Death in Leamington
Although I didn’t post a poem on April First it was the start of National Poetry Month in the United States. Yesterday I did post a poem of my own, which I do think is cheating, but today I’ve decided to do it right even while keeping with the liturgical calendar. So, Here’s a poem by John Betjeman that, I think, keeps with the Lenten mood.
The poem is Death in Leamington. It’s read here by Maggie Smith and Kenneth Williams, to John Betjeman on Michael Parkinson’s show.
DEATH IN LEAMINGTON
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.