By Philip Larkin
Philip Larkin (1922–1985) published four volumes of poetry. ‘First sight’ was published in The Whitsun Weddings. The Whitsun Weddings is a collection of 32 poems that were first published in February 1964.
In Philip Larkin’s poem ‘First Sight’, particularly towards the end of the first and last stanza, Larkin uses a series of short blunt sentences to promote a hard ruthless effect which stands out, each stopping at the end of the line:
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth’s immeasurable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
‘First Sight’ is a poem about focusing on young new born lambs taking their first steps into the big wide world. This concept is reflected in the title of the poem. It could be interpreted as the being the “first sight” the new born lambs have of their new surroundings or it could be the poet’s “first sight” of the new born lambs. Whatever the interpretation, we are left in no doubt that the poem is about new beginnings in harsh environments and survival against all odds.
‘First Sight’ is made up of two stanzas. They contrast the current situation against the future prospects of the lambs. In spite of portraying the world the lambs were born into as being dark and dismal, a sense of excitement builds in the second stanza as they "wait hovering around the corner" for “Earth’s immeasurable surprise.” “Earth’s immeasurable surprise” is Spring, the season of growth, potential and nurturing.
The rhythm pattern adopted in this short poem is the Anapaestic rhythm. If we look at the first line ‘Lambs that learn to walk’ splits down as follow ‘Lambs that learn to walk in snow’. In this case, each foot (anapaest) consists of two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable.
Larkin has adopted full rhymes, examples...