Content

Here

Swerving east, from rich industrial shadows
And traffic all night north; swerving through fields
Too thin and thistled to be called meadows,
And now and then a harsh-named halt, that shields
Workmen at dawn; swerving to solitude
Of skies and scarecrows, haystacks, hares and pheasants,
And the widening river s slow presence,
The piled gold clouds, the shining gull-marked mud,

Gathers to the surprise of a large town:
Here domes and statues, spires and cranes cluster
Beside grain-scattered streets, barge-crowded water,
And residents from raw estates, brought down
The dead straight miles by stealing flat-faced trolleys,
Push through plate-glass swing doors to their desires—
Cheap suits, red kitchen-ware, sharp shoes, iced lollies,
Electric mixers, toasters, washers, driers—

A cut-price crowd, urban yet simple, dwelling
Where only salesmen and relations come
Within a terminate and fishy-smelling
Pastoral of ships up streets, the slave museum,
Tattoo-shops, consulates, grim head-scarfed wives;
And out beyond its mortgaged half-built edges
Fast-shadowed wheat-fields, running high as hedges,
Isolate villages, where removed lives

Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands
Like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;
And past the poppies bluish neutral distance
Ends the land suddenly beyond a beach
Of shapes and shingle. Here is unfenced existence:
Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.

Analysis

‘Here’ is perhaps one of the most challenging poems in Larkin’s collection, so naturally they put it first to scare us all off. The main idea the poem presents is the idea of defining just where “here” is. The word has immediacy, and brings the reader into a specific moment, but as we see in the train journey, the “here” of the poem changes…

The lexis and the syntax give a sense of motion from the opening of the poem. Larkin begins with the trochaic word “swerving”, giving a sense of driving forward, though it is an unstable motion. The train journey begins from this point, and is swerving away from the centre, similar, in a sense to falcon’s “widening gyre” in W.B. Yeat’s ‘The Second Coming’ from the AS Anthology. If the train journey is a symbol for life, it has the same sense that life is almost out of control as it “swerves” along its track.

The syntax also gives a sense of the motion. Its lack of end-stops or caesuras (one reason it is so difficult to get into) allows it to flow from one line to the next, with enjambment connecting the stanzas – a single, unstopping moment.

From the harsh environs around the train line, “too thin and thistled to be called meadows” (the t/th alliteration augments the harshness), the train travels further from civilisation, from the “workmen at dawns”, until all that remains of other humans are “scarecrows”. Nature, beautifully described, takes over, with “plied gold clouds” and even “gull-marked mud” that might normally be a negative thing are “shiny”.

The sensuous description all “Gathers” into the next stanza, but then is abruptly ended, by “the surprise of a large town” and the end-stopping colon. We have reached the first destination in the poet’s search for “here”: “Here domes and statues, spires and cranes cluster”. This image of the city landscape is like Worthsworth’s Romantic ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ where “Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie”. Yet, Larkin makes the point that the distant first impression is Romantic, not a reality: when he looks closer, he sees “residents from raw estates” on “dead straight miles” and their “cheap” commercial “desires”. They are a “cut-price crowd” and only come “here” for “salesmen and relations”.

Leaving Hull behind, Larkin continues the journey into the countryside on foot (as the train reaches its "terminate") where “loneliness clarifies” the “remote lives”. In this final stanza, there is a build up with the short sentences, of excitement, as though the “loneliness” and “silence” in the “here” of this place are what Larkin has been searching for.

Yet, just as the excitement builds and he almost reaches his “here”, “Ends the land suddenly beyond a beach” – halting his journey. If life’s journey comes to its end, what comes after is death, and the land ending suddenly is a symbol for the barrier between life and death. That “here” constantly changes reflects upon the transient nature of life, how the only truly constant “here” is in death. Despite being “untalkative”, Larkin perceives death as “unfenced existence / Facing the sun”, and there is a sense of disappointment and desperation in his final words, “out of reach”.

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