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An Arundel Tomb Analysis

Author: Poetry of Philip Larkin Type: Poetry Views: 911

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The Whitsun Weddings1956Side by side, their faces blurred,

The earl and countess lie in stone,

Their proper habits vaguely shown

As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,

And that faint hint of the absurd -

The little dogs under their feet.Such plainness of the pre-baroque

Hardly involves the eye, until

It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still

Clasped empty in the other; and

One sees, with a sharp tender shock,

His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.They would not think to lie so long.

Such faithfulness in effigy

Was just a detail friends would see:

A sculptor's sweet commissioned grace

Thrown off in helping to prolong

The Latin names around the base.They would no guess how early in

Their supine stationary voyage

The air would change to soundless damage,

Turn the old tenantry away;

How soon succeeding eyes begin

To look, not read. Rigidly theyPersisted, linked, through lengths and breadths

Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light

Each summer thronged the grass. A bright

Litter of birdcalls strewed the same

Bone-littered ground. And up the paths

The endless altered people came,Washing at their identity.

Now, helpless in the hollow of

An unarmorial age, a trough

Of smoke in slow suspended skeins

Above their scrap of history,

Only an attitude remains:Time has transfigured them into

Untruth. The stone fidelity

They hardly meant has come to be

Their final blazon, and to prove

Our almost-instinct almost true:

What will survive of us is love.


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

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An Arundel tomb, is a poem of enduring love through time, and reflects Larkin\'s own relationship with cecil the caterpillar(who was my friend), as he often said in interviews.

| Posted on 2012-11-15 | by a guest

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The dude below is wrong - think you want the very hungry caterpillar...

| Posted on 2012-11-15 | by a guest

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An Arundel Tomb by Philip Larkin is unique because of its appeal to multiple senses. Written in 1964, the book is as popular today as when it was first released. The illustrations are incorporated into the book in such a way that the book becomes as much an interactive toy as it is a book. As such, it becomes an excellent way to get children interested in reading - an excellent accomplishment for any poem!
The poem tells the story of a caterpillar who is always hungry, so he is continuously eating. With each page, the caterpillar grows and this is depicted in the accompanying illustration, which contains holes in which children can put their fingers and see what the caterpillar has eaten. As the caterpillar eats a variety of human foods, such as watermelon and ice cream children can have a level of familiarity with the words and ideas of the book, even as they are learning. The exposure of the caterpillar to human foods also allows children to use their imagination in a way they might not otherwise be able to in a book about a scientific topic.
Because An Arundel Tomb traces a week in the life of the caterpillar, children are able to learn about counting and about the days of the week while they are reading an entertaining and interactive book. In addition to learning these skills, the reader is exposed to the basic process by which a caterpillar turns into a butterfly.
The way the poem is written does not make it obvious until the end that the caterpillar is turning into a butterfly, so children are learning science from what is first and foremost a very fun story before they even realize they are learning!
If a child seems to be extremely interested in the ultimate plot of the poem, then it is worth encouraging them by exposing them to other books on the subject matter of insects. Philip Larkin\'s creativity and talent for both writing and illustrations will grab children\'s attention and will more often than not get them more interested in the subject matter of the book then they (or their parents) ever thought they could be.
An Arundel Tomb is a great poem for all, and is especially great for getting reluctant readers interested, as it is interactive and will soon be considered as a toy. Definitely pick up An Arundel Tomb if you are looking for a poem that will grab the attention of children and encourage them to read and to explore new subjects. You might even find yourself playing with yourself!

| Posted on 2011-02-03 | by a guest

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Well , this site i have to say has been an inspiration to myself and my guest . so top notch to you.
right well, philip Larkin (you may have noticed i gave Larkin a capital L , for reason i wish not to divulg(you may have noticed i spelt divulge wrong , but due to my calorie intake i cannot spell) Yes what was i talking about

| Posted on 2011-01-21 | by a guest

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I have to analyse and study this poem for my a level English coursework, though the teacher won\'t help us and so i have used this site to help me (thanks everyone who posted something) because i had real difficulty understanding what it meant.
I think this poem concentrates on how love, death and image are all interwoven and affect each other. A lot is implied such as other peoples memory of the couple fading (\"their faces blurred) and it is also implied that the couple didn\'t love each other - the \"sharp tender shock\" of seeing them holding hands (oxymoron and sharp consonatns used). Many parts of the poem can also have two meanings - very clever.

| Posted on 2010-10-16 | by a guest

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I find it ironic that the famous line from this poem is 'What will survive of us is love' - Larkin was trying to present a realistic view of the passing of time by suggesting that perhaps love isn't what it seems, yet people have remembered what they wanted to read, which is that love will always triumph.

| Posted on 2010-06-06 | by a guest

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People are getting it wrong. Larkin is not saying that love is the answer or enough. Larkin is saying in this poem that love is NEARLY the answer and NEARLY enough.
He is very, very persuaded into thinking so through the hands holding between the two, (though that was actually added later), and believes that love is nearly enough to transcend death, but not quite. Remember guys this is Larkin :)
If your analysis comes to say that nothing in his poem is about death, it's probably wrong.

| Posted on 2010-05-25 | by a guest

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Quick bit, it's all in tetrameter not pentameter.

| Posted on 2010-04-06 | by a guest

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After going through this poem several times I think that this poem is not about love or the passing ot time, but how people only remember what facts they want to remember about history. In this poem we receive little to no information about the Earl and Countess. Other than that the are most likely from the pre baroque era and that they had dogs. In the first line when the persona referrs to the statues with "faces blurred" this implies a sense of uncertainty about what we see of the couple. This uncertainty is confirmed with "The endless altered people came, washing at their identity". This sentence implies that people are taking a different/wrong approach when assuming the couples relationship. We are interpreting the love as true but when really it was just "An artists sweet commissioned grace" or 'their proper habits". On an interesting note, when the poem states "They would not think to lie so long". This line of course can be interpreted in two ways. The first and most obvious being that they Countess and Earl didn't think that their tomb would be around for very long, but the second and most interesting interpretation is that the Earl and Countess didn't think that their lie of sharing a love that lasted the aeons has lasted into the 20th century. All these things point to the poem being less about love and more about people making their of definitions of history.

| Posted on 2010-03-23 | by a guest

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I think the backbone and sturdiness of love can be represented by the iambic pentameter being conveyed throughout even during the breakup in structure in the 5th stanza which represnts the weathering of the tombstone and of love itself.

| Posted on 2010-02-19 | by a guest

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After only recently discovering this poem, and being a fan of Larkin's poetry I think it is well written but overrated.
On the analysis; I think the initial 3 stanzas are showing how the earl and the countess have been forgotten and lost their identities. "Their faces [are] blurred" and they are "vaguely shown" which suggests Larkin's belief shown at the end of the poem is not initially to the forefront of the persona's mind. Although they are described "rigidly" in the fourth stanza which may also imply being dehumanised, this is the turning point in the poem , shown by the enjambment linking it to the final 3 stanzas. In these final stanzas a mixed message is given on the subject of what is remembered after death until the "almost instinctive" love shines through and Larkin, in the final poem of the Whitsun Weddings collection, triumphantly comes to the conclusion that "what will survive of us is love".

| Posted on 2010-01-10 | by a guest

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I am not studying this for any exam, but looked the poem up following a reference to it by Roy Hattersley in a newspaper. Its possible to over analyse line by line and still miss the overall meaning. My meaning instilled initially was that Larkin was using the Arundel Tomb as a metaphor to mean that the thing which is preserved beyond our mortal existence is the love we leave behind - like the proverbial pebble in the pond leaving ripples - our existence after we have gone is defined by the love we have left in others and in their actions thereafter. However in the fourth stanza it looks to me that Larkin is simply contrasting two aspects. That the love which is immortalised in stone forever, simply belies the trueness that love wanes in mortal life. Ultimately I think he is de-romatisising that love can last forever by saying this is only so if it is done outside of life itself, ie in stone - very contradictory and not what I had hoped for when I read the very last words of the poem from Roy Hattersley - ie What will survive of us is love - Larkins poem on the one hand was too literal for me, but on the other offers hope if only I had a stone heart!

| Posted on 2009-11-10 | by a guest

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He notices they are depicted lying hand in hand but cannot believe in the sincerity of the gesture. In an age of arranged aristocracy, he cannot believe in this romantic deception of love. He thinks it is “a sculptor’s sweet commissioned grace” suggesting the sculptor was told (or presumably he already knew) that he had to make it seem they were truly in love. He tries to imagine their intentions and those of the sculptor.He thinks their marriage is nothing like it is portrayed on their tomb. He finds it funny how the sculptor has included all these little details in attempt to show that they were happily married.

| Posted on 2009-07-12 | by a guest

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The stanzas themselves are broken up in the way that history often is. The smoothness of the language and the fluidity from one stanza into another reflects the smooth erosion of the effigies.

| Posted on 2009-06-09 | by a guest

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Several points in this poem mark the romance between the earl and countess to be a fallacy. The ambiguity of 'lie' in the second line (repeated in the first line of the 3rd stanza); the 'shock' of them holding hands in stanza two; 'time has transfigured them into Untruth'; 'fidelity they hardly meant has come to be/Their final Blazon'.
The reader gets the definite feeling that they did not love each other quite as much as their eternal resting place suggests.
Larkin also states 'our almost-instinct almost true; what will survive of us is love'. Almost-instinct, almost true? I personally get the feeling that Larkin is talking about the idealistic concept society has of love; how it will last forever and overcome all obstacles.
The most interesting part of the poem for me is in the fourth stanza, second line; 'Their supine stationary voyage' is a very clever line, as supine can mean two things - lying facing upwards, or failing to do something as a result of moral weakness or laziness. Perhaps the earl and countess were only together out of convenience, their love expired long ago? To this extent, the entire line - 'Their supine stationary voyage' - could represent their relationship together, stagnant and at a dead-end, with nowhere to move on to. Larkin slams the necessity we feel for the concept of love, often holding 'love' above our basic happiness.

| Posted on 2009-05-06 | by a guest

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I am currently studying this poem for an English studies exam. I believe that Larkin is addressing the theme of mortality. the reader gets the impression that the two cast in stone wished to be preserved as they were in life, and the second stanza decribes the "immortality of their love" . in cocnlusion i hate this poem. it is wasting all my time.

| Posted on 2008-11-27 | by a guest

.: my analysis :.

After studying this hard ready for my exam on it tomorrow i think i will add my viewpoint to this poem.
The poem is not about love directly, it's about time and mortality as we see from it how the symbol of the holding hands was "just a detail" showing that their love what not what was meant to be remembered that the latin around the base was, but as time progressed people only see the gesture and take that to be the soul point of the statue, when it is not. "Time has transfigured them into untruth".
Furthermore, this poem is so cleverly written, the frequent use of words with double meanings adds to the ambiguity and beauty of the poem. "proper habits" - could mean clothes or could mean their behaviour. "involves the eye" invloves can either be taken it its latin to mean moves, and what is more modernly thought of as to be interested in. The "washing at their identity" is also one as we are left unsure whether it is those visiting or the statue that is having their identity washed at (i personally believe the first)
Also, there is frequent sibilance in the poem, adding to the synaesthesia of the poem. (the way it appeals to all the senses).
The ambiguity is further shown in the final lines of the poem, in the use of "almost". Plus the final line is almost left open for the readers view. The word "love" seems to show it is the most important word in the line, but is it realy after reading the poem?
I love this poem so much as it really makes you think about the effects of time.
I suggest for further reading Abbey Tomb by Patricia Beer as it deals with the same theme, but is also slightly comic aswell.

| Posted on 2008-05-20 | by a guest

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As other contributions suggest, this poem can be read as an appraisal of our "almost instict" to believe in the enduring quality of love, which for Larkin is a fallacy. We can come to this conclusion as the detail that was simple "thrown off" by the sculptor - their holding hands - is now the quality which "survives... us": now we look at the couple and dismiss their real existence for a contrite summary inspired by one simple detail which signifies little but comforts us a s we think of their togetherness in death. It is worthwhile remembering at this point that in "Aubade", Larkin states:
"Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die"
suggesting he is pretty clear himself about whether the Earl and Countess are living "happily ever after"...
However, in addition, to this consider what Larkin is saying about art and how interpreation is down to the "audience" in its many forms. Is this poem, therefore, a call for the mausoleum, and in turn, Larkin's poetry to be properly "read" rather thank simple looked at? Thus we are asked to see Larkin as somthing more than, as he self deprecatingly asserts in "Posterity", an "old fart" who is "One of those old-type natural fouled-up guys"

| Posted on 2008-05-01 | by a guest

.: lie :.

the ambiguity of the word "lie" poses the question in the readers mind: are they couple only physically lying down, lying about their love for one another?

| Posted on 2008-02-16 | by a guest

.: lie :.

the ambiguity of the word "lie" poses the question in the readers mind: are they couple only physically lying down, lying about their love for one another?

| Posted on 2008-02-16 | by a guest

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I dont feel that the couple are being remebered for the love they shared, notice the embigous use of the word 'lie' in the second line. Also the line 'that faint hint of the absurd'. It matches with what Larkin said about relationships "love is an ideal, which condemns to dissapointment."

| Posted on 2007-12-01 | by a guest

.: The point of the poem :.

From reading the poem I feel the point Larkin is trying to get across is that the statue has been preserved through time however because of the alterations to society (can no longer read Latin) they have been remembered for the wrong reasons. Basically, instead of being remembered for how brave the man is he is only recognised for his love for his wife as he is holding her hand whereas if nowadays we could read Latin we would be able to read the marvellous things he did in his life.

| Posted on 2007-04-26 | by a guest

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e fourth stanza Larkin writes about 'their supine stationary voyage'. The inbuilt contradiction within this phrase is used by Larkin to suggest a richer sense of contradiction and paradox; the figures themselves have not moved, but they have still voyaged through time, and possibly (but only possibly) the love which they may have felt for each other has not simply survived, but has been transformed in that voyage through time.
Stanza five has more to it, I feel, then any other stanza. Larkin uses a lot of imagery here. Instead of writing about what he assumes things mean, he describes what he actually sees and uses a lot of positive, creative words. In the first line there are words like 'persisted', 'lengths' and 'breadths'. All these words have a slow 's' sound to them, which gives the impression of passing through time and because there is three of them in a longer sentence it emphasises it even more, stretching it out. Here Larkin is talking about the passage of time. He mentions the seasons, there is snow I winter, light each summer and bird call in the spring. Not only does he talk about the outside world changing, he also mentions the 'altered people'. The people are altered in the sense that they can no longer read the Latin, or that the older forms of social arrangement (peasantry and tenantry) have changed. But are they altered in other ways? Like their views on love? He says that the people came, 'washing at their identity'. On surface value the reader may think that Larkin means the erosi

| Posted on 2006-01-05 | by Approved Guest

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