poetry, satire

In Westminster Abbey

The poem “In Westminster Abbey” by John Betjeman:

Let me take this other glove off
As the vox humana swells,
And the beauteous fields of Eden
Bask beneath the Abbey bells.
Here, where England’s statesmen lie,
Listen to a lady’s cry.

Gracious Lord, oh bomb the Germans.
Spare their women for Thy Sake,
And if that is not too easy
We will pardon Thy Mistake.
But, gracious Lord, whate’er shall be,
Don’t let anyone bomb me.

Keep our Empire undismembered
Guide our Forces by Thy Hand,
Gallant blacks from far Jamaica,
Honduras and Togoland;
Protect them Lord in all their fights,
And, even more, protect the whites.

Think of what our Nation stands for,
Books from Boots and country lanes,
Free speech, free passes, class distinction,
Democracy and proper drains.
Lord, put beneath Thy special care
One-eighty-nine Cadogan Square.

Although dear Lord I am a sinner,
I have done no major crime;
Now I’ll come to Evening Service
Whensoever I have the time.
So, Lord, reserve for me a crown.
And do not let my shares go down.

I will labour for Thy Kingdom,
Help our lads to win the war,
Send white flowers to the cowards
Join the Women’s Army Corps,
Then wash the Steps around Thy Throne
In the Eternal Safety Zone.

Now I feel a little better,
What a treat to hear Thy word,
Where the bones of leading statesmen,
Have so often been interr’d.
And now, dear Lord, I cannot wait
Because I have a luncheon date.

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2 thoughts on “In Westminster Abbey

  1. Anne C. says:

    COMPOSED A FEW MILES ABOVE TINTERN ABBEY, ON REVISITING THE BANKS OF THE WYE DURING A TOUR. JULY 13, 1798

    FIVE years have past; five summers, with the length
    Of five long winters! and again I hear
    These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
    With a soft inland murmur.–Once again
    Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
    That on a wild secluded scene impress
    Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
    The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
    The day is come when I again repose
    Here, under this dark sycamore, and view 10
    These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
    Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
    Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
    ‘Mid groves and copses. Once again I see
    These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
    Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,
    Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
    Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
    With some uncertain notice, as might seem
    Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods, 20
    Or of some Hermit’s cave, where by his fire
    The Hermit sits alone.
    These beauteous forms,
    Through a long absence, have not been to me
    As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
    But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din
    Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
    In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
    Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
    And passing even into my purer mind,
    With tranquil restoration:–feelings too 30
    Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
    As have no slight or trivial influence
    On that best portion of a good man’s life,
    His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
    Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
    To them I may have owed another gift,
    Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
    In which the burthen of the mystery,
    In which the heavy and the weary weight
    Of all this unintelligible world, 40
    Is lightened:–that serene and blessed mood,
    In which the affections gently lead us on,–
    Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
    And even the motion of our human blood
    Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
    In body, and become a living soul:
    While with an eye made quiet by the power
    Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
    We see into the life of things.
    If this
    Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft– 50
    In darkness and amid the many shapes
    Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir
    Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
    Have hung upon the beatings of my heart–
    How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
    O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro’ the woods,
    How often has my spirit turned to thee!
    And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
    With many recognitions dim and faint,
    And somewhat of a sad perplexity, 60
    The picture of the mind revives again:
    While here I stand, not only with the sense
    Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
    That in this moment there is life and food
    For future years. And so I dare to hope,
    Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
    I came among these hills; when like a roe
    I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides
    Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
    Wherever nature led: more like a man 70
    Flying from something that he dreads, than one
    Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
    (The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
    And their glad animal movements all gone by)
    To me was all in all.–I cannot paint
    What then I was. The sounding cataract
    Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
    The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
    Their colours and their forms, were then to me
    An appetite; a feeling and a love, 80
    That had no need of a remoter charm,
    By thought supplied, nor any interest
    Unborrowed from the eye.–That time is past,
    And all its aching joys are now no more,
    And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
    Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur, other gifts
    Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
    Abundant recompence. For I have learned
    To look on nature, not as in the hour
    Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes 90
    The still, sad music of humanity,
    Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
    To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
    A presence that disturbs me with the joy
    Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
    Of something far more deeply interfused,
    Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
    And the round ocean and the living air,
    And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
    A motion and a spirit, that impels 100
    All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
    And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
    A lover of the meadows and the woods,
    And mountains; and of all that we behold
    From this green earth; of all the mighty world
    Of eye, and ear,–both what they half create,
    And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
    In nature and the language of the sense,
    The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
    The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul 110
    Of all my moral being.
    Nor perchance,
    If I were not thus taught, should I the more
    Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
    For thou art with me here upon the banks
    Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,
    My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch
    The language of my former heart, and read
    My former pleasures in the shooting lights
    Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
    May I behold in thee what I was once, 120
    My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make,
    Knowing that Nature never did betray
    The heart that loved her; ’tis her privilege,
    Through all the years of this our life, to lead
    From joy to joy: for she can so inform
    The mind that is within us, so impress
    With quietness and beauty, and so feed
    With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
    Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
    Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all 130
    The dreary intercourse of daily life,
    Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb
    Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
    Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
    Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
    And let the misty mountain-winds be free
    To blow against thee: and, in after years,
    When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
    Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind
    Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms, 140
    Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
    For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,
    If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
    Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
    Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
    And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance–
    If I should be where I no more can hear
    Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
    Of past existence–wilt thou then forget
    That on the banks of this delightful stream 150
    We stood together; and that I, so long
    A worshipper of Nature, hither came
    Unwearied in that service: rather say
    With warmer love–oh! with far deeper zeal
    Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
    That after many wanderings, many years
    Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
    And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
    More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!

    – William Wordsworth

    • Anne C. says:

      Forgive the numbering notations on the lines. Wordsworth is rather pantheist, but I found his contemplation of an abbey rather interesting when interfaced with the one you cited.

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