Study Guide

Aubade Day-Light-Life

By Philip Larkin

Day-Light-Life

Wait a minute. Maybe Larkin isn't all gloom and doom. The poem does contain some day-light imagery. And he even sets up another extended metaphor with light-day representing life. But before you start feeling all shiny and happy, remember this is our buddy Phil. He can make even a sunrise a bummer. He's so good that even his light is dark. He's basically the poetry world's Darth Vader—but, you know, in a good way.

  • Line 1: Like "night," "day" gets a shout-out in line 1. However, it doesn't feel all that cheerful. It kind of reminds you of that feeling when you wake up and realize you have three midterms and, to top it off, meatloaf is on the school lunch menu. In other words, there's absolutely no good reason to get out of bed. (If the meatloaf is awesome at your school, Shmoop is happy for you. It was just… bad at ours.) We get the sense that our speaker wakes up with this feeling everyday.
  • Line 3-7: This section starts out with positive potential. The speaker anticipates the room slowly getting lighter as the sun rises in the morning sky. You can almost (almost) hear the birds starting to chirp. But Larkin won't let things get all bright and happy. The thought of a new day doesn't lead our speaker to thoughts and feelings of new beginnings. He starts thinking about death and when he will die.
  • Line 11: When we think about light we usually associate it with positive feelings and ideas—you know, things like sunshine, warmth, and knowledge. But leave it to Larkin to find and focus on the negative aspects of light. "Glare" is a good example. Sure, glare is an aspect of light. But you never hear folks saying, "Wow that glare really feels great; let's eat lunch outside today." Glare is unpleasant. It hurts your eyes. It makes it hard to see. Chalk it up to another example of Larkin making the light feel dark and negative.
  • Lines 41-44: Finally, the daybreak that our speaker anticipated way back in line 3 arrives. The light "strengthens." That sounds pretty good, right? The light is getting stronger. Day is overpowering night. And if light and day are stand-ins for life, and dark and night are stand-ins for death, it looks like life has made a comeback. Light and life are overpowering darkness and death. Ah, but not so fast Shmoopers. The room gets light, but all we see is that death is still there, plain as day, "plain as a wardrobe." Come on. Did you really think Phil was going to end this on a happy note?
  • Line 48: If you needed anymore convincing that Larkin is trying to take all the shine out of light and day, here it is. Dawn breaks "with no sun." The sky is the kind of muddied, off-white color of clay. Shmoop doesn't hear any birds chirping. Do you?

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