Summary

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 438

In this poem, Larkin emphasizes our collective penchant for anticipating the future and all it brings. It seems our fondest hopes are centered on what the future entails. However, the actual events often fail to match our greatest expectations.

In the first stanza, the speaker contends that we're too eager...

(The entire section contains 438 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Next, Please study guide. You'll get access to all of the Next, Please content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Themes
  • Analysis
  • Characters
  • Quotes
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In this poem, Larkin emphasizes our collective penchant for anticipating the future and all it brings. It seems our fondest hopes are centered on what the future entails. However, the actual events often fail to match our greatest expectations.

In the first stanza, the speaker contends that we're too eager for the future and we spend too much time agonizing over what it will bring. He calls this habit a bad one. All in all, he maintains that we make too much of events that have yet to occur. Long before we see any sign of them, our imaginations take over. We begin to harbor expectations about the "sparkling armada of promises" heading our way.

In the second stanza, the speaker contends that our anticipatory spirit often leads to pointless complaining. We want the future to arrive, to hurry its approach. However, it's like a ship that's traveling too slowly for our liking.

In the third and fourth stanzas, the speaker maintains that the ship will arrive in due time. However, when it does, we will ultimately be disappointed. It seems that reality never quite lives up to all of our fondest hopes and ambitions.

The speaker also likens the future to an approaching ship. As the ship glides towards the harbor, we see more clearly its form. The "big approach" eventually reveals the ship's brasswork, ropes, and even the figurehead. The latter is an ornamental wooden figure mounted onto the bow of a ship. However, the ship itself never anchors. No sooner does it approach, then it passes by completely.

In the fifth stanza, the speaker laments the destruction of our hopes. It seems that each ship in the "armada" of fate always disappoints. Instead of "unloading" good things into our lives, each "ship" leaves us embittered. We wait long and "devoutly" for good things, believing that we are deserving of them. However, our hopes often clash with reality. The speaker contends that we have no right to such vain hopes.

In the last stanza, he explains why this is so. The speaker maintains that there is only one ship heading for us, and it is black in color. As it approaches, we can see it towing a huge, "birdless" silence. Ominously, no waters break in the ship's wake. This macabre imagery leads us to think of death, the kind Larkin feared: one where an oppressive pall grips the soul for eternity.

During his life, Larkin scoffed at the idea of God and religion. He maintained that there was no happy afterlife to look forward to. This grim poem emphasizes Larkin's core beliefs about life and death.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Next, Please Study Guide

Subscribe Now
Next

Themes