“This be the Verse” by Philip Larkin

Larkin was born in 1922 England which means he grew up in a war-ridden time (Orwin, Philip Larkin Biography). Fortunately, he was not ever directly apart of the war but this still was an extremely stressful time for all of England. 

In Larkin’s poem, “This Be The Verse” the first stanza reads, “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.” The speaker seems to start with a quite aggressive and angry tone in the first line but as it goes on the speaker seems more matter-of-fact rather than angry. In the last line of the first stanza, the speaker adds sarcasm and humor by ending the stanza with “just for you”. The first line of the second stanza says, “But they were fucked up in their turn” which is pointing to sympathy. I don’t believe Larkin’s true attitude towards his parents was sympathy though. In this way, Larkin’s tone doesn’t match his words. He says it in a mocking way. In the last stanza, the first two lines say, “Man hands on misery to man./ It deepens like a coastal shelf.” He’s saying that we pass down our misery from generation to generation and it just continues to build up. This is quite a depressing idea. This poem is ironic. I believe the irony Larkin is trying to point out is you would think if a someone had a parent that “fucked them up” then they themselves wouldn’t do that to their child. That’s why the speaker proposes in the last two lines, “ Get out as early as you can,/ And don’t have any kids yourself.” Although this is a playful line it is also the speakers crude alternative to “fucking up” your children. Larkin seems to be quite pessimistic so it’s possible he was being serious but it’s more likely he was just being sarcastic. He seems to be addressing kids by appealing to their dislike for authoritative people.

Overall, Philip Larkin liked to use subtle irony in his poems. It was subtle enough that some people may take the entire poem seriously but most will catch that he’s not entirely sincere.  

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“This Be The Verse” By Philip Larkin. (2021, Jun 29). Retrieved December 7, 2021 , from

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