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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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If I had to name one poem, written in England in my lifetime, of unquestionable greatness, it would be Philip Larkin’s “Aubade”. It was published in the Times Literary Supplement on December 23, Thereafter, although he wrote some – a very few aubxde haunting short poems – we all remember the poignant one about the hedgehog caught in the mower – silence descended.

He died inaged Larkin’s poem is about waking at 4am and staring around his bedroom, and seeing “what’s really always there: On one level it is an intensely individual poem, written by a selfish alcoholic bachelor “I work all day and get half drunk at night” – hence the early waking. But on another level, this poem is universal. My taste in poetry has evolved since the days when I knew Philip Larkin personally.


Philip Larkin’s almost perfect poem

By that, I do not mean poetry that alludes to gods or fauns, but one that either creates, or draws upon, a mythology of shared reference outside immediate experience. Among Larkin’s contemporaries, I find myself turning more and more to Geoffrey Hill. Larkin claimed that the “myth kitty” was empty. Thomas Hardy was his muse, and his verses boiled down to perfectly laekin still lifes, or snapshots of an ever-diminishing, ever-more limited set of experiences – wanting, and not wanting, to go to drinks with the Warlock-Williamses.

I have come to dislike the laddish comedy of Jake Balokowsky, Dockery and Son, and so forth.

The more I read Larkin, the more he seemed like one of the uncles “shouting smut” in his poem “The Whitsun Weddings”. But the chief quality from which I felt estranged was his need to tell the reader what to think.

Or, at best, “discuss”.

A Short Analysis of Philip Larkin’s ‘Aubade’ | Interesting Literature

Keats’s objection to poems which had designs on us expands, when one is in this mood of revulsion against Larkin’s auade, into a simple feeling that the sermon or the “think piece” in a newspaper is the proper vehicle for telling us what to think. The more vatic practitioners – Heath-Stubbs, Hughes, Hill, all of whom he despised – take us into a new world, or show us our own, without delivering so many injunctions.


In the third verse of “Aubade”, I am once again reminded of what troubles me in Larkin’s poetry.

And the rest of the strophe is matchlessly expressed. But it is perfectly crafted opinion.

Interesting Literature

But the rest of the verse, in which he itemises just what it is that we dread about extinction, for me – at any rate – spoils it.

Aubave lacks the bleakness, and brilliance, as the full-throttle death fears end and day begins.

My taste for the “vatic”, the “mythological”, has demoted Larkin in my mind to the status of superb minor chamber music. But if anyone wanted to know what was the creed, what was the central fear, and what was the bedroom and the suburban drive like for Mr Average in our times, then you would only have to read him “Aubade”.

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Monday 31 December Philip Larkin’s almost perfect poem. Or crazy, but gripping Ted Hughes, with his Crow mythology “sees everything in the universe”.

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