Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 482

"Next, Please" is a poem by Philip Larkin that draws on the human propensity to look beyond what is current in hopes of obtaining more. It touches on the insatiable desire of humanity and the resulting crisis it can create within ourselves. He makes use of an extended metaphor, equating the image of the ship to that which is expected (future opportunities), and juxtaposing it with the sole thing that, in all certainty, draws near (death).

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His tone is one that admittedly recognizes, if not reproaches, human nature for being "always too eager for the future" and thus being susceptible to the unhealthy practice of constantly expecting. He describes the lure of faraway fortunes as a "sparkling armada of promises," whose flashy appearance takes our attention away from what is real and apparent in life. Such constant eagerness for what's to come causes one's care and patience to erode, creating the cognitive bias of seeing slowness in most everything. Larkin emphasizes this impatience with the use of exclamation:
How slow they are! And how much time they waste,
Refusing to make haste!
He goes on to show how we tend to be very clear and perhaps too sure when it comes to our desires, often carving them in elaborate ways in our minds in something akin to lust:
Each big approach, leaning with brasswork prinked,
Each rope distinct,
Flagged, and the figurehead wit golden tits
Larkin anchors his poem on a greater human flaw—entitlement—when the speaker calls us out for thinking "we are owed / for waiting so devoutly and so long." This calls to mind the idiom, "Good things come to those who wait." He puts a twist on it, giving the poem a sharp turn away from its earlier bright, golden imagery toward an approaching vast, "birdless" darkness. It makes no hesitation to declare that in the grand scheme of things, at the very end of a long wait, we all board the same ship towards our own mortality. Larkin paints the picture of stillness and nothingness with his last line:
In her wake
No waters breed or break.
The rhyme scheme of the poem is aabb, lending it a swaying rhythm, much like being in the water. His stanzas are also visually noteworthy in the way they mimic the shape of a ship, with part of the upper body jutting out before tapering at the bottom. This tapering likewise lends to an emphasis on the theme of expectations, as the last line of each stanza is inextricably linked to the first line of the next, whether it be in structure or in thought. It results in each stanza seamlessly towing the other, coming in as one ship after another, as the reader is taken on a journey through the different stages of waiting—expectation, disappointment, denial, disenchantment—until the last one, which is the quiet acceptance of death.

The Poem

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 384

Philip Larkin’s “Next, Please” is made up of six four-line stanzas. The first three lines of each (with several exceptions) are in iambic pentameter, while the last line of each is noticeably shorter (either four or six syllables). The rhyme scheme of each of the stanzas is aabb. The poem examines the common desire many people have to focus their attention on the future instead of living in the present. Many spend their entire lives waiting for the good things the future will supposedly bring to those who faithfully wait for them. However, the poem warns its readers that such hopes will always end in disappointment, for the only thing that is certain to arrive is death. The first stanza begins by pointing out disapprovingly that “we” are “Always too eager for the future” and, as a result, “Pick up bad habits of expectancy,” living life in the hope that the future will surely make life better than it is in the present.

The next four stanzas...

(The entire section contains 1646 words.)

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