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This Be The Verse

Philip Larkin

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2003-05-11
Added by: Oleg Maryasis
I am not sure if “This Be The Verse” is a work of fiction by Philip Larkin or it’s his actual thoughts but it is hard for me not to agree with it. This poem is about the bad or unhealthy influence that parents have on their children. I think the perfect example to back up this theory is religion. All children are brought up to be the same religion as their parents. Only later do some convert or become atheists when they grow up. All the children are taught to believe in their religion’s God and believe that the one they pray to is the true God and the other religions are wrong. If I was born in a family of Muslim extremists, I would be a Muslim extremist as well.
Larkin, however, is not only talking about religion. Parents have almost limitless influences on their kids. Racist parents will pass racism down to the next generations. Most parents got these traits from their own parents, just as Larkin notes. It is not that hard to imagine that all parents have one flaw or another that they pass on to their kids. Of course there are exceptions; there are a lot of parents that teach their children positive things.
Larkin uses an ABAB/ CDCD/ EFEF rhyme scheme to give it an extra flow. On the other hand, the rhyme makes it sound less meaningful to me and more satirical and less serious.
gophur girls comments
2003-07-30
Added by: len
Only English people are miserable enough to enjoy this and I suspect you are not English. Go forth and lead a happy life and we will peer over the pond in deep suspicion.
People think too much about this one
2003-09-05
Added by: James Wills
It's easy to read too much into this poem, at the expense of other Larkin

Don't think he meant "fuck you up" to be read as "conceive" though. I think he meant what the American's would render "screw you up". Read his bio "A Writer's Life" and I think you'll agree -- his parents fucked him up!

This is not to say that he hated his parents -- "Love Songs In Age" is one of many poems where he stands in the shoes of his mother and "An April Sunday Brings the Snow" is his 'eulogy' in a sense for his father. If that one doesn't make you cry you're a dead piece of wood.

The first two lines strike (in my eyes) a beautiful balance between blaming (They fuck you up) and forgiving (They may not mean to) parents for being less than perfect.

I agree that it's more of an "English thing" than an American one, that if you had a pleasant childhood you are a lot less likely to "get it" (applies to all Larkin actually!) and that anyone seeking a broader reading to this poem than what is actually written down on the page/screen in front of them invites and deserves ridicule.

Too much focus on the first stanza of this poem is the reason why Larkin's broader talents and awesome poetic abilities are often overlooked. All that slaving over "Church Going", "At Grass", "An Arundel Tomb" or "The Old Fools", when really all he needed to do was write fuck in the first line to have people read him . . .

Read some of the others, any of the others, please!
a great poem
2003-11-16
Added by: Kevin
I've often thought about the problems of marriage, children, and learned behavior. I certainly don't share the exact sentiments of the speaker in the poem, but read as hyperbole, the work reveals much about humanity.

The people who think this poem is too dark and depressing need to think about the ways in which it functions (and yes, I'm an American who enjoyed it). "This Be the Verse," at least in part, counteracts some of the lies that we're told about loving parents. Yes, there are some amazing parents, but there are also millions of bad ones. We need to think about what parenthood means and not simply have children because we wanted something to do. Children aren't pets.

Don't take any literature at face value. Larkin may not even have intended to present an idea that is 100% true. We should be mindful of that and learn whatever we can from the interplay of ideas.
larking it up
2004-02-07
Added by: fajo
No doubt Larkin intends a wry shock effect in the poem. And no doubt there's a comic play with the ages-old colloquial lament "my parents really screwed/fucked me up." But the cynical is more comical pose than any actual harsh condemnation of real or imagined parents. Afterall, mom & dad "may not mean to" it's just the given of perennial & universal parenting. Even the best of which is a stumbling, fault-laden business. Larkin's tongue is firmly in his cheek here as the wry diction, images, & cheeky rhyme offering up a double conceived wit: humans both fuck their genes into life & parenthood then more or less not meaning to pass along & even "add to" the never ending human fault-comedy. Fucked up, to be sure, but like the Energizer Bunny, still half-happily going, and going, with laughter & poets occasionally now & again adding to the funhouse/madhouse fray.
2004-02-03
Added by: Shayne
A few of the earlier comments here just help feed the cliche of the over-analysing academic. Plainly there's no inference of conception or of deeper politics. He's just stating some facts as he saw them. And he does so magnificently.

And yes he's cynical, and yes it's bleak - but for some, maybe many, it's an entirely accurate statement. In any case, you can still disagree with the sentiment, but admire the passion and concisity of the message. It's a little gem that makes me think and smile at the same time. And they say males can't multi-task.
2004-01-26
Added by: suzie cattlin
Ithink that Larkin was refering to the fact no matter how hard you try, nobody is a great parent, and that the only way you can break the loop of instilled opinions that your family gave you is to not have kids to pass them on to, because look at racism, why do you think it's still rearing it's ugly head? Because we have subconciously taken on aspect of outdated views passed on from great great grans /grandads.
2004-02-13
Added by: Steve Burt
In reply to suzie cattlin. Much as I love his work, the publication of letters after his death showed Larkin to have been something of a racist himself. I don't know what bearing that has on what you say, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
2004-02-12
Added by: Francine student UUC
On a first reading of this poem we do have the shocked and annoyed reaction as expressed by gopher girl. Then of course when you read it again and do not put so much wait on the fact that a poet used the word fuck in a poem we pay closer attention to the fact that he is not just condemning his parents he is condemning the whole of the human race "man hands on misery to man". Larkin did not believe it to be fair to bring a child into this world that would only have his traits. This is why he never married and had children himself. He infact could teach a lot of people today a thing or to about parenting. He knew that if he was to bring a child into this world he would have made a terrible parent. Maybe other people should realise this before deciding not to protect themselves and bring unwanted children into this world who end up "fucked up" and a couple of years down the line shooting up a school becoming suicide bombers turning to terrorism or raping children. As the expression goes "blame the parents for they make you what you are!".
Bad verse.
2004-02-23
Added by: marty
There are plenty of upsides to the use of slang, or of simple diction, but in "This Be the Verse" Larkin seems to be abusing the art of poetry without any remorse or redemption. It's not witty, because it has been thought before AND better expressed before. It's not innovative in form, nor does it renovate its pre-existing quattrain verse ABAB form remarkably. If anything, it seems to be self-consciously BAD. One of few logical explanations might be that Larkin is ultimately expressing, in "THis be the Verse," that there like there is nothing new to the passing of impropriety/misery from generation to posterity, there is no new way to write about this very phenomenon — indeed, no new way of writing anything. But, as even that is a weak argument, and weak grounds for questionable writing, I feel as though I have to condemn this poem for its lack of original insight and for its predictable musicality, despite a couple good licks.

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