Philip Larkin's poem "Days" contains the following lines:

Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor

What does "solving" mean here? I assume it could mean the following:

  1. looking for the answer (the continuous and unfinished process of trying to find the answer)
  2. the solution itself (the fact of having the question solved)
  3. both

Which of these is the most obvious/natural use of this word, licencia poetica aside?


The answer to “where can we live but days?” is “nowhere”, and so “solving that question” is a metaphor for dying, which “brings the priest and the doctor” to administer the last rites and sign the death certificate. The verb “solve” has a couple of meanings that are appropriate in this context:

solve, v. 3.a. To explain, clear up, resolve, answer.

5. To dissolve, put an end to, settle.

Oxford English Dictionary

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