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The Old Fools

Philip Larkin

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political correctness
2003-08-15
Added by: Chris Davis
This poem is often described as displaying old age with cruelty and a brutal lack of concern for the human status of elderly people. To some extent this is true, though Larkin's last line ("Well, we shall find out") indicates his understanding that extreme old age may afflict him too, and shows that his vicious language has its roots in stark personal terror.

In fact, in this poem he speaks with great tenderness, as well as anger, about the human condition: the elegaic lilt and pathos of those lines in the first verse, for example, where he describes the possible past lives of the drooling idiots he has just been lampooning ("...to when they danced all night...sloped arms some September.") The beauty, aching loss, and yearning of the third verse tell a similar story. Not a comfortable poem, but when a genius pours out his anguish and fear for our edification we can expect the medicine to be somewhat bitter, surely?
look a little deeper
2003-09-02
Added by: James Wills
I agree with Chris, and feel that his comments could be applied to Larkin's work as a whole.

Sure, he can depress, he doesn't sugar-coat the pill, here, in "Aubade", or in any number of poems you'd care to mention ("Love Songs In Age"'s " . . it had not done so then, and could not now" comes to mind as I write this). But the point to Larkin, surely, is his "compassion". Chris points out the compassion in these verses more adroitly than I would hope to, but Larkin's compassion, belying his reputation as a gloomy old fascist, is there, if you abandon your own *expectations* of him. If he was simply gloomy, the poems would not have the impact they do. It's (again) his *compassion* that causes the bells to ring, and imprints these words so deeply in my (at least) memory.
larkins terrible language
2005-11-16
Added by: emily white
although i generally admire Larkins blunt yet defined poetry, i feel this poem of 'old fools' attacks people of my age, im seventy three and do not piss on myself, but im sure larkin does!

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