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Philip Larkin The trees

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1922-1985 Philip Arthur Larkin was born on August 9, 1922, in Coventry. He was the second child, and only son, of Sydney and Eva Larkin. Sydney Larkin was City Treasurer between the years 1922-44. Larkin's sister, some ten years his senior, was called Catherine, but was known as Kitty. He attended the City's King Henry VIII School between 1930 and 1940, and made regular contributions to the school magazine, The Coventrian, which, between 1939 and 1940, 5/8/12 he also helped to edit .


received many awards in recognition of his writing, especially in his later years. In 1975 he was awarded the CBE, and in 1976 was given the German Shakespeare-Pries. He chaired the Booker Prize Panel in 1977, was made Companion of Literature in 1978, and served on the Literature Panel of the Arts between 1980 and 1982. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Library Association in 1980. In 1982 the University of Hull made him a Professor. In 1984 he received an honorary D.Litt. from Oxford University, and was elected to the Board of the British Library. In December of 5/8/12


Larkin's "The Trees" is a twelve-line poem that seems to compare the life and cycles of a tree to human experience. Riddled with personification of leaves, buds, and bark as spoken words, grief, and countless other abstract items, each line of the poem draws a connection between the anatomy and activity of a tree to the emotions and philosophy of a human closing and opening various chapters in his or her life.

SIFT through the poem

SIFT through the poem after your first reading: Inform us of the intention of the poet and his main ideas overall; Focus on the form (structure/punctuation) and the feelings conveyed (poets attitude/tone used) and how this highlights the main ideas; Specify the subject matter and sense of the poem through a brief summary; Tell us about the techniques, imagery and poetic language that show the ways themes and ideas are presented. 5/8/12








Focus on the form of the poem , looking at the structure, punctuation, line lengths and the arrangement of the poems stanzas. How do these features add interest and meaning to the poem? Also examine the arrangements of the words, phrases and sentences in the poem. Examine the language used in the poem, looking at the meaning of words and whether they have negative or positive connotations. Look at the techniques, imagery and poetic language that has been used? How do these techniques bring out the main themes and ideas in the poem? How does the poet make use of rhyme, repetition and rhythm? Why does he do this? What are the poets main ideas that he brings out in the poem and how does he do this? Explain the feelings that the poet conveys throughout the poem. Describe the poets attitude to his subject.5/8/12 this Does change as the poem progresses? Carefully examine the


technical matters go, the twelve lines of the poem are arranged into four-line stanzas. In each stanza, the first and fourth line rhyme with one another in a true rhyme pattern (i.e. lines 5 and 8: again, grain) while the second and third lines work in an additional true rhyme (i.e. lines 6 and 7: too, new). In complete, this rhyme scheme appears in the following pattern: A B B A - C D D C - E F F E. There is also a consistent iambic foot and tetrameter rhythm. This simply means that the rhythm alternates between unstressed and stressed syllables, and there is one of each in each foot. Tetrameter refers to the fact that 5/8/12

Language analysis

a more figurative level, many perspectives can be taken from these lines. One possibility is the old expression that "things are not always as they seem" and that the answers may lie under the surface. More likely is the understanding that although human beings begin new experiences and new chapters in their lives, their old experiences will always be with them. It is an individual's experiences, after all, that make up who they are! Much like a tree, a person will never fully lose the years that have passed them by, and the 5/8/12 valuable

Language analysis
A third and negatively abstract perspective of the lines deals with the three D's: deceit, disguise, and denial. It speaks to the idea that though the tree itself does its best to hide the layers of death and destruction resulting from its natural cycle, there are always other means of judging its age. For instance, the pure size of a tree will lend a clue to its current age, as well as the presence of or lack of vegetation surrounding its base. Similarly, many human beings choose to partake in agedefying treatments such as botox, cosmetic surgery, or chemical creams. Still, questions 5/8/12

Interesting to note

A key phrase in this piece that is worth specific consideration comes in lines 7 and 8. It reads "Their yearly trick of looking new/ Is written down in rings of grain." The literal meaning of the phrase refers to the growth pattern of a tree: The growing part of a tree is found at the outer edges, just under the bark. When one looks at a cross-section of a trunk, one can see a pattern of the alternating thick and thin circles of early wood and late wood, and these are the trees' growth rings. Although a tree appears to be reborn and new each Spring, its age and 5/8/12

Further reading
http://www.philiplarkin.com/links.htm The

essay section on this page has interesting critical readings on the work of Larkin.




Compare with..

I Could Not Stop for Death Emily Dickinson Song: Tears, Idle Tears Alfred, Lord Tennyson The Trees Are Down Charlotte Mew



The Trees

The Trees are Down

Because I Could Not Stop for Death

Tears, Idle Tears

Form / Structure Language techniques Ideas / Imagery /themes Rhyme / Rhythm Tone of voice whY? What


Wednesday Revision
Your options to make the best use of this time: 1. Revise the poetry we have studied use a matrix provided OR create your own to compare similar poems. 2. Re-write poetry / short story essays from the recent exam 3. Catch up on ANY English Literature homework. 4. Study The Importance of Being Earnest 5. Think outside the square about a creative way to study or revise, use a computer perhaps, but check with me first.

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