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Slough -- John Betjeman

Continuing the theme...
(Poem #1522) Slough
 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 a town --
 A house for ninety-seven down
 And once a week for half-a-crown
   For twenty years,

 And get that man with double chin
 Who'll always cheat and always win,
 Who washes his repulsive skin
   In women's tears,

 And smash his desk of polished oak
 And smash his hands so used to stroke
 And stop his boring dirty joke
   And make him yell.

 But spare the bald young clerks who add
 The profits of the stinking cad;
 It's not their fault that they are mad,
   They've tasted Hell.

 It's not their fault they do not know
 The birdsong from the radio,
 It's not their fault they often go
   To Maidenhead

 And talk of sports and makes of cars
 In various bogus Tudor bars
 And daren't look up and see the stars
   But belch instead.

 In labour-saving homes, with care
 Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
 And dry it in synthetic air
   And paint their nails.

 Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough
 To get it ready for the plough.
 The cabbages are coming now;
   The earth exhales.
-- John Betjeman
My thanks to Frank O'Shea (the instigator of our current theme -- "The Poet
Cranky") for re-introducing this poem to me. (I'd read it in the past, but
for some reason it failed to stick in my mind).

Betjeman has been described as the poet of nostalgia, but what I like about
today's poem is not so much the fond remembrance of things past which runs
like an undercurrent through almost all his work, as it is the unabashed
loathing with which the poet describes the industrial wasteland that Slough
has become. I do enjoy an old-fashioned, no-holds-barred rant...

thomas.

[Links]

Here's some more about Slough:
  [broken link] http://www.fact-index.com/s/sl/slough.html

Here's a biography of John Betjeman:
  http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/brookej/btjmn/index.htm

34 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Amanda McGowan said...

Wonderful. I was fortunate/unfortunate enough to live in Slough for
seven months of my life. Whilst there, I read an advertisement in the
local paper. It was placed by the council and was trying to entice
businesses to move to Slough. At the start of the advertisement it had
the first line of this poem.

gerald said...

From Gerald McCunn

In my youth, I lived near and worked in Slough. It had - and still has -
a huge, multi-racial immigrant population and a vibrant, successful
economy offering well-paid employment at all levels. It produces goods
and services essential to everybody's well-being and comfort. Despite
his charming, assumed detachment from the prosaic, Betjeman was a
wealthy subscriber to the consumer society. Betjeman did not live in
Slough or from it.This poem is not even graced with "nimbyism". It is
plain "knocking".

I acknowledge the talent and have always enjoyed the poetry of Betjeman
but it all too frequently describes a world of drones. The beauty of
industry is an acquired taste but those, such as Betjeman, who face
television cameras, wear clothes, ride in cars, consume pharmaceuticals
or ride in wheelchairs, should endeavour to acquire it.

Slough is in fact a fine microcosm of what British society should be.

Vivgood31863 said...

I love Slough - Ricky Gervais

Pearson Family said...

Wasn't that meant to be a satirical comment on someone (David Brent) who has absolutely no subtlety or appreciation of the arts? If so, it seems strange to call it a 'masterly' criticism.

I see that Slough Borough Council has commissioned an answer to the poem, which underlines the horror of the place even more then old Betjeman could.

Anonymous said...

This is the only poem that has been able to evoke the human emotion of laughter. Masterful.

الفيسبوك said...

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He's the only cabbage 'round here.

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