Philip Larkin Essay

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Philip Larkin`s Pessimism in “This be the Verse” and “Fiction and the Reading Public”


When I think about poetry, I often get a feeling of depression and loneliness. It is not because I do not like poetry, but it seems that a lot of poems talk about a lost love or a doomed society. I rarely read a poem that contains an optimistic ending or has a positive message. Philip Larkin takes the idea of pessimism to another level. Larkin`s pessimistic view of the world is so deep, that it is almost impossible to find a single positive line in his dreary poems.

Pessimistic poems usually have a ray of hope in the end. This is clearly not the case when it comes to Philip Larkin. In his poem, “This be the Verse”, he starts with one of the most depressing lines I have ever read: “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. “ He generalizes his own view of bad parenting and wants to convince you that this happens with every child. If that were true, our world would be a really sad place to live in. We all know this is definitely not the case with most of the parents we know. “They fill you with the faults they had and add some extra, just for you. “, are the last two lines of the first stanza which add to the pessimism of the first part of the poem. That is to say, no matter how many faults your parents have, you will still have even more. What does the future hold for such a faulted world? Larkin is actually predicting the end of the human race, because if every generation is more faulted, the end of days is inevitable. Moreover, he emphasizes the last two lines with “But they were fucked up in their turn by fools in old-style hats and coats “, to stress the significance of parental mistakes.

He continues with another false generalization “Man hands on misery to man. “, which can again be understood as an apocalyptic view of the future. However, the next line, “It deepens like a coastal shelf. “, does not seem to fit the dark tone of the poem, although it does not escape the...

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