Philip Larkin pp 144-171 | Cite as

Living Rooms

  • James Booth


Before there are rooms there is room in the sense of ‘space’ (‘make more room’; ‘is there enough room?’), or in the precise definition of the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘dimensional extent’. The ultimate ‘room’ in which we live is our own dimensional extent: our body. Larkin’s bookplate depicted a star enclosed within a circle, with the quotation from Blake: ‘How do you know but evry Bird that cuts the airy way, /Is an immense world of delight closd by your senses five?1 We live always within the enclosure of our senses. The immense delight of the world ‘out there’ is ‘clos’d by your senses five’. We are only ever here and it is only ever now: ‘always is always now’; ‘Days are where we live.’2 It is such elementary intersections of place with time which are the underlying theme of all Larkin’s poems: ‘Going’, ‘Coming’, ‘Absences’, ‘Days’, ‘Continuing to Live’, ‘First Sight’, ‘Far Out’, ‘Here’, ‘How Distant’, ‘Livings’. His poems concern the existential plight of ‘being here’. They are about being at grass as much as horses, the sudden shut of loss as much as ambulances, beginning afresh as much as trees. His subjects are wants, long perspectives, absences, attendance, the view.


Noun Phrase Oxford English Dictionary Railway Carriage Ivory Tower Grammatical Subject 
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  1. 3.
    In Christopher Ricks, ‘The Pursuit of Metaphor’, Allusion to the Poets (Oxford: OUP, 2002), 248.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Larkin perhaps also had in mind Auden’s ‘The crowds upon the pavement /Were fields of harvest wheat’ in ‘As I walked out one evening’, Another Time (London: Faber Library Edition, 1996), 43.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    David Lodge, ‘Philip Larkin: The Metonymic Muse’, Philip Larkin: Contemporary Critical Essays, ed. Stephen Regan (Basingstoke: Macmillan New Casebook, 1997), 77.Google Scholar
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    A. E. Housman, ‘The Name and Nature of Poetry’, Collected Poems and Selected Prose, ed Christopher Ricks (London: Penguin, 1989), 353.Google Scholar
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    A. T. Tolley, My Proper Ground: A Study of the Work of Philip Larkin and its Development (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1991), 177.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    ‘End of Another Home Holiday’, The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence, ed. Vivian de Sola Pinto and Warren Roberts (London: Heinemann, 1972), I, 62.Google Scholar
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    John Betjeman, ‘Death in Leamington’, Collected Poems (London: John Murray, enlarged edn, 1973), 2.Google Scholar
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    Robert Crawford, The Savage and the City in the Work of T. S. Eliot (Oxford: OUP, 1987), 105.Google Scholar

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© James Booth 2005

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  • James Booth

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