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Analysis of the North Ship by Philip Larkin


The Poet

Here is a six stanza poem written by Philip Larkin (1922 - 1985) an English poet and librarian. He graduated from Oxford University in 1943 as a student of English language and literature. [Click Link To Download The Poem: The North Ship]

About the Poem

The title of the poem suggests sailing. [Wind by Ted Hughes is also another interesting poem about sailing]. "The North Ship" by Philip Larkin tells of three ships that sailed only to witness different fates. The three ships in the poem symbolized ambition with the aim to remind the readers that one out of three unforeseen outcomes always happen to any life ambition_ some are happily fulfilled, some are unhappily fulfilled while some are not fulfilled at all.

The Summary

The first stanza of the poem which happens to be a perfect introduction to the notion of the poet goes thus:
"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".

According to the second stanza, the ship that sailed west was tossed by storm yet "carried to a rich country". The third stated that the ship that sailed east was hunted by raging storm to an unhappy destination where it anchored in captivity. According to the forth stanza of the poem, "The third ship drove towards the north/ Over the sea, the darkening sea/ But no breath of wind came forth/ And the decks shone frostily".

The ship that sailed east and the one that sailed west both returned but the ship that sailed north was lost to the frost and never returned:
"But the third went wide and far
Into an unforgiving sea
Under a fire-spilling star,
And it was rigged for a long journey".
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Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)

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