'Here'/'elsewhere' : a theme in the poems of Philip Larkin
The poems of Philip Larkin seem at first uniquely selfcentred, concentrating emphatically on a picture of the character of the poet himself, to a point where the life and times of this character, objectively described and defined by his actions, seem to dominate the poems. Yet despite the unusually high profile of the poet himself (or "himself"), Larkin's work is very far from self-centred. On the contrary, running through the poems is a pronounced inclination to look less to the self than to things other, less to the real than to the ideal, less to the near than to the remote: to look, in short, not "Here" but "Elsewhere. " The centrifugal structure in which thoughts of the self give way to thoughts of things other has two main expressions: the social and the transcendent. In looking away from the self to the lives of others--the social expression--the poet draws the kind of contrast which serves, very often, only to underline a sense of separation between the self and others. There is similarly a gap at the heart of those poems--mainly later works--which compare real life with a notional ideal, or contrast presence with absence. The same centrifugal impulse is at work in these contrasts, though its expression might be called transcendent or metaphysical. The common ground is the comparison between self and not-self. These contrasts are examined here from a variety of angles: Chapter One concentrates on a semantic approach, Chapter Two on a metaphorical, and Chapter Three on a linguistic analysis. The fourth chapter examines the role of the theme in Larkin's prose fiction, and the fifth applies the theme to the single subject of love. The closing chapter then relates the conclusion reached in the poems--that the separation of "Here" from "Elsewhere" is unalterable, and indeed should be relished--to the tradition to which it belongs, which is the Romantic tradition.