Friday, May 27, 2011
(Statue of John Betjeman at St. Pancras Railway Station,
London; poet laureate, 1972-1984)
John Betjeman (1906-1984) was appointed poet laureate by Queen Elizabeth II. He was a beloved public figure, his writings as “quintessentially English,” wrote one critic, “as the rattle of the tea cup in a provincial tea shop.”
Much of his work, including his broadcasts on radio and television, cast a gentle and nostalgic glance on life in city and town and countryside. He also wrote knowledgeably about the architecture of churches and other public buildings.
A BAY IN ANGLESEY
The sleepy sound of a tea-time tide
Slaps at the rocks the sun has dried,
Too lazy, almost, to sink and lift
Round low peninsulas pink with thrift.
The water, enlarging shells and sand,
Grows greener emerald out from land
And brown over shadowy shelves below
The waving forests of seaweed show.
Here at my feet in the short cliff grass
Are shells, dried bladderwrack¹, broken glass,
Pale blue squills² and yellow rock roses.
The next low ridge that we climb discloses
One more field for the sheep to graze
While, scarcely seen on this hottest of days,
Far to the eastward, over there,
Snowdon rises in pearl-gray air.
Multiple lark-song, whispering bents,
The thymy, turfy and salty scents
And filling in, brimming in, sparkling and free
The sweet susurration³ of incoming sea.
¹bladderwrack: a seaweed
²squill: member of the lily family, also known as “sea onion”
³susurration: soft whisper, murmur