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Bloody awful tripe?

July 10, 2021

This Be The Verse and The Trees

This Be The Verse is Philip Larkin’s most famous poem. In his latest book, Inside Story, (p 117) Martin Amis notes that it has a technically near identical sister, The Trees, which is more optimistic. Although Larkin apparently wrote “Bloody awful tripe” on the manuscript of the latter, he published it in High Windows, and it’s not.

This Be the Verse

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.

The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

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