Philip Larkin () was undoubtedly one of the greatest English poets of the late 20th century. He is generally regarded as a pessimist. If A.N. Wilson had to name one poem of unquestionable greatness, it would be Philip Larkin’s “Aubade”. Aubade. Philip Larkin. 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.
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Aubade – Wikipedia
Poetry offers us the unique opportunity to capture a moment in time. From there, we can take this moment, flip it over and around in our hands to look at it from all sides and angles. Using words to evoke visions and emotions in the reader, and rhyme to structure and engage, we transform this moment from a small piece of time to a lasting impression set into our minds.
Poets also can take their own personal thoughts, experiences, and questions and write them in such a way as to make them comprehensible and relevant to millions of others.
Philip Larkin does just this in his poem Aubade by reflecting on the existential agonies that plague a man in the hours before dawn. By looking at background information on the poet himself and performing an extensive close-reading and analysis of the words, themes, and structures within Aubadewe can begin to answer these questions, and read the poem with more understanding lakin the deeper meaning embedded in the brief moment Larkin provides us oarkin.
He was born on August 9,in Coventry, Warwickshire, England. His parents were Sydney and Eva Emily Larkin, and he spent lafkin of his childhood suffering from eye problems and a stutter.
It is perhaps because of these early struggles that he turned to writing as a profound means of self-expression and preservation.
The works of the poets in the Movement is characterized by a departure from the Romanticism of their predecessors such as Alexander Pope and Thomas Chatterton. He is often described as having been an extremely solitary man, almost hermit like in his living styles and arrangements. He never married, but took part in several casual, and often times sexual, relationships with women, and was an athiest. He died shortly after undergoing surgery for throat cancer in Contemporary Authors Online.
Still immensely popular after his death, Larkin holds a special place in any discussion of popular post-war English poetry. His strongest influences are said to be Yeats early on, and Hardy later in his career and until his death. Quite like Modern poetry, his lyricism is his way of depicting simple and common experiences of the human kind.
Like his predecessor and greatest influence, Hardy, his negativism and pessimistic views of life and the world prevail as the stylistic tones of the majority of his poetry Contemporary Authors Online. Moments of existential awareness and questions of the Self are common themes within his works: We are reminded with the first line; however, that Larkin is no romantic: From the beginning, we can tell that this is no ordinary aubade.
The narrator has woken up at 4AM, sometime before the sun has risen. As death is the main topic of the poem, it is crucial to point larkim exactly how Larkin defines it here:.
According to Larkin, death is an inescapable and eternal nothingness. From this, readers can surmise that the poet does not believe in any form of afterlife, whether that be heaven, reincarnation, or otherwise.
As the fear of death is a universal and ever-present anxiety, human beings have and will forever continue to develop strategies to deal with the inevitable end we must all reach. In AubadeLarkin reflects on these coping mechanisms, and explains how they fail to work for the subject of his poem. Many people look to religion to give meaning to their lives before and after they die. As we know, Larkin is an atheist, and so does not accept religion as an appropriate answer to the hopelessness of death.
Some humans choose to accept the inevitability of death, and put on a brave face. Another strategy humans have developed to cope with death is philosophy.
The happiness of the dead, however, most assuredly is affected by none of these circumstances; nor is the thought of these things which can ever disturb the profound security of their repose p. In other words, Smith is saying it is illogical to fear death because surely, the dead do not lament their own ends. To these sentiments Larkin retorts:. The anesthetic from which none come round What scares him most is the loss of all sensory recognitions and self-awareness. To Larkin, the real horror of being dead is the inability to recognize it using lively senses.
To Larkin, the only way to live with the knowledge of inevitable death is to get lost in routine distractions. From the first stanza we can tell the narrator works every day, drinks when he gets home every night, and has these pre-dawn sessions of existential panic frequently; these are his routine distractions. Because postmen are known for their unrelenting reliability and their regular schedules, Larkin sees them as healers; saving the masses from the fear of death by providing them with routine distractions.
By now, we have answered the three questions about the poem introduced in the beginning of this essay. According to Larkin, death is the total and eternal emptiness. While this life philosophy may seem to work for the narrator, there is one glaring flaw in its logic.
This ever-present fear of an inevitable demise, however, inhibits us from doing just that. How many times do we stop ourselves from doing something that may be considered dangerous, no matter how much we want to do it? It is perhaps because of this loss of life while living, that this poem can still truly be called an aubade.
The narrator in acknowledging his powerlessness and lack of control also acknowledges the loss of his free-will. As the sun rises, he says goodbye to his most honest form of consciousness and greets the dawn with disengaged condescension.
Philip Larkin’s almost perfect poem
In just 50 lines of larki, he makes bleak and profound observations on human nature and the question of free-will. I would substitute Yeats an early influence on Larkin and Dylan Thomas as example sof the romanticism he rejected. And he hated Ted Hughes! Oxford University Press, Aubade by Philip Larkin, poem found at: The Poetry Foundation [poem].
As death is the main topic of the poem, it is crucial to point out exactly how Larkin defines it here: Not to be here, Not to be anywhere, To these sentiments Larkin retorts: