Analysis of Poem An Arundel Tomb by Philip Larkin

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‘An Arundel Tomb’, by Philip Larkin, is written to preserve the image portrayed by a sculpture located on a tomb in Arundel. The poet uses this poem to convey the feelings, which the sight of this tomb induces for him. The whole poem itself is describing how an idea or identity in history is preserved through this sculpture.

The poem consists of seven stanzas, mostly in trochaic tetrameter. The rhyming pattern for each stanza is ABBCAC.

‘Side by side,’ immediately brings forth the idea of the union of the sculptures around which this poem’s conclusion is based. The phrase ‘their faces blurred,’ conveys an image of weathering over time. The image that is portrayed by the sculpture is of ‘The earl and countess’ who ‘lie in stone,’ solidly preserved. Larkin uses the phrase ‘Their proper habits’ and ‘jointed armour, stiffened pleat,’ to preserve the feeling and idea of aristocracy and importance once possessed and still displayed by the occupants and sculptures of the tomb. The following two lines convey the poet’s cynicism of the people of the time when the sculpture was made, ‘And that faint hint of the absurd -/The little dogs under their feet.’ These lines, Larkin also uses to preserve the feeling that he gets from this addition to the tomb, that it is unimportant. ‘Such plainness of the pre-baroque/Hardly involves the eye,’ gives us the feeling that this sculpture is nothing special, that it is not really worth our attention. The sudden transition that occurs after that comma though, is used to preserve the amazement that he felt, the unexpected shock of what is not immediately obvious as being important.

‘until

It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still

Clasped empty in the other, and’
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...ed with the line ‘the very houses seem asleep’ which personifies the houses to preserve the image that there is no sign of active life at this time in the morning. The last line, ‘And all that mighty heart is lying still!’ puts into words the power and majesty that the author feels as this wondrous sight is beheld.

In ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’ Wordsworth preserves the images and the feeling of wonderment, awe, peace and beauty through magnificent visual imagery and pure repetition of the beauty, which he beheld.

Larkin uses ‘An Arundel Tomb’ to preserve the ideas which enter his mind when studying the tomb. He uses less imagery, but instead, he uses complex language to describe his feelings. There is also an idea in Larkin’s poem that he is not just preserving his own thoughts, but that he is backing up what the sculpture itself is trying to preserve.

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