November 18, 2019

It in their views of the moon, instead, producing

It can also be seen that Larkin presents nature as an
organism through his resistance to place human opinions and value onto it. Larkin
was part of ‘The Movement’, a term coined by J. D. Scott, literary editor of The Spectator, for a group of poets which
actively sought to dismantle the esoteric writing of the Modernists and speak
more plainly in an anti-Romantic voice. These ideas can be seen very clearly in
“Sad Steps”, in which Larkin mocks age-old poets in their views of
the moon, instead, producing a much more realistic and un-embellished portrayal
which affords nature value in its own right. The title of the poem itself even
falls in line with this view through its allusion to Sir Philip Sidney’s
‘Sonnet 31′ from his 16th century sonnet sequence, Astrophil and Stella. The
“sad steps” that Sidney wrote about referred to the moon’s walk
across the sky. Larkin’s “sad steps” however, are the altogether more
unremarkable steps he takes back to bed “after a piss”. The crude, bodily
nature of the word “piss”, given emphasis through its positioning at the end of
the line, disabuses the reader of any Romantic sentiment, therefore, setting up
the style for the rest of the poem. Moreover, the half rhyme that links the
word “piss” to the description of the “moon’s cleanliness” further highlights
to the reader that Larkin is going to offer a much more grounded interpretation
of the moon. Larkin shows his aversion to these previous responses to the moon
through describing them in exaggerated language, “Lozenge of love! Medallion of
art!”. The repetition of exclamation marks reflects Larkin’s view that the
descriptions have lost any sincerity, portraying an excessively romantic and
archaic view of the moon. Furthermore, the characteristically Larkinesque “No”
that is emphatically placed at the end of these descriptions signifies Larkin’s
disapproval. Instead of linking the moon to physical objects such as medallions
and lozenges, Larkin bases the value of the moon in its’ simplicity. The polysyndetic
list that describes “The hardness and the brightness and the plain Far reaching
singleness” shows how Larkin’s appreciation stems from the physical aspects of
the moon itself, and not from values that humans think it should hold. The use
of the word “plain” at the end of the line emphasises that, in Larkin’s view,
the moon does not need to be described in an over the top manner, as its
natural appearance is enough to make “one (shiver)”. 

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