John Betjeman
Sir John Betjeman, CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 (icon; 28 August 1906 – 19 May 1984) was an English poet, writer and broadcaster who described himself in Who's Who
Who's Who (UK)
Who's Who is an annual British publication of biographies which vary in length of about 30,000 living notable Britons.-History:...

as a "poet and hack
Hack writer
Hack writer is a colloquial and usually pejorative term used to refer to a writer who is paid to write low-quality, rushed articles or books "to order", often with a short deadline. In a fiction-writing context, the term is used to describe writers who are paid to churn out sensational,...


He was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture
Victorian architecture
The term Victorian architecture refers collectively to several architectural styles employed predominantly during the middle and late 19th century. The period that it indicates may slightly overlap the actual reign, 20 June 1837 – 22 January 1901, of Queen Victoria. This represents the British and...

. Starting his career as a journalist, he ended it as one of the most popular British Poets Laureate to date and a much-loved figure on British television.
Betjeman was born "John Betjemann"; this was changed to the less German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 "Betjeman" during the First World War.

He sipped at a weak hock and seltzerAs he gazed at the London skiesThrough the Nottingham lace of the curtainsOr was it his bees-winged eyes?

"The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel" line 1, from Continual Dew

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.

"In Westminster Abbey" line 1, from Old Lights for New Chancels (1940)

He would have liked to say goodbye,Shake hands with many friends.In Highgate now his finger-bonesStick through his finger-ends.You, God, who treat him thus and thus,Say, "Save his soul and pray."You ask me to believe You andI only see decay.

"On a Portrait of a Deaf Man" line 25, from Old Lights for New Chancels

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!

"A Subaltern's Love-song" line 1, from New Bats in Old Belfries (1945)

We sat in the car park till twenty to oneAnd now I'm engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

"A Subaltern's Love-song" line 43

Stony seaboard, far and foreign,Stony hills poured over space,Stony outcrop of the Burren,Stones in every fertile place

"In Ireland with Emily" from New Bats in Old Belfries

No hope. And the X-ray photographs under his armConfirm the message. His wife stands timidly by.The opposite brick-built house looks lofty and calm,Its chimneys steady against the mackerel sky.

"Devonshire Street W.1" line 1, from A Few Late Chrysanthemums (1954)

And behind their frail partitionsBusiness women lie and soak,Seeing through the draughty skylightFlying 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!

"Business Girls" line 13, from A Few Late Chrysanthemums

In the licorice fields at PontefractMy love and I did meetAnd many a burdened licorice bushWas blooming round our feet;Red hair she had and golden skin,Her sulky lips were shaped for sin,Her sturdy legs were flannel-slack'dThe strongest legs in Pontefract.

"The Licorice Fields at Pontefract" from A Few Late Chrysanthemums

It's strange that those we miss the mostAre those we take for granted.

"The Hon. Sec." line 39, from High and Low (1966)