Monday, January 30, 2012

Analysis of Philip Larkin's "This Be the Verse"


This Be the Verse

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’s father was a self-made man, who managed to rise to the position of Coventry City Treasurer. His father had a great love for literature, and introduced Philip to T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and D.H. Lawrence. It is also said that his father had an interest in Nazism, and he reportedly attended two Nuremburg rallies in the mid-30s. Philip was educated at home by his mother and sister (who was 10 years older than him) until he was eight years old. It was rare for anyone to come to the family home, and Philip did not get out much, so he developed a stammer. He was enrolled at Coventry’s King Henry VIII Junior School where he overcame his stammer, and made long-lasting friendships. His family was not the most outwardly loving, but they did encourage his passion for jazz music. Philip failed the medical exam for the military because of his poor eyesight, which was a blessing for him because it allowed him to study for the usual three years at Oxford University (1940-43); WWII began in 1939 when Larkin was seventeen, and many of Larkin’s contemporaries were recruited to fight in the war.  

This Be The Verse is reminiscent of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Requiem, which was engraved on R. L. S.’s tombstone as his epitaph; Larkin’s verse is meant to warn future generations against procreating.   

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