Poems and politics - Katherine Philips - Married People: “Suckers”

My son (born in wedlock) is asked to study this poem for his GSCE English exam; he has been ridiculed and bullied because of his response to it. He is a child of a married couple; his parents are – SUCKERS - according to the poet and the teacher's message – he is one of a minority in his class – a minority oppressed by the message of the poem!

It is a good poem; it makes a valid point. But is it the sort of poem that pubescent teenagers should be discussing as part of their exam projects?

Is this the way that we want our children to be introduced to the institution of marriage in school lessons?

Married People: “Suckers” – Katherine Philips

A married state affords but little ease
The best of husbands are so hard to please.
This in wives’ careful faces you may spell
Though they dissemble their misfortunes well.
A virgin state is crowned with much content;
It’s always happy as it’s innocent.
No blustering husbands to create your fears;
No pangs of childbirth to extort your tears;
No children’s cries for to offend your ears;
Few worldly crosses to distract your prayers:
Thus are you freed from all the cares that do
Attend on matrimony and a husband too.
Therefore Madam, be advised by me
Turn, turn apostate to love’s levity,
Suppress wild nature if she dare rebel.
There’s no such thing as leading apes in hell.

A good poem, but not the sort of message about marriage that I want my teen kids to learn.

It is not the sort of message about marriage and relationships that fits in with health education messages that the kids have.

Married People: “Suckers” -is a good poem for those of us who are old enough to appreciate it.

It is not a GCSE age poem and the person who put it into the 14/15 year old curiculum is a pervert who needs sacking!


  1. Do you really think one poem is going to alter the messages of the environment he is brought up in?
    Children learn about the value or not of marriage by what they live and what they see and hear around them every day.
    Reading the poems of the war poets didnt make me a warmonger, or the pastoral poems give me the urge to become a shepherd.
    I dont think you need to worry

  2. Mnm; when my boy is bullied for being the omly child in the class who can't remember his parents marriage (because he was born after the event), this poem adds to the problem!

  3. Just think how sad the rest of them really are
    The bullying is nothing to do with poem , that is a culture growing in that class that needs addressing by the teacher.Its symptom of something deeper I would say. My children were born in wedlock too, but both have chosen to be with partners and not marry as yet, but they are happy.

  4. Mam, I am in no position to moralise. One of my grandmothers and two of my great grandmothers were prostitutes, I owe my existence to a couple of "industrial accidents"!

    I am not ashamed of my background and I would never condemn anybody for the circumstances of their birth; but I don't think that it is right that my 14 y o child should be told that Mrs MOF and I are "Sukers" for being the happily married parents of our children.

    Married People – Suckers is a fantastic poem for those of us who have been married long enough to "get it" – I'm just not sure that it is a suitable poem for 14 year old GCSE kids to study!

  5. Funny Alwyn it took me back to what I studies around that age - the poems I remeber were
    How Horatio kept the Bridge - why because it was so long and boring. Young Lochinvar , because my teacher had us in the hall acting it our and prentending to be on horseback. Michael by Wordworth because it was sloppy, Fra Lippo Lippi by Browning because I just liked the story behind it - funny what sticks in your mind after all these years isnt it -

  6. im 15 and studying this poem and think you are stupid for thinking it will give us a bad image of marriage. We are just asked to compare and constrast this laongside othewr peices of work not take its messages in!

    1. What a sad reflection on your attitude to education annon – just going through the motions because that is what in the curriculum!

      Poems are written by passionate people who write for a reaction, be it good or bad if you can't "take the message in" you can't appreciate the message. This poem is written with the specific intention of being controversial if you think that reacting to that controversy is "stupid" you haven't understood the poem!

  7. I've just stumbled across your post this morning looking for a copy of the text I can project to my class. Yes, I'm about to teach the poem.

    It's interesting that the title you give the poem is different from the title given in the WJEC's Poetry Collection. (I think the Welsh Board might be only one to have this poem on its syllabus at the moment). In the WJEC Poetry Collection it's titled: 'A Married State'.

    Yes, the title in your post makes the message of the poem clear. However, like some of the comments already posted, I expect my students to question its message and link it to other poems we have studied and, in turn, link the poems to the Shakespeare play we have studied - 'The Taming of the Shrew'. As part of a much broader piece of work, it will give students a range of ideas to discuss: and, knowing my students, they are likely to disagree with the poem.

  8. The poem suggests that a happy alternative to marriage is virginity and abstinence - modern-day (unwedded) family arrangements probably wouldn't have occurred to the poet. However, I think the real target of the poem is not the institution of marriage itself but the burdens placed on women by their family and their lack of opportunities. Surely, the poem raises some interesting and meaty historical and social questions.

  9. This poem was written four hundred years ago you dumb fucks. This is what we are taught about in school and we are told this.

    We havn't experienced love and have no experiences so it will not change our views as we get older and experience what it's like, especially when we see both sides of the arguement, it just informs us that sometimes, marriage is good and beneficial, but other times that is not necessarily the case. Also, this poem is written about times in the past, we know that things are different (most kids see happy married couples with happy mothers, or marriages that are broken (which the poem says you can't get out of a marraige))

  10. True, but they have chosen poems specifically that will benefit our learning

  11. I am an English teacher and I am teaching this poem as part of the WJEC board which has been approved BY THE EXPERTS FROM THE BOARD OF EXAMINERS whom are the professionals and can set the criteria. All children should be challenged and stretched in their learning and why should they not explore issues around marriage or any other such topic. They are young adults and should be able to explore and try out new poems. The attitudes above limit what is taught and limit new creative and innovative teaching. People really need to get A LIFE if you think this should not be taught. Teachers and examiners are not stupid and always aim to benefit their students as it effects their reputation and grades for their class. The reason I picked this out from a 'boring' list which typical parents would want their child to study is because a - it is easy for students to figure out the meaning and it gets them engaged with the poem. 2- it challenges and gets them thinking outside of the box. 3 - explore and imagine. 4 - its something DIFFERENT. Parents really take it was to far and think they know best when it is the teachers who spend 30 hours teaching their child a week so they would know best. Bullying is an issue - it may add to it by a poem but it is not the sole cause or just because of A POEM. The school will have a number of polices to tackle bullying and parents should concentrate on this side rather than educational matters which are not FOR THEM TO JUDGE. LEAVE THE EXPERTS TO IT PLEASE!

  12. I teach english and history and parents you guys need a life seriously do not interfere with waht you are not aware of and how teaching and learning work because you don't know how hard teachers work for every students so parents should not judge what should be taught and how. do your own job first and be proper parents than poke you nose in where it's not wanted. get a life and grow up.