Sunday 27 January 2019

Midwinter Waking

We've all had mornings like this...

Paws there. Snout there as well. Mustiness. Mould.
Darkness; a desire to stretch, to scratch.
Then has the – ? Then is it – ? Nudge the thatch,
Displace the stiffened leaves: look out. How cold,
How dried a stillness. Like a blade on stone,
A wind is scraping, first this way, then that.
Morning, perhaps; but not a proper one.
Turn. Sleep will unshell us, but not yet.

Philip Larkin wrote Midwinter Waking on this day 65 years ago. Ostensibly it describes, by a remarkable feat of identification, some kind of animal (perhaps a hedgehog?) half-waking from hibernation to find that it's still winter. However, it does remind me of many a winter waking of my working life – when, alas, there was no going back to sleep; the day had to be faced...


  1. Well, that little miracle made my midwinter waking today worth it. Didn't know that poem, never would have found it. It is SO good. Thank you.

  2. Yes, very good. “Like a blade on stone,\ A wind is scraping, first this way, then that.” is pleasing.

  3. I didn’t know that one. What a marvellous piece. It immediately reminded me of this one (also by Larkin):

    A slight relax of air where cold was
    And water trickles; dark ruinous light,
    Scratched like an old film, above wet slate withdraws.
    Shrinkage of snow shows cleaner than the net
    Stiffened like ectoplasm in front windows.
    Shielded, what sorts of life are stirring yet:
    Legs, lagged like drains, slippers soft as fungus,
    The gas and grate, the old cold sour grey bed.
    Some ajar face, corpse-stubbled, bends around
    To see the sky over aerials -
    Sky, absent paleness across which the gulls
    Wing to the Corporation rubbish ground.
    A slight relax of air. All is not dead.

  4. Your Larkin knowledge ranks me. Wonderful poem/fragment displaying all his gifts spendidly. It provoked for me a dilemma. I bought Collected Poems when it was published because I had never read the 4 books published In his lifetime. Now that I’m finished with those, I’m refluctant to push on through the unpublished poems.... it then I would miss Aubaude?!? Can you suggest some of the essential non-4 poems I should read? This was a pretty good example thank you nige

  5. In the curiously organised Collected Poems, you can read happily and profitably all through 'Poems 1946-1983' and enjoy them (generally) getting better and better until shortly before Larkin gives up. The section at the back, 'Early Poems 1938-45' is of very limited interest, showing us only Larkin before he became Larkin.

  6. Hmmm. My US edition of Collected Poems consists of the big 4 and then a section entitled ‘other poems published during the poet‘s lifetime’ followed by another section called ‘poems not published during the poet’s lifetime’. The chronology of those sections is uncertain. For example, Aubaude appears in the early middle of the ‘other poems’ section but I think it is a late poem. Perhaps the US and UK editions are different?

  7. Yes I think they must be Rick – that layout sounds even more confusing than the volume I use, which is the 1988 collection, ed. Anthony Thwaite. Perhaps yours is based on his second edition (2003), which improved some things but confused others. Time for a new edition, I think...

  8. I just looked. My edition is Complete Poems.

  9. I just looked. My edition is Complete Poems.