This Be The Verse

A reader/writer who goes by the moniker Where Angels Fear left several thoughtful comments under my posts on Medium. Below’s one of them, spurred on by my description of intergenerational trauma:

This kind of abuse is perpetrated from one generation to the next, creating new ranks of emotionally crippled, conscience-deficient people, confused and blindly rageful, eager to unload their suppressed pain and anger on others

WAF: Both Larkin’s This Be The Verse and Newman’s I Just Want You to Hurt Like I Do seem appropriate right about here.

Indeed, I thought. Here are both:


This Be The Verse

By 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.


I Want You To Hurt Like I Do

I ran out on my children
And I ran out on my wife
Gonna run out on you too, baby
I’ve done it all my life
Everybody cried the night I left
Well, almost everybody did
My little boy just hung his head
And I put my arm, put my arm around his little shoulder
And this is what I said:
“Sonny I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
Honest I do, honest I do, honest I do”

If I had one wish
One dream I knew would come true
I’d want to speak to all the people in the world
I’d get up there, I’d get up there on that platform
First I’d sing a song or two you know I would
Then I’ll tell you what I’d do
I’d talk to the people and I’d say
“It’s a rough rough world, it’s a tough tough world
Well, you know
And things don’t always, things don’t always go the way we plan
But there’s one thing, one thing we all have in common
And it’s something everyone can understand
All over the world sing along

I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
Honest I do, honest I do, honest I do



14 thoughts on “This Be The Verse

  1. Again I am not cheered up…

    It can work the other way. I am not the most effectual person in the world, but I know I want people not to hurt. I am very badly hurt, and I want people to feel better, to feel valued, to feel worthwhile. It feels as if the sins of the fathers are visited on the children to the tenth generation, and I am expiating them. Yes some do, want revenge on the world, and some of us know that would only make things worse, for ourselves as well as everyone else.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, that’s not cheerful stuff. Chilling, in fact. Newman’s song especially.

      I very much agree with you on the need to stop and expiate the pain. I too feel a strong internal protest listening to him sing “everyone (…) All over the world sing along.” These words he wants us to sing along would never pass my mouth.

      Yet his point is that we (not all, so not everybody, but most) do this damage to others as it was done to us, and we do it unthinkingly and “honestly” — without reflection and with plenty of “reasons” justifying such behavior. And if we were to put words to those motives, they would indeed sound like this song. “Honestly I do.”


      Liked by 2 people

  2. “This Be the Verse.” As sad as it is, I really liked it. I’ve not read it before.

    In high school I had a teacher that said, “It’s your parents’ job to screw you up and your job to fix yourself.” I always liked what he said, but it isn’t as easy to unscrew oneself as a simple verse makes it sound. I like telling people that quote and the most common reply is, “I don’t screw my kids up. I’m a good parent.” I’m not a parent, so I can’t say anything about parenting, but from my observations you can screw your kids up just fine no matter how good you are as a parent. I came from a very destructive and sometimes violent background, but somehow that made me better off in the end than many people I’ve known who came from model families. It is interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “you can screw your kids up just fine no matter how good you are as a parent”

      It sure seems like it sometimes. There is an element of mystery to these things, as to so much of life.

      I do think that being a good enough parent is difficult, though. It is more often “by the grace of God” endeavor.

      That was a good teacher, BTW. It helps children to hear this message, I believe. It makes their life more bearable sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Most do, I think, shell.

      But also many, if not most, are not aware and/or able to overcome their own programming that includes various traumas. And so they pass them on to their children.

      You are a good dad. And person.


  3. Ahh yes, I understand and have seen that in my travels. Some people get pretty messed up along the way.

    As far as being a good dad/person, I have a Worlds Greatest Dad mug to prove it 😉

    Seriously though no matter how hard you try your kids will still be somewhat blind to your efforts until they are old enough to see the wisdom in some of your parenting decisions. Just hope to live long enough to see it lol…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, if you have that precious mug, shell, then that’s all that needs to be said. Only select few are deemed worthy of the honor, from what I’ve heard.

      I am convinced that the difficulty of parenting is one of the humanity’s best kept secrets (along with that of marriage, and maybe a couple of other things, like, oh, life itself). And that’s because if people — parents — were open and honest about it, the human race would die out in a couple of generations.

      So we smile and nod, and sweep its horrors under the rug. Cuz life must go on. Or something like it.


  4. Pingback: Honest I do | Clare Flourish

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s