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Friday, 6 May 2016
MR BLEANEY BY PHILIP LARKIN
But if he stood and watched the frigid wind Tousling the clouds, lay on the fusty bed Telling himself that this was home, and grinned, And shivered, without shaking off the dread
But if he stood ........... shaking off the dread.
REFERENCE (i) Poem: Mr Bleaney (ii) Poet: Philip Larkin CONTEXT (i) Occurrence: End of the Poem (Lines 21-24/28)
(ii) Content: The poet is lodging in a room that once belonged to a man called Mr Bleaney. As he observes the bare furnishings, he draws intimate conclusions about the former lodger. The predecessor was a poor fellow without any belongings, and without any house of his own. He was an eccentric kind of old man, and had no literary or artistic tastes. He used to prefer sauce to gravy; spend his summer holiday with his relatives in Frinton, and Christmas with his sister in Stoke. Although he may not intend to, the poet himself is very much like or perhaps turning into Mr Bleaney.
These lines present a deep-rooted fear for the lodger, the fear of being trapped in the same cyclic anomie as the previous tenant. The word "But" is a clear change of mood and gear, moving towards further questions and uncertainties. The word marks the limits of the poet's assured knowledge, and from this point we move into the realms of the speculative and reflective. "Frigid wind" along with the reference to the "fusty bed" conjures up the sense of sexually unfulfilling quality of Mr Bleaney's life, bereft of sensuality and characterized by infertility and frigidity. "Clouds" here reflect Mr Bleaney's own vulnerability to the pressures of the world. The phrase "grinned and shivered" carries associations of the macabre here, with the skeletal Mr Bleaney grinning in the face of his environment, his life, and the limits of his own bodily life. The word "dread" which concludes the stanza, reinforces this sense of menace. In short, these lines emphasize the cold dreariness of the poem and give it a chilling edge.