Thursday, July 10, 2014

Days - Philip Larkin

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.

With great humor, Philip Larkin addresses the rather serious question of what happens when we die?  What happens when we are quite literally out of time?  Not out of time just in the sense of being dead, but being outside of time, outside of days.  As Larkin says, where can we live but days?  Days are all we have.  What's outside of them?  Well, the doctor will rush over to see if you are indeed out of days, and the priest will come to pray over you and see that your time outside of days is blessed.

These are big questions to be sure, but Larkin doesn't seem terribly concerned with them.  That's not for him to figure out, and it's not for us to worry about, so much.  Days are there "to be happy in."  Concerning ourselves too much with what's next is somewhat futile, if endlessly fascinating.  I like that the phrase "solving that question" is used to mean dying.  It's a funny if grim way to think about life, as if it's a question that needs answering.  Inescapably, the only answer to life is death.  That's just a fact, but why worry so much?  Days are where we live.


  1. Not sure it's about death so much as generally trying to think beyond the diurnal, the everyday and human.

  2. I think the first verse makes us reflect on the value of days: we waste them on worring about other things. The second verse does make me think about death in a Catholic countryside setting... call for the doctor and the priest as for some the day maybe saved, while for others lost. The imagery of the field could be that distance between life and death.

  3. I’ve always loved Philip Larkin for bringing the poem “Days” into the world. I used to carry it around with me as a sort of Post-It reminder in my wallet or even as a talisman to keep me conscious, steady and focused on essential things.

    The poem is simple in structure but complex in feeling because we are complex beings for whom nothing is more important than life and death. It almost reads like a children’s nursery rhyme without the rhymes.

    Thank you, Christopher, for putting the poem into wider cyber circulation, and also for your perceptive and sensitive reading of it. Larkin might have nodded in agreement with your analysis.

    1. feeling you bro

    2. Ironic that you say to remind you of 'Essential Things' which is another Larkin poem .

  4. lovely poem - this is how I will always remember a dear fried who committed suicide

  5. I believe that the poem brings forward the very serious question which arises in every active mind intermittently during different phases in life: What are days for? that is to say "What is the purpose of life?
    Priest represents a religious leader who tries to interpret this question in his own way. He tries to convince us that these miseries of life would be rewarded in afterlife therefore "They are to be happy in". While the doctor, being the soother and well wisher of this very world, that is physical world. Thus doctor matters more as he protects our days, that is our life.