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Toads Revisited

April 2011

Nomination: Toads Revisited [October 1962. From The Whitsun Weddings]

‘Toads Revisited’ is a favourite of mine from the seminal The Whitsun Weddings collection. On reading it again, and again, I find myself eagerly anticipating the next line, like a satisfying chorus. I was drawn to the poetry of Philip Larkin, because of its similarities to the lyrics and themes encompassed within the best of English ‘popular music’ song writing that has left a lasting impact on me, penned by the likes of Nick Drake, Stephen Morrissey, Roddy Frame, and latterly Thom Yorke.

Themes of mortality, boredom, tedium, fear and tragedy feature strongly, and are explored to great effect within this offering. Some wonderful lines leap out at me, and continue to delight on each airing. “Waxed – fleshed out patients / Still vague from accidents” and “Turning over their failures / By some bed of lobelias”. Marvellous!

I find myself particularly affected by the themes of time passing, and time wasted. Time weighing heavily, and apparently, occasionally burdensome, yet also perceived as a finite and valuable, though often squandered commodity.

I am drawn to the way that the unattractive alternative to the working day is demonstrated by the observations of a range of disparate and feckless characters inhabiting the park (“Not a bad place to be”). The park bound activities, and hinted at desperate lifestyles of these individuals contrasting markedly with the reassurance and raison d’êtreprovided by the routine of the daily grind. Albeit delivered in an unsettling way, the Toad ‘companion’ is seen to be a benevolent though overwhelming entity guiding us to “the inevitable”.

Andy Bagley

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