“The Building” is a poem of nine seven-line stanzas plus a single final line. It is written in Philip Larkin’s characteristic rough iambic pentameter, with an equally characteristic subtle rhyme scheme. All the lines are not exactly ten syllables each; nevertheless, the pattern of stress is that of the iamb: a two-part (disyllabic), stressed-unstressed foot.
The poem is a description of a place that is never definitively named, although it is clearly a hospital or other health-care facility. The first stanza describes the building in contrast to what is around and outside it. The last lines of the first stanza, along with the entire second and third stanzas, describe the building’s interior, including the inhabitants. The fourth and fifth stanzas describe what the building is like from the inside, from the point of view of the people waiting there: how being there is an interruption of their daily lives and what they are afraid will happen to them.
Stanza 6 returns to the exterior of the building, this time looking out from the inside. The outside world seems very far off; it goes on and on, out of sight. Further, in stanza 7, the world is addressed as a separate thing and is even said to be “beyond the stretch/ Of any hand from here.” For a brief three-line sentence, the speaker of the poem is present and includes himself in the condition of the people in the building: The “loves” and “chances” of the world are only a...
(The entire section is 483 words.)