“The Whitsun Weddings” by Philip Larkin

Philip Arthur Larkin is widely regarded as one of the most successful British writers of the generation of “Pentecostals“. Each word of his poems and prose works is a protest against romance and increased emotionality. Anyway, the author was against poetry singing of romantic love, because he considered that style as hypocritical and therefore, emotionally onerous for a reader. The main themes of his works are loneliness, losses, as well as discrimination on the various grounds. Besides, he often repeats about ceremonies “Marked off the girls unreally from the rest“, emphasizing futility of such vanity.

In his first works Arthur Larkin actively used erotic motives, inter alia, homoerotic ones. Besides, the author ventured into parody novels, snickering at works for girls and chicklits. However, only in the 1955, the poet achieved prominence in the entire Britain due to the collection “The Less Deceived“. Precisely that collection is considered a sort of a manifesto of “Pentecostals“, of followers of ironically existential attitude towards life counteracting romantic illusions about the world.

The literary works of Philip Larkin were estimated based on the merit by contemporaries – the author was awarded an order of the British Empire, the queen’s gold medal, became a holder of the Order of glory.

The poem “The Whitsun Weddings” can be hardly assigned to the central pieces of the author’s creative work, but it is sufficiently exemplary in terms of vocabulary and philosophy of works. The irony and certain paradoxical feature of writing typical for Larkin manifest even in the very first stanza: “Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out, All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense Of being in a hurry gone“. The last words indicate the special attitude of the author, his inclinations to connect the physical phenomena of “the heat” with the “absence of senses” or, rather, with disappearance of senses as affected by heat. The image created in the very first stanza allows the author to retain subsequently an undemonstratively-ironic tone as well, to support a version about the meaninglessness of nature, identification of human images and senses with fictions not deserving attention.

At the same time, the author’s attitude towards the nature is clearly shown in the second stanza: “and now and then a smell of grass Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth“. The opposition of the stench of the nature created by a person against the genuine nature and pleasant aromas of roses and grass unambiguously gives an overview about the values, to which the author adheres.

Reviewed by Katerina Sidoruk