1922-1985 Philip Arthur Larkin was born on August 9, 1922, in Coventry. He was the second child, and only son, of Sydney and Eva Larkin. Sydney Larkin was City Treasurer between the years 1922-44. Larkins sister, some ten years his senior, was called Catherine, but was known as Kitty. He attended the Citys King Henry VIII School between 1930 and 1940, and made regular contributions to the school magazine, The Coventrian, which, between 1939 and 1940, he also helped to edit . After leaving King Henry VIII, he went to St. Johns College, Oxford, and despite the war (Larkin had failed his army medical because of his poor eyesight), was able to complete his degree without interruption, graduating in 1943 with First Class Honours in English. His closest friends at Oxford were Kingsley Amis and Bruce Montgomery.
Larkin received many awards in recognition of his writing, especially in his later years. In 1975 he was awarded the CBE, and in 1976 was given the German Shakespeare-Pries. He chaired the Booker Prize Panel in 1977, was made Companion of Literature in 1978, and served on the Literature Panel of the Arts between 1980 and 1982. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Library Association in 1980. In 1982 the University of Hull made him a Professor. In 1984 he received an honorary D.Litt. from Oxford University, and was elected to the Board of the British Library. In December of 1984 he was offered the chance to succeed Sir John Betjeman as Poet Laureate but declined, being unwilling to accept the high public profile and associated media attention of the position. In mid 1985 Larkin was admitted to hospital with an illness in his throat, and on June 11 an operation was carried out to remove his oesophagus. His health was deteriorating, and when he was awarded the much prized Order of the Companion of Honour he was unable, because of ill health, to attend the investiture, which was due to take place at Buckingham Palace on November 25. He received the official notification courtesy of the Royal Mail. Philip Larkin died of cancer at 1.24 a.m. on Monday December 2 1985. He was 63 years old.
Philip Larkins "The Trees" is a twelve-line poem that seems to compare the life and cycles of a tree to human experience. Riddled with personification of leaves, buds, and bark as spoken words, grief, and countless other abstract items, each line of the poem draws a connection between the anatomy and activity of a tree to the emotions and philosophy of a human closing and opening various chapters in his or her life.
SIFT through the poem after your first reading: Inform us of the intention of the poet and his main ideasoverall; Focus on the form (structure/punctuation) and the feelingsconveyed (poet’s attitude/tone used) and how this highlightsthe main ideas; Specify the subject matter and sense of the poem through abrief summary; Tell us about the techniques, imagery and poetic languagethat show the ways themes and ideas are presented.OR – get FLIRTY with it.
F 1. Focus on the form of the poem , looking at the structure, punctuation, line lengths and the arrangement of the poem’s stanzas. How do these features add interest and meaning to the poem? Also examine the arrangements of the words, phrases and sentences in the poem.L 2. Examine the language used in the poem, looking at the meaning of words and whether they have negative or positive connotations.I 3. Look at the techniques, imagery and poetic language that has been used? How do these techniques bring out the main themes and ideas in the poem?R 4. How does the poet make use of rhyme, repetition and rhythm? Why does he do this?T 5. What are the poet’s main ideas that he brings out in the poem and how does he do this? Explain the feelings that the poet conveys throughout the poem. Describe the poet’s attitude to his subject. Does this change as the poem progresses? Carefully examine the tone throughout the poem and find vocabulary to back up your discussion. 6. Why has this been written? What relevance does it have? How doY you react to this poem? Does it bring any particular thoughts to mind? Which poems would you compare this one with?
As technical matters go, the twelve lines of the poem are arranged into four-line stanzas. In each stanza, the first and fourth line rhyme with one another in a true rhyme pattern (i.e. lines 5 and 8: again, grain) while the second and third lines work in an additional true rhyme (i.e. lines 6 and 7: too, new). In complete, this rhyme scheme appears in the following pattern: A B B A - C D D C - E F F E. There is also a consistent iambic foot and tetrameter rhythm. This simply means that the rhythm alternates between unstressed and stressed syllables, and there is one of each in each foot. Tetrameter refers to the fact that there are four "feet" in each line, giving the entire poem a see-saw balance (line 4: "Their green-ness is a kind of grief"). In lines 9-12, select words are presented to the reader almost as sound effects (lines 9 and 12: thresh, afresh). These words, when spoken aloud, can almost sound as the leaves of trees would when being rustled by the wind. As this poem comments on the passage of time and a cycle of death and rebirth, could these winds perhaps be the winds of change?
On a more figurative level, many perspectives can be taken from these lines. One possibility is the old expression that "things are not always as they seem" and that the answers may lie under the surface. More likely is the understanding that although human beings begin new experiences and new chapters in their lives, their old experiences will always be with them. It is an individuals experiences, after all, that make up who they are! Much like a tree, a person will never fully lose the years that have passed them by, and the valuable experience will collect inside them like rings of grain.
A third and negatively abstract perspective of the lines deals withthe three Ds: deceit, disguise, and denial. It speaks to the idea thatthough the tree itself does its best to hide the layers of death anddestruction resulting from its natural cycle, there are always othermeans of judging its age. For instance, the pure size of a tree willlend a clue to its current age, as well as the presence of or lack ofvegetation surrounding its base. Similarly, many human beingschoose to partake in age-defying treatments such as botox,cosmetic surgery, or chemical creams. Still, questions remain. Willthis sort of treatment change the 1950s slang that still manages tocreep into this persons daily conversation, or the myriad of storiesthey have to tell about the first Elvis concert they saw? Will thispersons friends all appear as young as they? These are allquestions that can only be answered in the negative. Lookingyoung and being young can be too very different things, as thetrees would tell you if they truly had the human qualities assignedto them in this fascinating poem.
A key phrase in this piece that is worth specific consideration comes in lines 7 and 8. It reads "Their yearly trick of looking new/ Is written down in rings of grain." The literal meaning of the phrase refers to the growth pattern of a tree: The growing part of a tree is found at the outer edges, just under the bark. When one looks at a cross-section of a trunk, one can see a pattern of the alternating thick and thin circles of early wood and late wood, and these are the trees growth rings. Although a tree appears to be reborn and new each Spring, its age and processes are shown on the inside.
http://www.philiplarkin.com/links.htm The essay section on this page has interesting critical readings on the work of Larkin. http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/ singlePoet.do?poetId=7076
Because I Could Not Stop for Death Emily Dickinson Song: Tears, Idle Tears Alfred, Lord Tennyson The Trees Are Down Charlotte Mew
Compare The Trees The Trees are Because I Tears, Idle Down Could Not Tears Stop for DeathForm /StructureLanguagetechniquesIdeas /Imagery/themesRhyme /RhythmTone of voicewhY? Whatrelevancedoes thepoem have?
Your options to make the best use of this time:1. Revise the poetry we have studied – use a matrix provided OR create your own to compare similar poems.2. Re-write poetry / short story essays from the recent exam3. Catch up on ANY English Literature homework.4. Study The Importance of Being Earnest5. Think outside the square about a creative way to study or revise, use a computer perhaps, but check with me first.