Sunday, 7 February 2010
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.
Despite the surprising coarse language in the first line, this poem can be considered as one of his last and therefore more mature poems having been first published in Larkin’s final collection, “High Windows”, (1974).
The poem is written in a bouncy, almost childlike, tetrameter (four accented beats per line). The poet achieves this by a simple abab rhyming scheme and uncomplicated single-word perfect rhyming words, mostly of one syllable.
This contrasts with the seriousness of the subject matter and the poem has more depth than first sight might reveal. There is little in the poem’s three stanzas that is throwaway or without due consideration. For example, the fact that your parents “fuck you up” can be taken as a pun and operates with two meanings; they cause your generation initially and your degeneration eventually.
While the first two verses have a comical element to them the final one becomes more poetic with a serious admonition at the end.
Personally I think Larkin is only talking about himself despite the last two lines. He may have meant the poem as an epitaph.
After all, he took his title from Robert Louis Stephenson’s “Requiem”.