Beyond all this, the wish to be alone:
However the sky grows dark with invitation-cards
However we follow the printed directions of sex
However the family is photographed under the flagstaff—
Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.
Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs:
Despite the artful tensions of the calendar,
The life insurance, the tabled fertility rites,
The costly aversion of the eyes from death—
Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs.
One of Larkin’s greatest gifts is his gift of persuasion. He can convince us, despite our initial reluctance to accept his belief system as if it were our own. I feel with Larkin that he seduces the reader with the inevitability of his melancholy, intelligently worldly voice.
He sighs, but this is as it is, he declares. A shrug of his worldly shoulders and we arrive with Larkin at the ‘reality’ station he has elected to visit today.
He begins his seduction with an almost insouciant assertion: ‘Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.’ How expansive the gesture ‘all this’ and how inclusive his certainty of the definite article, ‘the wish’. Not any wish remember, THE wish. How can we doubt him? He knows.
As someone probably more introverted than extroverted, I can quite easily accept the wisdom of Larkin’s faith in solitude. I wonder if someone else more outgoing may put up more of a fight? How could we oppose Larkin’s confidence in his oblivion?
How dismissive is the poet of all our attempts to participate fully within our lives. Our attempts at such connections, our ‘business’ are gestured away. Mere life- confetti shielding us like transient, foggy haze, from our own impending mortality.
Or is Larkin merely making a virtue out of an inevitability-specifically the inevitability of death being the most solitary activity of all?
Or he recognsing the RELIEF of ‘oblivion’ for this is a poet with no faith in any beyond after oblivion. Death allowing us an escape from the responsibility of intimacy and activity?
Like his mentor Thomas Hardy, Larkin seems to reply, all of these and yet none of these. I do not really know.
Carol Ann Duffy 15 ideas!
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