“They fuck you up,your mum and dad” (Philip Larkin)

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.

By Philip Larkin


The most famous first line of Larkin is not perhaps designed to shock but contains an extremely evocative image .The word “fuck’ is used here beautifully in the way it uses “raw “ swear words to convey a certain violence in the act of love leading to unintended consequences for what comes out of such love. “Fuck you up” is a beautiful modern usage in the context of somebody messing up things. Parental love smothers the children and stunts their individual growth if it is not directed properly towards allowing the child to grow its wings and find its way.

“Man hands on misery to man’ is a Biblical reference to the story of Adam, the first man who “fucked up” the happiness of the future generations by committing the primal sin. Man still has a choice to decide against procreation and can refrain from handing the misery passed on to him by his fathers to the future generations.

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