The poet describes in the poem his apprehension of the hollowness of life, and inexorableness of death. The implications of a barren existence is hinted at, where everything is eventually reduced to naught. The poet asserts that he works all day caught in a mechanical routine; at night he is half-drunk and therefore is in a state of semi-consciousness. Therefore his existence has no real meaning. Waking at four in the night, he apprehends how the curtain-edges will turn on their lights as though Death has foreboded his entry. The ‘soundless dark’ is as hollow as the prospect of death itself. The advancement of each day brings home the realization that the speaker is one step closer to Death. He talks of ‘unresting death’ as the fear of death, the unfathomable always remains. The time and location are uncertain, only death is certain. The interrogation that follows life after death scares him. The notion of death scares him more than death itself.
The concept of death seems to glare into his face. It is not in remorse alone, but grieves over his inability at things unachieved:
The good not used, 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 forever,
The poet points at an annulled existentialism and the pointlessness of all human endeavour. What we eventually travel towards is not our destination, rather a sure extinction. And we are lost in it, because it is eternity. There is no time-slot, or location to fix ourselves into. Therefore, in such a situation, we are neither here nor there.
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 cannot 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 roun
There are many ways of scaring one. However this one beats it all. No trick can dismiss this fear for it is real. Religion tries to ‘alleviate ‘our fears through repeated sermons (musical brocade) that death is a journey to another life. These dictums are ’moth-eaten’ as they are age-old. Further, they preach that a rational being can fear only something that he has hitherto felt. The poet emphatically asserts that however this is precisely what one is petrified of-the unfathomable, the inscrutable. It is something the major sensory perceptions cannot apprehend. There are no associations here:
The anaesthetic from which none come round.
It always lingers at the end of vision-something that remains as inevitable in spite of all progressiveness. It is a small unfocussed blur, for nobody has much insight into it. It is a ‘standing chill’:a static phenomenon, it is far from warmth. Each impulse within us whether calculated/instinctive, is reduced to indecision in the face of death. While most things that we typically fear prove to be hoaxes, this one will never prove to become one. Whether one is brave about death, or whether one frets about it, it makes no difference to the onset of death. Being courageous in the face of death, holds no real meaning to the individual himself. Rather it only stops the onlooker from being terrified.
All of a sudden the room fills with sunlight, and the truth dawns in on him. This is the twin-sided reality of Death-It cannot be escaped, neither can it be accepted. Therefore, one of these sides have to be left behind. The poet seeks refuge in the mechanical routine of life to evade fears of death.
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
The room stands plain as an empty wardrobe, reminding one of the futilities of human existence yet again. The poet indulges in a mechanized routine, it robs him of the meaningfulness of life, yet it is this mechanical routine that enables him to elude the ruminations over death.
The title of the prescribed poem is “Aubade”. The word primarily has two meanings:
- A song or instrumental composition concerning, accompanying, or evoking daybreak.
- A poem or song of or about lovers separating at dawn. (Source:thefreedictionary.com)
The first meaning signifies the poem itself that develops along day-break. The second hints at the poet separating from the Love of his Life.(Not any lady love, but life itself, as Larkin was a misogynist).