splendour in the grass, he is acknowledging the fact that such visions are rareand can never mean to him now what they once did: The things which I have seen I now can see no more has a tragic simplicity, and could be applied equally well to much of Larkins own poetry. The critic John Bayley has even compared Larkin to Keats, stating that much of his poetry seems to take place on the cold hillside which provides the final landscape for La Belle Dame sans Merci.

While Larkin would have refused to confer any special importance on his childhood experiences, there is no denying the sense of loss that underlies his poetry, which can be attributed to an acute awareness of the passing of time and youth (the strength and pain of being young). It was once possible to dream of swagger*ing+ the nut-strewn roads; in part the plangent sense of yearning in his poetry derives from the knowledge that for others this dream is undiminished somewhere. Undiminished is in fact a peculiarly Larkinian word. We find it in that brilliant late poem Sad Steps and in the early Reference Back, where he describes the long perspectives of time that show us what we have as it once was, / Blindingly undiminished. It is one of those characteristic negatively-prefixed adjectives that Christopher Ricks has pointed to as typical of Larkins poetry. We might add to Rickss observation that such negative prefixes are equally characteristic of the poetry of another great Romantic, Shelley (unextinguished hearth, unawakened earth, Prometheus Unbound, unacknowledged legislator). In both poets, the negative adjectives unfailingly evoke the positive they are supposedly denyingor they are themselves clearly positive in meaning; Larkin, who is apparently accepting Robert Frosts injunction to learn what to make of a diminished thing, is in fact continually evoking the memory or the possibility of an undiminished existence. This helps to explain those moments of apparent transcendence in Larkins poetry, where against all expectations the poem suddenly seems to rise to a higher planeto go elsewhere. The unexpected turn in his poetry can sometimes be achieved through curious twists of syntax, as in the final sentences of Mr Bleaney or Ambulances, where the final words give a new shape and meaning to the sentenceand, consequently, to the whole poem. Often it comes about through a very deliberate shift in register; a poem that begins with the line Groping back to bed after a piss rises surprisingly to such rhetorical heights as O wolves of memory! Immensements! In Church Going, he moves from the comic realism of Hatless, I take off / My cycle-clips in awkward reverence to the stirring solemnity of It pleases me to stand in silence here. // A serious house on serious earth it is . . . The persona Larkin has created in his poetry and which contributes so greatly to our sense of a distinct and individual voice, no matter how disparate the forms and subject-matters of his poems, is capable of a great range and variety of emotions. We may initially identify the voice as that of a sadly humorous pessimist, like a bookish and sexually aware Eeyore, but the persona is forever revealing unexpected depths and longings. Often enough this is the result of looking more closely and seeing things in different terms, as the speaker does in Whitsun Weddings, who eventually focuses more carefully on whats happening in the shade; in so doing he opens himself to a whole new experience of life, with its varied joys and sadnesses. However, these moments of apparent transcendence are not always achieved through an emotional shift on the part of the persona. There are some poems that consciously avoid the comic, personal touch and this is the case of Here. Although, as already stated, it appears to be a companion piece to Whitsun Weddings, Larkin deliberately eliminates all personal references. It is clearly another train-journey that is being described but we have no sense that the narrator is an actual passenger on the train. Indeed, one of the mysterious elements in this poem is precisely the point of view of the speaker. Another way of putting it would be to say that the title itself is by no means clear: where is Here? The word first appears in line 10, in the second stanza: Here domes and statues, spires and cranes cluster . . . For this reason many have seen Here as Larkins Hull poem, the only one in which he provides a detailed description of the town and its inhabitants. However, although the movement of the opening stanza seems to be carrying us unequivocally on a trainjourney northwards, destined to come to a halt in a major town, the poemand the journeydoes not in fact cease there. We are swept on beyond the city in the third stanza: And out beyond its mortgaged wheat-fields . . . The word Here is repeated three times in the last stanza, which brings the poem to a mysteriously transcendental conclusion far from the townand far from the train-lines. The word Here now seems to refer to a state of mind rather than to any specific geographical location. How does the poem achieve this mysterious power to move and to disturb? It is undeniably partly due to the mastery of its structure and the wonderful sense of balance that the poet manages to maintain. We are held somehow between stasis and movement; what we might call the syntactical energy of the poems first sentence, which sweeps on all the way through to stanza four, propels us forwardor rather carries us forward, since the suggestive power of the poem partly lies in the fact that we, as readers, become passengers in the poems steadily traveling carriage. The balance is also to be found in the masterly way Larkin handles the descriptive details. To a certain extent one could call it a list poem, since much of the description consists of an accumulation of visual details: swerving to solitude Of skies and scarecrows, haystacks, hares and pheasants, And the widening rivers slow presence, The piled gold clouds, the shining gull-marked mud . . . There is a marvellous equilibrium here; the crowded line 6, with its simple list of five unqualified features of the landscape, is followed by the more stately line 7, which, being devoted to just one feature, actually manages to suggest the phenomenon it describes; just as the river widens out, so does the clause and (apparently) the poetic line; this is then followed by line 8, with its careful caesura and its beautifully chosen adjectives. Such subtle effects serve to avoid the possible monotony of the straightforward list, and to give variety and movement to a poem from which, as already mentioned, the poet has deliberately effaced the personal point of view. This self-effacement is most clearly manifest in the second stanza, when the sentence which was begun in the first stanza reaches its main verb. Larkin here uses one of his syntactical surprises; after the present participle that opens the poem (Swerving east), one might now expect the sentence to continue: We arrive, or even just The train arrives.

Instead, the main verb that opens the stanza (Gathers to the surprise) forces us to relocate ourselves syntactically and perhaps geographically. The participle itself, it seems, acts as the subject of this verb; the effect is to make the point of view less characteristically personal than it is in most of Larkins poems; although the voice retains a certain note of ironic individuality, it is less clearly positioned than usual. This remains the case in the second and third stanzas, which describe the large town. Again, we have the use of lists, containing elements carefully chosen and balanced: Here domes and statues, spires and cranes cluster Beside grain-scattered streets, barge-crowded water . . . As before, he creates a sense of variety; the first line lists four architectural or urban features, while the second line gives us just two, qualified by his characteristic compound adjectives, consisting of combinations of nouns (or adverbs) and participles. The first stanza had contained just two: harsh-named halts and gull-marked mud. These epithets multiply in the second and third stanzas (flat-faced trolleys, fishy-smelling / Pastoral, grim head-scarfed wives, mortgaged half-built / Edges, Fast-shadowed wheat-fields). In his description of the town, he manages to achieve a highly effective blend of the generalised and the particular. Although most of the nouns are in the plural, the descriptive epithets are so brilliantly chosen that we cannot fail to recognise that these features of the townand its inhabitantshave been carefully observed (even if the observer, as already mentioned, has quietly effaced himself). He has succeeded in making the very ordinariness of the town a surprise. The residents, although seen with what might seem some ironic condescension, are at least granted the dignity of one of the few active verbs in the whole poem; they *p+ush through plate-glass swing doors to their desires . . . The sentence carries us on through the city and out beyond its mortgaged half-built / Edges. From the bustle of the city, created so effectively with the crowded, alliterative lines, where people and consumer-objects are crammed together in consonantal clusters, we are taken again out into the emptiness of the open countryside. Larkin here uses one of his most striking enjambments, bringing this 24-line sentence to a conclusion in the opening line of the fourth stanza; he uses not only enjambment but a carefully placed poetic inversion, leaving the object of the final verb stranded in stanza three, while the subject and verb form the first half of the first line of stanza four: And out beyond its mortgaged half-built edges Fast-shadowed wheat-fields, running high as hedges, Isolate villages, where removed lives Loneliness clarifies. The effect is that of a visual punand of a deliberately stated epigram. These two words help to illuminate so much of Larkins poetryand one is reminded how intensely he always seeks clarity, finding it in sometimes surprising circumstances (Smaller and clearer as the years go by). After the seemingly interminable opening sentence, he gives us one of the shortest sentences in the whole poem, relying on synaesthesia for effect: Here silence stands / Like heat. The result is to make the reader halt and wonder whether we have finally arrived at our destination. The poem does continue, although we are at least allowed to pause. The poet then provides another of his almost anaphoric lists: Here leaves unnoticed thicken, Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken, Luminously-peopled air ascends . . . We are allowed for one moment to wonder whether the leaves thicken and the weeds flower precisely because they are unnoticed and hidden, and we are perhaps invited to recall Thomas Grays image of the flower born to blush unseen / And waste its sweetness on the desert air. But before we can dwell too long on such possible allusions, the poet strikes us with one of his most brilliant compound adjectives: luminously-peopled air. It is as mysterious and suggestive as the sun-comprehending glass that concludes High Windows. It carries us upwards and outwards. We realise that these final lines are taking us away from the brilliantly-captured particularities of the earlier part of the poem; in one sense the images become vaguer, less sharply-focused: bluish neutral distance, a beach / Of shapes and shingle. We are being taken into a less concrete world, one of light and air. Perhaps no poet has paid such attention such devotion, one might almost say, of this famously secular poetto the great elemental phenomena of the sky and the sea. The final lines are deliberately simple, but superbly suggestive: Here is unfenced existence: Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach. Here again are two of his characteristic negatively-prefixed adjectives; the final three words of the poem are a simple enough expression, but by being deliberately unclear in their attribution (who or what is out of reach?), add to the overall sense of a transcendental experience that is as overwhelming as it is mysterious. The whole poem has been building up to this final featureless vista; the adjective unfenced may remind us of one of his shortest but most epigrammatically powerful poems, Wires in the volume The Less Deceived: The widest prairies have electric fences, For though old cattle know they must not stray Young steers are always scenting purer water Not here but anywhere. Beyond the wires Leads them to blunder up against the wires Whose muscle-shredding violence gives no quarter.

Young steers become old cattle from that day, Electric limits to their widest senses. This early poem is generally read as an ironic recognition of the need for limits to our widest senses; while this may be generally true of Larkins poetryand his acceptance of the restraints of formal verse is just one indication of this traitHere suggests that we should also recognise that one of the reasons his poetry is so unsettlingly powerful is his equally ironic recognition of the fact that old cattle canand dostill dream of being young steers.[/private]

My Impression of Philip Larkins Poem Here This poem is written in octave verse form, comprising four stanzas in all. The equally-balanced neat structure seems to reflect the poets quest for order in perhaps a chaotic world around him. Reading the first word of the poem, swerving, one gets the impression of a sharp movement, an abrupt change of direction. I immediately imagine that I am with the poet or the poet himself, travelling in some kind of vehicle on a highway to some far-away destination. In the first stanza itself, the word swerving is used 3 times to amplify the movement. The sense of travelling is very real and one is attracted to read the poem further to discover what else the poet notices along the way. The things the poet sees are described vividly in the first until the last stanza. The poem is basically a narrative account of the poets physical journey to a place of solitude, where loneliness clarifies. The journey can be likened to a solitary pilgrimage too, with spiritual overtone, whereby the poet seeks solace in another place, to be untalkative, to meditate, out of reach of others. The ordinary experience could have been written as a narrative prose but the poet has expressed it in verse form to accentuate its significance in poetic language. He uses end-rhyme regularly to provide the lyrical tone as in the first stanza of a/b/a/b/c/d/d/e. The rhyming scheme gives a neat effect on the structure of the poem. Thus, shadows is ryhmed with meadows, fields and shields and so on. Carefully rhymed words in a poem are a manifestation of a poets mastery in composing a quality poem. Larkin in this instance retains the convention of romantic poets where the aspect of rhyme is given emphasis, despite writing in the post-modernist period. The things mentioned in the poem are mostly concrete. Fields, meadows, skies, scarecrows, rivers and so on can all be mentally visualised as one reads those words. The first stanza evokes the scenery of a rural area and ends with a striking image of shining gull-marked mud. The word shining indicates a source of beauty, light. But the beauty is juxtaposed with something that is often considered ugly or dirty, that is mud. Thus, the image of shining mud offers an insightful and a new perspective on something that is often ignored. Obviously the poet has detected something interesting in the otherwise boring mud he sees. In terms of semiotics, we may say that the poet has detected the indexical presence of seagulls in the area, hence, the gull-marked mud. The footprints of seagulls in the mud had certainly left an indelible impression in the poets mind that he notes it in his poem. The overall country scenery must be picturesque with gold clouds and widening river. The poet had swerved from rich industrial shadows and traffic all night when he came across the countryside as described in the first stanza. But immediately in the second stanza, he describes his entry into a large town. He mentions domes and statues, spires and cranes and grain-scatttered streets. Moving from the first to the second stanza, one cannot fail to notice a sharp distinction between rural and urban landscapes. If lonely scarecrows and haystacks are symbols of a countryside, buildings, people and streets signify a large town, which the poet meets with surprise. The poet highlights the different atmospheres between the two landscapes using phrases like spires and cranes cluster and barge-crowded water. Like a video camera which pans from a scene to another, the poets description of a town scene evokes contrasting images within seconds. From a laid-back rustic field, we now enter a busy town where residents from raw estates steal fat-faced trolleys. Merchandise seen by the poet are mentioned in the second stanza, which include cheap suits, red kitchen-ware, sharp shoes, electric mixers, toasters, washers and so on. The poet definitely has a keen eye for details. All these items are mentioned as he sees them. Notice that he even mentions the colour of the kitchen-ware which is red. Logically he wants the reader to notice what he has seen too. The reader can easily imagine a supermarket trolley filled with such stuff. Although the poet does not mention anything about materialism, one can assume that goods and merchandise are much a part of the city dwellers obsession. The word stealing associated with residents is somehow indicative of a social malaise which often infects town people. From the phrase grain-scattered streets, one can infer that the city people have a favourite past time of feeding pigeons or doves which are commonly found in the cities. Thus, the poet using neat and economical phrases, has managed to suggest more than meets the eye.

In the third stanza, the poet describes the character and lifestyles of the city dwellers. He could have said where there is a cheap sale going on, people will flock to buy the goods on offer. But he concisely says a cut-price crowd, thus avoiding tautological sentences often found in prose. The dwelling of the people is desribed as urban yet simple. Here, he seems to suggest that the majority of the city dwellers comprise middle-income earners. They are the people with normally simple tastes, unlike landlords and barons who have expensive and extravagant tastes. Salesmen and visiting relatives are part of the culture of city life. This aspect does not go unnoticed by the poet and he notes it in the third stanza. The poet goes on to mention slave museum, tattoo-shops, consulates and grim-head scarfed wives. The infrastructure of the large town consists of the buildings and people described in details by the poet. He uses the word grim, which suggests unhappy housewives. Is he implying that the women feel oppressed in a presumably partriachal society? From the phrases pastoral of ships and consulates one gets the idea that the town is perhaps cosmopolitan where different races make up its population. From the phrase slave-museum, we know that slavery has apparently been abolished in this era and the human injustice is showcased in the museum now. In the same stanza, the lively big town is immediately contrasted with its surrounding border: And out beyond its mortgaged half-built edges Fast-shadowed wheat-fields, running high as hedges, Isolate villages, where removed lives Once again the reader is led to a rustic scenery, at the outskirts of the town. The phrase isolate villages has personified the town. As a bigger entity, it seems to marginalise villages. Apparently all the attractions and activities are concentrated in the town. Even the wheatfields, where farmers work, are fast-shadowed, suggesting that the activity in the village is not worth mentioning vis--vis the town. From the first stanza to the third, the poets tone is quite composed and detached. Up to this stage, the reader is only guided to visualise both the urban and rural landscapes. My response to the poem is rather neutral as there is hardly any pathos or strong emotions involved, apart from the word surprise in the second stanza. But the poet seems to invite the reader to feel something in the last stanza. The change is quite disturbing now, especially in the line Loneliness clarifies. Silence is then likened to heat. The simile is aptly incorporated into the poem. Obviously, after casting his eyes on the outskirt of the town, the poet arrives at Here, the remote countryside. He thus finds the sudden silence uncomfortable, which explains why it is likened to heat. Phrases such as leaves unnoticed and neglected waters somehow bring negative connotations. But ironically it is here, in the village, where hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken compared with the city, where the river is slowed and crowded by barges. The striking image of poppies with impressive bluish colour can be found here too, although normally poppies produce scarlet flowers. Although the poet mentions that loneliness clarifies in line 25, the poem itself is not about loneliness. It is more about being alone and finding solace in solitude than being lonely. The penultimate and the last lines cap the poets message and elucidate his discourse. Here is unfenced existence: Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach. This is where the poet feels highly liberated. The wild foliage and virgin streams symbolise and project natural growth and freedom. The whole of the poets existence is concentrated at the place he has arrived at, which he simply calls Here. He is now facing the sun, the symbol of hope. Notice that the poem opens with the poet escaping from industrial shadows. The juxtaposition of light and shadows brings out a contrasting effect which suggests a distinction between positive and negative. The sun seems to provide the positive element that the poet needs. He has apparently found some solace at the end of his journey. He seems to enjoy being temporarily untalkative and out of reach. Notice that the word unfenced is used to show liberty. The poem as a whole seems to suggest that nature can provide freedom and comfort for those who want to escape the bustle of city life. By using the right words and images, Larkin has concisely and incisively conveyed his thoughts.