Send No Money

Standing under the fobbed
Impendent belly of Time
Tell me the truth, I said,
Teach me the way things go.
All the other lads there
Were itching to have a bash,
But I thought wanting unfair:
It and finding out clash.

So he patted my head, booming Boy,
There's no green in your eye:
Sit here and watch the hail
Of occurence clobber life out
To a shape no one sees -
Dare you look at that straight?

Oh thank you, I said, Oh yes please,
And sat down to wait.

Half life is over now,
And I meet full face on dark mornings
The bestial visor, bent in
By the blows of what happened to happen.
What does it prove? Sod all.
In this way I spent youth,
Tracing the trite untransferable
Truss-advertisement, truth.


This poem, about the difference between illusion and reality, links well to poems like ‘Sunny Prestatyn’ and ‘Essential Beauties’, and also, with it’s strained rhyme scheme ‘Self’s the Man’. The poem bases itself on the idea of a type of advert: ones in papers that are often a little…dodgy, that use phrases like “send no money”. Adverts, for example, for the “truss” mentioned in the final advert. “Truss” is a form of medical implement, used by suffers of hernias (often in the genital area).

The persona, young in the first stanza, has come to meet a personification of Time, and the style suggests that it was after perhaps seeing some kind of advert. The image of Time that Larkin creates isn’t particularly aesthetically appealing. It has an “impendent stomach”, hanging dangerously, that the persona stands “under”, suggesting its vastness. “Fobbed” refers to a “fob”, a chain for a pocket watch.

Along with the other young “lads”, the persona implores Time for answers to the universal questions of life, of “the way things go”, of what life is all about. Time, in a pompous, “booming” voice, responds, “Boy, / There's no green in your eye”. “Green” with naivety, perhaps. Time tells him to merely “sit here and watch the hail / Of occurrence clobber life out” – sit and watch life pass. The gullible persona is taken in, much like how many an advert takes in people universally, and says, “oh thank you” and “oh yes please”. The simple, polite childlike utterances augment the naivety, and then the persona does as asked and “sat down to wait”.

The third stanza leaps forward in time, to “half life is over now”. The face in the mirror “on dark mornings” looks like a “bestial visor” – something inhuman – caused by the passive life, “blows of what happened to happen.” The bitter voice reflects on what sitting “to wait” has proved, and comes to the conclusion, “Sod all.” Like so many adverts, the reality of the illusion doesn’t match expectancy.

In the final two lines, the harsh “t” alliteration of “tracing”, “trite” (something lacking originality), “untransferable” (another word taken from the advertising genre), “truss” and finally “truth” further augment the bitterness of the persona. Larkin celebrated youth, but for this persona, who has been misguided into a “trite” quest for “truth”, like so many others before, there is deep bitterness at the waste. Still, the bitterness comes through from a persona is perhaps is partly leaked from Larkin’s disappointment when looking back at his own childhood.

On the universal, it raises the question of whether we ever fully use our childhood; the irony of how it seems we always look back and lament those short years. ‘Dockery and Son’ sums it up perfectly: “Whether we use it or not, it goes.”

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