The Whitsun Weddings (or why the licence fee is still worth paying)

May 24, 2009 at 10:47 pm (BBC, Jim D, literature)

“And as the tightening brakes took hold, there swelled

A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower

Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.”

Listen (Duration: 45 minutes)


7 days left to listen

Last broadcast today, 21:30 on BBC Radio 3.

Or read and listen, here.


Poets Paul Farley and Kate Royal travel across Britain, tracing the origins of some of Philip Larkin’s best-known train-inspired poems, including the celebrated Whitsun Weddings – of which they are both particular admirers.

They also look at other poems such as Dockery and Son, Friday Night at the Royal Station Hotel and Here, and take journeys from Oxford to Sheffield and Hull to London. They lead them to a series of interchanges on class, gender, paternity and Englishness, as well as a discussion about the poet’s influence on them and on other contemporary writers.

Along the way, they meet fellow Larkin enthusiasts, including the Hull woman married in the 1950s who remembers the ‘bridal express’ days evoked in The Whitsun Weddings – as they build up a picture of how much of Larkin’s England has gone, what remains and talk about what the poems say

With new readings of the poems in addition to archive recordings.


  1. Sun 24 May 2009


  1. Laban Tall said,

    Homage to a Government

    Next year we are to bring all the soldiers home
    For lack of money, and it is all right.
    Places they guarded, or kept orderly,
    We want the money for ourselves at home
    Instead of working. And this is all right.

    It’s hard to say who wanted it to happen,
    But now it’s been decided nobody minds.
    The places are a long way off, not here,
    Which is all right, and from what we hear
    The soldiers there only made trouble happen.
    Next year we shall be easier in our minds.

    Next year we shall be living in a country
    That brought its soldiers home for lack of money.
    The statues will be standing in the same
    Tree-muffled squares, and look nearly the same.
    Our children will not know it’s a different country.
    All we can hope to leave them now is money.

    Philip Larkin, 1969

  2. Rosie said,

    Very good programme, atmospheric.

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