Many people, fortunately or not, know Philip Larkin (1922-1985) from this single poem:


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.

Far fewer have had the pleasure of this crisp rejoinder from Charles Martin, from his STARTING FROM SLEEP, Overlook Press, Woodstock & New York, 2002. ISBN 1-58567-272-6


You brushed your teeth, you washed your face,
They tucked you in, your mum and dad;
They really weren’t all that bad,
They weren’t always on your case;

They were as good as parents got,
Back then, and did the best they knew
With such a whining shit as you;
Were they appreciated? Not!

And you, who will not take a wife
Nor raise up kiddies of your own
Can do no more than bitch and moan!
Get over it, Phil—get a life!


  1. Drogo says:

    I hope you get this soon.Is that first line retyped correctly?Shouldn’t it read “They brushed…” and “They washed…”?I am not too familiar with the poem.Thank you for this post.

  2. RH says:

    HI Drogo,Thanks for your query. The first line is correct as typed in the post.

  3. Drogo says:

    Thank you for the clarification.

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