Home is so Sad

Philip Larkin

‘Home is so Sad’ by Philip Larkin is a thoughtful poem about the importance of home. The poet explores what happens to a home when people leave it.

Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin was an English poet and novelist born in 1922.

He is best known for his poetry collection The Whitsun Weddings, published in 1964.

In this poem, the poet addresses themes of home, solitude, separation, and even loss. There is also an inherent allusion to the theme of coming of age in ‘Home is so Sad.’ It is the most obvious, aside perhaps from death, reason that people leave a home. They might come back, but it is never the same again. The tone is mournful, expressing a loss that is felt by the house, those left behind, and those that left. 

Home is so Sad by Philip Larkin

Summary of Home is so Sad

Home is so Sad’ by Philip Larkin is a touching ten-line poem that describes what happens to a home when people begin to leave it behind. 

The poem uses personification to describe the home as a suffering creature, something that has lost what it loved and would do anything to bring it back. There is a comforting space it fosters for whoever left it behind. It’s always ready to allow that person back in. In the second stanza, the speaker notes some of the variety of images that mark change and loss in a home. 

Structure of Home is Sad

Home is so Sad’ by Philip Larkin is a two-stanza poem that is made up of sets of five lines or quintains. These lines follow a simple rhyme scheme of ABABA DEDED. Larkin also chose to use iambic pentameter as the regular metrical pattern that connects each line. This means that there are five sets of two beats per line. The first of these is unstressed and the second is stressed. By using this pattern the poet creates a steady rhythm that encourages a reader along at a pace that is not too fast or too slow.

Poetic Techniques in Home is so Sad

Larkin makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Home is so Sad’. These include caesura, personification, and enjambment. The first of these, caesura, is one of the most dominant. It occurs when a line is split in half, sometimes with punctuation, sometimes not. The use of punctuation in these moments creates a very intentional pause in the text. 

A reader should consider how the pause influences the rhythm of one’s reading and how it might precede an important turn or transition in the text. For example, the first line reads: “Home is so sad. It stays as it was left”. Or, another great example, the last line of the poem. It reads: “The music in the piano stool. That vase”. 

Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For example, the transitions between lines two and three as well as three and four. In tandem with caesura, these two techniques help to define the way that a reader understands the lines.

Lastly, personification occurs when a poet imbues a non-human creature or object with human characteristics. In this case, Larkin uses it to depict the house as wanting or lacking something as a human would. 

Analysis of Home is so Sad 

Stanza One 

Home is so sadIt stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go


Having no heart to put aside the theft

In the first stanza of ‘Home is so sad’ the speaker begins by making use of the line that later came to be used as the title. The statement is explicit, in a way that Larkin rarely is. It works in two different ways though. First, it is sad to be at home because of what is missing. Secondly, because of the use of personification that immediately follows, the house itself feels sad, as a human being would. 

When people leave home the house does not spring back. The space that they left remains empty and ready to take that person back in. It is interesting while reading this piece to consider the inspiration behind it. Larkin wrote it after, or while, visiting his mother’s home, somewhere he used to live. He created one of these metaphorical empty spaces in that home. Larkin felt that emptiness and gave it life in ‘Home is so Sad’. 

The house is earnest, caring, willing to do anything to bring all its people home. It is “bereft,” eventually, “Of anyone to please”. Without that, the house withers like a flower without sunlight. 

Stanza Two

And turn again to what it started as,


Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool
That vase.

In the second stanza, the speaker moves to discussing, through a series of images, what leftover things inside the home mark that loss. The house tries its best to make things how they used to be, but it falls wide. What’s gone is gone. The speaker transitions into the second person, addressing the reader or anyone who has had this same experience. He says that “You can see how it was”. It is obvious in the “pictures and the cutlery”. The last line contains another good example of caesura. The speaker notes, with a finality that is moving, the “music in the piano stool. That vase”. 

The vague, yet specific nature of these images, allows anyone reading to pick up on them and use them to imagine their own home. 

Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

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