Use of Elemental Imagery in Philip Larkin's High Windows
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"High Windows" is viewed by many as an outcry, a severe description of everyday life that in it's bleakness does not leave space for the finesse or sensuous imagery that is associated with poets such as Wordsworth. However, in his array of supposedly 'harsh' poems one finds many moments of dreamy imagery dealing with an almost religious fascination with the elements, whether in length in "Solar" or as a thought in "Old Fools". What mesmerises him is the continuity of the elements, which constantly outlive the achievements and deeds of man and are in the end all that is left.
"High Windows" is particular in that in it whole poems are devoted to the idea of the elements, one such poem is "Solar". "Solar" is unique for a Larkin poem in its role as an exclamatory rather than an explanatory poem, it is wholly consisted of 'stand-alone' images that seem to be there solely to glorify the elements. Larkin sees humanity as short term, with death forever a shadow that we try to ignore and forget (as he shows in "The Building" when describing death and the hospital as the real world and life outside the hospital as the fake world). The elements outlive man and therefore, in their eternity are more powerful and important as in "Arundel Tomb" where the "undated snow" outlives the love symbolised by the statues holding hands. It could be argued of course that "Solar" is but an effort to criticise traditional poetry and the vacuous quality of society, however "Solar" does seems genuine in it's intent. Through Larkin's images about the sun we can see his views on people thus when he says the sun pours "unrecompensed", he means that he reveres the sun because it asks for nothing in return of its actions, it "gives for ever", unlike peo...
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...r and she's
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is paradise"
Yet as the poem progresses he sees that views of paradise are always changing and shifting, thus his parents would envy his religious freedom and regard his situation as freedom. He recognises that the only paradise that does not change is the "sun-comprehending glass" and the "deep blue air" thus he has once again affirmed his reverence of the continuity of the elements.
Larkin has a stereotyped, harsh view of people and with it comes an amazement, a reverence of the elements so that every time we encounter them, his language shifts, losing it's harshness, restoring his view that life is good so that his elemental images are always poetic in the traditional sense while his criticism is always in the appropriate language (e.g. "They fuck you up, your mum and dad.").