This Be the Verse


Larkin, Philip




As "England's other Poet Laureate" (he was nominated for the position but turned it down), publicity-shy Philip Larkin provided his readers with approachable yet profound poetry. His famous poem "This Be the Verse" is a satirical look at the often negative effects parents have on their children--"They f*** you up, your mum and dad" is the bold and profane declaration in the first line of the poem. This poem offers an opportunity to explore issues of inheritance, forgiveness, and how man "hands on misery to man."

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Collected Poems, Philip Larkin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004).




Giving and ReceivingHeritage and TraditionImpact and OutcomesLove and CompassionSocial and Political ChangeTeaching and Learning

Big Questions

What do we inherit from our ancestors?What should our goals be? What is the best way to identify them?What enables change? What gets in the way?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. What does the speaker mean when he says: "They fuck you up, your mum and dad/they may not mean to but they do"?
  2. How are faults passed down from one person to another? Do you agree with the speaker that many faults are inherited?
  3. What defense does the speaker present for "mum and dad"?
  4. What does it mean for man to "hand on misery to man"? How do you see this idea playing out in your family, community, workplace, etc.?
  5. How can we avoid inheriting misery? How can we avoid passing it onto others?
  6. Is it possible to forgive those who have given us faults or handed us misery? If so, how? If not, why not?
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