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Days -- Philip Larkin

(Poem #100) Days
What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.
-- Philip Larkin
Another mysteriously beautiful and intensely thought-provoking little
vignette; the simple, straightforward words seem to hint at some intense
revelation that's just out of sight, but which throws its shadow over
the printed page, dark and foreboding...

I sometimes wonder how poems such as this one come to be composed...
although the final product is precisely and carefully detailed, there's
nothing 'constructed' about the theme, or about Larkin's way of
approaching it... oh well, call it the Muse, I suppose.


George Macbeth has this to say about today's poem:

['Days' is] a simple, direct-looking poem about time and death... the
one concrete detail, the 'long coats' of the priest and the doctor,
brings the poem to life with a sinister vividness... [it] seems to be
aiming at a plain, timeless quality very different from the practical
everyday flavour of most of Larkin's poetry...

and this about Larkin:

... [the] virtues [of the Movement poets] - a return to a cool tone,
tight form and intellectual backbone after some of the romantic excesses
of the 1940s - are all exemplified at their most striking in Larkin's

... The American poet Robert Lowell has said that he finds Larkin the
most formally satisfying English poet now writing...

... what gives Larkin's poetry its originality and special quality is
perhaps a piercing resonance of feeling which reveals a melancholy
sensibility as keen as Tennyson's and as tough as Hardy's....

59 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Sonya Bhagat said...

the quiet dread that certainty has is displayed in all of his poems. the
inevitability of things that will happen no matter what. puts on at the
end of a painter's perspective, almost. sad, beautiful and asking of
acceptance at every point, happy and a little grieving.---says Sonya

The Happy Reaper said...

It's wonderful the way in which the last 'strophe brings a touch of melancholy irony to the first that would not exist without it. -- Peter Carter

Jonh2237 said...

Ah, what irony Larkin employs! That a priest and a doctor, a man of religion
and a man of science, two men who serve in "solving that question," two fields
that tend to the mysteries of life, arrive soon after the question has been
answered without them.


Andrew Felton said...

Notice how 'days'is given a spatial dimension and quality (unlike its ordinary temporal meaning). They are 'where we live'. They are also personified - they come and wake us. Larkin personifies 'work' in another poem as a toad, and death in another as a ship ('black-sailed unfamiliar'). The personification of the abstract is important for Larkin as I think in this way they are given concrete and tangible presence.


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