Youth and Age on Beaulieu River, Hants (1945)
Early sun on Beaulieu water
Lights the undersides of oaks,
Clumps of leaves it floods and
All transparent glow the branches
Which the double sunlight soaks;
And to her craft on Beaulieu water
Clemency the General's daughter
Pulls across with even strokes.
Schoolboy sure she is this morning;
Soon her sharpie's rigg'd and free.
Cool beneath a garden awning
Mrs Fairclough sipping tea
And raising large long-distance glasses
As the little sharpie passes,
Sighs our sailor girl to see:
Tulip figure, so appealing,
Oval face, so serious-eyed,
Tree-roots pass'd and muddy beaches,
On to huge and lake-like reaches
Soft and sun-warm, see her glide,
Slacks the slim young limbs
Sun-brown arm the tiller feeling,
Before the wind and with the tide.
Evening light will bring the water,
Day-long sun will burst the bud,
Clemency, the General's daughter
Will return upon the flood.
But the older woman only
Knows the ebb tide leaves her lonely.
With the shining fields of mud.
Indoor Games Near Newbury (1947)
[Fired by the imitations of his style on our competition page last week Mr Betjeman contributes his own poem on the same subject.]
In among the silver birches winding ways
of tarmac wander
And the sighs to Bussock Bottom, Tussock
Wood and Windy Brake,
Gabled lodges, tile-hung churches, catch the
lights of our Lagonda
As we drive to Wendy's party, lemon curd
and Christmas cake.
Rich the makes of motor whirring, past the
Come up Hupmobile, Delage!
Short the way your chauffeurs travel, crunching
over private gravel
Each from out his warm garage.
Oh but Wendy, when the carpet yielded to my
There you stood, your gold hair streaming,
handsome in the hall-light gleaming
There you looked and there you led me off into
the game of clumps
Then the new Victrola playing and your funny
"Choose your partners for a fox-trot! Dance
until it's tea o'clock!"
"Come on young 'uns, foot it featly!" Was it
chance that paired us neatly,
I, who loved you so completely,
You, who pressed me closely to you, hard
against your party frock?
"Meet me when you've finished eating!" So
we met and no one found us.
Oh that dark and furry cupboard while the rest
played hide and seek!
Holding hands our two hearts beating in the
bedroom silence round us,
Holding hands and hardly hearing sudden
footstep, thud and shriek.
Love that lay too deep for kissing - "Where is
Wendy? Wendy's missing!"
Love so pure it had to end,
Love so strong that I was frighten'd when you
gripped my fingers tight and
Hugging, whispered "I'm your friend."
Good-bye Wendy! Send the fairies, pinewood
elf and larch tree gnome,
Spingle-spangled stars are peeping at the lush
Down the winding ways of tarmac to the leaded
lights of home.
There, among the silver birches, all the bells of
all the churches
Sounded in the bath waste running out into the frosty air.
Wendy speeded my undressing, Wendy is the
Wendy bending gives a blessing,
Holds me as I drift to dreamland, warm inside my
Parliament Hill Fields (1940)
Rumbling under blackened girders, Midland, bound
Puffed its sulphur to the sunset where that Land of
Rumble under, thunder over, train and tram alternate go,
Shake the floor and smudge the ledger, Charrington,
Sells, Dale and Co,
Nuts and nuggets in the window, trucks along the
When the Bon Marché was shuttered, when the feet
were hot and tired,
Outside Charrington's we waited, by the "STOP HERE
Launched aboard the shopping basket, sat precipitately
Rocked past Zwanziger the Baker's, and the terrace
And the Anglo, Anglo-Norman Parish Church of
Till the tram went over thirty, sighting terminus again,
Past municipal lawn tennis and the bobble-hanging plane.
Soft the light suburban evening caught our ashlar-
Eighteen-sixty Early English, as the mighty elms retire
Either side of Brookfield Mansions flashing fine
Oh the after tram-ride quiet, when we heard, a mile beyond,
Silver music from the bandstand, barking dogs by
Up the hill where stucco houses in Virginia creeper drown;
And my childish wave of pity, seeing children
Sheaves of drooping dandelions to the courts of