Philip Larkin, born in 1922, has been read under what are generally perceived as his major themes: death, fatalism and gloominess. However, throughout his life he had constantly been struggling with and reflecting on problems of sex, marriage, love, and living (cf. Motion, esp. 291). Publishing four volumes of poetry until his decease in 1985, Larkin became known for his lucid and often sharp-witted verse as well as for being socially withdrawn, sometimes called “the Hermit of Hull” where he resided from 1955 onward. In this essay I will set out to explore the connection between shyness, indecisiveness and fear of death as linked to the concept of daybreak in Larkin, drawing mainly on his own writing. There will be two subsections, the first concentrating on his early writing, and the second mostly discussing one of his later and darker poems: “Aubade”.
Early treatment of dawn
The North Ship is full of allusions to sunrise, morning, and daybreak, including even one poem “Dawn” (one out of only seven in this collection with a title at all). Interestingly, a school magazine had already printed a short story called “Getting up in the Morning” five or six years earlier when Larkin was at the end of Third Form (Motion, 22). Though literarily rather unimpressive, it is prove of his fascination with light and of his slowly but steadily developing melancholy. Whereas “Getting up in the Morning” contains a complaint about having to work when the day begins, “Dawn” handles its subject more symbolically. The speaker finds his heart “cold” and “loveless” like the outside world itself is, which seems removed and “flying” away. Similarly, the seventh poem of The North Ship talks about “morning” and “dawn” as decked with “the c...
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...in (A Girl in Winter, 128). While she walks around by the fields, she tries to warn herself concerning the ends this desire might lead to.
Larkin, Philip. A Girl in Winter (1947). London: Faber and Faber, 1975. Print.
Larkin, Philip. Collected Poems (ed. Anthony Thwaite, 1988). London: Faber and Faber, 2003. Print.
Larkin, Philip. Jill (1946). London: Faber and Faber, 1964. Print.
Larkin, Philip. Required Writing – Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982. London: Faber and Faber, 1983. Print.
Motion, Andrew. A Writer's Life (1993). London: Faber and Faber, 1994. Print.
Spurr, Barry. “Alienation and Affirmation in the Poetry of Philip Larkin”. Sydney Studies in English, Vol. 14. Ed. G.A. Wilkes, A. P. Riemer. Sydney: University of Sydney, Craft Printing Industries, 1988-9. 52-71. http://ojs-prod.library.usyd.edu.au/index.php/SSE/index Web. 26 March 2014.
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