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“Here” by Phillip Larkin

Larkin’s “Here” is a poem written in a present continuous style where it describes a train journey. Larkin starts in the midst of “rich industrial shadows” and ends in “unfenced existence” Each of the four eight-line stanzas takes the reader on a journey exploring the poet’s reaction to the surroundings that the train passes through. The title gives a sense of immediacy and validity, it lends to the image that the poet writes the poem on the train whilst he is travelling as if he is documenting what he observes as and when it happens. To create a sense of movement Larkin uses the word “swerving” This word opens the first stanza by suggesting movement but also direction, “swerving east”, In this stanza, we discover that the poet is moving away from a large town or city as evidenced by the words “from rich industrial shadows and traffic all night north.;”

The lines “swerving through fields…”, “harsh-named halt…”, and “workmen at dawn;” make it clear that the poet is on a train. The word swerving is used again to continue the movement of the poem that began in the first line. The “harsh-named halt” is a station stop and the “workmen at dawn” are arguably the workers who build and maintain train tracks. The negative beginning of the first stanza becomes a positive end as the poet reaches the countryside. The poet swerves again but this time he is “swerving to the solitude of skies and scarecrows” The skies and scarecrows invoke an image of countryside and farms and we can get the impression that the poet prefers the company of nature to the company of people. This is evidenced by his positive language in describing the surroundings that pass him in the countryside like “piled gold clouds”. His use of the line “widening river’s slow presence” slows the pace of the poem thus creating a calmer and more tranquil mood.

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This is followed by descriptions of “piled gold clouds” and “shining gull marked mud” the language the poet uses is reminiscent of the language one would use to describe treasure and so we find that the poet finds nature to be a treasure. At first, the approaching large town appears a traditionally architected and beautiful place, until the end of the second line. Larkin uses words like “domes and statues, spires…” to create an image of traditionalist and conservative architecture. He contrasts this with the alliterated phrase “cranes cluster” the harsh alliterations of the letter “c” adds to the overall feeling of instant dislike. The word ‘cluster’ produces a vision of sinister beings that are gathering together to plot. As cranes are a method of transporting construction materials and therefore symbolize progress, it can be argued that the poet has a dislike of modern architecture and modern progress.

The poet appears to have a negative view of the working class. Larkin lists all of modern life’s common luxuries that are felt to be ‘essential’. By listing them in this way Larkin demeans their existence and convicts the people who buy them as being “residents from raw estates”. In other words, Larkin feels that the unmolded and unharnessed estates are a danger to society because the direction they may take is unknown. By using the word “raw” Larkin can invoke both the emotion of unharnessed potential and the emotion of danger as the true potential of these estates is unknown. Modern society’s views and ways seem to anger the poet. Larkin lists the scenes that one might see in a large town where certain areas may be deprived or “half-built” the hyphen between the two words in “half-built”, “barge-crowded”, “flat-faced”, and “grain-scattered” attaches the two words together in a way that suggests permanency.

This effect reveals a more pessimistic side to the poet and thus lends a more negative tone to the poem and what the poet is describing. Abandoned countryside stirs sadness in the poet. The “thin and thistle” fields of stanza one suggest that society’s demands on the farmland have caused them to become depleted. In stanza three, “wheat fields, running high as hedges, isolate villages…” Here the poet expresses his concern that villages are being abandoned in favour of the “mortgaged half-built edges…” He notes in stanza four that it is this abandoned countryside where “leaves unnoticed thicken, hidden weed flower”.

We can tell that the mood is sadness at the start of the last stanza because its first word is “loneliness”. We know from the biography of Larkin that he didn’t enjoy the company of people much and thus must have been quite lonely to any other person observing his life. Larkin challenges this perception to a more positive one as he explains the reasons for his escape to the untouched nature at the seaside. As the poet reaches the coast the mood changes to a positive one. The language the poet uses changes to more positive words; “unfenced existence: facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.” Larkin challenges the human need to socialize by presenting a quiet and tranquil environment. He presents this beach as an escape from the nature of society. It is clear that the poet treasures the company of nature and finds little to celebrate in society and its ways.

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