Saturday, April 21, 2012

critical 4

In “Poetry as Memorable Speech” Auden expresses that poetry should be memorable. He believes that poetry needs to evoke emotion in the reader. In regards to poetry Auden says, “…it must move our emotions, or excite our intellect, for only that which is moving or exciting is memorable, and the stimulus is the incantation we must surrender, as we do when talking to an intimate friend.” He believes that an important part of poetry is expressing emotion in writing. When someone is talking to a close friend they use a lot of feeling in the way they phrase what they say. Auden thinks that poets should take a similar mindset when writing poetry. Auden also believes poetry does not need to be about important things in life. He explains this when he says, “The test of a poet is the frequency and diversity of the occasions on which we remember his poetry.” This shows that he believes that poetry can be about anything.

In “An Arundel Tomb” Philip Larkin uses a lot of memorable speech that increases its level of enjoyment as well as its ambiguity. In the first line in the third stanza Larkin says, “They would not think to lie so long.” This line makes the poem more memorable and adds to its ambiguity because of the word “lie”. It could allude to the fact that the couple did not expect to die so young, so they weren’t expecting to be lying in the tomb for as long as they have been. It also hints at a lie because the tomb demonstrates everlasting love, which was not the memory the couple wanted to leave behind in death. Another way Larkin uses memorable speech in his poetry is in the final stanza. He says, “Time has transfigured them into Untruth.” At the end of the poem we learn that he is referring to love as this untruth. Usually poetry makes love something positive or negative, but it is never an “untruth”. This makes the poem more memorable because it’s not something the reader would expect, so it stands out. Another reason this line is memorable is because, while he clearly isn’t referring to love as truthful, he isn’t saying it’s a lie either. By referring to love as not being a completely truthful thing he is making the reader think about that line more.

In the same stanza Larkin says, “Our almost-instinct almost true: What will survive us is love.” Like the first line in this stanza this line refers to love as something that is not entirely true. In addition to that, this line alludes to human flaws. The word “almost” reminds us that humanity can never achieve perfection, and that nothing human is lasting. This could explain why Larkin believes love is “almost true”. Love is something (as far as we know) that only humans experience, so it makes sense that he would say that it wouldn’t last forever. On the other hand this shows the beauty the human spirit contains. Having humanity’s “almost truth” being that love lasts forever shows the good in people. It shows that we strive for peace and harmony in life. The emotion of this line depends on the mindset of the reader. If they’re happy or have a positive outlook on love they would think the line is positive. However, someone who is unhappy or doesn’t have a positive outlook on love would think the line is negative. Personally, I think the line is somewhat hopeful. Larkin has “What will survive us is love” alone on the last line of the whole poem. It makes me think that Larkin wanted the reader to remember that. By making that part stand alone he is making it seem that, although love might not be everlasting, it is still beautiful.

It is also important to note that this poem is about walking by a tomb. It is not about a dramatic, life-changing event. Larkin has taking a moment that is completely ordinary and turned it into something that can make people think.

1 comment:

  1. Ellen,

    This post is quite strong.

    I like your analysis of "lie" and of the last line.

    I think you could have benefited from summarizing the poem a little bit and putting the lines in their contexts. In a few places, you quote and I'm not sure what you're drawing attention to.

    Also, instead of moving from Auden to Larkin, could you write about them together, looking at specific lines from Auden and specific lines from Larkin and then suggesting how they might work together to help us come to a better understanding of poetic language?

    I think you're right about the mitigated hopefulness of those last lines. They remind me what poetry as an art can do. With lineation, with specific word choice, with an original scenario, Larkin's able to use 10 words to make us question whether love is a natural instinct or just an almost-instinct, whether our love lives beyond us or not.