The Plight of the Toads

Toad. The word conjures up images of a grotesque, little amphibian and yet it is this little animal that Larkin decides to base his poem on. He describes two toads. One is the exterior influence that society has on and individual to work, and the other is the interior or personal prompting to work. He takes a thirty six line attempt at finding away to elude the "squatting" of the toads, and yet in the end his conclusion is that there is no way to hide from them.
As the poem begins, Larkin wastes no time in introducing the first toad, "Why should I let the toad work / Squat on my life."(1-2) The first toad is said to be equal to work. The use of this metaphor jogs one\'s memory to the social connotations that a toad upholds. One of these connotations is that a toad is a repulsive little being, with an ugliness characterized in it warts or more precisely the myth that those "uglies" are contagious. When this interpretation is used the poet is saying that work is a ugly and repulsive entity, and its ugliness is contagious. A second interpretation of the word toad can be found from fairy tales. In these types of works the toad is often seen as something detestable on the exterior and yet of great value or beauty on the interior. An example of this is the toad that when kissed by the princess was turned into a prince. In order for the real identity of this amphibian to be realized, one must to get past the outer shell. In keeping with this explanation Larkin can also be seen as saying that work at first appear as a hideous and burdensome beast and yet after careful inspection and acceptance its true beauty is shown. Thus one sees the first toad and views its composition as a combination of two interpretations.
A second item to note is the use of the verb "squat"(2) as the word to carry the action of the toad. This word is definitely not one of the English languages most attractive words. Rather by stretching one\'s mind it can be seen as an "ugly" verb. The use of this "ugly" verb with a noun that already has the connotation of being ugly pushes this metaphor to its maximum.
A second interesting metaphor in this stanza is the setting of "wit"(3) being equal to "pitchfork"(3). This is a good parallel because it describes the versatility of wit in terms of a pitchfork, which is also quite versatile. At the very minimum a pitchfork can be used for two distinct objectives. It can be used as a device to picking up or carrying something. Secondly, it can be used as weapon to fend off a foe. When using this interpretation the question in lines three and four can be restated as, "Why can\'t I use my wit to drive off work, and then also use that same wit, like a pitchfork picking up hay, pick up the things of success?" By applying these definitions it can be seen how Larkin\'s choice of words gives the metaphor tremendous depth.
Another item to be noted in the first stanza is how Larkin brilliantly uses meter to give the metaphors added feeling. He does this first by ending lines one and three with a double accent. This gives the rhythm an awkward feel, as well as gives the word "work"(1) a inflection of ugliness. He also does this with the word "pitchfork"(3), which gives it the feeling of sharpness. Together, this strengthens the persuasive effect of the poem.
The second stanza continues on with a broadening of the description of the first toad. Here another excellent metaphor is used when the toad is linked to a type of poison. Larkin has just said that work "soils"(5) one with its poison and that the amount of this poison one has to ingest is not proportional to the benefit it brings us. Instead this poison, otherwise known as work, slowly infiltrates ones whole being and gradually overcomes one\'s self. The poet has now revealed the first toad\'s deadly side.
The third stanza marks the beginning of a