This poem is a thought process, which proposes
the unanswerable question: “what are days for?”
Indirectly Larkin is questioning what will happen
when we run out of days- “where can we live
but days” is the saying what happens to us when
we run out of days- when we die.
On a deeper level, Larkin explores alternative beliefs on
life after death. His image of “the priest and the doctor
in their long coats running over the fields” could be
about a metaphorical race, to solve the question of what
happens to us when we die. The priest represents
religion whilst the doctor represents science.
Larkin’s style tends to be very pessimistic and cynical
however there is a slightly more light-hearted tone
within this poem as he suggests days “are to be happy
in”. On the other hand, the fact he is puzzling about
what will happen to him when he dies could suggest “life
is first boredom then fear” (Dockery and Son).
*Rhetorical questions- such as “what are days
for?” are used to bring our own thought
processes in line with Larkin.
*Colloquial language- “Ah” adds informality to
the poem, as if it is a discussion between the
poet and the reader.
*Personification- “they come and they wake us”
making the days appear more personal as they
*Paradox- “days are where we live”
*‘Faith Healing’- questioning religion.
*‘Dockery and Son’ – “life is first boredom then
fear” links with the idea there is no afterlife.
*‘Reference Back’- “Truly, though our element is
*References to the after life-
“To reach the other world”
*Larkin speaks of Religion
and Science and Abse
speaks of ancient Greeks-
“Apion” “Homer” “Proteus”
“Triton”- Ancient Greeks
created much religion and
*No questioning on the
existence of an after life
(He’s Jewish)-“To reach the
*Abse constantly mentions
the Gods whereas Larkin
keeps an even balance and
doesn’t lean more to either