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"English poets are being forced to explore not just the matter of England, but what is the matter with England" (Seamus Heaney) - Discuss.

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Introduction

"English poets are being forced to explore not just the matter of England, but what is the matter with England" (Seamus Heaney). Discuss. It is an inevitable fact that the consumers of literature - laymen and literary critics alike - tend to group together texts and authors into separate categories, and attach to each category a number of supposedly 'common' characteristics and idiosyncracies which all its members apparently share. Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes, and their poetry, are no exceptions. Larkin and Hughes are often linked together when discussing English poets, and do have a number of things in common: they were born within eight years of each other, they wrote and published their poetry at similar times, and both are identified with the north of England. Both men were writing at a time when the notion of a stable and established England was being undermined, largely due to the rapid social change initiated by the termination of the Second World War. Thus both poets were heirs to a unique poetic impulse which sought to reject the old order of modernism by employing creative and innovative forms of expression: the new consciousness of a new generation. Yet although Larkin and Hughes are frequently grouped together as 'English post-war poets', a term which suggest homogeneity, there is in reality more diversity in their approaches than is commonly assumed. Indeed, while Larkin is categorised as member of 'The Movement' - a group of poets whose focus was "an emphatically English provincialism"1, Hughes resists overtly making England his subject matter, choosing instead to portray elemental forces in order to distance himself from the practices of 'The Movement'. The Whitsun Weddings portrays different aspects of England, which all come together to create a recognisable vision of contemporary society. The colloquialisms and 'low' diction employed in the collection is perfectly suited to Larkin's focus on 'common' life. Larkin's England is a country that has been violated by the spread of industry, and is now languishing in a state ...read more.

Middle

Larkin comments on the farcical nature of the rites, often with some distaste: Mothers loud and fat; An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms, The nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes, The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochres that Marked off the girls unreally from the rest. While each couple supposes themselves to be unique, Larkin and the reader are aware that they are merely part of a larger fabric of similar ceremonies. As the train approaches its destination, the poem gains momentum as though possessed of some new energy, then suddenly slows down. The philosophical discourse slackens too, as Larkin can no longer sustain the intensity of his superior knowledge that extends far beyond the superficiality of socially constructed rituals. He relinquishes the awareness that the journey was merely a "frail / Travelling coincidence": the experience now inhabits the past, and Larkin releases his hold on it, leaving him free to pursue the fertile possibilities of the future.3 Larkin has taken us on a journey through more than simply space and time: it has been a journey through experience and knowledge. It has revealed and observed the substance of Englishness: its landscape and the people who inhabit it. The gentle closing lines of the poem: there swelled A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain is an optimistic release of the 'true' meaning of life that can never be fully sustained, or indeed realised, by most Englanders. In the poetry which makes up The Whitsun Weddings, Larkin presents the reader with a simple and uncomplicated depiction of the matter of England, through which it is easy to perceive what is the matter with England. Ted Hughes has an altogether different attitude towards the matter of England, and indeed towards poetry itself. There are few overt references to the English nation in his New Selected Poems 1957-1994, primarily because Hughes does not deem the rational division of the earth into separate states to be of any real importance. ...read more.

Conclusion

Yet the poem suggests that the physical earth will revenge its desecration at the hands of ruthless humanity: "Their jurors are to be assembled / From the little crumbs of soot." The transience and superficiality of western culture is contrasted with the enduring and far superior presence of the landscape and its fossil fuels: "Their brief / Goes straight up to heaven and nothing more is heard of it." The farcical notion of the "rights" of humanity is burnt away as effortlessly as the coal. Hughes portrays basic natural forces with a language of energy and vigour, and in doing so creates a mythic dimension. The poetry of Ted Hughes is neither social commentary nor a straight-forward description of the geography of England. It condemns the whole of western culture, of which England is a part, for distancing itself and its people from the strong primitive urges that comprise the inner self. His aim is to: "reconnect our own natural energies with those in the external, natural world"8 through the medium of poetry. Both Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes both ---examine the matter of England, and expose its flaws. But their attitudes towards and treatment of this England differ radically. The term "English poets" seeks to unite the two perspectives of two poets that remain essentially irreconcilable. 2,988 words. 1 Morrison, Blake, The Movement: English Poetry and Fiction of the 1950s, Oxford, 1980, p. 20. 2 Motion, Andrew, Philip Larkin, London, 1982, p.56. 3 Everett, Barbara, Poets in their Time, London, 1972, p.10. 4 Thurley, Geoffrey, The Ironic Harvest: English Poetry in the Twentieth Century, London, 1974, p.77. 5 Schofield, Annie, 'Hughes and the Movement', in Sagar, Keith, ed., The Achievement of Ted Hughes, Manchester, 1983, p.34. 6 Gifford, Terry and Roberts, Neil, Ted Hughes: A Critical Study, London, 1981, p.40. 7 Thurley, Geoffrey, The Ironic Harvest: English Poetry in the Twentieth Century, London, 1974, p.71. 8 Gifford, Terry, 'Gods in Mud: Hughes and the Post Pastoral', in Sagar, Keith, ed, The Challenge of Ted Hughes, London, 1994, p.98. Laura Hawkins Post-War Poetry Essay 1 1 1 ...read more.

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