Places, Loved Ones – Philip Larkin – Analysis

Places, Loved Ones

No, I have never found
The place where I could say
This is my proper ground,
Here I shall stay;
Nor met that special one
Who has an instant claim
On everything I own
Down to my name;

To find such seems to prove
You want no choice in where
To build, or whom to love;
You ask them to bear
You off irrevocably,
So that it’s not your fault
Should the town turn dreary,
The girl a dolt.

Yet, having missed them, you’re
Bound, none the less, to act
As if what you settled for
Mashed you, in fact;
And wiser to keep away
From thinking you still might trace
Uncalled-for to this day
Your person, your place.

Philip Larkin 1922 – 1985

This poem, written in 1954, consists of three stanzas each a sentence broken in two parts by a semicolon. The second part a reflective extension to the first. Each stanza has rhyming scheme ‘ababcdcd’.

A typical Larkin ignoble poetic reportage on institutional life and the establishment, in this case the poem centres on the construct of marriage and how it restricts individuals by tying them down to one person. Larkin regarded himself as a poet of dullness and deprivation. And there is certainly a dull veil covering his thoughts on marriage in this poem.

In his day it was difficult to divorce it being an irrevocable affair. So it may happen that a dolt (stupid person) is your lot and the place where you live turns dreary. He suggests perhaps that marriage may cause such tendencies due to lack of freedom.

PL was never quite content with place or partner, and he wanted to keep relationships open. He was engaged at one time but he never married. He had several relationships. He lived in Hull for thirty years while Librarian at Hull University. He regarded Hull as a fringe city and he too was on the fringe of the poetic establishment of his time. When the Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, died in 1984 he was offered that position but declined. It has been said that he was the defacto Poet Laureate.

The poem ends stating that while not being satisfied with the status quo it is best to make the most of it anyway. Making the most of being mashed, marriage mashes the individual – and the potato is no longer a potato. On the positive side he could have been stronger in his wording and used ‘Smash’! And the last part of the concluding sentence gives advise – it is wise not to think of looking for something better.

So make the most of your day whatever the circumstances.

Philip Larkin on Wikipedia

And here is a link to a positive ending from Philip Larkin in his poem Arundel Tomb.

Your word in my ear ...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s