Sunday, October 11, 2009


William Villacella, The Maverick Philosopher, titles one of his recent posts with a beautiful Italian word – “Coraggio.” That is, courage, bravery, valor. Villacella’s post is comparably pithy:

“One can always get through one day to the next — except for one day. And one will get through that one too.”

Some readers may say: “Did you really have to remind me?” Others: “True enough. Carry on.” I thought of Philip Larkin’s “Aubade,” first published in the Times Literary Supplement in time for Christmas, on Dec. 23, 1977. The daily-ness of death, death as its own memento mori, is sounded in the first stanza:

“Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.”

I had forgotten that Larkin addresses coraggio directly in the poem:

“Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.”

Sometimes memory unwraps like a botched Christmas present, too much paper and tape: I remembered Vallicella had sniffed at Larkin’s “boozy self-indulgence” in “Aubade.” He’s mistaken to think Larkin a nihilist. I hear regret, not glee, in his words, as in the final stanza of “Church Going”:

“A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.”

1 comment:

Tschiffely said...

A welcome post (though I must admit that a Larkin post almost always is to me. I also am always heartened by a well-timed return to the familiar theme). Finely done, as was 'Speaking of Books' a few days ago.