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Aubade

August 29, 2013

We have done it all; gotten Eleanor safely off to London for her semester abroad, gotten Walker installed in his dorm room (without a room-mate) at Oberlin, and made the myriad arrangements necessary for the start of the semester, which is today.

Now everything seems black and white to me, like an old movie with the sound off, or a day before it has fully begun.

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 what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. lemming permalink
    August 29, 2013 9:46 am

    I like this one – esp. the crouching telephones.

    • August 30, 2013 8:27 am

      I’ve always thought of that ending, especially the white sky, like a tabula rasa but when you’ve got writer’s block.

  2. August 29, 2013 9:54 am

    Ah. Cheerful. Good to know that I will *always* hate the start of the new school year.

    • August 30, 2013 8:28 am

      Instead of all the forms to sign and places to go, though, there’s just…silence.

  3. August 29, 2013 12:40 pm

    Another day! Death cheated by a few minutes more.

    How cool that the Dot gets to study in London!

    • August 30, 2013 8:29 am

      Care, you are relentlessly upbeat. And yes, she is enjoying London (who wouldn’t? Samuel Johnson said when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life).

  4. August 30, 2013 10:02 am

    Without a roommate?? How did Walker get so lucky? I mean I love my roommates but a place to oneself is so so glorious.

    • September 2, 2013 10:17 pm

      I think it might be a little lonely to be in an entirely new place without someone to walk around with, but he’s managing.

  5. August 30, 2013 10:47 am

    It’s momentous to get them both off to school. How exciting for them both. And thanks for sharing the Larkin poem!

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