Content

Broadcast

Giant whispering and coughing from
Vast Sunday-full and organ-frowned-on spaces
Precede a sudden scuttle on the drum,
'The Queen', and huge resettling. Then begins
A snivelling of the violins:
I think of your face among all those faces,

Beautiful and devout before
Cascades of monumental slithering,
One of your gloves unnoticed on the floor
Beside those new, slightly-outmoded shoes.
Here it goes quickly dark. I lose
All but the outline of the still and withering

Leaves on half-emptied trees. Behind
The glowing wavebands, rabid storms of chording
By being distant overpower my mind
All the more shamelessly, their cut-off shout
Leaving me desperate to pick out
Your hands, tiny in all that air, applauding.

Analysis

This poem is essentially a love poem, though with an attempt at humour, which Larkin wrote for Maeve Brennan. Like many of Larkin’s poems, it is based upon a real event: when Maeve once went to a concert, and Larkin listened to it at home, over the wireless. The title gives away this much, “Broadcast” meaning a radio broadcast. It could also, however, have a duel meaning, that in listening to it, his lover was “broadcast” into his mind.

The poem is filled with auditory imagery. “Whispering” “coughing” “organ” “scuttle” “snivel” “monumental slithering” “wavebands” “rabid storms of chording” are all onomatopoeic and, as with the bleak, stripped down style in ‘Mr Bleaney’, the style matches the meaning.

Though it is concerned with love, it does contain humour. The “Giant whispering” (almost oxymoronic) and “coughing” is a light, though accurate, description of what concert halls are like. The poem refers to “‘The Queen’”, which was a colloquial description of the national anthem, always sung at any public event.

After the description of the hall, the poem suddenly ‘zooms in’ on Maeve: “I think of you face among all those faces” and the stanza break adds to the significance of his loving “Beautiful and devout” (referring to Maeve’s strong Catholicism). Among the crowd, he picks her out in his imagination, showing how special she is to her.

The description is personal (with the second person pronoun “you” to augment it), though with a touch of humour. He notices “One of your gloves unnoticed on the floor” – Maeve had a habit of dropping her gloves – which is “Beside those new, slightly-outmoded shoes” – more humour, in a private joke. Larkin loved the shoes, and would touch and stroke them whenever Maeve wore them. Once in exasperation, Maeve asked why, for though they were new to her, they weren't brandnew, (she would buy cheap, last season's shoes) and he said he still loved them even if they were "slightly-outmoded".

Lost in his thoughts for her, “Here is goes quickly dark.” He sits in the darkness, losing “All but the outline of the still and withering / Leaves”. Yet as it progresses, he becomes absorbed in the music, and the energy-filled “rabid storms of chording” “overpowers [his] mind”. As the music ends suddenly to the reverberating echoes, “cut-off shout”, there is a sense of desperation to find her again, “Leaving me desperate to pick out / Your hands”. The poem ends with the tender image of those hands, “tiny in all that air, applauding” - one of the warmest ends in Larkin's collection.

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