50+ Philip Larkin Poems

Ranked by Poetry Experts

Philip Larkin, born in Coventry, England, in August 1922, developed a passion for literature from a young age. In 1945, his first ten poems were published in “Poetry from Oxford in Wartime,” marking the beginning of his poetic journey.

Over the years, Larkin’s literary achievements grew, with novels like “Jill” and “A Girl in Winter,” and a remarkable collection titled “The Less Deceived” in 1955. Despite posthumous controversy over his views, Larkin remains beloved as one of Britain’s best-loved 20th-century poets. He is best known for his poetry collection The Whitsun Weddings, published in 1964.

Philip Larkin

Church Going

by Philip Larkin

‘Church Going’ by Philip Larkin is a thought-provoking poem about religion and history. The speaker decides that no matter what churches represent, they should be perserved.

Within ‘Church Going’ Philip Larkin describes the emotions experienced by a speaker who is inexplicably drawn to churches. The speaker enters into a church at the beginning of the poem, a fact the reader has to interpret as the speaker does not know why he’s there. The bulk of the poem is focused around the importance of churches and the need for them to be maintained. He sees them as places for coming together and acceptance of one’s common humanity with the rest of the world.

Once I am sure there’s nothing going on

I step inside, letting the door thud shut.

Another church: matting, seats, and stone,

And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut

The Whitsun Weddings

by Philip Larkin

‘The Whitsun Weddings’ by Philip Larkin is a meaningful poem that reflects post-war Britain. It is one of Larkin’s most famous.

This poem shares a title with his 1964 collection of poems and is one of his longest. It tells of a train journey from Kingston upon Hull through the countryside. The speaker takes in the sights and sounds of the trip and most importantly the people getting on and off the train. There is a group who appears to be part of a wedding. At first he speaks cynically about weddings and those who attend them, but his words become more meaningful when he addresses the newly weds and the difficult future they face.

That Whitsun, I was late getting away:

Not till about

One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday

Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,


by Philip Larkin

‘Toads’ by Philip Larkin explores the confines of everyday life. Throughout, he uses a frog as a way to depict duel pressures in his life.

This poem tells of the two toads, or pressures, that exist within a speaker as he struggles to free himself from everyday life. Larkin’s speaker states that there is one thing that plagues him more than anything else, a toad. This toad, represents work, exterior obligations and financial pressures. It is always there, forcing poison into his life. Perhaps, he wonders, he’d be happier if he were poor. The speaker looks at the poor people around him and thinks the they look happy enough, and none of them ever seem to starve. Eventually, and thankfully, he comes to the conclusion that he doesn’t have the guts to give up his comfortable life.

Why should I let the toad work

Squat on my life?

Can't I use my wit as a pitchfork

And drive the brute off?

Sunny Prestatyn

by Philip Larkin

‘Sunny Prestatyn’ by Philip Larkin is a famous poem about advertising and vanity. The poet depicts how unattainable a perfect lifestyle is through the destruction of a sign.

The poem begins with the speaker describing a poster advertising “Prestatyn,” a resort town in Wales. The poster is of a smiling, perfect woman. It is quickly defaced by the residents. The woman’s body was drawn on, and the sexual innuendoes present in the ad were enhanced. The reaction of the community to the ad can be read as a protest of sorts against the idea that a perfect, pure “sunny” life is possible.

Come To Sunny Prestatyn

Laughed the girl on the poster,

Kneeling up on the sand   

In tautened white satin.


by Philip Larkin

‘Age’ by Philip Larkin explores the universality relatable theme of aging. He presents readers with his speaker’s concerns about his legacy.

Aging is, to the speaker, an experience comparable to swaddling falling away from one’s body. These white pieces of cloth float in the distance and contain all the sounds of a tenement. They are his histories, places he can no longer reach. Throughout the poem, the years of his past are referred to as something as light as swaddling or clouds, but then later appear to be hard to navigate through, like knee-high weeds, and scary to encounter, like icebergs. The poem ends without a conclusion to the question of the speaker’s legacy.

My age fallen away like white swaddling

Floats in the middle distance, becomes

An inhabited cloud. I bend closer, discern

A lighted tenement scuttling with voices.

Arrivals, Departures

by Philip Larkin

‘Arrivals, Departures’ by Philip Larkin depicts a narrator who is unable to resist the desire to travel. Whenever he’s faced with the choice to leave or stay, he always chooses the former.

In this poem, Larkin’s speaker describes the comings and goings of ships. The poet makes use of a narrator who is unable to resist the sound of their call, no matter when it comes. Throughout the text the speaker deals with a dilemma, to leave or not to leave. The boats could provide him, and his companion, with the chance to move on, a least for a time. At the end of the poem he makes the decision to go. When he hears the sound of the horns, the speaker and his companion rise and make their way to the dock, repeating the same cycle.

Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,

As epitaph:

He chucked up everything

And just cleared off,

Wild Oats

by Philip Larkin

‘Wild Oats’ by Philip Larkin depicts the difficulties in a specific relationship he had with two women.

It is generally thought that this piece was very personal to the writer. It perhaps tells of Philip Larkin’s own emotional struggle to maintain a relationship with his fiancé while in love with another woman. There were two women the poet met twenty years ago and who are still important in his life today. One was beautiful and hard to talk to, and the other had the opposite traits.

About twenty years ago

Two girls came in where I worked—

A bosomy English rose

And her friend in specs I could talk to.


by Philip Larkin

‘Going’ by Philip Larkin is a memorable poem about death. In it, he depicts death as a dark form that consumes everything.

While death is not mentioned by name in ‘Going’ it is very much the main focus. In line three alludes to it. In this instance Larkin refers to it as that which “lights no lamps”. By the end of the poem one has entered into the unstoppable “evening” and come to the understanding that there is no way to fend off its arrival.

There is an evening coming in

Across the fields, one never seen before,

That lights no lamps.

If, my darling

by Philip Larkin

‘If, my darling’ by Philip Larkin explores the mind. The speaker presents an interesting picture of life from the outside and the inside.

This poem is a depiction of the speaker’s own emotional state and the inner workings of his mind. The speaker wonders what his “darling” would think of the inside of his mind. It doesn’t take him long to come to the conclusion that she would not have a thrilling experience adventuring there. He sees his mind as a dark, sparse interior that is unstable and foul. The speaker’s own judgements become clear as he considers the impact his true self would have on his lover.

If my darling were once to decide

Not to stop at my eyes,

But to jump, like Alice, with floating skirt into my head,

Maiden Name

by Philip Larkin

‘Maiden Name’ by Philip Larkin suggests certain beliefs about marriage and identity. In part, he suggests that a young woman has lost something when she changed her name.

The main themes in the poem are identity and the loss of identity. Philip Larkin was interested in dealing with the institution of marriage. Throughout the poem the speaker addresses the listener as “you”. The use of second person makes the reader accountable for the intended listener’s actions.

Marrying left your maiden name disused.

Its five light sounds no longer mean your face,

Your voice, and all your variants of grace;

Explore more poems from Philip Larkin

At Grass

by Philip Larkin

‘At Grass’ by Philip Larkin is a poem about fame and happiness. It focuses on racehorses and how they found new homes away from their previous lives.

This poem is representative of Larkin's style, which is characterized by his use of plain language, understated emotions, and focus on everyday experiences. It is one of his better-known and more commonly studied poems and is well-loved by poetry lovers and students around the world.

The eye can hardly pick them out

From the cold shade they shelter in,

Till wind distresses tail and mane;

Then one crops grass, and moves about

The North Ship

by Philip Larkin

‘The North Ship’ by Philip Larkin is a poignant poem about that uses the images of ships to ruminate on the kinds of journeys one experiences in the course of their life.

This poem by Philip Larkin is indicative of his tendency to communicate profound truths using plain, everyday language. Much of this has to do with the poem's heavy symbolism and allegorical insinuations. It might not be one of the poet's most famous pieces of verse, but it is still an affecting poem that can be universally appreciated.

I saw three ships go sailing by,

Over the sea, the lifting sea,

And the wind rose in the morning sky,

And one was rigged for a long journey.


by Philip Larkin

‘Absences’ by Philip Larkin focuses on natural imagery. The poet uses them to define his speaker’s life and experiences.

Rain patters on a sea that tilts and sighs.

Fast-running floors, collapsing into hollows,

Tower suddenly, spray-haired. Contrariwise,

A wave drops like a wall: another follows,


by Philip Larkin

‘Afternoons’ by Philip Larkin presents a brief depiction of post-war Britain. He explores less than ideal family relationships and gives the period an overall gloomy tone.

Summer is fading:

The leaves fall in ones and twos

From trees bordering

The new recreation ground.


by Philip Larkin

‘Ambulances’ by Philip Larkin presents readers with a thoughtful and concerning depiction of cities. He focuses on the presence of death and its inevitability.

Closed like confessionals, they thread

Loud noons of cities, giving back

None of the glances they absorb.

Light glossy grey, arms on a plaque,

An Arundel Tomb

by Philip Larkin

‘An Arundel Tomb’ by Philip Larkin muses on themes of life, death, and the passage of time. The speaker alludes to the strength of love and how affecting a demonstration of it can be.

Side by side, their faces blurred,

The earl and countess lie in stone,

Their proper habits vaguely shown

As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,


by Philip Larkin

‘Aubade’ by Philip Larkin is a poem about the unifying qualities of death and the human experience. There’s nothing Larkin’s speaker can do to make death less real.

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.   

Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.   

In time the curtain-edges will grow light.   

Till then I see what’s really always there:   

Born Yesterday

by Philip Larkin

‘Born Yesterday’ by Philip Larkin is a poem about happiness. It explores what true happiness is and how one young woman should look for it.

Tightly-folded bud,

I have wished you something

None of the others would:

Not the usual stuff


by Philip Larkin

‘Coming’ by Philip Larkin is about spring and how emotional its arrival can be. The peace, joy, and promise of spring rub off on Larkin’s speaker in a wonderful way.

On longer evenings, Light, chill and yellow, Bathes the serene Foreheads of houses.


by Philip Larkin

‘Days’ by Philip Larkin is a beautiful poem that contemplates life in the poet’s typical fashion. He asks the reader to consider “What are days for?”

What are days for?

Days are where we live.

They come, they wake us

Time and time over.


by Philip Larkin

‘Deceptions’ by Philip Larkin is a dark poem that tells a chilling tale. It focuses on the rape of a young woman and how she, and her attacker, were changed because of the event.

Even so distant, I can taste the grief,

Bitter and sharp with stalks, he made you gulp.

The sun’s occasional print, the brisk brief

Worry of wheels along the street outside


by Philip Larkin

‘Dry-Point’ by Philip Larkin is a poem about sexuality. It uses the image of a bubble to depict the pinnacle of one’s sexual longing

Endlessly, time-honoured irritant,

A bubble is restively forming at your tip.

Burst it as fast as we can –

It will grow again until we begin dying.

Essential Beauty

by Philip Larkin

‘Essential Beauty’ is one of the poems of Philip Larkin that deals with the gap between the advertising world and the real world.

In frames as large as rooms that face all ways

And block the ends of streets with giant loaves,

Screen graves with custard, cover slums with praise

Of motor—oil and cuts of salmon, shine

Faith Healing

by Philip Larkin

‘Faith Healing’ by Philip Larkin is a thoughtful poem that depicts a group of women and focuses on their emotional experiences.

Slowly the women file to where he stands

Upright in rimless glasses, silver hair,

Dark suit, white collar. Stewards tirelessly

Persuade them onwards to his voice and hands,

First Sight

by Philip Larkin

‘First Sight’ by Philip Larkin is a beautiful lyric poem about the natural world. It focuses on the fact that life is impermanent.

Lambs that learn to walk in snow

When their bleating clouds the air

Meet a vast unwelcome, know

Nothing but a sunless glare.

For Sidney Bechet

by Philip Larkin

‘For Sidney Bechet’ is a poetic tribute to Sidney Bechet, one of the early jazz maestros that poet Philip Larkin admired the most.

That note you hold, narrowing and rising, shakes

Like New Orleans reflected on the water,

And in all ears appropriate falsehood wakes,

High Windows

by Philip Larkin

‘High Windows’ by Philip Larkin discusses the way that relationships, sex, and societal standards change from one generation to the next. 

When I see a couple of kids

And guess he's fucking her and she's

Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,

I know this is paradise

Home is so Sad

by 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.

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,

Shaped in the comfort of the last to go

As if to win them back. Instead, bereft

Of anyone to please, it withers so,

I Remember, I Remember

by Philip Larkin

‘I Remember, I Remember’ by Philip Larkin contains a speaker’s thoughts about his home. He expresses what he thinks is an idealized childhood and how it doesn’t match up to it.

Coming up England by a different line

For once, early in the cold new year,

We stopped, and, watching men with number plates

Sprint down the platform to familiar gates,

Lines On A Young Lady’s Photograph Album

by Philip Larkin

‘Lines On A Young Lady’s Photograph Album’ by Philip Larkin is a poem about memory and the past. The speaker relishes the access he has to his lover’s past when he looks through her photos with her.

At last you yielded up the album, which

Once open, sent me distracted. All your ages

Matt and glossy on the thick black pages!

Too much confectionery, too rich:

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