(Poem #1865) Song of a Nightclub Proprietress
I walked into the nightclub 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 a race across the ciders To a box of baby 'pollies by the beer. Oh sun upon the summergoing bypass Where ev'rything is speeding to the sea, And wonder beyond wonder that here where lorries thunder The sun should ever percolate to me. When Boris used to call in his Sedanca, When Teddy took me down to his estate, When my nose excited passions, And my clothes were in the fashion, When my beaux were never cross if I was late, There was sun enough for lazing upon beaches There was fun enough for far into the night; But I'm dying now and done for, What on earth was all the fun for? I am ill and old and terrified and tight.
Notes: Kümmel: a sweet, colorless liqueur flavored with caraway seed, cumin, and fennel The "box of baby 'pollies" appears to be a bit of a mystery: http://www.antimoon.com/forum/2004/5409.htm This is one of Betjeman's bleaker pieces, and, I think, one of his most memorable. Nearly all Betjeman's poems show a keen insight into humanity, and an enviable ability to share that insight with his readers, but it is in his 'serious' poems that that gift shows up to its best advantage, and today's poem is an exquisite illustration of that fact. Another thing I really like about Betjeman is the way he handles first-person poetry - he paints extremely sympathetic, engaging characters, and gives them powerful, haunting voices. Even a poem as superficially lighthearted as "Indoor Games Near Newbury" [Poem #1098] is poignant and moving; today's poem, with its theme of explicit despair, is far more so. martin