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First Sight Analysis

Author: poem of Philip Larkin Type: poem Views: 4

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Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.

As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth's immeasureable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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The lambs are not a cliched metaphor for innocence, because they are not a metaphor at all. They are particular, actual lambs in a vividly realized concrete setting: cold, with there mother's fleeces "wetly caked." These lambs, being born in Winter, do not know that the earth can be warm and blooming and overwhelming and powerful in a strange (to them, and to us) way.
The poem is not about innocence. Rather, it is about something that never appears in the poem. Without once describing it, restricting his terms of reference to those of a lamb that has knows nothing but the Winter, the poet evokes something "utterly unlike the snow."
It is the work of a master in every way. Nothing sentimental here.

| Posted on 2014-02-18 | by a guest

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The meaning is simple: life can be both bleak and beautiful. The world the lambs and we are born into can, at times, appear only cruel and unforgiving, but it is not only this: there is "immeasurable surprise" be it love, or friendship, kindness or serenity. I do not find this notion cloying or sentimental but true

| Posted on 2014-02-11 | by a guest

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The poem may be at \'first sight\' (lol) a poem about new born lambs, but it holds the message that earth/life always holds another \'immeasureable suprise\'. These lambs born early in the year have no experience of earth but the \'vast, unwelcome, wretched, cold\' snow, and even if told about what is to come they will never be fully prepared for the brilliant sunshine the earth is about to give them. Just like babys, toddlers, children, teenagers and even adults will never fully grasp the idea of the next stage of their life until it comes.

| Posted on 2011-05-20 | by a guest

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In my opinion, I think 'First Sight' is perhaps one of Larkin's weakest poems.
The notoriously downbeat Larkin, a champion of The Movement, a depressive, neo-Modernist literary development of the mid-twentieth century, makes analogies and metaphors that seem to go against all he and his poetry stood for.
The Movement's main aim was to renege the sentimentality of nineteenth-century verse and create poetry that was more true to life, reflective of the struggles which characterise fifties/sixties society.
In this particular poem, however, Larkin makes use of the now cliched metaphor of lambs to signify new beginnings and innocence.
This alone is enough to disaffect me from this poem - it is childish and somewhat unintellectual that Larkin has exploited this wholly unoriginal comparison.
Surely a man of Larkin's literary capacity could have conjured a more potent and far-reaching analogy?

| Posted on 2009-05-02 | by a guest

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