The first stanza begins with the line “for nations as vague as weed” which as an unpleasant start to the poem and a hint of what is to come. Weeds are constantly springing up and are hard to get rid of but also sometimes aren’t even noticed. This could suggest that Larkin views these nations as being insignificant and quite annoying. The second line “For Nomads among stones” is open for interpretation, but I believe that its meaning is that because Nomads have cattle, which would need to graze, if they only had stones to graze on, they would die.
Therefore, for Nomads and their cattle alike, life is slow dying. A contrast can be drawn between Nomads and stones because stones will never move of their own accord but Nomads are constantly moving around. Stones will also usually remain forever but for Nomads life is short and meaningless. “Cobble-close families” could be an assault on families who appear to be close together and loving but have actually just been thrown together by the circumstances that they are living in, like cobbles. During the third, fourth and fifth lines of the first stanza hyphens are used four times.
This is probably because Larkin is grouping all the people he describes together whether they are “small-statured cross-faced tribes” or “cobble-close families in mill towns” because for all of them, life is slow dying. Larkin uses harsh and unpleasant language when describing people and shows his prejudice against people less well off than him again by describing mill-towns on “dark mornings”. By using this kind of language he creates a very bleak and melancholy image of people living in mill-towns.
During the second stanza Larkin’s message is that everything we do in life is just a waste of time and something to fill in the hours of boredom before we die! He begins by saying “So are their separate ways of building, benediction.. ” which shows that even though every type of person has their own separate ways of doing things, and living their lives, nothing really has any significance or lasting outcome because it is just a way to the waste time before death comes upon them.
“Measuring love and money” is likely to be Larkin’s way of expressing his doubts about whether love really exists or not because he is suggesting through this line that love can be measured in the same way that money can. Another meaning of this could be that love is too materialistic because Larkin has grouped love and money together as one idea. The rhythm of the poem is interrupted by the full stop at the end of the line “Ways of slow dying.
This has most likely been used to show that whatever you fill your life with, death overshadows that and makes it insignificant in the end because you will be dead. It could also be because Larkin is adamant that these are just ways of slow dying so by using a full stop after “Ways of slow dying” he can make it look as though he is stating a fact that cannot be disputed or argued with. “The day spent hunting pig or holding a garden-party” is another way he shows his view that life is filled with meaningless distractions.
Hunting pig and holding garden parties are two very different things to do although one is something that would have been done centuries ago and the other is a modern day pass time. The point of this is that these things were just ways of filling life many, many years ago and are still now. The “hunting pig” is obviously a reference to the Nomads mentioned previously. In the third and final stanza Larkin lists more things that occupy life such as “giving birth and evidence” but then goes on to say that all these things “advance on death equally slowly”.
“On death, equally slowly” is followed by another full stop that again disrupts the rhythm of the poem and shows that death is the end of everything. In my view the last three lines completely encapsulate what Larkin thinks about people, life and death and the rest of the poem becomes clear. Larkin says that “saying to some means nothing” because it is true that for most people death is something that they would like not to think about and they would like to pretend means nothing to them and will not effect them.
The last two lines “others it leaves nothing to be said” shows that to some people death is something that cannot even be articulated and is so hard to talk about that everything about it is left unsaid. Nothing to be said does not have a rhyme scheme and is a short poem in comparison to most in the collection. I imagine that the length of the poem is to demonstrate how short life really is. The lack of rhyme could be for many reasons, one of which could be to show that there are many ways of living life and no two people live life in exactly the same way.
Because, however the flow of the poem is interrupted by full stops after Larkin talks about death, this could mean that death will always be the same and life will lack harmony and be unfulfilled. Nothing to be said is a particularly pessimistic poem and could even be the life of Mr Bleaney because of its message about how meaningless life is. The verse structure interests me because Enjambament and full stops are used so well to portray Larkin’s belief that death ends everything and life is one long pointless struggle.
The third poem that I have selected because the language and verse structure interests me is Faith Healing. In Here Larkin shows his disdain for lower middle class people, in Nothing to be said he shows his pessimism about life and in Faith Healing he shows his dislike of women, the issue of social isolation and the importance of love and religion. Faith Healing describes women queuing up to be blessed by an American faith healer. The poem centres on a faith healing but concentrates more on the actual healer than the people being healed or the healing itself.
Through this Larkin is probably trying to express his dislike for such farcical events and his antipathy for the people involved in such things. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each ten lines long. It also has a regular but complex rhyme scheme, which mirrors the regular succession of women filing up to be healed. The three stanzas divide up the actions of the poem with the first showing the women moving forward and meeting the healer, the second with the women dispersing after having been “healed” and the third where Larkin takes over and analyses what has happened.
This is a very common ending to Larkin’s poetry because he usually begins by describing a simple event (e. g. As bad as a mile) and then adds a complex idea or a philosophical message at the end. Faith Healing begins by describing the American faith healer. He is described as being “upright in rimless glasses, silver hair, dark suit, white collar”. All of these initial descriptions would make the faith healer appear to be a moral and upstanding citizen.
However, if this language is analysed closely, the things that he is wearing such as “rimless glasses” actually make it seem like the healer has tried too hard to be completely perfect and to look intellectual when the glasses and “white collar” are probable fakes to trick the women. The fact that the faith healer has “silver hair” and delivers “blessings” makes him seem like God himself and emphasises his fatherly role. The faith healer is only ever described as “he”, which is quite ominous and creates an air of authority and dominance around him but also appears quite impersonal and as though he does not really care about the women.
It is ironic that the faith healer is described as being “upright” because to be upright one must be moral and the faith healer is certainly not moral because he is exploiting vulnerable people. The authenticity of the faith healing comes into question again because the stewards are described as “persuading” the women onwards, which has connotations of security guards rather than church stewards and creates a sinister picture of the “healing”. “Onwards to his voice and hands” creates a child like image because if a child were visiting Father Christmas they would run into his arms and perhaps not be tall enough to see his face.
“Within whose warm spring rain of loving care” is a sickeningly sweet line which just shows how fraudulent the whole process is and demonstrates Larkin’s misogynistic belief that if women are told something nice or shown kindness they regress to being like children again. This line also serves to lull the women involved and indeed the reader into a false sense of security about the healing before the next line then shoots all hope down. “Each dwells some twenty seconds” just shows how pathetic Larkin thinks these women are because they believed the previous line but didn’t realise that they would only receive twenty seconds of “healing”.
Larkin probably chose to make the faith healer American because being the type of person he was, I would have expected him to have disliked Americans and thought they were false. “Now, dear child, what’s wrong” is a very patronising thing to say to grown women and shows that the faith healer regards himself as a father figure because he addresses the women as children. The faith healer also demonstrates his power over the women by “demanding” them to tell him what’s wrong.
“And, scarcely pausing” shows that the faith healer is not even interested in what is wrong with the women and does not listen to what they tell him before “going into a prayer”. The faith healer “directs” God, which shows that there is no real substance to what he is doing and he is meely using God as an immoral tool to aid his act. “Then exiled” creates an abrupt break at the end of the first stanza and gives the impression of the women being hurried off and not cared for. The lines in the first stanza are not end-stopped and all run together which helps to create a sense of movement and progression.