A Short Analysis of Philip Larkin’s Aubade

Philip Larkin’s poem “Aubade” is a poignant exploration of the fear and existential dread that can accompany the contemplation of death and the awareness of one’s own mortality. The poem takes the form of a morning song, traditionally associated with celebration and hope, but Larkin subverts this expectation by delving into the darker aspects of human existence.

The poem opens with the speaker awakening in the early hours of the morning, confronted by the looming presence of death. Larkin presents death as an inescapable reality, something that cannot be rationalized or evaded. He writes:

“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.”

These lines capture the speaker’s sense of isolation and dread, as he grapples with the weight of mortality in the silent darkness of the early morning hours.

Throughout the poem, Larkin explores the futile attempts humans make to distract themselves from the inevitability of death. He acknowledges the fleeting pleasures of life and the various distractions people indulge in, whether it be work, alcohol, or the company of others. However, these distractions ultimately prove inadequate in the face of death’s certainty. Larkin writes:

“Being brave Lets no one off the grave. Death is no different whined at than withstood.”

These lines emphasize the futility of denial and the universality of death, regardless of how one confronts it.

One of the central themes in “Aubade” is the contrast between the finite nature of human existence and the infinite expanse of time and the universe. Larkin contemplates the vastness of the cosmos and the insignificance of human life within it. He writes:

“Unresting death, a whole day nearer now, Making all thought impossible but how And where and when I shall myself die.”

These lines capture the sense of insignificance and helplessness that can arise when confronted with the immensity of the universe and the impending nature of one’s mortality.

Ultimately, “Aubade” serves as a meditation on the human condition and the existential questions that arise when contemplating the inevitability of death. Larkin acknowledges the darkness and despair that can accompany these thoughts, but he also suggests that finding solace and meaning in the face of mortality is a deeply personal and individual journey.

Philip Larkin’s “Aubade” is a powerful and introspective poem that invites readers to confront their own mortality. Through vivid imagery and contemplative language, Larkin captures the fear, despair, and attempts at distraction that often accompany the awareness of death. The poem serves as a reminder of the fleeting nature of life and the need to confront the existential questions that arise from our mortality.

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