Born Yesterday Summary and Analysis by Philip Larkin

This is an analysis and summary of the poem "Born Yesterday" by Philip Larkin.


In this poem dedicated to his newborn Goddaughter, Silly Amis, Philips Larkin explains the wishes he has for the new baby. He says that he doesn't care if she is beautiful, he would rather she had a normal and happy life.

Analysis Born Yesterday:

Stanza 1

Tightly-folded bud,
I have wished you something
None of the others would:
Not the usual stuff
About being beautiful,
Or running off a spring
Of innocence and love —
They will all wish you that,
And should it prove possible,
Well, you’re a lucky girl.
The poem opens with a metaphor comparing the newborn baby wrapped up in blankets to the bud of a flower, both are beautiful and full of potential.

"You" Talking directly to the baby.

Larkin emphasizes that his wishes for the baby are different.

The use of the word "stuff" suggests that the usual wishes for a baby are unspecific and boring.

About being beautiful,
Or running off a spring
The metaphor and alliteration here emphasize the usual wishes for a baby.

The words "they" and 'all' suggest a large number of unnamed people with their generic wishes for the baby.

In the last two lines, the alliteration emphasizes that these wishes for a baby are not always possible and that if someone receives them, they are 'lucky'.

Stanza 2

But if it shouldn’t, then
May you be ordinary;
Have, like other women,
An average of talents:
Not ugly, not good-looking,
Nothing uncustomary
To pull you off your balance,
The stanza starts with a very simple wish in a simple sentence. The use of the semicolon makes the reader pause after the word 'ordinary', therefore emphasizing Larkin's wish for the baby.

"Like other women," This phrase emphasizes the Larkin doesn't want the baby to be unique.

'Ordinary', 'average' 'uncustomary' These adjectives emphasize how 'normal' Larkin wants the baby to be.

The suggestion here is that being unique or special can pull someone off their 'balance' i.e. make their life more difficult.

That, unworkable itself,
Stops all the rest from working.
In fact, may you be dull
If that is what a skilled,
Vigilant, flexible,
Unemphasised, enthralled

Catching of happiness is called.
Here Larkin suggests that having a special talent is uncontrollable and stops other parts of your life from working.

Another very simple sentence with punctuation at the end to emphasize the word 'dull'. Larkin takes his wish for normality to the extreme here.

"skilled, Vigilant, flexible, Unemphasised, enthralled" Adjectives here emphasise the happiness that Larkin wants for the baby.

Born Yesterday Summary and Analysis

The last lines emphasise that Larkin only wants happiness for the baby and doesn't care how it is achieved. The phrase 'Catching of happiness' suggests that happiness is something that has to be pursued and held on to, rather than something that is given.
Next Post »