Friday, May 9, 2008

Close Reading of "Sad Steps" by Philip Larkin.

Sad Steps: Philip Larkin

"Groping back to bed after a piss
I part thick curtains, and am startled by
The rapid clouds, the moon's cleanliness.

Four o'clock: wedge-shadowed gardens lie
Under a cavernous, a wind-picked sky.
There's something laughable about this."

Larkin employs specific diction in the first line of this poem to jolt the reader out of a poetic mindset. The words "groping" and "piss" are words that one typically wouldn't expect to find in poetry, and therefore sets the tone of the poem. He uses imagery to try to plainly describe the moon and sky with the terms "cleanliness" and "rapid clouds", but seems to struggle to define them in such a way that isn't a cliche. He begins the next stanza with the words "Four O'clock" which tells the reader that he has been awoken during the middle of his sleep cycle, which further adds to the groggy feeling of the poem of the poem. The term "Wedge-shadowed" gives a sense of fullness to the night. Imagery is further employed to describe the sky for a second time, until a shift occurs where the speaker steps back and looks at what he has been saying as laughable. He feels that there is no new way to describe things like the sky and moon, and that the idea of it is laughable.

1 comment:

PatrickHurt said...

That last line, "There's something laughable about this" is a really great line. My favorite thing in poetry is when a poet writes something so simple yet at the same time so beautifully complex, and that is how the last line struck me. The speaker could be referring to his descriptions of the natural world as laughable, as the author of the post sugests, but I think the line could mean something else. Perhaps the speaker is refering to his life, and is having one of those quasi-out of body experiences where one is able to perfectly view themselves and their place in the world. The speaker sees exactly what he is and has to admit it is somewhat laughable.