What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.


This poem opens with a simple interrogative, "what are days for?" the type of abstract question that only a heuristic child can ask. The next few lines are the type of answer a parent might give, a simple solution to what appears a simple question. “Days are where we live,” and the next lines almost personify the concept of ‘days’ to make them easier to relate to, “They come, they wake us.”

In the simple phrase, “Time and time over” is conveyed their eternalness, and by contrast, the transient nature of humans. Only by grouping humans as “us” can we compare in continuity to “days”, and the poem hints towards the darker, deeper message. Further, “They are to be happy in” is simple on the surface, but raises a question of “but”… and “what if we aren’t happy”. The simplistic answer begins to crumble once we begin to examine it, and the persona realises this as he begins to question himself: “Where can we live but days?”

Moving into the second stanza, the poem presents the surreal image of the “priest and the doctor / In their long coats / Running over the fields” as an attempt to “solve” what has become a puzzle, though in the use of “solving” in the first line, the poem suggests there isn’t a solution. The idea of the priest “and” doctor present two different attitudes towards the alternative to days, which we now realise, is death. The priest hurries to perform the last rites, to speed the person to a better dayless existence, while the doctor moves to try to help a person remain in “days”. Both consider themselves as saving, yet from the “long coat”, a vaguely threatening image (see ‘Toads Revisited’), suggests the persona receives no comfort from either.

Overall, the poem presents no solution to the question of days. Simplistic, apparent answers crumble when examined closely, while other solutions are surreal and threatening. “Days” we can say, however, are the containers for our lives – much like the idea of rooms in other poems like ‘Mr Bleaney’ – and without them, we have death.

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