The name Philip Larkin (1922-1985) is a wonderfully poetic one, conjuring an image of a lover of horses on a carefree adventure. Such, however, is far from the temperament of this 20th-century poet, whose poetry is more suggestive of some horse in a Dickens novel, harnessed to an industrial wheel and moving forever round in some dreary factory. Larkin believes that there is “no elsewhere that underwrites our existence.” His friend Kingsley Amis described him as “one who found the universe a bleak and hostile place and recognized very clearly the disagreeable realities of human life, above all the dreadful effects of time on all we have and are.”
Larkin’s sustained melodious song is of the endless passage of time and coming death. “Aubade,” which means a morning song, first appeared in the Times Literary Supplement during Advent 1977. It is an advent of death, not birth:
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
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