Monday, October 13, 2014

This Be The Verse

Below is a slightly sanitized version of "This Be The Verse" by Philip Larkin:

They mess 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 messed 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.

I think there is some truth in "the verse" despite its pessimistic fatalistic tone. Judith Harris apparently felt sorry for the parents having had no chance to reply to the son's charges, so she spoke for them in this manner:

How sharper than a serpent's tooth
To hear your child make such a fuss.
It isn't fair — it's not the truth —
He's messed up, yes, but not by us.

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