Aug 21 2008

This Be The Verse

Published by at 7:35 pm under Blog

Way back in school, surrounded by Yeats and Keats and Heaney and Shakespearean sonnets, when I discovered Phillip Larkin‘s poetry it was like a breath of fresh air. I realise how juvenile it was now looking back, but when I first read this, it spoke to me. I loved it.


They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.


But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.


Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

Philip Larkin (1971)


All these years later, it’s still sound advice. 🙂

13 responses so far

13 Responses to “This Be The Verse”

  1. Stellaon 21 Aug 2008 at 7:46 pm

    I love this. So honest and true.

    I think however our generation can see the handed down fuckedness and are willing to break the cycle in small way for the future generations – well heres hoping anyway.

  2. darraghdoyleon 21 Aug 2008 at 8:20 pm

    You know, I was trying to quote this the other day and couldn’t remember the last line of the first verse. It’s one of those poems that deeply resonates with me every time I read it. Sound advice alright.

    @Stella – really? I think we’re handing down far worse fucked-uped-ness. At least past generations had lack of education and knowledge to place the blame on. We just have greed, avarice and a propensity to exploit all we can. Lamentable in many ways but true.

  3. Stellaon 21 Aug 2008 at 10:22 pm

    @ Darragh – I know what you mean yeah, materialistic wealth has taken over widely and its a sad part of current life and will have a detrimental impact of the future kids. However, I was aiming more for the fucked-up-ed-ness that was abused being abusers, bullied being bullies and our ability to educate ourselves enough to cope with the grief of all that, put a stop to it so that it is not inflicted onwards to the next generation.

  4. Maryon 22 Aug 2008 at 8:23 am

    I’ve never seen or heard that poem before, but it’s a very good and true one.

  5. sheepworrieron 22 Aug 2008 at 10:43 am

    I think everyone has some of their parent’s attitudes and behaviours ingrained to some degree, no matter how much we see ourselves as different, and it takes a conscious decision every time not to pass those on to your own kids.
    I found myself on the brink of shouting at my nephew recently for breaking something, but realised that it was an ingrained response – I wasn’t actually annoyed, it was just the ‘normal’ programming kicking in.

  6. 73manon 22 Aug 2008 at 11:34 am

    Ms 73man notices that when I get annoyed I speak in a stronger Cork accent than usual and about 2 octaves higher. Guess who else does it? Yup, my Dad.

  7. Thriftcriminalon 22 Aug 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I skipped a generation, I was raised by my grandparents. In fairness I evaded most of the fucked-upness of their kids, maybe they had seen all their mistakes from before and tried to avoid them. Mind you like 73 I have noticed I get cross in the same way my grandfather did.

  8. Little Misson 23 Aug 2008 at 11:38 am

    I’ve had this poem stuck to the door of my wardrobe for years…it was a great escape goat as a teen 🙂

  9. Rickon 23 Aug 2008 at 6:18 pm

    I wonder how many of we bloggers have fecked up relationships with our parents? 🙂

    I mean as opposed to normal folk…

  10. B'dumon 25 Aug 2008 at 3:54 am

    I’m nothing like either of my parents, we all get along fine.

  11. Kevinon 25 Aug 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Decent poem, but unfortunately, I think its comparatively sensational tone and language makes it stand out, though not above, the rest of Larkin’s oeuvre. It’s the kind of poem a university lecturer – I have one in mind – recites to sound cool, and to get under freshman skirts.

  12. Darrenon 25 Aug 2008 at 3:49 pm

    @Stella I guess each generation has its own foibles to pass on. I think we’ll be passing on mass neuroses.

    @Darragh Ah, I don’t know about sound advice. But it certainly makes me smile every time I read it.

    @Sheepie I dread to think what traits I’ve inherited. Stubbornness? Arrogance, I guess…agh…don’t want to think about it.

    @73Man I do know I sound like my dad sometimes. Mostly when I’ve had a drink or two though.

    @ThriftC The greatest influence on my youth was my Granny. I can only hope to have inherited some of her traits.

    @LittleMiss So did I. I wrote it out in the fanciest handwriting I could manage and stuck it to my wardrobe.

    @Rick Is that why we all blog, perhaps. Is our blog a replacement for our parents love? 😛 Fuck – I hope not! 😉

    @B’Dum Maybe that’s why you get on so well.

    @Kevin Thank you very much for the comment. I pretty much agree. It’s easy to see how it appeals to angsty teens, but it’s hardly literature at its finest. I like to read it now and think of my life when I first read it compared to where I am and who I am now. It makes me smile. 🙂

  13. Kevinon 25 Aug 2008 at 6:09 pm

    I think that’s the right idea. It’s actually a poem I find I know by heart without ever trying to learn it by heart.

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