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 sloppy-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.
Lately, I have read a good deal of poems by Philip Larkin, and one unifying factor that I have noticed is that Larkin never seems to use a filler. Every word in every one of his poems seems to be carefully crafted and placed, to the point where the flow and rhythm of the poem seem almost an accident. One poem I read that really stayed with me is the above poem, "This be the Verse." I will now show you how this poem, which at first glance seems to be written only to amuse, really has a much deeper meaning. I will examine the poem in several parts. First, I would like to examine the use of curse words in the poem, or why other words that would be considered more acceptable to the general public were not used. Then, I will discuss the three stanzas of the poem and what they were meant to do for the audience. Lastly, I will explore why Larkin would write such a poem, and what he was trying to get across to his audience by writing it.
The second line in this poem contains the word "fuck," a word that is usually not considered acceptable for the general public. Yet Larkin incorporates it almost immediately into his poem. I can think of four possible reasons why. Firstly, words such as fuck quickly and easily grab the audiences attention. This is similar to yelling "sex" in a crowded marketplace, everyone wants to know what is being discussed. Also, words like fuck prepare the audience for a humorous bit of poetry, and this perks the audience's attention, and lets them know off the bat that this will not be another long and boring verse.
Secondly, words such as fuck produce an atmosphere for adults, or mature people. One term that is used quite extensively lately is "adult language." This term branches off of the common idea that children should and would not use such words until they are older and have a more concrete knowledge of what they are really saying. Thus, by using a word such as fuck, Larkin creates a poem that will most likely not be read to children. Also, such a poem would not be read at certain social gatherings (i.e. church meetings) where such words are considered unacceptable, further narrowing the audience for this poem.
That brings me to my third point: that the people who read such a poem know, whether consciously or not, that they are in a distinct group, and that this poem was written for them. This allows Larkin to establish a closeness with his readers, now that they know that he is writing for them. This also implies to the reader...