Philip Larkin

This Be The Verse: They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

Dichter, schrijver, jazz-criticus

Philip Arthur Larkin (1922 – 1985) was een Engels dichter, schrijver en jazz-criticus. Hij is een van de grote, bekende Engelstalige dichters van de tweede helft van de 20e eeuw. Conservatief, gloomy, zwarte humor en een obsessie voor dood en het negatieve in de mens.

Larkin debuteerde in de jaren veertig. Toen hij opgroeide waren Yeats, Eliot, Auden en Dylan Thomas de grote Engelstalige meesters. Eerst verdiende hij zijn brood als bibliothecaris aan een Engelse Universiteit, later, toen hij eenmaal bekend was, werd hij professor aan de Universiteit van Hull.

Diep in zijn hart wilde hij eigenlijk romancier worden maar dat is hem nooit gelukt. Naast enkele erg gewaardeerde dichtbundels publiceerde hij twee romans die weinig succes hadden.

Larkin was als dichter uitgesproken conservatief. Hij startte het schrijven van een gedicht vanuit de behoefte een emotionele gedachte vast te leggen. Wanneer je dit vanuit je vakmanschap voor elkaar krijgt, vond hij, slaag je er misschien in de ervaring bij de lezer over te brengen.

Hieronder This Be The Verse, zijn bekendste gedicht, en beslist een van zijn mooiste.

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.

Philip Larkin

Eerste publicatie: Augustus 1971 in the New Humanist en later opgenomen in de bundel High Windows uit 1974.

Andere mooie gedichten van Philip Larkin zijn onder meer Aubade (hieronder) en MCMXIV.


I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Philip Larkin, "Aubade" from Collected Poems.

Larkin de mensenhater

Larkin's poems cultivate solitude, withdrawal, "the wish to be alone". His persona is that of an awkward bachelor, too fond of his own company to crave other people's, too old (even when young) to take advantage of the sexual revolution, too conscious of "the sure extinction we travel to" to have fun.

Even casual readers, let alone those who knew the man personally, must have realised this misanthropy was a performance – a poet playing at being his gloomiest self.

Still, few were prepared for the picture of Larkin that emerged in his Selected Letters, edited by Anthony Thwaite in 1992, and in Andrew Motion's biography the following year.

It wasn't just the number of women he was involved with that came as a shock (at one point, towards the end of his life, three at once), but the illiberal views privately expressed to friends on everything from immigration to the awfulness of children.

"I can't believe I am so much more unpleasant than everyone else," Larkin wrote, but in bleak moments he did believe it and after the biography and letters even former admirers started believing it too.

James Booth in The Guardian, 22 augustus 2014.

Volgende pagina:

Schopenhauer - Houd op naar geluk en genot te zoeken - wees in plaats daarvan ontvankelijk en ervaar.

Lezen over leven

Levensvragen - Ouder worden - Over identiteit - Hoe identiteit ontstaat - Introvert vs extravert - Emotie & empathie - Man en vrouw - Brein en denken - Sublimeren - Conformisme - Structuralisme - Zijn in de tijd - Fenomenen - Zingeving - Philip Larkin - Schopenhauer - Céline - Proust - Khayyam's Rubaiyat - Kunst & zo - Opa Bos


Psychische klachten - Angst - Subassertiviteit - Boosheid & woede - Stress - Burnout - Groeipijn - Eenzaamheid - Depressiviteit - Relatieproblemen - Emotionele problemen - Verdriet & rouw - Psychose - Eetproblemen - Trauma - Twee werelden