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How did the Devil come? When first attack?

These Norfolk lanes recall lost innocence,

The years fall off and find me walking back

Dragging a stick along the wooden fence

Down this same path, where, forty years ago,

My father strolled behind me, calm and slow.

I used to fill my hands with sorrel seeds

And shower him with them from the tops of stiles,

I used to butt my head into his tweeds

To make him hurry down those languorous miles

Of ash and alder-shaded lanes, till here

Our moorings and the masthead would appear.

There after supper lit by lantern light

Warm in the cabin I could lie secure

And hear against the polished sides at night

The lap lap lapping of the weedy Bure,

A whispering and watery Norfolk sound

Telling of all the moonlit reeds around.

How did the Devil come? When first attack?

The church is just the same, though now I know

Fowler of Louth restored it. Time, bring back

The rapturous ignorance of long ago,

The peace, before the dreadful daylight starts,

Of unkept promises and broken hearts.


The clock is frozen in the tower,
The thickening fog with sooty smell
Has blanketed the motor power
Which turns the London streets to hell;
And footsteps with their lonely sound
Intensify the silence round.

I haven't hope. I haven't faith.
I live two lives and sometimes three.
The lives I live make life a death
For those who have to live with me.
Knowing the virtues that I lack,
I pat myself upon the back.

With breastplate of self-righteousness
And shoes of smugness on my feet,
Before the urge in me grows less
I hurry off to make retreat.
For somewhere, somewhere, burns a light
To lead me out into the night.

It glitters icy, thin and plain,
And leads me down to Waterloo-
Into a warm electric train
Which travels sorry Surrey through
And crystal-hung, the clumps of pine
Stand deadly still beside the line.

The Last Laugh

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.


Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now,
There isn't grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!

Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those air -conditioned, bright canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
Tinned minds, tinned breath.

Mess up the mess they call a town-
A house for ninety-seven down
And once a week a half a crown
For twenty years.

And get that man with double chin
Who'll always cheat and always win,
Who washes his repulsive skin
In women's tears:

And smash his desk of polished oak
And smash his hands so used to stroke
And stop his boring dirty joke
And make him yell.

But spare the bald young clerks who add
The profits of the stinking cad;
It's not their fault that they are mad,
They've tasted Hell.

It's not their fault they do not know
The birdsong from the radio,
It's not their fault they often go
To Maidenhead

And talk of sport and makes of cars
In various bogus-Tudor bars
And daren't look up and see the stars
But belch instead.

In labour-saving homes, with care
Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
And dry it in synthetic air
And paint their nails.

Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
To get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
The earth exhales.


I am a young executive. No cuffs than mine are cleaner;

I have a Slimline brief-case and I use the firm's Cortina.

In every roadside hostelry from here to Burgess Hill

The maîtres d'hôtel all know me well, and let me sign the bill.

You ask me what it is I do. Well, actually, you know,

I'm partly a liaison man, and partly P.R.O.

Essentially, I integrate the current export drive

And basically I'm viable from ten o'clock till five.

For vital off-the-record work - that's talking transport-wise -

I've a scarlet Aston-Martin - and does she go? She flies!

Pedestrians and dogs and cats, we mark them down for slaughter.

I also own a speedboat which has never touched the water.

She's built of fibre-glass, of course. I call her 'Mandy Jane'

After a bird I used to know - No soda, please, just plain -

And how did I acquire her? Well, to tell you about that

And to put you in the picture, I must wear my other hat.

I do some mild developing. The sort of place I need

Is a quiet country market town that's rather run to seed

A luncheon and a drink or two, a little savoir faire -

I fix the Planning Officer, the Town Clerk and the Mayor.

And if some Preservationist attempts to interfere

A 'dangerous structure' notice from the Borough Engineer

Will settle any buildings that are standing in our way -

The modern style, sir, with respect, has really come to stay.

Youth and Age on Beaulieu River

Early sun on Beaulieu water
Lights the undersides of oaks,
Clumps of leaves it floods and
All transparent glow the branches
Which the double sunlight soaks;
And to her craft on Beaulieu water
Clemency the General's daughter
Pulls across with even strokes.

Schoolboy sure she is this morning;
Soon her sharpie's rigg'd and free.
Cool beneath a garden awning
Mrs Fairclough sipping tea
And raising large long-distance glasses
As the little sharpie passes,
Sighs our sailor girl to see:

Tulip figure, so appealing,
Oval face, so serious-eyed,
Tree-roots pass'd and muddy beaches,
On to huge and lake-like reaches
Soft and sun-warm, see her glide,
Slacks the slim young limbs revealing,
Sun-brown arm the tiller feeling,
Before the wind and with the tide.

Evening light will bring the water,
Day-long sun will burst the bud,
Clemency, the General's daughter
Will return upon the flood.
But the older woman only
Knows the ebb tide leaves her lonely.
With the shining fields of mud.

Business Girls

From the geyser ventilators

Autumn winds are blowing down

On a thousand business women

Having baths in Camden Town

Waste pipes chuckle into runnels,

Steam's escaping here and there,

Morning trains through Camden cutting

Shake the Crescent and the Square.

Early nip of changeful autumn,

Dahlias glimpsed through garden doors,

At the back precarious bathrooms

Jutting out from upper floors;

And behind their frail partitions

Business women lie and soak,

Seeing through the draughty skylight

Flying clouds and railway smoke.

Rest you there, poor unbelov'd ones,

Lap your loneliness in heat.

All too soon the tiny breakfast,

Trolley-bus and windy street!

A Subaltern’s Love Song

Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn,

Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun,

What strenuous singles we played after tea,

We in the tournament — you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,

The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,

With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,

I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,

How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,

The warm-handled racket is back in its press,

But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.

Her father’s euonymus shines as we walk,

And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,

And cool the verandah that welcomes us in

To the six-o’clock news and a lime-juice and gin.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath.

The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path

As I struggle with double-end evening tie,

For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.

On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts

And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,

And westering, questioning settles the sun,

On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Hillman is waiting, the light’s in the hall,

The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,

My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair

And there on the landing’s the light on your hair.

By roads “not adopted”, by woodlanded ways,

She drove to the club in the late summer haze,

Into nine-o’clock Camberley, heavy with bells

And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,

I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,

Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band!

Oh strongly adorable tennis-girl’s hand!

Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,

Above us the intimate roof of the car,

And here on my right is the girl of my choice,

With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,

And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.

We sat in the car park till twenty to one

And now I’m engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel

He sipped at a weak hock and seltzer

As he gazed at the London skies

Through the Nottingham lace of the curtains

Or was it his bees-winged eyes?

To the right and before him Pont Street

Did tower in her new built red,

As hard as the morning gaslight

That shone on his unmade bed,

“I want some more hock in my seltzer,

And Robbie, please give me your hand —

Is this the end or beginning?

How can I understand?

“So you’ve brought me the latest Yellow Book:

And Buchan has got in it now:

Approval of what is approved of

Is as false as a well-kept vow.

“More hock, Robbie — where is the seltzer?

Dear boy, pull again at the bell!

They are all little better than cretins,

Though this is the Cadogan Hotel.

“One astrakhan coat is at Willis’s —

Another one’s at the Savoy:

Do fetch my morocco portmanteau,

And bring them on later, dear boy.”

A thump, and a murmur of voices —

(”Oh why must they make such a din?”)

As the door of the bedroom swung open


“Mr. Woilde, we ‘ave come for tew take yew

Where felons and criminals dwell:

We must ask yew tew leave with us quoietly

For this is the Cadogan Hotel.”

He rose, and he put down The Yellow Book.

He staggered — and, terrible-eyed,

He brushed past the plants on the staircase

And was helped to a hansom outside.