----- Original Message -----From: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">Marcia KarpSent: Tuesday, September 12, 2006 10:04 PMSubject: Re: OT-ish - John Betjeman CentenaryI, too, am a bit green that I couldn't be there with David. Here, from JBetjeman's sweet autobiography in verse, is his version of David's TSE story. I'm sorry in advance if there are any errors in the transcription. [The chapter's obligatory Hitchcockian bells appearance in this passage.]
Betjeman was quite young, and though he failed the headmaster's quiz--the number of half-crowns in a pound--he was admitted to Highgate Junior School.
See the rich elms careering down the hill —
Full billows rolling into Holloway;
In the tall classroom hear again the drone
Of multiplication tables chanted out;
Recall how Kelly stood us in a ring:
“Three sevens, then add eight, and take away
Twelve; what’s the answer?” Hesitation then
Meant shaking by the shoulders till we cried.
Deal out again the dog-eared poetry books
Where Hemans, Campbell, Longfellow and Scott
Mixed their dim lights with Edgar Allan Poe
(Who ‘died of dissipation,’ said the notes).
“And what is dissipation, please, Miss Long?”
Its dreadfulness so pleased me that I learned
‘The Bells’ by heart, but all the time preferred
‘Casabianca’ and ‘The Hesperus’
As poetry, and
’s ‘Soldier’s Dream.’ Campbell
I couldn’t see why Shakespeare was admired;
I thought myself as good as
And very nearly up to Longfellow;
And so I bound my verse into a book,
The Best of Betjeman, and handed it
To one who, I was told, liked poetry —
The American master, Mr. Eliot.
That dear good man, with Prufrock in his head
And Sweeny waiting to be agonized,
I wonder what he thought? He never says
When now we meet, across the port and cheese.
He looks the same as then, long, lean and pale,
Still with the slow deliberating speech
And enigmatic answers. At the time
A boy called Jelly said “He thinks they’re bad”—
But he himself is still too kind to say.
[From John Betjeman, Summoned by Bells, end of chapter 3—Highgate]