Wednesday, 20 May 2015

This Be The Verse

The statement was so matter of fact, it's significance didn't really register at first.
One minute we were chatting about rescue dogs and the next the old guy had dropped in his grenade without thinking that it was in no way strange.
But it was.
At the beach, I met up with a chatty old guy with a strong Lancashire accent who did the usual " you've got your hands full there" comment. We embarked on a meandering conversation about dogs after which he shared the fact that he had always wanted a dog as a boy. One day, he told me a friend of his found a stray small whippet  cross and the two boys took it home
" My Father was a hard man, when in drink" the old man said almost in passing " He strangled it in front of us " I stopped short , unsure if I had heard what the man had said , but I knew I had.
But the man had already moved on to make a fuss of Meg who was tap dancing on the concrete Promenade.
But he didn't hold my gaze for a moment.

As I walked back to the car, all I could think of was the Philip Larkin Poem " This Be The Verse"

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!


A sunny day for such a sad confession

96 comments:

  1. It is sad that some, or maybe so many, people have experiences like the ones reflected in Larkin's work. But many of us who do are able to overcome it, and not pass it on.
    Springtime in the rockies here, snow is forecasted for tomorrow.

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    1. Big breaths summer is comming

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    1. I deleted my comment as I feel it was too graphic in description. Needless to say that my dad did not turn out like his violent step father.

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  3. That verse could engender a history of mankind.
    Or explain it.
    Thanks for that, John Gray.

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  4. My stepfather never would let us kids have a dog growing up. He had one as a child and someone told his father that he had killed some chickens so his father killed the dog. Turned out it was another dog and not my stepfather's.

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    1. Harsher and more black and white times perhaps

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  5. I vowed to parent exactly the opposite of how my dad parented. Three wonderful adult daughters later...it was absolutely the right decision.

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    1. Self awareness is a wonderful thing is it not?

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  6. We have no idea of other people's sorrows.

    Or the sorrows we are at this very moment inflicting.

    Therapy, I say.

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    1. Indeed and well said too

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  7. I try very hard to forgive my parents for the upbringing I had by trying to understand why they did it. But sometimes I just don't understand. Surely you can see if you're making your children miserable. I've tried so hard not to bring up our son the same way. I just want him to be happy and know that he is loved. Larkin writes some pretty deep stuff.

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    1. It's a theme that often gets repeated in blogland.
      There mudt be a reason for it

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  8. I've only ever known the first 4 lines. I didn't realize that there was more to it. But I have always liked it and even wrote it down in my book of 'worthy quotes' (Hehe, yeah, I have such a thing.) because I always found it to be so very true.

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    1. For a short first line
      It says a tremendous amount

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  9. Feel like I've just been stabbed twice - by something you mention in your post and one of the comments above. Larkin was right on target as far as the notion is concerned, though for some of us luckier ones there's not really that much for which we can really BLAME our own parents.

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    1. I guess we inherit the good too

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  10. So true but not every parent is cruel like that John. Have you read 'Sunny Prestatyn' by Mr Larkin?

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    1. I have indeed dave.........it was a favourite in school given i went to school in prestatyn!

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  11. Philip Larkin has always been a favourite poet of mine. As a teenager This be the verse was one of my favourites. Though now having discovered more of his work The Mower and Going,going are now firm favourites with very powerful messages in them.

    It's sad that such brutality should be so commonplace in some lives. It seems though that in some cases Larkin was proved wrong, for some growing up in the constant shadow of violence as adults they made the choice to not tread the same path.

    P x

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    1. Well said.......i guess you go one way or another depending on your self awareness
      Ive said it before, that i am flabbergasted that if you are adopting a dog.there is a full home check
      No such luxury when you are having a baby

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    2. Oh Lord darlin' we would probably have a 1/3 of the population if there were any fail safe ways to determine if people could do harm to a child.

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    3. Pre birth checks are carried out all the time; we had a run of them today, and babies taken from their mums at birth is common practice in this county if they are not considered fit persons to bring up a child.

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    4. I was talking about generally rachel........

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  12. That is sad. True, but sad. Some people should never be put in a parenting situation. Can you imagine carrying something like that all your life and trying to forget it?

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  13. Oh God, that poor man having to witness such cruelty.
    My mother had a horrific childhood in that her mom was quite the Mommie Dearest type. She beat her children constantly and one time, when my uncle chose to play with matches, as punishment she took his hand and placed it on an open burner on the stove. I can't even imagine. Luckily my mom never hit me because of her own abuse, though I am sure there were times she should have, but there were moments of emotional and mental "abuse", things said that never should have been said, that every now and again pop up into my mind and I cringe. I don't think those things should have ever stopped her from being a parent, but sometimes you say things in the heat of the moment that you can never take back.

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    1. These post is getting more sobering dot you think

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  14. My cousin brought home a basket of puppies...her sperm donor took a pistol and shot them all.He was a horrible man who ended his days all alone. She's 79 now but will never forget his treatment.....

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    1. Ray...dont read this one.......

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  15. I hope I've done a good job. Time will tell. I'll be heartbroken if we drift in years to come... feeling sad now.

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    1. Well there is no reason you would drift apart...so you wont!

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  16. I remember my mum telling me that my dad had drowned a litter of kittens because they'd been evicted from their flat. What little respect I had for father completely evaporated. How are the new newbies settling in anyway xxx

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    1. Max is fine......mrs muir is more lame than i first thought. But i shall perceiver

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  17. this was way before I was born, must be 60 years ago at least. but the respect has never returned.

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  18. As you mentioned in one of your replies, John, I believe that self-awareness is the key to repeating the behavior versus doing better.

    It's also the key to making the choice not to have children at all, although I think there is not too much difference between having children and having beloved animals. For what it's worth, I think you have the self-awareness that would have made you a good parent.

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    1. I wish i would have have children jenny
      But in a way i have, but all mine never grow up

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  19. I sobbed when I read this John, always the animal lover that I am......
    I'm grateful to have had a kind hearted dad, my step-mum wouldn't allow me to have a dog, but I had a cat and rabbits and all kinds of companion animals.
    I actually brought a little Benji-looking dog home once, when I was seven. The neighbor lady gave her to me, I was smitten at first sight.
    One day when I was at school, and everyone gone to work, the dog ate my mum's brand new knickers off the maiden horse, she made me take the dog back to the neighbor that very same day :(
    I raised my own daughter with a house full of dogs, cats and a field full of horses, I 'spect I was living some of my own childhood dreams out at the same time.
    Hard times back just a few years ago, it was all folks could do, to put jam butties on the table for tea, let alone feed pets.
    Thank you for being one of the kind ones.
    ~Jo

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    1. Animals give children something special.
      Especially troubled children .
      Troubled kids blossom with a dog around

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  20. and this poem is 1 of 928374650 reasons I don't have kids. I spent 4 years in therapy to get my head unfucked.

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  21. This is the first time I've heard this poem and it is so tragically true.

    I am sad for the man to have witnessed such cruelty.

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  22. Sounds kind of like the old saying, "you're parents screw up the first half of your life - your kids screw up the second half". I think it is why I love animals so.

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  23. Larkin was a misanthrope. Yes, an excellent wordsmith - but someone who didn't really fit in. After all, he chose to be a university librarian in Hull! He liked jazz but I wonder what he would have made of the sentiments contained in Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World".

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    1. I always thought that he didnt like people generally yp

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  24. I know this poem well and have recited it a few times. I always think of Larkin as being rather funny, tongue in cheek here and in the time when he wrote it we were on the verge of the 1960s and getting away from our fucking parents was new, and it is great to say when I'm reciting it "they fuck you up your mum and dad" in a low voice. And the last line, I always shout it, AND DONT HAVE ANY KIDS YOURSELF! and everybody in the audience laughs. Far from anybody being miserable about the poem. Anyway, that's the way I see it. I haven't read the other comments so maybe there are those that agree with me here. As for the man and the dog being strangled, things like this happened and still do and I could tell you similar stories but I wont. x

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    1. Tell me more about you reading poems in public
      Im fascinated

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    2. Not a lot to say really, but I like reciting poems. Larkin had a great sense of humour, very dry, and he loved a lot of women, but never married.

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  25. Larkin was a misanthrope. Yes, an excellent wordsmith - but someone who didn't really fit in. After all, he chose to be a university librarian in Hull! He liked jazz but I wonder what he would have made of the sentiments contained in Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World".

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    1. I alays thought there was little warmth in many of his poems

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  26. Agreed, have dogs, not children.

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  27. Sometimes we hold within us words which have to be said in order to release the poison of memories; some people have the knack, all unknowingly, of allowing those words to come out.

    And so you were, for that man (and for many others) the person who helped him let those words go. It's an odd, difficult, occasionally uncomfortable and sometimes painful gift; for you, being one who gives care in so many areas of life, it is a natural fit. A healer of worlds - both the worlds within others, and the world without...

    Not such a bad thing to be, in the end.

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    1. I shall have to look out Mr. Larkin now.

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    2. Sometimes people can tell perfect strangers intimate secrets that they can never say to family and friends. taking years to say it out loud.

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    3. Sol....it just popped out.............almost in passing

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    4. Jac...
      I think it was meg that made the story evolve not me

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    5. Meg helped, certainly, but it requires a bit of human receptivity as well.

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  28. Oh that poor man! I'm sor sorry that couldn't go unsaid and you had to hear it as well. I hope he has a pet to comfort him. Bless his heart and yours as well John!
    Ruth in Oxnard CA

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    1. Ivejust seen mrs trellis and re counted the story.........i think she is going to get a dog before the winter

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  29. My father was the same. He was a cruel, mean bastard. In front of me and my two kid brothers he once killed the puppies of our sweet dog, Lassie. Yes, she saw it as well. Sniffing pathetically at each after he threw them one by one, hard, hard, against the concrete side of our outdoor well. The puppies did not even have their eyes open yet. Those images will stay with me till I die.

    To this day, I do not understand how he could have done that. Especially in front of us kids. That was not necessary.

    I have no children, by choice.

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    1. Victoria.....did he have a reason to kill the puppies? I have known some country men who have no sentimentality with young animals....if they are in the way , get rid......what i couldnt forgive is how he did it in front of you

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    2. Oh Victoria what a horrific thing to witness ...

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    3. John, my father was probably coming off a drunken bender and hated that we kids were so excited about the pups. Otherwise, he had no reason to do such a thing. This happened around 1965, I was 12 I think. I apologize for my graphic description - it just rose in me when I read what that man had done in front of the two young boys. My emotions took over.

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  30. Fortunately I have many wonderful memories, past and present, of all the different animals, dogs, cats, horses, even fish, that I have given forever homes to over the years. They are my family. I could be blamed for spoiling them all ...

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  31. Love that you and your dogs were a safe place for him to say that. I wonder whether he has been able to do so before.
    And as you said, self awareness is the key.

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  32. This is really distressing and even more so that many people witnessed such horrific cruelty . My family are devoted animal lovers and I am so glad I never witnessed such mindless cruelty . Ray beard I too feel awful reading it as well ...

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    1. I hate cruelty but i think attitudes to animals in say the 1930s and 1940s were very different than they are today , especially by people who were older even then.....

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    2. Yes, and you have to put this in context of time.

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  33. Sometimes, just occasionally, I am glad that I don't have any children. How sad for that man to have had to endure that.

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    1. I am the opposite amy
      I would have liked kids

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  34. What a sad poem. Never heard it before.

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    1. Your kids have no need to worry.......youve given them a wonderful childhood

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    2. Thank you John. So far. ..

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  35. A long read, but worth all the stories. They seemed evenly divided between animals who live and who died. I believe you put out the key when you said attitudes to animals were different in the thirties and forties. My dad killed our rabbit when it bit his hand through and through. He said nothing, and years later I wondered if he did it to avoid it ever biting a four year old and a toddler. We had few pets as children, but when my dad was declining a cat adopted him and they were inseparable the last five years of his life.

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    1. Joanne thank you for that.... I do think that date is the the key here

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  36. The horror that children endure stays with them and shapes their whole life.

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  37. Well, I guess I'll cut my throat now. That makes me sick.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. That's what I was thinking.

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  38. When I was young I watched a family member start to drown some kittens in a bucket in the kitchen.....then a person pushed me out of the way and the dividing door was closed.......I never forgot that scene....but memory is a curious beast and thankfully you are not meant to remember everything I suspect.

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  39. My favourite poem in the world. Very apt.

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  40. I have had to stop reading these comments…the main post was hard enough to bear. That poor man, carrying that sight with him all these years. He will never get over it however many people he feels able to tell. X

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  41. I shared this one myself recently, it will be eternally applicable I believe.

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  42. I won't read the comments, am shocked enough by that story. Such casual cruelty. That poem, well it did make me smile again. And no I didn't have any kids. I stick to dogs and cats!

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  43. Philip Larkin speaks the truth. Life is sadder and harder than we ever admit. If there's some fun and joy in each day, we're doing well.

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  44. Telling you about that awful episode , just the saying the words out loud to a fellow human being possibly made it slightly easier to bear for him.

    We should all be willing to listen, although it helps if we have the capacity not to dwell on the awful things we sometimes hear.

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  45. Chilling. And said so matter-of-factly.

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  46. I was out early....love the poem

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  47. Wow. What an awful story. That poor dog.

    I must admit that poem is pretty much my philosophy.

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  48. I find that I have no complaints at all about the way my parents raised me, they were loving, always there for us without judgement and still are today. I feel like I'm bragging, and I'm not, it's just the way of things for me and my siblings, I almost feel like apologizing for having great parents.
    As for this man sharing his tragic story with you, I am shocked that anyone can strangle a living creatures and be so cruel to children they are supposed to protect and love. Appalling.
    You must be the sort of person that inspires folks to share some of their innermost feelings. My hubby and I seem to attract people in much the same way as perfect strangers will feel compelled to share their deep, dark secrets with us. We have no idea what it is that they see in us that prompts this sort of unburdening of their feelings, but it happens all the time.

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