Loneliness by Sir John Betjeman

The last year’s leaves are on the beech:
The twigs are black; the cold is dry;
To deeps beyond the deepest reach
The Easter bells enlarge the sky.
O ordered metal clatter-clang!
Is yours the song the angels sang?
You fill my heart with joy and grief –
Belief! Belief! And unbelief…
And, though you tell me I shall die,
You say not how or when or why.

Indifferent the finches sing,
Unheeding roll the lorries past:
What misery will this year bring
Now spring is in the air at last?
For, sure as blackthorn bursts to snow,
Cancer in some of us will grow,
The tasteful crematorium door
Shuts out for some the furnace roar;
But church-bells open on the blast
Our loneliness, so long and vast.

Sir John Betjeman

About Russell Boyle

Russell Boyle is a mathematics teacher, writer, and poet. His poetry anthologies are titled The Beginning, Footprints and Loneliness. Russell is the author of the Year 7 to 8 Mathematics Short-Answer Tasks, the Year 7 to 10 Mathematics Multiple-Choice Tasks, the Year 9 to 10 Extended-Response Tasks, the solutions to the Year 12 VCAA Mathematics Exams and the Web-Programming For Beginners series of courses. Sample poems and questions may be downloaded from http://russellboyle.com
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11 Responses to Loneliness by Sir John Betjeman

  1. lawsonsotherdog says:

    nice site Russell will check in when I can….Melbourne man, so am I ….goodo

  2. Julian O'Dea says:

    I am posting this one here, because I don’t want my family to see it on my Facebook. I wrote it after attending the funeral of a friend of my daughter’s.

    Another Teenage Suicide

    As we approached the chapel,
    attached to the crematorium,
    a previous life went up in smoke:
    (like the last black puff from an engine.)

    But the teenage suicide was still
    in her casket, which was white and small.
    So small, she must have been a little
    lass for a seventeen year old; though
    big enough to have had a man.
    (Six schoolboys carried the coffin.)

    I couldn’t quite hear the eulogies:
    though it seems she was a wonderful girl.
    (Because no-one mediocre ever dies.)

    I was in the group outside the chapel,
    on the white plastic chairs,
    near the ornamental pool.
    (I said some prayers.)

    The sun was hot for spring;
    I listened to the water feature
    chatter on.
    There were no goldfish.
    (I had hoped to fix my gaze upon
    a carefree golden creature.)

    They say she used her brother’s gun.
    They say they found a tumour in her brain.
    (Explaining the inexplicable, again.)

    by Julian O’Dea

  3. indytony says:

    “The tasteful crematorium door
    Shuts out for some the furnace roar;”

    What powerful lines. Bleak indeed.

    • russellboyle says:

      Yes, powerful lines filled with “tasteful” words that flow seamlessly in perfectly shaped stanzas. Easy to see why he was poet laureate of the UK from 1972 until his death in 1984.

  4. The British are the experts on bleak. Bleak but with that quintessential British stoicism.

  5. This is bleak in a peculiarly British way. Now spring is in the air I think I’d rather be out with Chaucer though!

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