Winter Seascape poem – John Betjeman poems

The sea runs back against itself With scarcely time for breaking wave To cannonade a slatey shelf And thunder under in a cave. Before the next can fully burst The headwind, blowing harder still, Smooths it to what it was at first – A slowly rolling water-hill. Against the breeze the breakers […]

Winter Landscape poem – John Betjeman poems

The three men coming down the winter hill In brown, with tall poles and a pack of hounds At heel, through the arrangement of the trees, Past the five figures at the burning straw, Returning cold and silent to their town, Returning to the drifted snow, the rink Lively with children, to the older […]

Westgate-On-Sea poem – John Betjeman poems

Hark, I hear the bells of Westgate, I will tell you what they sigh, Where those minarets and steeples Prick the open Thanet sky. Happy bells of eighteen-ninety, Bursting from your freestone tower! Recalling laurel, shrubs and privet, Red geraniums in flower. Feet that scamper on the asphalt Through the Borough Council […]

Verses Turned… poem – John Betjeman poems

Across the wet November night The church is bright with candlelight And waiting Evensong. A single bell with plaintive strokes Pleads louder than the stirring oaks The leafless lanes along. It calls the hoirboys from their tea And villagers, the two or three, Damp down the kitchen fire, Let out the cat, and […]

Upper Lambourne poem – John Betjeman poems

Up the ash tree climbs the ivy, Up the ivy climbs the sun, With a twenty-thousand pattering, Has a valley breeze begun, Feathery ash, neglected elder, Shift the shade and make it run – Shift the shade toward the nettles, And the nettles set it free, To streak the stained Carrara headstone, Where, […]

Trebetherick poem – John Betjeman poems

We used to picnic where the thrift Grew deep and tufted to the edge; We saw the yellow foam flakes drift In trembling sponges on the ledge Below us, till the wind would lift Them up the cliff and o’er the hedge. Sand in the sandwiches, wasps in the tea, Sun on our bathing […]

The Plantster’s Vision poem – John Betjeman poems

Cut down that timber! Bells, too many and strong, Pouring their music through the branches bare, From moon-white church towers down the windy air Have pealed the centuries out with Evensong. Remove those cottages, a huddled throng! Too many babies have been born in there, Too many coffins, bumping down the stair, Carried […]

The Olympic Girl poem – John Betjeman poems

The sort of girl I like to see Smiles down from her great height at me. She stands in strong, athletic pose And wrinkles her retrouss? nose. Is it distaste that makes her frown, So furious and freckled, down On an unhealthy worm like me? Or am I what she likes to see? I […]

The Licorice Fields at Pontefract poem – John Betjeman poems

In the licorice fields at Pontefract My love and I did meet And many a burdened licorice bush Was blooming round our feet; Red hair she had and golden skin, Her sulky lips were shaped for sin, Her sturdy legs were flannel-slack’d The strongest legs in Pontefract. The light and dangling licorice flowers […]

The Last Laugh poem – John Betjeman poems

I made hay while the sun shone. My work sold. Now, if the harvest is over And the world cold, Give me the bonus of laughter As I lose hold.   ***   More poems by John Betjeman: [display-posts posts author=”John_Betjeman” display-posts posts_per_page=”50″ display-posts pagination=”true” ] […]

The Hon. Sec. poem – John Betjeman poems

The flag that hung half-mast today Seemed animate with being As if it knew for who it flew And will no more be seeing. He loved each corner of the links- The stream at the eleventh, The grey-green bents, the pale sea-pinks, The prospect from the seventh; To the ninth tee the […]

The Cottage Hospital poem – John Betjeman poems

At the end of a long-walled garden in a red provincial town, A brick path led to a mulberry- scanty grass at its feet. I lay under blackening branches where the mulberry leaves hung down Sheltering ruby fruit globes from a Sunday-tea-time heat. Apple and plum espaliers basked upon bricks of brown; The air […]

Sun and Fun poem – John Betjeman poems

I walked into the night-club in the morning; There was kummel on the handle of the door. The ashtrays were unemptied. The cleaning unattempted, And a squashed tomato sandwich on the floor. I pulled aside the thick magenta curtains -So Regency, so Regency, my dear – And a host of little spiders Ran […]

South London Sketch poem – John Betjeman poems

From Bermondsey to Wandsworth So many churches are, Some with apsidal chancels, Some Perpendicular And schools by E.R. Robson In the style of Norman Shaw Where blue-serged adolescence learn’d To model and to draw. Oh, in among the houses, The viaduct below, Stood the Coffee Essence Factory Of Robinson and Co. Burnt and […]

Slough poem – John Betjeman poems

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough! It isn’t fit for humans now, There isn’t grass to graze a cow. Swarm over, Death! Come, bombs and blow to smithereens Those air -conditioned, bright canteens, Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans, Tinned minds, tinned breath. Mess up the mess they call […]

Senex poem – John Betjeman poems

Oh would I could subdue the flesh Which sadly troubles me! And then perhaps could view the flesh As though I never knew the flesh And merry misery. To see the golden hiking girl With wind about her hair, The tennis-playing, biking girl, The wholly-to-my-liking girl, To see and not to care. […]

Seaside Golf poem – John Betjeman poems

How straight it flew, how long it flew, It clear’d the rutty track And soaring, disappeared from view Beyond the bunker’s back – A glorious, sailing, bounding drive That made me glad I was alive. And down the fairway, far along It glowed a lonely white; I played an iron sure and strong […]

On a Portrait of a Deaf Man poem – John Betjeman poems

The kind old face, the egg-shaped head, The tie, discreetly loud, The loosely fitting shooting clothes, A closely fitting shroud. He liked old city dining rooms, Potatoes in their skin, But now his mouth is wide to let The London clay come in. He took me on long silent walks In country […]

Myfanwy poem – John Betjeman poems

Kind o’er the kinderbank leans my Myfanwy, White o’er the playpen the sheen of her dress, Fresh from the bathroom and soft in the nursery Soap scented fingers I long to caress. Were you a prefect and head of your dormit’ry? Were you a hockey girl, tennis or gym? Who was your favourite? […]

Mortality poem – John Betjeman poems

The first-class brains of a senior civil servant Shiver and shatter and fall As the steering column of his comfortable Humber Batters in the bony wall. All those delicate re-adjustments “On the one hand, if we proceed With the ad hoc policy hitherto adapted To individual need… On the other hand, too rigid an […]

Middlesex poem – John Betjeman poems

Gaily into Ruislip Gardens Runs the red electric train, With a thousand Ta’s and Pardon’s Daintily alights Elaine; Hurries down the concrete station With a frown of concentration, Out into the outskirt’s edges Where a few surviving hedges Keep alive our lost Elysium; rural Middlesex again. Well cut Windsmoor flapping lightly, Jacqmar scarf […]

Meditation on the A30 poem – John Betjeman poems

A man on his own in a car Is revenging himself on his wife; He open the throttle and bubbles with dottle and puffs at his pitiful life She’s losing her looks very fast, she loses her temper all day; that lorry won’t let me get past, this Mini is blocking my way. […]

Loneliness poem – John Betjeman poems

The last year’s leaves are on the beech: The twigs are black; the cold is dry; To deeps byond the deepest reach The Easter bells enlarge the sky. O ordered metal clatter-clang! Is yours the song the angels sang? You fill my heart with joy and grief – Belief! Belief! And unbelief… And, though […]

Ireland With Emily poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

Bells are booming down the bohreens, White the mist along the grass, Now the Julias, Maeves and Maureens Move between the fields to Mass. Twisted trees of small green apple Guard the decent whitewashed chapel, Gilded gates and doorway grained, Pointed windows richly stained With many-coloured Munich glass. See the black-shawled congregations On […]

Inexpensive Progress poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

Encase your legs in nylons, Bestride your hills with pylons O age without a soul; Away with gentle willows And all the elmy billows That through your valleys roll. Let’s say goodbye to hedges And roads with grassy edges And winding country lanes; Let all things travel faster Where motor car is master […]

In Westminster Abbey poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

Let me take this other glove off As the vox humana swells, And the beauteous fields of Eden Bask beneath the Abbey bells. Here, where England’s statesmen lie, Listen to a lady’s cry. Gracious Lord, oh bomb the Germans, Spare their women for Thy Sake, And if that is not too easy We […]

How To Get On In Society poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

Phone for the fish knives, Norman As cook is a little unnerved; You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes And I must have things daintily served. Are the requisites all in the toilet? The frills round the cutlets can wait Till the girl has replenished the cruets And switched on the logs in the […]

Harrow-on-the-Hill poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

When melancholy Autumn comes to Wembley And electric trains are lighted after tea The poplars near the stadium are trembly With their tap and tap and whispering to me, Like the sound of little breakers Spreading out along the surf-line When the estuary’s filling With the sea. Then Harrow-on-the-Hill’s a rocky island And […]

Guilt poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

The clock is frozen in the tower, The thickening fog with sooty smell Has blanketed the motor power Which turns the London streets to hell; And footsteps with their lonely sound Intensify the silence round. I haven’t hope. I haven’t faith. I live two lives and sometimes three. The lives I live make […]

Executive poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

I am a young executive. No cuffs than mine are cleaner; I have a Slimline brief-case and I use the firm’s Cortina. In every roadside hostelry from here to Burgess Hill The ma?tres d’h?tel all know me well, and let me sign the bill. You ask me what it is I do. Well, […]

Dilton Marsh Halt poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

Was it worth keeping the Halt open, We thought as we looked at the sky Red through the spread of the cedar-tree, With the evening train gone by? Yes, we said, for in summer the anglers use it, Two and sometimes three Will bring their catches of rods and poles and perches To […]

Diary of a Church Mouse poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

Here among long-discarded cassocks, Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks, Here where the vicar never looks I nibble through old service books. Lean and alone I spend my days Behind this Church of England baize. I share my dark forgotten room With two oil-lamps and half a broom. The cleaner never bothers me, So […]

Devonshire Street W.1 poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

The heavy mahogany door with its wrought-iron screen Shuts. And the sound is rich, sympathetic, discreet. The sun still shines on this eighteenth-century scene With Edwardian faience adornment — Devonshire Street. No hope. And the X-ray photographs under his arm Confirm the message. His wife stands timidly by. The opposite brick-built house looks […]

Death In Leamington poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

She died in the upstairs bedroom By the light of the ev’ning star That shone through the plate glass window From over Leamington Spa Beside her the lonely crochet Lay patiently and unstirred, But the fingers that would have work’d it Were dead as the spoken word. And Nurse came in with […]

Dawlish poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

Bird-watching colonels on the old sea wall, Down here at Dawlish where the slow trains crawl: Low tide lifting, on a shingle shore, Long-sunk islands from the sea once more: Red cliffs rising where the wet sands run, Gulls reflecting in the sharp spring sun; Pink-washed plaster by a sheltered patch, Ilex shadows upon […]

Cornish Cliffs poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

Those moments, tasted once and never done, Of long surf breaking in the mid-day sun. A far-off blow-hole booming like a gun- The seagulls plane and circle out of sight Below this thirsty, thrift-encrusted height, The veined sea-campion buds burst into white And gorse turns tawny orange, seen beside Pale drifts of […]

Christmas poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

The bells of waiting Advent ring, The Tortoise stove is lit again And lamp-oil light across the night Has caught the streaks of winter rain In many a stained-glass window sheen From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green. TThe bells of waiting Advent ring, The Tortoise stove is lit again And lamp-oil light across […]

Business Girls poem – John Betjeman poems | Poems and Poetry

From the geyser ventilators Autumn winds are blowing down On a thousand business women Having baths in Camden Town Waste pipes chuckle into runnels, Steam’s escaping here and there, Morning trains through Camden cutting Shake the Crescent and the Square. Early nip of changeful autumn, Dahlias glimpsed through garden doors, At the […]