Larkin Aubade


https://i1.wp.com/www.chrishorner.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/larkin202.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01390/larkin_summary_1390413c.jpgThere are a number of poems that contain a philosophical argument or an analysis of a philosophical concept. Larkin’s poem on death is a classic example of how poetry can contain philosophical argument and analysis. In this poem Larkin considers the nature of death.

The title of the poem “Aubade” means a morning love song (as contrasted with a serenade which is in the evening). In this scenario the night appears to stand for death, and the sun, stands for life. When the sun rises, death appears to disappear. It is only in the darkness of night, when alone, and away from the daily routine of life, that Larkin paradoxically sees clearly what death is.  “Till then I see what’s really always there: Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,” 
During his analysis of death Larkin notes that the fear of death has a kind of uniqueness about it. He notes in the pivotal verse that “This is a special way of being afraid No trick dispels.”  It is a fear, not of some state of mind, like pain or suffering, but fear of the complete absence of any sensory experience: 

That this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.
 

Larkin dismisses a variety of attempts to console us against the inevitability of death and the loss that it brings. For instance he tells us that the Stoic attitude of bravery in the face of death has no effect on the loss that death brings “being brave lets no one off the grave”.  Larkin also alludes to the “specious reasoning” that surrounds death. For instance he famously refers to religion with the memorable lines

That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,”

Finally, there may be an implicit reference to writers such as Epicurus, who argued that since death is not an event that anyone experiences, it is never rational to fear death. Larkin rightly has none of this. Hi’s point is put quite plainly, we fear not a particular kind of experience, but the complete absence of any kind of experience.
So what is Larkin’s attitude to death? Well, death is one of those events that we have to accept (or else end up in denial). There is no option but to get on with life, and life will go on without us after we are gone:

“Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.”

Larkin did just that, leaving us with this great poem.

Here is Larkin reading his poem “Aubade”. 

Aubade

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.

Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
– The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused – nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.
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This entry was posted in Aubade, Bukowski, Bukowski and Life, Bukowski Roll the Dice, Death, Larkin, Larkin Poetry Death, Philosophy, Ways of living. Bookmark the permalink.

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