In Philip Larkin’s poem, “This Be the Verse,” he uses strong language to get across his message of that no one should have children. The title already gives hints to the attitude of this poem. The title “This Be the Verse” sounds like the Larkin is stating that this is the guide that we should all live by. Specifically, “verse” gives off a very biblical feeling making it sound official and used by people centuries ago. Also the defined article “the” before “verse” adds seriousness to the title.
As for the form, from the first stanza it is already evident that there is an alternating rhyme scheme and that each stanza has four lines. In addition, the stanzas are short and simple which makes it very child like. Larkin perhaps made them short in order to get his message across to the reader. If there is more text, the message would not be as clear and easy to find like in this poem.
The first line of this poem, starts out with an altered syntax. It sounds as if Larkin is starting in the middle of his thoughts and just wrote it on the piece of paper without much thought.
In addition he uses a swear word. This immediately grabs the attention of the reader. Depending on the type of reader, some may think that this is offence that he is using such language, however, others may think that he is revolutionary for using the work in something sophisticated like a poem.
The word “they” is repeated five times in this poem for describing the parent. By using the word they, instead of your parents, it makes the parents sound disconnected and that there are two sides you and them.
However, in the next line he states “And add some extra, just for you” which sounds like an adult talking to a small child. In this first stanza there are phrases that juxtaposition themselves. The first stanza has a clear message that parent have a negative effect on their children, however, the next stanza this perspective changes. In the second stanza imagery is used to show the generation divide your parents and you. It makes it sound like this process is an ongoing cycle. To add to this effect the stanza is also one sentence, which is similar to how the cycle never ends.
Since the attitude of this stanza is different than the last, Larkin used the word “but” to change his perspective to that its not all your parents fault because they were influenced negatively by their own parents. This relieves the mitigating circumstances for the parents. Same as the last stanza, the word “fuck” is used allowing the reader to think that it is exactly same situation for the parents. The third stanza of this poem puts the cycle into a larger perspective. It is as if the poet is now zooming out of the image he has set up in the last two stanzas.
He uses metaphors that are much more general for example “man hands on misery to man” and ” it depends like a coastal shelf. ” The first metaphor sounds as if with in the misery is being passed on in phase, because the “m” sound is repeated. The other metaphor shows how his idea is even seen in the natural world. The last line of this poem is clear and concise. Since it is in present tense, makes it sound that Larkin is telling you orders. Although there is clear evidence that Larkin has a negative attitude to parenthood his message develops and changes perspectives throughout the poem.
The reason why he might have written this poem is because he was angry at his parents but as his anger cools down and he looks at the big picture. Then by the last stanza he takes the entire cycle into perspective and notices that even in society and nature this pattern is found. His message, for the reader, depends on who is reading it. For parents, they might feel offended because it is a shock for someone to tell them that they are not good parents. Younger people, who are not parents yet, would find this poem humorous but they also might feel sympathy for the parents because of what they have been through.
I do not believe that this is truly how Larkin feels about his parents and the cycle but this was just a time in his life where he felt this way and wanted to express it. I do not believe he is serious because of his several uses of black humor. For example, “who fools in old-style hats and coats,” everyone has respect for their grandparents and he just means it in a humorous way. Larkin’s form and organization was great importance to achieving his message that the only way to stop this cycle is to not have children.