In his poem "Requiem," Robert Louis Stevenson wrote:
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
Stevenson's poem offers a comforting vision of death, ending with this peaceful verse. Larkin ironically appropriates the phrase "This be the verse" as the title for a poem that articulates a view of life which is bleak and cheerless. While Stevenson sees hope and happiness on the other side of the grave, Larkin sees little to celebrate on this side.
In using Stevenson's words for his poem's title, Larkin changes their meaning and makes them more emphatic. "This Be the Verse" signifies the importance of the thought it contains: this is something to which you should pay attention. The ungrammatical "Be" which gives Stevenson's poem an archaic, bucolic feel makes Larkin's poem appear gnomic and prophetic. It is as though he is telling you that this is the verse which will unlock the great mystery of life for you, explaining your past and predicting your future.
Larkin's poem does have the air of imparting a vital secret, as the title promises. However, the secret it tells the reader is profoundly dispiriting. The best thing humanity can do is to cut its losses and give up. This message adds to the prophetic air of the title, since many of the ancient prophets, from Greece to Israel, conveyed a message of unavoidable doom.