Poetry Sunday: This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin

The book that I recently read, Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere, made reference to this poem and, since I wasn't familiar with it, I looked it up. I found myself nodding and smiling in recognition and some chagrin as I read.

Ng's book was about mums and dads, especially mums, and about how families shape us. Philip Larkin made the same point and a lot more succinctly, summing it all up nicely in that last stanza.

This Be The Verse

by Philip Larkin

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.


  1. Yes, a complicated mess we make. Good to remember as we head into one of those family heavy holiday weekends.

    1. We do our best for our kids, but even so, I sometimes marvel that anyone - including my own daughters - makes it to adulthood relatively unscathed.

  2. What a funny poem, and so true! ;-)

    1. It is amusing, isn't it? But he makes a serious point about the influence - for good or bad - of families.


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