Monday, March 23, 2015

#82 / Aubade

The image above has little to do with the subject of this posting. To be even more honest, it has nothing to do with the subject of this posting. To account for the presence of the image above, let me explain my method for finding images to accompany my postings to this Two Worlds Blog. My method is to type a descriptive word (like the title of the posting) into the search bar on my browser, and then to see what sort of images some up. 

If you type "aubade" into the search bar on your browser, and search for images related to that word, the image above is the least risqué image you will see. At least, that will be the case if your browser provides the same results that mine did

This posting is not about women's underwear. Rather, it presents a poem by Philip Larkin, who was asked to be our national poet laureate, though he declined the honor. Larkin's picture is probably less engaging than the image above. I decided to go with something colorful, to head the column.

Larkin's poem is also quite dour, not unlike his portrait on the left. According to Wikipedia, an "aubade" is "a morning love song (as opposed to a serenade, which is in the evening), or a song or poem about lovers separating at dawn." It has also been defined as "a song or instrumental composition concerning, accompanying, or evoking daybreak."

Shakespeare has written a famous aubade. So has John Donne. Larkin's version doesn't quite conform to the general description of an aubade as a "morning love song," but it does confront, rather directly and poignantly, the meaning and purpose of life. A friend sent Larkin's Aubade to me with a brief note, saying "I think you will like this." My pessimistic reputation has apparently traveled widely. Clicking right here, you can hear Philip Larkin read the poem, as you follow its text:



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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