So, without more ado, here they are. First of all, ‘Talking in Bed’:
Talking in Bed
Talking in bed ought to be easiest,
Lying together there goes back so far,
An emblem of two people being honest.
Yet more and more time passes silently.
Outside, the wind’s incomplete unrest
Builds and disperses clouds in the sky,
And dark towns heap up on the horizon.
None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why
At this unique distance from isolation
It becomes still more difficult to find
Words at once true and kind,
Or not untrue and not unkind.
There’s a VERY close reading of the poem online, here, for anyone who is interested.
The second poem, ‘Aubade’ is one of Larkin’s last, published in 1977 in the Times Literary Supplement. An aubade is a dawn love-song, often from sung from a door or a window as a lover leaves his (or, more rarely, her) sleeping beloved. We find them in Chaucer and in John Donne (for example, ‘The Sun Rising‘). Larkin’s ‘Aubade’ plays on our expectations of the genre. The critic A.N. Wilson describes ‘Aubade’ as the one poem written in his lifetime of ‘unquestionable greatness’. You can read his essay, which in fact is critical of Larkin’s aesthetic, here, but first read Larkin’s poem:
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 howAnd where and when I shall myself die.Arid interrogation: yet the dreadOf dying, and being dead,Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse—The good not done, the love not given, timeTorn off unused—nor wretchedly becauseAn only life can take so long to climbClear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;But at the total emptiness for ever,The sure extinction that we travel toAnd shall be lost in always. Not to be here,Not to be anywhere,And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraidNo trick dispels. Religion used to try,That vast moth-eaten musical brocadeCreated to pretend we never die,And specious stuff that says No rational beingCan fear a thing it will not feel, not seeingThat 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 round.
And so it stays just on the edge of vision,A small unfocused blur, a standing chillThat slows each impulse down to indecision.Most things may never happen: this one will,And realisation of it rages outIn furnace-fear when we are caught withoutPeople or drink. Courage is no good:It means not scaring others. Being braveLets no one off the grave.Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,Have always known, know that we can’t escape,Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ringIn locked-up offices, and all the uncaringIntricate 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.