Introduction, some facts about Philip Larkin
To start with I should say that before searching for some Philip Larkin poetry and analyzing it directly, I tried to deal with a lot of sources just to learn more about Philip Larkin as a brilliant representative of post-war and modern literature. His volumes include “The Ship of the North” (1945), “The Less Deceived” (1955), “The Whitsun Wedding” (1964), “High Windows” (1974) and many others. He saw himself as writing in the tradition of Thomas Hardy in refusing to do the mantle of self-conscious poet hood, but fastening without pretension on the everyday experience, pinpointing its impact on the senses and hinting at its half-glimpsed meaning – or more often its fully glimpsed meaninglessness – for a modern man. The feeling recurs that man has lost his footing amid natural and civilization instabilities. But all in the central theme of Larkin’s poetry are losses, loneliness, human solitude, suffering, an opposition of something eternal and transient in a life of a man. And of course, I can’t help saying that a specific thread of irony is appreciable and visional in almost all his works.
Sacramentalism and its meaning
Firstly, I would like to mention that Philip Larkin is a remarkable poet, but in some cases, his works are too pessimistic, too skeptical. They contain sacramental images and symbols of the inner world of a person, and at the same time, they have no Christian belief, only some skeptic motives. Saying about sacramental images I mean something secret and mysterious that exists in our souls and spirit.
So, it follows that sacramentalism which is present in Larkin’s poems is a key to our spiritual life. Sacramentalism is the belief that God works through physical things to affect our destiny and fate; he changes our lives by his wish. That’s why it is an absence of choice for us and life is something that happens with us while we make plans for the future. We are the lonely gerbils in a significant stream of people and information, we are the drops in a vast sea, that symbolizes the life on the earth. So, everything the main in our life happens when we are not ready for something when we do not expect it to happen, all in all, everything occurs as if we are absent in this or that moment under some circumstances. It is some nasty trick or bitter irony in our life… Don’t you think so? But it is not up for us to choose, and this absence of choice is called – our destiny.
Analysis of a poem “Ambulances”
I have chosen a poem “Ambulances” for the analyses because it gives an obvious, clear and realistic idea about modern fiction, the main goal of which is to make the reader feel what the author feels and that deals with the human sensations.
Philip Larkin in his poem tried to depict a shocking hidden contrast between the ordinary daily life and death. He explained that death could come unexpectedly so that it can be random, sudden and inevitable. But it is a paradox that nobody thinks about it and never notices somebody’s pain until it happens to you or your dearest and nearest. So we can be indifferent to the people and the surrounding reality. I say so fatalistically, but it is evident that people, being vulnerable to illnesses and fatal accidents, compare ambulance with death, that we can’t see, but it smiles behind your back carrying out its cruel intentions. Summing everything said before, it must be mentioned that the poem “Ambulances” shows us the struggle between hope and hopelessness, demonstrates our fear of the unknown, all in all making us the hostages of circumstances with an absence of choice.
In the first stanza, there is an impression that an accident can happen anywhere. This is shown by the words:
“…They come to rest at any kerb:
All streets in time are visited…”
So, it does not matter, who you are and where you are.
While reading the poem, we imagine a busy city and these lines (the 2nd stanza) correctly show a sharp contrast between a speed of life and quietness of death:
“…Then children strewn on steps or road,
Or women coming from the shops
Past smells of different dinners, see
A wild white face that overtops
Red stretcher-blankets momently…”
And the last two lines depict very precisely the horror of death and the author makes us understand that once you’ll die too or something will happen to you and maybe you’ll be lying on such a red stretcher-blanket. Everything can be, so death is our collective fate.
The next lines (the 3rd stanza) underline that we all are scared of emptiness:
“…And sense the solving emptiness
That lies just under all we do,
And for a second get it whole,
So permanent and blank and true…”
The sense of solving “solving emptiness” is not far removed from cynical disengagement. Scorn of gravity and pretension can easily consort with the shrug of the debunker. Fear of comprehensiveness can turn into the blinkered obsession with the limitedly parochial.
Some lines from the last and last but one stanza read:
“…the unique random blend
Of families and fashions, there
At last begin to loosen…”
It means that the author reflects the loss and grief that the death can bring to us.
It goes without saying that reading a poem “Ambulances” arouses a lot of thoughts and feelings in a soul. You begin to look for something sacramental and holy in every simple detail of your daily life.
This poem gives a vivid notion of the modern literature, the main topics of which are the psychology, complicity of human nature, the life situations and the ways of solving the problems. Analyzing the “Ambulances”, you can learn more about the inner world of the poet and enrich your one.
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