The poem is rhymed and follows a regular rhyme-scheme of abbcac; that is, line 1 (designated a) rhymes with line 5; line two (designated b) rhymes with line 3; and line 4 (designated c) rhymes with line 6. Most of the rhymes are perfect, or true rhymes, in that the sounds correspond exactly to each other. However, on one occasion, the poet uses a partial rhyme to excellent effect. It comes in lines 4 and 6 in the final stanza, in which “prove” only partially rhymes with “love,” since the vowel sound “o” is pronounced differently in each word.
The variation neatly expresses the poet’s own ambivalence, since he is making the point that his final statement, “What will survive of us is love,” is almost, that is to say, not precisely or completely, true. The partial rhyme conveys and strengthens the hesitation. In spite of the ringing affirmation of the final line, the case for love has not been fully proved.
Enjambment is when a grammatical construction, as well as the sense of a poetic line, carries over into the following line. Larkin uses this device to powerful effect in the transition from stanza four to stanza five.
Referring to the couple in effigy, stanza four ends, “Rigidly they” (which is an incomplete grammatical unit). The following stanza completes the thought: “Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths / Of time,” which illustrates the couple’s continuous “stationary voyage” referred to in stanza four. The white space on the printed page between the two stanzas conveys visually the vast stretches of time through which the effigy of the couple has endured, as if they are jumping from one age to the next across a canyon of oblivion. The poet continues to use enjambment throughout stanza five, which serves to express the continuous, unbroken passage of time.
In poetry today, the pun is used more often in comic than serious verse. But Larkin twice employs the device in this serious poem. The line, “They would not think to lie so long” contains a pun on the word lie. This kind of pun is known as an equivoque, in which the same word is used with different meanings, both of which may be relevant. In this case, lie means “lie down” but also “untruth,” a meaning that the last stanza makes clear. The second pun is on the word hardly in “The stone fidelity / They hardly meant” in stanza seven. Hardly means “barely” or “only just,” but it is also a pun on the hardness of the stone in which the couple’s love is depicted. The effect of this subtle pun, for those who notice it, may be faintly humorous, the secondary meaning tending to diminish the seriousness of the primary one.
Jennifer Smith and Elizabeth Thomason, Poetry for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Poetry, Volume 12, Philip Larkin, Published by Gale Group, 2001.