Literal Interpretation of Philip Larkin's Aubade



Philip Larkin was born on August the 9th 1922 in Coventry, England. He worked as a librarian in the provincial city of Hull, where he died on December 2, 1985. This anti-social poet, who was commonly referred to England’s Other Poet Laureate, never married. After he discovered the poetry of Thomas Hardy in 1946, he became a great admirer of his poetry. Making him as his guide to write poetry, he learned how to make the commonplace and often dreary details of his life. Like Hardy, he focused on intense personal emotion but strictly avoided sentimentality or self-pity. His volumes of poems are The North Ship, The Less Deceived, The Whitsun Weddings, and High Windows. Aubade that was published in the Times Literary Supplement on December 23, 1977 is one of Larkin’s most well-known poem. This poem is like a song at dawn that reminds us of death.

The first stanza of it tells about a man who gets up at 4 AM after getting drunk the night before. The man is a worker living in a big city. He goes to work every morning and gets busy, then enjoys the life of the city at night. He is a man with many friends. After going to work and getting drunk, he goes home to sleep. Then, after he wakes up at dawn, he would look at the window and stares at the curtain whose edges grow light. Suddenly, he remembers about death that peers over him; about one day closer to his own death. He wonders when, where, and how he will die. However, he cannot get the answers which really terrify him.

The second stanza, the man shows that he does not regret the good things he had not done, the love he had not given, and the time had torn off unused. He is not afraid if those thoughts come to him when he is dying. However, he concerns about the emptiness that he will feel. The lost and the death that he unconsciously travel to makes him question himself what happens if he dies and where he will go. Will all he feel only emptiness without any one accompanying him?

Then, the third stanza is about how the man get hardened to be calmed down. Religion pretends as if he will never die. Bible also tries to convince him that dying is not as scary as it seems. However, he does not believe it because he does not believe in religion, so whatever religion says, he ignores it. He also does not believe in science saying that we should not fear the thing that is not obvious; that we, rational human beings, should be rational. Again, he does not believe it. What he fears is something that is not obvious, something that he cannot touch or taste or smell. He is afraid if he dies, there will be nobody that he can communicate with.

The man, in the fourth stanza, expresses his sureness that he will die someday. Many thing, no matter if they are planned or unplanned, have the possibility of not coming true, but dying absolutely will. People, including the man, often forgets that they will die.They surely know that death is waiting them, but get busy with their works and lives so that the knowledge of death is eliminated from their consciousness.

The last stanza, which is the fifth, tells about the light strengthens and shapes the room where the man slept. It is a sign that the busy day will have started in a while; that the man will go to work and get drowned in reality, then forget about death again.

This poem reflects death in the eyes of common people. Death is something we can never avoid. It does not matter if we believe in God or not, live in a big city or a village, have a family or not; we will absolutely die. It is not obvious when, how, and where we will die. The most important thing is that death is always in the corner of our room, waiting for us to leave the world in the right time. We do not need something to calm ourselves down. It will not change anything anyway, we will still die. Perhaps, there are days when we totally forget about death because we are too busy with our lives in reality. When the thought of death coming up to us, we will absolutely get scared and cannot get rid of the scary shadow for a while. However, the shadow and the thought of death will be eased slowly right after we get into our work and get busy again, meanwhile it is still there standing and waiting for us.