Friday, September 15, 2006


Aubades: John Donne's The Sun Rising and Larkin's Aubade.

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.
Larkin: Wilfully wrong, life-denying, what a poet.

That was unthinking, reflexive writing. "Life-denying" is inadequate. I got to thinking about this poem as I was reading an essay on "Last Things in the poetry of WB Yeats and Philip Larkin" in "Finders Keepers: selected prose 1971-2001" by Seamus Heaney. He contrasts Larkin's "Aubade" against "Man and the Echo", a late poem by Yeats.

As I read re-read Aubade, its meaning changed for me- from being a long, musical whine about death and dissolution, to a gentle, human-sized poem about the need for human contact. Hence the last line.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house
Yeats' poem, on the other hand, seems to be about the need for action, in spite of the pain that will follow from that action

That were to shirk
The spiritual intellect's great work,
And shirk it in vain. There is no release
In a bodkin or disease,
Nor can there be work so great
As that which cleans man's dirty slate.

However, it ends when pain intrudes into his thoughts.
Up there some hawk or owl has struck,
Dropping out of sky or rock,
A stricken rabbit is crying out,
And its cry distracts my thought.


gaddeswarup said...

From Auden's "In memory of W.B.Yeats":
"For poetry makes nothing happen:it survives"

Rajeev Ramachandran said...

Cool. :-)