Wild Oats

Wild Oats

by Philip Larkin

About twenty years ago
Two girls came in where I worked—
A bosomy English rose
And her friend in specs I could talk to.
Faces in those days sparked
The whole shooting-match off, and I doubt
If ever one had like hers:
But it was the friend I took out,

And in seven years after that
Wrote over four hundred letters,
Gave a ten-guinea ring
I got back in the end, and met
At numerous cathedral cities
Unknown to the clergy. I believe
I met beautiful twice. She was trying
Both times (so I thought) not to laugh.

Parting, after about five
Rehearsals, was an agreement
That I was too selfish, withdrawn,
And easily bored to love.
Well, useful to get that learnt.
In my wallet are still two snaps
Of bosomy rose with fur gloves on.
Unlucky charms, perhaps.

Summary of Wild Oats

  • Popularity of “Wild Oats”: Philip Larkin, a renowned English poet and novelist, wrote Wild Oats. It is a narrative poem popular for its theme of hopelessness. It was first published in the 19th The poem speaks about the speaker’s encounter with two different ladies and the role they play in his life. It also comments on his unsuccessful relationship with his fiancée. The poem also hints the unsuccessful choices in his life that led him to bad luck.
  • “Wild Oats”, As a Representative of Loss: The speaker narrates his past. He recalls he met two charming girls at his workplace twenty years ago. He details their physical appearances. To him, one seems to be an ideal lady, while the other is less attractive. He manages to have an unfortunate relationship with the unattractive one who was good at conversation. However, the narrator falls for external beauty. He nicknames the second woman, “a Bosomy English rose.” It is due to the continuous presence of that beautiful lady his relationship with his fiancée ends after seven years. The beautiful lady is too hard to be impressed, and she refuses his proposal. It is also revealed that the narrator cannot meet her demands. Later, he regrets his choices and understands his flaws.
  • Major Themes in “Wild Oats”: Fear, love, and anxiety are the major themes of this poem. The speaker talks about two girls he meets in his distant past. One out of them leaves a long-lasting impression on his heart, and he fails to maintain a healthy relationship with his fiancée. He also discusses how his first relationship ends after the exchange of a ring and many letters. To his second fiancée, who was beautiful in his terms, the speaker was a cheap and boring person. The poem also explains that even after many years, he couldn’t forget both girls. He finds it impossible to love after he has met her. Even the photographs in his wallet also speak about his intense feelings for them. He also believes that Bosomy rose’ picture is bringing bad luck for him.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Wild Oats”

Literary devices are tools used by writers to convey their emotions, ideas, and themes to make texts more appealing to the reader. Philip Larkin has also used literary devices in this poem to express his ideas. The analysis of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it moves over the next line. For example,

Faces in those days sparked
The whole shooting-match off, and I doubt
If ever one had like hers:
But it was the friend I took out.”

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /o/ in “Of bosomy rose with fur gloves on.”
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sounds of /l/ and /t/ in “Well, useful to get that learnt”.
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /w/ Two girls came in where I worked”.
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “But it was the friend I took out” and “Of bosomy rose with fur gloves on.”
  5. Symbolism: Symbolism is a use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities, by giving them symbolic meanings different from their literal meanings. Here, “rose” is the symbol of love and physical intimacy.
  6. Paradox: A paradox is a statement that may seem contradictory but can be true. The title of the poem is paradoxical, as it hints that this is a poem about nature, but tells the tale of a failed love.
  7. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different in nature. Here, “Of bosomy rose” is the metaphor women who look seductive and external beauty.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Wild Oats”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem. 

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three eight-lined stanzas in the poem.
  2. Octave: An octave is an eight lined stanza. Here, each stanza is an octave.
  3. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.

Quotes to be Used

The below lines can be used to warn young men and women about future troubles or loneliness, especially the ones who live a carefree life. Also, you can use this quote to tease people who save the phone numbers and images of their ex-relationships.

In my wallet are still two snaps
Of bosomy rose with fur gloves on.
Unlucky charms, perhaps.”