The poem This Be The Verse was written by an English poet and novelist Philip Arthur Larkin in April 1971. It was published the same year in the quarterly magazine New Humanist and later in 1974 appeared in Larkin’s poetry collection High Windows. This poem is considered to be the most quoted and recognizable.
The title of the given poem is an allusion to the equally famous verse Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson. Larkin not only quotes Stevenson but also echoes the rhyme scheme (abab) and the epigrammatic phrasing of Requiem (Dubrow, 2014): “This be the verse you grave for me:/ Here he lies where he longed to be;/ Home is the sailor, home from sea,/ And the hunter home from the hill.” (Stevenson, 2014) In my opinion, Larkin wants us to consider his poem as a kind of epitaph.
This Be The Verse begins with the line in which the foul language is used: “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.” (Larkin, 2014) It helps to attract a contemporary reader and catches attention immediately – the language is conversational, simple and direct. That is why the usage of stylistic devices here is minimal. This first line can be considered as a hyperbole, because not all the parents really fuck their children. In the whole poem Larkin uses only two epithets: “old-styled” and “soppy-stern” and both in negative meaning. The one and the only prolonged metaphor is used in these lines: “Man hands on misery to man./ It deepens like a coastal shelf.” (Larkin, 2014) Misery is depicted as a material thing that can be handed. Also here is a simile – misery is compared to a coastal shelf that can deepen. The author uses anaphora at the end of each line of each stanza with the word “And”. All these three lines: “And add some extra, just for you.”, “And half at one another’s throats.”, “And don’t have any kids yourself.” (Larkin, 2014) can be regarded as a climax. The conjunction “and” is used to increase the issue highlighted in the poem.
This Be The Verse is a lyrical poem as it expresses personal emotions and feelings of a poet. Larkin conveys his worries about the relationships between generations, which affect each other negatively. The mood of the poem on one hand is very remonstrant and protesting, so as didactical on the other hand. The author says: “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.” and “don’t have any kids yourself.” (Larkin, 2014) Larkin gives a warning to parents, who continue living in the past, obey the old principles, have ingrained views and refuse to reach an understanding with their children. So he advises to restrain a desire to bear children, this is his message. The poem is really relevant. The problem of a generation gap worries both parents and children. With the rapid development of technologies and its influence on the young people’s minds it became impossible for parents to find a compromise or understanding with their offspring. But to my mind, Larkin’s suggestion not to have any kids is not quite a solution to this issue. Of course, it is difficult for the older people to set their principles and beliefs aside but why not at least give it a try?
In the forest of buildings you won’t lose your path,
There is always a sign to follow.
And the trees from iron and painted white grass
Will hide from the others your sorrow.
In the waves of a traffic sea
You will never drown.
You don’t need a life-buoy,
It will only pull you down.
The mountains of garbage and constant squeal
Always bring me down.
And what do you feel
Living in a town?
This poem is of the same genre as This Be The Verse – a lyric poem. It is a kind of a dramatic monologue, as the narrator makes a speech to a silent audience. Even there is a question at the end the answer is not expected to be given. I used the same rhyming scheme as Larkin did – abab. The poem fits into the genre as it is filled with my worries, feelings and emotions and touches one of the urgent problems of the modern society. I consider the issue of loneliness in a big city or town as one of the major nowadays. Also the problems of urbanization and modernization are highlighted.
Dubrow, J. (2014). Don’t Have Any Kids Yourself: On Larkin’s ‘This Be the Verse’. Blackbird.vcu.edu. Retrieved 1 November 2014, from http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/v12n1/nonfiction/dubrow_j/larkin_page.shtml
Larkin, P. (2014). This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin: The Poetry Foundation. Poetryfoundation.org. Retrieved 1 November 2014, from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/178055
Stevenson, R. (2014). Requiem. Robert Louis Stevenson. Modern British Poetry. Bartleby.com. Retrieved 1 November 2014, from http://www.bartleby.com/103/15.html