120 Total Quotes

John Betjeman Quotes

Too many people in the modern world view poetry as a luxury, not a necessity like petrol. But to me it's the oil of life.
John Betjeman
#English Poet #Luxury

Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows.
John Betjeman
#English Poet

I don't think I am any good. If I thought I was any good, I wouldn't be.
John Betjeman
#English Poet

Now if the harvest is over, And the world cold, Give me the bonus of laughter, As I lose hold.
John Betjeman
#English Poet

Silver and ermine and red faces full of port wine.
John Betjeman
#English Poet #Wine

The Church's Restoration / In eighteen-eighty-three / Has left for contemplation / Not what there used to be.
John Betjeman
#Contemplation

Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough. / It isn't fit for humans now.
John Betjeman
#Bombs

People's backyards are much more interesting than their front gardens, and houses that back on to railways are public benefactors.
John Betjeman
#English Poet

I have a Vision of the Future, chum. The workers flats in fields of soya beans tower up like silver pencils, score on score.
John Betjeman
#Future

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.
John Betjeman
#Empire

John Betjeman
Phone for the fish knives, Norman As cook is a little unnerved; You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes And I must have things daintily served. Are the requisites all in the toilet? The frills round the cutlets can wait Till the girl has replenished the cruets And switched on the logs in the grate. It's ever so close in the lounge dear, But the vestibule's comfy for tea And Howard is riding on horseback So do come and take some with me Now here is a fork for your pastries And do use the couch for your feet; I know that I wanted to ask you- Is trifle sufficient for sweet? Milk and then just as it comes dear? I'm afraid the preserve's full of stones; Beg pardon, I'm soiling the doileys With afternoon tea-cakes and scones.
John Betjeman
#Society

John Betjeman
Here among long-discarded cassocks, Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks, Here where the vicar never looks I nibble through old service books. Lean and alone I spend my days Behind this Church of England baize. I share my dark forgotten room With two oil-lamps and half a broom. The cleaner never bothers me, So here I eat my frugal tea. My bread is sawdust mixed with straw; My jam is polish for the floor. Christmas and Easter may be feasts For congregations and for priests, And so may Whitsun. All the same, They do not fill my meagre frame. For me the only feast at all Is Autumn's Harvest Festival, When I can satisfy my want With ears of corn around the font. I climb the eagle's brazen head To burrow through a loaf of bread. I scramble up the pulpit stair And gnaw the marrows hanging there. It is enjoyable to taste These items ere they go to waste, But how annoying when one finds That other mice with pagan minds Come into church my food to share Who have no proper business there. Two field mice who have no desire To be baptized, invade the choir. A large and most unfriendly rat Comes in to see what we are at. He says he thinks there is no God And yet he comes ... it's rather odd. This year he stole a sheaf of wheat (It screened our special preacher's seat), And prosperous mice from fields away Come in to hear our organ play, And under cover of its notes Ate through the altar's sheaf of oats. A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I Am too papistical, and High, Yet somehow doesn't think it wrong To munch through Harvest Evensong, While I, who starve the whole year through, Must share my food with rodents who Except at this time of the year Not once inside the church appear. Within the human world I know Such goings-on could not be so, For human beings only do What their religion tells them to. They read the Bible every day And always, night and morning, pray, And just like me, the good church mouse, Worship each week in God's own house, But all the same it's strange to me How very full the church can be With people I don't see at all Except at Harvest Festival.
John Betjeman
#Churches

John Betjeman
The bells of waiting Advent ring, The Tortoise stove is lit again And lamp-oil light across the night Has caught the streaks of winter rain In many a stained-glass window sheen From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green. The holly in the windy hedge And round the Manor House the yew Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge, The altar, font and arch and pew, So that the villagers can say 'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day. Provincial Public Houses blaze, Corporation tramcars clang, On lighted tenements I gaze, Where paper decorations hang, And bunting in the red Town Hall Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'. And London shops on Christmas Eve Are strung with silver bells and flowers As hurrying clerks the City leave To pigeon-haunted classic towers, And marbled clouds go scudding by The many-steepled London sky. And girls in slacks remember Dad, And oafish louts remember Mum, And sleepless children's hearts are glad. And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!' Even to shining ones who dwell Safe in the Dorchester Hotel. And is it true, This most tremendous tale of all, Seen in a stained-glass window's hue, A Baby in an ox's stall ? The Maker of the stars and sea Become a Child on earth for me ? And is it true ? For if it is, No loving fingers tying strings Around those tissued fripperies, The sweet and silly Christmas things, Bath salts and inexpensive scent And hideous tie so kindly meant, No love that in a family dwells, No carolling in frosty air, Nor all the steeple-shaking bells Can with this single Truth compare - That God was man in Palestine And lives today in Bread and Wine.
John Betjeman
#Christmas

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 feathers 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.
John Betjeman
#God

John Betjeman
How straight it flew, how long it flew, It clear'd the rutty track And soaring, disappeared from view Beyond the bunker's back - A glorious, sailing, bounding drive That made me glad I was alive. And down the fairway, far along It glowed a lonely white; I played an iron sure and strong And clipp'd it out of sight, And spite of grassy banks between I knew I'd find it on the green. And so I did. It lay content Two paces from the pin; A steady putt and then it went Oh, most surely in. The very turf rejoiced to see That quite unprecedented three. Ah! Seaweed smells from sandy caves And thyme and mist in whiffs, In-coming tide, Atlantic waves Slapping the sunny cliffs, Lark song and sea sounds in the air And splendour, splendour everywhere.
John Betjeman
#Life #Golf

John Betjeman
Kind o’er the kinderbank leans my Myfanwy, White o’er the playpen the sheen of her dress, Fresh from the bathroom and soft in the nursery Soap scented fingers I long to caress. Were you a prefect and head of your dormit'ry? Were you a hockey girl, tennis or gym? Who was your favourite? Who had a crush on you? Which were the baths where they taught you to swim? Smooth down the Avenue glitters the bicycle, Black-stockinged legs under navy blue serge, Home and Colonial, Star, International, Balancing bicycle leant on the verge. Trace me your wheel-tracks, you fortunate bicycle, Out of the shopping and into the dark, Back down the avenue, back to the pottingshed, Back to the house on the fringe of the park. Golden the light on the locks of Myfanwy, Golden the light on the book on her knee, Finger marked pages of Rackham's Hans Anderson, Time for the children to come down to tea. Oh! Fullers angel-cake, Robertson’s marmalade, Liberty lampshade, come shine on us all, My! what a spread for the friends of Myfanwy, Some in the alcove and some in the hall. Then what sardines in half-lighted passages! Locking of fingers in long hide-and-seek. You will protect me, my silken Myfanwy, Ring leader, tom-boy, and chum to the weak.
John Betjeman
#Love #Life #Change

John Betjeman
She died in the upstairs bedroom By the light of the ev'ning star That shone through the plate glass window From over Leamington Spa Beside her the lonely crochet Lay patiently and unstirred, But the fingers that would have work'd it Were dead as the spoken word. And Nurse came in with the tea-things Breast high 'mid the stands and chairs- But Nurse was alone with her own little soul, And the things were alone with theirs. She bolted the big round window, She let the blinds unroll, She set a match to the mantle, She covered the fire with coal. And "Tea!" she said in a tiny voice "Wake up! It's nearly five" Oh! Chintzy, chintzy cheeriness, Half dead and half alive. Do you know that the stucco is peeling? Do you know that the heart will stop? From those yellow Italianate arches Do you hear the plaster drop? Nurse looked at the silent bedstead, At the gray, decaying face, As the calm of a Leamington ev'ning Drifted into the place. She moved the table of bottles Away from the bed to the wall; And tiptoeing gently over the stairs Turned down the gas in the hall.
John Betjeman
#Life Experiences #Life And Death #Life #Death

John Betjeman
I made hay while the sun shone. My work sold. Now, if the harvest is over And the world cold, Give me the bonus of laughter As I lose hold.
John Betjeman
#Work #Sun #Life

I walked into the night-club 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 summer-going by-pass 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 passion, When 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? For I'm old and ill and terrified and tight.
John Betjeman
#Fun #Sun