Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Liberals in literature and film (8)

The Old Liberals
by John Betjeman (Picture shows statue outside St. Pancras)

Pale green of the English Hymnal! Yattendon hymns
Played on the hautbois by a lady dress'd in blue
Her white-hair'd father accompanying her thereto
On tenor or bass-recorder. Daylight swims
On sectional bookcase, delicate cup and plate
And William de Morgan tiles around the grate
And many the silver birches the pearly light shines through.

I think such a running together of woodwind sound,
Such painstaking piping high on a Berkshire hill,
Is sad as an English autumn heavy and still,
Sad as a country silence, tractor-drowned;
For deep in the hearts of the man and the woman playing
The rose of a world that was not has withered away.
Where are the wains with garlanded swathes a-swaying?
Where are the swains to wend through the lanes a-maying?
Where are the blithe and jocund to ted the hay?
Where are the free folk of England? Where are they?

Ask of the Abingdon bus with full load creeping
Down into denser suburbs. The birch lets go
But one brown leaf upon browner bracken below.
Ask of the cinema manager. Night airs die
To still, ripe scent of the fungus and wet woods weeping.
Ask at the fish and chips in the Market Square.
Here amid firs and a final sunset flare
Recorder and hautbois only moan at a mouldering sky.

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