Philip Larkin's melancholic poem Aubade is a lamentation of death's inevitability. It weaves through miserablism and existential crisis, before closing with a life-goes-on acceptance of human mortality.
Larkin, who died of oesophagal cancer aged 63 in 1985, is one of the country's most celebrated poets. He's known for his moving, humorous and lyrical poetry – often tinged with grumpiness or frustration – about life, love and post-war England.
One of his final and most revered poems, Aubade was published in 1977. Among his most notable poetry collections are The Whitsun Weddings, published in 1964, and 1974's High Windows.
The Coventry-born poet's long list of accolades includes the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, the CBE, an honorary D.Litt. from Oxford University, and he was also made a Companion of Literature in 1978. This sits in stark contrast to much of his early working life, where Larkin worked as a librarian at Hull University.
In 1984, a year before his death, he was given the chance to become Poet Laureate, taking over from Sir John Betjeman. Larkin turned it down, too shy and introverted to take on the high-profile role of the nation's poet-in-chief.
By 2015, the enduring popularity of his body of work earned him a plaque in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner, where the lives and work of Britain's best poets are remembered.
Larkin's legacy is controversial. The publication of his private letters several years after his death showed them to be littered with casual racism and sexism, exposing him as an unpleasant alcoholic. But his admirers say Larkin was an unhappy, conflicted man with personal failings like everyone else - and it fuelled the beauty of his poetry.
As current Poet Laureate and critical biographer of Larkin Andrew Motion put to the Independent in 1993: "The flower of art sometimes grows on a long stem, out of some very mucky stuff."
And Aubade is one of the most stunning flowers to have bloomed from Larkin's "very mucky stuff". Here is a recording of Larkin reading his poem Aubade – take a listen.
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.
- The opening lines of 'Aubade'
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