Poetry of Departures

Life is often referred to as a never-ending road. The road contains twists, turns, cracks, and any other means possible to send you in numerous directions. But often times, you’ll come to a fork in the road. One direction will lead you to new paths that you haven’t explored before while the other will keep you on the same road you’ve always been on, the road to nowhere. In the poem, “Poetry of Departures” from “The Less Deceived” by Philip Larkin, Larkin refers to the road of life as two different ways of living. These ways are defined in different categories. One category consists of those who leave home and explore the other options the world has to offer. The other category consists of those who stay at home and never get a close up look at the outside world. The use of diction within the poem helps support the different qualities that the “townies” and the “travelers” exert.

At the beginning of the poem, the author makes reference to an epitaph, which is an inscription written on a tombstone. The epitaph usually contains information of what the deceased did with their life. The “travelers” would most likely have a more efficient epitaph than the “townies”. The “travelers” were the ones who took advantages of their outlying surroundings while the “townies” usually scared of the unknown, did not.

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In the first stanza, the lines “He chucked up everything and just cleared off,” are underlined. This is meant for emphasis of the diction of these lines. These lines could be rewritten as “He packed up everything and then left,” but the impact would not be the same. The fact that the “traveler” chucked everything instead of picking it shows a burst of spontaneity. It articulates that the “traveler” did not cautiously plan his journey but just got up and left. The rest of the stanza attests that the move was good for the “traveler”. The move was bold and purifying, setting off new elements within the “traveler” since it was a move that he chose to take.

The second stanza refers specifically to the “townie.” The townie does not “hate” but he “detests” his monotonous life at home. The life at home is so simple with its “good books, “its “good bed,” and its “perfect order.” This is possible indication that the “townie” wants to escape but never gets the opportunity to. The “townie hates having to be at home” but in reality does not have to be there. It is his choice whether to stay or go, but somehow contrary to his wishes, he stays.

The third stanza relates back to the “traveler.” “He walked out on the whole crowd.” No one expected the move that he made. It was like “she undid her dress” or said “take that you bastard.” It shocked the people around him and it was highly unexpected. Why can’t the “townie” do as the “traveler” did? Even though he is productive but at a loss, something that keeps him there, could just as easily take him away. Diction comes into the play again with the use of the word sober. Sober, defined as a restraint from drinking is used as a restraint from drinking of the juices of life and culture.

The fourth stanza splits between the “traveler” and the “townie.” The “traveler” continues to “swagger the nut-strewn roads.” This line is an indication that while the “traveler” had enough knowledge to leave, he does not have enough to figure out where he is going. The “townie” attempts to take a step forward but ends up taking a step back. This step prevents any possible growth. There is reference to creation of objects, books, china, life. Books don’t change on their own, the author makes change. China is porcelain. It provokes thoughts of a china doll, that sits with the same pure white face, same clothes, no change but an example of pure simplicity. Life is not perfect, life is how you make it, changes and all.