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Arundel Tomb

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'Larkin's vision of life is bleak and depressing.' With close analysis of 'An Arundel Tomb' and one other poem by Larkin, compare the ways in which Larkin and Abse write about their outlook on life. The popular view of Larkin is indeed of a bleak and depressing poet, and on first analysis his poems can strike the reader in this way. Indeed, he has been accused of worse: of being misanthropic and, in particular, misogynistic. Certainly, his vision could certainly never be said to be romantic or optimistic. In 'Wild Oats,' for instance he describes forming a relationship with the less attractive of two friends, who ultimately finishes with him because, 'I was too selfish, withdrawn and easily bored to love.' Many of his other poems also convey this gap between the ideal of romantic love and the disillusionment of the reality too. Larkin made no secret of the fact that he believed marriage could be an imprisonment and that having children was the end of a person's life, something that people did because it was expected of them, that in fact they might well come to regret subsequently. He also explores in his writing how the passing of time can erode love, and how, being mortal, nothing survives death in any event. However there is another side to Larkin, where he acknowledges with great sympathy and sensitivity the importance the human species places on love, and its potential at least of elevating our existence. ...read more.


An almost instinct to believe in the enduring quality of love seems to hint at our need for some meaning beyond death. As an atheist, Larkin did not believe in an after-life, but seems to acknowledge that it is almost instinctive for humans to want to imbue their existence with some sort of meaning so replacing Christian belief with a belief that somehow our human love endures after we are gone is natural. But this belief, he says, is only 'almost true. So it could be argued that the conclusion of this poem is that nothing truly survives death - not even love. And yet the sheer power and beauty of that final line seems to belie the essential pessimism of this conclusion and render it ambiguous. For me this ambiguity is at the heart of Larkin's writing. He is never glib or obvious. He admits to doubts and uncertainties but his writing can also convey the beauty and occasional happiness of existence. Dannie Abse, in contrast, is a far less reflective and introspective poet. His outlook on life is essentially optimistic. For instance the theme of his poem 'Two Photographs' bears comparison with 'An Arundel Tomb.' but his approach is very different. He considers two photographs of his two grandmothers and compares Annabella, 'How slim she appears, how vulnerable. Pretty.' with Doris, 'How portly she looks, formidable. ...read more.


He conveys very well the simple pleasures of life, the joyous moments, the beauty of nature, of music, and our capability of happiness as well as sadness. He always admits the possibility and potential of love but ultimately doesn't think a single thing can answer people's needs entirely and forever. Love might not be redemptive but we need to put our hopes and fears somewhere and love seems the answer. He is not judgmental in his appraoch to those who have failed at love, or those who cannot find it. While it would be unfair to call Abse a simplistic poet it is the ambiguities in Larkin's language and ideas that ultimately make him poems more satisfying and rich. Larkin's verdict might be bleak in both his poems but Larkin conjurs beauiful moments in the woman's life in 'Love Songs in Age' and realises hope people could believe that love is the answer to certain things. Larkin tackles love and isn't afraid to approach it's promise differently to other poets such as Abse who might be describes as more 'typical' however he is too much of a realist to think we can get everyhing from love, although it elevates us. He realises to be human is to believe this. Love, children, family, true fulfilment and rare moment of connection cannot overthrow death or illness and the inevitability of the obstacles we face in life. Larkin sees this but in that he is simply a realist. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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