Saturday, March 15, 2014

Analysis of "Talking in Bed" by Philip Larkin

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Talking in Bed" by Philip Larkin
Originally read: August 23, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Philip Larkin


The poem opens up with a conceit, "Talking in bed ought to be easiest.".  Past me noted that the word "ought" is the key word here.  The conceit here is to understand what the problem is with "talking in bed" and also figuring out the subtext of such difficulties, "Lying together there goes back so far, / An emblem of two people being honest."  And here there is a sense of snark in the lines especially the question of earnestness of "tow people being honest."

"Yet more and more times passes silently / Outside, the wind's incomplete unrest / Builds and disperses clouds about the sky."  I think the key with this stanza is the train of thought.  Instead of explaining the difficulties, the poem actually shows it.  As the time passes, the change happens with a shift of focus to the "Outside."  The scene of "incomplete unrest" and "disperse" can pertain to a relationship.  But the relationship is an unknown factor currently.

"And dark towns heap up on the horizon.  / None of this cares for us.  Nothing shows why / At this unique distance from isolation."  Note how the phrase, "None of this cares for us" can be taken as the core of the poem.  By actually putting the emotional impact in the lines there is a cut away from the image metaphor to the direct saying.  The saying comes off as a bit of desperation in this sense.  Nothing cares for us, and nothing shows why, "It becomes still more difficult to find / Words at once true and kind."

And note with the last stanza, all the last lines rhyme versus the stanzas above in which the rhyme is in the first and second line.  And even the the rhyme adds a sort of sing song effect -- the play shows different aspects, "Words at once true and kind, / Or not untrue and unkind."  Basically, syntactically, state the same thing.  Double negative trying to find a positive or double positive trying to figure out what's negative.

The complexity is with the simple construction like the marriage scenario.  What's on the line?  Who know, but it still is on the line.

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