Saying This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin

Saying This Be The Verse this week. An easy poem to learn by Philip Larkin with a simple rhyming scheme offset by the message.

I have always seen this poem as a joke, very black, gallows humour. The poet tells you to “get out of life as early as you can”.

Growing up I heard this from my uncles and aunts at family get togethers chuckling over the opening lines. It was first published in the New Humanist in August 1971.

Now that I remember, it must have been funny to my aunts and uncles surrounded by nephews and nieces… Thinking about getting out… Thinking back on them at that time it reminds me of Larkin’s other great poem High Windows.

This Be The Verse is an incredibly popular poem and is so easy to remember that people can take the poem, learn it themselves and change the words.

It has the status of a poem like a nursery rhyme (albeit rather older kids…)

Having walked around the streets with this poem it is so easy to get inside of and yet like all simple things, it is only deceptively simple. The message in the poem is very deep.

Best Laid Plans, Yet Containing Synchronicity

I had intended to read this at an open microphone session where some of my friends would have been. But instead of an open microphone session there were some musicians. Their name made me chuckle : Père & Fils. They sang songs of rebellion.

So even there we would be fucked up… This is what Philip Larkin is getting at in the poem, that no matter how good we are and we try to be we are still going to fuck up our children.

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.
By Philip Larkin.

 

 

 

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