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The Building Analysis

Author: Poetry of Philip Larkin Type: Poetry Views: 179

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High Windows1972Higher than the handsomest hotel

The lucent comb shows up for miles, but see,

All round it close-ribbed streets rise and fall

Like a great sigh out of the last century.

The porters are scruffy; what keep drawing up

At the entrance are not taxis; and in the hall

As well as creepers hangs a frightening smell.There are paperbacks, and tea at so much a cup,

Like an airport lounge, but those who tamely sit

On rows of steel chairs turning the ripped mags

Haven't come far. More like a local bus.

These outdoor clothes and half-filled shopping-bags

And faces restless and resigned, although

Every few minutes comes a kind of nurseTo fetch someone away: the rest refit

Cups back to saucers, cough, or glance below

Seats for dropped gloves or cards. Humans, caught

On ground curiously neutral, homes and names

Suddenly in abeyance; some are young,

Some old, but most at that vague age that claims

The end of choice, the last of hope; and allHere to confess that something has gone wrong.

It must be error of a serious sort,

For see how many floors it needs, how tall

It's grown by now, and how much money goes

In trying to correct it. See the time,

Half-past eleven on a working day,

And these picked out of it; see, as they c1imbTo their appointed levels, how their eyes

Go to each other, guessing; on the way

Someone's wheeled past, in washed-to-rags ward clothes:

They see him, too. They're quiet. To realise

This new thing held in common makes them quiet,

For past these doors are rooms, and rooms past those,

And more rooms yet, each one further offAnd harder to return from; and who knows

Which he will see, and when? For the moment, wait,

Look down at the yard. Outside seems old enough:

Red brick, lagged pipes, and someone walking by it

Out to the car park, free. Then, past the gate,

Traffic; a locked church; short terraced streets

Where kids chalk games, and girls with hair-dos fetchTheir separates from the cleaners - O world,

Your loves, your chances, are beyond the stretch

Of any hand from here! And so, unreal

A touching dream to which we all are lulled

But wake from separately. In it, conceits

And self-protecting ignorance congeal

To carry life, collapsing only whenCalled to these corridors (for now once more

The nurse beckons -). Each gets up and goes

At last. Some will be out by lunch, or four;

Others, not knowing it, have come to join

The unseen congregations whose white rows

Lie set apart above - women, men;

Old, young; crude facets of the only coinThis place accepts. All know they are going to die.

Not yet, perhaps not here, but in the end,

And somewhere like this. That is what it means,

This clean-sliced cliff; a struggle to transcend

The thought of dying, for unless its powers

Outbuild cathedrals nothing contravenes

The coming dark, though crowds each evening tryWith wasteful, weak, propitiatory flowers.


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

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In the poem, ‘The Building,’ Larkin describes a hospital and its patients, and the tone is sombre and dismal. He says that in the hall, ‘hangs a frightening smell,’ and the word ‘frightening’ suggests the fear of death, as in death you are isolated from those you knew on earth. The patients seem to have lost their identities and in illness all become equal, and he describes them as, ‘faces restless and resigned.’ This suggests that they are just faces and are no longer unique individuals, and the alliteration of the words, ‘restless and resigned’ emphasises the bleak, unhappy atmosphere, as they accept what is to come. Larkin’s impersonal description implies that they are unknown and alone in life. However, later in the poem, two patients pass one another, and Larkin says, ‘They’re quiet. To realise / This new thing held in common makes them quiet.’ This shows that they are not alone in their suffering, as they are all experiencing the same. The repetition of the word, ‘quiet’ suggests a sense of reverence as they acknowledge one another and their similarities, and seems less pessimistic and more peaceful and accepting. Although the poem could be seen to describe everyone as alone and anonymous, it could also be interpreted as a poem about community and how in death, everyone comes together, ‘to join / The unseen congregations whose white rows / Lie set apart above.’ The word ‘congregation’ is religious imagery, and makes death sound heavenly and implies that you are not alone in death. ‘White rows’ could represent purity, which is hopeful and optimistic. Larkin seems to be accepting the possibility that there could be a better life after death, but in the final stanza says, ‘nothing contravenes the coming dark.’ The word, ‘dark’ is a metaphor, and represents the unknown, and makes death sound foreboding, as the fear of the unknown is intrinsic to human nature, and Larkin is addressing the fact that in death, we could be alone in oblivion.

| Posted on 2008-03-04 | by a guest

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