New Zealand

Intellectual Suicide
I am baptised

United Kingdom


Write the first 300 words of a Speech Day address at this school following the reading of the poem "August 1914".
by Ian

by Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day;

And the countryside not caring
The place-names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheats' restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word--the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

People these days don't talk about death. They never do, because it is something that may not be the end. They shut it out of their mind, and look back to the "good old days". People tell you that your children will look back on this year as the good old days, but I am not so sure. Before 1914 the world was a happy place. When war was declared, there was cheering in the streets. Home before Christmas, they said. And those queueing to enrol were smiling, grinning. But how wrong they were! Four years later, the war was still carrying on, a bloody massacre of millions - and any victory in the war could only have been pyrrhic.

Life in 1914 was quiet, and everybody expected 1915 to be just another year of life. Babies would be born, loving couples would marry, old men would die. Then, quite suddenly, the war came...... Men were called away, some never to return. Fewer children grew up, the couples could not marry because the man was away, and instead of the old, young men were dying. No, not dying, they were being killed. They were seeing others killed, and killing others who, like them, may not even have known what cause they were supporting in the war.

After the war, life returned to normal. That is a lie. Life could never be the same again afterwards. All trust between countries was lost, all trust between people was lost. The carefree world of 1914 had gone forever. No more could you be sure that next year would be the follow up to this year. No more was the future to be a copy of the present.

To you, I say "beware". It is now 1979. In 1980, we could be in a similar situation. Nothing changes, there is nothing new under the sun. What has happened before will happen again. You cannot guarantee any aspect of your life. The next war may come tonight while I speak to you - or it may, god willing, be a hundred or more years away.

There is no way to live your life while here on earth to be prepared for death at all times. If you are ready to die, your life finds purpose and depth. Your life will improve and you will find you do not want to die. If we all did that, the world would be a far safer place to live, and a far happier place to live. people could do whatever they wanted, in safety, secure in the knowledge that when they do die, they will have been ready to die...

(10) Excellent. Most eloquent and logical. I think in fact that without realising it we have all become Hobbesians - believing that the avoidance of death is our main priority. May 5th 1979. RLJ

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