Firstly, it is the 100th Anniversary of The Wartime Housewife’s Sunday Poem. I have tried to make my selections from a wide range of poets from Great Britain and abroad and have tried to make them palatably short as, personally, I wouldn’t be inclined to read 157 verses about albatrosses or unrequited love on a blog. All publishing deals will be warmly considered.
Secondly, the first ever Sunday Poem was John Betjeman’s ‘Diary of a Church Mouse’.
Thirdly, those lovely people at Shire Books, quite coincidentally, sent me one of their newest titles ‘John Betjeman’ by Greg Morse, a beautifully illustrated little book providing an excellent introduction to the life and work of Sir Betj.
Which is why I’ve chosen this piece by Colley Cibber … I am funning with you, of course. These lines, by John Betjeman, offer a glimpse of my idea of a perfect English summer holiday and I feel a deep yearning for the sea even as I copy out the words.
East Anglian Bathe – by John Betjeman (1906-1984)
Oh when early morning at the seaside
Took us with hurrying steps from Horsey Mere
To see the whistling bent grass on the leaside
And then the tumbled breaker-line appear,
On high, the clouds with mighty adumbration
Sailed over us to seaward fast and clear
And jelly fish in quivering isolation
Lay silted in the dry sand of the breeze
And we, along the table-land of beach blown
Went gooseflesh from our shoulders to our knees
And ran to catch a football, each to each thrown,
In the soft and swirling music of the seas.
There splashed about our ankles as we waded
Those intersecting wavelets morning-cold,
And sudden dark a patch of sea was shaded,
And sudden light, another patch would hold
The warmth of whirling atoms in a sun-shot
And underwater sand storm green and gold.
So in we dived and louder than a gun shot
Sea-water broke in fountains down the ear.
How cold the bathe, how chattering cold the drying,
How welcoming the inland reeds appear,
The wood-smoke and the breakfast and the frying,
And your warm freshwater ripples, Horsey Mere.